Thursday, July 19, 2018

Having a Critical Spirit

     Lately, the Holy Spirit has been doing some housecleaning in my heart and the process has not been easy or comfortable.  Hiding the truth from ourselves seems to be less difficult than owning up to the fact that we need to repent.  In my case, I felt as though I was under a heavy spiritual attack from the enemy.  As I ran to the Lord for comfort, little by little, He began to point out areas I needed to confess.  With each time of prayer, I felt the burden lifting.  Amazing how God works in our lives!
     One of the areas I became aware of was that of having a critical spirit.  Oh how easy it is to fall into this trap, and many times, we do not even realize it.  It is easy to sit back and criticize others, but it hurts when we are on the receiving end.  I believe the Lord has discussed this well when He told His disciples "Judge not, lest you be judged..." (Matthew 7:1-5).
     Having a critical spirit means that we tend to view others and circumstances from a negative point of view.  We find fault, criticize, gossip, slander, judge and complain.  I hate writing these words because they are ugly, but all sin is ugly in the eyes of our holy God.  A person with a critical spirit may not demonstrate all of these things, but we can be certain that behind it is the enemy of our souls.  Satan loves to make us ineffective in our witness by turning our love for God and others into a "complaint session".  Before long, our world grows dark and everything in it seems imperfect.  So how does a person develop a critical spirit?
     One of the first ways which is easy to see is that all of us have a sin nature.  If we are a Christian, we still have the old flesh to deal with on a regular basis.  Essentially, we are selfish people and unless we crucify the flesh daily and walk by the Spirit, we can return to that self-centered nature.
A monument in Zurich, Switzerland to fallen soldiers
     Along with selfishness, we often do not see ourselves as a new creation in Christ.  Our value and significance are found in Him not in anything we can do for ourselves.  When we forget to whom we belong, we become afraid.  That fear causes us to go into protective mode and we begin to criticize others.  Somehow, we think this will make us feel better, but it never does.
     Another element that tends to lead to a critical spirit is wanting to control our circumstances and the people around us.  Where did this begin?  "It all started in the Garden of Eden" as my husband likes to say.  If we can control things around us, we will feel secure or so we tell ourselves.  However, change is inevitable, and when this occurs, the person with a critical spirit panics.  Instead of trusting God, they complain about people and situations who are disrupting their world.  Unfortunately, it is catching.
     When a friend, family member, or acquaintance begins to point out all that wrong with your job, your church or other people, it is easy to join the band wagon.  Before we know it, we are not only complicit in this sin, but we are also passing it on to others around us.  We have taken our eyes off the Lord and put them instead on imperfect people or the circumstances of our life.  The Lord clearly told us in John 15: 4-5 that we are to abide in Him so that we can bear much fruit.  Apart from Christ, we cannot do anything!  Buying in to negative thinking, actions, or words can only hurt us in the long run.  As the Apostle Paul so clearly instructed us:  "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
     A critical spirit only brings separation from God.  It is a sin and needs to be repented of rather than enabled.  This applies to all areas of our life.  God did not make us our brother's judge and jury.  He designed us to love Him and then to love others as we love ourselves.  We are to be givers of His grace and not critics in residence.  May we all learn to offer praise rather than condemnation, encouragement rather than criticism and love rather than disdain.  God is glorified when our focus and lives are centered on Him.  He will take care of all else for He alone is sovereign.  Selah!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

In the Light of Offensive Behavior

     Seemingly, we live in a time where people are targets for another person's frustrations or anger.  I am thinking of the recent request for the President's press secretary to leave a restaurant.  She quietly acquiesced and left.  She could have lashed out in return but she wisely chose not to avoiding further
problems.  Unfortunately for the rest of her family who went to a restaurant across the street to dine, they had no peace as they were followed and harassed.  This seems to be happening with more frequency as tempers rise over political ideology.  The problem for most of us when confronted by an unreasonable person is to react instead of responding in a manner which will honor the Lord.
     Looking to Scripture for an answer about our conduct in public, I read the following from the letter Paul wrote to Titus:  "Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love and in steadfastness.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, or slaves to much wine.  They are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.  Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.  Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us" (Titus 2:2-8).  There are several important things we can glean from this passage.
     First, one of the words repeated over several times is "self-controlled".  What an important aspect of character this is for the Christian!  Young and old alike need to learn and exhibit self-control whether in speech or actions.  We cannot do this without the help of the Holy Spirit each day.  Sadly, I think our flesh too often wants to retaliate when someone says something unkind.  Proverbs 15:1 tells us:  "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."  We need self-control especially in this fallen world filled with animosity towards the things of God.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders demonstrated self-control when she quietly left the restaurant.  I am certain it hurt and was not easy for her, but by doing so, she displayed the dignity and self-control that honors Christ.
     Secondly, we notice in this passage that older adults are to be examples for the younger generation.  Older men through their steadfastness and patient love of God are to encourage younger men in their growth by setting a good example.  The older women are to teach the younger women how to love their husbands and children.  Being near to listen and encourage younger women is a big help when they are raising children and caring for a home.  It goes without saying that no one is to be a slanderer or gossip either; for this is exactly what the unbeliever is involved in too.  We are all called to holy living before the Lord.
     An interesting side note to this passage comes from a footnote in my MacArthur Study Bible.  Dr. MacArthur said that keeping a godly home atmosphere is a Christian woman's responsibility.  He goes on to say:  "The ideas of radical feminism were an integral part of ancient Babylonian and Assyrian mythology as well as to Greek Gnosticism which flourished throughout the Roman Empire during New Testament times.  This posed a constant threat to the early church.  Modern feminism is neither new nor progressive; it is age-old and regressive."  I never knew that ancient societies also dealt with the problem of radical feminism which can cause problems in relationships between men and women.
     Finally, the purpose of all that Paul wrote was so that we would not bring any reproach on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  People watch our conduct and interactions with others.  Therefore, we do not want, in any way, to cause others to stumble and keep them from coming to Christ.  In order for someone to be convinced that Jesus can save them from their sins, they need to see people who lead a holy life.  We will not be perfect, but we are to strive to live above our circumstances with the Spirit's help so that God might not be mocked as a result of anything we have said or done.  We are called to be the salt of the earth and the light on a hill so that others will be drawn to Christ.  May we persevere in this during the days ahead so that God will receive all the glory.  Selah!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Words that Hurt and Words that Heal

     In the past few days, I have received  emails from a company owner wanting to give me something for free.  He indicated that there had been a boycott of his business (I was blissfully unaware until he brought it to my attention) over his statements concerning our current president and those who voted for him.  As he elaborated in his emails, he said he did not mind losing customers who supported the president whom he declared was racist.  My heart sank.  I have purchased from this company through the years and enjoyed their products.  However, as my father used to tell me, business and politics really do not belong together.  If we have beliefs we are free to express them but when name calling and judging come into your business, it is bound to produce negative consequences.  I plan to politely write to this company CEO (since he emailed me) and let him know that I will no longer be purchasing his products.  This is the type of thing happening more and more in our country where people are discriminating against those with whom they disagree.  What ever happened to polite conversation?
     As always, the Bible has something to say about what we as Christians should be doing on a regular basis.  The Scripture comes from Paul's letter to young Pastor Timothy (1 Timothy 2:1-4):
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."  In this passage, Paul is encouraging Timothy to remind the church at Ephesus to pray for the lost and those who are in pain.  Furthermore, he includes a call to pray for leaders and those in high positions as well.  Why?  So that the Ephesians and all of us can lead a quiet and peaceful life which is "godly and dignified" in every way.  He also says that this is pleasing in the sight of God.
     At the time of his writing to Timothy, the current ruler of the Roman Empire was none other than Nero.  For those who do not know the name, he was the Caesar (ruler) who burned Christians alive
to light his garden at night or sent them to die in the arena.  His wickedness and cruelty were well known, but Paul called Christians to pray for him and all in authority that they might come to the knowledge of truth.  Certainly Paul and many other believers did not condone or agree with this ruler but they followed the Lord's call to lead a quiet and peaceful life.
     Here is what my study Bible footnote relates concerning this verse regarding leading a "peaceful and quiet life":  "Quiet refers to the absence of external disturbances; 'peaceful' refers to the absence of internal ones.  While it remains uncompromising in its commitments to the truth, the church is not to agitate or disrupt the national life.  When it manifests love and goodness to all and prays passionately for the lost, including rulers, the church may experience a certain amount of religious freedom.  Persecution should only be the result of righteous living, not civil disobedience."  We are called to holy living before our neighbors.
     If we call ourselves by the name of Christian, we cannot ignore parts of the Bible that are sometimes hard to follow through on.  Nevertheless, God calls us to a higher standard and when we obey, it pleases Him.  There have been many leaders in the past with whom I disagreed, but I always prayed for them as Paul prayed for Nero.  Complaining, name calling, and hurling threats do not make for a peaceful and godly life.
    As for the owner of the business, I do not know if he claims to be a Christian, but he will go on my prayer list.  We must all remember that as believers we are ambassadors for Christ.  When we hurl epithets at others, we are really slapping the face of our Savior.  There are times when silence is golden.  My mother used to remind me often that "if I did not have anything nice to say, I should not say anything at all."  Let us be known as reconcilers, peacekeepers and run to God in prayer instead of blasting social media with hurtful things that can damage relationships.  Lord give us all wisdom in what we say, do and think that we might be pleasing in Your sight each day!  Selah!

P.S.  If you would like to know what business this is, please private message me on Facebook and I will let you know.