Level of Hospitality

“Now do what I say, and let me give you a little something to eat so you can regain your strength for the trip back.”

But Saul refused to eat anything. Then his advisers joined the woman in urging him to eat, so he finally yielded and got up from the ground and sat on the couch.

The woman had been fattening a calf, so she hurried out and killed it. She took some flour, kneaded it into dough and baked unleavened bread. She brought the meal to Saul and his advisers, and they ate it. Then they went out into the night. 1 Samuel 28:22-25

I do not think I have any concept of hospitality as compared to other cultures of the world. These verses scream to me about this fact.

As I read about the woman offering to feed Saul, I thought that this was a very nice gesture. Then I read what she did to feed Saul. She killed the fattened calf, cooked it, and made unleavened bread. This must have taken a lot of time!! This is where my disconnect began. I would have given Saul some trail mix, a Cliff bar, and a glass of water or soda. Maybe, I would have popped in a microwaveable meal to feed Saul and then would have sent him on his way. Either way, my hospitality would have been a lot shorter.

Mmmm, beef

Mmmm, beef

The first part of the problem for me is time. I live in a world where instantaneous feels incredibly slow. I live in an accelerated world of instant access to everything. For me, food is no different in most instances.

The second part of the problem is how we see guests in the United States. We see guests as an intrusion. A welcome inconvenience, but an intrusion nonetheless. You do not believe me? Listen to our words when we stop by other people’s houses: “sorry to stop by,” “sorry to bother you,” or “I will only be a few minutes.”

We say these things all of the time and may not even realize it. This intrusion mentality is not the same across all cultures, though. In our Senegalese cultural training, our trainers informed us that the Senegalese consider having visitors to be a great honor. In Senegal, you can actually show someone how special they are by simply stopping by, saying hi, or eating dinner with them.

I wonder how easily I could change my own cultural training and better welcome someone into our home for a great number of hours while Chele and I cooked them dinner and worked to make them feel comfortable.

In an effort to test it out, I guess Chele and I will have to buy a calf and fatten it up. Of course, when the day comes when we welcome a guest into our house Chele will have to hurry out and kill the calf. I am sure she would be excited to do so. 🙂

Note:
Of course, I understand that a lot of the woman’s hospitality is encouraged by the fact that Saul is king. The calf might have been killed because Saul was king, but the entire amount of welcoming hospitality is probably no different for any other person who was in Saul’s condition.

Gazing In the Mirror

The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. (Judges 7:2 NLT; emphasis mine)

He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath. (Deuteronomy 8:17, 18 NLT)

I can so identify with what the Lord told Gideon and what Moses told the Israleites. This is me; this is all of us. I constantly think about how great I am doing at things. I always build myself up in my head. I always have a desire to look at the things I am doing and say to God, “look at them, see how awesome I am? How can you not be impressed??”

But when I read verses like this, I am reminded about how little God cares about my boasting about myself. I remember to do an honest assessment of myself and know how truly broken and messed up I am. I am all this and more, but God still loves me and cares for me. Through this, I am reminded to brag only about God and how great He is. I am reminded that it needs to be less about me and more about Him.

I pray that our gaze looks less in the mirror and more to the the Savior.

Bringing Equality To the Poor

I think it is interesting that when I hear people talk about our giving to the poor I often get a mental image of having to sacrifice. And not just the “making me a little uncomfortable” sacrificing. I am talking about having to starve the kids for a day kind of sacrificing

This is where my mind goes, but when I read verses like 2 Corinthians 8 I understand that this extreme giving is not what God really expects of us. While sacrificial giving is important (i.e., Mark 12:41-44), we are more often meant to bring equality to everyone through our giving.

I wonder what would happen if all of us embraced bringing equality through constant acts of giving? I wonder how much poverty across the globe could be reduced? I wonder what impact we, as a people would have?

Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need.

As the Scriptures say, “Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.” 2 Corinthians 8:11-13 & 15; emphasis mine

More To Worship

Most of us who went to church this past weekend participated in praise and worship and listened to the various sermons during the services. I wonder how many of us would God actually say

Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.

‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers.

What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? – Isaiah 58:1-5 NLT, emphasis mine

As if I were looking into a mirror, I look at these verses and realize how many times I scream out to God, “why aren’t you impressed with _________?” As I read these verses I have to wonder how many times I perform my acts of worship only for myself. I wonder how many times I simply roll through the motions in worshiping, praying, studying. I wonder if God would call me on these same issues the Israelites were struggling with. And I am challenged to continue to take what I absorb in my head and let it mold my heart to one that only desires to please the Lord.

Examples For the Next Ones

Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.

In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely. And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. (Titus 2:2, 6, 7 NLT)

This morning, as I read these verses, I thought about how fortunate I have been to have had two great fatherly role models in my life. The first role model was my dad.

Although Dad passed away over ten years ago, he still leaves a lasting impression on me. As if Dad had been given direct, face-to-face instruction by Paul himself, he led a life filled with these aforementioned characteristics: self-control, wisdom, love, integrity, and patience. Dad lived in a manner that was worthy of respect and his example still guides many of the decisions I make today.

The second fatherly role model in my life is Allen, my father-in-law. Talk about winning the jackpot. I married the most beautiful, creative, and talented woman of my dreams and also got a bonus in an rock solid father-in-law.

Like Dad, Allen also lives a life filled with self-control, integrity, and an inspiring faith in Christ. He sets a great example for me on how to treat others, live a integrous life, and how to continue to build a sound faith. I appreciate his continued example and guidance.

I hope that as I follow my Dad's and Allen's examples and continue to live out verses such as Titus 2 that I will also set the path for Asher and Bechan's future husband. I pray that the same example I have been given will be paid forward to them so as to teach them how to be true men.

 

Worship In the Wilderness

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.

You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely. (Psalm 63:1-8 NLT)

I am challenged by these verses in Psalms. At this point in David's life, he is dealing with a lot of trouble. He is having to live in the wilderness and is experiencing a rough stretch of his life. Despite all of that David chooses to remember the good things God has done for him instead of dwelling on the worry.

Even during God's “silent” moments David never forgot how great and glorious God was. David then used those memories to switch from worry to praise.

Like David, during my moments of desperation and worry, may I reflect on God's “power, glory, and unfailing love.” May I use those meditations to transform my thoughts to ones of praise and worship.

 

Praying For the Converted

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:16-20 NLT)

As I look at this verse, I am disappointed by the lack of prayer I devote to those people to whom I have helped introduced to Christ. In some ways, I am content to letting their relationship carry on once they have truly given their lives away. I think I should follow Paul's example and pray for my friends so they will be given increasing spiritual wisdom, they will grow in their knowledge of God, and that their hearts will be filled with confident hope.

I pray that all of my friends continue to understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us and how incredible that is in relation to our incredible weakness. May we lean on Him more every day to sustain us and carry us.

 

Praying For the Converted

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:16-20 NLT)

As I look at this verse, I am disappointed by the lack of prayer I devote to those people to whom I have introduced to Christ. In some ways, I am content to letting their relationship carry on once they have truly given their lives away. I think I should follow Paul's example and pray for my friends and that they will be given increasing spiritual wisdom, that they will grow in their knowledge of God, and that their hearts will be filled with confident hope.

I pray that all of my friends continue to understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us and how incredible that is in relation to our incredible weakness. May we lean on Him to sustain us and carry us.

Ups And Downs

This weekend brought a mix of emotions for Chele and me. Our good friends got married this weekend. Chele and I were incredibly excited to be with Amy and Scott as they prepared to begin living out the rest of their lives together. We happily celebrated alongside our friends during this joyful time.

On Sunday, though, Michele also found out that one of her best friends’ father unexpectedly passed away in an accident. Over the weekend we spent time mourning and grieving along with Jett during her time of loss.

These two events sharply contrasted each other because of their immediate timing with relative to one another. However, a lot has been going on around us lately that are in addition to this weekend. We have had friends have babies, close friends of the family family losing their husbands, friends getting new jobs after a bout with unemployment, Mom getting sick and then getting better, and also other friends around us dealing with illnesses and sickness.

As I was thinking of this weekend, this Bible verse kept popping into my head. I figure Solomon probably meant that these times/seasons are spread out during our lives. Apparently, though this weekend brought a little of two seasons back-to-back.

For everything there is a season,

a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal.

A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate.

A time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NLT)

Focusing on the awesome part of our weekend, congratulations, Scott and Amy!! Thank you for letting us share in your joy, laughter, dancing, and love. May you always lean on one another and serve each other faithfully for the rest of your lives.

Celebrating the Resurrection

Happy Easter!

Today, we celebrate the victory and truth of Jesus’ resurrection. May these verses resonate deeply within you as they are within me. For, as Paul says below, without the resurrection from the dead this whole faith thing is useless.

The resurrection did happen, though! As the eyewitnesses testified (below and elsewhere), Jesus rose from the dead as was predicted in the Scriptures and what a glorious day that was.

The Faithful Women Are the First Witnesses of the Resurrection
But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” (Luke 24:1-7 NLT)

The Message Passed Down
And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things. (Luke 24:46-48 NLT)

Why the Gospels (Eyewitness Accounts) Were Written
The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. (John 20:30, 31 NLT)

Why Is the Resurrection So Important
And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! (1 Corinthians 15:14-18 NLT)