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The Art of Neighboring - Week 3 - Daily Steps

Posted by Kim Stiver on

Welcome to Daily Steps
A weekly devotional message with daily scripture readings, prayer prompts, and action steps to help you spend time with Jesus and strengthen your relationship with Him.

1 Timothy 1:5 “For we reach the goal of fulfilling all the commandments when we love others deeply with a pure heart, a clean conscience, and sincere faith.” (TPT)

The Secret Ingredient

There’s a lesson about neighboring to be learned from the humble no-bake cookie. How marvelous it is to enjoy something as gooey and satisfying without the wait or work of baking, not to mention the added pleasure of not heating up your house with the oven on a hot summer day. No-bake cookies are one of the most effortless ways to satisfy a craving for a homemade dessert. But despite their rather everyday wholesomeness, there is a secret ingredient that can take the flavor of these little chocolate-peanut-butter wonders from delicious to extraordinary… all with one little sprinkle. It’s cinnamon. Just a pinch of it, adds a layered, but subtle kick that makes it impossible not to eat more than one. Okay, maybe three or four…

Sometimes when we make the effort to love our neighbors as Jesus asked us to do (Mark 12:31), we turn something that should be simple — like making no-bake cookies — into a complicated gourmet production with far more ingredients, steps, and stress. When we do this, the end result rarely produces deep satisfaction or as much flavor. Why? Because we feel compelled to add a whole bunch of unnecessary things and extra steps, leaving out the most important secret ingredient of all — our authentic selves. Jesus dwells inside of us, which means that we are His secret ingredient. (2 Corinthians 4:7) He only asks that you simply be you and follow His lead. Just as cinnamon adds an unmistakable allure to the cookies, you are the flavor of God’s love designed to draw others closer to Him. (Matthew 5:13-16)

With such a straightforward concept, it’s hard to understand why we so often stress ourselves out while trying to implement the greatest commandment, but both human nature and Satan are working against us at every turn. (1 Peter 5:8) We naturally desire to be in control and take credit for the outcomes. Satan loves to twist that natural desire until we become insincere, pushy, manipulative, performance-driven, and proud. We are naturally inclined to question everything and pass judgment, and Satan can’t wait to use those feelings to make us immobile, resistant, and cold. We naturally desire to be comfortable with familiar people and surroundings. Satan doesn’t hesitate to point us toward the slippery slope of procrastination, selfishness, and ambivalence. 

By contrast, when we determine to accept our identity in Jesus, the Holy Spirit begins the work of transforming all of our natural tendencies and weaknesses into beautiful ingredients for His glorious recipe. As an ingredient, we don’t control the outcome. We don’t need to worry about the process. We don’t even have to be concerned about the final result and whether it will win a contest or if it looks good (2 Thessalonians 1:11). We just are who we are in Christ, radiating the love of a God so vast, so powerful, and so compassionate, that He would go to the ends of the universe and back to bring our neighbors into loving fellowship with Him.

Our job as ingredients in God’s recipe for loving others is simple and boils down to these four aims:

  • Be available to be used for His glory without any caveats or control

  • Be real without trying to perform or be anything we’re not 

  • Be relaxed, never forceful or agenda-driven, to let the Holy Spirit open doors, guide conversations, and build relationships

  • Be receptive to engaging with and learning from anyone He places in our path

This week as you reflect on the Scripture readings, begin each day by asking God to teach you how to be available, real, relaxed, and receptive as you reach out to your neighbors. Spend time thinking about your life, your priorities, and your perspectives in light of these four aims. 

Daily Bible Readings

Monday - Read Luke 12:12. One of the things that make most people nervous is how to talk to others about God. However, this verse promises us that the Holy Spirit will always give us the Words to say when the God-appointed moment arises. We put unnecessary pressure on ourselves when we try to force the situation or create an opportunity when God knows the person we are talking to is not ready for that conversation yet. Never underestimate the simple pleasure of just being someone’s friend, mowing a lawn, or sharing a meal. The path to life-changing conversations often comes after many years of apparently ordinary interactions. Spend time asking God to give you patience in your relationships and the confidence to speak when finally He prompts you. 

Tuesday - Read Mark 1:16-18 in The Passion Translation. Notice the word “transform” in that passage. When Jesus called the disciples, he didn’t select them because they were already trained and ready to do God’s work. He saw their hearts and their willingness to be vessels for His glory. As you think about reaching out to neighbors you may not know, a list of “what-ifs” may drift through your mind. Spend time in prayer, surrendering each one to Jesus, and asking Him to help you relax and leave the results to Him.    

Wednesday Read 2 Chronicles 16:9 and Isaiah 6:8. Take a few moments to visualize yourself sitting with Jesus in a park or walking with Him on a beach. Notice how HIs eyes and full attention are set on you and you alone. He knows your heart and who He created you to be with the power of His Spirit. Tell Him how much you appreciate His willingness to make you His disciple… to have the honor of doing whatever He asks you do. Ask Him what He’d like you to do next for a neighbor. Spend at least five minutes in quiet reflection, giving the Holy Spirit the opportunity to answer your question. 

Thursday Read Psalm 139:23-24 and 2 Peter 1:3-4. We don’t naturally want to reach out to strangers or exchange a comfy night on the couch to make meals for a neighbor, but as we make ourselves available and more receptive to the Holy Spirit’s prodding and infilling, our natural tendency for self-preservation and personal agendas fades with the Holy Spirit’s growing influence in our hearts. In your prayer time today, ask God to search your heart for anything that might be getting in the way of the divine nature He wants to grow in you. Ask Him to give you a vision or understanding of how He wants your natural tendencies to shift to divinely-motivated ones. 

Friday - Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Oswald Chambers once said, “It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God — but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people— and this is not learned in five minutes.” As we wrap up this week, take a walk through your neighborhood by yourself and without headphones. As you pass by each house, lift up a prayer for those who live there. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your ears to His instruction, praying for whatever He brings to your mind as you walk. Don’t be concerned or force it if nothing comes to mind. Just make yourself available and ask God to help you bring the light of His love in the ordinary things of your neighbors’ lives.

TAKE YOUR NEXT STEP
Grow closer to Jesus each day and explore what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.

Want to Go Even Further? 
If you are not already using our weekly study guide with your community group or family members, you're missing out on thought-provoking questions for discussion or individual study. 

STUDY GUIDE - THE ART OF NEIGHBORING - WEEK 3

Watch CF Beyond Sunday this Monday!
After each sermon, our pastors and various church leaders sit down for about 20 minutes to have a discussion about the sermon topic. It will be posted on our YouTube channel on Monday night, August 17! 

BEYOND SUNDAY ON YOUTUBE

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