Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sully Notes 6 | The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Front Door Part 3 of 3

Sully Notes 6: Books in 25 minutes or less

Sully Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Here are links to the previous Sully Notes books:

The Art of Neighboring | Sully Notes 6: Part 3 of 3

Chapter 8 | The Art of Receiving

“If we don't allow people to meet any of our needs, we limit what God wants to do in our neighborhood and our life. ... The art of neighboring involves our being able both to give of our time and energy and, just as important, to receive from others.” – pg. 120

" ...  when giving is two-sided, everyone feels a sense of worth. We need to understand that everyone on our block has something to bring to a relationship. What's more, good neighboring is not about doing charity work. It's not simply about doing for others and looking for ways to give and give and give. Rather, good neighboring is about helping to create a sense of community within your neighborhood. It's about empowering people and breaking down walls. It's about everybody doing something together for the common good. ... 'It's dawned on me that the most important thing I've ever done to further a relationship with a neighbor was to allow her or him to care for our family.'" – pgs. 121-122, 127

Chapter 9 The Art of Setting Boundaries

"There is a vital difference between responsibility to and responsibility for someone. We are responsible to love, to encourage, to bless, to pray, and to help. But we are not responsible for outcomes, for consequences, for emotions, for reactions, for feelings, or for someone else's choices." – pg. 135

"The hardest part about loving others is that you can always do more. You can always give more time, energy, and money to those in need. But you can't be everything to everyone, so stop making yourself feel bad about not doing more. The challenge is realizing that it's not about what you do, but why you do it and how you do it. At the end of the day, good neighboring must be an exercise in asking God what to do in any given situation. It's about being on our knees in prayer, asking for discernment to help in the situations that we encounter. God doesn't ask us to do everything but he does ask us to do something  which is much better than nothing.– pg. 142

Chapter 10 | The Art of Focusing

"To neighbor well, you must learn to narrow your focus. You can be friendly to everybody, but it's likely that you will be good friends with only a few. Being focused is a good thing. If done well, it will allow you to have a significant impact where you live." – pg. 144

"Jesus was intentional about how he spent his time. Throughout the Gospels Jesus was repeatedly focused on small groups of people so he could invest in their lives in big ways. So we see that from the multitudes, he set apart a group of seventy-two disciples and commissioned them with a specific task (see Luke 10:1-17). Of those seventy-two, he had his core group of twelve, with whom he invested the majority of his time. And then from among those twelve, he was even more intentional with three and spent the most time with them. ... Remember, Jesus was constantly surrounded by crowds of people but was intentional with his time. He focused on a few people with most of his relational time. He didn't invest his energy in everyone equally." – pgs. 146-147

"The term person of peace refers to someone hospitable and open to becoming a friend. Once the disciples found a person of peace, Jesus told his followers to stay with that person. He told them specifically not to move around. ... By directing his disciples to look for the person of peace, Jesus directed them toward those in each city who were the best neighbors. As we get to know the people who live nearest to us, we should focus on those who can work with us to create the kind of neighboring relationships we know God desires for our neighborhood. ... You may wonder how to recognize a person of peace. Pay attention and you will notice the neighbors who tend to have people over a lot, maybe for a sporting event or for holiday celebrations. Look for the people who always display the best Halloween decorations or go crazy for Christmas lights. Odds are these are the people who have a desire to be connected with their neighbors. They might just be people of peace." – pgs. 147-148 

" ... ask yourself, Who are the two or three households in my neighborhood with whom we really connect and who really connect with us? By 'really connect' we don't mean that the relationship is always easy. We mean that they're really open to having a relationship with you, and you with them. Identify these people and then invest in their lives. The idea is simple: purposely limit yourself to a few close relationships. Aim for a deeper relationship with a narrowed focus. Wise relational investing does not mean going an inch deep with many. It means going deep with a few. The principle of focusing, in a nutshell, is simply this: Be friendly with everyone and be close to a few." – pg. 154

Chapter 11 The Art of Forgiving   

"What do you do when you have a neighbor you can't seem to get along with? Regardless of who your neighbor is or how bad a human being you think he is, you're called to love that person. You might not be called to be best friends with him. But if the person lives near you, you are called to be a good neighbor. Believe it or not, when friction exists, great opportunities exist as well. ... Jesus has intended us to love our neighbors, all of them. He says this is actually the best way to live. In fact, in Luke 10 he says this is the key to truly living. To do this, it's important for each of us to examine those neighboring relationships that are strained and look for ways to heal them." – pgs. 156-157

"If someone is in the wrong, God doesn't ask us to ignore the offense. What he asks us to do is forgive. Those who follow Jesus have only one choice in response to being offended: forgive. ... To forgive someone goes far beyond just excusing their behavior and moving on. C.S. Lewis describes the difference between excusing and forgiving very eloquently: 

'I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often ... asking Him to do something quite different. I am asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says, 'Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you and everything between us will be exactly as it was before.' But excusing says, 'I see that you couldn't help it or didn't mean it; you weren't really to blame.' If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. ... What we call 'asking God's forgiveness' very often really consists in asking God to accept our excuses. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." – pg. 159

"If at all possible, we are to live at peace with everyone. Are we doing this? When we look around at our neighbors  even the ones who annoy us  are we doing everything we can do to get along with them? When we examine this further, we see that living at peace with others means that we are to seek to bless them, even when they have cursed us. Here's how Paul wraps up the twelfth chapter of Romans: 'Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends ... On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21). Paul is saying that we should seek to bless those who have hurt us. ... Paul advocates blessing people in ways that are actual, physical, and purposeful. We need to trust that God will repay us for what has been taken from us. We also need to choose to forgive those who have hurt us. In the process we are changed.– pgs. 161-162 
"Jesus says (in Matthew 5:44), 'You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.' This is radical teaching. Love your enemies. Pray for the neighbors you don't get along with. The definition of an enemy is forever changed by the New Testament. Jesus takes the idea of an enemy and flips it on its head. We have to bless those who hate us. Because of what Jesus has done, everything changes. That means when it comes to following Jesus, forgiveness it not optional. If someone wrongs us, if a neighbor annoys us, it's our job to forgive her. That means we consciously let her off the hook in our heart and mind. When we think of the infraction, we don't hold it against her. We don't harbor evil intentions in our heart. We don't want to get back at her. We're not going to take revenge into our own hands. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We forgive others because God has forgiven us. If we choose not to forgive, we are forgetting how much we have been forgiven.– pg. 162 

"Reconciliation is the hard work of how we go forward together, whereas forgiveness is an attitude of the heart. We should offer everyone forgiveness, but we will not be reconciled with everyone we have wronged or who has wronged us. ... We have hears of forgiveness because we remember that we have been forgiven. We remember that forgiveness was given to us when we didn't deserve it. Since Jesus paid for us, we have been forgiven our debts, so we forgive our debtors. As we forgive, we also seek reconciliation with others. But we make sure to forgive before we try to reconcile. It is tempting to rush to a solution, but forgiveness enables us to seek solutions that honor God and others. Without forgiving first, we seek solutions that will benefit us or just enable us to move on with unresolved issues looming in the background." – pg. 164

"We need to remember that we must forgive people in our heart. We choose to bless those who curse us and pray for those who hurt us. In all circumstances, Jesus challenges us to have a heart that forgives and goes the extra mile. We aren't called just to do the right thing but to allow Jesus to change our heart in the midst of difficult circumstances. This is hard but it is the only way to live a free life and to continue to love deeply and freely.– pg. 165
"'Real relationships are almost always messy. ... But if we're to love people the way Jesus commanded, we need to be willing to push through when things get complicated. Being a good neighbor isn't something that we can just check off the list. It has to become a way of life for us, and it is a primary way that God uses us. ... Jesus asks us to do more. Often as we see to love our neighbors, God changes us more than he changes them. Loving our difficult neighbors has the potential to transform us into people God wants us to be. That is the part of the genius of the Great Commandment. Living it out is not always easy, of course. But it always worth it! pg. 166-167

"Choose to obey Jesus's command to pray for those who are your enemies. Begin to pray for your neighbor's well-being. Pray that God will make a way for you to be reconciled. Pray that God will change your heart and convict you of anything you could have done differently. As you pray, think about all of the people you have hurt in the past. Think about the kind of prayers they've prayed about you that you would like God to answer."  pg. 167  

"Neighboring is not always about being happy and comfortable; it's about allowing God to polish off rough edges. Maturity happens when you put yourself in the place God wants you. Don't run because there's adversity. Maybe God wants to use the adversity to make you more like Jesus. pg. 168

Chapter 12 Better Together   

"As one person, you can be a good neighbor. No doubt about that. But at the end of the day, your results will be limited. Yet if many people in your neighborhood come together, all with the same goal, the results will be exponentially greater. When multiple neighborhoods begin to work toward the same goal, cities can actually be changed. And if cities join with other cities, working toward similar outcomes, the results can be phenomenal. Our journey began with a group of people sitting in a room asking, 'What could we do together that we could never do alone?'"  pg. 170

"Throughout the Gospels, Jesus teaches us that we are better when we work together. He built a team of twelve disciples. He sent people out two by two (Luke 10:1-3). In the book of Acts, we read that Paul worked with Barnabas, then later with Silas. Barnabas also worked with John Mark. And Peter worked with John. This chain of people runs right into present history. The story of God is told through the lives of people who collaborate and quite literally turn the world upside down. As we look back, we can see that God used these small groups of people literally to change the world."  pgs. 177-178

" ... take out your calendar and answer this question: Is everything that I am currently doing more important than taking the Great Commandment literally? If you have made some progress on your neighborhood block map, then be encouraged. Continue looking, continue praying, continue asking God to open up doors and move you down the line with your neighbors from stranger to acquaintance to relationship. Again, the small steps count. If you have recently met a neighbor and learned his or her name, then you are well on your way! And remember, this is a journey that doesn't end. That's the beauty of the art of neighboring. Don't let your desire and passion for neighboring fade way. pg. 182

Curiosity piqued? Something inside you being stirred? Go ahead and connect
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