I had the wonderful privilege of guest-posting on Encourage 365 today. I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think!
“The goat chosen to be the scapegoat will be presented to the Lord alive. When
it is sent away into the wilderness, it will make atonement for the people.”
Aaron was a godly priest, though he certainly had his setbacks (uh, need a golden calf anyone?). Apparently his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, chose to hang on to their daddy’s example of idolatry rather than his example of worshipping the one True God (sometimes our mistakes come back to haunt us).
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.”
“Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Revelation 5:8
(Suggested reading: Revelation 5:1-14)
Psalm 56:8 tells us that God holds every tear we’ve shed in a Divine bottle. He hears every sob; He takes into account every painful moment we’ve experienced. We’re also told in Revelation that God has another Divine container—a bowl. This bowl preserves every prayer uttered by every saint from Adam to the end of time.
When we praise Him in worship, when we thank Him for our meal, when we cry out in anguish over our sin—every single utterance is preserved for a culminating moment in history.
Just imagine, all the host of heaven is gathered around the throne of the Father. Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, holds the Scroll sealed with seven seals. He alone stands worthy to reveal its contents. This knowledge causes all of heaven to bow in worship,
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom
and priests serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
As this proclamation thunders throughout heaven, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders fall before the Lamb, pouring out a sweet smelling sacrifice of incense. This sweet smell, this glorious offering is poured out at the feet of Jesus. Your prayers, my prayers, our ancestor’s prayers, the prayers of every martyr, and the prayers of every biblical “hero” now becomes a sacrifice of worship. Not one of them is wasted. No, not one.
Every prayer uttered is an offering–an offering now and an offering to come.
Worthy is the Lamb both now and forever, Amen.
“The law shall be his constant companion. He must read from it every day of his life so that he will learn to respect the Lord his God by obeying all of his commands. This regular reading of God’s laws will prevent him from feeling that he is better than his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from God’s laws in the slightest respect.” Deut. 17:19-20 (The Living Bible)
I recently read an article in InTouch magazine (Dr. Charles Stanley) about a woman who cut apart and re-bound her Bible into 4 sections to help her read through it easier. Admittedly, holding the Bible in my hand and thinking about reading through the whole thing-cover to cover-seems rather daunting unless it’s divided into little bite-sized pieces over the course of a year.
Thinking what a fantastic idea this woman had, I was also convicted about my own scattered reading plans. God spoke to me there and challenged me to read from Genesis 1:1-Revelation 22 in one week. No, that wasn’t a typo, I said one week. My first thought was, how will I ever find time for that? But God is bigger than my excuses and quickly brought to mind many things I could give up for one week to accomplish this goal.
Taking on this challenge has been one of the best experiences I’ve encountered in God’s word. Reading through the books in order has opened my eyes to things I’ve never understood before. Stories are making more sense read in context. And by context I don’t mean the 12 verses surrounding one verse, but the books surrounding other books. For instance, many people (including myself) avoid the book of Leviticus. Granted, it’s not the “easiest” read, but is important since “the whole Bible is given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what it true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right.” (2 Tim. 3;16-The Living Bible)
There was something so inspirational and special about reading the Bible continuously. I can’t adequately describe it other than to recommend doing it.
I wrote a 30-day Bible reading plan (understanding very few would be able to devote a week to it) and am challenging you, my friends and lovers of the Word, to ask if God would have you do this. It is a challenge, I won’t say it’s not. Prayerfully consider if God would have you do this or perhaps adapt the plan to suit your needs.
The average reader can easily accomplish this goal in 2-3 hours per day. I’ll list some tips I’ve employed to help me read the word in one week that will help you read it in one month. You may want to consider using a different version than you normally study from in order to provide a new experience. I chose a paraphrase (The Living Bible) so it reads more like a novel. This is for reading, not studying, so don’t get too hung up on the translation.
1-Get up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later. (It’s only one month-a worthy sacrifice indeed.)
2-Listen to the Bible on audio while you drive, cook, clean, shower, etc. You’ll find there’s a lot of time for your ears to be working while your hands are busy.
3-Avoid the temptation of social media-the articles, cutesy pictures, posts, statuses, and other time-consuming reads. You’ll find those things add up quickly. 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there is an hour before you know it. In an hour you could have read several chapters in the Bible.
4-Give up the news or other programming you consistently watch on television. Even one or two shows is an hour or more that you could be reading.
5-When you are reading the Bible at length you will discover things you want to look up and research. Avoid the bunny trails! Keep a note-pad handy and write down the verse/subject so you can study it at a later time, once you’ve reached your reading goal.
6-Finally, don’t read just to read! Read the Story to grow in your relationship with Jesus and ask Him to open your eyes to new things each and every time you begin. He will answer that prayer and your eyes will surely be opened more than you’d ever imagine.
I can’t wait to hear your testimonies and pray you will be encouraged and strengthened in your journey. Who knows, maybe you’ll like it so much you’ll decide to do it a couple times every year. I know I’ve been inspired to do as much. Please let me know in the comments if you are going to be taking this challenge so I can be sure to pray for you!
Through the Bible in 30 Days
Day 1: Genesis 1-40
Day 2: Genesis 41-Exodus 30
Day 3: Exodus 31-Numbers 3
Day 4: Numbers 4-Deuteronomy 8
Day 5: Deuteronomy 9-Joshua 15
Day 6: Joshua 16-1 Samuel 7
Day 7: 1 Samuel 8-2 Samuel 17
Day 8: 2 Samuel 18-2 Kings 12
Day 9: 2 Kings 13-1 Chronicles 29
Day 10: 2 Chronicles 1-Ezra 4
Day 11: Ezra 5-Job 11
Day 12: Job 12-Psalm 10
Day 13: Psalm 11-51
Day 14: Psalm 52-92
Day 15: Psalm 93-133
Day 16: Psalm 134-Proverbs 14
Day 17: Proverbs 15-Ecclesiastes 12
Day 18: Song of Solomon 1-Isaiah 32
Day 19: Isaiah 33-Jeremiah 6
Day 20: Jeremiah 7-47
Day 21: Jeremiah 48-Ezekiel 31
Day 22: Ezekiel 32-Hosea 14
Day 23: Joel 1-Zechariah 5
Day 24: Zechariah 6-Matthew 28
Day 25: Mark 1-Luke 14
Day 26: Luke 15-Acts 10
Day 27: Acts 11-Romans 16
Day 28: 1 Corinthians 1-Galatians 6
Day 29: Ephesians 1-2 Timothy 4
Day 30: Titus 1-Revelation 22
Yesterday was one of “those” days. I sank into that darkness and allowed myself to be there. Overwhelmed by my circumstances because I chose to be overwhelmed. Did God make me overwhelmed? Did He design me to worry, and carry my burdens alone? No. I see that, I saw that, yet I turned from that truth and chose to wallow.
“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” Psalm 119:143
This morning as I lay in my bed, awake far earlier than I needed to be, I became acutely aware of God’s presence. He wouldn’t let me go back to sleep. So I got up, made my coffee, and sat and listened. What, God, what?
“I’m giving you an opportunity.”
Me: “Is that so? I’m not sure ‘opportinity’ is the word I’d use.”
“I’m giving you an opportunity to trust Me, an opportunity others don’t always recognize.”
Me: “Ohhhh, I see. I thought I did trust you?”
“Your behavior gives you away. You don’t believe; you doubt. You say Psalm 119:143 over and over, yet it’s not true. It’s not real to you, it’s what you want, but you don’t have it….yet.”
Me: “I want it to be real! I want to believe it and live it!”
“Remember, it is harder for the wealthy to enter My kingdom, easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle, actually. You truly learn to trust Me when I am all you have, when I am your only hope, your only comfort, your only companion. When your friend leaves you, when money is gone, when your child is ill, when you are ill, and when you cannot fix any of it yourself, then you learn to trust. I am teaching you how to trust. Will you learn?”
Me: “It hurts, so much.”
“You are not alone. I have never gone anywhere. You choose to walk away from Me when you don’t believe.”
Me: “Teach me, I am ready to learn! Thank you for giving me this opportunity, I don’t want to waste it! I confess my unbelief!”
Nothing changed in my circumstances, but He began to change me. In class this morning we talked of Truth. How I needed that! We act what we believe! The light bulb deep down flickers as we discuss….
We live our whole lives trying to be what God already made us. Who am I? I am a new creation, with a new heart, a heart that he turned from stone to flesh the moment I became His. That’s who I am; yet I live my life as if I need to attain that. Do this, be better at that…but I’m failing! Of course I am failing, because I am trying to be what he already made me! What I need to do is walk in the truth of what He said I already am. Live the truth of His word. I cannot do this unless I allow Him to grab hold of my heart. I cannot do it by grabbing Him, He has to call me, speak to me, and open my eyes to who I am in Jesus, and what His heart is towards me.
My new friend passes me a paper, “God just spoke to me for you”.
“Paying bills in the spirit, paying bills in the flesh.
Faith vs Flesh
The battle begins at the first look—Thinking there is more than what I have in front of me.
Humble and grateful for all that I have, lots or little.
Are we thanking Him?
Thank you Lord for paying this bill. Asking Him to guide you to the rest.
What has God placed on my plate?—-What am I doing with what God has given,
protected and nothing
sharing a little
making a difference
giving what I’ve been given.”
My eyes were opening. On the way from class to the worship service I prayed….
Grab my heart, make me to see.
First the music….
He is mighty to save….
Yes, He is, I know that….and then He grabbed me…..
“These sufferings, this passing tide, under Your wings I will abide, and every enemy shall flee. You are my hope and victory. Praise the Father, praise the Son, praise the Spirit three in One; clothed in power and in grace, the Name above all other names.”
Weeping….I can’t even sing anymore. My friends behind me lay hands on me and pray. My friend next to me holds my hand. They know, they understand my pain and they care. But even if they didn’t, I know He would be enough. He is enough. He is all I need. My hope and victory is the Name above all names! I have victory, I don’t need to try to get what I already have! Eyes are open!
Then the sermon…..
“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.” Acts 4:32-35
Wow! I couldn’t think of anyone in my life that unselfish and sacrificial, including myself! No, in my case I try and try and try to make it work in my own power. What little (and I mean little) I have I feel like I need or else….
I won’t be able to pay my bills
I won’t have my physical needs met
I won’t be able to feed my child
Or will I? No, I only think I am doing those things, when in reality I was never doing those things. It was always God, not me. And I was ungrateful because I thought I needed more! No God, it’s not enough. I need a “best” friend an ‘ana duo’ like she has, I need health, I need food, I need money for bills…..Or do I? I am trying to get what I already have….Jesus. He is all. I need nothing else.
At that moment, when God changed my vision, I realized I had too much. I wanted to get rid of it. Oh how selfish a creature I am! Attempting to hang tightly on to what…scraps of money that isn’t “enough” to do what I need it to do? How ridiculous! I have the richest Ruler of all living in my heart, directing my steps, is He not fully capable of making provision? How dare I think “it’s not enough”! Oh when those scales fall off it’s marvelous! Freeing! No longer do I need to worry about getting this tumor removed, paying rent, or having a friend who understands me. I don’t need to make it happen, or force anything. God has intentionally placed me where He wants me, and that is where I want to be!
Me: “Ok, how much?”
Sacrificially. I will take care of you.
When you hear Him so loudly, how can you not trust?! He was right in front of me. It was easy, all of a sudden, to give it away. It was never mine to begin with. Contentment that is not forced…that is a treasure. No longer am I trying to be content, because I realize IN HIM I have contentment already. No more trying, just resting. I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know how He will work it out, I just know that He will. And it has nothing to do with me. I just needed to quit trying so hard to do His job. I needed to pray, “Grab my heart….open my eyes.”
I picked up my sweet girl from Sunday School and found another answered prayer. A teacher she had been having trouble with for months, afraid of and refusing to be around, well Samantha was in her class and happy! So long I had prayed for that, and somewhat given up on the request. But there it was, a miracle before my eyes! And those who knew the situation knew it was a miracle!
“And you doubt Me.”
Me: Thank you, Jesus. Thank you….
Home now….Not even yelling spouse or crying child will bring me back to the “self” I had been lost in. Home is wonderful, the home He provided. It is enough because He was there….
He is here.
That is all I need, I have enough.
He is enough, and no one could make Him be enough except for Him.
For By His Grace
Our debt was paid
A free gift to all
Freedom is ours
For by His grace
We have life
In His presence
Humbled by His love
For by His grace
Our burdens He takes
How can we ever be
All for His glory
On our own we fail
For by His grace
Our strength comes
Created for His pleasure
It’s all of us
For by His grace
We worship through our life
No more bondage
For by His grace
Christ in us
For by His grace
Purpose for living
For by His grace
He took our place
For by His grace
We forgive freely
For by His grace
We offer His love
For by His grace
For by His grace
Peace has come
For by His grace
Hope is made
For by His grace
Completed on the cross
The gift is ours
For by His grace
We are free