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The Art of Neighboring Part 2: Taking Time To Love

Stonebrook Community Church http://www.stonebrook.org

Art of Neighboring—Week 2—Taking Time to Love

If I were to talk to each of you one-on-one and ask you this simple question, “How has your week been?”, what would be the Number One response?
I think it would be, “Oh, I’m so busy.”
Busy-ness.
In our American culture, Busy-ness is our badge of honor.
We wear the badge proudly. We’re getting LOTS of things done. Or at least trying to.
Yet, at the same time, we find ourselves hating this busyness.
It’s a LOVE-HATE relationship.
I would propose that our busyness is doing more harm than good, especially in our relationships.

Someone said,
“Busyness and hurry are the enemies of relationship and intimacy.”
For me, this hurts. I can see me in this quote.
The worst impact is that we may find ourselves too busy for God.
We stay up late, get up late in the morning. And God gets shoved to the side.
We don’t have much time to read or pray in the morning. A quick hello to him and we’re off.
The second worst impact is that we may find ourselves too busy for people. At least some people.

We are in the middle of a long series to help us develop a LIFESTYLE of LOVE to impact the people around us for the sake of Jesus.

Matthew 22:37–39 ESV “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

This is often called “The Great Commandment.”
And Jesus said it essentially sums up the Old Testament.

In these 3 Sundays on Neighboring, we’re talking specifically about learning how to LOVE our neighbors. Our literal neighbors. The apartment next door. The house across the street.
And we can extend that out to other people we constantly interact with.
The guy in the cubicle next to you at work.
The woman who works at the store you shop at.
This morning I want to examine how we can love the Lord and love people in the midst of a busy and hurried world.

Loving our Neighbor

First, I want to echo for me what Matt said last week about himself. I need to be honest with you all.
I am not a great example in outreach and evangelism.
Others of you are better examples.
Some of my fellow pastors are better examples.
But I want to grow in this. And I want to learn from others.
We hope this Sunday series moves us all in a better direction.

Technological/Societal Influences

Our BUSYNESS and HURRIEDNESS is not the only thing that inhibits good relationships in our neighborhoods.
In the United States, there are sociological and technological influences on us that HURT relationships in our neighborhoods.
• Garage door openers.
Drive in, close the door, and go in the house.
Don’t ever have to talk to a neighbor.
Isn’t that great?
• 6-foot “Privacy” fences.
Think about that term: Privacy. It speaks, “Leave me alone. Don’t bother me now.”
• Hulu and Netflix.
We don’t have to go out.
• Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.
We’re interacting a little bit, but really it’s very limited in its ability to TRULY Love someone.
These are influences that can hinder relationships.

Productivity

But this morning, I want to focus in on another factor that inhibits our relationships….
….that is, our PURSUIT of PRODUCTIVITY. Of BUSYNESS.

The Great Commandment, “To love the Lord and love your neighbor,” is NOT a command of productivity.
It is not a command to complete your TO DO list.
It is not a command to pack your schedule so tightly that you can’t breathe.
It is not a command of HURRYING so that I can get more done.

The Great Commandment is a command of relationship.
Of kindness and service and time spent together.
It’s a command of listening and caring and giving.

It’s not first about productivity.
How do we know this?
You could take a survey of people who love you and care about you.
When I call my parents in Colorado, and I declare, “I’m so busy,” they’re not impressed.
They just want to hear from me more often.
If my good friend calls, and I tell him how busy I am, he wonders how good our friendship really is. And if he’s important to me.
Perhaps in the workplace, the BOSS is impressed if I declare, “I’m so busy.” Perhaps that means I’m getting LOTS done.
But if I talk to one of you after the service, and declare how swamped I am, you wonder if I have any time for you.

WHY IS THIS?
Because my family and friends are not as concerned with my productivity as I am.
They are concerned about me. About our relationship.

This week I wondered what the sentence, “I’m so busy,” really means.
So I got on Google, on their Google Translate app.
I typed in “I’m so busy,” and do you know how that translated into relational English??
“I’m so busy,” can be translated into English as, “The tasks I am doing are more important to me than you are.”

All this will be true towards our neighbors, too.
If they even see us at home, they see us running in and out. Going from Task to Task. Going to meetings.
We wave, “Hello,” as we drive away.
But we don’t really have any MARGIN in our schedules for them.

Two personal stories:
A few years ago, maybe 8 or 10 years, I realized when I came here on Sunday mornings, I was hurrying around. I was preparing for my teaching. I was printing notes. I was getting my PowerPoint loaded onto the server.
And I was walking very fast. I might say “Hello,” and maybe even smile, but I would say it glancing over my shoulder as I zoomed by.
I began to be convicted about my hurrying. My busyness. I sensed the Holy Spirit was saying, “Slow down, Brad. It’s about the people.”
And when I mentioned what I was learning to one very wise woman in the church, she responded very kindly to me, but in essence she said, “It’s about time you figured that out.”
OUCH! I was in too much of a hurry to LOVE.

The other story is more recent.
I’m often impatient driving.
The old lady in front of me is driving 25 in a 35 zone.
AND SHE IS RUINING MY LIFE!!
My wife even told me awhile ago….very sweetly, I might add….She said, “You’re very impatient driving. I don’t really like riding with you.”
OUCH!
And I had been finding myself impatient with my wife.
It was bothering me. I asked my fellow pastors to pray for me.
And I began praying, “Lord, why am I fighting against impatience so much?”

It wasn’t too much later—just a couple weeks ago– when I again sensed the Holy Spirit teaching me, “You’re in too much of a hurry, Brad. That’s why you’re impatient. You have places to go and things to do, so when anyone slows you down, you’re annoyed.”
I was more about PRODUCTIVITY, not people.
I was more about being in a HURRY, not loving people.

That has been a JOLTING LESSON. I’ve been humbled by that.

So with the help of God in recent weeks, I’ve been making serious efforts to slow down, stop being in such a hurry, and to enjoy the day and to enjoy people more.
I’ve actually been calmer.
I’ve actually enjoyed people more.
Last Wednesday, I asked Annette to compare how I was doing.
On a scale of 1 to 10, BEFORE I was a “2.”
Now I have moved up the Patience Scale to a “6”.
(I thought for sure she would say I was a “9.” Sigh!)
It’s not primarily about productivity.
It’s about LOVE. It’s not about my TO DO list. It’s about caring for people.

Let’s transfer all that to our neighborhoods. DREAM with me.
What would our city look like if all households in our church made a commitment to being intentional about building relationships with 8 households closest to them?
Just from us at Stonebrook, 1000-2000 lives could be impacted.

Your bulletin insert is a MAGNET. A simple map like Matt showed last week.
If you are interested, you can fill this out at home.
WARNING: This is not a PROJECT!!!
This is not about productivity.
This is about learning how to LOVE people.

Our desire: to MOVE us from:
Stranger……to……Acquaintance……to…..Relationship
This is NOT about a PROJECT. It’s about LOVE.

Our Foundation: The Gospel

I want to lay a foundation for why we should LOVE our neighbors. And where the POWER to do so comes from.
When I am MOST motivated to LOVE is when I really GET what we are about to look at.

Ephesians 5:1–2 ESV “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Paul calls us to imitate God.
What is our status as we strive to imitate God??
We are BELOVED children! We are dearly loved!
Do you view yourself this way?
Last Monday morning, I was in my regular morning time of reading the Bible and praying. In John 13, John, writing the Gospel, described himself as, “The disciple whom Jesus loved.”
I was struck by that: “The disciple whom Jesus loved.”
FIVE TIMES in the Gospel does John refer to himself like this.
It’s like he signed a letter he wrote, “John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

I had to ask myself and the Lord, “Would I ever consider describing myself that way? “Brad is the disciple whom Jesus loves?”
I know from that Bible that is true, but I hesitated to describe myself that way.
I even wondered if I would describe myself as, “The disciple who gets lots of things done.”
Or, “The disciple who is in a hurry for God.”
Or, “The disciple who is BUSY.”

How would you describe yourself?
I was grieved on Monday that my first response wasn’t, “The disciple whom Jesus loves.”
Ephesians 5:1 challenges me to believe that the Lord loves me. I am his beloved son.
He GAVE HIMSELF up for me.
He is a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God to bring me Eternal Salvation.

I want to believe the love of God so much that I would IMMEDIATELY describe myself as, “The disciple whom Jesus loves.”
“The disciple whom Jesus loves.”
And then, as our roots are sunk deeper and deeper into God’s love for us, we will find the POWER and the DESIRE and the ABILITY to love others.
Look at Paul’s words again: “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”
Our ability to love God and other people is ROOTED in God’s love for us.
If you and I find ourselves not loving people as much as we want, our first problem is we don’t grasp God’s love enough.
Am I in a HURRY and BUSY because I think somehow my PRODUCTIVITY will impress God? That it will prove how good of a disciple I am?
Or can I confidently believe the Lord’s deep love for me that I can sign an email with, “Brad, the disciple whom Jesus loves”?
Grasp that deeper and deeper, then go love others like that.

Finding the Time to Love

If anyone was BUSY, it was the Lord Jesus.
None of us—NONE of us—has more demands and pressures than Jesus did.
Truly, the fate of the world rested on his shoulders.
He saw and felt the needs and the pain more intensely than anyone who has ever lived. Better than anyone.
And people constantly demanded his time and attention.
Yet in him, we don’t see a FRANTIC, out of breath lifestyle.
He made time. He took time.

Luke 5:15–16 ESV “But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.”

All these people. All these needs. People demanding to hear him and see him and touch him.
(This would BUG me. I like my “Alone Time.” I like peace and quiet.)
But Jesus patiently….unhurriedly….took time to love them. To serve them.

But how did he live that way? How did he keep his sanity? How did he LOVE?
Slide Look at the next verse:
“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”
He actually WALKED away from people and needs and pain and hunger and crowds.
He LEFT THEM!!!
He needed the Father. He wanted the Father’s companionship and direction.
He went to the Father in PRAYER.

We wear a Badge of Honor that says, “I’M SO BUSY!”
Jesus’ Badge of Honor says, “I love the Father. And I’m doing his will.”
Too OFTEN we are living frantic, hectic, exhausting lives because we’re not walking with the Father like Jesus did.
We’re not in Prayer.
We’re not meditating on the Father’s deep LOVE for us.
We’re not seeking the Father’s will.

We’re not calling for the Holy Spirit’s strength and power.
We think our Productivity and packed schedules will impress God.
“The disciple who gets LOTS of things done.”
God is not impressed.

Our culture is going 100 mph, and we’re along for the ride…..at a frantic, worried-filled pace.
The train is flying down the tracks too fast, and at some point it is going to DERAIL.
We have to decide— it seems DAILY—if and when we are going to JUMP off the train…..and walk at the PACE of life and with the PURPOSE of life that our heavenly Father calls us to.

Ephesians 5:15–16 ESV “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

Our time is short. Each DAY is short. How will we use it?
Will we walk in WISDOM?
Will we make the best use of our time, since we are in evil times?

A KEY PART in walking in wisdom is PRAYER.
Consistent, hungry prayer where we seek to know our Father, to be confident of his LOVE, to discover His WILL, and to be granted His POWER.
May we all slow down. Walk with the Lord.
And hear about his love for you so much that one of the first descriptions you would give yourself is, “The disciple whom Jesus loves.”

Some Stories

What are some practical action steps to move from
Stranger…….Acquaintance……Relationship
Let me tell some stories to stir up some ideas in your own life.

My outdoor gas grill was shot, so 3 weeks ago, I bought a new one.
And I deliberately bought a smaller one so that I could keep it in the garage instead of on the back patio.
WHY? Someone else had inspired me with this idea: I want to grill supper in the front of my house so that I can visit more with neighbors.

I’ve grilled twice since buying the grill, and I immediately had three conversations with neighbors that I would not have had otherwise.

One of our neighbors is a recent widow. A dear lady.
She actually took initiative with us.
Twice in the last month (including last Wednesday), she picked up a Papa Murphy’s pizza. We cooked it at our house, and she came over for supper with us.
Some wonderful conversations about Life and FAITH happened.

And she recently had surgery on her foot, so she was comfortable enough to ask me to take her garbage can to the street for pickup.
I’m glad she asked.

Tomorrow afternoon, our larger neighborhood—perhaps 20-25 homes—are having a picnic in the adjacent City Park.
It’s our Second Annual.
We’re going.
And we’re praying we can bring the light of Jesus and the love of Jesus there.

This is a non-neighborhood story. This winter Annette and I decided to go to a support group that Mary Greeley hospital sponsors.
It’s for stroke survivors and their families. My wife had a stroke two years ago, so we decided to go to the support group just to meet people. We want to bring Jesus to them.
We went to our 3rd time just last Tuesday evening.
• Since beginning, we’ve had two sisters for supper. A wonderful friendship began.
• They texted us after the meeting on Tuesday and said they want to take us out for supper.
• I took one man out for coffee.
• And we’ve begun some other relationships.
So while these people aren’t my next door neighbors, it’s an opportunity for us to TAKE some TIME to love people.

Some “First Steps.”

Let me give you some easy steps.
Block Map Refrigerator Magnets.
– Put this on your refrigerator.
– Learn and retain the names of your literal neighbors.
– Learn their birthdays and celebrate them. My wife is good at that.

Next, make a point to stop saying, “I’m so busy.”
Just stop saying it. I try to NEVER say that. Yet, it is not uncommon for even some of you to say, “Well, I was going to call you to ask a question, but I know you’re so busy.”
Go ahead and call. If I am in the middle of something else and need to call you back, I will do that.
In fact, if you catch me saying, “I’m so busy,” I’ll give you a dollar.
Let’s all just stop saying how busy we are.
People who want a relationship with us are NOT IMPRESSED.
We are saying, “I have more important things to do than talk with you.”
Like the quote earlier: “Busyness and hurry are the enemies of relationship and intimacy.”
A few of my friends here at Stonebrook are good examples to me. Duane Smith and Tim Hibbing.
Whenever I talk to them, I feel like they have all the time in the world for me. They’re not looking at their watch. They’re not in a hurry.
And I know they are both very active men.

Take walks in your neighborhood.
And if you have a young child or a puppy, FOR SURE go out for a walk.
If you don’t have a child or PUPPY, BORROW one for the evening.

Be creative.
One man in my daughter and son-in-law’s house started a Saturday morning event called, “Doughnuts and Driveways.” Every Saturday morning he buys doughnuts and makes coffee, and he invites the neighbors to stop by and talk.

DISCUSS with your spouse or roommate or friend:
Am I at home enough to even know who my neighbors are?
Do I need to mark in my schedule a few hours here and there: “Be a neighbor.”??
Would I know if the neighbor had a crisis?
Do they know me well enough to borrow some eggs or a shovel?

Invite one neighbor to our Neighborhood VBS later in June.
And go with them, even if you don’t have kids.

HERE’S A RADICAL STEP:
Stop Facebooking and Tweeting and Instagramming, and go out and talk to people face to face.
Or call them on the phone.

When you do talk to a neighbor, give them your full attention. Genuinely care for them. Don’t be in a hurry.

Prayer.
Develop a habit of daily prayer.
Worship the Lord for all he has done for you. Remember Ephesians 5 and the love of God.
Ask the Lord that he would lead you TODAY….just THIS day… in his will.
“May your will be done on earth…..as it is in heaven.”
Pray that you would do whatever he puts before you, whether your scheduled items or some “interruption.”

Pray for your neighbors.
For God’s blessing and mercy on their lives.
That you would be a reflection of Him in the neighborhood.
Have a heart of expectation.
Pray. And pray expectantly, that God will work in power in your relationships.

Conclusions

This is not about a PROJECT.
Loving people is not a Project.
Loving others is, in itself, an act of love toward God Himself.

Let’s go back to Ephesians 5:1-2

Ephesians 5:1–2 ESV “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. [AS DISCIPLES WHOM JESUS LOVES!] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

If you are a disciple of Jesus, you can describe yourself as, “The disciple whom Jesus loves.”

Then go and love your neighbor.