The Gospel is not some concept to believe. It is the proper lens through which to see yourself and others as God does.

As the WestpointChurch.org 2013 SENT life emphasis continues, the equipping focus for this month is NEIGHBORING. The Sunday teaching series is entitled “God became neighbor.” This past Sunday morning, we spent time in John 4. Each week, I close the teaching with “the bottom line.” Here it is from March 10th:

THE BOTTOM LINE:
The Gospel is not some concept to believe. It is the proper lens through which to see yourself and others as God does. It is the moving news of God changing locations, coming near, compelling us to take initiative to go near. God’s commands are not overbearing rules that when kept earn God’s love. They are rather eye-opening pathways down which we walk with Jesus in order to experience God’s love. And worship is not some emotional event defined by geography and circumstance. Rather, it is a breath-by-breath, relational response to the God who stepped into the geography He made to resurrect life from our consequentially deadly circumstances, transformationally declaring once and for all the Truth of His love.

When we believe this Good News, and over time as His Spirit grows us in understanding how this Gospel is embodied in our daily relationships (which is wisdom, by the way), then we realize how neighborly God has been with us and are gratefully and graciously compelled to go be neighborly with each other as well as to others.

So grateful to be reminded of the mysterious, beautiful, compelling news that God came near taking up residence among us. We are loved. His presence is our good.

-jason

“The Art of Neighboring” – a post by Tim @Challies, re-posted with permission

20121026-082031.jpg

The Art of Neighboring
by Tim Challies
(re-posted with permission)

Take a look at the graphic above. Imagine that the middle box in the chart is your house and the boxes that surround it are the eight houses closest to your own. I doubt your neighborhood is arranged like a tic-tac-toe board, so you may need to use your imagination just a little bit.

Here’s what I want you to do.

First, write the names of the people who live in the house represented by each of the boxes. If you can give both first and last names, that’s great. If you’ve only got first names, that’s okay too.
Second, write down some information or facts about each of the people in that house. I don’t mean facts that you could observe by standing on the road and looking at their house (“Drives a red car”) but facts that you’ve gathered from speaking to them (“Works for a bank,” “Grew up across town.”).
Third, write down any in-depth information you know about each of the people. This could include details like their career plans or religious beliefs—the kind of information that comes from real conversation.
How did you do? Or how do you think you would do if you actually went through with this exercise? The degree to which you simply do not know your neighbors is the degree to which you will benefit from reading The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon. They premise their book upon this simple question: When Jesus told us love our neighbors, what if he meant our actual neighbors, the people who live closest to us? They explain that Christians have long been making “neighbor” into a safe metaphor that allows us to believe we are carrying out the Lord’s command when we visit soup kitchens and do acts of kindness to complete strangers.

The problem, as they explain it, is that “when we aim for everything, we hit nothing. So when we insist we’re neighbors with everybody, often we end up being neighbors with nobody.” Ouch. Much like the Pharisees, we ask “Who is my neighbor?” in the hope of finding a loophole, not in the hope of loving those who live nearby. “Jesus assumed that his audience would be able to love those nearest to them, their literal neighbors, the people most like them, who shared the same heritage and geography. In telling the parable, Jesus was stretching their concept of neighbor to include even people from a group they didn’t like.” As we read the parable today we tend to go straight to the stranger on the side of the road and no longer include the person in the house next door.

This book is full of biblical counsel and simple wisdom about how to be a good neighbor. Perhaps the most freeing concept is that there is inherent value in being a good neighbor, even if your neighbor never becomes a Christian. The authors helpfully distinguish between ultimate motives and ulterior motives. The ultimate motive in engaging your neighbors is to share the gospel with them and to see them turn to the Lord, but we must never do this through ulterior motives. Too many Christians use engaging their neighbors as a thinly-veiled guise to try to “win them,” and give up when the neighbors do not respond positively. Pathak and Runyon say, “The ‘agenda’ we need to drop is the well-meaning tendency to be friends with people for the sole purpose of converting them to our faith. Many so desperately want to move people forward spiritually that they push them according to their timetable, not according to how God is working in them. It’s tempting to offer friendship with strings attached.”

They clarify: “Sharing the story of Jesus and his impact on our lives is the right motive, but it canot be an ulterior motive in developing relationships. We don’t love our neighbors to convert them; we love our neighbors because we are converted.” Christians have long been taught that we should do good things solely to have a spiritual conversation that can move people toward conversion; but Jesus never called us to use a bait-and-switch approach where we are friends only so we can share the gospel. “We are called to love our neighbors unconditionally, without expecting anything in return.”

The Art of Neighboring clearly comes from a little bit outside the theological “tribe” that I identify with, and that brings both benefits and drawbacks. The book is not without its weaknesses. I would have liked to see the authors wrestle a bit more with issues related to sharing the gospel and creative ways of doing that. I would have liked to see them focus more on the role of the local church in the life of the Christian. But those weaknesses are more than compensated for with their call to be good neighbors and the challenge they offer.

This is a book I learned from, a book that was of immediate benefit to me, and, I think, exactly the book I needed to read. We live in a closely-packed neighborhood where we know and are known (at last count at least four of our neighbors have a key to our house!) but I needed to be freed to simply love my neighbors, to be a good neighbor to them, without feeling guilt for not always offering gospel sneak-attacks where I work it into every conversation. There is value in being a good neighbor and as we neighbor well, we trust that very natural gospel opportunities will arise.

A simple reminder for living sent from @TimChesterCoUK & @VergeNetwork – “10 Simple Ways to Be Missional”

The Verge Network shares some awesome resources that encourage and equip us to live sent daily. One of the authors / teachers they feature is Tim Chester of the Porterbrooke Institute.

Here is one of his posts entitled “10 Simple Ways to Be Missional” I thought was worth sharing.
———————–
10 Simple Ways To Be Missional (without adding anything to your schedule)
by Tim Chester

1. Eat with other people
2. Work in public places
3. Be a regular
4. Join in with what’s going on
5. Leave the house in the evenings
6. Serve your neighbors

Read the rest by CLICKING HERE.

Thanks to Tim Chester and Stew and the Verge Network folks for sharing. Grateful.

Cultivating Daily for Easter: highlighting three specific chances to gather around here in Central Florida this weekend…

For the @WestpointChurch family, there are three specific chances to gather this Friday and Sunday I wanted to highlight. Below those three is a simple challenge for us as we are cultivating daily for Easter. Hope you will cultivate.

-jason

:: Good Friday at noon with the Church of West Orange at the Jesse Brock Community Center across from Dillard Elementary School.

:: Good Friday evening at 7:00 with Kensington Church at West Orange High School auditorium. This is going to be a very artistic and engaging expression of the story of the cross that we get to enjoy with a partnering church family.

:: Easter Sunday morning at 10:00 at Whispering Oak Elementary School (where we normally gather). Who will you invite to come with you to celebrate the resurrection on this special day?

Try to make it to two of these three if you can. And please pray about who God might want you to invite to come with you, someone with whom you have been walking and loving or someone who is a new friend or neighbor.

Don’t miss this chance to not just show the Gospel but share it, as well.

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: @RayOrtlund suggests that “Gospel. Safety. Time.” are essential for healthy, functioning church families. Being neighborly matters…

When I read the following article, I had many interesting reflections. One of them was simply how essential these three vital rhythms are for church families to actually love our neighbors. It is a post by Ray Ortlund on the GCM site, neither of which I know much about, but I do know that this article is worth the read.

Enjoy. Be challenged. Be encouraged as we cultivate daily…

_____________________

GOSPEL. SAFETY. TIME.
It’s what everyone needs.  Everyone.  Gospel + safety + time.  A lot of gospel + a lot of safety + a lot of time.

Gospel: good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the present power of the Holy Spirit.  Multiple exposures.  Constant immersion.  Wave upon wave of grace and truth, according to the Bible.

Safety: a non-accusing environment.  No finger-pointing.  No embarrassing anyone.  No manipulation.  No oppression.  No condescension.  But respect and sympathy and understanding, where sinners can confess and unburden their souls.

Time: no pressure.  Not even self-imposed pressure.  No deadlines on growth.  No rush.  No hurry.  But a lot of space for complicated people to rethink their lives at a deep level.  If we relax, trusting in God’s patience, we actually get going.

This is what our churches must be: gentle environments of gospel + safety + time.  It’s the only way anyone can ever change.

Who doesn’t need that?

_________________

Dr. Ortlund is Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee. You can click here to read the article at its original site.

May we live the Gospel with one another, live loved and secure offering a safe environment for grace to abound. May we be patient as Jesus is making us all to become His church as He intended.

Grateful.
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: loving your neighbor even in a not-so-neighborly context.

20120207-150045.jpg

The Leadership Journal recently featured an interview with John Dickson, author of Humilitas, historian, and co-director of the Centre for Public Christianity. CPX works to engage Australia’s mainstream media and general public with thoughtful content that explores the relevance of the Christian faith for the modern world.

Dickson shared insight that may be helpful for us in American culture. In particular, notice his response to this question:

LEADERSHIP JOURNAL:

What advice do you have for church leaders in America about how to engage the broader culture effectively?

DICKSON:

I think the very first thing is to do is adopt a stance of mission instead of admonition toward the world.

CLICK HERE to read all of the article.

Lord, please teach us how to simply love our neighbor again, in hopes that they, too, will know that they are loved by You in this way – You sent Your Son to die for them. May we live sent, as You were sent to us.

Enough admonition. Much love. :)
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: Here are some recommended books to encourage us as we are actually loving our neighbors…

Not to long ago, I messaged out to some folks who are actually making disciples, in my opinion, and asked them to tell me three books they recommend that actually encourage followers of Jesus to make disciples in the daily rhythms of their lives. The list is below. I have not read all of these YET. But as you and I do, may we come back and leave our thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of each. Grateful to all the leaders who responded and recommended.

Hope this compilation of recommended books is helpful!

May we see “on earth as it is in heaven” on our block as we live believing that God loves us, compelled to love others that they may know His near, life-giving love, as well.
-jason