Comparison is a Killer

28 05 2018

I am not totally sure why comparison is so often our human go-to mode.

I’m guessing the experts would have a lot to say on the subject, but the Bible has something to say as well.  It states, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.  When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”  (II Cor. 10:12)  Pretty straightforward, eh?

 

Some years ago I wrote a tract about developing a child’s self-esteem and started out with the story of Maggie.  I observed that Maggie never combed her hair, brushed her teeth, looked in a mirror or compared herself with anyone.  She was our Labrador Retriever whose full name was Sweet Magnolia of Pheasant Hills, aka Maggie.  She knew who she was, who she was created to be and she knew our unconditional love and acceptance of her.  Perhaps that’s what’s missing in our lives…knowing who we are, what we’re created for and that we’re all unconditionally loved and approved of by our Father in heaven.

 

The Bible says that comparison is unwise. Why? When we compare ourselves to someone else we typically come up short or proud, insignificant or feeling better than another.  Obviously these outcomes are unproductive and self-deprecating.  Comparison is often full of feeling less than, not measuring up or lacking in performance.  Or, it’s full of pride, feeling better than and viewing oneself as more significant than others by out performing.  Crazy thing is it’s all within our own minds.

 

If you have children help them to not compare themselves.  Children have their own unique gifts and talents.  Do not make performance the determining factor of your love, acceptance and approval of them.  Never compare them with their sibling.  Comparison is full of critical judgment and will eventually kill their creativity.

 

Ask God to help you hear your own thoughts of comparison and allow Him to speak truth-filled words over you rather than your own negative or pride-filled mental dialogue.  I wrote another prayer tract called, Who I am in Christ and it is filled with the truth of scripture to help you know whose you are and why you exist so that comparison can end once and for all.

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Growing a Childs Self-esteem

8 01 2018

Maggie has never had a problem with her self-image.  She loves life and makes the best of every minute. She loves people and believes that they all love and accept her unconditionally.  Maggie has never stared into a mirror and felt hopeless. She’s never even desired to look at herself in a mirror and make any kind of judgment.  She is perfectly content with who she is, what she wears, the shape of her body, the color of her eyes, the size of her nose, and the shape of her ears.  Maggie blindly trusts in her Creator.  She is content to be who she is. You see, Maggie is our yellow Labrador Retriever.

There is a lesson in Maggie’s self-acceptance. Maggie is loved and accepted for who she is as a part of our family. She doesn’t need to perform for us. Does she always obey and not get into trouble? No. But her disobedience has never changed the fact that we love her, and she knows it. Neither has it changed how she sees herself. Maggie does not compare herself to the other dogs that wander into our yard. She’s never put herself on a diet because of a fear of losing her wonderful figure. She’s not even concerned about belching or the breath that comes from never brushing her teeth. Maggie is secure in just being a dog and knows her significance to our family.

Early in life children are quite similar. They can look in a mirror and see only good.  Children believe what they’re told.  If I tell my daughter 3 + 3 = 6, she’ll say, “Okay Daddy, 3 + 3 = 6.”

If her older brother tells her the next day that the sum of 4 + 2 = 6, she’ll disagree, because the day before she was told that 3 + 3 = 6. Your pre-school children think in a one-dimensional manner. They do not think abstractly. They cannot decipher truth. They only know what you tell them.

A child receives his self-image through how he perceives the adults in his life perceiving him. When I tell my daughter that she’s beautiful, she will believe that she is beautiful. You see, someone who is very important to her, someone she can trust, someone who is bigger, older, wiser and stronger told her something about herself, and she has no reason to not believe it.

Obviously, the opposite is true. If I, as a parent, tell my children they’re stupid, dumb, bad, worthless, or they have no value, they’ll believe those things and act accordingly. Today we would call this emotional abuse. Years ago it was simply punishment through shame or keeping children “in their place.”

The first stage of a child discovering his worth is through the eyes of those who are important to him. The second is similar but has more to do with performance.

It is not long until we as parents expect things from our children.  We expect them to do their chores, keep their rooms clean, and finish their homework. When they do, we may reward them. When they don’t, we’re sure to let them know about it. Expectations are not wrong; chores are not wrong; rewards are not wrong; and words of correction are not wrong. What is wrong is if you develop within your child this formula:  accomplishment + performance = approval/reward.

God has expectations of His children, but it is not our performances or our accomplishments that gain His approval. God is perfect, yet He is not into perfectionism. In our mere existence, He approves of us.

Let me illustrate. When you brought your newborn son or daughter home from the hospital, did you expect anything of him or her? Did you say, “Here’s the refrigerator; when you’re hungry go ahead and grab a bite to eat”? Of course you didn’t. You expected to do everything for this child without return. It was lots of hard work and sleepless nights. In this baby’s mere existence, you approved of him or her. You had no expectation of performance. That baby, without earning it, had your approval.  Likewise, in your mere existence before God, you have His approval.

When your child begins to relate his or her performance to your approval, he begins to equate what he does as more important than who he is. Ask anyone who felt that he could not perform well enough to meet his parents’ standard, and he’ll tell you that he did not feel good about himself.

If we as parents are relating self-esteem to what our child accomplishes, we are wrong. God is not a harsh taskmaster who only gives His approval when we accomplish something for Him. Before Jesus began His earthly ministry, before performing one miracle, or sharing His first sermon, His Father said to Him, “…this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” What was He pleased with? What had Jesus accomplished?  Even before Christ began His public ministry, His Father affirmed Him and spoke His unconditional love and acceptance to Him.

The answer to a child’s self-esteem is not a high-esteem. The answer is a God-esteem. Your love, acceptance, and approval of your child must eventually translate for him into knowing his heavenly Father’s love, acceptance, and approval.

How is this accomplished? I must correct and reward my children. It’s a part of life. However, I must differentiate that while reward and correction have to do with behavior, it is never a question that I love and accept their personhood. In their mere existence, they are important to me. I always approve of them as individuals. They can never do anything to not be my children. A verse in Colossians, chapter one, will help to explain this principle. Verse 21 tells us that we were at one time alienated from God—even in our minds, because of our evil behavior. “But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation…”

Can you grasp that you are “holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation”? Can you instill these words of truth in your child? This is an esteem not based upon performance or accomplishment but based upon what Christ has done.  It’s a God-esteem!

Note: If you would like this article in tract form you can order it here.





A Special Christmas Video For You

24 12 2017

For my Christmas blog I decided to share with you my grandson’s favorite Christmas video.  I hope you enjoy it as much as he does, because he insists on watching it over and over and over.  Maybe you won’t watch it repeatedly, but I trust you’ll enjoy the Christmas message it brings.

Thank you for a wonderful year of responses to what I have written on a weekly basis.  I do enjoy your feedback and look forward to a brand new year of sharing with you. Have a very merry Christmas with you and yours.  Enjoy the celebration of the birth of our Savior!

 





That’s You; That’s Me in His Sight

13 11 2017

I was recently able to spend the greater part of a week with my newest grandson, Phoenix. Yep, my baby girl had a baby boy and she is a GREAT mother to him.

Young Phoenix is helpless and that’s how God gives new life to us as parents. God places these precious ones into our hands and we have to teach them in every conceivable way, helping them to thrive. The only thing Phoenix really knows to do and do well is to cry. He has discovered that crying gets attention and attention is what a newborn desperately needs.

I couldn’t help but watch my daughter’s love and joy around this little guy, mothering him, happily doing everything for him even when it’s 4:00 AM. She told me in conversation, “All he does is sleep and eat, poop and cry and we LOVE him.”

I remember those days…perhaps you do as well. To love someone so much and yet the only return you get, you desire, is that they breathe the breath of life. Your acceptance of them is based not on their performance, but on their mere existence.

That’s you; that’s me in the Father’s sight, before we accomplish anything He loves us, approves of us and treasures us. We are His “treasured possession.” (See Deuteronomy 7:6)





The Sin of Greed; The Blessing of Generosity

6 11 2017

Were you aware of the fact that greed is sin? Not sure if I ever heard a sermon on that subject, but it is. Jesus once told the Pharisees that the inside of their cup was full of greed and self-indulgence. Yikes! Greed was even in a list of sins that Jesus mentioned in Mark chapter seven. And in Luke He told us to be on guard from all kinds of greed.

The Apostle Paul in Ephesians described greed as a “continual lust for more.” Then he went on to say that among us there should not even be a hint of greed. In Colossians it was called an “earthly desire.”

No matter how you look at it, greed in the Bible was not a good thing. But, I’ll tell you what is…generosity. You might say being generous is the opposite of greed. I wasn’t raised to be generous or greedy, but I have discovered that one is far more productive, satisfying and pleasure-filled than the other. That tight grip of greed is self-centered and perhaps that’s why Jesus was so verbal about it. The ones steeped in a religious spirit were greedy and self-consuming. It represented everything He was not.

It was with generosity that God sent His only Son. It was with generosity that collections were taken in the early church for the churches that were in need. It was a generous spirit that caught the eye of our Lord when He saw the widow placing her few copper coins in the offering plate. We can be generous with a lot of money or very little money; rarely is it the amount. We can be generous with our possessions and our time. We can possess a generous heart, just like our Father.

How generous are you with that guy holding the sign on the street corner, your restaurant server, the paper or mail delivery person, your garbage hauler, your local church, missionaries, your children, your spouse or your neighbor? A generous lifestyle is a prosperous lifestyle.

 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25





10 Reasons Why We Need a Local Church in Our Lives

16 10 2017

I recently returned from serving a local church in Chicago, IL and was reminded in so many different ways of why we each need a local church in our lives and the lives of our family. To me it is imperative to be in close relationship with those persons who care about you and your family. It is essential to have that connection for not just receiving, but giving as well.

So, here are 10 reasons for being intentionally connected to a local church.

 

  1. Support – A local church connection provides support to family and/or us as individuals. It is a vehicle that God has chosen to provide spiritual and emotional support for personal growth. It is a spiritual family with fathers and mothers who will care about you and your future. (I Cor. 4:5; Heb. 12:9; I John 2:13, 14)
  2. Fellowship (koinonia) – The local church is a place of relational connection and belonging. It is a place of family with common life values. We are not alone in this world when we have a local church connection. We have people around us who personally care about our welfare. Wholesome and positive friendships can develop with our younger children, our teenagers and ourselves. An active, involved, dedicated and serious youth group can save a teen’s life. (Acts 2:42; I John 1:7)
  3. Service – The local church is a place where we can work toward and support a vision outside of ourselves. We all need something bigger than ourselves and a local church with vision can provide that. We can connect with the vision and find valuable ways to serve others. (Acts 12:24, 25)
  4. Gifts – It is a place for us to learn, practice and use our spiritual gifts. The body of Christ needs one another and the gifts that we each bring. Those gifts given us by God are not to be hidden, but made use of to serve others. The local church is the perfect place to use your teaching, serving, hospitality, prayer or mission gifts. (I Cor. 12: 12-27; I Peter 4:10)
  5. Resources – A local church is extremely important to a family. There are resources available at every age level to participate in. There are ongoing trainings and seminars for raising children, budgeting, marriage and the like. Often there are even counseling, coaching and mentoring resources. Families who attend church together have a clear advantage over those who do not – they have resources above and beyond themselves. There is far less isolation and far more family interaction with spiritual connections and challenges. (II Timothy 2:2)
  6. Outreach – A local church is often the vehicle for local community outreach. Local churches are involved with the homeless in their community, the after school tutoring and the missionaries serving overseas. Your family can have a direct effect and impact in the world by participating with these worthy causes. (II Timothy 4:5)
  7. Education – The local church is a place of education in the Bible and in practical Christian living. It is a place where our whole family can grow through sermons, Sunday school classes, seminars, video classes and so much more. (II Timothy 3:16, 17)
  8. Groups – Small groups provide accountability and discipleship for each of our lives. The small group setting is a place of greater relational intimacy while it provides room for open discussion and opportunities for praying together. (Acts 5:42; 16:34; 20:20; Romans 16:5; I Cor. 16:19)
  9. Giving – The local church is the place to give our tithe and sow financial seed into something that we know and trust. We can give elsewhere to a lot of really good causes, but it’s difficult to know where our money is going. Not so with the local church and the built-in responsibility that is offered. (Malachi 3:10; Matthew 6: 3,4; Romans 12:8)
  10. Accountability – When we are part of a local church, there is a provision aspect of someone watching over our soul, someone(s) caring about our daily life and our future. There is the possibility of others who we can look up to that are inspiring models in integrity, marriage, spiritual gifts, etc. There are positive peer relationships that help us to keep moving forward in our faith, growing, being challenged and calling us to a higher level of faith. There are businesspersons and homemakers that can help us walk out our daily lives. (Psalm 119:26; Hebrews 13: 17)

I have experienced all of these and more in many local churches and I appreciate the body of Christ so much. God is not angry at His church as so many speak today, but rather, He loves His church, He died for His church and longs for His church to be with Him one day. Until then, be a vital part of a growing, Bible believing and faith-filled local church body. You and your family will grow and help to grow others.





Staying Together Chapter Eight: Putting Your Money Where Your Value Is

4 09 2017

Note: This thirteen-week blog series will share a snippet from each chapter of our new book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve & Mary Prokopchak. This book is now available through House to House Publications.

If your goal was to tear apart your marriage, money arguments would certainly help. But marriage is not about me and mine; it’s about us and ours.

Mary and I already confessed to you that our biggest disagreements early on in our marriage had to do with money. We talked about our differences in how we valued and viewed finances. But what we didn’t discuss was how to make those distinct differences a point of strength rather than a point of weakness within our relationship. Often, right down to the demise of a marriage relationship, we can experience deeply heated and contested issues over money and co-owned possessions.

If God provides for us and shares this wealth with us, then our position before Him is that it is all His, and we simply steward that which He shares with us.

“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Prov. 3:9-10). This is the first step in our own financial discipline. It is a step that says Jesus is Lord of our finances.

We will ask you to complete a budget in this chapter so that you can “see” what’s coming in and what’s going out, along with many other financial values questions to consider as a couple.

Other ordering options:

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/staying-together-steve-mary-prokopchak/1125534926?ean=9780768414905

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Staying-Together-Marriage-Life-Affair/dp/0768414903/ref=sr_1_2?s=beauty&ie=UTF8&qid=1499959168&sr=8-2&keywords=steve+prokopchak

CBD (Christianbooks.com): https://www.christianbook.com/staying-together-marriage-a-lifelong-affair/steve-prokopchak/9780768414905/pd/414905?event=ESRCG








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