Life according to…

Do you compare, compete or both? Do you look upwards or downwards? Do you look upwards from yourself toward people better than yourself, wishing that you had more, could achieve more, were more? Or maybe you look downwards toward those less fortunate than yourself thinking that your better than others. Your thought might be ‘at least I’m not like them’.

At the end of the day we all do it. We all compare and compete. Without over emphasising gender roles, men typically compete, and women typically compare. Men might compete in who is stronger, faster, wealthier. And women might compare physical looks, clothes, families. Of course, gender roles are never absolute… men will compare and likewise women  will compete.

And while gauging where we’re at in life isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, when we base our identity on these competitions and comparisons that we can become unstuck. We can fall into the trap of trying to progress through life by comparing and competing. You need a promotion at work in order to maintain your social status. Or upgrading your boyfriend for a more advanced model will help you improve your own popularity. What about getting a bigger house, or another investment property in order that your social status will increase with your friends. It’s almost like a role playing game where you have to grind and farm enough points to get to the next level. And if you don’t have the best level and stats then you might as well not even play. #shoutout to all the WoW and GW2 gamers. At the end of the day if your doing better than those around you, than life is good. However, if you’re falling behind and everyone else is kicking the goals, then life is bad. We can become slaves to this way of thinking. In fact, chances are you already are, or at least have been in the past.

The real danger for those of us who are Christians, is to start measuring our faith against those around us. When we start to compare our blessings with those around us it becomes a pretty shaky roller coaster ride that isn’t going to end well. ‘God answers his prayers, he must be a better Christian that I am.’ Or. ‘His children are always perfectly behaved, he must be a more godly parent’. Or ‘His church has more newcomers than mine does’. etc.

The Apostle Paul talks about two ways the people generally identify with the world. He uses two weird words. Flesh & Spirit. People are either living according to the flesh, or according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Romans 8:5

The first, flesh, is all about people who chase things of this world. They go to all lengths to keep up with the Jones’s. Wear the best clothes, drive the best cars, have the best houses with the best swimming pools. They go to church to keep up appearances, they work hard to have more and more money, and they do all of these things to earn a better status. They indulge in food and drink. They chase whatever makes them feel good, incessantly pursuing self-glorification. At the end of the day, these people, choose to please themselves despite the cost.

The second way to live is according to the Spirit. These people chose to forgo fleshy indulgences and live a life that is selfless and aims to be altruistic (impossible be that it may). To live according to the Spirit means that the Spirit of God dwells within the person and directs them in a right way of living. These people are giving and caring and set their minds on the things that God considers important.

When all is stripped away, those who live according to the flesh are comparing and competing for the next ladder rung on the climb to glory. But those who live according to the Spirit find themselves ‘in Christ’ (Romans 8:1). And when one is in Christ they partake in His glory. Comparing and competing for glory becomes a nonsensical activity because when compared to the glory that comes with being in God the Son, all our own achievements pale in comparison.

Romans 8 is an outstanding scripture to reflect on in the light of comparing and competing as the world does opposed to living in step with the Spirit. Stop, and think about what the Apostle Paul might mean by the phrase ‘The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.’ (Romans 8:7)

You’ve probably heard the popular song, In Christ Alone, but maybe take a moment to listen to is again, and think about what it means to be In Christ Alone. What will it look like in your life to forsake the temptation to compare and compete in the flesh, so that you can truly be In Christ Alone.

#22PUSHUPCHALLENGE

You’ve probably seen your Facebook and Instagram walls plastered with the #22PUSHUPCHALLENGE videos. If you haven’t then Google it. The idea behind it is a good one, and that is, to raise awareness for military veterans who return from war and commit suicide. On average in America, 22 veterans and 1 active service member take their lives each day.

When it comes to killing Australian soldiers, suicide is the number one cause. In the 13 year war in Afghanistan the number of Australian’s killed numbered 42. According to this article in The Australian, in 2016 alone there have been 41 Australian Defence Force suicides. Although unconfirmed, I’ve heard talk of 3 more since that article was written on the 14th August 2016.

In 2010 I deployed to Afghanistan as a medic. On our 9 month rotation 6 soldiers from our battle-group were sent home having been killed in action. Since then a further 6 soldiers from that same group have taken their own lives.

Since East Timor in 1999, some 249 soldiers are known to have committed suicide. That means for Australian Defence Force personnel you’re ~5 times more likely to take your own life than be killed in active combat. capture

In light of these tragic and abhorrent statistics, is ‘awareness raising’ really doing anything of substance? Or does more need to be done? Sure, raising awareness is a step in the right direction, maybe even an essential step on the pathway to reform, but what can we do now? What can you do now?

  1. Educate yourself on this topic. Research and know the statistics. Learn about the struggles that soldiers go through when assimilating back into the Australian culture after being in a combat zone. Teach yourself about PTSD and Moral Injury and find out why they’re so debilitating. Put aside 15 minutes to follow and read some of the links to articles in this blog post.
  2. Prepare yourself to encounter someone who is contemplating suicide.
    What will you do? How will you respond? With mental illness being such a prevalent part of our society it’s more than likely that you’ll be close to someone who struggles in this area.
  3. Check out, and support groups that actively support veterans in this area.
    Soldier On, Mates 4 Mates, and Young Diggers… are a few amongst many. You could also look at and follow the Australian Veterans Suicide Register on Facebook. Better than just checking these groups out, your could offer money or even time to support these groups and the countless numbers of veterans who flock to them.
  4. Finally, if you’re person who prays… pray.
    Pray for the well-being of those who have fought for your well-being. Pray that God would intervene in life threatening situations, creating a path out of distress and despair. Pray that God would rescue broken soldiers to himself in miraculous ways. Pray that God would give you a heart for the hurting and the lost. Pray that God would heal and restore the mental stability that, for many soldiers, was sacrificed for our nation.

 

Looking Beyond the Church

Recently I’ve been pretty discouraged by the ‘church’. You don’t have to dig very deep to discover misbehavior and scandals. You don’t have to spend very long on google to realise that the wider Christian church (not speaking about specific denominations) has delivered more than its fair share of injustice to people it should be caring for.

Image result for church old

I caught myself on more than one occasion telling people that they should go to church, because the church has the answers for their problems. I’ve told several people recently that what they’ll find at church will help them through their situation.

And this is only partially true. The church as an organisation only has so much influence in people’s lives. And the longer one spends involved in the church, the more chance they’ll have of being let down by it. At the end of the day, the church is just a sub-community within a wider culture of broken people who will, given enough time, inevitably hurt each other.

However, the most excellent thing about Christian churches, is what you will (hopefully) find there. Hopefully your local church talks about Jesus. Jesus the teacher. Jesus the final prophet. Jesus the perfect priest. Jesus the King. Jesus the Son of God. Jesus who is supreme over all other historical figures. Hopefully your local church talks about Jesus who was raised to life and lives today.

Image result for supremacy of christ

The author of Hebrews reminds people about Jesus:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

Hebrews 1:1-4

Jesus delivers God’s word more clearly than anyone else. Jesus is the exact representation of God. That is, he is indistinguishable from God. He is God. He sustains all things (including our faith and perseverance) by his word. And he provides to us access to heaven. He knows that our boarding pass is heading in the opposite direction to heaven… so he trades passes with us so we are bound for heaven.

So instead of telling people their problems will be solved by going to church… I should be telling them that when they choose to follow Jesus they will be given the tools to either move beyond or persevere through the struggles this life has to offer.

For more information on Jesus you can check out this website: THINK LIFE THINK JESUS