Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Love the One You’re With

Posted: January 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

I wonder if the expert in the law had wished he had staying in bed after he encountered the real Jesus. In the Gospels so many people approached Jesus with their own agendas and left changed. They were dumbfounded, perplexed, challenged, uncomfortable, questioned, rebuked, comforted, healed, forgiven, but they always left changed. This expert, (interesting that he is called an expert), I am sure he really did not expect to learn anything from an untrained Galilean. I am sure that he felt he was well equipped to test and challenge Jesus. His degrees and years of experience led him to believe that he was. I can not help but wonder how many times I have approached Jesus full of myself, believing I have it all under control, that I know what I am doing. How far from the truth that is. Interesting question this expert asks Jesus. Even more interesting is Jesus’ response.
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 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
“Who is my neighbor?” Great question. How many people am I responsible to love? How can I love them all? How do I love them all? What’s the limit to this command? Surely, Jesus it cannot mean that I am to love them all? How can anymore accomplish such a daunting task?
Again, I will tread on the boarder of simplicity, but what does the word “neighbor” in it’s simplest form actually mean? Is it not simply the person next to you? A neighbor is the person in closest proximity to you at the moment. The person you are with? Perhaps it is the person closest in your thoughts? Maybe your neighbors are those you are most closely related to, starting with your family, your distant family, your friends, your co-workers, those that live near you, those you attend church with? (I would love to give a shout out to a great book written on this subject from which a great many of my thoughts have been shaped, Concentric Circles of Concern, by W. Oscar Thompson. Definitely worth your time! Buy it on Amazon now)
So that’s the question for us all, “Who is your neighbor?” In Jesus’ story it is the poor traveler beaten, half dead on the side of the road. The other travelers were going about their business, traveling to wherever, and God presented them with this opportunity to shine. Clearly this man was in need of help. If love is meeting needs this man’s needs were self-evident. He was beaten, bleeding and dying. God was giving each character in the story a chance to live love, to do something significant, to make a real difference in a real life. When God brings someone across your path they have become your neighbor. As a love machine we reflect God’s great love to those around us. Each person is needy, some are great actors and you may have to dig to find the need, but we are all needy. A love machine looks to meet those needs. Those people in your life, those are the ones to love. God has surrounded you with a sea of humanity. This is not an accident. You are not an accident. Your life is not an accident. The people around you and the situation in which you find your self, is not accidental. You are here on purpose, with a purpose to love. You can begin by touching your toes to water and take simple steps towards those around you. But eventually, if you want to follow Jesus, you are going to have to get all the way in. Why not through those inhibitions and fears aside? Why not through your arms back, leap off the ledge of safety and swan dive into the sea around you? Yea, it’s scary but feel the thrilling freefall of freedom as you soar over the edge.
Well some may ask, who will meet my needs?
This is a legitimate question. Well, if you do not take into consideration the “Who.” God is the “Who.” From a right-thinking perspective who can provide for you better than God Himself? Do what He asks and He will take care of you. Surely God will take care of those who follow Him. Consider this, perhaps deep down your greatest need is to obey your Creator and meet the need of the person in front of you. In doing this you will be connecting to your highest calling and greatest purpose. I have often wondered if this is what Jesus meant in John 4:31-34.
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something. “But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
Jesus’ recognized His need, His sustenance was something more than the food He ate. He had a higher calling that surpassed His physical needs. I reflect again about Jesus’ temptation experience in the wilderness. Remember how Satan tempted Him to turn the stones to bread. Jesus had not eaten for weeks. I feel famished if I have not had lunch before 1 PM. I cannot imagine going on 40 days of fasting. Jesus responded to Satan’s test with, “Man does not live on bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Maybe there is more to life than worrying about how my needs are going to be met? Maybe this is the key to living free. If I approach you looking to get something from you how does it make you feel when you sense this? You feel used. I may get what I want but I made a serious withdraw from our friendship in the transaction. When love is my highest priority, when meeting your needs is the focus of my actions, everything changes. Your guard is lowered. My expectations are different. Love wins. I win. You win. God wins! As the ‘Good Samaritan’ saw the desperate individual he responded with his heart. His heart was broken and love compelled him to do something. As he entered the life of this poor victim he was inspired to give and when he did, he was inspired to give more.

Can’t Handle the Truth

Posted: January 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

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?”

Luke 10:25-29

What was this expert in the law really after?  The Bible gives us insight into his motives.  He wants to “test” Jesus and “justify” himself.  First, he is looking for a reason to discredit Jesus’ authority.  He is hoping to trip Jesus up and make Him look bad.  Secondly, the expert is looking to find the loophole in the law to make himself look good.  I could blast this guy for a few paragraphs and sure it would probably seem well deserved, but really, am I any better than him? When faced with brutal reality I am not unlike this expert.  We all go to great lengths to see ourselves in best light possible.  With our fragile self-esteems we tend to shy away from confrontation, particularly when it exposes our weaknesses, frailty, or flaws.  I am really good at portraying myself as the “good guy” in every scene of my life.   Let’s say I have an argument with my wife.  I find myself working hard to find the reasons that she is wrong and I am right.  What if the argument centers on something I said that I would do but did not do?  An open and shut case it would seem.  Unless I can spread a shadow of doubt.  I start finding good excuses why I haven’t gotten to it yet.  Why that particular task was moved down on my priority list.  I know in my heart that I really intended to do it when I promised I would.  Sure my internal dialogue tells me that I was going to get to it soon, but what is the reality?  I made a promise to wife, whom I love and I did not follow through.  Reality really bites!  The truth can be a severely sobering buzz killer.  It pulls us kicking and screaming out of the intoxicating, delusional existence we live most of our lives in.   Sometimes the truth confronts us gently us like the ripping the sheets off our toasty toes when it is time to wake up.  Sometimes the truth hits us like turn four at Daytona Motor Speedway.  Funny how the concrete walls of truth do not move even though we are carrying 180 mph of momentum in our own direction.  Just like this expert in the law,  we know just enough to make us dangerous.  We know enough to make our own attempts at discounting the message of Jesus.   “He spoke in a different time to different people.  Surely we cannot take Jesus so literally in the context of today’s culture.” We know just enough to reinforce our arguments of self-justification.  We can make them sound great, so good that sometimes other people are convinced by our crafty persuasion.   “Jesus was using figurative language to illustrate His point.  What He really meant was (inset your own opinion here) not what He actually said.”   Well, it all sounds good.  In fact a lot of scholarly trends and religious institutions have been built on one or both of these tendencies: discounting Jesus or justifying our own ideas.  But neither of these tendencies takes seriously in to account the real Jesus and what He really said.  If He is who He says He is, then we have a choice to make, “Will we deal with the truth or not?”  The truth maybe hard to swallow but it is better than living in a lie.  I think this is why the Bible does not seem to distinguish a difference between faith and action.   You see this in passage after passage, if you believe the truth about Jesus you will live differently.    Genuine faith results in action.  If you believe Jesus is truly the Son of God, you have to take what He says seriously.  We have to recognize our tendencies to discount His character or reinterpret His words to ease our ways of life.  We have to be brutal in this endeavor because our broken, fallen natures are brilliant!  They are crafty!  They will misguide ourselves and painfully, sometimes those who respect us.  Carefully we should strip away what our culture has taught us about Jesus.  We should dismantle our preconceptions and images of the person we think He is.   Doing our very best to remove these blinders and filters we should strive to encounter the Jesus revealed in Scripture and take His words at face value.  This kind of deprogramming is tough for those who have seen hundreds of Sunday school images and heard thousands of personal interpretations of who Jesus is.   Sure this is dangerous ground to tread, but my prayer is always that the Holy Spirit, the counselor, will guide my mind to find the truth in His words.

Let’s Get Physical

Posted: November 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

To Jesus to meet someone’s physical needs is spiritual and to meet someone spiritual need is physical.  They are one in the same.  In Gospel of Mark, chapter two, we read a story of Jesus preaching in a home.  Several men carried brought a paralytic on a mat in hopes that Jesus would heal him.  When they arrived the crowds were so large they could not get close to Jesus.  In their desperation they carried the paralytic to the roof of the home and began digging through the ceiling.  To everyone’s surprise soon a paralyzed man was being lowered through the roof above Jesus’ head.  Everyone must have wondered, “What will Jesus do now?”  Lying before Him was a frail, shriveled form of a man.   Obvious to everyone his most desperate need was to be healed this tragic state.  Obvious to everyone but Jesus.  Jesus’ first words to the paralyzed man were, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  This proclamation created quite a ruckus!  The religious scholars start in on Jesus.  Their doctrine taught them that only God has the right to forgive sin.  “Who does Jesus think He is?” “He is claiming to have the power of God!”  Hear Jesus’ response:

“Why are you thinking these things?  Which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.   This amazed everyone and they praised God, say, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Jesus used the healing of the paralytic to prove His spiritual authority.  When Jesus healed the paralytic He proved to everyone that He was God.   By meeting the paralytic’s physical need Jesus amazed everyone and lead them to praise God.  Could it be that we are to operate in the same way that Jesus did?  Time and time again Jesus linked meeting physical needs in order to convey spiritual realities.   Here is the game plan, as we lovingly meet the needs of those around us, we establish the moral authority to share the message.  The message with out loving action is nothing.  It is a clanging gong or crashing symbol. The action with out the message is vague and unclear.  It is a good thing, but it is not complete.   In Christendom, we believers have exasperated tremendous amounts of energy debating what should be our priority: outreach and evangelism or social and humanitarian aid.  All the while I think we have missed the point, they are synonymous!  They are one in the same.  Jesus did not seem to divide the two.  The Bible commands both.   Love requires both.  To love is to meet needs.  Physical, emotional, spiritual, social they are all needs.  Love calls us to recognize the most pressing need and as we work to meet it, God conveys His lavish love through us.

Of course we are all in a continuum caught between who we are and who we need to be.

For some of us it is time to step up, look to meet the physical or emotional needs around us and let go a little of the sermonating.  Put some action in your words, it will soften the hearts of those who hear you.  For some of us,  it is time to step up and share the story of Christ boldly with those whom you have been sacrificially serving.  There is a reason you do this, share the reason.  Every once in a while when I am traveling I listen in to the airline stewards’ safety speeches.  I begin imaging what emotions I would experience after the pilot announces that our plane is going in for an emergency landing.   Certainly it would be appropriate for me to be in intimate prayer readying myself to meet my Heavenly Father.  Perhaps I would have the clarity of mind to share a brief Gospel plea with the passenger beside me.  But there is one person on the aircraft that I hope is not focused, eyes closed in prayer.  I certainly hope the pilot is intensely focused on bringing this plane in safely.   Surely flying with all his skill and training is his highest priority in this moment.   I maybe focused on saving a soul but I hope the pilot is focused on saving my “kiester!”  Which one is the more loving response?  Neither!  Given the particulars of the situation and scope of our influence we are both doing what we can.  It is our job to determine which needs are the most important ones we can meet.

There is certainly a priority of needs.  Some needs are urgent and vital!  Some needs must be met before someone can consider their spiritual condition.  For example, if you were trapped in an air-tight room with a rapidly decreasing supply of oxygen would you care to read these words on this page?  It probably would not be that important to you.  What if you were in a dry, sandy dessert with the sun pouring it’s heat on your skin, would you be concerned about the scores of last night’s ball game?  If your family had not eaten for a week and you were not sure where you could find another meal would you be worried about your vacation plans?  There is certainly a priority of needs!  Certain things are just more important than others.  Air, water and food are at the top of the list.  Everything else falls somewhere behind in importance.   The truth is certain needs must be met before we can think about other priorities.   A famous psychological philosopher Abraham Maslow proposed what he called the “Hierarchy of Human Needs.”  Through the years many people have debated the exact prioritization of these needs but most scholars agree that concept is sound.  As a point of reference let’s use his theory.

Maslow theorized that as someone’s needs on a particular level are met they can then concern themselves with their needs at the next level.  First, on the ground level, we all have physiological needs.  These are the basic requirements we have to live: breathing, food, water, excretion, sleep and etc.  A human being will not survive long with out meeting these essential needs.  Second, we have needs for safety.  When your physical needs are relatively satisfied one becomes concerned with their personal safety.   On this level one is concerned about protection and justice.    Maslow’s third level of needs are social.  These needs are relational, for example; friendship, intimacy, and longing for a sense of belonging.    The fourth level is for personal esteem.  Humans have the need to be respected, have a sense of personal accomplishment and be recognized.  This also includes personal self esteem, how we view ourselves.  The fifth level is called self-actualization.  At this level are the needs of creativity, morality and personal fulfillment.  This is the level where one is able to explore their gifts, talents and reach their full potentials.

With this prioritization of needs in mind, how does it influence the ways in which we love each other as Jesus has commanded?  Remember, to love is to meet someone’s needs.  It takes understanding.  It is vital to understand what are the needs that we can work to meet?  Everyone has needs at some level and though we might not ever be able to completely fulfill all of those needs completely, when we work to meet someone at their point of need we communicate through our actions that we love that person.  Love is meeting needs.   A loving approach is to take the time to see someone’s true needs and do what you can to help them meet their needs.  Following Maslow’s prioritization that most of us living in the “first world” have the luxury to be concerned with levels 3-5.  We are free to think about issues of relationship, self esteem and are afforded the opportunity to pursue creative, fulfilling endeavors.  Our fellow world citizens though are not so fortunate, daily they are concerned with acquiring the basic essentials for survival.  The majority of their time is spent on finding food, transporting water, securing shelter, and in fear of eminent danger.  In the midst of such pursuits finding time to reflect on the existential questions of human existence are surely secondary to the vital needs of life.  When you are struggling to live from one day to the next a message of the love of Jesus is better communicated through providing a source purified drinking water than eloquent sermons.   Reflect on this passage:

James 2:14-16 “What good is it my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has not deeds?  Can such a faith save him?  Suppose a brother of 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?”