“Neighborliness is not a quality in other people; it is simply their claim on ourselves. Every moment and every situation challenges us to action and to obedience. We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbor or not” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).

Who is my neighbor? That’s the question that the expert in Jewish law asked Jesus. In other words, who am I required to love?

Jesus turned the question around from “Who is my neighbor?” to “How am I being a good neighbor to those around me?”

So, a neighbor is anyone who is in need and who is within my power to help. I can’t help every single one in need, but I can meet the needs of those who are in front of me, and those by Jesus’ definition are my neighbors.

Ultimately, the Good Samaritan is a picture of Jesus Himself. I’m the one who foolishly took the dangerous road alone and ended up beaten up and robbed. I’m the one lying half-dead on the road whom the Neighbor spotted and had pity on.

That changes the parable quite a bit, doesn’t it? It means just as the Good Samaritan wasn’t the kind of hero the Jewish audience was expecting, Jesus wasn’t (and isn’t) the kind of Messiah we were expecting.

We prize physical strength and virility. We prize magazine-cover good looks. We love take-charge, grab-the-bull-by-the-horns people.

I wonder sometimes if we’d know Jesus as Messiah if He showed up today as He did almost two millennia ago. People were expecting someone to rally the people against Rome, but instead got a man who insisted that we turn the other cheek and go the extra mile.

Sure, Jesus overturned those tables in the Temple, but He also said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

I’m thankful most of all that in Jesus, I got not the kind of Savior I might have wanted, but the kind I so desperately needed. He loved ( and still loves) me just like I am but refuses to let me stay that way.

PS Credit for all of this goes to Mike Glenn, courtesy of tonight’s Kairos message. Check it out some Tuesday evening if you’re ever in the Brentwood/Greater Nashville area.


Things I Love 30: That’s The Way Love Goes

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“Who would ever know the greater graces of comfort and perserverance, mercy and forgiveness, patience and courage, if no shadows fell over a life?” (Ann Voskamp)

“The practice of giving thanks…eucharisteo…this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don’t have to change what we see. Only the way we see.” (Ann Voskamp)

The big 3-0. That’s how many blogs I’ve written in this series. It seems like only yesterday that I was writing the first one. Actually, it was more like three weeks ago. Maybe four. But here I am yet again, starting out with #871.

871) Still having peace and joy after being defriended on Facebook for no apparent reason (at least none that was given with no chance to correct whatever I did wrong).

872) The comfort of chocolate ice cream.

873) That Aslan is on the move.

874) A surprise visit from a friendly neighborhood cat.

875) Hanging out with my sister when it’s just the two of us, even if it’s at Michael’s.

876) Lucy the Wonder Kitty half-asleep and purring in my lap.

877) Those times when God reminds me gently that He is all I really need.

878) Salted peanuts.

879) Being able to let go and move on.

880) Seeing pictures of my friends John and Michelle’s new baby and knowing she will be loved.

881) The way my old dog Murphy used to sigh with contentment at the end of a long day.

882) Being an Eagle Scout.

883) Adele’s voice.

884) Having a great weekend to look forward to.

885) Not giving a . . . well, crap about what other people think anymore.

886) The tender yet relentless pursuit of the Father for His children (including me).

887) My coffee table book of Ansel Adams photography that I picked up at an estate sale for $5.

888) Red Velvet anything.

889) God using people like the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul.

890) My big book of Vincent Van Gogh artwork.

891) Friends who refuse to give up on other friends.

892) That last bit of sleep just before I have to wake up in the morning.

893) My friend who recently moved to Orlando and who is one of the sweetest kindest people I’ve been blessed to know.

894) Visions of lambs lying down with lions and being unafraid.

895) Red kool-aid. As long as it’s not during VBS.

896) A really good foot massage.

897) Running water, indoor plumbing, and all those other things I take for granted that half the world would love to have.

898) My very swanky Mr. Rogers t-shirt.

899) When I stop trying to define who my neighbor is and start trying to be one.

900) Big Red gum.

901) That I’m down to less than 100 things I love left. Maybe

902) Finding the perfectly random pin on Pinterest.

903) Google Chrome (much more than Internet Explorer).

904) Purple stuff (way more than Tang).

905) 10,000 years to sing of 10,000 reasons to bless the Lord.

Things I Love 28: ‘Cause It’s The End of The World As We Know It . . . And I Feel Fine

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“When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us?” (Ann VoskampOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are)

I think part of joy is being okay with not knowing the answers or how any given story within the Greater Story will end. It’s having peace in the midst of so much that remains unresolved and unexplained. And if that doesn’t work, eat a cookie. That always makes me feel better. So here we are coming down to the last few blogs of the series, starting at #801.

801) That a colossal and epic fiasco such as King David could be called later “a man after God’s own heart,” proving that what matters isn’t so much how big your failure was, but how great God is to turn even that into something praiseworthy and good.

802) The avocado lime ranch dressing I had on my Cobb salad tonight at Chick-fil-A.

803) The fact that Aslan a.k.a. Jesus isn’t safe but He’s good.

804) The amazing illustrations by Alan Lee in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit commemorative editions.

805) When in the middle of an already fantastic Buddy Miller/Jim Lauderdale/Patty Griffin concert they brought out Robert Plant to do a few songs. Only in Nashville.

806) Walking in downtown Nashville at night in the rain.

807) How the love of Abba Father for His children will never come to an end.

808) Looking through old high school and college yearbooks.

809) The Neverending Story.

810) When my church celebrates those rare couples who have been married 50 years or longer (and how much collective wisdom is in one room at one time on those nights).

811) Thinking about a particular song and then hearing it on the radio.

812) Tuesday nights.

813) Nights that turn into mornings, friends that turn into family, dreams that turn into reality, and likes that turn into love (borrowed from a Facebook post).

814) The episode of Friends with the couch– “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!”

815) Reading through the Catholic Bible in 2013 (or as I like to call it, The Director’s Cut of the Bible).

816) That if I love God with everything and love my neighbor as I love myself I fulfill the Whole Law.

817) That Jesus already fulfilled the Whole Law in my place and traded His perfection for my poor efforts.

818) Heaven being described as that feeling you get on the first day of summer break from school and knowing that feeling will last forever.

819) The neverending possibility of God breaking through into my life at any moment.

820) Cheese crackers.

821) Having a car with 127,000 miles on it.

822) Being left-handed (at least when it comes to writing and eating).

823) The way Mike Glenn used the lyrics to a Jackson Browne song so effectively in his sermon last Sunday.

824) Marvin the Martian and his tennis shoes always wanting to blow up the Earth.

825) Not being married to any of the Kardashians.

826) The occasional scary movie.

827) Everything Elvis ever recorded at Sun Studio.

828) Johnny Cash’s autobiography (the one called Cash).

829) The way my cat looks at me sometimes as if to say, “Seriously, dude?”

830) The recent fact I learned that every face you dream about is of someone you’ve seen before, even if only for a fleeting moment.

831) Mustard-sized faith that moves mountains.

832) Just about all the movies Tom Hanks made in the 80’s.

833) Always having a second chance because of Jesus.

834) The movie Clueless.

835) “The Living Years” by Mike + The Mechanics.

A Kairos Challenge

Tonight, Mike Glenn spoke about the disciples on the road to Emmaus and how they failed to recognize Jesus because so often the last place we look for Jesus is right where we are. Jesus showed the highest compliment to his disciples when he called them friends and proved it when he laid down his life for these friends.

We are called to do the same. We are called to walk alongside people and be their friend, not for any gain or for any return, but simply for the sake of friendship. Even if the other person shows no inclination toward your viewpoint and wants nothing to do with your God, you are still called to be a friend.

The example Jesus showed us is that a friend is a friend, regardless. I can never give up on a friend because Jesus never gave up on me even though he had plenty of opportunities and reasons to do so.

We’re also called to be neighbors. Not in the sense of location, but in the sense of hospitality. The Good Samaritan parable shows us that the definition of a neighbor is someone who has a need that we have the power to meet, regardless of whether that person looks like us, acts like us, or believes us. Regardless of whether that person is likable or not.

I can’t remember where I heard it before and I’m sure I’ve shared it before, but I love the idea that Jesus is the ultimate neighbor. I was the one lying beaten and bloody on the side of the road, half dead. Jesus was the only one to stop and help me. He was the only one who paid for my care.

So, the challenge tonight is to be a friend and a neighbor. Not necessarily to shove my faith down anyone’s throat or prove the existence of God and the Bible. Just to love people where they are for who they are just like someone once loved me.

That’s all.

Bedtime thoughts

Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

That’s it. Love God and love others.

But for you to love God, you have to know the reality that God already loves you. For you to love others as yourself, you have to love yourself. Ultimately, you can’t do it. Well, I will only speak for myself here and say that I can’t love God or anybody else, even me, on my own strength. I need Jesus in me, pouring out His agape love, or else I am empty and cold and love-less.

Sometimes, God calls you to love yourself as you love your neighbor. Sometimes, it’s easier to love someone else than to love that person you hang around with every minute of every day. That person who looks back at you in the mirror with accusing eyes that speak of all the impure thoughts, mixed motives, and selfish ambition.

That’s when you and I have to believe what God says about who we are over what we see and think and feel. As a friend of mine told me once, “What you think and feel will lie to you.” But God never will.

God is true. God is love. And God loves you.

And you have all the power of Christ that overcame the grave in you. You have His perfect righteousness that covers your own wretched self-righteous rags of filth.

So be free to love. Love God, love others and love you.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.