Friday, 30 April 2010
It's Not Him, It's You
Jealousy takes many forms. In last week’s article I wrote about the jealousy we have over the material possessions or accomplishments of others. We can feel that type of jealousy toward anybody – male, female, old, young, friend, or stranger.
Another type of jealousy deals with exclusive relationships: “inclined to or troubled by suspicions or fears of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims.” We might call this “romantic jealousy” and it is the kind of jealousy you only have toward someone you are involved with. If you have a romantic jealousy toward someone you are not involved with, it’s really more like the first kind of jealousy. You are envious of what someone else has; and we might also be getting into the topic of coveting, which is related but different. (You are also likely working your way up to stalker status, so get some help!)
We’ve all had that friend who had a jealous boyfriend/husband or girlfriend/wife. (Or maybe you were that person.) She can never go anywhere without him. On the rare occasion that she does, he is calling her every 20 minutes to see where she is and what she is doing. He accuses her of seeing other men and gets upset if he thinks she is even looking at another man. Unfortunately, this is the kind of jealousy that does often lead to violent behavior. Like the other form of jealousy, it’s not about the person he is jealous over. It is about the person who is jealous – his insecurities and doubts.
If a spouse is truly cheating, then the other spouse does have the right to be jealous. Marriage is a covenant relationship – a commitment that cannot be broken. One of the definitions of jealousy is: “solicitous or vigilant in maintaining or guarding something.” For example, we are jealous of our American freedoms. We fight for them and safeguard them. We are jealous of our marriage and family. We are, or should be, watchful for things that might harm them. Not only should we be faithful to our partners, but we should never put ourselves in a position that makes it appear that we are being unfaithful.
Another definition listed for jealousy is: “Bible. intolerant of unfaithfulness or rivalry,” as in God is a jealous God. Not long ago we studied the names of God in our Thursday night Bible study. It was so interesting and it was amazing to see how many names of God there are and what they mean. One of the names is “Qanna” (sometimes spelled “Kanna”), which means jealous, zealous or envy. God tells us this is one of His names in Exodus.
For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
As in marriage, our relationship with God is a covenant relationship. He is to be our First Love, and cheating is a deal breaker. As we study the Bible and the history of the Israelites, we find that they always got themselves in trouble with God because they worshipped the gods and idols of the other people around them. In essence, they cheated on God.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Even today people get themselves in trouble by not making God their first and only God. Some dabble in other religions or try to blend other religions into their Christian walk. Ever try to mix someone else into your marriage? Sure some people do it, but it defiles the marriage. Trying to mix Buddha or someone else with God defiles your relationship with Him. Other people just don’t believe in anything or anyone. They also provoke God’s jealousy because He truly loves them and wants them to be in a relationship with Him.
Even true Christians can find themselves slipping in their devotion to and relationship with God. They may not be worshipping gods of other religions, but they are putting other types of things first before God. It is a relationship, just like a marriage. It needs your time and attention. What activities are taking you away from spending time with God? He is a Jealous God. It’s not that He doesn’t want you to play sports, or watch TV or enjoy a hobby. He just wants to come first. He wants you to pray, to read and study His word, to assemble with your brothers and sisters in Christ and do the things He has called you to do. When you do these things, everything else falls into place.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
God has a right be jealous when we neglect our relationship with Him. He knows that when we do that, we are harming ourselves and are probably heading down the wrong path. He wants to bless us, but we have to do our part. We need to ask ourselves: What am I doing to provoke God’s jealousy and what do I need to do to fix it? If the situation was with a spouse, we could sit down and talk it out. That’s what we need to do with God. Talk to Him, and more importantly, listen for His voice.
Note: The definitions listed are from Dictionary.com.
Posted on 04/30/2010 7:22 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 23 April 2010
It's Not You, It's Me
Cheesy. Corny. Hokey. Call it what you will, each week the show “Full House” delivered family entertainment with a moral lesson. I happily admit to being one of its regular viewers when it originally aired. (It didn’t hurt that John Stamos was one of the stars.) Now in reruns, the show is attracting a whole new generation of viewers.
I was flipping through the channels the other day looking for something to watch when I came upon one of those reruns. I paused to see what the episode was about. The program was near its end, where all the issues of the day are resolved. (Episode formula: problem comes up for adult or child; adult or child struggles with problem; problem reaches its boiling point; family discusses and resolves problem and then has dessert/laugh/hug.)
This particular episode was one I had not seen (probably from one of the last seasons because Becky and Jesse have the twin boys). Danny, the main character and father of three, is arguing with Becky, his sister-in-law and co-host of his morning talk show. Seems Danny quit the show because Becky got a promotion he felt he deserved. They banter back and forth over a family dinner in a restaurant. Finally, Becky blurts out, “You’re just jealous!” Danny denies being jealous, which exacts eye rolls from everyone at the table. I am paraphrasing here: “You think I am jealous?” he asks. “I am not jealous. I just resent the fact that Becky got a promotion and I didn’t. (Pause for laugh track.) Wait a minute, that’s what jealous means. I am jealous.”
We’ve all been in Danny’s shoes, and like him, we may not have realized at the time that what we were feeling was jealousy. The dictionary offers several definitions for jealousy. One is “feeling resentment against someone because of that person's rivalry, success, or advantages.” We find examples of this kind of jealousy in the Bible. Cain was jealous when God accepted Abel’s offering and not his. He was so jealous that he killed his brother. Joseph’s brothers couldn’t stand it when their father seemed to show him more love and attention. After seeing him parade around in his special multi-colored coat and boasting of dreams in which they would all bow down to him, they had had enough. They threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery.
Extreme jealousy can still manifest itself in violent behavior. Fortunately, most people can manage their normal jealousy. We are always going to run into people that are smarter, richer, thinner, taller, more successful, more popular, more talented, better dressed. etc. Jealousy is not pretty, but it is pretty normal. Once we recognize that’s what we are feeling, we have a choice. You can let it really get to you and grow into a stronger, consuming jealousy, or you can let it go. (It kind of goes back to last week’s article about being content in all situations.)
In Genesis, Cain is angry when his offering is rejected and Abel’s is accepted, and God speaks to him about it.
Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
Cain’s offering wasn’t rejected because God liked Abel’s better. His offering was rejected because it was unacceptable. Cain’s jealousy consumed him. It led him to murder, which in turn led to him being cursed. If only Cain had brought the right offering, he would have received they same favor as Abel in God’s eyes.
So jealousy of another’s success really isn’t about them; it is about us. It’s about our insecurities or feelings that we haven’t attained a level of success that we want or believe we deserve. When you feel jealous because of someone’s success or accomplishments, ask yourself some questions. Did that person work for their achievements? What sacrifices did they have to make? Would you be willing to make the same sacrifices?
When my daughter was 18 months old, I left my career in public relations to become a stay-at-home mom. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted, though there were times I envied my girlfriends who worked and were able to buy new things, travel, go out to eat every weekend, etc. Then I would see my beautiful girl and realize it was worth the cost. My friends might have had a lot of buying power, but it cost them something, too – less time with their families. And, it turns out some of them were jealous of my choice. They would have loved to have been at home, but they couldn’t afford or weren’t willing to pay the price.
Jealousy within a family or an organization, like your church, can be devastating. Games of one-upmanship, petty bickering, pouting and what I call “cry babying” can hinder the work you are trying to do. Within a church, you have people who have gifts and callings, and that can sometimes result in jealousies. We need to remember that these gifts and callings are from God to be used for His glory and not to exalt and glorify the people who have them. Instead of being jealous, we need to do the following:
1. Thank God that He has provided for the church through that gift or talent.
2. Pray for the person that they would use their gifts and callings for God.
3. Pray that God would help us know what our gifts and callings are so that we can start using them.
So when it comes to jealousy, it not about someone else, it is about us. And when it comes to the things of God, it’s not about us, but about Him.
Is there a kind of jealousy that is acceptable? Next week’s article will address that question.
I am still new at this blogging thing. I want to thank everyone for their kind words of encouragement. Have a blessed week!
Posted on 04/23/2010 9:05 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 16 April 2010
For Better or Worse
A line of cars was piling up behind the public bus. “Come on people,” I said, “let’s get this show on the road.” I was cranky, tired and just wanted to get to the store to pick up a few things before I went home. As the people boarded the bus, my attention was drawn to an older man. He was tall and thin. On each arm he had at least six full Walmart bags. He had to turn and twist as he slowly made his way up the steps onto the bus in order to get his load on board.
It made me feel bad about being so impatient. I also realized how blessed I was to have my own vehicle to go to the store. Imagine having to take the bus to the store and then having to carry your purchases home on the bus. And who knows how far he had to walk home once he got off the bus.
A car is one of those things you take for granted until you don’t have it. My car is older and there have been times when I’ve gone weeks without it because of breakdowns. I have been blessed with neighbors that helped me get around until the repairs were done. Lately, I have been dreaming of getting a new vehicle. I knew the car was getting old, but it really hit home one day when I was making sure it was locked and my daughter said, “Don’t worry, Mom. No one would want to steal anything from our car.”
A few years ago, a comment like that would have really hurt me. I would have complained to my husband, “I hate this car! We needed to get a new one.” I would have done everything I could to get a new car. However, like the Apostle Paul, I am learning to be happy with what I have. (Note that I said learning; it’s still a battle.)
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.
So, I am happy to have my old car and I will drive it until it dies or the Lord makes the way for me to get a new one. It gets me from Point A to Point B and that’s all that really matters.
We take so much of our everyday life for granted. That’s to be expected . . . we are living in the moment and you can’t always be thinking how wonderful everything is at the time you’re doing it. But it is good to stop and reflect every now and then and be thankful for what we have.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Sometimes we go beyond taking things for granted to grumbling about what we have. We play the “if only” game in our heads. “If only” I had a nicer house. “If only” I had a better job. “If only” I could get my husband/kids/parents/friends to see things my way. These thoughts can consume us and take our focus away from God and the blessings He has given us. It’s hard sometimes to understand why we are where we are in life. We ask: Why do some people have more when I have less? Why does life seem easier for someone else than it does for me? All I can say is you are where you are. You can grumble and complain, or you can look around and see the blessings you have.
If you are walking and breathing, you better off than someone in the hospital. If you are eating and sleeping in your own home, you are better off than someone in the homeless shelter. If you are getting up everyday and going to work, you are better off than someone who has been laid off and is struggling to feed his family. Someone always has it better or worse than you do. Learn to be content in your circumstances. Take joy in the life that God has given you. Let Him be your joy. Don’t let material things be the measure of your happiness.
I Timothy 6:6-9
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
Want more from God? Ask yourself if you have taken for granted what He has already given you. Have you thankfully accepted and used the blessings, gifts and talents He has already given you? In the parable of the talents, the master is happy with the servant that put his talents to good use.
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
If you want more, do more. If you want more, give more. If you can’t appreciate what you have now, “more” and “better” aren’t going to help because it will never be enough. Only God can make you feel satisfied and whole.
Posted on 04/16/2010 8:46 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 9 April 2010
A trip to my in-law’s home in Pennsylvania is one that we both look forward to and dread at the same time. We know that once we get there, we will enjoy being with family. However, we dread the seven hour drive. Typically, we go for four or five day, but this would be a hurried trip over the weekend. My father-in-law suffered a stroke back in January and this was our first opportunity to go see him since he was released from the hospital.
The first leg of the trip is the easiest. Take the interstate north to Morgantown. Unless there is construction, you have very little traffic to deal with and you can turn on the cruise control. I went to college in Morgantown, so I know the road like the back of my hand – the mile markers for the rest areas; which exits have good restaurants; which exits have clean bathrooms in case you can’t wait for the rest area; etc.
I took over driving once we got to Morgantown because my husband was getting sleepy. He had to get up early and work most of the day before we left. This leg of the trip is a little more interesting and requires a little more focus on the part of the driver. It is mostly two-lane road that takes you through older small towns with low speed limits that force you to creep through town until you are at last released to the open road. This is the old Rt. 119 and some of it has been turned into four-lane. In fact, it changes so much from year to year because of construction that you truly have to keep a watch as you drive so that you don’t miss a turn. Because of this, I have learned to drive the trip by watching for familiar landmarks. There are businesses and restaurants along the way that I watch for, such as the Cheese House, Melody Motor Lodge, Dean’s Diner, a Christmas tree farm. I know where every Dairy Queen is located and my favorite is in Greensburg. It gives me comfort to see these familiar landmarks because I know that I am going the right way to reach my destination.
Jeremiah 31:21 (NIV) "Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take.
The trip was going well and I was enjoying the warm sun on my face. My husband and daughter had both gone to sleep. Then I hit one of the bigger and busier little towns. The orange signs ahead alerted me that a bridge was undergoing construction and we would have to follow a detour. The butterflies in my stomach began their fluttering. Relax, I told myself. Just follow the detour signs and you’ll be fine. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:13). I watched closely and followed the signs through a part of town that was unknown to me. At first, the signs popped up pretty regularly. Then I hit a long stretch where I didn’t see one. I started to feel a little panic. Had I missed one? The area was starting to look more rural and I worried that I had gotten us lost. I came around a curve and was relieved to see a familiar intersection. I was back on my regular route in no time. I thanked God for getting me through that unfamiliar territory. What if I had panicked and turned around? Probably I would have gotten us lost and delayed our arrival.
Proverbs 16:17 The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.
The last leg of the trip is the toughest. It is all two-lane, windy road and when it is dark, you can barely make out the road. Added to the visibility problem is the fact that you are tired and are less alert. The only thing that keeps you going is that you know that you are almost there . . . almost home. I flipped the headlights on bright and the road lit up before me. When I had to change to low beams when passing the occasional car, I could still make out the road . . . I just had to slow down a little.
Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
As we came into the town where my in-laws live, again the familiar landmarks were a comfort. We passed through town and back into the rural area. I slowed down as we approached the drive and turned on my signal. The house was full of light and welcoming. We were expected and warmly greeted, and grateful that we had finally reached our destination. We were home.
Where are you in the journey to your Father’s home? Are you on cruise control? Have you veered off course? Has the road become dark? It’s never too late for a course correction. Simply call upon the Lord – invite Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of your life.
I have seen t-shirts and bumper stickers saying “Jesus is my co-pilot.” Forget that! I am putting Him in the driver’s seat! Have a blessed week!
Posted on 04/09/2010 9:30 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 2 April 2010
The Family of God
A rumble of thunder cracked the early morning silence and the comforting patter of rain eased me back to sleep. I pulled the little bit of covers that my daughter wasn’t hogging up around my chin and listened to the rain hit the roof of my aunt’s home. It felt cozy and warm and secure. She and I were visiting our family in Kentucky and I thought about them as I was dozing. It was great to see them and spend time with them. My grandparents are well into their 80’s, and I treasure the time I get to spend with them. I love that my daughter has been able to know her great-grandparents so well.
The enemy, of course, doesn’t like it when we are experiencing love and joy. The thought ran through my mind: "They are only your half-relations. They don’t consider you real family." I rebuked that thought right away! True, my grandfather is my step-grandfather and my aunts, uncles and cousins are "half" relatives. When we were kids, we used to love telling our friends that our dad had seven brothers and three sisters, but he was an only child. It was like a great riddle of the Sphinx to us. We would laugh at their puzzled looks and explain that my dad’s parents divorced when he was two, remarried and had more children. We think nothing of that today, but back then it was a rarer occurrence.
Never have I felt that we were any less than a whole, loving family. Never did I feel any less a part of the family than anyone else. Some of my best childhood memories are of spending time with my dad’s family. We enjoyed playing with our cousins. Our grandmother, grandfather, aunts and uncles showered us with love and attention. My grandfather, a man who truly loves God, is not my grandfather by blood, but he certainly has been a grandfather to me. He will always be my Papaw.
In looking at my family’s composition, I can see a pattern for the family of God. In earthly terms, we are not biologically related. But spiritually, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are blood relatives because we are covered by His blood. We equally share in the blessings and benefits of being sons and daughters of God. We are to love one another and share one another’s burdens, just like any family should.
Believers need to grasp and understand this concept. I don’t think you can fully receive all that God has for you if you don’t see yourself as He sees you – as His child that He loves and wants the very best for. If you are a parent, you understand that love. Yet, some people have a hard time accepting that God really loves them. I don’t understand how some people can say they are a Christian on one hand, and then on the other think that they are unworthy of God’s blessings.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Galatians 3:29 (KJV) says, "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." You’ll often find dysfunction in families. I know that I am lucky to have the family that I do . . . not everyone is so fortunate. Sometimes family members are favored or treated differently. But there is no dysfunction in God’s family. His love is perfect and He loves us all equally. We are His children; we are His heirs; we are the apple of His eye. There’s a saying: "If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it."
Don’t let the enemy or anyone else try to tell you that you are any less than a full-heir son or daughter of God. Walk confidently in the love of God and experience the blessings He has for you.
Posted on 04/02/2010 10:10 AM by Susan Nelson