Tag Archives: neighbor

Bringing Neighbor Back to the Hood

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I live in a great neighborhood. It’s relatively peaceful. Sure, from time to time there is excitement and I may need to call the police on someone causing mischief, but I rarely ever feel like this neighborhood is dangerous. It’s a great neighborhood for raising my kids.

The church building where I preach on Sundays and Wednesdays is in this neighborhood. I find this to be super convenient, but as I look at the demographics of our church membership I see very few people who come from within our neighborhood.

I know my next door neighbors. I know the family across the street and a few doors down from them too. I know a few of the neighbors behind the church building by name. Yet, I don’t have a real, meaningful relationship with any of them.

I feel pretty convicted about this.

You see, this church has functioned from this location for many many years. I’m not sure how many preachers were here before me, but our congregation is mostly made up of people who live outside our neighborhood and even our town.

It’s time for this to change.

As Christians, we are called to live in the world around us in such a way that people know that Jesus is the messiah. We aren’t called to be people who shrink back in fear or even in routine and make excuses for why we don’t know our neighbors.

I believe that if a church has a building then the primary mission field of that church should be the neighborhood the building is located within. Each member should be missionaries within their own neighborhoods as well, but if the church doesn’t have a good relationship with its neighbors, then what kind of message does that portray?

Some of you may know people who live in the neighborhood around the church building. Some of you may even live in this same neighborhood. What can you do to enhance our ability to reach out locally? What should we do as a church to help you reach your friends and neighbors?

Cities aren’t taken for The Lord without strategy. When Jesus sent out the apostles after the resurrection, He told them they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem (where they currently were), in Judaea and Samaria (the outlying towns and regions), and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

As a church, we should follow the same pattern. We should be intentionally engaging the neighborhood where our facilities are located first. Then we should move into other neighborhoods in the town where our congregation gathers. After that, when that town is reached, we should move into other towns. When all of that is done, then we should be sending out people to far off regions.

Engaging our neighborhood doesn’t mean door-knocking either. It means living and working and functioning within that neighborhood in such a way that relationships are built and love is shown. It is not engaging in handouts; it is inviting people into community. Engaging a neighborhood means you’re loving your neighbor with no strings attached. When they see your intentional, counter-cultural way of love, they’re going to want to know why you’re like that. Then you have been invited by them to tell them of the One who loved you first, Jesus Christ.

So, here’s our situation. We are a church that isn’t truly engaging our neighborhood. That wasn’t Jesus’ plan for us. How can we make a change here? The Aztec church of Christ puts on a block party once a year, and that is gaining popularity. What else can we do to truly engage on personal levels to love our neighbors?

We are a church trying to love God, love others, and be like Jesus. So let’s start taking steps to truly do these things.

Do you have an idea on how to reach out to the neighborhood around our congregation? Maybe you’re reading this online and you have ideas for how to begin this where you live. Talk to your pastor(s). But don’t just give suggestions; volunteer to help make those suggestions a reality.

To win a city you begin with a neighbor.


The Secret to all Relationships is no Secret

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I want you to think of someone you know. This is a person you really love deeply. It may be a spouse or child or long-time friend. Why do you love them? You share so much with one another. Sure, they make mistakes, but you overlook those because of all the positive you see in that person. You love them because they continually live up to your expectations, or even better, you have no expectations of them at all – you just love them for who they are.

Now I want you to think of someone you can’t stand and you don’t love. Why don’t you love them? Do they not share the same vision for life as you? Do they continually make mistakes that you think are so simple to avoid? Do they not live up to your expectations? Do they offend you or do things that hurt you? Do they hurt the ones you love?

Both kinds of people are very real in your life. Each of us have friends, children, relatives, coworkers, and even spouses that fit into one of the two categories. Either we love them unconditionally, or we don’t.

Our world paints such a skewed vision of love. It is destroying our relationships every day. This kind of love is based on self-gratification. If you love someone just because they are good to you, or you hate someone because they are bad to you, both reactions are selfish in nature and therefore neither will lead to love. 1 Corinthians 13, when defining love, says it is not self-seeking.

Not every relationship will be awesome. You will have coworkers you will have to put up with, but you are called to love them anyway. Your children may reject you, but for most parents there is not even a question as to whether or not you love them. You have acquaintances you can’t avoid because they are friends of your friends, but not avoiding them is not edge same as loving them.

Marriages today are the most susceptible to demise based on this non-love that is being taught. We are constantly shown images of fairy-tale like relationships where both parties are blissfully happy forever. Not all marriages will be like this, and you need to know that it is ok. Your marriage doesn’t have to have all the movie-like bliss, but it does have to have love.

Love overlooks the bad. Love doesn’t get angry easily. Love doesn’t hold a grudge. Love doesn’t seek self first. (See 1 Corinthians 13 again)

How are you treating those you don’t like? Are you thinking about those definitions of love? Are you loving them unconditionally?

Jesus loves us in just that way. The bible says that while we were still enemies of God Jesus loved us so much that he died for us (Romans 5:6-11). Did you get that? We were the people who were unloveable, and for the most part we still are! We still sin and do what is against God’s will for us daily. We still don’t love those who are God’s children.

We don’t deserve the love God gives to us, but He loves us anyway. He asks us to love one another in that same way.

Imagine what it would be like to love like that. Imagine loving your coworker despite his annoying and offending personality. Imagine loving that homeless person even before you get to know them. Imagine loving your spouse despite all their countless flaws.

Oh, and loving them doesn’t mean just putting up with them. Loving them is serving them and doing what’s best for them and speaking health and beauty into their lives.

When we love like this then the world will know that we are disciples of Jesus (John 13:35). Then the world will want to know more about the love we’ve been shown. As long as we pick and choose who we love and let our emotions drive our decision (or indecision) to love, then we have no witness in this world for that is not how God treats us daily. He always loves us no matter who we are or what we’ve done, and He proved it by the cross.

Who do you need to love? Is it a spouse or coworker or neighbor? Will you join with me in choosing to love them in spite of them? That’s what God wants – love for love’s sake – not for our sake.


Believers, Demons, and Christians. Oh my!

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Are you a Christian? What does that mean?

There are all kinds of Christians in the world. Some are republican and some are democrat. Some are one kind of denomination and some are another. Some Christians go to war and some don’t. Some Christians use hate and fear-mongering to persuade people to Christ, and some don’t.

People who go by the term “Christian” have done all sorts of things in the name of their religion. They have killed and enslaved and rationalized and warred and devalued all in the name of Jesus.

But are they really Christians?

Some people say they are Christians, but they’ve never been baptized. They claim to believe in Jesus. They may even have said some prayer, but does that make them a Christian?

The bible says that even the demons believe. Does that mean demons are Christians?

Jesus said whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Where’s the sinners prayer there? By the way, some people use a different verse that talks about the confession of Jesus as Lord and say that means that baptism isn’t necessary. As best I can tell I have to look at all of the bible and not just one or two verses. When Jesus defined salvation he talks about belief (the first step) and baptism (the marriage ceremony).

If you’re reading this and you haven’t begun your walk with Jesus by being united with Him in baptism, then what are you waiting on? I’d love to talk with you more about that. It’s not magical or hard, but when you realize what’s going on there, you will see that it is beautiful.

Ok. Ok. Ok. So some of you have been baptized. Does that make you a Christian?

Jesus calls us to follow him. Does your life reflect his? I’m not talking about looking at his rules and regulations; I’m talking about his life. What characterized Jesus? Does that characterize you?

So many people pay attention to all the rules of Christianity. They obey them well, but they’ve missed out on two key attributes of the first people who were ever called Christians.

1. They were super excited and everyone around them knew it. Who could blame them? They had just been saved from themselves. All of their junk and baggage and mess-ups and hang-ups had been forgiven by the Messiah. Even better – they were considered children of God! They could have relationship with God! They weren’t treated like prisoners waiting to mess up so that they could receive the chopping block. They were free – totally free – from all that hinders them: traditions, illness, legalism, oppression, worry, selfishness, sin! Sure, they still dealt with those things reflected in others, but they were no longer hindered. They were set free, and they lived free.

2. In their excitement they loved intensely. They loved those in their towns. They loved the slaves and women and children in a time where those groups were ostracized. They loved the tax collectors who were considered by their fellow citizens as traitors. They loved the people who ruled over them even though it was an oppressive regime. They loved in ways that made them stand out from the world, and the world responded.

Sometimes their love and excitement would create conviction in the hearts of those around them. These Christians weren’t standing on street corners yelling “Turn or burn!” They were loving everyone – even the unloveable. Their love showed up in stark contrast to the selfish lives of all those around them. So this love and excitement brought harsh persecution, and you know what? The Christians rejoiced even in their persecution! Nothing could get them down.

Other times, though, their love and excitement stirred up a desire in others to have the same results in their lives. People came to Jesus left and right because his followers actually lived like Jesus. Sure they messed up. Sure they sinned, but they weren’t burdened with the constant chastisement from their brothers and sisters in the faith. They were encouraged to move on – to stop sinning – and continue to love.

You see, many people think they are Christians, but they are not. A Christian is a person who has chosen to live as best as they can in the light and example of Jesus – an example of perfect love. When that person falls short of perfection (which happens a lot) they live in the grace and forgiveness that Jesus continually gives through his death and resurrection.

Christians are more than believers. Christians are more than rule-followers. Christians are people who live like Jesus. Don’t ignore how Jesus has commissioned you to begin your relationship with Him. And when you do begin, don’t be the kind of Christian that the world expects – harsh, grumpy, judgmental, spiteful, hate-filled, rule-driven people. Be the kind of Christian that your life speaks louder than your words. Love will do that. Live in love.


Someone Should Do Something About That

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The other day I was in a grocery store checking out in one of their self-check lines. As I was scanning my items I noticed that there was a price discrepancy with one of my items. It was a minor issue, but it was the second time I’d noticed it for that item, so I decided to let the closest cashier know.

She told me I needed to let someone know about that. Seriously, that’s what she said to me.

I told her I thought I just did, and she told me I needed to alert the management. Well, I have no idea who the managers are in this store, so I asked her if she could get one since I didn’t know them.

Fortunately, she did, and everything was resolved smoothly. However, it got me thinking about how much I see this attitude in all walks of society – even our churches.

This woman basically said “someone should do something about that”. It didn’t dawn on her until later that she was the person who needed to do something. Once she finally realized her role in the situation things happened the way they were supposed to.

Have you ever seen something that needed to be done and thought “someone should do something about that”? I know exactly who is supposed to do something. YOU!

We pray to God to send someone to reach our friends for Christ. Well, He sent YOU! We walk into the church buildings and criticize something that is out of place or broken, and by your diagnosis you are probably the best person to do something about that. You’ve noticed what others have missed. Congratulations! You have a role to fill.

When we relegate the responsibilities that God has given us to others who are “supposed to” be doing that then we miss out on our calling from God. Is your friend ill and in need of some yard work? What a great opportunity to serve in the name of Jesus.

What if Jesus looked down upon earth at all of us rank heathen sinners and simply said “someone should do something about that”? We’d still be lost in sin. Thank God He didn’t. But He calls us to emulate Jesus in our lives as well.

Is there something that needs to be done? Do it! Or find someone who can and offer your help.

Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

What can you do this week? How can you glorify God by no longer hoping someone else would do the things you have been called to do? May your life and the lives of those around you be blessed as you realize your potential in Christ.


It is for Freedom Christ has set us Free

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We live in the greatest free country on the planet…well, almost. We do live in the greatest country on the planet, but it’s not necessarily free, and more people are taking notice every day.

One of the hottest discussion points around the country these days is the new verdict about what is referred to as “Obamacare”. The Supreme Court ruled that is was perfectly fine for them to impose this regulation on the general public. I don’t want to get into my preferences about this policy, but I do want to note that if this goes through it will be another example of the government taking away one of our freedoms.

We already have regulations wherever we turn. We have regulations on how we drive. We have regulations on how we raise our children. We have regulations on how we provide food for our family. We have regulations on how and what we teach our children.

We aren’t allowed to make any money without paying some of it to the government. Some of your money goes to helping poor people whether you like it or not. And now, if nothing changes, you will be forced to have health insurance whether you can afford it or not.

Some of these things frustrate me, and some of these things are great in order for us to have an orderly way of living. Granted, if certain rules weren’t in place there would be mass chaos. We need laws to maintain order in the country. However, this is not necessarily a “free” country.

Churches often have the same kinds of laws. Some churches dictate how you dress. Some churches dictate where you sit. You are instructed when to sit and when to stand. You are told what to believe about certain things, and in many churches you are ostracized if you believe differently than the masses. All of this makes me think of a verse in Galatians 5.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Are you free? You may say so, but then again you may be bound by traditions and regulations. Apparently we are called to be free.

What does this mean, then? Do we throw out everything for the sake of freedom? Not just yet.

This freedom comes in a certain way of perceiving the world around us. When you come to Christ, and you devote your life to him, then you are called to have the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ is in total love with God, and it follows the will of God wherever it goes.

Does that mean it is a slave to God? Not really. What are the laws of God? Love God and love your neighbor. That’s it – just two. Every other command we read in scripture is merely a commentary on how to do those two laws.

When you get to the point that you love God, then it is a result of that love that you begin loving your neighbor. When your mind comes into alignment with the mind of Christ, then what you want IS to obey those two laws. You are totally free, and you can quit whenever you want, but the more you love God and others the more you find that you really like this way of living. It is so much more fulfilling than a life of selfishness.

The laws (written and unwritten) within churches aren’t necessarily bad, but if they are given without being couched in the context of the two laws of God, then they are merely man made rules that do not serve the church well at all.

The best thing about being free in Christ is the concept of grace. We are free to do what we want. What we want is hopefully to fulfill the two laws of God in our lives. When we mess up we have grace. We may deserve to be punished for our transgression of the law of love, but because He loves us, He forgives us over and over again through the blood of Christ.

Most of the “laws” in churches are traditions. When we truly grasp the freedom in loving God and loving our neighbor, then we will be free to extend grace ourselves when others don’t match up to or behave in the way of our expectations.

This week is Independence week. Let us throw off the shackles of slavery to sin. Let us be truly free in Christ to live in the mind of Christ. Let us love unendingly, and let us extend the grace of God to others daily. This, truly, is much more fulfilling than the alternative.

If there is anything I can do for you, feel free to contact me at jddobbs@verizon.net or at the office at 245-1611. You can also join the conversation about this as well as my other articles at http://www.mrdobbs.org. God bless you as you live I the freedom found in Christ.

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I Hate the Industrial Revolution

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Have I ever mentioned that I hate the industrial revolution? There has not been a time in history that has done more damage to the family than the industrial revolution.

Before the I.R. The home was the center of commerce. Families lived in generally the same area often times having several generations within the walls of the same house. Consumerism wasn’t nearly the problem it is today. Society was primarily rural, and the father was the leader of his home.

Children were raised in the home and boys were trained by their father to take on the family trade. Girls were trained by their mothers and grandmothers how to be good wives and mothers. Men and women contributed to society but did so from the home.

Then came the industrial revolution and the rise of shift work. Men were taken from their homes and required to work in jobs miles from home. Communities became more and more urbanized. Children were trained in schools, and families began to rely on those schools to raise their children. There has never been another time in history when the family unit as a way of life has taken such a devastating blow.

As I think of how the industrial revolution changed the functionality of the family unit, in much the same way the church building has changed the functionality of the church. I must make it clear right off the bat: the church is the people who follow Christ; it is NOT the building.

Before the church building became the center of Christendom, the Christians functioned in the towns and villages around them. Towns and villages were much more tightly knit, so when someone was converted to Christianity the entire town heard the message not only of the conversion but also of Christ Himself.

The people weren’t so focused on Sunday morning that it was their end-all to their Spiritual activity for the week. Christians were about living daily for their savior. They were evangelizing daily to whomever they came in contact with. Christian was what defined them – it was not merely one of many tags they wore.

Then came the church building. As church building were built evangelism slowed. In fact, nowadays most churches do very little evangelism outside of their church buildings. They work hard to find the best preachers and teachers or to provide the best, most inspiring worship so that they can draw people in to the buildings. This was never supposed to be the way of the church. In fact, Sunday morning worship times weren’t even originally for “seekers”. It was for Christians.

Another development from the culture of the church building is that they generally place the preachers and pray-ers up front on some sort of risen platform. This gives the notion that those who are “leading” in the assembly are somehow better or more spiritual than those sitting in the pews. My brothers and sisters, this is not so! The preacher is not better than you. God shows no favoritism. We are all broken people saved only by the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. An elder or priest has no higher place in the kingdom of God. They are brothers and sisters of Christ just as I am.

This brings me to another thought. When did the church begin the idea of “leading” so many things anyway? There were preachers in the first century, but when did the people stop praying and start relying on some “leader” to do that for them? I think that this is yet another result of our building-focused church mentality.

So, what do we do? It’s time to take back the neighborhood for Christ. It’s time for Christians everywhere to get back to evangelism. This is not about coercing someone into attending a service. It is about introducing people to the One who can save them from their sins. Only when we get out of our buildings and into the neighborhoods will communities be changed for Christ. Only then will the kingdom once again forcefully advance.

You do not have to wait on your minister or pastor or elders to get this started. You can start this today by merely talking to the person in the next cubicle or your next door neighbor. Then, in the midst of conversation and relationship you make sure that Christ becomes the focus. Do this in the context of love and passion for Christ and what He has done for you, and I guarantee that people will listen. They may not all respond, but your job is to plant seeds everywhere you go and let God give the increase.

You and I can never convert anyone. Anyone who says they can convert people is an egotist. Only God changes the hearts of men and women. We are merely his mouthpiece, so all glory goes to him.

May you have a new look at what it means to be the church. May your neighborhood be taken for the kingdom of God, and may the whole world be changed because you got outside of your church building and told people not about how great your church is, but about how great your God is.

God bless you, and if you need anything or would like to talk about this more, feel free to contact me at jddobbs@verizon.net or at the office at 245-1611. Have a wonderful holiday, and take back the neighborhood!


Like a Good Neighbor…

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How well do you know your neighbor?

I used to live in Arkansas on a dirt road several miles out of town. Our closest neighbor was across the street but you couldn’t see our next-door neighbors’ houses. It was nice living in the country. We would watch the sun set across the fields with the deer playing in the pastures. Our family would go for walks on the dirt road, and we knew the people that lived there. In fact, except for a couple of houses at the beginning of the road, the rest of the houses were owned by the same family.

It was a safe, wonderful place to live.

When we moved to Bay City the culture of where we lived changed dramatically. We went from living in the country to living in a subdivision. We went from having acres between us and our neighbors to having only a few feet between us.

All of a sudden we lived in a place where our we had to make a quick choice on how we would live. Would we retreat into our home and act like we still lived in the seclusion of the country, or would we get outside and meet those around us? Would we embrace the idea of living in community?

We chose the latter, and it has been a wonderful decision.

It is great to know my neighbors! I can honestly say I feel safer for our family because I know the people that live around us. In fact, they aren’t just acquaintances; they are our friends. Our children play with their children. One of our neighbors is an elderly lady who is as sweet as she can be and our children treat her like their own grandma. When we go out of town our neighbors are great about helping keep an eye on our house. Getting to know each of their personalities has been a treat!

Do you know your neighbors?

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”. But he didn’t stop there. Then he added, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Then, Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” To this, Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan. Many of you already know this story. In telling this, he opened up the scope of who is
our neighbor.

Our neighbors are not simply the other people in your particular congregation. Our neighbor isn’t just the person living next door. Our neighbor is anyone who is in need.

Often times I hear people who balk at the idea of doing evangelism because they just aren’t “gifted” to do that. What they don’t realize is that evangelism isn’t difficult at all. All we need to do is live for Jesus and keep the praise of God on our lips. But we cannot do this in a cave (we call it a house) or even inside a fort (often referred to as a church building). We must live this way in the context of neighbors. We cannot fulfill the second greatest commandment if we are never around the ones who are our neighbors. You have been placed where you live so that you can be a missionary fulfilling the great commission (Matthew 28:18-29).

So what should you do? My recommendation is to start by something simple. Maybe make some cookies and take them to the houses surrounding yours. When they answer the door, just let them know you’d like to introduce yourself. Then, every time you get the chance, talk to your neighbors. Don’t be in such a rush to drive in and shut the garage door. Do things in your front yard. Invite them over to dinner. Maybe you could even throw a Christmas party or some other gathering where your neighbors are invited to get to know one another.

In knowing and loving our neighbors we will be fulfilling the second greatest commandment, and we will be glorifying God in the process.

May you get to know your neighbors, and may your neighborhood be changed as Jesus infiltrates our community through your hospitality.

As always, if you need anything or would like to pray about something, feel free to contact me at 245-1611 or at jddobbs@verizon.net. God bless you, neighbor!


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