What to do when you’re not where others think you should be

Nothing! Your first response should not be to leap into action–whether that be in defense of yourself or an offensive means of making changes that will better align yourself with the expectations of the person who is critiquing you. All critiques, to be properly handled, should be patiently evaluated and discerningly digested. These things spell time, which most of us don’t want to give to personal criticisms, but we must not neglect these measures or we will miss the blessing that is it be slowly squeezed out of them.

In most cases of solicited or unsolicited evaluation, someone will bring a criticism with at least a vague idea of what direction you should go in implementing the necessary changes to your problem. But just because someone has an idea of what you should do with their observations and advice, this does not mean the matter is settled. You, the hearer–as well as the one implicated by the information given–have the responsibility to exercise wisdom in weighing the judgment and executing a sound response. Even when someone goes to great lengths to exercise wisdom in what they present to us and how they choose to present it, this does not negate our own need to exercise wisdom in receiving it.

When we make it our goal to not receive the comments others have for us emotionally, we save ourselves from “feeling errors.” We are choosing to not be super-sensitive concerning ourselves so that we may be objective concerning the words and ideas before us. We recognize that the matter is not so much about us. We will not handle admonitions well if we do.

Because of Christ and the covering His blood gives us, we do not have to protect our honor by never messing up, nor do we have to try to avoid being confronted with our mess-ups. Instead, we turn our hearts from their occupation with our honor in order to focus on a higher honor: God’s honor in Christ. We acknowledge that we have messed up. We admit that without Christ we could not stand because of our sin, but with Christ, we stand because of His righteousness that covers us and is at work within us.

This righteousness from Christ does not become our excuse for personal unrighteousness, but rather our only power to confess it and reach out for change. It is our truth for living to Christ and also for dying to self. It allows love to bloom for Christ amidst our guilt, and even enables us to love the one who points out our offense. There is no reason why love cannot rule here: God is at work in the middle of every mistake and He commands every conveyance of correction. When our lives are yielded to Him, we become more distinguished by God’s love. It triumphs in the place of all our weakness. The cross’ shadow is big enough to engulf us in salvation as well as everyday occasions of being straightened out.

 

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Nailing Someone: Attaching One to a pole and crossbeam with an expectation of their impending judgment

A person can be nailed to a tree of condemnation for nothing less than making it necessary for Christ to die. Christ is the One who makes our judgment known and also our peace. The reality is that He is the only one who faced undeserved rejection by sinners and unjust punishment on behalf of sinners.

So, if all this is true, then I have lost my permit to nail people. I’m not the One they sent to the grave that belonged to them. Therefore, I do not have a legally binding beef with them since I am not Christ. Rather, I must recognize that what was His great “beef” has been dealt with.

It is presumptuous and even dishonoring to His name (meaning Savior) for me to try to resurrect the penalty for others that once also belonged to me. I do not make myself more righteous by doing this, nor do I make myself feel better. I merely teach myself to forget that all my sins hung on that cross with Him too!

I know, trust me, that doesn’t function very often for me either! I get upset with people for hurting me, for killing my sense of pride, for annoying me, but though my complaints against others vary, they remain on this plain of disbelief. With each one I lift up in my heart I make an idol of a form of self-imposed justice that I don’t find at the cross.

I judge, ridicule and grow impatient with people for any other reason but for the one reason they were provided with the cross of our Savior: They are guilty before God. Rather than desiring them to turn from being their own master so that they may be fully reconciled to Christ, I desire to rule over them myself!

In my head I know that the cross has the center ground. But when my heart engages life it doesn’t acknowledge this. You see, I deceive myself. I tell myself it’s important, it just doesn’t warrant center.

And who might warrant that position, you ask? Well, funny thing…ya see…I have to admit…I do.

Pure and simple: No one holds center stage in my world (or in any other world, for that matter) except me.

It’s sad. But then, maybe that’s the reason I find it so necessary to ridicule and so difficult to forgive the faults and misdemeanors I see.

If the cross was the apex of my world, it would be the cornerstone of my thinking and the bridge of my relationships. In fact, if I really understood what the world, true thinking and relationships meant, I would realize that these things have no meaning without the death and resurrection of Christ.

Clearly I need a reality check. Instead of me trying to check reality and make it sound, reality should be the one checking me!

 

Fully Alive

Do you want to feel really alive?

Doesn’t it seem like that is the obsession of so much of the world we live in. Do you ever feel like your hopes — that are less than Christ — continue to be pulled out from under you; making you wonder how many more times you can take falling on your rear for the sake of having your hope built on nothing less Christ Himself? Is identifying with the cross really worth all this?

Yet, we must ask ourselves does God truly insist on the loss of all we ultimately hold dear? Or does He want to impress us more practically with the infinite-ness of His grace apart from what does not last.

He would want us to recognize and stand on this truth: there is a difference between apparent worth — in the things of this world — and absolute worth — what cannot be diminished by the implications of any lesser thing. To truly have life we must live the difference, appreciating the difference, not merely consenting to it with words of empty pretense. For how can we live for the gospel — whose Spirit has no witness with lies, falsehood, and unbelief — if we will continue to romance these things in our hearts?

Safe and Sound

“O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in
God.”     –     Psalm 3:1-2

As I read these verses this morning I realized that this is not only David’s cry for help, but mine as well. In fact, it is relative to everyone. All humans have a foe. Even so, when I look at a passage like this, I wonder do I have any “foes”?

I have known Satan is my enemy, but for some reason I suppose his terms of communication are so bold that I will easily apprehend his schemes. I feel confident that I’ll recognize the “roaring lion” when I see him and resist him. It will just be natural and automatic. Right?

 Wrong, I discovered. Yesterday I got to know my adversary a little better, and I learned that my understanding of him is deficient. You see, my foe was not the being for which I had prepared. He was a great force, but not in the way that I expected. He didn’t turn up in the form I had been anticipating. His blatant proposal for sin was missing too. Instead, my faulty perceptions of how he worked provided him the perfect accommodation for his purposes.

He offered me a stimulus that appealed to my emotions. An emotional response would divert me from considering who was truly stimulating me. Pointing to my feelings of discontent, he tugged on an inherent value (personal advantage), and incited me to question God’s character. Once I turned from trusting God, I could only turn to him with that same trusting submission.

I did not perceive the destruction he had drawn me into until I had pursued doubt into anxiety and depression. When I cried out to God for peace, He brought me out of the trap of my feelings, and back to the only foundation I can stand on: His steadfast love. This love is salvation from my foes and my own misdeeds.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him [Jesus Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he [God] set aside, nailing it to the cross. He [God] disarmed the [demonic] rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him [Christ]. – Colossians 2:13-15