Loving My Neighbor, Not Assuming the Worst

When our neighbor parked at the edge of his driveway at our previous home, it made it challenging for us to pull into and out of our driveway. This used to drive me crazy! 

One day when we were coming home from camping with a lot of supplies, this neighbor was parked not only on the edge of his driveway but partly onto the street. This made it impossible for us to pull into our driveway. I demanded that my husband, Phil, address this with the neighbor. I went inside to begin unpacking and heard the neighbor approach Phil. The neighbor apologized for how he was parked and said he was waiting for AAA because his battery had died. Oops! Boy, did I immediately feel small for jumping to conclusions and assuming my neighbor was purposely making things hard for me. He was facing a stressful situation. Rather than extend him grace, I assumed negative intentions.

Recently, when I again jumped to conclusions and assumed negative intentions about someone, a wise person shared counsel from the Bible with me. A civil war in Israel nearly broke out because people almost acted without knowing all the facts. God prohibited altars from being built in Deuteronomy 12:1-14 unless he commanded them. Furthermore, God commanded in Deuteronomy 13:12-16 that the city’s inhabitants must be destroyed if altars or idols were built. In Joshua 22:1–34, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh (the eastern tribes) built an altar to honor God and remind the generations to come they were still Israelites. The western tribes became concerned hearing the eastern tribes created an altar. They began preparing to destroy the eastern land because they assumed the eastern tribes were disobeying God’s commands. Fortunately, the western leadership took time to investigate why the eastern tribes built the altar before any violence ensued and realized their intentions were for good. The eastern tribes were not sinning or purposely disobeying God; in fact, the altar was to promote the worship of God. Rather than begin a war, the tribes praised God together. “And the report was good in the eyes of the people of Israel. And the people of Israel blessed God and spoke no more of making war against them to destroy the land where the people of Reuben and the people of Gad were settled” (Joshua 22:33). 

In our sinful nature, we see people’s flaws and make assumptions without knowing the whole story. Fortunately, our loving God sees us through Christ’s sacrifice and has promoted us to be heirs of his kingdom despite our sin (Titus 3:7). Additionally, because God is love (1 John 4:7), he teaches us to love others and live in harmony. Therefore, we can prevent conflict by taking time to investigate the whole story, assuming positive intentions, extending grace, and finding opportunities to worship God with others.

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The Gift of Presence during Advent

Advent is a time for reflection and preparation. Christians meditate on themes of hope, love, joy, and preparation to commemorate the birth of Jesus when celebrating Christmas Day. It is a comfort that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, and His commission is that comfort is proclaimed to all the world (Matthew 28:16–20). The season of Advent provides the followers of Jesus the opportunity to live out the themes of hope, love, joy, and preparation. The season can leave those believers and unbelievers with physical, emotional, and spiritual pain isolated when the presence of God and his people could benefit them the most. This Advent, we can give the present of presence to someone in need of God’s love.

Follow the Divine Example

God best exemplifies the care of others through presence as stated in the Psalms. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 34:1). Consider how the presence of God in these examples and our lives can inspire us to minister to the needs of others.

Yahweh — (1 Kings 19:1–15) When the prophet Elijah was overcome by exhaustion after a dramatic confrontation with the prophets of Baal, the Lord made his presence known. He provided physical nourishment and assurance to Elijah that he was not alone.

Jesus — (Luke 19:1–10) Jesus demonstrated the transformative power of his presence in the account of Zacchaeus, the tax collector. Jesus’s outreach, despite the stigma of associating with a tax collector, resulted in the repentance of Zacchaeus and restitution to all whom he had defrauded.

The Holy Spirit — (John 16:1–15) The Spirit is the comforter promised to the followers of Jesus after he ascended into Heaven. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be a guide and support through persecution and the mission to preach the Good News of salvation to the world. The Spirit is an ever-present help (John 14:16).

The Ministry of Presence

In his article, The Ministry of Presence, Dr. Stephen Davey describes every Christian as qualified for the ministry of presence. “You do not have to be anything but available to be a wonderful tool in the hand of God.”

To participate in the ministry of presence, we need to be mindful and prayerful of family members, church members, fellow students, colleagues, and others we know who require support. Make an invitation tailored to the individual’s specific circumstances on your heart. For example, one person with a medical condition may benefit from transportation to an appointment or a visitation in the home. In contrast, one with a contagious illness may be ministered to by a telephone or video call. No matter how a person is suffering—the death of a loved one, loss of employment, or a traumatic diagnosis—the ministry of presence is appropriate.

Davey quotes author Joseph Bayly to explain how mere presence is often more valuable than words.

I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly; he said things I [already] knew were true. I was unmoved, except I wished he’d go away. He finally did. Another came and sat beside me for an hour and more; listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply and left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.

Davey warns against the well-intentioned impulse to quote the Bible and offer platitudes to those we serve. A genuinely applicable verse or nugget of wisdom can be perceived as trite and dismissive to a person in pain if it is made with an inappropriate tone or timing. Instead, we can focus on being present, not profound.

The ministry of presence is risky, and we can take that risk because we’ve experienced the loving presence of God ourselves. Because God has sought us out and made his dwelling with us through Jesus, we can extend ourselves when the task is unpleasant or when we may not be appreciated. God has much to offer both believer and unbeliever through our presence: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14)

‘Tis The Season To Serve

Advent allows the Christian to reflect on the present and presence that define Christmas and Christianity: Christ Jesus. The present God gave the world he so loved (John 3:16) modeled a ministry of presence for all of us to follow (John 13:34–35). Jesus was intentionally present with the lost, hurt, sick, and poor of society. The joy that Advent heralds transcends our circumstances. Still, life circumstances can steal that joy from the people around us afflicted by physical, emotional, or spiritual pain. Therefore, as recipients of God’s gracious presence, let us minister to those who need a loving presence this Advent and in the year to come.

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Links for the Weekend (10/30/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Loving Difficult Neighbors Isn’t Optional

We can all provide a bushel of reasons why we can’t love our neighbors. Will Anderson reminds us this isn’t an option.

Though many justify neighbor-avoidance based on differences, the real issue isn’t some impassable chasm of incompatibility; it’s our own discomfort, pride, and fear. As we huddle within the bounds of familiarity, we’re robbed of serving those who don’t look or think like we do.

God Wants You to Call Him “My Father”

Ed Welch reflects on what it means for us to pray to God as our father.

My Father—the Spirit of Christ teaches us to address our prayers—to my Father. So like the disciples, we, too, will gradually learn this most remarkable feature of New Testament prayer. Jesus is the Son and we, joined with him, share in this relationship. The same easy confidence with which Jesus prayed to his Father can now be our own (Heb 4:16). And given how this closeness and familiarity are the most unexpected features of how we pray, “My Father” can always leave us amazed. Go ahead and insert it into the beginning of any psalms you read and place it next to the other names of God. Scripture will immediately be more intimate, as your Father intended it to be.

What Was Reformed in the Reformation

Here’s a nice, short summary of the central doctrines recovered during the Protestant Reformation.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (6/19/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Of Oceans, Thimbles, and Talking to Your Kids about Death

When death is in the news—at it is during the time of a global pandemic—it may be a good opportunity to talk to our children and grandchildren about death. This takes care, of course, but Alasdair Groves shares a truth he learned from his mother that will help. He also passes along very practical advice about talking to children about death.

So especially if you’ve never talked about death with your kids before, I’d encourage you to find a time soon to ask them what they are thinking about the coronavirus, death, and what scares them about it. Few things are more comforting to a child than knowing that it’s ok to talk about their fears. (It’s ok to share your own fears, too.) Even if you’ve talked to them about death before, it’s still a great time to look for, or even create, chances to have open conversations about the biggest problem any of us will ever face and the Good and Gentle Shepherd who laid down his life to rescue his sheep.

White Flags in Peru: How the Church Is Caring for Coronavirus Victims

I hope you’ll be as encouraged as I was reading this article. I love to hear about God’s miraculous provision and his church’s loving care of people in need. This article describes how a church in northern Peru is helping its community handle both food and medical emergencies related to the coronavirus.

The operating conviction for ongoing action in our homes and community is not only that God is a good and faithful Father who provides, but also that prayer is the power that moves his heart and hand. In our home we began daily prayer meetings to seek God’s favor and provision for our family, church, and community. It was not long before generous donations began coming from unexpected people and places. In a time when we should have been struggling and paralyzed, we moved forward in boldness with the ability to provide for and encourage more than 400 families with over 600 bags of food.

The power of reading…slowly

Tony Payne shares how the shutdown of COVID-19 has forced him to slow down in some important ways. In particular, he writes about how using a different (and older) translation of the Bible has helped him to notice details that escaped him in the past.

There is no question that the NIV is easier to read, just as white rice is quicker and easier to cook and goes down more smoothly than brown. And just as there is a time for white rice, so there is a time for simpler modern translations (such as reading aloud in church). But chewing over the RV has enabled me to metabolize the riches of God’s word more slowly and appreciatively.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Right-Now Blessings of the Kingdom of God. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Now is the Time to Love Our Neighbors

At the time of this writing, we are semi-quarantined in hopes of curbing the spread of COVID-19, a virus that has made the start of 2020 quite memorable. 

Response to the escalating cases revved up like an old lawn mower.  First we heard rumblings of a sickness across the globe. Tensions rose, and worries took hold. Finally, in one big surge, the engine roared to life, and next thing we knew, schools and businesses closed, and we huddled inside.

What does this mean for Christians? Some believers say that now is the time for the world to know that the Church really is not a building! We are the body of Christ. 

Scripture commands us at least nine times* to love our neighbors as ourselves. There is no caveat for pandemics, natural disasters, or personal inconvenience. We are Christ’s hands and feet, motivated by love and fueled by the Holy Spirit. Our work does not cease.

I have been thinking about the unconditional command to love our neighbors. Serving others in the current climate feels a little like making sandwiches with our hands tied behind our backs. How can we show love from isolation without touching or visiting? Knowing that we are all learning as we go, here are a few thoughts on loving our neighbors.

Boost Your Physical Health

The guidelines for protecting your own health are not new, but they require added diligence while the threat of illness is high. Details about good hand washing technique and basic disease prevention are available at the following website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html. As we practice disease prevention and focus on the well-being of our neighbors, isolation in our homes is a great act of love. We help prevent spreading the virus to the most vulnerable people and potentially reduce the strain on healthcare workers simply by staying home.

Reach Out

We must think beyond handshakes, hugs, and gathering together as ways of showing we care. Calls, e-mails, or messages through social media are not as intimate, but they provide connection and help create a sense of community. Conversation, by any means, shows your love and concern. Ask how people are doing with sincerity and with patience. 

Anticipate Needs

People may hesitate to ask for help, so be proactive and anticipate ways to be of service. Ask for wisdom from the Lord. James 1:5 reads, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Pray for insight as you seek to bless people around you. We need wisdom in order to keep ourselves safe while also extending help. Fortified by prayer, we are better equipped to serve. 

The healthy among us can limit exposure for people in high risk categories by offering to pick up groceries or run essential errands. Even spending a few minutes picking up litter or raking the weathered leaves from last fall may improve someone’s view from home or lighten his or her workload.

Healthcare workers, retail employees, and emergency responders are still very much on the job. We can broadly assist them by protecting our own health, and we can specifically boost morale by leaving notes of gratitude or sharing colorful drawings from children. If possible, donate supplies or money for emergency work. Consider others in your community who might be under added stress during these difficult times. Small businesses are transforming their operations in order to remain open; we can support their efforts by choosing to purchase essentials from an independent business owner who may be struggling to support a family.

Remember, isolation raises the risk of depression and anxiety for some people. Be mindful of those whose mental health may suffer. Washington County’s mental health crisis hotline is 1-877-225-3567. 

Prioritize Real Health

As Christians, we know that lack of disease in our bodies is a small part of our overall health. We cannot look to physical fitness to assess our well-being. The apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:7b-8, “rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Resist the urge to raise bodily health as the highest goal. 

We can preach hygiene day after day, but real hope only comes through the message of Christ. Philippians 4:4-9 tell us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We are in a position to illustrate what the peace of God looks like in the daily life of a believer. We can share the source of our joy. If we seek total assurance in masks, gloves, vitamins, or government leaders, we are headed toward disappoint. If our eyes are upon God, we are headed toward rejoicing. Help the people in your life to know real health and see real hope in action.

As followers of Christ, fear should not dictate our actions nor halt our work, but if fear has crept into your heart, know that you are not alone. The Lord knows our concerns. Join your voice with others as we pray for comfort and protection. 

I pray that God will open our eyes to the needs of our neighbors so that we can shine his light with confidence and love. Our God is a wise and holy father. A virus took us by surprise, but the Lord was not caught off guard. He is ready to equip us to continue the work of his church. 

*Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:43; Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10: 27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8

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Links for the Weekend (3/13/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Anxiety, Waiting and the Coronavirus

It’s hard to have any conversation these days without talking about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). As with everything in our lives, trusting God should make a visible difference in the way we approach this. This pandemic can stir up a lot of anxiety, so I thought it would be helpful to link to this article from Christian counselor Alasdair Groves.

It’s an easy parallel for us to make today, isn’t it? A virus is seeping across the world and has reached our shores, and we don’t know how treacherous it’s going to be. God is calling us to continue forward in love of neighbor and service to his kingdom, but all we can see are public surfaces potentially covered in germs and neighbors who may be walking vectors of disease. 

Where’s Your Treasure? Three Questions to Ask Yourself

If you’ve been around the Christian church much, you may be familiar with the language of idolatry. This doesn’t just refer to worshiping little figurines of wood or stone, but rather when we put anything other than God in the place of God. These are often good things! But discovering our idols can be difficult. Cindy Matson offers three short, helpful questions to ask yourself to uncover some of your idols.

The truth is we’re all completely obsessed with treasure. We’re actually wired that way. God designed us to be active worshipers, and treasure is simply shorthand for the object of our worship. Since our hearts are always actively worshiping something, they’re not neutral; nor do they accidentally stumble into worship. They choose it. And, as Captain Jack points out, treasure is far more than just material wealth. For this reason, the Sage of Proverbs warns, “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it springs the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23) Likewise, Jesus warns that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). The question I want you to think about today is, Where is your treasure? To answer, carefully ponder three questions and invite the Holy Spirit to examine your heart.  

Practicing What We Teach

Here’s an article which helps us think about loving our neighbors in practical ways. This article focuses on material poverty, but its principles are broader. There’s a great success story at the end; make sure you read the whole thing!

As we “put off” sin and “put on” righteousness, the church should be the place where this transformation is encouraged and supported by a community of God’s people. If you’re struggling with slander or lust, you don’t just need to be told not to do those things. You need to be surrounded by a community that helps you reimagine what life will look like if you no longer practice those things.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Sarah Wisniewski called Book Review: Labor with Hope: Gospel Meditations on Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Thanks to Phil A for his help in rounding up links this week!

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (7/26/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Mothers in the Church

Jen Wilkin has written an outstanding piece on spiritual motherhood. It’s worth a read by everyone, not just by women. Spiritual infants need spiritual mothers, and all women can leave a legacy of spiritual descendants.

But a motherless church is as tragic as a motherless home. Guiding the spiritually young to maturity is not solely the job of the vocational pastor, the elder, or the Sunday school teacher. The church needs mothers to care for the family of God. We must rise to our responsibility, eagerly searching for whom the Lord would have us nurture. There is no barrenness among believing women. Through the gospel, all become mothers in their maturity. And unlike biological motherhood, spiritual motherhood holds the potential for hundreds, even thousands of descendants.

The Most Radical Mission for Christians May Be the Most Mundane

For many Christians, the thought of foreign missions is much more compelling and attractive than loving our neighbors down the street. Brett McCracken writes about the beauty of committing to and serving in a local church, even if there are fewer exotic stories that result.

Why is it easier for us to go to the other side of the world than it is to go across the street to talk to our neighbors about Jesus? It’s uncomfortable to share our faith with people in our immediate context because, well, we have to continue to do life with them and it may get awkward if we bring up Jesus. Plus it is sometimes easier to care for the soul of the foreigner who we don’t know than the proven heathen that we do.

Study the Bible for the Sake of Others

Evangelism is rarely about a one-time, thirty-minute conversation. Using the story of Philip in Acts 8, Kelly Minter writes about how our personal study and learning from the Scriptures prepares us to share the gospel with others.

So here are the two challenges this passage confronts us with: First, we must be willing to step into some chariots and sit alongside people who can’t make sense of life, much less the Bible (assuming we’ve been invited in). Second, we must be studying God’s Word diligently, learning from good teachers about His whole counsel, so that when we do have opportunities with those seeking to understand, we can engage them with the whole story instead of leaving them with a presentation.

Thanks to Maggie A for her help in rounding up links this week.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (2/1/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

3 Methods to Keep You Praying

Trevin Wax has struggled to pray regularly, and he shares a few practices that have helped him grow in this discipline.

At the beginning of every year, we peruse the various plans for reading the Bible, but rarely do we find plans about developing the discipline of daily prayer. It’s not that we mean to avoid it. We know we need to pray. We know we’re called to it. We know that our lack of prayerfulness is a sign that we are unconscious of just how dependent we are upon God and that we are comfortable operating in our own strength. But still, how do we make it a regular practice?

Don’t Just Meet Someone’s Needs

Michael Kelley writes about the way Jesus healed the leper in Luke 5 and helps us think about loving our neighbors. He challenges us to give of ourselves as we help others.

This is the lesson for us who want to do good, but don’t want to get our hands dirty. For those of us who want to see people helped, but don’t want to emotionally invest in the people being helped. For those of us who enjoy programs we can serve in, but avoid organic ministry that costs us time and energy. It’s a lesson for people like me and maybe people like you, too.

The Art of Dying

Perhaps it’s because we think so much of heaven, but Christians spend a decent amount of time talking about death. Dan Doriani writes about the death of his friend Gerry and draws out two principles for dying well.

Gerry was always an encourager; now he needed encouragement and he readily asked for it. I saw him hours after he got his diagnosis – kidney cancer, stage four. Very few survived it and six months was a typical time frame. After thirty minutes, he asked, “Will you visit me every week?” It was a big request and he knew it. I paused momentarily as I considered my demanding schedule. But I knew the answer, “Yes, every week, as long as I am in town.” And so it was.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

I wrote for the blog this week about how singing is an act of faith. Check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here.