Thursday, August 15, 2019

His Light and Truth lead us to Worship

Read Psalm 43

Do you ever have that mental and spiritual wrestling match when you know you are doing what God has called you to do and you get backlash?  You just wish that God would throw a lightning bolt or two at some selected targets.  Maybe we already have a target list ready to go.

Do you ever just wrestle with thoughts of why isn’t God doing something?  Did he not get my memos?

Most of the time I don’t have time to jump in the fray of online Christian discussions which usually end up in arguments, but sometimes, I start them.
Never in my life have I had 10,000 hits on a post until I posted that I had broken the vending machine.  Most of those 10,000 had the mean face along with many hateful comments.  I’m thinking that we are people of God and he is not all about stuff and transactions but about blessing and transformation. 

I even noted a post that said, “Buy a new vending machine.”  I actually knew that person.  The recurring message was bring back transactional and kick transformation to the curb.  Get in line with the world was heart of the salvos launched my way.

The first salvo was motivation for me to write three more posts and eventually publish a short book noting how the people being most deprived by the vending machine model were the body of Christ as we distanced ourselves from connecting with those who need help in our communities by just throwing stuff and money their way.

In the course of all of this, I had some thoughts along the lines of several of the psalms.  God, those people need some smotin’.  I didn’t spend much prayer time in search of smotin’ but the thoughts crossed my mind from time to time.

I’m thinking, I could sure use an Ezekiel and the prophets of  Baal moment.  Enough for that.

I hope that you have noticed that we take many opportunities in our ministries to reduce the transactional and increase the transformational.  We are about making personal connections.  We use stuff—school supplies, candy, and electric bills to make contact, but it’s not about the crayons.

Yes, it’s wonderful to bless people, but these physical blessings without words of life are just the crayons.  Soon they will be used up.

We look at a scholarly or contemplative psalm.  We are looking at a psalm that likely was attached to its predecessor as a single psalm for a time. We are looking at a psalm that was probably not written by David and may have even had its basis in the period of and after the exile.

But we see and hear a psalm that perhaps we have lived.  We see and hear struggle in this psalm.  The struggle between a godly person and an ungodly world on one hand and the struggle within ourselves wondering if God will affirm us as we seek him and his righteousness.

The psalmist cries out, “Vindicate me, O God.”  He asked God to take up his cause against the ungodly.  Rescue me from deceitful and wicked men. 

At the end of the beatitudes, Jesus told all who were present and through the written word, all of us, that we are blessed when we are persecuted for his name.  When the world sees Jesus in us instead of a reflection of itself and starts tearing us down then we know we are blessed.  We will have reward in heaven and we can count ourselves in good company as the prophets were attacked in the same way.

But our nature says, “That sound great, but God would you smote a couple of these yahoos now just for good measure?”

God, you are my stronghold.  Why have you rejected me?

Why do you leave me this way?

But in a stroke of divine genius, the psalmist petitions God to send forth his light and his truth, not to do some smoting of enemies, but to guide him to a place of worship.

Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me.
Let them bring me to Your holy mountain,
to Your dwelling place.

In the middle of this psalm comes the heart of resolving our struggles.  Let your light and your truth—God’s light and his truth—bring me to you.  Your truth will bring me to worship you.

The psalmist leaves the battlefield of vindication that consumed him so much for the victory of worship.

The psalmist leaves the things that have left his soul so downcast and receives the hope of the Lord and praises God as Savior.

God’s light and his truth will lead us to worship and praise and manifest hope within us.

There may still be a lot of folks out there that need some smotin’ but that’s not my monkey and not my circus any more.  I am not the one to condemn when Jesus came to save.

I will follow God’s truth and his light to the place where he dwells.  His light and his truth lead me to worship.

Jesus said if you walk in the light, you won’t stumble.
Jesus said he is the light of the world.
Jesus told us that we are the light of the world.

The psalmist petitions God:

Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me.
Let them bring me to Your holy mountain,
to Your dwelling place.

Today, I tell you that the light and the truth have come.  We know them as Jesus.  We should reflect his light into this world.  We are to bring his truth to this world.

More than that, his light and his truth bring us to praise and worship our Lord.  We are on a mission from God to take his love into the world, but first his light and his truth bring us to praise his name and worship him.
First, we worship.

Both Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 end the same way.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Both psalms wrap up with a summation of our internal struggle and its resolution. 

Our purpose here is not to give God a list of targets that need smotin’.  We are to let God’s light and truth spur us on to hope and praise and acknowledgement of our risen Savior.  They lead us to worship.

We are not going to defeat all of our accusers on our own.  God will fight for us but he does not need our battleplan or target list.

He has set a table before us in the presence of our enemies and his light and his truth bring us to worship him.

His light and his truth bring us to worship.

If you are wrestling with something inside of you, stop fighting the battle with the weapons of the world.  Walk in God’s light and seek his truth.  Your victory comes in worshiping and praising God in the midst of the world’s turmoil.

The psalmist petitions, Lord, send forth your light and your truth and let them guide me.

I tell you that he has fulfilled this request.  We just need to walk in the light and seek his truth and we will respond in praise and worship.

Our topic for a few weeks is truth.  We understand that Jesus is light and the darkness cannot overcome him, so let’s think about truth.  Consider this thought in the week ahead.

Truth leads us to worship.

We worship here together and we worship with our very lives in everything we do when we go back into the world.

Truth leads to worship.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Almost 50 years ago, a man by the name of Johnny Cash wrote a song by the name of What is Truth.  One of the lines in the song is Can you blame the voice of youth for asking what is truth?  The song’s final line is You had better help the voice of youth find what is truth.

For the most part, that didn’t happen.  Following a decade—the Sixties—of rebelling against everything, people started embracing just about anything.  Today, we live in an age of apathy and ambivalence.  We would rather fix the blame instead of the problem.

We don’t care or we think one thing is as good as another are the thoughts that define this age. We can be offended or outraged by so many things that our lives say we don’t really care about, but it’s what we do.

Good old-fashioned civil conversation is a lost art.  It seems that we can’t have discussion without argument and vitriolic volleys of replies.  Facts are elusive and almost always disputed. 

George Orwell nailed it when he said that History ended in 1936.  He was referring to the Spanish Civil War in which large numbers of causalities went unreported and elsewhere great battles were reported where no blood had been shed.

It was the beginning of an age of propaganda.  We are in the ninth decade of this age.  Social media has put this age on steroids.  Whether your social and political leanings are left, right, or centrist, you can likely find a media source that will include, exclude, or otherwise paint the news with your preferred bias.  The truth is hard to come by these days.

You can find programs, posts, more programs, and persuasive propaganda that appeal to your version of Christianity.  There is no shortage of information promoting itself as the truth.  You can find people claiming to be Christians simply because they are Americans. 

You can find Christians who will tell you that one religion is as good as another.  What’s the big deal about Jesus being the way?

I remember helping Fredrick when we hosted him for a few days.  He had come from African for a month and only had one place to preach.  He gave me some of his Facebook contracts that he said were preachers and pastors, and I helped him find his next venue.

One of these pastors promoted that there was only Jesus.  He proclaimed that there was no Father and no Holy Spirit.  He had a large following.  I told Fredrick that he should just scratch this one from his prospect list.
Think back to the Johnny Cash song.

Yeah, the ones that you're calling wild
Are going to be the leaders in a little while
This old world's wakin' to a new born day
And I solemnly swear that it'll be their way

The Man in Black was prophetic in more ways than one.  My generation and those that have followed have let the truth slip away.  This current generation is perhaps the most gullible of modern times.
What are we to do?

We could be like Solomon as he began his writings in Ecclesiastes.  Meaningless, Meaningless, it’s all meaningless—at least that was his hook for the rest of the book.

We could just throw in the towel.  How do you recover from living in an age that has lost touch with truth and reality?

We must return to the one true God.  That’s going to mean that we will break some ties with the world of deception in which we live.

We must commit to following Jesus and knowing the word of God.  We must put more of those words into practice than ever before.

James tried to awaken his fellow Hebrew followers of Christ.  Hey!  Get this and get it straight.  God is not and never was in the deception business. 

Every good gift is from him.  He is the originator of everything good.

While we may go through trials, God will never tempt us with evil.  If we wrestle with evil, we are either up against demonic forces or we have invited evil into our lives by seeking and giving into our own selfish desires.
It is the latter of these two that we contend with most often.

The world as we know it in this age is configured to appeal to and to gratify our selfish desires.  The world does not want us to know the truth.  The world wants intimacy with us but the world can only give us a transactional relationship.

God wants us not only to know the truth but to live in it.  James puts it this way.

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

We are born of God out of this world of deception.  God’s word delivers us from this world.  His word that is Jesus and his word that does not return void deliver us.
The truth delivers us.

We are first fruits.  That tells us that there is a greater harvest to follow.  We should not give up on those who have sold out to the world.  While the world is lost and blinded to the truth, we have words of life that will set so many free.

Born again is a common term for most Christians.  We are born of the Spirit, of water, of blood.  James says we are born through the word of God.

What does that mean for us?

God wants you with him.  He has given us his holy word.  He has given us the only sacrifice that could truly remove our sins.  He has given us the baptism of the Holy Spirit, a Spirit that now lives within us as Counselor and Comforter.

God has given us eyes to see the truth in a world governed by deception and propaganda.

But we must seek his kingdom and his righteousness before anything else.  We must desire not only with our minds but with our hearts to live his way.

We must hunger for and read his holy word.  It should be the mainstay of our daily conversations.  We should talk about it with our children, when we get up and when we go to bed, when we are out on the job or sitting at home, and we should post some reminders of what God’s word says.

We should remember that God gave his word to his chosen people for their own good.  It’s good for us too.

We must do more than sing, I have decided to follow Jesus.  We must commit to following him.

We must live as people of love.
We must live as people of faith.
We must live as people of hope.

We must set aside our own understanding—so much of which comes from this world that does not know God—and trust him fully, with everything we have.

Last Sunday, I said something, I affirmed something that I think most already knew.  I don’t think it was breaking news to anyone.  We are not of this world.  We do not belong to this world.  We belong to God.

We know God through Christ Jesus and through his Spirit that lives within us. 

God chose us to know him and to love him and to serve him.  He chose us.  He loves us with an everlasting love. 

We are born out of this world into God’s kingdom by the word of God and we need to convey this to the youth of this land by our word and deed.

Where deception in word and speech seem to prevail, our lives must convey the truth.

When self-gratification seems to be the order of the day, the example of our lives must convey love for one another.

In a world of acrimony and argument, we must bypass the fray and speak the truth.  We are not commissioned to win arguments but to win souls.

We must teach the truth that is the word of God that brings us to salvation in Christ Jesus.  Most of that is done person to person.  Most respond to personal invitation. 

Here is the truth that is tough for many of us to swallow.  Our commission is not about inviting people to church.  It’s about inviting people to know salvation in Jesus Christ.  It’s about helping those who receive him, know him.  We can call this part discipleship.

We have the word of God.  We are born out of this world.  We are made holy before God by his truth and we are sent back into this world with his message of love.

We are the first fruits of this harvest.  Take heart, more will come out of this world that has been deceived.  We must not be discouraged.

More will receive the word of truth.


Monday, August 5, 2019

Sanctify them by the Truth

For those who are wondering where we have been over the last decade or so, I have preached 6 years from the lectionary (12 years could include the entire Bible), 1 year topically exhorting the Confession of Faith, 1 year with Paul’s letters, 1 year in the Parables of Jesus, and the most recent 2 years applied a topical approach. 

Topics have been:  Love, Love & Action, Peace, Rest, Faith, and currently Hope.  We will finish this church year (through November) with Truth and Mercy.  As we continue into Church Year 2020, we will address the topics of Repentance, the Kingdom of God, Grace, and Life.   I will maintain my streak of preaching the Parable of the Talents at least twice each year, and will have a message or series on Living in Response to God’s Grace. 

Don’t forget that in March 2020 we will study the Book of James on Sundays and Wednesdays and hopefully be talking about it on the days in between.

We will of course, make adjustments for VBS and campers.  By that I mean that the message for those Sundays will be tied to something our youth learned during the preceding week.

All of this said, remember the message is not your meal for the week.  It should spur you on to love one another, give you a hunger to search God’s word more, and prompt you to put the words of God that you know into practice.

That’s where we’ve been and where we are going.  This morning, we begin the topic of truth and we begin with a prayer that Jesus gave in his last days with his disciples before he was crucified.

This prayer follows an explanation of what is to come.  Scattering, grief, joy and so much more.  Then Jesus gives his disciples these words.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

He prayed for his disciples, not that they be taken out of the world, but that by the name of Jesus, they be protected as they accomplish their mission.
He prayed that even though the world hates them, they will know the full measure of joy that Christ did as he did the will of his Father.

Jesus notes that his disciples are not part of this world.  Think to the church.  The church is made up of people called out of the world, set apart from the world to be made holy, and sent back into the world with the gospel.

He prayed that his Father will sanctify them by the truth.  Sanctify is to set apart and make holy.  We are made holy not by some ritual but by the truth.

The word in the original text for truth is al├ętheia (al-ay'-thi-a).  It means truth but not just truth as the opposite of a lie.  Consider the full meaning of the original word.

Truth, but not merely truth as spoken; truth of idea, reality, sincerity, truth in the moral sphere, divine truth revealed to man, straightforwardness.

The truth that Jesus speaks of is reality.  For some, that may be a paradigm shift.  What Jesus says is not some lofty goal.  It is reality as defined by the one who created reality.

What does that say about what the world presents as truth?  So much of it is deception.

We are set apart from the world by the truth.  The truth comes through the word. It’s interesting that the Greek word here is Logos.  This is the word that we find in the beginning of John’s gospel that we understand to be Jesus, as nothing that was made was made except through him.

It also means the words themselves but unlike common words these are of divine utterance—every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
So how are we sanctified?  By Jesus and by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  We are different than the world.

We not only believe God’s word, we are shaped, transformed, and configured into the likeness of Christ Jesus by God’s word.

We are transformed by the truth.

We cannot be transformed while we remain in the world’s deception.  Paul wrote that the god of this age has blinded unbelievers.  They do not have the truth.

We do and if we will put the words of our Master into practice, we will be transformed and sanctified.  We will not be a part of this world but dwell in our Master and he in us.

Isn’t that what we say we want?  Don’t we say we want to be like Jesus?  But if sin is still governing our lives, if the world’s model is our model, if we believe the lies, then the truth is not in us.

As we begin this topic of truth, let us ask ourselves, do we want the truth?  Are we comfortable the way that we are?

I think of the movie A Few Good Men and Jack Nicholson belting out, “You can’t handle the truth!”

We can’t dabble in the truth.  It’s an all or nothing deal.  And if we are all in on the truth, it will change us.  It will sanctify us.  It will make us more like Jesus.

We are not part of this world any longer.  It owned us once but not anymore and so we must embrace the truth that can come only from God.

His word and his law are good for us.

His grace exceeds any sin we have committed.

His Spirit dwells within us.

But somehow, we miss the truth time and again.  Which brings us to the Moody Blues, well at least to Nights in White Satin. 

Nights in white satin
Never reaching the end
Letters I've written
Never meaning to send
Beauty I'd always missed
With these eyes before
Just what the truth is
I can't say any more
'Cause I love you
Yes I love you
Oh how I love you

Just what the truth is, I can’t say any more.  Love—romantic love—sometimes blinds us to the truth.

Ambition sometimes blinds us to the truth.

The desire for uniqueness or the other extreme—the desire to fit in—sometimes blind us to the truth.

The god of this age has blinded unbelievers to the truth, but sometimes we blind ourselves to the truth.

Once upon a time, we saw the world in black and white.  We may have been right or we may have been wrong, but we were sure about so many things.  Then life happened.  There was love and ambition and desires for so many things of this world, many of them good things but they became first in our lives and in the process,  we found so many gray areas.

“Yeah, I know what God says about this but…”

The truth gave way to our truth.  God’s truth gave way to our version of God’s truth.  Just what the truth is, I can’t say any more.

Except, that I can say what the truth is.  It may disturb our comfort zones.  It may affirm us in our difficulties.  It may sound like a foreign language if we have been away from it for too long.

The truth is that God is love and God loves us.

He has good plans for us.

His word and his law are good for us.

His grace exceeds any sin we have committed.

His Spirit dwells within us.

We have spent some time on faith, hope, and love and many think, “Man, I wish I lived that way, but I have to live in the real world.”

Today, I tell you that what God has to say is the real world.  This upside-down mess that claims to be reality is as real as a reality TV show.
You want to see reality TV, video you kid’s baseball game then pan the stands.  That latter part is reality TV.

Jesus prayed that his Father would sanctify his disciples by the truth.  What is it to be sanctified?  It is to be set apart and made holy before God. 
We do not belong to this world.

This world does not define our reality.

We are to bring the world to Jesus.  Jesus prayed that through his disciples, the world would come to know the Father.

Remember where we started.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

So what is our reality?

Is it the trouble of the world and the world’s coping mechanisms?

Or is it the peace that we have in Jesus?  Will we receive the truth that comes from God which is reality?

What do we choose, trouble or truth?

I pray we choose truth.  I pray that we receive peace in Jesus.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

The truth is in Jesus.  The truth is Jesus.  The truth not only sets us free but gives us peace.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Walk on By

This week the children had encounters with two bigtime Bible stories.  The whole Bible is important and we should have a hunger to read it again and again, but this week amidst everything else happening in outer space, the kids made a visit to the lion’s den and saw the faith of Daniel and how God showed himself as the one true God in a pagan world.

We also had the story of the Good Samaritan, which would have been an oxymoron in the time in which Jesus told it.  Good and Samaritan would have never been used in the same sentence.

The Samaritans were considered a lesser sort of people by the Jews who had not intermixed with their conquerors.  If you had to say the word Samaritan, then you had better spit after you said it so folks knew your disdain for them.

This is more than horns up or down come October in Oklahoma and Texas.  Realize that these two fingers up or down is something of an improvement over when I was young.  A single finger did all of the talking for both sides back then. This Samaritan stuff is genuine disgust and hatred and some holier-than-thou attitudes mixed in. 

So an expert in the law—a Pharisee or a Scribe or a Rabbi of some acclaim—wanted to test Jesus.  By test, we generally believe that he wanted to be the one guy who bested Jesus.  If he could just catch him misquoting Isaiah or getting the days of creation in the wrong order or anything slightly off kilter, then he would make a real name for himself.

He could be the one who bested Jesus.  Think old west gun fighters.  There’s always some young gun who rides into town looking to make a name for himself.

So this expert asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied:  What does the law say?

The expert replied:  Love God with everything you have—heart, soul, mind, strength.  And to love your neighbor as yourself.  I would think that this expert was glad that Jesus asked him to answer his own question.  He go to show off a little.

Jesus told him to do this and he would live.  Elsewhere Jesus would note that all of the law and the prophets were anchored in these two commandments. 

But in this encounter, Jesus just tells him to obey these two simple commands and he would live.  One of those commands was love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.

The expert not content with just getting the correct answer to his own question, ventures a little farther, to an area where his expertise might have been more speculative than authoritative, and he asks:  “Well just who is my neighbor?”

I’m sure that this had been a matter of some discussion among the many teachers and experts of the law.  Searching the finer points of the law at the expense of its goodness was common practice among the self-righteous.  Surely this question did not have a definitive answer and would stump Jesus.

So Jesus tells a story.

A man who was not named was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho.  This was a stretch of road of something less than 20 miles that was known for its perils.  This lone individual was ambushed, beaten, robbed, and left for dead.

He probably thought that this is where his life would come to an end, but then a priest was also traveling along the same road.  Perhaps the man got his hopes up for a moment, but only for a moment for the priest walked on the other side of the road and passed the man by.

The priest surely had duties that required his attention and didn’t have time for checking on a man who would probably die shortly anyway.

So much for any help from this man of God.

Some time later a Levite came by.  Was he on his way to duty in the temple or on his way home following his temple tour?  We don’t know.

Did the man who was left for dead have a glimmer of hope?  We don’t know.

What we do know is that the Levite like the priest passed this man in need of help without stopping.  Like the man of God before him, he passed on the other side of the road.  Perhaps he thought there was a reason that justified this.  If he was on his way to the temple, how could he stop and check on this man, especially if he was dead.

There would surely be some ritual cleansings involved if that were the case.

In any case the man left for dead had gone 0 for 2. 

Then a Samaritan man came along.  The Samaritan saw the man and had mercy on him.  He cleaned and bandaged his wounds with what he had—mostly wine and oil.  Then he put him on his own donkey and took him into town.

He found an inn, got the wounded man a room, tended to him some more, paid the innkeeper and told him that the wounded man could run a tab.  If he needed something that wasn’t already paid for, the Samaritan would make good when he returned.

This Samaritan obviously had some means and status.  You don’t just let anyone open a charge account with your establishment.  He couldn’t run his credit card for incidentals.

So at the end of this story, Jesus asked the expert, who do you think was a neighbor to the man left for dead?

The expert in the law unwilling to say the Samaritan, said the one who showed him mercy, who just happened to be the Samaritan.

So the expert asked who is my neighbor and Jesus answered with a story that said be a neighbor.

It’s the story of the good Samaritan.  Everyone has heard it.  Good Samaritan is a term that we all know and it doesn’t seem like an oxymoron to us today. 

Some states have Good Samaritan laws where those who help someone on the side of the road are not at risk from being prosecuted for helping without being a doctor or medic.  Negligence still applies but not to the same standard as for a medical professional.

But we live in Oklahoma.  Of course, we are going to stop and help.  If your traveling with your family, your risk tolerance might be different, but I can say with much certainty that most men traveling alone will stop and help someone on the side of the road who looks like they are in trouble.

That’s Oklahoma.  Besides, you just don’t see a lot of people robbed on the roads out in these parts.  If someone tries to rob you with their 38 special, they might encounter your 357 extra special or two barrels of a shotgun.  You just don’t see people getting robbed between here and Elk City.

Broken down vehicles, hitchhikers, and the occasional person claiming to be homeless and needing help pop up on our radar every now and then, but we are not talking about discerning between a panhandler and legitimate need this morning.

We are talking about who is my neighbor.  So does this pericope have any bearing on our modern day lives?  What does this story of the Good Samaritan say to us?

Suppose that you are walking through town on your way to Rudy’s or Gret’s and there is a person that you don’t know up ahead watering their rose bushes with the hose, what do you do?

Well, surely, they have a place to live and care enough for it to water their plants, so what is there to do?

Do they have the gospel of life in Jesus Christ?

Have they received the good news?

Just by looking at someone with a garden hose it’s really hard to tell.

We could just keep on waking, making sure to pass on the other side and wave from a safe distance.  There is some risk here when you talk to someone with a garden hose at the ready.

Would we look straight ahead and keep on walking on the other side of the street so as not to risk a conversation.

We could respect that person’s privacy.  Some people just want to be left alone.  They enjoy their solitude and the peace that comes with water flowing from a hose.

But if that person has not received Christ as Lord, he or she has been left for dead.  He has been left for dead.

But surely God wouldn’t let that happen, would he?  No.  He sent you.

In our day and time it is much more likely that we will encounter someone in our travels who is dead already because they have not believed in Jesus than it is to find someone beaten to near death and left on  the side of the road.

So what do we do?  Do we walk on by because our destination is more important than this poor soul on the side of the road?  Do we walk by on the other side so we don’t have to risk an encounter, or will we be more like the Samaritan?

For everyone here who has received Jesus as Lord, we look forward to coming before him at some point after we have left these earthen vessels.  We don’t fear being condemned for our sins.  The blood of Jesus took them away, but we do expect to give an account for our lives after we were saved.
I have preached the parable of the talents many times and in the course of those homilies usually come to the question that is never asked but always answered.  We are sure that we will answer Jesus whether he has to ask the question or not.

What did you do with what I gave you?

There might be another question.  We will all give an account before God.  What is it that we will account for?  How about this as we stand before Jesus.

Where are all the people that I sent you to bring to me?

That’s not fair.  Come on now, I made hot dogs and peanut butter sandwiches for hundreds of kids.  There is surely a jewel in your crown for that.

I tithed faithfully even during some hard times.  There were surely some blessings in this life and more jewels for your crown in the one to come.
I sang all of the hymns every Sunday and even got most of the words right.  That’s got to be a really shiny jewel right there.

I wore my GOD LOVES YOU – LOVE ONE ANOTHER wristband at least once a week.  That surely has to count for something.  Was that not me being the light of the world?

I drove a van full of kids more times that you can count.  I’m sure that heaven is going to have to open the vault to give you your rewards for that one.

I know what it is to be VBS tired for the Lord!  That’s got to count for something.

But, but, but…how will we answer this question whether it is asked or not?

Where are all the people that I sent you to bring to me?

Will I have to say, “Well, I walked by them on the other side of the road?”

As this the second decade of this new century comes near its end, we are unlikely to encounter someone beaten and left for dead on the side of the road, but we are very likely to see hundreds of people every week who have been left for dead because they have not received Jesus Christ as Lord.
Surely, God will not leave them in that state.  He desires that none perish and all come to repentance and saving grace.  That is his heart’s desire.

Surely, he will send someone to them with the good news of life in Jesus Christ.

The expert in the law asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor.”  He wanted to wiggle out of any obligation to deal with people not already in his circle.  Surely God would not require him to venture out of his comfort zone.
Jesus told him to be a neighbor.

We consider all of the people that we know who have not received Jesus as Lord and ask, “Who will bring the good news to them?”

I hope that we hear ever so clearly, Jesus calling to us:  “I sent you .”

I hope that we hear him say: “I commissioned you.”

I hope that we have eyes to see that those without Jesus have been left for dead. 

I hope that we take the example of the Good Samaritan and don’t just throw a card and a wristband at someone, or just leave them with a gospel and a gruff charge to read it for your own good.

I hope that we share what Jesus has meant to us and help someone receive Jesus as Lord.  The Good Samaritan was obviously a man of some means.  He had oil and wine, a donkey, and money to pay the innkeeper.

We have some substantial means as well.  We travel the roads of this life with the Holy Spirit.  We have what we need to help those who have been left for dead.

We can be a good neighbor.  We can fulfill our commission.  We can help people who are dead in their sin come to life in Christ.

We can do this.  Let’s be a neighbor to those who need our help the most.  Be a neighbor to those who are dead in their sin.  We have more than oil, wine, and a donkey.  We have the Holy Spirit and good news.
Be a neighbor.