Friday, July 6, 2012


Sometimes I catch myself thinking about certain words and breaking them apart, and wonder how they came to mean what they mean, because the roots don't seem to mean the same thing. 
Like extraordinary?  Extra.  Ordinary.  That isn't just ordinary, dude...that is EXTRA ordinary! 
Or supernatural.  How did that come about?  Some super Christian one day saw someone jump out of a wheelchair and begin praising God, and they were like, "Oh...well, yeah, that's no big deal.  I mean, it's SUPER natural."
But anyways, I was thinking about the word selfish, and picking it apart a little...and I know some nerd is going to say something like: "Oh yeah!  It's has something to do with selling fish, right?"  I'm not getting that detailed, and this isn't really even that profound.  In fact, it's not studied at all, and I'm just making all this up, so if you quote me, don't give me credit.  (In this instance.)  But usually when you use the word 'ish' it means 'kind of'.  "It's blue...ish."  Or that man is 'elfish'. 
Yet, the word 'selfish' has such a negative connotation, and rightfully so.  But I can see how the word morphed into what it is.  "Who were you thinking about when you did that?" "Well, yeah...that was self...ish."  Ok maybe not.  In my opinion, self...ish, sounds a lot better than self-centered or egotistical.  And that is exactly how selfishness grows.  We just get focused on self-ish things.  But we try to make it seem like it's not bad.  It's just that I got self things to do.  Well...self-ish things to do.  Things that sort of have more to do with ourselves, as opposed to things that benefit other people.
I was hit by my own selfishness when I got a letter from a kid we sponsor in Africa through Compassion International forgiving me for not writing to him very much.  Ouch.  That letter stung.  It's not that I don't like him or decided I was going to make a Tanzanian kid's life miserable by ignoring's just that I got caught up with self...ish things in my own life.  Things having to do with my self like college, friends, career, etc.
To make matters worse, I have been reading or hearing about selfless things that people have done in books and blogs and stuff like that.  For example, in one of the Lamplighter books called, "Self Raised", the sequel to Ishmael, which I've mentioned before on this blog, there was a story in it that struck me as I was reading it aloud to my mom and sister.  There's a shipwreck, and a bunch of men rush to the lifeboats to get off the sinking ship, pushing past women and children and old men, but the hero of the story, Ishmael, rushes to the front, and stops them, putting them to shame for thinking of their own lives above those of the old men, women, and children.  He promises them that he is willing to back up his words, by being the last one off the wreck.  The life boats soon fill up, and several of the men aren't able to make it onto the boats.  But everybody begins calling for Ishmael to come.  "We can make room for one more!" somebody calls.  And it's so justifiable.  Ishmael has his whole life ahead of him...a fiancee back home, a promising career, a winning personality, and the ability to influence and help people, and make a huge, lasting difference in the world.  Even the men who had been rushing the lifeboats, but now had to stay behind, can see the futility in Ishmael's staying, and the help he could be if he saved himself, and they urge him to go into the lifeboats.  But Ishmael is full of honor, and his selfless response is, "If there's room for one more, then take one of these men, but I will keep my word to them, and be the last one off the ship."
We love stories like that.  Self-sacrificing heroism is something we all honor and uphold, because it is such a noble thing.  It's exactly what Jesus did, who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant. (Phil. 2:6-7
Like I said, we love stories like that, and it strikes a cord with us.  To add insult to injury, I'm preparing some scripts for a test radio drama I have the opportunity to help with, and the theme I pushed for was 'putting others first.'  And, yet, in my own life, I can see lots of examples where I don't.  Not because I'm trying to be rude or hate people...I just get caught up with self-ish things.  But I need to think about myself less.  Be more selfless.  (Get it?  It's another one of those word things!  Uh, anyways...)
Christianity is all about crucifying the flesh, and walking in the spirit.  When you walk in the spirit you begin thinking more about and focusing on others, because we match up with the heart of Jesus and that's what He's all about.  But it's very common for people to want 'Me Time.'  I hear of that concept a lot more than I'd care to.  And I fall into that mentality a lot more than I'd care to admit.  We justify it by saying we need time to recharge, regroup, and relax, and God wants us to have those times to ourselves when we can just indulge in chocolate mint ice cream and watch the Avengers or Spongebob Squarepants or something, right?  However, I noticed something interesting in our Bible study the other day that relates to that concept.
We were studying Mark chapter 6, and we read about how Jesus sent out the disciples two by two to cast out demons, heal sick people, preach repentance, shake dust off their feet, and all that cool jazz.  But look what happens right when they get back.
Mark 6:30-38"And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. (31) And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. (32) And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. (33) And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. (34) And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. (35) And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: (36) Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. (37) He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? (38) He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes."
We all know how the story ends, so I won't include that part.  (If you don't, I apologize...stop reading this post, get your Bible app out and look up Mark chapter 6 to read the rest of the story.)  I just wanted to focus on this part for a minute though, because obviously the apostles are tired.  They've been travelling, doing ministry for a while.  We all know when we get back from a trip, all we want to do is relax the next day, right?  I just got back from a trip, and that is pretty much exactly what I did.  But especially when you're doing ministry, and trying to help other can be incredibly tiring. 
And we see that Jesus wants to give them rest, because they're not even getting a chance to eat!  It seems perfectly reasonable that they should get a break.  In fact, we know that it IS reasonable because Jesus is the one who suggested it, and I ain't gonna argue with Him. 
But, unfortunately, the PEOPLE don't get the hint, and they outrace Jesus and the disciples to the place where they're trying to take a break!  I can picture James and Andrew getting a little annoyed, saying, "Hey, we're trying to get away from you people, and you keep following us."  It's worse than unwanted houseguests, who don't get the hint that you want to go to bed, even though you're brushing your teeth and turning off the lights.  And I imagine (maybe just because I'm a cynical person who thinks this way) a little irritation in the disciples' voices as they say, "Uh...Jesus, it's dinnertime...maybe this is our opportunity to send them AWAY, because they don't have anything to eat."  I might be reading a little too much into that, but track with me, in case you feel like that.  Jesus turns around and tells them, "Give ye them to eat."
  What?  Are you kidding me, Jesus?  The disciples are tired, hungry, and they've been out ministering for a long time, now they just want to send the people to get something to eat, and Jesus tells them to keep ministering.  "You give them something." he says.  I can identify with that tiredness in ministry, yet if we could get the focus off ourselves for a little while, there are so many hungry people, like sheep without a shepherd that need to be fed.  If we could see them the way Jesus sees them, we might be able to walk in His will.  But if we're just focused on ourselves, we'll lose sight of Him.  Not that we have to carry the burdens of others alone...God will carry them for us.  He'll do the work...He'll do the miracle.  But we should have the mentality of service and ministry, as unprofitable servants, regardless.  (Luke 17:10
People ironically do this in church a lot.  A big reason peopel will switch churches is because "I'm not getting fed at that church."  Well, okay, but are you feeding anybody?  How were you contributing in that church to the body of Christ, reaching out to help others?
This brings me to one last story before I quit writing.  There was a time a while back when I was very tired and weary.  I was going through a rough place, and I got to church and needed a touch from God.  I knelt down by my chair to pray, and began asking God to touch me.  All of a sudden, I kept getting a nudge to go pray for two young people I had seen sitting in the back.  "Oh come on God, are you serious?  I'm not in a position to pray for others right now?  I need something for ME in this service!  I can't help others with their problems when I've got so many of my own."  I kept feeling the urge to go pray for them, but I kept brushing it off.  I needed a touch! God wasn't ministering to ME!  If He would just minister to me, then I could minister to them.  I kept pushing the feeling away, until I lost my chance.  That was the last time I saw either of those two young people in church for over a year.  One moved away and I haven't seen him since; the other got sidetracked by things going on in her life, and didn't come back for over a year.  I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't been so self-centered?  Did I have a chance to minister to them and missed it because of my own selfishness?
What about you? What kind of self...ish...things are you caught up in? And are there ways you could be helping others right now that you're not because you're caught up in self?
It is so important to look outside ourselves and think of others.  And it can be so hard to do.  However, we need to be committed to trying to be more and more like Jesus, with the servant's heart that He had.  Even though I fail miserably almost every day, I want to try to be more like Him.  Because honestly, when we help others, our own needs are satisfied...sometimes by the very act of kindness that we're doing for someone else. 

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (4) Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)