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Weekly Blog

What It Means to Love Your Neighbor

Most of us have neighbors. Some of those neighbors are friends, others are acquaintances, and some we never talk to. We know what “neighbor” feels like. Yet when we hear about our neighbors in a scriptural context, we often think differently. When Jesus says in Matthew 22:39, “love your neighbor as yourself”, our minds often go to far off people and places, i.e. mission trips and making donations.

That’s not what Jesus meant.

Not that those things are bad. I went on a mission trip once to Haiti, that was life changing. Giving money is also a good thing, in fact we’re called to do so. The point here is that many of us could trip over those in our lives who need our help, instead providing for others elsewhere.

I used to be guilty of this. I used to think that stroking checks was enough. It was like I compartmentalized my life. I’d go to Mass, periodically donating my time and talents, but never integrating my “Church” life into my everyday life. That’s changed now. Praise God!!!

I have a friend named Ennie Hickman, who is the President of Adore Ministries. In Houston and at other places throughout the country, Adore serves the poor and marginalized. They do this in many ways, including and especially being good neighbors. Ennie and his wife, Cana, for years have been hosting neighborhood dinners, sharing the love of Christ with more than 100 neighbors at their house each week. Yes, Cana is going straight to Heaven.

Ennie, who is also a national speaker, states the following, “when Jesus said that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, did you know that he meant our real neighbors, not someone theoretical, metaphorical, or in a far-off land? He meant our neighbor neighbors, our next store neighbors, those we see every day in the grocery store or the post office. We are to love those closest to us first”.

How are you loving those in your house? In your neighborhood? Those closest to you on a daily basis? Those in your extended family? Maybe an older, lonely relative? Did you know that 50% of those in nursing homes go the entire year without seeing a single visitor?

We have so many opportunities, far and near, to minister to others, to love others…..to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Pope Francis reminds us that we all need to get our hands dirty, helping the poor and the marginalized. You don’t have to be in ministry to do ministry. There are so many opportunities to show the love of Christ to those around us, starting with our neighbors.

So much of America and this world loves things and uses people. We are called to use things and love people. Let’s start with our neighbor neighbors, as Ennie would remind us.

Please comment to me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com.

May God Bless you on your journey to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph
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Weekly Blog

Why Share the Love of Christ?

In reading Scripture, the answer to the above is obvious. With all the things Jesus said while here on earth, two of the most impactful were the Great Commandments (Mark 12:29-31) and Great Commission, in summary…love God, love your neighbor, and share the Gospel message (love of Christ). I’d suggest that these weren’t mere suggestions from our Lord. He was specific.   

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus said before ascending to Heaven, 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Verse 20 gets less attention that 19. Jesus tells us, “behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age”. Related, it’s my lived experience that the only path to peace, joy, and fulfillment is to say “yes” to Jesus. It’s what Jesus promises us in verse 20. 

Saying “yes” to Jesus means being His Disciple, a part of which is making other Disciples. The question is “how” do we do this. My first suggestion is to not hit people over the head with our Bibles. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. We need to love them first, where they are, for who they are. 

We’ve all heard the merits of teaching a man to fish as opposed to feeding him a fish. Discipleship calls on us to teach others how to become teachers of teachers, i.e. Disciples making Disciples. To do so, we need to exercise humility: 

  • The discipleship relationship is not that of a doctor to a patient, teacher to a student, or even a Priest to a parishioner 
  • It is founded in a personal relationship with a brother or sister in Christ. 
  • The intent isn’t to mold versions of ourselves, but to help others be Disciples for Christ, to be like Jesus 

As St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”. There are several elements to evangelizing:

  • Be prayerful – you can’t give away what you don’t have
  • Pray for those God puts in front of you
  • Build relationships with others – learn their stories so that you can share in a way that is relevant to them. 

Pope Paul VI stated, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses”. We’re called to share our faith, which means sharing our story. We do so by sharing…

  • Your life before you recognized Christ as a meaningful part of it
  • How you came to know Jesus Christ (your conversion)
  • Your life in Christ, including the challenges
  • Make the invitation to others to join you on the journey

We hear of Peter and the other fishermen dropping their nets. Others leave behind their former lives to follow Jesus, which is the most important decision a person can ever make. Our call is to follow Jesus consciously and intentionally with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Once made, that decision should drive everything in your life. Once made, you have the opportunity for peace, joy, and fulfillment. 

Remember, being a Disciple includes making Disciples. If interested in a model that is engaging, effective, and free of charge, go to https://steubenvilleconferences.com/discipleship-quads/, or contact me. I’d be happy to share with you. 

As always, please email me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with questions, concerns, comments, or prayer requests. 

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Remember…God made you for Greatness!!!

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

Who’s in Your Inner Circle? 

Fellowship is critical to our spiritual journeys. It serves in helping us be the best we can be while serving others in helping them to be their best. We are not meant to go through life alone. None of us. We need to be in relationship, authentic friendship, and community, which means we need to love others.

Jesus instructs us to love our neighbors in the Great Commandments (Matthew 22:37-39 or Mark 12:29-31). I have a good friend, Ennie Hickman, who is a speaker for the Steubenville Conferences. Ennie speaks of Jesus’ teaching as not being metaphorical or theoretical. Ennie makes the point that Jesus meant our neighbor, neighbor, our next-door neighbor, the person in the house or apartment near us. Who we see in the grocery store or post office, everywhere we look…all who God puts in our lives.

Loving our neighbors includes our families. Many people trip over those right in front of them to go do ministry elsewhere. At one time, I was guilty of this. Our ministry needs to start at home. Ephesians 5:25 says that husbands are to love their wives the way Jesus loved the Church. Jesus gave His life for the Church, loving sacrificially. I need to be willing to give my life for my wife. I need to do my best to help her get to heaven, praying with and for her. 

I didn’t get this in my first marriage. My wife needs to be my priority, with our kids being a close second, not only praying with them and for them, but trying to be a good example, always speaking truth and being charitable. 

Inner Circle vs. Outer Circle 

With family and friends, I think about our inner circle versus our outer circle. Our inner circle should include only those who help us become better versions of ourselves, who teach us, pray with us, hold us accountable, and truly love us. Everyone else should be in our outer circle. This is a challenge for some because arguably there are family members and friends who shouldn’t be in our inner circle. This is true if they aren’t moving in the same direction as you; if they don’t truly have your best interests at heart.  

The above doesn’t mean you cast them aside. Our outer circle is an opportunity for ministry, where we are called to share the love of Christ with others. 

Related to inner circle, I’m a big fan of faith-based small groups. I point to my Parish Men’s Group as critical to my journey. Before I thought “woe was me….I was the only one experiencing these things”. Then I came to understand that we all experience similar things, just characterized differently. These brothers in Christ were distant enough to not have an agenda (family often has agenda), but close enough to listen, care, tell me the truth, hold me accountable, and love me. 

As always, please email me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with questions, concerns, comments, or prayer requests. 

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Remember…God made you for Greatness!!!

Mark Joseph

Categories
Weekly Blog

Why You Beat Yourself Up

Last week, we talked about conditional love. My lived experience is that it creates in us a lack of self-love. In believing that we only receive love if we perform well and to the satisfaction of others, we don’t love or believe in ourselves when we don’t perform well. Not loving self then creates fear (next week’s subject), which prevents us from trying and doing things, using our God given talents, meeting our full potential.  

We believe that we have to perform well to be loved. Stated another way, we fear that if we don’t perform well, we won’t be loved. And at a fundamental level, we all want to be loved; we all want to be accepted. 

Related to lack of self-love, consider this – you do really well at something, then hearing ten compliments and one criticism. What is it you remember and concentrate on long after the occurrence? If you’re like most, it’s the criticism. You see flaws in yourself that you don’t see in others. We judge ourselves much more harshly than others. All of this is a result of lack of self-love, born of conditional love. 

Same Was True for Me

My lack of self-love resulted in me beating myself up on a regular basis. From the outside, I was this confident guy, who had it all together…nice family, good business, nice things, but I was crumbling inside. It was real….I had no peace or joy in my life. I was on that hamster wheel, exhausted, deflated, and frustrated. I was overwhelmed. 

We can beat ourselves up over past sins and past decisions, big or small. Both have been an issue for me. Taking the latter as an example, I remember making a business decision with significant financial impact. It turned out to be the wrong decision, with a dramatic negative result. I carried that burden with me for an incredibly long time, beating the “crap” out of myself regularly, i.e., daily, hourly. I couldn’t let it go. According to my therapist, referenced again below, it was stealing the energy from me to live a happy and fulfilled life. 

It Happens to All of Us

When writing my book, I wanted to vet the concepts. As such, I reached out to the Christian therapist who helped me so much on my journey….more on that later in this blog series. I said to her something like, “70-75% of people suffer from lack of self-love…right?” She scoffed at me, laughing. I’ll never forget it. I said, “what do you mean?” She then said, “try 95%+”. She then explained that based on her experience and research, that lack of self-love easily afflicts more than 95% of us”. Wow!!!

Here’s the Truth of the Situation 

Those closest to you, who truly love you, family and friends, could care less how you perform. They’re going to love you anyhow. And God loves you more than you’ll ever know, no matter what you’ve ever done. He sent His only begotten Son to die on the Cross for your sins, dare I say your faults and failings. 

Life is messy, as we’ve discussed in this series so far. The mess is going to continue as we further unpack things over the next several weeks…before we get to the good stuff…the path to peace, joy, and fulfillment. Stay tuned. 

As always, please feel free to contact me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with questions, comments, concerns, challenges, or prayer requests.  

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

God made you for GREATNESS!!!

Mark Joseph