The Key to Freedom from the Comparison Trap

img_0910Have you ever struggled with comparing yourself to other people? Do you see others’ lives and feel that somehow yours is inferior? Ever compared your children to someone else’s children? Or your appearance to another’s? How about your house or car? Do you often doubt your worth when looking at others? If we are honest, we would all answer these questions with an emphatic, “Yes!” It seems to be a part of our human nature to compare ourselves with other people. It can be our appearance (weight, height, looks, perceived flaws, etc.); or our social status (wealth or lack of it, career, education, friendships, material things, etc.). Or maybe it is our family (spouses, children, pets, etc.). It could even be our spirituality (our experiences, knowledge, ministry, etc.). The list could go on and on.

If you’re like me and have battled this common malady, how has that been working for you? For many years I was miserable no matter what I accomplished, what compliments or affirmation I received, or any satisfaction I may have felt occasionally; nothing was ever good enough. I always managed to find someone that seemed better than me. Many others struggle with this as well. Why do we do this? What is it that drives us to constantly compare ourselves to our fellow humans? In a nutshell, it is insecurity. It is a lack of knowing our true identity as unique, gifted, beloved, accepted, and significant sons and daughters of God. How can we possibly compare ourselves to another when our Creator has made us to be totally unique? That is like comparing an apple to an orange. They are totally different except that they are both fruits. Likewise, we are all humans, and may be similar in many ways, but we are also totally different in terms of our identity.

The comparison trap is a futile, fruitless, and destructive pit that we too easily fall into. It results in basically one of two things: we look at others and think we are somehow better, resulting in pride, or, we consider that they are better, leading to self-deprecation and false humility which is also pride. In other words, either way, measuring ourselves against others leads to self-absorption, which is pride and idolatry. Paul wrote, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Cor. 10:12) The only One we are required to compare ourselves to is Jesus. When we focus on Him, we are all equally in need of His mercy, love, and grace.

The key to getting free from the comparison trap is to meditate on who God says we are as stated in His Word, allowing His truth to renew our minds, our ways of seeing and thinking about ourselves and others. As we spend time in His presence and His Word, we will begin to see ourselves as He sees us. Then we can learn to love ourselves as He loves us. This is the first step to loving our neighbors as ourselves. Comparison provokes envy, jealousy, and dissatisfaction. Security in our identity enables us to love as He does while expecting nothing in return.

The majority of the world and even the Church is caught in this deadly comparison trap. When we seek God and receive freedom, He will then use us to set many others free – free to be the special, unique, son or daughter He has created and called them to be. Not only does that bring Him untold pleasure, but it will also bring Him the glory and honor He alone deserves.

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The Single, Most Important Thing in Our Lives

107023_sun_burst1The nature of God is a topic I keep coming back to again and again. Over my years of knowing Him, He is constantly revealing more of Himself to me, and to all who are searching for a greater understanding of Him. It is His express will and great desire for us to know Him. It is the very reason He created us, to enter into an intimate relationship with Him. To prove it, He put His Holy Spirit within us in order to reveal Himself to us.

Paul, inspired by His Spirit, knew this and penned this prayer which is one of my favorites, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” This is one prayer that will ALWAYS be answered if prayed in sincerity of heart.

The Spirit reveals Jesus and the Father to us in several ways.

  1. Through His Word – Jesus is the Word made flesh, the exact representation of the Father. We can look at how Jesus lived and responded to those around Him and see the heart of the Father. In fact, if we are taught, or observe some who claim to know Him but treat others harshly, with anger, impatience, manipulation, condemnation, condescension, etc., we can know that they do not truly know Him.
  2. Through His body – Each believer is given a unique facet of God’s glory to reflect to the world, not one of us is the same. When we look for Jesus in His people, we will see a greater measure of who He is.
  3. Experiences – God often encounters us in His manifest presence, where we tangibly feel Him, in our bodies, in our emotions, and in our spirits. David cried out, “My soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Ps. 63:1) Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:17-19, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  To know His love which surpasses knowledge can be translated as, “to know, by experience, this love that surpasses mere head knowledge.”  We may have tons of head knowledge, even from the Scriptures, but it will never take the place of experiential knowledge – we need them both.

Knowing Him requires spending personal, quality time with Him, just as we would do with a friend. You can’t know someone you never spend time with, talking with, and sharing life together with. Therefore, no one can do this for you. No one can develop intimacy in your relationship with Jesus but you. No one can lay hands on you and impart their history with God to you. You must develop your own.

How we view the nature of God is the single, most important thing in our lives. How we see Him and what we believe about Him determines and affects how we relate to Him, to others, and to ourselves.

If we see and/or believe Him to be angry, judgmental, harsh, and exacting, we will be afraid to come close to Him, be unable to fully trust Him, feel we can never measure up or satisfy Him. None of these attitudes will help develop intimacy in our relationship with Him, in fact, it will do the exact opposite, driving a wedge between us and Him.

Likewise, this unbiblical view will cause us to treat others the way we feel He is treating us. We will be harsh, angry, impatient, and judgmental toward others, alienating ourselves from the body we are meant to be a part of. In addition, we will misrepresent Him to others, destroying or greatly damaging our witness for Him.

We can only know our true identity through knowing our Father. The more we know Him, the greater our security in who He has called us to be will become. We will no longer doubt His love for us, nor fear His discipline. We will no longer question His faithfulness or feel He has abandoned us. Instead, we will revel and bloom in knowing and experiencing His great love and passion for us. We will be able to enter into His rest, no longer striving for His acceptance or approval.

Seeking out the nature of God is the greatest adventure of our lives. It will be our endless pursuit throughout eternity, for He is inexhaustible and without limit. In fact, a billion years from now, we will be no closer to reaching the end of Him than we were when we first began. Selah…(pause and calmly think about that)!

 

Becoming a Human Being

12-rules-being-humanIt’s been said, and is true, that we live in an upside down world. Upside down, according to God’s ways, that is. The world tells us we have to take care of ourselves; God tells us to cast all of our cares upon Him. The world teaches us that happiness is found in material things, and the bigger, the better. God teaches us that life is found in giving, even sacrificially, to those in need. The world says we must live it up before we die. Jesus showed us it is in dying that we truly live.

The world would have us believe we are what we do, that our actions determine our identity. But God has created us to be, before we do. He intended our identity to determine our actions. We are human beings, not human doings. When we get it backward, it can cause problems. One example of this is seen in Jesus’ calling of His disciples. He began with Peter and his brother Andrew, who were fishermen by trade. “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matt. 4:19) Peter and Andrew were considered fishermen because that was what they did. Their identity flowed from their actions, their livelihood. But Jesus wanted to turn that around and get it in the right order.

His first call to them was to come and follow Him. In other words, be with Him, for a prolonged period of time. He wanted them to be with Him so they could learn from Him, to watch Him in action. When we spend time with people, who they are rubs off on us. We are influenced by their lives, whether good or bad. We become what we behold. God wired us this way so that we could be transformed by our relationship with Him, to become like Him.

After Jesus called them to be with Him, He then told them He would give them something to do – go out and fish for people. He didn’t command them to go and make disciples until they first became disciples. Yet, we often do that to people in the Church. We tell them to go and be a witness, but many have never witnessed the reality of who God is. We will never be transformed by reading or learning about the Lord. We will always be transformed by being with Him, spending time in His presence and with others who have been transformed.

We must live the message before we can give the message. We must first be transformed before God can fully use us to transform others. We must be with Him on a personal level, not just in corporate meetings, to know Him as He wants to be known. Before becoming His disciples, Peter, Andrew and the others were known for what they did – fishermen, tax collectors, etc. Their livelihood determined their identity. But after Jesus’ resurrection, they became known as those who had been with Him, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  Their identity determined their actions. 

When our identity is determined by what we do, we become performance driven. Our lives are characterized by people pleasing, perfectionism and insecurity. If our doing determines our identity, we believe our value and signficance come from what we do, and how well we do it. We compare ourselves to others because there will always be those who do it better. We become jealous, insecure, and fearful that we will lose our value if we don’t keep up the appearance of doing something well.

When our actions flow from our identity, we realize that though others may have similar callings, we are unique and therefore, secure in who we are as God’s beloved child. We aren’t driven to perform and maintain appearances, because our doing naturally flows from our being. There really is no effort involved beyond being with Him. We can freely give out of the overflow of what He gives to us. We don’t have to be chided to go and be witnesses, because who we are as transformed people will rub off on those we spend time with.

The world tells us that doing precedes being, that we are what we do. But the kingdom of God teaches that we do what we are.  We honor and glorify our Lord when we are human beings, as He created and intended us to be, rather than human doings. If we just spend time with Him, He will take care of the rest.

Costly Consequences of the Church’s Identity Crisis

id-crisis-churchI read a deeply disturbing article online yesterday about a small, but growing segment of society that has come to be known as “transabled.” According to the article, these people seem to feel they do not “fit” in a healthy, whole body. Instead, they long to be disabled in some way. So much so, that they will injure themselves in order to accomplish that desire. I don’t know that I’ve heard anything so bizarre in my life, though there has definitely been an increase in bizarre behavior these days. We have heard much about the transgender people who feel they were born the wrong gender, and some who go so far as to say they feel they should have been born as an animal instead of a human. As I was pondering these things yesterday, trying to make some sense of them, trying to understand what the root of these issues is, it became clear it had to do with identity.

It seems to me that the whole world is struggling with identity. This thought led me to consider the Church, for I have heard it said many times, “As the Church goes, so goes the world (or nation).” It is clear in Scripture that God ordained the Church to be the change agent of the world. We are the light of the world, the salt of the earth. We are the ones who are to make Jesus known to the lost, to carry on the mission He began over 2,000 years ago. That was His commandment in the Great Commission. In some ways, we have done well, but in others, not so much. Over the past several years, the Church seems to be having her own identity crisis.

Our nation is more divided now than perhaps ever in her history. The same can be said about the Church. Not only do we have myriads of denominations, but we have added labels to those as well. Progressive, conservative, fundamentalist, traditionalist, liberal, and so on. We are indeed a sadly fragmented body. And the world sees and knows it, at least to some degree, by our words and actions. One of the biggest problems, as I see it, is that we have strayed from the foundation of the Word. We have embraced the interpretations of men rather than the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We have gathered teachers who tell us what we want to hear – Paul called it, the tickling of the ears – rather than the truth, in love. In the name of political correctness, we have become tolerant of that which God hated so much, He took it upon Himself at the cross.

When those who claim to follow Christ embrace the practices of abortion, homosexuality, pornography, adultery, and other such behaviors, we have clearly departed from the commandments of God. Whether we commit such behaviors ourselves, or we endorse leaders, both in the Church and in our govenment that do, we are nonetheless condoning that which God has condemned. He condemns the sin, not those who are trapped in bondage to it. The consequences of our choices, I believe, have greatly contributed to the chaos we are now living in. In many ways, sadly, the world has become a reflection of those who are called to a counter-cultural way of life.

Thankfully, because of the blood of Christ that was shed for our sin, we still have hope. No person, people group, or nation can wander so far that His blood cannot reach, redeem, and restore. Only the Spirit of God can heal and unify His fragmented body so that we can be the salt and light we are destined to become. Only the love of the Bridegroom can woo a spiritually adulterous bride to totally surrender her heart and affection to Him. Only our loving heavenly Father can conform us to our true identity.

He has given us incredible power and authority to see the changes we are longing for come to pass – it is called prayer. We have no excuse if we fail to use it. The consequences of our identity crisis are becoming ever more costly. We can blame and point the finger at everyone else if we want, but He has given the earth to us. (Ps. 115:16) It is our great privilege and responsibility to properly steward all that He has given to us. He is always there to help us, if we are simply willing.

 

 

 

Breaking the Pattern of Codependency

Broken people produce broken relationships. You don’t have to look far to see them. codependentMost of us have, no doubt, been a part of one – or several. One of the most destructive patterns is called codependency, or enabling. This type of relationship is very common, even among believers. The term codependent is defined as, “of or relating to a relationship in which one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent on the first in an unhealthy way.” Codependency is “a state of mutual dependence between two people, especially when one partner relies emotionally on supporting and caring for the other partner.” 

Codependent people suffer from a lack of identity; therefore, they take on the identity of caregiver to the other person. Often, the other person is looking for someone to “fix” them, because they are unwilling to take responsibility for their own behavior. They usually have some type of addictive behavior, like drugs, alcohol, sex, etc., that they feel powerless to overcome. These unhealthy actions feed off of each other. The enabler needs to be affirmed and validated, and they seemingly find this by taking care of the helpless one. This pattern produces two victims – the first eventually resents the constant demands and control of the other, the second is allowed and enabled to continue in their dysfunction with no confrontation or requirement to take responsibility.

If this sounds familiar, the good news is that we can find freedom from these unhealthy patterns of relating. The enabler needs to understand that their affirmation, validation, and identity only come from God. The need to feel significant is one of our basic human needs, so He wants to give it to us; we just have to ask. Song of Solomon is a wonderful example of how He affirms us over and over until we become secure in His love and our identity as His beloved.

The person who struggles with addiction needs to know that Jesus paid the price for their freedom. Scripture says that, “…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32) People cannot save, heal or deliver, only God can. These ones must repent for seeking deliverance from someone other than the Lord and turn to Him. They must be willing to take responsibility for their behavior and no longer blame others.

God wants us all to fully depend upon Him for He is our Father and longs to relate to us as one. He alone is faithful and true and will always act in our best interest. People with even the best intentions will let us down. Others can help us along the way, but they cannot be our source for that which only God can give us. He will save, heal, and deliver when we call upon His name!

Insights From Song of Solomon – Discovering Your Identity in God

I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me. – Song of Solomon 7:10

The Church is in the midst of an identity crisis. Many believers are searching to find their Identityidentity, who God has called them to be. This search includes identifying their spiritual gifts, their calling and destiny in Him – what exactly He wants them to do. I too went through this confusing and frustrating phase. Many voices say we should know these things, but none I found explained how to discover them.  Maybe this has been true for you, too, or for someone you know.

In Song of Solomon, God reveals how to discover who He has called us to be, and what He has called us to do as His beloved children. Throughout the Song, King Solomon (who represents Jesus) showers his bride with words of affirmation and validation. These are two basic needs God created us with that must be fulfilled. Only God can provide these; if we don’t receive our unique significance from Him, we will find it in ungodly ways – through relationships, accomplishments, materialism, position, ministry, etc. These needs MUST be met.

The more he affirms her, the more she blossoms before him; this is the power of love and acceptance to totally transform us. She first sees herself as “dark, yet lovely,” (1:5). She is somewhat aware of her underlying value, but more focused on the darkness that covers it. She then sees herself as “a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley” (2:1) While this is a small step up, these flowers  were common to the region, so she sees herself as one of many, but not unique or special. In Ch. 4:16, she first sees herself as a garden then realizes she is his garden. This is definite progress!

Then in Ch. 7:10 she says, “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.”  She now knows her identity; she is his beloved, belonging to him for his purposes and pleasure. She is his inheritance. (Eph. 1:18) The apostle John called himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  Paul wrote, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20) When we receive this revelation, our lives will no longer be about getting or doing what we want, but doing what He wants, and going where He sends us. His agenda will be our agenda; His desires, our desires.

As he affirms her, the revelation of His nature and character leads her to discover her identity and destiny. When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter received the revelation that He was the Messiah. Jesus then shared Peter’s identity, destiny and calling, saying, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:18) Peter means “rock,” and Jesus said that this revelation of who Jesus is would be the foundation for His Church that Hades could not overcome. Jesus then called him to intercede to bring heaven to earth, just as He would teach them to pray later (Matt. 6:10).

As we seek the revelation knowledge of God, we will discover who He is and who He has called us to be. We too, are His beloved, called to love and be loved by Him and out of the overflow of that love, to partner with Him to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. That is His eternal plan and purpose!

Abundant and Lavish Grace

In union with Him, through the shedding of His blood, we are set free – our sins are forgiven; this accords with the wealth of the grace He has lavished on us. In all His wisdom and insight He has made known to us His secret plan, which by His own will He designed beforehand in connection with the Messiah, and will put into effect when the time is ripe – His plan to place everything in heaven and on earth under the Messiah’s headship. (Eph. 1:7-10)

We who are believers and followers of Jesus are one with Him – in union with Him – because of the willing sacrifice of His life and His blood. As a result, we are set free from the power of sin; free to live for Him rather than for ourselves – and free from its consequences which are death and hell; eternal separation from God. He no longer looks at or counts our sins against us; we are free from guilt, shame, blame, condemnation and accusation – free from punishment, for Jesus took it in our place.

This incredible gift He has given us is both in keeping with and an indication of the super abundant amount of grace He has given, or lavished on us.  These words are an attempt to describe the overflowing, abundant, excessiveness of God’s love and grace for us; it is more than we can even comprehend! This is just one of the blessings that make up the “every spiritual blessing” list that we have in and through Him.

He has and is all wisdom and insight, and it was His unlimited wisdom and insight to choose to reveal His plan to us – His secret plan. This plan was devised by the Triune God beforehand – before creation ever came to be. God’s ultimate plan is to bring all of creation into submission to the leadership and Lordship of Jesus. He reveals His will and plans to us not just so we understand what He is doing and why He is doing it, but also so we can cooperate with His plans and thus hasten the day of their fulfillment rather than resist them.

Mankind, being the last of God’s creation, will be the first to be brought under His Lordship as spoken of in Romans 8:19, for creation itself is longing for the manifestation of the sons of God. As we understand and step into our identity as His sons and daughters, walking in the authority He has given us, we will in turn spread His dominion throughout the earth, establishing His kingdom here as it is in heaven where He already rules and reigns as Lord over all. The complete consummation of this plan will take effect once Jesus returns to earth, but began with the birth of the ekklesia.