Who is My Neighbor? (Luke 10-12)

“Who is my neighbor?” is a question that I’ve often thought of in a sense of who do I have an obligation too? Who do I need to be neighborly too? Asking the question this way puts me in the sense of being active. There is something I must do to be neighborly. The reading today struck me in a new way when I heard Jesus say, “so which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?” (Luke 10:36). It’s the first time I realized he asked the question from the perspective of the man who needed a neighbor.

Recently, dealing with all the issues included in having the Covid virus, I found myself much like the man in this story who was helpless and in need of a neighbor. We were blessed to have folks call and check in, offer prayer, and some even brought food to our family and even gave us a care package. In the grand scheme of things we probably would have made it through without extra attention, but the neighborly work of those who came to our aide really helped us and blessed us in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

As I reflect on this passage this morning, I can’t help but be struck that the point of what Jesus was saying was that we are to be neighbors to those who need one. As I look around my world, there are lots of folks on my street, in my community and beyond that need a neighbor. It’s the folks who are dealing with this virus and need a hot meal. It’s the friend who is grieving the loss of a loved one. It’s the couple going through a divorce. It’s the teenager struggling to do homework while in quarantine. What it looks like to be a neighbor in each situation will be different. I’m not the brightest when it comes on how to demonstrate love and hospitality to others in some situations, but by God’s grace I’m pressing forward to see who he might put in my path today that needs a neighbor.

Father, Thank you for helping me see a subtle aspect of this passage that I haven’t seen before. Thank you that it provoked my heart to look for those who need a neighbor today. Help me to truly love my neighbors and demonstrate your love and kindness to everyone I see today. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

RESOURCES:

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I have given you authority

Blessed Rather Are those Who Hear the Word of God

One’s Life does not Consist in the abundance of His possessions

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The Cost of Discipleship (Luke 7-9)

There have been lots of funerals in the last several days. I couldn’t help but be stirred to some sort of joy when when in today’s reading we see Jesus stop a funeral procession and bring a young man back to life. It was echoed when he brought a 12 year old little girl back to life later. I still recon I see Jesus at funerals sometimes. Those we’ve had to say goodbye to lately have been some of the dearest saints I know. But as we stand beside their graves and mourn our loss, I can’t help but draw on comfort that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. While we say goodbye for a little while, that those in Christ will rise again. I saw a glimpse of that and was comforted today.

I also couldn’t help but notice the different responses to Jesus. We all seem to want to pick and choose to come to Jesus on our own terms. Some will follow him, if first they can do something else. A Pharisee doesn’t recognize how sinful he really is before God and so he treats Jesus with shame. A sinful woman sees everything that happens at the Pharisee’s house and she makes an expensive tribute (perfume) to set things right. She knows what it is to be forgiven of her sins and so she loves much.

The reality is that we don’t get to pick and choose how we come to Jesus. If we would come to him for the resurrection of the dead. If we would come to him so that our sins might be forgiven. If we would come to him at all, we must come on his terms. We must surrender all and follow him.

Father, thank you that you are the resurrection and the life! Thank you for how you have comforted me as I have grieved the loss of friends and loved ones this week. I ask for your grace in ministering to others today. I surrender everything to you today and choose to live in your strength and power. In Jesus name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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The Power for Ministry Resides in Private Prayer (Luke 4-6)

I’m stuck at home recovering from the effects of the Covid Virus. According to the CDC guidelines I’m out of quarantine and no longer contagious, but the pneumonia that came with the virus has left me with some difficulties breathing. Our deacon body has been generous and given me several weeks to recover my energy before preaching again. On the one hand I am very grateful for their care for me and desire that I have freedom to recover. On the other hand, I’ve felt so useless over the last few weeks that I’m eager, maybe too eager, to jump back into every aspect of ministry. Indeed, there are more hurting now than ever due to the virus and losing loved ones. My plate feels fuller than it has ever been in some sense, but I’m being cautioned to take things slow for the sake of my health. I’m a big believer in accountability and I am grateful to submit myself to these Godly men and their wisdom.

Perhaps that’s why it all jumped back out at me again as I saw Jesus so busy with ministry in these chapters. I can imagine the fire that was burning to go and preach repentance! He was a man on a mission! Everything He did had consequence! How could he possibly slow down to go find a desolate place and pray? He had too much to do!

But that’s when it caught me this morning. Precisely BECAUSE he had so much to do, he had to go and find a desolate place (twice in today’s reading). He went to pray. When the demands of ministry were heaviest on his shoulders, Jesus made it a priority to pray!

As I read along this morning I couldn’t help but draw the conclusion that the power of Jesus’ public ministry was tied to his private prayer life. Jesus modeled something here. The bigger the demands of ministry, the more important the prayer closet becomes. As I focus on resting from the pulpit for a few weeks, I’ll be gladly shifting a lot more of my attention to prayer. It’d be foolish to imagine that any of us could do ministry without fully depending on the Lord anyway.

Father, thank you for the model of prayer found in today’s passage. I am grateful that in His humanity Jesus demonstrated what it looks like to live with a full ministry calendar that included time to get away and pray. Forgive me for the times I have tried to take ministry in my own hands, strength and power. There is no way to really do what you have called us to without constantly, consciously checking in with you through prayer. I ask that you guide me in a productive prayer closet this week. In Jesus’ Name.

RESOURCES:

He Went to a Desolate Place

They Left Everything and Followed Him

Why Do you Call me Lord, Lord and Don’t do what I say?

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He Knew (Matthew 25-27)

There is a lot that takes place in these chapters leading up the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. What strikes me the most is that Jesus knows everything that is going to happen. He knows the small things like where to have the Passover meal. He knows the bigger details like who will betray him. He knows and cares about what impact everything will have on the disciples. He tells them they will flee. He encourages them to pray. He has already told Peter that he will will deny Him before the rooster crows. Most importantly He knows He is going to the cross. He is going to lay His life down.

On the one hand we are to see the intentionality in which Jesus went to the cross to save us from our sins. This was clearly the purpose.He willingly submitted Himself to the cruelty of death by crucifixion for the sake of offering new life by His resurrection.

I think what is also intreaguing and comforting to me out of all this is that He wasn’t so focused on the crucifixion that he lost sight of his disciples for one moment. Just as he knew and followed the divine plan set before the foundation of the world, He also intimately knew each one of his disciples and demonstrated great care for them through the whole process.

If Jesus cared for His followers then, He certainly cares for His followers now. No matter what we may face in this life, we know that He knows us better than ourselves and what we need more than anything. I am grateful Jesus knows me better than I know myself.

Father, Thank you for the cross. Thank you for your love poured out. Thank you for your purpose in redeeming a people to yourself. Help me to trust you with all my burdens and cares, knowing you care for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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When Jesus asks you a question. (Matthew 22-24)

I am working through the Cornoa virus. It’s no fun. Lots of fever, chills, and all the other stuff. If the last serveral days and next several days seem off. I’m probably writing with a fever. One of the things I found most difficult about maintaining a daily bible reading time while I’m sick is that reading has become more wearysome. Several years ago I downloaded an app that reads the bible to you. Today instead of reading the text myself I let the app do it and it was easier to concentrate.

The story is told of a young man who showed up at the Louvre museum one day. He came to the Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous painting in the world and a masterpiece. He begins to make fun of the painting. He points out what he thinks are flaws and inconsistencies. A large crowd gathers as he mocks the painting and it’s artist, Leonardo Da Vinci. Just then the curator to the museum walks up to hear the comotion. Finally when he can take it no longer he says, “Young man, the Mona Lisa is not on trial here today. It is recognized around the world as a master piece. But you are on trial today, because while you made your accusations and assumptions your ignorance became evident to everyone.”

Jesus and the religious leaders get into it in these chapters. The religious leaders question him, hoping to trip him up and make him stumble in what he says. However, his responses reveal how little the religious leaders really knew. Somewhere along the way the religious leaders fell in love with the idea of appearances, but they missed out on the real thing. Jesus compared them to white-washed tombs. Pretty on the outside, but full of death and decay. The sad things is all these leaders had to do was recieve Jesus. But they loved their power and postition so much that they knew who he was and they rejected him.

Father, guard me from thinking too much of myself or doing things for mere appearances. Certainly we should live godly lives, but I pray that godliness is found in a transformed heart, not a thin vinere meant to impress others. In Jesus Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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Bible.is App

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It’s not what you do, it’s what has been done for you (Matthew 19-21)

My son and I have been playing an adventure video game. The main character has a backpack that you can load up with stuff. I’m impressed with how much it actually “holds” but it does have a limit. I went to pick up a new item the other day and the game said I couldn’t add anything else until I got rid of something in my back pack. The item I was trying to pick up was way more valuable than the stuff I already had and so I gladly made the trade.

As Jesus deals with the rich young ruler, it becomes apparent that this guy seems to have it all… and that was the problem, he had too much. Too much confidence in his own ability to “do” something to merit eternal life. This guy didn’t need to “do” anything, he just had to recieve what Jesus would do for him. The only way that trade would really take place is if he let go of the stuff he was holding on to. (not because Jesus wanted his money, he said to give it all to the poor!) The only way we can approach Jesus and it do us any good is to come humbly and empty so that he might fill us.

Father, thank you for your amazing gospel of grace. Thank you that it’s not what I can do to earn eternal life that get’s me into the kingdom of heaven, but what you have already done. Help me to be free from distraction and trust in you completely in every way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Clean Hands or Clean Heart? (Matthew 13-15)

it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.

Matthew 15:11

Today, everyone is talking about washing hands. We all know the drill; wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands, avoid large crowds, etc… We are all certainly more aware and concience of germs than we used to be. Most of us (I would like to think), practiced generally good hygene before all this but with Covid-19 there is a new hyper awareness. So culturally when Jesus doesn’t seem to think its a big deal if his disciples wash their hands or not, it really jumps off the page.

The modern reader might be worried about if Jesus knew or cared about germs. While there might be plenty of helpful hygene information in scripture (there is more than you might suspect), the primary concern of those complaining was a tradition handed down like it was a law. The Jewish folks had a ritual practice of washing hands before they ate. It symbolized being clean before God and only taking in what is right, pure and wholesome. It wasn’t really a law but it was a symbol. Therefore in the eyes of those watching, when the disciples didn’t conform to the rutual practice, they appeared to be hypocrites.

Jesus used this opportunity to expose the hearts of those who were quick to condemn his disciples. God wasn’t nearly as concerned about if someone had ritually clean hands as much as we was about if they had a spiritually clean heart. He charged the Pharisees and scribes of holding on to the forms (appearance) of God’s law, but completely ignoring the substance (the actual Law of God). He quoted Isaiah in saying that they honored God with their lips but, there hearts were far from God.

We might give the Pharisees and scribes a hard time because they should know better, but some times we can be guilty of the same thing. There are many who try to hold on to some sort of appearance of godliness rather than actually seeking to honor and obey God from the heart. We shold be careful of putting on a “show” and more intent on allowing God to conform us into the image of Chirst.

Father, I pray that I would never obscure the substance of your word with a mere form or practice. I thank you that Jesus is the only one who can make us truly righteous from the inside out. I pray that we would all be found righteous in him. I pray that we would all be surenedered and sensative to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that He might conform us more and more into the image of Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Judgement Day is Coming (Matthew 11-12)

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak

MATTHEW 12:36

I remember the first semester of my freshman year of high school. Most of the school work came easily to me and just like 8th grade, I assumed I’d make really good grades with little effort. I had signed up for Spanish class that summer to go a head and get it out of the way. I made the mistake of believing I’d pick up on things naturally like I did in the other classes and so I spent alot of time goofing off with my friends in the class. When the first test rolled around I knew I was in trouble. My brain didn’t learn foreign languages the same way I was able to learn in other classes. I knew then I had to buckle down and study harder. I also thought that there was plenty of time to catch up and so I went on cutting up in class. I really didn’t learn anything that semester other than a few curse words in Spanish that I had looked up in the Spanish-English dictionary.

It really shouldn’t have surprised me when my teacher told me I had failed the class. Yet, somehow it did. I had the delusion that it would all somehow get better. I told myself that I’d have time to buckle down and learn. I thought I could fix it. Before I knew it, report cards were out and I started my high school transcript with a big fat F.

The current that runs just beneath the surface through these two chapters is that there is a day of judgement coming. There will be a day of reckoning. It will be here quicker than anyone can imagine. Jesus declares that previous generations known for their wickedness, will judge those of his day. They would have repented of their sins if they had the witness of Christ Himself. Yet these cities hardened their hearts against God. You can’t read these chapters without seeing the urgency that judgement day is coming and will be here before you know it.

I’ve often wondered what Jesus will say about my generation on the day of judgement. We seem to have no lack of bible study tools and resources. We have so much available to us. Yet we often try and reduce God’s Word to trivial little cliche’s and rob it of it’s power.

I was convicted by Matthew 12:36 today. We live in a world of careless words. It can be too easy to get caught up in the fray and think it’s no big deal. Don’t be decieved, judement day is coming and what you say now will judge you then. It’s not too late to repent and turn to Christ for Salvation.

Father, I am sobered by your words in Matthew 11-12 today. There were many who didn’t recieve your witness, many who will stand on the day of judgement and be condemned by their idle word. Guard our hearts from taking anything trivial that is urgent. Help us to be bold in proclaiming the gospel to our friends, neighbors, and around the world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Your Kingdom Come (Matthew 5-7)

Our country seems to be in a little bit of turmoil. I know many are facing anxiety over thier finances, health, civil unrest, politics, and more. These things are all loud and urgent. It can be easy to get distracted. There are so many things going on at the same time that it can be really difficult to focus even on the task at hand.

Jesus reminds us that we are to build our house on the rock (Mattew 7:24) so that when times like these come we will stand. We are to build our lives on the very word of God. You’re doing that today and every day that you go to God’s word and seek to understand and apply it to your life. A gospel believing, bible teaching church and pastor can be helpful with all of that.

We’re reminded in this passage that we often fret and worry about all sorts of things like food and clothing, but Jesus promises us that all that stuff will be added to us when we seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Somehow it seems that we are all prone to get it backwards. We think we’ll go worry about the kingdom of God once we’ve got all the other stuff figured out. Jesus reminds us that it doesn’t work that way. It’s only when we put His kingdom first that everything falls into place.

Our utmost allegiance, indeed our prayer is to be centered on the coming of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:10). I look forward to that day! I am excited with anticipation about what it will be like when the Lord returns for all of his people. I also aknowledge on days like today that I’m easily distracted and so I pray the Lord’s prayer with intention to remind me of where my true allegiances are.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen.

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How Do We Love Like That? (John 13 – 15)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. – John 13:34

When I tuck my kids in bed we have a little routine that we often go through where we will say the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments together. Several years ago, we started reciting the eleventh commandment as well. At first my kids were surprised that there was an eleventh commandment. It’s not found in Exodus 20, or the Old Testament for that matter. It’s found in today’s reading in John 13:34 where Jesus says, “A new commandment I give you.” What was that commandment? It was to, “love one another; as I have loved you.

From time to time my kids when they were younger get a little silly at bedtime and have tried to change this commandment. One of them when she was too young to really know what she was doing would say, “to love like I love my milk.” I would always gently correct her and say, “we are to love one another as Jesus loved us… and oh how He loves us, to take our sins on Himself, to leave heaven for earth, and to die for our sins. He loves us more than we can think or imagine!”

I think if He had left the command at, “love one another,” we’d have an easier time with it all. We’d just do our best and try to love one another like we love our “milk” or whatever. But the truth is that we would quit loving milk or whatever if it became too difficult. We could quit, give up, and start loving something else. Jesus didn’t tell us to love like that. He told us to love one another like He loved us in the context of going to the cross for our sins!

How do you love someone who has sinned against you? How do you forgive them for them for the hurt and the wrong they have caused? You can’t do it in your own strength and power. You have to be continually trusting in the Lord to provide. I really appreciate that where Jesus repeats the command in John 15:12 it comes in the context of abiding (remaining) in Him. It reminds us that there is no way to really love our brother on our own. We weren’t meant to live the Christian life in isolation. We were meant to live as branches connected to the one true vine, all of us drawing our strength from our Lord.

I confess that there are times I have attempted to do ministry on my own and in my own strength, but it just can’t be done that way. I’m greatful for the command to abide in Christ.

Today is especially difficult for me as I’ll be conducting a second funeral for a friend in 2021. I was especially helped by John 14 today as well as reminded to draw all of my strength from the Lord.

Father, Thank you for your commandments. They are not hard or burdensome but actually very freeing. How much anxiety I bring on myself when I try and figure things out and do things my own way. It’s when I lean into you, trust you, abide in you, that I find myself energized and empowered by the Spirit. I ask for your blessing today to abide in you and strength for a difficult day. I rejoice that Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place for us. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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