Where I live matters to Jesus. How I live there matters more.

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Where I live matters to Jesus. How I live there matters more.

Our neighbor moved and put his home up for sale. While people have come by to look at the house, every time, after they’re done, they linger outdoors. If they see me, they check me out, perhaps with a wave or a hello. They are asking themselves what kind of neighbors will I have? Our neighbors matter when we ask questions about them such as, “Is this a fun neighborhood? Is it a quiet neighborhood? Are there children for my children to play with?” This is important. We want good neighbors.

But what about my role in the neighborhood? Will I add anything to it beyond keeping my yard up and the noise down? Where we live matters. When it comes to following Jesus, this may be the most important question we can ask. I may think that where I live is only about personal taste and keeping my personal space. But more that where I am the most important thing is how I am. How can I be a good Jesus follower here, in my neighborhood? This is often the last question we ask in a “live and let live” world. I am not suggesting that you are not already being a good neighbor, but if we are here to help people know God, I think we all need to be a little more intentional about neighboring.

I realize I have to change. I have to be intentional about neighboring. So now I go out of my way to talk to my neighbors AND know their name. It’s a little awkward since I’ve talked with them and exchange names before. The thing is they don’t remember my name either. So I am on a neighbor quest. I’m working on getting to know two new people and their names per week. Then I am trying to connect a little deeper with two people per week that I may know.

Jesus said,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind and with all your strength AND love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27

This was part of a conversation that Jesus had with a religious leader. These same words came from Jesus mouth, but here the man recites them back to Jesus. Trying impress Jesus. “I know, I know the answer! This will be impressive!” The man is asking what is the one thing I must do? What is the one thing that I can check off my “being a good person list” and get eternal life?

But this is not how Jesus operates. Neighboring is not about trying to prove you’re a good person. The word for love that Jesus introduces is a rare word. A word spoken by Jesus and repeated in the New Testament. It is called Agape love. The word for love of God and love of neighbor is the SAME word; agape. A love without restriction. A love without exclusion. It’s the SAME love. With the same intensity I love God, I am to love others. This DEMONSTRATES that I really love God. For Jesus said, if you love me do what I say. What does he say? Love one another in the same way I have loved you! Agape without restrictions, without conditions.

Then Jesus said, now go do that.

Jesus calls us to intentional neighboring. Neighboring as a verb does not exist in the English language. But for Jesus followers it is verb not just a noun. Neighboring is what we do. It is not just that we live near people, but how we live near them. Jesus has called us to know and care for people. When asked the most important question of life. Jesus answered that we are to love God with all our being and love our neighbors as much as we do ourselves. So the questions shift from what are my neighbors like to what kind of neighbor am I? Will I neighbor?

My neighborhood, the city I live in is only as good as I make it. The relationships are only as good as the effort I put in. I am asking you to join me. If you’ve not been a good neighbor, confess it, own up it, get over it and get going. When neighbors are neighboring the neighborhood is safer, people feel good about where they live and feel good about being involved. Ultimately, then we can be in a place where conversations about Jesus and your story with him may just come up.

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Being Blessed: Running on Empty

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Being Blessed: Running on Empty

When I was in high school there was a pecking order. There were the popular kids for whom image was everything. Then there were the bullies. They may or may not be the popular kids. For them power over others was what drove them. Lastly there were the outcasts. They were either kids who decided to be outcasts by forming their own group of smokers, dopers or just tried to be different and weird as they could. Or the outcasts were people who just couldn’t compete with popularity, grades or sports. They may or may not have decided to be outcasts. Middle and high school was a concentrated social environment. All of the good and bad of people was right in your face. But a very few felt deep down that they were okay. Very few had an inner strength to withstand the intimidation, temptation to rebel or the competitive pecking order. Very few felt blessed.

Blessing is a gift. It is not something you achieve or earn. Its either given and received or not. How many people are missing this sense that they have been blessed? Parents are the primary blesses. The greatest gift they can give is the blessing of being loved, accepted and belonging. Many young people go to school today with an empty tank emotionally. They do not feel blessed. Without that inner strength of blessing they are easy prey for a culture of indulgence, peer power and even death. Somehow they didn’t feel they received blessing at home.

Why students are lacking a sense of blessing is because many times parents and teachers and peers are running on empty. If everyone is operating on empty it very difficult to both give and receive blessing. Blessing is missing because blessing is primarily a spiritual gift and a spiritual ability. The spiritual is not encouraged in our culture. Spiritual gifts are in short supply. Who will build the spirit of another person? Who will give a gift that is greater than a self-esteem speech or a “get-it-together” lecture?

We need a greater capacity to both give and receive blessing. If many of us are running on empty, where will we find this capacity. It cannot come from an empty place. But it is certainly is a place we can start. When we admit our emptiness and quit excusing and denying it, we are in a place where blessing can begin. For Christians we begin with God. Jesus said we have to come empty so we can be filled. Actually, he said it this way, “blessed are the poor in spirit”. They can experience more of God and his action in their lives. In admitting we need God, we are beginning the journey of living a blessed life. If so many of us are empty of this sense of blessing, we cannot be the source of it. We must find it outside of ourselves. Being blessed means we begin with God. We come with our expectations and our needs, but then we lay them down. We come to God without pretense and without demands. We just call out for him. Then the “kingdom of God” is ours. Then we allow God to reign in our hearts and in every relationship we encounter. We enter a whole new way of living. We live blessed by letting God rule our lives. We live blessed by cooperating with God’s priorities of love and faith and hope. We become full of God. We become blessed because God is the ultimate blesser. He is the ultimate gives and the source of all blessing! People are so needing others who will be a source of blessing. One person with a deep sense of being blessed can change the environment. 
God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3

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Believing the Impossible

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Believing the Impossible

What seems impossible with us is not impossible with God.  We sure desire for impossible things to happen in our lives and our world, don’t we?  Why don’t we see them happening?

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Questions Welcome

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Questions Welcome

In school we were all encouraged to raise our hands if we had any questions. Of course, many times we may have felt our questions were stupid. What about the church? What about asking troubling questions from people who follow Jesus? Do you feel comfortable there? 

Jesus was never afraid of a good question asked in sincerity. 

I believe that we must all come to realize one basic truth in all our questioning: humans do not possess the the answer to their own questions apart from God. Until we realize this we could very well perpetuate that problem and frustrations that prompt all our hard questions

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