Tag Archives: Christianity

Critic’s Math

Several years ago I attended a conference for ministers. One of the speakers was Jon Acuff, and he spoke on critic’s math. The way critics math works is 1 insult + 1,000 complements = 1 insult. We can be praised by everyone for our work, but if one person didn’t like it, we allow that one negative comment to erase all the positive feedback we’ve received. It can be like we never even heard the compliments because our mind spends all its time focusing on the one negative comment rather than our feedback as a whole. Critic’s math is a dangerous thing for us to fall into.

An example is in the Book of Esther. Haman was the King’s prime minister. He had been put in such a high position, that the king declared everyone should bow to him as he passed by. Everyone bowed down except one. Mordecai refused. In the fifth chapter, Esther had prepared a banquet for he and the king. When he left, everyone bowed except Mordecai. In verses 12-13, he told his wife and friends, “What is more, Queen Esther gave a banquet for no one but the king and me, and we are invited back tomorrow. But none of this means a thing to me as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the entrance of the palace” (GNT). He allowed critic’s math to cloud his thinking, and it ultimately cost him everything.

You and I need to accept that we can’t please everyone, and that pleasing people is not our goal. Pleasing God is. Ecclesiastes 7:10 warns, “Don’t pay attention to everything people say.” When you receive negative feedback, take it constructively, but don’t give it so much weight that it distracts you from what God has called you to. What He has to say is far more important than what any person has to say. Keep focusing on what God wants to do in your life and through you, and don’t let one person’s negativity keep you from reaching your potential or from finishing your race.

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A Lasting Foundation

When I look back on the time in my life where I hit rock bottom and lost just about everything, I see a picture of me laying down in the rain. There is wood and other things thrown about the yard from what used to be the life I had built. As I was talking to God about it one day, I was lamenting on how I had lost everything. That’s when God pointed out what I was laying on. It was the foundation of my life. Everything else may have been stripped away, but I could always rebuild on a firm foundation, especially one that had weathered the storm.

Every one of us build our life out of things and on a foundation. Every one of us will face storms in life. What we’ve built our life out of and on will determine how well we weather those storms. Jesus told us to be wise by building our lives on the rock so that we would have a good foundation for those times. That rock He told us to build on was the truth of God’s Word. All of Heaven and earth will pass away, but His Word will remain. Be wise and build your life on what will last.

Here are some verses on having a good foundation.

1. “If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.”

Luke 6:48-49 MSG

2. In that day he will be your sure foundation, providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of the Lord will be your treasure.

Isaiah 33:6 NLT

3. Through [skillful and godly] wisdom a house [a life, a home, a family] is built, And by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation].

PROVERBS 24:3 AMP

4. But the solid foundation that God has laid cannot be shaken; and on it are written these words: “The Lord knows those who are his” and “Those who say that they belong to the Lord must turn away from wrongdoing.”

2 Timothy 2:19 GNT

5. When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.

Proverbs 10:25 NLT

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Fanning The Flame

I consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to building campfires. I spent years in a scouting program, and I know to build a fire it requires three things: oxygen, fuel and heat. One of my favorite things to do on a camp out is to restart the fire in the morning from the embers. I move back all the ashes, find a small ember, add some kindling and blow on it. It doesn’t take long before I get a roaring fire and can start cooking breakfast. To me, there’s just something cool about starting that fire from the embers. It reminds me that it doesn’t take much to get a fire going.

When I read 2 Timothy 1:6, I think of starting that fire in the mornings. It says, “That is why I remind you to fan into flame the gracious gift of God, [that inner fire–the special endowment]” (AMP). Paul was reminding Timothy, and us, that each of us have God-given gifts inside of us that we have to keep going. They may be embers right now, but they can be fanned into a great flame. Just like a campfire, they need oxygen, fuel and heat in order to keep growing and to stay ablaze.

The heat comes from God. He’s the one who put the gifts in you. It’s up to you to add the fuel. The kindling required to ignite it is spending time in prayer and reading God’s Word. The oxygen needed to keep it going is putting your gifts into practice. When we neglect the gifts in us, we choke out the flame by cutting off its oxygen. God has created you for a purpose and has given you the tools you need to accomplish that which He created you for. It’s up to you to breathe new life into them and fan into flame those gifts.

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Right Now

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

Do you ever find yourself letting your mind wander through all the possible outcomes of a situation? Before you know it, you can lose a couple of hours or even a day. I’ve been known to lose sleep just thinking about all the “what if’s”. When I was at a dead end in life and was forced to file bankruptcy, I couldn’t find any outcome that was positive. I was worried sick over how hard the next seven years were going to be. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the implications of it, not to mention the embarrassment. I got caught up in an endless cycle of thoughts that were detrimental to my well being.

God knows all too well how our minds work. I think that’s why Jesus dealt with those of us who are constantly living in the future of “what if’s” instead of in the present what is. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus said, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (MSG)” He was very plain in that verse and His words hit home with someone like me.

When I give my attention to the “what if’s”, I take away from what God is doing in this very moment. I lose sight of the reality that He is creating in my life right now. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I have no clue how my current situation will end, but God does. He knows all too well what tomorrow will bring and what I need to do today in order to prepare for it. When I worry about the possibilities, I miss out on what He’s showing me right now in order to help me tomorrow. That’s why He wants me to give my entire attention to what He’s doing today, not what He’s going to do.

In the second part of that verse, Jesus assures us that God will help us with what comes next. He’s not going to let you walk into a trap and then abandon you. He’s not going to hang you out to dry when times get tough. People may do that, but God never will. Jesus said that He will help you with whatever hard things come up and will be there for you when you need him. Deuteronomy 3:18 says, “The Lord your God goes with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.” I don’t know what hard thing you’re facing today, but God does and He’ll help you deal with it. Don’t use today’s energy worrying about tomorrow’s problems. God is with you right now, using whatever it is to produce things in your life that won’t grow any other way. Trust His plan and lean on His strength.

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Choosing Thankfulness

As Paul was wrapping up his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, he quit expounding on things and started rapid firing commands. Pray for and honor your spiritual leaders. Be joyful always. Test all things. Avoid evil. He puts one right in the middle that to me is one of the hardest commands. He says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT). What? How can I be thankful in all circumstances? Why doesn’t he expound on this and tell us how? I’ve wrestled with these questions and this verse my whole life.

As I was pondering this recently, I remembered the words of a British Bible scholar from the 1600’s, Matthew Henry, when someone stole his wallet. He said, “Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.“ Wow! That’s someone who chose to be thankful in all circumstances. He understood that you don’t have to be thankful for your circumstances, but you can find ways to be thankful in them.

It comes down to a matter of our heart. Are we choosing to blame God for our problems or are we finding ways to be thankful despite them? God’s desire for each of us is to learn thankfulness because it changes our perspective. When circumstances arise in our life, we can choose to become bitter or better. That outcome is dependent on what we focus on when we don’t like our present situation. Choosing to be thankful in all circumstances is definitely the more difficult choice, but it produces much better results in our life.

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Learning To Follow

In our world, there is so much emphasis on leading and so little on following. Even my young son wants to lead wherever we go. He wants to be out front leading the way. The problem is that He has no clue where we are going most of the time. That doesn’t change the fact that he wants to be out front. What he has to learn is that before he, or anyone, can be a good leader, they have to be a good follower first. If everyone is trying to lead, and no one is following, it creates chaos.

No one knows where your life is going better than God, yet for most of our life we are out front like my son trying to beat Him there. Thankfully God is patient with us as we learn to follow Him. As we get better at following Him, our prayers often change from “God, where are you taking me” to “God, would you please lead me?” If we want to know where He’s taking us, we’ll try to get out front again. If we want Him to lead us, then it doesn’t matter because we fully trust in His timing and destination for our lives.

Here are some Bible verses on following and leading.

1. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalms 139:24 NLT

2. I follow faithfully the road he chooses, and never wander to either side.

Job 23:11 GNT

3. The sheep that are My own hear My voice and listen to Me; I know them, and they follow Me.

JOHN 10:27 AMP

4. He leads the humble in the right way and teaches them his will.

Psalm 25:9 GNT

5. Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

John 8:12 NLT

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Being Great

In sports, there are always arguments over who is the greatest of all time. In football, the question is if Tom Brady is greater than Joe Montana. In basketball, it’s if LeBron James is greater than Michael Jordan. There’s even debate over who the single greatest sports figure is across all sports. People will always have opinions and will argue over who the greatest is when it comes to sports or just about anything really. I believe it’s because God put something in us that wants to be great and fights against mediocrity.

Even the disciples argued over who was the greatest. Luke 9:46 says, “An argument broke out among the disciples as to which one of them was the greatest” (GNT). I can hear their arguments now. John probably said, “I’m the greatest because He loves me most.” Peter argued, “But I walked on water!” What’s funny is you don’t hear Jesus rebuke them for wanting to be great. Instead, He says, “For the one who is least among all of you [that is, the one who is genuinely humble–the one with a realistic self-view]– he is the one who is [truly] great” (AMP).

Jesus’ desire is that each of us would be great, and He told us how. In God’s Kingdom, the greatest isn’t the person who wins the most souls, heals the most people, has the most famous ministry or goes to third world countries. To be great is to be humble and to serve others. It’s understanding who we are on Christ and that we are only great through Him. He is the potter and we are the clay. If you want to be great, then let Him do what He wants with your life. Your greatest potential lies in being who He created you to be.

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