The soul seeks God with its whole being. Because it is desperate to be whole, the soul is God-smitten and God-crazy and God-obsessed. My mind may be obsessed with idols; my will may be enslaved to habits; my body may be consumed with appetites. But my soul will never find rest unit it rests in God.
Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You (John Ortberg)
“Father, help us to apply the message we heard from your word today. In Jesus’ name, we pray, amen.”
Service was now over. I grab my ESV (English Standard Version) Bible and my iPad and step out of the pulpit to meet and greet some people. As I work my way around the room, I run into a particular fellow believer in the Lord. We make eye contact and speak. After exchanging pleasantries, this person immediately proceeds to critique my sermon. And I think to myself, Is this really happening right now? Again?! Every time I see you, you always have some “constructive” criticism you feel you need to share with me. Instead of speaking my mind, by God’s grace, I held my tongue, smiled, listened and nodded my head to let this person know I heard what was said. But when I left that encounter, I was a tad bit perturbed. I knew I had prayerfully done my best to rightly interpret the Scripture passage and worked hard on the sermon structure and presentation. But apparently that wasn’t good enough; at least for this individual.
Although this incident was somewhat unpleasant to me at the time, it got me to thinking about how to deal with such people. Here are seven thoughts on the matter:
1. Pray for them
We are commanded in Scripture to pray for all people (1 Timothy 2:1). This of course includes, by way of application, our critics. And it would be better to offer intercessory rather than imprecatory prayers (You know, those prayers where we, like David, asks God to bring judgment on our enemies).
I have found that in praying for them God has a way of inclining my heart towards them; to see them “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
Through praying for them, I am also reminded that we all as believers stand as sinful yet redeemed saints (because of and) in the presence of our sinless Savior, and are all in need of the Spirit’s help to continue to repent of and fight against sin and to live holy, grace-filled, Christ-like lives.
2. Be genuinely cordial
God, through the Apostle Paul, instructs us to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (2 Corinthians 13:12). Don’t get tripped up by the holy kiss statement. Paul is essentially saying, welcome and accept one another in whatever way is culturally and personally appropriate and acceptable in your particular context and to the person or people whom you are with.
We have a tendency to pull away from people who are routinely critical of us to the point where we might even try to avoid speaking to them. As hard (or maybe convenient) as it might be at times, when you come in contact with them, pray for God to help you sincerely acknowledge and not dodge them.
3. Accept any kernels of truth
I believe it is Billy Graham who is noted to have said, “There is a kernel of truth in every criticism.” Though not always the case, I would say that is generally true and a good maxim to live by. To say it another way, when overly critical people come to you, learn to eat the meat (if there is any) and spit out the bones.
I know how difficult it can be at times to hear criticism from that person. But if and when it is true, see it as a precious jewel from God to be received even though it came in an undesirable package.
4. Don’t assume motive
Some people who criticize you don’t always do so out of jealousy or envy. Sometimes people are just passionate and want to see the best for the ministry, church, company, etc. They have a knack for spotting what is wrong, which can be of benefit to your life, work, and leadership. They just don’t know (or care to know) how to be tactful. And, yes, you do have those who have impure, sinful motives or impetuses behind their critique. But my point still remains, when you don’t know why someone is incessantly pointing out things about you to you, be careful about assuming the negative concerning them. You may have good reason to be skeptical of their motives, but try to stay as neutral as possible. Seek to give them the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise.
5. Dismiss their misconceptions
I remember one time after I had preached a person came up to me at the end of service and proceeded to adamantly correct me on a point I made in the message. I am by no means above correction or making mistakes, but I knew in this instance I had done my homework and that my statement was true to the Scripture. But he/she insisted that I was wrong. There was no convincing this individual that I was indeed correct in what I had said. So, I just nodded and said “That’s interesting. I hear you. I appreciate it.” But in my mind I simply dismissed his/her misconception.
“Why didn’t you correct them on the spot?” you ask. Certainly, there are times when we can and should do so. But, for me, I felt like that was not one of them; plus, I didn’t think it would have been beneficial or received well. That following week the individual came up to me and apologized.
6. Talk with them about their approach
There are those who mean well in their criticism but may be clueless as to how their delivery is negatively affecting it from being readily received. At some point, you probably will have to call them out on their approach. Remember: do it prayerfully, lovingly, sensitively, privately, and directly.
7. Limit your interaction with them
Unfortunately, even after lovingly seeking to address someone’s overly-critical tendency and insensitive approach towards you, he/she might remain obstinate in his/her ways. When all else has failed, one of the best things you can do for that person and for your own sanity and sanctification is to limit your interaction with him/her. You don’t necessarily have to walk in the opposite direction when you see him/her coming your way. Just walk by, speak (if you stop and talk to them, keep it short and sweet), and keep it moving.
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (Titus 3:1-2)
“Forgiveness is not really for the one who did you wrong; it is for you.”
I’ve heard that statement or some variation of it before, and you may have too. The classic illustration and train of thought that usually accompanies it goes something like this: Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping for the other person to die. It only hurts you in the long run. So, therefore, you should forgive the other person, not necessarily for the good of the one who hurt you, but for your own. It helps you not to become angry, bitter, resentful, and full of hatred. Forgiveness more than anything else is about self-love.
This all sounds good and right. But the questions we must ask ourselves as Christians are: Does this way of viewing forgiveness square with Scripture? Does God primarily call us to forgive for our own benefit? Is self-love the principal reason or motivation for why we should forgive someone who has sinned against us? Is forgiveness, at its core, really for – and about – us?
A cursory look at two passages of Scripture will sufficiently and succinctly answer these questions:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
“…if one has a compliant against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)
Did you catch the primary motivating reason in those verses for why we should forgive?
Is it self-love? No.
Is it so you won’t be depressed? No.
Is it about you being free and happy? No.
The reason we should forgive is because we have been forgiven by God in Christ Jesus. We forgive because we have been forgiven.
Are there some resulting benefits we experience by forgiving others who sin against us? Sure. But they are not central to why we should forgive.
Forgiving others in Jesus’ name is not ultimately about or for us, or about or for the offender. It is about Jesus and for God’s glory.
Some books just grab you and not much is needed to convince you to buy them. Sometimes it is due to a creative title that catches your attention. Other times it is due simply to the relevance of the subject matter to your life and/or to those whom you know. And then there is name recognition. You are familiar with an author and his or her body of work, and this, in turn, encourages you to secure a copy.
But here is the thing about me: even if one or any combination of those points exists with a particular book, on most occasions I still would like the opportunity to at least view the Table of Contents before I commit to buying it. I need to see a little bit more before I scoop it up.
So, for those kindred spirits out there who operate the same way as I do when deciding on whether or not to buy a book, here is the Table of Contents (chapter titles only) of my new book, Husbands by Design: A Biblical Blueprint of Godly Husbands:
Chapter 1 – Don’t Be A Jerk! Be Like Jesus to Her
Chapter 2 – Understanding Submission
Chapter 3 – Let’s Talk: Communicating With Your Wife
Chapter 4 – A Charge to Keep I Have
Chapter 5 – Where’s Romeo?
Chapter 6 – Faithful unto Death
Chapter 7 – Living in a Difficult Marriage
Was this helpful? Great! Order your copy of Husbands by Design today. 🙂
P.S. – Men, I pray God uses this book to help you in your marriage, so that day-by-day it reflects more clearly the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32), for the joy and good of you and your wife and the glory of God.
Have you ever had the Lord Jesus change your direction? You were headed down one path and then the Lord somehow redirects you to another. That is, in essence, how my new book, Husbands by Design came to be.
Around year and a half after my first book (Beyond the Dream: Transitioning from a Dream to Its Fulfillment in Your Life) was released in 2012, I began working on my next project, which I thought was going to be – what I call – a pastoral commentary on the book of Titus. But every time I sat down in front of my computer to write I would experience writer’s block. I thought to myself: Ed, don’t panic. This happens to almost every author at some point in time. Just pray and press your way through. The Lord will answer your prayers, and everything will begin to flow.
But it didn’t.
After spending some more time in prayer and thought, it became clear to me, through the circumstantial and internal leading of God the Holy Spirit, that my focus needed to shift to the subject of marriage with particular emphasis on Christian husbands (and husbands-to-be).
As I obeyed, the writer’s block went away, and it felt great. The Lord Jesus is good!
So, here we are; a little over two years since that time. Today I am grateful and excited to announce the official release of my new book: Husbands by Design: A Biblical Blueprint of Godly Husbands
The book is currently available for purchase in both print and ebook formats on Amazon.com. Click here to get your copy today! And after you read it, please don’t forget to log back on to Amazon and leave a review. Thanks!
For preaching/speaking engagements and/or book signings, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to discuss with you how I might be of service to your church or ministry group.
For those interested in getting your book published in a quality and efficient manner, I would highly recommend my publisher, Lucid Books, a Christian-based publishing company in Houston, TX.
Bryan Carter is the Senior Pastor of Concord Church. He is also a co-presenter in the 33 The Series, an outstanding video series based on the Authentic Manhood curriculum. Bryan also leads and hosts the internationally renowned E.K. Bailey Expository Preaching Conference. There is a lot I could say about Pastor Carter. But one word will suffice for now: genuine. He genuinely loves the Lord Jesus and his wife and children. He has a genuine desire to see pastors (and their churches) and preachers reach their God-given full potential. Lastly, he has a genuine heart to see all people grow in their relationship with the Lord, especially men.
It is a great honor to have him endorse my newest work:
Ed has done a phenomenal job merging both the truths of Scripture with the realities of married life. He addresses husbands in a contemporary and engaging way that causes husbands to lean in to what he has to say. Every man needs to pick up this book to better understand and maximize this important God given role. As a husband, I have been challenged and inspired by, Husbands by Design and you will too.
Stephen G. Brown is the Pastor/LEAD SERVANT at Greater Bethlehem Baptist Church. My introduction to Stephen came a few years ago when we invited him to be one of the speakers at our men’s conference. He blessed our men that day! And my life has been blessed by the friendship that has ensued since then. Stephen loves Jesus, his wife and kids, and his church. He is a man of style (as I am sure you can tell by the picture in this post) and, more importantly, a man of substance. He is a shepherd. A scholar. An avid leaner. A lover of life.
Here is his statement about my book:
The daily challenges for Christian households are great, and when the focus is upon the Christian husband, even greater. The struggle to serve our wives and families with passion and excellence can seem impossible, especially when the struggles outside the home seem equally as great. Ed Johnson III shines a bright light into the darkened crevices of the Christian husband’s heart; his fears, struggles, and longings. He identifies many of those “blind spots” that have destroyed the marriages of many Believers, and with scriptural and spiritual clarity, Ed offers hope. Hope that we can honor God with a godly marriage. Husbands, this is the book you’ve longed to read.
Be sure to also check out Stephen’s blog. I am certain you will be blessed by its content.
Dr. Maurice Pugh is the Senior Pastor of New Life Fellowship Church. He is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, and a prolific theologian. He has a PhD from Dallas Theological Seminary where he serves as an Adjunct Professor in Theological Studies.
I am grateful for his endorsement of Husbands by Design:
The question that God asked in the Garden, “Adam, where are you?” still rings loud and true today. However, like soldiers and leaders, men become fathers and husbands by training and development. In Husbands by Design, Ed Johnson III provides a practical, biblical, and challenging training manual to equip men to becoming the godly husbands and fathers designed by God.
James R. Womack and I met when he served as the Associate Pastor of Christian Education at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church (Dr. Tony Evans, Senior Pastor). He now serves as the Lead Pastor of Destiny Church, a church he planted in Ft. Worth, TX. James is a disciple of Jesus, a family man, a faithful pastor and preacher-teacher of God’s word.
I am honored to know him and am grateful for his support of my book. He writes:
I recommend this book to men who accept the privilege of being husbands. Ed provides clear instruction and inspiration for married men.
Click here to learn more about Pastor Womack and Destiny Church.
C.M. Pearl Winslow is the Program Manager of The Urban Alternative (The National Ministry of Dr. Tony Evans). He and I met over six years ago and instantly connected. Pearl is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a preacher, and a trustworthy confidant and advisor to pastors and church leaders across the nation. He has never met a stranger. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting him, you will quickly understand why. He is simply a joy to be around. I am honored to know him and to be able to call him my friend.
Here is what he had to say about my book:
Husbands by Design is a work that reaches up to the Father while simultaneously speaking across the spectrum to husbands who are newlywed and seasoned pros in this married life. EJ has penned a playbook that is both theologically sound and everyday applicable. Both husbands and husbands-to-be will find nuggets of great value and worth in these pages.
Pearl, among his numerous responsibilities at The Urban Alternative, hosts Dr. Tony Evans’ Kingdom Agenda Pastors’ Summit. I am currently a KAP member and have attended the summit for the last few years. It is an edifying and enriching experience to learn from Dr. Evans and guests. To my fellow brothers in pastoral ministry: I would encourage you to visit the KAP website here and to prayerfully consider becoming a part of this fellowship of pastors.