It is a Thursday afternoon as I write this letter… this is my first ‘break’ in the day from the stream of constant meetings that I seem to have. However, this last meeting came to me as a great and wonderful surprise. Taking a call in between meetings at 11:30, I was asked to meet with a realtor and potential buyer for a house we have been trying to sell this past month. For over a year, we have been renovating a house (located directly behind our office) that was built in 1895. The house has a lot of character, beauty, and is truly amazing in so many ways – 4 bedroom, 2 bath, heated single-car garage, big back yard, garden, shed, and, it is close to downtown. Steve Houlihan (President of Koinonia Housing Construction Company, our job training program) was particular in restoring this home to its original beauty, which he and the guys have done quite well. Our hope for this newly renovated house is that it will be sold to an intentional neighbor… a Christ-loving individual or family with a vision to live in a community that most people try to avoid so as to be the Light of Christ and represent the Kingdom of God.
Waiting at the house for the realtor and family to show up, I was surprised to see a face that I recognized, though I wasn’t quite sure why or where from. As we shook hands he reminded me of where I had met him – the South Side Christmas Store we host every year at Orchard Elementary. I remember speaking with him at the store, learning that he and his family followed the teachings of Jesus, and that they loved living in the community. Sure enough, with a growing family (they are expecting their 4th this year), they have listed their home and are in the market to ‘buy’. Amazingly, with a heart to love, serve, and follow Jesus, this family is very interested in staying in the community to continue to be the Light of Christ and seek His Kingdom! Could these be the intentional neighbors my heart has been longing and praying for? Time will tell, but regardless, my heart was filled with gratitude for the way in which the Lord works in His mysterious ways.
Perhaps by coincidence, or shall we say, divine grace, I read the following passage in Leviticus today. As a backdrop to this Old Testament book, it describes the time after Moses had led the people out of slavery in Egypt and into the desert. The book of Leviticus expresses God’s desire, and demand, that holiness be represented in all areas of His covenant people, Israel. Being that we are made in the image and likeness of God (the Imago Dei), different from all other created beings, God’s word in Leviticus 19:2 is truly attainable (though His grace) because we are made in His own image – “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’” Leading up to my reading today, God provides a clear decree of His faithfulness and blessing to Israel, should they remain obedient to Him. Just the same, the consequences and punishment that will follow, should they become disobedient. Leviticus 26:9-13 says,
“So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm my covenant with you. You will eat the old supply and clear out the old because of the new. Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.”
I will make My dwelling among you…I will also walk among you and be Your God. Words cannot begin to express the beauty of this passage! With the unfolding of the full story of redemption – namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – it is clear to see that not only was God with His people during the days of Moses, but how much more with the incarnate Christ, Jesus our Lord! John 1:14 proclaims, “And the Word (Jesus) became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Thank you, Lord, for the fulfillment of Your promise… that despite our own hardness of heart and rebellion, you have radically demonstrated Your grace and love by sending your Son Jesus Christ!
As I think again about ‘intentional neighbors’, what is so beautiful and amazing about this calling is that it is in part a further extension of God dwelling among the people. Calling people unto Himself, opening their eyes to see and their ears to hear, broken people (like myself) come to know the purpose for which they have been made – to know, love, and delight in God… their Imago Dei is once again restored through the precious atonement of Jesus our Lord! And as people redeemed by the blood of Christ, and filled by the Spirit, they now bear the Light of Christ and embody the gospel message in their everyday life to a hurting, broken, and neglected community.
Lord, I pray for Your work in our community… that You, Lord, would see fit to draw more gospel-driven individuals and families with a vision to represent the incarnate Christ in South Billings. Lord, I pray that by the testimony of their lives and the proclamation of their mouth, that You draw many more lost, hurting, and broken individuals into your Kingdom of grace, truth, and love. I praise You for what you have done, for those many intentional neighbors you have already brought to the South Side, and I pray your Kingdom work multiply 100 fold! In Jesus’ name, amen.