Whose Neighbor Are You?

The Good Samaritan by Vincent Van Gogh

One day, a rule-bound lawyer, hoping to get a checklist to prove he was good enough, approached Jesus and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Like a wise rabbi, Jesus didn’t give an answer, but countered the question with his own question, “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?”

The lawyer was thrilled, because he knew the answer to that one!  Proudly, he rattled off something he learned in the synagogue  as a child years ago, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”  Then he added, “And, love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Bingo!” said Jesus.  “You nailed it!  You said it right.  Now, DO it!”

The lawyer was startled.  The conversation was moving fast from theory to real life application.  He wasn’t so sure he liked the direction this was going, and got defensive.”

“But. . ..  But. .  . who is my neighbor anyway?”

He wasn’t asking in order to find a neighbor to love.  Instead, he was asking “who is NOT my neighbor?  Who can I exclude?”

Jesus would have none of that, so he responded with a story.

“A man, traveling to Jericho, was attacked by robbers, beaten and left for dead beside the road.

A priest hurried by.  He was late to church.  When he saw the broken, bleeding victim, he thought, “That’s sad.  I wonder what he did to deserve that” and passed on the other side.

Another religious guy a local politician, approached him, and, horrified when he was the battered man, thought, “We need to have a discussion about violence in our community.  At the next council meeting, I’ll see if we can form a committee to look study it.”  Then, he scurried on his way.

Finally, a Samaritan passed by.  (Samaritans were considered half-breed outcasts in their culture.  All the characters in the story so far would have looked down their noses at him — especially the lawyer who asked the question in the first place.)   The Samaritan stopped and helped the injured man.  He bandaged his wounds, put him on his own donkey and carried him to a safe and comfortable place to heal.

Now, who was the neighbor in this story?”

The lawyer realizing there was only one correct answer here, replied, “The one who showed mercy.”

And Jesus smiled and said, “You are right — and THAT is what you need to do.”

The lawyer started the conversation by asking “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus ended the conversation by asking, “Whose neighbor are you?”

Sarcasm isn’t so Smart

The following was written by Dr. Clifford M, Lazarus, co-founder and director of The Lazarus Institute in New Jersey.

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If you want to be happier and improve your relationships, cut out sarcasm since sarcasm is actually hostility disguised as humor.  Despite smiling outwardly, most people who receive sarcastic comments feel put down and usually think the sarcastic person is a jerk.  Indeed, it’s not surprising that the origin of the word sarcasm derives from the Greek word “sarkazein” which literally means “to tear or strip the flesh off.”  Hence, it’s no wonder that sarcasm is often preceded by the word “cutting” and that it hurts.

What’s more, since actions strongly determine thoughts and feelings, when a person consistently acts sarcastically it usually only heightens his or her underlying hostility and insecurity.  After all, when you come right down to it, sarcasm is a subtle form of bullying and most bullies are angry, insecure, cowards.   Alternatively, when a person stops voicing negative comments, especially sarcastic and critical ones, he or she soon starts to feel happier and more self-confident.  Also, the other people in his or her life benefit even faster because they no longer have to hear the emotionally hurtful language of sarcasm.

Now I’m not saying all sarcasm is bad.  It’s just better used sparingly – like a potent spice in cooking.  Too much spice and the dish will be overwhelmed by it.  Similarly, an occasional dash of sarcastic wit can spice up a chat and add an element of humor to it.  But a big or steady serving of sarcasm will overwhelm the emotional flavor of any conversation and taste very bitter to its recipient.

So, tone down the sarcasm and work on clever wit instead which is usually devoid of hostility and thus more appreciated by those you’re communicating with.  In essence, sarcasm is easy (as is most anger, criticism and meanness) while true, harmless wit takes talent.

Thus, the main difference between wit and sarcasm is that, as already stated, sarcasm is hostility disguised as humor. It is intended to hurt, and is often bitter and caustic. Witty statements are usually in response to someone’s unhelpful remarks or behaviors, and the intent is to unravel and clarify the issue by accentuating its absurdities. Sarcastic statements are expressed in a cutting manner; witty remarks are delivered with undisguised and harmless humor.

Also, don’t hestate to tell others that you don’t appreciate their sarcastic comments because it’s just thinly veiled hostility and unacceptable bullying.

Remember:  Think well, act well, feel well, be well!

Dr. Clifford Lazarus blogs for Psychology Today’s “Think Well” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/think-well

Finished

“Preparatory Sketch for Christ in Calvary”, Nikolay Gay

“It is finished!”

Those were the words Jesus Christ uttered as he hung, dying, on the cross. “It is finished!” What could he have possibly meant?

Failure Words?
At first glance, one might wonder if these were words of despair – quitting words. “It is finished! It’s a hopeless cause! I’ve failed! I quit!”

It would certainly be understandable if that’s what Jesus meant. Just think: he suffered the greatest injustice in human history. He lived a spotless life, but was sentenced to a traitor’s death.

He came to love – but was hated.
He came to help – but was rejected.
He came to heal – but was broken
He came to forgive – but was despised.
He came to bless – but was cursed. .
He came to bring life – but was brought death

Stepping into darkness and bearing another’s burden is difficult enough. It becomes nearly impossible, however, when the person who needs the help rejects it.

You could hardly blame Jesus if he had meant “I’ve had enough and I give up” when he said “It is finished.”

BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HE MEANT!

No, he didn’t give up on humanity. He didn’t give up at all! Despite the wickedness, hatred and scorn – he “loved them to the last!” He ended up on the cross precisely because he was NOT willing to give up! He loved them enough to pay the ultimate price. There was no quitting! There was no turning back!

The good news from Good Friday is that Jesus has not given up on you! Regardless of where you’ve been or what you’ve done, the Savior loves you and is offering you his grace and forgiveness.

Fighting Words?

Another way you could interpret the phrase, “It is finished” is to say “I’m fed up! If this is the crummy way you’re going to treat me, then I am THROUGH with you!” Again, you could hardly blame Jesus if that’s what he meant.

People often say this when they’ve been hurt and pushed over the edge.

“I have tried and tried to save this marriage – but now it’s OVER! I’m through with you!”
“Son, I’ve waited up past midnight for you to come home one too many times. Pack you bags! I’m through with you!”
“You have messed up the accounts again. I can’t stand this kind of incompetence! Clear out your office. I’m through with you!”

They treated Jesus in the most horrible way you can imagine. The worst suffering and disgrace you’ve ever faced pales in comparison to what Jesus endured. It would only be normal to fight against it and say “I’m through with you!!”

BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HE MEANT!

No, Jesus wasn’t at war with them. When he spoke about those who were committing such atrocity against him he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

These were not fighting words They were reconciling words: words of peace and release.

Faith Words!

When Jesus said “It is Finished”, he was not saying failure words or fighting words. Instead he was speaking faith words! He had done the job he came to do! He had completed his purpose!

Just like a construction worker who completes a bridge and says, “It’s finished!” That’s what Jesus was saying!

I have opened up the Bridge – over the mighty gulf of sin and evil – to a right relationship with God. The work is finished!
I have opened up a Way – a road to eternal life for whoever has faith and believes! (John 3:16) It is finished!
I have opened up the Door – to life beyond death. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies!” It is finished!
I have opened up a New Life for you. You can live in freedom and forgiveness. It is finished!

In The Upper Room

There’s a place for all the weak and weary
A place where all may find real peace
In the upper room with Jesus
All our cares and heartaches cease.

There is cooling water for the weary
There’s a balm for ev’ry broken heart
There is rest for all the heavy laden
His peace to you He will impart.

In the upper room with Jesus
Sitting at his nail-scarred feet
Oh what rich and full communion
Fellowship divine and sweet.

— Bill Gaither

Be Still My Soul

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; your best, your heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; your God will undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and wind still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Be still, my soul; though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then you will better know his love, his heart,
Who comes to soothe your sorrows and your fears.
Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay
From his own fullness all he takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

— Catharina von Schlegal

A Word for Weary Pastors

“Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

As pastors, our calling is to be be with Jesus, as his beloved children, rather than slaving away as his hired servants. Our work for Christ must flow from his overwhelming love for us. Otherwise, we’re living in frantic illusion.

Souls require breathing space to be healthy.

Consider these words from veteran pastor, William C. Martin:

If you fill your calendar with important appointments
you will have no time for God.
If you fill your spare time with essential reading
you will starve your soul.
If you fill your mind with worry
about budgets and offerings,
the pains in your chest and the ache in your shoulders
will betray you.
If you try to conform to the expectations
of those around you
you will forever be their slave.

Work a modest day
then step back and rest.
This will keep you close to God.

The Worst Punishment Ever for Fidgeting in Church

 After a worship service at First Baptist Church in Newcastle, Kentucky, a mother with a fidgety seven-year-old boy told me how she finally got her son to sit still and be quiet.

About halfway through the sermon, she leaned over and whispered, “If you don’t be quiet, Pastor Charlton is going to lose his place and will have to start his sermon all over again!” It worked.

(Thanks to my good friend, Steve Gerich for sharing this with me!)

The Graceful Exit

I found these words from columnist, Ellen Goodman, tremendously helpful during my recent life transition.

There is a trick to the graceful exit. . . it begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over. . . and to let it go.

It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit is an entry, that we are moving on, rather than out.

The trick of exiting well may be the trick of living well. It’s hard to recognize that life isn’t a holding action, but a process. It’s hard to learn that we don’t leave the best parts of ourselves behind, we own what we learned back there. 

The experiences and the growth are grafted into our lives, and when we exit, we can take ourselves along quite gracefully.

A Great Definition of Revival

 

photo by Hannah Wilson

Revival is just the life of the Lord Jesus poured into human hearts.  

Jesus is always victorious.  In heaven they are praising him all the time for His victory.  Whatever may be our experience of failure and barrenness, He is never defeated.  His power is boundless.  And we, on our part, have only to get into a right relationship with Him, and we shall see His power being demonstrated in our hearts, lives and service and His victorious life will fill us and overflow through us to others.  And that is revival its essence.

—  Roy Hession in “Brokenness – “The Beginning of Revival” (Herald of His Coming, April 2016)
(Photo by Hannah Wilson)