Sunday, December 27, 2015

One Deadly Thing we do Too Much

Comparison kills.

It kills . . . friendships.
            . . . ministry opportunities.
            . . . joy.
            . . . satisfaction.
            . . . our relationship with God.

I was reminded of the deadly role of comparison recently. It didn't seem like it was a big deal. It was just a passing thought. But, a few hours later, I realized that momentary thought was having a deadly impact on my ministry in this situation.

As I sat with a group of people praying together, the thought crossed my mind that the other people in the group seemed to pray more eloquently and with more smoothly flowing words than me. I quickly dismissed the thought as being ridiculous - I mean, why would anyone compare that?

It wasn't until a few hours later that I realized the impact of that passing thought. I didn't pray much in that group after I made that comparison. Even a fleeting comparison of my prayers to others' prayers had killed that time of engaging in prayer ministry in that situation. And, if I'd left it undealt with would have eventually killed any prayer ministry opportunities in the future.

Comparison is an insidious plan from Satan to kill what God wants to do in and through us. In the moment it seems harmless. We think nothing of it. We often miss the impact it has on us until later.

Comparison keeps us held back in fear. We're not good enough. We'll never do it as well as someone else. Comparison leaves us cowering in a corner trying to protect ourselves, rather than living the life God wants us to live.

John 10:10 says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." Satan is the thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Comparison is one of the tools he uses to do this. It's an effective tool in his arsenal because it can seem harmless in the moment.

Jesus offers us life - an abundant life - if we choose to follow Him. He invites us into a life we couldn't imagine on our own. We have to step out and trust that He is with us in it - that He will never fail or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Even when comparison would kill us, when we're facing our own insecurities about how to do something, we choose to trust God and go with Him.

I fight each day against falling to the comparison game that always leaves me wanting. It kept me from doing what God asked me to do for far too long. Now that I know what comes when I don't give in to comparison, I don't want to do back. But, it's still a choice I make daily and I still have to deal with moments when I give in to the comparison game again.

The difference comes when we choose to go to God with it when we begin to make those comparisons. Instead of giving into the fear, the need to protect ourselves, the death that comes with comparison, we need to seek God's perspective on the matter.

When I realized the comparison I had made was having a negative impact on things, I instead asked God for His perspective on what He was seeing there. I asked Him how He saw me in that setting. As my perspective changed, I realized that it's not eloquent or smoothly flowing words that make prayers effective, it's the heart behind them. And that meant my comparison was worthless and an attempt by Satan to steal, kill, and destroy in my life.

Then I had a choice to make. I could continue to believe the lie that came from the comparison, or I could choose to believe God and see things from His perspective. But, I had to choose. I couldn't be passive about it. I had to make a choice and act from that point.

We all have that choice when we realize we've gotten caught in the comparison trap. We can stay there and allow that comparison to kill. Or, we can ask God for His perspective and change our view on the situation. What will you choose to do?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Do You Doubt God's Voice?

I've often doubted if what I thought I was hearing was really God's voice. Or if it was just my own thoughts. And I've talked to others who feel the same way.  We know God speaks, but we doubt it's actually Him when He speaks to us.

As I've been reflecting on the Christmas story these last few weeks, I've been struck by how so many of the people involved heard God speak in some way and they knew it was God. Scripture doesn't record that doubt kept them from believing that it was God speaking to them. And this after 400 years of silence from God. Even then, they still believed God about some things that may have sounded a little crazy and scandalous.

An angel appeared to Zechariah in the Temple to announce that he and his wife would be the parents of John the Baptist. He didn't believe perfectly, but he knew that it was God speaking to him. Luke 1:11 says, "Then an angel of he Lord appeared to him . . ." Zechariah knew it was God speaking to him - even if the message brought sounded impossible.

Luke 1 goes on to provide the account of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to announce that she would be the mother of Jesus - the promised Messiah. Mary had questions about how it would happen, but she did choose to believe. Verse 38 records her response to the message from God the angel brought, "I am the Lord's servant, may your word to me be fulfilled." Again, she heard God speak and she believed him.

Now, it could be easy to dismiss these two examples because the appearance of an angel seems like it would be easier to believe the words. But, in both of these situations, the message brought would be challenging. A son in your old age. A son when you're a virgin. Not exactly the easiest things to believe.

And then there's Joseph. God spoke to him as well, and he chose to believe God and follow through on what he was told. Matthew 1:20 tells us that "the Lord appeared to him in a dream." God's words to Joseph to take Mary as his wife even though she was pregnant wouldn't have been an easy message, but Joseph didn't doubt they were from God.

Luke 2 talks about a man named Simeon who was at the Temple when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus as required by the law. He has been told by God he wouldn't die until he saw the Messiah. When he saw Jesus at the Temple, he knew exactly who this baby was.

If Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph believed these messages from God when they heard them, what made them sure they were from God? What gave them the confidence to trust that these hard and scandalous messages were actually from God?

I think some words in how they were described provide the key to that.

Matthew 1: 19 described Joseph as "faithful to the law."

Zechariah and his wife are described this way in Luke 1: 6, "Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commands and decrees blamelessly."

Mary is described as being highly favoured by God by the angel who came to her in Luke 1:28.

Luke 2: 25 described Simeon as righteous and devout.

All of those descriptions speak of people who chose to follow God - to seek God and to know Him. It's because of their relationship with God that they had learned to recognize God's voice. They knew Who He was. They knew what He had said in the past. And because they knew that, they knew this was God, and they knew they could trust what He was saying. This was where their confidence to believe and to act on what they heard came from.

This challenges me in my own walk with God. To be continually seeking to know God better. To develop a relationship where I more easily recognize God's voice and am ready to believe and act on what I hear.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Baby that Brought Us Freedom

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a toke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1).

When I read this verse recently, I was drawn back to the story of Christ's birth. That's when Christ came to set us free. It all started with a humble birth in a stable. The beginning of the gift of freedom Christ brought.

Jesus came, as a baby, born into the same world as those He was coming to free. He came and lived among us. He came and experienced the same kinds of things we do. He came and paid the price for
us to be free forever.

We have been offered an incredible gift of freedom. We can choose to accept it. Once we do, we no longer need to pick up the yoke that ensalved us. We don't have to carry it anymore. That is what Christ freed us from.

A humble birth, witnessed by shepherds and animals that would bring us freedom.

A humble birth is a stable was the birth of a King that would change everything for those who would choose to follow Him.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Surrendering to Escape the Rush

Rushing from store to store looking for the perfect gift for everyone on your list.

Rushing form party to party.

Rushing to get all the decorating and baking done.

Rushing to get dinner on at the time everyone is coming for.

Why is it that Christmas seems to be a season of rushing to get things done and get to all the events?

It gets busy and then we get to to Christmas day tired and done with the season. We just want the say to be over so can finally relax.

We get caught up in the busy-ness. We get caught up in the commercialization of it. We get caught up in all the good things that come with the season - good things that can still distract us. And, in the process, we miss what it's really supposed to be all about.

But, what if we approached it differently? What would it look like if we truly gave the entire time leading up the Christmas day over to God? If we surrendered it?

What if, in the midst of all we had to do, we surrendered our schedule to God and allowed Him to invade our rushing? What if we decided to listen for the promptings of God that interrupt our schedules? What if we let God even interrupt the good things with His much better plan than ours?

I wonder if it just might mean we're not just wishing the season away and longing for a slower time again. I wonder if it just might mean we don't miss what's really important.

I wonder if it just might mean we more easily remember why we do all we do and what this time of year should really be all about.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


     "This is what the Lord says:
          Stand at the crossroads and look;
               ask for the ancient paths,
          ask where the good way is,
               and walk in it,
          and you will find rest for your souls."
                                    -Jeremiah 6:16

Show me the way Lord
I'm standing at the crossroads
I want to go Your way
Show me the good way

Show me the ancient path
Walked by many before
Clear the way, so I can see
Your good and ancient path

That path so many have walked
The path of all those before
Who chose to go Your way
Who chose what You desired

Clear the ancient way of old
Remove what covers where it goes
The beautiful ground, worn smooth
By so many gone before me

The way that leads to rest
The way that leads to life
The ancient path to home
To living in Your presence

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Approaching God with Anticipation & Excitement

These days when I open the door at my parent's house, more often than not I'm greeted by little footsteps running to see whose there. Or if my niece isn't able to run and see, she's straining to see the door and calling out to whoever it might be.

As long as she's home when I arrive, the anticipation and excitement of seeing who just came in is there. And I watch it happen as other people arrive as well.

The more I think about it, the more I feel like God is using this repeated occurrence in my life to teach me more about the kind of relationship He wants to have with me - with each of us.

Scripture tells us that we have been adopted into God's family. We have become His children (Galatians 4:4-7). We have the privilege of calling Him Father.

That relationship means we can come running into His presence with excitement and anticipation about being with Him.

Just as, when I arrive my niece is excited to see me and anticipating what we'll do together, I can be excited to meet with God and see what He has planned for our time together. We can approach the time with anticipation because we can be sure His plan is for our good.

How do you usually approach your time with God? Do you anticipate it with excitement? Or is it something of a duty to you?

Getting to the point of approaching time with God with anticipation and excitement, begins with asking Him to increase that in you. If you don't have it, ask God for it. As you start and you get some of that, it grows in you. God wants to spend the time with us, He make the way for us to the point of approaching our time with Him with excitement and anticipation.