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.

Chance or Choice?

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My Musings – Many envision God as He appears to be depicted in the Old Testament as a God of wrath and judgment. In contrast, others tend to have an impression of God from the New Testament as one of compassion and grace. But God does not have a personality disorder nor has His nature changed over time (“I the Lord do not change.”Malachi 3:6, NIV 1978). God has always loved and continues to love mercy. At the same time, His Holy nature demands that He act with justice. These qualities are not contradictory. They are, in fact, quite compatible. Reconciling His love of mercy and His Holiness that demands justice is the grace bought and paid for by the sacrifice of His Son. Because of this, God is able to pardon and forgive the repentant sinner. But when the heart is not penitent, God cannot pardon and will condemn.

My Advice – “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6, NIV 1978).  An Old Testament verse on God’s compassion and grace.  “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:8, NIV 1978). A New Testament verse on God’s wrath and judgment.  God’s “scales of justice” do not balance a person’s good works against their sins.  Rather justice depends upon which side of the scales one “falls” on, grace or wrath.  Where one “falls” is not matter of chance, but rather a matter of choice.  Grace is available for all to choose.  For those who do not choose grace, only wrath and judgment remain.  One must choose wisely.

 

Good Neighbor Sam

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My Musings – As was usual in His parables, Jesus turned conventional wisdom on its head with some surprising twists.

Pleading His Case“Teacher” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25, NIV 1978).  The question implies a works-based salvation (“what must I do?“) So, unlike the fairly straightforward answer given to Nicodemus, “you must be born again,” Jesus asked the legal expert what he thought.  “He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NIV 1984).  Jesus’ response appears to imply that a works-based salvation is indeed possible – “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28, NIV 1984).

Seeking A Loophole – Apparently the legal expert felt he could love God sufficiently (all his heart, soul strength and mind – really?), but might have a problem being a neighbor to some, since his only question was “and who is my neighbor.”  (Luke 10:29, NIV 1984).  Notice his question was who should be his neighbor, rather than who he should be a neighbor to.  To drive home this point, Jesus told a most unlikely parable.

Examining The Crime Scene –  “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.” (Luke 10:30, NIV 1984). The road to Jericho was called the “bloody way”, with winding roads and hidden turns, where robbers often laid in wait concealed in the rocks.  A dangerous route.

The (Un)usual Suspects – “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.” (Luke 10:31-34, NIV).  Priests were Levites descended from Aaron.  They served the higher duties in the Temple.  Of course, not all Levites were descended from Aaron and were not priests.  As a result, they served in lower functions in the Temple.  But both would have been expected to have compassion, but they did not.  Samaritans were “half-Jews” of the northern kingdom who had inter-married with Assyrian colonists.  They were despised by “pure-bred Jews.”  The Samaritan was an unlikely candidate to have compassion on the injured man (assumed to be Jewish), but he did.

The Cross-Examination – Jesus turned the legal expert’s question back on him. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:36, NIV 1894).  It must have been hard for him to reply, “the one who had mercy on him.” (Luke 10:37, NIV 1984).  He couldn’t even use the word Samaritan.  To bring this parable up to date might have included a Catholic priest, an evangelical Christian (ouch!) and a Muslim or an illegal alien.  Guess which one would have compassion in the updated parable?

The Verdict – “Jesus told him, Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Attainment of eternal life is not a matter of scrupulously following the rules. “Do this and you will live” is more rhetorical “if you could do this you would live.”  The lawyer appeared to understand this because he sought to limit its application and find a “loophole.”  And so do we all.  But all is not lost.  Jesus became a “neighbor” to us to bring salvation.  But we should still have compassion and be a neighbor to all.  Not to gain salvation, but to imitate the Master.  “Go and do likewise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Called Out Of Darkness

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My Musings – “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  (Yogi Berra).  It certainly isn’t.  Hopelessly lost and separated from our Creator, with no hope for reconciliation by our own efforts.  Facing an eternity apart from God in Hell.  No Exit. His righteousness demanded it.  That was our future.

Where there was no hope, God provided hope.  Where there was no way, God provided a way.  The possibility of being reunited with our Creator because He made it possible for us to be a new creation through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  His grace satisfied His righteousness.  The opportunity to spend eternity reunited with God in Heaven.  This can be our future.

My Advice – Which future do we want?  This should be an obvious choice.  Yet so many stumble over it.  Yes, Jesus is the only way, because His sacrifice was the only possible way to satisfy God’s righteousness.  But whoever calls on His name will be saved.  He’s calling us out of darkness.  Will we respond?

Contempt For God’s Grace

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My Musings – “Do you need a good lawyer?” “I need a good judge.” Mattie Ross and Ned Pepper in True Grit.  We have a good judge, whose judgment is based on truth, kindness, long-suffering and righteousness.  We show contempt for these when we pass judgment on others and are guilty of some of the same things.  While the text does not specifically state this, I think we likely also show contempt when we pass judgment on others just because they sin differently than we do (“their sin is worse than mine”).

My Advice – As Christians, we are recipients of God’s grace – undeserved favor.  Who’s to say that those we are tempted to pass judgment on are less deserving than we are?  They are not.  So let’s not be too hasty in casting the first stone, because we are cannot see clearly enough with the “log” in our eye.  So, rather than passing judgment, let’s pass along the Gospel of Christ so that they too might be recipients of God’s mercy.

The Wretched Refuse

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My Musings – Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus).

If these words sound familiar, they should. They are lines from a sonnet she wrote in 1883, and whose lines are inscribed on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty is a famous landmark and symbol of freedom in U.S. history. Located on Ellis Island in New York harbor, millions of immigrants passed through the Ellis Island Immigration Station seeking a better life.

Now I really do not intend for this musing to be a political statement, or otherwise be offensive, although many will take it as such.  It is rather, an appeal to compassion.  For who among us cannot trace our roots to someone among the “huddled masses” that found their way to these shores? Were our ancestors not aliens once “yearning to breathe free” (we breathe free because they dared to come)?  Were we not grafted into the vine?

I can fully understand the desire to protect our borders and our land from those with motives other than a “yearning to breathe free,” who otherwise wish us ill and desire to destroy our way of life, or who are only seeking a free-ride with no desire to contribute.  But surely there must be a way to humanely take in the tired, poor or homeless who are tempest-tossed, but are willing to embrace their new land and make a contribution?  A way to separate the sheep from the goats?  A way to pull out the weeds without uprooting the wheat?

“America represents something universal in the human spirit. I received a letter not long ago from a man who said, ‘You can go to Japan to live, but you cannot become Japanese. You can go to France to live and not become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey, and you won’t become a German or a Turk.’ But then he added, ‘Anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American’ …
This I believe is one of the most important sources of America’s greatness. We lead the world because unique among nations, we draw our people, our strength, from every country and every corner of the world … Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge; always leading the world to the next frontier …” (from Ronald Reagan’s last speech as President).

My Advice – “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.‘”  (Zechariah 7:9–10, NIV 1984).  For “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” and “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:40 & 45, NIV 1984).

Finally, anybody (even “wretched refuse”) from any corner of the world (yes, aliens) can come to Christ and become a Christian.  “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37, ESV 2016).