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Monday, February 22, 2010

Should Churches be as Friendly as Bars?

Should Churches be as Friendly as a Bar?




An article in this months’ Christianity Today caught my eye. The title is, “Should churches be as friendly as a bar?” The author quoted a survey taken where 800 respondents, mostly Christian, were asked whether they felt that their local churches were as friendly as their local restaurants and bars. Unfortunately the restaurants and bars won out! The results of the survey also showed that when their pastors were rated on the “friendly index” they too didn’t make the grade! The pastors fell below the friendliness of neighbors and co-workers and pastors and were rated at just a notch above store clerks in their friendliness!



If this wasn’t bad enough, to my horror the author continued by insisting that churches and pastors don’t need to be that friendly! He proposed many intellectual reasons why the Church shouldn’t strive to be friendly and make people comfortable! Before I finished reading the article I found myself walking down memory lane.



My husband and I unfortunately have been part of several unfriendly churches—like the ones this senior editor must be writing about! We lived in a wealthy artsy town and raised our children in this striving community nestled between the tall mountains and the perfect beach. My husband was a professor in a private Christian college there – one that had a reputation for excellence. And church fellowship for us consisted mostly of important people striving to impress other important people! Fellow Christians in this snobbish oasis knew their Bibles so perfectly and were quick to judge anyone who didn’t measure up. After many years of trying to be a part of these competitive Christian groups, both my husband and I left depressed, isolated and lonely.



We left it all and moved across the country. It had been such a long time since we had enjoyed real Christian fellowship! Did it still exist? We had never attended a Methodist church before but a few weeks after our move we nervously snuck into a Methodist church down the street from our new home, A young man with a “Greeter” button on his lapel met us at the door with a big smile and a hand shake. When he discovered that we were visitors he suggested that we join a Sunday School class, and before we could answer he grabbed our arm and began pushing us around proudly pointing out one Sunday School class after the other.



On impulse we decided to try the smallest class-the Searchers Class. We were immediately invited into their circle and offered a cup of coffee. Everyone introduced themselves and told us that they take turns giving the lesson each week. It felt good to be in a friendly group, so we decided to give this new Searchers class a try.



We’ve been part of this small Christian group now for six years and it’s so good to be equal with others and belong! We share Scripture and pray for one another in our little circle. The Searchers don’t look too impressive to the outsider. So what do we have now that we missed out on for all of those years in all of those unfriendly churches? For one we all treat each other like family. We eat together once a week and go on mission trips together – cook at the local shelter together, collect money each week for the poor and distribute it. We don’t judge one another and everyone is welcome always.



I can think of so many folks who fell by the wayside while going to the pretentious unfriendly churches we tried to attend in the past! Unfriendly churches and unfriendly pastors are responsible for so many lonely ones never enjoying Christian fellowship, never finding our Lord! A very real tragedy! There will be an accounting!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Are You Hiding in the Secret Place? Psalms 91

Are You Hiding in the Secret Place?



“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” The 91st Psalm starts out with this comforting declaration. And then this amazing Psalm continues by describing what will happen to the person who stays in this secret place.



Verse 3 declares that if you love God, you will be delivered from the traps of sin and from the perilous pestilence. If you follow the Truth the Lord will cover you with His wings! Verses 5-8 goes on to remind you that you don’t need to be afraid of anything, the terror by night, the arrow by day, the pestilence that walks in the darkness or the destruction that lays waste at noonday. The believer won’t ever suffer the reward of the wicked.



More comforts and promises are lavished on you if you trust God. No evil shall befall you or any plague will come near your home. Verse 11-12 promises that Gods’ angels will watch over you and keep you from all harm. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra and trample the serpent underfoot. And because you put God first He will answer your prayers, give you long life and honor you and give you His Salvation.



We all know Christians who love God and have had many troubles. In fact Scripture tells us that we will share in Christ’s sufferings. And certainly we have all been sick. We can’t walk over serpents and lions! And where were the guardian angels when tragic accidents happen to children of God? What is this 91st Psalm trying to say?



We believe that these wonderful promises are addressing who we are spiritually. We are so much more than flesh and blood. Jesus said, “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends: and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost.” - Luke 21:16-18. What is Jesus saying here? If not a hair of our head is harmed but we are put to death –how can that be? Surely the Lord is not saying that our physical bodies ( hair on our heads) aren’t harmed in death!? He seems to be telling us that even death can’t hurt who we really are in Him. Jesus speaks again about this, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,”- Matthew 10:28.



Jesus spoke often about His kingdom. But his followers didn’t seem to understand that He was talking about a heavenly kingdom. They kept believing that his promises of a new kingdom were about money and power and the here and now. Soon Jesus would overthrow the hated Romans and free Israel, they thought. “ My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus told them. But they didn’t seem too understand. And we don’t always understand either. Psalms 91 is promising God’s children active deliverance. Part of that deliverance is for our physical well being of course, but we believe that Psalms 91 is addressing its’ most glorious promises perhaps to our spiritual security. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil” Matthew 6:9 I believe that the dramatic promises in Psalm 91 are about keeping us away from the traps and bondages of sin and delivering us from evil. What stories our guardian angels may have to tell us when we reach the other side! Were there times when we might have been taken in by Satan’s lies but were strengthened and protected by unseen forces?



Other passages in this Psalm state that we will tread upon the lion, the cobra and the serpent. Some Fundamentalist Christians take those passages literally and actually handle poisonous snakes and serpents. –often to their own detriment! But I believe that the Lord meant so much more! Through Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit we can tread all over Satan – we can stand up against strong temptation, and walk right over the pit. Through Christ we will not be overcome with evil but we can overcome evil with good!



Psalms 91 describes the one who is blessed with these many glorious promises and protections, - this blessed one who is hiding in God’s secret place. What has this special person done to deserve this honor? We are told that this blessed person trusts God.-Psalms 91:2. He has made the Lord his refuge,vs.9 and she has set her love on God , vs. 14. This person doesn’t have to win the Olympics or be a special hero to dwell in God’s secret place. If we want to be that blessed person according to Psalm 91 we just need to love and trust the Lord and come to Him. And we can even ask Him to help us do that. He does it all. We can’t do our salvation ourselves. We just have to be willing to be willing. So what are we waiting for?

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37

The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37




Jesus told his followers many stories or parables; and the parable of the “Good Samaritan” was one of His many story lessons. We believe that our Lord gave us these lessons or parables to impart spiritual truths to us. Let’s look closer at this parable of the “Good Samaritan”. What is Jesus trying to teach us with this story?



First of all, Jesus told this parable in response to a lawyer who ask Him how one could inherit eternal life. Verse 25 states that the lawyer was trying to “test” Jesus. Did this lawyer really want to know the way to eternal life or was he just trying to trick our Lord? We aren’t sure. But Jesus asked the lawyer what the Scripture says. And the man answered with the rabbinic summary of Old Testament Law (Deut. 6:5)- that the way to eternal life is to “love the Lord our God with all of our heart and our soul and our strength and our mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves”. Jesus agreed that he had answered correctly. “Do all of this and you will live,” Jesus assured him. - Luke 10:28.



It sounds so straightforward and simple doesn’t it? The Old Testament Law –the Bible - spell it out, it tells us legally what we need to do to obtain eternal life;- but wait – think about it! Maybe it isn’t so easy after all to love your neighbor as yourself! “Who is my neighbor?” the man asked Jesus. Maybe the lawyer senses how difficult a task this would be. Does this lawyer suggest that there must be some folks to whom the obligation to love might not apply? Surely the ones we love as ourselves must have some worthiness for us to love them that totally; shouldn’t they? Surely the Jewish Law, with Jesus in agreement, isn’t saying that we need to love everybody in such a personal way, is it? And Jesus answers with His radical parable of the “Good Samaritan”.



`We all know this famous parable. What have we learned from it? I suppose that most of us feel that Jesus is teaching us in this parable to be like the Samaritan and to stop and help those we see who are in need. While the lawyer is quibbling over a definition of who is his “neighbor”, Jesus is telling him – and us- that love is not a matter of theoretical discussion, but of practical demonstration. We may say the right words and quote the correct verses. We may place the Ten Commandments on the front of our buildings. But if we don’t respond to our neighbors needs even when he doesn’t measure up – our religion isn’t worth much!



This parable may be saying more. Jesus tells us that a traveler is attacked by thieves and beaten up and left alone on the side of the road half dead. Soon a priest walks by, but surprisingly this man of God pretends not to see the wounded man. He passes on the other side of the road and doesn’t want to get involved. If he stopped to help he might be late for his religious service. And then another religious person comes along the road – a Levite. But alas, he also is too busy and doesn’t want to get involved. Jesus had not had good experiences with the religious leaders of His day – the priests and Levites. In fact they were the very ones who later plotted to kill Him.



The wounded man must be feeling desperate by now. Two men of God have passed him by. But wait, another person is coming along the path. Maybe there’s still hope! No, this one is a hated Samaritan – a man of a mongrel race and of a polluted religion. Everyone knew that Samaritans were heathens –they were enemies of the Jews. Why should this Samaritan stop and help his enemy?



But Jesus’ stories were always full of surprises. That is exactly what happened! The hated Samaritan had pity on this wounded man after his religious leaders had turned their backs on his need. The heathen Samaritan stopped and bound up his wounds and cleaned him and put him on his donkey. Then the Samaritan carried him on to the next village where they stopped at an inn for the night. The Samaritan spent the night at the inn with the wounded man, feeding and watching over him. And in the morning the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to take care of the wounded man until he could come back and check on him and his welfare.



“So which of the three was the neighbor to the wounded man?”. Jesus asked. “The one who stopped and helped”, the lawyer answered. “Go and do likewise.” Jesus instructed. Jesus is telling us here in this parable to reach out to the needy. That love is practical. That everyone is our neighbor and that we should help everyone. Without the Holy Spirit leading us and giving us the ability to love we would never be able to obey Christ’s command here. On our own we could never love everybody and reach out to the unlovable. But Jesus promises to be with us and help us.



It’s interesting that in this parable Jesus has the good religious leaders turning their backs on their needy brother, and the bad foreigner having compassion and doing the right thing! Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Why does Jesus always shake up the status quo? Is He trying to tell us something? Is Jesus suggesting that just reading the Word and going to church isn’t enough if we don’t show compassion to the needy? Is He saying that even heathens who act in love and do the right thing are following Him even though they don’t know Him?. Let’s make sure we aren’t so busy going to church and saying the correct political and religions words that we overlook the wounded stranger laying right there in our path..-















The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37




Jesus told his followers many stories or parables; and the parable of the “Good Samaritan” was one of His many story lessons. We believe that our Lord gave us these lessons or parables to impart spiritual truths to us. Let’s look closer at this parable of the “Good Samaritan”. What is Jesus trying to teach us with this story?



First of all, Jesus told this parable in response to a lawyer who ask Him how one could inherit eternal life. Verse 25 states that the lawyer was trying to “test” Jesus. Did this lawyer really want to know the way to eternal life or was he just trying to trick our Lord? We aren’t sure. But Jesus asked the lawyer what the Scripture says. And the man answered with the rabbinic summary of Old Testament Law (Deut. 6:5)- that the way to eternal life is to “love the Lord our God with all of our heart and our soul and our strength and our mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves”. Jesus agreed that he had answered correctly. “Do all of this and you will live,” Jesus assured him. - Luke 10:28.



It sounds so straightforward and simple doesn’t it? The Old Testament Law –the Bible - spell it out, it tells us legally what we need to do to obtain eternal life;- but wait – think about it! Maybe it isn’t so easy after all to love your neighbor as yourself! “Who is my neighbor?” the man asked Jesus. Maybe the lawyer senses how difficult a task this would be. Does this lawyer suggest that there must be some folks to whom the obligation to love might not apply? Surely the ones we love as ourselves must have some worthiness for us to love them that totally; shouldn’t they? Surely the Jewish Law, with Jesus in agreement, isn’t saying that we need to love everybody in such a personal way, is it? And Jesus answers with His radical parable of the “Good Samaritan”.



`We all know this famous parable. What have we learned from it? I suppose that most of us feel that Jesus is teaching us in this parable to be like the Samaritan and to stop and help those we see who are in need. While the lawyer is quibbling over a definition of who is his “neighbor”, Jesus is telling him – and us- that love is not a matter of theoretical discussion, but of practical demonstration. We may say the right words and quote the correct verses. We may place the Ten Commandments on the front of our buildings. But if we don’t respond to our neighbors needs even when he doesn’t measure up – our religion isn’t worth much!



This parable may be saying more. Jesus tells us that a traveler is attacked by thieves and beaten up and left alone on the side of the road half dead. Soon a priest walks by, but surprisingly this man of God pretends not to see the wounded man. He passes on the other side of the road and doesn’t want to get involved. If he stopped to help he might be late for his religious service. And then another religious person comes along the road – a Levite. But alas, he also is too busy and doesn’t want to get involved. Jesus had not had good experiences with the religious leaders of His day – the priests and Levites. In fact they were the very ones who later plotted to kill Him.



The wounded man must be feeling desperate by now. Two men of God have passed him by. But wait, another person is coming along the path. Maybe there’s still hope! No, this one is a hated Samaritan – a man of a mongrel race and of a polluted religion. Everyone knew that Samaritans were heathens –they were enemies of the Jews. Why should this Samaritan stop and help his enemy?



But Jesus’ stories were always full of surprises. That is exactly what happened! The hated Samaritan had pity on this wounded man after his religious leaders had turned their backs on his need. The heathen Samaritan stopped and bound up his wounds and cleaned him and put him on his donkey. Then the Samaritan carried him on to the next village where they stopped at an inn for the night. The Samaritan spent the night at the inn with the wounded man, feeding and watching over him. And in the morning the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to take care of the wounded man until he could come back and check on him and his welfare.



“So which of the three was the neighbor to the wounded man?”. Jesus asked. “The one who stopped and helped”, the lawyer answered. “Go and do likewise.” Jesus instructed. Jesus is telling us here in this parable to reach out to the needy. That love is practical. That everyone is our neighbor and that we should help everyone. Without the Holy Spirit leading us and giving us the ability to love we would never be able to obey Christ’s command here. On our own we could never love everybody and reach out to the unlovable. But Jesus promises to be with us and help us.



It’s interesting that in this parable Jesus has the good religious leaders turning their backs on their needy brother, and the bad foreigner having compassion and doing the right thing! Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Why does Jesus always shake up the status quo? Is He trying to tell us something? Is Jesus suggesting that just reading the Word and going to church isn’t enough if we don’t show compassion to the needy? Is He saying that even heathens who act in love and do the right thing are following Him even though they don’t know Him?. Let’s make sure we aren’t so busy going to church and saying the correct political and religions words that we overlook the wounded stranger laying right there in our path..-















The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37




Jesus told his followers many stories or parables; and the parable of the “Good Samaritan” was one of His many story lessons. We believe that our Lord gave us these lessons or parables to impart spiritual truths to us. Let’s look closer at this parable of the “Good Samaritan”. What is Jesus trying to teach us with this story?



First of all, Jesus told this parable in response to a lawyer who ask Him how one could inherit eternal life. Verse 25 states that the lawyer was trying to “test” Jesus. Did this lawyer really want to know the way to eternal life or was he just trying to trick our Lord? We aren’t sure. But Jesus asked the lawyer what the Scripture says. And the man answered with the rabbinic summary of Old Testament Law (Deut. 6:5)- that the way to eternal life is to “love the Lord our God with all of our heart and our soul and our strength and our mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves”. Jesus agreed that he had answered correctly. “Do all of this and you will live,” Jesus assured him. - Luke 10:28.



It sounds so straightforward and simple doesn’t it? The Old Testament Law –the Bible - spell it out, it tells us legally what we need to do to obtain eternal life;- but wait – think about it! Maybe it isn’t so easy after all to love your neighbor as yourself! “Who is my neighbor?” the man asked Jesus. Maybe the lawyer senses how difficult a task this would be. Does this lawyer suggest that there must be some folks to whom the obligation to love might not apply? Surely the ones we love as ourselves must have some worthiness for us to love them that totally; shouldn’t they? Surely the Jewish Law, with Jesus in agreement, isn’t saying that we need to love everybody in such a personal way, is it? And Jesus answers with His radical parable of the “Good Samaritan”.



`We all know this famous parable. What have we learned from it? I suppose that most of us feel that Jesus is teaching us in this parable to be like the Samaritan and to stop and help those we see who are in need. While the lawyer is quibbling over a definition of who is his “neighbor”, Jesus is telling him – and us- that love is not a matter of theoretical discussion, but of practical demonstration. We may say the right words and quote the correct verses. We may place the Ten Commandments on the front of our buildings. But if we don’t respond to our neighbors needs even when he doesn’t measure up – our religion isn’t worth much!



This parable may be saying more. Jesus tells us that a traveler is attacked by thieves and beaten up and left alone on the side of the road half dead. Soon a priest walks by, but surprisingly this man of God pretends not to see the wounded man. He passes on the other side of the road and doesn’t want to get involved. If he stopped to help he might be late for his religious service. And then another religious person comes along the road – a Levite. But alas, he also is too busy and doesn’t want to get involved. Jesus had not had good experiences with the religious leaders of His day – the priests and Levites. In fact they were the very ones who later plotted to kill Him.



The wounded man must be feeling desperate by now. Two men of God have passed him by. But wait, another person is coming along the path. Maybe there’s still hope! No, this one is a hated Samaritan – a man of a mongrel race and of a polluted religion. Everyone knew that Samaritans were heathens –they were enemies of the Jews. Why should this Samaritan stop and help his enemy?



But Jesus’ stories were always full of surprises. That is exactly what happened! The hated Samaritan had pity on this wounded man after his religious leaders had turned their backs on his need. The heathen Samaritan stopped and bound up his wounds and cleaned him and put him on his donkey. Then the Samaritan carried him on to the next village where they stopped at an inn for the night. The Samaritan spent the night at the inn with the wounded man, feeding and watching over him. And in the morning the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to take care of the wounded man until he could come back and check on him and his welfare.



“So which of the three was the neighbor to the wounded man?”. Jesus asked. “The one who stopped and helped”, the lawyer answered. “Go and do likewise.” Jesus instructed. Jesus is telling us here in this parable to reach out to the needy. That love is practical. That everyone is our neighbor and that we should help everyone. Without the Holy Spirit leading us and giving us the ability to love we would never be able to obey Christ’s command here. On our own we could never love everybody and reach out to the unlovable. But Jesus promises to be with us and help us.



It’s interesting that in this parable Jesus has the good religious leaders turning their backs on their needy brother, and the bad foreigner having compassion and doing the right thing! Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Why does Jesus always shake up the status quo? Is He trying to tell us something? Is Jesus suggesting that just reading the Word and going to church isn’t enough if we don’t show compassion to the needy? Is He saying that even heathens who act in love and do the right thing are following Him even though they don’t know Him?. Let’s make sure we aren’t so busy going to church and saying the correct political and religions words that we overlook the wounded stranger laying right there in our path..-















The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37




Jesus told his followers many stories or parables; and the parable of the “Good Samaritan” was one of His many story lessons. We believe that our Lord gave us these lessons or parables to impart spiritual truths to us. Let’s look closer at this parable of the “Good Samaritan”. What is Jesus trying to teach us with this story?



First of all, Jesus told this parable in response to a lawyer who ask Him how one could inherit eternal life. Verse 25 states that the lawyer was trying to “test” Jesus. Did this lawyer really want to know the way to eternal life or was he just trying to trick our Lord? We aren’t sure. But Jesus asked the lawyer what the Scripture says. And the man answered with the rabbinic summary of Old Testament Law (Deut. 6:5)- that the way to eternal life is to “love the Lord our God with all of our heart and our soul and our strength and our mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves”. Jesus agreed that he had answered correctly. “Do all of this and you will live,” Jesus assured him. - Luke 10:28.



It sounds so straightforward and simple doesn’t it? The Old Testament Law –the Bible - spell it out, it tells us legally what we need to do to obtain eternal life;- but wait – think about it! Maybe it isn’t so easy after all to love your neighbor as yourself! “Who is my neighbor?” the man asked Jesus. Maybe the lawyer senses how difficult a task this would be. Does this lawyer suggest that there must be some folks to whom the obligation to love might not apply? Surely the ones we love as ourselves must have some worthiness for us to love them that totally; shouldn’t they? Surely the Jewish Law, with Jesus in agreement, isn’t saying that we need to love everybody in such a personal way, is it? And Jesus answers with His radical parable of the “Good Samaritan”.



`We all know this famous parable. What have we learned from it? I suppose that most of us feel that Jesus is teaching us in this parable to be like the Samaritan and to stop and help those we see who are in need. While the lawyer is quibbling over a definition of who is his “neighbor”, Jesus is telling him – and us- that love is not a matter of theoretical discussion, but of practical demonstration. We may say the right words and quote the correct verses. We may place the Ten Commandments on the front of our buildings. But if we don’t respond to our neighbors needs even when he doesn’t measure up – our religion isn’t worth much!



This parable may be saying more. Jesus tells us that a traveler is attacked by thieves and beaten up and left alone on the side of the road half dead. Soon a priest walks by, but surprisingly this man of God pretends not to see the wounded man. He passes on the other side of the road and doesn’t want to get involved. If he stopped to help he might be late for his religious service. And then another religious person comes along the road – a Levite. But alas, he also is too busy and doesn’t want to get involved. Jesus had not had good experiences with the religious leaders of His day – the priests and Levites. In fact they were the very ones who later plotted to kill Him.



The wounded man must be feeling desperate by now. Two men of God have passed him by. But wait, another person is coming along the path. Maybe there’s still hope! No, this one is a hated Samaritan – a man of a mongrel race and of a polluted religion. Everyone knew that Samaritans were heathens –they were enemies of the Jews. Why should this Samaritan stop and help his enemy?



But Jesus’ stories were always full of surprises. That is exactly what happened! The hated Samaritan had pity on this wounded man after his religious leaders had turned their backs on his need. The heathen Samaritan stopped and bound up his wounds and cleaned him and put him on his donkey. Then the Samaritan carried him on to the next village where they stopped at an inn for the night. The Samaritan spent the night at the inn with the wounded man, feeding and watching over him. And in the morning the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to take care of the wounded man until he could come back and check on him and his welfare.



“So which of the three was the neighbor to the wounded man?”. Jesus asked. “The one who stopped and helped”, the lawyer answered. “Go and do likewise.” Jesus instructed. Jesus is telling us here in this parable to reach out to the needy. That love is practical. That everyone is our neighbor and that we should help everyone. Without the Holy Spirit leading us and giving us the ability to love we would never be able to obey Christ’s command here. On our own we could never love everybody and reach out to the unlovable. But Jesus promises to be with us and help us.



It’s interesting that in this parable Jesus has the good religious leaders turning their backs on their needy brother, and the bad foreigner having compassion and doing the right thing! Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Why does Jesus always shake up the status quo? Is He trying to tell us something? Is Jesus suggesting that just reading the Word and going to church isn’t enough if we don’t show compassion to the needy? Is He saying that even heathens who act in love and do the right thing are following Him even though they don’t know Him?. Let’s make sure we aren’t so busy going to church and saying the correct political and religions words that we overlook the wounded stranger laying right there in our path..-















The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37




Jesus told his followers many stories or parables; and the parable of the “Good Samaritan” was one of His many story lessons. We believe that our Lord gave us these lessons or parables to impart spiritual truths to us. Let’s look closer at this parable of the “Good Samaritan”. What is Jesus trying to teach us with this story?



First of all, Jesus told this parable in response to a lawyer who ask Him how one could inherit eternal life. Verse 25 states that the lawyer was trying to “test” Jesus. Did this lawyer really want to know the way to eternal life or was he just trying to trick our Lord? We aren’t sure. But Jesus asked the lawyer what the Scripture says. And the man answered with the rabbinic summary of Old Testament Law (Deut. 6:5)- that the way to eternal life is to “love the Lord our God with all of our heart and our soul and our strength and our mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves”. Jesus agreed that he had answered correctly. “Do all of this and you will live,” Jesus assured him. - Luke 10:28.



It sounds so straightforward and simple doesn’t it? The Old Testament Law –the Bible - spell it out, it tells us legally what we need to do to obtain eternal life;- but wait – think about it! Maybe it isn’t so easy after all to love your neighbor as yourself! “Who is my neighbor?” the man asked Jesus. Maybe the lawyer senses how difficult a task this would be. Does this lawyer suggest that there must be some folks to whom the obligation to love might not apply? Surely the ones we love as ourselves must have some worthiness for us to love them that totally; shouldn’t they? Surely the Jewish Law, with Jesus in agreement, isn’t saying that we need to love everybody in such a personal way, is it? And Jesus answers with His radical parable of the “Good Samaritan”.



`We all know this famous parable. What have we learned from it? I suppose that most of us feel that Jesus is teaching us in this parable to be like the Samaritan and to stop and help those we see who are in need. While the lawyer is quibbling over a definition of who is his “neighbor”, Jesus is telling him – and us- that love is not a matter of theoretical discussion, but of practical demonstration. We may say the right words and quote the correct verses. We may place the Ten Commandments on the front of our buildings. But if we don’t respond to our neighbors needs even when he doesn’t measure up – our religion isn’t worth much!



This parable may be saying more. Jesus tells us that a traveler is attacked by thieves and beaten up and left alone on the side of the road half dead. Soon a priest walks by, but surprisingly this man of God pretends not to see the wounded man. He passes on the other side of the road and doesn’t want to get involved. If he stopped to help he might be late for his religious service. And then another religious person comes along the road – a Levite. But alas, he also is too busy and doesn’t want to get involved. Jesus had not had good experiences with the religious leaders of His day – the priests and Levites. In fact they were the very ones who later plotted to kill Him.



The wounded man must be feeling desperate by now. Two men of God have passed him by. But wait, another person is coming along the path. Maybe there’s still hope! No, this one is a hated Samaritan – a man of a mongrel race and of a polluted religion. Everyone knew that Samaritans were heathens –they were enemies of the Jews. Why should this Samaritan stop and help his enemy?



But Jesus’ stories were always full of surprises. That is exactly what happened! The hated Samaritan had pity on this wounded man after his religious leaders had turned their backs on his need. The heathen Samaritan stopped and bound up his wounds and cleaned him and put him on his donkey. Then the Samaritan carried him on to the next village where they stopped at an inn for the night. The Samaritan spent the night at the inn with the wounded man, feeding and watching over him. And in the morning the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to take care of the wounded man until he could come back and check on him and his welfare.



“So which of the three was the neighbor to the wounded man?”. Jesus asked. “The one who stopped and helped”, the lawyer answered. “Go and do likewise.” Jesus instructed. Jesus is telling us here in this parable to reach out to the needy. That love is practical. That everyone is our neighbor and that we should help everyone. Without the Holy Spirit leading us and giving us the ability to love we would never be able to obey Christ’s command here. On our own we could never love everybody and reach out to the unlovable. But Jesus promises to be with us and help us.



It’s interesting that in this parable Jesus has the good religious leaders turning their backs on their needy brother, and the bad foreigner having compassion and doing the right thing! Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Why does Jesus always shake up the status quo? Is He trying to tell us something? Is Jesus suggesting that just reading the Word and going to church isn’t enough if we don’t show compassion to the needy? Is He saying that even heathens who act in love and do the right thing are following Him even though they don’t know Him?. Let’s make sure we aren’t so busy going to church and saying the correct political and religions words that we overlook the wounded stranger laying right there in our path..-

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wrap Yourself in the Comforter

Either Wrap Yourself in the Comforter or Do It Alone and Worry – Which One Will it Be?






We Christians have it all. We don’t act like we have it all, but we do! We worry about our bills and we struggle with relationships. People don’t appreciate us and we get sick. We are anxious one day and depressed the next. As soon as we try to fix one area in our lives another breaks down. Sometimes we just can’t win for losing. Scripture tells us that “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Job 5:7 We can attest to that since troubles surely crop up in our lives. But look again because we belong to an amazingly loving and powerful God! And we do have it all even though sometimes it doesn’t seem that way.



I have always been an anxious and fearful person. Maybe that is one of the reasons I love being a child of God so much. When I am insecure and uncomfortable I can wrap myself up in the security and comfort of my heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit is my Comforter – and your Comforter- and if we let Him, He can replace our dark troubled thoughts with His thoughts of joy and strength. We need His daily restoration of our anxious weary souls. He can stop us from falling and cause us to stand on His promises.



You may be dreading something that you have to do. You worry that you won’t do a good job or that you can’t take care of all of the responsibilities placed on your shoulders. And then you call out to the Lord and He answers, --a small voice whispers to your soul, “Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with the right Hand of my righteousness—“ Isaiah 41:10. You sense that He will get you through the trouble, open doors for you and make a way. Your job is just to follow. It’s not up to you any more: you can relax and let Him guide you along. Such a comfort and such a privilege we Christians have!



Psalms 23 tells us: “the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” We can expect Christ’s shepherding care. We can know that He will keep us from want and protect us and restore our life. That’s a normal for us – has been promised to us – so let’s just claim it. Verse 3 of this Psalm tells us that “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” We can trust Him to guide our lives – they aren’t an accident after all! If we fear death this Psalm comforts us again with: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” vs. 4 and “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Vs. 6. He will be with us and comfort us when we die and since He has given us eternal life we will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”



The Bible tells us over and over again how much God loves and cares for us. Our Father God is the same one described in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the waiting longing Father who scans the horizon for his wayward child. And when the Father sees His child in the far distance He rushes out to meet her and kisses her and celebrates her homecoming with a lavish party. Let’s not forget that this is a picture of our Father and His relationship with us too.



Let’s read the Bible every day and build ourselves up in God’s love. .Scripture tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice” Philippians 4:4. Scripture also reminds us that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Let’s build up our strength by praising God and enjoying Him. Let’s open our eyes to our lavish spiritual heritage described in the Word and not give any time looking at the lies and optical illusions Satan tries to show us. And let’s let the Holy Spirit lead us and comfort us.



It’s so easy to worry about all of our troubles. Remember when Peter started walking on the water he was looking over at Jesus. But the minute he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked down at the waves he started sinking. Then Jesus put out His hand and pulled Peter back up. If we keep looking to Jesus – letting Him guide us, reading His Word – we can with Jesus, get through our troubles (or walk on top of the waves). But if we take our eye off Jesus and look at our troubles (waves) we will surely sink – just as Peter did!



We have two choices. We can look at all of our problems and worry. Or we can look to the Lord and rest in His love and mercy and guidance. We can focus on the waves or we can look to Jesus. Just two ways to live our lives. Just two choices. Which will it be?