Saturday, January 31, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 22: Goals, objectives, and actions

"On one occasion, an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. 'Teacher,' he asked, 'what must  I do to inherit eternal life?' 'What is written in the Law?' he replied. 'How do you read it?' He answered, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.' 'You have answered correctly,' Jesus replied. 'Do this and you will live.' Luke 10: 25-28 NIV

The leadership courses I have taken in the past stressed the importance of setting goals, defining objectives on the way to our goals, and choosing actions to take in order to accomplish those goals. This passage lends itself to that kind of decision-making, so we are going to look at this as a summary post that pulls it all together.

Inherit eternal life
By relinquishing our entire heart to our Lord, loving Him above all else, we can become a wellspring of God's love, flowing to everyone around us.

(The lawyer was just asking about eternal life, but, since Jesus came to give us abundant life on earth and in heaven, I've tweaked the goal a bit.)

1. Love the Lord our God 
Lord (kyrios) indicates the owner of a thing or person, the one with the authority to make all decisions concerning the one owned. To love the Lord as we ought, we must relinquish our right to choose what we do and how we live our life to Him. He has to be our Lord.

2. Love the Lord our God with all our heart
We must have an undivided heart that loves God above all else, all others, and loves sincerely and without pretense. There's nothing fake about this.

3. Love the Lord our God with all our soul
The soul is the seat of the feelings, desires, and affections. We cannot be ruled by feelings. We must relinquish our desires for the things of this world and choose the things of God instead, allowing God to replace our desires with His.

4. Love the Lord our God with all our strength
Loving God with all our strength means to love Him to the best of our ability. When we've done our best, we done all that was required.

5. Love the Lord our God with all our mind
Loving God with our mind (dianoia) literally means a "thinking through" with the expectation of results. We are to ponder Scripture with the expectation that change will be accomplished and that we are the ones that will be changed. 

6. Love our neighbor as we love ourselves
Jesus was a friend to sinners, and we must be, too. This does not mean viewing others as a ministry opportunity. That may happen along the way, but being a friend to sinners is exactly that. Being a friend.

In Matthew 25:45, Jesus made it clear that, when we refuse to love the unlovely and inconvenient, we have refused to love Him. With that in mind, spend some time today thinking about the kinds of actions you can take to accomplish the above objectives. Keep the goal of becoming a wellspring of God's love at the front of your mind. Loving God and our neighbors with every fiber of our being is not always easy and it is not always comfortable, but it is always worth it. 

I'm eager to hear from you, so write a comment and make a suggestion about actions that will help us accomplish our objectives and, thus, our overriding goal. We can be that wellspring of love that spills over onto all around us, if we will, so let's get started today!

Friday, January 30, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 13: From Jerusalem to Jericho

Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. (Luke 10:30 NASB)

... So the people crossed opposite Jericho. (Joshua 3:16 NASB)
We are studying the passage from Luke in which Jesus paints a word picture of loving your neighbor as yourself. I have a little treat for you at the end, so be sure to read all the way through. (You can read about loving your neighbor as yourself and being a friend to sinners with these links in a separate tab and still keep this one open.) Today, we turn to the journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. 

Jericho is an interesting city and merits a closer look. Most people will remember the "battle" at Jericho in which the people walked around the city, day after day, as God prescribed, until the walls came down. The victory was, quite literally, won by their walk of obedience. What we often forget is that Jericho was the place where the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. You may remember that they stood, after forty years of wandering, at the edge of the Jordan River. The water was rushing past and the walled city of Jericho was nearby on the other side. (BTW, this is the place where I was baptized and may have been the place where Jesus was baptized by John. Imagine that! Baptized in the place where Joshua and the children of Israel entered the promised land, where John the Baptizer ministered, and where our Lord Jesus was baptized as well. How incredible is that?) 

Jericho was a relatively large city, likely an affluent city (because of the walls), and well-populated. It was also filled with fear. They were terrified because of the vast numbers of the children of Israel who had just crossed the Jordan, and well they might have been, for their destruction was near. It would not, however, be the multitude of wanderers that would destroy them, but their God. 

Jericho is a beautiful city. It was known for its "aromatics" and had a wonderful fragrance. It is surrounded by desert, but because of the Jordan and the spring known as Elijah's Spring, it serves as a kind of oasis in the desert. Getting to Jericho was, however, difficult. The distance from Jerusalem to Jericho is roughly 18 miles. The journey is difficult, in part, because of the change in altitude between the two cities of more than 3000 feet, making at least a portion of the journey extremely steep. Because of the altitude difference, there is an accompanying change in the environment, becoming increasingly dry and arid as you approach Jericho. There are several excellent hiding places along the way and it was a popular place for robbers to hide. In fact, the robbers had been so successful in their crimes that it had become known as the "way of blood" because of the amount of blood shed in that place.

Some commentators suggest that, in this story, Jerusalem is symbolic of God's government and that Jericho symbolizes man's government. Others suggest that Jerusalem symbolizes paradise and Jericho, the world. Certainly, either of those are possible, but Jesus may have simply chosen this literal road for His parable because it was well known to His listeners and familiar as a dangerous path, albeit one that many of them would travel. The man traveling along the road may have simply been going about his business, living life as usual, when he was brutally attacked and left for dead. Those who passed him may have also been simply going about the business of life, hurrying through a dangerous and difficult path to get to an easier part of the journey as quickly as possible. That's the interpretation I favor.

You see, loving our neighbors isn't a scheduled event. We don't set an alert on our smart phone for "love your neighbor time". Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as we go about our day. While we are walking from one destination to the next (or driving, as the case may be), going about the business of life, we are to love our neighbor. The critical factor here is our ability to see our neighbor. Unless we are paying attention, looking around us, with the eyes and heart of Christ, we are not likely to see the need of our neighbor in distress. If we fail to recognize the need, we will never meet it. If we fail to see our neighbor, we will never love Him. 

There's another little problem that we often have, and you likely know it as well as I.  Busyness. When we allow our lives to be overtaken by "busy", we remove the margin that allows the adventure of God. We eliminate the opportunity to love our neighbor when we become too busy to "take the time" for the loving acts God places in our path.

God has not called us to be busy, but to be faithful. Let's begin today to ask God to develop in us the eyes of Christ, eyes that see the need around us, as well as the heart of Christ that responds to that need with ready assistance, willing to go to the distance until all that is needed is done. 
Here's your treat! The day before his death, Martin Luther King spoke to striking sanitation workers about this very passage. It is insightful, wonderfully written, and well worth the read. You can click on the link below to read it. You don't want to miss it!

How to Inherit Eternal Life, part 20: How we love ourselves

Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands? " And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same." (Luke 10:36-37 NASB)

"Go and do the same," Jesus told the lawyer. The original question was, "What do I do to inherit eternal life." Jesus asked him, "What does the law say?" and the man replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself." Jesus affirmed his answer. "Do this and you will live." Not content, the lawyer said, "But who is my neighbor?" In response, Jesus told the story of the kind Samaritan. "Which of the three people was a neighbor to the man?" Of course, the only answer the lawyer could give was that the one who showed kindness to the wounded man was the one who loved his neighbor. "You go and do the same," Jesus told him.

It's His command for us, too. "God and do the same." We are not only to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, but we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. This loving our neighbor goes hand in hand with loving our God. In fact, they are inseparable. In a way, loving our neighbor is an outward demonstration of our inward love for our God. 

If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, in the way of the Samaritan, what does that mean for our lives? Perhaps we would do well to see the ways in which we love ourselves. We provide food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, travel, and luxuries, both in our homes and personally, for ourselves. We (myself included) have housing that is not just sufficient but is extravagant. The average new home size in China is 646 sq ft, Hong Kong 484 sq ft, United Kingdom 818 sq ft, Sweden 893 sq ft, France 1206 sq ft, and that square footage is sufficient for a family, not just a single person. The average new home size in the United States is 2,164 sq ft. (You can read more about this here.

In addition to housing, we provide food for ourselves. I really prefer home grown, organic food with a nice variety. The average daily calorie consumption in the US is 3,770 calories per day, in Nigeria 2710 per day, in the Congo 1590. (Read more here and here

There is also the issue of clothing. I have a friend who drastically limits the number of clothes in her closet. She buys a few new things every season and gives away something from her closet every time she buys something new. I, on the other hand, have what is probably an outrageous number of clothes in my closets. That there are children around the world who are cold in the winter is unconscionable.

There are two articles on poverty that you would do well to read. The first gives data on poverty in the US, the second gives data on poverty worldwide. I think they will be eyeopening for you. 

We live in a tremendously affluent nation. Even the poorest among us still have wealth in comparison with much of the world today. If we loved our neighbor as we love ourselves, with the same measure, with the same generosity that we loved ourselves, this would not be. 

Only God can tell you what your response to loving your neighbor should be, but perhaps we would do well to love ourselves a little less well and love our neighbors a little more. The problem, it appears, is that, though we may love our neighbors a bit, we do not love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. 

I read the words of Christ and cringe. He did not tell us to love our neighbor a little bit, to love them when we feel like it, or to love ourselves much more than we love our neighbors. He said to love our neighbors as (in the same way) that we love ourselves. How much, in what ways, do we demonstrate our love for ourselves? How much, in what ways, do we demonstrate our love for our neighbors in need? 

If the way we love our neighbor is a reflection of how we love our God, what does the way that we love our neighbors say about how much we love the Lord our God?

And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.  Go and do the same." (Luke 10:27,37 NASB)

How to inherit eternal life, part 21:

And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.  Go and do the same." (Luke 10:27,37 NASB)

We come now to loving our neighbor. Of course, we are not just to love our neighbor, but to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. In the previous post, we looked at the ways we love ourselves and I, for one, found it painful. 

We move now to loving our neighbor, whether that neighbor lives next door, on the other side of the tracks, or on the other side of the world. If we love ourselves by providing food, shelter, clothing, and education for ourselves and our children, should we not also love our neighbors by trying to provide the same? There are children living on the streets in our cities, and in garbage dumps in other countries, scrounging for what refuse they can eat. My friends, this should not be. There are entire families who lost everything as they fled from certain death at the hands of ISIS to Erbil, where they are now homeless, without basic shelter, food, or clothing. How can we do nothing? 

Bringing it closer to home, what about the neighbor who offends us in some way with their lifestyle, their priorities? How do we love them? Do we take the love of Christ to them? Make an effort to get to know them? Dear ones, we will never love our neighbor if we do not make an effort to know our neighbor. 

Some of my favorite people are neighbors I did not love until I chose to know them. You might be surprised by the friends you find among those neighbors you don't yet know, so invite your neighbor (not just the one next door) over for coffee. Offer to help them with a project. Go out of your way to be kind to the people God puts in your path, then get to know them. 

Since we've been studying this whole issue of loving our neighbor, I've been praying that I would actually see my neighbor in the same way the Samaritan did, and not hold back because of fear. It's been an interesting journey. Having been through some considerable difficulty in the distant past with some of the people God has placed in my path, it's my way to hold back rather than step out. In general, it's the fear of my neighbor that stops me cold, long before I get to knowing and loving my neighbor. 

Just a few days ago, I had stopped to run an errand when I noticed a scruffy-looking man who had the hood up on a car and was examining the motor. That still small voice whispered, "There's your neighbor," and I thought, "Lord, I don't know about this, but okay." I glanced around and there was not another soul in sight, but I walked over to the man and said, (for lack of anything better to say) "Do you need to be jumped off?" He looked up and smiled the sweetest smile. "Oh, no, thanks," he said. "My daughter called me and said her car was making a noise so I came right out to check on it." Just then, his very beautiful daughter walked up. "Hey, Daddy. Thanks for coming!" she told him. I watched as he gave her a big hug. 

He was scruffy because he had jumped in his truck and hurried to help his daughter without a thought to the clothes he was wearing. How foolish I was to judge this kind daddy because of his clothes, and how foolish I was to consider letting fear keep me from such a sweet moment. In fact, that sweet daddy was a lot like our Heavenly Father. When His children call on Him, He is always ready to respond with the help we desperately need. 

Perhaps fear is not the issue that keeps you from knowing and loving your neighbor. Whatever it is that holds you back, however, you can give it to our Lord and allow Him to work through you to see your neighbor as the Samaritan did, with compassion that leads to action. Dear ones, let's pray for the eyes of the Samaritan, the eyes of Christ, to see those around us as the neighbors God has given us and respond as the hands and feet of Jesus. 

Be a friend. Make a friend. Lead your friend to Christ. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 19: the Samaritan

And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands? " And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same." (Luke 10:31-37 NASB)

The priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan all saw the wounded man but only the Samaritan saw with his heart. He was moved by compassion for the man's needs and did all he could do for him. The actions of the Samaritan are remarkable on many levels, but especially because he was on a journey, headed to a destination where he would stay, likely for several days. "When I return", he told the innkeeper, he would settle accounts for all that had been needed in the care of the man. With that, the Samaritan committed himself to an ongoing involvement in the life of the wounded man that would continue until the man was able to care for himself. 

The Samaritan did not stop at merely bandaging the hurt places. He committed himself to the man's recovery and provided what was needed for that to happen. Truthfully, I prefer the one-time handout. I'm happy to send blankets to homeless people, but I'm not so quick to involve myself in the lives of those same homeless people, helping them until they are back on their feet. It's the same with those who have a myriad of overwhelming needs. Just like them, I am easily overwhelmed by their need. Not seeing how to deal with all the problems, it's easier to deal with none of them. 

What I've come to realize is the very thing the Samaritan understood all along. He was not responsible for helping every person with trouble along his journey, but he was responsible for one. When he saw with his eyes and his heart, he responded by doing what he could, and it was enough. In that same way, we will never be able to respond to every need our eyes see, but, when God moves our heart with compassion, we can respond to the need of one. 

I think the kind Samaritan was accustomed to helping people along the journey. He had a relationship of trust with the innkeeper that made the man's care possible, so perhaps he had done the same thing for other wounded people along his way. He was the kind of neighbor God has called us to be, responding, one at a time, with all the compassion and care and commitment we can until the injured one has recovered enough to care for themselves.

May we look at the great need around us and allow God to move our hearts with compassion and our hands with action, commitment, and care. Let's not hold back from the one who needs us the most, but love and give as the kind Samaritan, staying involved until the need is completely met. After all, that is exactly what Christ has done for us. 

Go and do the same. 

If you have not yet ordered your copy of The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, you can get yours here, or go to  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 18: The obedient one

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' (Luke 10:33-35 NASB)

In order to understand the reference to the Samaritan, and to fully understand the richness of this parable, the last two posts have looked at how the problem between the Jews and the Samaritans developed. You can read those two posts here #1 and here #2

The parable of the Good Samaritan is incredibly rich on multiple levels, and it also gives us a glimpse into the humor of God. He loves using the unlikely to do the unexpected, especially when He can plant an ironic and deeply profound lesson in the midst of things. 

Remember that the trouble with the Jews and the Samaritans began with what was essentially a civil war in Israel. Because of Solomon's idolatry, God tore the kingdom from his descendants and promised it to Jeroboam if he would only wait, listen, and obey. Eventually, Solomon died, and his son Rehoboam inherited the kingdom. Rehoboam made it clear that he would be a tough taskmaster, taking more from the people than his father, Solomon. The people of Israel would have none of Rehoboam, and they made Jeroboam king. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin stayed with the Davidic line and Rehoboam. For the most part, the kings of both kingdoms (especially the Northern Kingdom) were ungodly and led people into idolatry and heinous sin, however, we must not forget that God initiated the severing of the kingdom. 

The tribes of Judah and Benjamin, ruled by Rehoboam, became known as the Southern Kingdom and the people were called Jews. The other ten tribes, ruled by Jeroboam, became known as the Northern Kingdom, (with their capital in Samaria) and the people were called Samaritans. Both kingdoms were filled with people who were typical people. Just like us, they were arrogant and thought they knew it all. Just like us, they thought they were God's favorites. (We tend to forget that God loves everyone!) 

Of course, the Jews still had access to the temple and Jerusalem and they felt that they were the keepers of the law. Oddly enough, the word translated as "Samaritan" is Samareia and literally means "guardianship" or "guardian". There became a sense that they were the guardians of the law (Remember, it was God who tore the Kingdom apart, so they thought they had a special dispensation, despite the fact of the incredible idolatry of the nation.) There are still several hundred Samaritans today. They have their own Torah and they believe that they are the guardians of the law. Needless to say, the Jews did not believe the Samaritans were guardians of the law or that they had anything "right" at all. Over time, the Jews had come to hate the Samaritans. 

With all that as background, look at this parable again. Jesus was talking to a group of Jewish people. The question that prompted the parable was, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus told the story of a man, likely a Jewish man, who was traveling on a dangerous road and was accosted by robbers. They beat him, robbed him, and left him for dead. A Jewish priest and a Jewish Levite walked past, saw the man, and kept going. They did not stop and they did not help the man in any way. The Samaritan (guardian) came down the road, saw the injured man who was, in a sense, his enemy, and at great expense and considerable inconvenience, helped the man. 

Jesus asked the lawyer to whom he was speaking, "Which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the injured man?" Because the discussion had revolved around the law, Jesus was essentially asking, "Which one of these three kept the law?' We cannot even imagine what it must have felt like for the lawyer, the expert in the law, (as well as the crowd) to admit that the Jewish people, who considered themselves keepers of the law, had totally failed at loving their neighbor, while the Samaritan man, who turned out to actually fulfill the law concerning his neighbor, had done the good they failed to perform. The Samaritans were not their worst enemy, but they were despised and rejected, and it must have stung. 

What Jesus showed the lawyer, the crowd, and those of us reading today was that they, who considered themselves as God's favorites, were not as godly as they presumed. The priest and the Levite were only thinking of themselves. The Samaritan thought first of the man on the road and it caused him to intervene. Our actions often demonstrate what is in our heart, and the Samaritan's actions demonstrated the compassion in his heart. 

When I look at this parable, I cannot help but think about all the times I've been a priest or a Levite instead of a Good Samaritan. The problem is not just that my actions have been more like the priest and Levite, but that my attitude has also been one with theirs. "It's only natural", we say, and that is right. The natural man cares first for himself, does first what he wants. It is the transformed-by-the-blood of the Lamb, obedient, godly man who cares for the things of God, the people of God first, and who first does what God wants rather than satisfying his own desires. 

Dear ones, we are not called to be "natural", we are called to be men and women of God, obedient and self-sacrificing, loving our neighbor as we do ourselves. Our actions will never be what God intended until our attitudes are right, and that requires a heart change, a relinquishing of our pride and our judgmental spirit. Let us, then, make it our goal to have the heart of God toward our neighbors, the heart of the Samaritan to those in need - despised, rejected, yet giving of ourselves to those who cannot help themselves. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 17: More on the Samaritans

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' (Luke 10:33-35 NASB)

Understanding how a problem developed helps us understand the reference to it, so, in the previous post, we began a look at how the problem with the Samaritans developed. You can click on this link

Because of Solomon's unrepentant rebellion and idol worship, God "tore" the kingdom from him, promising ten tribes to Jeroboam. All he had to do was wait, listen, and obey. He was excited about this, as we probably would have been, and he obviously told some people about the prophecy and began to make a conspiracy to make himself  the king, because word got back to Solomon, who tried to kill him. He fled to Egypt to avoid assassination, and stayed there until Solomon died and Rehoboam became king in his father's place. 

When Jeroboam heard the news, he hurried back from Egypt, leading all the people to beg Rehoboam to ease the severe treatment of the citizens by his father. Rehoboam laughed. "Ha. You think my daddy was bad. I'm going to be tougher than my daddy ever was!" Those words were all the people needed to justify rebellion, and the ten tribes rejected Rehoboam as king, split the nation, and made Jeroboam king over those who rebelled. The new nation was called the Northern Kingdom and Judah became known as the Southern Kingdom. Jeroboam established his capital in Shechem in the region of Samaria, but the capital was later moved to the city of Samaria. 

As you might expect, there was a great rivalry because those who were in the Southern Kingdom felt that they had an edge on the basis of the lineage of King David. Those in the Northern Kingdom felt that they had an edge because God had torn the kingdom from Solomon and his descendants. All Jeroboam had to do to gain a lasting kingdom was to wait, listen, and obey, but he quickly proved that he would not do what God had said. 

Jeroboam was afraid of losing his newly-gained kingdom because of the need to go to the temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. He feared that, in going to Jerusalem to the temple, the people's hearts would soften and they would return to the house of David. Rather than ask God what to do, he made a solution of his own. In an unbelievable turn of events, Jeroboam instituted the very behavior that had caused Solomon to lose the kingdom. Jeroboam set up two golden calves and announced that these golden calves were the gods that had brought the people out of Egypt. To make matters even worse, the people followed his leadership and began to worship those despicable golden calves. Things quickly went from bad to worse, and soon they were a nation filled with idolatry. Two centuries later, they were carried into captivity by the Assyrians, which was essentially the end of the Northern Kingdom. 

Jerusalem and the temple were located within the Southern Kingdom. Despite the sin of the Southern Kingdom, they generally made at least a show of worship in the temple, in contrast to the open idolatry of the Northern Kingdom. Because the Southern Kingdom was basically just the tribe of Judah, these people began to be called Jews. The Northern Kingdom was situated in the area of Samaria and the capital of the Northern Kingdom was the city of Samaria. These people, from the ten tribes, began to be called the Samaritans.

We will look once more at the rivalry between the Jews and the Samaritans in the next post, but for today, let us ponder what happens when we act without consulting God. Rehoboam tried to prove himself by being tough and lost a kingdom. Jeroboam tried to save himself by making his own brand of religion, and ended up losing his kingdom, as well. Both lost the legacy God offered them because of their rebellion. How heartbreaking is that? 

Dear ones, God is serious about obedience and generously rewards us when we obey. He is also serious about disobedience. (For more on this see Deuteronomy 11:13-15, 26-28, 30:1-20.) His instructions in Deuteronomy 30, had they been heeded, could have saved the kingdom, and we would do well to take note of them today. God gives us a choice, with blessings on one side and discipline on the other. The choice is ours. Let us consider carefully the life we want, and choose well. Our life and the legacy we leave behind depends upon it.

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NASB)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 16: How the Samaritans came to be

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' (Luke 10:33-35 NASB)

Today, we are looking at the difficulty between the Jews and the Samaritans. It turns out that the problems between the Jews and the Samaritans were not at all what I had thought. 

The problem began during Solomon's reign. He had taken numerous foreign wives and they "turned his heart away" from the Lord. (1 Kings 11:1-13) When he began to build altars on the high places and worship idols, God appeared to Solomon again and basically told him, "I've already told you not to worship any God except Me, and I cannot let this go." God told Solomon that He would "tear the kingdom" from him. Because of his father, King David, who loved God with his whole heart, the discipline was softened. The kingdom would be split, but not until after his death. Because of David's love for God, two tribes would be left with Solomon's descendants. (The second tribe was insignificant and actually David's descendants would basically have only Judah.)

God moved quickly. The prophet Ahijah found Jeroboam (an industrious and upcoming soldier) on the road. Ahijah had a new cloak which he tore into twelve pieces. He told Jeroboam to take ten pieces for himself. God, he said, was giving ten tribes to Jeroboam and leaving the rest (Judah) with Solomon's descendants. Jeroboam would have to wait until after Solomon died, but if he did, and if he listened to God's commands and obeyed them, He would be with Jeroboam, give Israel to him, and establish an enduring house (lineage) as He had done for David. 

Wait. Listen. Obey.

All Jeroboam had to do was wait, listen, and obey, but Jeroboam was much like us. God had promised the throne to him, and he wanted it. Who wants to wait? We will see more of his waiting problem in the next post, but I suspect that Jeroboam began to talk (and likely brag) about what the prophet had said, because Solomon soon heard about it. King Solomon added more sin to what he had already piled up when he became enraged and tried to have Jeroboam killed. (It would have been a perfect opportunity to repent and seek God's face, but, instead, he chose more rebellion.) Jeroboam fled to Egypt and waited. 

One of the greatest sermons of the 20th century was preached by Dr. R.G. Lee and was entitled "Pay Day Someday". (My mother heard him preach this sermon, and never forgot it. She was still speaking of it, more than fifty years later, in the months before her death.) Dr. Lee was right. There will always be a pay day someday. No matter how rich or powerful we are, we will have to answer for our choices, our decisions, our sin. Even Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, had to answer for his idolatry and his disobedience, and the price was tremendous. His disobedience not only devastated the lives of his descendants, but also ripped a nation into shreds. 

It is easy to think that Solomon had "bigger" sins than we have, or "more" sins, or was disciplined because he was "more visible", but that is not born out by Scripture. Solomon refused to obey and God disciplined him. He was not the only one who was worshiping at the high places. He was not the only one who worshipped idols. He was not the only one disciplined. He is simply the one we read about. God always responds to sin. He always responds to rebellion. It is as simple as that, and should serve as a strong warning to us. 

We would do well to heed the instructions that the prophet gave to Jeroboam if we want to avoid the discipline of the Lord. Wait. Listen. Obey. What joy, what peace, what blessings we would find if we would only wait, listen, and obey. Dear ones, resolve to do that very thing. Be still and know that He is God, then live as if you believe it. 

The "Pay Day Someday" sermon is worth reading. Click here to read it.