Who is my neighbor?

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

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.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by 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, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii 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.”

———–

The point that Jesus is trying to emphasize is a widening concept of the term neighbor. In an overly religious setting the walls of ‘neighbor’ were defined very strictly. Jesus steps in to say that anyone in need, no matter what differences you have, is a neighbor in need of God’s grace and your concern.

And this thought has called, encouraged and sent Christian missionaries around the world for hundreds of years. We have concluded (rightly) that anyone in need is our neighbor. We have taken Jesus’ message to heart.

But in our zeal to fulfill this call we have forgotten something that is hugely important to Jesus: our actual neighbors.

Picture your house, apartment or living quarters. Make a grid like a tic-tac-toe board and put yourself in the center.

If each section of the grid were a neighbors house, could you list the eight closest people that live next to you? What else do you know about them? Can you list everyone in the house? Are they more than casual acquaintances; would you actually consider them friends?

The times I’ve done this have shown that less than 50% of people can name a majority of people around them and very few can name all eight. The speaker this last weekend shared similar results.

In our Christian passion to share our faith with the whole world we have forgotten those that live immediately around us. We have become blinded by going to all the world that we have forgotten the immediacy of those around that need to hear about Jesus.

This is one reason I push missional theology. It forces us to wrestle with the way we think of “Christian missions.” The job isn’t always ‘to go’ to exotic places and eat different food. Sometimes Christ’s call is to stay and be with those he has put around us. It’s to know about Bill and Brenda. Have them into your home and be more than fence sharers, be real neighbors. Love them into the Kingdom.

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Science vs. God’s Existence ?

In the wake of this most recent horrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, so many people attempt to find a reason for such evil. Unspeakable suffering, pain, and hurting take place in lives everyday. As we attempt to understand with our finite minds something infinite, we must understand that without Faith and Hope, we will struggle to explain the existence of evil to those that jeer at a proposed “Lack of the existence of God”, they say “Where is your God? If he exists, why would he allow these things to happen?”. Jimmy’s post below on Hope, truly resonates. While we can offer up a myriad of  “explanations” as to why such things happen, or why evil runs rampant, I was reminded of this rebuttal to the demand of a scientific explanation of God’s existence, that I came across a few years ago. A little lengthy but truly worth the read……..

Consider this explanation for those void of faith and insist on a “scientific” explanation of such events. 405401_400993166629257_989873826_n

“Let me explain the problem science has with religion.”  The professor of philosophy pauses before his class, then asks one of his new students to stand.

“You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?”

“Yes sir,” the student says.

“So you believe in God?”

“Absolutely.”

“Is God good?”

“Sure! God’s good.”

“Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?”

“Yes.”

“Are you good or evil?”

“The Bible says I’m evil.”

The professor grins knowingly. “Aha! The Bible!” He considers for a moment. “Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?”

“Yes sir, I would.”

“So you’re good…!”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn’t.”

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. “He doesn’t, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Can you answer that one?”

The student is silent. “No, you can’t, can you?” the professor says.

He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

“Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?”

“Er…yes”, the student says.

“Is Satan good?”

The student doesn’t hesitate on this one. “No.”

“Where does Satan come from?”

The student falters,”From God.”

“That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?”

“Yes, sir…”

“Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything, correct?”

“Yes.”

“So who created evil?”, the professor continues, “If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists. And according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.”

Again, the student has no answer.

” Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things — do they exist in this world?”

The student squirms on his feet. “Yes.”

“So who created them?”

The student does not answer, so the professor repeats his question, “Who created them?”

There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. “Tell me”, he continues on to another student, “do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?”

The student’s voice betrays him and cracks. “Yes, professor, I do.”

The old man stops pacing. “Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?”

“No sir. I’ve never seen Him.”

“Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?”

“No, sir, I have not…”

“Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ? Or God, for that matter?”

“No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.”

“Yet you still believe in him?”

“Yes.”

“According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?”

“Nothing”, the student replies, “I only have my faith.”

“Yes, faith”, the professor repeats, “And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.”

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of his own. “Professor, is there such a thing as heat? “

“Yes.”

“And is there such a thing as cold?”

“Yes, son, there’s cold too.”

“No sir, there isn’t.”

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room becomes very quiet.

The student begins to explain.

“You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t have anything called ‘cold’. We can hit down to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest – 458 degrees. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy.

Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.”

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

“What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?”

“Yes”, the professor replies without hesitation, “What is night if it isn’t darkness?”

“You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light. But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing — and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? That’s the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?”

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. “So what point are you making, young man?”

“My point, professor, is that your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.”

The professor’s face cannot hide his surprise this time. “Flawed? Can you explain how?”

“You are working on the premise of duality”, the student explains. “You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood, either one.

To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it. Now tell me,professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?”

“If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.”

“Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?”

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes
where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

“Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?”

The class is in uproar.

The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided.

“To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.”

The student looks around the room.

“Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?”

The class breaks out into laughter.

“Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt the professor’s brain, touched or smelt the professor’s brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir. So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?”

Now the room is silent. The professor stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. “I guess you’ll have to take them on faith.”

“Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,” the student continues. “Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?”

Now uncertain, the professor responds, “Of course there is evil. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

To this the student replies, “Evil does not exist, sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat, or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

The professor sits down.

~Author Unknown

Our flag was still there…..

“God grant me the courage not to give up what I
think is right, even though I think it is hopeless.”

~ Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz (Native Texan)

Attack on Pearl Harbor ~ December 7, 1941

 

…And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave……

Treating People Like Jesus

McDonalds really seems to be at the crossroads of American life. Rich and poor gather under the golden arches for cheap food that is quick and tasty. Their slogan could just as easily be, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to eat cheap.” I’ve seen business suits and birthday suits at McDonalds, it attracts everyone.

English: The official logo.
English: The official logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was at a discipling group today at one of our local McDonalds. While I was waiting for the group members to show up, I had someone join me at my table and he proceeded to hand me a couple of napkins and some hand sanitizing wipes. I (without looking up from my book) said thanks and kept reading. He handed out more napkins and wipes to the surrounding tables before returning to sit down next to me. When he noticed that I didn’t use the napkin as a coaster, he felt the need to pick up my cup and do it for me.

That got my attention and I knew this guy was serious about wanting to have some company, so I put my book down and waited for what was next. In our next few minutes together (about 15) here are the topics we covered:

  • Getting an ID from the government
  • Police
  • Colorado
  • Colorado’s nice residents
  • Kansas
  • Looooosiana
  • New York and New Jersey (he was born in both places)
  • California
  • Missouri
  • Colorado’s nice residents
  • Texas
  • The DMV
  • And how nice everyone in Colorado.

The two most repeated phrases of our conversation were, “You know?” (I didn’t, which got me in trouble on a number of occasions) and, “It’s just such a pain in the ass.” (I pretended to know).

You can probably tell by now that something wasn’t well with my new acquaintance, and the longer he sat across from me the more potent the smell of alcohol became. He was out of it enough that after my discipling group (an hour and a half long) I saw him again having a conversation with a bird statue a few blocks down (yes conversation, not monologue).

He even drew me a picture.

Towards the end of our time together he began to berate and yell at another customer as he was leaving McDonald’s because the guy at my table was convinced that he was the governor of Colorado and couldn’t figure out why he didn’t want to have a conversation with him.

Since the moment we first began to talk I had a nudge to engage his guy and talk to him. I kept hearing in my mind, “Treat this guy like Jesus.” Which of course meant that I would need to act like Jesus.

How do you extend grace, fellowship and company to someone that drunk, disoriented and out of it all together? I had Matthew 25 running through my head:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”

I knew that this is a guy loved and created in the image of God. I needed to treat him as such, but thinking about it and doing it are two different things. Given his current state it was going to be even harder. Here are some things I thought about that I think are helpful. I, in no way, think I was perfect and don’t think I’ve covered everything well. I’ve got room to grow and hope that God continues to shape me so I do better next time. Here are three things I think we need to practice better.

  1. Talk to them. There were several people that either blew off his presence or mocked him. A couple of tables snickered and pointed fingers as he talked. Engaging him and talking to him validates his humanity. Even in an inebriated state he needs to be treated humanely.
  2. Offer help. When he was talking about going to the DMV, he showed me the address he needed to go. I offered to help him find it. Though I was met with an angry outburst (because he knew the way), the point is that we should offer to go the extra step. Spend voluntary time with him.
  3. Offer to pray. This is an opportunity I’m ashamed to say that I missed. Part of it was because I barely got a word it, but most of it was because I wasn’t assertive enough. I could have offered to pray with him and his struggle to get to the DMV.

———-

Please comment below and add to the list. What other suggestions do you have?

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It’s Simple

I have been accused of being an over simplifier!

I have always believed that there are ONLY 2 choices in every situation…the right one, and the wrong one…it is your choice which one you choose.

Simple solution, make the right choice.

I believe that when something goes wrong with my computer, I look back at the last thing I downloaded or upgraded and think that it had to have had an affect or caused the problem.

Simple solution, delete last program or upgrade added and go from there.

I believe that if there is a problem with my cars that needs to be fixed…I should take them to a mechanic because cars make me feel stupid. Ask my wife and she will tell you the same.

Simple solution, take it to a mechanic.

I believe that salvation is simple.

John 3:5-7 “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.”
John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
John 3:31-36 “31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God[k] gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
Romans 10:9-11 “11If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

I believe that faith is simple.

John 14:12-14 ”Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Luke 18:15 “15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Luke 18:40 “40Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.
42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God.
Simple!

I believe that following Christ is simple.

John 14:15 “15If you love me, keep my commands.”
John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
Luke 9:23-25 “23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”
Matthew 22:37-39 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Proverbs 22:1-8 “1 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7 He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8 for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.”
Luke 18:9-14 “9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

I believe that the Gospel is simple.

1 Corinthians 1 “10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[a]“; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into[b] the name of Paul? 14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

It takes SIMPLE faith…God said it in His word…I believe it!

Is it really that easy?

Ah….herein lies the paradox….NO!

I never said it was easy. I said it was simple.

Living a life worthy of being called “Christian” is not easy. It is filled with turmoil, turbulence, options, choices, voices and too many other numerous things to mention.

It is a life filled with, ‘not my will but yours God’.

It is a life filled with hours on our knees asking for God’s direction, wisdom, help, peace, and strength.
It can be a life filled, a life full…and should be.

It’s a Simple life….not an easy one!

Darkness is Overcome

His light shines through darkness.

His light shines through darkness.

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5

The absence of all color is black, although there are those that would argue this sentiment. I have even had a few artistic folk claim that the absence of color is white and that black is the culmination of all colors. Most have forgotten what they were taught in 8th grade science, color is determined by what we see reflected off of an object. White is a combination of all colors being reflected off of an object. Black is THE ABSENCE OF ANY COLOR being reflected off of an object. Therefore in the same respect, the absence of all light is darkness.

Jesus has come into the world to abolish darkness…to displace the darkness with His light. A light so bright that darkness cannot overcome it. A light so intense that it penetrates to the deepest of depths, to the darkest of darkness….and the light overcomes the darkness.

“In Him was life…and that life was the light of all mankind.”

A life lived in Him shines light to the darkened hearts of those around us. A life lived in Him is filled with love, and that love is what shines so brightly to those in the shadows. That love, that light, overcomes the darkness and allows all of the colors of life to be shown in all of its beauty. Ask anyone who receives Christ for the first time and they will tell you that the whole world looks different…they see things in a whole new light. They see things as God intended them to be. Full of beauty and wonder.

Heavenly Father help us to live a life full of light, shining your love to all who dwell in the shadows of life.