Love God. Love Others.

good-samaritanBut he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my  neighbor?” (Lk 10:29)

Perhaps this expert in the mosaic Law was a bit flustered, or a bit embarrassed, or a bit prideful.  He just asked Jesus a question to which he answered himself: the way to inherit eternal life is by loving God with all that you are and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Perhaps he was flustered because Jesus didn’t provide any new law or nuance of the Law.  Maybe he wanted to “justify” his question.

Perhaps he was embarrassed because he took the time of this popular teacher in the presence of many people to ask a question to which he already knew the answer.  Maybe he wanted to “justify” his keen mind and “expertness.”

Perhaps he was trying to prove what his pride told him, that he already did love God and his neighbor as himself.  In a way, trying to argue his way into eternal life.  Maybe he wanted to “justify” his entrance into heaven.

And then Jesus does provide something new for this lawyer: an “interpretation” of the Law that had gotten lost in time and humanity’s drive for black and white rules.  Jesus clears away the distraction and comfort of rules and gets to the point.

This expert in the law had completely missed the Law.  He missed the intent.  The “spirit.”  He missed the heart of the Law.

To communicate this to His interrogator, Jesus tells a story about getting back to what is basic.  Back to what actually matters.  He tells the story of the Good Samaritan.

What doesn’t matter:  the nuisance and hassle of having to ceremonially wash oneself again after touching a beaten, dying, unclean traveller.  Walls we create between ourselves and others we dislike for whatever reason.  The various self-inflicted, informal rules.

What does matter: loving your neighbor.  

Even if, especially if, that neighbor is your enemy.  To the Jewish lawyer, a Samaritan, a “half-breed” who twists and edits parts of holy Scripture to validate their corrupted religion.  In the story, this very same Samaritan “got it,” while the pious Jews didn’t.

Jesus tells the lawyer to be a Samaritan.

That’s the Law.  The Law in action.  And it has everything to do with your heart, and nothing to do with jumping through hoops. 

For me, it means loving a particular employee of mine that I can’t stand.  Even if that means taking shots without returning fire, forcing my pride to break under love, and continuously extending grace even if none is returned.

All because I’m called to foster a heart to love God and my neighbor.  To touch, support, and heal the “unclean.”  To live a life that actually “gets it.”  And to let all the chips fall where they may.  

Because unlike our hearts,  the chips don’t matter.


gardenIt’s curious that God chooses to use ordinary us in the greatest mission, where the stakes are life or death: the expansion of God’s Kingdom, of Truth.  It’s not so curious that we take the credit for ourselves.

God has placed within the hearts of many at The Gathering a dream of building a community garden as a way to practically love others more and as a conrete project for us to intentionally sacrifice our time and energy.  Such a project has many hurdles to cross, not the least of which is to convey to our “mother church” our dream and to get permission to use some of their land.  A lot of their land.

How would they react?  What compromises might need to be struck?  Or is even thinking of the possibility of compromises at all too optimistic?

But God was way ahead of us.  He was already shaping the most important element in all of these conversations: the hearts involved.

After a meeting yesterday, God officially blew wide open the door for the garden.  God has given our mother church extremely generous and kindred hearts toward this dream, granting us not only the space, but even the location we had been most excited about.  Even the permission to convert an Eagle Scout built sand volleyball court into part of the garden.  A couple small hurdles remain, but if God is in this, they are nothing at all.

And guess what?  While driving away from that meeting, I began to do the unthinkable, the preposterous.

Even though this process had begun long before, even though this is only the most recent of many conversations others have had with our mother church, even though they have had a history of being generous toward us and of working with us, even though God is thoroughly involved and this is one work of His greater Kingdom, I began to take the credit for myself.

“I’m pretty good at this.  That was great leadership…wow, I’m talented and  important.  Good thing they’ve got me.”

It is really embarassing even to put words to those initial feelings.

It was just Sunday that we studied a similar (although different in degree) story of the disciples coming back to Jesus after having been on a mission to rally the troops in foreign cities and to heal sicknesses (Lk. 10:17-24).

Jesus, listening to their (and my!!)  lively recounting says, “Yes, the Enemy is losing.  You have tremendous power and authority.” 

“I gave it to You.”

But He’s not done.  “Just be glad that you are a Kingdom citizen…and that you have a much better idea of what that means than all who walked the earth before Me.  And you have the extraordinary priviledge of experiencing the Kingdom’s advance first-hand.” 

“And it is all because of Me.”

Just think…we have a better understanding of the Kingdom of God than Elijah ever did.  Jesus has taught us how, when compared to our own inclinations, “upside-down” it is. 

We get to see and hear what David longed for, but never really understood or experienced.  The Messiah has come, has initiated the in-breaking of the Kingdom, and is continuing that work today.

And it has nothing to do with how wonderful we are or what we’ve done.  It’s all because Jesus lived on earth and chose us to be His own.

Ouch.  Ouch.  Ouch.

My swelling pride stung.  Just one day after I (even I!) taught that passage, my intial reaction became an example of what is false.  The truth is that the crucial player wasn’t me.  It was never me. 

Yet somehow for some wonderful glorious reason (Jesus attributes it to “God’s good pleasure”), I get the priviledge of being a part of the expansion of God’s Kingdom.  Of experiencing and participating in it. 

Of working on the development of a garden. 

Ordinary me, chosen and used by God, for extraordinary work.

Where have you seen or heard of the Kingdom’s expansion??  Just reply to this posting…how else is God moving?

glassesLast week NPR ran a story about journalists who cover war.  These people position themselves in the midst of the fighting, documenting the struggles of life and death through words and pictures.  And then they come back to the States. 

It is here that they struggle.  It is here that they find most conversations almost impossible to bear.  They are surrounded by talk concerned with the struggle to decide whether to eat a hamburger or spaghetti for supper.  Or the frustration of rush-hour traffic.  Or the life-ending decision to dr0p a cable subscription.

It is all about perspective.  For the journalists, real battles are life or death struggles. 

For Christians, our battles are life or death struggles as well…a truth I often forget and instead live according to my own conveniences.

In the first section of Luke 10, Jesus sends out 72 messengers on a life or death mission.  The stakes don’t get any higher.  To be a part of the Kingdom’s community meant to live.  Really live, eternally and also now on this earth.  To reject the community, message, and Message-Giver was to choose death.  Plain and simple.

Life or death.

Believers are assured of their eternal life.  Yet everyday we face life or death decisions too.  Life in the sense of deeper, genuine, God giving life.  Death in the sense of mere existence.

Every time I choose to sacrifice more of myself, to take a step further down the road of discipleship and nearer to God, to pursue all of those things we’ve talked about over and over again on this blog and in this community, I move a bit deeper into real life.  It is certainly hard.  But that’s our battle…and we have an incredible enabling ally in the Holy Spirit.

Every time I choose myself or substitute anything in place of God, I move further into mere existence.  Of triviality.  Hamburger or spaghetti.

Here’s our perspective: our community (the world-wide Church) and our work (to further love God and others) matter.  They matter supremely.  They are issues of life or death.

Life or death.

We are about supremely important matters.  Things that are worthy.  Valuable.  Lasting.  More than anything else.

Often I need to remind myself of this perspective.  Of the truth.  Of the gravity of the choices I make daily.

Let this help to motivate you as you make further decisions to intentional dive deeper into fully pursuing God.  As the battles rage, as the hurt of self-sacrifice increases, as your ego struggles for control.

Remember why we are doing this.  Even when it is hard.  Especially when it is hard.

It is life or death.


self-denial1The last couple of weeks, we’ve talked about denying ourselves (Luke 9).  Here, a lot of rubber meets a lot of road.  Self-denial is meaty stuff.  It is hard.  It is essential.

This past Sunday, we focused on the purpose of self-denial–to further love God and to love others.

Yet how easily we substitute these loves for the love of self!

If denying ourselves is ever easy, often it is because we are denying ourselves for ourself, strangely enough.  The purpose has become subtly twisted from losing our life for Christ’s sake, to losing our life for our sake.

Two personal examples:

A) If I ever put in the time, effort, “sacrifice,” to put together a Sunday teaching in order to impress others’ with style or content, then I’ve missed the point.  I’ve twisted the purpose into serving my pride rather than God or others.

B) If I ever sacrifice time to pray or read/meditate on the Bible in order to check it off my to-do list, then I’ve twisted the purpose into a duty to finish rather than a relationship to nurture.

The act of self-denial is meaningless without the right purpose. 

What is hard about purposed self-denial?  How can we better lose our lives for the sake of God?

This is our discussion board for what we as a community look like.  We’ve talked in Leadership the last few weeks that we are called, primarily, to Love God and to Love Others.  What does this mean for us today, though?  Do we love others by continuing to partner with Cimarron?  By meeting with discussion, as we are doing now, or meeting in a more traditional worship setting with New Hope?  How do we relate to all of creation?  What else are we passionate about that we could be doing?  What sort of giftings do we have? 

Please comment on anything and everything!

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