Categories
Good News

A House of Good News

What if everyone on my block knew who I was? What if other people on my block knew each other because I introduced them? What if I knew what the needs of my neighbors were and were in a position to activate others to help? And what if I had an eye to initiate or come alongside a program to serve my neighborhood as quickly as I come alongside my church?

That would be good news in my neighborhood, wouldn’t it?

That would look a lot like Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:39, wouldn’t it? 

Love your neighbor as yourself.

It’s one of those obvious things we don’t do. If you are like me you think, “Gosh, that would be cool. But I’m not _____.” [Insert your excuse, mine is too busy already.]

But think of the possibility of this dream. What if my neighborhood were good news for residents? What if, compelled by a love for Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, neighbors got to know one another, learned to love one another, and helped to meet one another’s practical needs. What if people thought about the place that they live as a source of life instead of just a place to live?

Is that possible?

Of course it is. We believe Jesus at His word on so many other levels, why not the most basic one? Love your neighbor as yourself. He didn’t say, love your family as yourself or love your church as yourself or love your TV as yourself or love the idea of a neighbor as you love yourself.

You and I are the change agents who can make this happen. Ephesians 2:10 is clear, we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works. So let’s get on that horse and do some good works!

You just have to push away the voices inside of you that tells you it isn’t your job. Or that being involved at _____ is enough. Or that you are too busy, your neighbors are annoying, they don’t want to know one another. On and on. Don’t let the voice of doubt win.

5 First Steps You Can Do This Week

  1. Learn 5 names you don’t already know on your block.
  2. Create a simple drawing for your fridge. Make a box for every house and put names in every box.
  3. Take a slow walk every day this week on your block with the intention of saying learning names. “Hi, I’m ___. What’s your name?” You can do that. This works well after work when people are out and about. It also works great in the morning if you have a dog. (The dog will love this!)
  4. Pick the newest person on your block and intentionally introduce yourself. Welcome them to the neighborhood.
  5. Tell 1 person your dream for the block, that it would be a place where neighbors are not strangers.

You’ve got this. You can do it! 

Categories
Christian Living Good News

The Power of Today

As I sit here this morning, looking out of my window onto my street, I have a single thought:

Today is powerful. 

One single day could change everything.

No, there’s nothing significant about this Thursday.

I mean that every day is powerful.

And you have one shot to get today right.

Each day I have the opportunity to do something… in this moment… or let it slip away.

It’s a simple thought. But perspective adds to the realization that today can’t be just another day.

So often we get lost in the busyness of doing what we need to do today that we forget that Jesus Christ has empowered his believers to measure each day differently.

Jesus measures your day differently than you do.

Today might not seem significant. But it is.

Today is a gift. And what you do with this day matters deeply to the one who made the hours we describe as a day.

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Matthew 22:36-39

What are you going to do today to Love God? What are you going to do today to Love your neighbors as yourself? 

Categories
Christian Living

LTM trips

I love short-term mission trips. Many of my most significant spiritual break throughs, both as a participant and as a pastor, have come on trips to far away places doing exotic things.

But I can’t run from the fact that Jesus has called me to a Long-term Mission trip right in my neighborhood.

To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

Mark 12:33

Try as I might– wish as I might– I can’t get away from the plain instructions of Jesus. Next to loving God with all my heart Jesus tells me, oh and it hurts, to love my neighbor as myself.

Jesus didn’t tell me to love my church as myself. Or love the people I like as I love myself. Or love my kids/wife/dog/cat/garden/golf clubs/Notre Dame Fighting Irish like myself.

He said I should love my neighbors as I love myself.

Some annoying facts about the Long-Term Mission trips

  • If you’re lucky you get to pick where you live. But you don’t get to pick your neighbors.
  • There’s a high likelihood that Jesus, being God and all, picked your neighbors.
  • He knows how annoying some of them are. And how grumpy that one guy with the lawn mower is. And just how hard to find that one family is.
  • I’ve tried it so I can confirm that it is impossible to love your neighbors if you don’t know their names. You should rectify that. Like today.
  • In order to love your neighbors your going to have to re-prioritize your time. This might be a good time to remind you that Jesus said this was like the #2 thing in his eyes. Yes, even above being in a small group.
  • I don’t know what you consider an “act of love.” But if someone just waved at me for months without even stopping to say hi, I wouldn’t feel all that loved.
  • You’re probably going to have to meet in the middle to love your neighbor as yourself. As in, you’ll need to love yourself a little less in order to love your neighbor “as yourself.”
  • Unlike a short-term mission trip, this thing is going to cost you money and you won’t be able to send letters to your friends asking for reimbursement. Well, you can try.
  • The longer you know someone the harder it is to love them as you love yourself. Amazingly, I’ve known myself 35 years and I’m pretty good at loving myself.
  • As much as I’ve looked at the Greek and read commentaries, I can’t find wiggle room in Jesus’ words for “convenience” or “waiting for the right time.” Instead, I’m pretty sure that Jesus’ society, built on close-knit communities, knew exactly what a neighbor was and how hard it would be to love them.
  • Speaking of comparisons to ancient times. Be thankful for indoor plumbing. At least you don’t have to love your neighbor despite the fact that their outhouse is upwind of your house.
Categories
Manifesto

The weird side of Christians and politics

Preamble: Understand in reading this post that I’m a swing voter and my #1 criteria for voting is, “Can this person lead in the role they are running for?” Side issues mean almost nothing to me in light of that one framing question.

I cringe when I hear evangelical Christians being grouped together as a block of voters for two reasons.

First, it’s a self-indicting judgement in how we view ourselves that we would only identify people with a certain political ideology when Jesus has commanded that we reach all people, all neighbors, with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Second, many of the solutions to issues Christian seem to care about from established political parties have been proven to both not work in society; the people who are elected because of their viewpoints on single issues often come with baggage that is distinctly against Christian values.

Some examples: 

  • Gay marriage is no more an attack on my marriage than the billboard for no fault divorce I pass on my way to work. Actually, the guy with the handgun next door is far more dangerous to my marriage than the gay couple across the street. Violent crimes in America are way, way down versus 2 decades ago. But handgun sales are way, way up.
  • There are millions of children in this country brought here as children who went to school with our kids, who have said the pledge of allegiance every morning next to our kids, and who have dreams just like our kids. But because there is no pathway to becoming a legal resident they are stuck. I can think of no fathomable reason Christians don’t advocate for them. Those kids aren’t dangerous– their homeland, the United States of America, doesn’t love them back. It’s heart-breaking. We are all immigrants to this country. We should be advocates for the Dream Act.
  • Health care costs are killing people. Literally. People are dying because they can’t afford basic health care. And yet, doctors are reimbursed less now than 20 years ago. Privatized, for-profit health care coverage and agressive pharmaceutical companies built on 19th century patent laws are bankrupting our society while getting tax breaks on their profits from the government and distributing tiny dividends into your 401k. You can’t argue for both a balanced budget and decreases in corporate taxation. The same companies that caused this current economic crisis are continuing to profit from it while trying to shirk their most basic responsibilities as corporate citizens. That’s what happens when you let the wolves run the chicken coup. They think about eating meat tomorrow with no source for tomorrow’s eggs.

What’s the point? 
The point is this, you can’t be a single issue voter and think you’re part of the political process. These are complex problems and deserve our attention. We can’t walk into a voting booth, in good conscious, and cast a vote over abortion or gun control or tax reform or the economy and think that we’ve done our part.

Doing our part means getting involved at the local level. It means advocating for the sick and oppressed on your block. It means standing up for the powerless in your life.

When you get to know the people these things effect your perspective will change. When you get to know the gay couple across the street you’ll see that they love each other just like you love your spouse. When you get to know the crazy guy with the guns you’ll see that he has guns because he has deep-seeded fears that a gun can’t fix, a counselor can. When your kids best friend can’t get into college because he has no way to get a green card, it won’t be an issue it will be Joseph’s story. When your next door neighbor dies because she couldn’t afford the medicine anymore it won’t be a matter of corporate rights, it’ll be an injustice.

Doing our part and doing the right thing might mean not getting what we want or doing what we’re comfortable with all the time. When we take things out of the rhetoric of issues and get to know the people they effect, we’ll see our perspectives shaped by a deep desire to help.

Friends, we weren’t called into ministry just to love the people who show up at our church or whose kids show up to youth group.

We were called to a messy ministry of loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Categories
Blog Highlight Church Leadership Good News

Being Good News

Today’s video post is a synopsis of about 10 conversations I’ve had in the last 60 days. All of them get to the question, “Adam, something has changed inside of you. I like it sometimes and I don’t like it sometimes, what is it?

One thing I’ve learned to get comfortable with in the last 10 years of ministry is people asking me hard questions, diving into my motivations, and even offering critical responses. I can handle it. I am not intimidated by it. In fact, questions like this actually encourage me.