Examining Your Heart: Do You Harbor A Critical Spirit?

One morning while a couple was having breakfast, the wife looked out her window and saw her neighbor hanging clothes on the line to dry.  She noticed the wash dingy and dirty and said to her husband, “That lady doesn’t know how to wash clothes. I wonder if she uses cheap detergent?” Day after day, she would look out the window and make the same comments, saying she couldn’t believe how the neighbors wore those dirty looking clothes. Then one day, the woman looked out the window, and the clothes were clean and bright. She was surprised and said to her husband, “Look, Honey, I can’t believe it. She finally learned how to wash clothes. I wonder what happened?” Her husband smiled and said, “Honey, I got up early this morning and decided to clean our windows.”

We can learn a valuable lesson from this story.

A critical spirit taints every area of our lives. When we are critical and fault-finding in people or things around us, we need to stop and make sure it’s not our own dirty window that’s clouding what we see. A critical spirit follows you everywhere you go, and you can’t get away from it. If you can’t see anything in a positive light – if you only see the scratch on the floor and don’t see the beauty in the amazing house – if you only see what others do wrong and never what they do right – then you need to clean your window.

At some point, we need to look in the window and say, “Maybe I’m the one who needs to change.” You see If you are always critical, then maybe you’ve developed a habit of seeing the bad instead of the good. And perhaps your life filter is dirty. Perhaps you have become judgmental and condemning instead of giving people the benefit of the doubt, and maybe you have even become entitled to your critical spirit and feel justified in judging and condemning others.

The good news is that through the help of the Holy Spirit, you can change your way of thinking and begin to see people through God’s filter – through their strengths instead of their weaknesses. But it’s a choice that you will need to make. You can focus on their good qualities, or you can focus on the things you don’t like and magnify the faults of others and the characteristics that annoy you.

Some people have become so critical minded that no matter what is done for them, it’s never right or good enough. If it’s a spouse situation – our filter can get so skewed and tainted that we can never see their good and can even forget why we fell in love with them in the first place and magnify the wrong in them. If you struggle in this area, make a list of the good qualities you like about your spouse. Write down the good things your spouse does. And catch them doing something good and acknowledge it. For instance, your husband may not be the best communicator but is a hard worker. She may have some weaknesses but is an amazing mother.

Start focusing on the good things because if you have a critical spirit, your entire outlook may be poisoned and will damage your relationships and break intimacy with people, self, and God.  People respond more to praise than they respond to criticism.

What is the definition of being critical?

The dictionary describes it as one who is inclined to find fault or judge with severity often too readily and condemn without facts.  So ask yourself. The same questions.

Am I inclined to find fault with people?

Do I judge with severity?

Do I condemn without facts?

Many people who are critical of others judge themselves in the same harsh matter. Is this you? Ask yourself

Do I think negative thoughts about myself?

Do I judge myself with severity?

Why do I do this?

The answer is often buried deep in the past. God is faithful to expose those root issues that are causing us to view the world, self, others, including God through our dirty window.

“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.”

Mathew 15:13

 

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Your Legacy

We have heard the old cliche ‘Life is but a vapor.’ Some cliches are rooted in some very real truths. James 4:14 says that our life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. The truth of the matter is that someday we will all breathe our last and we will have a funeral. Have you ever asked yourself what people will say about you at your funeral?

Will they focus on your worldly accomplishments, your reputation, the material things you owned, the degrees you held, your profession, or will they say that you were a man or woman who loved God above all else, and your faith was the driving force in your life? The answer to these questions will determine the kind of legacy you will leave behind. A heritage is what is passed down to you such as a family name, culture, birthright, etc. A legacy is what you build into people. It’s what future generations will say about you.  It is for certain that you will leave a legacy. The question is what kind?

Our lives have a huge impact on those around us. You are or will be the patriarchs or matriarchs of your families…the leaders and your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will take what you have done with your life and build on their own lives. Your legacy then it’s a continuation of your influence beyond your lifetime. It’s either positive or negative that reflects what you value.

Have you thought about what legacy you want to pass on to your family? If you were to die today, what kind of legacy would you leave behind? What if by the grace of God you were given more time, a day, a week, a month? How about another 50 plus years? What would your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren say about you?

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, please hear this, even if you only have one more day, the word of God tells us that one day in His courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. We serve a God who heals, redeems, restores, and can transform your family legacy despite what was passed down to you, or you have been leaving behind up to this point. Joel 2:25 tells us that God will give us back the years that the locusts have eaten away. Genesis 50:20 declares what the enemy meant for evil God will turn around for our good.

The world is a darker place today than when we were children, and it’s only getting darker. We must stand up and be a light not only in our generation, but we must pass on the torch of light… our faith, for the next generations, but it starts with our families. It starts with you. You can be the one who applies the redemptive power of the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and leave a legacy of faith that lasts. One that honors God and makes a difference for all eternity. Choose to leave a godly legacy. Your great-great-grandchildren are depending on you.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  Choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

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Emotions Are Tied To Our Thought Life

Emotions are tied to our thought life. Have you ever stepped back and listened to your thoughts? Have you been surprised by them and wondered where they were coming from? In his book ‚Wild at Heart,‛ John Eldredge wrote, ‚We are being lied to all the time. Yet, we never stop to say, ‘Wait a minute who else is speaking here? Where are these ideas coming from? Where are these feelings coming from?‛ Satan is at war with God’s children. He is a crafty one and a deceiver; and, he knows if he were to show up as a dark, scary figure, with a pitchfork, we would immediately flee, sensing danger. So, instead, he uses our fears, hurts, and insecurities to influence us through our thought life.

The enemy knows that if he can control our minds, he can control our behavior; and, what is his most used weapon to do so? Lies! When we believe Satan’s lies, rather than God’s truth, it leads to faulty ways of thinking and wrong behaviors that enslave our souls. The only defense we have to protect our minds from being lost in the darkness of lies, is the truth: the inerrant Word of God.

God’s word gives a detailed combat strategy for defeating the enemy. We are to pull down strongholds (rooted lies) and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Simply put, we must replace Satan’s lies with God’s truth. If your thoughts are telling you that you are not good enough; that you are unworthy; that you are ugly; that you will always live in fear; that you will never heal; or that you will always live in bondage, stop for one moment and ask yourself, ‛Whose voice am I hearing? Who is it that is telling me that?‛ God’s word tells us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and His sheep hear His voice and His voice protects them from the thief who wants to destroy them.

Our beloved Savior would never harm His sheep by speaking such lies. If you hear that you will never amount to anything, that’s a lie from the enemy; choose, instead, to listen to your Shepherd who says, ‘For I know the thoughts I have towards you, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to bring you a future and a hope‛ (Jeremiah 29:11). The enemy is a liar and cannot stand against God’s truth.

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Emotional Healing

Often people who are experiencing emotional pain have difficulty expressing their feelings in a healthy way. A common cause is buried feelings due to loss or past hurts.

Ignored or denied feelings won’t go away. They are buried alive, deep inside your soul, where they fester and create an infection that produces poison in your body.

As long as emotional pain continues to be suppressed and undealt with the symptoms will only get worse such as relationship conflict, unhealthy behaviors, depression, addictions, and all sorts of other coping mechanisms that wound the heart and separate us from self, others and God. That’s why it’s so vitality important to face your feelings.

Bring your heartache and hurts, your anxiety, your fear, and frustration to Jesus. Pour out your heart to Him and receive His comfort. He alone understands the depth of your hurt and pain. His word assures us in Isaiah that He was a man of sorrows acquainted with our grief. Hold on to the assurance found in His Holy Word…

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. “
Hebrews 4:15-16.

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A Promise of Hope for the Weary

God deals with sin. But through His Covenant of Grace, we find mercy, healing, redemption and restoration. The LORD is mighty to overcome the darkness…and He is faithful to transform the lost years into something beautiful and useful for His Kingdom.

There is ALWAYS hope when we surrender our heart and fix our eyes on Him…

Jeremiah 31:25
I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!

Psalm 103:5
Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

Matthew 5:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Matthew 11:28
Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

John 4:14
But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.

Psalm 107:9
For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.

Isaiah 40:29
He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.

Isaiah 43:19
Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.

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The Difference Between Secular & Biblical Counseling

There are a plethora of self-help books available offering various theories and approaches to dealing with the rooted issues of negative emotions and behaviors. Modern day psychology is valuable in understanding the soul (mind, emotions, and will). This is the area that gets sick.

The rooted systems in our life can make our souls extremely sick. A psychology approach can diagnose the problem and offer solution. However, since the solution offered is rooted in humanism and, therefore, manmade, there is no true long term healing that can occur. At best it can help change behavior, and give you tools for self-discipline, or positive thinking. That is not freedom.

There is no lasting victory because it does not deal with sin. It does not allow for the blood of Christ to cleanse us and change us. It merely puts a band-aid over symptoms. It may address anxiety, depression, outward manifestations and symptoms of deeper issues – but often the first solution offered is medication and never gets to the root. So people are not getting the true healing they are seeking.

As Christians, we know that only God has the power to heal us from the inside out and set us free. That is true victory. He doesn’t just change behaviors; He transforms, renews, restores, redeems and breaks the chains of bondage. Psalm 147:3 says “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Isaiah also tells us that God is the “Wonderful Counselor.” John 14:6 says “the Holy Spirit is the Counselor.” Therefore, true freedom is found only by applying biblical truths to the wounds of our heart. Jesus is the balm of Gilead. He is the ointment that heals the wounds of God’s hurting children.

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Barriers To Forgiveness

A huge barrier to forgiving others is the misconception about, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. Many people believe that by forgiving they will continue to live as doormats allowing sinful behavior when nothing has changed. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Forgiveness focuses on the offense. It only involves one person and has nothing to do with what the other person chooses to do. Reconciliation focuses on the relationship. It requires two people engaged in the process.

Forgiveness is the choice to release the offender. Reconciliation is the choice to rejoin the offender. It’s being brought back into a relationship where there has been a wall of separation erected. Restoration is the process that makes that possible. Restoration of a relationship takes far more than forgiveness. It requires confession, repentance, and a strong commitment on both sides to work on the relationship and rebuild trust. And it often takes a much longer time.

For example, if a loved is engaged in drugs, alcohol, abuse or some other harmful behavior they may ask us to forgive them. Of course, God’s heart is always that we forgive but if they ask that we go back to the way it was the answer is a resounding NO! That’s not what we do at all. Love holds people accountable. Love protects. We do not have to allow harmful behavior that hurt us and our families. Thus, there may be extremely toxic, unhealthy people who may need to be removed from our lives.

An example of this would be a relative who sexually molested us as a child. We can forgive them as God has called us to but having a relationship with them may endanger ourselves and others. So forgiveness does not mean we have to have any kind of relationship with the offender ever again. Forgiveness is a choice. It’s a willful act of obedience that blesses the heart of our Father in Heaven and sets us free.

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When Helping Is Hurting

When someone is caught up in the throes of addiction, they are in bondage. They have lost the ability to stop using altogether. Family members of loved ones trapped in the cycle and the roller coaster of addiction do not comprehend the insanity of addiction. They honestly believe that if their loved one cared about their family, they would stop.  Since they don’t understand the dynamics of addiction they think they can shame, guilt, manipulate, threaten or bribe someone into quitting.  What they don’t understand is that you cannot rationalize addiction. People will go insane trying to get their loved ones to stop using often caring more about the addict’s life and responsibilities than they do, and become fixated on trying to fix, change, manage and control the addicted person’s behavior. And because they think they can love someone enough for them to stop using, they often enable the bad behavior by not allowing people to suffer the consequences of their poor choices that hurt them and those around them. Thus without realizing it, they reinforce the bad behavior and offer the person in bondage no incentive to change or seek help. This allows the addiction to continue and hinders “the bottom” necessary for getting to a sweet place of brokenness and surrender required for healing and breaking free from the bondage of addiction.

Doesn’t the Bible tell us to help the needy? Yes, but it also tells us to be wise. Often our helping is actually hurting. But how do we know the difference?  Helping is doing something for someone else that they are not capable of doing for themselves.  Enabling is doing things for someone else that they can and should be doing for themselves. Enabling encourages and helps the addict to stay in addiction.

On the surface, the “enabler’ may appear to be doing all the right things and doing good things to stop the user from destroying themselves, but often the enabler needs as much help as the addicted person. The only difference is that one behavior looks very good on the surface while the other not so good. The truth is they both need help.

Make no mistake about it! Allowing someone to continue in their addiction without making them accountable for their destructive behavior is enabling, it’s destructive, and must be addressed. Because it hurts everyone involved and cosigns with the enemy to destroy families, relationships and separates us from God. Both sides need to take responsibility and be accountable for their side of the fence. What, they both have in common is an inner woundedness. There is a deeper issue causing the addiction and the enabling. The difference is that it’s harder for the enabler to see their need for help because the rooted issues do not manifest in seemingly negative behaviors shunned by the Church and society but are instead applauded as selfless acts of mercy and love. Enabling allows the addict and enabler to stay in bondage, preventing them from seeing their need for help, and the destructive cycle will continue for a lifetime without intervention.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11)

 

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Are You Fear Based?

Fear is a normal strong emotional reaction to impending danger—whether real or imagined, rational or irrational, normal or abnormal. It was designed by God. However, living with a fear-based mentality or with a spirit of fear is not from God.

If you grew up in a home where fear reigned, and you didn’t experience love, safety, and security, you might have easily developed a fear-based mentality. This abnormal fear cripples and stunts any personal growth or aspirations. It prevents a person from trying to leave a bad situation, even an abusive one. It can also prevent us from seeking help for fear of what will be uprooted. Fear can also be the driving emotion behind anger. This is bondage, and we need to be set free.

God’s Word tells us that “perfect love cast out all fear” (1 John 4:18). It makes sense, then, that if we are love deficient we are fear-based. The solution is to get God’s love into us. As easy as this may seem, for those who have been crippled in their ability to love and be loved because of the wounds of the past, it is extremely difficult. Only the truth of God’s love can penetrate the hardest of hearts. We can overcome fear through faith in a loving God.

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Godly Sorrow Brings True Change

Repeated apologies, promises never to do it again, remorse, tears, pleading for another chance are things repeat abusers say to those they hurt. Whether they are causing harm through emotional or physical abuse, committing adultery, being deceptive, lying, cheating, or are engaged in other destructive behaviors such as addiction, they may genuinely feel bad when exposed and confronted and offer appeasement for the moment, but nothing changes.

The behavior continues causing pain and destruction at all levels in families and relationships. That’s because God’s word says there is a huge difference between feeling sorry for what we do and repentance, regretting the wrongs we have committed and committing to change behaviors that bind and hurt others.

Worldly sorrow does not lead to the brokenness and humility needed to get the human heart to a place of genuine Godly sorrow and repentance before a Holy God that produces a desire to change. Worldly sorrow causes the heart to hardened and brings forth death in all areas of our lives, while Godly sorrow softens the heart and brings forth life.

If we continue to allow others to appease us with worldly sorrow, then we must understand that things will remain the same. This is called enabling.

We can’t change another person’s heart but God can. Release them to God, guard your heart, and pray the Lord will orchestrate whatever needs to take place to produce Godly sorrow in someone who is hurting themselves and others. True change begins when you stop co-signing worldly sorrow that leads to death. Stop the cycle! Choose life!

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