The Worst Illness a Christian Could Get….

It’s one of the worst illnesses a Christian could get. Evidence of this cruel disease has popped up everywhere over the past several decades. No doubt, it has infected more believers now than ever before. Perhaps you have already contracted this disease without even knowing it. The symptoms are silent and deadly, spreading through thoughts and rationales. And how am I qualified to speak on such an illness? What gives me the right to draw attention to its ravages amongst the bride of Christ? Well, as the saying goes, “It takes one to know one.” I, too, have been infected with this deadly virus.

Where it all began…

Recently my husband, daughter, and I went to a favorite restaurant. We were quickly seated at the table where we proceeded to browse the tempting appetizers, entrees, and deserts colorfully displayed throughout the menu. Our mouths watered with anticipation. As the waitress approached I smiled as I usually do, getting ready to show my best Christian politeness while ordering. But the waitress kept on walking. She hadn’t even looked at me. A little disappointed I reasoned, “She probably has another table that was seated before us. No biggy.” But over the next fifteen minutes servers walked by our table, nary a one looking us in the eyes. My husband was irritated as my five-year-old grew increasingly hungry and restless.

“I think they’ve got ‘Somebody-Else Syndrome,’” I told my husband.

“What?” He asked looking confused.

“Every single one of them seems to think ‘somebody else’ will take care of us. And because they all have that mindset no one ends up helping.”

Eventually I went to the hostess at the front of the restaurant and explained our plight. It was still another five minutes before a server came to our table. As annoying as that situation was, God used it to speak to my heart.

So, what now?

I have no idea if any of those servers were Christians or not. It doesn’t really matter because the principle lies within the thought process. It goes something like this: the preacher brings attention to a need within the church and you nod, even pray about. “Lord, please meet this need. Please bring the right person along to help.”

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with such a prayer, but it fails to really address the issue. Whether consciously or not, it has an underlying tone of, “Lord, let someone else take care of this, because you know I can’t do it.” Obviously there are legitimate needs that cannot be met by every individual. I know when my pastor shows slides of the orphanage our church funds in India that I cannot fly there and personally get hands on. I understand these things. So, before you post an angry comment, this is not about giving people a guilt trip. As I said before, I too have prayed such prayers and thought such thoughts.

But what would happen if we prayed, “Lord, what can I do to meet this need?” You see, such a prayer puts the ball in our court, and that makes us uncomfortable. Because the reality is, in most circumstances there is something we can do.

Here are some of the excuses I have used to rationalize away any personal responsibility in helping others in a hands-on way.

“I don’t have enough money. God wants me to get out of debt first before I donate financially.”

In this day’s economy, I have a feeling I am not the only one who has used this excuse. It’s tantamount to saying I need to stay at home and study the entire Bible inside and out before I go in to the world and share my faith or serve in the church or surrounding community. It’s a clever ruse tempting to keep us in the stagnant waters of selfishness.

“I don’t have enough room, I don’t have enough resources. I don’t have enough time.”

Once again I refer to the above explanation. If we wait until we are “ready”, until we have enough, are enough, or own enough, then we will never—I repeat—never make a tangible move forward because we will never be “ready”. There will always be more bills to pay, more books to read, more personal “needs” to gain. I am convinced this is one of the single greatest deceptions among believers and it has immobilized the church. While some are willing to write checks, few are willing to get their own hands dirty. Like I said, I have been there too.

If all of us sitting in the pews on Sunday are infected with Somebody-Else Syndrome, the needs of our communities, even the needs of our brothers and sisters, will never be met. And what a shame that is. Indeed, I know many unbelievers who are far more generous with their time and resources than Christians. And this becomes a roadblock for them. After all, why should they believe in God when the people who say they follow God are so self-absorbed and inward focused?  If that is what God is all about, just judging, pointing fingers at sins, and not actually doing anything else, then what is the point?

Service not Serve-us…

A couple of weeks ago my pastor used this phrase, “service instead of serve-us”. How true is this, though? If we had a mindset of “what can I do, Lord” instead of, “Lord, let somebody else step up” more needs would be met.

If it sounds like I’m worked up, I am. I write this with high emotions as I watch a friend in need being turned away. Too many Christians infected with Somebody-Else Syndrome. Initially, when I heard of her need, I prayed, “Lord, please meet her need.” You know what He said? He said, “You can meet this need.”

He reminded me of a verse I had recently posted on facebook and twitter:

“I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute.” Is. 58:7

“But Lord, you know this type of situation has turned out badly in the past. You know our circumstances, finances…blah blah blah.” It was clear what God required. I was given an opportunity to practice what I preach, to get my hands dirty; to sacrifice comfort and resources. And I admit, I hesitated. But I am glad that after a few minutes of spiritual wrestling I submitted.

But here we are again. The same friend in the same situation and I am left wondering, “If this person was a missionary or speaker, or someone famous, the same people who say they cannot help would be willingly opening their doors.” Maybe that is too cynical, but it’s what I am left with after weeks of watching my friend struggle.

Once again I know what God requires of me, and I am willing now because I have seen the blessings and spiritual rewards for following His voice. But I am still reeling over the occurrences of Somebody-Else Syndrome that has infected many believers today.

Who is willing to sacrifice comfort, time, and resources to meet the needs around them? Who is willing to take a dose of God’s word, God’s truth, and eradicate this disease lurking within? Who is willing to serve Him by serving others instead of serving self? It’s time we rise up and get uncomfortable. Our brothers and sisters are hurting and are being rejected by their own spiritual families. This ought not be! It’s time we say “Lord, I want to share my food with the hungry and bring right into my own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute.”

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Dear Critical Christian….

Dear Critical Christian,

I was so delighted to hear your request to understand my purpose in your life and the life of other Christians. I will address a few issues you seem to have recurring trouble with, and offer suggestions to help eradicate those feelings.

Critical Christian, I realize the family around the corner may appear to be in constant financial distress, but please try to refrain from suggesting the wife get a “real” job. What you may not understand is she is doing exactly what God has called her to do by raising her children at home and teaching them as instructed in Deuteronomy 6.

Critical Christian, I know the music is a bit loud every week at church but your mind may be put at ease through demonstrating your acceptance and understanding of your Pastor’s worship decisions. Reading 1 Timothy 6 will prove beneficial in this area. If it seems more than you can bear, you could consider a different congregation with the more aesthetically pleasing sounds you prefer.

Critical Christian, I understand you hold personal convictions regarding the use of alcohol, but I must refer to Romans 14. The family across town may not hold the same convictions as you. Just as you believe going to the theatre is perfectly fine while they choose to not own a television or view any secular media. Each person is subject to God equally, and will answer for their choices. Pointing fingers at everyone else’s decisions is tiresome work and I wouldn’t want you to get an ulcer.

Critical Christian, I know you feel bitter about the success of the family next door, but I would like to point out they have worked hard for more than three decades to attain what they have. They did not win the lottery but saved and sacrificed most of the time to make ends meet. Their hard work paid off, and now they enjoy the fruits of their labor as well as generously sharing their goods with their neighbors.  Be assured if you work hard, be a good steward of God’s blessings, make wise choices and generously give to those in need as God leads, you too will reap great rewards. I cannot promise your reward in this life on earth but can assure your reward in the Kingdom of God will be great. Matthew 25:14-30 illuminates this principle well.

Critical Christian, I sympathize with your ill feelings towards the family across the way and their poorly behaved children. I understand they are loud, rude, and often troublesome. I thought you may want to know that despite appearances, their parents have recently given their life to the Lord. As new believers they are uncertain how to apply Biblical principles. It may be good to remember you never really know what’s going on behind closed doors, and it’s probably best to focus on your own family and training your kids as commanded in Deuteronomy 6. As you understand my work in your life to a greater degree, you will be given opportunities to share it with other believers.

Critical Christian, my time is running short and there are many others requesting my presence in their lives, so I must end this letter.  I pray you come to a perfect place of peace, letting nothing offend you as is written in Psalm 119:165.

Love God’s law with all your heart and serve Him with gladness. Memorize Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 and practice it always.

Preach truth with your life always more than your words, for your life will validate your words.

Read Matthew 5-7. Study Matthew 5-7. Invite the Holy Spirit to live Matthew 5-7 in your life daily.

You may also enjoy reading words of wisdom in James 1:20-26.

Finally, Critical Christian, remember that to speak the truth in love first requires a heart of love. Any words of truth from a heart divided will certainly fall on deaf ears. You may consider memorizing Ephesians 5:1-2 as well.

Study Jesus and His example, for he and I are intertwined as one. There is no greater demonstration of my work than through His life and message.

A final warning: your experience of me may be hindered if you become deceived with your fleshly desires or the Enemy’s lies, so keep in fellowship with the Father always. John 15 explains this well.

The best advice I could leave with you regarding my work in your life is found in 1 Peter 5:5-10. Clothe yourself in humility and my presence will pour over your life continuously.

Sincerely,

Grace

Serving Spouses

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

Yesterday my husband arrived home from work much earlier than usual. Normally this sends me in a panic, having developed a steady routine I don’t like interrupted. I took a moment to refocus on my calling (having just finished writing about it) and prepared to be confronted with ways to “practice what I preach”.

Within a half hour he was suggesting going places and doing things I was completely uninterested in. I found myself blurting out “ok, let’s go” before I even knew what was happening. (Thanks, God.) It’s amazing how well things go when an attitude is changed. Knowing that I was first and foremost being obedient to Christ allowed me to enjoy the process of serving my husband.

There have been many times in the past I grudgingly went along with what he wanted to do, but my horrible attitude ruined the process for us both.  God has used the good and bad experiences to teach me what it means to be a servant-help-meet to my husband. One day my husband, surprised by my attitude changes, exclaimed, “What’s gotten into you?!” Oh, not much, honey, just the Holy Spirit’s conviction!

I’d love to end this note with a “happily-ever-after” statement of my husband’s changed heart for Jesus, but I cannot do that-yet. I do believe 1 Peter 3:1-2₁and the principles it outlines. My husband may very well have a change of heart someday because he saw God’s change in my heart first. It’s not just about being different then I was eight years ago when we met; it’s about a heart change that’s only explained by the supernatural power of the Living God. My husband is still of the thought that “all good things come to an end”, sitting back waiting for me to “get over it” with “religion”. It’s been several years and he’s stubborn to say the least, but I know no matter how long it takes, my calling to love, honor, obey, and commitment in prayer over him will never change, even if he never changes.

Can you imagine how decades of loving service, submission, respect and companionship could possibly affect him? It may take that long, it may not. It may never happen. In any case, it’s what I’ve been called to do. In fact, it’s what every wife has been called to do, regardless of their husband’s spiritual state.

I’ve been counseled by women of faith to divorce my husband over our differences, and, having already been divorced I’ll admit it was enticing at one point. But God hasn’t called me to take the easy way out. I’ve made it clear to my husband that if he ever brought home divorce papers, no matter what happened, I would not sign them-ever. I believe that is what God called me to do; relentlessly pursue reconciliation at all costs and refuse to give up.

In a message a few weeks ago at church, Pastor Pat said something that had me in tears. He talked about doing the best we can with what we’ve been given right where we are, and at that moment God spoke to my heart, “serve him”. That was my calling, that was how I could do the best with what I had where I was-serving my husband. I grieved thinking how often I had an attitude about getting up at 2:30am to make his breakfast before he went to work, and how many times I had refused to do it then complained at the end of the week how much money he spent eating out (poor guy).

I’m not perfect, and confessing my failures being a servant-wife is frequent in my prayer life, however God’s mercies are new every morning₂ and He provides ample opportunities to show love to my husband through service.  I challenge you, if you’re a wife, to ask God how you can better serve your husband today. Not just the regular “cleaning up after him” sort of things, but something extraordinary. Something that would make him exclaim, “what’s gotten into you?!” And if you’re a husband, you’re not off the hook. Loving your wife as Christ loves the church₃ is a high calling not to be taken for granted (in fact, it’s impossible to love your wife as described in Ephesians without His indwelling spirit). Meanwhile, be thankful to your wife when you see she’s making an effort. Let her know you appreciate it and watch her be motivated to do more!

The following Scripture quotes have been taken from the New International Version.

  1. 1 Peter 3:1-2 “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
  2. Lamentations 3:22-23 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
  3. Ephesians 5:25-30 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-for we are all members of his body.”

“Good” Parenting Starts in My Heart

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deut 6:5-8

How to be a good parent in one sentence.

Society chooses to fill the minds of children with useless garbage, yet we as parents have a choice as what to teach our kids. What we allow them to spend time with, what we allow them to read, watch, and DO. All of these things truly effect their eternity, and it falls on US to teach them the right path. It is our responsibility as parents, and indeed, we will answer for our choices to teach our children-or not teach them the only thing that truly matters. Sounds serious? This is serious! Life is not a joke, and we are responsible with equipping our children with the appropriate tools to deal with life in a godly, wise way. We can’t expect them to do this unless we ourselves are living it. After all, we are immitators of Christ, and this is what we want our children to immulate in us.

We are quick to quote Proverbs “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”, however, that training involves a lifestyle, not just filling our children’s minds with knowledge or sending them to Sunday School once a week. This passage from Deuteronomy is perfect; we are told to walk it, talk it, live it every morning noon and night. It is a way of life. It starts with us as parents. Do WE love the Lord our God with all OUR hearts, soul, strength, and mind? Let’s start there, and we won’t need to worry so much about what happens with our kids…

“Lord, change ME, teach ME, and let my child see YOU in me, and grow to love YOU as they see me loving You!”