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Each person should judge his own actions and not compare himself with others. Then he can be proud for what he himself has done. Galatians 6:4 (NCV)

One of the most dangerous games we play is the comparison game. Watch a couple children at play. It’s not long before they compare toys, the clothes they are wearing, how tall they are, hair color and a variety of other things. As we get older the rules change somewhat, but the game is the same. We measure ourselves by the yardstick of other people.

Those in struggling marriages look at their friends spouse and say, ‘If only my spouse was like him/her.’

We look at someone else’s child and say, ‘If only my son/daughter would be like so and so’.

We do it at church. ‘I wish I could pray like she does; preach like he does; sing like they do.’

Pastors do it when they measure success rates by the number of people in the pews, the number of baptisms, or by flaunting the number of salvations like a WW1 pilot, stamping the icon on their pulpit.

Writers do it when we measure our success by the books we have published, the blog readers we have or the accolades we get. (Yeah, I know. That one hurts.)

One of the many problems with the comparison game is that it works in reverse as well. When life goes wrong for you, when the relationships fail, the finances fall short, the decisions you make put you in the ‘one of those’ category, comparisons hurt.

It was the comparison game the brought the woman to the well that hot day to meet Jesus. Self-respecting women went to get water in the morning. She went at noon when there was less chance of meeting people, less chance of being looked down on, less chance of the comparison game.

There is subtleness to the comparison game. Well-meaning Sunday School teachers and preachers speak against pride in such a way that we might think we should never be proud of our accomplishments. Never feel good about the work we do or the talents we have lest the ugly serpent ‘pride’ shows up.

Galatians is the book of grace. The book of freedom in Christ. Paul tells us Each person should judge his own actions and not compare himself with others. Then he can be proud for what he himself has done. Galatians 6:4 (NCV)” The message is really two-fold. On the one hand I will never look at my talents and abilities and make you feel inferior. God made you the way he did. I’ll accept that.

On the other hand, I too am a child of God. I have different gifts talents and abilities. Life has taken me down a different road than it’s take you. That doesn’t make me less loved of God. That doesn’t make me less of his child. I will not allow your opinion of me to alter, in any way, my opinion of myself (in Christ) or my opinion of you.

PRAYER: Lord thank you for making me, me. I have bruises and blemishes. I fail (sometimes miserably) and sometimes I need an attitude adjustment. Still, you love me and for that I am eternally grateful. Keep me from comparing myself to others. Protect me from those intent on comparing themselves to me. Amen.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35 (NLT)

One of my favorite past times is to watch people. You have to be discreet in this process because there’s a fine line between watching people and staring at people. People tend to get a bit uncomfortable if they sense some stranger is staring at them…but I digress.

Sometimes when you are watching a group of people it’s pretty easy to see the family resemblances.

‘That group over there? The father and mother are with their son and daughter-in-law. It’s obvious that the young man is the son. He’s the image of his father! And the young lady? Obviously part of the group, but not by blood. She looks nothing like the rest of the group. Accepted? Yep. Blood relative? Not a chance’

Jesus tells us that people will know we, as Christ-followers, will know we are family. They’ll know we are the children of our Heavenly Father. How? Not by hair color or color of the eyes. Not by the protruding chin or obnoxious laugh. Nope, people will know we are children of our heavenly father because our love for one another will be obvious. Our love for each other is the defining characteristic of being a Christ-follower.

That love isn’t bound by denominational lines, theological persuasions, past experiences or relational stability. It’s not controlled by a particular eschatological view point, race, gender or political party. It’s not determined by our ability (or inability) to drive properly, sing on key or practice some particular spiritual gift. Our love for one another supersedes anything we see here on earth.

So the question each of us must answer today is this: “Do others see that I’m a child of my Heavenly Father by the way I love others who are different than me?”  Think about that answer before you blurt it out. Is there someone you haven’t forgiven yet? Is there someone you’ve offended that you haven’t made it right? Have you spoken evil of someone or sarcastically joked about them?

How can you show the love of the Father to someone you don’t particularly agree with? How can you show patience and acceptance to people who live a life-style that goes against your personal convictions? In a word, how will you show God’s grace to those around you today? That’s what love is really about. Showing God’s Grace to those who deserve it the least.

PRAYER: Father there are so many times I let my personal feelings get in the way of how I treat other people. So many times when I can rationalize my critical spirit and judgmental nature. Please forgive me for the lack of love and grace in relationships with others, especially my brothers and sisters in Christ. Empower me by your Spirit to let others see your image of love in my life. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

It’s amazing to me how much power we have to affect the lives of others as well as ourselves. We think of God as being all-powerful and we as being weak human beings and, comparatively of course, that’s true. The all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God is no match for our frailty as human beings.

The other side of that coin is that we are made in the image of God. As such He has given us the tremendous power to choose. The most important choice we make everyday is whether to believe what God says about us or to believe what we and others say about us.

This battle has raged in our lives since conception! There is research to suggest that the tiniest of embryo senses the love of its mother. Then, from birth the formation begins in earnest. Our parents love and compassion, or anger and frustration tell us (often unintentionally) that we are good or bad, smart or stupid, and while most parents would never admit this, worthy or worthless.

We enter school and learn quickly whether we are part of the ‘in crowd’ or not. If we are we have worth, if not, then destiny will take its course and most likely we will spend our lives wishing we could be something we are not and overlooking the jewel that we are.

Solomon tells us a cheerful heart is medicine for a crushed spirit. A cheerful heart is a heart that knows who I am and knows that although I may fail, I am a child of God. I have worth. I am just exactly how He wants me.

For many of us our spirit was crushed years ago. The phrase ‘dries up the bones’ has the word picture of the very marrow of the bones being dried up. When our spirits are crushed we wither away from the inside until we are nothing but a shell. No one sees dried bones. They are covered by the skin, the mask we put on every day.

Dried bones so often can start with a single, well-placed word of condemnation by a parent, a friend or a spouse. Jesus says, “If you speak in anger against your brother you are guilty of murder”; James says that “If we never stumble in what we say we are perfect.” Paul says, “Let no unwholesome word come from your mouth;” and the list goes on.

How you feel about yourself and others is shown in the words you speak. How you feel about yourself is often determined by your reaction to their words. The best cure for dry bones, the healing salve for a crushed spirit is Jesus. Don’t listen to the voices that have so long told you that you can’t, or won’t succeed. Stop believing the lies that have been impaled on your heart for so long.

You are God’s greatest creation. Jesus died for you because He loves you. Now that He sees how you turned out…He’d do it again. Listen to the heart of God concerning you. Today make the choice to believe what He says about you. Let the healing salve of His love soothe your crushed spirit and bring life to your dry bones.

PRAYER: Father, I’m brought to tears when I think about the lies I’ve listened to all these years. I’m ashamed of the times I’ve probably been responsible for crushing a few spirits of those I love as well. In Jesus name I ask that you would forgive me for the damage I’ve done and heal the damage others have inflicted on me. By the power of Your Spirit I’m resolved, starting today, to live in the awareness of Your love and presence in every aspect of my life. Amen.

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

We are free because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who are Christ-followers hold this truth as the foundation of our faith and the motivation for all that we say and do. Our faith is based solely on Jesus Christ.

The entire book of Galatians can be summed up in one word. Freedom. Grace gives us the freedom we need to face the sometimes seemingly insurmountable obstacles in our way on this journey we call life.

Along with those obstacles come intentional or unintentional attempts by the enemy to rip the freedom we have in Jesus from our hands. He is a cunning enemy. He uses circumstances, people and even religion to try to enslave us. When it works we can find ourselves in more bondage than we were in before we came to Jesus.

Paul gives us a two word battle plan to protect our freedom. He tells the Galatian Church, and us, to STAND FIRM! That’s it. Stand. And while you are standing, stand firm. Immovable. Resolute. Unwavering.

Normally we think of defending our freedom in terms of warfare. It’s either fight or flight. We fight like a cornered animal if need be and run like a scared rabbit if necessary. As Christ followers all we need to do is stand. Jesus fought the battle on the cross and in the grave. He won! It’s over. Signed, sealed and delivered. Done. Period.

Standing isn’t normally considered a position of warfare. But standing in the face of adversity takes courage, strength and trust. A story is told of a neighborhood bully known to pick on dogs in the area. The ‘bully’ was a big old tomcat. In his wisdom he’d learned that dogs could only go as far as their chain or fence would allow them to come. He would walk just outside the perimeter of the chain or fence and stand. The dogs would come running until they reached the ‘end of their rope’ and come to a sudden, painful stop. The tomcat simply stood because he knew he was in no danger.

As Christ-followers we can stand in the face of adversity because we know we are free. We stand outside the perimeter of the enemy. He can’t hurt us any longer. We can trust our Savior to see us through and protect us.

Ask the Father to help you stand firm in the battle before you. Develop the faith-muscle you need to be unwavering using the PAS method.

P – Pray. The single most formidable weapon we have as Christ-followers is to pray. God is there and wants to hear your heart.

A– Accountability. Surround yourselves with people who are truly interested in encouraging your gifts, building you up and guiding you according to God’s word. Religion enslaves you. Relationship with Jesus frees you.

S – Scripture. God’s word is His letter to you. In it he holds the keys to how you can stand firm in Him. Read it daily. Study it with your accountability group. Take it with you into battle as you would a shield and weapon. It is not outdated. It is relevant for today.

PRAYER: Holy Father, I thank you for the freedom I have in Jesus Christ. I pray that you would remove the guilt and shame of past mistakes. I invite your Holy Spirit to enter into my life and guide, protect and strengthen me to stand in the midst of the obstacles that are before me. Empower me to stand firm in You. Amen.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37

One day Jesus was teaching His disciples and other followers about the Kingdom of God. In all of His teachings two main topics were always at the root of what He taught us. First of all, each of us, regardless of skin color, gender, or ethnic background is a creation of God. Since God created all of us, then we are all equal.

The second main thing that Jesus always taught was that life centered on relationship. Relationship with God; relationships with ourselves and relationships with others. Nothing in life is more important than these three key relationships. When these relationships are in harmony with each other the result is love, acceptance and forgiveness. However, when even one of these relationships is flawed, life takes a different turn. Rather than love, a judgmental attitude develops. Rather than acceptance, condemnation rears its ugly head. Forgiveness is replaced by bitterness, anger and revenge.

Jesus says, “Don’t judge others”. No one likes to be judged, yet it happens all the time. People judge you on the basis of your past,  your parents, your church attendance or lack of it, how you dress or speak, and the list goes on and on.

Who you are is not so much determined by how others see you but by how you see yourself. When we realize that we are children of God then what others say about us and to us shouldn’t affect us in a negative way. When others verbally attack us we can simply say (preferably to ourselves) “Sorry. What  you are saying about me is simply not true. I’m a child of the King. God made me the way I am, flaws and all. I’m important to Him and that is what really matters!”

The same attitude should be in us when it comes to looking at others. We may not like the way people act. We may be appalled at their past or present actions or language. We may disagree with their religious beliefs, or lack thereof. They may have different skin color, heritage, church affiliation or political stands. Even so, they ARE created by God. To ridicule, hate or judge others is really a statement about God. Our negative attitudes and actions towards others reveal an attitude that says, “God made a mistake when He made you.”

Don’t allow a judgmental spirit to cloud your view of others. Sometimes people will do things to you that will destroy your relationship with them. Ask for God to help you remain in a spirit of acceptance and forgiveness. Remember that forgiving others for their harmful actions doesn’t mean you have to trust them or restore the relationship. Forgiveness and non-judgmental attitudes free you to go on.

PRAYER: Holy God. I thank you that no matter what other people say about me, I am  your child. I confess to you here and now that I have hatred in my heart towards others and have a hard time forgiving them for the abuse they have caused. I hesitate to accept those who are different from me even though I know they are your creations. Reveal to me any harmful attitudes I have towards others. Forgive me for those feelings and empower me through your Holy Spirit to live free of a critical and judgmental attitude. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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