Ministering to Neighbors, Part 3

Ministering to Neighbors, Part 3

It will cost!

Date

May 21, 2016

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Part three: Be Willing to be Taken Advantage of

Read part two here.

My sweaty neighbor was standing in my garage asking to borrow a drill. (It had something to do with his daughter’s swing set). Turns out, the battery to my Ryobi cordless drill was dead as a doornail –as usual. But then, I remembered that I had another drill, a much better drill. A Craftsman electric drill to be exact. I was about to offer it to him when the thought hit me, “Will I ever get it back?”

While I don’t believe for one moment that it was in my neighbor’s heart to take advantage of me, was I willing to suffer loss in order to demonstrate the gospel through this act of kindness? Let’s suppose this neighbor’s motives were of a devious nature. Let’s also suppose that I even knew he had the type of project that could cause harm to a drill, and although he had a drill, he chose to ask to use mine in order to save the wear and tear on his own drill. If you were in my situation, would you still loan it out?

Perhaps the issue is not loaning. Perhaps there’s resistance to simply give something away. Or, perhaps the situation calls for you to buy something for them that you feel pretty sure they could buy for themselves?

I remember a moment when a neighbor needed cat litter. (I don’t have cats, but have you ever checked into the price of cat litter? It isn’t cheap!) Can I afford to spend $ 50 on cat litter? Was I willing to do it whether or not he paid me back? If we’re honest, in our worst moments, we do these mental calculations.

No one wants to be taken advantage of. But are we willing because we will be taken advantage of—eventually. Jesus was willing to be taken advantage of. He fed thousands of hungry people who came for the bread, but not the Bread of Life.

Jesus was willing to go far beyond being taken advantage of; he died for us, the Bible says, “while we were still sinners”. When Jesus died, he was shown absolutely NO sense of appreciation by the people he did it for. He knew this and did it anyway…and did it with joy.

If we’re going to reach our neighbors for Christ, we need to be willing to be taken advantage of. It is as we first find our own joy in what Jesus has fully accomplished for us, despite how we’ve taken advantage of him, that we will be willing to serve others, at great cost to us.

Ministering to Neighbors, Part 2

Ministering to Neighbors, Part 2

Forget it!

Date

May 14, 2016

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Gospel

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Part Two: One Thing You Must Forget When Ministering to Neighbors

 

Read Part One of this series here.

In my last column, I suggested that we need to remember Christ’s love as the key to ministry to our neighbors. Indeed, without Christ’s love compelling us, we will fizzle out if we ever take a step. So, remember Christ’s love for you. This time, I’m going to tell you the one thing you should forget: convenience.

It was barely 8:00 am and my neighbor was standing at my front door. Pajama clad, she said that she feared her husband was dead. I ran over to see what had happened. Indeed, something was wrong with her husband and we called 911. So, began our Tuesday at the Emergency Room. (Thankfully, her husband was not dead and he did in fact recover from a stroke).

You’ve heard it said, “Life wouldn’t be so hard if we didn’t expect it to be so easy.” Same is true for outreach. We expect it to be easy; to fit within a nice, scheduled block of time in our overloaded schedules. But usually, the most meaningful service is also the most inconvenient—and costly.

Should we be surprised? Jesus was not only willing to be inconvenienced, he was willing to die. Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).

If we’re going to be effective, we’re going to need to come to grips with the fact that effective ministry is usually inconvenient. I doubt this is a newsflash. We have been sensitized to personal inconvenience and conditioned that we don’t have to put up with it. (If we don’t like the wait, we can always go to another store.) But God’s love was willing to be inconvenienced.

Are we prepared to be inconvenienced in order to reach our neighbors and the world? This is why we need to marinate in the truths of who we are in Christ. When we see how “inconvenienced” Jesus was for each one of us –and the wealth of what He has so freely and graciously given us because of his “inconvenience”– it gives us the strength to actually lay aside convenience to help others.

Ministering to Neighbors, Part 1

Ministering to Neighbors, Part 1

We are all busy!

Date

May 7, 2016

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Gospel

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Part One: The Key To Reaching Our Neighbors

“You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem…” (Acts 1:8). We are witnesses for Christ—first—right where we are. Certainly, this includes our neighbors. Does the thought of that scare you? Perhaps you don’t even know your neighbor’s names. My hope is that this mini-series on ministering to your neighbors will be of encouragement to your family.

The first point I’d like to make is that the love of Christ must compel us to reach out to our neighbors.

We Are All Busy

We are all very busy. We are often busy doing “good” things; things that seem or may in fact be necessary. But many good things we do will not survive the fire of judgement (1 Cor. 3:13) and each of us under the Holy Spirit’s direction needs to judge what we’re busy doing to make the wisest choices possible.

Because we’re busy, we often don’t want to do outreach. So, we do it under duress. We risk undermining our purpose through half-heartedness or we just plain fizzle out.

Christ’s Love is the KEY Motivation

Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:14 how important Christ’s love is as a motivation for service. The love of our Savior is seen in his death and resurrection and the glorious riches that are ours because of his finished work. Ephesians 1 and 2; and Romans 1-8 are just several of many, many excellent passages that describe what we have in Christ.

A Practical Example of Christ’s Love 

For several years now, my family has been helping one of our neighbors through stage 4 Alzheimer’s and other health issues. The help they’ve needed has been multi-dimensional and intensive. Our primary assistance has been periodic usually in response to various medical emergencies. One morning not long ago, I was tired and had too many other things to do, and frankly, I had no strength in me to do anything for them. The conversation around the breakfast table was not one I would want repeated. It was pretty sad and what’s more sad is that this was not an isolated incident.

Then the Holy Spirit, as He has done before in this situation, reminded me of 2 Corinthians 5:14. I shared it and discussed it with the family and we were able to do what needed to be done…with a joyful heart. This was no work of my own. No set of steps about how to minister could have changed my heart and moved me to action. This was the Holy Spirit alone in me, bringing the gospel to mind. I was a recipient of God’s love in Christ! What he did for me was far more difficult than what I needed to do for this couple. Because I had received God’s love, I could love, too.

If we are struggling to reach out to our neighbors, we should resist knuckling under to a sense of duty and instead, dwell on the great love that we’ve been shown in Christ (Phil. 4:8). His love for us is causative. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Dwell on The Love of Christ!

Dwelling on his love as demonstrated in all that we’ve been given in Christ will convict us and lead us to repentance which then frees us to reach out to our neighbors.  It’s not our normal default to think about God’s love. But we must be intentional in doing this.

Good News in Troubled Times: An Opportunity to Reset

Good News in Troubled Times: An Opportunity to Reset

Reset [verb ree-set] “To set adjust or fix in a new or different way”

Date

Apr 7, 2020

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Parenting
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Reset [verb ree-set] “To set adjust or fix in a new or different way”

I’ll never forget my high school Physics class. We were four weeks into the first semester and the whole class was struggling. After a few disappointing quizzes, the first test proved dismal. The highest grade was a C. (And for the record, sadly that wasn’t mine.) I was particularly anxious about passing the class and I still have nightmares about it to this day—no joke. After discussing the horrible tests with us, our teacher decreed that she would throw out the test and quiz results and start over. That was a very refreshing reset: a new beginning for our class.

Perhaps in your homes right now, you’re seeing a lot of relational challenges and like my high school Physics class: a reset that will renew hope, confidence, and purpose seems like a pretty good idea.

Hope can be achieved through a reset! This reset can come by way of a change of perspective about how we approach family life. We typically look at life in a way that reduces it merely to right and wrong. What does the Bible say about marriage? What does the Bible say about raising children? For sure, we need to do seek and apply God’s wisdom. But there is often something missing that makes the difference between defeat and endurance that begins to see lasting change take place.

This change of perspective goes back to the foundation of the gospel itself. The gospel is more than the message that our sins are forgiven in Christ. Indeed, it is that. But it is more! Through the gospel, we learn all that God has done to help us live for him. This includes a new identity in Christ that we have been given that profoundly demonstrates God’s love.

Let’s take a very brief look at just a sample of what this identity includes: we are redeemed, adopted by God, hidden in Christ; made righteous, holy, blameless. We are dead to sin and alive to God, set free, and no longer under condemnation. (Download an A-Z List of our Identity in Christ).

Our identity is woven throughout the Bible and is intended to provide us with great joy and serves as a powerful motive for living the Christian life. Living out of joy in God is crucial to living for his glory and it is a far more effective tool than fear and guilt in our relationships.

Once you see these statements in your study of the Bible it will revolutionize your walk with God. It will change your perspective on living for him from one of oppressive obligation to glorious grace.

When we see how much God loves us, we will in turn love him and love others.

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Four Ways to Make your Home a Refuge from Fear

Four Ways to Make your Home a Refuge from Fear

In these contentious and uncertain days, how do we keep from allowing fear to rule us?

Date

Nov 16, 2020

Categories

Parenting
Anxiety

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If I were a fly on the wall in your kitchen, or if I scrolled through your texts, what would I learn about how you’re handling the news these days? Banter over the news might sound less like afternoon tea with the Queen and more like a barroom brawl.

It is easy for frustration over what we cannot control (namely, most news) to degenerate into fear. Fear is a powerful tool of the enemy of our souls. As parents, we are concerned for our children that disturbing news not lead to fear.

In these contentious and uncertain days, how do we keep from allowing fear to rule us? Following are four ideas.

First, restrain “conversation” about fearful news.

Note that I did not say to not talk about the news. These days our children often know the news before we do, and we must talk about it with them. Isn’t it hard at times to find the line between righteous indignation and angry outbursts? At times, it feels justified to just vent. Afterall, I should be able to say exactly what I think in my own home. Right?

Overwhelmingly negative emotions are often a warning about where our confidence really is. I am not suggesting that a right response is easy. It is a struggle as we all know. By being mindful and restraining discussion when needed, we model the godly leadership our children need and set up the second way we can stop fear from gripping our homes.

Remind your family where our confidence is.

In writing to persecuted Christians, the writer of Hebrews says in 10:23. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” These believers were enduring far, far worse things than any bad news we have heard. The encouragement is to hold fast to Christ! We are not alone. God is with us. He is our confidence through to the end.

As the temperature rises, stop, and say something that breaks the emotional vortex and turns our attention back to God. “Wow, I am really struggling here. I/we need to remember that God is in control of all this.” Or “God is our refuge and strength.”

This morning as the conversation turned again to the news, I reminded my myself and my teenage son, that we are sojourners here on this earth. This is not our home. In the moment, it can be hard to say these things. My failure to say these things usually comes when I fear that saying them will sound preachy or out of touch. I have to be honest with myself and realize I also need to hear what I’m about to say. I will tell my kids, “I need to hear this too. I need you to help me remember what is true.” These are things we should be saying anyway! It is part of speaking the truth to one another in love.

Read the Word of God together.

The Word of God endures forever. It is unchanging Truth. It equips us for every good work. It is powerful. In it we find the accounts of many who have gone before us and overcome fearful challenges by faith in its promises.

Perfect love casts out fear. The word testifies to the perfect love of God. When we read it together out loud it brings calm to distressing situations. Developing a pattern of reading the word as a family prepares us for obedient living—especially in the next news cycle.

There are many Psalms that talk about God being our refuge. Over the next week, consider reading the following: Psalms 34, 62, 71, 91, 118, 142, 144 to your family. Each of these Psalms provide mental rest and emotional peace in the face of fear.

Pray for the salvation of our enemies.

It helps reorient our thinking away from people we don’t like by praying for them. This requires us to first remember our own place. We are sinners saved by grace. We need grace as much as the people we would otherwise hate in our hearts. Our sin is no less odious in God’s eyes and we have done nothing to earn anything but his judgement. Yet, we are undeserving recipients of his mercy and grace. This realization humbles us and fills us with compassion.

Last week there was a news article about a state law that would make it legal to deny care to babies that survived abortion. As I scrolled down and read the comments one particularly stood out to me:

…BABY KILLERS, DEMONIC, GOVERNMENT WORSHIPPING MARXISTS, AT LEAST WE WILL BE FREE OF THESE SOUL-LESS MONSTERS WHEN WE ARE ACCEPTED BY GOD’S GRACE INTO HEAVEN (All caps in the original post).

Certainly, a law like this is wrong and stirs righteous anger! But it’s hard to find anything redemptive in that comment. Its bitter and self-righteous. No grace there. Only judgement. God commands us to pray for our enemies. When we are humbled by our own debt and the mercy we have received, we see them differently and then we pray. Isn’t it harder to disparage someone we are praying for?

In many cases, they are afraid although that fear is masked by hostility. They act the way they do because they have no hope or feel that what their hope is in is being threatened.

This more than any other thing has helped me when I’ve wanted to stew or vent my frustrations about others. Would that I always remembered this. Pray for our enemies to come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I doubt that’s a newsflash. But are we doing it?

Remember who we are.

Because we are objects of mercy, we can be messengers of the hope we have in Christ. We will lose opportunities to bring that message of hope if we allow our conversations at home to be driven by frustration and fear. Hope is needed everywhere, beginning in our homes! Speaking hopefully in our home equips our children to be ambassadors of hope to their friends.

Bad news will continue. But praise be to God that we have an eternal hope in Christ! Do we really believe that? Does it impact how we discuss bad news? It must so our homes will be refuges from fear.

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