Criticism…

No matter what you do someone will criticize you. It is simply a fact of life. In fact, if you were to do absolutely nothing at all someone would criticize you for that. So, what do you do when someone is being critical of what you are doing? How you are doing it? How do you handle those who criticize the way you dress? Your tattoos? Your piercings? Your hair style? Your life-style?

Well, there are a number of responses to the critic and the criticism…

1> Listen to criticism when it’s appropriate

Proverbs 15:31-32 “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.

If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.”

Some criticism is actually useful and important. Sometimes it’s given from people who care enough about you to risk offending you. Their criticism is constructive. They offer suggestions to help you improve yourself. I try to listen to others when I believe their motives are pure.

2> You should answer the criticism

Someone may criticize you without the goal of helping – they simply want to voice dislike for you or something you’ve done. In some cases, you should answer the criticism. Who is it wise to answer? Whenever you think that offering a response can help the critic understand your position. But watch your attitude – simply answering can easily turn into defensiveness.

Consider answering when they’re missing important information that could change their perception (and if you think they are open to listening). 

Gideon, one of Israel’s national leaders, gave us a great model for answering criticism. The delegation from the tribe of Ephraim was upset that Gideon didn’t seem to be paying them much attention. Judges 8:1-2a recounts the story: “Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian? ” And they challenged him vigorously. But he answered them…”

Gideon acted wisely. He gave them more information. He gave them a soft and wise answer. This often silences the critics. 

3> Dismiss the criticism

Another appropriate response to invalid criticism may be to simply dismiss it. I’m convinced that some people see only the bad side of everything. All of their silver linings have clouds. These horribly miserable individuals have the gift of dragging people down – especially themselves. I’ve chosen not to let them do that to me. If you face someone who can’t be pleased, dismiss their invalid criticism. 

When dealing with overly critical people, try to see past the arrows to the struggles that launched them. Often the critic is a very wounded and hurting person. So, it is good to try and see past the criticism even as you dismiss it to discover the wound in the critic that is the source of the criticism.

4> Endure the critic and the criticism

Okay, sometimes you should listen to your critics. Sometimes you answer your critics. And sometimes you dismiss them. But what if you can’t ignore them? What do you do when people say things about you that are not true, and you try to dismiss them … but they resurface again and again and again? It’s time to endure. 

When critical people just won’t go away, I can only tell you one thing to do: endure.

Endurance is critical if you want to succeed spectacularly at anything God sets before you. Whenever you veer off the beaten path, whenever you blaze a new trail, you’ll be criticized. Sometimes it will be relentless. You must endure. 

In the Church world, I’m grateful for the spiritual trailblazers. Ten of the twelve original disciples died a martyr’s death spreading the gospel so that one day I would hear and believe. The Church fathers of the first three centuries endured over-whelming persecution for their faith. Martin Luther faced a life-and-death trial for defending God’s Word. Wesley, Finney, Moody, and Spurgeon patiently held up under criticism during the great historical revivals. Modern-day pioneers have endured battles to reshape and renew the Church. Someone said you can always tell a pioneer by the arrows in his back.

To succeed, you have to be able to suffer. And one of the most common pains obedient risk-takers face is the pain of criticism. 

Jesus is our greatest model, He was willing to obey His Father’s voice no matter what the cost. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “fix out eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” It’s for the joy and reward set before you that you endure the pain of risky obedience.

If God’s calling you to do something (and He is), get to it. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Be obedient. For the joy set before you, endure your unavoidable opponents. 

Listen. Answer. Dismiss. Harder still, endure. Above all else, never forget: You can’t please all people but you can please God.

No matter how hard you try, you’ll never please everyone. It’s an impossible goal. Give up trying to please the unappeasable, and live first of all for God, your Father, who always has a smile ready for you. I love the way Paul says it in 1 Thessalonians 2:4: “Our purpose is to please God, not people” (NLT).

If, like me, you hate being criticized, recognize that the root problem is that we’re people pleasers. Once we find freedom from our need for people’s approval, we can focus on the eternal goal of bringing pleasure to God. 

Stop Worrying

As we continue to face major changes in the way we live life due to the Coronavirus commonly known at Covid-19 … I am noticing how many people are worried about what is happening and what they should be doing. This is natural when you think about it. Jobs are being lost. Family income is being effected in adverse ways. Stores are closing. Schools and universities are closed. You can’t go out for coffee or a meal. Life as we know it has been abruptly interrupted. And, the level of concern and worry has gone up.

So, repeat after me: Hakuna matata. It means “no worries. You might think I’m kidding around or that I’ve watched The Lion King one too many time, but that is basically what the Bible says! Look at what Peter writes:

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)

When Peter tells us to cast all our anxieties on the Lord, he means that we should take all of what bothers us in this world and what worries us and what gives us ulcers, and we should toss them into the mighty and waiting hands of the Father.

This includes every fear, worry, anxiety, or misgiving we may have about presenting the gospel and receiving rejection. I say this because it is a good time to be speaking to others about the Lord and eternal life. With people dying daily from the virus in almost every country of the world people’s hearts are open and the world is looking for hope. So, it is a great time to speak up and let others know that you are a born again believer. Ad, what exactly it is that you believe.

Are you nervous that the people may say no? Don’t worry about it. Cast your anxiety on the Lord. Are you anxious that a relationship might be ruined because you opened your mouth and told someone about Jesus? Hakuna matata. Give your distress to God.

Because, trust me, He can handle it. He created the world in seven days (technically six: He took a breather on the last one). He split the Red Sea in two. He raised His Son from the dead. I think He can handle a stomach full of butterflies not to mention the effects of the Coronavirus we are all suffering through.

Stop wasting time and energy fretting about how it’s going to turn out. Give every twinge and ounce of nerves to God and do what you have been called to do! Not just during the current crisis we are all involved in and facing daily. But, even after everything returns to normal or near normal, continue to trust God with all the things that worry and concern you. Be free. 

Researchers tell us that 95% of life is out of our control. So, stop worrying about and being anxious over everything that is happening. Focus and concentrate on the 5% that is within your control and move on with life. Leave the other 95% to God, our Heavenly Father. He is still in control and is very capable of taking care of things if we just let Him do so.

Stop worrying!

Take a Deep Breathe (Covid-19)

Well, there was toilet paper in one of two stores I went to this morning during the “Seniors Shopping” hour. And, with my trusty small bottle of hand sanitizer in my pocket I was able to defeat all the germs that were attacking me (at least in my imagination). And, I worked hard not to touch my face while out until the itch on my nose just became seriously unbearable. 

It has been one of those days when my Apple Watch needs to remind me to stop and take a minute to breathe. 

A text saying a wonderful believers who I have known for years died this morning in South Africa. A prayer request for a baby who almost died last night at 6 weeks young. A lawyer from Kazakhstan stuck in Florida after his classes ended because all flights have been cancelled. A series of text messages from a pastor and friend in Russia whose wife has been diagnosed with cancer as things there just begin to close down as they have done here – including his church. Good news from another city where prayer has been ongoing for a young girl with cancer and it has been healed by Jesus and verified by doctors treating her. A thank you from a young person I prophesied over in 2012 in Kazakhstan who wrote to thank me as the word has come to pass. It has certainly been a morning of ‘connections.’

In the midst of all these fast moving connections two stood out. 

One was a person wondering if I had any prophetic sense of when the shut down because of Covid-19 will come to an end and life return to normal. My first thought was ‘take a deep breath everyone.’ I have seen so many posts linking the Covid-19 pandemic to this spiritual event or that biblical prophecy. Let’s all just take a deep breath and not spiritualize the pandemic. God is not using it to reduce the population on the planet. You can repent – always good to do that – but it won’t stop the pandemic. We live in a fallen world and germs are a part of that. Let’s just step back, take a deep breathe, and relax. 

The second was a prayer request … to do spiritual warfare against a demonic attack. It seems that in some areas where there is a captive audience – seniors homes, prisons, hospitals – people from the ‘outside’ are not being allowed in. I understand that this can be frustrating and may prevent you or me from ministering to those who are shut in. But, this should not be linked to an outright ‘demonic attack.’ How about the authorities are simply trying to limit ‘outside contact’ so that the virus does not enter these closed communities and then spread like wildfire. Again, take a step back and take a deep breathe. Everything isn’t spiritual. Maybe it is just a common sense move that will protect those within these institutions as inconvenient to those of us who minister to these people. 

One of the last churches I worked in before flights stopped … I mentioned to a person that I would likely not be heading to Vietnam for a scheduled series of meeting. I was met with an incredulous look and a comment … “You can go because if you drink any deadly thing it will not hard you.” I honestly just let it drop and didn’t respond. Not because I don’t like a good fight but because I was so shocked that someone could actually believe that. God wants us to use our common sense. I have faith that things can’t hurt me. I have eaten things which would normally send me to hospital (never mind why) and with prayer and faith I did not react to the food. But, I don’t intentionally go looking for things to eat that I know I can’t have. God wants us to use our common sense. But when faced with a situation where I don’t want to offend my host, God protects me and I enjoy eating the forbidden food. Let’s all just step back for a minute and take a deep breathe. 

I didn’t go to Vietnam because of the possibility at that time that flights would no longer be available and that on returning I would need to have two weeks in self-isolation in the city where I land which would not have been my home city. Yesterday would have been the first day of ministry there. Common sense told me the best thing to do in this situation.

You know, instead of panicking and stockpiling food – and toilet paper – why not take this opportunity to share Jesus with others. Let’s not panic as so many are doing. Just step back from the ‘panic’,’ take a deep breathe, relax. God is in control. And He want us to focus on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3a) and be ready to share God’s love, compassion, and mercy with those who are panicking. Take time to pray with them and for them. Don’t get caught up in the panic, concern, worry, and anxiety that is rampant out there. Just follow the medical suggestions to wash your hands and avoid contact. Take the extra time to read your Bible, pray, and share Jesus with others on the many social media platforms that are available to us. 

We are in an amazingly challenging time and I am excited with all that I see God doing. We simply need to “seek first the Kingdom…”

Christians – let’s be careful that we don’t end up looking like a bunch of idiots reacting without any firm understanding of reality and the Scriptures. Let’s step back, take a deep breath, relax, and use your common sense. Don’t glorify the devil (he may be less involved than you think), and trust Jesus!

How to Deal With Betrayal

As a healthy Christian you are called to build relationships with those you come into contact with. This means opening your life and even your heart at time. Opening up to believer and non-believer alike. And, when we live relationally; when we are transparent and vulnerable; when we invite others into our lives … we are likely to be hurt at times. Betrayed. Rejected. Misunderstood. Attacked.

We need to have a heart that does not allow unforgiveness to fester. We need to instantly forgive those what betray our trust and not allow the situation to damage our heart and our relationship with God. We need to learn to deal with betrayal.

How much money would you spend to get an hour to ask Jesus all the questions you’ve ever wanted to ask Him? In person. Face-to-face.

What would it be worth to you to go back to the first century and spend an entire weekend with Jesus, watching Him perform miracles, listening to His teachings. participating in private conversations, watching Him pray and interact with others?

Most of us would give anything and everything to have such an opportunity and resulting experience. 

So, consider Judas. He had just such a weekend. And, in the midst of that weekend he betrayed Jesus. Seems somewhat ungrateful, doesn’t it? Jesus gave him a front-row seat to the most significant life ever lived, and Judas sold Him out.

And yet at the Last Supper, when Jesus washed His disciples feet, Jesus made sure that Judas was still present. Jesus knew that Judas was in the process of betraying Him and selling Him out for 30 pieces of silver. In a picture the sheer wonder of which leaves me in awe, Jesus used the two holiest hands that have ever existed, the two most precious hands in the history of mankind, the hands pierced for our salvation – Jesus took those exquisite hands and washed the feet of His betrayer.

Even in the face of ungratefulness and malice, Jesus kept the door open to relational reconciliation. He loved Judas to the end, essentially saying, “You can’t make me hate you. Your toxicity and anger and betrayal won’t change the way I act towards you.

Just as astonishing to me is what happened during the actual act of betrayal. When Judas walks up to Jesus to hand Him over to the soldiers, Jesus looks at Judas and says, “Do what you came for, friend” (Matthew 26:50)

Friend?

How about skunk? How about snake?

Jesus said ‘friend’ because Jesus didn’t have any unforgiveness in His heart or soul. There was nowhere for unforgiveness and resentment to take root. He sets the example for all of us who call ourselves His disciples and followers.

God is radically for people. He wants everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). As His followers, we also must be for everyone, even if we oppose what they are doing. If we must live and work with toxic people, our call is to make sure their toxicity doesn’t become ours. We don’t threat them as they treat us. We don’t offer evil in exchange for evil. We love. We serve. We guard our hearts so that we are not effected or poisoned by their bad example. And we must continue to love them unconditionally. Accept them just as they are. As well as forgive them when they speak against you and cause others to speak against you and reject you.

Follow the example of Jesus who still considered Judas His friend.  

A Sense of Urgency

Everything and everyone currently seems to be on “urgent.” It is urgent that we keep 2 meters distance between us. It is urgent that we self-isolate to slow down the spread of Covid-19. It is urgent not to be in groups bigger than 50 or 5 or 2 depending where you live. Because of the impending death toll from this virus everything – even the small details of daily life – have taken on an urgent edge.

It is interesting to me that this sense of urgency has not existed within the Church. It does now. After all, our church finances are taking a hit if we cannot come together as a family. So, it is urgent that we get our Sunday message up on line on Facebook Live or one of the many other ways to have an on-line presence. It is urgent we stay visible because otherwise it is “out of sight and out of mind” and we will have an urgent financial crisis. 

But, may I ask, where is the urgency when it comes to getting the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom out there so that it is heard. If we expect the death rate from this Coronavirus to keep climbing should we not have a sense of urgency to get our message out there. Even without the impending doom of high fatalities due to Covid-19 should we not have a sense of urgency that compelling us to share the Gospel. 

Paul, Peter, James, John, and even Jude all use urgent language to help us understand how vital and pressing our mission before God is:

JESUS: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4)

PAUL: “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none …and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” (2 Corinthians 7:29, 31)

JAMES: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17)

PETER: “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming” (2 Peter 3:11b-12a)

JOHN: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16, 18)

JUDE: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3)

If you are in Christ, you aren’t just saved; you are enlisted. You have been called into a tremendously important work – an urgent work – and there’s no time to lose.

A football player doesn’t worry about mowing his lawn the morning of the Super Bowl

A bride doesn’t blow off her wedding to watch a sitcom

A fireman doesn’t finish his sandwich when a building blows up

Why?

They all have more urgent things to do

That’s the attitude we need in the Kingdom of God. What every believer is doing is crucially important. Because our message is so precious, because the Holy Spirit within us is so powerful, and because the work of building God’s Kingdom is so necessary, we don’t have time to waste. 

Jesus told His disciples, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). The classic Christian writer Andrew Murray wrote: “The Lord gave Himself entirely and undecidedly over to accomplish His work; He lived for it alone … As with Jesus, so with us. Christ’s mission is the only reason for our being on earth …When I believe this, and like my Lord in His mission consecrate myself undecidedly to it, shall I indeed live well-pleasing to Him.”

Too many think our salvation is all about us – personal peace, assurance, happiness, and security. One of the greater needs in the church today is more workers. Not just believers. Not just church attenders. Not even tithers. It is workers, those who believe that to be saved isn’t to wait for heaven but to get busy bringing heaven’s presence and authority to this present earth as ambassadors for Christ. 

Coronavirus Response

We are on total shutdown due to the rapid spread of the Covet-19 strain of the Coronavirus. 

Each days we receive reports of the number of new cases and the increasing number of deaths due to this epidemic. We listen carefully for further instructions and notices of shutdowns. As I write this MacDonald’s has just shut everything down but their drive-thru. And so the precautions continue and proactive decisions are being made and communicated.

Meanwhile those who are approaching this worldwide situation in “panic mode” are preventing others who are taking one step at a time and remaining calm and level-headed from purchasing some of the essentials – paper towels, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and various canned goods. Shelves are empty and line-ups are long. And the line-ups now put you in the situation of breaking the law as more than 50 people are gathered together. In my city the limit is 5. In Germany it has become 2 people.

And believers are sending out messages that are continuing to convince the rest of the world that we are close to insane. Prophetic words that do not glorify God nor encourage people and certainly do not call people to repentance and the cross (biblical purposes of the prophetic). Others are looking for the “political side” of the issue… like it is a plot against the people. I quote a message from earlier this morning… “Am currently working to put together a local meeting for next Sunday with Art Lucier. (head of Battle for Canada) He is doing a whole bunch of small meetings in Canada. I want to hear what he has to say. We need to know what’s going on. There’s way more to this than meets the eye. It’s a political issue.” Really now!

Let’s stay focused shall we. Let’s not get carried away with political plots and biblical ‘types’ and reading in end times prophetic warnings into what is happening. This is life happening on a crowded and fallen planet. And, we are able to avoid getting sick by following some simple rules – like wash your hands. Believers need to stop reading into this end-times events, false prophetic words, government conspiracies … Give me a break! 

You know what you need to do? Simple … go for a walk and talk to your neighbours one-on-one maintaining the 2 meters distance that the medical people are recommending. Tell them about Jesus and His offer of forgiveness and eternal life. That’s our mandate. We are to “go into all the world and make disciples.” Like Jesus we are to “seek and save the lost.” We are to “love our neighbours as we love ourselves.” Let’s let go of the panic button. Let’s stop reading in your pet end-times doctrine into what is happening. Let’s stop stockpiling food and toilet paper. Let’s act with level heads and lend a helping hand to those who need help at this time in the history of the human race. 

Whatever you do, please “shut-up,” and stop gossiping.  Stop forwarding all these social network messages that are neither right nor biblical. And they are certainly not helpful. Let’s see if, in the midst of this rather difficult time, we can help improve the reputation of the born again, Spirit-filled Church and not simply send our reputation further down the toilet.

Take a moment and read the following … from Martin Luther during an epidemic in his lifetime. 

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and … so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.” 

 

Martin Luther Works v. 43, p. 132 Letter “Whether one may flee from a deadly plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Hess

Loss of a Friend

Guest blogger – Bill (William) Lewis, Apostle, Author, and Teacher

By now everyone is affected by the coronavirus. It is changing our lives whether we have the sickness or not. It has been declared a pandemic. It has stretched its deadly effects throughout the world. The fear that has been generated is in some ways justified and in others, is extreme. There is a mob mentality that has taken hold as grocery store shelves are emptied of toilet paper, hand sanitizers, paper towels, and antibacterial soaps. The shortages are created by the panic.

The medical community and the governments have teamed together to shorten and stop the spread of the virus. The fear is rooted in the fact there is no vaccine or antidote which heightens the fear. As social interaction is curtailed; it causes the spread to slow and hopefully stop. The approach, while necessary, it wreaking havoc with businesses, the economy, and the stock market. The panic is pandemic as well.

However, there is the deeply human part of this. Take away the statistics, the panic, the fear, all the scams and abuses, and there is the human side. If you lose someone you love, care for, are friends with, it becomes personal. Families are devastated, decimated, and left bereft. Grief becomes the attending emotion. Blaming government, blaming medical professionals, blaming manufacturers for not having enough capacity to produce and protect, is futile and an attempt at shifting blame. Making it racist does not bring back any of those lost to the disease and blaming only causes bitterness and anger.

I, personally, have lost a dear friend to the virus. He called me one day to let me know he was in quarantine. He let me know his wife was in the hospital acutely ill. He was concerned for her life. We talked for a while and I asked him to keep me informed how they were doing. During those 10 days he called three times with updates that his wife was doing slightly better and that he was feeling some better. The last call was on a Thursday, reporting that she would probably be released from the hospital at the end of the week and that he was gaining strength. In less than 48 hours, he was gone. I received a message that he had passed. I was shocked, dismayed, and grieving.

My friend was Jean Marc Thobois, cousin of Joel and Emmanuel, other dear friends of mine. Jean Marc was an astounding scholar, particularly of Hebrew and studies of Israel. He spoke Hebrew and studied in Israel. He was working with a team of scholars to produce a new French translation of the Old Testament. He had invited me so many times to go to Israel with him, even offering to do so with just a handful of us. I had been planning to make it with him this October as he was scheduled to lead another educational tour. So, you see, things can become very personal.

Often, when things happen like this, we want to find as reason. We want to attach blame somewhere. We want to accuse God, accuse the government, accuse nations; we just want to be mad at someone and say it is their fault. Some want to make it an act of God, some want to attribute God’s judgment as the cause, some want to accuse the doctors and scientists for not being prepared. All those trains of thought are madness.

Life is fragile. Life is messy. When science finds the cure for one thing, another appears. Diseases seem to appear like they never existed before. Strains of these viruses often mutate and become stronger or more resistant to cures. Mankind will always struggle to live. It seems to me there is something in creation and the fall of man that contributes to the ongoing struggle for life. In times like these we are jolted out of complacency and acceptance of the day to day and forced to look at our mortality, the fragility of our existence, and the vagaries of living day to day. We are reminded that life can change in a moment, a twinkling of an eye, mid breath, between heartbeats.

Tragedy forces me to look beyond the uncontrollable. I have to go to someone who is the rock, the immutable, the Forever One. Thus, my only hope is in Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So, in spite of the panic, the fear, the losses, one thing holds true: Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior!

Be Confident – Be You

The Bible states and God says, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded” (Hebrews 10:35). Of course, our confidence is in Him and what He is doing in us and through us. On our journey with Jesus, as we discover who we are, we also learn what He has called us to do for Him and His Kingdom.

As we gain confidence in Him and thus who we are “in Christ” and what He has called us to do then we can reach the stage where we can relax and be confident and comfortable. You can “be confident in who you are, and comfortable with who you’re not.” In other words, you truly discover yourself – the real you that God created. And, you are then able to sort out and settle many of the issues that keep you from living a full and fulfilling life. You can separate what God expects of you and from you from what others expect and even demand. Your life-focus becomes much sharper and you stop wasting time trying to impress people or ‘keeping up with the Jones.’ You are too busy keeping up with Jesus and all that He is revealing to you about you. 

This means you can just be yourself. Being someone and thus something you’re not is exhausting. No one wins. You are plastic in your relationships. Conversations remain shallow and boring. You fear doing new things that might disturb the false ‘you’ that you have been projecting for years. You are fearful that if people really got to know you they would not like you and would reject you … walking away permanently. You live with that fear. You live ‘timid’ and afraid. As a result, you remain relationally unhealthy. And, never discover the real you; never experience what a healthy relationship is like; how life-giving and freeing it can be.

If you want to change and discover the real you and live with confidence … remember that if you cling to what got you to this point you will fail to evolve, and you will continue to be the you that you were never meant to be. 

However, if you want to create something that matters, for both yourself and others, you have to start where you are, with who you are and what you have. You can’t just jump into what you want and who God wants you to be. There are lots of small steps that you will need to take.The first being the way you see life, see yourself, and see what you do. To change your perspective you definitely need to push past your comfort zone. Get out of your rut no matter how comfortable that rut may be.

Remember this: Comfort zones are the places where dreams and hope go to die.

So, where others see the mundane and minimize it, you will need to see the possibility and maximize it. You will need to decide to live in “change mode” for the rest of your life, starting right now! You must stop thinking and believing small. I understand that what makes smallness difficult to overcome is that it feels easier and more comfortable than pressing forward into the new you and much bigger dreams. Just remember, comfort zones are the places where dreams and a better future go to die. Where the better you is buried and never discovered. You need to decide that no matter what happens you are going to move forward in the opposite direction to where you are currently headed.

Live fearlessly. Don’t allow past disappointments to abort today’s possibilities. See that everything is working together for your good. Don’t be petty.  Look for the good in everything. Find people – build relationships with people who love you, will stick with you, encourage you, and will be there for you regardless. There are relationships out there that are priceless. But they will be products of your own willingness to press into people, believe in them, love, take risks, and be open to the possibility of friendships and relationships that are open and transparent. 

Begin the journey and be yourself – the real you. Remember, being someone and thus something you’re not is exhausting. 

Take Responsibility

Adam and Eve were the first finger-pointing couple on the planet. When things went wrong, Adam said to God, “It’s the woman’s fault.” Eve said, “It’s the devil’s fault.” Ever since then humanity has become experts in making excuses, playing the victim, and shifting the blame. Owning our story means that we own our relationships fully and completely. 

Now you may be thinking, “A relationship is a two-way street. How can I be accountable for a relationship when the other person is being a complete jerk? Or, they are not responding and refuse to be engaged in the relationship? Or when they are unreasonable, irrational, and impossible to talk to?

Owning your relationship doesn’t mean you are responsible for what other people do. It means that you accept responsibility for everything you do and for everything you bring into the relationship:

        • Your attitudes
        • Your feelings and emotions
        • Your perspective
        • Your body language
        • Your words
        • Your tone of voice
        • Your investment

Rather than playing the victim, passing the blame, or making excuses, you take full responsibility to be the best you that you can be.

By the way, if this sounds risky and daring, this is just a reminder that you cannot live a full life if you are being guarded and playing it safe. Life at its fullest is about being open, vulnerable, and risking exposure. Owning every part of our story means we make a move when there’s no guarantee of the outcome.

If you want your relationships to be healthy and strong, one of the best things you can do is to have a full-ownership policy, where you take personal responsibility and ownership of your relationships. Scripture tells us that there’s power in agreement and that “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9), meaning that the more people in a relationship do this, the stronger and healthier the relationship is. But if we’re going to own our story, we can’t wait for others to adopt an ownership mindset; we have to do it whether anyone else does or not. “Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can do with your own life” (Galatians 6:5 The Message Version).

This means taking full ownership of your life and relationships. Not 50 percent, not 80 percent, but 100 percent ownership. I’m not saying this is easy, because it’s not. In fact, most of us have been conditioned to place the responsibility for our lives on something or someone other than ourselves.

Going all in will always, without fail, create an all-in kind of harvest. This doesn’t mean every idea works or every plan works. It doesn’t mean every relationship with be long-term and healthy. It simply means that we are wholeheartedly committed to the relationships we have and do our best to bring them into a place of health where they are mutually beneficial. It means that  wholehearted commitment always creates an outcome that far exceeds that of a partial, cautious, guarded approach. Scripture teaches us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23).

All in. Not holding back, not keeping score, not waiting to see what others will do. Not tentative, not calculated, not having an agenda. But instead, facing outward, being eager, being ready to serve, being helpful, speaking encouragement, extending hospitality, being always considerate, being kind, and being generous. Being vulnerable is being all in when there is no guarantee of the outcome. 

It’s time to take responsibility and ownership for our life and stop blaming others for what we are experiencing in life. 

Criticism – Inevitable If…

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, said, “If you want to make a dent in the universe, you’re going to take a few dents in your armour here and there.” When you do anything you will find out that someone will be critical. And, if you just sit there and do nothing, someone will be critical. The world is full of people who believe that their spiritual gift is criticism and that their ministry is to be critical of everyone. 

No one needs a critic. However, everyone needs someone who will critique the way they live and what they are doing. It’s like a healthy form of criticism. Critique is the method used by a qualified (key word here) person who will observe someone or the work they do so that they can help them be better and do better. We can all benefit from critique. We seldom benefit from someone who is simply critical and out to tear us down. 

When we listen to critique, it helps us identify our blind spots and see places we can get better. The Bible says it this way: “Listen to advice and accept disciple, and you’ll be wise for the rest of your life” (Proverbs 19:20 ISV).

So, while criticism can be lousy, even dangerous, critique can be incredibly healthy, ever helpful. You can think of one as lousy criticism and the other as helpful critique. The primary difference is in the carrier – the intent of the carrier, the words of the carrier, the spirit of the carrier. So, let’s outline the differences….

Criticism versus Critique

Critics are self-appointed                                   Critique is invited

Criticism finds fault                                            Critique looks for ways to improve

Criticism condemns                                            Critique encourages

Criticism is an accuser                                       Critique is an ally

Criticism is designed to bring you down        Critique is designed to build you up

Criticism is opinionated                                     Critique is collaborative

Criticism complains                                            Critique considers

Criticism can be hurtful                                     Critique can be helpful

Criticism magnifies the negative                     Critique magnifies the positive

We all need a coach – someone who will critique our lifestyle and our work. Most of us can do without the critics. A coach (mentor) will give us valuable input into life and ministry and we are wise to heed their advice and input.

Proverbs 13:18 ESV “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honoured.”

Proverbs 12:1 ESV “He who hates reproof is stupid!”

The Bible does not hold back – it says it as it is and certainly is “keeping it real.”

We become the best version of who we’re meant to be when we are coachable, eager to learn, and are open to correction and instruction.