Comparisons Are Killers

It is always a thrill for me to watch a young leader excel so wonderfully! Yesterday I listened as our youth pastor Josh Schram brilliantly illustrated a key component that can kill relationships or build them up.

Trust me: Josh’s opening illustration is worth the watch in the video below!

Here are a few takeaways I had from Josh’s message…

A relationship killer is comparing yourself to others. 

Comparing yourself to others may make you feel superior to them or inferior to them, but neither of these feelings serve a useful purpose, and neither of them honors God.

The fastest way to kill something God is doing in your life is to compare it to what He’s doing in someone else’s life.

When we compare someone else’s highlight reel to our behind-the-scenes mess, it makes us feel less than what God intends because it always increases dissatisfaction. Remember: living this way is comparing yourself to an artificial standard.

Notice how God speaks to us as individuals—Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. (Galatians 6:4-5, emphasis added)

A relationship builder is examining yourself.

Jesus ran His own race, and we are called on to remove any obstacles that keep us from running our own race too (see Hebrews 12:1-2).

  • Run your own race.
  • Stay in your lane.
  • Stay focused on Jesus.

No one can be a better you than you.

Remember: someone else’s success is NOT your failure (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

I need to ask myself: Am I being the best me I can be with what God has equipped me to be? If the answer is “yes” then everyone else gets better!

Don’t compare your relationship with God or with other people to others’ relationships. Instead, examine yourself to make sure you are being the best you God created you to be!

Thursdays With Oswald—Popular Christianity?

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Popular Christianity? 

     Take the popular idea of Christianity and compare it with the patience of the saints, and you will see where we are. Popular Christianity says, “We must succeed.” … We are determined to be successful, but the Apostle Paul says we are called upon to be faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). …  

     The way worldly sagacity argues is—Pay men back in their own coin, if you have been deceived, deceive in order to get your rights—“an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” You cannot do that if you are a saint. We must practice the expressed love of God and behave among the unseemly as the children of God. There is no test on earth to equal it. There is unseemly laughter at the saint—“Where is your success? what have you done? what is the good of missionary enterprise?” … 

     We do not need Jesus Christ and the Bible for the ordinary common-sense standpoint, and if in a crisis we act according to common sense we do not express the love of God. … 

     The test for the saint is not common sense, but “Is this is what Jesus Christ stood for?” 

From The Saints In A Disaster Of Worldliness

Standing true to Jesus Christ and the Bible is never popular.

So the question is—Do I want praise from men, or “Well done” from my Savior?

The Promised Power Of Pentecost

When the Israelites were delivered from Egypt on the night of Passover, fifty days later they arrived at Mount Sinai where God delivered the Ten Commandments to them. This became the birth of the Jewish nation. For millennia following this, not only did the Jewish people observe Passover but they also celebrated “The Feast of Weeks” (also known as Pentecost) fifty days following Passover.

But on the first Pentecost after Christ ascended to Heaven, something amazing happened which was a game-changer for the new Christians. An event which became the birth of the Christian nation.

On that Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit was poured out on Christ’s followers in a way never before seen in history. Although this had never been seen before, it was the fulfillment of something God had promised thousands of years before.

  1. Promised

This blessing of the Holy Spirit had been hinted at when God first called Abraham, as He promised that from Abraham would come a blessing for all peoples on earth (Genesis 12:3). Jesus said that this blessing would be realized with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and then Peter tied the Day of Pentecost experience to the fulfillment of those promises (Acts 2:38-39).

  1. Commanded

Jesus had this empowerment of the Holy Spirit and He wanted all of His followers to have it too, so His directive to His follower is not a suggestion. Twice when Jesus tells His followers to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the verbs He uses are commands (see Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4).

  1. Normal Experience

For the first Christians, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a normal experience for them following salvation. This baptism gave them power to…

  1. Initial Evidence

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is accompanied by an initial physical evidence of speaking in a language you’ve never studied. This is to be an unmistakable proof—primarily to you—of the Spirit’s outpouring. But the ongoing development of Christlike character is the continual evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

So what’s the controversy? Why do people spend so much time arguing this baptism isn’t for us, or for now? If we start down that path, what else are we going to say is outdated or exclusive for some?

Doesn’t seem much more logical to simply accept what God promised all His people?!

So here’s the question I would ask you—Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit? If not, why not?

True Beauty vs. Pornography

God’s design for sex is truly the most beautiful thing that exists between two people. Its counterfeit is called pornography. Porn is simulated, imitated, and purchased; but no price tag can ever buy true beauty.

God demonstrates the purest love in Himself, when one part of the Godhead is the Lover and the other parts of the Godhead are the Beloved. The Lover is constantly discovering the beauty in the Beloved, and then praising that beauty. The Beloved then reciprocates back to the Lover. It’s a love dance! 

Humans are created in God’s image. We are first created to be God’s beloved. Then we are designed to be both lover and beloved in the bonds of marriage. True beauty—real, lasting beauty that pleases God—is discovered. It’s something that starts inside and radiates outside. A true lover takes the time to discover who the beloved truly is.

To see this in action, just look at some of the compliments between husband and wife in the Song of Songs—How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! … How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming! … Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens. … My lover is mine and I am his. … All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.

True love that sees this kind of beauty cannot be imitated, purchased or simulated. If someone attempts to, it’s called pornography.

The dictionary gives this definition of pornography: sexually explicit materials whose purpose is to elicit sexual arousal. In other words, porn tries to imitate and simulate true beauty at a purchase price.

Jesus identified this sell-out of true love with the Greek word porneia (see Mark 7:14-23). This word means any sexual involvement outside the marriage between a husband and wife. Porneia comes from words that fill out its definition: things like prostitution, idolatry, and slavery.

Your body was not made for porneia but for God (1 Corinthians 6:13). You were made in His image: to be His Beloved, and He your Lover, and then to have a marriage relationship with another image-bearer of God, where you are both lover and beloved, and where you focus on true beauty.

Anything else is imitated, purchased, and simulated. It’s pornography. It’s idolatry.

Christians are told to fight many temptations, but there are only two that we are told not to fight, but to flee: pornography (1 Corinthians 6:18) and idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). So our prayer for the purity and enjoyment of God’s true beauty should be: Turn my eyes away from worthless things (Psalm 119:37).

Don’t sell out to the fake beauty in pornography. Discover true beauty exclusively in your spouse!

We’ll be looking at more relationship builders and killers, and I’d love to have you along for this journey of discovery.

Thursdays With Oswald—No Fear Of Death

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

No Fear Of Death

     Death means extinction of life as we understand it; our dead are gone and have left an aching void behind them. They do not talk to us, we do not feel their touch, and when the bereaved heart cries out, nothing comes back but the hollow echo of its own cry. The heart is raw, no pious chatter, no scientific cant can touch it. It is the physical calamity of death plus the thing behind which no man can grasp, that makes death so terrible. …

     Every attempt to comfort a bereaved soul apart from the revelation of Jesus Christ brings a vain speculation. We know nothing about the mystery of death apart from what Jesus Christ tells us; but blessed be the Name of God, what He tells us makes us more than conquerors, so that we can shout the victory through the darkest valley of the shadow that ever a human being can go through. … 

     Jesus Christ can deliver from the dread of death—“that through death He might bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is the devil” [Hebrews 2:14]. Death has no terror for the man who is rightly related to God through Jesus Christ. … 

     It is not within the power of human tongue or archangel’s tongue to state what an awful fact death is, and what a still more awful fact life is. But thank God, there is the greatest deliverance conceivable from all that life may bring and from all that death may bring. Jesus Christ has destroyed the dominion of death, and He can make us fit to face every problem of life, more than conqueror all along the line.

From The Fighting Chance 

Through His death on the Cross and bodily resurrection from the grave, Jesus Christ has defeated Death for all who place their faith in this victory He won for us (see 1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

The Apostle Paul tells us that Christians grieve when a loved one dies, but we don’t grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). When one who knows Jesus as their Savior dies, we have a rock-solid, unshakable hope that they are fully alive with Christ in Heaven, and that we who also know Jesus as Lord and Savior will one day be reunited with them.

So for the Christian, death brings absolutely no fear! 

5 Key Parts To A Synergy Relationship

img_1970King David of Israel was a stud! Outstanding song writer, professional shepherd, bear killer, lion killer, giant killer, decorated army general, and ultimately king of Israel.

Near the end of his life we read an extensive list of Mighty Men that supported David. Some of these guys were also giant killers. One guy singlehandedly defeated 300 enemies, another guy defeated 800 bad guys, one guy killed a lion, and on and on the list goes.

I believe it is clear that David wouldn’t have become king without the support of his Mighty Men, and these guys probably wouldn’t have been recognized as “Mighty Men” without David’s support.

This is a classic definition of synergy. Synergy is when the outcome is so much greater than just the addition of the parts. Sort of like 1 + 1 = 5.

All of us can be a part of synergistic relationships, if we will include these five key parts.

[1] Humility

Without humility, you will never let anyone else into your life, and it’s doubtful they will let you in. Humility says, “I don’t have all the answers. I need some help in fulfilling my God-given dream. I have some areas of weakness where you are strong.”

[2] Confidence

Just like humility, without confidence it’s doubtful others would allow you access to their lives. Confidence says, “I have some something I am willing to offer you. I have a God-given strength in an area where you may be struggling.” The Apostle Paul said, all of us have strengths that God has given us that are to be used to help others (1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:7).

[3] Collaboration

Quite simply, in order for synergy to work, the people in the relationship have to be willing to labor together. Paul used the example of one person planting the seed and another person watering the seed. Both laborers are necessary if there is going to be a harvest.

[4] Patience

The journey with others may be slower and messier than traveling solo, but it’s so much more rewarding (see Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

[5] Investment

Synergy is really about there being a return on investment. But if you’re not willing to invest your time, your learning, your love, can you really expect there to be a synergistic return?

I just wrapped up a year-long investment with a group of guys from my church. What an amazing time! I am definitely better for having been involved with this synergy group, and I believe all of the other guys would tell you the same thing. You, too, can experience this same joy by investing in a synergy group of your own!

A Unique Look At “Church”

gods-people-are-the-saintsHave you ever noticed that nowhere in the New Testament do we see an “order of service” for a church congregation? It’s simply not there.

Neither is there a list of acceptable songs, or the design of a church building, or how or when Communion is served, or even what clothing the pastor is supposed to wear. Yet we modern-day Christians seem to spend a lot of time not only arguing about these non-essentials, but even (gasp!) evaluating the “churchness” of a church based on these things.

It’s understandable, then, when someone says, “I enjoy being a Christian, but I really don’t like going to church.” Or even insisting that they can be a Christian without attending a church.

But here’s where those statements miss the mark: “Church” was never intended to be merely a group of people who met at a designated address once a week.

The Church that Jesus described—and the Church the apostles were a part of—was a living organism. It was fellow followers of Jesus Christ interacting with each other as they worshiped the Lord.

The Apostle Peter describes a gathering of Christians in just one verse. In this verse he gives five descriptors of how Church should be done. To stress the point that every gathering of Christians is unique, three of Peter’s five descriptors are found nowhere else in Scripture.

  1. Live in harmony with one another (the first unique word)

One translation has this as “one mind.” Paul has a similar thought in 1 Corinthians 14:20. The bottom line—get on the same page working toward the same goal. What’s that goal? Pointing people to Jesus!

      2.  Be sympathetic (the next unique word)

A definition we may better understand is “empathy.” This world literally means to “vibrate with others.” Be on in tune with what they’re going through that you can feel it just like it was happening to you.

      3.  Love as brothers

This is the Greek word philadelphos, which means to treat other Christians like they’re from the same womb as you.

      4.  Be compassionate

That is: be strong enough to step into other people’s stuff. Keep on increasing your capacity to carry a bigger load for someone else (Galatians 6:2).

      5.  Be humble (the last unique word)

The King James Version translates this “courteous.” Not just being strong enough to help, but gentle enough that your help will be accepted.

Let me repeat: The Church is not a physical address where we gather once per week. YOU are the temple of God’s presence, which is why Jesus said if just two of His followers get together, He is right there with them. That’s right—two Christians can have “church” wherever they happen to meet! 

Don’t just go to church, BE the church. Don’t miss an opportunity to encourage, pray with, instruct, or learn from another Christ-follower whenever and wherever you happen to meet.

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