Are YOU a Neighbor?
Love God. Love Others. Pretty much sums up the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22 and Luke 10. So, what does that look like? Part of the Real Life of a believer is that they engage with those who are their “neighbors.” Read the following real life story of how it’s lived out in one young family’s life.
“John 13:34 and Luke 10:27 show us that loving our neighbors and each other points people to Jesus. It doesn’t have to be fancy… instead, we have prayed that God would put people in our path who need to know the love of Jesus. That he would open our eyes to their needs. And that he would help us to love them well. Then, we have intentionally created margin in our schedules so that we have time to drop everything and “do big things” for people.
For us, it means listening for people who are hurting, and looking for a way to surprise them with love. It may mean leaving a pie on someone’s porch, or throwing an impromptu graduation party for a neighbor who moved across the country to care for his dad who has cancer. He was 1,000 miles away from his friends and classmates, so we got our neighbors together and surprised him with a party. We try to get our girls involved – when our child overhears us talking about someone who is sick or hurting, her first response is now, “I’ll draw them a picture so we can mail it to them to help them feel better.”
In 2016 we decided that we wanted to love BIG by setting a goal to host 200 people in our home in one year. We ended up hosting 258. It was a blast, and there is no better place to show someone Jesus’ love than to invite them to sit at your table with you. We don’t keep count anymore, but we probably still host 150-200 people a year, because it’s just what we prioritize as a family. It’s never fancy – often we’ll just order pizza. Folks don’t come to our house for the cooking – hospitality isn’t about impressing people. It’s about listening to and honoring people and making them feel like they’re part of the family. People let their guards down and share their hearts around your table.
We have a huge heart for the neighbors God has placed on our street, and we prioritize spending time with them. Almost none of them know Jesus… although they’re all getting to know Him, one cookout at a time.
Again, we build lots of margin in our schedules so that we can invite folks over for an impromptu pool party in the driveway after work (with our fancy $14 Walmart plastic pool). What’s really cool is that our neighbors have caught on, and now they look for opportunities to host each other as well. We had about 50 of our neighbors over for Easter this year… just a simple cookout in the driveway with a borrowed bounce house in the front yard. Another neighbor hosted all of us for a Mother’s Day weekend cookout, and another neighbor is planning a 4th of July cookout on our street – complete with a “parade” for the kids. We probably hang out with our neighbors 2-3 times a week… it’s never formal, rarely inside. We just set up our lawn chairs in the driveway and wait for folks to come over. They always do.
Loving your neighbor is contagious, and it’s something our whole family can do together. It’s also really fun. I should also add, when loving your neighbor, you have to remember that people aren’t projects. People know if they’re projects. We try to simply love people well AND look for opportunities to share Jesus in our everyday conversations. When you’re being intentional, you’d be amazed at how many opportunities you have to share.
If you look around and all your friends are believers… keep looking.”
My Dad was the Man
He died April 29, 2017, at the age of 87. He lived for Christ, for kingdom and for family.
He was a man.
Dad pastored for 67 years, so I was raised a preacher’s kid, but I didn’t have anything to complain about. He wasn’t one of those famous preachers – he was a small church pastor in small towns all over Oklahoma, Utah and Arizona. A champion. A huge influence on entire communities. He served because it mattered, because he was called, not for fame or ambition. It was as pure as it gets.
He and my mom did an amazing job with my brother, Matt and me. It was an amazing upbringing. The memories – wow! I remember Matt and I hanging onto his back as he dove into the deep end of the Motel 6 pools on vacations showing us how to “go deep” in the water. We played sports, fixed cars (and rebuilt a few), and drove all over the nation in those legendary 1960’s vacation trips.
He put Matt and I in an inner-tube (google it) and pulled us around in the rare Oklahoma snow behind his Ford. I still think he kicked a football as high as anyone I’ve ever seen. He had a wicked right cross (he boxed in the Navy) and once nearly knocked me out accidentally. I was 10 years old and he was sparring with me on his knees, showing how it was done. When I regained composure and asked, “what happened?” he replied, “you dropped your guard. Don’t do that.” Very effective lesson.
Some of you may be horrified to hear that – others will nod knowingly. It’s dad stuff, done in love. It seemed to work pretty well. We turned out fine.
When we weren’t doing stuff like that, I simply watched him. I watched him carve out a hour each morning to slip away to a side porch in our house to pray and read the Bible. I watched him cry for us and sometimes because of us. I watched him restrain his words and his temper when I would test his limits as a teenager. I watched him love my mom, and make her feel like she was the most special woman in the world. I watched him talk people “off the ledge” of doing disastrous things, and I watched him lead people to Jesus. I watched him deal with angry people without losing his own temper. He was a man.
As I grew older, Dad become more of a mentor. He taught me things no one else would take the time to do it. He was the biggest backer of both my brother and I, and I think deep down, we knew it. He BELIEVED in us. When we were separated by distance we got the regular phone calls. “How’s the job? How’s the weather? How’s the car running?” It was dad/kid conversation – it was staying in touch.
I could write a book. Maybe I should. I know that not everyone has had a great dad experience, and I know some who had the worst – but they are determined to change that by being incredible dads themselves. It’s worth it guys. Be a man like you want to be known to have been.
When dad died, we all knew what we’d lost. There were the great times we wished we’d had some more of, and words we all wished we’d said, but death doesn’t wait around like we think it will. He’s gone on to his considerable heavenly reward. We have great memories.
And an enormous example.
My dad was a man. He was THE man. Happy Father’s Day, dad.
Striking images hit me this morning. The recent string of cultural and racial clashes in our nation, the senseless killing of police officers, along with the ever-present terrorism world-wide have me wondering, “How can this be changed?”
Who will stop shouting, stop dividing and begin reconciling? There’s one answer – the Church will do this. She’s made for this. The church was birthed in racial strife, where Jews and Gentiles raged against one another until the gospel drew us closer together.
The Apostle showed us that reconciling the races is embedded in the Gospel. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
I prayed this morning surrounded by Hispanic, Chinese, African-American and many other races. I worshiped the Savior today with the backdrop of a group of students on their way to camp – too diversified to name the backgrounds. I called our congregation to prayer, and saw black and white, arms around each other, kneeling and weeping for the senselessness our culture, asking, “Lord, how long?”
We called the church to this. “When the cultural clashes are amplified, the prayer we pray must be intensified.” And pray we did. Prayers of repentance for racist attitudes. Prayers of compassion and grace for the families of the fallen. Prayers of protection for our police, and prayers of hope for our community.
Dr. Martin Luther King once said that the 11 o’clock hour is the “most segregated hour in this nation.” He had a point. We’ve must move beyond that – and we must do it now.
And once we’re beyond the walls of the church building, wherever we worship, we’ve got to live out the grace and love we talk about when we gather.
The church united will be more powerful than words, laws or protests. It’s already happening, if you’ll see it. And if it’s not happening where you worship, take the first step to change your church culture.
When Culture Becomes Violent
Dark days require light and salt. They require measured responses and wisdom from above, not below.
1. Pray for families of all those killed in recent days. For the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. For the families of Lorne Ahrens, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Smith, Michael Krol and Brent Thompson. I don’t have to know the outcomes of investigations to pray – God knows. Yes, pray also for the family of Micah Xavier Johnson.
2. Support racial reconciliation AND your police. You cannot tell me I have to choose between the two. No group is perfect. Racial reconciliation is a gospel issue – we’re all the same in Christ. Racism is sin. Police are part of a biblically recognized group in Romans 13. They protect and discipline because it’s necessary. As believers, it’s our calling to support both.
3. Pursue the true solution – the Gospel for our communities. Stop talking about the gospel solutions ONLY behind closed doors. Can’t we see where it needs to be applied? It’s the Gospel of PEACE – and we’re looking at the result of a gospel-less culture.
We should be determined to love all our brothers and sisters, reach out to them – love our officers and families and reach out and pray for them….speak up. Try to identify with what others are experiencing (in my case it’s my African-American brothers and sisters). Shine light and bring hope.
HOLY WEEK: SATURDAY
It’s Saturday on Holy Week. Jesus’ body has been buried. His followers have mourned and are still mourning. They are out of sight – hidden and grieving. this day is often called “Silent Saturday” because we know little that happens physically on this day, but…
…there is a spiritual roar taking place. It’s the deafening sound of death being ripped out of it’s foundation – sin. You see, with sin comes death. Sin is always attached to death and death is always attached to sin. To defeat death, one has to defeat sin, and none of us can do that. No on on earth can do that – no one has ever done that – until Silent Saturday.
On Silent Saturday, Jesus went and “made proclamation to the spirits now in prison…” (1 Peter 3:19) This is the roar. This is the startling sound that breaks the law of sin and death and rips the power of death from satan himself. This is what strikes fear in every demon of darkness and what banishes satan to the bottomless pit. And it’s what brings hope to every one of us who hates sin and death. It’s the roar of victory. The roar of resurrection. Jesus. Has. Overcome.
If death could have held Him, sin would have won. But it didn’t. It didn’t hold Jesus, and it can’t hold us – so long as we are IN Jesus. The resurrection is the trump card over the finality and hopelessness of death, and Jesus continues to shout life for us because of what happened on Silent Saturday.
It may be Silent Saturday, but what happens there should cause the believer to shout and sing and praise and worship the God who destroyed sin and death!
HOLY WEEK: FRIDAY
Good Friday. What a name.
When you and I wake up in the morning on Good Friday, we should remember that Jesus has been going through a series of rigged and brutal trials that will lead to His crucifixion later in this day, 2000 years ago. He will be accused, beaten, spat upon, ridiculed and insulted – all before being stripped naked and scourged to within an inch of His physical life.
He’ll be further mocked, then condemned by the crowd. Then, it becomes an unbearable walk to a hill outside of Jerusalem where Roman soldiers are waiting to take this grief to another level. He’s carrying the cross beam, and He is weakened by blood loss, sleeplessness and the awareness that He’s been deserted by nearly all. But He presses on. There’s a purpose to this.
He lays down. His arms are stretched out. The spikes create unrelenting pain as they force their way through His, bones and sinews into the wood, where they impale Him there. He’s lifted up on the cross, and it slides into the hole in the ground that will keep it upright. The jarring force of this creates an excruciating (the word means “out of the cross”) existence to the very end.
Before He dies…He forgives those who put Him there. He takes care of His mother. He allows the sin of mankind to be placed on His shoulders. He cries out with a loud voice, “Why has Thou forsaken Me?” and “IT IS FINISHED!”
There is a purpose to this. At that very moment, the wrath of God was satisfied. Appeased. The onrushing flow of judgment and condemnation of sin stemmed by the single greatest act of sacrifice the world has known. The just for the unjust. The innocent for the guilty.
HOLY WEEK: THURSDAY
Do you know what was happening on what many call “Maundy Thursday”? In the life of Jesus, the cross and tomb are now nearer than ever.
But this is no meaningless death – and no permanent tomb. But first, He prepares His disciples and then prepares Himself for the sacrifice of “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”
The Last SUPPER takes place in an upper room. The disciples are there, but thinking of a Passover meal. Jesus is thinking about THE Passover. THE sacrifice. “This bread is my body which is broken for you.” And then…”this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.” This makes little sense to the disciples at the moment – but after all is said and done, it comes rushing back to their minds and it’s crystal clear. Jesus IS the Lamb.
At the Last Supper they observe Him SERVE them. On His knees, Jesus washes their feet and gives them the command to love one another. They cannot fathom this kind of leadership – the kind that is humble, the kind that serves and loves. It’s so distinctly different from what they’ve seen before Jesus – but here He is telling them, “YOU do this.”
Then, the SURRENDER in the Garden of Gethsemane. Can you imagine sweating drops of blood? Can you grasp knowing the decision you were about to make would justify (or condemn) the sinfulness of mankind? Imagine knowing you were chosen to satisfy the WRATH of God on behalf of every person who ever existed. Jesus said, “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” Then, they came to take Him away.
HOLY WEEK: WEDNESDAY
Wednesday of Holy Week is often called the “Silent Day.” Two days before His crucifixion…the clock is ticking toward the tomb…and we find nearly nothing from Scripture about the activities of Jesus. However, if we look at what has already transpired, and what is about to happen, we can deduce that some critical things are happening.
Silence is what happens outwardly when people scheme and plan inwardly. Jesus was about to be betrayed by a kiss from Judas. He was about to be conspired against by the scribes and Pharisees, in conjunction with the Romans who occupied Jerusalem. While silence was taking place outwardly, hatred and resentment were building in the hearts of the residents of the city. Jesus will soon be lied about, beaten horribly and sentenced to death. He will be betrayed by one of his followers, denied by another three times. His followers will soon flee from his presence.
I sometimes wonder how Jesus could be so forgiving of those who hated and denied him so absolutely. Usually, I think about this when I am needing to forgive someone who wounds or betrays me. It happens to all of us at some time or another. What HE is going through on Wednesday identifies with what we sometimes go through. Is HIS forgiveness of those who plotted against him our inspiration for forgiving others? Because of what He is about to go through, we can forgive those who sin against us.
I believe silence also happens when people pray. We KNOW Jesus was a man of prayer. We KNOW He often went away to be alone. Two days before the day that will forever be known as the day of the redemption of sinful man – I have no doubt Jesus is praying. He’s burdened by what is about to happen. His character, integrity and physical health will be shredded to the max. He will bear the sin of mankind on His shoulders.
The Silent Day should remind us of the importance and the power of prayer. Whatever we must endure, we do it through prayer – just as He did. Prayer steals the will to carry out the tasks we’ve been assigned. He’s praying on Wednesday. Are you?
HOLY WEEK: TUESDAY
On Tuesday of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, He’s focused on faith – and the future.
You can see it on the video blog here: https://vimeo.com/123657717
Passing by the fig tree He had cursed the day before, Jesus hears the comments from His disciples who seem surprised that the tree has withered – and He challenges their faith. It’s as though He’s wondering aloud – “do you even know Who I am?” Do WE? Do we realize the power of Jesus Christ and His very words that heaven and earth respond to? Do we grasp His greatness, and the privilege of knowing and following Him?
Tuesday is the day Jesus speaks on the future – and you find His “Olivet Discourse” in Matthew 24. It’s the most extensive prophecy of the end times we ever hear from Jesus. He foretells the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and simultaneously teaches of His return at the end of time. As Jesus moves quickly towards His death, He’s focusing on the end of the world. He’s revealing that we’re ALL heading toward the end of this earthly life – and ultimately the end of this earth!
He moves towards death on Tuesday, and we’re a day closer every day to our own. Are we ready? Have we lived life with purpose? Do we know the God we will one day meet?
HOLY WEEK: MONDAY
Have you ever contemplated the unfolding of the events of Holy Week? What was Jesus doing in days leading up to the Cross? What was happening around Him that impacted the incredible significance of this event of the crucifixion?
See the video here: Monday of Holy Week
Jesus seemed concerned about three things on Monday: 1) The failure of religion to bring men near to God. Calling the Pharisees “white-washed tombs” on the week leading up to Jesus being placed in a tomb is key. He’s reminding us that man can take any religion – even one established by God Himself – and turn it into a self-serving, prideful exercise that is more characterized by deadness than life. Is YOUR worship dead, or is it alive? Is it Christ-focused, or man-focused?
2) Jesus is also concerned about FRUIT in the lives of His followers. This is the day that Jesus curses the fig tree because it has no fruit on it. The disciples who saw this were perplexed by why Jesus did it – but His purpose is to point out distaste for fruitlessness. It’s an indictment on Israel and her rejection of Jesus Himself. Today, it stands as an indictment upon unfruitful believers in Christ. Look on the tree of your own life? Is there spiritual fruit? Should Jesus expect to see fruit in your life as He examines under the leaves – or are there “nothing but leaves”?
3) Jesus cleanses the temple on this day – a strong testimony of His heart for PURE WORSHIP and His authority to purify worship. It’s clear Jesus had a passion for pure worship and a passion for prayer. “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Reconsider your worship this week in light of Jesus’ actions on Monday. Is it pure, or selfish? Is it about God, or about you?
On Monday, Jesus breaks down what is not worth keeping, and sets straight the path to the ultimate sacrifice – death on the Cross for mankind.
Thoughts from John Meador and insights from God's Word.