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?

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Missing the Trees for the Forest


24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” ~The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 5

It’s easy to miss the trees for the forest.

I know that saying is usually expressed the other way around, but when you are serving people, sometimes it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the great need surrounding us.

Overwhelmed by the number of people who seem to enjoy their lives of destructive self-indulgence.

Overwhelmed by lifelong victims of the sins of others.

Overwhelmed by the pain and need of the sick and the dying, whether it is spiritual or physical.

It is so easy to become overwhelmed, in fact, that we can become apathetic toward the individuals who are genuinely seeking truth and healing and wholeness. When the forest is dark and fearful and consuming, it’s easy to miss the beautiful trees that are found interspersed with the scariness.

I love this account of Jesus and this woman, because it reminds me that Jesus saw both the forest and the trees. Jesus was in the midst of the crowd, not up on a balcony watching as they passed. He knew their hearts and intentions and was not wearied and overwhelmed by the masses seeking to be entertained and amazed.

He was right in the center of consumeristic religion.

But he didn’t miss the one who was genuinely seeking the healing of the Great Physician.

And he didn’t send her away. He didn’t get angry about her touching him. He wasn’t concerned that stopping for her might throw off his schedule. He healed her.

He didn’t just let the power seep from his body and keep walking. The work wasn’t as important to him as the relationship. He not only healed her, he connected with her.

There is so much that grabs my heart and challenges my spirit in this account. But that last point convicts me more than anything else. As women, we can become so focused on the work that we overlook the relationships. We become like Martha in the kitchen when the Lord said that it was Mary who chose the better thing by sitting as his feet in fellowship.

As this year draws to a close, I have spent much time reflecting on the cost of investing more in the work than in the relationships. It takes a toll; on the heart, on the mind, on the body, on relationships. Focusing too much on the work eventually harms the work itself.

For 2012, it is my goal to seek first His kingdom, to minister to the trees, and let Him add the forest as He sees fit.

Satisfaction, Security, and Priority


Haggai 1:2 Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.

3 Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?

5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.

7 Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. 9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.

10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.

Reading this passage this morning brought to mind the current economic and spiritual depression that is occurring around us these days. It seemed as if this passage, in which God speaks with the Israelites about their priorities and dissatisfaction, could have been written to me on a lot of days. This message is being delivered to the Israelites who have returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian Captivity, where they had spent 70 years living in relative prosperity. Upon their return to Jerusalem, they did not make God and their relationship with him their first priority. While the Temple laid in ruins, they were focused on building their own homes and securing their own prosperity.

But God observes of them what can be observed in our own time—the more they made their own comfort and security their priority, the less satisfied and secure they actually became. Jesus addressed this very issue in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 6:19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

In America today, even in the midst of this current economic crisis, we are more prosperous than any other civilization in history. Our treasure is firmly on this earth, our heart has followed, and our discontent is evident. We pour our time and money into our own personal happiness, security, and satisfaction and then wonder why we are more miserable than ever before. We spend our time and money building our own home while the work of the Lord is left undone. We are expending ourselves on a product that will not last, so are working in vain. Our hearts were created to work for the glory of God, and when we spend our time working for things other than His glory, we will be inherently dissatisfied.

Sometimes, we even do this under the guise of building the Lord’s house. Take a look at your church’s budget: where is the majority of your money spent? Is it on outreach? Evangelism? Church planting? Missions? Take a look at your church’s calendar: how does your congregation spend the majority of its time? Is it in visitation, counseling, evangelism? Don’t misunderstand my point: buildings and technology and discipleship are vital aspects of ministry. But when our focus is self-comfort, self-improvement and self-entertainment, when we spend more time in fellowship than service, then even serving the Lord becomes unsatisfactory. It’s unsatisfactory because we are really serving ourselves instead of truly serving Him.

I have learned the last few months that when I face times of frustration, of dissatisfaction, I can usually trace it back to somehow being disappointed with my circumstances. When I take my focus off of the Lord, when the building of His kingdom is no longer my desire, when I make my treasure here my priority, I work and find no satisfaction. I lay my heart on the alter of worldly prosperity and it is sacrificed there every time.

So what are we to do to rid ourselves of the attitude of discontentment that so easily springs up in all aspects of life? God tells the Israelites to “Consider your ways.” God tells His people that they will work but gain no prosperity, security or satisfaction as long as they work to secure those things for themselves in their own way. He is our portion and our provider. Our contentment and security are found in Him alone.

The Psalmist Asaph wrote of this problem of discontentment in Psalm 73. Asaph quit looking at the goodness of the Lord and began seeing the perceived prosperity of the wicked around him. He viewed them as healthy, happy, successful, prosperous, and this led him to ask of God, “Where’s mine?” Asaph laments that he has kept his way pure for no reason; after all, what good has clean living done for him if it is only the wicked who prosper? He says that he continued in this thinking until, “I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny” (v. 17). When Asaph returned his focus to eternal, kingdom matters, he remembered that while the wicked seem to prosper in this life, they will spend an eternity separated from God. Asaph remembered that the treasure that matters is the treasure of a regenerate heart, fully focused on service for God.

I pray that I will remember these instructions from God. The next time I am frustrated with the success of the wicked, when I begin to question the payout for living faithfully before the Father, when I work hard but achieve no satisfaction, I pray that the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit will being this to mind: “Consider your ways.”