Jesus Never Criticizes

As the summer comes to a close, I am rereading the classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. This timeless text by Dale Carnegie has proven to be the roadmap for effective people leadership, since 1936.

“Never criticize” is the first principle of Carnegie’s fundamental techniques in handling people. Carnegie says “Criticism is futile. It puts a person on the defensive and makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous. It wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

Carnegie’s distain of criticism has a biblical foundation. Paul in Romans 14:13 advises Let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother.” (The Amplified Bible).

Carnegie’s chapter on criticism along with Paul’s words in Romans caused me to start praying, apologizing, explaining and changing the way I deal with people. However, as a long time criticizer, always quick to judge, and find fault, condemn or establish blame, breaking this long time habit has proven to be difficult; yet, not impossible.

This introspection has led me to develop three principals that will head-off my urge to be a critic. I present them in this post with the hope that they will do the same for you.

1. Smile A Lot

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. Proverbs 15:16

Criticism put you in a negative mood; causing you to be cynical about even the most subline things. Your attitude is your reality check. Smiling is a great way to keep yourself in a positive mood. In addition, research shows smiling can improve your health, stress level, and lowers your blood pressure which may lead to a healthier, longer life.

Try This Smile Test: Now, try to think of something negative; but, don’t lose your smile. Was it hard? When we smile our body is sending the rest of us a message that “Life Is Good!” Smiling will help us stay away from the negative feelings that can lead to criticism.

2. Encourage People

….encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1st Thessalonians 5:11

Life is tough. Situations, finances, and people can get us down. Encouragement in the form of a friendly word or compliment can turn a negative situation into a positive experience.

In my travels I have the opportunity to interact with service sector professionals in airports, hotels, rental car counters and restaurants. These are jobs that are ripe for criticism; because of poor service, high prices, and the general crummy things that can happen during travel.   Carnegie and the Scriptures have transformed my thinking regarding these travel dilemmas. Instead of dwelling in the lowness of criticism inherited in these quandaries; I look for ways to encourage and support the professionals assigned to the task of finding solutions, and performing services while babysitting the traveling public.   Think about it. The airline gate attendant has no control over the weather that has delayed the flight. However, on a daily basis they are confronted by disgusted passengers that respond as if they do. So, to prevent myself from being that guy, I pay attention to the gate attendant and their work ethics; that way, I can sincerely compliment and encourage them.   Try it and you will be amazed by how your actions not only made the service professional feel better; but, it motivated them to perform better.

3. Look for Opportunities to Coach

 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” Hebrews 10:24-25

By now, I am certain many of you have wondered if and when is criticism acceptable. “How can I point out things that people are doing wrong?”   You do it by coaching. Theologian Robert E. Logan says the goal of coaching is to help someone succeed. And what is success? Logan defines it as finding out what God wants you to do and then, do it. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Finally, Logan reminds us that a person’s success is directly tied to finding out what works God has prepared for them.

So, how do I coach someone? The best coaches only offer their advice to those who have asked for it; and those that have given permission to receive it. The Bible has many examples of great coaching:

  • Barnabas and Paul
  • Paul and Timothy
  • Ruth and Naomi
  • Boaz and Ruth

We can help people succeed by offering our wisdom, experience, and knowledge; which, is much more powerful and engaging than simply, criticizing.

Jesus Never Criticized. He Coached and Loved

Jesus is the ultimate coach. He was asked by God to coach man. Part of his coaching was to be born on earth in a humble manner. Jesus asked his disciples to follow him; while he coached them and prepared them for God’s work. He coached the masses by healing the sick. He coaches us with His love when we are downtrodden. His parables were teachings by way of coaching. Jesus never criticized us; even when he hung on the cross. God shows us through Jesus that the difference between criticism and coaching is love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Jesus did not die on the cross so we could criticize each other. Jesus died for us to live our lives abundantly. He wants us to have a cheerful face and be encouraging one another. We should build up one another with positive coaching and love. People who live an abundant life should know how to win friends and influence people not for themselves, but for the kingdom of God. Because the people of God never criticize!

 

 

The Consequences of Ferguson

 “…and the Lord God clothed Adam and his wife with garments made from the skins of animals.” Genesis 3:21 (Living Bible – TLB)

Scripture tells us in Romans 6:23 that, “The wages of sin is death.”

The very first death occurred on the same day as the very first sin. It was the death of an innocent animal that God used its skin as a covering for the nakedness’s of the now newly aware Adam and Eve.

Much about what happed in Ferguson is still to be understood. Evidence needs to collected, leads must be investigated and people need to calm down. However, if trends continue it appears that some skins will need to be handed out.

  • Skins – For the police and the way they have handled the situation
  • Skins – For the media, covering the situation as if it were a rock concert instead of a human tragedy and a plea for justice and harmony
  • Skins – For the rioters who have made the situation worst by adding violence upon violence
  • Skins – For a nation still unable to come to terms with the difficulties and issues of race
  • Skins – For me, because I have failed to speak more about these issues within this blog

Shortly after receiving their skins Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. Man’s relationship with God continued to decline so much so that God brought fire and flood to cleanse the Earth of our sins.

Scripture tells us in Romans 6:23 that, “the wages of sin is death,” however, the text continues to say….”but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Despite our sins God is ready to remove our skins thru His free gift called forgiveness. The consequences of Ferguson require justice, caring and compassion.   The consequences of Ferguson require, the restoration of integrity, and the balm of healing. The consequences of Ferguson require the love of Jesus Christ and requires each of us to follow God’s commandment, “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) God expects that of us and the consequences of Ferguson demand that we respond affirmatively.

Don’t You Worry About A Thing

Worry and fear are closely related in fact I would suggest that they are the same. We worry because we have a fear of something happening to someone or something that we care about or love.

  • I worry about the wellbeing of my son, my daughter-in law and grandchildren
  • I worry about the health of my mother
  • I worry about the anemic hitting of my baseball team the Atlanta Braves

Worry because of the fear it generates can adversely affect us in so many ways:

  • The fear caused by worry can paralyze us: Creating conditions that make it impossible to make even routine choices.
  • The fear caused by worry can defeat us:Allowing us to give up on not only our dreams but on the people who count on us for encouragement and support.
  • The fear caused by worry can embitter us:Souring us on life and all the goodness it can bring.

God Wants to Liberate Us from Worry and Fear

Esther had every reason to worry and to fear. The Persian King Xerxes chose the beautiful Esther after the previous queen was deposed because of her disobedience. In Esther’s rise to power she had hidden an explosive secrete that could lead to her death. She was a Jew.

God’s Liberation of Esther

Haman was the second in command to the King Xerxes in his position it was expected that all in the Persian Empire would bow to show respect. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, refused to bow to Haman this so enraged Haman that he issued an order sentencing all Jews to death.

Mordecai came to Queen Esther with a dangerous but vital mission: She had to save the Jews from death. Out of worry and fear Esther wanted to deny the facts about Haman’s edict. Her fear was focused on the fact that she would be killed if she approached the King without first being summoned. On that basis she denied Mordecai’s urgent request for help.

Mordecai responded to Esther’s fears with a statement that can serve to motivate all of us in times of fear and worry. ”Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.” Esther 4:14 (The Message)

For Such A Time As This

In our lives we all face moments like Esther that were made:

A father,

A mother,

A son,

A friend

Or even a baseball fan

For such a time as this.”

And what is “such a time as this”

Such a time as this is:

When as a parent we are faced with a crisis with a child

Such a time as this is:

When as a son we are faced with the aging of a parent

Such a time as this is:

When as a friend we are faced with the death of someone close to us

In such a time as this: We can take comfort that our faith in God will make it possible for us not to worry about a thing.

Three Ways to Not Worry About A Thing

Faced “with a time such as this” Esther turned to God with three faith based actions giving her confidence “to not worry about a thing” as she takes on the seemly impossible dilemma of saving the Jews.   When we are faced “with a time as this” worry, fear, and despair can paralyze us however, if we follow Esther’s faith based actions we can also “not worry about a thing” when we encounter the dilemma’s our lives.

1. Acknowledging that Nothing Happens Without God

At the moment Esther decided to accept the responsibility of saving the Jews, she realized that without God it would not be possible. She sent word to Mordecai to initiate a series of actions to acknowledge, praise, and encourage God to help rescue the Jews.

2. Acknowledging the Power of Intercession

Esther knew that only the king could save the Jews, as Queen her charm and influence were critical in making this happen. However, Esther’s charm offensive depended on access to the king, and there lies the problem. The king only saw people who he summoned to see him. Anyone approaching the King’s court without being invited was doomed to die. While Esther clearly knew she needed God’s help she also knew she needed others to intercede with God in prayer not only for her safety, but also for the safety of all the Jews.

Intercession is when you bring somebody before Jesus not for your own needs but out of concern for that person. When you pray for somebody else’s needs, that’s intercession.

Look at Esther’s request for intersession: “Esther sent back her answer to Mordecai: “Go and get all the Jews living in Susa together. Fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, either day or night. I and my maids will fast with you. If you will do this, I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.” Mordecai left and carried out Esther’s instructions. (Esther 4:15-17 The Message)

3. Acknowledging God In Victory

With skill, cunning, and smarts Esther got the king to reverse the decree requiring the killing of all the Jews. Haman the official closest to the king and the person who persuaded the king to approve the decree was executed by order of the king. He was replaced as chief confident to the king by Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and the man who refusal to bow Haman, which was the chief cause for the order sentencing all Jews to death.

Despite these positive developments, trouble still loomed; those who hated the Jews did not obey the reversal of the decree. On the day the disregarded order was to take effect the Jews were attacked. The attackers were overpowered by the previously unlikely combination of Jews and the king’s army, which that only a few months before was plotting to kill them.

Only God could make this turn of events possible. Mordecai, now in charge of the day-to-day running of Persian, realized this and persuaded King Xerxes to acknowledge God with fasting, thanksgiving and prayer in a tradition called Purim.

Therefore, because of everything written in this letter and because of all that they had been through, the Jews agreed to continue. It became a tradition for them, their children, and all future converts to remember these two days every year on the specified dates set down in the letter. These days are to be remembered and kept by every single generation, every last family, every province and city. These days of Purim must never be neglected among the Jews; the memory of them must never die out among their descendants.(Esther 10:28-29 The Message)

What are you doing: To not worry about a thing?

1. What are you doing to acknowledge God in everything you do?

2. Are you regularly engaging in intercessory prayer?

3. Do you have a consistent habit of thanking and praising God for His achievements?

The Bottom Line: Live life without worry

God wants us to live extraordinary lives in service to Him and His people. We cannot live out the great purposes He has for us if we are crippled by worry, fear and doubt. Esther has given us the blueprint for taking on the great issues of our lives when we:

  • Acknowledge God
  • Pray for Others
  • Thank God for His Blessings

With God we can accomplish great things because with God we “Don’t have to worry about a thing”

Sins, Mistakes, Misunderstandings, and Forgiveness

As a Christian, I am acutely aware that I am still a sinner and remain a sinner. However, I stand on the words of Psalm 25:8: “Good and upright is the Lord: therefore, will he teach sinners in the way.”Also as a Christian, I am acutely, aware that I am not perfect. However, as the Psalmist tell us in Psalm 27:3-5, we can seek to bask in the Lord’s perfection: ‘The one thing I want from God, the thing I seek most of all, is the privilege of meditating in His Temple, living in His presence every day of my life, delighting in His incomparable perfections and glory.’

As sinful, imperfect humans who also happen to be Christians, often the mistakes we make are misunderstood to be sins because of the higher status we seek in our service to God. Our mistakes or “sins” will provoke reactions of undo proportion, often by longtime allies, jeopardizing years of goodwill, friendship, and fellowship, ultimately limiting the goodness we both can do in service to the Lord.

This is the trap that the devil has set for us. He knows that as sinful, imperfect humans, who also are Christians, we will make mistakes in our everyday dealings with each other. He knows that these mistakes often made with the best intentions will be viewed as “sins”, and that the misunderstandings that will accrue, are enough to get God’s people off the Lord’s mission and on to the devil’s game of misunderstandings, confusion, and misery.

Yet, as Christians, we have a powerful weapon that can bring clarity to the misunderstanding, peace to the confusion, and healing to the misery. That weapon is forgiveness.

Yes, we all know that Jesus will make all things right when he returns. Revelation 22:1-2 (The Message) gives us this healing vision of the future: “Then the Angel showed me Water-of-Life River, crystal bright. It flowed from the Throne of God and the Lamb, right down the middle of the street. The Tree of Life was planted on each side of the River, producing twelve kinds of fruit, a ripe fruit each month. The leaves of the Tree are for healing the nations. Never again will anything be cursed.”

In the meantime before the leaves of healing arrive, we still need to heal the brokenness of our relationships caused by our mistakes, our misunderstandings, and our sin. We need to do it right now!! Jesus taught, “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.”

My heart is heavy as I write this post because of a broken relationship that I value greatly. A relationship that has spanned over three decades in good and bad times is in jeopardy because a mistake that I made has been misunderstood and judged to be a sin.

Here and now I express my heartfelt sorrow for my mistake. I have reached out to the parties privately, and now I do it publicly, asking forgiveness for hurt, harm, and sorrow my actions surely have caused.

I have asked the Lord whom I serve for forgiveness and wisdom to go about being of service to you and others in a different way. So that my attempts at kindness, charity, and love will not be misunderstood, I am reaching out to you in this blog. It is my hope that it will not be interpreted differently than I intended. Misinterpretation has been the chief cause of this dustup that has caused my heart and soul to weep bitterly.

My personal mission statement posted for the world to see on my webpage calls for me to live an extraordinary life as a servant leader, humbly using my God given talents to enhance the lives of others.

None of us can achieve the missions that God has set for us as long as we stay stuck in the trap of sin, mistakes, and misunderstanding that the Devil has set for everyone, but especially set for Christians.

While this event will call for a reset of our relationship, it also gives us the opportunity to seek God’s grace, help, and healing to move forward.

I offer you my forgiveness, and I humbly ask for yours. For I know with forgiveness, God has made us to be bigger than sin, mistakes, and misunderstandings. In the final analysis, it is not what I have done or will do, but it is what He did for each one of us when He gave His life as a ransom for your sins, my sin, and the sins of the whole world.    Since Jesus has paid that price for us the least we can do is to forgive our mistakes and misunderstandings before we label them as unforgivable sins.

A Slave for Jesus Christ

I am humbly

Marben

 

Maggie Black: A Faithful Woman

Regular readers of these posts know of my affection for the people of Clinton, Georgia, my home town. On Saturday, June 8, 2014, one of the mothers of our community, Maggie Black died two months shy of her 102nd birthday.

While many individuals who knew Maggie Black may focus on the length of her life and, yes, she was blessed, but I would rather focus on the basics of her longevity which is her faith. Like Abraham and Sarah, Maggie Black’s life modeled the goodness of God through the power of her faith. God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have descendants of influence produced from their seed. As Maggie Black is laid to rest, she leaves behind a large multi-generational family, with diverse influence and a powerful faith, all produced from William and Maggie Black’s seed of faith.

Worship and obedience were such a part of Maggie Black’s life that it produced a faith that allowed her to navigate the difficulties of Jim Crow that gave her ability to birth, raise, and love a large, smart, and accomplished family; and then gave her the strength in later years to survive the deaths of her husband and two of her beloved children.

Hebrews 11:1-3, tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It has been an honor and pleasure to see and learn about faith firsthand from a faithful woman, Maggie Black.

What is a Church Leader?

Church Leaders2

After planting churches on the Island of Crete, Paul appointed Titus to finish the work of establishing strong churches for God’s people. Knowing that he could not do this enormous job of alone, Paul wrote to Titus, providing the following criteria for what a church leader should be like.

A church leader is God’s servant. His life must be so that no one can say anything against him. He should not try to please himself and not be quick to get angry over little things. He must not get drunk or want to fight. He must not always want more money for himself. He must like to take people into his home. He must love what is good. He must be able to think well and do all things in the right way. He must live a holy life and be the boss over his own desires. He must hold to the words of truth which he was taught. He must be able to teach the truth and show those who are against the truth that they are wrong.Titus 1: 7-9New Life Version (NLV)

As a person who wants to be a church leader, I read these wordsLady Clergy2 with terror and trepidation.   While I am trying to live up to the tenants of not being quick to get angry, or not to wanting to fight, or not wanting more money for myself and the other requirements, I know that I fall far short of these important and vital standards.

Just as I was about to give up, knowing that a sinful man like me could never live the life of a church leader commanded by Paul, the Holy Ghost revealed Paul’s key, and in fact, the only requirement for what a church leader must be like. “A church leader is God’s servant” Titus 1: 7 New Life Version (NLV).

In being God’s servant there are three things that should know:

1. God wants us just as we are.

Scared WomanGod wants us to serve Him just as we are with our conflicts, with our deficiencies, with our troubles, and with our sins. It is when we serve Him that all our earthly issues will fade.

Speaking with God at the burning bush Moses was very vocal about the inabilities he processed for the great task ahead. For each inability he presented God had an answer:

  • They won’t believe me, they will say the Lord never appeared: “What do you have there in your hand?” the Lord asked him. And he replied, “A shepherd’s rod.” “Throw it down on the ground,” the Lord told him. So he threw it down—and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it!  Then the Lord told him, “Grab it by the tail!” He did, and it became a rod in his hand again!  “Do that and they will believe you!” the Lord told him. “Then they will realize that Jehovah, the God of their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has really appeared to you. Exodus 4:2-5 Living Bible

 

  • I am not a good speaker: “Who makes mouths?” Jehovah asked him. “Isn’t it I, the Lord? Who makes a man so that he can speak or not speak, see or not see, hear or not hear? 12 Now go ahead and do as I tell you, for I will help you to speak well, and I will tell you what to say.” Exodus 4:11-12 Living Bible

 

  • Lord please! Send someone else: Then the Lord became angry. “All right,” he said, “your brother, Aaron, is a good speaker. And he is coming here to look for you and will be very happy when he finds you. So I will tell you what to tell him, and I will help both of you to speak well, and I will tell you what to do. He will be your spokesman to the people. And you will be as God to him, telling him what to say. Exodus 4:14-17 Living Bible

2. God will supply all we need to do His will.

Tool Box

When God ask us to do His will we can be assured that everything we need to do it will be given.   Mary was greatly troubled when the angel came and told her what was to come. Her main concern was “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “Since I am a virgin?”  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

3. God will bless us when we do His will.

Church Group

Because of Noah’s faithfulness in carrying out God’s orders concerning the building of the arc and the collection of animals. God made this convenient with Noah and his sons blessing them for their service.

“Then God spoke to Noah and his sons: “I’m setting up my covenant with you including your children who will come after you, along with everything alive around you—birds, farm animals, wild animals—that came out of the ship with you. I’m setting up my covenant with you that never again will everything living be destroyed by floodwaters; no, never again will a flood destroy the Earth.” Genesis 9:8-11 The Message

Clergy ManAs God’s servant, He will strengthen us to meet the requirements of church leadership. However, it is only by submitting to be a servant of God that we can become the parents, the grandparents, the child, the sibling, the friend, the business person and yes the church leader that He wants us to be.

What is Church Leader? He is a servant of God

 

Glory in Rejection

Jesus life on earth is bookended by rejection

– Rejection by the Inn Keeper at birth

– Rejection by His own disciples at death

But in rejection there is glory

His birth while humble was:

– So wonderful….that a single star shined brightly

– So wonderful…that wise men came from a far

– So wonderful…that the people of this earth to this day are still inspired by that holy night so long ago His death while burial provides:

– Hope…because of the prophecy fulfilled by His crucifixion

– Hope….because of the victory of His resurrection

– Hope….because of the forgiveness afforded by His sacrifice

Jesus proves to us that there is glory in rejection

  • So take heart…… His suffering was not in vain
  • So take heart ……His body was broken for a purpose
  • So take heart…….His blood was spilled for goodness

Jesus life was on earth is bookended by rejection:

Why?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16KJV)

For in Jesus where there is rejection there is glory.