Category Archives: Missional Living

A Life of “Making Space”

strangerThe Scriptures call us to be hospitable. Jesus – the epitome of a hospitable God – calls us to be hospitable. But what does this mean? Is it merely what one pastor suggested when he called his people to give up the right of way on a narrow road, to bring a cup of coffee to someone at church, and to make an effort to talk to your neighbors when you pass them on the sidewalk? I’m sure he agrees that hospitality is much more, but unfortunately, I think most Christians see hospitality as an event rather than a lifestyle. Nice little things we do for people rather than a lifestyle of humility, submission, and service. As I read the Scriptures, I’m convinced that the biblical call to hospitality is bigger and more demanding than we ever thought.

One pastor I read says, “Too often Christians think hospitality is just a group of Christians meeting over a meal. That is not the biblical meaning of the concept.” He goes on to say, “Hospitality means making space for the stranger in your world. God has made a place for his enemies to become part of his family by Jesus being treated like an enemy on the cross. He brought us into his home, treated us like family and gave us access to all that he owns, making us co-heirs with Christ. When leaders open their homes and lives to the stranger — the outsider — we show the world and the church how the gospel reshapes our view of our homes.”

This means that as a Christian, you have non-Christians in your life that would call you their friend. They invite you to their parties and events, call you when they are in need, and regularly bring you into their world. They not only call you friend, but they also respect you — you have a good reputation with them. It doesn’t mean they always agree with you or are never offended by the gospel, but regardless, they believe you love them and in turn entrust themselves to you.

Yes. Hospitality is something we extend to fellow Christians, but it’s bigger than this. It’s a way of life, and it includes living in such a way that we willingly and sacrificially “make space” for not just our brothers and sisters in Christ, but for outsiders, strangers, non-Christians.

Random Thought Thursday: June 13, 2013

Riding a motorcycle when it’s 100 degrees outside is only fun if you don’t have to stop. Stopping at a stop light on a blistering asphalt street surrounded by a city bus and school bus is not fun at all.

2013houston

The Southern Baptists have converged on Houston this week for their annual convention. An anonymous poll of restaurant servers in the Houston area shows that they hate this convention because baptists “are pushy, don’t tip well, and always order dessert.” Not sure why the dessert thing is a problem, but the other two surely are. C’mon baptists. You can do better than that.

Saw on the news last night that New Mexico ranks last in the country when it comes to people who go to bed each night hungry. 20% of all adults and 30% of all children in the state don’t know where their next meal will come from. Something needs to be done to fix this. It’s a big problem – too big for any one of us – but we all can do something. A great place to start is by supporting your local food pantry by stocking their shelves and working their floors. Every little bit will help.

Legoant

The little ants that have taken up residence in my house are indestructible. They have staved off every single one of my all-out attacks on their existence in my home. I’m about ready to go crazy – and use a flame thrower on them.

I’ve heard a handful of people say throughout this drought in New Mexico that if our nation would just repent, then God would send us rain. But, I don’t think our nation’s sin is the cause of this drought because so much of the nation is seeing plenty of rain. Maybe it’s just us New Mexicans…

Yet another attack in an Albuquerque church this past week. Seriously. This is ridiculous, sad, and unsettling.

Mumford-Sons-2

I’m really bummed that I wasn’t able to get tickets for the Mumford and Sons concert last week in Taos. I tried.

There are times when living in a small house is not the greatest. But when it comes to cooling the place when it’s over 100 degrees outside, my old swamp cooler does a great job on our 1300 square feet. Woke up this morning and it was 67 degrees in the house. Michelle wasn’t very happy, but I was!

In Exile Here On Earth

To be in exile is to be removed from your home and not allowed back. It’s a horrible punishment, but one that is not very common in U.S.  However, in other parts of the world, it’s much more common. Here are some recent headlines I recently came across that mentioned exile:

Afghan Christians live in fear of jail, exile, or worse
Guinea’s president says former coup leader may return from exile
Exiled Islamist party leader set to return to Tunisia after 20 years

Exile has been a common punishment over the years. Consider these two famous exiles…

Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885)
French novelist (Les Miserables, Hunchback of Notre-Dame), playwright, poet, human rights campaigner. In exile from 1851 – 1870 after declaring Napoleon III a traitor to France; returned to France in 1870 and was celebrated as a national treasure until his death in 1885. He was away from France for 20 years, but he still remained very much French during that time.

The Dalai Lama (1935 – )
Head of the now-defunct theocracy that ruled a formerly independent Tibet. He’s been in exile since 1959 after the failure of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupation. He now lives in India, but he has established a Tibetan government-in-exile in India. He’s been away from Tibet for more than 50 years, but he’s still very much Tibetan.

As long as there have been people on earth, individuals, people groups, and entire nations have suffered the banishment of exile. And though we may not understand it fully, the Bible says that God’s people have been and even are today living in exile. We are not at home. We are living in exile as aliens and strangers, but many of us don’t realize it. And many of us are living as if this land, this kingdom, this culture we are living in is our own…but it’s not.

The book of 1 Peter was originally a letter designed to instruct believers on how to endure persecution without wavering in their faith. It also speaks to the believer’s position in Christ and their future hope as citizens of God’s kingdom – a kingdom that will never end. Peter wrote the letter to remind Christ-followers that we are merely sojourners here on earth. This is not our home; we’re just here on a layover, so we mustn’t get comfortable.

Peter addresses this letter with these words: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion…(1 Peter 1:1). He calls the recipients “exiles” even though none of them were literal exiles. He was writing to a mostly Gentile church who were scattered all over northern Asia. He calls them exiles right from the start to make a point that God’s people will always live in exile as long as they live on this earth.

Are we living as exiles here or not? Are we living as citizens of God’s kingdom while here on earth, or are we imbibing the culture, customs, beliefs, and practices of the kingdom in which we are living? Victor Hugo and the Dahlia Lama both set for us good examples of what it should look like to live in exile while at the same time maintaining loyalty and allegiance to their country (culture, customs, beliefs, and practices) from which they were in exile. Hugo never lost sight of being a Frenchman, and after 20 years in exile, he returned as a national hero. And after more than 50 years in exile, the Dahlia Lama is still very much Tibetan as he has established and leads the government of Tibet while being exiled from his homeland. Are we doing the same? Are we living like citizens of another kingdom and followers of another King or not?

1 Peter 1:17 says, And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile… In other words: “If you call Jesus your King, then subject yourself to Him while you are living in exile on this earth.”

We see examples of those who did this and those who didn’t when we look at the nation of Israel in exile in the Old Testament. Daniel 1 records the first wave of exile into Babylon, and Jeremiah 52 and 2 Kings 24-25 record other waves. Thousands of Israelites taken into exile in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar. Ultimately, the exile was God’s discipline on His people for their unfaithfulness to Him, and when they arrived in Babylon, God instructed them to prepare for the long-haul there:

Jeremiah 29:5-7
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

The exiled Israelites were going to be in exile for a long time, and so God instructed them to live life, marry and have more God-following children, and even pray for the Babylonian Empire knowing that their welfare would be connected to its welfare. However, God did make it clear that while there, they were not to forget their true King and His kingdom.

So, how’d they do? Well, Ezekiel 14 and 20 reports that many people forgot their King and His kingdom while in exile. And the root cause of this was materialism. Many became successful and wealthy while in Babylon, and their devotion to materialism led to conformity to Babylonian customs. Many adopted the Babylonian language, and many began worshipping their gods and idols. The historian Josephus records that when King Cyrus released Israel from exile years later that many did not want to leave because they didn’t want to leave their possessions behind. They had become assimilated into the Babylonian culture.

Daniel 1 and 3 reports a different story, but unfortunately, it seems that this was not the norm for the exiles in Babylon. In Daniel 1:8, it says that Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank… Daniel – along with men like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – resolved not to become assimilated into the Babylonian culture. They came to a definite or earnest decision not to conform. They determined that they would stay strong no matter what, and here’s how that resolve played out over the years:

Daniel 1:12-16 – They respectfully refused to eat the king’s unclean food.

Daniel 2:36-45 – Daniel boldly and bravely spoke of the coming judgment of God to the king.  In essence, Daniel told the king that another kingdom is coming that will trump his.

Daniel 3:12 – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the king, thus risking their lives.

Daniel 6:10 – Daniel refused to pray to the king, thus risking his life. Instead, he continued to pray to God.

These men – along with others, I’m sure – stood strong while they were in exile. They fought off the temptation to be assimilated into the Babylonian culture and continued to worship, serve, and remain loyal to God their King the entire time. This did not mean that they did not exercise some allegiance to the Babylonian king as I’m sure Daniel did during his 66 years of service to him, but Daniel never lost sight of who his true King was. He continued to worship Him and remained true to Him the entire time he was in exile.

So, what will it be for us? Will we be like the majority of the Babylonian exiles of Israel? Will we allow the materialism of our time to lead to assimilation and compromise. Will we allow our ultimate allegiance to be shifted from God the King and His kingdom to the kings and kingdoms of our time? Or will we be like the minority of Babylonian exiles of Israel – like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – and resolve not to cave into the pull of materialism that will lead to assimilation?

As Christians, this is not our home. We’re just here on a layover, and we must hold onto everything here loosely. Our allegiances, our loyalties, and our hearts must remain with our King and His kingdom while we are in exile here. May God strengthen us to live lives loyal to Him while we live in exile here.

Living In His Van (Down By the River!)

I used to live in Dayton, OH where I served as a youth pastor for five years.  In the winter, Dayton is a very cold place to be, and that’s why this story caught my attention.  Ryan Riddell is the pastor of Shelter Community Church of the Nazarene in Dayton, and he’s concerned about the plight of the homeless…so much so that he’s sleeping in his van this month.

While he doesn’t think a few weeks on the streets will actually help him fully empathize with the hundreds of thousands of homeless people in the U.S., he does hope to get a better understanding of how people get to be homeless and what they do to survive.

During the month in his van, he’s using his smartphone to shoot video and photos that he regularly uploads to his blog site.  Check it out if you have a few minutes.

http://30dayshomeless.wordpress.com/

The Dancin’ Church. Yee Haw!

I thought my church was pretty cutting-edge when we had a dance-floor custom built for all of the wedding receptions we host.  But, it looks like this church does its fair share of dancing too.

Sure hope the screen covering this sign is secure.  Wouldn’t want the “n” to be replaced with a “v”.  That may cause the Christian community here in town to raise a collective eyebrow.

However, if those letters were exchanged, I bet this church would be full to overflowing on Wednesday nights with people who would otherwise never grace the doors of a church.