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.

The Church Jesus is Building

familychristI once heard Pastor Bill Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding, CA say, “There are more demons in the Church than there are outside the Church.” I remember pondering that statement and coming to the same conclusion, based on my own experiences of ministering to hundreds of believers who were under the influence of demons in over 25 years of ministry. In addition to the spirits that are operating in the world, seen in various manifestations of ungodliness and fleshly indulgence, there are also spirits of religion. Jesus dealt with these demons in the Jewish religious leaders of His day.

In this context, the word religious is defined as, man’s way to get to God, gaining acceptance from God through one’s own works, acts of charity, observance of disciplines such as fasting, prayer, giving, serving the poor, etc. I have always found it revealing that Jesus had such compassion and grace for the sinners He encountered, the prostitutes, tax-collectors, adulterers, and demonized, but had nothing but criticism and stern rebukes for the religious leaders and teachers of the Law. These are just some of the words He called them as found in the gospels: hypocrites, child of hell, full of greed and self-indulgence, full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean, children of the devil, blind guides. These are pretty harsh words! They were prideful and self-righteous, controlling and hypocritical.

Jesus knew that these people were under the influence of demons. So, while He hated their sin, He still loved and died for them even as He did for all of us. His words, I believe, were not directed at the people themselves, but at the spirits operating through them. Yet, unlike the sinners who were demonized and recognized their need for salvation, the religious leaders were blinded by their pride and arrogance and refused to come to Him. Even worse, as leaders, they grossly misrepresented the heart of God to His people. Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land for doing the very same thing. This was what stirred Jesus’ righteous anger and zeal when He cleansed the temple of the money changers. It also had a big part to play in His condemnation of their behavior.

Unfortunately, the religious spirit remains alive and fully functioning in many, if not most, of our churches today. The behavior of the leaders of Jesus’ day are still seen in both leaders and members of our congregations. The devil can’t create anything new, so he uses the same old tricks, and we still fall for them. The good news is that Jesus will not allow this to go on forever. He will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against her. He will raise up a bride that is worthy to be His wife, holy and pure, without spot or wrinkle, and fully lovesick for her Bridegroom. The true Church will operate in a spirit of meekness, humility, love and compassion. The true Church is not groups of people that meet in a building once or twice a week. It is the worldwide body of Christ, those who are called by His name, who hear and heed His voice, walk in His ways, and follow Him wherever He leads. This is the Church He is building and the bride He will one day return for.

 

 

Humility, Pride and Prejudice

wheat-609910_960_720The violent events that have transpired this past week in our nation have been weighing
heavy on the hearts of many. In our collective need to try to make sense of them, we too often look for someone, or something, to blame. This results in unhelpful labelling of different people groups – racists, abusive, corrupt, and so on. The anger, hatred, violence, blame-shifting, murder, etc. are the symptoms, or fruit, of the real issue. Racism, prejudice, or bigotry is not the issue. Police brutality is not the issue. Corrupt governments and politicians are not the issue. They all certainly are problems, but they, in and of themselves, are not the root issue. The issue is pride, which is a demonic force. Pride, which led to rebellion, is what got the devil kicked out of heaven in the beginning.

Pride tells us that we are better than others because our skin/race is different, our social position is higher, we are more educated, more attractive, more talented, etc. We not only fear what we do not know, but we arrogantly assume we are somehow better and others are lesser because of our differences. Pride is what caused the religious leaders of Jesus’ day to miss His coming. Pride tells us we know better than God or anyone else what is best for us, and even what’s best for others. Pride convinces us that we are wise to take matters into our own hands because others cannot be trusted.

Holy Spirit wrote in Proverbs 16:18, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  James 4:6 says, God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  In the parable of the wheat and tares, Jesus explained it to His disciples saying, “‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!'”

I read an article by Rick Joyner explaining this. He said that wheat and a plant called darnel (tares) look identical as they grow, up until the time of harvest. As the harvest grows closer, the head of grain in the wheat becomes heavy, causing the plant to bow from the weight. Darnel has no grain, so it remains upright. The sons of the kingdom are the wheat, according to Jesus, and as the end of this age approaches, they will become increasingly humble. However, the sons of the wicked ones, the tares, will remain prideful. This metaphor describes what we are seeing in our nation, and throughout the world in this hour. We should not be afraid or alarmed, because Jesus told us this would happen. Instead, we should humble ourselves before Him in prayer, asking for mercy for our nation, the victims of these atrocities, and especially the offenders. Humility is the answer to pride, and is made manifest through Jesus, the God-Man, who embodied the greatest humility the world has, or will ever, see.

Is it Wrong to Need to Be Right?

Animals___Wild_artiodactyls_Two_deer_butt_097461_Have you ever been around someone who seemed to have a need to always be right? Perhaps you feel that way. I know I did for way too many years. If someone said something I disagreed with, or knew to be wrong, I was always quick to point out their error, or tell them why what they said was incorrect. Unfortunately, for those around me, it was terribly annoying to say the least. My attitude certainly didn’t win me any friends, and often drove my family crazy. In these increasingly dark times we live in, the need to be right has grown by epidemic proportions. It is especially evident in both the news media and the world of social media. Maybe it seems that way because social media relentlessly provides a platform for every thought, word, and deed, both good and bad, of millions of users.

Everyone has a point to prove, an opinion to express, a grievance to air, an offense to take up. Those who believe they are always right do not hold back from sharing it with whomever will listen, and even the ones who couldn’t care less. It is a sign of deep insecurity, pride, and fear. It often becomes a means of controlling those around them, especially when anger is involved. Insecurity causes people to constantly second guess themselves. It is a lie to believe our security comes from our our own ability to know right and wrong. We believe we have to continually justify our actions, opinions, thoughts, etc. If someone dares to question us in these matters, we become defensive and rationalize our decisions. That defensiveness can escalate to the point of anger and even violence, as we see so much in our world today.

Pride refuses to admit when we are wrong, and fear motivates us to hide, or to fight back, to prove to ourselves we are okay. Denial and/or anger become tools by which we control others, hoping they won’t expose us for who we secretly fear we really are. But this is such a miserable existance! I know, because I’ve been there. When God began to open my eyes to the truth and set me free, I found such freedom in letting go of that need to be right. The enemy has so many convinced that if we let go, we will cease to matter, or even exist. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.

When we begin to realize, believe, and walk in the security of who we are in Christ, our affirmation and validation come from Him. We no longer need it from people, though it is not wrong when people give it out of a sincere heart. In addition, we will discover the futility and foolishness of having to justify our opinions, thoughts, and actions. Only God is right, one hundred percent of the time. Letting go of the need to be right takes humility, the opposite of pride. It is so freeing to acknowledge your weakness, to admit when you’re wrong, and to give yourself permission to be human – even to fail. These things don’t mean you are a failure. The willingness to face your frailty means you are growing in truth and maturity – and freedom!

Holding onto the need to be right is wrong because it robs you of the freedom of being yourself – warts, wrinkles and all. It will drive you to the point of exhaustion. It will cheat you out of genuine, life-giving relationships by always being guarded, suspicious, and quick to correct. It blinds you to the perspectives and gifts of others, many who are more gifted or talented than you, those you can learn from and value for their unique beauty and creativity. Ultimately, the need to be right steals your life and will leave you full of regret. The old saying, “Hindsight is always 20/20” is true. Take it from one who has been there. Thank God He has given us freedom in and through Christ!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guarding Your Heart Against the Danger of Offense

heart_0These days, in our politically correct society, everyone is offended at something or someone, it seems. You hear it on TV; read it on social media; see it in the workplace; even in the Church. Offense has become an epidemic. According to the dictionary, offense means, “something that offends or displeases; the feeling of resentful displeasure caused; the act of attacking; attack or assault.” Everyone has an opinion, and the slightest disagreement often leads to offense. This violation can escalate to anger, hate, even violence. At times it appears that some people are looking for something to be offended about.

The biblical definition of offense means, “to cause one to stumble or fall away; to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority; to cause one to judge unfavorably or unjustly of another; to make indignant.” In Matthew 13 as Jesus taught in the synagogue, many became offended with Him. They couldn’t understand His wisdom and authority because they only knew Him as Mary’s and Joseph’s son. In chapter 11, He told HIs disciples to tell John the Baptist, who was in prison at the time, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” This was after He recounted the things He was doing – healing the sick, raising the dead, and preaching to the poor.

In the parable of the seed and the sower, Jesus said there would be some who would hear the Word and receive it with joy, but, “…since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” Having no root can cause one to be easily offended. Perhaps one of the most sobering verses on the subject is Matthew 24:10. Jesus is teaching His disciples on the signs of the end times and says, “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other… but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” In other words, when believers are not rooted in the Word and trouble or persecution comes, many will become offended with God and those who speak truth, and fall away from the faith. I believe this prophecy is beginning to come to pass.

At it’s core, offense is rooted in pride. This becomes apparent when one takes offense if his views are disagreed with. To think that everything you believe is one hundred percent correct is pride. To attack someone for disagreeing with you is arrogant. The people in the synagogue who took offense at Jesus did so because they believed He was just a common man – the son and brother of ordinary people they knew. His words and anointing defied those beliefs. John the Baptist knew well what Scripture taught about the coming Messiah. It was prophesied He would set captives free. Not only was he in prison, but he was Jesus’ first cousin. Surely Jesus would set him free, he likely thought. Jesus, knowing this, forewarned him about taking offense when He didn’t.

Believers today, especially in our Western, comfort driven culture, are woefully illiterate when it comes to the Bible. Just last year, a study done by LifeWay Research and the United  Kingdom Bible Society found that:

  • Only 45% of regular church attenders read their Bible more than once a week.
  • Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible at all.
  • More than half of Evangelicals believe that the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being.
  • In the United Kingdom, almost 1 in 3 couldn’t identify the Nativity as part of the Bible
  • 27% of British parents think Superman is or might be a biblical story.

Not only is this appalling, but it clearly shows the unprepared state of most believers for the times we are living in, especially in light of Matthew 24:10. And this is in a society that has the greatest access to teachings, conferences, seminars, churches, etc.! There are no doubt many reasons for this, but more importantly, what can we do to guard ourselves from the trap of offense?

It is to our benefit to first of all, take responsibility for our own spiritual growth. While teachings, sermons, conferences and such can be helpful, we must make time for God’s Word, reading, studying, and meditating upon it. Our intimacy with Him depends upon it! We cannot know someone we never spend time with or listen to. Time spent in His Word will transform the way we think, free us from pride, and help us learn humility, if we apply it to our lives. Doing this consistently will help us become rooted and grounded in the truth of His Word and His nature, and guard our hearts against offense.

The Deception of Denial

denialIt has been said that the first step to healing is to acknowledge one’s need of it. Living in denial is a deceptive trap that keeps us in bondage. An example of this is seen in Mark 2:15-17: While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Him and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples: “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The tax collectors and sinners recognized their need of a Savior, and followed Him. The Pharisees and teachers of the law, on the other hand, showed contempt of His association with those considered the outcasts of society. Their self-righteousness blinded them to their own need, thus, cutting themselves off from His salvation and mercy.

When we live in denial, we create our own false reality that is rooted in pride. This can be seen in those who believe that everyone else is the problem; they couldn’t possibly be to blame. When others disagree with our views, we automatically believe that they are wrong, we certainly couldn’t be! Denial is also categorized by refusal to acknowledge painful memories, thoughts or feelings. Doing so, of course, cannot make them go away. Facing the truth about ourselves and/or our hurtful situations is very hard, but it’s the only way to get healing and freedom. 

Jeanne McElvaney wrote, “There is a moment in our healing journey when our denial crumbles; we realize our experience and it’s continued effects on us won’t “just go away”. That’s our breakthrough moment. It’s the sun coming out to warm the seeds of hope so they can grow our personal garden of empowerment.” 

Jesus said that when we know the truth, the truth will set us free. May God give us all the grace we need to face the truth, acknowledge our need of healing, and receive the freedom He has already paid for and longs for us to have.