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 Two Battles We Face in Life

saint-georgeLast week, I wrote about the basic truths, or keys, of spiritual warfare. If you didn’t see it, you can read it here. Today I want to expand upon these truths so that we can learn not only how to get free, but also, how to stay free. These are the two battles we must deal with throughout our lives – getting free from bondage, and staying free. Then we can walk in victory and the abundant life Jesus died to give us. Both battles require several things: 1) we must first recognize our need, 2) we must be willing to get help from trusted friends and/or leaders, 3) we must realize that we have to do things differently than we did before, and 4) we must be determined to persevere and not give up. Getting and staying free requires work, but if we are willing to do our part, God will always be faithful to help us in our weakness.

In my twenty plus years of ministering to people in bondage, I have often seen those who come for ministry expecting a quick fix. Our human nature, or flesh, wants to get out of pain as quickly and easily as possible. Unfortunately, God didn’t set it up to work that way. He works through process, and we must learn what that process looks like and how to cooperate with Him in it. The whole point of the process is to conform us into the image of Christ. That is always His will for everyone. This is why it’s impossible to by pass or cut short the process; He simply won’t allow it. He is fully committed to completing the good work He began in us. Therefore, it would be to our benefit to learn to cooperate with Him.

The greatest challenge in these battles, I have found, both in my own life, and in the lives of those I’ve ministered to, is changing the way we think. If we don’t learn to do this, we will never get free. Jesus’ predominant message when He walked the earth was “Repent!” To repent means, to change the way we think. Most, if not all of our problems, stem from this one issue. We do not think the way that God thinks. (Is. 55:8-9) We are not even close! To truly repent, we must learn to renew our minds.

There are three areas we need to renew our minds in – 1) our thoughts about God, 2) our thoughts about ourselves, and 3) our thoughts about others. This goes along with our ability, (by God’s grace), to fulfill the greatest commandment – to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself. When we renew our minds to the truth of who God is, we will see ourselves as He sees us, and we will see others as He sees them. This must happen before we can love anyone. To know God is to love Him; to love God, is to love ourselves the way that He does, which then enables us to love others as He does.

Think about how different the Church would be if we all had our minds renewed! This is precisely why the enemy’s greatest weapon against us is deception. For when our thinking is distorted by lies, we are unable to love God, ourselves, or anyone else. Love is our greatest weapon;  without love, as Paul said, we are nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2) Having an unrenewed mind is like looking through a window that is severely cracked. Everything on the outside looks skewed and awry; we cannot see anything clearly. This is our hardest and most important battle, and God won’t do it for us. If we are willing to put forth the effort, He will certainly help us!

One of the most effective ways I’ve found to renew the mind is simple, but it does require time, effort, and patience. First, we must recognize and break agreement with the lies that we have believed, and receive the truth, as God reveals them to us. We must meditate on the truths every day for 30 – 60 days, until they become real in our heart, not just in our head. Head knowledge will never change us; it must be experiential, revelation knowledge that Holy Spirit reveals to our spirit. This comes from daily meditation. Meditation is simply thinking about, pondering, contemplating, “chewing on,” praying over, repeating the truths until they become second nature to us. It is similar to a cow chewing on its cud. The cow eats, regurgitates, and chews its food several times before finally digesting it. We must do this mentally, which requires disciplining and training our minds, literally.

We can do this as part of our quiet time each day, picking a Scripture verse, and journaling our thoughts and what God reveals to us. I won’t go into detail here about how to do that, but if you want to know more, you can read an article I wrote about this here. Learning to renew our minds is one part of the battle to get free. It is also a life-long habit we must practice to win the battle to stay free. It is God’s command to us (Rom. 12:2), and He never commands us to do anything He doesn’t give us the grace to do. We can do all things through His strength!

 

 

 

 

The Liberating Power of Truth

truthbreakchainsIn a society where almost anything goes, truth is becoming increasingly offensive. Only the truth seekers are willing to embrace truth, even when it hurts, as it often does. Paul foretold of this time in Romans 1:18-32. In this sobering passage, he states that suppression of the truth leads to utter depravity and wickedness of every kind. In other words, ignoring or refusing to accept truth leads to demonic bondage and ultimately, destruction.

In stark contrast, Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) The teaching He referred to was His word. He is the word made flesh. He is the way, the truth and the life. Truth is not a set of rules or a standard of morality, it is a Person. This should help those of us who are truth seekers to better understand why the rejection of truth has become an epidemic. Jesus and His disciples were also rejected, and He told us the world hated Him and would therefore hate us as well. 

Already we are seeing increased hostility directed against those who are bold enough to speak the truth, especially in a public forum. I believe this animosity will become greater and even more violent in the coming days. As believers and truth seekers, we must prepare our hearts, our spirits and souls, for the troubles many will face. We must know what, and who we believe, and why. We must know God’s word and His truth, for He is the Rock upon which we stand through the storms. We cannot look to our pastors, spouses, friends or leaders to be there to help us. We have the greatest Helper – Holy Spirit. He has promised to never leave us and to give us the words to say when we are confronted by opposition.

Holy Spirit can remind us of the things Jesus said, but He cannot renew our minds, or read and meditate upon Scripture for us. That is our part and only we can do it. Jesus forewarned His disciples of His impending death and resurrection. He did this, not to frighten them, but to inform them so they could prepare, as much as they knew how, to face those challenges. May the Scriptures I’ve mentioned here, along with many others, do the same for us. May God give us the grace to seek to know, live, and speak the truth every day of our lives. He will be faithful to His promise that those who seek, will indeed find what they are looking for.  As we choose to love the truth, we will have nothing to fear.

 

Learning to Walk by the Spirit

One of the greatest challenges I’ve encountered as a believer is learning to sunlit pathwalk in, or by, the Spirit. Though I didn’t grow up in church, I’ve been in it long enough to have heard the admonition to be led by the Spirit many times. However, I don’t remember anyone ever telling me how to do it. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what that phrase meant. Several years ago I came across a little book by Graham Cooke called, Towards a Powerful Inner Life. Though it is small, it is packed with wisdom and truth that greatly helped me. I highly encourage you to read his books and listen to his teachings, they are amazing!

Just as God is triune (three parts) in nature, so is man. We are made up of spirit, soul, and body. (1 Thess. 5:23) Our spirit is dead at birth, but is reborn at salvation. (John 3:3-8) Our spirit then becomes one with His indwelling Spirit, which is how we commune with Him. God releases revelation to our spirit, which is then processed through our mind and applied to our soul. Our spirit is always in agreement with God because we are one with Him through the Spirit.

Our soul is made up of three parts: our mind, will, and emotions. Obviously, we think with our minds, feel with our emotions, and make choices with our wills. Unbelievers live entirely from this realm. (1 Cor. 2:14) After the Fall of man, the spirit died and we lost our communion with, and the true knowledge of, God. This is clearly seen when Adam and Eve tried to hide in fear and shame from the One they once walked and talked with freely in the Garden. Ever since then, man came under the dominion of his soul rather than his spirit. The soul is the part of us that is influenced by the enemy.

Our body is the vehicle that carries our spirit and soul, and follows the dictates of whichever one we allow to be in charge of our decisions. If we live from our soul, we will indulge in fleshly passions that can bring great harm to our bodies, even if we are “born again.” When we live from our spirit, the Spirit will influence our decisions and we will put our fleshly desires to death, by God’s empowering grace. (Gal. 5:16, 24)

God has given us free will; we can choose whether we are going to listen to, and follow, our soul or our spirit. Since our soul is used to calling the shots, we must put forth the effort to build up our spirit. We can do this through communing with God in His Word, in worship, and prayer. We must take responsibility for renewing our minds, according to Romans 12:2. In time, this will bring our thoughts into agreement with God’s, and whatever we make agreement with, we empower. When we agree with the enemy’s lies, we give him power over us.

The carnal soul is self-absorbed. I think of it as a spoiled child – it wants what it wants, and it wants it now! It is influenced by our ungodly thoughts, our damaged emotions, and the enemy who tempts us to indulge our flesh. Our soul loves God, but wants Him on our terms, not His. It is stubborn, independent, and rebellious, and must be disciplined in order to come into submission to our spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is self-control, a soul that has been trained to submit to the indwelling Spirit, in union with our human spirit. As we bring our thoughts into agreement with God’s, allow Him to heal our damaged emotions, and resist the temptations of the enemy, we can bring our soul into submission to our spirit. This is how we learn to walk by the Spirit.

What has God taught you about walking by the Spirit? Please comment below.

A Simple Key to Renewing Your Mind

In my last post I talked about the effect that toxic core beliefs can have on your actions andClose-up of woman's hands while reading the Bible outside. thus your destiny. If you didn’t see it, you can click here. I mentioned a simple key I discovered a few years ago that has greatly helped me in renewing my thinking. This key is Scripture meditation.

Psalm 1:1-3, describes how powerful this key is, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

There are many other Scriptures that also speak of meditating upon God’s Word: Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148; Colossians 3:2; Philippians 4:8; Malachi 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:15 and others.

Meditating on Scripture can be done in several different ways. The model I use is a combination of two methods I learned. Find a quiet place and get comfortable. Using a notebook or journal, write one verse at the top. Read it out loud several times slowly, taking in each word and phrase. You can also pray it and sing it if you’d like. Ask questions. Write down all the thoughts that come to mind, and how it speaks to you. If it’s a long verse, break it into short phrases and do this for each phrase. You can do this in as little as fifteen minutes, or longer, whatever works for your schedule.

After you finish writing your thoughts, write a short thank you to God for how it spoke to you or for what He showed you. This can be one or two sentences. Then write, My son/daughter, and stop to listen. Begin writing whatever you hear God saying to you. It may seem like your own thoughts, but write them down. You can analyze and test them later. If you’re not sure whether you’re hearing Him or not, share your thoughts with a trusted, more mature friend or leader to get their input. God longs to speak to you even more than you want Him to; trust His Holy Spirit to lead and guide you.

If you battle distracting thoughts, keep bringing your mind back into focus. Reading out loud can help with this. If you think of things you need to do later, write them in the margin or on another sheet of paper, then go back to your meditation. If other topics or verses come up while you’re meditating, write them at the bottom of the page or on another sheet of paper and use them for another day. Having soft, instrumental music playing in the background can also help.

Try different things to find what works best for you. There is no right or wrong way to do it; the important thing is not to give up. Some days you will be amazed at what God will show you. Other days, it may seem dull or dry; that’s okay, just keep at it. If you will do this consistently, your thinking will begin to line up with God’s Word which is His thoughts. You will also develop a greater hunger to know Him and His Word. I encourage you to try it and see, after all, what do you have to lose? Let me know what you think once you’ve given it a try!

Are Toxic Beliefs Derailing Your Destiny?

As a young believer, I often listened to Joyce Meyer on the radio during my daily drive to toxic thinkingtake our kids to our church’s Mother’s Morning Out program. I can still remember her saying one day, “Do you ever stop and think about what you’re thinking about?” and my first thought was, “No, I don’t!” Then I wondered if it even mattered, and if so, why. I was genuinely perplexed!

Now that I’m a bit older and hopefully a little wiser, I understand what she was saying. As believers, our thought life is one of the most important factors of our walk with God. You may have seen this poem or one that is similar to it:

If you accept a Belief

You reap a Thought.

If you sow a Thought

You reap an Attitude.

If you sow an Attitude

You reap an Action.

If you sow an Action

You reap a Habit.

If you sow a Habit

You reap a Character.

If you sow a Character

You reap a Destiny.

–anonymous

Your beliefs and thoughts greatly affect your destiny by determining your choices, or actions. What you do is always the result of what you believe.

I’m not talking about “head knowledge,” which is facts or information we may believe or agree with. I’m referring to the core beliefs that we hold deep in our hearts and may be totally unaware of.

These beliefs often surface when a circumstance triggers a reaction that catches us completely off guard. Have you ever experienced that? Maybe one day your best friend makes a comment that your new outfit is a little snug around the middle. Suddenly without thinking, you get upset and offended, accusing her of calling you fat! And for the sake of this hypothetical example, let’s say you struggled with your weight as a teen and had a mom who made similar comments far too often, though her sincere intent was to try to help you. This is just one (though not particularly good) example of how core beliefs are triggered.

In His mercy, God allows these situations in order to show us areas that need healing in our minds. He understands our frailty and gave us a way to get free from toxic thinking – Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The word transformed is the Greek root of our word, metamorphosis – the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. It is a beautiful word picture of the radical change that takes place when we make the effort to renew our thoughts and beliefs.

In the natural, a caterpillar is bound to the earth, crawling along the ground or on plants and bushes. As the butterfly emerges from the cocoon it no longer resembles its former self in any way; it is a totally new and different creature. Free to now soar above the earth, it has a completely new perspective – a heavenly one. This is an amazing picture of what happens to us and our thinking when we make the choice to renew our minds. God doesn’t do this for us, nor does it happen automatically when we get saved, it is a lifelong process that requires effort on our part.

So how do we go about doing this? How do you renew your mind? I discovered a key a few years ago that has greatly helped me and I believe can help you if you will take time to do it. I will be writing about it in my next blog post, so stay tuned for more! How has toxic thinking affected your choices? Please comment below.