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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.

When We All Get To Heaven

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing His mercy and His grace.
In the mansions bright and blessèd
He’ll prepare for us a place.
When we all get to Heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
Clouds will overspread the sky;
But when traveling days are over,
Not a shadow, not a sigh.
When we all get to Heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

Let us then be true and faithful,
Trusting, serving every day;
Just one glimpse of Him in glory
Will the toils of life repay.
When we all get to Heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

Onward to the prize before us!
Soon His beauty we’ll behold;
Soon the pearly gates will open;
We shall tread the streets of gold.
When we all get to Heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

Words by Eliza E. Hewitt, 1898
Music by Emily D. Wilson

 


For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God
Ephesians 2:8

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
John 14:2 – 3

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5:11 – 12

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:15

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
1 John 3:2


 

I am sure you have heard the old saying, you have to know where your going, or you’ll never know when you get there. Having been hiking with the scouts on numerous occasions, I assure you that this is a very useful adage. I recently had the opportunity to attend Florida Sea Base with the scouts. Part of this included canoeing more than five miles on the open ocean to live on an island. Five miles on the ocean, when all you see is water and sporadic islands can be a little disorienting, especially when you have never been there before. Fortunately, our “mate” (guide) knew where we were heading allowing us to arrive safely.

The adage applies to all areas of our lives, including our Christian faith. Yes, there are those who view Christianity as a philosophy of life and a journey of growth, but if this is all it is then as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Our hope is not simply for this life, it is also for the next. The Christian faith is not just the journey, we have a destination for which we are heading. This is the theme of Eliza Hewitt’s “When We All Get To Heaven.”

The hymn paints a picture of that glorious home to which we look forward. It begins with the words, “Sing the wondrous love of Jesus, Sing His mercy and his grace.” Yes we have a destination, a destination that is available to each and everyone of us because of God’s grace and mercy. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” God’s mercy extends to us grace that opens the door for us. A door that opens to our final destination.

This is not a simple destination, it our eternal home. The hymn reads, “In the mansions bright and blessed He’ll prepare for us a place.”God himself has prepared the place for us. In John 14:2 – 3 Jesus says, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

The hymn continues on with a contrast of our lives today, with the home will one day obtain. It speaks of the darkness and troubles we will face. Hewitt writes, “While we walk the pilgrim pathway, Clouds will overspread the sky.” Yes, we will face trials in this life. There will be struggles, but we can travel through knowing the reward that awaits us. Matthew 5:12 tells us to, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

So we travel on this journey striving to “be true and faithful, Trusting, serving every day.” This is the life we are called to live. This is the journey of the Christian faith, serving every day. We live the words of Joshua in 24:15, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

And so we look forward to the reward for serving, the reward for our faithful journey. The hymn sums up the greatest rewards we will know with the words, “Just one glimpse of Him in glory Will the toils of life repay.” To see the face of our Lord and Savior, one who loved us so much that He gave His very life. This is the fulfillment of our Journey for 1 John 3:2 tells us “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

So we look “Onward to the prize before us!”, knowing that “Soon His beauty we’ll behold.” Our destination lies before us, and we shall enter in when “Soon the pearly gates will open” and “We shall tread the streets of gold..” We look forward to that day of reward, when our journey shall come to an end. The day we will stand in the very presence of our Lord and Savior. Then “When we all see Jesus, We’ll sing and shout the victory!”

 

 

Read more about “When We All Get To Heaven.”

Take Time To Be Holy

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.

Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

Words by William Longstaff, 1882
Music by George Stebbins, 1890

 


But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 15 – 16

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
John 15:4

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27


 

They say that the longer a couple is married the more they become alike. I have been married for more that 22 years and I am not sure I see it. I suppose, however, that if you look at who my wife and I were before compared to now you would see that there have definitely been changes in each of us making us more alike.

Of course, even if you’re not married, you may have heard your mother warn you about the people you choose to spend time with. It is simply human nature that we begin to adopt behaviors of those we spend time with. This is why Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that “Bad company corrupts good character.” Yes, we do change to become like those we spend time with and this is the theme of William Longstaff’s hymn, “Take Time To Be Holy.”

In the hymn, Longstaff emphasizes the need to intentionally set aside time to be spent with God. Each verse begins with the words of the title, “Take time to be holy.” This echoes the call of Leviticus 11:44 and 20:26 and repeated in 1 Peter 1:16, “Be holy, because I am holy.” As followers of Christ, we are to be set apart from the ways of the world, set apart for God’s purpose. We are to be holy.

And so the hymn begins to layout what is involved in being holy. It tells us to “Abide in Him always.” Echoing the words of John 15:4, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” To be holy like God, we must remain in Him. We can think that we can live our lives apart from His presence and think that we will be like him. And one of the best ways to spend time with Him is in His word, and this is why the hymn continues, “and feed on His Word.” When we spend time in His word and seek to know it, we will hide His word in hearts to keep us from stumbling.” (Psalm 119:11)

The hymn continues with yet another important par of being holy as God is holy. It reads, “Make friends of God’s children.” This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15:33. The morals of those we associate with will rub off on us. So are we surrounding ourselves with other who are striving to be holy, or those who scoff at the notion.

The first verse ends with the call to “ help those who are weak.” You see, we can study the word as much as we want and we can spend time with as many Christians as we want, but if we are not living it out in our daily lives, then we have failed in our striving to be holy. It is this living out holiness that James speaks of in 1:27 when he writes, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

The hymn continues to reiterate the need to spend time “with Jesus alone”, devoid of distractions that we might focus on him in all we do. It then reminds us that as we travel along, we cannot set ourselves out as the lead, but rather “In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord.”

Yes we are called to be holy just as God is holy. But with the business of life we sometime forget that Holiness is not something that just happens, it is something that takes time and intention. So when we take time to be holy, when we strive to be like Jesus we “shalt be fitted for service above.”

 

 

Read more about “Take Time To Be Holy.

Onward, Christian Soldiers

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

What the saints established that I hold for true.
What the saints believed, that I believe too.
Long as earth endureth, men the faith will hold,
Kingdoms, nations, empires, in destruction rolled.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Words by Abine Baring-Gould, 1865
Music by Arthur s. Sullivan, 1871

 


You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.
2 Timothy 2:1 – 4

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:10 – 17

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:3 – 5

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:16- 18


 

War is a terrible thing.  There is no question about that, but there are times when it has become necessary.  It is an issue of which we all have different views. Some have been distant from the events, some have been in the middle of them, some have anxiously awaited the return of loved ones and some have never had loved one return.  No, war is a terrible thing, but unfortunately it has been a reality for time immemorial.

But no matter our view of war, we should all have respect for those who have chosen to serve their nation in the military.  Those who have been willing to give everything for the land and people they love.  They are soldiers.  Men and women who have chosen to place the needs of others ahead of themselves. No matter what you think of war, soldiers deserve our respect.

But war is hated.  It is this hatred of war that has led many to dismiss songs that seem to glorify war, especially when those songs are done under the banner of the Christian faith.  This is the case with “Onward Christian Soldiers.” How can those who claim to be followers of a loving God hold up war as a standard?  But that is not the case.  The focus is not on war but on soldiers, people who have sworn to faithfully follow their leader.

Baring-Gould writes, “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the Cross of Jesus going on before.”  You see the image is not the war, but the faithful soldiers. An imagery that Paul himself reminds Timothy of in 2 Timothy 2:3 – 4 when he writes, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” As followers of Christ we need to avoid other things getting in the way of following Christ.  We need to keep our focus on the cross of Jesus that is before us.

Yes, the imagery of a soldier is clearly established, but the fact is that Paul reminds us that we are, indeed, part of a war.  A war that is, ” not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  We are in a spiritual war, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57) It is for this reason that Baring-Gould writes, “At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee; On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!”

Therefore, as a victorious army, we must remember that “We are not divided, all one body we, One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.”  A reminder of Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:3 – 5, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Yes, we are soldiers in a war, but a war for which the victory is sure.  We faithful follow the lead that Christ, Himself, has set before us.  So we do join the happy throng, and and lift our voices in the triumph song, “Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King, This through countless ages men and angels sing.”

 

 

Read more about “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”

His Truth To Triumph Through Us

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Words and Music by Martin Luther, 1529

 

“‘I love You, O Lord, my strength.’
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.”
Psalm 18:1 – 3

 

You know there are days when everything seems to go perfect and it seems nothing can go wrong. Then there are the others. Those days when it seems that nothing is going right. Those days when it seems the whole world is set against you. This is where David found himself just prior to 2 Samuel 22, in danger from enemies and pursued by Saul. It is here that he utters the words found in Psalm 18, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer.”

Martin Luther, the author of “A Might Fortress”, as well found himself hunted and persecuted by the leadership of the church, but God delivered him. It is here that Luther writes the words to one of the most powerful hymns of all time.

A Mighty Fortress lays out, from beginning to end a clear portrayal of God’s ultimate victory over Satan and how no matter what struggles and threats we may feel, God is our refuge and strength to face whatever may come.

What I find really interesting, however, is how Luther chooses to end this hymn. “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill.”

A hymn that starts with the phrase, “A might fortress is our God” comes to a conclusion not that we will come safely through everything, but that we may lose everything (belongings, family and even life). How does this seem a victorious song? Because Luther ends with these words, “God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”

God has not guaranteed that we will not suffer loss, simply that His truth and kingdom will last forever and there is nothing Satan can do to stand in the way. What is this truth? I think it is best summed up in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”  It is because of this that we can declare with Luther, “We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.”

 

 

Find out more about “A Mighty Fortress.”

Knowing Your Weaknesses, Strengths and Where to Turn

Luke 4:1-13

New International Version (NIV)

4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

This passage is very familiar to many of us. Christ temptation in the wilderness. I, in fact, have preached on it and wrote a blog on it a couple years ago. (An Opportune Time)

But as I reflect on it today I am struck by two things. First, temptation can come through our weaknesses.  As much as we may think we have it all together, the Devil knows better.  He knows what our weaknesses are. Of course most of us have not gone 40 days without food, but we all have those desires within us that are as strong as any craving for food can be. Acceptance, greed, lust, whatever our point of weakness is, the Devil knows it. The question is, do we. Jesus knew he was hungry. But he was prepared for the temptation he would face.

The second thing that strikes me is that it is not just our weaknesses, but also our strengths through which temptation can come.   You see the Devil offers Jesus everything. And this may seem odd at first glance, after all isn’t everything rightfully Jesus’ anyway? But that’s my point. Everything was rightfully Jesus’.  He had willingly given up his right to everything by becoming obedient to the father (Phil 2). The Devil new this and played off the deep down desire to be all that he truly was.  Jesus more than had the right to everything, He knew he would have it all again, after completing his mission.  It is to this that the Devil played.  The Devil say’s, “You know that it is all yours anyway, so why go through all of this.   I’ll tell you what, I’ll just give it to you.  You only need to do one little thing.”  But again Jesus was prepared.

So I am reminded that I need to know my weaknesses and my strengths.  What are those things I want but do not have?  What are those things that I have and do not want to let go of?  But knowing is not enough.  I have to ask, am I prepared?  Jesus did not rely on his own strength to resist but relied on the word of the Lord.  His strength was found in His knowledge of God’s word and His relationship with the Father.  These things can only be reached by spending time in God’s word and in prayer.

Lord help me to know you.  I pray that I would not rely on my own strength but in you alone.

Marriage – Reclaiming A Forgotten Truth

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As of this week Illinois has lost one of the few thing it held over my beloved home state of Iowa.  On Wednesday Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the legalization of same-sex marriage making Illinois the 16th state to do so.  (Iowa was 3rd, although it was done by the courts who forgot their job was not to legislate but to determine if the laws are consistent with the constitution, but I digress.)

The state of Illinois has officially legalized gay marriage.  My first thought was, “what a sad day.” But the more I thought about it I realized it was inevitable.
Now your probably thinking, “What on earth is he talking about?”  Allow me to attempt to explain.

For many of us, marriage is an institution ordained by God. Genesis 2:24 (NASB) tells us “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”  In short, marriage is a “religious” thing.  A position held not just by Christians, but Jews, Muslims and many others.  In addition to this, it is historically a position held by the people of this nation and many others throughout history.  (Thus the old expression, “married in the eyes of God.”)  That being said, it is a position that was forfeited long ago.

“How so?” you ask.  Let me start by pointing out what this issue was not about.  Contrary to what every media source, pundit and activist would have you believe, the battle was not about equal rights.  You see, the state of Illinois already had legal civil unions guaranteeing that the union of a homosexual couple had the same legal rights as a legally married heterosexual couple.  What they did not have was the word “marriage.”  That’s right, this battle was not about a truth, but about a word.  A word which as I stated earlier was a “religious” thing.

Okay, but how does this make the point that the religious meaning of marriage had been forfeited.    Simply put, we stopped viewing marriage as a religious thing a long time ago.  We removed God from the institution of marriage a long time ago when it became acceptable practice for two people to “marry” before a government official.  (And in turn our pastors began to serve as government officials signing off on a government sanctioned union.)  We removed God when the marriage ceremony itself became more important than the meaning.  (After all, how many little girls have grown up dreaming of a big church wedding.)  We removed God when two people with no belief in God, let alone a commitment, were joined together in a church.  (Some churches rent out their facilities to anyone who will pay.)  We removed God when marriage became something to be embraced only as long as the good feelings lasted. (It is then tossed away when things got difficult.)

Now you may be thinking, “It’s always been that way and it’s that way everywhere.”  Like I said, we forfeited it a long time ago and we probably don’t remember anything different.

No ,”marriage” ceased to be seen as a religious thing by most people a long time ago and slowly over time it has become one of those things most people do simply because society says it is the norm.  So marriage became simply a “legal” thing.  From this point on everything begins to make sense. An institution ordained by God between a man and woman became a legal contract issued by the government. And ‘I fear this is not the end, but only one more step down a road that leads away from God.

Yes, I am sorry the decision was made because I do not agree with it, but the fact is I’m more sad that we gave up marriage so long ago without even knowing it.   So how do we respond to the situation? We need to realize there is a greater issue that needs to be done. The hearts and souls of our nation need to be drawn to God. Only then can we begin to grasp the true meaning of marriage and what we have really given up.

Historic Evangelicalism

I recently taught a a series on “What is an Evangelical?” It was an eye opening experience. There are, of course, many statements out there on what it means to be evangelical. The most notable include “An Evangelical Manifesto” and The Gospel Coalition’s “Foundational Documents.” Now both of these have writers and/or supporters for whom I have great respect. The problem is that we still do not have a clear definition of what it means to be “evangelical.” It becomes even more confusing when we add into this the term as it is commonly used today.

So what does evangelical really mean? Evangelical is a term that is thrown around today as much in the media as in the church. It is, in point of fact, a terms that is as common today as “White House.” Yet, while there is no question what is meant when people refer to the “White House,” evangelical is not so clear, despite being in the public vernacular for the last 30 years.

The presidential election of 1976 placed “Evangelicalism” at the center stage as both Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter readily identified themselves as born-again evangelicals. America sat up and said, “evan-what?” This had such an impact that Time Magazine declared 1977, following the election, the “Year of the Evangelical.” Since then the battle has been on to define evangelicalism.

What I have found is that we have mistakenly come to identify “evangelical” with a political position, most often conservative Republican. (Understand that I am of this political persuasion but have come to believe it is not a defining characteristic of being evangelical.) I have also found that much of what the media refers to as evangelical today, is not truly evangelical. As a result of my study, I have come to a conclusion that there are 10 of what I refer to as “Historically Essential Components of Evangelicalism.” It is these essentials that I use to define “Historic Evangelicalism.” These ten essentials are:

Historically Essential Components of Evangelicalism

    1. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)
      1. The perspicuity of scripture
    2. Sola Fide (Justification by faith alone )
    3. Charitable handling of theological conflicts
    4. Priesthood of all believers
    5. Experiential heart
    6. Desire for Holiness
    7. Emphasis on the role of holistic worship
    8. Affirm the doctrines of historic orthodoxy
    9. Passion for missions
    10. Concern for the poor and disadvantaged

It is these 10 point I refer to when I use the term, “Historic Evangelicalism.” 

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.