criticism

A Hidden Message Discovered

treasuremapThey say things come in 3's. Maybe so. We had a leaking outdoor faucet, a leaking indoor faucet, and someone busted out the back window of our van. I mentioned something about this on Facebook, and someone replied, "Maybe there's a hidden message in this......" Well, I think I discovered it. I scheduled the plumber to come out last Tuesday, but he was so late getting to my house that the parts store he needed to go to was closed. A little disappointing, but no big deal. I rescheduled the repairs for Monday morning.

As he was working on Monday, we were talking about different things. I told him that I am a pastor, and he said that he was a Christian and what church he attended. When he was finished with the repairs, he said, "Can I ask you a question? I've got a situation. My daughter is in her early 20's, and her best friend is about the same age. Her friend is single, and she just found out she is pregnant. At first she was going to keep the baby, but now she tells me that she's going to have an abortion. She knows that I'm against the idea, and she wants to talk to me about it tonight. She's always looked up to me as a father figure, but I don't know what to say to her. Do you have any advice?"

I told him that if she had already decided to have the abortion, she wouldn't want to talk to him. She's coming to him because she's still deciding what to do. Everything is piling up on her: the cost of raising a baby; the pressures of motherhood; the uncertainty about the future; and so on. She's beginning to think that the "easiest" thing to do is get rid of the "problem." But I've known many women who have regretted having an abortion and none who regretted having the baby.

She needs to talk to some people with a lot of knowledge and resources about abortion alternatives. I mentioned the Mend Pregnancy Resource Center, with which our Women's Ministry partners. He said he would go by there today and get some information to give her.

A few thoughts about the "hidden message":

  • God's Spirit is at work at all times and in all places. It is our job to look for where He is at work and join Him there.
  • God is in control. If the plumber was not late for the first appointment, he would have fixed the problem before he knew about the pregnancy; and I never would have been able to tell him about Mend Pregnancy Resource Center.
  • Money doesn't matter--people do. Was it worth a $200 plumbing bill to (possibly) save a baby? Absolutely!
  • Keeping your cool when difficulties hit allows you to maintain your witness for Christ. I didn't keep my cool because I knew that God would have a divine appointment for me, but because I simply have a biblical perspective on both money and trials.

Was there a hidden message in my difficulties? Yes. Difficulties happen. It rains on the just and the unjust. The question is what you allow God to make of them.

Oh, I didn't say anything about the auto glass repair guy? Maybe I'll be able to tell you that story soon.

Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Passive-aggressiveness is a term used by psychologists to describe a pervasive pattern of negative attitudes coupled with resistance to others. It manifests itself in many ways: procrastination, resentment, stubbornness, and sometimes even deliberate failure to act in a responsible manner. Many times a passive-aggressive person will convey his or her wishes or expectations in a manner that is intended to tweak, embarrass, or shame the intended recipient of the message. By doing so, the passive-aggressive person feels as if he or she maintains a measure of control (and therefore power) over others. The only way to deal with passive-aggressive people is to lovingly confront them, appealing to them to examine their behavior and make the appropriate changes.

But what do you do if you are a passive-aggressive person?

  1. Admit that it exists and understand the shape it has taken in your life.
  2. Examine your past. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to forgive those in your past who have harmed you.
  3. As yourself, "What are my expectations?" Rid yourself of unrealistic expectations since they will only cause you turmoil.
  4. Expose yourself to the mirror of Scripture (James 1:22-25).
  5. Understand your identity in Christ. Your true value lies not in your performance, position, titles, achievements, or power, but in being known by God and declared righteous in Christ.

A Church Without Criticism

The magazine "Popular Science" recently gave a brief report on Dennis Hong, the leader of Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory. He talked about one aspect of being raised in Korea: "I grew up in an environment of people being afraid or ashamed to speak up. In my lab there's no criticism, only refinement." I believe that God has placed within the hearts of His people in every church the ability and knowledge to overcome the issues hindering that church's health and growth. So why won't more people be an active part of the solution? A few possible reasons:

  • Fear of commitment - Some people keep to themselves their ideas to make their church better because they know that they will be asked to take a leadership role in the transformation.
  • Hindered flow of communication - Many leaders of churches fail to provide members with two necessary things: (1) permission and encouragement to make suggestions; and (2) an easy means by which to do so.
  • A critical heart - Unfortunately, some members have allowed an unchecked critical spirit to become entrenched in their hearts. Although they may have good ideas, they choose to complain about the current condition to people who can't do anything about it, which results with that critical spirit being multiplied many times over.
  • Fear of being critical - Many Christians are like Dennis Hong was: fearful of speaking up. The knowledge that the Spirit of God has placed in their hearts becomes buried, and the people of God cannot be edified.

When God's people aren't talking to one another (and perhaps instead talking about one another), Satan gains a victory. Imagine, though, what would happen if we adopted the mindset that says, "In my church there's no criticism, only refinement."