2 Timothy 2:3 NKJV
There are two kinds of criticism: the true kind, and the not-true kind. Constructive criticism, and destructive criticism. Constructive criticism, when founded in truth and delivered well, can be the key to moving forwards. Unfounded criticism can do the opposite. When those around you speak critically, or gossip about you, it can feel like it might get in the way of you following the path laid ahead. However, 19th Century evangelist and writer D.L. Moody said ‘If I take care of my character, God will take care of my reputation’. It’s the nature of living in community that people will always talk, and some will spread negativity, especially if we are involved in a worthy cause. But as D.L. Moody observed, when we try our best to follow God, He will ultimately protect our reputation. If we are striving to life a godly life, then the truth of that will provide its own proof. Unfounded negativity from others cannot stand up against a holy life. The Message paraphrases Isaiah 54:17 like this: ‘Any accuser who takes you to court will be dismissed as a liar’. This leaves us with the confidence to know that God will always restore truth and protect those who live for Him. Once we know that, we can live in the instruction of Luke 6:28 to ‘bless those who curse you’ and ‘pray for those who mistreat you’ (NIV). When we allow God to reassure us that other people’s words cannot hurt us, we can find the strength and compassion to not only stand up against our critics’ words, but to bless and pray for them until they see the truth.
Isa 53-57; Luke 3:21-38; Ps 84; Prov 2:16-19
Hebrews 12:2 MSG
Jesus had vision. He kept going, even when it was challenging. The Bible says: ‘Because he never lost sight of where he was headed…he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever…When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again’ (vv.2-3 MSG). It’s our vision that fuels our passion. Ever noticed how God often transforms the worst of sinners into His greatest kingdom-builders? That’s because they’re passionate, and once that passion is harnessed and used for good they become effective in His kingdom. Knowing how vital passion is can help us understand why the enemy often wants to destroy ours. He knows once we line up our passion with God’s plan, there will be no stopping us. Passion is spiritual energy; without it we’re not going to get far in working for God’s kingdom. Jesus said to the church in Laodicea: ‘You are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!’ (Revelation 3:15 NLT). And those words can sometimes feel like they’re being said to us too. We can just end up going through the motions. We head to church, pray, and read the Bible, because that’s just what we do, not because we’ve got a real passion for growing a relationship with God or for growing His kingdom. So what do we do if we find ourselves lacking passion? We can ask God to increase our passion and spend time with people who are passionate about what God’s called them to do. Whatever God’s called us to do in His kingdom, let’s remember that it’s an incredible privilege and something to really get passionate about.
Gen 20-23; John 14:1-14; Ps 118:10-18; Prov 31:10-13
Psalm 139:15 TM
The Psalmist wrote: “You know me inside and out…you know exactly how I was made, bit by bit…Like an open book…all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day” (vv. 14-16 TM). God has already determined your child’s potential; now it’s up to you to help him or her discover and develop it. You’ll see it in their temperament, their gifts, and their interests. Resist the temptation to treat all your children the same way; they’re different! Cain was a farmer and his brother Abel was a shepherd. Jacob and Esau were twins, yet they couldn’t have been more different. And how about the Prodigal Son who left home and became a “party animal,” while his older brother stayed home and became self-righteous and judgmental? You must love each of your children unconditionally, but develop them individually. Who are they? What do they like? What do they succeed at? How do they handle change? How do they behave when they’re alone? Start listening to what your children value, what they fear, and what they need. Make sure they’re anchored spiritually in God’s Word. Don’t force them to go the way you wish you’d gone. Help them discover their own identity, and become their biggest backer. If that means putting your own dreams on hold for a while, do it. You’ll never regret it. Your children are your future; your very essence will live on in them. And one more thing: The trees we grow today produce the fruit we eat tomorrow. So pray and ask God to help you understand your child.
Soul food: Rom 7:1-9:16; John 10:11-21; Ps 83:1-8; Prov 29:19-22
Psalm 40:2 NLT
When an earthquake struck Haiti, an aid worker trapped under a collapsed hotel prayed, “Lord, I haven’t been in touch with You lately. Now I need You more than ever.” He writes: “I heard a sound. ‘Who’s there?’ I shouted. ‘Jim,’ a man replied. He and five others were trapped too. ‘Would you like to pray with me?’ I asked. ‘Yes,’ he answered. So I said, ‘Lord, we’re asking You for a miracle. Please rescue us.’ I was drifting off to sleep when rhythmic thumping woke me. Helicopters! We waited, but nobody came. I felt drained. No food and water for twenty-four hours and I needed a doctor…I closed my eyes, sure I’d never open them again…A voice shouted and I jolted awake…a survivor had contacted a rescue team through a small hole…An hour passed, then two…I banged on the wall. No response. ‘I’m going to die here, and there’s nothing I can do.’ Then this thought came to my mind: Worship Me. I began singing: ‘Great is Thy faithfulness; morning by morning new mercies I see.’ I sang: ‘Be still my soul.’ Praise songs…to the One who knew exactly where I was. I felt God’s presence…and heard Him whisper, ‘Trust me with everything’…and I let it all go. ‘Your will be done, Lord’…Hours later a team of rescuers came down the elevator shaft, hoisted me to safety, and took me to the hospital. My wife was waiting. ‘I thought you were dead,’ she said. ‘Me too,’ I whispered. And I would have been if it hadn’t been for what I had with me in that dark place – like my faith that’s more alive than ever.”
Soul food: Lev 23:33-44; John 7:1-40; Zech 14:16-21
Psalm 25:21 NIV
Integrity is all about us being a whole, honest person. And that means we are the same wherever we are, whatever we’re doing and whoever we are with. We can often end up putting on different masks or identities, depending on the situation. Maybe how we are with our parents is totally different from how we are with our friends. Or how we are at church is different from how we are at work or school. But if we have integrity, we are the same person. We may show different sides of ourselves to different people; we won’t always be completely vulnerable with everyone; but the essence of who we are, our true identity, is the same. The Bible says: ‘Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out’ (Proverbs 10:9 NIV). We live in a culture that celebrates talent over integrity, but we’ve got it backwards. Talent could fade over time. So could intellect and appearance. But integrity can last a lifetime if we prioritise it. Unfortunately, when we make mistakes our integrity can be damaged. Our good reputation can be shattered in seconds when we choose the wrong path. So we need to be asking God to help us stay on the right path. David prayed: ‘May integrity and uprightness protect me.’ And we can pray that too. If we do end up with damaged integrity, we can rebuild it again, it may take some time for people to trust us again but we don’t have to lose hope or give up. We just need to return to God, ask for His forgiveness and get back on the right path.
Zeph 1-3; Luke 9:46-56; Ps 42:6-11; Prov 19:15-17