Category Archives: Thru the Bible

When Criticism Comes… Part 1

Criticism is a reality for leaders. “The only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.” If you want to say or do or be something, you will be criticized. Your response to criticism will determine much about your character and trajectory in leadership. Christ-like leaders respond to criticism with self-control, trust in God, and humility.

A favorite story of mine in relation to this is the saga of David, when being challenged by his son Absalom in 2 Samuel 16:5-12. David vacated the palace because of the threat his own son posed and on his way out he faced a loud critic named Shimei. Here’s a few truths about criticism from this ancient story:

Criticism will often come at the WRONG TIME.

David had been in the midst of family crisis. His son Absalom had conspired against him and turned the popularity polls in his favor. David’s heart was broken due to his son’s rebellion. The last thing he needed was an angry critic hurling abusive words and stones at him.

We should not expect criticism at times when we are ready and waiting for it but instead it will come when we need it the least. Personal and family crisis often provide opportunity for critics to react and people to lose confidence in you as a leader, making criticism more probable, not less.

Criticism will often come in the WRONG WAY.

The public nature of Shimei’s criticism added to David’s current humiliation before his men and family. They were seeing their commander in chief, the warrior king, run away from a fight with an inferior power in Absalom. Now he was facing and shrinking away from the false accusations of a hostile farmer.

Public criticism is most harmful to our reputation as leaders. A critics words will often come in a way that is least beneficial. Most critics will not follow the Biblical pattern of Matthew 18:15-19. The way in which we respond may be the only way that will save our reputation as leaders.

Criticism will often come from the WRONG PEOPLE.

Shimei was a commoner from the tribe of Benjamin. He did not know David personally, nor did he have all the facts concerning David’s current situation. He had no authority to accuse the king. He was only responding emotionally to the opportunity that David’s misfortune provided. He was probably a lifetime critic of David and the truth would not have persuaded him to stop.

There are many people that are divisive at heart and are always looking for an opportunity to criticize and complain. Like the critics that stood shouting, “It will never start! It will never start!” when Robert Fulton was unveiling his new invention the Steamboat. When it started, they regrouped quickly and started yelling, “It will never stop! It will never stop!”

Criticism will often come for the WRONG REASON.

The accusation of Shimei had little basis in fact. He was accusing David of being a murderer of the household of Saul. Most commentators believe that Shimei was referring to the deaths of Abner (2 Samuel 3:31-39) and Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4:5-12). It is also not impossible that the deaths of Saul and Jonathan were in his mind since at that time David had been a Philistine ally. However, David had no part in any of these deaths. In fact, he greatly mourned each of them and he even punished those who were responsible.

While some criticism we receive will be  true, we must be prepared to face those critics who do not have the whole story or know what you know as a leader. Criticism from those who love us and want what’s best for us and the organization will be recognizable and stand out as something to receive with humility. Undeserved criticism will sting, but must not derail us from our mission.

Next Monday, how did David respond to criticism that came at the wrong time, in the wrong way, from the wrong person, for the wrong reason?

Swells: Lessons from the Psalms on Surviving Life’s Ups and Downs

swellsBridge Church tackled the book of Psalms in our summer series called Swells. We covered 8 major themes in Psalms including: Worship, the Word of God, Dealing with Difficult People, Dealing with Discouragement. Get the audio from this series HERE or by subscribing to our Podcast on Itunes. Here are a few highlights:

  • Two truths that stand out in the Psalms: God is bigger than anything I face & God is with me no matter where I am or what I’m going through.
  • Psalms reminds us that it’s OK to have lows in life. It’s actually NOT a sin to be discouraged or depressed. The very best of folks in this life, do. It IS a sin to go to the wrong place to heal discouragement & depression.
  • Our faith in God, not the surface waves of life ultimately define us.
  • There are only three kinds of people in life. People who are in the midst of a storm. People who just came out of a storm. People who are about to go through a storm.
  • there is POWER in the Word of God. We’re not just reading a good self-help book, we’re connecting with the Living God, through the means he chose to reveal himself to us.
  • When waves come, you need resources. And the earth’s resources will not be enough! You need strength inside. Strength from heaven.
  • John Bunyan said it well: “This Book (the Bible) will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book.”
  • D.L. Moody said, “The only way to keep a broken vessel full is by keeping the faucet turned on.” Keeping the faucet of God’s Word running repeatedly through your mind will clear out the garbage and keep you pure.
  • It’s OK to FEEL FRUSTRATED & FEARFUL. As long as you take those frustrations to the right place. We often think – “I shouldn’t have these feelings.” But feelings are a part of the journey toward experiencing God. We don’t waller in our feelings. That’s called sulking & doesn’t accomplish much. David kept moving, took his feelings to God, & expected God to do something about it.
  • If you’ve ever realized how badly you needed grace, you’re more likely to extend it to others.
  • People & our feelings will let us down. But God will be a shelter.
  • We can’t always say that bad things happen in our life are the consequences of sin, but sometimes they are. You will know. Sometimes bad things happen b/c we live in a bad world. Sometimes bad things happen b/c of other people’s bad decisions. Sometimes it’s just the natural outworkings of foolish decision making. Sometimes it may be discipline from God. God disciplines those he loves.
  • There’s great freedom in living a life of integrity & character, powered by God’s son.
  • Becoming a Christian is not an insurance policy from bad things. It IS an insurance policy against purposeless, meaningless life. We can be assured, that even the bad things that we can’t figure out are a part of God’s plan. And we can cry out to God for deliverance & be assured of His presence & that He will answer us.
  • Results of Trusting God should be greater courage, greater confidence, victory over fear, risk taking for God’s kingdom & for the sake of lost people!
  • Some of us never experience God’s protection, b/c we’re so focused on providing for our own safety & comfort. We learn to trust God outside of our comfort zone. “God doesn’t give you more that you can handle.” No! God always gives you more than you can handle, so that you can learn to trust him.
  • There’s never a place that worship should not break out in our hearts & minds. We should always be in awe of him. We should always be coming back to the truth – HE IS WITH ME! HE IS BIGGER THAN THIS!

When It Comes to Character, Make No Exceptions

“David had lived an exemplary life before God all his days… (EXCEPT for that time with Uriah the Hittite)”

1 Kings 15:5 MSG.

David with Uriah’s wife. Pic from the History Channel’s Bible Miniseries. 

An “EXCEPT” in relation to your character could change the course of history for your family. David made an exception in his mission, by not going out to battle with his armies (2 Samuel 11:1). He made an exception in his obedience to God, by sleeping with another man’s wife, then having that man (Uriah the Hittite) killed to protect his own image (2 Samuel 11-12). The result was death, brokenness, & pain for David’s family, along with the curse of division & war in David’s family line forever (2 Samuel 12:10). Make no mistake, the “EXCEPT” in parentheses in David’s life was devastating. And it would be devastating for you & I as well. Make no exceptions in your relation to your character & put no parenthetical “EXCEPT” next to your testimony & family name.

  • What exceptions are you making, considering, or imagining for yourself? (“I don’t have to go to church” ; “It will never happen to me” ; “It’s just this once” “No one will ever find out”) In relationships, spiritual disciplines, habits & beliefs?
  • If there is already an “EXCEPT” in your life, have you repented & allowed God to bring healing? (see Psalm 32 & 51) And how have you moved past the temptation to make sin common & OK in your life?
  • Ask God to help you put a period instead of parenthesis on your testimony forever.

Join Bridge Church this Summer, 10:30am at the Maritime Museum in Madisonville, as we study the Old Testament book of Psalms in a series called Swells. We’ll look at how David & others learned to ride the ups & downs of life, like sin, discouragement, problem people, & more.

swells

It’s NOT the End of the World. YET…

Well, October’s here & the world didn’t end after all. But we did get some great shots of the Blood Moon. (My favorite is attached from Mike Mezeul in Dallas. Taken every 10 minutes. Wow!)

Still we’re told in the Bible that Jesus will return like a thief in the night & bring an end to this world (Matthew 24:44), & we should wait expectantly for that day (Titus 2:13-14, Philippians 3:20). Then we’ll experience a new heaven & new earth where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:10,13).

IMG_5312In last week’s Bible Study at Bridge Church, we looked at some of Peter’s advice to us concerning the end of the World found in 2 Peter 3:

  1. Be awakened by this truth – v. 1-2. Let it be like your morning coffee or shower. Everyday remember that life is short & tomorrow is not promised.
  2. Don’t be a scoffer. Take it seriously – vs. 3-8 A scoffer, takes lightly what he/she should take seriously. Heaven & hell are in the balance for many as they face the end of life or the end of the world. Don’t lose the weight of that truth from God’s word.
  3. Take advantage of God’s patience – vs. 9. God’s patience in not bringing about the end of the world or the end of our individual lives should tell us that we have more time to be a light & tell those around us about what he’s done for us in Christ. God’s patience should also serve as a reminder that he wants my friends, relatives, n
    eighbors to know Him before its everlasting too late.
  4. Let the Day of the Lord motivate you to godliness – vs. 10-12. If this is true “it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godlines”.

Great advice for parents to leave with teenagers as they leave the house – “Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want to be doing when Jesus came back.” Good thought for all of us as we think about the brevity of life & the truth from God’s word that one day this will all end.

Join Bridge Church this Sunday as we continue our study of the new testament book of 2 Peter. 10:30am at the Madisonville Maritime Museum.

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Time lapse photo taken by Mike Mezeul. Posted on a photography Facebook group that I’m in. See Mike’s work & get a print here: https://mikemezphotography.smugmug.com/Night-Sky/i-KpRzTb5/A

Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

In our study of Colossians, our church hit 3:22 today, which says, “Slaves obey your masters…” Several times over the last few years I’ve heard the argument go against the Bible like this: “The Bible’s just a book written by men. And it even condones slavery.” Does the Bible condone slavery? and if not, how should I answer such claims from skeptics? Check out a great article on this HERE.

A few points we discussed this morning:

Does the Bible Condone Slavery? Yes & No.

Yes. The Bible addresses slaves that were considered the property of another person. But NO! Not the kind of slavery we think of  in our modern era, where someone is taken against there will and sold with little recompense and harsh treatment. Not that this type of slavery didn’t occur in Biblical times extensively, but it was not condoned by the Bible.

Exodus 21:16 (ESV) – “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found #in possession of him, shall be put to death.”

Slavery in the Bible consisted of a social class that was not bound by racial distinction, but was in servitude to another for some reason that may included indebtedness, choice, or empire politics. A few facts:

  1. There may have been as many as 60 million slaves in this time period. Potentially ½ the population at the time
  2. Slave was not the lowest on the societal food chain. The day laborer was.
  3. As a matter of fact, slavery actually provided protection from poverty, from debt, from a bad name. Many even sold themselves into slavery.
  4. Slaves were often educated, owned property, could accumulate wealth & status.

None of this is true of modern slavery where a person owned by another was taken against their will, had no rights, little hope of improvement of status, and subjected to harsh treatment and poor work conditions.

And the Gospel changed everything for both types.

Galatians 3:28 (NIV) “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

And it was the Gospel’s influence that fueled the movement to end the modern American slave trade in the 1700’s-18oo’s, through men like William Wilberforce and John Newton. And it’s the Gospel that’s fueling a new generation to stand up and fight for the million’s still being sold into slavery around the world.

Check out a fuller treatment of this in this article, Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

In Christianity, the opposite of ignorance is not knowledge – it’s obedience to Christ.

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them…” ~ Luke 6:46-47

Maturity is not just KNOWING, it’s ACTING on what we know. Jesus doesn’t say to hear His words and study them real hard til we memorize them. He’s more interested in what they produce in us everyday. When was the last time you acted on a truth of God’s word? Christian leader are you empowering leaders who are knowledgeable about Jesus or obedient to Jesus? Is your life aligned in such a way that you can respond with obedience to Jesus, or is it just about a set of facts that you’re plowing through on Sunday’s.

You might be wise if…

Talking about Wisdom today in our One Story Message Series. Are you a wise? Take this little test ripped right from the pages of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes:

You might be wise if…

  • You choose your friends wisely.
  • You listen to others.
  • You can receive correction from others.
  • You fear the Lord.
  • You discipline your children effectively.
  • You are generous with your wealth.
  • You treat the poor with care & concern.
  • You are careful with your words.
  • You refuse gossip & slander.
  • Your words mean a lot to others.
  • You save sex for marriage.
  • You love your spouse enthusiastically.
  • You can control your temper.
  • You understand the dangers of abusing alcohol.
  • You are not afraid of hard work.
  • You are honest in your business dealings.
  • You can be trusted as a friend.
  • You can be kind to your foes.
  • You rely on God’s word.
  • You trust God for salvation & provision.
  • You are not easily led into evil by others.
  • You do not lie.
  • You are humble instead of prideful.
  • You stay away from flirtation & the flirtatious.
  • You hate evil.
  • You are more concerned about who you are that what you have.
  • You can define riches without talking about money.
  • You have a truly meaningful life.
  • You have a good reputation with others.
  • You trust God instead of yourself & others.

“so that”

Motives are so important. They reveal the sometimes hidden reasons behind our actions. They answer the question why. Testing our motives can diagnose initial heart issues that can lead us to big heart issues in our relationship with God and others. One phrase that’s been jumping out at me recently is “so that.” What follows these two words reveals motives and mission. Here’s a few of God’s “so that’s”:

  • Why blessings? Genesis 12:2 – “I will bless you…SO THAT you will be a blessing.” Not just so I can
  • Why God works? Exodus 8:10 – “…SO THAT you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.”
  • Why Bible Study? Joshua 1:8 – “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, SO THAT you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”
  • Why remember and retell? Psalm 102:18 – “Let this be recorded for a generation to come, SO THAT a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.”
  • Why serve and reach out? Matthew 5:16 – “let your light shine before others, SO THAT they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
  • Why did Jesus teach? John 15:17 –  “These things I command you, SO THAT you will love one another.”
  • Why Church? John 17:21 – “…SO THAT the world may believe that you have sent me.”
  • Why Spiritual Gifts? 1 Corinthians 14:5 – “SO THAT the church may be built up.”  

Try a little exercise with me. Write down the big to do’s of your life or what you’re doing or wanting to do. Then write a big SO THAT and complete the sentence. Be honest even if it hurts. If you’re a leader do this for your church or organization. My questions: Do my motives line up with God’s eternal purposes or my temporal wants and desires? Are my motives drifting as I experience success or failure? Am I passing off eternal motivations and perspective to those I lead? Are my motives baptized in consumerism and marketing? Are my motives derived from looking at God or looking at others?

So often I get off track when my motivation gets fouled or becomes secondary to my to do’s.

Father, keep my SO THAT’s on track with Your eternal purposes.   

The Final Week of Jesus – Chart/Reading Plan

The Final Week of Jesus – PDF

Fool-Proofing Your Life

Fool is a very Biblical word. We all have been fools. As a matter of fact we’re born that way. Proverbs 22:15 (NASB) Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

All children are foolish, and that’s OK. Parents should expect foolishness, and seek to drive it away. But it’s not OK when we stay foolish and some of us do. How do we deal with them? and discern our own foolish behavior. Start with defining what a fool is and the book of Proverbs is the one stop place for that.

Three Hebrew words used in Proverbs for fool:

  • Kesil – dull, closeminded. 49X in Proverbs, 70X in OT. “right in his own eyes.” Will not consider the value of unselfish things.
  • Nabal – spiritually bereft, lacks spiritual perception. 18x in OT. Incapable of seeing God’s side of things. Self-damaging. Abigail about her husband – “no one can talk to him”
  • Ewil – obstinate, hardened fool; sees no benefit to wisdom. From root “thick of fluids.” Hard headed. 26x in OT. My way or the highway.

Characteristics in Proverbs of a fool: How can we discern foolish behavior?

Read the rest of this entry

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