And who is my neighbor?

Proverbs 3:27-28

(27)  Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

(28)  Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and [tomorrow] I will give; when thou hast it by thee.

There was a lawyer who once approached Jesus during the Lord’s earthly ministry who asked Him: “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25b) The Lord answered with a question because the lawyer already knew the answer: “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” (Luke 10:26b) The lawyer answered with a verse that every Jewish citizen knew almost as soon as they could learn to speak: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10:27b) Jesus told him he was right and added: “This do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:28b) Then Luke adds this to the narrative: “But [the lawyer], willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) The Lord responded to that with the parable of the good Samaritan.

Samaritans were half-breeds. When the northern kingdom of Israel fell in OT times, the conquerors sent many Gentiles into the region and the Jews who remained there married into Gentile families. To full Jews like the scribes and Pharisees, and this lawyer, that made them impure. But the Samaritan in Jesus’ parable had a much better grasp of pure religion (see James 1:27) than did this lawyer. The Samaritan, who was just traveling on his way, came across a man who had been mugged and severely beaten. Unlike the priest and the Levite who’d passed by earlier and taken a wide path around the injured man to preserve their “purity,” (Luke 10:31-31) the Samaritan brought this man to safety and paid for his care.

When Jesus finished His parable, He used the lawyer’s own word against him: “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” (Luke 10:36) The lawyer had to agree that it was the half-breed Samaritan who had the truth because he actually lived it. (Leave it to the Lord to out-lawyer a lawyer!)

If I really want to know what I truly believe, I need to examine how I truly live. Just knowing the right answers is not enough. My life has to reflect my relationship to my Lord. The best measure of my relationship to the Lord is not just how I treat my neighbor, but who I consider my neighbor.

Monday Musings: Conflict Resolution 101

Conflict is a fact of life. You don’t even have to leave your house to find it. You can find conflict in the convenience of your own home! You can even take it on the go. Conflict is anywhere you can find sinners – and they’re everywhere. Thankfully, the solution to conflict is as easy to find as conflict itself. Scripture is full of counsel and examples on how to deal with it. Not surprisingly, biblical conflict resolution is a lot like God Himself: It’s about winning hearts, not winning arguments. Continue reading “Monday Musings: Conflict Resolution 101”

What Our Finances Say About Our Character

Proverbs 6 is one of those passages that illustrates how wonderfully practical this book is. The first part of the chapter deals with what to do when you find yourself caught up in bad debt. Solomon begins with a hypothetical situation: “My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger…” (v. 1).

This hypothetical acknowledges the fact that even people who are purposely trying to live according to wisdom still “mess up.” It is Solomon’s hope that his son never runs afoul of his financial obligations, but he says to him: “In case you do, here’s what steps you need to take.”

We’re human. We’re finite. We are prone to error. We sin. Our character is revealed in how we deal with our failures. Continue reading “What Our Finances Say About Our Character”

Paul The Faithful Steward (1 Thessalonians 2:1-6)

Being a role model to others is not something we necessarily choose, but it’s something we all do whether we recognize it or not. Even if we do not serve in the pastoral role, we all have a responsibility to shepherd those whom God brings into our lives.

Other than Christ Himself, what better example do we have of how to shepherd than the apostle Paul? Of all the things he suffered in his service to Jesus Christ, he said his greatest burden was “the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28).

The Faithful Steward (2:1—6)

Paul saw his ministry as a matter of stewardship, both of his God-given talents and of the people God gave him to serve. I have to remind myself that my life in Christ is matter of stewardship. Too often I see it as consumership: What can I get for me? What’s in it for me? How can I satisfy me? None of that is Christ-like. Jesus Himself came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). I am at my best when I am remembering that what I do is a ministry of stewardship of all the God has blessed me with.

Paul understood this clearly:

“But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

He understood that his talents and abilities were a gift from God; his opportunities were a gift from God; and that the people to whom he ministered were a stewardship responsibility from God.

As stewards of what God has given us, we own nothing – not even ourselves (Psalm 100:3). Yet at the same time we possess everything that belongs to our Master. What we have to remember is that even though we have everything the Master possesses, it is still the Master’s. Joseph is a good example of this kind of steward/master relationship (Genesis 39:1-6). He had authority over everything in Potiphar’s house. That kind of power can be abused, but Joseph was faithful, and at the critical moment when his stewardship was challenged by the advances of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph remembered his accountability to God as a steward, and did the right thing (vv. 7-9, 12).

We need to remember that one day God will hold us to account for our stewardship (Luke 16:1-2). Those of us who are found faithful will be rewarded, and those of us who are not will suffer loss (1 Corinthians 3:12-14). Just like it was to Paul, the gospel is now entrusted to us. That means we must live lives that reflect our faith, and that we have responsibility to share our faith with others.

The Manner of His Ministry (vv. 1-2)

Faithfulness is a key characteristic of a steward. A good steward can be trusted with his master’s goods, and he can be trusted with his master’s message.

Paul was a faithful steward. Despite the literal beating he took in Philippi, and the unjust jail time he and Silas suffered, despite the “bad press” he likely received once he got to Thessalonica for having been put in jail, he and Silas still preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Thessalonian people.

Paul says he preached “with much contention.” It’s an athletic phrase that means “a contest, a struggle.” He knew going in that his ministry would be a tough one. He was going against the grain of Jewish tradition, and he was going against the grain of the popular world view. He kept at it anyway, because he wanted to be pleasing to God more than anything.

The Message of His Ministry (v. 3a)

“For our exhortation was not of deceit….” Paul did not serve an ulterior motive. He did not have a hidden agenda. He was not preaching his opinion. He was preaching the clear truth of the Gospel and he was basing it on what Scripture taught. Six times Paul mentions the gospel, and when Luke describes the apostle’s preaching ministry, he describes it as one in which Paul taught on the clear teaching of Scripture (Acts 17:2-3). Paul makes that clear by his own words:

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

(3)  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

(4)  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures….

The Motive of His Ministry (3b)

“…[N]or of uncleanness…” Paul’s motives for preaching the gospel were pure. He was not out for personal gain, and he preached the truth in love. It is possible to have the right message and the wrong motives. You’ve seen people like that yourself. Often they are holding signs with messages of condemnation and judgement upon others, and their presentation of God’s truth comes across as abrasive. Paul advocated “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15a). The does not mean he compromised his message, or God’s character. It means he spoke the truth in hopes of winning his listeners to Christ. Sometimes that meant using stern words, but Paul was never “holier than thou” in his delivery.

Paul also did not use his ministry as some sort of money-making scam: “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a [cloak] of covetousness; God is witness” (v. 5). Even in Paul’s day there those who used religion as a means of playing on people’s fears for profit.

Paul was always careful in how he supported himself (1 Corinthians 9:1—18). He even refused taking donations for his own ministry, choosing instead to support himself by being a tent maker.

The Method of His Ministry (vv. 3c – 6)

The word translated “guile” in this passage means to “bait a hook.” Paul did not use tricks or gimmicks to win people to Christ. When his critics accused him of being a cheap peddler interested only in making money, Paul gladly and boldly pointed to the testimony of his life and actions to refute their claims (1 Thessalonians 2:5)

In his first epistle to the Thessalonians he appealed directly to his personal dealings with them. Throughout that letter you see the phrase “as ye know,” or statements like “for yourselves, brethren, know” (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:1, 5, 11; 3:3-4; 4:2; 5:2). These are not the statements of a man with a hidden agenda. As witnesses of the gospel today, we need to be real like Paul was, and our message needs to clear. If we are trusting gimmicks, tricks, or flattery (another form of lying) to win people to Christ, it means we are not trusting the power of God’s Word to win hearts, and if we are not trusting God to do His work, how can we trust others to trust Him?

(Primary source material: Be Ready by Warren Wiersbe, pp.44-46)

Acts on Prayer: Lessons from an Old Ford Wagon

I once owned a maroon Ford LTD Wagon. I’m pretty sure it was brand new once. It wasn’t when I bought it, though – for $300.00. It was beat up and worn. The back end sagged because the suspension was shot, and the tailgate had a barrel lock on it because it was designed to swing open like a door, and sometimes if you accelerated too fast, it would swing open and try to take a swat at other vehicles like an old lady with a purse. Continue reading “Acts on Prayer: Lessons from an Old Ford Wagon”

A Good Name can be a Life Saver

In Bible times a name often represented your character:

1Samuel 25:25 “Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal [fool] is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send….” – Abigail pleading with David on behalf of her husband.

Your name also represented your reputation:

Genesis 18:19  “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” – The Lord discussing His assessment of Abraham

Having a name backed by a strong testimony is a precious treasure. It needs to be valued above all else:

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving [favor] rather than silver and gold.” (Prov. 22:1) Continue reading “A Good Name can be a Life Saver”