“A Team”: A-Plus

I grew up in the 80’s, so all of the 80’s television shows are right up my alley.  I was super-excited when the trailers for “the A team” came out.

Yeah, that looked cool.  At the same time, I watched almost every episode of the old TV series, so I was a little worried about how the remake would handle these characters that we all knew so well.  I pity the fool who tries to reprise the role of B.A. Baracus, because no one can be Mr. T.  And since George Peppard passed away in 1994 I was really concerned with who could possibly fill his shoes.  I can’t help but remember the old commercials for the “A Team” action figures:

I figured going in that this movie would be a shoot-em-up, with more money spent on special effects than on the screenplay if you know what I mean.  And going in with the expectation that I would enjoy the action and not worry about the plot holes, I had a great time.  We were originally going to go see this as a guy’s night movie but the ladies wouldn’t have it; Laura thoroughly enjoyed it as well, and that is saying a LOT about an action movie.

The Good:

In my friend Mike’s words, this movie was “pitch perfect.”  Go in expecting it to be a crazy action movie, just like the TV series.  For goodness sake, at one point the team flies a tank.  Then they use its main gun to change their course to land it in a lake.  That’s pretty par for the course in this kind of movie, and the action came fast and furious.

They captured the essence of the characters I know and love perfectly!  Liam Neeson did a wonderful job of playing Col. John “Hannibal” Smith.  The other actors did a great job as well, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was surprisingly believable as B.A. Baracus.  I am a huge MMA fan and Rampage is the former UFC light heavyweight champion; I was really worried about how well he could act, but he did a fine job.

I was not expecting the amount of genuine humor in this movie.  I thought there might be a few “groaner” laughs and maybe some wit, but this movie was full of actual “laugh out loud” funny moments.  I was blown away at the quality of the dialog.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to win a screenwriting Oscar or anything; that said, there was some witty repartee and enough genuine humor to keep almost anyone interested in the movie.

There are also some good moral messages in this movie, if you can believe that.  B.A. Baracus has to do some soul searching, and Hannibal helps him remember himself in the movie.  The members of the team are all Army Rangers, and their loyalty to one another is exemplary.  There is also a good plot line about good triumphing over evil and justice triumphing over injustice.  Granted you’ll have to dig a bit to get these out of a summer blockbuster, they are still there to be found.

I was also worried going in about sexual content, but the movie was great.  If you’re a fan of the show you know that Face is quite the ladies’ man.  While that facet of his personality is part of the movie and plays a role, in reality it is a genuine love interest that advances a crucial plot point.  There was no nudity and really no cheesecake.  (though Bradley Cooper is a handsome fellow and the ladies might enjoy some of the beefcake)  See below for more, though.

The Bad:

There is violence.  Lots of it.  If you go to this movie, expect lots of things to blow up, bullets to fly everywhere, and people to die.  There is no blood or gore, but it’s a summer action movie.  Expect that going in.

There is a good dose of language in this movie.  Like WAY too much  for a PG-13 movie.  My favorite movie review site has this to say:

One full “m‑‑‑‑‑f‑‑‑er” and at least two more that stop short of the full obscenity. Around 25 s-words and three obscene gestures make for an even fouler adventure. God’s name is misused about 10 times, often coupled with “d‑‑n.” Jesus’ name is abused nearly that many times. There is also a couple-dozen uses of “h‑‑‑” and about a dozen each of “a‑‑” and “a‑‑hole.” Other language includes “d‑‑n,” “p‑‑‑ed,” and “b‑‑ch.”

Because of the language I would not recommend this movie to kids.  Laura and I were both really surprised that it got a PG-13 rating rather than R, if only for the language.  I didn’t think that the MPAA would let the first reference in the above quote go in a PG-13 movie.

While there is no nudity, Faceman does get caught in adultery early in the movie.  There is also a scene at the end where there is some dialog after he receives a conjugal visit in prison.  They didn’t bother me and my sensitive conscience, but this movie is certainly not squeaky clean.

More than anything, though, the big issue with this movie is the ethic that the ends justifies the means.  The team is a crack group of Rangers who get framed for a crime they didn’t commit, and set about proving their innocence.  They do that, though, by escaping from federal prison, lying, killing, and all that jazz.  No innocent people die, but they still completely ignore the concept of justice in their actions in order to prove the injustice of their conviction.

The Bottom Line:

I loved this movie.  I absolutely loved it.  Laura enjoyed it too!  Don’t go see it expecting it to be a chick flick or a tale of redemption.  Don’t go to ponder the meaning of life or to make you want to be a better disciple of Jesus.  But if you want to just be entertained for two hours and take in a pretty darned good summer action film, make “the A Team” part of your plans.

Taking Care of What Ain’t Yours

It’s been a whirlwind week!  Last Wednesday we announced that my wife and I will be heading to Rwanda for a 10-day trip next month; I will be teaching pastors there biblical interpretation and preaching skills (plus some pastoral stuff) and Laura is focusing on childbearing in various facets.  It’s an amazing opportunity that God has dropped in our laps, and we are very grateful to be asked to participate out of the blue.  Since sending out her request, Laura has raised over $2000 towards her expenses!  That’s half way there, and we are amazed at the generosity of people who want her to go and help the women of the Nyagatare district of Rwanda lower their death rate in childbirth as well as their infant mortality.

The request for financial help has produced some rather unexpected results as well.  First off, some significant contributions have come from people who do not consider themselves to be followers of Jesus.  They see the good that is going to be done and want to participate, which in my mind is really cool.  At the same time, I got a polite but very pointed email that basically made the following objections (boiled down to be polite to the emailer…):

  1. It is a waste of money to send an American to Rwanda; the money would be better served by giving it to an established organization providing relief there already.
  2. It is improper to provide relief that is religious in nature; the thought here is basically that there are ulterior motives and that it is inappropriate to proselytize with “bait” such as assistance in agriculture, medicine, or education.

When I first got the email, I must say that I was a bit hot under the collar.  To my mind it is one thing to dislike supporting religious charitable causes or to disagree with methods and not want to provide financial support, and another thing entirely to be adamant enough about it that they decided to send my bride an email telling her how wrong she was to ask for support.  This letter wasn’t sent to strangers, either (okay, okay…some of you here on ABF I may not know personally and it was posted here too, but it wasn’t one of you), so I suppose that I was frustrated from the angle that friends should be more polite to one another than that.

Then I slept on it, and woke up this morning realizing that the objections weren’t completely bogus and needed to be satisfactorily answered if we were going to go to Rwanda.  After all, emotions aside if I could not justify the trip then why are we going?  Is it wise management of resources to spend the money to go rather than just sending money or supplies to the people where we would be going?  And is it appropriate to provide relief in developing nations with an explicit religious purpose?  At the end of the day, I think that the answers to those questions are both resounding yeses.

Show Me The Money

The first objection is financial: is it worth the cost to go?  Would it be a better investment to send money or items to established organizations to distribute relief than go ourselves?  After all, it is going to cost approximately $4000 total per person for us to take a 10-day trip; at a per capita income of $370 annually, this trip could provide a family of four in Rwanda with 2.7 YEARS of income.  It could provide a village with 8 cows, which in a few years could make the village self-sustaining. (provided, I suppose, that they already have a bull!)  What makes us think that our presence is so vital that we are worth more than that?

The answers to this question are many.  The first was brought up by my 13-year-old daughter, who rightly reminded us that in developing nations like Rwanda corruption is rife.  There is no guarantee that any money we send to Rwanda would make it into the hands of the people who need it; many times it ends up in the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats or feeding criminal syndicates.  When we go, we guarantee that the help gets where it belongs, and there is much value in that.

Second, there are times when it is more important to bring expertise, support, and training than it is to provide for physical needs.  The pastors in the area have requested that someone come and train them in the art and science of Bible interpretation, in proclaiming the message of God to help their people, and in caring for the people of their community socially, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.  I have those skills, and the ability to teach them to others in a way that is impossible simply through books (and even with a literacy rate of 70%, the older generation who I will be teaching need help because their literacy rate is lower and their skills in my area of expertise are limited). 

Laura is coming to help the people learn childbirthing skills to help lower the 8.4% infant mortality rate (2008 State Dept. estimate); more than that, she is going to help with basic nutrition information, prevention of spreading infectious disease, and sanitation.  1 in 12 birthing women dies in childbirth.  Think about that for a moment, and then consider if what she brings is worth sending her.  How much is a human life worth?  If her training saves one woman and her baby it will be worth the cost.  According to Matthew 10:29-31 and Genesis 1:26-27, we are made in God’s image and are therefore worth the cost of saving.

Finally, there is a difference between sending and going.  By sending money we help a little.  By going we will not only help the people of Rwanda but will undoubtedly build a heart for the people there that will last a lifetime.  More giving and more partnering and more help will come from our trip than the cost can estimate; it is more an investment than an expenditure. 

So for these reasons and many more, the trip makes financial sense.  Yeah, it’s a lot of money to go, but it is money invested in the people of Rwanda that will bear fruit in the entire community for a long time to come.  A healthy baby in America, delivered vaginally, costs somewhere between $9,000 and 17,000 to deliver.  My seminary education cost in the neighborhood of $30,000.  And we can deliver benefits that are similar to Rwanda for a fraction of that!

Bait and switch?

The other objection I received concerned going as Christians and bringing aid under an explicitly Christian banner.  Is it appropriate to help others under a deliberately religious framework?

Well I think it is. 🙂 (I am willing to bet that you knew that)  Even from an atheistic perspective, is there any harm done in promoting Christianity, even if it is false?  If we are going to go teach the people how to live better, be healthier, and follow the tenets of Jesus concerning loving each other, why is that a bad thing?  Would it be any different if we went to tell people about the Flying Spaghetti Monster?  I am willing to bet that this objection is more about Christianity in particular than religion in general, in other words.

Secondly, I think that this objection overlooks what true Christianity says about how Christians are to live.  My first response is to question the question somewhat: would an atheist think more of a Christian or less of them if they actually obeyed the instructions of the God they claim to follow?  I would think that a Christian who is trying to obey would be better than a hypocrite who deliberately chose to ignore Jesus, wouldn’t you?  Well Jesus begins  this issue in Luke 10:25-37, which we know as the parable of the Good Samaritan.  We are supposed to love our neighbor, and that means going out of our way both in time and in finances to help them whenever we see a need.

That’s great, but it’s not the end of the story either.  Paul says in Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”  So in reality, if I am going to be an honest and true Christ follower there is no way I can leave Jesus out of my trip to Rwanda.  To do so would be to deny what I have been told to do, namely love God by loving people and helping them.  And I am called to do that while telling them about the God I serve who loves them too! 

Finally, Jesus tells us that we are supposed to take His message to the world:

“but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” ” (Acts 1:8, NAS)

So it is entirely appropriate to go in the name of Christ; as a Christian it would be dishonest not to.  Now I would agree that it is not good to pull a “bait and switch” or demand that a person convert to Christianity in order to receive aid or to benefit from our trip.  But of course, that is not at all a condition of our going or of helping people.  Laura will educate and help all who come.  I am there to help Christian pastors, who will then lead and help their communities as pillars and reach out to help all people as they are commanded by Jesus.

There are books written along these lines, but you get the gist: going in the name of Jesus is acceptable as long as it is not duplicitous.

Bottom Line

So at the end of the day, I believe that this trip is defensible.  I think that it is entirely wise money management to go rather than send a check, and it is entirely appropriate for us to go in an explicitly Christian manner and purpose. 

So to the person who wrote the email, I offer my heartfelt gratitude.  You’ve made me seriously consider the underpinnings of the trip we are headed on, and for that I am very grateful!  I mean that without any sarcasm.

For anyone else, we still need to raise almost $2,000 to cover Laura’s trip, so if you’d like to be a part of it we would appreciate it immensely!  Check the first link in this post for the ways you can be a part of our support, and please pray for us as we prepare.

Happy Father’s Day!

To all of the dads out there who read ABF, I wish you a Happy Father’s Day!  I hope you get a large hunk of beef critter, place it near open flame until it is appropriately flame-seared (which would be medium-rare for the record), and then get to enjoy it thoroughly with your family.  Soon enough I will be doing just that!

I was reminded this week in my study of 2 Timothy 1:1-10 that God’s definition of a dad and ours doesn’t always match up.  I am also reminded that this is a very, very good thing!  Allow me to explain.  First, Paul thinks of Timothy as his son:

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. ” (2 Timothy 1:1–2)

Paul calls Timothy his “beloved son” in 2 Tim 1:2.  We know from 1 Corinthians 4:17 and Philippians 2:19-24 that Paul and Timothy were very close friends and ministry companions; we also know from Acts 16:1 that when Paul met Timothy that he was already a believer in Christ and an adult.  So Paul is not biologically related to Timothy!  Nevertheless, they were so close that Paul considered him a son.

So God’s definition of a father is not always the world’s definition.  Whereas the world says that a father is the man who gives us our genetic code, God says that a father is a man who cares for us, encourages us, leads us, and provides us an example of godliness regardless of genetic links between us.  The biblical definition of a dad does not require blood relation, but care and love and commitment. 

I am really grateful for this.  The man who donated his genes to me is a stranger to me.  He and my mom divorced when I was a baby, and I haven’t seen or heard from him since my 5th birthday.  I was in a position to be a statistic (such as the fact that about 85% of men in prison effectively have no father), but in my case I was never without a father figure who could provide that example for me.  We lived with my grandparents when I was little, so my grandpa provided a great example of dad for me.  My uncle filled a need for a loving man in my life for a long time.  And then in the best example, my mom married a wonderful man when I was six who actually adopted me as his own and even gave me his last name! 

This is God’s true picture of fatherhood; it’s more about adoption than it is about flesh and blood.  We all begin life alienated from God and hostile to Him (Colossians 1:21).  However, when we trust Christ we are adopted by God as His children (Galatians 4:5)!  He takes those who were not His children and adopts Him into His family (Ephesians 1:5), giving us a spirit and a position in His family by which we can call Him our Father (Romans 8:15).  God is our adopted Father who loves us unconditionally and gives us everything we could ever ask for as children.

What does that mean for us?  Well first of all, make sure you talk to your Heavenly Father today and thank Him for your adoption and for His love for you.  Take some time and thank the Lord for His care for you and love for you, bringing you into His family and blessing you with every blessing you have. 

Secondly, this understanding of biblical fatherhood really speaks to those of us who do not have great fathers here on earth.  Whether your “real” dad is a good example or not, you have been adopted into the family of the King!  Even when our earthly fathers fail us, our Heavenly Father never will.  And if your dad hasn’t been a great example, you can likely point to wonderful, godly men who have filled that role in your life and been sent from God to help you live for Him.

Finally, if you haven’t found a man who can be this in your life, rest in God today that He loves you unconditionally, and also rest in the truth that He wants you to have a man in your life who you can relate to as father.  Then set about finding that man so you can have an earthly relationship that mirrors your heavenly one.

Happy Father’s Day, dad!  Also, a Happy Father’s Day to some other men who have been fathers to me:  Grandpa Bob, Uncle Jeff, Dr. F. Olden Pittman, and Dr. Fred Chay.  I appreciate you men more than you know.

A Divine Appointment, and a Chance for You to Help!

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)

I hate asking people for money.  I suppose that because I am a pastor I am sensitive to the impression that clergy are money-hungry and in the ministry for the financial benefits. There is certainly a wrong way to go about it, which is unfortunately all too popular:

If you haven’t heard, I have been asked to participate in a mission trip to Rwanda from July 21st-August 1st.  I will be teaching approximately 20 pastors Bible interpretation and preaching skills, as well as pastoral skills.  I can’t wait!  The trip is totally an act of God, in that last week at this time I knew nothing about it.  Please pray for me as I prepare to go.

Laura, my beautiful wife, has seen the need for a woman with her skills there and is going to go as well.  We firmly believe that God has provided for this trip for us in many ways (see her letter below); the only needs that remain are for people to pray for us and for people to provide the finances to make it a reality.  If you can help, I would be very grateful.  Below is her letter!

Have you ever had God drop something in your lap that made you overwhelmingly excited and scared to death at the same time? If so, I can relate. My reason is probably different than yours though, so let me explain.

Usually, people fall into one of two groups: those who dream of going to a third world country (especially as one being sent representing Jesus Christ), and those who have NO interest in leaving America for an “un-industrialized” country. I’m one of the former; my draw has been to Africa for some time. I figured I would go eventually- on a special anniversary or important birthday. I pictured myself staying in a “nice” hotel, eating at the “safe” restaurants, and taking the “planned” excursions. You know-“nice,” “safe,” and “planned” being the big words there. And then… God got involved.

Last Thursday, June 10, John got an email from a local church. They were seeking someone to teach and train pastors whom had little or no Bible training, but a huge heart to learn. It was for a 10 day trip. To Rwanda. In less than six weeks! Incredulously, it was just about the only 10 day time frame that would fit into John’s busy schedule. The sponsoring church was going to pay his way. I was thrilled about the opportunity for him. Even more so, I was excited about the idea of going with him! There was a chance for me to use my skills as a doula (labor and delivery support person) to help with the birthing women who come to that village specifically to have their babies. Perfect!
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Immediately, though, there were challenges to be overcome. What would our church think? What we would we do with the kids? Could I find someone to be with the women I was supposed to be a doula for here? Was it safe? And how ON EARTH would we be able to raise enough funds to cover my trip costs of nearly $4000 in just five weeks??

Just as quickly, God began to open doors. The elders of our church and the congregation were supportive; I found a backup doula for my client; John’s parents offered to take the kids for the entire time; and I found a peace that I’ve never experienced when thinking of the “what ifs” regarding my health and safety. Which only left the fundraising. I simply refuse to believe that God would make such a straight path- providing answers in the most amazing time frame- only to fail to provide the money for us to go to Africa as a couple. Luke 1:38 reminds me that “…nothing is impossible with God.” In comparison to all the fantastic things He’s ever done, it makes fundraising seem like a fairly small thing! Watching the ways He’s already worked, I am excited to watch him work in this area as well.

That being said, would you like to be a part of making the seemingly “impossible,” possible? ANY financial donations will be helpful. Whether you can donate $1, 10, 25, 50 or more… every bit is helpful! You can use it as a tax deduction if you make the contribution through our church, West Greenway Bible Church, 5341 W. Greenway Rd, Glendale AZ 85306. Please make checks out to WEST GREENWAY BIBLE CHURCH, with “Laura’s trip” “Africa” or “Rwanda” in the memo line (otherwise it will make it into the general fund. Good for the church, but not so helpful towards my fundraising).

If you are not worried about the receipt, you can give cash or check donations to me directly, or deposit it in my Paypal account (email address: TheCorreias@cox.net). Paypal does not have a fee when the money comes from your Paypal account or bank account. However, there is a 3% fee when you use a credit or debit card, or with Paypal Credit, so please take that into consideration. Please remember to include your name and address with your donation so I can send acknowledgment of your gift. If donors’ generosity exceeds the trip costs, I will use the excess to bring basic necessities (that are unfortunately lacking) to the birthing/medical center I’ll be working with.

Perhaps you have a heart to help, but are unable to do it monetarily. Please consider partnering in prayer with us as we go. We will only be successful with people praying for us! In addition to the money needed to be raised in a short amount of time, there are many logistical hurdles to overcome. If you are interested in praying for us leading up to the trip and/or while we are gone, that would be an amazing blessing. Please email us at TheCorreias@cox.net to get prayer specifics.

Thank you so very much for supporting us in whatever way you find yourself lead- financially, prayerfully, or perhaps you could link this note to your Facebook page or blog… even just in sharing our excitement with us! This experience has truly shown me the magnificence of God in a very real way. I hope that you are able to grow close to Christ in your life, and can be confident knowing He has a plan for your life… even if it includes Africa!

In Christian love,
Laura Correia
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Keep Your Cool

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Last night I left kenpo at 8:40 as usual; it takes about 10 minutes to get out of class and packed up.  On my way out I called my mentor Fred to talk about a possible mission trip to Rwanda that he had suggested me for, and we were discussing it as I started down 35th Ave toward home.  All was normal with the world: I was a bit sore from class (thanks to another mentor, Joel, who likes to beat me up on the training mat), feeling good about the weekend ahead, and wondering about God dropping an opportunity in my lap to perhaps teach pastors in a remote part of Rwanda about how to study the Bible and teach it. (you can find some AMAZING pictures of the group’s previous trip at Chris Mattox’ blog)

All of a sudden my life got put on hold for a bit.  A car turned left at the light at loop 101 right in front of a truck driving south in front of me, maybe 20 yards ahead.  They hit each other moderately hard, and pieces of bumper went flying.  I quickly told Fred that I had seen an accident and needed to go, then hung up the phone and pulled in behind the truck that had been driving in front of me.  It had been struck pretty hard in the driver’s side front quarter panel and driven into the guard rail; the little Kia that had turned in front was smashed up in front pretty good and resting in the far right lane.

Now was not the time for panic but for assessment of the situation.  There was a woman in the truck who appeared fine.  She opened her door and confirmed that she was unhurt.  The driver of the other car, though, was pretty shook up and was starting to panic.  Though it looked like there were no serious injuries, I asked the first driver to call 911 to get an ambulance rolling just in case, which she did.  I then began a dialog with the young woman behind the wheel.

When I first approached she was panicking.  Her airbag had gone off, and while she was thankfully wearing her seat belt she still got thumped pretty good by it.  She had opened her door by the time I got there, so I crouched down next to her and began to reassure her that she would be alright.  Our exchange went something like this:

Her: “I can’t see!  I can’t see!” (crying heavily and hyperventilating)
Me: “Sweetheart, my name is John and I am here to help you.  You’re going to be fine, I promise.  Your eyes need a second to recover from your airbag.  That’s normal; just give it a minute.  What’s your name?”
Her: “Emily.”
Me: “Okay Emily, my name is John and I am here to help.  You’re going to be fine; we have the paramedics on the way.”
Her: “I can’t breathe!  My side hurts.  My knee hurts!”
Me: “I know sweetheart.  Sit still and wait for the paramedics to arrive.  How old are you Emily?”
Her: “19.”
Me: “19? Well it makes sense that you’re a little shook up.  That’s a lot to happen at 19 to a young woman.  I promise, you’re going to be fine.  You’re not badly hurt, but let’s just wait here in the car until the firefighters come okay?”
Her: “Okay.”

By that point she had calmed down quite a bit, though she was obviously shaken up.  I had to put my hand on her shoulder to hold her still for a bit, but crouched there and continued to talk to her.  Amazingly, a friend from church stopped at the scene and held her hand as well, acting as a wonderful comforting influence. (probably 30 cars just whizzed by without stopping before the paramedics got there… ~X( <>)  I took Emily’s phone and called her mom from it, let her know that Emily should be fine but that she was probably going to get transported to John C. Lincoln and that she should head over there.

Once the firemen arrived (the fire house was close enough to see from the scene of the wreck) my job was done.  The professionals took over!  I talked to the other lady and gave her my card, gave a report to the policeman who responded along with my information, and jumped back in the truck to head home.

I’m all about being a Good Samaritan, and of course helping someone in need always reminds me of the parable Jesus tells in Luke 10:30-37:

“Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. “And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. “Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. “But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. “On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” ”

Being a neighbor isn’t where we live; Jesus tells us that being a neighbor is defined by how we act and how we care.  I was so proud of Barbara for stopping when she did and rendering assistance to that scared young woman!  Jesus commands us to help those in need and to offer assistance to others, even when it is costly and inconvenient.  I must admit that I didn’t see the wreck and think about this parable before stopping, but thankfully the Lord had it imbedded in my heart so that I didn’t need to recall it in order to obey it last night.

This episode also made me think of what God tells us in Scripture, though maybe not how you might think.  I didn’t really offer young Emily any medical help beyond making her stay put; I am not trained beyond basic first aid and even if I were she didn’t appear to be badly hurt.  What I offered her was an emotional anchor and reassurance that everything would be alright.  I was a psychological and spiritual support for a few crucial minutes.  That made me think of life with God as pictured in Psalm 23:4,

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

If we are all alone and we run into tragedy or misfortune, we panic like Emily did.  Having someone at her side reassuring her that it would be okay was enough to bring her back and calm her down until help could arrive.  How much more do we need the reassurance of God that He is with us and that everything will be alright in the end? 

I can’t imagine life without having His presence to comfort and guide me.  Whatever comes, God is right there with His followers to comfort, to strengthen, and to encourage.  (and best of all, when the paramedics arrive he won’t leave you to go home, eat dinner and watch TV!).  When life gets tough and we are disoriented and hurting, it is His voice that comforts us and allows us to make it through whatever comes.

So my encouragement to you today is twofold: (1) remember, we BECOME the neighbor of those around us when we meet their needs, which God commands us to do.  So become neighbors whenever you can, and look for chances to be the hands and feet of Christ. (2) Whatever trial or problem you face, remember that God is with you to see you through it and to encourage you.  Take His hand and walk through it; you’ll be glad you did.

Oh, yeah, one more thing: fasten your seatbelt and drive defensively, too. 🙂