The Good Samaritan: The Power of a Story

Good SamaritanMany of us have heard abundant teaching and preaching on Luke 10.25-37, the parable of the good Samaritan. Praise God for providing such a teachable event, for the lessons just pour out of the text!

Jesus told the parable in response to a lawyer’s questions.

The lawyer (testing Jesus) asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

As the master teacher He was, Jesus replied with a question, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

In the presence of an audience, this must have been a bit embarrassing for the lawyer. He should have known the Law like the back of his hand. This question was kind of like asking a child, “What does the book say? You should already know the answer.”

If the lawyer couldn’t produce the answer, he’d be publicly embarrassed, so he had to answer. Jesus caught him…but not in a mean way. Jesus was teaching him.

Questioning JesusThe lawyer produced an excellent answer: “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.”

“You have answered correctly; do this and you will live,” Jesus responded.

[Um. Wait. It can’t be that easy. I’m a lawyer, and I wouldn’t ask such an easy question! No, my question is really much deeper than that, Jesus. What I really meant to ask was…]

“And who is my neighbor?”

THAT’S when Jesus gave the good Samaritan illustration. And what an answer it is! It’s clear. It’s simple. There’s no room for argument. It teaches that it’s not so much about figuring out who your neighbor is; it’s really about being a good neighbor to anyone and everyone who needs a neighbor!

Jesus’ answer, in a nutshell, is, “Go, show people mercy. Be like that Samaritan.”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what of this 157-word illustration? Jesus could have just said, “Just be a good neighbor to anyone you meet.” Would that have packed the same punch? Not hardly. Packaged the way it is, the parable of the good Samaritan contains riches well beyond a legal statement; it contains abiding principles and depths of teaching a list of laws never could.

Instead of providing the lawyer with a list of people he should consider to be his neighbor, Jesus made the lawyer picture himself in the shoes of a compassionate Samaritan (someone he normally would loathe). Jesus broke down racial, economic, and social barriers with this simple story.

Perhaps that’s why so much of the Bible is written in narrative.

Such Great Faith

Guest Post by Doug Hoffman


The Phone CallI was impressed last night, again, by the great faith of the Centurion in Luke 7 who clearly saw himself as unworthy in the light of the great authority of Jesus.  It’s interesting to me that the word for “authority” in Luke 7.8 (exousia) is exactly the same word most often translated “power” (ex., Lk. 4.6), identifying Jesus’ ability to accomplish whatever He desires.

I tried to think about what that would look like today. If I had access to our President, a man of great authority/power, and could say, through a couple of advocates close to him, “Mr. President, I know you have the power to erase this parking ticket, would you please do so?” what an incredible power I would have at my fingertips. Imagine I was on death row and made the same appeal knowing he had the power to give me life by pardoning me; what an incredible gratefulness and, maybe even, allegiance I would feel if I could acquire such mercy and grace. And what if I had access, not through some advocate, but by simply picking up the prison telephone?

Then it struck me: I have direct access to an even greater power in Jesus Christ.  He provides the power for me to live FREE, unchained from the grips of sin, addiction, sorrow, and the like.  Why don’t I access that power when it is as easy as simply asking, without the intermediary?  What would I be willing to ask Him to do?  So it isn’t really surprising to read that Jesus was able to say about the Centurion, “I have not found such great faith in Israel.”  Can he find that kind of great faith in me?  I’m working toward that goal.

Why Did Jesus Feed the 5000?

Jesus Teaching
by www.LumoProject.com

Herod, the Bible says, “sought to see” Jesus (Luke 9.9), but it seems he didn’t seek very hard, for in the immediately-following verses a huge crowd went out into a desolate place outside Bethsaida to find Jesus. Surely Herod could have gone out, too, had he really wanted.

But the 5000 enjoyed the words and the powerful healing Jesus brought; all day they listened until the day began to wane. The disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowd into the surrounding villages so they could get something to eat, but Jesus surprised them with a challenge: “You give them something to eat” (Luke 9.14)!

“We have no more than five loaves and two fish,” they answered, not for a moment considering a boy’s lunch (John 6.9) ample provision for such a great multitude. I would have been right with those disciples, I’m afraid. (I sometimes stare into my fridge thinking, “There’s nothing to eat,” when really there is plenty…)

Listen, Jesus was not obligated to feed this multitude. It wasn’t His job, and no one expected Him to provide a meal. He must have had a purpose to this miracle, don’t you think?

So why did He do it? Let me suggest two reasons.

1. To increase the faith of the disciples.

11_Jesus_5000_1024After His disciples basically said they couldn’t feed the multitude, Jesus didn’t just say, “Okay, fine, if you won’t do it I’ll do it Myself.” No, He performed the miracle of multiplying the bread and fish, and He “gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd” (Luke 9.16). In other words, the disciples ended up giving the crowd something to eat, just as Jesus had instructed! Jesus does not command anything for which He doesn’t also equip. Remember that.

Jesus had told these disciples He would make them fishers of men (Luke 5.9-10). These twelve (Luke 6.13) would be the seeds which started a world-wide planting operation. How in the world would they accomplish such a monumental–dare we say, impossible–task? By faith these men would come to understand all they had to do was obey–God handles the multiplication!

God can take an oil jug with just a bit of left-over oil in the bottom and make it outlast a famine (1 Kings 17.8-16). God can feed and water a couple million people in the desert for forty years. Man’s road blocks and impossibilities are nothing to God.

2. To identify Himself.

15_Jesus_5000_1024Continuing the previous thought, Jesus identified Himself with Moses in the wilderness. John accounts the feeding of the 5000 in John 6, and do you remember what conversation the event precipitated? The next day, the Jews tried to provoke Jesus into feeding them again: “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6.31). They did well to connect Jesus’ power with the feeding of the Israelites in the wilderness, and Jesus continued the thought, identifying Himself as the true bread from heaven.

Not only did He identify Himself as the bread of life, but this even also identified Him strongly with Moses–Moses being a type of Christ. How could Jesus do such awesome things unless He was truly sent by God? And if He was truly sent by God, His words rang with prophetic power. Moses had prophesied in Deuteronomy 18.15, “YAHWEH your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear…”

The feeding of the 5000 proved that God had raised up The Prophet, and He was standing before His brethren!

Are You Walking in Grace Today?

ComfortingTheoretically, I assume grace would come naturally to a sinless and selfless individual. But to all of us lawbreakers who feel guilt and shame in our lives, grace makes us nervous and unsettled. As weird as it may seem, grace almost feels wrong to us.

Take for example the parable of the laborers in Matthew 20.1-16 in which the landowner went out five times during the day to find laborers for his vineyard. The first men began work early in the morning, the second around 9 a.m., the third around noon, the fourth around 3 p.m., and the last at 5 p.m., leaving them only an hour or two of daylight in which to work. Those last men were called “about the eleventh hour,” Jesus said (Matt. 20.6). We use that phrase “eleventh hour” to mean “the very last minute.” Indeed, those men were called at the tail end of the day, and we law-abiding folk balk as the landowner handed every worker the exact same wage no matter how many hours he had worked!

“Not fair! Those who worked longer should have received more. Workers have rights, you know. You can’t give those sweaty, exhausted workers the exact same thing as to those men who lazed around most of the day.”

Oh really? Jesus demands that we consider it. Isn’t it up to the landowner to hire workers and pay them whatever he wants? If the workers agreed to the wages, they received what was fair.

Not only was the landowner fair, but he extended grace to those who worked fewer hours. He didn’t have to pay them a full day’s wage…but he did. It’s not that he wasn’t fair to the first men, it’s that he is more than fair with the last–and therein lies the message. Grace makes us squirm.

When your wife has left several obvious items at the house undone, when your children succumb to temptation and break your rules, when a man holds a sign on the side of the road “hungry, please help,” do you act in grace? Is grace your default, or is it something you must work at?

By the Grace of GodBecause of our sinful natures, grace is often difficult and not our default. Grace is truly being like God, and we have fallen from His nature; that image has been corrupted. Jesus is the exact image of the Creator, but we are not!

How have you responded to your husband / wife today? How have you dealt with your children recently? When your boss is cranky, what is your default reaction? When your employees don’t exactly measure up, how do you treat them? Humans mess up. God doesn’t. Yet see how He treats us in spite of our sins!

Are you walking in grace today? Or do you walk entirely by law? When people don’t measure up, do you prosecute (persecute?) them to the fullest extent of the law?

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1.17)

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3.21-26)

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Rom. 6.14)

For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. (2 Cor. 1.12)

Think on these things.

Latest Sermons

We just updated the sermon archive to include the last two Sunday morning sermons:

How First Century Churches Used Collected Money (download)

What Is a Real Christian – Part 2: Complying with God’s Terms of Salvation (download)

Rebuilding the Old Altars

Standing AloneHow did I miss such an obvious key in the Mount Carmel battle between Yahweh and Baal? It stares me in the face now as I read 1 Kings 18, and I reckon it was there last time I read through it–unless someone slipped it in on me.

After the prophets of Baal finished their frenzied pleadings, gashing themselves with sharp swords and spears, and yelling for several hours, a terrible and significant nothing happened. Their god either wasn’t answering or he didn’t exist.

But what Elijah did next contains even more significance. He “repaired the altar of Yahweh that was broken down” (1 Kings 18.30).

Why was it broken down? King Ahab had married the witch, Jezebel, who had introduced idolatrous Baal worship into Israel with a passion. Ahab had all but wiped his kingdom of the reminders of the One True and Living God, Yahweh, the God of his fathers. The broken altar on Mount Carmel remained as a witness against Israel for turning their backs on their God.

Lone FlowerElijah repaired that altar. His business was to turn the people from their wicked ways and return them to Yahweh, their true God. Elijah prayed, “Yahweh God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Yahweh, hear me, that this people may know that You are Yahweh God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again” (1 Kings 18.36-37).

The fire fell, consuming the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the water which soaked everything, and even the dust.

How else could the people respond? They cried, “Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!” (1 Kings 18.39)

Are we waiting for God to turn our hearts back to him? Do we stand in the crowd with arms folded to see if the True God is still around, if He is mightier than our idols? Will we submit to Him now, or will we wait for fire to come from heaven?

The spiritually-minded among us understand we must repair the altars of Yahweh! We must return to the old paths of worshiping Him and Him alone! Let us rebuild those things which have been torn down because of sin, for we have all turned our backs on Yahweh and allowed His things to be destroyed.

Lone FlowerOur country seems to think majority makes truth. Get enough people to raise their hands, and that’s the way it should be, right? Wrong! I asked my kids yesterday, “How many people must agree together before something is true?” My ten-year-old quickly replied, “None. It doesn’t matter how many people believe something, it doesn’t make it true.” Elijah was one standing against 850. But in reality the contest was between Yahweh, God of heaven and earth, and nobody, because the gods of this world are absolutely nothing! Worthless lies. Empty promises. Baal didn’t answer because Baal wasn’t there!

Will you blend into the crowd today or stand for God in the face of the crowd? With spiritual vision, can you see that those with Yahweh greatly outnumber those with other gods? Stand today and rebuild those things which have been torn down. You are not alone!

Byron Gage Sermons – March 2016

We recently hosted brother Byron Gage and his wife and enjoyed several excellent sermons. Here are the recordings from our meeting:

Out of Darkness (download):

Mind Hacked (download):

Encourage One Another (download):

Bear with One Another (download):

The World’s Biggest Problem

CapitalismYesterday we discussed Bill Gates’ perspective on the world’s greatest problem, which is basically a shortage of clean energy.

Before we start tossing around the liberal and conservative labels, let’s think quickly to the perspectives of the leading “conservative” advocates of our day. From time to time I listen to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and talk show hosts of that ilk, and after listening to them for a while I get the same empty feeling as when I listen to Bill Gates or the Democrat solutions. They miss the real problem as well.

For example, Rush Limbaugh said:

“The world’s biggest problem is the unequal distribution of capitalism. If there were capitalism everywhere, you wouldn’t have food shortages.”

If you asked these men to list our country’s biggest problems, do you believe they would include a lack of submission to God? To be fair, it might make the list for some, but I am fairly certain none would place that as this country’s primary issue. Glenn Beck? He might.

Bible ReadingSatan has drilled deep into our heads and successfully obscured the real problem! The real problem is not clean energy vs. coal and oil. It’s not racism. It’s not conservatism. It’s not liberalism. It’s not global warming or terrorism. It’s not capitalism or (gasp!) socialism. And ABSOLUTELY NO government will (or can) solve our real problems! People are not the solution; we make the mess.

Don’t let all the political yammering and yapping obscure what is real, that only God can turn things around, and He requires people to submit to Him and His ways. Repentance is the key.

How are poverty-stricken people really taken care of? Those who are more wealthy open their hearts and help them. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble… (James 1.27). Command those who are rich…not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God…Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share… (1 Timothy 6.17-18).

How is racism defeated? God pricks our hearts to understand all men are, indeed, created equal in His sight. God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the all the face of the earth…we are the offspring of God (Acts 17.26, 29).

As soon as we take God and His word out of the picture, we have no anchor for the soul. Men do what they will and what they want. Chaos reigns.

The end of the matter, when all has been considered is this: to fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12.13).

This World’s Greatest Problem

Carbon EmissionsBill Gates recently gave out his annual letter in which he and his wife focus on the superpowers they would like to have. Bill would like the power to grant the world more energy, and Melinda would like to grant the world more time.

Quotes Bill:

If I could have just one wish to help the poorest people, it would be to find a cheap, clean source of energy to power our world.

I actually love most of what he writes in this letter; it certainly touches my heart as he describes poverty-stricken countries. But something about the letter leaves me with an empty feeling–maybe it’s just me? As I read through, a gaping hole presents itself.

How does Mr. Gates solve problems? He explains:

Whenever I’m confronted with a big problem I turn to my favorite subject: math. It’s one subject that always came naturally to me, even in middle school when my grades weren’t that great. Math cuts out the noise and helps me distill a problem down to its basic elements.

Earth SunsetThe problem is here exposed: the Achilles heel of our modern-day, solutions-oriented scientist. He leaves a major factor out of the equation because it’s a factor which math cannot contain or describe. He leaves out the infinite power and creative ability of the Creator and God who continues to work with this planet and its pathetic people!

God, the designer of mathematics and order, has the unique ability to turn mathematics on its head, which, perhaps, explains why many “reasonable” people refuse to accept Him. He exists outside the bounds of our test tubes and micrometers and advanced calculus. And He can change things!

Gates insists “we need an energy miracle” and

When I say “miracle,” I don’t mean something that’s impossible. I’ve seen miracles happen before. The personal computer. The Internet. The polio vaccine.

There is such a thing as a miracle, but none of those things is it!

The great moral question of our day seems to address how we eradicate poverty. Tellingly, God never poses that question to us. He presents, as the world’s most destructive and pressing problem, man’s sinful heart. “Follow Me,” God says, “and I will bless you. Follow your own paths, and I will curse you.” The world will not burn up because we made poor energy choices. The world is damned because we refuse to acknowledge the Creator of all things!

Earth from SpaceGod gave us dominion over this earth, but we must recognize Him as the Creator of all things! This is His world; we are but stewards, trustees.

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1.29)

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8.3-9)

Let us exercise our dominion appropriately, and let us not forget the God who gave us dominion in the first place! Praise the Creator, for He is awesome and good! Only then we will be blessed indeed.