Who do we “seek the best or highest good for”?

This morning’s YouVersion Bible app “Verse of the Day” is:

But love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; for your reward will be great (rich, abundant), and you will be sons of the Most High; because He Himself is kind and gracious and good to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Luke 6:35 AMP

And the second word of this verse in most English translations is “love” (ἀγαπᾶτε in the Greek that sounds like “agapao”) — which is a verb, in the present active imperative, second person plural tense. It is an instruction given by Jesus to a multitude of disciples that is also given to us.

In fact, He even explains later that all of the law and all of the words of the prophets are built upon this — “love”.

And I especially like how the Amplified version expands this out in their translation in perfect “ELI5” form (“ELI5” = “Explain like I’m 5”). With the bracketed note “[that is, unselfishly seek the best or highest good for]” that they point towards “your enemies” in the gospel way that is shocking and offensive to our ego and carnal sensibilities.

You want to hear from God? He instructs you, commands you to seek the best and highest good — not for yourself, not for those who love you, not for those who are good in your eyes, but for your enemies.

Yep, this is where the rubber meets the road, where true saving faith is revealed, where most of us must count the true cost of Discipleship. And we must truly decide whether we will lay down those heavy burdens of offense, of unforgiveness, of grudges, of longing for revenge, of accusing others, or judging others — to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. It isn’t whether we will go to church, or graduate seminary, or preach publicly, or cross streets and oceans to win religious converts, or post scripture and encouragement online. It is whether we will seek the best for them — not just hope or wish or want for these enemies the best things — but to be active in seeking it on their behalf.

Can we admit that in our flesh, that is quite unnatural?

Can we lay down our religious coverings, and instead bear naked and fully exposed the desires of our hearts — and honestly admit that “enemy” that we have been clinging to so strongly that we cannot grasp a firm hold upon the grace available to us because of the cross?

Yes, this gospel is about surrendering our own demands so that through faith in God’s plan and purpose, we can trust that love and forgiveness is the cure that we need for the disease that was killing us. Yes, it sets us free from “enemies” holding our hearts captive in unforgiveness — to us soaring and seeking the best for those same people who are beloved by God.

Are our eyes open to see that those we once deemed “enemies” are now “beloved”?

If this is a heavy burden, realize that if we make them by what they have done, we will be measured by what we have done, and that is a long spiral down into the pit of hell. It will crush our opportunities today by taking our hearts and minds captive to a cell and aisle that only imprisons and hurts us, not them.

To know what we should do and not do it is sin, and the wages of sin is death. He says we should seek the best and highest good for them.

Decide now…

We will go out today to live amongst the world, but we mustn’t be content with living as they do “Christian”. Let’s not take the name of the Lord in vain by claiming the name like a cheap costume at Halloween, but leaving the one call that would let the world see God in us and give Him glory. Amen.

Epitaph

This morning, I’m reminded that my love for you is my love for the Lord.

Not my studying and digesting and understanding and teaching the Word of God like a good theologian.

Not my defending the Word of God through debate and reason like a good apologist.

Not my singing and praising with voice and instrument like a good worshiper.

Not my touching and healing or casting out evil spirits by the Word of God like a good healer.

Not my speaking prayers with the tongues of angels and tears and pains of heartfelt concern for the needs of others like a good intercessor.

Not my revealing God’s will and bringing a timely and convicting message to the people of God like a good prophet.

Not my delivering the Roman road gospel explanation and offering an altar call for response and baptizing many in the name of the Lord like a good evangelist.

Not my feeding and providing for the needs of others like a good philanthropist.

These things alone can become tasks, checklists, routines, practices — dead religion and self- righteous hypocrisy.

But love.

Love makes all the difference.

I love you.

He loves you.

In all the things we will do today, we will show others how much we love them:

  • By our respect or our disrespect
  • By our presence or our absence
  • By our gentleness or our harshness
  • By our selflessness or our demands
  • By our patience or our impatience
  • By our joy or our anxiousness
  • By our forgiveness or our bitterness
  • By our making peace or our opposition
  • By our self-control or our attempts to control others

And the world is in desperate need of love. People are even turning their backs in droves from “the usual religious places” because they are not finding love there — they are looking for Jesus — and are understandably doubtful that He is there amongst all this activity and practice, but where there is so little love.

So let us set our sights on living others, Christian, beloved of God — because they truly are beloved by God. Ands out is our job to show that love to them in the language and manner they can see and understand is real.

Go love greatly! Because we are greatly loved!

Amen.

The story of Mary and Martha immediately following the golden rule in Luke 10 is not by coincidence:

And he replied, “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 .” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this habitually and you will live .” But he, wishing to justify and vindicate himself, asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he encountered robbers, who stripped him of his clothes [and belongings], beat him, and went their way [unconcerned], leaving him half dead. Now by coincidence a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also came down to the place and saw him, and passed by on the other side [of the road]. But a Samaritan (foreigner), who was traveling, came upon him; and when he saw him, he was deeply moved with compassion [for him], and went to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them [to sooth and disinfect the injuries]; and he put him on his own pack-animal, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii (two days’ wages) and gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I return.’ Which of these three do you think proved himself a neighbor to the man who encountered the robbers?” He answered, “The one who showed compassion and mercy to him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and constantly do the same.” Now while they were on their way, Jesus entered a village [called Bethany], and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching. But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities; and she approached Him and said, “Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part.” But the Lord replied to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part [that which is to her advantage], which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:27‭-‬42 AMP

Bodies and Cars and Love by the Wayside

Ever been driving on a cold, rainy morning — and see a body off the side of the road, face down in the grass, not moving?

I did this morning.

FaceDownGrass

And even as I continued by and watched in my rear view mirror, I knew what I had to do. Even though my fuel gauge was on empty, even though I was going to be late for work, even though my phone was dead and I had no way of calling 911 — so many reasons to let someone else handle it — but I knew that I had to go back.

As I turned the car around and headed back, I wondered to myself, “What am I even going to do if this guy is dead and not just passed out?”

But imagine my surprise when he was surprised by my approach and my loud shout of, “Is everything okay?” Imagine my surprise when what I thought was either a dead body or a passed out drunk — responded alert and quite as much surprised by my unexpected presence in his morning, as I was about his presence in mine.

I then realized that he had been laying on his face, motionless with his right arm (that I thought was beneath him) actually down some type of hole or pipe and he was doing some type of utility work with his hand deep in the ground.

“Sorry, I just wasn’t sure if everything was okay,” I stammered as I stopped short and made it clear to him that I wasn’t approaching as a threat but as a concerned neighbor.

I don’t know if he laughed or exactly what he said, but we both realized the humor of each other’s side of the situation for a moment — we had both for that split moment looked at the situation from how the other was seeing it — him seeing a guy who thought he was about to deal with a body on the side of the road — and me seeing a guy just trying to start his dirty morning work to have a stranger come up from behind and scare him.

I said, “God bless” and headed back on my way to work.

But it got me thinking — how many times do we see metaphorical “dead or hurt bodies along the ditches of this life through which we are walking” and choose to do nothing about it?

And how many times might we think that we’re about to help someone who is in trouble to realize that they are just fine and don’t actually need our help?

Do we even stop to find out?

I’m not saying that to glorify the fact that I stopped this time, because there are many times that not only did I not stop to help my brother or sister in need, I didn’t really care about them because “I had my own things to worry about.”


Let’s look at it from a different angle too…

I spent time with a friend who drives a wrecker early, early this morning for the second Thursday morning in a row where he was picking up a car from the side of the road. Last week it was a vehicle that had flipped and rolled over multiple times. This week it was a vehicle that had been stolen and recovered by the police. In the first case, the occupants of the car wanted and needed help. The occupant of the car this time needed help but definitely didn’t want the help he found by way of the back seat of a police car.

But even though we might see the parallels and connections up to this point, I want to bring out something that Nickey (that’s my friend who drives the wrecker) mentioned while we were riding in that roll back wrecker early this morning.

He said, “Hop, you know how some folks are quick to hug and tell each other they love each other?”

“Yes,” I replied.

He said, “I don’t do that, because I think that the English language does a disservice to that word love. There is only one word for ‘love’ in English, but in Hebrew and Greek and many other languages they have different words to describe the actual thing they are talking about.”

“I understand what you’re saying. People can say ‘love’ and mean all kinds of things in English — passion, intimacy, deep brotherly love, superficial love, like, lust — all kinds of things,” I replied.

He continued, “If I ask you to help me with something and you tell me that you’re too busy, what are you really saying?”

I understood his line of questioning immediately. I answered, “I’m saying that I care more about what I have planned or want to do.”

“And that speaks to what you truly love, right?” Nickey prompted and then quickly mentioned, “You remember when I asked you a few weeks ago about us getting together with our wives for dinner sometime?”

Boom! Bomb dropped in love. Correction accepted. I love this man, this friend, this brother.

Here I thought we were having a Luke 10:25-37, Parable of the Good Samaritan, conversation. And we were passing through that “town” of love, but the “street address” that Nickey was looking for as we rode along in that flatbed wrecker together was John 13:35.

I spoke with my wife this morning. We’ll be doing dinner with Nickey and his wife next week.


 

John 13:34-35 (NLT)

34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

 

Luke 10:25-37 (NLT)

The Most Important Commandment

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,[c] telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

[Mia, Daddy & Friends] “Preparing the Way”

 

Luke 3:1-22 (NLT)

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler[a] over Galilee; his brother Philip was ruler[b] over Iturea and Traconitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. Isaiah had spoken of John when he said,

“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
    Clear the road for him!
The valleys will be filled,
    and the mountains and hills made level.
The curves will be straightened,
    and the rough places made smooth.
And then all people will see
    the salvation sent from God.’”[c]

When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”

10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?”

11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”

12 Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?”

13 He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.”

14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers.

John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”

15 Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with[d] water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.[e] 17 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” 18 John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News to the people.

19 John also publicly criticized Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee,[f] for marrying Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for many other wrongs he had done. 20 So Herod put John in prison, adding this sin to his many others.

The Baptism of Jesus

21 One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.[g]

[Mia, Daddy & Friends] “Never Leave”

 

 

The Prophecy of Anna

36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four.[c]She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

39 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee.40 There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.

[Mia, Daddy & Friends] “What are we waiting for?”

 

The Prophecy of Simeon

25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

[Mia, Daddy & Friends] “The Presentation”

 

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple

Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.

Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

[Mia,  Daddy & Friends] “Don’t Be Afraid”

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Luke 2:8‭-‬20 NLT

http://bible.com/116/luk.2.8-20.NLT

[Mia, Daddy & Friends] “The Birth”

Luke 2 NLT

The Birth of Jesus

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

[Mia, Daddy & Friends] “A Birth”

When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. 

When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. 

Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way. 

Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us. He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant— the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” 

John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel. – Luke 1:57‭-‬80 NLT