Jesus has a plan for his people to move out of building-focused faith. As a Christian, when you move out in the world around you, you are dealing with people that might not share your values, but get to see your values in action.
When you bring God’s presence working through you in neighborhoods, school, work, and other locations as a natural part of the rhythm of life, there is a much greater chance of sharing the compassion of Jesus with everyone and sharing the Gospel with those who are receptive.
In the Bible, salt is a metaphor for friendship and faithfulness. When Jesus calls us “the salt of the world” he invites us to share the compassion and joy of God within us with our neighbors.
Everyone needs a little salt in their lives!
Including how to pray in one easy lesson…
Pastor Dana capped our week one focus on loving our neighbors with this sermon. If you would like to join in this emphasis with the 90+ people who have already taken books, we are using this guide and reading the book, Neighborhood Initiative and The Love of God, by Pastor Lynn Cory. We still have ten paperback copies of the book available for free@ LIFEhouse, or you can download the e book version here for $5.99.
This practical emphasis in connecting with our neighbors is best done with 2 or more people working together. We know of 30+ people specifically working in small groups thus far. With the small group guide and book you can easily start your own group for this experience.
The Neighborhood Prayer Team has received specific prayer requests and continues to pray for the LIFEhouse community to seek out connections with their neighbors and is praying for specific neighborhoods.
If you have a specific neighborhood prayer request and/or you wish the Prayer Team to pray for your neighborhood, just email email@example.com
Recently I wrote about what it means to “love yourself” as this relates to “loving your neighbor has yourself.” So, I have learned to love myself, now what?
The first major step in becoming one of those who love their neighbors as themselves is to decide to live compassion. This can only be done if we love God first and seek his Kingdom.
This explains why neighbor-love is not the first, but the second, commandment. Actually, two separate commandments, but one with two aspects. Love God (primary) and love your neighbor as yourself (can only follow loving God first)
What is compassion?
Compassion is to feel the needs of others.
Dallas Willard says this about compassion.
“Compassion is not something that can be turned on and off like a water faucet. It is always on. It is a constant burden of life, which many people reject. It requires resources of personal strength and it requires wisdom in action. Loving your neighbor as yourself is a matter of who you are, not, primarily, of what you decide to do. You can “afford” to be compassionate only if you know there is abundant compassion for you, toward you, by persons who have appropriate means. This is primarily God. “We love because he first loved us.” (I John 4:19)”
So, through intentionally receiving the love of God first, you can become the kind of person who can be compassionate.
Now, suppose, you are this person who has received compassion and can, therefore, afford to be compassionate. What’s next?
Christians filled with the power of the Holy Spirit loving their neighbors as themselves…This is the hope of the world
Here is a video many of us are watching this week. Dallas Willard shares the importance of loving our neighbor as God’s tool to transform society…
According to Pastor Lynn Cory, developer of Neighborhood Initiative, the key to loving our neighbors is to be soaked in prayer. Pastor Dana’s men’s small group has been trained by the leader of Pastor Lynn’s Prayer Team, Anthony Rodriguez. They have been praying for this series and focus on loving our neighbors since the beginning of July. They have been praying for a softening of your own neighborhoods to be receptive to what you are doing.
Now that our focus has started, this team of intercessors will be praying more specially for you that you make progress in loving your neighbor by following God’s call to do just that.
Practically this means that there are going to be challenges and opportunities along the way. Think about this.
Realistically, Satan does not want you focusing on loving your neighbor or having your neighborhood change for the good. So, there will be your own personal challenges where the evil one will try to trip you up.
Also, there are going to be many needs you discover concerning your neighbors, that need prayer. Some examples:
Physical healing, healing of relationships, favor in their work life, jobs for those unemployed, wisdom and energy for those raising children and/or caring for elderly parents, and the overall safety of your neighbors.
Along with these and other concerns, we know God is present. As Anthony Rodriguez says, “Most of all, we listen to the Holy Spirit and try to go and join him in whatever he is involved in through prayer. In John 5:19, Jesus said, ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son does also.’
When we see where the Father is and what he is doing, we then go there also and join him. We pray that we might see, join him and accompany him. We pray so that those called to lead may do so without encumbrance.”
Prayer needs for you and your neighbors may be sent to Pastor Dana, firstname.lastname@example.org Of course your confidentiality will be respected.
Our LIFEhouse community has begun our intentional focus on sharing the love of God with those closest to us. Pastor Lynn Cory spoke of how much impact we have together when we look at our own homes as a lighthouse for the neighborhood.
This week, many of us have begun the practice of walking in our neighborhood and praying for the people who live in each home. We may know them or not know them, but Pastor Lynn gave us this wisdom.
On the “prayer walk” cards we were given at worship, being intentional in our neighborhood focus is made clear. It looks like this:
• Pray for your neighbors by name, considering their physical and spiritual needs, concerns, and health. Ask the Father what He is doing in your neighborhood. While you are walking and praying, engage any neighbors you may meet along the way.
(If you don’t know your neighbors’ names, you will find opportunities to connect. In the meantime prayers of general blessing are helpful)
• Wait on God. Your Father is already at work in your neighborhood. Wait for Him to invite you into what He is doing. This is a waiting with great anticipation.
(If you expect God to be there with you connecting you to people, he will. It might start with just saying, “Hi,” or waving at a neighbor driving by. God wants your neighbor to meet you way more than you want to meet them:))
• Watch to see what the Father is doing. As you are praying, He may reveal things through something He puts on your heart or speaks to you, as you talk to a neighbor, or as you see a need.
(God is the Lord of your neighborhood, and if he is your Lord, he will make sure anyone who is in need of encouragement and joy in their life will meet you!)
• Join your Father as He invites you into what He is doing in your neighborhood. Enjoy the adventure!
(God is a God of surprises and as you step out in faith, you will find yourself saying, “Wow!” More than once…)
Another way you are responsible for loving yourself is not letting others take advantage of you. Sacrificing to put your neighbor’s needs before yourself is a good thing if it is done with their good and your good in mind.
But, to sacrifice ourselves for others, does not mean to suffer silently and willingly when some person or organization demands more from us, consistently, than is offered in return.
We are not called to support tyranny, or allow ourselves to be treated like slaves. It is not virtuous to be victimized by a bully, even if that bully is yourself.
I am a sinner but I need to love and forgive myself just like I am called to forgive others.
To start with loving yourself means defending yourself against others taking inappropriate advantage over you. You must learn to bargain for yourself so that you don’t end up being stepped on. In the long run this will only make you resentful, vengeful and cruel.
You need to determine how to act toward yourself so that you are most likely to become, and to stay, a good person. It is good for you to be good to yourself to make the world a better place. It is good for you to treat yourself like God wants to treat you. As his precious son or daughter.
Pastor Lynn Cory, author and founder of Neighborhood Initiative, is our guest preacher as we launch a six week series based on his work. We are learning how to practically connect with our neighbors, and through prayer and acts of compassion, be a blessing right where we live.
We encourage you to do this series in small groups, ask a couple of friends to join you, or do it in your own home.
Pastor Lynn’s book is available at worship or you can download the Kindle version here.