Are you my neighbor?

Remember that old book from your childhood “Are You My Mother?” That poor little bird was asking everyone and everything he ran into if they were his mother. As all good children’s books end (except for Bambi which has left me scarred for life), he did finally find her.
Well I’ve been asking a similar question for a couple weeks now (not out loud of course, I don’t want to seem like I’ve completely lost my mind).
It all started a few weeks ago in our Sunday school class. We were talking about the Good Samaritan, loving our neighbor, who our neighbor is, and to what extent do you go to show that love.
Love thy neighbor…………….
So I ask. Are you my neighbor? I happen to know the names of the people that live in the first two houses to the north and south of me. They are my neighbors, right? I know two other families on my street but a few blocks down, they go to my church. They are my neighbors, right?
Most of us are Facebook official with 682 of our closest friends. Are they my neighbors? We follow 144 of them on Twitter; surely I would consider them my neighbor! I often see the same homeless guy at the river by my credit union. Is he my neighbor? The man in line behind me at the grocery store; is he my neighbor? The child from India whose face I saw on a sponsorship card, he surely isn’t my neighbor, right?
I think our modern technology is great, but I think it sometimes gives us a false sense of knowing and loving our “neighbor”, friends, and family. We’ll see a status and click “like” or if we’re really interested we might give a four word comment. Of course if it’s regarding a need or prayer request we do our spiritual duty by commenting with “praying”. Sometimes we’ll even throw in a few exclamation marks. But do we always actually take the time to literally pray when we say we do or even try to help by physically meeting their need.
But the fact that we saw the request, the status highlighting the moment of their day, or updated picture of their kids and pets makes us feel like we’ve taken part in their life that day. The real truth is that some people won’t ever write about their deepest need or spiritual hurt or heartbreak, etc. We don’t really know them at the level required to “love thy neighbor.” But we’ve spent at least 2 hours of our day in 10 minute increments with our faces glued to the computer or smartphone feeling good, like we’ve truly connected with others at some level. (Pat self on back here.)
Don’t get me wrong! It’s a great to be able to keep in touch in a way we never could have imagined before, with more people than we could have before; but it takes a certain level of connectivity to be able to truly love them.
In Luke 10 Jesus said to “Love your neighbor as yourself”; but a little further down in the text, when He’s telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, the individual that shows love to the man left to die in the street is clearly someone we wouldn’t normally think of as his neighbor.
This man had been beaten, stripped, robbed, abandoned, and left to die. A priest saw him, walked to the other side of the road and passed on by; then a Levite (a man from the tribe of Levi who would have typically been one to help the priests at the temple) walked on by. Two men that would have spent the majority of their days serving God harm this man by their pure neglect of him. But how could they be expected to help him, after all, was he their neighbor? He had been stripped so they couldn’t see his clothing to tell what social class he was in. What if someone came along as they were trying to help and assumed they had beaten this man? They couldn’t afford that hit to their reputation! Quite possibly he was beat beyond recognition to where they couldn’t even tell his nationality. He might have already been dead and it was a huge, time consuming ordeal in Jewish customs to purify themselves after they had touched a deceased person. Who has time for that?
Then here comes the Samaritan. Keep in mind that in this passage in Luke Jesus is answering questions from a Jewish lawyer. The Samaritans were not thought of too highly among the Jews. They would rather spit at each other than say hello. But Jesus chose to make the hero of the story someone that would have been looked down upon by the people listening.
The Samaritan picks up the broken man. Bandages his wounds. Takes him to a hotel. Stays and cares for him through the night. Pays the hotel manager two days worth of wages to cover costs involved. Leaves him under the care of the hotel and promises to return.
What an awesome picture of what Christ has done for us!! He picks us up in our broken state. He paid for our sins on the cross. He leaves us in the care of the Holy Spirit and the comfort of His Word. He promises to return for us! It gives me chills!
So who was the actual neighbor to this wounded man? The one who showed him love and compassion.
Now back to what’s been going on in my mind these past few weeks…….. Are you my neighbor? How can I possibly know who I’m supposed to be loving on and helping in this world of technology that can have me connected to thousands upon thousands of people and opportunities to help? I believe that’s where wisdom and the Holy Spirit come in. If you know of an opportunity to help and you have that tugging on your heart to do something then you should. But be very careful, the bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 you can quench the tugging of the Holy Spirit on your heart just like pouring water on a fire. If you don’t fuel the fire by listening and acting on His urging eventually He’ll stop tugging until your heart is open again.
God may place us in a situation to help a man on the side of the road or help support a missionary overseas or He may have us sit on the front porch with our next door neighbor and comfort her in the loss of her mother. Opportunities to love our neighbor come in endless possible scenarios. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the stories we hear of people in need in one way or another to the place where we throw up our hands and say we can’t do it all. But I think the important thing is that we do something! We need to leave our hearts open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and do what we can to show God’s love to others through our actions!

TINY SPECK OF IMPORTANCE

A few months ago our family went to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. They had an IMAX theater that was showing the movie about the Hubble Telescope. Seeing the enormity of space and our solar system was amazing. But it didn’t stop there. The pictures went on to reveal yet another galaxy and another. Even with the magnifying power of the Hubble Telescope we are not able to see what’s beyond it’s photographic reach. I sat there feeling like a speck of dust. So tiny and so inconsequential in my existence. It utterly astounded me and left me speechless.

I’m writing this from window seat 16F of Flight 955 from Detroit, MI to Charlotte, NC. I’ll have a layover in Charlotte then board yet another plane to Augusta, GA. It’s 6:15 am and the view out my window lets me know dawn is about to break through the darkness. I can see city lights below me. It’s a beautiful site of it’s own, although it doesn’t quite compare to the Hubble images. There is a river of fog below covering sections of my view. It’s an oddly eerie site. But also kinda cool to see a fog laden city from above. From my seat on this plane I am flying over millions of people on this short south bound trip. But even if they were on their rooftops waving flags I wouldn’t be able to see them. And that’s from a view of merely a few thousand feet above. Now imagine the image of earth from the Hubble Telescope. It’s hard to even see the definition between the water and the land. There is no way to focus in on one person at all.

So why am I telling you all this? The vastness of the never ending universe is utterly breathtaking and an amazing intricate creation. I, on the other hand, sat there feeling like my existence was more comparable to a grain of sand if that. But yet, with all the beautiful planets, stars and galaxies God put into existence for His pleasure He decided to also create me. As trivial as my existence may be in the working scheme of this universe God looks down and sees me! He loves me! The tiny speck that I am is His focus. But not just me; He loves you too! He created each of us, made us each unique and love us! With all that’s out in space I matter to Him! YOU matter to Him! We matter so much that He gave His son for us.

Let me tell ya, I have a son. He’s 17. And as much as I’ve joked about giving him away, I would never do it. I’m sorry, but I would never give his life for you. I know that may sound harsh but you wouldn’t give up your son either. But God did. Can you believe that? He gave His only Son’s life because He knew it was only by the shedding of His son’s blood that we could ever be made whole. What a gift! I know if I ever gave that gift I would be devastated if it wasn’t accepted. If it was pushed aside one day as a piece of history some would believe is only an inspiring story. Or worse, that it wasn’t even true. But it was. And still is today. And it’s yours for the taking. Simply believe God’s Son died for you so that you could have a personal relationship with Him and accept the gift. Realize your importance to Him. You, that tiny speck, barely affecting the existence of our universe, are His focus and He loves YOU!

It’s all in who you know!

That’s right.  It is isn’t it?  We’ve all witnessed it in one form or another.  You’ll be standing in line waiting for a table to clear at a restaurant, you’re next on the list, and you can almost taste the perfectly seasoned steak and loaded baked potato.  You watch the bus boy wipe the crumbs from the previous patrons and you take a step toward the hostess, positioning yourself for her to lead you to your seat.  The restaurant door opens behind you and a very well dressed man and woman push their way past you.  The hostess looks up and says how happy she is to see them and proceeds to escort them to YOUR table.

Aside from the restaurant incidents I’m sure you’ve all witnessed someone stating that they were able to get a job, car repairs, discounts, free movie tickets, etc; based on a friend or even a friend of a friend.  Yep, a lot rides on the circle of friends you keep and even the circle of friends they keep.

I’ve never been the kind of person that was awe-struck by celebrity or social status.  I certainly have respect for people’s intelligence and hard work, don’t get me wrong.  But too often we look at people and judge them based on finance or social status and not in who they are as a person or what they do to make a contribution to society.

Let me tell you who had me totally awe-struck this week.  My son, Austin.  Yep; 17, broke, certainly not an all A student, and someone that totally drives me crazy at times.  But not this week.  This week that kid had me awe-struck.

Austin works as a bagger at our local grocery store.  The baggers take turns going out into the parking lot and bringing the stray carts back into the store.  As he headed out to the parking lot he noticed a local homeless man sitting on the curb, eating the food he had just purchased; a two liter of cola and an individual apple pie.  There were five kids standing around the homeless man.  One of the boys said, “It looks like you need something to eat” and spit his gum out on the man.  The man just hung his head.

In walks the hero of the story.  My kid.  He walked up to the boys and told them to get out of there and that he’d call the cops if they didn’t leave the man alone and that he wasn’t messing around.  The boys laughed and said they didn’t think Austin would do anything at all.  So he did that male posturing thing you see guys do when they set their shoulders back and stand tall and then he made a few steps toward the boys.  They said they were just messing around and left.   He then walked over to the homeless man and asked him if he was ok. 

Then four ninja’s in dark clothing jumped out of the bushes so Austin whipped out his nun-chucks and……  sorry – that’s Austin adding to the story.  But back to the real story…..

As I said, the five boys left.  Austin told the homeless man that if they came back and started to bother him again that he was to go into the store and walk up to the service desk and ask for “Austin”.  Then they’d call the police if needed.  The man was very grateful for my kid’s kindness to him. 

See, that’s the kind of thing that impresses me.  Not a flashy car or a purse with the initials “LV”.  A beautiful house in an upscale neighborhood is great, and I’m happy for you if you’ve been able to acquire those things.  But what makes me look at you in admiration is who you are in your heart.  Your behavior, your treatment of others, and the things in life you pursue and hold in high esteem is what shows me who you really are. 

When we all stand before God one day He isn’t going to ask what we did for a living or what kind of car we had or what that figure was on our W2’s.  Nope, He’s going to ask what we did for Him.  Did we accept the gift of His Son’s life and did we spend time serving Him and telling others of His love for them?  Did we treat others as we’d want to be treated?  It’s not going to be about your physical presence and the physical things you acquired; it’s going to be about how rich you are in your faith and service to Him.  This will be the one time when the “WHO” you know means everything!

My son exemplified the meaning of the Golden Rule.  He stood up for someone who could not stand up for himself.  Someone who society would see as an outcast and someone to overlook entirely.  My son saw him as a man.  A person God created and loved.  A person with a story that you could assume was riddled with mistakes along his journey that led him to his seat on the curb; but a fellow human being none the less.    

What he did took less than five minutes, but he showed that man that he had value as an individual and that someone cared about the way he was treated.  To me, that’s what I find worthy of admiration.

Matthew 25: 34-40  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

  

Don’t forget your umbrella!

It was raining when I left for work Thursday.  Not just a drizzle, or the kind of light, steady rain you’re thankful for so that you don’t have to water your lawn.  No, this was a downpour.  As I headed in the mudroom to the hanging rack I noticed my umbrella was not in its normal spot.  Yep, it was in the car.  I was about to be exposed to the elements without its protection.  I took it the last time the weather man called for rain and that rain never came.  So the umbrella sat on the floor of my car dry as a desert.

Due to the fact that we don’t have a garage and I was going to have to hurry along the side walk and around the side of the house to my car, I wasn’t in a rush to leave so I paused at the backdoor.  As I stood there and looked at the rain I thought about how I’d love to have the covering of my pink striped umbrella on my way to my vehicle.  I thought of how uncomfortable I was going to be in the wet clothes for the first hour or so at work until they dried out.  I thought about my naturally curly hair that was going to get wet and frizz and twist in all the wrong directions now.  In that brief pause, it occurred to me how important it is to have the protection from the elements when you need them. 

Isn’t that how our lives are with Christ too?  In Ephesians 6 we are told about the armor of the Lord and how we are to put on each piece to protect us in our daily lives.  Starting our day with prayer and bible study is crucial to helping us get through the drudgery, stress, conflict, temptation and personalities we’ll encounter during our waking hours. 

I’m not a morning person, so adding one more thing that’s going to cut down the number of times I hit the snooze button isn’t something I find too appealing.  But looking at it in this light, I can see how using my first quiet moments of the morning to suit up in my armor could make the difference in how my day turns out.

God is already aware of my weaknesses and He’s already aware of what I’m about to encounter throughout my day.  A number of times I’ve read something in His Word in the evening or right before bed and I’ve thought, “Boy, I could’ve used that around two o’clock today.”  Hmmm? Maybe if I had read that in the morning, when two o’clock rolled around I would have been armed and ready to take my stand.  Standing firm; and conducting myself in a way that was pleasing to God and a witness for his Spirit in my life. 

I guess it’s time to change my routine.  The extra minutes I use in the word in the morning could make all the difference in how my day turns out.  How my responses are.  How my testimony stands. 

Here we go!  Setting the alarm to go off a little earlier tomorrow!