Go and Do Likewise

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My Musings – “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

What indeed?  I’ve done it.  Maybe you have too.  The stranded motorist all alone.  Well, who doesn’t have a cell phone these days?  They can call someone.  It’s a busy road, someone is bound to stop.  I’m running late, I can’t be bothered this time, I’ll get the next one.  What if it’s a ruse, I could be putting myself in real danger.  On the other hand, what if they don’t have a cell phone?  Would it be a bother even if I did have the time?  What if it’s a not to well-traveled road?  What if I don’t stop to help, they could be left in real danger?

How about the shabbily-dressed person on the corner with the crudely lettered sign “any amount will help?”  They’re probably running a scam.  They’ll probably use it for drugs or alcohol.  Why don’t they go out and look for a job?  What if they’ve tried it all and just want to feed their family just for this day?

Without getting too political (too late), what about the refugee seeking a better life?  They’re probably here for free benefits.  They just want to come here and change things to the same as what they left.  What if they belong to some sleeper cell?  Why don’t they just come here legally?  What if they really did flee a life and death situation?

Maybe some of the concerns and objections above are legitimate.  After all, there will always be those looking to take advantage. Many of the situations we face will be tough calls.  But do we really want to turn a “blind-eye” to those who might be truly in need because we are afraid of what might happen to us or skeptical hat their needs are genuine?  While we need to be wise and wary, at the end of the day we are responsible for our hearts and actions and not the other person’s motives.

My Advice – We all know that immediately after the above question “and who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Isn’t it interesting that the two in the parable most likely to lend a hand did not (maybe they used some of the above rationalizations), and the one least likely to care at all (the “hated” Samaritan) cared enough to act.  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37, NIV 1984).

Maybe the ones we find in apparently needy situations are our “hated” Samaritans.  Should it make a difference?  The point of the parable is no.  They are just as much our neighbor as the ones we visit with over the white picket fence.

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Why Not Rather Be Wronged!

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My Musings – “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” – John Wayne as J.B Books in The Shootist 1976.

As I’ve noted before in my blogs, John Wayne was my favorite actor.  Like many, I admired his swagger.  Also like many, to me this creed that his movie character lived by sounds fair.  Yet it is a worldly creed.  We must aim higher.

Paul states a somewhat other worldly creed in the above condensed verses.  To me the key phrase is “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

How Far – “The problem is, “as far as it depends on [us]” isn’t really that far most of the time.  All too often we are very thin-skinned when it comes to being “wronged,” “insulted” or “laid a hand on.”  But rather than take revenge, we are to “overcome evil with good.

With Everyone – “Other people” are not just family and friends.  Not just fellow Christians.  Not just Americans.  Not just the same ethnic group.  Not just Democrats or Republicans.  Not just those who share our worldview and opinions. Everyone means all people, even our enemies.

Be At Peace – Apparently this means more than avoiding conflict.  When (not if) the “other people” wrong us, insult us or lay a hand on us (essentially act like an enemy) we are to feed them if they are hungry.  Give them something to drink if they are thirsty.  Elsewhere, Jesus says to the extent we do this to the “least of these,” we do it to Him.

If Possible – At last – the fine print, the loophole?  I don’t think so.  There will be times that “as far as it depends on you” will not be far enough no matter how far you bear with it.  But even then “do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19, NIV 1984).  Walk away and let God deal with it.

My Advice – These are hard words.  But Kingdom living has a higher calling than worldly living.  Our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus.  “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7, NIV 1984).

 

 

Carried On To Completion

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My Musings – “I thank my God every time I remember you.”  Really?  Well, family  certainly.  Friends, possibly.  Partners in the Gospel?  Well, maybe not every time.  But you see they don’t always share equally in the partnership.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.”  With joy?  All, all, always?  Well maybe not all my  prayers.  Maybe not all of them.  Maybe not always with joy.  But you, know, some times they disappoint me.

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”  Confident?  But you don’t know them like I do.  They’ve wandered.  They’re inconsistent. They’re far from complete.

Always Thankful – We have the family, friends and partners in the Gospel that God put in our lives.  And He put us in theirs.  If we are not thanking God every time we remember them, maybe it is us who are not sharing equally?

Always Pray With Joy – In all our prayers, if we don’t pray for them with joy, maybe we aren’t as thankful as we should be.  If we were, wouldn’t we always be joyful when we prayed for them?

Confident of Completion – If God did begin the good work, He will bring it to completion.  If we lack confidence in this we are focusing too much on the wandering and inconsistency and not enough on the “author and perfecter of our faith.

My Advice – Always thank God when you remember the people in your life.  They are a gift to you and you are a gift to them.  Pray with joy in all your prayers for all the people in your life.  They may not always make you happy.  Don’t let those periodic lapses and disappointments rob you of your joy because of them.  Place your confidence in God. That He will complete what He started in their lives.  Don’t let their temporary detours cause you to lose confidence in their ultimate destination.  Be encouraged.

Read the text again.  Wouldn’t you like to have people in your life that are like Paul?  Then why not “do unto others what you would have them do unto you?”  What would our family, friends and Gospel partnership relationships be like if we did?  Talk about thankfulness. Talk about joyfulness.  Talk about confidence.  All wrapped up in a passion for Christlikeness.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon “Fueled Relationships” on September 8, 2019.  Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons.  If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m.  We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you too.

 

 

Just Say Whoa to Woe

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My Musings – It’s easy to dump on the Pharisees. After all, their name has become synonymous with self-righteous hypocrisy making them easy marks for criticism and condemnation.  But what if we substituted the word Pharisee in the above verses with the word Christian?  Is that how the world sees many of us?  Are they justified in seeing us that way?  We want to scream that they are way off base.  That we are under attack and being unjustly persecuted.  But we need to be very careful before we dismiss it outright.  For you see, “the problem with self righteousness is that it seems almost impossible to recognize in ourselves. We will own up to almost any other sin. but not the sin of self-righteousness. When we have this attitude, though, we deprive ourselves of the joy of living in the grace of God. Because you see, grace is only for sinners.” ― Jerry Bridges, evangelical Christian author, speaker and staff member of The Navigators.

We might think, why should we care what the world thinks of us?  Well, if they are wrong, and perhaps they are in most cases, we need not care.  Jesus did say, after all that in this world we will have persecution, and that if the world hated Him, we should not be surprised if they hate us too.  But if they are right, even about a minority, we should care very much.  For Jesus also said they (the world), will know we are His followers if we have love for one another.  And if they do not see His love in us and from us, then the truth that we are proclaiming will not seem very much like the truth.

Another reason we should care is because Jesus cares.  He had nothing but condemnation and anger (yes, anger) for the teachers, scribes and teachers of the law that exhibited such self-piety and hypocrisy.  His attitude was not a casual “well actually,” but a very much heated “woe to you!“…”You snakes! You brood of vipers!”  Whoa.  Let’s take a closer look at these “woes” from Matthew 23, NIV 1984, and learn from them.  We do not want to become 21st century Pharisees.

  • Hypocrites – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
  • Sons of Hell – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

  • Blind Guides – “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?”

  • Neglectful – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

  • Greedy and Self-Indulgent – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

  • Whitewashed Tombs, Dead Men’s Bones – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

  • Full Measured Sinners – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

My Advice – I am sure that the vast majority of Christians are not this way, or at least not blatantly.  But are there times we “deny” God’s grace to those whose sins seem greater than our own?  On occasion, is the way we behave on the outside inconsistent with how we are on the inside?  Do we overly focus on certain evils (“strain out a gnat“), to the exclusion of others (“swallow a camel”)?  Are we so self-absorbed by the “injustices” that we must endure that show no mercy to others?  Let’s just say whoa to woe.

 

Garage Sale Fellowship

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My Musings – Spent time these past few days with my two older brothers as we helped our 85 year old mother with a garage sale (selling many items that she and my dad had accumulated over 66 years together).  We had many visitors to the sale.  Some were neighbors, some were dear friends, some were mere acquaintances, most were strangers.  They represented different ethnicities and social “classes.”  We exchanged pleasantries with all, joked with a few (which garage sale had the best “junk”), had warm conversations with many and prayed with a few.  At one point I remarked to one of my brothers “if more people went to garage sales, the word just might be a better place.”  What a great time of fellowship with those we knew and those we did not.

As a world becomes more and more polarized, we sometimes lose sight of the fact we all have one Father and Creator – who loves us all.  We have one Savior who did not just die for certain ethnicities, social classes or the “deserving” – He died one for all.  He will save all who believe and receive.

My Advice –  Forgive as He has forgiven you.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Give to those in need.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Entertain strangers. Do not oppress or mistreat the alien among you (ouch!).  Love your enemies (say what?). For “[w]hatever you did [or did not do] for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did [or did not do] for me.”  (Matthew 25:40, NIV 1978).  Finally, have a garage sale – just for the fellowship of it all.

When Compassion Becomes A Verb

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Judges 2:18For the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Webster says that compassion is a noun and defines it as the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, however, asserts that “compassion is a verb.”  As such, it is not merely a desire to alleviate another’s distress (“those who are oppressed and afflicted“), but actually taking action to do what we can to alleviate it.

But God demonstrates his own love [compassion] for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV 1984)  This was the ultimate expression of compassion.

My Advice – Let’s do what we can to “pay it forward.”  While it is a rare event when someone is called upon to give their life for another, each one of us encounter numerous opportunities everyday to lighten the burden of someone else.  When we ignore these opportunities, compassion remains a mere noun.  We need to make it a verb by taking action. “As long as you are standing, give a hand [verb] to those who have fallen.” ― Persian Proverb

 

 

As Far As It Depends On You

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Romans 12:18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV 1984)

Attitude – The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.  And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes. (Chuck Swindoll)

Emotions – Emotions don’t settle upon you like a fog.  They are not foisted upon you by others.  No matter how uncomfortable it might make you feel by saying it – others don’t make you mad.  You make you mad.  You make you scared, annoyed or insulted.  You and only create your emotions.

Once you’ve created your own emotions, you have only two options:  You can act on them or be acted on by them.  That is, when it comes to strong emotions, you either find a way to master them or fall hostage to them. (Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012)

My Musings – Life is full of people thinking the worst of us, saying unkind things about us and doing terrible things to us.  These are the things that are “foisted upon [us] by others.”  We cannot stop them from happening, “we cannot change the inevitable.”  What we can change is how we “react to [them].”  More specifically, do “we act on [master] them” or are we “acted on by [fall hostage to] them?” The choice is ours.

My Advice – Living at peace with certain people will not always depend upon what we think, say or do. “We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.”  Nevertheless, we need not respond in kind.  We must do our best to stay “in charge of [both] our attitudes [and emotions].”  It may not be easy.  Doing the right thing is rarely is.