Monday, February 15, 2021

Who is My Neighbor?

 


We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. The context of the story is an expert in the law wanting to test Jesus by asking Him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him, “What is written in the Law?” and “How do you read it?” The man correctly replies with Scripture from Deut. 6:5 to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength” and from Lev. 19:18 to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

 

Luke 10:29 – But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

 

Things to think about:

·       Those six words from the man strike at the heart of an important aspect of human nature – “but he wanted to justify himself”

o   Sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously, we look to excuse ourselves from taking responsibility for the well-being of others.

§  In this case, the man uses a time-tested ploy of getting technical with the definition of the word “neighbor’.  Remember Bill Clinton’s famous, “That depends on what the meaning of the word is is?”

§  Whether we are trying to get out from under a responsibility or assuage our conscience, clever manipulation of a plain truth doesn’t pass muster with God.

·       We have a responsibility to see to the needs of others. In this parable, Jesus identifies three types of people and thus three kinds of responses that we can have with respect to loving our neighbor as ourself.

o   The priest – I’m a busy professional and I don’t have time. Let someone who’s not as busy (and important) take care of it.

o   The Levite – I’m just a layperson, this is a job for a professional.

o   The Samaritan – I’m here and they need help – I’ll do it.

§  Even though we’re from different social strata and may not have a lot in common

§  A literal interpretation of neighbor may cloud our response since our next-door neighbors tend to look more like ourselves.

·       Ironically, the one coming to the aid of the injured Jew was viewed as inferior (a half-breed) by the Jews. So it wasn’t even a matter of the Samaritan deigning to reach down the social ladder but quite the opposite.  The Samaritan could have said, “Serves him right, that pompous Jew!”

o   Alternatively, he could have reacted by saying, “Somebody like me can’t help him.  He has more social status than me.  It would be awkward and weird to help.”

o   Depending on the circumstances, do we sometimes play the part of the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan?

§  At work, not taking the time to help a junior associate who would benefit from your guidance

§  With ministry, opting out because of a lack of formal training

§  Socially, not participating because of social norms or general discomfort with folks who don’t look or act like you?

·       What are other factors that might have us not count someone as a neighbor?

o   Political affiliation

o   Race

o   Sexual orientation

o   Country of origin

o   Relative wealth or poverty

o   Personal style (preppy, hip hop, cowboy, etc.)

·       It would be great to hear the rest of the story

o   Did the two men and their families become friends?

o   Did they model for their respective people what God’s love really looks like?

o   Did they cause people who may have been raised with biases and prejudices to rethink their ways?

·       By abdicating responsibility, assessing blame, or making excuses, we justify ourselves. Jesus clearly paints a different picture of what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

o   So, who is our neighbor as Jesus would have us understand it?

o   How do we model loving our neighbors to not justify ourselves but bring honor to God?

Monday, February 8, 2021

At the Intersection of Knowledge and Discretion

 


Knowing the right thing to do is one thing, but doing it is something else.  Anyone who has kids already knows this (“How many times have I told you to…?!)  Our versus below struck me in that it illustrates two contributing factors to wisdom – the right information and the right action.

 

Proverbs 8:12 – I, Wisdom, dwell together with Prudence.  I possess Knowledge and Discretion

 

Things to think about:

·       In the Information Age we do not struggle for enough data, facts, and information.  What we sorely lack sometimes is Wisdom – the ability to act upon the truths we know.

·       I got to thinking about four possible combinations:

o   Right Information or Wrong Information

o   Right Action or Wrong Action

o   For example,

§  Wrong Information with Right Action could be religious works.  The person did something “good” but for faulty reasons (God will accept me)

§  Wrong information with Wrong Action at best is ignorance (Oh, I didn’t know) and at worst just might be plain foolishness (I don’t know and I don’t care)

§  Right Information with Wrong Action could be denial or active sin (I know this isn’t right but I’m going to do it anyway…OR rationalizing – This isn’t wrong for me in this circumstance because…)

§  Right Information with Right Action is Wisdom

·       Sometimes we act without thinking

o   Could be a rash or emotional decision

o   This is not showing discretion or prudence

o   Could reflect a lack of counselors or people to hold us accountable

·       In James 1:22-25 we are told, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

o   What do you make of the analogy of looking at a mirror and then forgetting what you look like?

·       What do you think are the biggest stumbling blocks for not acting on the information we have?

o   What insights have you gained that helps you to combat this in your own life?

·       The promises of wisdom are plentiful and wonderful

o   Proverbs 3:16 - Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words

o   Proverbs 1:33 - whoever listens to me will live in safety
    and be at ease, without fear of harm

o   Proverbs 2:9 - Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path

o   Proverbs 3:2 - will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity

·       May God, through His Holy Spirit, gives us both the Knowledge and the Discretion to live lives that build His Kingdom and bring Him honor and glory.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Raze to Raise

 

Often, in order to build something new, we must tear down the old first.  Real estate developers do this all the time, when they tear down old buildings or clear out trees to create the space for a new structure to rise.  The military does this with new recruits at boot camp where they tear them down to build them up into battle-ready soldiers.  Last week, Tom L talked about “roof off, walls down” as the way to have honest (and vulnerable) dialogue.  The Bible has a lot to say about getting rid of the old to make way for the new. I call this “Raze to Raise”. 

 

John 12:24-25 - Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

 

Things to think about:

·       “Raze” is a funny word because it sounds just like a more common word that means its opposite.  It comes from the same origin where we get our word razor.

·       Our verse tells us that sometimes we must go backwards to go forward:

o   The kernel of wheat dying before it becomes a plentiful harvest

o   Losing your sinful life to gain eternal life

·       Even Jesus wasn’t exempt from this principle.

o   John 2:19-20 – “Jesus answered, ‘Tear down this Temple and in three days I’ll put it back together.’ They were indignant: ‘It took forty-six years to build this Temple, and you’re going to rebuild it in three days?’ But Jesus was talking about his body as the Temple.”

·       Where else do you see this truth played out in the world at large or in your personal life?

·       In our relationship with God, the first razing is to self

o   Proverbs 15:25 - God smashes the pretensions of the arrogant; He stands with those who have no standing.

o   Matthew 16:24-25 - Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” 

o   Psalm 32: 5 - Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

o   Hebrews 12:1 - …let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…

§  The razor of daily confession

·       In order to maintain healthy relationships with one another, we must also raze our pride sometimes

o   James 5:16 - Therefore confess your sins to each other…

o   Matthew 5:23-24 - “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

·       When we do this, we allow for the raising up of one another

o   Proverbs 17:17 - A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

o   Proverbs 27:17 - As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

o   Hebrews 3:13 - But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

When we raze our fears, flaws, and failures we allow God to raise us up in sonship with Him and fellowship with one another.  And all of this results in His P-raise!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

FORMula for Life

 


Our minds control our feelings and our actions.  What we think about shapes every facet of our lives.  So how do we harness the power of our minds to live the abundant life God has promised us?  In our verse below, we have a choice to either conFORM or transFORM our minds.  This choice will dictate pretty much everything else in our lives. So which FORMula for living will you choose?

 

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

 

Things to think about:

·       This letter was written to believers – “brothers”

·       We have a choice to make

o   Conform – to take the shape of or to be in agreement with

o   Transform – to change in cooperation or structure

·       What is “the pattern of this world”?

o   1 John 2:16 – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life comes not from the Father but from the world

·       What does it mean to “transform your mind”?

o   The word repent comes from the Greek metanoia which mean to “change my mind”

o   It’s that simple and that profound

·       Our old nature, our enemy, and our world conspire to keep us thinking untrue or unhealthy thoughts

·       God desires for us to transform our minds. His two primary tools are His Word and His Spirit

His Word

·       Psalm 119 uses six words interchangeably for God’s Word

o   Laws, decrees, statutes, precepts, commands, and word

·       Proverbs 2:1-5 provides us with an acrostic for LAWS

o   Listen – accept My words and store up My commands in you, turn your ear to wisdom

o   Ask – if you call out for wisdom and cry aloud for understanding

o   Work – if you look for it as silver and search for it as hidden treasure

o   See – then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God      

His Spirit

·       John 14:16-17 – And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth

·       Acts 1:8 – and you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you

·       1 John 2:27 - Christ’s anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and Him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught.

So, every day we have choices to make – to take in His Word and to allow His Spirit to teach and guide us.  Here are His promises from Proverbs 2:7-9

·       He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.

 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Wanting without Working is Wishing

 



As we wind down 2020 and think about the New Year, what is a goal or two you have for 2021? This could take many forms including your relationship with the Lord, your relationship with others, your character, your health, your finances, your work, your passions, your ministry, etc., etc.  Our two verses from Proverbs highlight a critical ingredient to achieving our desires – hard work.

 

Proverbs 13:4 - A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,
    but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

 

Proverbs 14:23 - All hard work brings a profit,
    but mere talk leads only to poverty.

 

Bob 4:16 – Wanting without working is wishing

 

 

Things to think about:

·      So, what is at least one goal you have for the next year?

o   Do any of the examples above or maybe something else immediately resonate?

o   What picture is in your mind of what that would look like?

·      Our verses tell us that hard work and diligence are key.

o   The dictionary definition of diligence – steady, earnest, energetic effort.  Devoted and painstaking work and application to accomplish an undertaking.

·      What is prayer’s role in this?

o   Establishing the goals themselves

o   Strength

o   Discernment

o   Blessing

o   Something else?

·      Where have you seen the principle of diligence play out in your life?

o   Is there an example of someone you have seen model this?

·      Is there reprioritizing you need to do to make time for applying yourself to your goal?

·      As his life draws to a close, Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

o   With a firm vision of what he was working diligently for, Paul was able to persevere to the end to achieve his goal, the attainment of the crown of righteousness.

 Let us be equally committed to things worthy of our calling!