Which character are you?

3 Travelers, 1 Neighbor

Jesus uses a parable to illustrate a true neighbor. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus places us on a 17-mile stretch of road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Descending sharply toward the Jordan River just north of the Dead sea, this especially dangerous patch of road curved through rugged, rocky terrain. It made an excellent hiding place for thieves. The IVP New Testament Commentary compares this stretch of road to the inner city late at night, and Josephus recorded travelers would carry weapons to protect themselves in this region.

Jesus says a man was traveling this road and fell into the hands of robbers, who left him “half dead.” Luke 10:31-32 goes on, “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.” These three men were all Jews, so according to the Lawyer’s definition, the priest and Levite should have acted as a neighbor to the man lying on the road.

However, they acted contrarily, passing by on the other side. This may have been to keep themselves ceremonially clean. Culture dictated one’s shadow could not even come in contact with a dead body, or one would become ritually unclean. They may have ignored the man out of concern for personal safety. What if the robbers were still around? They may have chosen not to check, thinking there was nothing they could do for the man. In short, the priest and Levite made excuses so they did not have to get involved in the man’s affairs.

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was and when he saw him, he took pity on him.” This Samaritan acted mercifully toward the man lying on the road. He bandaged the man’s wounds, served the man by placing him on his donkey, and made sure the man was cared for until he healed.

A Samaritan is the last person the lawyer would have considered a neighbor. In fact, Jesus may have stunned his listeners with this character. Much hostility existed between the Jews and Samaritans. John 4:9 says the hostility was so great the two groups would not even share dishes. Scholars are not confident when the hostility began.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary points out, “The history of the Samaritans is uncertain. Many hold that they were a mixed race since the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. The king of Assyria deported the leaders of Israel, among them the religious teachers, and replaced them with foreigners. From that time on, the inhabitants of the northern kingdom received no further prophetic instruction, nor did they recognize God’s revelation to the southern kingdom. The Samaritans were a fringe segment of the Jewish world for which Jesus and Luke had a concern.”

No matter the root of the hostility, the fact this Samaritan acted as a neighbor would have turned the stomach of the lawyer. He had a preconceived notion that he could not be a neighbor to a Samaritan. The expert in the law would not even say the word “Samaritan.”

Jesus continued by asking, “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.”

Jesus’ definition of neighbor is anyone with whom we come in contact. Geographic location, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, and culture are mute points in determining a neighbor.

The IVP New Testament Commentary remarks, “Jesus point is simply be a neighbor. Do not rule out certain people as neighbors and his parable makes the point emphatically by providing a model from a group the lawyer had probably excluded as possible neighbors. To love God means to show mercy to those in need. An authentic life is found in serving God and caring for others. This is a central tenet of discipleship. Here human beings fulfill their creative role, to love God and be a neighbor to others by meeting their needs. Neighbors are not determined by race, creed, or gender. Neighbors consist of anyone in need made in the image of God.”

Which character in Jesus’ parable best represents you? Are you the neighbor who passes by or the Samaritan?

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God is here, there, & everywhere.

“Whether I’m looking for him or not, that’s where I find God.”

He may show up in the strangest of places. For someone hitting rock bottom, he can be the person who lends a listening ear and gives advice. For the parent who is struggling, he can be the friend who offers a great idea. For the husband or wife who is ready to throw in the towel on marriage, he can be the older friend who offers encouragement. We never really know where he will reveal himself.

God can be found many places in our daily lives. He is not restricted by buildings or worship services, and he promises he is always with us. He will show up at the right place and time. Psalm 138:8 says, “The Lord will work out his plans for my life. For your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me for you made me.”

We just need to be attentive to his presence and recognize his work. You never know when the Lord will show up.

Who is my neighbor?

A challenge to the status quo.

A crowd was gathered, and Jesus was teaching. In an effort to find fault with Jesus’ doctrine, a lawyer stood up to ask a question. “Teacher,” he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:26).

This is a good question. Many have pondered the answer. Jesus replies to the expert in the law by requesting his answer. Luke 10:27 says, “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.” This was a good answer to a good question.

The lawyer’s summation of the law was correct; loving one’s neighbor is a natural outgrowth of loving God, so these two commandments go hand-in-hand. Perhaps, he believed he measured up well, especially with loving God. From his viewpoint, the law expert did okay in loving his neighbor, so the conversation continued with another question.

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). There it is, the issue of accountability. The lawyer needed to justify his actions, so he needed a definition to know who he was accountable to love.

Perhaps we can relate; Scripture tells us to love our neighbor, but what exactly is meant by that decree? Neighbor is defined as a near person or place, so we automatically assign the title to individuals living next door, across the street, or in the adjoining apartment. We wonder if more is meant by neighbor than those with whom we have close contact.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary points out the expert in the law had a narrow view of neighbors to mean “fellow Jews and proselytes.” Jesus redefines the term, and in doing so, challenges the lawyer’s understanding of neighbors, and ours too.

Jesus Redefines Neighbors

Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. A Jewish man was traveling and was attacked by robbers, who left the man to die. Two fellow Jews passed by and ignored the man in need, but a Samaritan came upon the scene and came to the man’s rescue. The Samaritan tended to the man’s wounds, and made sure he had what was needed to heal.

The parable forces the conclusion the Samaritan was truly the man’s neighbor. By definition, the two Jews who passed by should have acted neighborly, and the Samaritan should have passed by. The one least likely to be the neighbor acted in love.

Jesus defined neighbor as anyone with whom we come in contact, and this revolutionized the lawyer’s thinking. Samaritan’s were despised by Jews, so for the lawyer to see this man as a neighbor was hard. But a neighbor is anyone with whom we interact.

You and I interact with a variety of people. They come from all walks of life, and may not share our same political views. Yet, Jesus gives us a challenge to love our neighbor as ourselves. How well do we measure up? Do we intentionally show our neighbors love?

A Rest is Coming

Rest is on the way.

Isaiah was looking ahead to a time of rest and peace for God’s people. In doing so, he says the Lord will provide strength and energy for his people.

Isaiah 40:29-31 says, “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will sore high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

Isaiah reminds us those who trust the Lord will find new strength. They will find their strength in the Lord.

He exchanges our strength for his. The Lord helps us make it through our lives. The good and bad times. The Creator and Holder of the stars gives us strength.

“Look up into the heavens,” Isaiah 40:26 suggests. “Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army: one after another, calling each by its name because of his great power and incomparable strength. Not a single one is missing.”

We draw our strength from the one who will never grow weary. Isaiah 40:28 reminds us the Lord is the Creator of the earth. He is everlasting.

Life is tiring. The headlines we see and problems we encounter zap our strength, but they are no match for the Lord’s. We are promised the Lord will give us his strength. The Lord will renew our strength each day to take on that day’s challenges. His strength never runs out, so hopefully, we will always remember to draw upon it.

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Dad’s Love

“You’re the best thing this old man ever did.”

There is nothing like the love and pride of a dad. He is his kids biggest cheerleader, advocate, and great friend. His love will never be matched.

The Man Who Loves You the Most by the Zac Brown Band poetically puts a father’s feelings to music. Perhaps dads are quiet, but their love for their kids endures.

Choosing Fatherhood

“We went from something is missing to a family.”

A single mom went out on a date, and wondered how things would go. Her son was at home. The mom and the man she was dating hit it off, and a relationship led to a marriage proposal. She said yes, and the two were married. For the man, he suddenly became a husband and a dad. The man chose to fall in love with both the mom and son.

A girl finds herself yanked from everything she knows because of decisions others made. Their decisions placed her in danger, so she needed a new home. Frightened and young, she found warmth and love in the home of a couple who did not have kids, but lots of love to give. The husband suddenly became a dad.

Some become dads and have 9 months to prepare, while others take on the challenge of fatherhood almost instantly. Their new bride already has a child or they accept the call to become a foster home. They take on the challenge of fatherhood with grace and love.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads that didn’t have to be. Thank you for the influence you are having on your child’s life.

Influencers

Everyone can have a positive influence.

As we celebrate fatherhood, there may be men who feel left out. They are great individuals who have tremendous influence in others’ lives, but they are not dads.

They may serve as coaches and mentors, and we owe them a thank you. These individuals are living out the challenge of Romans 14:7-8. “For we do not live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live it is to honor the Lord and if we die it is to honor the Lord, so whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

Thank you to those men who are having a positive influence in our communities even though they do not have kids.

  • They are helping set a Godly example.
  • They are encouraging the people with whom they interact.
  • They are reaching out and helping when they see others in need.

Thank you for taking advantage of the influence you have to make the world a better place.

4 Take-Aways for Dad

A challenge from Ephesians.

There are many times in the Bible in which a challenge is issued to dads. Paul challenges fathers in Ephesians 6:4.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”

Here are 4 take-aways.

Keep love at the front

God does nothing apart from love. The discipline and instruction he offers is given in love. The decisions he makes are made in love. The actions he takes are taken in love. God is love.

As dads, we should strive to model this behavior in our own lives.

Take their feelings into consideration when making decisions.

Being the leader in your home does not mean you move forward with your decision no matter what. Good leadership takes others into consideration. Before making a decision, fathers need to weigh the pros and cons. This definitely includes the feelings of our kids.

Encourage and advise

A good dad is always willing to offer encouragement and advice at the proper time.

Keep expectations realistic

We should encourage our kids to improve in their hobbies, but not place unrealistic expectations on them. Hobbies encompass many great activities but few hobbies turn into professions, so be sure to keep those expectations realistic while offering encouragement.

Paul rewords his challenge in Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not aggravate your children or they will become discouraged.” Are you meeting the challenge?

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8 Questions Every Dad Should Ask

Fatherhood is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.

Father’s Day is a time to celebrate dear old dad, and for dad, it can be a time to challenge himself to improve as a dad. Here are 8 questions every dad should ask.

1.  Am I setting a good example? 

Like it or not, dad, you are being watched.

A father and his young son were driving down the road one day when the car they were following suddenly stopped.  The dad slammed on the brakes causing everything the boy was holding to fly back in his face.  Amid the French fries in his lap and drink running down his face and shirt, the young boy said a word no one his age should ever say. Dad asked, “Where did you hear that?”  “I’ve been watching you,” the boy replied.  Rodney Atkins’ song goes on, “I’ve been watching you, dad.  Isn’t that cool?” 

2.  Do I express my love? 

Tradition has taught men showing affection is a sign of weakness, but that is not true.  Showing affection is actually a sign of strength.  The most powerful statement a dad can make to his son or daughter is “I love you.”  Every person has a desire to know he or she is loved, and hearing it from dad can be a life changing experience.

3.  Am I involved in my child’s life?

Take a quick quiz.  What are your child’s interests? His or her current interests may not be the most exciting for you, but it is not the activities which are exciting. It is the opportunity to spend time with your child and show an interest in his or her life that are exciting for dad. Value the time you have with your child and make the most of it.  Taking an interest in your kid’s interests gives you the opportunity to teach a lot of life lessons. 

4.  Am I helping develop self-confidence? 

Encourage independence, and allow your kid to make decisions and choices.  This will help develop self-confidence which is vital to survival in life.

5.  Am I teaching my child to have a voice? 

Having a voice means you say what you need and speak up when you are not being treated fairly.  Encourage your son or daughter to do this and be sure to listen when he or she does.  This is most important if your kid is introverted or has special needs.  Standing up for oneself is crucial to surviving in the arena of life. 

6.  Am I granting freedom to fail? 

Many lessons are learned in moments of failure.  It can be argued this is the hardest part of being a dad, but sometimes, giving a child freedom is best.  Failure is one of the greatest teachers in life.  Many of today’s successes are the result of yesterday’s failures.

7.  Am I modeling respect? 

Respect is learned by observation more than any other way.  Take another quick quiz.  Do you respect other people and their opinions?  Do you respect individuals who provide services to you such as a waiter or waitress?

8.  Am I teaching the value of hard work? 

Booker T. Washington said, “Nothing comes to one that is worth having except through hard work.”  Reaching a goal requiring hard work feels good.  Hard work pays off.  Encourage your son or daughter to work hard to reach goals and see dreams become reality.

How did you measure up?  If you are not pleased with your answers, you can take action this week by picking one of the questions and changing the way you answer it this week.  Share your experience in the comments below. 

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Devastating Words

Gossip causes more trouble than we realize.

Four priests got together for a friendly conversation. One of them said, “People come to us confessing many things, and confession is good for the soul. While we are together, we should take some time to confess to one another.”

The others were reluctant for a few minutes, but came around to the idea confession time would be good. The priest who had the idea started the confessing. He enjoyed going to movies, and he would frequently sneak away from church to go to the movies.

The second confessed to smoking cigars, and the third confessed to playing cards. When it was the fourth priest’s turn, he remained silent. The others pressed him until he opened up.

“Mine is gossip, and I cannot hardly wait to get out of here,” he said.

Gossip causes much difficulty. It can create strife in families, friends, and on the job. It can bring good people down and rise up fools. Sharp tongues can erode one’s confidence and ruin reputations in a matter of minutes. Gossip has the power to cause much devastation.

While you and I cannot control our neighbor’s tongue, we can control our own. If we do not repeat gossip, we will not be spreading the wildfire it lights. If we do not intently listen to gossip, perhaps the conversation will be changed. Without our participation, the devastation caused by gossip may not be as severe.

Proverbs 26:20-21 says, “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops. A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood.”

During World War II, the American government became concerned enemy spies were passing along information about the location of troops and ships. The military adopted the slogan, “Loose lips sink ships.”

Gossip can cause much devastation, but kind words can build others up and minimize the damage. Say something kind today.

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