Cancer of Comparison

As a young boy on the school playground, I remember standing in line with the other boys whilst the two, often self-appointed, captains would choose their teams. The best players always got picked first and then the average players next. Finally, if you were one of the last it was because you were among the worst players. Even if no one liked you but you could play, you would get picked before the end. No one ever wanted to be the last kid who was picked. 

Life is full of circumstances where we are compared with others or where we compare ourselves with other people. I remember when I was a student working in a summer colporteur program a daily question would be, “How many books have you sold?”  Students wouldn’t care about what others had done but there was always that one student who wanted to know what everyone else had sold to find out if he or she was top, or how close they came to the top.

In fitness, two runners might compare their times. How fast can you run 5K? What’s your personal best? In music, how many years have you played that instrument? How many instruments can you play?

In academia, what’s your GPA? What degree do you have? BA? Postgrad? MA or PhD? Did you get a scholarship? Full or partial?

What car do you drive? What year is it? What’s the horsepower? Does it have a leather interior?

On social media we may check how many followers someone else has on Instagram. Is it more than me or fewer? How many likes did they get for that post? 

How many views did that video get? If this sermon got more views than that sermon, does that mean it was a better sermon?

In life, we compare almost everything: petrol prices, credit card benefits, which bank is best. Many websites have a function where you can look at various phones, laptops, holiday packages or bank cards and “compare models.” 

TripAdvisor has both reviews and a star rating out of 5 for each of the places reviewed. When you are checking which restaurant to go to you may check which restaurant or tourist attraction has the better rating. 

Then we also compare ourselves in areas that are more personal. 

How pretty is she? Am I better looking? Am I more attractive? Am I taller, slimmer, fitter? Am I more desirable to the opposite sex, physically, than so and so?

Comparison is all around, arguably magnified in recent times. In a world where almost everyone has a social media profile we grow accustomed to managing that profile and ensuring that the world sees a certain side to us that we wish to display. Maintaining our online image is something that many people devote a lot of time to – some even editing their pictures before letting the world see them. People tend to post their best pictures online or post pictures of the highlights of their life – holidays, fun outings, good meals out etc. Very few people post pictures about the normal things of life, the 10,000 ordinary things that we do each day but we forget this when we compare our life with the carefully manicured image that someone chooses to portray to the world 

Whilst we live in a world saturated with comparison and it’s not something that we can get away from, we can however live in a way where it does not define our self-worth. Struggling with comparison can often he hardest in our teenage years or when we are in our early to mid 20’s. Partly because life is changing so much and we are constantly being thrust into new environments where we are compared with other straight away, but also because often our identity and sense of who we are is still forming. 

This cancer of comparison has plagued humanity since the beginning. The disciples struggled with this as at least one occasion is recorded in the gospels. They asked Jesus who was the greatest. The mother of James and John also asked Jesus if her two sons could be sat in heaven, one on the right side of Jesus and the other on His left. They needed to have preeminence in comparison to the other disciples. Something about them needed to be different.

Our identity can only be fully formed in Christ. When we understand the gospel and we see ourselves as we truly are. When we see that there is no good in us, that all our righteousness is as filthy rags. It’s then that you realize that to compare oneself with another person who also only has filthy rags for righteousness is futile. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that when we are “in Christ” we are a “new creature”. That “old things are passed away and all things are become new.” Let us seek to see ourselves as Christ see’s us. With the value that He places on us. A value that is only seen in the light of the cross – not in likes, follows, possessions and academic achievements. 

When you know who you are. When your value and identity is wrapped up in Jesus. When your sense of self-worth is found in the cross of Christ. When you accept what Jesus says about you and not how many likes or comments you got on that most recent picture of yourself online – then you will find true freedom. 

-Adam Ramdin

GYC Beyond 06 – Natasha Dysinger – How to Have a Vibrant Devotional Life

In this week’s podcast episode, Esther Louw and Shauna Chung discuss with Natasha Dysinger methods that each of us can implement to improve the quality of our devotions. Natasha is down-to-earth as she talks about her own personal struggles through the years, as well as unique solutions that she and others have implemented to put God first despite busy schedules or lack of motivation. Have your devotions become habitual and lacklustre? Or are you struggling to simply turn devotions into a habit? Regardless of how long you have been a Christian, there is something for everyone in this interesting discussion.

 

GYC Beyond 05 – Gem Castor – How to Have a Powerful Life of Prayer

Our next episode features Gem Castor and Shauna Chung as they discuss the power of prayer and how to put that power to practice. Gem Castor is an itinerant missionary from the Philippines who travels the world leading out united prayer sessions and seminars. Inspired by the life of George Mueller he has spent the last seven years relying entirely on the Lord’s providence to provide for his needs and mission ventures. Listen in on this engaging conversation.

GYC Beyond 04: Amy Ratsara – Leadership Skills and Time Management

This week’s episode features Shauna Chung and Esther Louw in conversation with Amy Ratsara. Together, they discuss the relationship between being an effective leader and knowing how to effectively manage time. Amy shares a number of practical ideas that have benefitted her life and ministry both in the past, during her tenure on the GYC Executive Committee, and in the present as a busy wife, mom, and practicing lawyer. Listen in and don’t forget to keep a pen and paper nearby to note those ideas you may want to pursue.

GYC Beyond 03: Sebastien Braxton – How to Navigate Past Brick Walls

In our third podcast, listen in as Shauna Chung and Esther Louw discuss how to overcome failure and disappointment with Sebastien Braxton. Sebastien’s perspective is down-to-earth as he describes practical lessons from his own life. In this lively discussion, Sebastien addresses practical tips for overcoming failure as well as encouragement for pursuing the passions and dreams that God is laying on your heart and life. Join us on the journey as we travel with Sebastien from the projects of Chicago to the jungles of India.

GYC Beyond 02: Mark Finley – How to Live a Consecrated Life

Our second podcast features Mark Finley in conversation with Shauna Chung and Esther Louw. In this inspiring interview, Mark Finley shares insights, gleaned from a life of ministry and evangelism, on how to live a consecrated Christian life. He answers questions such as: How do I know if my Christianity is genuine? What does surrender look like? What role do emotions play in my conversion experience? We encourage you to tune in and learn answers to some of life’s biggest problems.

GYC Beyond: The Podcast

Several months ago, the idea was born to create something that has never yet been done by GYC. From personal interactions with many of the speakers who present on stage during GYC conference, we recognize the wealth of wisdom, biblical knowledge, and experience that is collectively available. With this in mind, we sat down with various individuals during the Arise conference and recorded our discussions. We are now giving you the opportunity to listen in to these conversations by making them available in a podcast format.

Our first podcast features Shauna Chung in conversation with Lisa Topete as they discuss incorporating evangelism into your life interests and work. In a direct, down-to-earth fashion, Lisa shares how you can get started with outreach, even when you’re not sure how to begin. Scattered throughout are personal stories, advice, and practical ideas that are immediately relevant to anyone seeking to deepen their experience. We have been blessed as we have prepared this podcast and we know you will be too!

GYC 2017 Recap – A New Direction

Two weeks ago, over 4,500 young people took part in GYC’s 2017 conference in Phoenix, Arizona, focused on the theme: “Arise” from Isaiah 60:1-3. As one of those young people, my experience throughout the conference was one of transformation, inspiration, and empowerment. One might ask, what compels a millennial to spend five days during the holiday season listening to sermons, attending seminars, and reaching out to the community in service? The answer is both simple and profound: a vision and a mission.

I first saw a glimpse of vision when I pushed through the usual morning sleepiness so that I could attend a United Prayer session. As nearly a thousand people pressed into the room and then overflowed into the foyer outside, I couldn’t help but compare the experience to scenes in the book of Acts. Gem Castor, who led out during each session, stated later: “When the Lord is about to pour out His blessings, don’t open your umbrellas!” God’s presence was felt throughout the United Prayer sessions and we were soaking wet.

The United Prayer sessions weren’t the only inspiring aspect of GYC 2017. The president of GYC, Moise Ratsara, opened the conference with a strong call to mission. “Don’t ask what your church can do for you,” he encouraged us, “but what you can do for your church.” In words that would be repeated by other speakers, he asserted: “You are GYC. You are this generation.” The appeal to mission seemed to be an unstated theme for every plenary session, challenging us to evaluate our experience with Christ in relation to the calling he has on each of our lives. This was most clearly expressed during the Thursday noon plenary when GYC Beyond was introduced. Eric Louw and Jonathan Walter revealed plans to encourage year-round participation in evangelism and outreach in our local churches. “Who is GYC?” They asked. “I am!” everyone thundered. At that moment I realized more fully that GYC isn’t just a conference – it’s a movement of individuals united by a common purpose and mission.

The GYC conference did more than promote outreach through sermons, however. GYC also gave attendees the opportunity to arise and be empowered for practical service. For me, this opportunity began with GYC’s pre-conference program, which was offered in partnership with Your Best Pathway to Health. For three days young people like myself volunteered alongside medical professionals, chaplains, and beauticians to make services available to those who are unable to afford even basic care. As I saw thousands of patients receiving everything from dental care to haircuts, I was reminded of Jesus’ ministry of healing and compassion. What a privilege it is to be the hands and feet of the Savior!

Your Best Pathway to Health wasn’t the only chance to get involved in outreach. On the Friday of GYC conference, everyone had the opportunity to serve through a variety of creative outlets. Some groups teamed up to assemble and deliver refugee care kits for the many refugees living in Phoenix, others took part in a canned food drive for the homeless and underserved population of the city, and still others went door to door conducting a short electronic survey offering free Bible studies to those who were interested. The result of the outreach conducted during the conference was powerful! Through the efforts of roughly 2,000 GYC participants, 28,456 doors were knocked on, 1,589 prayers given, and over 31,000 pieces of literature distributed. Not only this, but 3,729 pounds of canned food were given out to the homeless, 255 refugee relief kits were distributed, and 765 people signed up for Bible studies! Even though GYC Conference only lasted five days, its influence has left a permanent impact on the city of Phoenix.

The conference ended on Sunday, December 31, with a final charge and the reminder that 2018 is full of new opportunities to be transformed, inspired, and empowered for mission. The theme for GYC 2018 is: To the End. This year, GYC isn’t just about attending a conference for five short days. GYC is you and I going to the end of the earth to share an end-time message.

Esther Louw,
Volunteer, GYC

Finishing the Work

“If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

We need revival. We need the latter rain. Jesus will not come in our lifetime without it. Renewal will not come until we truly seek it; unless we thirst for it. This is a call to surrender and service. How can we experience the latter rain today?

First, by focusing on the Bible. There is nothing more relevant today than the Word of God. In the last book of the Bible encapsulates the most urgent message, given to every race, age, and geographic location existent at the end time. It is the Three Angels’ Message, found in Revelation 14:6-12. It is a message that calls us to realize God’s great sacrifice of love through the cross, the everlasting gospel; a call for us to lovingly obey Him and His commandments, to give Him total worship not only in word, but also in our lives. It calls us to come out of any system that negates our faith in Christ and His righteousness or promotes man’s ideas above God’s word.

Furthermore, it warns us that the decisions we make today bear eternal consequences. We are living in the judgment hour and God has given us the freedom to choose. Who will receive our worship: the world or Christ? Everything at GYC comes out of that intense desire to lift up Christ and His end time message for us today. This is our prophetic identity as Seventh-day Adventists. Jesus is coming soon!

Secondly, revival will not come without commitment. We must seek to experience Bible-based revival today, by living a life of service for our Savior. A life of service is more than just what we do; it’s at the root of who we are. It is about character. Because God is love, He sent us the most excellent gift Heaven could ever bestow—His only begotten Son. Because God is love, He gave us the best. A life of service is total commitment to excellence in any sphere of influence we are placed in. It pours out as a result of love and respect for Christ.

You do not need to be a full time church employee, a pastor, a Bible worker, or a nurse to be used by God to seek and save the lost. Joseph was a civil servant, Christ was a carpenter, Mary was a homemaker, Paul was a tent maker, Luke was a physician, Daniel a governor, and Lydia was a business woman. What they all had in common was their willingness to use their intellect, heart, and resources to promote the gospel and glorify God, resulting in some of the greatest revivals ever seen by man. I imagine most of the time it was not in the words these individuals spoke, but in the quality of their work and character. For thirty years, Christ worked as a carpenter and the way He worked was a reflection of His Father’s character. God gave all because He loved us to the end, and He calls us to do the same for one another. Share your faith and if you have to, use words.

Lastly, we as Christians must seek to experience the latter rain by not only engaging in serious Bible study, singing spirit filled songs, and seeking Godly relationships; but most importantly through prayer. What the church needs today is not better machinery, new organizations, or more novel methods; but men whom the Holy Ghost can use–people of prayer. People mighty in prayer. Many talk about it, but we at GYC must practice it.

The disciples never asked Jesus, “teach us how to preach,” or “teach us how to give a Bible study.” The one discipline they wanted to learn above anything else was expressed in their plea: “Lord teach us how to pray” (Luke 11:1). Imagine what God could do if we would humble ourselves, turn from our wicked ways, and approach His throne of grace! What could happen if not just one or one hundred men and women, but thousands from every nation, kindred, and tongue united in prayer, approach God’s throne seeking the latter rain? What would happen if our local churches gave God their time and prayed for the Holy Spirit? We would behold the greatest revival ever seen by man.

Why not start now? On November 17, we will begin a 40 days of prayer initiative on our social media platform. Commit with us in daily claiming a promise from God’s word and adopting a specific prayer focus for each day leading up to our GYC conference in Phoenix. When GYC begins on December 27, we will have a prayer marathon where individuals can sign up to pray at all hours of the day. On the last day of GYC, we will hold a special consecration service and see what God has in store for us, as we humble ourselves for His glory.

Arise!

Moise Ratsara
President, GYC

The Epiphany of Sanctification

Knowing is everything. It’s why we read the news. It’s why we surf the internet. It’s why Facebook has become ubiquitous. It’s why we probe Yelp reviews. Simply put, knowing satiates.

And knowing is important. Even our eternal life depends on it. “And this is eternal life,” Jesus said, “that they know. . . the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

Ellen White highlights the boomerang of getting God wrong. “The whole spiritual life is molded by our conception of Him, and if we cherish erroneous views of His character, our souls will sustain injury” (Review & Herald, Jan 14, 1890).

Wow.

In other words, our Christian experience—how we perceive it, feel it, and do it—is affected by our aggregate perception of who God is.

And for the unbeliever, their understanding of God will determine how they’ll react (or not) to God.

This is why Satan works so hard to slander His name. Satan “has sought to misrepresent the character of God,” she says, “to lead men to cherish a false conception of Him. . . as arbitrary, severe, and unforgiving,—that He might be feared, shunned, and even hated by men” (Testimony Treasures, vol. 2, p. 334).

And for the believer, our comprehension of God determines the essence of our spiritual experience.

Think of a dog that’s been physically abused by a previous owner. Once that dog’s rescued, and no matter how nurturing the new owners may be, a gesture of love will be misunderstood. At least initially. It will cower and cringe from the new owner. What the dog knows of humans determines how it will react to any and all gestures.

In the same way, our accurate (or misguided) perceptions of God will determine the outcome of our experience. And if one’s impression of God is based on what’s true of God, the result will be a cognitive coherence between their positive experience and the rational understanding of who He is.

But here’s another profound thought. We cannot know God—in the quintessential, deeper sense—without becoming like Him. Only like can appreciate like. Only a Vietnam or World War II veteran can truly appreciate the heroism and atrocities forged on the bloody ravines of Southeast Asia and Normandy.

Fundamentally, our potential to know God is limited; we’re confined by our subjective capacity and limited experience. We can only truly understand what we’ve gone through.

Consequently, we can only comprehend God, in this sense, to the extent we’ve become like Him.

In the book, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, Ellen White states,“Only like can appreciate like. Unless you accept in your own life the principle of self-sacrificing love, which is the principle of His character, you cannot know God. . . . We discern the truth by becoming, ourselves, partakers of the divine nature.”

This is an intriguing thought. Chew on it for just a second.

There was a time whenever I visited my folks I would wake up to fresh-squeezed orange juice by my bedside. Every morning, my mom would squeeze fresh orange juice for me.

And I took it for granted.

But one morning, my mother asked me to prepare the orange juice for the entire family, including extended family who were visiting. It wasn’t until I began to slice each orange, and painstakingly squeeze what seemed like gazillions of oranges that I began to appreciate more deeply the love of my mother.

Only like can appreciate like.

As the father of a three-year-old and a 10-month-old, I’m beginning to love my parents more than ever because I now understand the sacrifice, the sleepless nights, the hours spent washing bottles, and the handling of smeared and whiffy diapers.

Similarly, the experience of sanctification—the life of a converted, self-sacrificing Christian—informs our take on God.

It really does.

Knowing who God is, is everything. But if we want to know Him deeply, we must also become like Him. To me, this is the ultimate purpose of sanctification. In the end, it’s all about Jesus, and I have no problem saying that.

In the church today, the notion of sanctification is sometimes undermined or minimized, and frankly this is really really concerning. It decapitates our potential to feel, know, and emphathize with Jesus, and there’s nothing more we need than that.

Because only like can appreciate like.

 

-Andy Im
Department of Communications and Sabbath School Director
Michigan Conference