Stripped—beaten—left for dead.

I think we can all feel like this from time to time. I know I have lately. The last few months have been really tough emotionally and mentally following the death of my mom. I don’t think her death would be so daunting except I have other things that are happening right now, too. I call it the 'pile up.’

Sometimes the 'pile up’ is caused by circumstances we cannot control. Someone we love dies, family situations deteriorate, financial concerns accumulate, cultural pressure escalates or relocation removes a key support mechanism we once relied on. I mention these because I have first hand experience with them during these past few months. Add some sparkling work situations, travel to Israel with an awesome group and co-leading a life-changing Middle School Mission trip. Sometimes the circumstances are super positive—even really great experiences can simply add to the ‘pile up.’

But, then there are the circumstances we can control. Like how we respond instead of react to the circumstances, situations or the people involved. I had to learn how I can learn to take control of the story in my head. I’m not always good at it but I practice. We are responsible for our own behavior. Consider it this way—you own 51% of you. A brilliant counselor shared that tip with me long ago. So, before reacting, check your your own behavior, interpretation or perspective. If you’re living with a negative point of view, then take the positive high road and believe the best of someone instead of believing the worst. Just attempting to do this takes guts! Super smart people, brain specialists for example, tell us we have very deep pathways entrenched with our minds. It's called our brain’s neuroplasticity.

We first have to become aware of what we are doing in order to change. If we travel that deeply entrenched pathway to Negativeville, it’s most likely because we’ve learned that behavior or we've been taught to go that way. For some people, the deeply entrenched negative pathway was modeled for you, so you inherited it as it was passed on from one generation to the next. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “You sound just like your mother/father/Great Aunt Gertrude,” you saw something you liked and from that point on, that’s the way you’ve always done it. But, if that’s the only way you've ever travelled, then maybe it’s time to consider a change. If not for you, for the people in your life who really do care. Which leads me to the parable for Sunday's message.

An expert in the law stood up to challenge Jesus. The expert questioned Jesus about what was involved with inheriting eternal life. Jesus began with what the expert already knew. Jesus asked him what was defined in the law. 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.” (Luke 10:27) Ding, ding, ding! Well done, Player One! But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Imagine the deeply entrenched pathways in the expert’s mind. He wanted to justify himself—what does that mean? Justify his behavior, belief or attitude? Jesus was about to model how to reroute a pathway by using the power of a story.

Go ahead and read that story in Luke 10 on your own. I’ll share some of my own insights with you Sunday. By avoiding the man stripped, beaten and left for dead the priest and the Levite kept practicing what they had always done. These guys couldn’t touch a dead body. There would’ve been cleansing rituals involved and a huge investment of their time. The Samaritan didn’t live within the priestly or Levitical restricted laws. The Samaritan lived by a totally different set of rules. Imagine that. Living by a completely different set of rules. What would that be like? Personal transformation would take place—but friends, that would take courage and great responsibility.

Consider the fruit of your life. What’s really going on? What’s the big picture? How do you respond when situations develop or when it’s your turn to sift through the ‘pile up?’ Christian living, discipleship or what some identify as sanctification requires us to develop a strong and healthy spiritual life that leans into Jesus during these times. Respond as a Samaritan next time. It’s going to take courage to catch yourself in your own deeply entrenched pathway and reroute yourself out of the mud. Jesus is right there with you. He will lead the way. A whole new way of being awaits. Just breathe and let Jesus lead.

“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.” (Luke 10:36-37NIV)3

Pastor Jen