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“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” ~ John 10:10-11

I’ve noticed a pattern. Maybe you have too. It is regular and systematic and happens daily without fail. It is assumed by our sworn enemy who is bent on our destruction. He slinks around, enticing us with the promise of false happiness. He offers calculated suggestions, deceptions, and rationalizations in an attempt to entrap us. He doesn’t particularly care how long it takes, but if we partake, the full impact of the action has immediate effect.

As we reel in remorse, the ever-ready accuser begins his second assault by piling on condemnation. Now he comes with a flood of lies of a different nature. They are no longer laced with temptation, but are a soul-searing arsenal of words whispering things like: You’re a fool! You don’t deserve grace. Why don’t you just give up? Any of those sound familiar?

There’s a vast difference between the way that Satan comes at us and the way God approaches us in our sin. Satan arrives as the condemner. He is a thief bent on nothing short of our destruction. We are advised to “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11)

Satan would take your life; Jesus gave His in your place.

With this realization, you have a choice to repent and be rescued from sin’s grip. It’s surprisingly simple. You confess your sin, ask to be forgiven, and choose to follow, or continue following, Christ. The promise that “you may have life and have it abundantly” remains, and Satan’s power is defeated. God provided a remedy through Jesus. Because of this, the battle is already won.

Just in case you’re feeling as though you’re already partially “devoured”, take comfort fellow sojourner. You are never too far from God’s reach, never too messy for His grace, never too spoiled for His loving touch. You can be pulled from the mouth of the lion, healed and made new again. His love, forgiveness and grace is limitless.

May you be reminded, through the words of John 3:16 paraphrased here, that God loved you so much he gave his one and only Son, so that if you believe in him you will not perish but have eternal life.

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  1. Where are you most tempted? Invite God’s help, strength, and strategy to stand firm.
  2. Where have you fallen short? Remember that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1-3

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How difficult it is not to judge! I was reminded of this recently when two of my children pointed out this propensity in me. Though not nice to hear, I’m glad they did or I, once again, may not have even noticed that particular plank.

Speck finding is easy. Locating planks…not so much.

In thinking about it, when playing judge, we take on a role we were never offered. Worse, whatever measure we use to judge, the same is piled back on us. This self-proclaimed loftiness reeks of self-righteous pride and turns the gospel upside down. Sitting in the judgment seat leaves little room for the miracle of mercy and the gift of grace. It’s like lowering a partition to make grace unreachable for those who are in desperate need. I hazard a guess that many more people would desire kingdom living if its citizens reeked more of love.

Jesus loved the ones the Pharisees judged to have missed the mark. He had a beautiful way of loving people in spite of their ‘junk’ and in the midst of their sin. He didn’t embrace the sin, but instead the person. With Jesus there was no shaming or making people feel they were unfit to be in His company. Amid His loving actions, a gently deposited word – or no words at all – there remained no condemnation. Instead there were changed lives.

Matthew gives this account: “When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’? On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-13)

When we spend time with Jesus, being renewed and reminded of who we are, our inclination to judge others recedes. After all, we are among those He reached out a mercy-filled touch to heal while we were still sinning. Just being with Jesus softens our critical, hard hearts. We don’t have to agree with the choices or behaviour of others in order to love them. A person is not the sin; the sin is not the person. We can love the person in the midst of their junk. Jesus did – and does – on a daily basis for us.

Won’t you join me in using those extracted planks for bridge building?

P.S. I love the story recorded in John about the adulterous woman. If you want a smile or need words of forgiveness, take a moment to read it now. (John 8:3-12)

I bless you that you would find your strength to love others unconditionally in the One who loves you that very same way!

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Take a moment to think of a person(s) you may have judged. Ask God for forgiveness and instead pray for that person.

 

“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” ~ Philippians 4:11-12

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It’s tremendously easy to get caught up in comparison. So simple to look at those around us and compare our physique, our intelligence, our skills or talents, our standard of living, the decor in our homes, our children’s behaviour, or our perceived level of success. You name it, we’ve probably compared it.

Once the comparison is complete, we rank ourselves on whether we’re better off. If we decide we’re higher up the totem pole, we feel rather good about ourselves; if not, we feel quite the opposite. Both are equally dangerous: the former leaves us open to pride, the latter to feeling insecure and insignificant.

Comparison is insidious because – left untreated – it can lead to discontentment, anger, bitterness, competitiveness, covetousness, condemnation, jealousy, lack of self-worth, and the breakdown of relationships. If I think you’re better than I, and allow that to make me feel less, I’m open to the assaults of the ever-ready accuser of my soul. He’s ready to whisper lies and insults at every turn, or drag up past words of criticism to fuel the fire of discontentment and low self-esteem.

Is there an antidote for comparison? The Bible says that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Tim 6:6) A healthy dose of thankfulness can help reverse our comparison illness; a healthy dose of God redirects our eyes. Keeping our eyes fixed on God, and continuing to be thankful, can help heal us to the point of contentment in any and every situation so that we will “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

Each one of us undergoes different challenges and circumstances. If we can discipline ourselves to abide and be thankful in every circumstance – both the good, the bad and the ugly – we’ll be more likely to live in contentment. In doing so, we’re better positioned to authentically celebrate both our own and others’ achievements, as well as encourage and comfort others in their distresses and failures. By adjusting our attitude to be one of thankfulness, and staying the course with Christ, we’re also more likely to walk in freedom, enjoy closer, more significant relationships, and remain secure in who we are in Christ.

Perhaps we could stand to be a bit gentler on ourselves and others, choosing to stick close to God – living out of the richness of His great love – and growing in thankfulness. Then we can freely celebrate one another for the miraculous and gifted human beings God created us to be.

May you grow in freedom from comparison, and choose to replace it with thankfulness and godliness.

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  1. Prayerfully make a list of those with whom you have compared yourself. Pray through that list, asking God to forgive you and help you move toward godliness, thankfulness and contentment.

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

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Maybe you’re like me and you like to figure things out. You strive to understand why something is happening, to comprehend why someone is treating you a certain way, or attempt to sort out what God is doing.

I think: if only I could make sense of the evil I see, if only I could apply some overarching truth to the madness in this world, if only I could find some sort of pattern, or future hope that reassures me this circumstance will change, people will improve, or God will let me in on the divine conversation in heaven, then I could relax.

Which sounds fairly reasonable…but is it?

Not really.

Because if I think about it enough, I realize those “if onlys” are a by-product of fear.

Let me explain.

When I am afraid, I’m not faith-full and clutch harder to control events, people, even God.

This fear-laden control is detrimental to relationships. It steals joy, squashes trust, and hinders hope.

If I understood everything in the midst of a crisis, if God downloaded the step-by-step plan, there would be no need to trust, to have faith, and to hope in things unseen.

One thing I have noticed a pattern of is God asking me to trust Him. And it seems the longer I live, this invitation to trust repeatedly shows up, in a variety of ways and through various hardships. I’ve been invited to trust Him with my marriage, my kids, my friends, my health, and my future. Of course, I’m meant to trust Him with everything, but He uses circumstances to make it clearer when I’m not. I’m to trust that He is working all things together for good and that – though it might not bear even a small amount of resemblance to how I imagined or even prayed it would look – it will be beautiful, it will be better, actually…the best.

God repeatedly reminds us not to be afraid. I assume it is mentioned over and over because He knows we are so prone to it, and because He knows how limitless the opportunities are in this world to be fearful.

The verse above was highlighted to me to other day and is packed with all I really need to be fearless: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding (don’t try to figure it all out). In all your ways acknowledge Him (abdicate control), and He will make your paths straight (steer my life in the direction He knows is best).

And this: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

…the peace of God will guard my heart and my mind. Who couldn’t use a healthy dose of that?

It’s not as though God is asking us not to think. Of course we do! But preferably we do so “not leaning on our own understanding”, which is prone to be life-squashing and fear-filled, and instead by learning to apply Godly wisdom that partners with Him to make life-giving decisions.

Will we always get it right? No! But as in anything, we are growing in fearless Christ-likeness. And that’s a worthy goal.

May we grow in greater trust and more often experience the peace of God.

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