Friday, September 15, 2017

Expectations and Standards

How many times have you heard someone has really high standards? How often was that said in a praising tone? Was it said in a way that lead you to believe that person was not really holding to standards but rather expectations that were unfounded and useless?

As believers, we have to have standards (or else anything would go and Christians would be no different than the world), but we can't have standards that are unrealistic. We have to hold ourselves to standards that are Biblical. God's Word is our standard.

The problem is, too often, believers begin to let their standards slip- or at least, the standards that matter. We begin to let little things creep into our lives and let our standards fall to make allowance for them. All too often, once we let our standards begin to slip in one area, they begin to fall completely in all the others. Things that we shouldn't waver in- doctrine, faithfulness, whatever it may be- we begin to compromise in, and gradually conform to the world. After all, if you take one brick from the foundation of a house, it's easier and easier to take another until the house has no foundation to stand on, because the bricks rely on each other to hold that house up.

Before we know it, our standards are completely gone, and we're out of God's Will because we aren't living in accordance to His Word.

If only we were as quick to correct our own lack of standards as we are to judge those who aren't holding to them. If only we genuinely tried holding ourselves to the expectations we hold others to.
Isn't it funny how when we begin to slip, one of the first things we do is justify our actions to those around us? 'Well, they're doing it, so it's no big deal if I do.' We repeat that phrase until we believe that we're doing no harm because others are doing it as well. Since when are those around us our ruler for measuring up to?
But when someone else slips in the same way, we immediately begin pointing out their flaw. We are all too willing to judge them, but yet we won't judge ourselves. The problem is, we are trying to measure others against ourselves and ourselves against others. As believers, we aren't the notch on the ruler to which we must meet. God is.

Having standards is important, as I said. We have to have them. But we can't have unrealistic expectations. We can't demand one thing of a friend that we wouldn't even hold ourselves to. And we can't hold ourselves or anyone else to any expectation that isn't found straight from the Word of God.

It's not wrong to have Biblical standards and expectations. But we need to remember that the only One who has the right to expect anything of anyone is God, not us.

Yes, you have to have standards. It's especially important to have standards when courting/dating. Making sure you're not unequally yoked, holding firm that the two of you should agree on doctrine and in beliefs- don't back down on those. They are important. But don't go looking for someone who is perfect because you have a list of requirements they must meet that you yourself couldn't even come close to.
Making sure they are saved? Utmost Importance.
Making sure they believe the correct doctrine? Very Important.
Making sure you agree on future decisions that would come in a relationship? Absolutely Important.
Them looking a certain way or possessing a specific trait or characteristic or skill which causes you to turn away anyone who doesn't meet that? Unrealistic.
Saying, 'My future husband must be saved, KJV only, Independent Baptist, and we must agree on doctrine.' is not unrealistic.
Saying 'My future husband must be exactly 5'11" with chestnut brown hair and green eyes, and he must have gone through at least six years of college, and love dogs and only eat vegetarian foods, and he must promise that I'll have unlimited access to the bank account, and he must smile just a certain way, and he better not ever tell me what to do, and he can never wear ties that are green, and he can't have any debt but he should have at least $4,500 in the bank at all times, and if his favorite book is anything but Tom Sawyer, then we have a problem.' Yeah, that would be pretty unrealistic.
Having Bible based standards and expectations isn't wrong. Having expectations that would be impossible to match is.

Along the same lines, we can't hold others, our friends, family or coworkers, to our expectations because we would be measuring them to ourselves. We are all still human. We all have our faults and flaws, and we all sin. Thank the Lord, He is merciful and forgives us. He gives us second chances. He hold us to His standard because He is the only one who we should be trying to please. He forgives us time and time again, even when we fail to meet His expectations.

So if you're going to hold anyone to any expectation, use God's Word as your ruler, and remember that He's holding you up to that same standard as well. Before you judge someone else for not reaching the mark, consider whether or not you are reaching it, because odds are you are failing to do so as well.

Social Media and The Single Christian- Delight in the Lord

(For the record, this isn't my engagement ring 😉)

There it is. The post you knew was coming. Your friend is engaged.

You're friends, good friends, so you are happy for them. But there's that pang of hurt, of disappointment, of... jealousy, even? I mean, you're thrilled for them, that they've found love and made a commitment to spend the rest of their lives together, but still... it hurts to know another friend is engaged and you're sitting there reading this long post about the proposal, with a thousand gushy clichés and "I love you, babe!" all over it. Next comes the wedding planning, 'my sweet fiancé' posts. How fun.

And then you scroll down. Friend is married. Yes, you got the invitation, even though you couldn't make it, so you knew it was coming and all. But now you're seeing wedding pictures and all the enthusiastic "You are such a beautiful bride!" and "Picture perfect wedding for a beautiful couple!" comments. It stings. Another reminder you haven't had that picture perfect wedding, despite the fact that almost all your friends have.

Scroll a little more, a close friend is announcing their courtship or that they are dating, or posts with pictures from their last date. Ouch. That's the last thing you wanted to see today. Maybe it was someone you once cared for, or maybe it's a friend who seemed like they were perfectly happy without a boyfriend/girlfriend and so you thought they wouldn't be dating any time soon- certainly not before you, at least.

And scroll down once more, before you give up and cry. Another friend, another friend, is pregnant. She's happily married and going to experience one of the greatest blessings in the world: being a parent. And you're not. It hurts. 

All these posts and pictures, they make your heart feel like breaking. 

And then you remember- they aren't you.

God hasn't lead you to that place yet. He hasn't opened that door for you yet. God doesn't place every girl your age in the same place or situation or blessing at the same time, and you know what? It's a good thing He doesn't. 

God calls each of us to different places, to different ministries and different lifestyles. What our Father sees best to give one of us, isn't best for all. He knows our heart, our temperament, our shortcomings and our strengths. Most importantly, He knows why He keeps some blessings from one person while giving them to another. 

Single Christian, I'm in the same boat as you. Every engagement post, wedding post, baby post... it aches to know that I haven't had that experience yet. But we're robbing ourselves of joy when we compare our lives to those around us. What's the saying? Comparison is the thief of joy. We when compare our lives and where God has us right now with where He has others, we are going to hurt, to grow bitter and be jealous, because that's not how God wants us to live our lives!

The easiest way we compare and shift our focus off what God has for us to do with our lives? Social Media.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to do away with all my social media, and I'm not saying you must delete every account you have. I'm not saying block every engaged, married and pregnant friend so you don't see their blessings- you should be happy for and rejoice with them. Social media itself isn't inherently wrong. Social media can be a wonderful tool and a good way to keep in touch with friends. But when we misuse it, it becomes a stumbling block in our spiritual lives. 

If you know that sitting on Facebook looking at friends' wedding pictures or mushy engagement posts causes you to be jealous and bitter, GET OFF FACEBOOK. If you know that every time you go on Instagram, those 'this many weeks' pregnancy posts are going to make you cry, avoid logging in!

Friend, you have so much to be thankful for with the way your life is now, don't let comparison rob you of seeing the blessings you have. And when we learn to find our delight not in our current relationship status, but rather in the Lord, you'll find the joy that comes from that delight can't be taken away by social media and posts. 

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Psalm 37:4

When our delight is in the Lord, it means it's not dependent on circumstances or what we lack. We find our joy, our happiness, our strength, our reason to live in serving Him wholly with all our heart. What's happening in friends' lives, on social media and even in everything around our lives loses all importance as we focus solely on Him. 

And as we learn to delight in the Lord, our desires begin to change. It's not longer about self, but about 'How can I best serve You, Father?' and that makes it so much easier for the Lord to give us the desires of our heart, because the desires are in line and in tune with His Will for us. The verse doesn't mean we can just go "Yep, see, I'm delighting in the Lord, so now He has to give me my desires, whatever they may be." That's not how it works. No, it means that our desires should be falling in line with what God desires for us, so that when He grants those desires be filled, they are for our benefit. 

It's easy, so easy, to take our lives in our own hands and try to find contentment and delight, joy and happiness in what we think is best. It's easy to say 'this makes me happy so it must be God's Will' or to say 'This is my desire so I deserve it'. But that's not true happiness, that isn't how God calls us to live our lives. It's not about pleasing self, but pleasing God.

Jesus didn't die on the cross to make you happy and allow you to do whatever pleases you or makes you feel good. He died to save you from your sins, from your fleshly desires. When we forget that, we start sliding down the slope of selfishness that leads us through bitterness, jealousy, discontent, and end up so bogged down with the weights of sin that should have never had opportunity to climb on our shoulders to begin with. 

Instead of trying to find delight in a person, in a relationship, in being a parent, in events and experiences, try finding your joy in the One who knows your heart best because He made it. Take your focus off that person you've been chasing and put it on the One who you should have been chasing all along. Stop letting the blessings of others rob you of the blessing God wants to give you, if only you would give your all to Him. 

Instead of comparison with others, find contentment with God.
Once you have, remind the single Christians around you that they can find lasting happiness and joy by delighting in the Lord, too. Don't hoard that blessing of true joy for yourself, go share it.
Be prepared to serve Him and watch the blessings- the ones He wants for you to have right now for where He needs you to be- fall into place. It might not be what you originally desired, but I guarantee, it's going to far surpass anything you could have planned. 

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Psalm 37:4

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Prayer Request!

As many of you know, my family lives in Georgia. We also have many friends all over Georgia and in Florida. I'd really, really, really appreciate all the prayers we can get as the hurricane hits in the next few days. We're definitely praying for those who have already been hit, and those who have lost everything.