"Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness." 1 Chronicles 16:29
“Holy LORD I am so grateful there is You. You who are above all, above all kings and leaders. Above my need to be ruler of my own kingdom. Your Kingdom is full of the glory of your majesty and nothing, absolutely nothing is better than that! Amen”
I kept hearing today about the glory of God’s kingdom, His presence being above all with nothing greater than Him. Through songs, scripture and even the sermon from church. “No one, no one, no one, no one but You LORD is higher or greater” is the song verse that happens to be playing right now as I write this.
How often do we forget this? We have our tiny kingdoms that we work so hard to protect and maybe even rule over. Our schedules, our bills, our children, our stuff, our opinions – all things so much lowlier than what God’s kingdom has to offer us. And we too frequently forget to look above our kingdom walls toward His holy skies and fall on our knees in reverence.
"For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him."Colossians 1:16
I just got through reading this verse in my current study about God the Son. Yet another poke at me to remember who made it all and who is fully in charge. And even more shocking to some – who it is all for.
Look around, none of this is for your kingdom or mine. It’s all for His glory. Which, because God loves us so much, His kingdom is also ours – for those who believe and obey His commandments. He wants so much more for us. Not just our little kingdoms. Yes, He wants us to take care of all He has gifted us but for the greater kingdom. That means each time we have the opportunity to teach our kids about Him, we do. Each time we should show love and forgiveness to our spouse, we do. Each time we see the chance to use our financial gifts to glorify Him, we do. Each time we can show hospitality in His name, we do.
Friend, the Kingdom doors are so wide, welcoming and beautiful! Drop to your knees and give thanks to God He is so much bigger than this small world we have built. And turn yourself into the only offering He has ever wanted – you.
But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a “doer.” In the Bible, Martha is my spirit animal. I can so easily picture myself cooking and cleaning all day, getting ready for Jesus to come for dinner. Then while He is at my house I’m running around making sure the drinks are filled and people have enough to eat. Cleaning up spills and getting a jump on doing the dishes. All the while, slightly annoyed that others are sitting at His feet, enjoying His company while I slave away.
There’s a lot of pride wrapped up in that thinking. And I’ve had to learn to accept my “doing” nature while learning two things: 1) accepting that other people are born to be the type to relax and soak up the moment and 2) learning how to balance being a doer and not missing out on those special moments. Because Jesus admonishes us from His teachings in the gospels to His messages in Revelation to “return to our first love.” Meaning, Him.
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
This was the message to the church in Ephesus. They were doers. They took James’ messages to heart. They worked hard, served many and were also great at making sure false teachers didn’t enter their midst. But they forgot to be in awe and wonder for the Lord.
How often, when we feel like we are moving away from our faith do we turn to “doing” more rather than taking up Mary’s approach – sitting in awe and wonder at His feet?
Wonders are things out of the common, unusual things, extraordinary things. Usually they are unexpected; we wonder at them partly because they are novel and surprising. They take us aback; they are things which we looked not for. When they come they astonish us, and put us both in a muse and in a maze. We look, and look, and look, and cannot believe our eyes; we hear, and hear, and scarce believe our ears.
Sometimes I find myself listening to a story of wonder by a fellow Christian – a story where God has worked miraculously in their life – and I do a quick acknowledgement and move forward. As though this moment where God touched their life was so humdrum ordinary!
In a commentary on the restoration of our first love – the awe and wonder of Jesus Christ – Warren Wiersbe challenges us to take these steps:
Remember what we have lost.
Think back to when we were so excited about our relationship with the Lord. Remember when He has worked miraculously in our lives. Recall when we cried during our singing at church while we lifted our hands up to Him!
Repent (Change) our minds.
Decide that we want that awe, wonder and love back! It sounds obvious but if you haven’t done it yet, evaluate why.
Repeat your “1st Works.”
What are those? It was when you were devoted to prayer, mediation, Bible reading, service in His name, and worship
Thankfully, the world and God need both Marthas and Marys. When I get caught up in my “Martha-ness” I remember that Jesus had His own special relationship with Her. It was Martha that ran out to meet Jesus after Lazarus had died. She proclaimed to Him that she believed Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God.
For some people, life may be monotonous and meaningless; but it doesn’t have to be. For the Christian believer, life is an open door, not a closed circle; there are daily experiences of new blessings from the Lord.
I want to always be in touch with my “First Love.” I want to live with that sense of awe and wonder. And when I feel it fading I need only to sit in quiet mediation and allow His Holy Spirit to rekindle the flame within me.
Lesson #1: Show hospitality to strangers, they may be God’s heaven-sent angels
Dear friend, you are faithful in
what you are doing for the brothers
and sisters, even though they are
strangers to you.3 John 5
The saying goes, “A man’s home is his castle.” And we might add to that, “surrounded by a deep moat, protected by a closed drawbridge.” At least that’s how it seems so many have come to treat their abodes. But the concept of hospitality has a long history for us Christians.
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”
"No," they answered, "we will spend the night in the square."
But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.Genesis 19: 1-3
In Leviticus we are admonished to treat the traveler as one of our own family. And throughout the New Testament we see the kindness of various townsfolk welcoming Jesus and the disciples along the way. Without these strangers’ help they would’ve found themselves hungry and without a bed on which to lie their head.
And in our smallest Bible book, 3 John, we see the work of a church elder named Gaius. The news of his hospitality and kindness toward fellow Christians reached John who noted how it brought him “great joy.”
But why is hospitality a life lesson? The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenos from the two words philos (friend) and xenos (stranger) and it means to show proper warmth or friendliness to strangers. It also means to have the readiness to share our home and other treasures. So often when we think of hospitality in our home it means inviting friends and family for dinners and parties. But strangers? Pull up the drawbridge and release the piranhas into the moat!
So what is Christian hospitality?
Answering calls from the church to hosts missionaries and guests
Inviting church elders over for meals
Hosting church activities such as Bible study in our homes
Reaching out to our unfamiliar neighbors and inviting them over for coffee
Being a welcoming face at church – not just a smile but showing a genuine interest in a new face
I wonder how many of us (I raise my hand) have read in the church bulletin about a visiting missionary needing a place to stay for a week or a car to borrow and we thought at best “Yea, I don’t feel comfortable with that” and at worst didn’t think about it at all?
I have a friend who has always held her Catholic priests in very high honor. It borders on being afraid of them. And when a friend of hers invited her to have a private gathering with a local priest she was aghast that it was all so, well, normal. It reminds me of when my kids were in elementary school and they thought the teacher didn’t have a life outside the classroom. But church leaders are people in addition to their divinely appointed roles. They enjoy fellowship just like you and me!
What hospitality is not.
Allowing situations in our home where guests openly sin
Inviting guests out of a sense of obligation, not love
Feeling the need to have our homes be perfect before inviting guests
Let’s look at number 1. Many years ago, my husband and I invited his brother and his brother’s girlfriend out for a visit. They couldn’t afford to travel so we let them stay at our home. Under one condition. They’d have to sleep in separate rooms. As a fairly new Christian, this was the first time I really stood my ground as the “new me.” Initially, my brother-in-law took issue with this. He commented that my husband and I had lived together before marriage so why should we now place this restriction on him – wasn’t that hypocritical? Friends, let’s be honest. Before we were made new in Christ, we did a lot of stupid, dangerous, sinful things. It’s ok to now say those things were wrong. And being that our house is our castle, you can make any rule you want. We didn’t place judgement on what he did outside our home, we just drew a line as to what was going to happen in our home, around our children. Our hospitality included the use of our home but not the erasure of our morals. The result? They both came and had a great time plus we were able to witness to my brother in law the changes Christ had made in our lives.
Number two seems obvious but when people take action out of a sense of obligation rather than love, the road can get bumpy. I read the story of a pastor who was invited to speak at a church. The host family welcomed him in, showed him his room and then preceded to tell him they didn’t feel it was their responsibility to feed him. They also worked very hard to completely ignore him over the course of five days. They did their “Christian duty” in their eyes. But can we really call that true Christian hospitality? I hope not.
The key to good hospitality isn’t found in the externals, like linen tablecloths and exquisitely furnished guest bedrooms, but in qualities like servanthood, a listening ear, and an encouraging word.
When I was involved in PTA there was a chair position called “hospitality.” What that entitled was setting up a beautifully appointed table of yummy food at various events. Shouldn’t a church body’s goal be more of the philoxenos version? How many times does your church have to beg people to be greeters or to host a home Bible study? Our church volunteer coordinators should be overwhelmed by the requests to be able to say “hello!” and shake hands with new people. We should have too many homes (large and tiny) from which to choose for Bible study. We may not be the Hospitality Chair but we should all be committee members!
We ought therefore to show hospitality
to such people (the faithful) so that we
may work together for the truth.3 John 8
A Christian who lives with an active approach to philoxenos brings God a lot of joy, just like Gaius did for John. We are reminded in the Old Testament that at one point in our lives we were all strangers. Strangers hoping for someone to reach out and say “hello.” Strangers hoping someone would show us God’s love. We need to assume that person is us.
Throughout the Bible we are taught how the least becomes the most, the youngest becomes the greatest, and the weak become strong. In my journey of studying the Bible I’ve flipped past seemingly insignificant books as I searched through the powerful messages of the Gospels and the insightful letters to the Corinthians and Ephesians. And we all know from popular culture about Noah, Moses and even Job. But what about those tiny books with odd names like Philemon, Obadiah and Jude? What can four short paragraphs in 3 John even tell us?
When you do a Google search for “the shortest books in the Bible” you find five books:
3 John: 219 words
2 John: 245 words
Philemon: 335 words
Obadiah: 440 words
Jude: 461 words
They are all tiny yet mighty books placed purposefully by the ancient church in our Bibles. They are fascinating to read, not just in their lessons but for their glimpses into the real lives of the prophets and disciples. They speak of trials, friendships, conflict, success and failure. They show the good work of the people of God – spreading His love and messages.
These five books remind us that as one tiny person in a world of millions we can play an integral part in God’s plan. We can switch from saying, “who am I?” to “I am here, Lord, send me!” Their lessons include picking role models, how to deal with conflict, true hospitality, forgiveness, social change, handling false teachers, and so much more.
Please join me in this five-week study as I glean life lessons from these powerful, yet tiny books of the Bible. Each week, starting February 15, three lessons will be discussed from one of the books and posted on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Be sure to follow emboldened.net to receive your posts via email. I look forward to having you join me on this Tiny Yet Mighty adventure!
Listen diligently to me, and eat
what is good, and delight yourselves
in rich food. Incline your ear,
and come to me;hear, that your soul
may live;and I will make with
you an everlasting covenant,
Jesus said to them, “I am the
bread of life; whoever comes to
me shall not hunger, and whoever
believes in me shall never thirst.
As so many of us prepare to enjoy delicious Christmas meals and beautifully wrapped gifts it’s easy to overlook that most of what we call “Christmas” isn’t necessary. Stripped down, Christmas is about one thing – God’s promise to deliver us the greatest gift, His son Jesus.
This year our “Christmas” seems a bit different. We are missing family and friends. But the promise I wanted to share with you is this, he always provides for us. Even in times that seem bare, He provides. In fact, the opportunity to truly appreciate what we do have is when situations seem the most difficult. It’s lessons like that which Jesus passed along to us through His bloodline.
He will provide in the most God-like ways – a stranger lends a hand, a paycheck bonus comes at the right time, an offer of food from a neighbor when you need it most. And the covenant agreement we need to uphold and hold on to is to trust in that promise.
I pray every day that what I write in this blog is what someone, even just one person, needs to hear from God. And the other day I was thinking about which Isaiah verse to use for Christmas. That day, my friend Betsy shared a story written by her sister for her local church. As she read it, all I kept hearing was “He provides.” I asked if I could share her beautiful family story here. Betsy’s family bloodline has passed down some amazing lessons. I hope you enjoy it!
A Privileged Life Growing Up By Rachel Mueller
I’m the oldest daughter of an Episcopal priest. I found growing up totally immersed in the culture of the Episcopal Church something very special.
This photo was taken July 2, 1953 for the Glendale California News Press announcing that my father was to be the new rector of St. Luke’s of the Mountains, La Crescenta, California and it introduced our family to the community. One of five and the oldest, you will see me pictured to the right of my father and holding my favorite Madam Alexander doll. My younger two brothers and two sisters completed our family – yes, five children in six years, something my mother said raised eyebrows at our new church! We lived in the large rectory, which was next door to the church and suited our big family perfectly. Apparently while constructing this new house, there was some opposition on the vestry to its size. And supposedly the previous Rector said, “Well, who knows? The next Rector might have five children.” Perhaps the Search Committee went looking for a priest with five children to justify their new building.
Living next door to the church, we were very much aware of all the church activities on a daily basis. There was always something, be it the regular church services, a wedding, funeral or special events. My father believed his family was an extension of him, so we were taught to answer the telephone properly; in my case “St. Luke’s Rectory, Rachel speaking” and to take messages in detail and often answer questions such as the times of the church services, or dates of meetings. In a way our parents used us as extra employees — we gave out keys, opened doors, passed the cookies at vestry meetings, set up the tables and chairs for parish events, washed the coffee cups after church on Sunday, went with our father to visit people in the hospital, took food to orphanages, helped relocate refugees (first the Dutch Indonesians, then Cubans, and later Vietnamese), and helped load real sheep into our station wagon for the live Nativity outside the front of the church at Christmas. Anything going on at the church was dinner table conversation, including who was sick and in the hospital, or just died, or had a baby. The doorbell rang morning, noon and night with someone wanting something, or wondering “Where’s Fr. Sadler?” It was a constant in our life. The parish got to know us, and we quickly learned the names of all the parishioners.
In contrast to many clergy today, our father always wore a black shirt (not grey, or blue or some other color) and his clerical collar. I don’t remember ever seeing him not wearing this “uniform” until years after he retired. Even on his day off he was dressed in “the collar”. He was very active in our community which made him well known, which in turn brought great benefits to our family. He was usually the clergyman on stage at our school graduations, there to give the invocation or benediction, which made me very proud. Everywhere we went folks would stop him to say hello and show us special kindness. We were often invited to parishioners’ home to swim on hot afternoons. We were treated to Disneyland when it first opened. There were always special gifts of food and goodies at holidays – items that weren’t part of our regular family fare.
The most important lesson I learned from my father was “God will provide.” So many wonderful things happened to us, I thought we were very wealthy. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I learned what salary my father actually made. I couldn’t believe it. On paper we were poor. But our lives were rich and much more interesting than those of my friends. For example, we might suddenly have some homeless folks at the dinner table. My mother would just say “Rachel, please set the table for three more.” We often would never see those people again but the memory and lesson of hospitality remain.
I could fill a book with stories of wonderful things that happened to us as a result of living in a family grounded in love, trusting that “God will provide” and accepting life as it comes; but enough for now.
And he said to his disciples,
“Therefore I tell you, do not
be anxious about your life, what
you will eat, nor about your body,
what you will put on. For life is
more than food, and the body more
than clothing. Consider the ravens:
they neither sow nor reap, they
have neither storehouse nor barn,
and yet God feeds them. Of how much
more value are you than the birds!