BLESSINGS OF FEEDBACK, CURSES OF DENIAL AND DEFENSIVENESS

 

God commands me to examine myself, to let ALL scripture reprove me, to ask God to search my heart, to let the iron  of his word and faithful friends’ reproof sharpen my iron. Do I really want to be a sharp sword in his hands? Then I must have frequent sharpening.

All scripture will first establish truth for me to live in /and all truth will REPROVE me/ my being REPROVED will lead to my being corrected/ being corrected will lead to my equipping/ which will lead me to develop the CHARACTER OF CHRIST/ which will lead to ministry.

So many people want to jump reproof and correction and go straight to ministry or to declaring themselves equipped. THERE IS NO MOVING AROUND REPROOF. Without that, correcting, perfecting furnishing and ministry vanish.

BLESSINGS TO ME OF FEEDBACK (in no particular order of importance)

  1. Understanding why others struggle
  2. No need for defense or blame or excuses or explanations which all tire us out and impress no one. Instead free to repent and grow.
  3. Enjoying shared fellowship with others who are being real.
  4. Have my ways directed: by God through friends, family, finances, health
  5. Understand Doctrine’s purpose and meaning,application, and “SO WHAT?” better.
  6. When I do mess up and then apologize, others listen and cut me slack.
  7. Experience continuous growth throughout my life as friends are willing to have their iron sharpen mine.
  8. Enjoy the affirmation of others, that my life has allowed God to minister to them.
  9. Find that I am in the position, by virtue of my allowing reproof and correction, to minister to others.
  10. Find tools and truth and support that helps me grow.
  11. Find forgiveness and new trust and involvement and relationship with those I have offended.
  12. Continue to receive valuable confrontation because the others are rewarded by my appreciation and change.

CURSES OF NOT BEING OPEN TO FEEDBACK

  1. Criticizing others for the same things I do.
  2. Constantly inventing explanations, blame and excuses that no one accepts any longer.
  3. Losing the real relationships with those who really love me and call my bluff, when I defend, explain, counter attack and never change. I then only hang out with those who really don’t know me or won’t confront me.
  4. Unable to commit to responsibility that brings criticism, thus wander without direction, always becoming and never being, because all being is imperfect and thus leaves me open to evaluation and feedback.
  5. Be full of doctrine, quoting scripture but unable to apply it since, in order to apply it I would have to let it reprove me.
  6. Always apologizing but never changing so that others grow weary of my apologies and I wonder why they won’t just forget my past unrepented errors and trust me now.
  7. Slide slowly backwards, because growth requires ongoing self examination and feedback from others. (When I was in the military I found out that anyone over the rank of captain became steadily more irrational because they no longer received feedback.)
  8. Being always hungry for affirmation but winding up having to praise myself and still feeling no sense of value because any praise I receive is hollow, coming from people who don’t know me, or coming from myselfs. Proverbs 27:2 Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth.
  9. Having initial opportunities to minister based on my command of doctrine; then finding them to fade as the lack of reproof, correction, transformation and true ministry become evident. “My deeds speak so loudly no one can hear what I say.
  10. Plagued with false and pointless accountability and tools that do not work.
  11. Focus on touch-up, surface change and not on rebuilding the core, on fixing the current consequences rather than on healing the past results of my becoming allergic to feedback. (It’s hard enough to admit the current need for growth but harder yet to see the full extent of how this has hurt my Lord, his ministry and others. I am always worse than our worst fears but God is greater than my worst problem.
  12. Painting myself into a corner where by force of habit I can not hear, retain, and profit from feedback;and through ignoring the feedback or counter attacking or getting angry at anyone who calls my bluff; I find myself in a place that no one confronts me so that I may go back to pretending that this means that I am OK.
  13. Accelerating dysfunction because now I even see other people asking for information as an accusation that I should have already told them. Other people giving information as accusing me of being ignorant. So even ordinary needed information is lost and IU find myself isolated. No one knows me and I know no one.                                                                                     etc  etc etc

Feedback is one case in which it is more blessed to receive than to give. One thought is that my best feedback often comes through God from my enemies because my friends don’t want to offend me or are afraid of repurcussions.

Remember when David was being cursed. He said “leave the man alone, God is speaking to me through him”.  I had an acquaintance who understood these truths and asked his employees to give him feedback. He figured that he could use a little touch up here and there in his approach to being a boss. At first he got superficial useless feedback, but when he convinced them that God was asking him to do this and that there would not be negative consequences to the employee and that, by the grace of God, he would actually change as a result; he found that they went on and on for hours with details of his need to shape up. —– He was a bit depressed to find out that HE WAS WORSE THAN HE HAD THOUGHT  but he did grow and change. He found out that he was about to lose key employees and probably his company as a result if he hadn’t asked for feedback.

“SEARCH ME OH GOD AND KNOW MY WAYS AND SEE IF THERE BE ANY WICKED WAY IN ME AND LEAD ME IN YOUR PATHS–(EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO USE FINANCES, HEALTH, FRIENDS, FAMILY, CHURCH, AS WELL AS YOU WORD TO SHOW ME.)

 

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WATCH YOUR TONE, young man!

JAMES 1:6 If you put on a good show of being religious and do not control your tongue (including it’s tonal content) you fake yourself out and your heart is deceived. He who controls his tongue and uses it to build up the brethren is mightier that he who conquers a city.

This blog is for myself and possibly for you in improving God’s control over our communication. It is not primarily intended to use in judging others except for the need to pray for those who despitefully use us that they may see their problem and be delivered from all the damage sin produces.

We are to avoid the appearance of evil not just the evil itself.  In our depraved state, we love to inflict pain and we assert control over others, while convincing ourselves that we have nothing wrong, “All I said was-blah,blah,blah.” However our tone went far beyond the words to suggest that we considered the other person to be an idiot, ( the Lord considers this murder) or that the other person is being irritating, or that we feel that they are beneath us etc. We can cause hurt and pretend to ourselves and affirm to others that our intentions were pure and neutral.

Most of communications are not in the words but in the facial expression or tone of voice or posture with which they were delivered. However, these can be denied and ignored. Thus we can stab others and come out looking good to ourselves and others, but does God look on the outward appearance or on the thoughts and intents of the heart?

I have come to believe that the primary area for this games playing is in the issue of basic life information. The controlling person wants to know every little detail of the other’s activities to the point that it is irritating and the other feels controlled. “I just want to be part of your life and to be included because I care”. They create a situation where others feel guilty if they don’t share and controlled if they do . When others ask them for any information, they give as little as possible and in an irritated tone “I’m busy and you should already know that don’t you remember I told you blah blah blah .

Practice delivering directions: where things are at, when things will happen, in fact ANY thoughts or facts in a pleasant tone. I’ve noticed that everyone has the ability to control their tone because the whiny put down irritated tone only comes on when they are talking to the ones they want to, any can get away with, affect. Remember that the tone switch is subconscious, although arising from sinful urges, and you will have to listen carefully to spot yourself doing it.

I’ve seen this come out strongly in people dealing with older demented family members who have to ask the same question over and over again or make the samecomment over again. With them and with children we may need to help them do the best they can to think for themselves but still WATCH OUR TONE.

Giving it up will leave a void in which we were trying to make up for God’s slowness, in fixing the people around us, by pressuring them to see themselves our way through tonal communication. So fill the void with thanking God for the irritating people in our lives, asking Him to bless them, finding ways to minister to them, and if guided by God, talking directly and clearly to them about our concerns, apologizing for our past approaches, and being much more open to give out information ourselves. Remember that our heart’s are deceitful above all thing and desperately want to be wicked but now can’t just do deliberate open wicked acts so have sought out wickedness they can pretend just isn’t even there. Our hearts will not give up easily but if we genuinely ask the Holy Spirit to convict, He will convince us that the only way to see others change is by ceding control of their heart to the Holy Spirit and gaining more control of ourselves.

I remember a fellow Christian counselor whom I invited over for a meal and fellowship. He asked an exhaustive list of questions about me, my background, my approach to counseling, and as a brother in Christ seeking to know and be known I answered as best I could. I then ask a superficial starting question in order to return the favor and begin to get to know him more. He jumped up declaring that it was time to go, and was obviously irritated by my wanting a two way relationship!

 

WHAT WAS ADAM’S “APPLE”?

This is a tough blog post. I did not like what the Holy Spirit had to say to me as I wrote it, so if you are not wanting all of God and all of his blessing and a real relationship with him, then please don’t read any further. You will just become defensive and heap more consequences on yourself.

What do I mean by Adam’s apple?

We all have our “apples”, things in our life that we cling to in order to establish, “who is the real boss of my life?”  We know Eve’s apple was that she wanted to “be like god” and decide for herself what was right and wrong and not be told what she couldn’t do or couldn’t have or have to consult God or, horrors, her husband.

But our goose wasn’t cooked until Adam also ate from the tree. If he had refused, God could have used him as a perfect man to redeem his wife and this earth.

So why did he eat? Did he also resent not being the judge of what was right and wrong? Well, he must have or he would have waited till evening and asked God whether it was OK or not to do what his wife asked. I think his “apple” was worrying what his wife would feel and think if he said, “No I won’t just follow your lead, I’m going to find out from God if you have done wrong or if I may join with you,” Eve might have been angry. Ever since then, men have erred in three ways. “Yes dear, I’ll do whatever you want.” or “Stupid bitch, back off or I’ll hit you!” or “What wife? I don’t have time for any wife, I’m busy here.” To provide godly limits and leadership just doesn’t happen without God’s intervention.

What’s your “apple?”

Our daughters decided that if they had to wear dresses that, this was such an evil thing, it justified plotting our deaths by burning down the house, (Thank God they never figured out how). Our making them wear dresses justified finding boyfriends on the side, and stealing our car leaving the family abandoned far away from home so they could run off with the boyfriend. It justified taking and taking and taking our help and finances and time without a scrap of gratitude. It justified a life of excitement seeking, etc. etc. All because we were so evil as to ask them to dress modestly. This led to severe trauma in their lives which led to another “apple” of being too proud to ask forgiveness and find healing and the need to excuse their ingratitude and rebellion by inventing stories of our horrible deeds to excuse their choices. I think that most people in Hell will feel that God has been horribly unfair.

My wife gave them a tool by which to fight the ancient curse of the “Adam’s apple”. She said,

“ask the following question, “Is my authority asking me to do something that is wrong?” If so,  refer to the appeal that Daniel used. Purpose in your heart to humbly disobey with a good attitude. If not being asked to sin, then, as an act of worship to the God that has placed that authority in your life, go ahead and co-operate–with enthusiasm.”

I struggle with the co-dependant  “apple” of being willing to do anything for God except setting limits on others that would make them mad at me.

What’s your “Lord I’ll do anything but that, I’ll go anywhere except” apple? We all have bad genes from Adam and Eve and want to see ourselves as basically wanting to follow God,  except in this ONE LITTLE THING.

The opposite of being blocked by an apple is not me running around and trying to be strong enough to let go of or face the “apple”. It is saying , “I can’t. You can. So here goes!” and moving my body parts, scared out of my wits, to obey.

It is good to remember that BOTH God and the devil want to bring about the “apple” in your life. God wants it because he wants to be God and if ANYTHING is bigger than he is then, that is your god. The devil wants it to happen because you have promised to mess up if he brings it about.

It might not be that big a deal until you turn it into an “apple”. But then it becomes the ONLY deal!

I know someone who refused to go to the front of the church to ask God to forgive him of his sins and to accept the finished work of Jesus as full payment. He wanted to be saved but was too proud to admit his need in front of others. He pointed out that “one may be saved in the woods, at home, in the car, etc.” That was true before he said, I’ll get saved anywhere else, then it had become a point of pride blocking him from salvation. God will wait for him at the altar in front of the church till he lets go of the apple.

There is no use in doing tons of “good works for God in order to con him into looking the other way in “this one little area.”

With the rich young ruler, it was his possessions, with Demas it was the love of the world, with Annanias and Saphira it was wanting to look as committed as the rest without being as committed as the rest. Other “apples” are getting rid of pain, protecting my reputation, keeping jobs,  avoiding ridicule, relationships, enjoying excitement, using substances, getting education, family, hobbies, sports, entertainment, internet. You get the idea.

We call him LORD because it sounds nice, but he isn’t lord of anything till he is lord of everything.

DEAR LORD PLEASE SHOW ME MY “APPLES” AND HELP ME TEAR DOWN ALL THE FALSE GODS OF MY LIFE AND LET YOU BE MY KING.

 

REDEEMING THE TIME

If you knew of someone who was trying to get their finances under control without using a budget, you’d be sceptical of their chances. The same is true about time control.I am given 988,800 seconds a year to spend, about a hundred million if I live to a hundred, that sounds like a lot but each one, once spent, is gone. The ones invested in eternity by asking the Lord how he wants them spent, will be significant forever. Thankfully, the Lord is good at restoring the years that the locust has eaten, but how precious are those who take to heart, “remember NOW thy creator in the days of thy youth or ever the days may come that you feel like Dr Bell with aches and pains and declining energy. Talk to the youth at church and help them fight the insane lie in our society that we have to rebel against family and sow our wild oats in order to emancipate and individuate and be “healthy”. The sooner they serve and obey God and cooperate with his ordained systems, the better, now is the day of salvation.

Just as with finances, where one takes a good look at what one is actually doing with ones’ money, we need to look at how we now spend our precious gift of time.

Is it crammed with too much, and a lot of it is pointless? Is it too empty, to focussed on self, or too focussed on others and no time to smell the roses and recuperated from the struggles of life?

If you have trouble with a schedule that is too empty and can’t figure out what to do, take a paper and write the hours down one side and fill in one thing that would be worth doing in each of the free hours and include time for exercise, fun and meditation and prayer. Next , give a copy of the schedule to your meanest friend and ask them to call you at random and see if you are doing what you purposed to do. I worked with men waiting to be discharged from the military and rotting in the hospital with “nothing to do”. When I encouraged them to do the little they could, they soon did not have enough time to get it all done. Even those in prison found themselves almost too busy.

If you have trouble with a schedule that is too crammed, record it and show it to someone to help you find out what you can drop to have more time for the Lord and be able to respond to new opportunities.

I remember a lady who couldn’t say no to a request from church to help out. She was having devotions and the Lord said to her, “Woman you are in big trouble!” How so? she replied. “Well, the next time they ask you to do something at church, either you will say NO and then will be nervous about how they will think about you, OR you will say YES and then I will be angry with you!” God wanted her to take more time with him and with her family.  Five minutes later she had a call asking her to play the piano for a ladies’ meeting. She wasn’t that good and it would have taken more time than she could spare to prepare, so she took a deep breath and said SORRY I CAN’T.  She then went to the meeting early but had to go to the back room to keep from screaming out ” OK I’ll do it!” She cried out to the Lord, and just then heard someone playing the piano in the other room. A new lady had showed up who just HAPPENED to be a piano teacher and was drawn right in and given a role that would not have been available if the first lady had said yes. Sometimes God wants us to do less busyness and take time to think and pray and feel and worship.

So remember the tool: every week I need to stop and ask the Holy Spirit to show me how I am doing at investing my time and casting all my cares on him, being in the present place and time and taking no thought for tomorrow but tackling the present problems and challanges with gusto.

JUDGING

I am told in scripture to continually examine myself; and if I humbly do so, I will realize that I am absolutely nothing without Christ, I have A wicked heart, and there is NO good in me (aside from Christ Himself). Also as I am deeply warned in scripture not to judge others (as I truly have no superiority by which to judge anybody); I should wind up seeing myself as the chief of sinners. I know I certainly do. So .. at what point is it appropriate to correct one another (as fellow believers)? Where is that fine line? I am told to ‘sharpen’ my brothers; however if I really examine myself, am I EVER truly in a position to sharpen anyone?

I are told to be careful judging others because I will be judged by the same yardstick that I use to judge others. Good, so I need to take a look at the judging that would bless me if others did it for me. Would it be helpful if others pointed out that I was living life apart from God’s principles and that I woouldn’t like the results?  Perhaps they could provoke me to righteousness by holding me accountable for memorizing and applying the word to my life. Rebuke a wise man and he will be wiser still. This week I asked my boss to bless me by taking of his valuable time and coming and helping me see where I need to improve my dictating and computer skills.

So, first, I need to be the type of person who sees warning and feedback even criticism as a blessing not a put down. I find that I also want the criticizer to make a suggestion as to how I might improve. Even secular research shows that ONLY PEOPLE WHO–EXAMINE THEMSELVES–KNOW THAT THEY CAN NOT SEE THE WHOLE PICTURE OF THEIR OWN DEPRAVITY–ASK FOR FEEDBACK–CONSIDER THAT FEEDBACK–APPLY THAT FEEDBACK–AND REWARD THAT FEEDBACK CAN POSSIBLY DO WELL!

If I am truly doing for the other what I know would be good for me and have in fact benefitted from. Then, when I confront the other, I will be in a position of one beggar telling another beggar where I found food. I may point the other to the same source of comfort and teaching that I have found. “If any of you lack wisdom,  let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberaly and upbraideth not and it shall be given him.”

The friend sharpening iron refers to, well, friends.

So, if others see my progress and humble openness and ask for feedback then I may share my own struggle and process and how God is working in me. If a friend wants to give and receive ideas in a humble sharing of each’s understanding of God’s word practically applied to life’s struggles-then go ahead and share. If I wait till I have mastered the Christian life before I share with others then there will be no sharing.

I need to remember that I must judge that ungodly ways don’t work and share my concern but never never judge the others worth security and hope.

BEING PICKY POSITIVE

I need to take heed to myself, get the beam out of my eye, see the other as supremely important and find ways to encourage and build them.

Which do I focus on more: what I want God to do for me/what God has already done for me?

My brain is naturally wired to be concerned about the problems of life, to worry rather than praise and be grateful. I have to work hard to see all the beauty and wonder and praiseworthy things that God is doing.

I may be easy to be grateful for things he has done in the distant past, but I find that it is the recent acts of the Holy Spirit in my life that give me the courage to get up and face today.

I led a sunday school class for adult mature Christians a few years ago. I would start by splitting the whiteboard into (praises / requests) and then we would go to prayer. At first the requests side was packed and the praise side was empty. I than posed the question,” Is it that God has not been answering prayers, in which case why ask him for more? Or do we promptly forget his blessings, in which case why should he answer my current requests if it brings him no glory?” It only took a few weeks to fill out the praises side with current answers to prayer. I guess the problem was lack of observing God at work and remembering.

I keep working on improving my ability to see what God is doing in my life, by mechanically:

1. Stopping at lunch, supper, and bedtime (The brain can only recall and accurately review the last four hours)

2. Search for anything positive. When God shows me something he has given me I savor it and appreciate it for a moment, let it balance my heart then move on. When I come into trials, the memory of all the good will lessen the impact of the problem and help me turn to God rather than overreact. I look for what others have done that shows character then I take every opportunity to state appreciation to those around me for their positive acts. I look for what God has given me the ability to do and see it as worthwhile.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Philippians 4:8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
At first being picky positive, may come with difficulty, I may feel that I am belittling the seriousness of the problems in my life by noting and savoring the positives. Or I may worry that, if I became too polyannish, I would not deal with the tasks at hand.
In reality, noticing the positives keeps me from being overwhelmed so that I have more stamina more creativity, hope and willingness to cast all my care on him and do the little that we can. I have a greater ability to bring God glory by witnessing to what he is doing in our lives. I have greater peace that he can handle the current situation because he has been handling the recent situations.
My singing and praising him gains substance from being specific rather than vague. It is similar to the difference between saying to your spouse,”I love you” and saying to them. “I so enjoy and appreciate your dependability, enthusiasm, integrity, creativity etc. as I noticed in how you did (fill in the blank_______).”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (She was talking to an earthly love, I like to quote her to express my love to Jesus, He likes me to count the ways.)
(JESUS)How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise,
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
When others let me down -I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! -and, if the FATHER choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Suggestions to be grateful for: Things of beauty, interest, feeble efforts, fun, joy, useful, comforting, encouraging, strengthening, helpful,courageous. Has God given me opportunities, opened my eyes to see and heart to pray. Taught me from nature, or his word, or through fellow travelers. I need to give thanks.

 

“FRIENDLY FIRE”

Some thoughts in regards to a friend who is being shunned by family:
God allows us to experience suffering and often does his best work in ways we would rather alter. Suffering, hits us differently. It’s not so much the size of the loss or the physical pain as it is how personal the source of the pain is. There are the so-called “acts of God” you know, a tree falls on your car. This actually happened to my son William in Kalamazoo during a storm. Thank God he wasn’t hurt.

Then there are the losses caused by other’s carelessness.

Then there are the deliberate attacks of my enemies.

Then there are the times when I am attacked by family and friends, especially when they justify it by claiming that I deserve it and they are doing it “for my own good.”

I find it easier to ask God for help or provision than to praise him for what he has recently done in my life?

Psalms 41:5 KJV Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish? And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it. All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt. An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more. YEA, MINE OWN FAMILIAR FRIEND, IN WHOM I TRUSTED, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. But thou, O LORD, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them.

OK, pause and review all the tools we’ve covered and ask yourself, “where do I begin?”

You got it! Worship God by praying, THANKS! HELP! SHOW ME YOUR WILL!

Next I ask God to show me if I am suffering for my own misdeeds. If so, it is no big deal to suffer patiently and learn the lesson involved. Is not, then happy am I for so persecuted the prophets which were before me. I Peter 2:20 For what glory is it, if, when I be buffeted for my faults, I shall take it patiently? but if, when I do well, and suffer for it, I take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

Next, ask myself why the rejection and criticism hit me so hard. I, for example am I a severe co-dependent and must always please everyone and have them approve me in order to feel OK about myself.

Do I long to be bitter, but I know that taking it personal makes no sense when I am the chief of sinners. However, maybe it is ok to be bitter if I can focus on how the other person attacking me has, in the process, hurt those I love. This is called TAKING UP A FAULT and always results in hurting the one I love more than the original event hurt them.

RULE: When someone sins and their choices cause me loss and pain, who is sinned against? Who is the victim? Who stands to benefit?
God is sinned against, the victim is the sinner, I am the one who stands to gain if I walk the fiery trial with God.

Psalm 51:4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. .
I peter 3:4 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.

Read Psalm 73. Perhaps the most balancing and healing focus is to realize the awful consequences the other person is pulling down on themselves. Of course this is harder when the other person is all puffed up and believe that their sin is actually righteousness.How to decide if they are righteous judges and we are the sinners, or they are sinning in their judgment and we are suffering for righteousness? The key is in attitude more than in theology. Tune in on my next blog for thoughts on this.