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March 2, 2015

Advancing the Kingdom……

          God’s 3-Step Plan to impact our culture for Christ

Last month we focused on Step 1, The Great Commitment - Praying For Our Neighbors (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Prayer is the most important step in reaching our neighbors for Christ.  First, ask God to examine your heart and point out anything that may have come between you and your Savior (1 Corinthians 4:4).  Confession and repentance will insure a right relationship with our Lord and change our hearts from being lifeless and lukewarm to being vibrant and winsome. Second, pray that our neighbors will be drawn by the Father (John 6:44). Third, pray that the supernatural light of God’s truth will penetrate the moral darkness of this world’s system (2 Corinthians 4:4) and their unbelieving minds will be open.  Forth, pray that not only will their minds be open to the truth, but the Holy Spirit will provide spiritual understanding and enlightenment (1 Corinthians 2:14). Opening minds and providing spiritual understanding must come from God and is His business, but releasing God’s power to do so is prayer business, to which God calls us. Fifth, pray for opportunities to build relationships with your neighbors.  As we commit to pray for our neighbors and all those in authority, God will begin to soften our hearts for those we encounter in our neighborhoods, marketplaces, workplaces, schools or the fitness centers we frequent. When we begin praying for our neighbor, the Holy Spirit will set the table for interaction and relationship building.  Be sensitive to His leading and respond.  If not, the opportunities will often pass us by.  

Let’s look at Step 2 - The Great Commandment - Caring For Our Neighbors (Mark 12:28; Matthew 22:39)

When Jesus was asked what commandment was the most important one, He said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:28-31).  If we are serious about obeying God’s Great Commandment, we must lovingly care for our neighbors.

People are hurting all around us.  Our communities are awash with opportunities to care (John 4:34-35).  In our caring, we showcase God’s love. When we become aware of the hurts and needs of our neighbors, reach out to them. It may cost us time, money, energy, material goods or personal freedoms we have come to enjoy.  However, investing in the lives of our neighbors is an eternal investment.  So let’s commit to:   

(1) Do something!  Praying and planning are good, but then we need to step out in faith and act.  What we believe will have little impact on others unless it motivates us to love and serve others. People don’t care how much we know about spiritual issues until they know how much we care about them.  When they see the power of love demonstrated by a transformed life, they are much more likely to listen to what we have to say. 

Building relationships in proximity to where we live, shop, work, attend school, or work out seems like a no brainer, but often it isn’t done.  Do you know your neighbors’ names: those two doors down or across the street? Do you know the person who waits on you in the convenience store, the quiet one in the cubicle down the hall where you work, the loner who sits by him/herself during lunch, or the attendant at the gym where you work out?  Found people find people and saved people serve people.  Are you finding and serving?  When we do, God moves and exciting things begin to happen.  When we reach out and love our neighbor, trust begins to build.  Trust is built by actions, not words.  Never ignore the trust issue when building relationships.  Be intentional and authentic. If we are not, then our actions will be seen as just a ploy to get them to become a follower of Jesus.   

(2) Do something today!  Some of us are always going to do something to serve others, but we are waiting for things to change----until this project is finished, until we have more time, until we are less tired, until we get that promotion, until, until, until. So before this day is over, do something to show someone you care.  We read in the Book of Proverbs, “Never tell your neighbor to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now (Proverbs 3:28).  We also read in Galatians thatas we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone” (Galatians 6:10).  We are also instructed to help others carry their burdens.  Paul writes, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).  God not only wants us to pray for our neighbors (Step 1), but to love them through acts of kindness.  Loving our neighbor requires stepping out of our comfort zone and being proactive (Colossians 4:5-6).  

Model the change you wish to create. Jesus did just that when He took on the role of a servant and washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:12-17). As we encounter God’s transforming love in our hearts, we can’t help but channel that love to others.  As we bless our neighbors, we will be blessed ourselves (James 1:25).  Happiness doesn’t come by serving ourselves, but by forgetting ourselves and serving others.  We were not created to just be consumers of His love, but distributors as well.

What are some of the specific activities in your life where you have personal contact with unbelievers? 

Think of ways to increase those contacts. 

(3) Do something every day!  Take a look at your daily routine.  Don’t fill your life with so many activities that they limit your availability for God to use you.  Make yourself available to God.  Think of one thing you can do to bless, lift, or serve a neighbor each day.  Look for small tasks no one else would do, then do them in love as if they were great things. Author, philosopher, and statesman, Edmund Burke said, “Nobody made a greater mistake, than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”  Like the Good Samaritan, allow God to interrupt your plans (Luke 10:33-37).  As His servants, we may not get to choose when, where, or whom we will serve, He does.  God calls us and saves us to serve the Lord Jesus by loving those He loves.  He wants us to make a difference in our communities for Him.  Serving is not optional.  

The Scriptures command us to love our neighbors.  As ambassadors of the One who meets needs and satisfies desires, we have the opportunity to radiate His love and point others to Him. Like Jesus, we must see people as they are and love them as they are. But this love never lets them stay there (Ephesians 4:15). Love moves people and hopefully it will move us to impact our culture so that our unbelieving neighbors will invite Jesus into their hearts.  Love is so powerful.  It caused our Lord to leave His home in heaven and sacrifice His life for those He loved (Philippians 2:5-8). Many of our neighbors are looking for something or someone to meet needs, remove burdens, and provide freedom. We know the One who can do just that and so much more (Isaiah 41:10; John 10:10).

Will you humble yourself and follow in His steps?

A Prayer to Offer

God, teach me to love my neighbor (Mark 12:31). Help me to regard other people as precious in your sight (Phil. 2:3). Teach me to be concerned for the interests of others and not just my own (Phil. 2:4). Help me to serve my neighbors as a natural outpouring of my love for Jesus, expecting nothing in return (John 14:23).  Father, I want to show Christ’s love as I seek to serve others through acts of kindness (John 13:35).  Set my mind on what the Spirit desires (Rom. 8:5-6). I pray that you will be glorified as I minister to my neighbors (Rom. 15:6).

"Be strong and courageous, all you who hope in the LORD."

  Psalm 31:24

 

Dave Dagwell

Assistant to the President