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Criticism That Counts

Criticism That Counts

This article comes from Bruce Weinstein who is the corporate consultant, author, and public speaker known as The Ethics Guy. He has appeared on numerous national TV shows and is the author of several books on ethics. His Ask the Ethics Guy! column appears every other week on BusinessWeek.com‘s Managing channel.

Americans have a warped view of criticism. Unfortunately, most of us see criticism almost exclusively in a negative light. We dish it out tactlessly, use it to tear down rivals, and attack others with it even when we have no authority to do so.

It certainly doesn’t help that we are inundated with poor examples of criticism in the media. For starters, consider American Idol’s British judge, Simon Crowell. It’s not uncommon for Simon’s scathing criticisms to elicit tears from contestants. His words are given sincerely, but heartlessly. Watching Simon, it’s as if he relishes finding faults in another’s imperfections.

Election season paints another ugly picture of criticism. Politicians wield it like an ax to cut down their opponents. Instead of debating ideas in a civil forum, too often politicians lower themselves into a mudslinging contest.

Another media avenue, the blogosphere, has become criticism central in America. Bloggers attack the character of leaders they don’t know and rail against decisions made in circumstances they could never understand. Far too frequently, their inflammatory tone escalates conflict without adding any substantial value to the interplay of ideas.


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Prayer and Fasting for True Revival

Prayer and Fasting for True Revival

The cry of God is always, “return to Me.”  In Zech 1:3, God says, “Return to Me and I will return to you.”  We hear the same call again and again in the New Testament. The Bible clearly uses “return to Me” as a call to repentance, revival, and restoration of the love relationship that unites us with God.  Repentance always brings a return of the love relationship with God.

Today we see a different focus–we are called to “fast and pray for revival” where the emphasis is dangerously close to shifting from “repent and return to Me” to fasting and praying that would have as its goal what God will do for us rather than to us.  But God’s goal is for us to have a restored relationship with Him.  

God knows we need a revival, or else we may perish.  Saving non-Christians is crucial and right and good, but revival is a deliberate turning back to God by His people in repentance, brokenness, and grief over their sin and loss of their love-relationship with Him.  Are we grieving over having left our first love, over our broken relationship?  We are called only to “return”.  What happens as a result is all God’s doing. 

Understand what true revival is: Revival is not what happens to the “lost,” but what happens to God’s people when we come in brokenness and grief over sin – our sin – and are restored to a holy love relationship with God.  Revival is when God’s people are once again living to the praise of His glory and to the glory of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

We will always know, as God’s people, when we have returned, because we will see fresh evidence of a fresh and powerful sensitivity to sin and to the Savior.  This will first be seen in God’s people.  Then, God is once again able to work through his people to touch a lost world redemptively.

Any call that bypasses the “returning process” can sideline or delay what we so desperately need and long for; the transformation of our culture and the salvation of multitudes who are lost. 


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The Eight Systems of the Church

The Eight Systems of the Church

We may look different on the outside, but underneath we all have hearts that pump blood, even though we are different blood types. We all have senses that take in the world, though in some of us one sense is more elevated than another. In the same way, all churches are made up of the same exact systems, even though we may view and utilize them in slightly different ways based on our individual calls to ministry. The question isn’t whether or not these systems are in place, but whether or not they are being maximized.

The eight systems of every church are interconnected. While some may be more developed than others, none of these systems can stand alone. And since a church is a living entity, like us, the well-developed systems run whether we are thinking about them or not. Just as you breathe while you sleep, strong systems operate without constant supervision.

Still, to make sure that all of our church systems are running correctly, we should take them in for a periodic checkup. If we are disinterested or lazy about growing and maintaining them, they will not produce the results we want. When we become slack in taking care of our systems we experience lack, and therefore, our church fails to live up to its God-given potential. We have to do our part to make sure that all eight systems are set up and functioning correctly, so that our church will be healthy and thriving.
 

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Established In the Truth

2 Pt 1:12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established {grounded and stabilized} in the present truth. 
 
We must know and be settled (fixed) in God, Himself, and in the Word of God. 
 
See what a fixed (set; established; grounded and stabilized) heart brings:
 
 Psalms 112:1-10 1 Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments. 2His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed. 3Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his righteousness endures forever.4Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.5 A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion.6Surely he will never be shaken; The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.7He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.8His heart is established; He will not be afraid, Until he sees his desire upon his enemies.9 He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor. 10 The wicked will see it and be grieved; He will gnash his teeth and melt away; The desire of the wicked shall perish.

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Life In The Spirit

God’s Love:

The Old Testament sets the stage for the full expression of God’s love in His Son Jesus. As we read and pray certain passages from the Old Testament, we can become more deeply aware of how much God does really love us. We need to know and experience God’s love if we are to develop into the people He wants us to be. This is especially important if we do not love ourselves as we should. Knowing our faults and failures and our sinfulness, we may question how God could really love us.

 

By praying with Scriptures we become more aware and convinced of God’s total and unconditional love. This conviction that God loves us with an infinite love and that nothing we do will change this fact should be the foundation of our relationship with Him. We must come to know Him as a loving, kind, forgiving Father who welcomes His errant children with open arms. He is a Father who loves us more than we could ever imagine being loved. God, the Creator of the universe, the person who made all things out of nothing, loves us. He wants to care for us, share His divine life with us, and bring us into perfect union with Him, for all of eternity.

 

When we are convinced that we are loved, only then can we be open and honest. Then there is no need for pretense or sham. Then we begin to live in freedom and in sincerity.

 

An awareness of God’s great love for us can lead us into a greater depth in our prayer lives. Deeply aware of His loving presence we want to whisper in the quiet of our hearts, “I love You too.” This type of prayer of the heart is the beginning of contemplative prayer. As we experience His loving presence within us, we no longer require words or thoughts. We simply rest in His presence. We are aware of God; we are known and loved at the very core of our being. This becomes the basis for our whole spiritual growth.


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Prophetic Alignment

Prophetic Alignment for This Time

 

More than ten years ago I did a teaching for a clergy group outlining that God was bringing a major shift.  

The Saints Movement was being pioneered…

Heaven was looking for those who would be heavenly minded, set their affections on things above, and realign their priorities. 

 

I mentioned what was then current trends that would continue:

 

1)  Focus will be more on kingdom growth rather than escapism… 

 

2)  A transfer of wealth has begun for transformation of society.  

 

3)  Prayer/Worship emphasized by Holy Spirit was bringing greater glory/ manifest presence. 

 

4)  Opposition will increase… cosmetics come off and the spirit of religion rises.  

 

5)  Expose sin in the Church first… emphasis on holiness and repentance…  

 

 All of this has, in fact, continued. So today I want to restate what I said back then.  It is imperative you understand the nature of the battle is over two dominions:

 


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Serving Together

SERVING TOGETHER

God has a purpose for your life but never meant for you to fulfill that purpose by yourself.  The very first thing God said when He made man was, “It’s not good for man to be alone.”  We were made for community… fellowship… relationship. We worship together, fellowship together, grow together, and reach out together. We also serve together.

God put you on earth to make a difference.  He wants you to make a contribution with your life.  He wants you to give something back, to help somebody else.  That’s your ministry (service). In heaven you’re going to serve God.  How do you do that here on earth?  The only way is by serving other people.

“… agree with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose.  Phil. 2:2 (NLT)

We do this because:

1. WE’RE FAMILY“We work together as partners who belong to God.  1 Cor. 3:9a (NLT)

2. WE NEED EACH OTHER – Nobody is totally self sufficient.  

“… Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of Christ’s Body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we?”   Rom. 12:5 (Message)

3. WE GET MORE DONEBeing on a team that will make you more effective in life.

“Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively.  Eccl. 4:9 (GN)

God often compares serving together and teamwork as gardening.

“The one who plants and the one who waters work as a team with the same purpose” 1 Cor. 3:8 (NLT)

Teams must be built; it takes effort.  Today we’ll look at an acrostic, ‘TEAM’.


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Growing In God

Growing in God

God’s Love: The Old Testament sets the stage for the full expression of God’s love in His Son Jesus. As we read and pray certain passages from the Old Testament, we can become more deeply aware of how much God does really love us. We need to know and experience God’s love if we are to develop into the people He wants us to be. This is especially important if we do not love ourselves as we should. Knowing our faults and failures and our sinfulness, we may question how God could really love us.

By praying with Scriptures we will become more aware and convinced of God’s total and unconditional love. This conviction that God loves us with an infinite love and that nothing we do will change this fact should be the foundation of our relationship with Him. We must come to know Him as a loving, kind, forgiving Father who welcomes His errant children with open arms. He is a Father who loves us more than we could ever imagine being loved. God, the Creator of the universe, the person who made all things out of nothing, loves us. He wants to care for us, share His divine life with us, and bring us into perfect union with Him, for all of eternity.


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A Culture of Honor

A Culture of Honor

Since our goal is to be more like Christ, then we must wonder why we fall into the trap of negativity with our words and actions.  It’s because there is no active Culture of Honor in place. Releasing honor must be a core value in how a person lives and interacts with others. 

Our first duty is to give honor to God so this is and always will be a house that brings honor to the name above every name, Jesus!  We want the people of GAP to be those who honor God first and also consistently look for ways to honor other people. Developing this culture must become intentional. We need to honor each other and always build each other up in private and public, looking for ways to bless each other and support each other in life and ministry. 

Biblical Background for a Culture Of Honor

Even if your judgment of another person is accurate, if your words, tones, or body language expose their faults by focusing on their weaknesses, then you have stepped outside of the core value of walking in a culture of honor and grace. Love covers other people’s faults, does not complain about them, and does not seek to expose.

Proverbs 17:9 He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends.

1 Peter 4:8-9 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.


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The Great Commission

THE GREAT COMMISSION

Matthew 28:16–20 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

If I knew my time to go to Heaven was near, what would I want to say to those whom I loved? What challenge to see clearly the responsibility of life? What encouragement to stimulate them?

The Resurrected Lord had that opportunity. He had sacrificially died and miraculously risen from the dead. He knew it was in the heart of God that we who have been born again should bring others into a redemptive relationship with God through Him.

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