Viewing entries tagged
Hospitality

God Who?

God Who?

Letters from a Skeptic, chronicles three years of correspondence between an agnostic father and a Christian son. The questions were brutally honest and the responses were gentle and articulate. I found myself asking many of the same questions as well as believing in the same truths. Ultimately, the father came to share his son’s belief in Christ.

Inspired by their conversation, this became the genesis of a group I began on the University of Alabama campus called, “God Who?—An open discussion on the purpose &/or existence of God”. Despite the innumerable churches populating the Deep South, many people left with bad experiences and gnawing doubts.  Our weekly group maintained an assumption that all of us are spiritually curious. Our time wasn’t about persuasive arguments. Rather, it was a safe place to raise questions, struggle with belief, and not all have to agree. And Christ was made known.

All of us possess a picture of God. Some accurate, at times skewed. However, Exodus 34 is the only place in the entire Bible where God self-describes and, because of that, is epicenter to build (or heal) a theology of God. This passage captures Moses' request for God’s presence, guidance and wisdom to lead. 

 What we learn is this…Faith doesn’t prevent us from struggle or doubt but it can help us see God in the midst of it.

What we find is that faith begins by knowing the nature of God. Like an expanding Thesaurus, the more we know about God’s character, the more we can know God’s heart. This new series, “God Who?” is a chance to grow or restore our belief, see our lives as an offering, SO THAT we can give away a Living Faith!

Results.

Results.

Inspired by the grand parties of Long Island in the 1920’s, F.Scott Fitzgerald began piecing together big ideas for a most memorable novel. In 1925, The Great Gatsby received mixed reviews and only sold 20,000 copies the first year. Hardly the results of such an inspired idea! Fitzgerald eventually died in 1940, tragically believing himself to be a failure and his work all but forgotten. As we know today, The Great Gatsby is widely considered to be a literary classic!

Sometimes it’s hard to see the impact of our work, our words, our friendship, our faith. Oftentimes, it’s easy to miss the fruit of the seeds we plant. And always, God invites us to trust.

In Jeremiah 29:11, there’s a heart-warming promise to the people of God in exile - “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans for hope and a future.”  The problem is that it would be 70 more years before they’d be freed. Instead, He tells them to seek the peace of the city…for in its prosperity you will also prosper.  In other words, serve, host, give, help, throw a party and trust that God will meet you there. Apparently, God doesn’t prosper us by removing struggle. But…he defines a way to experience his presence.

Speaking of grand parties and seeking the peace, we threw a ‘Roaring’ party last week (See pictures HERE). It was a chance to host others as we celebrated two years of faith, community, and mission in Austin. It’s hard to measure the impact of a party, a favor, an invite, a worship service, brunch, a bag of groceries, or a shared meal with a refugee. But God invites us to trust while we seek Him and the peace and of the city.  Here’s to demonstrating faith and trusting God with the results! Join us for worship this Sunday as we consider more of God’s promises for a New Year! In fact, don’t just come…Host. Many guests might be ready for another invite.

Trusting Him, together.

Prototype for Shelter

Prototype for Shelter

Being a single mother used to carry more of a social stigma. Now it feels fairly common or even acceptable. 2000 yrs ago, if you’re unmarried & pregnant, it could get you killed depending on how you interpret Levitical law. In Luke 1, Elizabeth was married, without kids, “past-her-prime” but finds herself pregnant with John the Baptist. She’s got morning sickness and chores. She’s moving slow and more tired. Despite all that, Elizabeth becomes a prototype for hospitality in giving shelter to a marginalized girl-on-the-run.

Elizabeth and Zechariah were in good standing. Yet, she finds it in heart to offer shelter to Mary – pregnant but not wed. Imagine the looks, the whispers, the risk to their social status. And yet, compassion to those on the margins is God’s calling for every Christian. We don’t show compassion because we have so much. We do it because we’re no different. 

History is filled with people who lived fully in God’s story…AND it was disruptive. Curiously, it’s called ‘Good News’. We all have days of peace, moments of joy, expressions of grace, feelings of gratitude — These are foretastes of heaven. They wet our appetite for God’s salvation, love, and intent. But, to be sure: following Christ is disruptive. (Anyone with a houseful of guest for the Holidays knows how disruptive hospitality can feel.)

Hebrews 13:2 says “make sure you practice hospitality, you may be entertaining angels.” Like Elizabeth, God’s chosen each of us extend hospitality. Sometimes we make room. Other times, we are learn to receive. In either case, it’s means we see who God’s prepared in advance for us. When we do this, God transforms us in ways we couldn’t imagine. Here’s to seeing Elizabeth’s story as our own!

Hospitality: Making Room in our Home and our Heart.

Have you ever been overwhelmed, humbled by the mercy of another’s hospitality? Hospitality has a taste. It has a touch. It has a scent, a form, and can help us experience God’s presence in the most tangible way.

Sometimes, hospitality is our ability to make room for another – a friend, a stranger, a neighbor, and the least of these.

Other times, hospitality is also our ability to receive kindness, favor, and generosity from another (often an unexpected source). So what’s behind that? Probably, God.

The tangible expression of God is the willingness of his creation to express care.

However, we’re so quick to say, “no thanks”, “I’m fine”, and “I’m okay” that we miss out on those whom God is drawing near. If we can begin to see God as the Source of our lives (Jas.1:17, John 15) then receiving favors, kindness, and care reveals the presence of God and it reminds me that ultimately He provides.

If you struggle with doubt or believing God’s present or that He cares, try learning to be less self-sufficient. If we begin to see God as the Source of our lives, then acts of kindness, receiving favor, and gracious hospitality actually reveals God’s presence. If I never receive hospitality, I can easily be lulled into the belief that I don’t need Him.

Practicing a Rhythm of Hospitality.  In Luke 10:1-20, a new phase of Jesus’ ministry began when he sent out the apostles to do the type of preaching, teaching and healing that they had observed him doing. This was the third tour of Galilee by Jesus and his disciples. On the first tour Jesus traveled with the four fishermen; on the second all twelve were with him. On the third, Jesus traveled alone after sending out the seventy-two, two by two.

He’s previewing the Great Commission, which would come after his resurrection. He wants to teach his disciples about evangelism and the way he does is by teaching them about hospitality. 

He’s painting a new picture of what it meant to follow. No longer would they simply gather in the Temple or stay within the comfort of their small group. Now they were to go out. He gave them his power and authority and marching orders to find ‘People of peace”.

When Jesus sends them out, they’re told to take nothing with them for the journey. Instead, they were to rely on the hospitality and favor of strangers. When it comes to using our faith for good, often times the best thing we can do is let someone new, someone unexpected to care for us in unexpected ways.

Two things happen: God provides for us. God draws people together. 

Think about it, when we feel most alive, we’re able to contribute. We feel most connected when we’re able to help, give, or serve. So a person who refuses to let anyone help is actually turning away the ability to be closer. This is why Jesus said, “it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a need than the rich man to go to heaven.” (Lk.18:25). He’s not saying that God doesn’t want you wealthy, he’s reminding us that abundance has a way of making us self sufficient and seeing what are needs actually are.

The spiritual Rhythm of Hospitality means learning to discern who God has been preparing in advance of my life. Our job isn’t to have all the right answers, the perfect approach, or to even be convincing. Our job is simply to let the Spirit lead to whom the Spirit has prepared. This means that we have to be willing to seek, wait, and receive God’s provision as much as we have the ability to offer it. 

According to scripture, all of us appear to have “People of Peace” in our lives. These are the ones who have already shown us inexplicable favor, kindness, patience, or grace. Yet, it’s also safe to assume, each of us are also someone else’s person of peace. And it’s how we give AND receive that reveal God most.