JKBcircleRaise your hand if you like to be criticized. I don’t expect any takers for that offer! Nobody, with a normal emotional outlook, likes to be criticized. But since no one escapes it, all of us should have a “game plan” for handling it.
I once heard Rick Warren say, “The one who calls the shots takes the shots.” If you have ever led a team or group you have experienced criticism- it’s a part of leadership. But criticism isn’t limited to leaders- it reaches all of us. Even if you hate to admit it, you have been criticized in the past and more is on the way- it’s a part of life. (By now you may be switching off your computer- but read on!)
How will you respond to criticism? I have known people who react to criticism with such volatility, their anger makes what ever they were criticized for appear even worse. Other people I’ve known become withdrawn when criticized, and seem, as a result, to lack the necessary motivation to correct the original problem. Either way, both of those extreme responses are unrealistic since everyone experiences criticism. After all, some people find fault like there is a reward for it! You will no doubt run into those kind of people eventually if you haven’t already. They like to criticize. 2191130107_1781536f79
There are instances, of course, when the criticism is valid- and we can all recall occasions when the critics nailed it! At times like that, humility, as well as the determination to learn and change, is required so we can improve and avoid that particular criticism in the future. But often we are the target of harsh and unjustified criticism. Then what? For one thing, it may help to remember that being right does not mean you will never be criticized.
Jesus was criticized constantly. The Pharisees called Him demon possessed (John 8:52). At one point, His own family thought He was “out of His mind” (Mark 3:21). Once, thousands of potential followers rejected Him in a single day (John 6:66). Of course, the ultimate “criticism” was more than a cruel word. The ultimate critique of Jesus was the cross where He was executed!
Yet, in spite of all He had to endure, Jesus persisted in the face of unjustified criticism. What do we learn from His example? First we might learn this- if the perfect Son of God had critics, we should never be surprised if we have them too. Second, if you believe you are doing God’s will, and what is right, don’t let criticism derail your efforts. Eventually, you might even win your critics to your point of view. There are few words more satisfying to hear than, “You were right after all.” You will hear those words someday, from some of your critics, if you carry a job to completion. But you will never convince a single critic if you give up because someone disagrees.
There are definitely times when the criticisms that come our way are warranted. When those times come we need to adjust, or repent, and do things differently. There may also be times when, even if we are right, the negative consequences of persistence outweigh the value of “winning”. We have to choose our battles.
Most of the time, however, we should be far more willing to endure criticism for the sake of doing what’s right if we are doing the will of God! If Jesus continued to do God’s will even though He was criticized, so can we.
Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:3 NIV)


JKBcircleLeo has a laptop but no where in particular to plug it in. He’s homeless on the streets of New York City. Patrick McConlogue, a computer programmer,  passed Leo everyday on his way to work and one day decided to make Leo an offer. He would give him $100.00 cash or teach him to write computer code. Leo chose to learn. According to Relevant Magazine, Patrick gave Leo 3 books on coding, an inexpensive laptop, access to an online training site, and 16 weeks of personal computer lessons. This week, Leo released his first app for $.99 which helps commuters find other drivers who might want to carpool along their route to work. Leo is now a computer coder- he made the right choice!
Someone once said, “You make your choices then your choices make you!” What we choose today will invariably affect the quality of our lives tomorrow. When Israel entered the Promised Land, after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, Joshua the leader of Israel assembled the people together to challenge them to remain faithful to God in their new homeland. He reminded them they had a choice to make. “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 ESV)
Choices have consequences and some are a matter of life or death. We are each free, in most instances, to choose the direction of our lives- but none of us is free to choose the consequences of our choices! We have to choose wisely. God’s prophet once said to Israel, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that your offspring may live…” (Deuteronomy 30:19 ESV)
You have choices today. What will you choose?


JKBcircleI once heard a preacher say, “A conviction is not a belief you hold, a conviction is a belief that holds you!” How true. In some ways our culture is dividing itself into politically polarized camps of people with extreme views on almost every issue with an unwillingness to bend. In another, and perhaps broader and more heavily populated corner of culture, however, Americans seem uncertain and unclear about things that only a few years ago were held as unquestioned assumptions by the majority.

For Christians, the pressure to moderate our unique views, which we believe are taken from Scripture, is constant. The none too subtle message today seems to be “go along to get along.” For newer believers, it often appears to be social or career suicide to hold onto biblical convictions too tightly, because the times are rapidly changing and those who hold to opposing views are more readily outspoken than ever before.

Yet, the pressure to conform is nothing new and only serves to highlight why we need convictions in the first place. Without them, we tend to drift, and when we do, we can lose the moral high ground of a distinctly Christian worldview. That’s a costly loss for the Christian and for culture. Deliberately choosing to mute our own perspective, no matter how unpopular, in order to blend into the popular trends of the moment, will rarely benefit anyone for long. After all, it is assumed that we will almost always be on the opposite side of the debate in a non-Christian world. No wonder Paul advised the Corinthian Christians, in the midst of their clear minority status, to be “…steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58). In other words, it eventually pays off to take the right stand.

A glance at the most current headlines illustrates the point that while it is often costly in the short run to stand on conviction, it could turn out to be rewarded in the long run.

For instance, when Bob Dylan decided in 1965 to use electric instruments at a Folk Festival he was nearly booed off the stage. One festival organizer, Pete Seeger, even threatened to use an ax to chop up the cable leading to Dylan’s  amplifiers! The folk music purists there that day, and at subsequent concerts, shouted their displeasure and hurled insults like “traitor” and “Judas.” Footage from those concerts is brutal to watch. Yet, Dylan was undeterred. At one point, as fans in England turned on him for playing an electric guitar, Dylan shouted back, “I don’t believe you!” The certainty in his own mind that he was doing the right thing convinced him, apparently, that the angry fans were not being honest with themselves when they booed and demanded he stop. So he continued to play his electric guitar.

And that electric guitar- a 1964 Fender Stratocaster- serves to illustrate how remarkably rewarding standing by one’s convictions can be. Last Friday, December 6, 2013 Dylan’s Stratocaster, the very one he first played, which was once heckled and reviled, sold for almost $1 million dollars at an Auction in New York. Bob Dylan was widely criticized for his conviction years ago to play that guitar. Today, that insistent (and perhaps stubborn) refusal to back down, along with the Stratocaster itself, is part of Rock music legend, and his decision to “go electric,” according to Rolling Stone Magazine, is one of the most notable events in music history.


Your convictions probably won’t garner so much attention, but if history proves anything it is that convictions have a way of turning opponents into supporters, and the things we pay a price to believe today may be rewarded tomorrow! So hang in there when you are doing the right thing regardless of the apparent unpopularity of the moment. After all, “the times, they are a changing,” but you can remain steadfast in your convictions!



JKBcircleWe’ve all heard the amusing and ironic saying, “Lord, give me patience and give it to me now!” And yet, no one really believes it works that way since patience has never been instant. Instead, it apparently takes a lifetime to develop, and I wonder if some of us ever master the art of waiting.
Less than twenty years ago, as a late comer to the high tech revolution, I had my first experience with the Internet. In those days, it required the old “dial up” access. Today, however, the speed of Internet access makes that old dial up system seem intolerably slow and I cannot imagine waiting that long to access a web site now. The speed of getting what I want in the 21st century is doing nothing to assist me in becoming more patient. It’s the opposite. I’m being trained everyday by my surroundings to demand almost instant access to everything I need.
The Christian life, however, demands that I develop patience. One reason for that is I am growing in Christ and, as Paul observed, I have not yet arrived (Philippians 3:12-14). Therefore, in order to be like Christ, I should expect the process of growth to include struggles,temptations, set backs, repentance, and disappointments. For these reasons I will need patience.
Not only that, but I live in a family and in a community. The people around me should not be forced to endure the attitude and selfish behavior of a Christian adult, impatiently  demanding his own way and insisting on his own agenda. If I appreciate patience in others, I should insist on it in myself.
The walk that is worthy of Christians must include patience (Ephesians 4:1-2). The word Paul uses indicates that patience is much more than a casual toleration of everything that happens, and it’s more than a fatalistic acceptance of the status quo. The word translated “patience” in Ephesians 4:2 (NIV, ESV) is the greek word “makrothymia” which comes from two words-“makros” meaning long or distant, and “thymia” which means zeal or boiling hot passion. The old King James translation of that word is nearly literal- “long suffering.” Think of it this way, patience is not a cold dispassionate acceptance of things you can’t stand. Patience is a controlled burn ready to flame up into action at any moment! Patience trusts God to know what is best right now but it is not a resigned passivity that thinks circumstance won’t ever change. Patience in the Christian life is readiness on alert.
Babies and small children are impatient, but maturing Christians must demonstrate patience as a way of trusting God’s timing and as a way of demonstrating our faith in an impatient culture. God’s timing is always right on time. Wait for it!