I love reading quotes. One of my favorite books was always Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and I always found comfort in being able to express my feelings through the words of others (the same applies to song lyrics.  I remember one time my friend Dave and I sat at Johnny Rocket’s and had a conversation for a half hour consisting of nothing but quoting song lyrics).  A few of my favorite quotes are:

“May you live all the days of your life." - Johnathan Swift

"I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections, and the truth of imagination." - John Keats

"The strongest, sweetest songs yet remain to be sung." - Walt Whitman

"You can't fix a broken emotion. You can only touch it with another emotion" - Peter Gilroy

"More than anything in this life, we are looking for some happy endings." - Robert Fulghum

"Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer." - Brennan Manning

"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men" - Willy Wonka

"It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others." - John Andrew Holmes

It’s really this last quote that I want to talk about. In America, we really pride ourselves on our independence and self-reliance. We don’t need anybody. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Our focus is me and what I can do for myself. I am a self-made man. We are at the center of our universe. This attitude has even seeped into the church, where we focus on ourselves and our own spiritual journey, independent of anyone else: The Strong Christian. But this attitude has created a very serious flaw in the American church and that is the American Christian church, as a whole, has missed the fundamental truth of the Gospel:
That it is not all about me. It's really all about others.

the American Christian church, as a whole, has missed the fundamental truth of the Gospel:That it is not all about me. It's really all about others.

Now, I am not, as my brother-in-law asked, saying that our salvation is anything but personal between us and God. On the contrary, salvation comes only through an individual confession of Jesus as our Savior and a personal relationship with Christ. And I’m also not saying that it isn’t important to grow your own spiritual walk and your own relationship with Christ.  It is essential that we spend time daily in prayer and studying the Bible. We have to, as Paul wrote, “pray continually” (1 Thes. 5:17).  That means don’t stop. If we ignore our own spiritual disciplines, we will never grow in our faith. And if we don’t grow in our faith, we’ll never be able to be used by God.

However, the message of the Gospels, and what Jesus reiterates over and over again, is that once we have professed faith in Jesus, once we claim to follow Him, then our main focus, our main priority, just as Jesus' was, should be on others, not ourselves.

Jesus said "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35). When asked the greatest commandment, Jesus replied "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength". But he didn't end there: He went on to point out that the second greatest commandment is to "Love your neighbor as yourself". When Jesus told the parable of the sheep and the goats, the only difference between the sheep and the goats is what they did or didn't do for others.

It is clear throughout His ministry, Jesus constantly focused on others. He “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7).  Over and over again Jesus talks about being a servant, about how “the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20 25-28)

The Church in America, however, seems to continually focus on "me" - my rights, my entitlements, my prosperity, etc. - rather than others and what we can do for them.

America has created a culture of selfishness and self-centeredness and it’s infected the church as well. It's not my responsibility to help or protect anyone else. (I've actually had people say those exact words to me). It's sad and it's so contrary to the Heart of God.

My daughter and I were talking the other day. The Boise school district decided to cancel the summer sports and activities, in the hope that this can be controlled and they’ll be able to have sports once school restarts in the fall. I said that’s pretty responsible of them and my daughter replied “It’s kind of sad when the school district is more conscientious about the health and wellbeing of others than the church is.” It’s a powerful indictment.

So what do we do? We need to go back to what Paul wrote: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves." (Philippians 2:3)

As Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). But in a practical, real sense, we can begin in small ways: pay for someone’s coffee at Starbucks, buy a burger for someone homeless on the corner, visit a family in the hospital and pray for them, bring them dinner (one of the biggest blessings my family got was a friend who sent me and my wife dinner when our baby girl was in the hospital.  And not just McDonalds or a pizza, but a real dinner from a nice Italian restaurant). Begin to pray (and this is where that personal time with God comes in) that God would open your eyes to see how you can bless others.  Only then, will we be more like Jesus. Only then, will we truly understand how God wants to use us and we’ll see His priorities and understand that the universe, with that one trifling exception, is really made up of others.


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