- What was one thing about this message that you found particularly compelling, encouraging, challenging, or beneficial?
- In what ways is the moral fabric of our nation becoming unraveled? How ought the church live in the midst of such divisive days?
- Read and discuss Luke 6:40, Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 12:30-31. What do these show us about Jesus’ mission and vision for His church?
- Read through and consider the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. How does the gospel compel us to love others with the love of Christ?
- How does Jesus turn the word “neighbor” from a noun into a verb? What are the implications of this?
- What is the difference between “do no harm neighboring” and “active/present neighboring”? What do the Scriptures call us to?
- How would you describe the depth of love you have for your neighbors?
- Why do you think God has put you in the lives of the people around you? What obstacles keep you from neigbhoring well?
- What is one practical way you can grow in your love for others? In what ways do you need to “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37)?
- Spend time in prayer for things you’ve discussed. Give thanks to God that in Jesus, He was neighbor to us. Pray that He would give you strength, passion and a plan to obey in the direction of His command to love our neighbors.
If we truly know Jesus, we will not allow time, fear of awkwardness, a judgmental spirit, or other obstacles to hinder us from loving our neighbors as ourselves. To follow up on The Heart of Neighboring message, here are some resources and starting points for you to consider as you apply Jesus’ call to “be neighbor” to those around us (Luke 10:36-37).
EQUIPPING THE SAINTS COURSE: The Art of Neighboring
This course looks at “His Kingdom come” in your neighborhood – practical ways to be salt and light close to home. This 4-session class will include a biblical basis for neighborhood ministry and will cover the means, methods, and resources available. We’ll discuss topics like meeting felt needs in Jesus’ name, the impact of everyday kindness, youth coaching and other community involvement, and the power of hospitality, among others. You’ll hear from other RBC brothers and sisters and learn from their victories as well as their failures. Our next session will be held March 8-29, 2020 on Sundays at 10:45 a.m. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.
BOOKS & ONLINE RESOURCES
- The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World (Amazon)
- The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life (Amazon)
- The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door (Amazon)
- TheNeighboringLife.com Resources (Website)
The greatest battle that the church family currently faces is the knock-down drag-out fight with Satan over the hearts of the next generation. Raising a generation that knows Christ and makes him known will be the greatest gift & legacy we leave for the world.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deut. 6:5-7
Considering our passage in its immediate context,
- Verse 5 – Preceded by the “greatest command”
- Verse 6 – It is a matter of the heart
Notice in Verse 7,
- Not a request – The imperative form is used. This is a command.
- “Impress them on your children” – Teach them diligently.
- Life on life discipleship
7 Principles for Walking Along the Way
Principle #1 – Don’t Freak Out – “Concern is healthy; panic kills.”
- Take the long view because God is writing a story in the life of your child. It’s a movie not a snapshot.
Principle #2 – Be Real
- Walking along the way means not being a pretender. You may fool a very young child for a little while, but they will find you out it will shake their faith to its core.
Principle #3 – More lens, less shield
- Spend more time giving our children the proper lens through which to see this world, and less time sheltering them from it. If we don’t someone else will.
Principle #4 – Enter their world – Jesus entered ours (Phil. 2:5-7)
- Make it a point to know the young person you are walking with.
Principle #5 – The target is the Savior, not behavior – Adjust your aim
- Lead them to the gospel (Romans 3:23, 6:23)
Principle #6 – Be joyful
- “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John 1:4
Principle #7 – No excuses
- Excuses may be valid, but they will be overcome when generational discipleship becomes a priority.
I hope that you found something here to challenge you and to encourage you to take seriously God’s call to generational discipleship and ask yourself the question, “What legacy are we leaving?” “Will we be mentioned in anyone’s story of faith?”
Questions for further discussion:
- If I could be remembered by my children or grandchildren for only one thing it would be…
- If you looked back at your life using Mike’s metaphor of the “snapshot” what period of your life might have given the adults around you reason to despair? How has God used that time period in the broader narrative of your life?
- Have you ever thought about your relationship with the children in your life as one of teacher-disciple? Why/why not? How might this perspective change the way you parent or engage with young people close to you?
- Did you ever view your relationship with your parents as one of disciple to teacher? Why or why not?
- In what ways does the teacher-disciple relationship change as children grow up and in what ways does it stay the same?
- How are you, or could you be, living out God’s command to “walk along the way” with the next generation?
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
In the following chapters we will explore what this might look like in your life. We will hear testimonies of men and their families who are engaged in the fight in very real and practical ways and hopefully encourage you to step into the fray.
Chapter 5 – Of Bull Elephants and Shark Wrestlers
To begin unpacking Psalm 68:5-6 we need to first explore what it means to be a “Father to fatherless,” the critical role the church can and must play as the last man standing. We will see how that is reflected in the life of a godly man and, should he be blessed to have one, his family. We will also examine the role for the godly woman and the local Christian congregation in what at first may seem like mostly a “guy thing.”
Elephants behaving badly
Those who know me well know that I love a good story, especially a true one and extra-especially one with dangerous animals involved. My mother would tell you that not much has changed in that regard over the 42 years of my life. I am hoping that you like them to because I have a couple I’d like to share with you. This first one made headlines back in 1999 when it appeared in a report by CBS news. The tale goes something like this,
In South Africa’s Pilanesberg Park, white rhinos began turning up dead in astonishing numbers, nearly forty to be exact. This was alarming and confusing: alarming because it represented 10% of the whole population of white rhinos, and confusing because the deaths hadn’t been the result of poaching. The latter was made clear by the fact that the highly valuable ivory horns had not been removed. A little bit of investigation led the park rangers to the culprits, juvenile male elephants. But why? This was not normal behavior for juvenile elephants at all. What could possibly have led them, as was subsequently observed, to form into violent groups and rampage through the park, molesting, tormenting and eventually killing white rhinos? The answer to the question can be found by looking at the history of the park as well as elephant social structure.
For the sake of full disclosure, I am not an expert on elephants, but this story intrigued me so I did some reading. In elephant “culture” the young are raised by the females of the herd until a certain age. We’ll call that age adolescence. At that point the male elephants are pushed out of the group and will seek out the older bull elephants of their family (grandfathers, father and uncles presumably) in the wild where they will essentially, “learn what it means to be a bull elephant,” which, by the way, does not include murdering rhinos.
Street Thugs of the Savannah
So what went wrong at Pilanesberg? For that answer we need to travel back some twenty years from the time of the rhino killings. In those days another large reserve in South Africa, Kruger National Park, was having an elephant over-population problem. A government veterinarian (it just had to be the government right?) developed the ingenious plan to sacrifice the adults, because they were too difficult to move, and instead relocate only the babies. Where to? To Pilanesberg of course.
When these now “fatherless” baby boy elephants reached adolescence; they went out into the wild to look for their male “kinfolk.” When there were no bull elephants to be found these youngsters stuck together and formed gangs. Yes, gangs. Interestingly enough, one of the things older bull elephants do for their juvenile counterparts is to discourage them from mating too young. This keeps their testosterone in check and, as a result, diminishes some of their more aggressive impulses. Without older bull elephants to lead the way, the young bulls began mating and seeking to mate at a very young age, stimulating their testosterone levels through the roof and, just like that, dead rhinos and other such mayhem. Sadly, several of these delinquent elephants were put down before someone finally had a stroke of real genius.
Elephant Big Brother Program
Using modified trucks, larger, older bull elephants were trucked in from Kruger Park by rangers. What happened then must have seemed like a miracle. A new hierarchy almost immediately emerged as the older bulls quickly established themselves as dominant over the younger, smaller bulls. Through sparring with the younger elephants, the older bulls successfully discouraged them from being sexually active. This, predictably, lowered testosterone levels and the rhinos, once again, were safe to roam the savannah. In fact, since the big bulls arrived on the scene, not a single rhino has been molested.
Taking a page out of the playbook
Is this so different from what is happening with fatherless children in communities all around the world? It is precisely what we described when we talked about “street activity” and the missing “strong man” in our communities. So what is the lesson here? Fathers are important? Yes. Youth, and boys in particular, are trouble if left alone without supervision? Clearly. We’ve already established that the “strong man” has been tied up and what the ramifications of that are for our children and society. But this is more than a wild kingdom mirror image of what is happening in our communities and around the world, it is a road map for how the last man standing, the church of Jesus Christ, could and should respond.
Our neighborhoods are overflowing with fatherless children, both boys and girls, who are in desperate need of interested adults: in need of a provider, protector, teacher and friend. Remember what we said previously, it cannot be just any old mentor but a godly father figure, one who is committed to modeling a Christ centered life, is equipped for the battle and one who is engaged in actively teaching the truth within the context of a loving and safe relationship.
These children are waiting for the old bull elephants to come and put things straight. Whether they realize it or not, these “youth gone wild” are desperate for an old bull to come along and say, “Whoa there boys, not the rhino’s. That’s not how we roll. You follow me and I’ll show you the way it’s done.”
Fatherless girls need to hear an old bull say, “Sweetheart, you are precious in GOD’s eyes. You are loved. Don’t let those young bulls fool you into giving away your heart. Don’t throw yourself at them. Give them time to mature. Stick with me and I’ll protect you and value you for who you are, not what you can do for me.”
Several studies published over the last twenty years have focused on children identified as “students at risk” for behaviors ranging from out-of-wedlock pregnancy, drug use, and alcohol abuse. The students who did not get involved in those behaviors identified one common reason; someone took a personal interest in them in such a way that they felt loved and connected. Children at-risk are in need of some old bulls to ride in and say to Satan and his workers, as Jesus did in Matthew 18:6, “If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Can it make a difference? Can you make a difference? Let’s see.