Stop Being So Critical (3)

“Take delight in honoring each other.” Ro 12:10 NLT

Having a critical attitude may not destroy your relationship with God, but it’ll definitely hurt your capacity to experience His love, His presence, and His blessing. Notice, it was God who smote Miriam with leprosy. She started out by criticizing her brother Moses, and ended up feeling the consequences in her relationship with the Lord. Why? Because God pays attention to the way we treat each other! Maybe you’re wondering, “Why would God make such a big deal out of this?” Because when you choose to sin, you choose to suffer. Everything God classifies as sin is hurtful to you—everything. When God says, “Don’t,” what He really means is “Don’t hurt yourself.” And when He says, “Don’t criticize,” He’s not trying to deprive you of satisfaction. He’s saying that having a critical attitude goes against who He made you to be, and what you’re called to do. Just as fish were made to swim and birds were made to fly, you were made to live in fellowship with God—and a critical spirit hinders that fellowship. Even people who don’t claim to be particularly religious are cognizant of the negative effects of criticism. Dr. David Fink, author of Release from Nervous Tension, studied thousands of mentally and emotionally disturbed people. He worked with two groups—a stressed-out group and a stress-free one. Eventually one fact emerged: The stressed-out group was composed of habitual fault-finders and constant critics of people and things around them. On the other hand, the stress-free group was loving and accepting of others. There’s no doubt about it, the habit of criticizing is a self-destructive way to live. Don’t go there.

Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.

Angels are the unseen attendants of the saints of God; they bear us up in their hands, lest we dash our foot against a stone. Loyalty to their Lord leads them to take a deep interest in the children of His love; they rejoice over the return of the prodigal to his father’s house below, and they welcome the advent of the believer to the King’s palace above. In olden times the sons of God were favoured with their visible appearance, and at this day, although unseen by us, heaven is still opened, and the angels of God ascend and descend upon the Son of man, that they may visit the heirs of salvation. Seraphim still fly with live coals from off the altar to touch the lips of men greatly beloved. If our eyes could be opened, we should see horses of fire and chariots of fire about the servants of the Lord; for we have come to an innumerable company of angels, who are all watchers and protectors of the seed-royal. Spenser’s line is no poetic fiction, where he sings-

“How oft do they with golden pinions cleave

The flitting skies, like flying pursuivant

Against foul fiends to aid us militant!”

To what dignity are the chosen elevated when the brilliant courtiers of heaven become their willing servitors! Into what communion are we raised since we have intercourse with spotless celestials! How well are we defended since all the twenty- thousand chariots of God are armed for our deliverance! To whom do we owe all this? Let the Lord Jesus Christ be for ever endeared to us, for through Him we are made to sit in heavenly places far above principalities and powers. He it is whose camp is round about them that fear Him; He is the true Michael whose foot is upon the dragon. All hail, Jesus! thou Angel of Jehovah’s presence, to Thee this family offers its morning vows.

Stop Being So Critical (2)

“Keep your tongue from speaking evil.” 1Pe 3:10 NLT

God dealt with Moses because of some of the mistakes he made. In fact, one of them kept him from entering the Promised Land. Nevertheless God wouldn’t permit anybody else to criticize Moses—not even his sister Miriam. So what can you learn from this? (1) We’re all capable of harboring a critical attitude. Miriam had great qualities. She saved Moses’ life as a child, and she wrote a song of praise Israel used to celebrate the crossing of the Red Sea. But she paid a high price for her critical attitude—leprosy. (2) When you’re resentful you become critical. “Miriam…began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife” (Nu 12:1 NIV). But was that the real issue? No. “They said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?’” (v. 2 NKJV). Moses’ wife was just a diversion; the real issue was Moses’ success. Their beef was: “How come he gets all the attention?” (3) Anytime you succeed you’ll be criticized. The Bible says, “Moses was very humble” (v. 3 NKJV), yet even he couldn’t escape the pain inflicted by self-appointed critics. And you’re no different; as long as you’re alive somebody will find fault with what you’re doing. Brush it off and keep going. (4) If you’ve been critical, you need to repent. When Aaron acknowledged, “We have acted foolishly…we have sinned” (v. 11 NAS), God showed mercy and healed Miriam. Most of us would rather classify criticism as a weakness, but from God’s perspective it’s a genuine, bona fide, registered sin. And there’s only one way to deal with sin—repent and stop committing it.

Colossians 1:5 The hope which is laid up for you in heaven.

Our hope in Christ for the future is the mainspring and the mainstay of our joy here. It will animate our hearts to think often of heaven, for all that we can desire is promised there. Here we are weary and toilworn, but yonder is the land of rest where the sweat of labour shall no more bedew the worker’s brow, and fatigue shall be for ever banished. To those who are weary and spent, the word “rest” is full of heaven. We are always in the field of battle; we are so tempted within, and so molested by foes without, that we have little or no peace; but in heaven we shall enjoy the victory, when the banner shall be waved aloft in triumph, and the sword shall be sheathed, and we shall hear our Captain say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We have suffered bereavement after bereavement, but we are going to the land of the immortal where graves are unknown things. Here sin is a constant grief to us, but there we shall be perfectly holy, for there shall by no means enter into that kingdom anything which defile th. Hemlock springs not up in the furrows of celestial fields. Oh! is it not joy, that you are not to be in banishment for ever, that you are not to dwell eternally in this wilderness, but shall soon inherit Canaan? Nevertheless let it never be said of us, that we are dreaming about the future and forgetting the present, let the future sanctify the present to highest uses. Through the Spirit of God the hope of heaven is the most potent force for the product of virtue; it is a fountain of joyous effort, it is the corner stone of cheerful holiness. The man who has this hope in him goes about his work with vigour, for the joy of the Lord is his strength. He fights against temptation with ardour, for the hope of the next world repels the fiery darts of the adversary. He can labour without present reward, for he looks for a reward in the world to come.

Trusting God in Difficult Times

“‘Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’” — Leviticus 23:42–43

A note to our readers: This week marks the celebration of Sukkot, one of the most joyous celebrations on the Jewish calendar. Throughout this week, our reflections will be tied to this biblically mandated holiday.

When I sit in my sukkah, the huts that we are commanded to live in for seven days out of the year, I am reminded of the way that our ancestors had lived for many years. In the Bible, God specifies that we are to recall how He placed the Israelites in similar structures when they wandered the desert for 40 years. Some say that God provided huts for every family in the desert, while others explain that God’s Clouds of Glory had sheltered His people. Either way, the sukkah celebrates God’s providence in a difficult and dangerous environment.

However, beyond those years, I am reminded of the thousands of years that my people lived in simple lodgings, never knowing if they would have to pick up and move again the next year due to persecution or decree. The term “wandering Jew” wasn’t created out of nothing. In a way, the sukkah represents the story of the Jewish people. Our residences were only temporary, our existence precarious, and our survival totally dependent on God’s grace and mercy.

There is a beautiful Yiddish song that poetically captures the essence of this very idea. In the song, a Jewish man tells of sitting in his flimsy sukkah while the winds blow. The weather becomes so foreboding that the man’s wife yells at him to come inside because she worries that the sukkah might blow down and collapse altogether. Listen to his reply: “ . . . don‘t worry about the wind. No matter how many winds will roar. No matter how many generations will come, the sukkah will always remain standing.”

In other words, no matter how many forces have come out against the Jewish people, our people and our tiny nation have always survived and will survive; not because we are strong and mighty, not because we are great and many, but because it is the will of God.

As we dwell in our sukkah shacks with their thatched roofs exposed to the elements, we remember that our well-being comes not from the sound structure of our normal homes, but from God’s providence even in the most delicate situations. What looks solid might be a house of cards if it is not based on the will of God, and what seems flimsy can be the most solid structure if God Himself is holding it up.

Let’s all be encouraged to trust our God in times of difficulty. With God by our side, the winds may blow and the rain may pour, but we will remain standing. If we are weak, He will strengthen us; if we are tired, He will invigorate us; and if we should fall, He will catch us. Just as He always has.