Our Good Neighbor Sam

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Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends [neighbor].”  (John 15:13, NIV 1984).

[Wanting] to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “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 10:29–37, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Know anybody named Sam?  You may not think so, but you probably do.  In some respects, they are ordinary people, just like you and me.  In other respects, they are quite extraordinary.  Selflessly they go about their daily “routines,” just like you and me.  But unlike you and me, each and every day they may be called upon to lay down their lives so people like you and me can go on with our routines.  Each and every day, many do just that.  We see their faces on the news and in the newspapers after they have made that “no greater love” sacrifice.   We pause for a moment and grieve.  Then we return to our routine, all because they broke their “routine” for neighbors they never met before.

My Advice – And who is our neighbor?  Maybe we ought to cast the net a bit wider?

What’s Your Bedrock?

Screenshot (1440)Caption:  A typical family, as they “shelter in place,” worshiping in spirit and in truth via FBC of Sycamore livestream on Sunday, March 22 @ 10:30am.  FBC Sycamore Livestream

The magistrates ordered [Paul and Silas] to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  (Acts 16:22–25, NIV 1984).

My Musings –  Greetings from northern Illinois (the “s” is silent), where we are sheltering in place.  Yesterday Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order telling all Illinois residents to shelter in place until at least April 7. “My bedrock has been to rely upon science,” Pritzker said of his decision.

I don’t mean to disparage science (after all God created the science behind His creation) but our bedrock is, and always has been to rely upon God.  Whether we acknowledge Him or not.  Whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Even when we “shelter in place.”  Maybe it will be an inconvenience.  But we have not been “stripped and beaten.”  We have not been “severely flogged.”  While some may feel like it, we have not been “thrown into prison.”  Under such extreme circumstances, “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.”  We can do the same.

A final musing: “the other prisoners were listening to them.”  During these scary times, the world around us is listening to and watching us.  What are they hearing? Are they hearing griping, complaining and wailing, or are they hearing positive, reassuring words of encouragement and hope about the God we trust?  What are they seeing?  Do they see the same kind of fear that is gripping the world around us, or do they see calm, peace and assurance?

My Advice – Our circumstances have changed.  Our attitude, behavior and outlook need not change. Our bedrock is on “Christ the solid rock.”  Be like Daniel. “Now when Daniel learned that the decree [executive order] had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.”  (Daniel 6:10–11, NIV 1984).  In Illinois, for a season, we cannot come together in person to worship, as is our custom.  But we can still gather together “virtually” to worship in Spirit and in truth “just as [we] had done before.”  And that’s what really matters.  And as you do, remember, people are listening and watching what the Christians do during “such a time as this.

God bless, and have a “yabba, dabba do time,” and draw closer to God and your family  whether you are required to shelter in place or not.

 

Why Not Rather Be Wronged?

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Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”  (2 Timothy 4:11, NIV 1984).

My Musings – What makes this passage so significant is what transpired in Acts 15.

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.  (Acts 15:36-40, NIV 1984).

The Mark in 2 Timothy and “John, also called Mark,” in Acts 15, are generally considered by Bible scholars to be the same person.  While the disagreement surrounding Mark appears to have been quite contentious (“sharp“), and resulted in them parting company, they were eventually reconciled.  So much so that Paul wound up considering Mark to be “helpful to me in my ministry.

There will be times, when well-meaning Christians will see things differently.  It is sad when it results in broken relationships.  To amicably work through the dispute with your brother or sister in Christ is better by far.  If not, reconciliation is sweet.

My Advice – We have been called to a higher standard than those without Christ.  When you have a dispute with another believer, do you best to work it out.  Unfortunately, there will be times that being at peace with one another will not depend on you (Romans 12:18).  In such cases, “why not rather be wronged?” (1 Corinthians 6:7, NIV 1984).  Let the Holy Spirit do His work, leaving the door open for reconciliation at a later time, rather than escalating the dispute or insisting upon being right.  “Blessed are the peacemakers.

 

The Overflow Of The Heart

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For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” (Matthew 12:34–35, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Sometimes we Christians will intentionally speak (post, tweet) maliciously and no amount of “thinking” can stop us.  In these cases the “overflow of [our] heart” is quite clear. The old man, the evil man is still controlling us and the overflow of our heart brings out the evil of our old sin nature.

At other times, it’s just a matter of speaking (posting, tweeting) without thinking.  It is then that the overflow of our hearts reveals how far along we are in our walk with Christ.  Is the old, evil, sinful nature still in control or are we being transformed into His likeness?  Are we being controlled by the Spirit?

My Advice – Think before you speak (post, tweet).  The truth is, of course, paramount.  But sometimes, we can use the truth to be hurtful not helpful, to discourage rather than inspire.  It is never necessary to lie, but it should never be used to be inconsiderate, cruel or unkind.  “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV 1984).   For  “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  (Galatians 5:24–25, NIV 1984).  Then the overflow of your heart (intentionally or without even thinking) will be “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22, NIV 1984).

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Joy In Sharing

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My Musings – “You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.” (Robert Louis Stevenson).  Giving to those in need is “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

A Fragrant Offering – Be mindful of Christ and imitate how He gave of Himself.  “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  (Ephesians 5:1–2, NRSV 1989).

An Acceptable Sacrifice – Give sacrificially.  “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”  (Mark 12:43–44, NIV 1984).

Pleasing To God – Give cheerfully, without reservation.  “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV 1984).

My Advice – First, picture yourself in the same situation whenever you see others in need.  Then decide how you can be of help. “Love has no meaning if it isn’t shared. We have been created for greater things – to love and to be loved. To love a person without any conditions, without any expectations. Small things, done in great love, bring joy and peace. To love, it is necessary to give. To give, it is necessary to be free from selfishness.”  (Mother Teresa).

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Steve Persson’s sermon on December 1, 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.

 

 

Desperately Seeking Human Kindness

Screenshot (1513)My Musings – “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”  (Harry S. Truman).  Do it out of the kindness of your heart.  Do it simply because there is a need and you can help.  Do it for the Master.  But do not do it for the praise of men.

My Advice – The picture above could be you or me.  Care like you would want others to care if it were you.  For “what good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (James 2:14–18, NIV 1984).

Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try

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My Advice – Our commission is clear, we are to go into the world a preach the Gospel. This is our “prime directive.”  But all to often, people will not care who we know, until they know how we care.  Not just about their all important eternal destiny, but about their temporal concerns as well.  Jesus is being very clear in His instructions here.  Instructions that He takes very personally.  What we do or do not do for others, we do or do not do for Him.  How credible can our concern for a person’s eternal well-being be, if we have no concerns for their current well-being?

My Advice – We must not be so “heavenly” minded that we are of no earthly good.  The “law of Christ” is to love our neighbors and we love ourselves,  and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.