Who Do You Hang Around?

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. Psalm 1:1

I’ll admit it: it’s difficult not to take the advice and counsel from those who have lived in the world longer than I have. We all want to gain an advantage on the next guy or the next project or the next job in this life. It’s a highly competitive world in a very tight economy.

I think the true meaning of this first verse is deeper than that. There are certain people in this world who do not have your best interests at heart. They would seek to destroy you and tear you down any way they can. Sometimes they mean to; other times it’s just who they are. When it comes to your spiritual growth and satisfaction, we need to avoid them.

Who are these people? They are well-meaning friends who want to go out drinking and carousing with you. They could be parents of your children’s friends who constantly criticize and berate their mates. They could even be Bible-believing Christians who find fault in everybody and everything. Jesus himself walked among these types of people (and worse) but he didn’t hang around them regularly.

I guess the bottom line to this first verse is this: who are you getting your marching orders from?

The next few verses should shed some light on who we should be getting them from.

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Supreme Good Samaritan

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…So, too, a Levite…But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was. Luke 10:25-37

The parable of the Good Samaritan always give my chills. Why, you ask? I’m too much like the priest and Levite. Let me explain. Jesus told this story to reveal our own hypocrisies. We say we’re more like the Samaritan but for the most part are like the other two. Our stated enemies of the United States are Iran and North Korea. I cannot picture myself stooping down to help someone like President Ahmadinajad if he were hurting alongside the road. My first reaction would be to take him out! And then to pay for further care in case I don’t return? No way.

But isn’t that the point of this entire passage? Have we become so politically insensitive and myopic that we are not able to see truth when it hits us in the face? Someone like that doesn’t deserve our help. Exactly.

We, too, were sworn enemies of God. Then God reached down to us by sending Jesus. He could have ignored us or zapped us from Planet Earth. But he didn’t. In fact, he took it several steps further by taking care of us when we hurt.

He’s the Supreme Good Samaritan.

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Hostess to the Mostest

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat a the Lord’s feet listening to what he said….Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:38-42

Much has been said about this passage of Scripture. Martha was busy; Mary sat quietly at Jesus’ feet. What’s often missing is the reality that it was Martha who had invited Jesus into the house in the first place, and she gets a bad rap for being a busybody!

It has got to be intimidating inviting the Son of God into your home for tea. It’s no wonder that she went to and fro cleaning and serving and playing hostess. Wouldn’t you? No one has ever condemned her for being a poor hostess, only that she forgot to pay attention to the most important person in the world. Her sister was seated at His feet while Martha rushed around.

Still, I give Martha a lot of credit for inviting a perfect stranger into her home.

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Casting that First Stone

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” John 8:3-5

We know the story because the line that Jesus says “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast the stone is perhaps one of the most overused and misquoted lines in the world, Christian or secular. Before we get all self-righteous about the teachers of the law who brought the woman to Jesus (after all, we know how it ends; they didn’t), we need to ask ourselves if we do the same thing today.

How so, you ask? Perhaps not to the extreme as these individuals, but we tend to skew things our way. What about the half truths we tell? They told Jesus a half truth about this woman. What about our quickness to judge a person’s intelligence or skill based on a person’s skin color or how they dress? You say it doesn’t happen. Wrong, it does. And probably more than we like to admit.

Twenty years ago in Bible school I so judged an individual. He didn’t dress up to our dress code at school (business casual) because he wore tennis shoes. He looked Hispanic and I looked down on him every time I saw him. Months later I found out that my brother in Christ happened to be from South Africa, part-time pastored a church in a rough area of town while going to school full time, and since the U.S. laws prohibited him from working full time, he and his family did what they could to scrape by. And yes, that meant foregoing new dress shoes. (would it have been so terrible if he was Hispanic and a poor man just trying to get a Bible education? Not at all!)

You see, I cast that first few stones and they all came back to hit me right smack in the head.

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Your Story

Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him…the people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted. Acts 20:9-12

After Paul healed Eutychus, he had quite the story to tell! The details of the account are humorous to even the most interesting of preachers. Eutychus is happy. The town is happy. And Paul went on to preach until daylight.

But the interesting part of this story for me is that one young man named Eutychus has a grand story that will stay with him for the rest of his life. It’s his experience with the man Jesus. Certainly Paul was God’s instrument to heal but it’s Eutychus’ story. (Presumably Paul had many similar stories to tell throughout his ministry).

At the end of the day, we each have a story to tell. Some of the stories are vibrant and fascinating; others are not so grandiose but still valid. When you are discussing religion with others and seem like you’re against the wall, remember this: you have a story to tell. Tell it. It’s yours and no one else’s.

Like the man that Jesus healed, “Good man or bad, I don’t know. But one thing I know: Once I was blind, now I see.” John 9:25

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