March's Love Your Neighbor

What is the greatest thing you’ve ever been invited to?

Was it a football game? Maybe the Rose Bowl three years ago? Was it a ski trip with some friends to some place like Tahoe? Was it an invitation to see a comedian or a great play? Maybe it was an invitation to attend college at Texas A&M or an invitation to take your dream job.

My greatest invitation came my senior year in college. I had it real bad for a certain girl that went to my church. Yet I had never mustered up the courage to even carry on a conversation with her. One day at church I happened to be at just the right place at the right time and as a result I was able to open the door for this girl and one of her roommates. As they passed by they were talking about the TV show ALIAS; which just happened to be one of my favorites. So I quickly mentioned that I loved that show and then there it was…the greatest invitation of my life. This girl, Krista, and her roommate invited me to come watch the show with them that night at their place. Nine months later Krista and I were engaged.

Now that was a great invitation; for that invitation changed my life. In John’s gospel he records an invitation that also ended up changing someone’s life.

“Philip found Nathanael and told him, We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathaniel asked. ‘Come and see,’ said Philip.” John 1:45-46

Philip had just met Jesus. He was convinced that Jesus was the promised Messiah and so he ran to his friend Nathanael to tell him. Nathanael’s response to Philip was just a bit cynical. Yet, Philip extended a life changing invitation anyway. With three simple words, “Come and see,” Philip gave Nathanael the greatest invitation he ever received. As a result Nathanael meets Jesus and three verses later Nathanael has placed his faith in Christ.

You see, invitations can be life changing. This week you have the opportunity to extend some life changing invitations. Easter is next Sunday. Next Sunday! And the question is, who are you going to invite to come to church with you this Easter?

Each month of this year we are putting together these “Love Your Neighbor” letters for the purpose of encouraging you to bless your neighbors with the grace, truth and love of Jesus. We are doing this as a church because your neighbors matter much to God. In fact they matter so much to God that Jesus died for them, something we are going to remember together as a church body this Friday. He loves them and He has commanded us to love them as well. So each month the “Love Your Neighbor” letter will contain a simple step that you can take as an individual or family to bless your neighbors.
This month’s step is to invite three of your neighbors to come to church with you this Easter. This step might seem really hard for you, but the truth is most people go to church on Easter. Also, according to Thom Rainer in his book The Unchurched Next Door 82% of people would accept an invitation to church if they were invited. That number only increases on Easter.

So this week take some time with your family or your roommate and pray for your neighbors. Then invite them to church. It just might be the greatest invitation they will ever receive.


February's Love Your Neighbor

What drew you to the place where you live?

What were the things that caused you to pick the house or apartment you live in today? Was it the roomy kitchen or the fireplace you never use? Was it the neighborhood or the school district? Was it the square footage or the incredible price?

I have to tell you something. I love Texas. I love everything about Texas. I love its history, its reputation, its size...yeah, I'm that guy. One of my favorite things about Texas is the Alamo. I grew up going to the Alamo, watching my Dad cry as we walked the hallowed grounds. Now every time Krista and I go to San Antonio I make her stop and see it with me. She lets me just take some time to look at it and soak it all in.

We probably all have very good (or creative) reasons for why we chose to live where we do. But the truth is the main factor in determining where we live isn't some personal preference but the sovereignty of God. The Apostle Paul put it like this:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. Acts 17:24-26 (NIV)

Did you see it?

God determined the exact places where we should live. God was the ultimate factor in determining where you call home, not the perfect tree outside or the school district. The truth also means God was the determining factor in where your neighbors should live. In God's sovereignty he moved your neighbors next to you and you next to your neighbors. Now why in the world would God have done that? Paul tells us in the next verse:

God did his so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. Acts 17:27

God has placed you, a representative of Him, next to your neighbors so that you can make His love known. How amazing is that? And yet, the sad truth is most of us don't even know our neighbor's names. God divinely placed us where we are and we don't even take the time to meet the people that God has placed around us.

One way you can love your neighbor well is by taking the time to get to know them. Learn their names. Become their friends. God wanted you to meet them. So meet them.

Each month of this year you are going to get a "Love Your Neighbor" update that will be meant to encourage you to bless your neighbors with the grace, truth and love of Jesus. We are doing this as a church because your neighbors matter much to God. That is why He commanded us to love our neighbors. Sure, when Jesus said to love our neighbors He didn't necessarily mean just our next door neighbors, but he also didn't necessarily not mean them either. So each month the "Love Your Neighbor" blog will contain a simple step that you can take as an individual or family to bless your neighbors.

This month's step is to make a "Google Maps" (http://maps.google.com) image of your house and the closest ten houses to it. Once you have made your map begin to meet the neighbors in those houses. Learn their names, find out what they do and begin to build friendships with them. As you do this begin filling in information about them on your map. Finally, as you learn your neighbors' names begin to pray this prayer for them:

Heavenly Father, I pray that ________ will know your love for them and their need for you; and I pray that you will richly bless them with the kindness that draws them close to you. Amen.

Remember, God wanted you to be neighbors, so take some time this month and be neighborly.