The Comparison Trap

Comparing ourselves with others is a natural thing to do though I’m not sure it is something God wants us to do. It is made more pervasive in our society, and especially in Western society, by the constant media messages we all get saying what the “perfect” woman or the “perfect” man is supposed to be like or look like. Images of a size 2 woman in a bikini or a man with well-defined muscles represent society’s ideal.

Media messages about what men and women are “supposed” to be interested in and what happens when they’re not have also contributed to the pervasive nature of comparison. One only has to look at such controversies as Gamer Gate or the under participation of women in STEM  careers to know that women who are gamers or who are interested and have the potential to have a science, technology, or math career are not considered to be ideal women in our society.

There are also media messages about the stages of life  we’re all supposed to follow, and if we deviate from those messages, we are not considered to be as good as the people who follow them. The specific stage of life I want to highlight here is that of buying a home. At a certain point in our lives, we are supposed to have gained enough wealth or enough credit-worthiness to own a home, and if, for whatever reason, we don’t take that step, we are not considered to be as good as the people who do own homes.

A specific example from my own community has saddened me in recent weeks. We live a few miles from a large city in the United States. This area is separated into different cities, towns, and communities as I know most areas are in this country. One of these smaller cities is having a school rezoning issue at the moment, and the people in this school district are upset about all of the apartment residents they have to accommodate. I’ve read several articles about the issue, and a lot of it has to do with economics and having enough money to support programs at the different schools. But, the one thing that has especially saddened me is the comments on the articles. Many of them tell the residents of these apartments that they should go back to the large city and that they’re not good enough to live in the smaller city. Several comments used derogatory names that were racial and poverty related. It was like these people were trying to tell these apartment residents their children didn’t deserve to have a good education. I cried when I read those comments because I knew that some of the people making them might also claim to be Christians, and I also knew they had fallen into the comparison trap of thinking they were better than other people just because they owned a home and lived in this smaller city.

I believe these thoughts and attitudes make Jesus sad because comparing ourselves to others has also crept into the church, I’m sorry to say. Before I go any further, I want to make it clear I do believe that God made men and women differently, and that those differences should be celebrated not condemned. That being said, I believe there is a lot of leeway in how God made men and women and just because a man doesn’t like to play football or a woman doesn’t like having their nails done or going shopping doesn’t mean they are any less of a man or woman who does like these things. Just because a man or a woman lives in an apartment instead of owning a home doesn’t mean they are any less of a man or woman who does own a home. Just because a man or a woman serves in the background of a church instead of at the front of a church doesn’t mean they are any less of a man or woman who does serve at the front of a church. We need to make sure everyone in our churches knows they are valued and treated as such because we are ALL sons and daughters of God, and Jesus loves ALL of us. If we don’t do this in our churches, what reason will this broken world have to listen to what we have to say?

In other words, we need to remember 1 Corinthians 13:13. “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Spiritual Warfare

There have been many sermons preached on this topic and many books written on this topic, but I think Christians today still don’t have much of an idea what it means. So, when I got this idea, I knew I would have to translate it into something I understood or something the basic layperson would understand.

Anyway, back to spiritual warfare. Here are Wikipedia’s meanings of both of these words separately.

Spiritual—1) of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. 2) of or relating to religion or religious belief.

Warfare—the set of techniques and actions used to conduct war.

Very simple and straightforward, I would think. Now, here is the definition of both words put together.

Spiritual warfare—the Christian concept of taking a stand against preternatural evil forces. It is based on the belief in evil spirits which are able to intervene in human affairs. Various Christian groups have adopted practices to repel such forces, as based on their doctrine of Christian demonology.

I think the reason Christians have such a problem understanding what spiritual warfare is goes back to where the words are defined separately. Most people understand the concept of spirit or being spiritual. This is something related to religion or the soul, in other words, something that is not material or physical.

On the other hand, warfare or conducting a war is entirely in the physical realm. The decision to wage war, the techniques and weapons, the actual battles in the field are all things that have physical results. The land and resources that the victor is able to obtain are all in the physical realm. The weapons used can cause physical damage—whether a soldier is wounded or killed.

Looking at this, it is obvious where there is confusion. People see these words as something diametrically opposite. Now, does putting the words together and defining them make a difference? It depends on where a person’s thinking is on the existence of evil in this world. Here is part of that definition again. “based on the belief in evil spirits which are able to intervene in human affairs” Evil is present in this world, but I don’t think people relate that to the events of their everyday lives. They go through such things as illness, death, job loss, fighting, arguments, or just discouraging events in their lives thinking that God must not love them very much if He puts them through these things. The presence of evil causing these events is usually not something that enters their minds. I believe most Christians would consider these things random or even caused by God because they don’t feel worthy to be loved by God.

However, I am here to argue this is not the case. Satan is using his demons to cause these events in our lives and draw us away from God. Sometimes, what he does is subtle, and other times, it is blatantly obvious. It does work though because people don’t have an understanding of what spiritual warfare is.

I believe that is why Paul wrote what he did in his letter to the Ephesians. Starting in Ephesians 6:10, he writes these words, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Again, these are more words that the people in his day might not have understood so he follows these up with physical concepts. Verses 13 – 17 say this, “Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

The Ephesians would have understood how these physical tools of war related to what Paul was trying to say, and I believe they give us a tool in how to understand the existence of evil in this world.

Now, the question of why God allows evil in this world could be asked. Why doesn’t God give us a life that would be easy for us? The answer to that question is simple. Easy comes later when we’re with Him in eternity. Eternity will be when there is no evil, no heartbreak, no sadness, no insecurity, no hurt. It will be a time of endless worship of our Lord and Savior. But, that time is not now. Good and evil both exist in this world, and I believe God allows us to experience evil for two reasons. One, because He wants us to hold onto Him as tightly as we can, and two, because He wants as many people to come to Him as possible. If we get to the bottom of our rope or the pit as I have spoken of before, we will be more likely to reach out for His hand, more likely to pray, more likely to depend on Him for everything. And that is what He wants. There is no way we can do it all on our own. He is willing to help us to fight the evil. All we have to do is ask and use the tools He has given us in His Word.

God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Misfit Toys

I know I have been posting regularly on Monday for the last few weeks, but I had some words I just needed to get out today. For the last few weeks I’ve been feeling the sting of not feeling good enough or normal enough to be in the church. I have a friend who says I give a voice to what most Christians are afraid to voice, and I’m starting to think that is true. In the church, we pretend things are normal and don’t speak of the things that are on our hearts. We pretend things are okay and don’t spend time on our knees praying for each other. We put up shields as I’ve spoken of before, and we leave church lacking in the things Jesus wants to give to us. It has made me feel isolated and alone. Not sure where I first heard the phrase I am using for today’s title, but I think it fits my feelings. Today, I feel like I’m a misfit toy.

God was able to use people in Scripture though that started out as misfit toys. Peter denied Jesus three times, but became a leader in the early Christian church. Paul started out by killing Christian believers, but after his experience on the road to Damascus, he became one of the earliest missionaries and spread the Gospel over the known world at the time. There were misfit toys in the Old Testament as well. Moses stuttered. David had an affair. Jonah ran away from God and was swallowed up in the belly of a whale for three days. I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the point.

I’ve realized something though. There is someone who is always there for me. When I feel awkward about not having the right kind of family, I have Jesus. When I feel ashamed or think people are ashamed of me because I live in an apartment and not a house, I have Jesus. When I long for friendship and it’s just not there, I have Jesus. When I think people talk to me because of the things I do and not because of who I am, I have Jesus. When I get tired and want to cry, but don’t feel like I can, I have Jesus. When I need a hug, but feel awkward about asking, I have Jesus. When I don’t think I’m contributing, I have Jesus. When I am a misfit toy, I have Jesus. Jesus is always there, always in my heart when I can’t voice or even write my feelings. (and it’s rare for me not to be able to write my feelings down) He is there when there is no one else, and I am so grateful He died for me on the cross. He died for you too, and if I don’t communicate anything else today, I want to tell you that. All you need to do is believe, and it doesn’t matter if you are a misfit toy.

God’s blessings on you all today!

Sharing our Gifts for God’s Glory

For the last few weeks, I’ve been sharing about what we’ve been doing at my church to encourage people to share the gifts God has given them within the body. This all culminated in the event we had yesterday where each of the ministries had tables set up, the leaders were available to talk to people about their ministry and sign-up sheets were also available.  I was helping people at the table for my husband’s ministry, and from where I was, it looked like everything was going well. The leaders will be following up over the next few weeks, and I know everyone is hopeful this will translate to more people sharing their gifts for God’s glory in our church and in our community.

What I want to talk about today is my own journey. Over the last few weeks, I have felt a calling to do something, to share my own gifts within the body. I had actually started the planning for it and was starting to get excited when I had some people approach me and tell me I would be stepping on toes if I tried it. It derailed and discouraged me. You might ask what this gift is. It has to do with writing, of course. God has given me the gift of expressing myself. The gift of writing down my thoughts so I can understand what I’m thinking more clearly. And, because my writing makes my understanding clearer for myself, it helps other people to understand what I’m talking about better. Or at least, that’s what I’m told.  🙂

After our service yesterday, I felt a vague dissatisfaction which lasted for the rest of the afternoon up until this very moment, as a matter of fact. Things started to become clearer as I read my Scripture reading for the day earlier this morning. There was one particular verse that came right out at me. It was Luke 21:33.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

This verse brightened my thinking and really encouraged me. Now, of course, Jesus’ words in general are encouraging, but how does this relate to my own thoughts of sharing the gift of my writing? It’s simple. God’s words will never pass way, like the Scripture says, and if He is wanting me to write, He has a plan and a purpose for it. I don’t want to be egotistical and say that my words will never pass away. Not my point at all! Writing is my gift though. It is the gift God wants me to share for His glory. He doesn’t want me to care about what others think or if I’m stepping on toes. He just wants me to write–for His honor and for His glory. For His honor and His glory alone!

Now, I have to overcome this fear I have — of upsetting Christian brothers and sisters, of stepping on toes, of not feeling worthy, of not having courage. I’ve done a lot of things over the past few years that have required courage, especially with my faith. I’m just having trouble stepping over this one hurdle. I think that’s the point though. God wants us to depend on Him and Him alone as we share our gifts within the body and within our communities and not worry about what anyone else thinks. Easier said than done, I know, at least it is with me.

May we all depend on God and God alone as we consider where He is leading us to share our gifts for Him!

Praying God’s blessings on all of you today!