Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Vine and the Branches

So, after all is said and done, how do we live a life that is moving away from codependence? How do we live a life of interdependence on Jesus?

Let’s Visit the Vineyard
Let’s go to another place where fruit grows: the vineyard.

Jesus used the vineyard to teach us some important ideas of what it means to live in Him.

He says in John 15:1-4:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (NIV)

Jesus teaches us that His Father is the one who takes care of the vineyard.  He tends all the vines and makes sure they are all growing healthy fruit. 

The “true vine,” Jesus, is the One who pleases His Father.   He is not just any vine.  His fruit will be the only kind with an eternal quality. 

If a branch doesn’t produce fruit, His Father will cut it off.  Jesus may be warning His listeners that not having a relationship to the True Vine will have eternal consequences.

But those branches that produce fruit will be pruned.  The pruning is not a punishment, but God acting with love to make the branches—you and I—more productive in His Kingdom. 

A branch laying on the ground by itself, or attached to another vine will not bear fruit for the Father.  Fruit comes only from the True Vine.  His vitality, His life, flowing in us produces abundance, for only He can give us what we need to grow and prosper.  We then, just like the Son, will please His Father.   

Lessons From My “Vineyard”
Many years ago, I lived in northern California.  The house we moved into had a vine from an old vineyard that the previous owner’s father had.  The owner had taken a vine and planted it in a box.  He built a pergola for the branches to climb. 

When we moved in, the branches had grown across the pergola.  The leaves and grapes hung down.  It was like a small slice of Italy in our backyard.  The grapes looked a bit sad, and the vine didn’t seem very robust, but I knew nothing about grapevines.

I just let it be. 

One day I noticed, while in the backyard with my children, that some of the branches had made their way up my roof and were almost to the top.

Whoa. How did that happen?  I asked around and someone explained that all the energy of that vine was going into those wayward branches.  They needed to be cut off.  The whole vine needed some serious pruning.

I was an inattentive gardener and my vine was going haywire. 

Up the ladder I went, and brought down several ten foot long branches. 

I would like to say the vine jumped into high gear.  But it was still in a box.  So, its growth was limited because what it could draw from the soil was limited. 

It was sad vine.  We moved many years later.  I hope someone with far greater knowledge than I had knew what to do with that vine with its sad branches and measly grapes. 

It is the same prayer I have for you and for me:  I know I am in the hands of Someone who knows how to love and tend this sad branch. 

He wants abundant fruit in me, so I must accept the pruning shears along with the sunshine.  I must accept the liquid plant food along with the manure. 

I cannot fear the shears.

I cannot disdain the rain.

I cannot run from the sun.

I cannot toil in the soil.

But:  I can wait for His sap, His Spirit, to fill me, flow through me and guide me as I grow in the Vine.

This is the last blog I will be posting.  After ten years, and having being read by many loyal readers, I am going to stop blogging. It has been fun and I do hope this blog has blessed you.  

All of my books are available on  Amazon.  The postings you have been recently reading will become my latest book:  Desert No More--Overcoming Christian Codependency.  It will be available in a few months.

All of my books are listed under "R.L. Thorne Cramer" on Amazon.

Blessings in abundance! 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Beauty of God's Orchards

The beauty of God’s orchards—the fruits of His Spirit and how He crafts each fruit in us, means that we can leave our bruised fruit behind. This last chapter is dedicated to redefining the fruits of the Spirit away from a CoDeMo perspective and allowing God’s Word to define what they are.

Jesus said that the truth sets you free. So, if we have these fruits in our lives, guided only by the Word and not defined by our or anyone else’s brokenness, we will have freedom. Jesus said so!

I will give you a few scriptures to reconsider your broken definition with God’s definition.

Love of the Spirit 
1 John 4:7-21 is the best operating definition of love:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (ESV)

Wow. How do we apply these beautiful words to us? We are loved by God so much He sent His Son to die for us and to live in us. We can’t earn God’s love—it is freely given. We are His and He is ours. He came to us in our greatest point of need: to be saved from sin and death and to live an abundant life in Jesus.  If our love is fearful, needy, seeking approval from others and never feeling “good enough,” we need to grab a hold of this fruit and live like our life depends on it. Because it does.

Joy of the Spirit
Here we go:

Then I will rejoice in the Lord.
I will be glad because he rescues me. (Psalm 35:9 NLT)

There I will go to the altar of God,
to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise you with my harp,
O God, my God! (Psalm 43:4 NLT)

The Lord is my strength and shield.
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. (Psalm 28:7 NLT)

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding
or a bride with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10 NLT)

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:11 NLT)

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NLT)

Joy in found in God alone. Serving others comes from having joy in God. If we derive joy from anyone or anything other than God, our joy will flee. Joy isn’t just an emotion; it is knowing how much He cares for us and how much He desires to walk with us.

Peace of the Spirit
May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace. (Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. (Jude 24-25 NLT)

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27 NLT)

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 KJV)

God’s peace is one that the world cannot take away, try as it may. It is a bedrock, that while the storms rage, we know our house will not fall. It is because it is a peace found only in Him. That is why the world cannot experience true peace; without Jesus Christ, true peace is impossible. Equally true, we cannot give someone that kind of peace, no matter how hard we try. The person must call on Jesus for it. Peace comes from knowing how God is carrying us through our life. Then, at the end of our life, He will bring us into His “glorious presence” without any fault. How is that so? Because we are robed in Jesus’ righteousness. God sees is His Son in us.  Don’t allow others to steal this precious fruit out of your life’s basket.

Think of the word, “patience” when you consider this fruit.

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 KJV)

With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (Eph. 4:2 KJV)

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (Rom. 2:4 KJV)

But as it is written, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.’ (1 Corinthians 2:9 KJV)

God is ever so patient with us. He waits for us to come to Him, to accept His offer of salvation in His Son and to walk in His power. But we must wait, too. Many people we love and want better for may take a very long time to around.  Longsuffering or patience doesn’t mean indulgence; it means waiting on God and waiting for God to do what He plans to do.

Gentleness of the Spirit
Being gentle to those who are error is important, for anger and arguments will not bring anyone to Christ. But being gentle is not being a doormat. Jesus was very gentle to those He encountered who were in sin, but He did not allow anyone to walk over Him.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Phil. 4:5 NIV)

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col. 4:5-6 NIV)

Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:17-18 NIV)

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10 NIV)

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:11 NIV)

We can express Jesus’ love and gentleness with how we respond to others, especially those who would use us and abuse us. But remember: Jesus allowed the rich young ruler to walk away from Him (Mark 10:13-31). Jesus did not talk to Herod (who was curious but insincere about who Jesus was) but He talked to Pilate (who wanted to know about Jesus but didn’t want the whole truth).  The Holy Spirit must guide what we say and who we say it to. He must also guide us when to fall silent and when we need to walk away.

Goodness of the Spirit
Goodness comes only as we step more and more out of the way, and allow the Holy Spirit to work His will in the world through us.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32 NIV)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:21)

The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him. (Nahum 1:7 NIV)

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7 NIV)

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8 NIV) 

Our goodness must come from God dwelling is us. Otherwise, we will operate from our own definition, which may hurt us or someone else. I love how Peter takes Christian qualities and blends them with other equally important qualities.  Faith blended with goodness means we take what God is doing on the inside and carry to those on the outside. But goodness needs knowledge, so we don’t end up giving our pearls to those who would trample them in the mud.

Faith of the Spirit
Faith itself is a gift. All that we do, including the power to even believe, is a gift from God.

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love. (Eph. 3:16-17 KJV)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7 KJV)

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:13 KJV)

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb. 11:6 KJV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph. 2:8-9 NIV)

Faith is not some kind of magical substance that we conjure up enough of to make God work. It is not about our faith and how much we have. It is about Jesus and our faith in His resurrection power that lives in us. Thus, we are able to go out in the world with His words and His ways.

Meekness of the Spirit
Meekness is not weakness. Jesus was meek, but He was never weak.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt. 11:29 ESV)

He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way. (Psalm 25:9 ESV)

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13 ESV)

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21 ESV)

The greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matt. 23:11 ESV)

Vine’s Dictionary puts this fruit of the Spirit beautifully:  “It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting… In Galatians 5:23 it is associated with… ‘self-control…’ describes a condition of mind and heart, and as ‘gentleness’ is appropriate… to actions…It must be clearly understood, therefore, that the meekness manifested by the Lord and commended to the believer is the fruit of power. The common assumption is that when a man is meek it is because he cannot help himself; but the Lord was ‘meek’ because He had the infinite resources of God at His command…it is not occupied with self at all.” (401)

Isn’t that powerful? We have God’s resources when we ask Him in faith to receive them. We don’t have to focus on what we can or cannot do; He has what we need. We need to ask. We then go out, believing that He will empower His servants for the task ahead.

Temperance of the Spirit
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world… (Titus 2:12 KJV) 

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour… (1 Peter 5:8 KJV)

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16 KJV)

The word that is translated today for “temperance” is “self-control.” (Vine’s 620)  I find that interesting, because it isn’t enough to know God and His love or have this fruit. We must ask Him to grow the fruits in us and then give us this fruit to exercise them. Both come from Him: the fruits and the power to put this fruit into operation.  We still inhabit our fleshly bodies, so self-control applies to not allowing the sins of the flesh to take over as well. It’s a matter of asking yourself, “Do I want the Holy Spirit’s fruits in me, or do I hold back some area of my life, allowing me to be in control?”

It’s an important question. What we do and how we grow is our choice. What we allow and what we resist is also our choice. The Holy Spirit wants us to be in God’s beautiful orchards, living life abundantly and going about the Father’s business.

But if we choose otherwise, and let our brokenness define us, then our orchards will yield only bruised fruit.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Good Samaritan or Good Codependarian?

We DoDeWo’s are not the only ones who struggle with who we should help and how best to do so.  

Don’t all Christians struggle with who to help and who to ignore?

Do we give money to the guy on the corner with the sign?

Do we give food to our next-door neighbor who is a single mom?

Do we tithe and write checks to charities?

It’s hard to know when to help.  We don’t want to be callous, but we also don’t want to hurt the person in the long run. 

A Powerful Parable

Jesus has an interesting exchange with a guy who seems to know best. He knows the Jewish law and what it teaches about  God and others.  Let’s take a peek:

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?’
Jesus replied, ‘What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?’
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.”’
‘Right!’ Jesus told him. ‘Do this and you will live!’ (Luke 10:25-28 NLT)

In modern parlance, Jesus would have said, “Dude!  You nailed it!”  But Luke gives us an interesting insight to this man: 

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ (Luke 10:29)
Hmmm.  Interesting.  “Justify his actions”—what does that mean?  Is he trying to impress Jesus with his knowledge?  Is he trying to impress the crowd listening in?  Is he rather stingy, and helps his neighbor only when he feels like it?  Does he help his Jewish neighbors but treats all others with contempt?

This man wants to know exactly who his neighbor is.  So, in other words, is he really asking,

What’s the minimum I gotta do to keep the Law as I help others?   

Funny, isn’t it?  How often do we look for doing just the minimum required to be obedient, so we can say we are doing right?  But, deep in our hearts, we are holding back love.  We view our obedience as just one more item we check off our “I am being good” list. 

Even we CoDeWo’s do this—we look like we are doing right but our love is limited or gone, washed away by years of rescuing.  We are exhausted inside.     

Jesus doesn’t answer the man directly, but tells a parable.  This story has a lovely truth tucked inside of it.  Jesus begins:    

‘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.
‘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.  A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
‘Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 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. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, “Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.”
‘Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?’  Jesus asked.
The man replied, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’
Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, now go and do the same.’  (Luke 10:30-37 NLT)

You’re Kidding, Right Jesus?  

Everyone in the Jewish community despises Samaritans.  They are considered half-breeds, having intermarried with pagans earlier in their history. 

Jewish people avoid Samaritans whenever they can. So, Jesus putting a Samaritan center stage is rather shocking to His listeners. 

This despised Samaritan is unwilling to pass by the Jewish man, the way his fellow Jews had done.  Perhaps his fellow Jews felt the man in the ditch got what he deserved, for no one travels alone.  The roads then are full of thieves and murderers.  This man, by travelling alone, put himself at risk.    
The Jewish men, who scorn and walk past the injured man, are religious leaders. They know the Law.  The irony here is Samaritans only have the first five books of Moses for their Old Testament, whereas the Jews have a much larger body of God’s Word.  Those first five books are considered “The Law” by the Jews. 

This despised Samaritan understands far better who his neighbor is than the religious guys with the whole shooting match.   

Jesus is answering a question from a religious leader.  Hmmm.  Is Jesus saying that it’s way too easy to judge someone and move on than to see yourself in the faces of others?  That our actions speak louder than words?  That the Law says, “Love your neighbor as yourself?” Would you want to be left in a ditch and have your fellow Jews walk right past you with no regard?   

Compassion drives our Samaritan to help this injured man.  He takes care of the man’s wounds.  This injured Jewish man, who in earlier days, may have ignored or scorned a Samaritan, now finds in him a savior. The Samaritan puts him on his donkey.  The Samaritan walks.  They arrive at an inn, and there he makes provision for the injured man.  The Samaritan takes care of him for the night, and then he leaves the man in the care of the innkeeper.  He pays him to cover expenses; if the expenses exceed what he gave, he will bring more. 

Jesus then wraps the story up with a question:  Who is the real neighbor to the injured man?  The answer is very disturbing to His Jewish audience: a despised Samaritan.  The religious man who originally asked the question does not even use the word, “Samaritan” in his response to Jesus.  He just says it’s “the one who showed him mercy” that is the true neighbor. 
Jesus then boils it down: Go out and show mercy, for everyone is your neighbor, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I know what you are thinking dear CoDeWo: See!  The man helped the other guy!  That’s what I try to do!

Yes, I get it.  But let’s recast this story in full CoDeMo and see that it’s not us helping others that is the problem.  It’s when we do things for them that they can do for themselves.  It’s when we lessen the consequences of their poor decisions.  It’s when we help them wade deeper into to sin.  All of this “help” becomes the problem. 

A New Version:  “Sam I Am”

     One day, businessman Joe decides to go to Jericho.  He has some business to do and he can’t wait for his partner to join him.  Joe knows it is dangerous to travel alone, but he wants to get going.  He throws caution to the wind, and heads out.  He figures God will watch over him. 
      Hey!  I am a good person!  I love God!  I know we are not to test God, but I trust He will watch over me on the road.  Yes, I know, I need to go with Bill, but Bill boring to talk to and I need to get going.
      So away he goes.  The first few hours are exhilarating.  He sees no bandits.  He has plenty of water and the weather is fine.  But after awhile, the sun grows hot and he grows tired.  Joe is no longer very alert.  He doesn’t notice the three nasty-looking dudes dogging him.  All he is thinking is, 
      Man, it’s hot.  I just wish I was at Jericho.  They’ve got a great taco place in town. 
      Then POW!  Joe wakes up a few hours later, bleeding, woozy and in a ditch.  All of his belongings are gone, including his money bag.  He just lies there. 
     Then a priest comes by.  The priest can’t be bothered to help Joe.  He can’t get on down the road fast enough. Ditto for the deacon. Both are gone faster than you could say, “Idiot.”  
     Then Sam happens by.  Sam is the kind of guy who loves everyone, and looks with compassion upon anyone who is hurting.
     He immediately runs over to Joe.
     “Are you OK?” Sam asks.
     “Do I look OK?” the man replies.
     “What happened?”
     “I got run over by a taco truck?  Heck if I know.”
     “Oh.  Let me help you.”
     Sam goes over to his donkey, and grabs some olive oil and linen strips. 
     “You’re gonna have to stay still, Mister.”
     “Easy for you to say.  But I’ll try.”
     Sam gets the man bandaged up, and helps him to his donkey.  Sam hoists him up.  Mercy, Sam’s donkey, looks at him with a funny look.  But she starts walking.  
     “Would you like some water?” Sam.  “I don’t have much.  We will need to share.”
     “Thanks.” The man gulps it all.
     Sam doesn’t realize that until about 20 minutes later when he is parched.  Thankfully, the Jericho Desert Inn is just ahead.  They both stop in and Sam refills his water bag.  He buys a bag of chips and some salsa.  He buys the man an umbrella to keep him out of the sun. Sam has no money left over for himself, so he grabs some jerky out of his pocket and gnaws on that for awhile. They still have several miles to go to get to Sam’s house.  He is feeling happy, for he just loves helping people.  Sam still doesn’t know the man’s name, but Sam is glad the man is happily devouring all the chips and salsa.  
      The man is doing quite despite being beat up.  I am glad I came along. 
      But Sam is growing hungrier and thirstier.  He feels guilty asking the man for some of the chips and salsa.  But he doesn’t ask.
      I wasn’t the one beat up and left for dead, remember?   
      Sam is relieved when his house comes into view.  Oh, the joy in Sam’s heart when he walks into his front door!  He sits down for a second.  He jumps right back up.  He must help the man get off Mercy.  Sam is tired, hungry and footsore, but the man needs help. Sam feels so selfish.  Sam runs to Mercy, and sees that the man is asleep.  Sam gently helps him off and leads the man through the front door and into his bedroom, where a comfy bed awaits.  Sam lays the man down. The man is snoring in no time.  Sam sleeps on his rather lumpy couch. 
      But hey!  I wasn’t the one who got beat up!  I can handle this!
      The man slowly recovers.  Sam notices the man has taken off the bandages, and everything looks fine, but the man keeps complaining about how much pain he’s in.  Even after a month, Sam is still racing to the man’s bedside, bringing him food and drink and trying to get that old TV to work. 
Sam is exhausted.  The man sleeps irregular hours, watches that TV day and night, and never seems to care if Sam is asleep. The man demands Sam’s attention all the time. 
Sam questions this but his guilt silences his anger. 
      I didn’t get beat up, remember?
      Another month goes by.  Every time Sam thinks of asking the man to leave, he feels selfish and guilty.  The same old line runs through his head:
      After all, it wasn’t me who got beat u and left for dead.
      Finally, one day at the Jericho Market, Sam runs into Fred, the innkeeper. 
     “Wow.  For a single guy, you sure do buy a lot!” comments Fred with a big grin on his face.
     “Oh.  It’s not all for me.  That guy who got beat up is staying with me.”
     “What!  He got injured, yes, but by now he must be fine.  You need to help him on his way.  He’s taking advantage of you.”
     Sam feels very resentful at Fred’s remark.
     “But he needs me.  He still hurts.  I am showing him God’s love.”
     “He needs to get up and get going.  Laying around isn’t helping him.  Yeah, at first, he needed to recuperate in bed and have your help.  But now, he needs to be up and about.”
     “Yeah.  I know.  What do I do?”
     “Tell him by Friday he needs to go.  He can stay at my inn on his way home.”
     “But what if he gets mad at me?  What if he won’t leave?  Man, I could sure use the sleep.”
     “Sam:  You have a good heart.  He knows this.  You are feeling needed and have purpose in your life with this guy.  But you aren’t helping him anymore.  You are allowing him to take advantage of you and your limited resources.  You enabling him to stay lazy and unproductive.  How does that honor God?”
     “Whoa.  But what will my neighbors think?  I get compliments all the time from them on how caring I am.  They think I really show the love of God in my life.”
     “You do.  Are your neighbors coming over with food?  Are they offering to take him into their homes?”
     Sam looks sad. 
     “I want to honor God in all I do.”
     “Then turn him loose, Sam, and trust God to work in his life.  You are not the only person in the world who can help this man. He needs to move on in his life.  You helped him get on his feet, but that doesn’t mean you walk for him. Even if he finds someone else to take advantage of and doesn’t move on, that is his choice.  You have done your best.  The freedom you are giving him now just feeds his fleshly desire to do nothing. That’s sin, Sam.”
     Sam pays for his groceries and they both walk out to the donkey lot.  He is still angry inside with how Fred doesn’t see the man the way Sam does, but he still thanks him. 
Sam, deep inside his heart, knows that Fred has a point.   
     It was only many years later, walking in the hot sun, did Sam admit that this episode had not turned out the way he thought it would.  He had pictured a grateful man, patting him on the back and walking down the road with a skip in his step.  Instead, what he got was the man begging him to give him Mercy, because his elbow still hurt.  Sam was so tired, so resentful and so glad the man was leaving, that he gave him Mercy. He watched the two of them disappear down the road. 
     Boy, do I need Mercy now!
     Sam stopped, lowered his head and prayed,
     Dear Lord,
     Teach me to give mercy the way You do.  Your Word says to love my neighbor as myself.  I would have wanted mercy had I been in that ditch, but giving the man Mercy was way more than You required of me.  Let my mercy reflect You and do for others only what they cannot do for themselves. 
Once they can, however, or refuse to do so, let me be a good neighbor and set them free. Don’t let my kind of mercy get in the way of Yours. 

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