I Was Lying on the Side of the Road

woman-crying-1This weekend I am speaking from Luke 10 about the parable of the Good Samaritan. I hope, if you are in the Florence, Alabama area, you will come and focus with me on this great parable of our Lord. (It’s at the Shiloh church and it starts on Saturday at nine a.m.) Typical of all of these stories of the Master storyteller, I can think of about ten complete ladies day lessons right off the bat that could be drawn from these verses about the battered man on the side of the road and the one who rescued him. There’s the lesson about what loving God and Man really means, the one about identifying your neighbor, the one about piety without pity, or faith without fruits.

But the inescapable place I always land when I start down the Jericho Road in my mind is that I am there. On some days I am the lawyer who is “willing to justify” myself….”I am too busy,” or “Someone else can do it better,” or “I already am doing more than most people,” or a thousand other lines that are overused and less than authentic. On bad days, I emulate characteristics of those who robbed and hurt the traveler. It’s usually not a stranger that I rob, but still, there have been days when I rob my husband of the respect he deserves or my children of the time or guidance they need. On other days I am the priest or Levite who is made aware of needs all about, but, looking the other way, chooses to be uninvolved in problems with which others are struggling. On a good day, I emulate at least some of the characteristics of the Good Samaritan. I want to be more like him every day. I want to be inconvenienced for the good of my fellowman. I want to take time that’s precious for someone I know who is suffering. I want to spend money for the rescue of a friend or even a stranger.

But it’s every day that I am in one more place on the road to Jericho. I am the bruised and bleeding traveler. I am lying on the side of that road, wounded and left for dead by the devil and sin. I am, without the rescue of the GREAT Samaritan, completely without hope. But He has the oil and wine. He has the balm. He has the beast of burden to carry me to the place of safety and healing. I am so thankful he stopped for me…at Calvary.

Sister to Sister: I Just Love this Story!

Unknown-4I hope you are enjoying the week as much as we are at the West Huntsville church. It’s Family Bible Week and the excitement is over the top. Kids are learning and adults are, too. My skit this year is a re-enactment of the parable we call “The Prodigal Son” so I’ve been thinking lots about that boy who chose the money over the security and about how we, enamored by the world’s cheap glitter, often do the same. I’ve thought about how you could never have talked him out of going to that far country when the silver was jingling in his pockets and how that you could never have talked him out of returning home when it was gone. The difference, of course, was all in that moment when he “came to himself”—you know, the pig pen moment. The pig pen moment is a moment of the heart (called repentance) and we all have to have it before we can come to (or come back to) the Father. I hope you have had your pig pen moment. I have had several.

I’ve thought about the Father, too—how he released the son to go and waste his substance. I’ve pondered how many people I know who are in the faraway country today because God never makes anyone serve him. He never keeps you against your will. I’ve thought about how you can be a prodigal even on the church pew every Sunday. If your heart is in the pig pen, then sitting on the pew doesn’t make you any less filthy. Teens get to choose between the Father’s house and the pig pen even if parents are forcing them to be in the worship assemblies, because the pig pen is all about the heart. God releases us. He allows us to choose. It’s free moral agency and it’s what sets us apart from any other creatures He made way back on the sixth day of history.

I picture Him as he rested on the porch. I do not believe it was an accident that he saw His son “a great way off.” He was watching and anxiously waiting for him. But His work was done. He had a place—a home—ready and waiting for the homecoming of the one that was astray. He did not go looking for the Son. It was the “seventh day” for this Father. Everything he had done for the son was good. It was all up to the boy now. Of course, I am the boy in the spiritual analogy. There is nothing more God can do to bring me home. The choices and faith’s response of obedience are all up to me.

The best part is that the Father ran. That’s right. When the boy came down the path, haggard, dirty, lean and lost, the Father ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. God runs. When a prodigal turns his heart from subversion to servanthood, God runs to forgive.

He rejoiced, too. My Father makes merry. What a tragedy when all things are ready for a feast, but I keep the long-suffering One waiting on the porch.

He reclaimed. Notice that the son asked to be a servant. That position is much more than he deserved. But the Father restored him to the position he claimed before he ever left the house. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!”

He reconciled. You have to love the way the Father approached the elder brother whose body was in the back yard, but whose heart was in the pig pen. The Father wanted the elder brother to be pure, not only in practice but in his heart. He wanted the love of the Father to be in that boy. It’s interesting that John tells us that if we love the world (like the prodigal was doing in the faraway country), the love of the Father is not in us. (I John 2:15). But the same passage tells us that if we fail to love our brethren, we are still stumbling in the darkness (I John 2:9). How many nights did the prodigal spend stumbling around in the world without the love of the Father in his heart? How many nights did the elder brother spend stumbling around in the Father’s house of light because he failed to love his brother?

I just love this story. It is my favorite parable of the Lord. I have been the prodigal. I have been the elder brother. It’s interesting that our Lord left the “jury out” on the heart of the elder brother. Perhaps the “pig pen moment” is harder if you’ve never physically left the Father’s house. But may I always remember that I can stumble in the darkness even in His house. I can be in dire need of “coming to myself” even when I am physically in the presence of the family of God.

I just love this story.

A Parable Index

If you’re in the Digging Deep study, you’ve been thinking, for the past few weeks, about the greatest stories ever told: the parables of Jesus. We didn’t have to immortalize these stories. They originated in the mind of immortality. They are from the very mind of God spoken by the lips of the Messiah. We’ve named them, though. We love “The Prodigal Son” We learn spiritual preparedness from “The Ten Virgins” and lessons of grace from “The Unjust Steward.” I hope you’ve made your list of the parables and the lesson learned from each of them.

As we conclude the study I want to share this list of the parables classified from www.simplybible.com. by Ron Graham. It has been helpful to me. Thanks to so many of you who have been so encouraging about the study. As I travel, I meet more and more women who are digging. Last week I was in a place where sisters are meeting together for the purpose of discussing the study. It’s a blessing. Get Ready for Acts!

Introduction to the Parables That Jesus Told

Seven Themes
This lesson sets out the seven main concepts which Jesus teaches in his parables.

Great Mistakes
This lesson is about how the parables highlight the great and terrible mistakes that people make.

What is a Parable
This lesson explains the nature of a parable, and how it should be interpreted.

Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables?
This lesson explains Christ’s reasons for using parables.

Stories For All Peoples
This lesson points out the remarkable fact that the parables Jesus told are understood by people of all classes and cultures.

Parables on Themes 1 and 2
The Kindness and the Severity of God

Parables in the Sermon on the Mount
Word pictures in Matthew chapters 5 through 7.

The Unforgiving Slave
The Unforgiving Slave (Mt. 18:21-35) refused to forgive little though he was forgiven of much; consequently his debt was reinstated. This parable illustrates both the goodness and severity of God.

The Lost is Found
In the parables of the Lost Sheep,  Lost Coin and Lost Son (Lk. 15:4-32), there was great rejoicing when the lost was found. These parables illustrate the goodness of God.

The God Who Cares and Answers Prayers
The parables of the Friends at Midnight and the Persistent Widow (Lk. 11:5-13, Lk. 18:1-8), further illustrate the compassion and kindness of God and show the need to seek it.

Seeking or Rejecting Grace
The parables of the Workers in the Vineyard and the Marriage of the King’s Son (Mt 20:1-16, Mt 22:1-14) further illustrate God’s mercy and grace. (See also the Vine and Branches Jn. 15:1-5)

The Banquet Parables
The parables of the Embarrassed Guest, the Luncheon for the Poor and the Slighted Invitation (Lk. 14:7-24) also show God’s goodness, but emphasize that we should respond with humility.

Invited and Compelled
The parable of the Slighted Invitation (Lk. 14:16-24) is about people invited to a dinner. When they refused the invitation, other people were found and compelled to attend. What is this saying about grace and choice?

Parables on Theme 3,
Obedience, Fruitfulness, and Stewardship

Two builders, Two Sons
The parables of the Two Builders and the Two Sons (Mt. 7:24-27, Mt. 21:28-32) illustrate theme 3 of the parables– namely true obedience to God’s Word, and not mere lip service.

Bearing Fruit
The parables of the Vine and the Branches, the Barren Fig Tree, and the Sower of Seed (Jn. 15:1-6, Lk. 13:6-9, Lk. 8:5-15) illustrate theme 3 of the parables, namely obedience to God. These three parables highlight the need for fruitfulness.

Stewards of God’s Grace
The parables of the Talents, the Wicked Tenant Farmers, and the Unrighteous Steward (Mt. 25:14-30, Mt. 21:33-46, Lk. 16:1-13), also illustrate theme 3 of the parables, namely obedience to God. These three parables highlight the need for stewardship.

Parables on Themes 4 and 5
The value and universality of the kingdom of God

Seven Short Kingdom Parables
The parables of the Hidden treasure, Pearl of Great Price, Yeast, Mustard seed, Household Treasures, Sprouting seed, and the Dragnet, (Mt.13, Mk. 4, Lk. 13) picture the very great value of the kingdom of God, and its universal nature

The Parable of the Tares
The parable about the Tares in the Field (Mt. 13:24-30, Mt.13:36-43), where good seed was sown, concentrates on the last three themes of the parables. The kingdom is a spiritual and worldwide kingdom in which God’s people are recognized by their good hearts.

The Good Samaritan
The parable about the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37) also encompasses the last three themes, but particularly shows that God looks on the heart; not the outward person, and that God recognizes justice, mercy, and kindness.

Parables on Themes 6 and 7
The Weak Made Strong, God Looks on the Heart

Hearts Awry
The parables about the Two Debtors, the Pharisee and Tax Collector, and the Whited Tombs (Lk. 7:36-47 Lk.18:9-14, Mt. 23:27-28) illustrate how the Pharisees looked down upon others and promoted themselves as righteous, yet their own hearts lacked humility, justice, and love.

Two Rich Men
The parables about the Rich Man and Lazarus, and the Rich Fool (Lk. 12:13-21, Lk. 16:19-31), illustrate the latter themes of the parables and also the great mistake of letting worldly riches prevent readiness for life after death.

Other Parables About The Great Mistakes

Empty House, Empty Lamps
The parables of the Empty House and the Foolish Virgins (Mt. 12:43-45, Mt. 25:1-13) are about failure to respond to God’s kind invitation, to see the sin in oneself, and to get ready for judgment.

Dividing the World into Two
The parables of the Two Gates and the Sheep and Goats (Mt. 7:13-14, Mt. 25:31-46) show how we must choose now which of the two multitudes we will be among in eternity.

The Sheepfold Parables
The parables of the Good Shepherd and the Sheep Gate (Jh. 10:1-30) contrast the Shepherd to a stranger, a thief, or a hireling, and show how we must ensure that we follow him and not them.