My guess is that a variety of things pass through our minds when we hear the word “hospitality”. Perhaps your first thought is of making everything clean, tidy, and arranged “just so”. Perhaps you think of large meals or parties. Perhaps you think of long to-do lists that have no end. Perhaps you think of a special team or committee at your church with that job.
The past month and a half, in conjunction with the past four years, has drastically changed the way I think about hospitality. For a “vagabond” away from home, the greatest gift I could receive was to be welcomed into people’s homes and into their lives. People have apologized to me before for having to run errands with them or see their house a mess, but it is a gift to live “real life” with them. I have been richly blessed to receive the hospitality of many over the past few months and years and I pray that I would be as hospitable to others as the hospitality I have received.
I’ve been asked what my favorite part of my trip was. By far, it was getting to share meals and life with all those I had the blessing of seeing. Hospitality mixed with fellowship is a rich blessing. Do not fear that your house may not be the cleanest or you have little to offer. Welcoming others into your home and life with Christian love can be the greatest gift of all.
There’s nothing quite like being sick or injured to remind you how utterly dependent we are upon others. Though this bout of sickness was not severe, the fact that I was on the road away from home and living in the homes of friends highlighted the need for others in our lives and for not being alone.
We need people around us who are strong when we are weak, and can help pull us up when we’ve fallen down. And we need to do the same for others. We often think of this in spiritual terms, but it is also very true in physical terms. We need each other and sometimes it takes sickness or illness to remind us that we can’t and shouldn’t try to live this life all on our own. This dependence on others also points me to an even greater dependence in my life: my dependence on God.
Everything I am, everything I have is all because of God. Without His presence in my life and without His working in it, I don’t know if I would even be alive today. At the very least, I would be a very different person. I am dependent on God for more things than I even realize. Being sick highlights a glimpse of the number of things that have to “go right” for our bodies to function “normally”. I am thankful that in my dependence I can rely on the Dependable One and those in the family of God! It is a great comfort indeed!
City life is not for me. The constant barrage of motion, sound, sight, and smell is like an all out attack on my body’s internal systems requiring massive usage of my energy reserves just to get by. It overwhelms me in every way. It seems to me that city life take what would already be a busy and full life and makes it a lot faster. Even visiting cities makes me wonder how people live at such a pace. Some people find city life exhilarating and would be bored to tears by rural or small town life. (To each their own I suppose)
For some, stillness is necessary to life, like food or sleep. For others, stillness is something they must almost be forced to have. Yet it is often in stillness and quiet that God chooses to speak. We are told in Scripture to be still and know that He is God (see Ps 46:10), to be still before Him and wait patiently for Him (see Ps 37:7). Psalm 40:1 encourages us that when we wait patiently for the Lord, He hears us. In Isaiah 30:15 the Lord tells Israel, “In returning and res you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (ESV)
All of us, city and country dwellers alike, need to be careful not to get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we fail to take time to be still and listen to God. It’s easy to get caught up in all that needs doing, but we need times of stillness to listen and to hear. We are commanded to be still, as we are commanded to rest. We may need different amounts of these things depending on our temperaments and stage of life, but we all need times of both stillness and rest.
Let us each make an internal check and see how often we obey these commands. Let us seek to grow in obedience here as a guard against getting caught in the bustle of life.
When we think of “ministry”, how often do we automatically think of the ministries commonly found in our churches (Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, Adult Ministry, etc)? Perhaps we think this way more often than we care to admit. Even if we acknowledge other types of “ministry”, do we consider them all of equal importance? Do we view “ministry” as something that only happens within the church or the walls of the church building? Do we view “ministry” as something that has to be initiated through the institution of the church or as a church outreach?
If this is the case, our view of ministry is too narrow. After all, what is “ministry” anyway? What makes a “ministry” truly ministry? Minstering to others is part of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We minister to others as we serve them in love, as we love them with the love of Christ. Service as modeled by our Lord is to put the needs of others first and seek their best. All ministry is important, no matter who is the recipient or what the ministry is.
Ministry to children in a church is important, just as it is important to minister by encouraging friends, family, and anyone you meet over the course of the day. May we all strive to minister to and bless those whose paths we cross. Never underestimate the power of an encouraging and kind word.
All ministry boils down to the two greatest commandments—loving God and loving others. Let us love well as we minister to others. Let us love with the love of God, seeking to bring Him glory through our service.
This world defines success in a number of ways, but these all seem to center around accomplishments, achievements, power, clout, and other outward gains. All too often these same ideas form the basis of what we think of as “successful” in the church as well. We can be overcome by the pressure to move up the rungs of the leadership ladder, desiring more recognition for our service, wanting more atendees than that other church down the road, or a bigger paycheck at the end of each month. Truly it is difficult to keep clear of what our culture deems necessary for success.
We who are in Christ have a different definition of success laid before us. The Gospel shows us this in our Savior, Jesus. He was a homeless man, who was hated by the religious leaders of His day, was falsely accused of many crimes (chiefly blasphemy), and died a criminal’s death. This is NOT exactly what we think of when we think of a successful person. No employer would pick this man to be the next president of their company. Yet Christ accomplished His Father’s will on earth. He did what He came to do- what He was born to do! He finished His work on earth completely, leaving nothing undone or unfulfilled which was spoken of Him through the prophets.
In light of this reality, we must decide how we will define success. Will we define it the way the world does or think of success as we see it in Christ and His Kingdom? Will success become for us something we can measure on paper or with temporary pleasures, or will we embrace a view of success in which the chief aim is obeying God regardless of the outcome? This approach to success may bring us ridicule and may not be glamorous, but if we are being obedient to our King it is worth it.
I would rather be successful and faithful in the eyes of my God, than successful and having all the money and acolades this world can offer.
In the words of an old hymn:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace”
One of the greatest lessons to learn, regardless of when, is believing other people when they tell you that they care about you, love you, and value you. This is also one of life’s hardest lessons when you have to believe people when they say these things, not for anything you do or give, but simply for being you.
This is one of the things that I tend to struggle to believe. Life tends to demand so much of us and it is tempting to think that people only hang around us because they want something from us, something in return for their friendship. It is easy to become a relational cynic. At one point in my life I was stuck in that place. But God continues to break down the walls and the remnants of my cynicism. He continues to teach me how to love people for who they are and take joy in their friendship just because they are who they are, rather than because of something I can get out of it. Not only that but He continues to show me that others can feel the same about me. Others can love me for who I am and take joy in my friendship because of who I am, not just because I have something to offer or give them.
To some of you, this may sound like a no brainer, but for others this may be something you have faced before or currently face. For all of us, being loved and appreciated and considered a blessing just for who we are is a great gift. Even if we don’t see this in our lives presently, or in the lives of those around us, there is one who always loves us. Our God loved us enough to save us from our sin even when we were utterly lost in it. He sent his son Jesus to take the punishment we deserved. He freely gives us the gift of salvation if we believe in Him. My prayer for you, reader, is that even if you doubt the love of others for you, that you would begin to grasp the great love that God has for you and that in understanding God’s love for you your doubts concerning the love of others would fade as well.
I am still learning this lesson, but by the grace and mercy of God I am learning it and believing it more and more each day.