The Ugly Truth About Judgment and Criticism

The Ugly Truth About Judgment and Criticism

What if That Was You?

Last night I was watching the Dodgers play the Brewers in Game 4 of the NLCS. In the late innings of the game, the “closer” is brought out to shut down the opposing team’s attempts to score any final runs. I watched the scene carefully – the look in the eyes of this closer, the sweat dripping from his brow, the way he spun the ball in his hand, the buzzing adrenaline of the crowd, the lights glaring down and the intensity of each pitch as it was released. Then, I laughed inside thinking of how fickle people are. If this man performs to their standard they’ll sing his praises, but if he “chokes” the onslaught of their opinions will commence! It amuses me to think of those same people standing on the mound, crowd swelling around them, heart pounding – how loud would their criticism be if the ball was in their hand?

Yes, I have found a way to spiritualize baseball – my husband would be proud! On a serious note though – the Bible has a lot to say about judgment and criticism. I’m not talking about the light sideline sports commentaries, but the appointing of ourselves as judges over the lives of other people. Back to the baseball game – how many of us imagine what it would be like to walk in the shoes of the people we judge and criticize? What if the decisions fell to me? What if the weight of that responsibility were on me? What if that was my precious daughter strung out on drugs? What if that was my husband that cheated and I was suffering the pain of betrayal? What if I grew up in and out of foster care, rejected by my parents? How would I act as an adult if I never had an example to follow? I’m not justifying the foolish decisions people may make, and I’m not absolving accountability, but how many of us say, “I would never…” – “If that were MY child I would…” – “If it were up to ME, I would…” – see, it’s the same spirit of the sideline critic that has all of the opinions and NONE of the experience!

Judge Nothing Before the Appointed Time

1 Corinthians 4:5 says, Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (NIV)

Paul was writing to the church at Corinth and letting them know that he served the Lord and answered to Him. It didn’t matter whether they judged him. In fact, he didn’t even trust his own judgments about himself! He made it a point to communicate that God was the only one qualified to be the judge. Why? He is the only one that knows the real deal! What do I mean by that? Outward appearance IS NOT, I repeat – IS NOT – our basis for judging anything! God sees right through all of the outer facade and into the secret motives of the heart! At the appointed time all of those hidden motives will be brought to light. You know what? A lot of us will be surprised by how different God’s judgments are from ours. We might even be shocked to see some people in heaven (BRO!? YOU made it!) – yeah – he did. What!?!?!

But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (NKJV, Romans 14:10)

It’s Not Your Seat!

Notice that the judgment seat belongs to Christ! (I’m preaching to myself too!) What are we doing when we judge? We are saying, “Jesus, step down from that seat. I’m qualified to judge this matter.” Ouch, (I can visualize the cringing faces) – bad move to make right? Here is what makes it even worse: Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (NKJV, Matthew 7:1-2)

When you look this up – the idea of measuring – it is the idea of a ruler that one uses as a standard. In other words, when you hold someone to a certain standard, you better be meeting that standard yourself because that is the EXACT standard that YOU will be judged by. Suddenly I’m feeling a little more merciful! Think about this! Really think about it! When I blurt out my opinions about how to run the church or the company, or how to parent, or how someone should get their act together, God will pull out a sheet with MY WORDS on it and hold it up as He judges the way I ran my life, and how much I had my act together!

“Kelli, on this date you said this person should have been more decisive. Here is a list of all of the times you were indecisive. Oh, and on this date, you judged this person for not having greater faith. Here are all of the areas in your life where you lacked faith. On this date, you criticized this person for not being more sensitive and caring. Here are all of the times you were insensitive and offensive.”

Wow! What a renovation our lives would experience if we stopped judging others and started judging ourselves! How merciful we would be! How compassionate! How great our love walk would grow! As soon as we began opening our mouths to criticize we would instead look into our own heart and judge where we may be coming short. Again, I am not implying that we never hold a person accountable for their actions, or there is never a case for confronting sin, but I AM saying that there are a whole lot of things that are just none of our business, and the world will keep spinning without all of our poignant observations. Oh, that we would learn this!

Growing in Love

So what is a Christian to do!? Pray, honey! Ask God to help you set a watch over your mouth and guard the door of your lips. Every now and then sneak up behind yourself and listen to yourself talk. Then ask yourself, “Why am I saying this? Why am I bringing this up?” Is it pride? Is it comparison? Is it rebellion? Is it frustration that should be laid before God instead of presented to a man or woman? And finally, listen to this age-old advice, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” – you know.

I’m on the journey with you. Let’s get this ugly judgment and criticism out of our lives so love and joy can reign supreme in our hearts. One day when we stand before God we will be thankful that we grew in mercy, love, and compassion. So be it!

Approval Addiction

Approval Addiction

Before we dive into the idea of approval addiction, let’s just talk for a moment about why you are here. There are four major questions to answer as you progress through life if you are going to do and be all that God called you to do and be.

First, “Who am I?” – and let me answer that for you if you are born again of God’s Spirit. You are His child. Your identity, your value, your self-worth has to come from the unchanging fact that you are a child of God born of the Spirit of God. You are not what you DO. If you place your identity in anything other than Christ you will at some point suffer an identity crisis. Think of it. If your identity is resting on your athletic ability, your position, your looks, your fame, your money, your intelligence, your job, your parenting skills – any of these temporal things – then what happens when the athlete is injured, when the beauty fades, when the company goes belly up or the kids leave home? Identity crisis! We MUST have the foundation of our identity, our value, and our self-worth in who we are in Christ.

Second, “Why am I alive?” – and I can answer that one with scripture:

For we are His workmanship [His own masterwork, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. (AMP, Ephesians 2:10)

Why are you alive? Because God prearranged and made ready a life for you to live! He created you the way a painter would create a masterpiece, the way a poet would write a poem, the way a sculptor would carefully chisel away at a piece of stone until it became what he or she envisioned! You are alive to be an expression of God’s heart in the earth; to live as He lived and love as He loved.

This leads to the next question, “Where am I going?” – and this has to do with your destiny. When you know who you are and you know that you were created with a purpose, then you know you are to live into a destiny. What is that destiny? What has God put inside of you? What graces? What gifts? What natural and supernatural abilities? These are equippings that come with the call, and the very moment God gives you the word concerning your destiny, the equipping to do what He has called you to do comes with it! So where has He called you? What has He destined for you to become?

Lastly, “What impact will I make when I get there?” Identity. Purpose. Destiny. Impact. What will your legacy be? What will you be remembered for and how will the world be different because of the life you have lived? What impact will there be when you dream God’s dreams, think His thoughts, and align your values with His values? What will be the outcome of you living into your destiny?

OK – now why did I start out with these very introspective questions? The Bible says in Proverbs 29:25, The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. (NKJV) Did you know that there is a snare, a trap out there that can keep you from your destiny? It is the fear of man and it is connected to what I mentioned above. If you don’t know who you are you will look to man to find your self-worth instead of looking to Christ. So many of your life’s decisions will be based on what others think instead of what God thinks.

If you don’t know you were created with purpose you will look to this world for your sense of purpose. Your supreme appetite will be for the approval, accolades, acknowledgment, and recognition of man rather than your supreme appetite being the will of God. If you don’t have in your heart the God-breathed destiny – the path you are to travel to come into the fullness of what God has called you to be – and if the vision of the impact is not present in your mind’s eye, you will easily be derailed by the opinions of the masses.

Just imagine me right now grabbing you by the shoulders, looking you in the eye and shaking you! Do not live for the approval of man! It will entrap you! It’s a snare! Stop feeding the addiction! Don’t live for the “Likes” – don’t feed on the number of “Followers” – don’t sell your soul for more “Subscribers” – do you hear me!? STOP looking to man for approval! Live for GOD! Can I get a witness up in here!?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. There is safety there. Look to God for your identity, your purpose, and your destiny. It is only in living for God that you will have the impact and leave the legacy that He intended for you to have and to leave. 

“You are Goats” – A Journey Into the Heart

“You are Goats” – A Journey Into the Heart

OK, so funny title to this blog. I don’t think it’s SEO friendly, but here it goes anyway. Yesterday I was driving the kids to school and we were listening to a favorite worship song of mine, “King of My Heart,” with Steffany Gretzinger and the Bethel crew (view it HERE). My adorable 6-year-old son was singing with all his heart the part in the song that repeats, “You are good, good, ooooh-oh,” but instead of “You are good,” he was singing, “You are goats, goats, ooooh-oh.” Funny, I know. I had to keep myself from laughing the way you probably are right now, but I had to ponder the pure heart of a worshiper and friend of God.

Have you ever put pressure on yourself to pray the right way with the right words, make the right confession, you know, “Get the words right.” I remember a time when I lived in the Philippines and we would go to tribal areas to minister. There was one group of people that learned an older song that goes, “Majesty, worship His majesty. Unto Jesus, be all glory honor and praise.” With their limited English, they would sing from their hearts, “Magic tree, worship His magic tree…” Again, I know it seems funny, but they would be on their knees in tears as they were moved by the Holy Spirit!

Another story comes to mind of a time the founder of the ministry I served overseas was doing an open-air crusade and was working with a translator. He was preaching on healing, building the faith of the people to receive the healing that Jesus died for them to have, and desired for them to walk in. At one point in his message, the formerly attentive group suddenly dispersed and began walking to the little “sari-sari” storefronts to get ballpoint pens. He asked his translator what happened and it turns out the translator had mistakenly communicated that they needed to place a ballpoint pen on their nose as an act of faith to receive their healing. (Some things are really lost in translation, ya know?)

The amazing aspect of this story that was always communicated as he shared it was that God actually honored their faith response to the inaccurate instructions given! Many of these people (with ballpoint pens touched to their nose) received their healing!

My point today friends is that we cannot put God in a box. We also have to understand that only man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart! Whether it’s a 6-year-old singing out, “You are goats,” or a group of people racing for the mighty Bic pen – God is not looking at perfection in their words or actions, He is looking at the purity of their hearts and the faith found there!

This is so encouraging to me! I believe sometimes we are taught so many principles (of faith, healing, prosperity, discipleship, hearing from God, etc.) and this is GOOD; however, you probably have felt at times (like me) that in order to “do it right” and get the “right result” you have to follow the formula. I’m here to tell you that formula outside of relationship will never produce the “right result.”

God is our Father! We have to remember the love that flows from Him to us is beyond any earthly parental love that we have for our kids (and that is some pretty indescribable love in itself!) When I heard my son singing it so blessed me! Did he get the words right? No way! But correcting his words was the farthest thing from my mind. I enjoyed hearing him sing from the pure place of worship in his heart. It’s the same with God. He wants your heart, not your ability to follow a formula. You know as well as I do that we can honor God with our lips, yet our hearts be far from Him. What does that mean? It means some people say “all the right things,” but they have no relationship with God. I don’t want to be like that. How about you?

Decide today that you will stop pressuring yourself to “do it perfectly.” Give yourself permission to be relationship driven rather than results driven. We can learn principles, but we must keep relationship first! Keep a transparent and pure heart as you walk in relationship with God, and you will live in the assurance that His grace is filling in the gaps of your growth. Just keep growing!

 

Good & Faithful

Good & Faithful

“Well done good and faithful servant…” these are the words that every believer wants to hear from the Master when He returns and we give an account of what we have done with what He has given us. In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, we read of a master who gives instructions to his servants before departing on a long journey:

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.” Matthew 25:14-15

A talent was a weight, or a sum of money, but it is appropriate to see this talent as a resource in a person’s life (time, money, ability, authority). The story goes on to reveal that the first two servants felt the responsibility of their assignment and went to work without delay. They used what had been entrusted to them, and gave the master a return on his investment. We read of the 3rd servant that he was afraid and went and hid the talent entrusted to him in the ground. At the very least, he did not lose what was entrusted to him, but he only gave his master “what was his” and no more.

We discover that each servant did give an account of what he had done in his master’s absence…

“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’…He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’

It is good to note that both servants received the same reward, even though they were given different measures, or weights, of responsibility. They both heard equally:

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

Note also that each servant gave an account individually. As a group they would have done well – 8 talents given, 15 returned; however, each ONE gave his own personal account before his master.

“Remember, my hearer, that in the day of judgment thy account must be personal; God will not ask you what your church did – he will ask you what you did yourself.” (Spurgeon)

Much to the third servant’s surprise, he was not commended for returning to the master what belonged to him. He seemed to believe – because his master was so powerful – that he didn’t need his help. With boldness and perhaps even pride he says to the master, “Look, there you have what is yours.” He seemed to have no idea that his master expected a return on his investment – at least some interest!

As we finish out the parable we see that the third servant was deemed to be “wicked & lazy,” or unprofitable & unproductive. He received no reward from his master, but rather what little he did have was taken away. His fears and assumptions were no valid excuse. He was afraid but his fear was misplaced – He should have feared God rather than fearing risk or failure.

Every time I read this passage it is sobering to me. We don’t have the luxury of not using what God put in our hands. We all want to hear, “Well done.” We all want to hear, “Good and faithful,” when the Lord is addressing us, but we often let our own fears and assumptions about God’s greatness and our “smallness” deter us from fully developing in the gifts and graces He has entrusted to us. Saying, “I was afraid,” is not a valid excuse! Fearing risk or failure rather than God will only lead us into being unprofitable and unproductive, but we are called to live lives that bear much fruit!

Listen, the qualities God is looking for are goodness & faithfulness. He didn’t say, “Well done thou mighty and anointed man of God.” Nor did he say, “Well done thou popular and well recognized Christian celebrity.” No, no – He is looking for faithfulness. He simply wants us to do something to serve Him with what He has given us. It might be serving in your church, raising up children in the spirit of faith, running a profitable business that advances His kingdom, or painting, dancing or performing for His glory. Whether He has given you 1 talent, 2 or 5 – give Him a return on His investment! Bear fruit with what seed He has given you!

In a very unfaithful world, God sees and recognizes and rewards FAITHFULNESS! What is the weight or measure He has entrusted to you? USE IT for His glory, and live excited for the day when you get to stand before Him and hear, “Well done.”

True Beauty

True Beauty

If you’ve been looking for the best beauty secrets out there, look no further. The kind of beauty I’ll teach you about is timeless, captivating, all natural, and it won’t cost you a dime!

What defines beauty? Is it Webster’s Dictionary? Is it defined by the results of a Google search? Or how about looking to the beauty “Bibles” out there – Cosmo, Elle, In Style and the like. We’ve all read the tips on how to lengthen lashes, make lips bigger, lose belly fat, have flawless skin, perfect eyebrows, and wider eyes. We plump, we primp, we highlight and low light. We suck it in and push it up, and when it gets to be too much we just buy some Spanx!

Beauty is a word that carries many connotations, and brings to the surface many emotions, both good and bad; but what does God look at and say, “Now THAT is beautiful!” According to 1 Peter 3:3-4, it is not all of the outward adorning that turns God’s head, but the, “…hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in [His] sight.”

So if God had a beauty magazine, what would His trade secrets consist of? Here are a few “Beauty Secrets” from the true “Beauty Bible.”

1. Highlight the Heart

Listen, when I wake up in the morning I do not look in the mirror and say, “Now THAT’S beautiful!” My husband is very thankful that I “adorn” the outward appearance, and make myself attractive to him. I do spend time grooming myself, but God’s beauty secret is to spend more of my time cultivating the beauty of my heart. In fact, I’m sure there are days my husband would have preferred I spent more time with God getting filled up with love and peace, than time I spent in front of the mirror trying on my pre-baby clothes that still didn’t look as good as they did prebaby; thus resulting in a funky mood as the mind became preoccupied with how to lose 10 more pounds!

When we cultivate inner beauty, all the issues of life that flow from the heart are also made beautiful. Worry, stress, low self-esteem, discontent, and shallow character do not make a person beautiful. People who neglect the heart may be outwardly beautiful, but they become spiritually ugly. Then there are those who might seem plain in appearance by the world’s standard, but whose hearts pour out such radiance, grace, and peace that their loveliness becomes magnetic and very attractive.

2. Avoid Fashion Trends

Don’t you cringe when you look back at old photos of yourself from the 70s? 80s? 90s? Some of those fashion trends we thought were so “in” at the time turned out to be more of a momentary lack of good fashion sense! Ahh, but there are a few classics that stand the test of time, like a good pair of jeans, and a “little black dress.” Did you know that God has told us what is “in style” for the inner man? It is the incorruptible, unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. This wardrobe will always look stunning on you, and it will never go out of style.

So, if you want to wear gentleness like a good pair of jeans, and clothe your heart in quietness, you need to know how to put these clothes on!

Item 1: Gentleness

The word used in 1 Peter 3:3-4 for gentle is (PRAUS), meaning meek, mild, a soothing quality of character. The image is of a horse that can be trainable and teachable. Now, before you go feminist on me, the word is not an indication of weakness, but of strength and power under perfect control. It implies ruling your own spirit well, operating in humble wisdom, and walking in divine love.

What does the heart clothed in gentleness look like? It doesn’t have to exert its rights, have its own way, get the last word, share gossip, retaliate, give in to every emotion, or refuse correction. It does stay open to God, looks for His direction, waits before speaking, submits its emotions to wisdom, chooses to forgive, and chooses to love.

I’m reminded of a scene in the movie Gladiator when Maximus came face to face with the Roman Emperor. He had the strength, capability and opportunity to carry out vengeance upon this man, but he knew it was not time. He brought his strength and power under perfect control. He ruled over his own spirit.

That was a movie, but I know of a REAL MAN, that was meek and gentle, and make no mistake about it, He was not weak! No man took His life, He laid it down. Though He had authority to call down legions of angels, He kept that power under perfect control until He finished the job He came to do. Jesus is gentleness personified.

When you clothe your heart in this kind of gentleness it is BEAUTIFUL. It is PRECIOUS in God’s sight.

Item 2: Quietness

The word used in 1 Peter 3:3-4 for quiet is (HESUCHIOS), and it does not imply that you need to stop talking and keep your opinions to yourself! It actually means peaceful, undisturbed; tranquility arising from within. 

What does a heart clothed in quietness look like? It is a heart filled with faith and trust; a heart that has been quieted by God’s love and filled with His peace – not a heart that is striving and restless. It’s not striving for beauty (consumed by clothes, jewelry, makeup, diets, hairstyles). It’s not striving to be accepted (through perfectionism and people pleasing). It’s not striving to be enough (pretty enough, smart enough, spiritual enough). All of that striving clothes the heart in irritation, frustration and depression. The heart filled with faith and trust is not trying to be beautiful because it already is. It is not trying to be accepted because it already is. It’s not trying to be enough because it already is!

When you have a quiet spirit, in the depths of your soul you are at rest, and from deep within comes a calm and peace that invites those around you to be at rest, and that, my friends, is very attractive!

Have you ever wanted to be that woman that walks into a room and turns heads? Cultivate the inner beauty of the heart and clothe it with a gentle and quiet spirit. This is what will turn God’s eyes toward you, captivating His attention, and leaving Him breathless.

The Story of Your Heart

The Story of Your Heart

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 3:2 that we are living epistles, known and read by all men – living letters that tell the story of what has been written in our hearts.

As you live life, your thoughts, words, and actions are writing a letter that men around you are reading! So what is your letter saying to them? How do your thoughts produce words and actions that reveal the “true” Jesus to the world around you? God wants us to reveal His image, His glory, and His love to those we are around daily. This does not just happen by supernatural power, gifting, great faith, or anointed teaching, but by living a life of godly character EVERY DAY!

God wants us to grow up! He does not want us to remain spiritual babies forever. I have a toddler and a 7 month old. They are so cute, even when they drool, crawl on the floor, cry, spit up and make a mess in their pants. I also have a 20 year old son, and let me tell you, if he was drooling, crawling on the floor, crying, spitting up and messing his pants, I’d be organizing an intervention! Grown ups don’t do that!

When men and women come to God, and surrender their lives to Him, they are born again. It’s not a natural birth, but a spiritual one, and spiritually speaking, they are brand new babies. They need a lot of care and attention to grow up strong; however, they are expected to grow up.

Part of growing up is developing godly character, and this has everything to do with the heart. We can take care of the outward sins (think drug abuse, sexual sin, etc.) – but God sees the heart of a man, and that is the most important area to focus on if we are to grow spiritually. Some people can appear spiritual outwardly, but inside their hearts are filled with bitterness, pride, covetousness, lust, selfishness, a critical and judgmental spirit, hypocrisy and the like. Jesus is a lot more concerned about these things than he is about someone having a glass of wine!

If your life is a letter to the world that tells them who Jesus is, then your character and heart are the sentences and paragraphs that make up that letter.

“Writing a good letter” will not only help you personally, but it will help those around you who need to get lost in a good book! Your excerpt should entice them to read more, and as they do, you can introduce them to the Author and Finisher of your faith – Jesus! After all,

“Christ himself wrote [this letter]—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.”

~ 2 Corinthians 3:3 (MSG)

Let’s take a quick look at one heart condition that will ruin your love letter, and have people boycotting your book before you can ever get them to page one!

Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is defined as: a theatrical performance, pretending, acting dishonestly, not being real or genuine.

If you read the Gospels, Jesus was always quick to forgive the repentant sinner, and had great compassion on unbelievers. He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, He ate with tax collectors, and drunks; yet, when he spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees, and exposed their hypocrisy, he always rebuked and corrected them sharply! On the outside they looked good. They quoted Scripture, prayed, studied, gave of their tithes, and followed the law, but on the inside Jesus said they were, “…full of dead men’s bones.”

Their spiritual life was not genuine! They were more concerned about appearing religious, and less concerned about actually being religious.

“Beware of the religious scholars. They like to parade around in long robes. They love being greeted in the marketplaces. They love taking the best seats in the synagogues. They adore being seated around the head table at banquets. But in their greed they rob widows of their houses and cover up their greed with long pretentious prayers. Their condemnation will be all the worse because of their hypocrisy.” ~ Luke 20:46-47

Part of growing in godly character, and growing closer to God is to learn to love what He loves, and hate what He hates. God does not like hypocrisy, and in my experience, hypocrisy in God’s people is one of the main things that keeps people away from God, and away from church. There is so much in this world that is false, fake, counterfeit, unreal, and insincere – even so called “reality” shows are not real! The result of living within this culture of lies is a people that are suspicious, cautious, and skeptical – their hearts cry out for something REAL, something TRUE, something GENUINE and lasting. They want your letter to be NON-FICTION, and the good news is that it IS!

My challenge to you: Don’t wear a Christian mask. Be real with God and man. Bring God your rough draft no matter how rough it is! Let Him erase a few lines in your letter, edit the typos, and rewrite the story of your heart. In time, you just might become a “Best Seller.”

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