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Matthew 16

18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

It is God who is responsible for building his church. It is God who is responsible for growing his church. Jesus didn’t tell us to build his church. Jesus didn’t command us to grow his church. Jesus told us to “make disciples.”

Jesus builds his church. We build Christians. We make disciples teaching them the way Jesus teaches, through the model of our lives and through his teaching. As we grow, we are moving through the levels of maturity and leading others to do the same, blessing the world all along the way.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, God isn’t all that concerned about how many people are attending worship in any given church. If he was he would certainly be capable of filling churches throughout the land. According to the Bible, God’s main concern is how mature the people who make up the church are becoming. How high-joy the church community is becoming. God is interested in growing us in maturity to be that kind of person in the lives of others.

Paul gives us this instruction.

Colossians 1:28

Jesus is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

Once again, here is how Dallas explains it. I will let him have the last word.

“Instead of counting Christians we need to weigh them. We weigh them by focusing on the most important kind of growth—love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, and so on—fruit in keeping with the gospel and the kingdom.”

ME

A high-joy church community is the best environment in society for people to grow in maturity, and it is where you will find the most adult and beyond maturity people. What does this mean to you, personally?

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Ephesians 5

21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

When Jesus is asked what is the most important teaching in faith he replies, in summary, “Love God, love your neighbor as yourself.”

We love something when we are devoted to its good or well-being. When we love God, we want what God wants.

When we love our neighbor we want what God wants for our neighbor. When we love ourself we want what God wants for us.

To be devoted to the good of ourselves and others begins with a loving God who is already devoted to us. When we live out of that love we can truly love our neighbor as ourself.

Love has to do with compassion. Where we feel the needs of others. This is what God has for us. A constant devotion to our well being. We are to have this with our neighbor.

And who is my neighbor? My most important neighbors are those most closely connected to me. If I am married, this means neighbor #1 is my spouse. When I am devoted to the well-being of my spouse, if we have children, I can expand that devotion outward to them.

So, if I am married, devoting my life to God begins with my devotion to the well being of my spouse. But, if we are to feel the needs of spouse and be constantly devoted to their well being, immediately there is a great challenge. Perhaps the greatest challenge we face in life. Those closest to us are often those we are most hurt by and those whom we most hurt.

Why is that? We haven’t practiced the devotion that is required to truly learn how to love like God loves.

We are most vulnerable to those closest to us. We are most challenged by them. So, in order to learn to live a life of loving your neighbor, God designs life for us to start small. We don’t have unlimited resources of compassion and devotion. We start with our spouse and expand from there. If we don’t focus on our spouse first, we won’t get anywhere else with our love in the long run.

ME

Why is this verse often neglected when talking about husbands and wives?

Psalm 105

Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.

When I search for God and his strength, I am looking to discover where he is the strongest. Well, Jesus tells us he is present strongest in those who have the greatest need.

Matthew 25

35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

The presence of Jesus is strongest where the blessings of Jesus are needed.

Feeding and clothing those in need. Bringing a healing word to the sick, visiting those in prison.Christians may be involved in all of those things. But, there is something else Jesus instructs that only you, personally can do.

“I was a stranger and you invited me into your home.”

Another way of saying this is, “You didn’t know me and you invited me into your life.”

Who don’t you know that is close to you? Who don’t you know whom can invite into your life? Probably someone who is literally, “your neighbor.”

Let’s focus here. Most of us don’t know our neighbors. But, you are the only one who knows if someone is a stranger to you or not. You are the only one who can connect with this person in your life. This is another way of loving your neighbor.

Do you know the people who live around you? God is with them and inviting you to make them a part of your life.

“But, I don’t know my neighbors because they are never home. They live behind a big fence. They don’t speak English that well…”

OK, you have to start somewhere. A good place to start is to take a walk. As you are walking pray for the houses or apartments you walk by. “God bless the people in this house. God let your love shine on the people who come and go from this home today.”

Just walk and pray. Don’t try to get somebody to talk to you. Heaven forbid, don’t knock on their door. Just pray.

Now if for some reason your neighbor actually appears. or if someone else is walking in the same neighborhood, do this. Look at them, smile and say, “How you doing? Hi. Good Morning.”

OK. that’s enough. You start walking your neighborhood, praying silently for the people who live there, God will do the rest.

ME

Walk in your neighborhood this week. Silently pray for people who live in the houses and apartments you pass. That’s it…

Psalm 105

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.

Let the whole world know what he has done.

Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.

Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.

When we think of giving thanks and singing God’s praises we think mainly about going to church.We think that way, but God doesn’t think that way. God’s main purpose for his people is to get his influence out into the world. The world means where his people live and work. Where they spend their time. Jesus makes this our focus when he tells us to, “Love your neighbor.”

That’s why how many people are in a church on a Sunday morning is not a measurement God is taking. “Did my church in insert your city here have a good crowd last Sunday?” is something God has never said in the heavenly dimensions. How do I know this? God doesn’t think that way.

God measures how you are doing in your walk of faith by how you are seeking the good of your neighbor and acting on this good where you can. That is a good definition of “love.” You can simplify this even further, by using the phrase, “Be a blessing to your neighbor.”

God is not asking you, “Did you attend an event on Sunday morning?” but rather “Did you live a life this week blessing your neighbors? How did that go?”

ME

Why do Christians spend so much time thinking about church as a place to go to services? Does this have to do with focusing on their actions rather than God’s? What about you?

Wednesday, January 27

Gratitude

Spend five minutes focusing on a couple of things you appreciate and thank God for them.

Word

Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Connect

Your neighbor is anyone

This directive from Leviticus is a huge step in the history of humankind. Revenge is one of the driving forces of all human history. Yet, over 3,000 years ago, a small band of people were directed not to get even within their tribe. Not to bear a grudge.

Then Jesus comes along and blows this huge step out of the water.

He speaks of neighbor in a different way in the story of the Good Samaritan. Your neighbor is anyone, even your worst enemy.

Work for the good of my enemy? Who could do that? No one, that’s why Jesus does it through us.

Me

When you feel like striking back at someone this week, either by reacting or thinking negatively about them, pause ten seconds and visualize Jesus on the cross. Imagine his lips whispering these words, “Father forgive them…”