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."
 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
The parable of the Good Samaritan was one of the Bible stories that I remember hearing while I was still quite young. I couldn't understand why the other people wouldn't stop to help him. In my young brain, it was quite clear: when someone fell down and got hurt, you helped them up and walked them home so their Mum could bandage them up and kiss them better. It wasn't until I got older that I began to really understand this verse. In the day to day business (and busyness) of living, it is so easy to excuse not doing the work that God calls us to do, and far too often I found myself not emulating the Good Samaritan, but falling into the habits of the priest and the Levite. Tonight, God gave me another revelation in this verse through my son and his friend. Earlier this evening after the men's Bible study, there was concern for another young man in the congregation who had struggles and challenges. When one of our newer Christian brothers asked for someone to check in on him on their way home, he was met with excuses. "It's too late, he might be asleep; I should get home, etc..." My son and his friend went to visit give what comfort and encouragement that a young Christian and a new Christian could. I will never again read this parable without realizing that a man does not need to be beaten and battered in a ditch to be hurting and passed by.
We talk about the radical love of Jesus, but what does that really mean? We read that Jesus dined with the prostitutes and the tax collectors, but if a prostitute showed up at your church, what would you really do? Would you invite them to supper? If they accepted Jesus and turned from their old life, do you help them transition to a new life in Christ? How do you put that love in action? It's so easy for new Christians to slide away when troubles come. If you come from a Christian family and were raised in a church, it's hard to know what it is like to suddenly lose almost all your old friends because you've become a Christian and won't party anymore. However, it is often very hard to make new friends in a church, if you've had an unsavory past. You don't get the unwritten rules, the Bible is confusing, and you have nothing in common with these new people with the exception of your new love for Christ. You have people expecting you to live up to rules you don't understand and are often not included in private gatherings.
I look back and think of how many times I have failed...failed to include new people in conversations...failed to invite them home for supper or gatherings...failed to discover common ground...failed in getting to know them week after week...failed to really pray for them without ceasing.
May I pray tonight: "Father God, so many have a burden for the lost, but let us also develop a burden for the newly found as well. Help us to love them in practical ways, to show them that we really care for them. Guide us in when we need to talk and give spiritual advice, and when we need to sit still and just listen and love them. Help us to thoroughly include them in our church family. Most of all, Lord make us a vessel of Your grace and mercy. Help us to remember that when we were lost, our sins were no better than theirs. Keep us from judgment and pride; from excuses and self-justifications. In your name I pray, Amen"
I have been pretty much flat on my back for a few days, with excruciating back pain. After a scare (not being able to lift my self up into a sitting position) and realizing that I would be home alone today, I decided to go up to the Emergency Room and have my back checked out. What I thought was just a pulled back muscle, turned out to be a herniated disc (aka: slipped disc). Needless to say, instead of a quick fix with muscle relaxants, I am looking at a longer recovery process, including some time on my back in bed for a few days. Instead of complaining and grumbling (which my old self wants to do), I want to adopt an attitude of thankfulness instead.
I'm thankful for:
~extra time to pray for those who have health problems~time to spend in scripture~spending time in meaningful conversation with my husband~a chance to note dust bunnies and spider webs on my ceiling~an opportunity to have Erik do some cooking~a caring Emergency Room doctor, who really did want to do what was best for me~a wonderful heating pad~my husband's boss, who didn't mind Bob coming in late to work (from taking me to the ER), and who let him work an extra 45 minutes to make up the time~internet and my laptop computer~good friends and family who are praying for me~wonderful neighbours to drive me to and from the hospital and pharmacy~strong medications to take the edge off the pain.