Do You Know Him?

Most people – Christian or not – would say they know God. Our English word “know” can mean a number of different things. A majority of people would say, “I know God.” Unfortunately most would be referring to knowing ABOUT HIM, not really knowing Him.  God wants more than His creation knowing about Him. Adam and God communed together. God has always wanted a close, intimate relationship with man. And now, through Jesus, that fellowship is available again – and even more!

It’s really sad that we’ve come to be satisfied with a level of intimacy so far below what Jesus provides. And believe me, I’m not judging you, because I’ve been in the same boat. There have been a few times in my life when I finally got dissatisfied enough to do something about it. I think I’m at that place again.

I read once of a married couple who were cruising along a familiar street when suddenly they were passed by another vehicle. As the other car pulled away the wife quipped from the passenger seat, “Did you see how close they were sitting together? Why don’t we sit close like that anymore?” It was quiet for a moment, after which the husband replied, “I haven’t moved.”

Well, we can be assured that God hasn’t moved either! [Malachi 3:2; Hebrews 13:8] But through Jesus He has opened the door to a kind of fellowship beyond all we could ask or think. If we’re born of God we are both qualified and capable of enjoying communion like this every day, in good times and bad.

Jesus defined what our attitude toward God should be when He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:37-39] For one thing, loving God is assessing Him great value in your life. And notice that Jesus ties together loving God and loving others. Plus, He tells us the criteria for loving is “as yourself.” To me that means if I don’t see value in myself, I won’t see it in anyone else either.

Are you recognizing, as I am, that truly knowing and loving God requires that I truly know myself? By “truly knowing myself” I mean knowing who I am in Christ and who He is in me. Having taught biblical truths for almost 40 years now, I’m aware of lots of scriptures about who I am in Christ. I’m becoming aware also that knowing where the scriptures are found or even quoting them won’t get it done. It’s my heart-level awareness that counts. What do I down deep, passionately believe about myself? If there are discrepancies on this level, loving myself, others and God are all affected.

Thank God there are ways to change our heart-level awareness! There’s no time or space to share them all here. Let me emphasize one very important one – meditation. Meditation is a wonderful tool we’re all equipped with. Here are three verses that laud its importance:

Psalm 1:1-3 –   Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Purpose to meditate – meditate on purpose! See yourself, even innately experience yourself to be as God says you are!

Handling Criticism part 1

At our church we’ve been focusing a lot of our attention on relationships. The reason for this is that we believe our job description as Christians is to “makes disciples” [See Matthew 28:19]. The most productive way of making disciples or followers of Jesus is by way of relationships. Few people, if any, will allow you to try to persuade them to become Christians outside of having an ongoing, friendly relationship with them.

Relationships are like bridges. They come in all kinds of sizes and strengths. The bigger and stronger the bridge, the more you can drive over it. When a relationship (bridge) is being built with a new acquaintance, it must be built big enough and strong enough so that it can handle the “traffic” of discussions about spiritual things. In other words, I may be able to talk about trivial things like the weather with a person I hardly know. But if I want to ask a question like, “Do you believe in life after death?” I can’t expect much of an open dialog with someone I just met. It does happen once in a blue moon, but most of the time this new acquaintance is repelled and thinking, “Who are you to be asking me something like that?!?”

This brings me to my subject – criticism. Good, strong relationships can handle criticism. Can yours?

Some quotes might help us get started. I checked the world-wide web and, sure enough, there’s a lot of info out there. Here are some famous people quoted:

“He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” Abraham Lincoln

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” Winston Churchill

“If it’s very painful for you to criticize your friends – you’re safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that’s the time to hold your tongue.” Alice Miller

 Not surprisingly the Bible also has much to say about criticism. Here’s a small sample:

Proverbs 15:31, 32 [NLB] – “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. 32 If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.”

Matthew 7:1-5 [NLB] – “Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. 2 For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged. 3 And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

The first thing that became clear to me from scripture was that, while constructive criticism can be a good thing, judgment is not. I did a little word study here. To judge is used of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others. The word “criticism” is not used in the New Testament. I think the concept is covered in the word “convict” or “conviction”. It is used in John 16:8 as a ministry of the Holy Spirit, so it must be something good. Many times it’s translated “rebuke”. It is defined as to bring to the light, to expose, correct; to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation.

Here’s an example of constructive criticism from a biblical perspective:

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 The Lord’s servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. 25 They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.” II Timothy 2:23-26 [NLB]

I see a difference in attitude in constructive criticism over judgment. In this scripture God’s servant is patient and kind, not quarrelsome or argumentative. His words of correction are given only for the purpose of helping this poor soul caught in a devilish trap, not for any self promotion or such.

Here’s another passage that gives insight into helpful criticism:

Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody.” Galatians 6:1-3 [NLB]

Notice again that the motive is to aid this person caught in sin. There’s no room here for pride or kicking a wounded soul while they’re down. This is exposing the problem, in love, and extending a helping hand of escape.

If criticism can be this loving and powerful – and it can – we’re going to need to take a closer look at it. We need to know what to receive and what to reject. Plus we’ll need to understand how to give criticism in a way that it can be received.

So, follow along with me if you’re able and we’ll dissect this important truth.