Hopefully Devoted: Who is my neighbor?

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One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25, NLT)

When the expert in the Law asked Jesus what he MUST do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asked his own question: What does the Law tell you? (Answering a question with a question makes my husband crazy!)

The man quickly demonstrated his knowledge: Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. And, love your neighbor as yourself.

Ding, ding, ding.

He probably should have stopped there, but…endeavoring to find out the least he had to do with the least amount of people…he asked the question of clarification: and just who is that?

So Jesus told him the story of the Good Samaritan.

Readers Digest version: A guy heads out on a business trip. Robbers attack him, beat him, and leave him to die. A couple of religious types avoided getting involved by passing on the other side of the street—can’t get too close!

Jesus then introduced the most unlikely of heroes, a despisssssssssssssed (hiss like a snake when you say that) Samaritan. And he does everything to care for the man—he hows him mercy.

Who is your neighbor?

A.N.Y.O.N.E. And everyone you can extend the hand of mercy to.

And how do we love that neighbor?

This afternoon while I took (yet again) the grandson’s dog out to do his business, a thought popped up through my grumbling. He says he love the adorable mutt, but only puts words to that love when it’s convenient or fun. He’s nowhere to be found when there’s puke or poop to clean up, or when it crimps his plans.

Love isn’t conditional or convenient. Love costs. Love changes the lover and the beloved.

There is no how or who, why or when—Our neighbor is everybody else and we love them by seeing them, not avoiding them, and offering them the amazing love of the Father.

Prayer thoughts: God, I confess I don’t always leap to love. Sometimes I wish someone else would do the tough stuff. But you never fail to love me—no matter what mess I’m in. Thanks. Sink your love deep into my awareness until I don’t worry about the least I have to do, but live into your fullness until that’s what people see in me. Amen.

Grace and Mercy

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18, ESV)

 

He asks no less of us than he would do for us.

PRAYER: God, I want to live like you. Teach me to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly after you. Amen.

Tantrums or Trust

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Isaiah 30:18, ESV

I never threw a tantrum when I was a child. I was too afraid to.

When I became a teenager, I remember stomping up the stairs and slamming my bedroom door.

Tantrums usually happen when we don’t get our way. When we’re sure we know what’s best and it’s not happening.

We get miffed when we have to wait.

But have you ever considered how God feels when we don’t, won’t, or can’t receive his grace?

Today’s verse tells us God is waiting to be gracious to us. He has the gifts, the answers, the guidance, the everything we need…but we’re so busy stomping our feet and demanding our way we aren’t able to receive it.

There is nothing attractive or positive about a tantrum. Especially when an adult is throwing it.

Our blessings will come as we wait on the One who is waiting to give us what we need.

PRAYER: Patient and loving God. Forgive us for the tantrums we throw when we think we know best, or when we are frustrated because we have to wait for what we want. Thank you for not giving up on us, for continuing to wait to be gracious to us. Keep showing us mercy. Amen

Mercy

This coming Sunday I was asked to lead a women’s ensemble for the special music in the worship service. Our practices were slowly whittled down to one because of the weather. Pastor and I discussed it and decided to reschedule until next month.

Then he asked if I would sing the special. I was okay with that and agreed immediately.

I like to find a song that supports the message. Pastor’s topic is mercy. I went searching through CBD (Christian Book Distributors) and listening on youtube. Here’s the song I think I’m going to do:

But what is mercy?

Each time I found a definition and started reading I began to weep, overwhelmed by the mercy I have experienced in my life.

Here are a couple definitions I found.

From TEKTON Apologetics: Pilch and Malina note that in an ancient context, “mercy” is better rendered as “gratitude” or “steadfast love.” One example of the expression of mercy would be “the debt of interpersonal obligations for unrepayable favors received.” For a case like this, to say, “Lord, have mercy!” (Matt. 20:31) means, “Lord, pay up your debt of interpersonal obligation to us!” Not a plea of the hapless, it is in this case a request to pay back previously earned favor (as a loyal subject of the Davidic/Messianic dynasty).

Grace is getting what we don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what we do deserve.

Biblically: 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17, NIV)

The Bible story that defines/describes mercy for me is the story of the man who is forgiven a huge debt. It was the equivalent of millions of dollars. There is no way possible for him to repay it. And the debt is forgiven. He meets up with someone who owes him a fraction of what he was just forgiven and he demands payment. It doesn’t end well for him (see Matthew 18:21-35).

I don’t get the unmerciful servant. First, I don’t get how he could run up such a huge debt. And then to not be changed. I’m mystified. I just don’t get it.

Every time I think about my debt being paid, forgiven…I choke up and feel so unworthy.

Every time I look at my husband, I marvel at his love for me. I don’t deserve it. Yet it’s there.

Every time I am allowed to teach a class, lead a Bible study, sing in worship, speak at a gathering…I’m humbled beyond description.

And grateful.

Thank you for Your mercy.

Wondering and Wandering: In Case You Really Wondered

“If you want God, and long for union with him, yet sometimes wonder what that means or whether it can mean anything at all, you are already walking with the God who comes. If you are at times so weary and involved with the struggle of living that you have no strength even to want [God], yet are still dissatisfied that you don’t, you are already keeping Advent in your life. If you have ever had an obscure intuition that the truth of things is somehow better, greater, more wonderful than you deserve or desire, that the touch of God in your life stills you by its gentleness, that there is a mercy beyond anything you could ever suspect, you are already drawn in the central mystery of salvation.” From The Coming of God by Maria Boulding

Yesterday morning our choir opened the service with a medley of songs. One of the songs in the medley was Pat A Pan. I had played this song many Christmases when I was a child, all the way through High School–I never knew it had words! Here are a couple of the verses (which happen to be very stuck in my brain since yesterday morning:
When the men of olden days
To the King of Kings gave praise,
On the fife and drum did play,

Tu-re-lu-re-lu,
Pat-a-pan-a-pan,
On the fife and drum did play,
So their hearts were glad and gay!

God and man today become
More in tune than fife and drum,
So be merry while you play,

The thought of us becoming more in tune with God probably stuck with me more than the song–although it’s there too. Being in tune, getting in tune, staying in tune, these are the essentials of Advent. The natural thing is to rush into the shopping, parties, and trappings of the holidays, but that leaves us missing the important spiritual components.

I’m much more of a minimalist when it comes to the external stuff. I want to focus on the God who comes…what will it take to clear your focus? How will you get in tune? Oh, don’t miss the mystery, the beauty, the gift.

Day 11: Gratuities

(You know how all the videos you want to connect to start with a 20 or 30 ad these days? Well, here’s your ad: don’t forget to tip your server. Both of my daughters have worked in the food industry. Younger daughter supports herself and her young son that way. She’s quite amazing at her job. In fact, when she was being interviewed for her current position the manager stated quite emphatically: Anyone who didn’t hire you is a fool. The problem is that people are tight, especially in this economy. But servers count on tips. Leaving a track is insulting and gives believers a black eye. Dine resposibly.)

Ok, here’s what I’m really wanting to say…I looked up the word gratuity and one of the definitions is to be given something without claim or demand. Sounds like grace to me. I am thankful for grace, mercy, and favor. There have been times in my life where I didn’t get what I deserved (mercy) and when by divine intervention I received undeserved consideration (favor). I would love to say that I have always been grateful for these things, but quite honestly, I missed some and refused others.

Isn’t that crazy? Yet we do it all the time. People have reached out with blessings and I felt like I didn’t deserve them, shouldn’t accept them, and walk away from them. Too often pride or shame or some goofy combination of the two keep us from accepting gifts and blessings. It makes even less sense when you understand that we have been blessed to be a blessing (Gen. 12:2).

Well, my purpose isn’t to preach…just to be thankful and invite you to keep your eyes open for the graces that come your way this week. Don’t be so focused on looking for the showers of blessings that you miss the mercy drops falling around you!