Hospitality Was Central To My Spiritual Ancestry

Image

This past year we had over 200 overnight guests and even more dinner guests in our home. We believe that Jesus demonstrated the inseparable link between hospitality and the good news of the kingdom of God.

Meanwhile this summer I began investigating my spiritual ancestry by interviewing my parents and Taylor Gardner who had discipled me over 30 years ago. He, along with his wife Jimmye, taught me the role of hospitality in disciple-making.

While interviewing the Gardners I asked where they had learned about hospitality. It all began in the 1960’s while Taylor was in seminary when a missionary named Dick Patty spoke on disciple-making and hospitality, which resonated deeply in Taylor’s heart. Dick had discovered hospitality through a World War II veteran named Jesse Miller whose life was changed forever when he experienced the hospitality of missionaries Cyril and Anna Brooks while he was stationed in the Philippines.  A biographer wrote of Jesse Miller:

“Longing for Christian fellowship, Jesse joined other servicemen at the weekly dinner and Bible study hosted by missionaries Cyril and Anna Brooks. He was so touched and overwhelmed by their hospitality, the Christian fellowship, and the teaching of God’s Word, that he prayed to God, “If I ever have a home of my own, You can have it for servicemen.”

Six months ago I was unaware of the existence of Dick and Margret Patty, Jesse and Nettie Miller, nor Cyril and Anna Brooks but now I see their spiritual DNA not only in my ministry but also in the lives of my disciples. Where would my life and ministry be today if Cyril and Anna had not opened their home to Jesse Miller 70 years ago?

I shutter to think how close I came to missing out on the richness of my spiritual heritage and not being able to pass it on to my disciples and to their disciples.

Jimmye and Taylor Gardner

Jimmye and Taylor Gardner

Margret and Dick Patty

Margret and Dick Patty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anna and Cyril Brooks

Anna and Cyril Brooks

Jesse Miller

Jesse Miller

Bless This House

Recently one of our families moved into a new home and so this past weekend we gathered in their front doorway to bless this family in their new house.

The ceremony went something like this:

  • Affirmation of Hospitality. The time began with the reading of the story of Abraham and Sarah extending hospitality to three men who end up being messengers from God. (Genesis 18:1-8)
  • Presentation of Mezuzah-One of our Jewish followers of Yeshua presented the family a Mezuzah, which is a little box to be hung in the doorway containing a scroll with the following passage:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

  • Statement of Husband and Wife’s Vision. Next the husband and wife shared with us the vision for their new home and for their family.
  • Group Affirmation. The group then verbally affirmed the couple’s vision believing that their vision was in alignment with kingdom values. We also affirmed that their family belonged to us and we belonged to them.
  • Individual Blessings. Members of the group then expressed their individual hopes and desires for this new home and the family members who lived there.
  • Prayer. We ended the time in prayer asking the Lord to bless this home and family.

IMG_0476IMG_0479

 

 

Identity Crisis

Many American Christians are in an identity crisis or what may be better described as a crisis of non-identity. We spend time and resources to learn how to “do” life and ministry more effectively but rarely do we explore the question “to whom do I belong?” Misplaced identity is evident in the question “what do you do?” when meeting someone new while the question “to whom do you belong?” would seem odd to ask.

My friend Yitzhak (Ed) is a Rabbi who was over 50 years old the first time he read the New Testament. He exclaimed “How Beautiful!” when he read the genealogy of Jesus in the book of Mathew.  (The same list of names we skip over to get to the “good stuff.”) Just as Jesus was identified as the son of Joseph, the son of Jacob, the son of Matthan, so Ed understands himself to be Yitzhak, the son of Eliyahu (Ed’s dad), the son of Yosef (Ed’s grandfather).

This past week I meet with Ed and two of his Jewish friends and as I asked about their backgrounds it was evident that from childhood they understood to whom they belonged because of the intentionality of their parents, grandparents, and the Jewish community. To belong means that the family/community cannot imagine itself without you and you cannot imagine yourself apart from that family/community.

 

 

 

How Faith is Formed

“What curriculum do you use?” is the questioned I am asked most about disciple-making. I want to tie this to the question “where did we do wrong?” asked by brokenhearted parents who raised their children in church but who now as adults want nothing to do with Christianity. I believe both of these questions reveal a misconception on how faith is cultivated in the life of a person.

Since God created us like him and therefore he has a understanding of how we work, I believe we should look closely at what the Lord instructed Israel on the spiritual formation of their children and at how Jesus taught his disciples. Looking not only at what was to be learned but the means by which it was to be taught.

The book of Exodus is the account of God delivering Israel from bondage to freedom. The story begins with the birth of Moses and then flows seamlessly through nine plagues until a hard stop at the plague of “The Death of the Firstborn” where the Lord breaks from the narrative to establish the commemoration of the Passover. This parenthesis in the storyline signals the importance of what is taking place and invites the reader to no longer be a spectator but to join in the redemptive story through the Passover practices (Exodus 12-13).

The instructions for the Passover are given to the parents to be celebrated as a family in their home as a means of conveying the redemptive story of God from one generation to the next. Everett Fox points out that “ . . . memory is clearly important here, with two passages stressing the continuity of commemoration through the following generations (Exodus 13: 8-10 and 14-16).”[1]

A couple of observations:

  • The redemptive nature of God is foundational to disciple-making.
  • Children were a key consideration for the Passover.

Exodus 12:26-27“And it will be when your children say to you: What does this service (mean) to you? Then say: It is the slaughter-meal of Passover to YHWH, who passed over the houses of the Children of Israel in Egypt, when he dealt-the blow to Egypt and our houses he rescued.”

  • The family is the optimal place to teach the redemptive story of God.

Exodus 12:3 “On the tenth day after this new-Moon they are to take them, each-man, a lamb, according to their Fathers’ House, a lamb per household.”

  • Stories and symbols play an important role in remembering the redemptive nature of God.
  • The means and method of the Passover were to insure the retelling of the redemptive story of God for generations.

Exodus 12:42 “It is a night of keeping-watch for YGWH, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; that is this night for YHWH, a keeping-watch of all the Children of Israel, throughout their generations.”

 

 



[1] Everett Fox, “The Five Books of Moses”, (New York: Schocken Books, 1995), p. 322.

Spiritual Genealogy

This past weekend my dad, who is 84 years old, suffered a heart attack.  His brush with death made me realize that I knew little about my spiritual genealogy. Once dad is gone there is information about my spiritual ancestry that will be gone forever and so sitting next to his hospital bed I asked him about the people who had a spiritual influence on his life. That night I started to become acquainted with my spiritual ancestors who have made me who I am today.

As I was driving home from the hospital it struck me that neither one of my parents had ever recounted for me their spiritual genealogy-but then I had never thought to ask them about my spiritual ascendants! Sure I had caught bits and pieces along the way but there was never an intentional conversation to introduce me to those who had spiritually gone before me. Can I really know my parents and myself without knowing their spiritual ancestors?

My thoughts then turned to Taylor Gardner who discipled me 35 years ago. He has had a large impact on my life and yet I know little of Taylor’s spiritual ancestry. Why was there not a curiosity on my part of his spiritual genealogy to which I am indelibly connected? It is not for a lack of access that I do not know my ancestry because both of my parents and Taylor are still living. I just have not asked.

I admit that I have not shared with my disciples my spiritual genealogy because (1) I have known little about my ancestors and (2) up until this point I did not see its value.

In closing:

  • I am in the process of interviewing my parents, and soon Taylor, in order to get to know my spiritual ancestors.
  • I have started to share with my disciples my spiritual genealogy and I am asking them to investigate their own spiritual ancestry.

Relating to Your Children and Grandchildren

As Sansui, my brother-in-law, called out in a loud voice to his son inviting him from boyhood to manhood I was reminded of the baptism of Jesus and the heavenly Father calling out to Jesus telling him that he was loved and that he was pleased with him. Although I am sure that Jesus knew of his Father’s love and that the message could have been communicated telepathically, it is significant that the Father chose to express his affection and delight for Jesus publically for others to hear. Perhaps the reason why I was deeply moved at my nephew’s “Calling Out” ceremony was the Godlikeness of Sansui declaring before many witnesses his love and pleasure in his son.

For the ceremony Sansui read publically letters that he and dee, my sister, had written to my nephew explaining how the meanings of each of his five names were tied back to his paternal and maternal genealogy. (Again I was reminded of how the story of Jesus begins with his detailed genealogy.) For my nephew an understanding of his ascendants will form his identity and also prepare him on how to relate to his children and grandchildren.

There are two tribal ceremonies for a Nigerian child. The first is the naming ceremony eight days after his/her birth. Here the five names of the child are whispered in the baby’s ear so that he/she is the first to hear the names. The parents then declare the baby’s name to the gathering and explain the meaning behind each of the names.  In a Christian home the child is then given a life’s bible verse and the parents and community pray a blessing over the baby.

The second ceremony is the “Calling Out” from childhood to adulthood at age thirteen. Here the parents reiterate publically the meanings of his names to remind the child of his heritage as they launch him into adulthood. In both ceremonies the tribe/community is involved.

It has been said that our attitude towards our ascendants will be the same that we will have for our descendants. Could it be that our inability to connect to our own children and grandchildren, especially as they get older, is a direct reflection of our own attitude towards our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents? In other words our children have picked up the same attitude towards us that we have had for our ascendants, which may simply be called indifference.

The Calling Out

This past weekend was the “Calling Out” ceremony for my nephew. Sansui, my brother-in-law, is Nigerian and it is their tribal custom for the father, joined by the other men of the tribe, to “call out” a son from boyhood to manhood when he turns 13. It is a rite of passage of love, belonging, responsibility, accountability, and identity. Now living in the States Sansui has adapted the ceremony to include the significant men who make up their family’s American tribe. The men ranged in age from 83 down to 15.

The ceremony began with my nephew sitting among his peers wearing a colorful woven hat that identified the tribe to which he belongs. Sansui asked his son to rise and then in a loud voice called out his name inviting him to leave boyhood and to join the other men in the room to manhood.  My nephew acknowledged the call and expressed his desire to enter manhood.

He then moved to a designated seat where each man read to him a letter he had written concerning manhood and gave to him a gift that correlated to his letter.  The letters were autobiographical in nature drawing from the unique spiritual pilgrimage of each man. (Unexpectedly I was moved by what the 15-year-old men had to say.)  Woven together these letters made up a beautiful collection of wisdom, counsel, love, but also warning.

The clear messages from the 2-hour ceremony were: (1) you are loved and (2) you belong to us and we belong to you.

A couple of observations:

  • The “Calling Out” was initiated and led by a dad. It was a family event.
  • Although the ceremony was meaningful to my nephew, it also reinforced the importance of belonging for the adult participants. The older men were visibly moved as well as those still in their teens.
  • The ceremony made clear what in life is important and what is not.

 

 

 

 

Destructive Family Emotions

The great test of faith for your disciple will be tied to the destructive emotions of his family. Extreme family emotions were the experience of many biblical characters- Abel, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Jonathan, and David, to name a few.  Abel was murdered by his brother, Jacob tricked into an unwanted marriage by his father-in-law, Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave, Moses’s brother and sister betrayed him, Jonathan’s dad tried to kill him, while David had a wife who despised him, a father-in-law intent on killing him, and even a son who tried to end his life.

In Hebrews chapter 11 these same characters are commended for their faith and given to us as role models to follow.  Here we have the convergence of God’s purpose, our faith, and the suffering we have experienced in our own families. Each of these individuals chose to trust in the father heart of God (Hebrews 12:4-11), in spite of their family’s behavior, which empowered them to patiently wait for the fulfillment of God’s plan, to forgive others, and to not take vengeance against those who had harmed them.

In closing:

  • The painful family experience of your disciple is not a disruption or hindrance in his life, rather it is a vital component of God’s purpose for him.
  •  The faith of your disciple will be seen in his willingness to forgive others and to not take revenge.

 

Destructive Emotions

Downtown South Bend, Indiana is home to a manmade Kayak run. A couple friends and I “shot” the waterway in a rubber raft that ended with us getting caught in a whirlpool. After our futile attempts to escape the lifeguard finally had to throw us a rope to pull us free.

Many of those I have discipled have been caught in a whirlpool of grief at the realization that they will never have the childhood they dreamed of or the life they had planned. This grief, if not checked, will turn to bitterness and “bitterness is always an incentive to self-destruction.”[1] Whether at home, school, church, work, or in friendship no one is exempt from the destructive emotions of others and for most the deepest hurt will be connected to their family.

The life experience of Joseph in Genesis was no exception. At pivotal points there were people with destructive intent that would knock him back for years. As the apostle Paul had to remind his disciple Timothy of a proper perspective so too you will need to remind your disciple that his life is part of a larger divine purpose no matter how malicious his circumstances. Destructive emotions cannot be avoided and are a vital part of the redemptive story of God as it unfolds. The discipler throws a rope to his disciple by helping him “ . . . realize that a higher plan is a work which will supersede the destructive force of these emotions.”[2]

 

 

 

 



[1] Richard M. Weaver, “Ideas have Consequences”, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), p. 185.

[2] Everett Fox, “The Five Books of Moses” (New York: Schocken Books, 1995), p. 173.

Remedy for Shame

Mrs. David (Madge) Wallace was the mother-in-law to President Harry S. Truman and as a friend described her “a prisoner of shame”. In 1903 her young, handsome, and prominent husband climbed into the family’s bathtub and shot himself. The humiliation was more than Madge could bear and she never fully recovered. Even Truman’s wife Bess did not want Harry to become involved in national politics fearing that journalists would find out about her father’s suicide.  Family status had quickly turned into their shame.

Man was not meant to live in shame. To follow Jesus is to leave the solitary confinement of shame in order to live in connection with God and others. Love embraces all of a person even his shame. It cannot pick and choose which parts to love and which to leave out. Anyone can love the good and attractive but it is only through the good news of redemption found in Jesus coupled with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that we can love the undesirable in others.

Jesus went right to the shame of a person. Whether talking with the woman at the well who had gone through 5 divorces or having dinner with society’s outcasts, being tainted by another’s shame never seems to be a concern of Jesus. (More than once the question was raised about Jesus, “Doesn’t he realize what type of person she is and the things that she has done?”)

Your disciple will learn how to deal with his own shame and the shame of others by your love for him in spite of his shame. I believe that part of the reason why Peter did not take his own life after his betrayal of the Lord and why he was the first to run to the grave after the resurrection and why he dove out the boat to swim to Jesus on shore, was because Peter knew he could trust the heart of his friend after having witnessed for three years how Jesus loved, forgave, and kindly handled the shame of others.