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!

The Redemptive Power of a Broken Life

The Redemptive Power of a Broken Life

What is Redemption?

What is redemption? That’s a good place to start. To redeem means to “buy back,” or “to regain possession of something.” Some synonyms are retrieval, recovery, and reclamation. Why is it such a powerful word? Jesus is the Redeemer of all of humanity. He bought us back with a very high price. God has regained, reclaimed and recovered His people through the power of the cross.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (NKJV) 1 John 2:6 tells us, He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (NKJV) 

Who is the “He” that we are supposed to walk like and imitate? Jesus!

If Jesus is the Redeemer, then His followers are also redeemers! What do I mean by that? We must look to recover, reclaim, and regain things that are lost or stolen!

A Mission to Recover and Restore

What are some things that can be lost or stolen? Of course, there is the obvious assignment we have been given in the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel for the purpose of recovering the lost souls of men and women. Souls are lost. These are people Jesus died for. They have been “bought back” but have not yet found their way home. Our greatest assignment is to lead them back to the Father – it’s a recovery mission!

Beyond lost souls, there are other things in your life, in my life, that may have been lost or stolen. Being lost implies a carelessness on our part. Being stolen implies a crime committed by the thief that comes to steal, kill and destroy – the devil. Have you ever lost something because you did not value it enough to care for it properly? Maybe it was a relationship. Maybe it was a place of influence. Maybe it was a material possession. Whatever it may have been, experiencing that loss in our lives can be painful.

Has anything ever been stolen from your life? Maybe it was your innocence. Maybe it was a child in the womb. Maybe it was a marriage or the life of a loved one. Some of these encounters with the thief, with the enemy of our soul, leave us incapacitated as waves of grief, anger, and fear attempt to bury us. Add to that the spiritual pressure that bears down on our thought life as we try to grapple with these circumstances that are challenging the name of our God, the foundation of His goodness, and the reality of His love for us.

How do we recover when the rug has been pulled out from under us? How are we – as redeemers – to respond when we experience loss? How do we respond when we have been stolen from? Do we throw a pity party? Blame others? Do we punish ourselves because we neglected to value what was in our hands? Do we drown in a sea of questions or torment ourselves as “Why?” plays on repeat in our mind? These are all responses that the devil would love to see in our lives. These responses would keep our godly confidence buried under the weight of shame, guilt, anger, and regret among other things; but, as redeemers and followers of Christ, we must respond differently!

Redemptive Power

Did you know that every situation you will encounter in this life, when placed in the hands of the Redeemer, can have redemptive value? God never steals. He never kills. He never destroys. He’s not the one that creates the loss, but here is what God does: He says, “Hand this over to me. I will take everything the thief intended to destroy, and I will bring resurrection life to it. I will take everything he has stolen, and I will recover and reclaim what belongs to you. Believe for redemption in this and I will vindicate my name. I will show you my goodness and demonstrate my love for you.”

When we take our brokenness (whether caused by our poor choices or thrust upon us by another’s choices) and we refuse to let it undermine our faith, but rather purposefully place it in the hands of God, there is a supernatural exchange that takes place! It is one the devil fears.

The redemptive power of a broken life makes him very nervous! He will attack God’s character, challenge His goodness, call into question your qualifications, all in a weak attempt to destroy your destiny. That is what he is after – YOU knowing your identity; YOU fulfilling your purpose; YOU living into the fullness of your destiny; YOU having a lasting impact on your generation! The attack is designed to destroy YOU and what lies inside of you! I pray you are getting a revelation of this!

Don’t let the thief continue to steal from you! Catch him! Demand that he restore sevenfold! Act like Jesus. Place the loss into the hands of the Redeemer and confidently expect the supernatural exchange. His life where there was death. His healing where there was sickness. His vindication where there was injustice. His restoration and recovery in every area! Glory to God!

I have lived this word when I was violated, when I was betrayed, when 2 pregnancies ended in miscarriage, and yes, even when my own shortcomings produced loss! I am just beginning to get a greater revelation of what can still be redeemed from these situations if I look to God in faith. My pain will have a purpose! God didn’t cause it, but He can use it – are you getting this? He can make the devil so sorry that he ever messed with this anointed, purpose-filled, destined child of God! My REDEEMER lives! He is your Redeemer too.

Let’s look at every area of loss in our lives with redemptive eyes. God took the death of Jesus and made it a seed. God took the cowardice and denial of Peter and made him bold and courageous. God took the religious fervency of Saul and made him an apostle to the Gentiles. Can you see the redemptive potential of every situation that appears to be a loss? If you will look to Him through the tears, my friend – if you will have faith in The Redeemer – it won’t be long until He turns your mourning into dancing and your sorrow into joy! It will excite you to know that everything the devil meant for evil can be turned around for your good and God’s glory. Amen. So be it.

 

“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!

 

God’s Love for the Unloved

God’s Love for the Unloved

The love of God is the greatest force in this universe. God is love, and He has manifested His love to us in the person of Jesus. You know, when Jesus walked this earth, He was (and still is) a reflection of the Father’s heart toward us. When we look at Jesus, we see the Father. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is the “express image of God,” and “the exact representation and perfect imprint of God’s essence.” 

I have been soaking in the love of God, and looking at and beholding Jesus, and I can tell you that there is NOTHING like it. It is a place that I never want to leave. When I look at Jesus, I see mercy and grace and truth. His actions express God’s heart. So, what is God’s heart toward the sinner? Toward the unlovely, and the unloved?

When the religious leaders of Jesus’ day took a woman caught in the very act of adultery, drug her to Jesus, and threw her at His feet I am telling you that is the safest place she could have landed! Glory to God! When every person in the crowd (stones in hand) was ready to execute justice and exact punishment for her sin, her mighty Savior, JESUS, extended mercy and provided protection from her accusers.

The truth is, Jesus attracted sinners, the unlovely, and the unloved. Why? Because He was the love of God in human flesh. He was the grace of God in human flesh. When religion said, “You are worthless,” Jesus said, “Come to me and I will make you worthy.” There is something so attractive about unconditional love – a love that still loves you when you mess up, that still loves you when you haven’t been good enough, that still loves you when you have failed. This kind of love is what makes sinners drop to their knees in total surrender – THIS LOVE is so good!

I have always identified with the story in Luke 18 that tells of a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee stood in his own self-righteous pride, looking with contempt at sinners, and thanking God that he “wasn’t like THEM.” He prided himself in his “good works,” and particularly looked with disdain at the tax collector who wouldn’t so much as enter the temple or lift his eyes toward heaven. What was this tax collector (who would have been seen as the scum of the earth in Jesus’day) – what was he feeling and thinking? “I am unworthy of any good thing. I am an outcast and a traitor to my own people. I have sold my soul for what? For some money. I don’t deserve your love.” This man beat his chest and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

I identify with that man. I remember being a young woman – I was an unwed, teenage mother. Struggled with drugs. I was so desperate for love that I gave my body to anyone who would show me some love, even if it was very, very temporary. I remember the day that the shame of all of my foolish choices converged on me and I couldn’t bear the weight of it any longer. My heart cried out to God, knowing I had nothing to offer Him but a broken mess of a life. I had never felt more unworthy of love than at that moment – BUT GOD – Who is rich in mercy – God, like a loving Father, wiped away every tear, and removed all my shame by speaking to my spirit three simple words – I LOVE YOU. When God (love) became real to me, I fell into Love’s arms and where rejection, shame and condemnation had sought to tear me down, acceptance, love and forgiveness built me up! From that day to this, God has been faithful to me!!!

I am here to tell anyone who would read these words – society may give up on you, people may call you worthless, you may have been rejected from the womb by your mother or father, BUT GOD will never give up on you! God will never let go of His hold on you! People may throw you away, but God will never throw you away! You may not feel worthy of love, but surrender your life to Him and He will make you worthy! I am telling you, He will NEVER leave you or forsake you!

Hebrews 13:5 says this:

“for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you, nor give you up, nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]”

Ephesians 2:4-7 says this:

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Are you a sinner? An adulterer? A drunk? An addict? A thief? Are you full of religious pride and hypocrisy?  You are a prime candidate to receive of the grace of God SO THAT in the ages to come, all would look at you and say – look at what the Lord has done!!! Where sin had abounded grace did SUPER abound! Where people forsook them, God never let them go! He NEVER gave up on them, and now look at this glorious, whole, love-filled, joy-filled, hope-filled masterpiece of a man (or woman) He has created from one that was so broken and lost! ALL the glory goes to HIM!

You see, when we don’t deserve forgiveness, or blessing, or goodness, or kindness, but we get it anyway – that’s grace. When we do deserve punishment, the curse, and hell, but don’t get it – that’s mercy. Did you know that God is full of grace and mercy? His love for the unloved, the outcast, the sinner, the rejected and the abandoned is unmatched. So what is your part? Simply believe that God is real, and receive His love gift – eternal life.

I, for one, am eternally grateful that I encountered LOVE, and LOVE saved me. I am a trophy of His exceedingly rich grace, and His loving kindness. And NOBODY can shut my mouth! I will FOREVER praise the name of my Savior, my Hero, my Lord – JESUS!!

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.”

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