Hospitality and Making Space

Hospitality is a beautiful and effective means to share the gospel. A family that is hospitable mirrors how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit made space for mankind to belong to the family of God. A love that is “God like” cannot help but reach out and make space for others. It is unnatural for a child of God not to be hospitable and the reason why it is a qualification to be a church leader.

Hospitality originates from the love within a family just as the gospel is an outflow of the Godhead’s love for each other. Hospitality flows from a couple’s love for one another, the parents’ love for each child, the children’s love for their parents, and the children’s love for one another. Hospitality is a spiritual bi-product of a family that loves one another well and each family member has a role in hospitality, even a 12-month-old child.

The spiritual power of hospitality lies in the sacrifice made by the family. Space is made for the outsider at a cost of the host’s self-sacrifice and servant’s heart. The house needs to be cleaned, shopping done, money spent, the table set, cooking the meal, and the most difficult of jobs-the cleanup. (There have been times when I resisted being hospitable just because of the thought of the cleanup.)

There is also the cost of the disruption of the routine for each family member. Hospitality teaches the children that life is not just about “me” or “us” but making room for others. Hospitality gives parents the opportunity to teach their children how to lay down their lives for others as Jesus laid down his life for us.

Encouraging Timothy

I want you to picture a young man or woman in your acquaintance that has a genuine faith.

Have you ever told him of the qualities that you have observed in his life?

Have you affirmed her gifts and relayed the encouragement that she has brought to you and to others?

This week I met three seminary students. I would gladly serve along side any one of them and yet none of them has had an older believer to encourage their faith or to help navigate future ministry. No one has sought them out as Paul sought out Timothy.

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey . . . “ Acts 16:1-3

Maybe our rugged American individualism keeps our mouths shut as we think, “Well I made it on my own in my faith journey and so they too will be able to pull through with the Lord’s help.” Or a more frightening thought is that the reason we do not encourage the Timothy in our lives is because it just does not cross our minds to do so.

In closing:

  • Ask around and discover the young people that have a genuine faith.

 

  • Determine meaningful ways to encourage those young people.

(I shared this concept with a fellow church leader this week and he said, “Wouldn’t that be awkward just to go up to a college student tell them how I have observed his faith and appreciate his walk with God.” My reply was, “What will be more awkward is someday when you try to explain to Jesus why you didn’t encourage more young people in their faith.”)

  • Talk to leaders about how your spiritual family could empower these Godly young men and women.

Open Hearts

Hurt will cause your disciple to close off his heart from others and from God. Although counterintuitive to us, the Holy Spirit uses suffering in your disciple’s life to open up his heart to the Lord and to you. This suffering will come in two forms: the sprint and the long-distance run. Both are strenuous but each develops different faith muscles.

A sprint strains every faith fiber to the breaking point but it only lasts for a short time. It will take everything out of him but he will learn lessons from the experience that he will never forget. It is important to make yourself available to him, no matter how inconvenient, in the midst of that trial.

Marathon suffering, on the other hand, grinds on for years or maybe even for a lifetime yet it builds a strong faith on the insights gathered from years of perseverance. Just as physical endurance can only be built by running mile after mile so these faith lessons only come from the long haul. The natural inclination is to want to escape from this trial now! However at the moment that trial ends the rich insights gathered from that particular race ends with it.

Our heavenly trainer and coach is trustworthy and he knows exactly what regimen is best and what duration is optimal to conform each of his children to the image of Jesus.

In the apostle Paul’s attempt to have the disciples in Corinth open up their hearts to him, he opened up his heart to them by telling of his experience with these two forms of suffering.

“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.” 2 Corinthians] 6:11-13

1. First Paul’s Sprints:

“I (Paul) have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again . . . I have been constantly on the move . . . 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” 2 Corinthians 11:23-27

2. Paul’s Long Distance Run:

Later Paul tells of his ongoing torment that he begged God to remove but the Lord refused knowing what was best for the apostle. Paul then delighted in his suffering knowing that the power of the Messiah within him was a result of his perseverance.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

 

 

 

 

Home and the Holy Spirit

In thirty-five years of ministry I have stayed in hundreds of homes both in America and overseas. Three standout. The atmosphere was so distinct that I had to ask, “What makes your family different?” In each case I got the same response-the Holy Spirit.

The parents welcomed the Holy Spirit into their marriage and family. They were intentional to teach the children the nature of the Holy Spirit (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control -Galatians 5:22-23) and that he lives within each member of the family.

Talking of the Holy Spirit was natural in conversation within their marriage, with their children, friends, and guests in their home. To be in their home was an encounter with the Holy Spirit.

The apostle Paul warns us that if we do not live with the help of the Holy Spirit we will “ . . . bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:14.

What should be the safest place on earth can become a house of devastation. No marriage begins with the intent to devour the other nor does any parent imagine children that hate and destroy.

Here is what love looks like:

  • Joy- There is a spontaneous happiness, laughter, and delight among the family members.
  • Peace-There is harmony between the husband and wife and an absence of strife, anxiety, or dissension among the family members.
  • Patience-Each member of the family shows awareness and regard for another’s feelings and circumstances.
  • Kindness-A absence of harshness or severity. The children are kind with one another and kind to each parent. The couple is kind to one another.
  • Faithfulness-There is a steadfast fidelity to the Lord, one another, and friends.
  • Gentleness-There is an absence of bad temper or belligerence and a deliberate kindness and patience in dealing with one another.

Stephen Covey has observed: “People are very tender, very sensitive inside. I don’t believe age or experience makes much difference. Inside, even within the most toughened and calloused exteriors, are the tender feelings and emotions of the heart.”[1]

  • Self-control. The family is marked by the ability to exercise restraint or control over their feelings, emotions, and actions.

 

 

[1] Covey, Stephen “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), p.193.

Blessing For Each Family Member

Below are the family blessings that our Jewish brothers and sisters have taught us. Our family members read these blessings over one another at the beginning of our weekly dinner together.

Blessing for Wife

Proverbs 31

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Blessing for Husband

Psalm 112

Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands.  His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.  Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.  Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.  Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.  Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.  He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.  His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.  He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor.  The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

Blessings for Children

One of the most moving Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) traditions is the blessing over the children given on Friday night. There are many variations on how the blessing is made. The most common custom is for a parent to put his/her hands on the child’s head and recite the blessing. In some homes each child gets up at the table and stands before the parent to receive the blessing, and in other homes the parent walks around the table and blesses each seated child. Whatever method is followed, the blessing is sure to make the child feel special and loved, boost the child’s self-esteem and give the child fond memories of Shabbat-family-together time.

The Blessing for a Son

English: May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.Transliteration: Ye’simcha Elohim ke-Ephraim ve’chi-Menashe.

Why? Just before he dies, Jacob blesses his two grandsons, Ephraim and Menashe. He says they should become role models for the Jewish people in the future. On the day Jacob blessed them, he said, “In times to come, the people of Israel will use you as a blessing. They will say, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe’.” (Genesis 48:20) Ephraim and Menashe did in fact become role models worthy of emulation. Unlike those before them, including Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers, Ephraim and Menashe were not rivals. Rather, Ephraim and Menashe were brothers united by their drive to perform good deeds.

The Blessing for a Daughter

English: May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. Transliteration: Ye’simech Elohim ke-Sarah, Rivka, Ra-chel ve-Lay’ah.

Why? Each of the matriarchs has qualities that qualify them to be role models. The matriarchs were strong and laudable women. They endured difficult home lives, hardships in marriage, infertility, abduction, envy from other woman and difficult children. Nevertheless, these righteous women, through their individual passion, their partnerships with the patriarchs and their loyalty to God, succeeded to build a nation.

The Blessing for Children

After the above blessing is recited for a son or daughter, some people continue with this blessing for both boys and girls.

English:May God bless you and watch over you.?May God shine His face toward you and show you favor.?May God be favorably disposed toward you and grant you peace. Transliteration:?Ye’varech’echa Adonoy ve’yish’merecha. Ya’ir Adonoy panav eilecha viy-chuneka.Yisa Adonoy panav eilecha, ve’yasim lecha shalom.

 

 

A Blessing For Your Husband

In a Jewish home at the weekly Sabbath meal the father says a blessing over each child, followed by the mother blessing each child, then the husband blesses his wife, and finally the wife says a blessing over her husband. It is beautiful experience even just to watch.

Many of the Jewish wives choose to read Psalm 112 to their husband as a blessing.

Psalm 112

Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.  Good will comes to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.  Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.  He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.  His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.  He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor. The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

 

 

A Tool for Discipling Children

The New Testament says little about the family because the Old Testament says much. The Book of Proverbs is an extensive and important tool for parents as they raise their children.

Robert Alter’s translation and commentary of Proverbs titled The Wisdom Books will be a help to parents as they instruct their children in wisdom. Dr. Alter is the Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.

His translation brings fresh meaning to many familiar proverbs. For example: “How long, dupes, will you love being duped, and scoffers lust scoffing, and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:22)

One sample from his commentary “Intelligence of the most practical sort, involving an alertness to potential deceptions and seductions, is seen as an indispensable tool for the safe, satisfying, and ethical life, and a fool is repeatedly thought of as a dupe.”[1]



[1] Robert Alter, A Translation with Commentary The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010), p. 194.

Fast Food and the Family

The dinner table is about love and belonging. I use to see fast food restaurants as a threat to our families and culture but now I realize that they are actually the creation of our culture. Our rugged individualism, independence,  demand for instant gratification, and minimum relational attachments find its expression in the drive-thru window.  Unlike our predecessors we can now afford to circumvent the dinner table by grabbing a Quarter Pounder and a Happy Meal all in the name of convenience.

But building relationships has never been convenient. A meal begins with the self-denial to set aside the time required to have dinner together as a family. As parents there is not only the surrender of our own wants (and laziness) in order to make dinner with our family possible but also the struggle to teach the value of the meal to our children as they are pulled by the internet, homework, television, video games, music lessons, friends, sporting events, and school events. We make room for whom and what we value and because relationships and family are no longer important to us the dinner table is disappearing from our culture.

The love of the dinner table is activated by the sacrifice of purchasing or growing the food, preparing the food, setting the table, and the clean up afterwards. It is hard work but meals provide for us the opportunity to lay our lives down for one another that results in having the meaningful relationships for which we long and for which we were made.

 

 

 

 

Disciple-Making and the Dinner Table

Cultures are established and sustained around the dinner table. Each people group is distinguished by its food and table customs, whether Chinese, Italian, Jewish, or Ethiopian. In addition to daily meals there are the special holiday meals that are set apart to remember and retell the stories that have formed the beliefs and values for each culture.  Americans use the Thanksgiving Day meal and the 4th of July cookout to remind them of their heritage.

Rituals associated with these special meals are designed to help pass on the stories and values from one generation to the next. The Jewish people use the symbols of bitter herbs, bread, and roasted lamb from the Passover meal with the intent to help their children remember the story of God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

Each culture also understands (1) who is expected at what meal, (2) what behavior is appropriate at what meal, and (3) what food is fitting for each holiday. (Hamburgers are not on the Thanksgiving Day menu nor turkey and dressing at the 4th of July picnic.)

Luke in his gospel shows us the role of the dinner table in the ministry of Jesus and how he used the table to challenge the culture around him and to shape his kingdom. Around a meal Jesus demonstrates the good news of forgiveness, redemption, and belonging by eating with sinners and being the guest in the homes of the social undesirable.

A dramatic and powerful table scene in Luke is the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples. Around the dinner table Jesus illustrated the high kingdom values of a servant’s heart and love by his washing the feet of his disciples and by the laying down of his life for them. Here he also established a dinner table ritual with the simple symbols of bread and wine to remind generations to come of his love found in the story of his life, death, and resurrection.

In closing:

Our families in Chicago are exploring the use of the dinner table for the spiritual formation of our children.

 

We are asking the question how we can use our dinner tables to engage the culture of Chicago with the gospel?

 

 

 

A Story of a Life

The story of David opens with a poem written by a woman named Hannah. She had suffered emotionally for years and was ridiculed relentlessly because she could not have children.

The Lord then provides for her a son, Samuel, and out of her joy she composes “The Lord is a Rock and a Deliverer” which begins the chronicles of David (1 Samuel 2) and then 130 years later David closes his life by composing a poem mirroring Hannah’s original work providing poetic bookends to the story (2 Samuel 22).

These bookends unify the whole narrative of David’s life. The message of both poems is clear-in times of trouble and pain, the Lord is trustworthy. He has a plan. He will protect. He will rescue. The poems were birthed out of each author’s experience of the Lord’s deliverance in heartbreak, disappointment, rejection, enemies, pain, and betrayal.

  • Listen for the themes in the story of life of your child or disciple. Each story is unique and is different from your story.
  • Look for the “Hannah” in the life of your disciple-a person who years before had a role in the spiritual formation of your disciple. (Someone he or she may have never met.)
  • Encourage your child or disciple to create expressions of the work of God in his/her life. (Writing, painting, music, storytelling, poetry, etc.)
  • Suffering are the markers of the work of God is the life of your child or disciple.