I have a parasite. Not sure whether I picked it up in Africa or perhaps just from eating a salad in the U.S. Either way, it is not fun and it is not leaving without a fight.

This parasite is manifesting in unusual ways. New food allergies are continually developing, and one of the symptoms is a very rapid heartbeat. From the outside, I appear to be completely healthy. But internally that parasite is wreaking havoc.

Our family has visited a number of churches over the past few months. My son had an interesting observation last week as we discussed them. He asked if I noticed a self-centeredness in many of them. As we talked about it, I agreed. Not all, but many of the messages had an underlying tone of self-absorption. Even many of the songs have been more about how pathetic and needy I am, instead of how awesome God is.

Self-centeredness is creeping into the Body of Christ. Just like the parasite that I have, things may look fine from the outside while something that does not belong is running rampant on the inside. One little wrong thing gets in and eventually affects the whole body. It starts out small, but then it grows and becomes much harder to get out.

James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (emphasis mine).” More about orphans and widows another time. Is the church getting polluted by the world?

Narcissism is running rampant in the United States. People want what they want, feeling as though they deserve it (interesting to note that 2 Timothy 3:2 tells of a future time when “people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud...”). We spend instead of sacrificing. Take a look at the debt issues. Do we know the meaning of the word sacrifice? We call it “our” money and “our” time instead of recognizing God as the giver. We look to Twitter and Facebook to fulfill a desire for significance.

Concern for outward appearances, number of attenders, and success of programs is making its way into many churches, and they end up looking a lot like the rest of the world. We have faith in ourselves and our own abilities to get things done, and we ask God to bless our plan. We pick favorable verses to judge ourselves. Not comfortable with conviction? Just avoid it. It’s easier to rededicate than it is to repent.

On the flight back from Swaziland with my daughter last fall, I asked what was her biggest take-away from our experiences. Her thoughts were that in America we spend an awful lot of time learning how to be a “better” Christian, but the Bible already tells us what we need to be doing and we just need to do it. She’s right.

How about starting by focusing on God through His version of focusing on ourselves? “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).”

• Lisa Jisa and her family have been residents of Ahwatukee Foothills since 2000. She can be reached at lisa.jisa@gmail.com.

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