I’m Every Person


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Observations from sermons on the parable of the Good Samaritan from Morris Hill Baptist and St. Peter’s Episcopal today. Yep, two sermons, two denominations, same Gospel passage, two different perspectives, one Truth. God has a point for me to get today.

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25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 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.’ 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 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. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 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. 35 The next day he took out two silver coin 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.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” ~Lk. 10:25-37

“The lawyer realized that the only way he could possibly fulfill the Law’s demand was to limit its demand.”

Do you just fulfill the letter of the Law, or compassionately, do you go the extra mile to serve your neighbor who needs mercy? 

Faith is not a noun, a definition understood; but an action, a show of behavior like that of our divine Father. We are chips off the Divine block. And we should behave in such a way toward those our Father places in our path each day.

My takeaways:

We are all the lawyer, desperately seeking in vain to fulfill the law in our own strength.

We are all the broken man in the road, rejected by someone at sometime in life.

We are all the priest and the Levite at times, holding on to prejudices and selfishness, putting ourselves, our beliefs, and our rituals above others.

We are all the Samaritan, people made in the Image of God who are capable of inconveniencing ourselves, motivated by compassion and mercy, to reach out and show love to the ones we are least likely to show love to naturally.

In the words of singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan,

Who is my neighbor? Anyone the Lord leads you into contact with! The person who lives next door…the mailman…that checkout clerk at Walmart…your waitress at IHOP…your child’s basketball coach…the man begging for food…the person you sit next to at the theater …your plumber…you get the idea…those you have any type of relationship with! Ministry does not require that you have expertise in a person’s field any more than it requires that you have experienced their particular sin or hurt. But ministry does require a few things.

Ministry requires that you love your neighbor as a potential new creation in Christ and, if they are a believer, to love them in spite of your discomfort with their particular struggle. Love does not require the other person’s agreement. You can love someone without agreeing with their political, spiritual, or moral beliefs.

To save the lost around us, we must establish relationships with them – loving people how they are, where they are.

So, who is the neighbor you need to go out of your way to love today?

Garbage in, Garbage out: How do you know what’s good for you?


Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

Growing up, we had a pretty matter of fact standard for what we could and could not watch, read or listen to.

Garbage in, garbage out.

If mom thought something was influencing us negatively, it showed in our behavior, and it was immediately nixed.

Garbage Pail Kids? Burping, farting, snotty kids? Not in the Mason house.

Goosebumps? Fear Street? Anything else written by R.L. Stein? Why would you purposefully read something that’s gonna give you nightmares? We all liked our sleep too much, so they were out.

“What’s the harm?” you may be quick to ask, much like my brothers and I did at the time.

But what my mom and dad knew was that, as kids, we were prone to burp and fart and pick boogers and have nightmares without a bit of external assistance. Those things come naturally, and training generally does not include encouraging the things that come to us naturally.

Some things in life were obviously out. Other things, not so much. They had to be considered carefully and the benefits and detriments weighed out. But without fail, things were either placed in one category or the other.

Because the fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as neutral information intake. Everything we consume impacts us for good or for bad. The results may be subtle, but a lifetime of exposure to things that are against biblical principles shapes our mindset. Even if the negative impact is the fact that we are no longer uncomfortable watching shows with consistent vulgar language or extended sex scenes, those things shift our worldview.

So how do we build a constructive, positive worldview? Scripture doesn’t leave us without guidance on this matter. If you want to know how to make positive and constructive choices for how to spend your leisure time, consider the following questions based on the two Scripture passages above:

First, from Philippians 4:8,

1. Is this true?
This doesn’t mean we should abandon fiction; true also means “loyal, faithful, accurate.” Is what you’re watching or reading or hearing considered faithful, consistent to what you believe about the world?

2. Is it honorable?
To be honorable is to be held in high esteem or respect. Is your favorite brain candy respectable? Is it held in high esteem? I would venture to say we could all agree that watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or Undercover Boss are more honorable ways to spend time than perhaps Jersey Shore. Entertainment that has no redeemable value should be questioned at length in your heart and mind.

3. Is it just?
This is where we lose a lot of television and music. To be just is to be “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.” Anything that objectifies people, glorifies abuse, brutality or immoral behavior isn’t just. And watching it repetitively will numb your heart and mind to the consequences of such behavior.

4. Is it pure?
This is relatively self-explanatory. If your favorite movies and music and shows are sexually explicit or full of foul language, ask yourself, “How is this helping me?” If it’s not helping, what’s the point?

5. Is it lovely?
Simply put, does what you put into your heart and mind consistently show you the best or the worst in humanity? I’m a big fan of shows like Criminal Minds and Law & Order: SVU. But after a day of watching a marathon on USA, my general outlook on life is depressing. When we consistently feed on the dregs of humanity, we expect the worst from people and can even begin to forget about the goodness of God in this fallen world.

6. Is it commendable?
Can you formally praise it? Do you feel the need to hide what you’re watching or reading or listening to? Could you share with your small group or your family how you spend your time without feeling embarrassed? Would you want a younger family member or someone you mentor to be doing what you’re doing?

7. Is it excellent?
This is the one that I tend, for better or for worse, to get hung up on. Some “brain candy” is just plain bad. Poorly written, poorly acted, poorly sung. All creativity is possible because we as people are created in the image of Creator God. If you’re going to enjoy the creative nature of humanity, spend your time and energy enjoying GOOD creation.

And from 1 Corinthians 6:12,

8. Is it helpful?
Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s beneficial for you. Ask yourself how this thing you like so much is helpful to you. Sure, quoting hours of Insert Favorite Sitcom Character Here is hilarious fun, but if you can quote your favorite show more than you can quote verses that speak truth into your life, you may want to rethink how you spend your time.

9. Is it enslaving me?
Even the best things can become harmful when they control our lives. If something has become such a fixture in your life that it alters how you live, it may be time to evaluate its place in your life. The gift of DVR has helped that issue with our lives being controlled by a tv show, but this idea of idolatry goes beyond just television. If you consider your favorite entertainment when making decisions about relationships or other commitments, you may be enslaved to it.

These questions revolutionized my television watching and music listening. When I began being convicted about the things I was taking into my heart and mind, I did a media “detox” for several weeks and reset my tolerance to questionable material, then I began re-introducing shows and artists into my life. I compared them to these questions and determined what could stay (and in what amount) based on how they held up to the scrutiny of Scripture.

So how do you determine how you spend your time? What entertainment in your life would be kicked to the curb if you examined it under the light of the Word?

Failing to Notice


In an email conversation with a friend last week, I was challenged to consider the idea that maybe I take life a bit too seriously. Perhaps I should lighten up, think a bit less, turn off my mind and just enjoy certain things without examining their deeper meanings or subconscious influences on my life. Now this friend didn’t say these things or challenge me to do so, but the course of the conversation led me to consider these things myself.

I’ve been in a season of reflecting on the question, “God, what in the world am I doing here?” and to have someone who’s not in my head ask the same question was disheartening to say the least. It caused the question to move from a philosophical inquiry to a full out examination of how I do life and teaching and ministry.

But this morning I read a “knot” by R.D. Laing while doing some research for class, and it confirmed for me that, in this case, to follow the masses would be the worst plan for me and completely counter to everything I’ve spent the last decade of my life working to change in my life.

The range of what we think and do
Is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
That we fail to notice
There is little we can do
To change
Until we notice
How failing to notice
Shapes our thoughts and deeds.

There seems to be an epidemic of failing to notice in our society today. But the more time I spend reading and trying to share what I am learning about learning and thinking and intentional living, the more I see that, for many, the problem isn’t just not knowing. The problem is that many do not want to know. Because to know is to reflect, and to reflect is to critique. And often, to critique means to change. And change is a double problem, because to change, one must first admit they were wrong and must second work hard to discover the error and correct it.

Ignorance truly is bliss. But for the believer, to live in ignorance is to live in disobedience. To be created in the image of the omniscient God is to possess an inherent curiosity, a desire to both know and be known.

So how do we begin to think and to know in a world that emphasizes being known at the expense of knowing anything beyond ourselves?

Today, I believe I will just say that a first step would be to simply begin noticing just how much we fail to notice each and every day. From the mundane to the grandiose, there is so much we fail to notice around us.

Today, I believe I will simply stop and notice.