Category Archives: Servanthood

Christian Hospitality

What does the word “hospitality” mean? For many, the first thing that goes through their minds is the hospitality industry. According to Wikipedia this would include:

“a broad category of fields within the service industry that includes lodging, event planning, theme parks, transportation, cruise line, and additional fields within the tourism industry.”

But is this really what hospitality is all about?

In Dr. Donald Sunukjian’s book, “Invitation To Philippians” he discusses why Paul can say, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) In his sermon on Philippians 1:1 – 8, he identifies three specific things that Paul remembers, allowing him to speak with such confidence.  One of these three items is found in verse five which reads, “because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

And what partnership is it that was there from the first day? Sunukjian draws us back to the events of Acts 16:11 – 15.

” From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.”

Here we see that Lydia, from the very beginning opened her home to Paul and his companions, for the purpose of the furtherance of the gospel. Based on this, Sunukjian proposes that hospitality is not simply an industry, but is an evidence of God working in the life of a Christian.

This led me to think, what is real hospitality? What does it look like?  Is it reasonable for all of us to be able to open our homes to others in the manner Lydia did? Can we show hospitality without having people in our homes? Is hospitality unique to Christian’s? And if not, what distinguishes it from hospitality shown by other?

 Real Hospitality

So what is hospitality anyway? Of course it is more than just a business, but is it simply opening your home?  If I tell people that they can use my house, but spend the time complaining of their presence I am surely not showing hospitality. Hospitality involves more than simply opening your home. It involves graciously welcoming guest. It involves a heart of service toward others. True hospitality is not done to receive something in return, but comes from the heart.

What If My Home Is Small

This is what we are called to as believers. We are called to share our lives with one another. But let’s be honest, not everyone is blessed with a home that they can open up to others.  I will readily admit that it is a challenge for me, not because I am not willing, but because my home is under 1,000 square feet with five people, three of which are teenagers. So what if my home is small, can I show hospitality without opening my home to others?

First you need to ask yourself, “Why do I not want people in my home?” Is it because I like my privacy and want to keep people out? If this is the case then we need to examine our hearts more closely, for this is what we are called to do.  In Matthew 25:35 we read, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” These are the words that Jesus uses to describe those who know Him.  If our objection is simply because we do not want to deal with strangers, then we are failing to live up to God’ call on our lives.  However, if it is a logistical reason, such as there is simply not enough room, then I believe you can still show hospitality without having people into your home.  That having been said, who knows what we are missing by not doing so, for as the writer of Hebrews writes in 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

How Can We Show Hospitality

So what do we do in the event it is not reasonable to open our homes. I believe Jesus Himself answers this in Matthew 25:35 – 36 when He says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 

Each of these is an act of hospitality.  They involve going out of our way to meet the needs of others.  Perhaps you donate food to help feed the hungry, you give clothes to those in need. Perhaps you travel to visit shut-ins or prisoners.  Yes, hospitality does not always requiring opening your door to others. What hospitality does involve is a Philippians 2:3 attitude, “in humility value others above yourselves.”

Christian Hospitality

So if this is hospitality, is there validity to Sunukjian’s proposal that “one way you can be confident that people are committed to the work of the Lord – their homes are available?” The problem is that there are many people who are not Christian’s who show great hospitality as well.  People who are always willing to have others over, people who are willing to provide a meal, yet they are not Christians. So if hospitality is not uniquely Christian, what is it that distinguishes Christian Hospitality?

We need to look at the reason behind the acts of hospitality. What is it that drives people to desire to open their homes and care for others? For some, it can be a deep-seated to need to be accepted.  “If I can be the person who provides for others, maybe they will like me.” For others, it can be a need to be in control. “If I am the one opening my home, then I can control the situation.” And for still others, it can be a genuine desire to serve others. “I simply find joy in serving others.”

Christian Hospitality is certainly not based in a desire to be accepted or be in control. And while each of us may know those who could fall into these categories, such reasons are, in fact, self-serving and fly in opposition to the Philippians 2:3 attitude. It is the genuine desire to serve others that begins to draw us closer to Christian Hospitality. To fully reach there we must look at the source of that desire.  When our hospitality is based on our Christian Faith,  the source of our desire is not simply the joy of serving others, but a desire to see God glorified in our actions. This is what distinguishes Christian Hospitality.

Final Thoughts

Is hospitality an evidence of God working in the heart of a believer? The answer is yes.  And while there are many non-Christians who show hospitality, Christian’s who do so out of desire to see God glorified, demonstrate His working in them.

How can we show hospitality? If you are able, open your home for prayer time, a small group, a Bible study or simply a get together.  If this is not possible, look for other opportunities.  When someone has a baby, provide meals for them (as they are going to be quite busy for a while). If someone needs a ride to the hospital and you have a car, take the time to provide it. If you know someone who is a shut-in, take the time visit and spend time with them.

There are many ways to show hospitality that go beyond opening your home.  Examine your heart, and ensure that your first desire is to Glorify God. Next, take the time to think outside the box. Then set things in motion.

Of The Father’s Love Begotten

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

At His Word the worlds were framed; He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun, evermore and evermore!

He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below, evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessed, when the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore!

Righteous judge of souls departed, righteous King of them that live,
On the Father’s throne exalted none in might with Thee may strive;
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy face shalt drive, evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men, thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens, with glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring, evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

Words by Aurelius Prudentius, 5th century (Latin) translated to english by John Neale, 1854
Music by Sanctus trope, 11th Century

 


 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
Revelation 22:13

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him
Colossians 1:16

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:6 – 8

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
Luke 1:26 – 37

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”
Matthew 1:20 – 23

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Matthew 19:28


 

 

“Who am I?” “Where do I come from?” At some point in our lives we all ask these questions. Ultimately, however, the question we are really wanting answered is, “Why am I here?” But if the question we want answered is, “Why am I here?” why do we ask the other questions? We ask them because we believe that we can find meaning in knowing where we come from. We think we can find purpose in understanding who we are.

For those of us who know Christ, however, the question is not “Who am I” but “Who is Jesus?” because those of us who know Him, find our true identity in Him. Our purpose is found in knowing the one we call our Savior. So who is Jesus? Who is this one that we call Savior? In the ancient hymn, “Of The Father’s Love Begotten” we are presented with the answer.

The answer to the question is many fold and begins in the first line, “Of the Fathers Love Begotten.” Jesus has come from the Father. He was sent by God. (John 1:14) This is not to say that he is a creation of God, but that he is of the same essence with the Father. For he has no beginning or end. In Revelation 22:13 Jesus declares, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the end.”

The answer to “who is Jesus” continues as we move on. The hymn reads, “At His Word the worlds were framed.” We are told that it was Jesus who laid out the world. He is the creator of all thing. This truth is found in Colossians 1:16 where we read, “For in him all things were created.”

And while He is the eternal God, the creator of all things, the hymn continues by telling us that, “He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know.” He took on human form and suffered and died. Philippians 2:8 tells us that, “being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

But the human form was not simply an outward appearance, he had become fully human.  The hymn reminds us of this when it says “O that birth forever blessed, when the virgin, full of grace, By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race.” He was physically born, just as any person, through the miraculous movement of the Spirit upon Mary.  So we are reminded of the truth the angel declared to Mary in Luke 1:26 – 37 ‘You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.’ . . . ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ . . . The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.'” He was born, and for a reason, to save people from their sins.  The angel told this to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Who is Jesus?  He is the eternal God.  He is the creator of all things.  He is the baby born in the manger.  He is the Savior of the world who died on the cross. He is the one of whom the prophets foretold. (Matthew 1:22) He is the King upon the throne.(Matthew 19:28)

When we come to understand who he is, we can know why we are here.  We are here to serve him.  We are here to glorify His name.  When we realize this, all we do is done to praise His name.  It is with this realization that we can proclaim, “Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!”

 

 

Read more about, “Of The Father’s Love Begotten.”

A Servant’s Heart.

 

Sarah Palin in her acceptance speech as the Vice-Presidential nominee for the Republican party mention that those going to Washington need a servant’s heart. This lead me back to a something I wrote up about a year ago when I was asked to come up with a definition of Servant Leadership as well as to a sermon I preached a couple weeks ago on Philipians 2 entitled “The Attitude of Servanthood.”
Philippians 2: 3 – 8.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Here the apostle Paul addresses a self serving attitude that encroached in the church. I fin that he clearly lays out what a servant leader and a servant’s heart looks like. He builds this image for us around the example presented to us by Jesus. After reading through this, I am left with five clear cut criteria for servant leadership.
1) A Servant Leader does not seek his/her own glory (v 3)
– Man is a selfish being and likes to get what he believes he deserves. Most of us are willing to do things for others if it means we will get something in return. We ask ourselves, “What is in it for me?” Even the story of Androcles and the Lion teaches us to do something nice, because we never know when it will come back to us. It is further exemplified in the traditions of Karma where we are told that if we do good things, then it builds up a store that will come back to us in kind. The opposite is also shown that if we do bad things, it also builds a store that will come back to us in kind. The popular TV show “My Name is Earl” is built around this concept. In fact, Karma seems to have replaced the Golden Rule’ “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Now at face value, you may ask, isn’t this teaching the same thing, but they do not. While Karma says do good things so you can get good things back, Jesus never said in the Golden Rule, “Do unto others and they will do the same unto you.” Now I understand that it is our natural desire to get a “return on our investment” whether that is receiving praise, recognition and even reward. The truth is everyone needs a pat on the back once in a while, but the question to ask is, “Does he/she do the job to get the pat on the back?” Jesus told the audience Matthew 6 that we are not to do our acts of righteousness for people to see. When we do, we have already received our reward. A servant leader does not do actions to receive recognition, they do their actions simply because it is what should be and needs to be done.
2) A Servant Leader places the needs of other ahead of his/her own (v 4)
– We have our plans and desire for what we want and want to accomplish. Society tells us to strive for those goals no matter the cost. The Nike slogan, “Just Do It” embrace this self serving, self gratifying desire within us. A servant leader, however, recognizes that sometime their personal goals and the greater mission are in conflict. Sometimes, for the greater good, we must forgo our own pleasures and rewars. A servant leader chooses to seeks the greater mission, even if it means setting aside personal goals to set the goals of someone else as the priority
3) A Servant Leader genuinely cares about other(v 4)
– Sometime, out of misplaced guilt or obligation we may be able to getpast our own selfishness long enough to help a person in need. But are we doing it because we care about that person or simply to give us the feeling that we have done something. Do we put our hearts into our actions or do we simply go through the motions. A Servant leader must have the right attitude with which they serve. Are their actions accompanied by constant grumbling about what they have given up and how little recognition they get? If so the attitude is missing. A servant leader does not place others ahead simply out of obligation, but because he genuinely cares about other people.
4) A Servant Leader does not see himself/herself as being too good for a job (vv 6-7) and is willing to take on the most humble/humiliating of task for the greater mission (v 8)
– We human beings are a prideful lot. We often think more highly of ourselves than we ought. It is very easy for us to see some jobs as being “beneath us.” We say, “I want to serve, but you don’t really expect me to do that?” A servant leaders sees how each part is crucial to the mission and realizes that no job is unimportant.
– Are we willing to take on those jobs that will make us ridiculed or even cause people to avoid us? A servant leader is willing to take on not only jobs that do not bring glory, but those that may cause other to look upon him/her with disdain, for the sake of the greater mission.
5) A Servant Leader find strength through a personal relationship with Christ. (v 13)
-While we can go through the motions and can think of other, it is only through the indwelling of the Spirit and the work of God in our lives that we can truly find the joy and strength to continue in service. An attitude of servant hood grows from a relationship with Christ.
Governor Palin is right. Those who go to Washington, should go with a servant’s heart, not seeking their own glory, but seeking the best for America. So, each of us must approach our lives, not seeking our own glory, but seeking to serve a world in need.

God, Give Us Men!

Recently I have been contemplating the poem “God, give us men!” by Josiah Gilbert Holland.

GOD, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office can not buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.

It is election year, and that means everywhere you turn there are people telling you what this country needs and who is the person to give it. The “who” I will not say at this time. The what is leadership. The what is a servants heart. The what is “Men.”

What do I mean by “Men.” I intend no sexist implications in the use of my words. Rather I use the term “men” as juxtaposed to mice. These truths apply to all human kind. So what are “Men?” They are those who will stand for what is right, even if it means standing alone. They are those who are not for sale or out for their own gain. They are those who possess their own convictions and are not swayed by public opinion. They are those who place the needs of others ahead of their own. They are those of integrity, who live their life the same in the public eye and their private refuge.

It is a sorry thing, when we look at the world around us and question if such men exist. But before we look to the world, we need to look in the mirror. How do we live our lives? Are we seeking our own, or are we standing for what is right? Do we go with the crowd, or do we follow our convictions? Are we the same when we are alone as we are when with others? How can we expect to find what we are looking for in the world, when we cannot find it in ourselves? Where do we find these “men”? They must come from us.

But we human beings are a selfish lot. It is our nature to seek our own. It is our nature to follow the easy path and simply fit in. If this is the case, then how do we find the “men” our country needs. How do we find the “men” that Holland calls for?

Holland has said it from the very beginning: “GOD, give us men!” It is God alone who can raise up men from such selfish, lazy people. Alone, we are lost, but with God, as the apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:13, we can say “I can do all things through Him who give me strength.”

Who are these “men?” They are men of God. A fact not lost on the founding fathers. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” It is through God alone that we can set ourselves to the side and seek what is best for others.

I must agree with the words of John Adams, and have often said that the entire success of a democratic republic is based on Philippians 2:4 ” Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Only when people place others before themselves can democracy work. When “men” begin to look first to themselves, if not only to thenselves, democracy will fail.

So in my prayer that I cry out is for God to raise up “men”. Men of God, who seek not their own interest, but the interest others. Men whose strength is found in God alone. Men who humbly follow God wherever He may lead.

GOD, give us men!