whoisneighbornow

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa

Continuing my train of thought from last week’s post, here are five groups of people whom I believe fall under the category of “my neighbor” as Jesus described it in Luke 10:25-37.

  • Followers of Islam
  • The Third World
  • Gays & Lesbians
  • China
  • That “Other” Political Party

I’ll address each of these in turn over the next several weeks. I don’t pretend any of these are easy situations or relationships to address; but I do contend it is high time for Christ followers to start having honest, humble conversations about what it really means to love these neighbors in a way that authentically honors Christ.

This Week’s Neighbor: The Follower of Islam

In our ever-shrinking world, what is the proper way for a Christ follower to love the Muslim people? I think our great danger in engaging the peoples and nations of the Middle East is in our tendency to confuse an ideology with a human person. We wrongly think that standing against a belief system with which we don’t agree means we must attack or suppress or diminish the human souls who were born under that belief system or choose to follow it. I think this is both contrary to Jesus’ teaching and supremely ineffective at inspiring souls toward faith in Christ, which we must remember is the Great Commission every true follower of Jesus is bound by love to follow.

I have a friend whom I believe is living out the Good Samaritan teaching with our Muslim brothers and sisters in a way Jesus loves. She’s a single woman ~ blond, sassy, a bit of a princess by her own admission, and very American in every way we would all relate to and appreciate. But more important than her citizenship in the United States, she is a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. She’s in the Middle East right at this moment, serving refugees displaced by the Syrian conflict, and the conflict in the West Bank. She’s not preaching the gospel from a place of superiority and western arrogance; she’s living the gospel by standing with the oppressed and displaced human souls there and serving them in the name and with the love of Jesus.

Her example inspires me more than I can say. She’s a hero of the faith, and though you may never know her name I’m convinced she’s already famous in heaven, and her story will be told and celebrated by Jesus himself throughout eternity.

It is in large part her example that has led me to this belief: We should stop trying to defeat Islam, and simply start humbly loving and serving its people. That will do more to advance the Kingdom of God in the world than any debate or war ever could.

 

What do you think? Do you agree with my perspective? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Who is My Neighbor Now?

September 22, 2014 — Leave A Comment

whoisneighbornow

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be addressing a handful of topics I believe are crying out to be discussed in a fresh, humble way within the Church, particularly here in the West. I’m calling this series “Conversations The Church Needs to Have.” This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I invite you to add your own ideas in the comments. My intention is not to dictate solutions, but to raise the questions themselves and invite my fellow leaders and Christ followers everywhere to begin to explore them in light of the changes happening to our world. The question I’m addressing this week is: Who is My Neighbor Now?

Jesus taught when it comes to living the life God wants for you, everything you need to know can be pretty much summed up by these two simple directives:

  • Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and
  • Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.

Hearing Jesus point to these directives on one occasion, someone asked him: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded by telling the classic story of the Good Samaritan. You can read the story yourself by clicking here. Two important things to note by way of context in the story:

  • Jews and Samaritans largely hated one another. The Jews of the time, in particular, saw the Samaritans as half-breeds, forsakers of God’s command to remain set apart from other nations, and therefore worthy of contempt.
  • Jewish priests and scribes of the time were considered the most religious (and ostensibly, therefore, the most holy) of all the people in the land.

Jesus’ story illustrates his bold assertion that loving your neighbor means loving the “other” ~ that is, the one who is not of your tribe, the one who is not like you, the one you think of as an enemy, the one you consider worthy of contempt.

Each year, the world gets a little smaller. Through technology, world markets, and population growth, more and more people of different tribes and often oppositional worldviews are getting pressed closer and closer together. We can’t distance ourselves from those unlike us as we once did. We can’t make believe we are safe across an ocean anymore from those who say they hate us and want us dead.

In this brave, new, shrinking world, I think Christ followers need to begin having fresh conversations around the question, “Who is my neighbor now, and what does it look like for me to love him?”

What do you think?

Eric_Bryant
My friend and colleague Dr. Eric Michael Bryant has a new project that just released called A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be. Eric serves at Gateway Church in Austin, and previously he served at Mosaic in Los Angeles. Eric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership. More on these opportunities can be found here. I’m delighted to have Eric as my guest on the blog this week!

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’
Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’
The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.'” (John 21:15-17)

For some of us, we read that exchange between Jesus and Peter and think: “Yeah, Peter, feed your sheep! I need someone like Peter in my life to feed me! I need a church, a small group, a mentor to feed me! I need other people to care for me!”

After reading this story in John 21, Erwin McManus, a mentor in my life then asked this question: “When Jesus says to Peter ‘if you love me, go feed my sheep.’ Why do we always see ourselves as the sheep? Why don’t we see ourselves as Peter?”

Have you ever considered that others are looking to you as their shepherd?

Your children, your spouse, your roommates, your friends, your employees, your co-workers, your neighbors, those in your church ~ they all need you. Some pastors are paid to equip. However, most pastors are not paid, and their role is no less valuable or important ~ especially to those they oversee and serve.

You are more ready and prepared than you could imagine.

Maturity does not mean knowing everything about the Bible.

Maturity means obeying what we know from the Bible.

Stop waiting, step out, and find someone to love & serve. YOU are the shepherd God’s been looking for.

To download your own copy of Eric’s book, A Fruitful Life, just click here.

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I’m honored to have my friend Bob Hudson on the blog this week. Bob is the founder of the Cross Ministry Group and creator of its two flagship retreats ~ Men at the Cross and Women at the Cross. If you’ve never experienced these life-changing weekends, do yourself a huge favor and go! You won’t regret it.

Miraculous births can mess with the mind! In fact, most anything that has to do with God’s action in our lives messes with our minds! In the 1st Chapter of Luke, two angelic baby announcements evoked interesting reactions. When Gabriel told Zechariah that he was going to be a father to a prophet his response was, “How can I be sure of this?” ~ “We’re too OLD!” Apparently, this was not the correct response because he got a good lecture from the angel and then lost his voice for nine months.

Compare this experience with Gabriel visiting Mary and the good news that she was going to give birth to the Son of the Most High. She was troubled by this and asked: “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Notice there is no lecture from Gabriel and a “simple” explanation is forthcoming.

What happened here? Zechariah and Mary both asked a basic question, yet they received two very different responses from God’s messenger. This story is a lesson in how to approach God and life with our minds. For Zechariah it was about control. He wanted to be “sure.” He needed to have confirmation that it was going to happen and needed to understand how it could even be possible. For Mary, it was about curiosity ~ rooted in wonder and amazement. There was openness in her that did not reject the possibility even though she could not understand how it was possible. “How will this be?” The angel’s response was “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” Now, that’s helpful! When has that happened before in this way?! But, it was enough for Mary.

She could have gone the way of Zechariah and fired off her list of questions: “You know how babies are made and this doesn’t make sense. How is the Holy Spirit going to impregnate me? How does that work actually? Besides, who am I anyway? I’m just a regular girl. Why me? How am I supposed to raise this child? How do you raise ‘the Son of the Most High?’ And then, what about my family, the neighbors, and Joseph?! Besides I’m not good enough. I don’t understand how God would do this for me.”

Thankfully, she stuck with wonder and amazement and responds: “May it be to me as you have said.” She yields to a mystery. She does not give in to control ~ the need to know how it can be, but surrenders her soul, her body, her entire being to God. She had space within her to receive the promise.

What about your mind? Is it surrendered enough to allow God to perform the miracle of being filled with him and his love? Or is your mind “filled up” with the need to control by demanding to understand? Are you willing to let go of all the arguments (judgments) about yourself and your circumstances that fight against the wonder and amazement of God’s promised love for you?

This week, practice curiosity instead of control. Hold your curiosity loosely. Make room in your mind for the mystery of God, and be open to the wonder of God’s power and love for you.

Where do you have the most trouble letting go of control and practicing curiosity instead? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

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I want to say something about this:

“When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:

“’What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived’
—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

“these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:1-13 (NIV)

I see in this passage four signs or indicators of a mature faith leader:

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“He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ~ Revelation 3:21-22

The word translated as “overcome” in the passage above (and all similar passages in Revelation) is the Greek verb “nikao,” which means to conquer, to prevail, to gain the victory.

 

The word implies battle.

Perhaps it’s better to say the word assumes there is a battle, and that you and I are in it. Likewise, the English word “overcome” connotes a sustained and difficult struggle against some kind of resistance ~ be it an obstacle or direct opposition ~ until it is fully conquered.

Whether we describe it in terms of battle or struggle, we all know what it’s like to come up against resistance in our lives. Resistance is that wall you slam into on your way to your dreams coming true. We’ve all been knocked flat by it at one point or another, most likely on multiple occasions.

Resistance is that wall you slam into on your way to your dreams coming true.

One of the basic questions we ask in coaching is this: What does it really take to win your dreams? In my experience, it takes more than wishing it were so, consciously “attracting” it, or passively praying God will hand it to you all wrapped up in a nice pretty bow. It takes rolling up your sleeves, mustering your courage, and jumping into the fray.

There are many things that contribute to being (or becoming) an Overcomer, but as I watch my clients overcome obstacle after obstacle in their lives, I’ve noticed these 7 qualities showing up again and again. How are you at practicing these “overcoming” skills?

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I just got back from spending a week in St. Paul doing some coach training with a terrific group of PhD candidates at Bethel Seminary. My co-leader Eric Bryant and I had an amazing time helping each of these world changers dig deep into their own unique God-given design ~ giftings, passions, skills, values, strengths, and more ~ with a view to uncovering how each could best leverage himself to advance the Kingdom. Amazing, right?! I love this work.

Through our many discussions over the course of the week, I was reminded again how indispensable it is for leaders to develop proficiency in both the HEAD and HEART skills of leadership. Being competent in just one of these is not enough.

What’s the difference between Head and Heart skills? In broad strokes, I mean…

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