Growing as a God-Orienting Neighbor
Series: Art of Neighboring
Brad Bailey - November 24, 2013
Today we are concluding our series focusing on Rediscovering Art of Neighboring
Jesus affirmed that what God desires could be summed up in two great commands... to 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and..
"Love your neighbor as yourself...."Do this and you will live." - Luke 10:27-28
God says this is what we are to reorient our lives around. And it is the second we have been seeking to engage this month. Love your neighbor as yourself.
I want to begin on a personal note.
As most of you know...a few months ago...my mother passed on... this past Monday... my father passed on. It's certainly a season of loss...and sadness...but I have been filled even more with the blessing they have been ...and so much peace in how their lives were blessed.
My parents life... captured the art of hospitality.
When I was in Jr. High School… with older sisters in high school… we had a foreign student become a part of our family for a year... and to this day she is like family. In the years that followed… they were presented with situations that led to several years of back to back women who became like family… and sisters in my life. Few of you may know, that before I ever became a part of this church, I was living abroad for two years… attended a Vineyard conference and knew that when I returned to attend seminary I would likely make the Vineyard my new church home. Meanwhile my parents wrote to tell me that they had taken in a young woman in full time missional ministry at the Vineyard. I arrived home with a Westside Vineyardites gathering in my parents home.
You may have heard of the term "refrigerator rights" which captures having some you so open up your home to that hey have freedom to share use of your refrigerator. My parents had "cookie cupboard rights"..."TV rights"..."sleepover rights." For years my best friend Skip would ride is bike from Santa Monica to our house on Saturday mornings...crawl through the pet door...get a bowl of cereal... and turn on Saturday morning cartoons...before anyone in our home was even up yet.
> My dad captures a life that cared for others more than himself. He was always focused on people over possessions....over privacy...over his own pride.
In my heart...this whole series has carried a sense of honor and dedication to my parents.
And as we conclude, I want to hear the words of Scripture... the words of one who knew he may be at the end of his earthly life. The Apostle Paul... imprisoned and now writing to those in the city of Colossi… what is commonly called the Book of Colossians. Paul brings us into a life filled with mission.
These are the words of one who knew he may be at the end of his earthly life… so he wants to convey what matters most. He wants to help every life discover and develop what matters most.
Colossians 4:2-6 (NLT)
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. 5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
Paul sees his life bearing a mission... but he has no savior complex… he has gotten over any sense that he is the hero of the story… and we need to get over that too. He sees his life not as an answer to what others needs… but as a bridge… a bridge to hope.
• Important… because any assumption that those who claim to receive this life of Christ are superior will deflate everyone… because we know it’s just not true.
• If you are hear today… perhaps just exploring… I’m sorry for the way you may be made to feel like you are not as good or smart as those who claim to know Christ.
• Paul held no such pretense… referring to himself as the ‘chief of sinners’ …one who was simply met in God’s timing and plan.
But he does see his life as having great meaning...for it's surrounded by an opportunity to share the hope he has found.
He realizes that his life is a relational bridge in the grand drama that we are living in… a bridge which can manifest and make clear the mysteries of Christ.
So as we consider what it means to love our neighbor...it begins with knowing them...and that is what we have set out to do this month. But naturally, a love for our neighbor includes caring about their souls...their relationship with God. We should naturally consider:
How do we bring spiritual value into our relationships with neighbors?
How can we be God-Orienting Neighbors?
Huge questions... and I want to share just a few key principles...
1. Always keep God the ultimate motive, but never an ulterior motive.
Some may wonder...Is the whole call to know and love our neighbor really just about "converting" them?
This is where the difference between Ultimate vs Ulterior is important. 
Ulterior means something is intentionally kept concealed. An ulterior motive is usually manipulative. It’s when we do or say one thing out in the open but intend or mean another thing in private.
Ultimate means the farthest point of a journey. An ultimate goal is an eventual point or a longed-for destination. Examples are when a person begins college hoping to become a physician one day or when a kid starts playing basketball with dreams of one day playing in the NBA.
There’s a big difference. 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. It’s tempting to offer friendship with strings attached.
We are called to love people— period. Whether those people ever take any steps toward God is beside the point. We are called to love our neighbors unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. The Great Commandment says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The commandment ends there, with no other expectations given.
> Good neighboring is an end in itself.
We want to be clear. We believe that Jesus answers the ultimate questions of life and has the ultimate answers for our cities and neighborhoods. Our hope, dream, and desire is that everyone will have a meaningful relationship with Jesus. So sharing the story of Jesus and his impact on our lives is the right motive, but it cannot be an ulterior motive in developing relationships.
> We don’t love our neighbors to convert them; we love our neighbors because we are converted.
Loving will lead to what is loving. It does not need to be defined by a particular goal or outcome.
2. Just be your genuine self
The biggest issue that challenges being witnesses of God... is that we feel more like a salesmen...and often we act like it.
Share good news of what we have discovered ...yes.... sell God...no.
What are some of the dynamics that the salesmen / saleswomen paradigm brings? (Draw out some from audience)
• Obligatory…. A product we have to sell… to fulfill a job description… or a quota.
• Uses people to fulfill a need or burden we have
• Pressured – ‘Closing the deal’
• More packaged than personal
• Disingenuous… we feel we have to say more than we actually know and therefore more than what is personal and natural.
If any of this burdens us… we may do well to ask:
When did Christ send his followers out to share anything other than what they had discovered? He always told people to go and share what he has done for them...that is...their actual experience...nothing more...and nothing less.
1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
What should we share? > Hope. Whose hope? > The hope within YOU.
Not a pamphlet....prepared speech or set of arguments.
"Sharing the hope that is WITHIN YOU."
Your life is a story....and sharing our stories invites people to consider what you have discovered
Everyone orients their lives around something...some ideas or value. It's not any different to share that I am seeking to reorient my life around the life of Jesus Christ.
Stop selling a product... share a Person
Some of us may think our lives are too much of a mess. They probably are. But if God is at work… we can still love people. When someone is remodeling their home… they are still a neighbor. When God is remodeling your life...you are still a neighbor.
We need to change our role...and discover how to find the freedom to be genuine ....natural.
Paul’s prayer and purpose is ‘that God will give us many opportunities to speak’… and that in the same that all who grasp this life will (verse 5) ‘Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.’ 
Seeking opportunities...not imposing...not forcing... but seeking opportunities to genuinely relate.
We need to become those who offer spiritual companionship, conversation, and challenge.
While confrontation has it’s place… as we see in Jesus and the religious leaders who confronted him… our cultural reality is more like Greece… a land of many ideas and gods. And as such we need to think less confrontational and more conversational.
Paul speaks of our "conversation" with people...one that must be gracious and respectful.
People today are skittish and gun-shy about being pressured religiously.
> We need the skills of a horse whisperer.
Horses are flight animals. They get easily spooked and away they go. Any jerk can try and beat an animal, but there’s something ennobling to us when we simply use our voice to guide or influence them… like a horse or dog whisperer you woo and win that animal’s confidence. You are here this morning because you’ve fallen under the spell of the God whisperer who knows your name and has wooed you and called you into the adventure of knowing and loving him. 
3. Expect different responses...and focus accordingly
Paul says make the most of opportunities. You don't control opportunities...you respond accordingly. And that includes the receptivity of neighbors.
Realize that some will be more responsive….
God has always worked with the responsiveness of people...Jesus worked with the responsiveness of people. He chose 12...and clearly it was not their sophistication or initial leadership skills that guided his choice...as much as their responsiveness. When he called them to follow...they dropped their nets....they responded. And then at times...he chose a certain three to share more with.
Not surprisingly...when Jesus sent out his 70 followers to spread the Kingdom... he told them to look for those who were receptive...and stay there. he spoke of finding the “man of peace”…and it’s a powerful truth.
Luke 10:5-6 (MSG)
"When you enter a home, greet the family, 'Peace.' If your greeting is received, then it's a good place to stay. But if it's not received... Don't impose yourself.
Look for those who reflect "peace" in the neighborhood.
We don’t have to force ourselves against the boundaries others may set forth.
Expect different responses...and focus accordingly.
4. Be as patient as God
Neighboring is not an event...it's a way of being in the place we live.
Our bodies change slowly....family grows over time...and developing our life with neighbors come with time.
> Don't let short term mentality get you. Use whatever time you have.
Growing as a God-Orienting neighbor does involve being intentional.
Most of us who realize we haven't gotten to know our neighbors like we could have...never decided NOT to....we simply haven't been intentional.
> Our need to be patient...but also intentional... embrace neighboring as a verb...not a stagnant noun.
Here's a valuable fact...
Connection is most ripe in the midst of life changes and transitions.
When people are going through times of change (e.g. moving house) people are often more curious than suspicious
During life's big transitions (e.g. birth, marriage and death) people are often more conscious of their common humanity, and so more hospitable.
Genuine connection involves a process – We don’t start with honest, empathic, reciprocal connections; we work towards them.
We usually begin with a s stage marked by being polite, but typically superficial.
So the process usually grows through initially breaking the barrier of honesty... then empathy... and finally reciprocity.
Value the significance of transitions.
lets be as patient and intentional as God.
5. Let all our neighboring be an extension of our prayer
We need to start by recognizing that people come to know God because of God.
So, while we do play a part, we are ambassadors and messengers (II Corinthians 5:20), God is the one who saves (Acts 16:14, II Timothy 2:24-26, Ezekiel 11:19, and Ephesians 2:8-9). Since this is true... the truest love for our neighbor will flow from God...and with God...and therefore flow in prayer.
We live in the intersection of two dimensions… and relate to both. This is what the disciples of Jesus had begun to recognize was at the center of his life. So they ask him.. ‘Lord teach us to pray.’ And his model of prayer was directed to the Father in the heavenly real… and asked… “Let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.’
Colossians 4:2 (NLT)
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
John Piper said, “Prayer is not designed as an intercom between us and God to serve the domestic comforts of the saints. It’s designed as a walkie-talkie for spiritual battlefields. It’s the link between active soldiers and their command headquarters, with its unlimited … power and wisdom.”
> Every mission needs to be connecting with it’s source… who can keep us clear in what is around us.
Everyone needs a touch from God. But as Christ demonstrated, that touch may be different. It may be the guiding hand of the Shepherd, the healing touch of the Great Physician, or the prophetic voice of the True Revolutionary.
A story I read ten years...
When elderly Adele Gaboury turned up missing four years ago, concerned neighbors in Worcester, Massachusetts, informed the police. A brother told police she had gone into a nursing home.
Satisfied with that information, Gaboury's neighbors began watching her property. Michael Crowley noticed her mail, delivered through a slot in the door, piling high. When he opened the door hundreds of pieces of mail drifted out. He notified police, and the deliveries were stopped.
Gaboury's next-door neighbor, Eileen Dugan, started paying her grandson $10 twice a month to mow Gaboury's lawn. Later Dugan's son noticed Gaboury's pipes had frozen, spilling water out the door. The utility company was called to shut off the water.
What no one guessed was that while they'd been trying to help, Gaboury had been inside her home. When police finally investigated the house as a health hazard, they were shocked to find her body. The "Washington Post" (10/27/93) reported that police now believe Gaboury died of natural causes four years ago.
The respectable, external appearance of Gaboury's house had hidden the reality of what was on the inside.
In the same way...we may have neighbors whose life looks great from the outside... but who are dying on the inside.
Closing: Prayer in small groups
I want to give each of us who claim this life… an opportunity to consider at least one person we now who we can pray for. I want us to consider their need… to pray for an appropriate opportunity… and an appropriate response to their needs.
there is power in praying aloud...and agreeing in prayer. So I am going to invite us to join in groups of 3 to 5. Pray aloud for one neighbor...and if you don't have any relationship wit a neighbor...then just in general.
If you are just exploring who God is... feel free to pray honestly...or simply agree with the prayers of others.
1. This series draws upon ideas from (2012-08-01). The Art of Neighboring,: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door by Pathak, Jay; Runyon, Dave. Baker Book Group.
In their book, Pathak and Runyon note that the healpful distinction between Ulterior versus Ultimate came from the book To Transform a City by Eric Swanson and Sam Williams (Zondervan, 2010).
2. Paul wants an opportunity SPEAK. (‘…opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ.’)
Hefner - ‘Christian faith is an experience of the Word: God spoke creation into being, the prophets spoke, Jesus spoke, the apostles and every generation of Christians since then have spoken. And we are to speak. So Paul, does not even try to convince us to speak, rather he focus on how we are to speak.’) So he refers to wanting to ‘speak as he should’… and all growing in the same.
In this he notes speaking…
• Clearly (“that I may make it clear”)
• Individually flavored (‘seasoned with salt’; flavorful)
"attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone."
When Paul writes, “know how you are to answer every person,” he is not telling us to know how to win an argument… but how to help someone know God. We don’t argue or prove people to Christ. Rather, Paul is reminding us that each person we encounter is unique, with their own special needs and concerns. We can share the life of Christ in ways that are sensible to the unique issues that one is aware of.
3. "God Whisperer" idea drawn from Victor Pentz