How Can We Overcome Evil With Good?

 
December 18th, 2012

 
In October of 2011, as I do each year, I was preparing the contents for our church's Spiritual Life Journal for the next year. Each year we produce a beautiful and extremely helpful tool for all of our members that we call a Spiritual Life Journal.  The contents of this great tool are a daily Bible reading calendar, to help folks read through the entire Bible in one year. Also included in the journal is a weekly church Bible memory verse calendar, a weekly personal church attendance calendar, a prayer list section and a section for folks to write down sermon and devotional quotes. This annual great tool has helped our church members greatly over the past decade.

This past weekend the church memory verse  for the week of December 16th- 23rd was Romans 12:21 "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." How could I have ever known that 62 weeks later that on this same week a troubled, young, 20 year old man, who had an almost hypnotic involvement in violent video games and who was involved in the dark and demonic world of Goth would enter a public school and kill 26 people, 20 of which were precious little children, before killing himself? If there was ever a time that Romans 12:21 needed to be put into practice it is this sad and confusing week.

Let me take you back in history to the Jewish nation during the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ day there was a feeling in Israel that things were not the way they were supposed to be. In fact, things had not been the way people thought they should be for around 400 years. Israel was supposed to be on top of the world, the head and not the tail. After all, they were God’s chosen people. Yet, except for the time around the Maccabean revolt in 165 BC, the Jews had been dominated by one gentile nation after another. First, there were the Babylonians then the Persians and the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Syrians, and now the Romans.
 
In 63 BC the conquering Roman general Pompey marched into Jerusalem. His first stop was the Jew’s most sacred building, the temple. He walked straight into the second court which was forbidden to gentiles and into the Holiest of Holies which was forbidden to all but the High Priest. He stood there and laughed at Israel’s God. This was a harbinger of things to come for the people of Israel. When the Romans came, they brought with them high taxes, paganism, and an almost unimagined brutality. The burden and humiliation Rome placed upon the common man made life virtually unbearable.
 
Into this chaotic world Jesus came with his astonishing words. He said that when someone strikes you across the cheek, turn the other one. This was an obvious reference to Rome, because that was the way Roman soldiers treated people. He said that when someone made you carry their pack one mile, carry it two. This was also a reference to Rome, for a Roman soldier had the right to conscript anyone to carry his pack for one mile. He said the way to deal with your enemies is to love them and forgive them. In light of the world of first century Israel, these words become all the more astonishing. Jesus’teachings must have been troubling back then, and they still are today. Jesus came to enact a new covenant. This new covenant would change everything including the way we look at our enemies.
 
The new covenant has its basis in grace. In the new covenant the idea is "You get the opposite of what you deserve." Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners and still God's enemies (Romans 5:8, 12). He took the wrath we deserved and gave us the blessings He deserved (Ephesians 1:3) My friend, the new covenant compels us to give to others what we have been given. We are to give others and even our enemies the opposite of what they deserve, a blessing and not a curse.

The Bible says in, Romans 12:12-18 “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
 
Listen to the verse right before Romans 12:21. Verse 20 says, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.”
 
We are to receive grace, but we are to also give it. We are to walk in the way Jesus walked. It is the world’s way to give back what we are given. If someone hates us, we hate them back. If someone hurts us, we pay back in kind. Yet, when we do that, our enemies defeat us. We don’t win a victory, but we lose. We become the very thing that we hate.
 
If we become just like our enemies, they have won. The victory is in not becoming like them in an attempt to defeat them, but to overcome evil with good. Jesus said when a Roman soldier makes you carry his pack one mile, carry it two. The way you triumph in that situation is not to hate the Roman soldier but to show astounding generosity instead. Could you imagine how a Roman soldier who received such kindness would feel? He would have a hard time hating the one who served him.
In the kingdom of God the way to be free from our enemies is not to destroy them or repay in kind. It is to forgive them. An unforgiven enemy will always have a hold on us in some way or another. If we forgive, we are free.
 
“Success Is Not Measured By The Heights One Attains, But By The Obstacles One Overcomes In Its Attainment.”
Booker T, Washington
 
“We Are In Bondage To That Which Overcomes Us.”
Neal A. Maxwell

Do You Have Hope?
December 5th, 2012

This is more than a question. It is really the difference between a Dynamic Life and a Dismal Existence. In these days of Economic Recession, Spiritual Digression and Emotional Depression, people are Uncertain, Unsettled and in many cases Unfulfilled. Northern Michigan is a beautiful and awesome place to live, but even in God’s country hopelessness invades our lives.

The dictionary defines Hope as a confident desire - a feeling that something desirable is likely to happen, or the likelihood of success. Do you have this in your life? Do you have Hope in your marriage? Do you have Hope for your family? Do you have Hope for your future? My friend, let me declare loud and clear – There Is Hope!

Behind the scenes, here at Grace Baptist Church in Gaylord, Michigan this is the focus of both our plans and prayers. We are focused on Hope! Hope for men, for women, for married couples, for singles, for parents, for teenagers, for senior citizens. Could you use some Hope in your life right now? Don’t content yourself with the hype, shallow promises and empty words that you have heard in the past. Hope is not a Program, it is not a Place, it is not a Perception, it is a Person and a profound journey into a deeper life with that Person – Jesus Christ. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith and Hope are twins. If you have Hope it is because you have faith.
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:5 “… hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” My Hope is not based upon a new program begun by the government or a new sermon series begun by a pastor. My Hope is based upon the full understanding of how much God truly loves me and has both a Desirable Plan and a Divine Destiny for my life. Even if my life is touched by heartbreak and difficulty I can have Hope because of the confidence that God is At Work In My Life and that he is Working Through My Life. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

The simple words of Acts 24:15, ring loud and clear in these uncertain times, “And have hope toward God…” If you need Hope then you need to visit us, here at Grace Baptist Church, in the coming weeks. Our ministry staff and church leadership teams are focusing a great deal of energy right now on HOPE! Every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening service in the new year, here at Grace, will be aimed at defining, delivering and displaying Hope. Hope for individuals, Hope for marriages, Hope for families. Do you want Hope? It begins with being Encouraged, but it also requires being Educated about Hope and a personal decision to Embrace it. At Grace Baptist Church, Hope is not just a New Theme it is a New Journey! It all begins on Sunday, January 6th! Join Us for an incredibly Hopeful 2013!

Get A Taste Of Grace

November 13th, 2012

What is Grace Baptist Church really like on a Sunday morning and a Sunday evening? Both the 11:00 AM and 6:00 PM services feature inspiring singing of the timeless and classic hymns of the faith. What some more progressive churches refer to as a Traditional Service we simple embrace as a Biblical Service. Our Sunday services won’t remind you of a rock concert but the comforting sound of sincere and sacred worship. In this Age Of Rock it is still possible to experience a church that promotes the Rock Of Ages.

In addition to wonderful and soul thrilling congregational singing each service features the dynamic musical ministries of our Adult (AM) and Teenage (PM) choirs. Special music sung by the many talented and dedicated singers in our church blesses hearts both before the preaching time and at other times in the services with solos, ensembles, trios, quartets and other vocal and instrumental numbers. After hearts have been blessed and prepared for the preaching we open the word of God for the message. Every sermon is a Bible based message intended to first of all present Jesus Chist as the one and only true hope for personal salvation. The added emphasis of every message is to encourage, edify and exhort believers to discover the joys and blessings of living a life commited to God.

After attending a recent service a visitor stopped me after the service and said, “Pastor this is the way church used to be.” They went on to rejoice by saying, “It has been far too long since I left church feeling truly edified rather than simply entertained.” Grace Baptist Church is filled to capacity service after service. In just the past 6 weeks over 65 precious people trusted Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour at the conclusion of a service. You can now enjoy messages from our Sunday morning and Sunday evening services by clicking on the link – Get A Taste Of Grace on our church website. Join the hundreds of other believers who weekly enjoy the Bible based preaching and teaching at Grace

Most Important Election In My Lifetime!

November 2nd, 2012
In just 4 days the Most Important Election In My Lifetime will be held. There have been 13 Presidential Elections held in the United States during my lifetime. I sincerely believe without trying to cry wolf that none has ever been more serious. Will we continue on a runaway train toward socialism and moral relativism or will we be able to throw on the brakes and attempt to return this great nation to its founding principles of limited government and personal liberty? We are at a crossroads and there are profound moral issues at stake.

It may seem strange for a conservative pastor to quote Billy Graham. Billy in his early years did much good and was used of God in a mighty way. Sadly in the past several decades, the world’s most famous evangelist has increasingly moved away from the strict Biblical foundations of his earlier years. Yet even Billy Graham, who has been very quiet in past elections has spoken out on the importance of this election. Printed in today’s USA Today newspaper are the following words from Evangelist Billy Graham: “On Nov. 6, the day before my 94th birthday, our nation will hold one of the most critical elections in my lifetime. We are at a crossroads and there are profound moral issues at stake. I strongly urge you to vote for candidates who support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman, protect the sanctity of life and defend our religious freedoms. The Bible speaks clearly on these crucial issues. Please join me in praying for America, that we will turn our hearts back toward God.”
The add containing these words have run in the Wisconsin State Journal, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and more than a dozen newspapers altogether. I could not agree with Billy any more. This truly is the Most Important Election In My Lifetime!

Regardless of whether you agree with Billy or not, please exercise your constitutional right and vote your conscience and your convictions next Tuesday!

Pride Goeth Before Destruction

October 30th, 2012

Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

What does this verse this mean? It means, "You had better stop! If you are full of pride and have a haughty spirit, you are headed for ruin! You are on your way to a fall! You are on your way to destruction! You are doomed if you go down that road with that spirit!" My friend there isn't one single statement in the Bible more terrible than this: "God resisteth the proud."

Did you know that (Proverbs 16:18) is the middle verse of the entire book of Proverbs, and, in view of the inspiration and preservation of the Bible, it may well have been divinely designed as such. Could it be that God put this verse where He did because the sin of pride is so deadly, it is appropriate that a solemn warning concerning it should be placed right at the heart of the Bible’s book of wisdom.

The sin of pride was the primeval sin of Satan: "Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. " (Ezekiel 28:17). It was the sin by which Satan led Adam and Eve to fall. He appealed to their pride with the words, "…Ye shall be as gods…" (Genesis 3:5). It is always the "Besetting" sin of Christian leaders, especially those who have assumed such leadership prematurely. "Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil." (I Timothy 3:6). Even Jesus was 30 years old before He began to teach. How carefully we need to guard against this secret sin of pride. If we do not, it will inevitably lead to humiliation and defeat.

The root of all the other sins people commit is Pride.

  • It Doesn’t Let People See Their Own Mistakes.
  • It Makes Them Resistant To Change.
  • It Makes Them Stubborn And Selfish.
  • It Gives Them An Inflated View Of Themselves And Their Ideas.
  • It Destroys Relationships, Splits Churches And Ruins Friendships.
  • It Makes People Think They’re Better Than Others.
  • It Leads Them To Think They Know Everything, “They Stop Being Teachable”.
  • It Drives Them To Being Critical And Having A Judgmental Spirit.
  • It Causes People To Reject Counsel And Develop An Attitude Of Independence From Authority. (God, Parents, Teachers, Coaches,  Spiritual Leaders)
  • It Creates Arrogance Toward Leaders – Mocking, Ignoring, Defaming.
  • It Leads To A Fearlessness Toward Sin And An Absence Of Fear Toward God.
  • It Results In Their Ultimate Fall.
  • It Leads Them To The Its Source: Lucifer. 
I dropped this beautiful buck last hunting season during the “Rut”. The “Rut” is the time when white-tailed deer, especially bucks, are more active and less cautious than usual. This makes them easier to hunt because they are thinking only of pleasing their own passion and desire.  How many times have you seen a fellow believer get full of pride and leave a church, go against wise counsel or reject the clear teaching of scripture only to end up a casualty.  Pride may be leading you to your destruction and fall right now. 

“Preacher” you might ask, “How can I humble myself and deal with my sinful pride?” A wise preacher once said, “Humility is not thinking little of yourself, it is not thinking of yourself.” May God help each of us, me especially, to walk in humility not pride.

Great Days At Grace!
October 16th, 2012
Great Days At Grace! It has been a tremendous Fall here at Grace. Over the past six weeks we hosted our 17th annual Ladies Conference. Both the crowd and the conference were fantastic. We had almost 100 more ladies in attendance than we did in 2011. Starting on September 22nd and going through October 31st we are in the middle of our Dare To Care Fall Focus. For six weeks we are Striving Together as a Church to win souls and to pray earnestly. In the past four weeks we have had the joy of seeing 53 precious souls trust Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.

Last Wednesday kicked off our annual Grace Baptist College Days. It was the largest College Days thus far in the ten year history Of Grace Baptist College. Prospective students came from as far away as Texas, Maine, Louisiana  and many places in between. The college year has gotten off to a great start. We have 26 states represented in this year’s student body. I genuinely believe that we are getting some of the best Christian young people in the entire nation in our student body here At Grace. God is bringing us the sharpest young people in the nation. We are so blessed.

Tomorrow night and Thursday,  Dr. Russell Anderson, the cofounder of our college will be our guest speaker for our annual Founders Conference. It is always a thrill to have Dr. Anderson back on campus here at Grace. The staff, and the students are truly excited at Grace Baptist College.

Every service, Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening the crowds are overflowing here at Grace Baptist Church. These are Great Days At Grace! There has been a revival spirit in every service over the past six weeks.  People come to church every time the doors are opened eagerly expecting to experience God!  I am not bragging, just testifying! I sure do love the great people of Grace Baptist church. I am blessed to be their pastor.

I Love The King James Bible!

October 1st, 2012

I just finished my Monday morning Bible reading time. Wow! What an incredible book the blessed old Bible is! Every time I open it’s sacred pages it is fresh and full of life giving power and insights. I cannot image a day without my dear old King James Bible as my guide and companion. It is truly a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

I genuinely feel sorry for believers who attend churches that don’t think the Bible translation issue is a significant enough issue to take a definitive stand. I understand, unfortunately, why many churches do not encourage their members to embrace one particular Bible translation. It is because although the pastor might proclaim from the pulpit that he believes that the scriptures are inerrant, and verbally inspired one little clause changes everything. And that is the words “in the original autographs”. In other words the pastor is saying, “I believe that the Bible is the verbally inspired word of God, I just don’t believe that any version in existence today is 100% accurate.” Let me put that more plainly – “I believe the Bible is verbally inspired I just don’t believe any copy of it that is verbally inspired is in existence today.” In other words you don’t believe that the Bible in your hands is inerrant and verbally inspired. A preacher may argue this, but two plus two does not equal five.

I can hear the evangelical and emerging church skeptics howling already. “Oh no, you’re one of those King James Only preachers.” I am not ashamed to say that I do believe that the King James Bible is both verbally inspired (I Timothy 3:16) and supernaturally preserved (Psalm 12:6). Yes I confess that I believe that it has no peer or equal in the English speaking world. That blessed old Bible that just celebrated it’s 400th Anniversary stands alone as the Word of God. No modern translation has improved upon its sacred accuracy or influence. The AMP Amplified Version, ASV American Standard Version, CEV Contemporary English Version, NAB New American Bible, NASB New American Standard Bible, NCV New Century Version, NIV New International Version, NLT New Living Translation, NRSV New Revised Standard Version, RSV Revised Standard Version, TEV Today's English Version and even the NKJV New King James Version all stand in line behind the blessed old King James Bible.

Is it not interesting that the new versions translators do not compare their works with each other, because they're too busy comparing themselves with the King James Bible. This fact alone proves that there is something very special and unique about the KJV. Why does everyone line up in opposition AGAINST the King James Bible? Only a very deceived individual could believe that the new versions are equal to the King James Bible. Ninety-five percent of all evidence SUPPORTS the text of the King James Authorized Version. The new versions are supported by the remaining five percent evidence.

The new versions are supported by two very corrupt fourth century manuscripts, known as the "Codex Vaticanus" and the "Codex Siniaticus." These manuscripts are filled with many text alterations. All new versions contain readings from these corrupt manuscripts, and all new versions use their tiny five percent evidence to attack the ninety-five percent majority text of the King James Bible.

The Textus Receptus (received text) from which the King James Bible came can be traced clear back to Antioch, Syria, where the disciples were first called Christians and where Paul and Barnabas taught the word of God for a whole year (Acts 11:26). The other versions do not come from Antioch. They come from Alexandria, Egypt. We don't need an Egyptian version, for Egypt is a type of the WORLD in the Bible. God called His people OUT of Egypt (Exodus 3-14), and God called His Son OUT of Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:13-15). Why, the Bible says that "every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians" in (Genesis 46:34), and the Lord Jesus Christ is called a SHEPHERD in John chapter ten. Alexandria, Egypt, is associated with SUPERSTITION in (Acts 28:11), and Aquilla and Pricilla had to set an Egyptian straight on his doctrine in Acts chapter 18. Alexandrians are also found DISPUTING WITH STEPHEN in (Acts 6:9). So we don't need a Bible from Alexandria, Egypt.

While many churches and preachers have forsaken the Book that God has used for four centuries, believing that the modern versions are superior to the King James Bible, I chose to stick with the blessed old Book. We do not gild gold. We do not paint rubies. We cannot brighten diamonds. Neither can any artist add any final touch to this finished Word of God. It stands as the sun in the sky and this proud age can add nothing to it. It has the glory of God and any attempt to improve it can but disfigure it. It speaks with authority and breaks upon you as the Voice from heaven. Five hundred times in the Pentateuch, three hundred times in the following books and twelve hundred times in the prophets, the declarations are prefaced or concluded with such expressions as "Hear the Word of the Lord", or "Thus saith the Lord". No other book dares thus to address itself to the universal conscience. No other speaks with such a binding claim or presumes to command the obedience of all mankind. The Book speaks to the inner conscience with the authority of God Himself. That Book is the Bible – The King James Bible. Love it and live it my friend. We need to read it, study it, memorize it, meditate upon it, and spread to a lost and dying world, that needs to hear and head its soul saving message that Christ saves the soul of the person who by faith trust Him for salvation.

A Grand Time!
 
September 25th, 2012
  
For the 3rd year in a row Debbie and I are speaking at the Servants Retreat on Mackinaw Island at the world famous Grand Hotel. This great conference is for preachers and their wives. Dr. & Mrs. Don Green are speaking with us to over 30 preachers and their wives. This is truly a delightful time at one of the world’s most delightful places. Dr. & Mrs. Jim Green are the host for this annual conference. Preachers need to get away from time to time and refresh their spiritual and emotional batteries. Once again this year’s conference has truly been A Grand Time!
 

This conference is a time for ministry and marriage enrichment. I would recommend this get away to any preacher who wants to spoil his wife for a very affordable get away. I believe the dates for next year’s Servants Retreat are, September 30th-October 2nd, 2013.

As I was pondering the blessing of both ministry and marriage I jotted down these questions this afternoon. Some good food for thought - Are You A Great Marriage Partner? (1) Do You Give Your Spouse A Hug And Kiss Each Morning? (2) Do You Look For Opportunities To Express Your Love? (3) Do You Surprise Your Spouse With Compliments And Gifts? (4) Do You Let Go Of Passing Annoyances Or Differences That Could Turn Into Conflicts? (5) Do You Periodically Do It His Or Her Way? (6) Do You Take Time To Have Heart To Heart Chats? (7) Do You Truly Listen To Her? (8) Do You Sometimes Say “I’m Sorry”? (9) Do You Allow Your Spouse To “Lose It” Every Once In A While? (10) Do You Pray For Each Other Regularly? (11) Do You Show Your Love Even When You Don’t Feel Like It? (12) Is Your Insecurity Destroying Your Relationship With Jealousy And Mistrust? (13) Do You Have Eyes Only For Your Partner? (14) Do You Share Your Dreams And Talk About How You Can Make Them Come True? (15) Do You Frequently Say “I Love You”?

If you can answer these questions properly I believe it will lead to A Grand Time!






Are You Better Off?
 
September 17th, 2012

We are just 50 days away from the 2012 Presidential election. The question is being asked, especially by those who believe that our current President needs to become our former President, - "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" I for one think the answer to that question is more than just a financial issue, it is also a spiritual issue.
 
Isaiah 55:2  "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness".

Everybody wants to have a better life. That has become the slogan of of not only this election season, but our society in general. Everywhere we look there are a multiplicity of suggestions on how to live and have a better life. There are pills, exercises, and diet books to help us lose weight so we can live a more fufilling and happy life. There are lotions, treatments, and surgeries to help us look better so we can live a more fufilling and happy life. There are cell phones, computers, and televisions to keep us connected and entertained so we can live a more fufilling and happy life. There aere social media tools such as facebook, twitter, youtube and a host of other technology gadgets to help us live a more fufilling and happy life. There are cars, clothes, and fancy homes to keep us feeling wealthy so we can live a more fufilling and happy life. There are also jobs, cash, and credit cards to keep us spending for all of these things so that we can one day, hopefully, have that better life we dream about.

I want a better life too, but I don’t think that any of these things will help me find it. I have tried some of them over the years and while they may make you feel better for a moment they don’t bring you the lasting happiness you're looking for. I have found that the only way to Have A Better Life is to Live A Better Life, and only way to give your children a better life is to show them how to live a better life as well.

How do you live a better life? You start by living more for your soul and less for your wallet. You spend more time hugging and less time buying. You turn off the television and take a walk with your children. You smile more and worry less. You spend more time with your loved ones and less time at the office. You laugh longer and more often. You look in your heart more and in the mirror less. You make your first job spreading joy rather than earning money. You realize just how much God loves you and you spend your days sharing that love with everyone you meet. No wonder "...he that winneth souls is wise." You and I must never forget that our life is a gift from God and how we live it is our gift back.

The Right Reaction To Criticism

September 4th, 2012

The only people who never receive criticism are those folks who never do anything. Criticism is a natural thing and part of life. We shouldn’t be surprised that people - even close friends and family would criticize our methods, our goals and even our motives. Whether the criticism is deserved or not really isn’t the question. The way we handle or deal with criticism and critics shows a lot about our Christian character.

Criticism is something none of us like to receive it, but it will come anyway! Regardless of how well we live our life or try to conduct ourself in front of others, there will always be those around us who will find something to criticize.
Who can forget the life of Job? Here was a man that the Lord called "perfect and upright, and one that feared God and escheweth evil." Yet, when various calamities fell upon his life and Job's friends came to be with him, all they could find to do to Job was to criticize him. Notice what they said about this man of God, They called him "a hypocrite" in (Job 8:13). They called him "a windbag" in (Job 8:2). They said "You're just getting what you deserve" in (Job 5:8-15). They told him that he had "a bad attitude!" in (Job 5:17). Yet, through it all, Job stuck with the Lord and never turned on God. As a result, he was restored and blessed by the Father.

I have experienced my share of criticism. Maybe you’ve been there too. Or soon will be. Undoubtedly, people are watching our lives. They are making judgments about us. We can’t change that— but what we can do is control how we react. Recently a preacher friend called me for some advice. He was being criticized by some folks who had left his church. He was very hurt and disappointed. I tried to encourage and advise this good man of God. When the conversation was over I got out a pen and paper and reevaluated the steps to follow to have The Right Reaction To Criticism in my own life and ministry. The following are a few of the practical thoughts I have contemplated and heard others teach that I jotted down. 

1. Carefully Examine The Source Of Every Criticism. Some may be valid, but many are not! Ask yourself, "Who is the one saying this thing?" Very often, critics are so caught up in themselves, how they feel, what is happening to them and how they are being affected that they cannot see things objectively. The best way to deal with this is to do what Jesus did that is mentioned in Acts 8:32 - He opened not His mouth!  Criticism often has the effect of injuring the critic more than the one criticized! One fellow put it this way, "If criticism had has any real power to harm, the skunk would be extinct by now." The danger of being criticized is that it can cause you to develop a spirit of bitterness toward the criticizer. The surest way to fuel the fire of criticism, as well as the speculation that the critic may be right, is to go on the defensive. The best response to criticism is no response at all!
2. Control Your Emotions. Don’t react with haste. Remember, feelings are not your friends. In fact, one of the most important fruits of the Spirit mentioned in the Bible is “temperance” or self-control. If our emotions are in control, we will likely react wrongly to criticism. Unfair and unjust criticism always has a way of striking you right in the heart. It is painful, when you have done your best, to know that someone is observing your life to find fault. It is natural to be bothered by criticism. However, criticism should never be allowed to control your life.

3. Decide Not To Take Criticism Personally. Look at it objectively and try to learn from it. Ask yourself, "Is there any truth to this?"  When criticism comes our way, one of the main things we need to ask is, "Is this true?" Instead of reacting defensively against our critic, we should try to put ourselves in their shoes for a moment and try to see the issue through their eyes. It may be that they are right, at least to a degree. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

4. Reject False Criticism. Sometimes we are criticized with no justification. This is a painful experience. But, potentially we can deal with it more easily than criticism which is justified. If we don’t react to the criticism we give it no credibility. If we feel the necessity of fighting it – in a way, we give it more importance than it deserves. By remaining silent we maintain a dignity that others will come to respect.

5. Respond With Kindness And Graciousness. Sometimes we fall into the trap of “fighting fire with fire”. We want to make sure that our words are as ’hot’ and volatile as those fired at us. This will not lead to success or a good outcome. All that does is ‘heat up the problem’ even more.  (Proverbs 15:1) Respond to the suggestions not the tone of the criticism. The problem is that people may make valuable critical suggestions. However, there tone and style of criticism means that we respond not to the suggestions but remember there confrontational manner. In this respect we need to separate the criticism from the style of criticism. Even if people speak in a tone of anger, we should try to detach their emotion from the useful suggestions which lie underneath.

6. Value Criticism. The problems is that quite often, we only value praise. When people speak kind words we feel happy. When people criticize we feel miserable. However, if we only received insincere praise and false flattery, how would we ever make progress? If we wish to improve and develop we should invite constructive criticism and appreciate their suggestions. Keep An Open Mind - As much as we might not like to admit it, our critics can sometimes be right... and we would be well served to listen to their criticisms. You don’t have to ‘agree’— just listen.  If there are some errors in the facts, graciously point out the ‘real truth’ in the situation as you see it, without criticizing the ‘attacker’ or trying to defend your actions. If you find you are ‘wrong’ in the situation, be quick and certain to offer an apology.

7. Let The Criticism Make You Better. Abraham Lincoln, said that ‘the best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend.’ That is not always possible. But it is possible to deal with criticism wisely and productively. In the end, the critic may not like you or ever see it ‘your way’. So be it! How we respond to criticism goes a long way toward defining who we are.

Colonel George Washington Goethals was the primary supervisor responsible for constructing the Panama Canal. This feat of engineering called for the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to be linked by a canal dug across the country of Panama. Since its completion, ships have saved millions of combined miles by being able to go through the canal and avoid the trip around the tip of South America. While the work was being done, Colonel Goethals had to endure severe criticism from back home which predicted that he would never be able to finish, what his critics called an "impossible task". This man refused to listen to his critics and pressed ahead with his work.
One day a subordinate asked this question, "aren't you going to answer your critics?" "In time", the Colonel replied. "How?", the man asked. The Colonel smiled and said, "With the canal!" His answer came loud and clear on August 15, 1914 when the Panama Canal opened to traffic for the first time.

Busy But Not Barren
August 28th, 2012

Jesus said in, John 15:4-5 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

Yesterday was a busy and a blessed day for me. For one, it was a Monday and I was home, not out of town preaching. That was a treat. The morning started early with several hours of Bible study and prayer. I had a pretty full schedule. The day began with two appointments and a counseling session. Then off to an appointment with our church’s banker. That was followed up with three counseling appointments in the afternoon. I met with several staff members, then made a bunch of phone calls. After some administrative tasks, I had to run to another appointment. When I got back to the office at about 5:00 PM I had an hour to get ready for a deacons meeting. A good deacons meeting came to an end a little after 8:00 PM. Our church sure has some fine men who serve as our Deacons. I ran home to get some farm chores done. I Had to work on a couple of chain saws. I enjoyed some fellowship and a bite to eat with my precious wife before a few more phone calls and some phone texts and then got in bed about 11:30 PM.

I don’t normally chronicle my daily schedule for folks but there is a reason I wanted to share this with you. For far too long, many conservative Christians and Churches have worn themselves out performing. By that I mean, we are so worried about what others think of us that we are more focused on our Image than we are our Integrity. Christian Stop Performing! My job is to be busy for Christ but my Ministry For Him should never take the place of my Intimacy With Him. Abiding In Christ is my primary resource to keep me Busy without my life becoming Barren. Quit trying to impress people and just be a real and authentic Christian.

Our church memory verse for this week is Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. “ This is the 35thmemory verse that our church family has memorized so far this year. As I meditated on that verse all day yesterday, I can testify that God truly does reward those who diligently seek Him. He does it with not only prosperity but also peace, purpose, perception, and power. Christian Stop Performing! Our life is not supposed to be as complicated as we make it. I think Micah 6:8 pretty well sums it up, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”