Be the Samaritan

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

With the parables that Jesus told, he often subverted a person’s expectations. The story of the Good Samaritan is no different. In Luke 10:25-37, an expert of the Mosaic Law asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him how he read the Law and the man answered that one should love God with his entire being and love his neighbor as himself. When Jesus told him that he had answered correctly, the man “wanted to justify himself” and asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

It seems obvious that the man had people in his life who he thought didn’t deserve his love. Love your neighbor, sure, but there must be exceptions. How often do we think the same? Loving people who treat us well and love us back is fairly easy. But what about those who we don’t like or who don’t like us? What about those who require our resources but can’t pay us back? Surely, there are exceptions and these don’t count as neighbors, right?

Jesus then told a story with four main characters: An injured man, beaten, robbed, and left for dead; as well as a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. It is presumed that the injured man was a Jew, since he was traveling out of Jerusalem, so who better to help him than fellow Jews, and especially religious leaders (kind of like this expert in the Law)? Yet, when each saw the injured man, they passed by on the other side. They saw a person in need and a looked away.

It was the Samaritan who stopped, helped the man, and paid for his care. Significant here, is the fact, that culturally the Jews and Samaritans were opposed to each other for a variety of reasons. Most Jews had little respect for Samaritans and most Samaritans felt the same toward the Jews.

Once he finished telling the story, Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor?” The expert in the Law couldn’t even bring himself to say the word “Samaritan” and instead said, “The one who showed mercy.”

Jesus replied, “Go and do likewise.” In other words: Be the Samaritan.

When we read this, we should understand two things: 1) Our “neighbor” we are to love is anyone we encounter, especially those in need of help; 2) Love, mercy, and compassion are not to be affected by backgrounds and perceptions–it doesn’t matter if a person is a different ethnicity, age, class, gender, religion, orientation, etc., the love we have for others through Jesus should know no bounds. When we encounter a person in need, our concern should not be Who are they? Nor, What have they done? Nor, What benefit do I gain? But, How can I help?

You can love someone without agreeing with them. You can love someone without being the same. You can love someone even if you feel they need to change. After all, no matter who they are or where they come from, they are exactly like us in that they are fellow human beings, made in the image of God, and in need of the grace of Jesus.

Show them grace. Show them love. Be the Samaritan.

All Scripture taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Praying the Bible ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.

Text: 1 Thessalonians 1:3
We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Christian Standard Bible)

Prayer
Father, Paul wrote elsewhere that faith, hope, and love, these three remain. Faith in Jesus through the gospel, hope in Jesus for eternal life and joy, and love through Jesus for you and others–may these be the enduring marks of my life. Throughout the years, and when my life-story on this earth is done, may I be remembered (by those who remember) for faith, hope, and love above all else. May I act each day in faith. May I work to serve others in love. May hope drive me from opening my eyes in the morning to closing my eyes at night. May this life be all for you though the Lord Jesus. Amen.

Love – The Fruit of the Spirit (part 2)

The first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is love.

Most people will tell you that love is “more than a feeling.” True love is a commitment, especially committing to another’s good. But love isn’t only a commitment. Love indeed involves the affections. If you ask a man if he loves his wife and he says “yes” but the thought of her doesn’t bring a sense of happiness as well, then you would naturally wonder what is wrong in the relationship.

If you consider passages such as 1 Corinthians 13, love could be best defined in this way: A commitment to happily seek the best for another.

Love is listed first among the fruit of the Spirit, because in the Bible’s story love takes a preeminent role. Indeed, the Bible is a book of love, an adventure romance about a valiant warrior (Jesus) pursing and winning back his wayward love (the church). We are also told that God is love and that all true love flows from God.

And then, in Matthew 22, when Jesus is asked about the greatest command in the Law, his answer is that we love God supremely and love others deeply.

Love is to be the blood pumping through the veins of God’s people.

It’s easy for us to love others when we feel loved by them or when they benefit us in some way. But the Bible doesn’t tell us to only love those who love us. We also are to love all that we encounter (granted this will be a different type of love than we have for spouse or child or parent, but still it’s a seeking of their best as we are able), and we are to even love our enemies.

This is where things get hard and it takes a supernatural strength within. This is where the Spirit works on our hearts so that our love will expand. God, after all, loved us when we were his enemies, giving us Jesus so that sinful rebels might become beloved sons and daughters (Romans 5).

That is one of our great hopes–that people who in the moment count us as their enemies might instead be brothers and sisters in eternity, relishing the joy of Christ.

So, let us seek to love well and let us pray that God would grow this fruit in our lives.

Next time, we’ll consider the spiritual fruit of joy.

stack of love wooden blocks
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A Reflection on Love (thoughts for Valentine’s Day)

Many of us know the passage well. People quote it, read it at weddings, hang it on plaques on the wall—Paul’s famous words on love from 1 Corinthians 13.

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – 1 Corinthians 13:6-8 (CSB)

When we read this passage in their context, we find that it’s not primarily about marriage or romance, but about serving one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus. Paul wrote these words right in the heart of correcting the church on how to use spiritual gifts to serve and not to show off or exalt self. Still, the application is broad. Serving others is a universal call for we who follow Jesus. So, we can apply this to marriage and friendship and how we treat our neighbors.

If we were to boil down Paul’s teachings into a single statement, it would say this: Love happily seeks the best for others. And, oh, how that should be us!

Love, in this way, is other-focused. It is like when Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. There’s an assumption here: We typically are patient with ourselves and want others to be patient toward us. We tend to be kind to ourselves and want others to be kind toward us. We tend to be… and want others… the list goes on. The Bible assumes that in normal situations, we love and want the best for ourselves. But it also knows that it is harder for us to freely extend this attitude toward others.

But that is the command here—we’re to be patient with others, kind to others, not envious of others, etc. And nowhere do we see that we are to be these things only if they reciprocate. Love is not self-serving through what we gain from others. In Christ, we are already perfectly loved by the Father. We love because he loved us. That should be enough to motivate us to love even if no one loves us back the way we would want. Love is other-focused.

Love also looks for the best. We can say this in two ways: First, love seeks to bring the best to others. True love seeks ways to better the life of another both in the present and in eternity. It seeks to show the person Jesus and meet their present needs—physical, emotional, and relational. Second, love looks for the best in others. Living in a fallen world and being repeatedly hurt in a fallen world can cause us to be jaded. We jump to conclusions, question motives, and make assumptions without the facts. Love fights against these trends. Love refused to ignore evil and will deal with it when necessary, but love is also willing to believe and hope. Love looks for the best.

Finally, love continues. Paul was making this point in light of eternity: Eventually, when Jesus comes back and we see things clearly and no longer as through a blurry mirror, the need for various gifts will drop away. But love will remain. God is love, as John the Apostle wrote. God is also eternal. So, if love will continue forever, our present moments of love should be long-lasting. The “loving feeling,” as the song says, sometimes gets lost. But love itself, as a commitment and an act to seek another’s best, should continue. If someone loves us, we continue to love them. If someone is indifferent to us, we continue to love them. If someone hurts us as an enemy, we continue to love them. Jesus, after all, loved us when we were his enemies. He loves us when our hearts turn momentarily apathetic. And he loves us all the same when we love him well. That is his example for us. Love continues.

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Sunday 11.26.17 (love others)

This Sunday, we’ll take a look at 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 on the topic of loving others. We hope to see you there! As we wrap up the holiday weekend, there will be no study on Sunday night.

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering

Sermon Notes
Love Others ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

  • Love is to be the centerpiece of the Christian life (4:9-10)
  • Loving others, we should grow to love others even more (4:10-12)
    • Spend time finding more ways to love others (4:10)
    • Seek to be a positive influence, not a negative nuisance (4:11)
    • Work hard, as able, to support yourself and not drain others (4:11-12)

1 thessalonians

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Good Reads 05.03.17 (on: the Holy Spirit, marriage, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On the Holy Spirit: Four Ways We Go Wrong in Thinking about the Holy Spirit by Michael Horton

Many of us still remember the “Holy Ghost” from the old King James Version. For most modern people, a ghost is associated more with All Hallows’ Eve (a.k.a. Halloween) than with Pentecost Sunday. Especially in our age, the Holy Spirit is regarded (when taken seriously at all) as the “spooky” member of the Trinity. If you’re into that sort of thing—the paranormal and sensational—then the Holy Spirit is for you.

Who exactly is the mysterious third person of the Trinity? Why does he seem to possess less reality than the Father and the Son? Perhaps we think of the Holy Spirit as a divine force or energy that we can “plug into” for spiritual power. Or as the kinder and gentler—more intimate—side of God. But a person—in fact, a distinct person of the Godhead?

I want to challenge this association of the Spirit merely with the extraordinary. (click here to read more)

On faith and God’s love: Playing in the Street of Unbelief by Mike Leake

I see this quite often with teenagers. They are in that awkward stage when they still want to be doted on by mom and dad (or whoever is playing that role) but also kind of not. And mom and dad have realized that junior is developing body odor and isn’t their cute little baby anymore. And so what you end up with is a teenager who knows his parents love him but only kind of. In the really bad cases of this I see teenagers do really dumb things just to see if they still have mom and dad’s eyes.

They’d deny it until they died, but what is the teenagers are trying to say is, “If you really love me you’ll stop me”. They are doing things they know they shouldn’t do, and going places they know the shouldn’t go, hoping that somebody will stop them. What’s really sad is when nobody cares enough to stops them. But many times teens are just being emotional and silly and playing a foolish game. Their only grounds for believing such nonsense are the raging hormones that feel like truth.

But adults can be just as silly. We go through difficult experiences. Dreams die. Plans break. Our spirits droop. We start to question God’s love for us. (click here to read more)

On dealing with pain, hurt, and forgiveness: You Know How Hurt People Hurt People? How To Stop the Cycle of Hurt by Ann Voskamp

And I’ve thought a lot about their reaction . . . and mine.

My first response was protective anger—natural for a mother, I suppose.

I was ripping those girls a new one in my head and hoping they caught my glares. But I know how girls are at that age because I was one once myself. A parent’s scolding would have only made them angry, and they would have walked away to continue their teasing in private—their words growing harsher as they made each other laugh.

But when Mareto simply introduced himself with kindness and a smile, the girls were baffled.

It was clearly not what they expected, and the element of surprise led to curiosity. Their mean laughter transformed into confused but genuine smiles of interest. (click here to read more)

On serving one another in marriage: A Marriage Checklist by David Murray

I’ve been taking our adult Sunday School through Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage. We’ve been camped out in chapter five for a few weeks, and yesterday we looked at Keller’s teaching on “Love Currencies” or “Love Languages.” His basic point was we must give the love-currency to our spouse that they value most and speak the love-language that best communicates love to them.

He then has a practical section on the three main currencies or languages—Affection, Friendship, Service—which I’ve arranged into a checklist. Keller recommends that husbands and wives regularly review a list such as this to identify the best way to give love to one another and then “concretely give love to each other in deliberate ways every week.” (click here to read more)

Good Reads 02.15.17 (on: prayer, revival, love, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On prayer and revival: Prayer for Revival and Faithful Plodding by Mike Leake

I wonder if this is why we pray so much for revival. Because times of revival aren’t the times of slow plodding. That’s when the wheel is spinning at full speed and you’re just trying to keep up with its produce. What ministry leader wouldn’t want that?

But in my mind our view of revival is a bit like an empty water wheel that just starts spinning by an unseen hand. I wonder if sometimes my prayer for revival is little more than, “Lord, make my job a lot easier”. Am I praying that God would cause the wheel to spin apart from seasons of faithful plodding? Is my prayer for revival just laziness cloaked in spiritual jargon? (click here to read more)

On prayer and parenting: 10 Prayers for Great Parenting by Ron Edmondson

Dear Lord, Help me not to overwhelm my children with unrealistic expectations. Remind me discipline is for their good – and to always administer it in love – not in anger or purely emotion. Keep me from dumping my adult problems on them, while helping me be transparent enough for them to learn from my mistakes. Help me to remember my children’s current age – and respond to them accordingly. (click here to read more)

On love and marriage: The 5 Weightiest Words of Love by Trevin Wax

The cost of the average wedding in America now exceeds $30,000, with prices soaring 16 percent between 2011 and 2015. With all the glitz and glamour surrounding a couple’s special day, it’s easy to focus on the decorations and dresses, while overlooking the most valuable moment of the day—the costliest words spoken between a husband and wife.

“Till death do us part.” (click here to read more)

On discipleship: Seven Costs of Disciple-Making by David Mathis

In disciple-making, we need to remember our aim is to please Jesus, and this will cost us favor with certain persons, especially when we have to say no to our involvement in their program or event or even to discipling them personally, because we’re protecting the space to invest in others. (click here to read more)