Encouragement for the Criticized


For those who do what I do, you understand the pressures that come with being a pastor  or a leadership position that requires you to lead a lot of people. Like any position of leadership, there are always critics and the critics are rarely critical because they want to help. We all know that the negative kind of critic can cause us to hurt, second guess our decisions and even, at times, second guess our calling. So, this short post is intended to be an encouragement to anyone who is discouraged in what they’re called to do. (I’m not grinding any axes here.)

One truth I always try to remind myself is that I am really working, serving, preaching and leading before an audience of one. That is, when this ministry and life are all said and done, I will stand in judgment before the One who has the right to call me out on everything I’ve done; and He will. So, my purpose and goal, ultimately, is to please Him.

That’s a pretty good goal isn’t it; to please Him?

But, we all have those days when we’re down because someone has complained publicly about us or lied about us or expressed (again publicly) their dissatisfaction with us. I was very encouraged the other day when I read these words from Theodore Roosevelt in regard to the critic and to our calling. I hope you’ll find them as inspiring as I have.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

To my brothers and sisters who are battling in ministry and leadership and even struggling through criticism; keep on! What you’re doing is eternal in value which means it’s eternal in weight. But, the majority of the load of that yoke is carried by our Savior. Remember, most critics are doing nothing. That’s why they have time to criticize.

To my critics, I ask you to remember that I’m as human as you are. What I’m doing is by divine call and I have a Master whom I desperately want to please. If you join me in that pursuit, you may find less reasons to criticize.

Kingdom Trajectory


What’s your trajectory? That may seem like a strange question, but it’s an important one.

Matthew records some pretty major teachings of Jesus in that last several chapters of his gospel. (Not that all of Jesus’ teachings are less than major.) But, Matthew records a series of teachings that Jesus did between His last entry into Jerusalem and His crucifixion; and these teachings are significant.

Much of these teachings are parables that begin with “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” In these parables, like the parable of the wedding feast found in Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus is desperately trying to get His audience, which is you and me now, to get their trajectory pointed toward His coming Kingdom. In effect, He’s asking you and me, “What’s your trajectory? Is it toward my Kingdom?”

So, how do you know if your trajectory is a Kingdom trajectory?

  • Jesus begins with simple desire. The story goes like this: A king is throwing a wedding feast for his son and there’s been a lot of the people of the kingdom invited. So, the king sends out his servants to tell all invited that it’s time for  the wedding. The only problem is those invited don’t care about the invitation. Apparently, they don’t think the wedding feast will be a very good party, so it’s not worth going.

This is probably Jesus’ first point; you’ll miss this Kingdom if you have no desire for it. Here’s the truth, you’ll have no desire if you think the Kingdom to come is no big deal. Just don’t miss this truth, the Kingdom to which Jesus is inviting you is far greater than anything on this earth; anything!

  • For those invited to the wedding feast there was also a problem of disregard. Some who were invited were indifferent. They just had better things to do. As Jesus tells the parable, some just went to their own businesses and farms. Others became flat out indignant as if they were saying, “You’re not going to tell me what to do!” So, they put a beat down on the servants who came to call them to the wedding. How crazy is that?!

Here’s the next truth: those invited just had a plain disregard for the king and his son. Your desire of God’s kingdom will rise and fall with how you view God; and His Son.

In the end of the parable, those who were invited but refused to attend were counted unworthy of any longer being called to the wedding. This is not because of the type of job they had or because their marriage failed or because their kids didn’t behave well. The reason they’re considered unworthy is because they have no desire or regard for the wedding, the king or his son. They have a trajectory of self and not a trajectory of the kingdom.

So, let me ask you again: what’s your trajectory?

God is inviting you to the great wedding feast. You can read about it in Revelation chapter 19. He’s also inviting you to be a subject of His great Kingdom. You can read about it in Revelation 20 and Ezekiel chapters 40 – 48; as well as other places. How do you know if you have Kingdom trajectory? When you have a desire and high regard for the King and His Kingdom to come.

This is why you would have desire and regard for it. Because the value of the Kingdom is in the value of the King; the Son. I hope you accept the invitation and spend your life with a Kingdom trajectory! That way, when the call comes for the invited to come you won’t have anything better to do.




If you read any of Paul’s epistles it’s easy to see that he had a one-track mind after he met Jesus Christ. What an encounter he had! You can read about his encounter with Jesus in Acts chapter 9. It wasn’t that Paul was blinded that made the most impact on him, though it certainly got his attention. Paul, after his encounter with Jesus was overwhelmed; not by the situation, not by the circumstance but by Jesus Himself!

Paul initially did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, but when he met Jesus, that all changed. When Paul met Jesus he had to deal with him the same way everyone does as described by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. This paragraph in Lewis’ magnum opus has been distilled down by many as “liar, lunatic or Lord.” This is how C.S. Lewis describes how people must, or must not, view Jesus:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” This is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising [sic] nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”[1]

Every encounter with Jesus Christ demands a response.
The encounter Paul has with Jesus is one that affects him in such a way that the rest of his life will be telling others about Jesus that they may have an encounter with Him too. Paul knows if they do, like him, they will never get over it. No one who has a true encounter with Jesus will ever get over it. No one walks away from Him thinking He’s no big deal.
That’s why Paul preached, wrote and even endured trial, affliction and persecution the way he did. His encounter with Jesus changed his purpose and life-direction. That’s why he tells the Ephesians to pray this way: “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.[2]

You may not have been blinded by a light when you met Jesus for the first time, as Paul was, but your encounter with Him was, no doubt, just as overwhelming; wasn’t it? So, what’s your response been? In all of history, since Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, the response has been to leave all to follow Him. Don’t think that your response should be any different. Are you still overwhelmed by Him? If not, take a look at Jesus again. He’s still incredibly beautiful and overwhelming. You won’t get over Him!

[1] C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity. p. 52

[2] (Ephesians 6:18–20, ESV)

The Complaint Department

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You may know the two Muppets in the above picture. They spent all their time complaining about what everyone was doing. I thought it was  a good image for this post.

I recently saw an interview with former college basketball coach Bobby Knight about his new book, “The Power of Negative Thinking.” Obviously, it’s a little bit of a play on words. Of course I remember some the “negative” results that came about by his actions late in his career and I’m not sure I want to try the principles he has to offer. (I just saw the news headline this morning of a college basketball coach who was fired for this type of conduct.)

Be that as it may, I can certainly demonstrate the implication of negative thinking and how quickly it can spread throughout an assembly of people, and it never begins innocently.

There is truth to Bobby Knight’s book title; there is power in negative thinking. It is very powerful.

Let me demonstrate from Numbers 11 the negative progression that results in the spewing of quail out the nose. (And you thought the Bible was boring!)

Though they’ve been led out of slavery, there are some in the multitude of people who are completely captivated by the difficulties of the journey. The book of Numbers records it this way, “the people complained…about their misfortunes.” I wonder if you asked any slave this question what their answer would be: is freedom in the desert better than slavery in a place of prosperity? Yes! But how easy is it to forget that!

Grumbling and complaining begins in those who have forgotten the truth of their liberty. I’m sure you wonder as I do how Israel, though God set them free from horrible slavery could possibly complain about their freedom. But they did. And it was destructive. (I’ll let you read Numbers 11 to see how destructive it was.)

Here’s some truths about complaining and negativity:

  1. Complaining and negativity tricks people into believing they’re captive when they’re actually free.
  2. Complaining and negativity is very, very contagious.
    • What started with “the rabble” became “weeping [of the people] throughout their clans.” It’s that contagious!
  3. Complaining and negativity is in the end, poisonous and destructive.
    • this is true for two reasons: first, it will render a person unable to see the truth and the good. Secondly, it will destructively divide a congregation of people. It’s that destructive!

So, how do we protect ourselves from the poison of complaining and negativity?

  1. First, remember that God is not in the business of negativity, He’s in the business of setting people free. (Negativity always leads to bondage.)
  2. Second, when someone wants to approach you just to complain, ask them not to do it. Don’t listen to complaining, nothing good comes from it.
  3. Third, remember. Remember that God is at work and listen to His Spirit. He never leads by complaining and does not divide with it.
    • That means if there is division, it’s not a work of God.
  4. Lastly, commit. Commit your life to the truth of the Gospel and glory of God. When you do that, complaining will have no place in your heart.

Focal Point


I’m not much of a photographer, however, like a lot of people I do like to look at a good photograph. I couldn’t tell you what makes a photograph good, I can only tell you when I see it. The only thing I like more than looking at a good photograph is taking one. Fortunately for me, there are cameras these days that do most of the work for you. Automatic settings and focus help non-photographers like me pull off a decent photo every once in a while. For me, it’s pretty much the blind squirrel finding an acorn scenario.

I think the feature that helps the most with my “point and click” is not just the autofocus but my camera automatically locates the focal point. The truth is, unless there’s a focal point, autofocus does little to help.

So it is with the church. The church must have the proper focal point. If it doesn’t then all the focus in the world will amount to nothing. What do you think should be the focus of the church?

Your view of the church growth movement may affect how you answer this question. Also, depending on whether you’re in the vocational ministry or a lay-leader in the church or simply a church attender may make a difference too. However, I fear this question is more commonly answered incorrectly than not. Is church about people, the Great Commission, discipleship, worship services or social justice?

Sure, church should include all these things but none of these should be the focal point of the church. If they are, focus can quickly become attentive to the wrong things.

What, then, should be the ultimate focus of the church?

As I look at the New Testament epistles the answer should be easy. But, how many of our churches, church members and attenders come into “worship” services and programs in our churches and completely miss the focal point? Honestly, it shouldn’t be possible but unfortunately I think it happens all the time.

I could give many, many more references from the Epistles but here are a few to make my point:

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according with the Scriptures…”(1 Corinthians 15:3) Emphasis mine

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…”(2 Corinthians 3:5)

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Galatians 6:14)

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace…”(Ephesians 2:13-14)

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

“….I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8)

“And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:18)

As I said, I could give many more examples but as Paul wrote to the church, he always focused on the centrality, the focal point of Jesus.

All the difficulties we find in the church: division, dissatisfaction, gossip and faded worship are all symptoms of the real problem, Jesus isn’t the focal point.

But, when Jesus is the focal point the fruits are obvious:

1. Authentic, Spirit and Truth worship in the church.

2. Fulfillment of the great commission including the necessity of discipleship.

3. A heart for others that will result in social justice.

4. Unity within the Body. (Remember, Jesus never causes division within His church. If there’s division, it’s not from Him.)

5. Believers who follow Jesus with obedience [to Jesus] that stems from love for Him and His Word. Obedience to Jesus causes the Christian to abide in Him and therefore produce all kinds of good fruit. (Matthew 7:16)

Lord, help us that Jesus may be our focal point, our only focal point. I understand, by that, the rest of your purpose will come into focus. I pray for Jesus to be our focal point, and I pray it starts with me; today.