Who’s your Neighbor?

Do you consider yourself to be a friendly person?  Would the people who see you, whether at work, as you leave your house, or at the supermarket, speak of how you sought them out in friendship and treated them great?  Do you routinely smile and greet those you pass on the street or in the hall, or is your daily focus primarily on yourself?


Two Ignore, One Helps

Jesus was once asked by religious leaders who he considered to be his neighbor.  He responded with a familiar parable, the story of the Good Samaritan.  In this parable, we learn of a man who is beaten and robbed.  A few of his countrymen see his helpless condition, yet pass by on the other side of the road.  In contrast, a Samaritan, who is naturally an enemy to the Jewish victim, yet seeks him out, takes him to a doctor, and even covers the expenses for the man’s care.

We often hear this parable as a nice story, meant simply to induce us to be kind.  But remember back to what question Jesus was actually responding to when He told this story.  He was asked who his neighbor was.  Understanding this context gives a deeper meaning to the story than the simple truth that we are to be kind.

Look for Needs

The people of Jesus’ day, much like most people in our day, tended to happily exist in their own small sphere of influence, engaging with people who were like them and who they were familiar with.  Through this parable, Jesus shows clearly that we are to intentionally seek out others, others who may not be very much like us, in order to meet their needs.

The Greatest Need

What is the greatest need which many of our neighbors have?  For any who do not know Christ personally, who have not been washed and cleansed through faith in Christ, their greatest need is salvation of their soul.  Without atonement, mankind is separated from God’s good presence, and any who perish without Jesus will face eternity without Him.  The need for salvation is so widespread, little recognized, and of utmost importance that, if we are looking, we will see it everywhere.

This is the condition of many people we see and walk by each day.  The strangers who we’re ignoring are desperately in need of the truth, the truth that we know.  But someone needs to tell them.  Not only that, but most people aren’t particularly receptive to ideas unfamiliar to them being expressed by strangers.  So what can we do?  We share the gospel with them as a friend.

Be a Friend

Friendship doesn’t come instantaneously, but it can be cultivated in a relatively short period of time.  Start simply by adopting the habit of greeting and smiling at the people who cross your path each day.  You’ll quickly find that a great many people are eager to engage with you, particularly if you’ll ask them open-ended questions about themselves.

As you cultivate friendships with your neighbors, be listening for what they value.  Do they desire wisdom? Or perhaps peace and something solid to rely on?  Or maybe they’re contemplating what happens after death because of a recent loss in their family.  Remember that when you have Jesus, you have the truth and the life that our world desperately needs.  Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, share the truth, and let Jesus call out to the people in your life using you as His mouthpiece.  To God be the glory!

Our Latest Blessing

My wife Michelle and I were greatly blessed yesterday to welcome our third child into the world!  Hannah was born happy and healthy at 7:15 in the morning, and mom and baby are both doing great!


Our other two, Lydia and Nathan, were excited and intrigued to meet the newest member of our family! Michelle was such a trooper all through the labor and delivery, and all the nurses fawned over how tough she was and for her positive outlook and attitude. I’m married to a pretty amazing lady!


God’s hand is so apparent in the experience of seeing a baby being born. God has made our bodies with such complexity and ingenious design, and the mysterious process of birth is an incredible sight to behold!

Even with this being our third, I found the beauty and excitement woven into Hannah’s birth transformational. Even as I left the hospital and drove along our familiar street, I felt that I saw the world around me differently. A new child has entered my life, and depends on me for physical, emotional, and spiritual support.


Through parenthood, we get a small picture of the love God has for us. Like little children, mankind is dependent on God for life and existence. He gives to us great blessings, blessings we don’t deserve, out of his gracious love for us. Though Hannah may slip, make mistakes, fall, or rebel, my love for her will remain. So it is with our Father in heaven. Though we may break his Law, reject His ways, and refuse his Son as Savior, He remains patient with us, and gives us another breath and another chance to turn from sin and accept the Lord Jesus. Praise God for the love he bestows on us, and we thank Him for the precious gift He has given our family this week!



True Spirituality

What does it mean to be spiritual?  Does a person with a strong spiritual life simply keep all the rules?  And what’s the point of living in true spirituality anyway, when it seems like all you get for your sacrifices is some undefined goody-goody feeling?  Today we’ll explore these questions and more, and learn what the world’s greatest teacher had to say on the subject.


Actions Speaking Louder

Many of us have had less than positive experiences growing up around Christian people.  Even within the church, it’s all too common to see people talk about all kinds of good things, but then when we see how they live, the disparity is enormous.  What good is it to talk about the right things one ought to do, and then go out and live completely the opposite?  Seeing people living this way can make us jettison the whole idea of Christianity:  who wants to follow a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites?!!

Not Based in Duty or Behavior

Jesus’ picture of spirituality, as contrasted with the heresy described in the previous paragraph, has nothing to do with activity.  Rather, true spirituality is walking in a loving relationship with our Father God.  You see, while we were sinners, alienated from our Creator because of our sin, God sent his son Jesus to come, live a perfect life, and die the death we deserved.  When we respond to this truth and turn from our sin and to Christ as Lord, God grants us new life. Just as God saw our sin placed on Christ at the cross, He now sees Christ’s perfection in us.  No longer are we estranged from our Creator – we are His sons and daughters!

Living in Response to What He Has Done

True spirituality, then, is living in response to this truth, to this great gift of salvation we have received.  When we understand what Christ has done for us, we respond in the only way possible—by loving Him, loving what He loves, and desiring His will.  How do we know what He loved?  In the Scriptures we hear from God who He is, what He has done, and how He desires we live.  Christ taught us that the first commandment is to love God above all else.  The second commandment is to love our neighbors. On these two commandments hang all the teachings of the Law, and if you think about it, sole direction one needs to live as a blessing to those around him.  Though living this way is not easy, and even as followers of Christ we often fall short and sin, this is the way to true spirituality and eternal life:  accept the gift of salvation Christ offers, and devote your life to following Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  He is gentle and humble of heart, and will lead you, protect you, and invite you into His heavenly kingdom.

Does Money Drive Your Decisions?

Have you ever heard someone quote from the Bible that, “money is the root of all evil?” Does God really oppose riches and want His children to avoid nice homes, cars, and other physical possessions?  Is it wrong to seek financial freedom and success?

a formal affair

To start off, let’s check the accuracy of that biblical quote.

1 Timothy 6

7For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Money is Paper

Does this passage teach that money is bad?  Is money the root of all evil?  No. Rather, it is the love of money that is a root of all sorts of evil.  Loving anything more than we love God is idolatry, and to do so violates what Christ said was the greatest commandment:  to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  As the passage above teaches, many foolish men have wandered away from God in the pursuit of their greatest love:  money.

So, if loving money is a danger we must be careful to avoid, should we seek to keep our income low and not bother to learn sound financial principles and habits?  Some have misquoted and misunderstood Scripture in asserting such ideas, only to find that this foolishness has the opposite effect than what was intended.

Money on Your Mind

Which man spends more time thinking about money, the one who earns plenty and has a large savings account or the one who earns little and lives paycheck to paycheck?  All else equal, who places more value on a $100 bill, a man who’s in debt up to his ears or a man who has a $1 million net worth?  A rich man may be miserly or generous, and a poor man may love God or love money, but in general the following applies:  those with plenty of money make fewer decisions based on money than do those who have little.

How Then Shall We Live?

So, what does this mean for us—the majority between poverty and affluence?  How should we live in light of these truths?  I see two major lessons:  First, always check your heart that you’re loving God more than money (or anything else for that matter).  Whether you count yourself rich or not, your heart can be led astray after money, so guard yourself and always see money as a means to serving God, not the other way around.  Lesson number two is this: act wisely now in order that your decisions need not revolve around money later.  Dave Ramsey says in this way:  Live now like no one else so that later, you can live like no one else.

Don’t Be the Joneses

It’s a hard thing to do, saying no to fun trips, activities, and purchases just because “we don’t have the money.”  What makes it even harder is that it’s so easy to borrow money on a credit card or finance a big purchase, and this is exactly what our neighbors do.  But, if you will make the hard decisions and say no today, the money you save and invest will grow and compound, and one day you’ll reach the position of financial strength and freedom where money no longer drives your decisions.  We’ll look forward to seeing you there!

Is Success Once Success?

One day, a little boy decided he wanted to learn to ride a bike.  He found his dad and asked him all about how bicycles worked.  His dad told him all about the history of bicycles, the parts that make up a bicycle, and the technique required to ride one.

Victory!  Or Is It?

The boy and his dad began working diligently on learning to ride the bike.  As the boy practiced, he gradually improved, until one afternoon, his dad released his grip on the back of the seat and the boy rode under his own power for a full block.  Happy and proud, both man and son returned home and parked the bike in the garage.  The bike stayed in it’s spot in the garage all night.  The next day, the bike also stayed in its place.  So too the third day, fourth day, and fifth day.  In fact, the bike stayed put for weeks, followed by months, and then years.  The boy never again took the bike out for a ride, though he walked past it nearly every day.  Now the question: did this boy learn to ride a bike?


Technically, the boy learned all about the bike.  And once, he did manage to ride it a ways.  But did he benefit?  Did anyone benefit?

Assimilate It

You see, you and I are often like that foolish boy.  We undertake a worthy venture, like eating healthier, beginning a fitness regimen, or connecting with God in Scripture and prayer, but we fail to continue and create a permanent habit.  In so doing, we miss out on the benefit of the venture, just as the boy missed out on the joys and benefits of bicycling around his neighborhood.

Today’s the Day!

Can you think of something you know you should be doing, something perhaps that you’ve even successfully done on occasion, but that you’ve never gotten consistent with?  What benefits would you enjoy if you made this behavior a permanent habit in your life?  It could be that the only thing separating you from the greater level of success or achievement that you desire is the simple consistent application of something you already know how to do!  Will you take the steps today to make a new habit for your own success?  Make a commitment, let someone know about it, and enjoy your journey to the top!

Trusting Though Surrounded

Do you expect that following God’s way will make life easier?  If you study the Scripture and seek to keep all its precepts, will your circumstances be easy and smooth?  While our loving Heavenly Father promises many good things to us, His children, a life of comfort and ease isn’t one of them!


Psalm 3 (New Living Translation)

1O LORD, I have so many enemies;

so many are against me.

2So many are saying,

“God will never rescue him!”

3But you, O LORD, are a shield around me;

you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.

4I cried out to the LORD,

and he answered me from his holy mountain.

5I lay down and slept,

yet I woke up in safety,

for the LORD was watching over me.

6I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies

who surround me on every side.

7Arise, O LORD!

Rescue me, my God!

Slap all my enemies in the face!

Shatter the teeth of the wicked!

8Victory comes from you, O LORD.

May you bless your people.

How Can the Wicked Prosper?

Certainly in our society today, we find many people opposed to God and His Word.  As in David’s time, there are many mockers and slanderers of God’s followers.  Sometimes we may think that God should tear down these people directly with His mighty right hand, or at least give us victory over them so they will see the truth in what we speak.  But, God’s ways are not our ways—no, his are much higher.  In His good pleasure, God often holds back his wrath and judgment from those who break his Law and oppose His people.

For a time, we find ourselves surrounded by a mighty army of enemies.  Christians around the world today face physical violence from groups who oppose the gospel, and every day men and women are beaten and even killed for following Jesus.  And God continues to give life and breath to even those who harm and kill His people.  How can God do this??  Why does he allow His people to be surrounded?

He’s Longsuffering with Us, Should He Not Be with Others?

God’s mercy is very great.  His grace, or unmerited favor, is lavished on all of mankind, even those who actively oppose Him.  And while we may desire comfort and ease in our lives by following Him, God knows better.  Often these trials and tests produce greater faith and dependence upon God.  See in the Psalm how David exudes confidence in God and His power during the time when he’s surrounded.  This is the faith that moves mountains—trust in God even in the times when it appears that God’s enemies will triumph.

While There Is Time

The good and bad news is that a day is coming when God’s patience with sinners will end.  When Christ comes to judge all the earth, all who are not covered by His blood will be cast out of His presence for all eternity.  Jesus referred to this hell as a place of weeping and knashing of teeth, and all who oppose God will find themselves there.  Yet while we live and breathe there is yet time.  Have you repented of your sin and unbelief and turned to Christ?  Have you asked Him to wash you clean and adopt you into His family?  Do not let the sun go down today without finding hope and rest in the Lord Christ Jesus.  Call on Him now, and watch as He transforms you into the person you were meant to be!

To Whom Do You Go?

Can you think of a time when you faced a tough decision and were unsure of the proper course?  When posed with two different options and can only choose one, how do you sort out the best way to go?  I believe that the first step is to recognize the value in seeking council. This is natural, isn’t it?  To tell people around what’s going on in your life in order to hear their perspective?  But all too often, I think we apply this good principle of seeking council in a way that may actually hinder us.


What to Do?

Let’s take a common and tangible example of a difficult decision.  Imagine that you own and drive a car that is near the end of its life and not worth too much.  One morning when you attempt to start the car, you get some scary noises and a whole lot of white smoke.  Later that day you get the call from your mechanic:  you need a between $800 and $1,500 of work done.  Now, you’re not sure that your car is worth much more than $2,500 once it’s all fixed, and you’re not sure if it’s worth it to pay for the repairs or not.

Seeking Feedback

What would you do in this situation?  If you’re like most people, you’d probably tell your car story to the nearest 10 people who’ll listen.  Invariably, many of these people will offer advice, and certainly it will be well intentioned.  If you’re thinking of the principle mentioned above, that gaining the perspective of others can be valuable in making decisions, you’re probably happy to get all the feedback.  But there’s one key issue we’ve skipped over that makes the difference between the advice you get yielding you a good situation or a problem on top of your problem.

Qualifications test

The key is the determination of adviser qualification.  Or, put more simply, does the person offering advice know what he’s talking about?  Take a basic idea like the following for instance.  Taking financial advice from broke people is unwise.  Think about that for a second.  Now try this one:  taking marriage advice from a person with an unhealthy marriage is unwise.  Seriously, think about it!

Now, while this may seem so simple and obvious, it’s been my experience (personally, I assure you, as well as by watching others do this) that we often fail to apply such a basic filter before giving people’s suggestions credibility.  Our car repair example above is quite a common case of this illogical behavior.  One will ask everyone around him what to do about the car, and he’ll hear many people say, “oh, just trade it in and get a new car!  You’ll save the money on repairs, and paying a little interest is no big deal.  In fact, have you considered a lease?  Then you could have a really cool car right now!”  All too often, we’ll not only accept these ideas, but will actually factor them into our decision making process and let them influence our choice.  But what is the financial position of the advisers here?  Do they own their own cars?  Do they have an effective budgeting system in place and are they on track for retirement?  Often, No!  They do not!

To Become a Winner, Follow Winners

So, here’s the bottom line.  Does the person offering advice have what I want?  If it’s financial advice I’m seeking, do they have a financial life that I’d like to have?  If it’s spiritual advice, so they have the walk with the Lord that I want?  If it’s fitness and nutrition advice, do they have the physique and energy levels I want?  Run your advisers through this simple filter first, and you’ve avoid many behaviors that lead to the terrible place called average.

The Debt is No More

Would your friends describe you as an appreciative person?  Are you grateful for the many blessings you enjoy?  Or, are you prone to take the benefits you daily enjoy for granted?  Do you occupy yourself more with giving thanks for the good things or keeping count of the bad things? Today we’ll learn from the master, as the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to have hearts of gratefulness.

no more debt

Luke 7

41″A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42″When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” 44Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45″You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46″You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47″For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” 49Those who were reclining [at the table] with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this [man] who even forgives sins?” 50And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

A Huge Debt Forgiven

As was so often His habit, Jesus used a simple and relatable story to communicate a deep and powerful spiritual lesson.  In the parable, we meet two men who are both in debt to a wealthy man.  One owes him 50 days wages (say $10,000 or so) and the other owes him ten times that amount.  Although the wealthy man has every right to demand his due payment, he does not. Because he is gracious, he completely forgives both debts.  The two are of course grateful—but not exactly the same.  Imagine being forgiven a debt of $100,000!  How much weight would you feel lifted off your shoulders!!

The Lord then goes on to explain the spiritual truth underlying the story.  Like the men in debt, you and I owe a monstrous sum.  But it’s not money we owe—it’s a debt of sin.  Because God is a just God, and we all fall short of obeying His perfect Law, we must pay for our unrighteous actions.  The penalty for sin is death, and not just death, but eternal separation from our Creator.  But, like the gracious rich man in the story, our heavenly Father has paid our debt.  He did this through Christ’s atoning death on the cross.  Our Savior paid the penalty we owe by dying the death we deserved—He Himself being without sin.  If we will turn from our sin and accept Christ as Savior and Lord, He will wash us clean and forgive our debt.

Do Your Actions Show You Grateful?

Now, whether we have been forgiven for a collection of small or lesser sins, or if we’re forgiven from a lifetime of rebellion and grotesque sins, we will be overjoyed and thankful to our gracious Father.  But the one who is saved from the mountain of heinous sin will tend to have a greater appreciation for the gift he has been given.  Like the woman in the story who was saved and forgiven from her life of adultery, we should recognize and give thanks to God for blotting out our transgressions.

If you’ve been forgiven much, take the time to recount and remember what God has saved you from.  Pray and give thanks that Jesus has paid your debt and God has forgotten your iniquities.  Conversely, do you think yourself forgiven relatively little?  It can be easy to downplay our own sinfulness, to view our godless words and actions as “minor slipups,” or “small infractions.”  But God is holy, and a sinner cannot enter His presence.  Instead of looking on others, whom we deem as “worse sinners” than us, let’s take the lesson of this passage and fall at our Savior’s feet in overwhelming gratefulness for His grace and love toward us poor, undeserving sinners.

Leading Takes Listening

I used to think that leaders were the ones with all the answers—the smartest ones in the room.  While it takes intelligence to lead a team, I’m learning that great leaders do something you might not expect, and they do it exceptionally well.


You may think that you’re the smartest person in the room—and you might even be right.  But if you’re unwilling to listen to the people around you, you will dramatically hamper your effectiveness as a leader.  Leaders listen, both for ideas and in order to influence those they lead.

Listen for Ideas

Even if you are a genius, you don’t have a monopoly on good ideas.  The beauty of this world God made is that things work best when people work together.  Jesus used the example of the body to describe His bride, the church.  An eye has a different function and role than an ear, just as a foot can be used more effectively accomplish some things than can an eyelash. Here’s the takeaway—you may be an excellent hand, but no matter how great a hand you are, there’s no way you can hear a noise—only ears can do that.  Recognize your strengths but be willing to seek feedback and ideas from the people around you.

Listen for Influence

Do you look others in the eyes when they speak?  Do you really listen to what they’re saying?  If you do these things, you’ve certainly noticed how few other people do this.  When you do little things like make eye contact, adopt a welcoming posture (no arms crossed, no hands in pockets), ask questions, and use the name of the person you’re talking to often, you will be amazed how people will open up to you.  In doing this, they demonstrate their trust in you.  And to be trusted means to have influence.  Make the effort to truly listen and care about the person you’re talking to, and you’ll be amazed how they will want to hear from you.  Humility, respect, and trustworthiness—things that we know belong to good leaders, but the question is, will you exemplify them today?

His Philosophy

What is truth?  Have you taken a moment recently to think about this question?  You have beliefs, beliefs that guide your decisions, and even how you react to situations in your life.  But are these ideas true?  If we’re honest with ourselves, every one of us has an imperfect worldview in some way.  We use our experiences, our minds, and God’s Word to guide us, but only One man who has walked the earth had a perfect understanding of truth:  our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Who Do You Say that I Am?

Many people would say that Jesus was an admirable example, or even a great prophet.  Many people would say that we would do well to become more like Him, and adopt His philosophy.  But few people actually pursue this in their daily lives.  Worse still, many people adopt ideas and philosophies that run in stark contradiction to what Christ taught and stood for.  Instead of reading the Word to learn about what Jesus was really like, many people invent a picture of Christ in their minds that bears little resemblance to ministry on this earth.

You’ve certainly heard of Gentle Jesus, and it is true that He had and has the attribute of gentleness.  Jesus was called the friend of sinners precisely because he sought out prostitutes, thieves, and adulterers to save them from their sin.  He is gentle with us when we stumble and fall on the road of life—even when we rebel against Him, He often corrects us like a gentle and loving Father.  If we will listen to and follow His gentle correction, He often withholds the greater pain and punishment that we truly deserve.

Gentle, But Not Gentle Only

All this being said, Jesus was also a fierce man.  When the situation warranted it, Jesus spoke with boldness and authority, condemning men for their rebellion and the hardness of their hearts.  If we think of Jesus only as a meek lamb and never as a righteous judge, we see him incorrectly.

A striking example of Christ’s anger at those who disregard the Father’s commandments is found in Matthew 21:

12And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13And He said to them, “It is written, MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”

Can you imagine one man entering a mall and drivng our droves of merchants by himself?  Imagine the tenacity and fiercness that must have been in our Savior’s eyes.  Now think of your reactions to sin and the profaning of God’s Name.  Do you react as the Lord did?

False Teachers

Another example is found in Matthew 23:

13″But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14[“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation].

15″Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

25″Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26″You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

Here, we see Christ calling out the men who would dare to speak on God’s behalf, perverting His Laws and His character in order to obtain personal benefit.  Jesus called down woes to these false teachers, directing others to avoid their influence and instead follow the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.

Will You Follow Him?

It can be difficult to live like Christ, particularly in a world that rejects our Lord for who He truly is.  We know that Jesus taught that He was the way, the truth, and the life and that none may come to the Father but through Him.  Yet our world rejects this reality, and accuses those of us who follow Christ completely as being radical and narrow-minded.  Instead of bending to the influence of our culture, let’s really take the time to see our Lord for who He is and not shy away from following Him and letting Him make us more like Himself.  If we will choose today to care more about what Christ thinks of us than what the world thinks of us, we will find Him ready and able to meet our every need—for this day and all the millennia to come!