Sunday, April 30, 2017

Praying, Caring Sharing

In this morning’s sermon we uncovered the gem from Philippians 1:1-8 that if we are to experience joy in following Christ, we must live for the mission of gospel advancement. Yet, what should be our main action point? 

The Great Commandment
If we could choose only one action point from this morning, we could do no better than to say we must love others. After all, this is the first prayer request Paul offers up in behalf of the Philippians—that their love grow more and more (Phil. 1:9). Love also would be the one word description for how we are to relate to one another according to Paul’s teaching (Phil. 2:1-4) and Christ’s example (2:5-11).

And can we forget Jesus’ answer to the query, “What is the great commandment?” It is to love God with all we have and others as we love ourselves (Mt. 22:37-40). We do not have to search for Jesus’ view on what our greatest responsibility is to others. It is to love them. So, as we interact with our spouse, raise our children, go to work, attend the game, buy groceries in the store, visit with our neighbor, take a break with our co-worker, or enjoy our favorite restaurant, our first mission is to love. Our quest should be to learn what it means to love others and how to trust Christ to help us.

The Great Promise
What we should take with us every day as we seek to carry out the great commandment to others is a great promise by God to us. In a context in which Jesus calls us to love one another, he promises: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son…. I chose you and appointed that you should go and bear fruit…so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you…. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 14:13; 15:16; 16:24).

I take this to mean in part that every day we should:
  1. Ask God to help us love others.

2. That we should look and pray for ways we can love others.

3. As we engage with others, we should realize the power of praying for them (especially that God’s grace would come to them) and the power of praying with them—as God gives opportunity.

4. We should share with others how Jesus has changed us and can change them.

This is the simple action point we should take away from today’s sermon: We should be a praying, caring, sharing people!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Practicing Hospitality

Alan Farlin had a great message for us this morning (Sunday, April 23) on blessing others through hospitality.

As I left, I was not only thinking, “what a great way to live as joyful followers of Jesus!” but I also had several other conclusions that may help us implement the message.

1. One of the ways to bridge the gap between knowing people as acquaintances and being able to bless them through hospitality is to pray that God gives us those opportunities. Jesus told the disciples in John 15:16 he called them for two purposes: To produce lasting fruit and to be able to ask and receive in the name of Jesus from the Father. The latter purpose (prayer) is the way to see the former fulfilled. If we truly are to love people in concrete ways (including inviting them into our homes), we must pray that God opens up those doors to do just that. And then we must be aware of when God is answering and we need to act.

2. Because hospitality is a lost art in our culture, there is the potential to make a big splash through this ministry. God has created us to be relational beings and whether we realize it or not, we need other people. When we bless others through the act of having them into our home, we are creating situations in which God can move in powerful ways. So, realize how significant a ministry this can be.

3. Remember the Nike commercial and “just do it!” Knowing that we would soon begin this conversation as a faith family on hospitality, I recently asked a couple who has been married ten years and has had a lot of people into their home in that time, “What advice should we give?” The husband’s answer was to repeat that old Nike commercial. As Alan suggested to us this morning, this is something we should treasure because the Lord has called us to this kind of lifestyle. So, we must make the decision to start, determine when we will ask someone to come, ask the person(s), put it on our calendar, and then enjoy the time. And then keep doing it.

4. In response to the question I asked that couple, the wife mentioned how important it is not to try and make it a Pinterest-worthy production every time you invite someone. For older generations, we might need to say it this way, “Don’t try to be Martha Stewart.” This doesn’t mean we cannot or should not care about how the food tastes or what the table looks like, but we should not fall into a mindset of such performance at a high level that it keeps us from practicing hospitality.

5. Finally, keep in mind that a simple tool like having people into your home helps us advance the gospel of Jesus Christ—either by encouraging fellow believers to live in a way worthy of and strengthened by the gospel (Rom. 16:25; Phil. 1:27; 1 Thes. 2:12), or by helping unbelievers eventually come to receive and rest upon that gospel for salvation (Rom. 1:16; 1 Thes. 2:13).

The homes of Christ’s joyful followers should be regularly filled with people loving one another by playing games, eating meals, listening, praying and studying together, laughing together, and crying together. What an impact that will have upon our town and ultimately our world!  I pray that it will be so!