Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40)

A few years ago my older brother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. While he and I were never particularly close, we were by no means estranged either, though in our adult lives we had lived in different cities. We would talk on occasion. We just didn’t have a lot in common. And once I declared my profession of faith in Jesus Christ 15 years ago we had even less in common. It’s not that he was outwardly hostile to me or my faith; he just didn’t want to hear about it.

While my brother didn’t seek out conflict, he did not shy away from confrontations as certain situations presented themselves. My brother had an ingrained sense of ‘right and wrong’, and when he felt that he or someone else in his presence, including a total stranger, was being disrespected or taken advantage of, he was vocal in his opposition. And he wasn’t afraid to back it up physically if push came to shove, so to speak. Though broad shouldered, he was short in stature (our family is by and large a bit smaller than average), but you just knew not to mess with him!

Almost 25 years ago, my brother decided he could no longer work for “the man.” He had always had a rebellious streak and, thus, had some difficulty with authority. Consequently, he began working on his own as a mobile car mechanic.

Generally, he was more comfortable with others who were much like him. Hence, on the flip side, he had long harbored a bit of prejudice against non-whites. Also, as far as I can remember, he didn’t much care for non-heterosexuals. He also didn’t like any sort of pretense, especially from the more affluent in society.

With all the foregoing in mind, I received the shock of my life while attending his funeral.

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan,* as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii** and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” [Luke 10:25-37, NIV]

*Samaritans were a mixed-blood race of Jews and Gentiles. Jews considered Samaritans ‘unclean’; and, generally, the two groups were openly hostile to one another.

**A denarius was equal to one day’s wage.

My brother’s funeral was relatively well-attended. “Would this many people come to my funeral?” I thought to myself. There were quite a few who got up to speak kind, heartfelt words about my brother. It was very moving. Among these were an in-the-process transgender (male to female) and a gay man.  There was a mix of races represented.

The common theme in their words was in how my brother would go well out of his way to fix his customers’ vehicles. On the phone with my brother one time, I recall him mentioning to me how he was going to a salvage yard to secure a part to place on a customer’s car. Apparently, when faced with a car problem involving an individual of very limited means, my brother would call around to find the part(s) in a salvage yard, instead of buying the necessary part(s) new. This may even have involved the extraction of the part(s) from the vehicle; yet, it was obvious my brother neither charged for the labor of taking the part from the salvaged vehicle, nor his time and travel to and from the yard. Or at least he didn’t charge enough to break even on that portion. My brother had a heart – a big heart – to help those less fortunate. And he himself was hardly doing well financially.

My brother was literally a poor (wo)man’s car mechanic. He helped the disenfranchised and disadvantaged. It didn’t matter who you were. He may not have followed a great business model, but he sure modeled loving your neighbor as yourself.

That day at his funeral, I was proud to call him my brother. However, the events of that day caused me to look inwardly: Was I really loving my neighbor as myself? Do I really do enough for my neighbor?

Happy Thanksgiving 2015!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today North Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving. It is a day to give thanks to God for His provision. It is a day in which many will overindulge, eating too much food.

Yet, we must remember that there are those here who struggle to have adequate nourishment. Let’s pray for them. We must also remember those who, through various circumstances, are spending this holiday alone, isolated. Let’s pray for them, as well. Better yet, let’s find a way to reach these people. I’m sure some of you already have. And not just today, but each time the opportunity arises.

There is much to be thankful for:

Family – warts and all.

Friends, both old and new.



As for myself and fellow Americans, our country, in which we enjoy relative prosperity and freedom.

Though storms, sometimes tempestuous, besiege us at times, they all eventually subside. These trials and tribulations help us to really appreciate the more sunny times. I especially like this quote: “Light is only precious during dark intervals.”1 When the skies are cloudless and blue we tend to take sunlight for granted. But, oh, in the midst of a storm, a glimmer of light can be worth all the treasures of the cosmos! Thankfully, in life there’s much more sun than storm.

Thank God for the gift of life – our temporal, finite existence, with its peaks, valleys and inbetweens. And thanks to the Father for sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to provide the opportunity for eternal life, in which the light is always shining.


1 This partial quote is found, uncredited, on the back cover of Keith Jarrett’s album Dark Intervals (ECM Records, ECM 1379, 1988). It may well be Jarrett’s. The full quote is: “TOUCH IS ONLY POSSIBLE AT THE EDGE OF SPACES. LIGHT IS ONLY PRECIOUS DURING DARK INTERVALS.”

USAF Band Performs Christian-Themed Christmas Music at Museum

Saw this at David Alan Black’s Blog and had to repost. This video is from a 2013 “flash mob” at the National Air and Space Museum. The USAF band (and chorale) performs a medley of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “Joy to the World.”


Random Thoughts

This will be a bit unusual in that, just like the title states, this post will consist of random thoughts.  In thinking about writing down the ruminations swirling through my head of late, I was reminded of a term from a psych class I took as a college freshman – flight of ideas.  I’ve been convinced for some time now that everyone is afflicted with some amount of mental illness, though it’s A Question of Degree.[1]  I don’t mean to come off as flippant about mental illness, though this is only a tad tongue in cheek.  In part, given the constant war between flesh and spirit (Rom 7:21-25; Gal 5:17), I can sometimes identify with these lines in David Bowie’s song “All the Madmen,” written from the perspective of a ‘sane’ person visiting an insane asylum (said to be inspired by Bowie’s half-brother Terry Burns, who was committed):

‘Cause I’d rather stay here with all the madmen
Than perish with the sad men roaming free
And I’d rather play here with all the madmen
For I’m quite content they’re all as sane as me

I don’t believe I can adequately express my extreme disappointment in the lack of response to the request for help in my last post.  There were a grand total of four individuals who responded, one of whom I know has given in the past (I originally found out about this need from this individual).  To those who did give, I wish to express my heartfelt thanks – not that you need either my thanks or my approval.

In an article titled Are There Any Christians Left?, dated August 10, 2015, Dr. Dennis Cuddy expressed his own dismay at the lack of assistance he received:

Not long ago at the beginning of one of my NewsWithViews columns, I mentioned a desperate need my mother had and still has. Outside of those who already knew us, there were only 2 responses.

I’d not seen Cuddy’s post before I published my own; but, I find it interesting that each of us referenced Matthew 25. I chose to use it in a positive manner; in Cuddy’s apparent frustration, he used it negatively.

I’ve noticed that decorations for Halloween, and events in general supporting All Hallows’ Eve, are coming out earlier and earlier and getting more and more evil-looking.  And they seem to be increasing in size (in terms of overall display), coming close to rivalling Christmas decorations.  Sign of the times, I suppose.

[1] The song at the hyperlink (click on “SHOW MORE” under the short bit of info under the video to see lyrics), by the band Wire, was initially released as a single in 1978, then re-released, appended to the CD version of the long-player titled Chairs Missing, the title of which is British slang for someone with some sort of mild mental disorder. In the US we might say ‘a few bricks shy of a full load’ or some similar such expression. Interestingly, the next song in the queue on YouTube – at least on my computer – is a similar-themed track (though lyric content is somewhat ambiguous) by the same band (titled “40 Versions”, the last track on their ’79 release 154). Check out lyrics here (scroll to bottom): http://www.pinkflag.com/read/discography/154.php.

Joyfully Giving in Service to the Saints and the Lord Jesus Christ

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else (2 Corinthians 9:12-13, NIV 1984).

In his second letter written to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul lays out the ideals for New Testament giving. Paul commended the Macedonians for providing aid to other needy saints out of their poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-5), yet he advocated a balance in giving, towards equality among the saints:

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15, NIV 1984; with Paul quoting Exodus 16:18).

Currently a brother and sister in Christ (husband and wife) are in need of assistance – and prayer.  Without going into too much detail, they left a secure job many years ago in obedience to the call of Christ, and after 15 years of service the husband fell ill to what has been diagnosed as congestive heart failure. Two years ago their ministry was forced to close down due to financial difficulties, leaving a rather substantial debt. Most of this debt has been satisfied, due in large part to generous donations from their brothers and sisters in Christ.   Approximately $10,000 (including legal fees) is currently outstanding, and this balance must be paid in full by September 17th or serious legal consequences will result. They are working as hard as possible but cannot possibly meet this financial need on their income alone.

Will you, dear readers, assist your brother and sister in Christ? The CrossWise blog currently has 290 subscribers. If we average about $30 per donation, the need will be met. But, no amount is too small, and we needn’t limit this to blog subscribers. Will you pass this on to other saints you know?

When Jesus returns in His full, Kingly glory, He will separate the sheep from the goats. Of the sheep He will say:

. . . I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me’ (Matthew 25:35-36, NIV).

Then the sheep will, in turn, ask Jesus Christ the King:

‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?’ (Matthew 25:37-39, NIV)

In reply, the King will say, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me (Matthew 25:40, NIV).

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Neil Young Records Anti-GMO Themed Album Titled “The Monsanto Years”

Neil Young has long championed the farmer, as evidenced by his co-founding, along with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp, of Farm Aid in 1985. Young has often been an outspoken critic for and against various political and social issues, some of which I didn’t and don’t agree; but, on the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms I’m in agreement. Moreover, I concur with his insistence on high quality recording for music; and his early rejection of digital in favor of analog was spot on, though the higher quality digital recording techniques and media have now reached more than acceptable levels. But I digress.

Young’s newest album, recorded with two of Nelson’s sons, is set for release on June 30th. NPR posted a review of the record, including full audio of the 1st disc of the 2-disc set. While I certainly don’t look to Neil Young for Biblical interpretation, I find these lyrics poignant:

Don’t care now what the Bible said so long ago – not Monsanto

Give us now our daily bread and let us not go – Monsanto

The seeds of life are not what they once were

Mother Nature and God don’t own them anymore

For those not aware, Monsanto successfully won patents for its pesticide-resistant seed. When spores from these patented seeds travel via wind currents and mix with non-GMO farms’ plants, the result is the formerly pure seed is now tainted with the GMO and may be considered a patent violation for the unfortunate farmer, who may have to pay Monsanto.  Food and Water Watch had this to say about the issue:

Trying to keep a farm GMO-free is harder than you might think. Some GMOs don’t stay put where they’re planted. It’s quite common for them to contaminate neighboring farms, or even farms many miles away when pollen from GMO crops drifts on the wind. Seed supplies can be contaminated with GMOs, too. In 2013, an Oregon farmer found GMO wheat in his field – an unapproved crop that hasn’t been field tested since 2005. This is a serious problem for organic farmers, who are not allowed to use GMOs.

More to the point, perhaps, is that most, if not all organic farmers do not want GMO crops. And I certainly don’t want genetically modified food. Yet, I wonder, given the ease with which organic farms can be contaminated, just how much food labelled “organic” is truly GMO-free.

Answer to Open Challenge to Fans and Critics of Bill Johnson/Bethel Church

Since Bill Johnson’s Bethel church continues to grow, I’ve decided to reblog this particular post. In it, by analyzing Johnson’s words, I conclude that Bill Johnson is teaching a form of neognosticism. The audio source is the same sermon from which Johnson offhandedly claims Jesus was ‘born again’.


Since the original Open Challenge to Fans and Critics of Bill Johnson/Bethel Church has not received much interaction apart from regular readers here on CrossWise, it seems best to fully explain the selected text comprising that challenge in this separate post, as I deem this information critical to understanding the basis not just of Johnson’s Christology, but of his entire theology.

In the following message, taken from Bill Johnson’s 12/20/09 sermon Jesus is our Model (2nd service), all CAPS indicates Johnson’s emphasis, other emphasis is added, indicating portions important in understanding the overall message: 

…Look at verse 3, “And, the devil said to Him, ‘IF you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread.’”  Jesus answered Him saying, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every WORD of God.”  What was the first temptation?  It wasn’t to turn…

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