Who is my Neighbor?

For the last several weeks, there have been tensions among different groups in the United States. Slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” have come to the forefront. With it being an election year, it could also be said that the media has had a part in fanning tensions. This post is not meant to be a political post though and does not give my opinion on who is right or who is wrong. It is more how my thinking about this topic has personally impacted me and how a sermon I heard yesterday impacted me as well.

Who is my neighbor? Jesus had a lot to say about that, and it was very different from what establishment Judaism thought. Like I have said in previous posts, most Jews during that time loved people who were most like them. Isn’t that what we do today? We love and care about the people who are most like us, and we are afraid of those who are different.

Jesus wasn’t like that at all though, and there are many stories in the New Testament that demonstrate this. The one I want to tell today is about the Good Samaritan. A teacher of the law, trying to trap Jesus, asked Him who his neighbor was after correctly stating what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. (Luke 10:27) The next verses tell the story.

“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, 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.'”  (Luke 10:30-37)

The point of this story is that the person who helped the injured man was the one who was most unlike him. There was no love lost between the Jews and the Samaritans. The people of that day would have understood the point Jesus was trying to make. But, do we? Do we have the courage to overcome our fears and show Jesus to the ones who are most unlike us?

I don’t know. I will be fully transparent and tell you I don’t have a lot of courage on my own. There are things I know I should do that I don’t do, and there are things I don’t do that I know I should do. Any demonstration of my faith is a result of Jesus being in me, plain and simple. He is the one who gives me the courage to overcome my fears, and He is the one I need to go to when life overwhelms me.

Now that I’ve said all that, it’s time to go to the practical example or the story of how this relates to me. I almost don’t want to share this with you because it’s something that’s in the deepest recesses of my heart. But, that’s where God has been working so share it I will. There are some women in my life who make me feel inadequate, make me feel like I don’t quite measure up. Women who make me feel like the least of God’s daughters. They have characteristics that I associate with true womanhood whereas the characteristics I have and the things I like are not often associated with true womanhood. At least they’re not in this world.

Anyway, this morning, during my devotion, a thought came to me, and I knew it was from God. He said I needed to pray for these women, pray for His presence in their lives, pray for Him to bless them. The whole nine yards. I was like, ‘No, God. They think I’m stupid. I’m nothing like them, and they’re only nice to me because they have to be.’ And then He said the convicting words. ‘Do you mean it when you say you want to be my child? Do you mean it when you say you want to show my light? I will give you courage, daughter. In return, I ask for this from you. Your worth is in what I think of you. Nothing else. And I loved you enough to send Jesus to die on the cross for you. That is enough.’ It eased my heart and gave me courage. Then I did what God had asked of me. I prayed for these women.

Maybe that’s what we need to do first. Maybe we should pray for the people who are different from us. And after we have prayed and received God’s guidance, maybe we will gain the courage to approach these people and actually have relationships with them despite the differences. Because, after all, God does love ALL of us–loves us enough that He sent His Son to die on a cross for us.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

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New Beginnings

When I published my last post eleven days ago, I was eight days away from a big change in my family’s life. We were preparing to make a local move in our community. In our twenty-two years of marriage, we have moved several times, and the prevailing characteristic has been for the move to be to a different enough locale that it resulted in a totally new beginning for our family. We would go to different stores, have different sets of friends, and would have to adjust to different routines while missing what was old and familiar.

This move is different from all of that because we only moved a couple of miles down the road from where we were. All of the same stores and restaurants we like to frequent are still in the same places. Sure, we’ll probably go to some places more than we did before, and some places less, but essentially things will be the same. We’ll have to remember to turn in a different direction when we’re leaving Target or coming home from church, but it will still be the same place.

Even with everything pretty much staying the same, I’m calling it a new beginning. Why? Because it’s a chance to do things differently. It’s a chance not to fall into the same old patterns. It’s a chance to shine God’s light in a way I haven’t been able to before.

God offers each of us that new beginning every morning. It doesn’t just come when you accept Him into your heart. It doesn’t just come when you are baptized. It comes every day! And if I were to be honest, I would say I need that new beginning each day. Lamentations 3:22 says this, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'”

So, even with all the times I fail and all the times I’m not the person God wants me to be, He offers me a new beginning each and every day. May we all take that new beginning!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Love in the Midst of Darkness

Our world is so dark as evidenced by what happened last night and what’s happened over the last few days. People were killed by anger and division. This is not what God wants from us or for us, His creation. I know He is weeping this morning as I am weeping. He loves ALL of us no matter the color of our skin or anything else that makes us different from each other. He is the one who created us! How could He not love ALL of us! But, I think we humans, and even the church, His Bride have forgotten that with Sunday mornings still being the most segregated hour in America.

How can we change this? How can we make things different? The answer is both easy and difficult. We love. We love those who are the same AND those who are different from us. We love like our Lord and Savior has commanded us. We love, and we are not afraid.

I Corinthians 13:4-7 says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Then you have the most important part of this chapter, Verse 13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

There are no categories to this love. No quantifiers that say we are to only love people who are like us. No, we are to love EVERYONE like Christ has loved us. This is said best in Matthew 22:37-39. “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

I believe this sums it all up. So, today, I pray for God’s peace and comfort for all of us and especially for the family members of all who have died in the last few days. I also pray we are able to love in the midst of darkness.

God’s blessings on everyone today!

Be Still and Know

If you have any familiarity with Scripture, you will know that the above title of this post is a partial quote from a particular verse. Here is the full quote of Psalm 46:10. “He says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

This verse is almost at the end of a psalm that begins with these verses. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Verses 1-3)

All of these verses have been encouraging to me, but what I want to unpack today is verse 10. “Be still and know that I am God.” The first part, being still, is something that all of us have difficulty doing, me included. Nowadays, staying busy and connected to the noise of this world continuously is something that has become culturally acceptable. Don’t believe me. When is the last time you have taken a vacation without someone expecting you to take a phone call or answer an email for work? Or solve a problem that has come up? Or even come into the office from wherever you are? If you can answer all of that in the negative, I want to work for your employer. 😉

But, I digress. I have written many times of God wanting to have a relationship with us. I believe this is one of the verses that explains how we can have a relationship with Him. We need to be still so we can listen to what He has to say to us. Yes, we need to pray too which involves speaking out loud. (generally) But, after we pray, we need to be still. We need to study Scripture and listen for His still, small voice to have His guidance for our lives. This verse cements this concept for me because right after “be still” it says, “know that I am God.” So, if we are still, we can know Him. That seems like a fair bargain to me as this is something I want with everything I have in me.

What about the noise though? How can we shut it all off so we can have a chance to be still? For me, it has come in small steps. Making a commitment to have everything capable of making noise away from me during my prayer time. Speaking and then taking the time to listen. Having small blocks of time during the day when I am quiet. Asking God what He wants me to do about a particular situation and listening for His answer. Things like that. I won’t be perfect at this until I am with God, but it’s my hope that I will continue to know my Lord and Savior better by making the time to be still.

God’s blessings on all of you today!