At 7:30 AM with the air still, morning sun brilliant, and hopes high, Mazur spotted a set of “tracks.” At the end of the tracks sat a man with gloves off, chest bare, near death. This man turned out to be “Lincoln Hall”. Twelve hours earlier his team had left him on the mountain. His team thought that they had left his body on the slope; and yet, after spending the night at twenty below zero with no oxygen, Lincoln Hall was still alive.
Mazur was face to face with a “miracle”. He was also face to face with a choice. Do we pass by on the other side or do we attempt a rescue. A rescue attempt would have profound risks. The descent was already treacherous, even more so with the weight of a dying man. Besides, how long would Hall survive? No one knew. The three climbers had to choose: abandon their dream or abandon Lincoln Hall. They chose to abandon their dream.
Their decision to save Hall’s life stirs a great question. Would we do the same? Sacrifice our ambitions, schedules, and goals to help someone else? We all make such decisions daily. Not on Mt. Everest, but in homes with spouses and children, at school with friends, at work, and in church with fellow Christians. The Question remains the same: Who comes first, do they or do I?
When you turn away from your own personal comfort zones to help others, you are in Jesus’ words, denying yourself. Matthew 16:24 states, “if any of you want to be my followers, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” If we are to follow Jesus’ instructions on self-denial, we must review his timeless lesson in the story of the Good Samaritan as found in the Bible passage Luke 10:25-37 (READ).
Today the question remains… “Who is my neighbor? Who comes first, do they or do I?”
I’m your neighbor…. I’m a 23-year old mother of two. Late one night three years ago, my life was robbed by a man that I trusted. In a drunken rage he beat me nearly to death, shattered most of the bones in my face and dumped me in a ditch, like a piece of garbage. I crawled to several houses before someone would come to the door and called 911. To be honest, part of me never left that ditch…… I’m unfinished business.
I’m your neighbor….. I was a Special Forces sniper in Vietnam, 1969-1971. The army taught me well. I worked alone. On my last mission things went horribly wrong. The “pickup” chopper received heavy ground fire. The radio warned me, “We will try once more.” I made a run for the chopper door. Once we cleared the trees, the Viet Cong shot me 13 times. I fell 70 feet to the ground. I know how Jesus must have felt as I laid spread eagle on the jungle floor; the life draining out of me. I felt betrayed, but the chopper did come back. I’ve become collateral damage…. I’m unfinished business.
I’m your neighbor….You’ve read about me in the newspaper. I’m the high school girl who was nearly killed in a car wreck. I was pronounced clinically dead and lay in a coma for 3 months. When I woke up the pain was so severe I became addicted to prescription pills and hard drugs. I lost hope and overdosed one day and “flat lined.” Once again I was resuscitated. A few months later, mass infection would ravage my body with 106 degree fever. In the end the infection would take away my ability to have children and be replaced with a bitterness towards God. Today I sing “Amazing Grace”…. I have unfinished business.
I’m your neighbor…. You won’t see any bullet scars on me or evidence of broken bones on my face. You see, I’m broken on the inside. I’ve been branded as an irritating malcontent who has a tough time going along with the “system” including church. I don’t get pats on the back or waves of applause. Chances are good that I will ruffle tons of feathers and be the subject of town gossip. I don’t color within the lines or stay within the fences. I make most people very uncomfortable. They say a good shepherd will break the leg of a wandering errant lamb which will not stay within its boundaries.
You see, the Good Shepherd had to break my leg to keep me close to Him. Will you be a neighbor to me while my leg heals? Will you tell me how God is drawn to the broken? Will you tell me that God has a plan for me? Tell me that I’m God’s unfinished business.
You may be wondering….Who are these people? They are your neighbors. In fact, you cannot leave here today and not pass by at least one of these neighbors.
I truly believe that Jesus walks the aisles of this church every Sunday morning looking for hearts that really feel and eyes that truly see our neighbors as ourselves. I also believe that Jesus sits in the chair next to us in the coffee shop. He also watches us on the streets as we pass by our neighbors. Everyday we are given options to pull over or pass by on the other side. Every day is exam day… Every day each of us are an open book test on unfinished business. Question is…….What do our neighbors see in us? Do they see the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan? Do they see Jesus?.....The tracks we leave behind.
Question is…Do our neighbors see the tracks of the Priest? READ Luke 10: 31.
This Jewish priest was probably on his way to serve in the temple in Jerusalem. We might expect this man to treat the beaten man with loving compassion… In my opinion, the priest represented religious leaders, those in trusted positions; pastors, elders, leaders and teachers. It’s a well known fact that those placed in these positions are held to a higher standard. Even in today’s culture, our neighbors would expect us to stop and help and not pass by on the other side. They would at the very least expect us to call Pastor Carl or 911.
Question is…Are we in such a hurry to get to our next meeting that we fail to notice the tracks of “Patrick”, the homeless man. The foot prints in the snow that leads to a cold, lonely building within the shadow of the steeple.
Question is…Are we more concerned about our attendance at “small groups” than we are with the small group of “outcasts” and “misfits” hanging out in the city park?
Pastor Arvin Wester, a retired Reformed minister, once wept tears of regret from the pulpit. I quote, “having spent 40 years filling my head with book knowledge, I have found that I have left my heart sadly behind.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums it well in his book, “Costly Grace”.
Discipleship means we give up any thought that there will be bits and pieces of our lives that can remain unaffected by our relationship with Jesus. We no longer have the choice to serve where we want, in the way we want, and still be home in bed by 10:00PM. We no longer have the luxury of deciding our future based upon a 401K and a dental plan.
Can you imagine the apostle Paul deciding where to go next based on the cost of living in a particular town? Why should we be any different? We serve the same Lord; we’re infused with the same Holy Spirit? Are the standards of discipleship different now than they were in the first century A.D.? Are we called to a lesser (second-tiered) discipleship? Do we serve a lesser Lord?
When we have a romantic view of discipleship, we may imagine ourselves giving up everything for Jesus as the world admires our faith and people express their heartfelt gratitude for our sacrificial service. But the cost of discipleship will likely be the scorn of a world that sees you throwing away your future to help people who can give you nothing in return. Discipleship may mean sacrificing for others who will have no appreciation for what you have done – much like Jesus, who was ridiculed as he died on a cross.
he grace to go wherever Jesus tells us to go comes only through the call of Christ and the power of God infused into our being. Grace only comes to us as we obey Jesus, regardless of the circumstances or consequences.
How much of our service to Jesus is based upon what is convenient for us and how much of it is based upon doing what Jesus tells us to do?… The tracks we leave behind.
The “Tracks” we leave behind of the Levite,. READ Luke 10:32,
This man was a descendant of Levi, set apart in Israel to serve God alone. He should have been more compassionate than anyone. “Set apart to serve God alone.” That would be all of us here today. It’s been said, that to truly love God, we need to love the things that He loves. Our hearts need to break for the things that break the heart of God.
Question is….As Levites today, why do we sometimes walk a wide path around the “beggar” on the street? (The Stick Man) Why do we sometimes take another road on the way home so we don’t have to go past the “messy house”?
Could the answer be that we’ve gotten “burned”? Today do we count the cost and weigh it against the risk and choose the bail out plan as we put on our turn signals. Are we becoming numb to the needs of this world by events we had no part of and by routes we did not choose.
Financial Tracks….The United States is in debt 13.4 trillion dollars. A trillion dollars would fill ten thousand industrial pallets of hundred dollar bills – enough to fill the floor of an average sized warehouse. If you can’t wrap your mind around a trillion, here’s an analogy from World Magazine that might help: think of dollars as time in seconds. Going back in time 1 million seconds would take you back 12 days. 1 billion seconds would take you back 30 years. And 1 trillion seconds would take you back 32,000 years. Perhaps we feel insignificant as Satan whispers in our ear, “pass by, keep going, your two silver coins will only be wasted”. Throw in Bernie Madoff & Homestead and the stage of our minds is set.
The “Tracks” of our time….. Are we really too busy to stop or do we remember the words of our moms and dads. “Never stop for a stranger”. In today’s culture, everyone is a stranger and no one is expected to be a good neighbor…maybe it’s about return on investment.
The “Tracks” of our hearts…. Pastor Bill VandenBos once said, “if you stop to help ten people in trouble in your life, then remember this: Nine will take your blankets, your money, your time and some will take your heart.” It is then that you will become discouraged and want to give up; that is when God will send person number Ten as a test. The problem is that you will not know which one is number Ten. You will have to help them all…….. The tracks we leave behind.
Possibly do we think if we do nothing, the problem will simply go away?
The tracks of “complacency (Story of skunk....)
1. An untimely inconvenience
2. Ignored order “get the gun”
3. Safety “buffer” – 300 yards of lawn, water filled ditch, a bridge, a hill, and 2 flights of stairs. Equals a skunk at your door!
The Tracks we leave behind as the Samaritan. READ Luke 10:33-37…..
Paraphrase Version: Jesus calls us to cancel our dinner plans at Zios, to turn around and go back to put the homeless man in our own car. We are called to rip bandages from our best Sunday shirt and bind up the wounds. We are called to use our most expensive oil from Bath & Body Works. We are called to bring the man to the Borderview Inn. As you pay for the room… your Visa or MasterCard will become the “two silver coins.” The toughest requirement of all is leaving the account open; being willing to pick up the tab for future unknown expenses. This is the kind of love that takes on the shame of others in order to bring them closer to the kingdom of heaven. We may damage our own dignity and honor as we show mercy; that is because we are following in the footsteps of Jesus.
The tracks we leave behind…….
READ Luke 10:36-37. And so it is….A neighbor is one who shows mercy. Jesus tells us all to go and do likewise…This is our unfinished business.
Jesus calls us to be like him. Jesus served the broken. If we are to serve those who Jesus served, we must allow him to take us by the hand and to equip us with a tender heart and strong hands and the eyes to know when to use them.
Jesus says that what we give to others, we will also be given. Mercy means we risk our own reputation as we take on the distress, humiliation and sin of others. Jesus fills us with an irresistible love for the down trodden, the sick, the wretched, the wronged, the outcasts and all who are tortured with anxiety.
READ Matthew 5:7
That lesson on mercy came for me one day last summer. Jesus was dressed as my 5 year old grandson, Tyler. Side by side, holding hands, we walked together to the back pasture. There God would teach me in His classroom through the little hand that I was holding. This is where God’s grace and the mercy of Jesus would meet with the words, “Grandpa, you’re walking way too fast! I’m helping things that are in trouble.” First was the snake (wattler); next was the moth “entangled” in the loose grass. As Tyler set the moth free, I was reminded of the verse in Hebrews 12:1, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and run the race marked out for us.” Its in this race set before each of us that our tracks are left behind.
The Tracks of Jesus Left Behind
It’s been said that during our life time we will all walk in the tracks of the Priest, the Levite, the Samaritan and those of Jesus. The tracks that Jesus left behind are our “unfinished business” today, to love the overlooked.
Max Lucado writes: Servanthood requires no unique skill or seminary degree. Regardless of your strengths, training, or church attendance, you can…. Love the overlooked.
Jesus sits in your midst, wearing the thick glasses, outdated clothing, and a sad face. You’ve seen him. He’s Jesus. Jesus works in your office. Pregnant again, she shows up to work late and tired. No one knows the father. According to water cooler rumors, even she doesn’t know the father. You’ve seen her. She’s Jesus. When you talk to the lonely person, befriend the weary mom, you love Jesus. He dresses in the garb of the overlooked and ignored. “Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40
If this devotional and Matthew 25:40 is correct, we’ve all seen Jesus. Jesus is the tattooed, pink haired young mother who fumbles for her food stamps at the checkout stand and then drives home in a beat-up little car with 3 hub caps.
Jesus is the middle-aged mother who never had a mother. Today she fights addictions to alcohol, heroin and meth; whatever it takes to dull the pain of life. Most of her days lately are spent in court hearings, trying desperately to hold on to custody of her kids who don’t even know their own father.
Jesus is the man with a jaded past. You won’t find him easily. In fact, he will be hard to find; he is on the move and never sleeps in the same place more than one night. God has forgiven him. He just hasn’t forgiven himself.
For many years I “overlooked who Jesus loved.” In July of 2006 I found out just how much God loved those who Jesus came to earth to sit with and die for….the overlooked.
I was born and raised in the tracks of Jesus; however, over time I drifted to the other side of the road into the tracks of the priest and the Levite. You see, God blessed me not with a huge body but with a heart that always loves and with a will that never quits. After 55 years I had it “all going on”; a wonderful family, thriving business, a church family to serve. I served with all my heart, when my briefcase got full of files and “do lists”, I simply added a second briefcase. Instead of the standard 24/7 that everyone else was doing, my will to succeed pushed me to 25/8 with pride feeding my ego. I was out of control on a collision course with God.
In July 2006 my life would be changed forever. God had set the stage to break my “will” but not my heart. Long story short…….For 3 days I became a maverick. My journey was to cover four states and over 2000 miles. It was a very wet spring in the hay business that year. I left God home and headed to sunny Utah where it never rains in July. God followed my “tracks” to Nephi, Utah, where He brought healing rain on me (3 inches of it in one hour) washing the road out to the hay fields that I desperately needed. I sat in the pickup and wept for what I couldn’t have.
I turned around and headed west to the high desert of Idaho; I reasoned that surely the Mennonites would be under God’s favor and have haying weather. They only get 1/4 inch rain in a full year. What I found there in Grand View, Idaho, was something that only God could do: the hay grower that I dealt with had 5 fields. I remember driving up and seeing the look of disbelief on his face. I will never forget his words, “Denny, God must have withdrawn His hand from us; our deepest wells have dried up in the two fields you were supposed to have. Those fields are nothing but yellow flowers. Strangest thing, the field man says the flowers aren’t even from around these parts.” The Mennonite reasoned that this had happened because he had bought a computer. I knew it was me…..
I thought, “Its okay,”….I fueled up and headed for French Glen on the California border. After driving all day, I crested the hill overlooking the valley. As far as I could see, there was nothing but water and shore birds flying everywhere. I would soon learn from a local that a river dike had broken and all of the alfalfa hay ground was under two feet of water.
Time used up, energy gone, no more options, back against the wall, bottom fallen out, that’s when God finds us in our desperation. After He’s taken away everything that we have or think we need, until all we have left is Him, its then that we find Him waiting for us…..For me it was that night in a motel in Burns, Oregon, at 4:30 in the morning, God spoke in a soft, loving Father’s voice; words that would change my life forever. “Go home and love my people.”
On the way home, I was thinking about the “cute little speech” I would give to the people at the CR church; the people that I already loved. Then in the wind at the gas station in Ellensburg, God’s soft voice came again with the words, “You’ve got it all wrong, I said love My people.”
By now, a little confused, I headed home to find that God saved the best for last. He brought me up a driveway of a person I didn’t even like. “Awkward,” was the word to describe how I felt knocking on that door wondering why I was even there and what I would say. The door opened and before I could speak, I heard the words, “Denny, it’s you!” My wife and I have been praying non-stop for two weeks asking God to raise up His most unlikely person to start a much needed “street ministry” in Sumas.
In service to God, there is no negotiating; its all or nothing. When it comes to yielding our hearts and our wills, 95% is not good enough. In the end He takes all. You see, I was one of those neighbors who wouldn’t color within the lines or stay inside the fences. Over the course of time, God would take away my brief cases filled with pride, my lifelong friends, and a church membership of 60 years. In the end He would leave me with a heart of unconditional love for the people that Jesus loves, with a will without boundaries or limits and on His path of unfinished business……The tracks we leave behind.
The Bottom Line:
A.W. Tozer writes, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly, until He has hurt him deeply.”
The Tracks God Leaves Behind
Most of us never really seek the Lord until we are forced to.
Sometimes…..God allows us to run away so He can come and find us, break our pride, and hold us close while we weep.
Sometimes…..He allows blindness so He can be our eyes to see.
Sometimes…He allows us to be crippled, so His can be the hands that pick us up when we fall.
Sometimes…He allows our families to fail us, so that He can prove that He does not.
Sometimes….He allows us to be sick so He can be the mother that slips into the room late at night to feel our foreheads for fever.
Sometimes….He allows us to be financially broken so that we can find that it’s not what’s in our pockets but what’s in our hearts that makes us truly rich.
Sometimes….God allows our “neighbors” to stop and help in our time of need. At other times He allows them to pass by. It is then that God can come and sit with us for awhile. And when He leaves, it is His tracks that are left behind.
May God meet all of you at your point of need both today and forevermore.
May our unfinished business be to sow “seeds of hope” in the tracks that Jesus left behind.
May all who come behind us find us to be faithful “Samaritans” in the tracks we leave behind. Amen.