Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Who Do You Avoid Helping?

How often do you go out of your way to avoid helping someone?

Who are the people you will go to great lengths to avoid helping?

Luke 10:25-37 records Jesus' parable of The Good Samaritan. It's another one of Jesus' well-known parables. A reminder of the kind of person we should be. Often preached on with a call to be like the good Samaritan.

As I was reading it recently, I was challenged by a hard question. It's easy to move right to the actions of the good Samaritan when we read this. Those are easier words to read. They encourage us in what we should do.

But, I when I slowed down and read about the actions of the priest and the Levite in the story, I was challenged by something else. The priest and the Levite were both good Jewish men. They were religious leaders in Israel. Nowhere in His telling of this parable does Jesus say there was anything out of place religiously in these men.

The priest and the Levite went out of their way to avoid helping their fellow Jew who had been beaten and robbed. Verses 31 & 32 of Luke 10 tells us that they both passed by the man on the other side of the road from him. They made a choice to avoid the man and avoid helping him.

It made me wonder about my own life. How often do I go out of my way to avoid helping people? Who are the people I go out of my way to avoid helping?

In other words, how often is my response to someone in need of help to do what the priest and the Levite did? How often do I cross to the "other side of the road" to distance myself from someone in need and avoid helping them?

These aren't easy questions to wrestle with. They've challenged me to look at some things in my life it would be easier to pretend aren't there. But, it's also been very necessary, if I'm going to live the life Jesus has called His followers to live.

So maybe, along with being encouraged to respond the way the good Samaritan did, we also need to reflect on some other questions:

How often do I go out of my way to avoid helping someone?

Who are the people I go to great lengths to avoid helping?

What changes do I need to make here?

I think that last question is vitally important. If we stop at the first two it just get depressing. The last question is about the changes we can make, and how we can move forward.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How I Want to Live

These words are a recent addition to my wall. In all honesty, probably a bit of an impulse buy when I saw them. But, they jumped out at me when I saw them.

Simple words. Simple things to live by. But, powerful in the kind of life that would be lived by someone the choice to live this way.

I've known someone who I would say has lived by these words. I know the power of that kind of a life. Her life impacted people in powerful ways because she lived this way most of the time.

Think Deeply

This is about taking time to really reflect and ponder what is happening in our lives. It's about more than just running through life without a second thought. We have to stop and take time to think about things - about life, what we're doing, what's happening around us and in our lives.

Speak Gently

This is all about how we communicate with people. When we speak gently, we communicate the value of the other person in the conversation. We still communicate our thoughts and opinions, but what matters is how we do it.

Love Much

Doing this means we might get hurt. We're putting ourselves out there - making ourselves vulnerable. But, loving much also has rewards. It's how we develop relationship with people.

Laugh a Lot

Laughter changes so much for it. We need it. We need to find things in life that we can laugh about.

Work Hard

Work is not a curse. God created. We need to work at what we've been called to do. And working hard at it brings honour to God.

Give Freely

Be generous with what you have. Time. Energy. Possessions. When we hoard what we have, it corrupts. When we're generous and willing to share what we have it changes everything.

Be Kind

This is all about how we treat people. Kindness goes a long way - especially in our culture where kindness often seems to be missing.

I would add one thing to this list: Listen Carefully.

Listening - really listening - is becoming a lost art in our society. But, when we learn to listen carefully and well to people it changes everything.

The person I knew who lived this well, is gone from this life now. But, her impact lives on because she lived this way when I knew her. Seeing this hanging on my wall is a reminder of how I want to live my life.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Do You See ___________?

In the last little while, I've been struck by how little we often see the people around us. I'm not talking about realizing there are people around. I'm talking about something more, something deeper.

It's easy to go through life and make quick judgements of people based on what we notice at a glance.

They're . . . . . busy
             . . . . . rude
             . . . . . homeless
             . . . . . addicted to drugs
             . . . . . annoying
             . . . . . pushy
             . . . . . not worth my time.

I make those judgements easily, as I'm sure most of us do. But, they're never the full picture. We're making them hastily and they're incomplete.

Do you see ___________?

How would those judgements change if we took a bit more time? What if we started looking beyond the fast, easy label we could put on someone? What if we really started to see people?

Jesus asks this question to a Pharisee in Luke 7. The end of Luke 7 recounts Jesus at a Pharisee's house for dinner. A woman with a sinful reputation comes and pours perfume on Jesus' feet. Simon, the Pharisee, judges this situation. Jesus see  Simon's hear and challenges him on what's going on it. Simon took one glance at this woman and judged her as sinful and someone he would not want to touch him.

Jesus asks Simon, the Pharisee, an interesting and challenging question in Luke 7:44. Jesus turns toward the woman and asks Simon, "Do you see this woman?" Jesus isn't asking Simon if he noticed the woman was there. He's asking a deeper question. He's challenging Simon on what he notices when he looks at others.

And in the same moment, Jesus is telling the woman that He sees her. That He sees beyond her reputation. That He wants to free her for more. Jesus isn't excusing her sinful reputation, or saying it doesn't exist, but He's saying there is more to this woman that just her reputation.

Jesus does the same thing in Luke 8:42-48. A woman who had been bleeding for twelve years touches Jesus' garment and is healed. When Jesus asks, "Who touched me?" it's not because He's upset with her or trying to figure out who did it. Jesus is asking because He wants to let the woman know He sees her. For a woman who had been a societal outcast for twelve years and had people ignore her and stay away, this would have been life changing, just as the physical healing was. Jesus was truly seeing her and calling others to as well.

Both of these accounts challenge me on how I do at seeing people. AM I making judgements based on a quick glance and some assumptions? Or am I taking time to really see people?

Maybe those few seconds of pause where we look at someone again and change our response will change everything.

Do you see ______________?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Abundance with Obedience

Where have you missed God's abundance because you were hesitant to obey?
Where has a lack of faith cost you blessing from God?

These aren't easy or pleasant questions. They're hard. I've been wrestling with them for a while now, and I'm not sure I like what my answers are. But, when I take time to reflect on them and talk to God about them, I see some things that relate. And I think it's a pretty safe guess you probably could as well. This isn't limited to just big things. It applies just, or maybe more, to the little things.

I was challenged by these questions when I was Luke 5:1-11 recently. This is the passage where Jesus calls Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John to be His disciples. Jesus uses Simon's boat to teach the crowds. After He has finished teaching, He tells Simon to take the boat out to deep waters to catch some fish.

Verse 5 records Simon's response: "Simon answered: Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."

The result is a large catch of fish - so large they have to ask friends to come and help. And both boats start sinking with the size of the catch. In that moment Simon Peter realizes Who this Person in His boat is.

When Jesus told Peter to go out to deep waters and out down his nets, Peter didn't yet know who Jesus was. He may have heard some of Jesus' teaching and seen some miracles, but Peter didn't yet have a revelation of Jesus as the Messiah.

To me, this makes Peter's response in Luke 5:5 all the more powerful. After a long and unsuccessful night of fishing, Peter heads out and puts his nets down again. He didn't know what Jesus was about to do. He responded in obedience and faith. He took Jesus at His word before he knew exactly who this Man was.

Simon's faith and obedience saw an immediate result. He caught more fish then he could handle. More than could be handled, even when he had his friends come to help.

The result of Simon's obedience and faith without knowing was an abundant blessing from God. The abundance came after the step of obedience, not before and not with a word about what would come. Simon obeyed and then he saw the result.

It was as I realized this that I was struck by the questions I asked at the start. It's not about doing something with knowledge of how it will work out or a promise of what is to come. It's about obeying and stepping out in faith first. After we take that step, we see and experience the abundant blessing of God that comes.

Where have I missed God's abundance because I was hesitant to obey?
Where has my lack of faith cost me blessing from God?

I'm still wrestling with these questions myself. Maybe you need to take some time to wrestle with them yourself.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Only Way to Avoid Being Deceived

How do we avoid being deceived?

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of not being deceived, especially when it comes to where temptation comes from. That post led to the question I opened this post with: How do we avoid being deceived?

How do we come to realize when our enemy is trying to deceive us?

How do we become more aware of his schemes before we fall for them?

These questions led me to a familiar and important passage. Luke 4:1-13 is the account of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. Jesus models in these verses what is important in defeating the deceptions of our enemy.

The devil came to Jesus at a time of weakness, when Jesus would have been more susceptible to deceptions or, at least, when the devil thought He would be. The devil tempted Jesus in two ways: 1) he tried to use Scripture in a way that wasn't quite right, and 2) he offered Jesus what would seem to be good things, but in the end would give the devil license in His life. These are two tactics the devil uses in us too.

Jesus countered all of this with the truth of Scripture. He knew what Scripture actually said, so He wasn't caught by the almost right, but slightly off quotes from the devil. Jesus defeated to the devil in this situation with the truth of Scripture.

This is so important for us too. Our enemy isn't going to use something that's really out there to try to get us. He's going to look for ways he can use something that seems really close to the truth, but is just wrong enough to get us off course if we fall for it. And, it we don't know Scripture, if we don't know the truth intimately, we'll be far more likely to fall for the devil's deceptions.

The only way we can avoid falling for the deceptions is to know the truth well. Just as Jesus know what Scripture actually said well enough to spot the places where the devil was twisting it, we need to as well. We need to know the truth so well, we can see when something is eve just a little bit off.

This the only way we can avoid being deceived.