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Posts tagged ‘Loving Our Neighbor’

Grace for the Other Guy – Loving Our Neighbor

Loving Your NeighborThis passage is part of the much-loved climax to Paul’s explanation of forgiveness of sin through Christ and of freedom from sin’s grasp.

It sets these realities in the broader context of God’s purpose for all who’ve responded to His call through the gospel, and the Holy Spirit’s role in shaping the desired result and assuring our solid standing into eternity.


Interact with God’s Word

Romans 8:29-34

  1. Have you thought of yourself as chosen by the eternal Father to be a brother to His Son?
  2. How does knowing you are chosen make you feel?
  3. Why, according to verse 29, has God called you to come to Him?
  4. What does verse 30 tell you God gave you when He included you as a brother of Christ?
  5. What did Jesus do in the past (v. 34) to secure your right standing?
  6. What is He doing now to sustain that standing?
  7. Who is the guarantor (v. 33) of your right standing?
  8. What is the future for Jesus’ brothers and sisters?
  9. How should you value brothers and sisters whom Jesus died for and the Father chose?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for choosing you and the brothers you relate to. Ask Him to make you each more like the divine Brother you seek to follow.

Romans 8:29-34

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I’m on the receiving end of Your grace big time! Help me to dish it out to others.


Grace for the Other Guy – Sinner Saint

Loving Your NeighborKey Bible Verse: The Father … has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:12, NIV

Bonus Reading:  Col. 1:9-14

Ryan and Sam shrank from disclosing reality in their lives to each other. Although saved, they instinctively knew they’d still be condemned as sinners. But after connecting with the truth of grace for the first time, the two walked up to me.

“Sam here and I’ve been close friends for years,” Ryan said. “Over lunch we did the exercise about choosing to believe that we’re each saints. And I learned something about Sam that he’s kept hidden from me.” Ryan turned to Sam. “Why don’t you tell Bill what you just told me?”

Sam said, “I told Ryan that a while back I acted out an unhealthy behavior, and that right now I’m deeply tempted to do so again. In fact, I just wish someone would hit on me.”

Ryan responded, “You’ve lied to me for years, Sam. I feel hurt and confused. Before, if you’d told me the stuff you just did, I’d have rejected you. But today I’m proud of you for telling me. I don’t have a clue how to help you. But I know you’re a saint, Sam—one with deep issues that are freaking me out right now. But I’ll stand with you.”

Now the masks were off. Each saw the other as a fragile and compromised, but dearly accepted saint.

—Bill Thrall in TrueFaced

My Response: What mask must come off if I’m to reach out to others?

Thought to Apply: If we don’t accept Jesus in one another, we will not be able to give him to others.—Mother Teresa (Albanian missionary to India)

Adapted from TrueFaced (NavPress, 2003)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I’m on the receiving end of Your grace big time! Help me to dish it out to others.

Grace for the Other Guy – Convicted Convict

Loving Your NeighborKey Bible Verse: Now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. Hebrews 2:11

Bonus Reading:  Romans 8:29-30

The third day I was at the federal prison at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, it rained.  The groundskeepers work detail to which I was assigned was excused from duty.  Finding an empty spot in the dayroom, I read my Bible and came across the Key Bible Verse for today.

That verse hit me hard. I suddenly saw life differently. The men around me weren’t “murderers,” “armed robbers,” and “drug dealers.” They were brothers, human beings just like me.

Some of them had done terrible things, sure.  But so had I.

I might have some talents that society rewarded more highly than it did the talents of these men, but those abilities had been given to me at birth. I’d nurtured them, it’s true, but I’d also misused them time and again. Anything that might distinguish me from these other men, I realized, was a difference in degree, not in kind.

We were all gifted and flawed people, and I could no longer pretend I was qualified to judge anyone.  Who was I to place myself apart?  I became convinced—no, convicted—that in God’s eyes, I was fortunate to be someone, like my fellow prisoners, of whom Jesus was not ashamed.

—Charles Colson in The Good Life

My Response: Colson says, “I never truly understood people until I was crushed.” I think the reason for that is …

Thought to Apply: Be as patient with others as God has been with you.—Source Unknown

Adapted from The Good Life (Tyndale, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I’m on the receiving end of Your grace big time! Help me to dish it out to others.


Grace for the Other Guy – Attitude Check

Loving Your NeighborKey Bible Verse: So why do you condemn another Christian?  Why do you look down on another Christian?   – Romans 14:10

Bonus Reading:  Romans 14:11-13

I had never liked “Jerry,” a Christian leader in my community.  True, I’d never met him.  Yet I “knew” that Jerry oozed arrogance—and I “knew” that he didn’t respect me.  Why would I want to meet a person so stuck-up and judgmental?

One day as I filled my plate at a local diner, I turned and came face to face with Jerry.  Flustered, I said, “Hello, Jerry. I don’t think we’ve ever met. My name is Matt Woodley.”

Jerry’s eyes lit up. “Oh, my goodness,” he effused. “I’m so happy to meet you, I’ve heard so many good things about you and your church.  I hear you’re having such a positive impact on this community.  I even hear you’re a writer.  I have so much respect for you.  It’s good to meet you!”

I felt myself shrinking in shame. I had assumed that Jerry’s heart seethed with noxious attitudes toward me. A stingy spirit entraps us in suspicion, self-righteousness, and misery.

But people like Jerry reveal a Christlike commitment to see the best in other people, until it’s proven otherwise. They refuse to rely on hearsay or assumptions; instead, they base their opinions on face-to-face and heart-to-heart conversations. Generosity of spirit makes us and God very happy.

—Mathew Woodley in Discipleship Journal

My Response: When in doubt, do I assume the best or the worst? Why?

Thought to Apply: Generosity of spirit builds Christlike relationships; stinginess of spirit undermines and eventually shatters them.—Mathew Woodley (New York pastor)

Adapted from Discipleship Journal (7-8/05)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I’m on the receiving end of Your grace big time! Help me to dish it out to others.


Grace for the Other Guy – Pecking Order

Loving Your NeighborKey Bible Verse: “Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

Bonus Reading:  Romans 13:8-10

When I was in fifth grade, nobody hung out with two boys: Ted, a geek who wore thick glasses, talked with a high-pitched voice, and wasn’t very athletic; and Johnny, who was overweight and older, because he’d failed fifth grade twice.

One spring day our teacher sent Ted and Johnny out of the room on an errand. Then she said to the class, “Before recess twice a day, you choose sides for kickball; and every time Ted and Johnny are selected last.  Why not try something different?  Why not do for them what you’d want them to do for you?”

The next day, I was captain for one of the kickball teams. If I close my eyes, I can still see the joyful surprise on Ted’s face when I chose him first for my team. And I’ll never forget the excited expression on Johnny’s face when the other captain selected him first.

Was this a big thing?  No.  We’d merely treated them with dignity and respect.

And that’s all we need to decide to do as we encounter waiters and cashiers, blue-collar laborers and white-collar executives, neighbors and friends, children and parents, people in trouble or just muddling through life.  As we do, they’ll be impacted.  And so will we.

—Lee Strobel in God’s Outrageous Claims

My Response: This is Lee’s clearest memory from fifth grade. I think that’s because …

Thought to Apply: Love stretches your heart and makes you big inside.—Margaret Walker (African American poet)

Adapted from God’s Outrageous Claims (Zondervan, 1997, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I’m on the receiving end of Your grace big time! Help me to dish it out to others.



Grace for the Other Guy – “I Knew It!”

Loving Your NeighborKey Bible Verse: So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.  – Romans 15:7

Bonus Reading:  Romans 15:2-6

As volunteers in the local Young Life club, Mike and Karla Yaconelli befriended a student whose father, an alcoholic, had emotionally and physically abused his entire family. They worked with the young man for six months.

The Yaconellis were remodeling their house and needed new kitchen tile laid. The only professional available was the young man’s father. Reluctantly Mike agreed to employ him—but only after obtaining a legal bid.

The boy’s father performed the work. On his last day, Mike asked him to drop by his office later for his check. He replied that he would because he needed to talk to Mike about the money. “I knew he’d try to cheat us,” Mike muttered to Karla. He braced himself for a confrontation.

At the end of the day, the boy’s father entered Mike’s office and began to talk as he wrote out his bill. He acknowledged that he’d abused his family. He told how he’d observed Mike’s involvement with his son change the boy’s life.

After seeing his son’s change, he said, he’d gone to AA and remained sober ever since. He handed Mike the bill, saying, “I’ve never been able to thank you, but I’m thanking you now.” It showed the agreed-upon bid price, and was marked “paid in full.”

—Howard Butt Jr. in Who Can You Trust?

My Response: Given the same situation, would I even have hired the father?

Adapted from Who Can You Trust? (WaterBrook, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I’m on the receiving end of Your grace big time! Help me to dish it out to others.



Grace for the Other Guy – God’s Penetration Play

Loving Your NeighborWho Said It…Mike Singletary

Mike Singletary is one of the most determined and accomplished players in NFL history. In the 12 seasons (1981-1992) that “Samurai” Singletary played linebacker for the Chicago Bears, he was twice named NFL defensive player of the year, and named ten times to the Pro Bowl team.

Mike is outspoken about his faith and family (he and Kim have seven children). In 2005, he became the assistant head coach and linebacker coach for the San Francisco 49ers.

What He Said…God’s Penetration Play

While speaking in prisons, I urged inmates to reconcile with their fathers.  Kim called me on it: “Mike, how can you tell other people to reconcile with their loved ones when you won’t call your dad? Are you going to forgive him or is the blood of Jesus going to be in vain?”

My parents got a divorce when I was a kid. I’d sided with my mom, refused to forgive my dad, and hadn’t talked to him for years. God finally made it clear that I had to act. I made the call. There was screaming and crying. We both almost hung up. But we stayed with it, and talked for three hours. I forgave my dad, he forgave me, and we started a new relationship.

A couple of months later, I visited my dad. We hugged, and for the first time in my life, I told him I loved him.  As we talked, I began to understand the dynamics that shaped him.

Now he’s bedridden.  It’s a good thing we got our relationship right while we could still enjoy each other.

Adapted from Mike Singletary: One-on-One (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I’m on the receiving end of Your grace big time!  Help me to dish it out to others.


Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – Everybody Knows Zack

Love Your NeighborKey Bible Verse: When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it.  – Galatians 6:10, NCV

Dig Deeper: 1 Thessalonians 2:8

If you were to walk the streets with Zack, you’d be convinced that he knows everyone in his neighborhood. He’s never too busy to stop and say hello. After his MBA, Zack purposely looked for a job that would put him in daily contact with the people in his neighborhood. All of the regular shoppers at the [neighborhood grocery store he manages] know Zack.

Zack is known for his willingness to help. He regularly takes care of his neighbor’s boxer—[doing so allows him] to be engaged in the life of the career-driven couple who live next door. He’s also become a surrogate son to the elderly lady down the street. Without Zack, her sidewalks would never be shoveled in the winter, and he regularly delivers her groceries.

In the summers, Zack does everything he can to make his deck barbeque central, inviting someone to have a meal with him almost every weekend. Zack is a natural evangelist, but not in a forced, button-holing way. By the time Zack begins to talk about his relationship with Christ, the people around him are already attracted to who he is, and they already wonder what makes him tick.

—Paul Tripp in A Quest for More

My Response: If I wanted to be known for my “willingness to help,” what changes might I need to make in the way I use my time?

Adapted from A Quest for More (New Growth, 2007).

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.