Love Your Neighbor

9 times in the Bible, one command is said to sum up the Old Testament law: “Love your neighbor.”

It should be easy to love our neighbors.  After all, they’re the people closest to us in proximity.  Every neighborhood provides many potential possibilities for connecting with those around us.  We share the same schools and the same parks.  We attend the same meetings and are part of the same groups.  We live in the same apartment building, housing complex, and street.  We go to the same grocery stores, the same gas stations, the same hardware stores, and the same restaurants.  We have the same mayor, the same trash service, the same postman, and the same police department and fire station.  We might see our neighbors more than we see many people in our extended family!

It should be easy to love our neighbors.

But, just because we’re in the same place at many of the same times, it doesn’t mean we’re always connecting with those around us.  That decision is mostly up to us.  We’re the ones who decide whether or not we are going to be intentional about sharing God’s love with others.

Simply living in our mission field isn’t enough; we have to live their as a missionary.

Those people in your neighborhood are the people to whom God sent you.  It starts with saying “Hello”.

Sesame Street and Evangelism

You probably grew up watching Sesame Street on TV.  It’s a long-running PBS show (and has recently been in the news concerning budget cuts).  For many of us, Sesame Street was our first encounter with letters and numbers.  We loved watching Burt & Ernie, Big Bird, Grover, Cookie Monster, the Count, and Oscar the Grouch.  There were lots of other puppets, too… and even some real-life people.

We sang along with the songs sung by the characters who lived on Sesame Street; one of those songs asked the question, “Who are the people in your neighborhood?”  The song answered the question as puppets introduced us to the postman, the firefighter, the man at the market, etc.  As the song closed, it summarized the definition of who a neighbor is – “They’re the people that you meet as you’re walking down the street; they’re the people that you meet each day.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines your “neighbor” as ‘someone in close, natural proximity to yourself.’  Jesus defined who our neighbor is by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Your neighbors are the people who live in your neighborhood… the people you should be meeting – and having conversations with – on a regular basis.

Your neighbors are your most immediate mission field.

A Missionary Psalm

This past Wednesday night, in our mid-week study, we looked at Psalm 67.

The 67th psalm is an anonymous psalm, written to the Chief Musician, intended to be played on stringed instruments.  It is also a missionary psalm that exhorts its readers/singers to get the message of God’s love out to all the nations of the world.

Why?  Because:

  •  They Need Light  (v.1,2)

Those who don’t have a relationship with God walk around in darkness and need the light of God’s face to shine on them.  They have lost their way and are headed for eternal separation from God.

  • They Need Joy  (v.3,4a)

Sin can be fun… but only for a little while.  Sin always takes us farther than we want to go, keeps us longer than we want to stay, and costs us more than we want to pay.  Sin gives a temporary “high”, but in Christ there are pleasures forevermore!

  • They Need Righteousness  (v.4b)

True righteousness only comes through faith in Jesus.  Man’s sense of right-and-wrong… the  morality of the moment… will never be truly just and can never satisfy the demands of God’s holy law.

  • They Need Life  (v.5-7)

The purpose of missions is to reach “the people“… “all the people“.  If every believer were doing what you do about missions, would all the people of the earth be praising the Lord?

Being a Missionary at School or at Work

You may have never considered yourself to be a missionary at your school… or at your job.  But, you are.

Being a missionary in your school or workplace can be tricky.  We can’t do a Bible Study instead of what we are there to do.  We can’t spend our morning going from office to office or classroom to classroom; we are there to do a job or to learn.  We can’t call everyone together to pray before a big test or before a board meeting.  We can’t stand up to proclaim Christ instead of giving or oral report or instead of telling the crew what needs to be done that day.  Yet, whether it’s school or work – whether you’re paying to be there or getting paid to be there – you are to be there on mission.  So, how do you do that?

It happens “in the gaps” of your regular routine: in the lunchroom, during breaks, as you’re going from one station to another.  We can usually find time to talk about our favorite sports team, the TV show we watched last night, what’s happening with the family.  If we can find time to talk to others about those things, we can find time to talk to others about Jesus.

Did you start your day at school praying for God to open an opportunity for you to be a missionary?  Do you consider your 9-5 job as your mission field?

Wherever you are… and whatever you do… on your Monday through Friday vocation, God has put you there.  And He’s put you there for a reason.  He’s put you there to live out your mission.

Foes & Friends of God

In our mid-week study last night, we looked at Psalm 53.

Psalm 53 was written by David… to the Chief Musician.  It was intended to be a psalm to be contemplated… and played to a tune on a lute or a lyre.  It is almost identical to Psalm 14.

I.  God & His Foolish Foes  (v.1-5)

What a person thinks about God goes far in determining his/her character and conduct.  David was concerned about the state of humanity:

  • Their Atheism  (v.1a)  Only a fool would deny the existence of God.
  • Their Apostasy  (v.1b-3)  Everywhere David looked, he saw people who were completely corrupt and had turned their backs on God.
  • Their Attacks  (v.4)  They chewed at God’s people the way they might chew bread.
  • Their Annihilation  (v.5)  God will have the last word…

 

II.  God & His Faithful Friends  (v.6)

  •  The Desire  (v.6a)  David desired that God would rescue His people.
  • The Delight  (v.6b)  When God would eventually restore His people, they will rejoice.

You Are a Paid Missionary!

If you are a Christian, you have also been called to be a missionary.  The life you live is the life God has given you… and the specific locations in which you live that life are the locations to which He has sent you.  Everything you do… everyone you meet… every opportunity you have… is part of your specific vocation – you “calling” assigned by God.

That calling should give special meaning to every meeting you attend, every group project you’re a part of, every chemistry lab, every workshop, every classroom.  In our vocation, we build relationships.  In our vocation, we love, serve, and bless people.  We pray for those around us.

God provides our calling… and He also supports us in it.  If you are still in school, God is providing for your vocation through tax dollars and government-provided schools.  If you are in college, God is providing for your vocation through scholarships and part-time jobs.  If you are in the workplace, God is providing for your vocation through your paycheck.  Regardless of the name on the paycheck, God is routing His resources to you through them… so that you can be paid full-time ministry where He has sent you.

You have possibly assumed you are going to school or working your job so you can afford to pay for the expenses of living life.  You are actually going to school or working your job as a way to remain on your mission field!

Look around on your mission field; what do you think God would have you do today?

Your Mission Is Your Vocation

Unless your retired… if you’re able to read this, you are probably either in school or have a job.  You’re either in an occupation or your preparing for one.  Whichever it is, that is your vocation.

Whether you’re in school or at work, you go somewhere… interact with others… and focus on a goal.  You’re there for several hours, and while you’re “on the clock”, performing assigned duties and agreed-upon policies.  Work and school have set start and end times… and then you go home or to other activities.

Again, whether school or work, that is your “vocation”.  The Latin root word – actually Christian in origin – describes a “calling”.  Your place at school or at work is your calling.  You have a greater purpose there than simply earning a degree or earning money for a mortgage.

As a Christian, you are called to your vocation… and to treat that vocation as your mission.  You’re called to your school or your workplace to live out your mission and ministry.

You might consider approaching your day with this mindset… and see what God can do through you.

On Mission at School/Work

Jesus said we are to love our “neighbor”?  Who is your “neighbor”?  A neighbor is ‘someone in close proximity to yourself’.  In other words, as you head to school or work to begin this week, you are about to come into close proximity with people; those people are your neighbors.

Where do you spend most of your time?  Putting aside those quiet 5-9 hours you might get while sleeping at  night, most of our time each day… every week… finds us in one of three places: home, school, and/or work.  And, most of us spend more time at school or work – away from our families – than we do at home with our families.

Today… and this week… view your school and your workplace as your mission field!

Ask yourself why you – as a believer – are there.  Then, do what God has placed you there to do.  Be salt.  Be light.

In Those Times We Struggle

In our mid-week study last night, we looked at Psalm 46… and found encouragement for those times in which we struggle.

We fake it.  We deny it.  We try to hide it.  We try to ignore it.  But the truth remains… we sometimes struggle.  Each of us and all of us.

The psalmist wrote this psalm for those times we struggle.

If you remember nothing else, remember that first verse:  “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble.”

  • “I will not fear”  (v.2,3)  On any given day, we hear news reports of nature in chaos: mudslides, avalanches, earthquakes, tornadoes, lightning strikes, floods, hurricanes, blizzards, heat-related deaths, etc.  In events such as these, life can seem unsure.  Our response?  “I will not fear.  God is my refuge and my strength, a very present help in trouble.”
  • “I will not be fluid”  (v.4-7)  We look to the center of our government and to our courts to be sources of moral stability and high ethical standards.  In recent years, decisions have been made that show even the most basic of morality and ethics are fluid… shifting… changing.  We’re not even sure what gender we are any more!  Our response?  “I will not be fluid.  I will stand on the foundation that is God, who is my refuge and my strength… a very present help in trouble.”
  • “I will not fight”  (v.8-11)  The psalmist describes the aftermath of battlefield; broken weapons and burning chariots.  Most of us have not seen an actual battlefield, but we have seen figurative ones: a broken home, a foreclosure sign on a failed business, a half-empty church after a split, etc.  Our response?  “I will not fight; I will be still and turn to God, who is my refuge and strength… a very present help in trouble.”

 

In those times we struggle, we shouldn’t get “all shook up” (as Elvis said), but should, instead, look up.

From Resolution to Repentance

This past Wednesday night, we studied Psalm 39.  It was a psalm written by David, and intended to be played by one of his favorite musicians, Jeduthun.

Evidently, David had been praying for God to meet a need in his life… and God wasn’t answering his prayer as soon as David hoped he would.  Though David was growing impatient – and possibly even frustrated with God, he was determined he would not speak critically of God… especially in the presence of unbelievers.

I.  David’s Resolution  (v.1-3)

David made a promise to himself.  He promised himself he would not sin in his speech nor in his actions, especially when the ungodly were present.  It was a resolution concerning his witness.

But, in his attempt to say only good things, he found it easier to simply say nothing… and, by doing so, he had removed his witness from those who needed it most!

II.  David’s Repentance  (v.4-13)

David knew his former resolution was the wrong approach.  Pouting in silence was certainly not the answer.  So, he changed his plan of action; he made a 4-fold request to God:

  • Show me!  (v.4-6)  David asked God to remind him of the frailty of life, and the futility of life.
  • Save me!  (v.7-9)  David knew his only real hope was in God.
  • Spare me!  (v.10,11)  David asked God to stop punishing him for his sin and to hear his prayer.
  • Satisfy me!  (v.12,13)  What David wanted more than anything else was to experience the joy of the Lord.  And isn’t that what we all want most?

 

There is usually a right way and a wrong way to approach most situations in life.  The right way is always the way that causes us to turn to God quickest… and stay with Him longest.