Sunday, January 21, 2007


Philoxenia- Now that's not a word that is heard every day...probably because it's Greek! It's English pronunciation is a bit more common in speech, but unfortunately not so common in practice. It's not even a nuanced translation; philoxenia literally means "love of strangers"...and we translate it as the word "hospitality."

I did a word search for "hospitality" in the New Testament and found four instances of its use.

The first is in Romans 12:13, (ESV) "Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality." This is in a list of commands under the summary heading of "Marks of a True Christian." Obviously "Marks of a True Christian" is not part of the original text of the Bible, but is the publisher's commentary on that set of verses. Yet it is a worthy summation of the verses. So God is saying that one of the marks of a true Christian is that he seeks to show love to strangers.

The second is in I Timothy 5:10 (ESV) "and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work." This verse is in regard to the older widow's qualification for the widow's list... a list of women to be cared for by the church in their older years as needed. So one of the qualifications is that this woman has shown love to strangers...and look at the list in which this requirement is embedded! It's obviously not an afterthought or a meaningless task.

The third is in Hebrews 13:2 (ESV) "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." This follows verse 1 where we are commanded to let brotherly love continue. It would seem then, that showing love to strangers is tied to letting brotherly love continue.

The fourth is in I Peter 4:9 (ESV) "Show hospitality to one another without grumbling." This verse is in the middle of two verses commanding Christians to keep loving one another and to keep serving one another. Thus it would seem that showing love to strangers is directly related to loving one another and serving one another. In this instance, the one another is obviously other Christians, so the "stranger" here would be a brother or sister in Christ whom we don't know. By showing them love, we get to know them and thus encourage the love and unity for which Christians are to be known.

It seems that God is pretty serious about hospitality being practiced by the saints. So two questions seem to arise.

1) Just who is a "stranger?"

The immediate thought that comes to mind when asking that question is the question asked in Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, "Who is my brother?" It would seem that a stranger is anyone you don't know well. That could be another Christian at church. It could be a person in the next cubicle at work. It could be someone you just met.

The bottom line is that God is interested in you as a Christian establishing and growing relationships! God cares about people...and He obviously wants his adopted children to care about them as well. After all, relationships with people (believers) are going to be eternal! If the person is a believer, you are strengthening his faith and ministering to him and his family. If he isn't, you are putting practical effort forth to witness the Gospel to him (and maybe his family) through love and service in your own home. Either way, the person won't be a "stranger" for long!

(Does that mean you can't have anyone you know over? Of course not! Relationships are important to God, and strong relationships witness to the world. There isn't a much better way to build a relationship than over a comfortable meal!)

2) What would "hospitality" look like?

I think there is a huge difference between "hospitality" and "entertainment." There is a place for both, but one should not confuse one with the other.

"Entertainment" is the huge bash a family might put on for Thanksgiving, going all out for days to prepare a fabulous meal with all the trimmings, decorating the house and setting a table to celebrate. It requires a tremendous amount of expense and work (especially for mom!), but provides a special time for all the guests. Think, "Martha Stewart!"

"Hospitality" on the other hand is a simple inviting of a person (or family) to join you in your everyday meal. It has the feeling of "family." There isn't a huge imposition on you, other than maybe making the meal in a slightly larger quantity than you would have otherwise. Your guests are welcomed into your home to delight in a new-found relationship. The ultimate in hospitality would be to create a feeling where your guest would be comfortable enough to lie down on your couch for an after-meal nap! Obviously, that is an extreme example...but the idea is to create an environment that is genuine, comfortable, warm, inviting, and friendly. You are witnessing the love of Christ in a very direct manner. A person who feels comfortable is much more open to talking of things that are the Gospel!

The guest who is being "entertained" will undoubtedly have a special time, but it is very unlikely he will feel comfortable. He won't feel like family; he will feel like a guest. And that's the whole point of hospitality. If you "love a stranger," he will feel the family.

Think of how effective this would be in sharing the Gospel! Think of how this attitude of hospitality would affect your children; they would see their family actively and intentionally ministering to both the saints and to the unsaved. They would see the Gospel in action and in word. Think of how easily they could be involved in something this concrete! Think of how they will learn to serve and to love others. Think of how you would actually get to know your neighbors! I don't know about you, but most of our neighbors would easily qualify as "strangers!" That's a sad admission, but I suspect it is true of most people in today's world. A Christian family who intentionally and regularly practiced hospitality just within their neighborhood would be a witness to the Gospel through the first Fruit of the Spirit: love...and they would stand out from the rest of the "Christians" (see my post on the sad state of American Christianity here) in their acts of love and service through their hospitality.

So...start practicing hospitality! It is both commanded and commended by God. It shows the Gospel to an unbelieving world. It teaches your children through example.

You don't have to do it every day, or even every week at the beginning. Start with once a month...or even once every two months. But be intentional. I suspect it will be habit-forming, and would happen much more often over time. But you have to start.

How about this week?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Joy in the Journey

I don't like to keep referencing my other blog, but some of what I have written there lately applies to the purposes of both of these blogs. So rather than create the post twice...I'll just send you there through a link.

I heard a wonderful quote on Kevin Swanson's radio program today. His guest, Steve Maxwell said (paraphrased), "If our joy comes from entertainment, our joy is limited by income. But if our joy comes from serving others, we have the potential for a lifetime of joy."

I used that thought as a springboard for commentary and application. You can read about it here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Lord Foulgrin on "Radical Obedience"

As I continue to reread Lord Foulgrin's Letters by Randy Alcorn (previous post here and website here), I keep coming across excellent observations about how we, especially in America, are confounded regarding living a full Christian life. Here are a few more examples. Remember this text is from a letter to a demon underling on how to disrupt a Christian's life, in this case a man named "Fletcher."

From Chapter 21:

Focus Fletcher on yesterday or tomorrow. Let him celebrate past obedience and anticipate future obedience, as long as he doesn't obey in the present. Distract Fletcher from what the Carpenter has for him today. If nostalgia or regrets concerning the past consume him, fine. If his plans for world travel or changing jobs or building on to his house consume him, fine. The Enemy wants his service today. Everything which distracts from today's obedience serves us. (Emphasis added)

If he must be a Christian, make him a moderate one, the kind who makes sure he "doesn't go overboard" or "get radical" or "go to extremes." (emphasis added) Let his Christianity be one more category of his life, alongside business, sports, and hobbies. If that's all it is, it'll do us little harm and the Enemy little good.

In the last post from this book, I ended the quote with the thought that "an unholy world will never be won to the Carpenter by an unholy church." and the observation that the only way for the church to be holy is for the individuals within that church to be holy. Today's quotes show two distinct ways we avoid the holiness God desires for us.

The first is obedience; and not just any obedience, but obedience today, now. Each and every moment of every day should be considered in light of obeying God's commands in Christ. Today's Sunday School lesson dealt with the same issue: We show we love God most when we "hunger for righteousness." So... am I obeying now? Where have I disobeyed today? That disobedience, either active (through a conscious act of disobedience) or inactive (through inaction when one should have obeyed), is sin. As Christians we need to confess that sin before the Throne of Grace in prayer, appropriating the cleansing Blood of Christ to cover it and separate it from us as far as the east is from the west. And then...obey!

The second is the fear of being "radical" or "extreme." If we actually were to obey God, our lives would look far different than the world around us. Even those within the church would drag out the labels "radical" and "extreme" in an attempt to bring us back in line with the prevailing evangelical culture. (I've been called those names by people who have read what I have written in my blogs, and I must admit it's encouraging to read respected authors who think similarly to what I've written!) Unfortunately, those labels work very well to squelch the fire of many a well-meaning Christian who desires to go hard after Christ. Alcorn is making the point that we don't make Christianity our life but rather just one more category to go alongside all the other things we do. Especially when we have children, we "fit it in" alongside all the sports and activities instead of letting it regulate what we do and how we look at all those sports and activities. What would our lives look like if we actually lived as Christians and not as people of the world who also wear the cloak of Christianity?

Even more importantly, how would we impact our world of we actually lived as Christians instead of as "...a baptized version of the world with mere cosmetic differences?"

Can we start focusing on the present when it comes to obedience?
Can we actually be radical and extreme and not worry about the labels?
Can we actually show Christ to the world through our very lives?

My prayer is the answer would be "YES!"

Monday, January 08, 2007

Post on Prayer

Over at my Home Discipling Dad blog, I have posted regarding prayer. The majority of the post is generic and outlines John Bunyan's thoughts on what true prayer is. As such, it is applicable to the mission of this blog as well and I would commend it to you.

May we all learn more about the wonderful privilege of approaching the Throne of Grace in prayer!

Living the Radical Life

"Our people are laid waste with sexual temptation and failure and guilt because their soul and their mind have shriveled down to the size of a TV sitcom."

It's not often that I simply direct you to another website, but there are two articles/blog posts that seem to have immense practical application to holiness and serving Jesus as Lord. The quote above comes from the first. It is the written version of a sermon given by Pastor John Piper to Passion 2007 just this last week in Atlanta. The article deals primarily with sexual sin, but its point could just as easily be applied to any sin and that sin's accompanying guilt, both of which paralyze us to radical service to our Lord. Although somewhat lengthy, I would commend it to you in its entirety. Print it out, sit down with a cup of take action on what you read!

It can be found here.

A second link is a set of blog posts is by Joshua Harris, senior pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD. These posts flow out of a couple of sermons given at the beginning of the year on Psalm 90. In particular, Harris focuses on the verse, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." When you consider what God has to say about himself versus us as finite humans and then compare it to what A.W. Tozer has said in Knowledge of the Holy (blog post here, here, and here), it will help you to continue to put God in His proper sphere, while teaching us to consider what it truly important in our short lives.

Harris makes several posts on the topic and the sermon on the subject can be accessed from the first few posts as well. They can be found:

here, here, here, here, here, and here.

May you be blessed by these wonderful gentlemen's writings... and may they help you serve the Lord in a radical, life-changing, Kingdom-advancing, Gospel-bringing manner.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Lord Foulgrin on "Feelings"

Randy Alcorn of Eternal Perspectives Ministries is a prolific author of both fiction and nonfiction. I am particularly drawn to his fictional works because of the truths that are so effectively taught through his stories. I've read most of his stories more than once. Right now I am rereading Lord Foulgrin's Letters and came across a good quote to launch a post. Letters is in the same vein as C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, but it includes an ongoing story about a human family currently being plotted against by the demons. This passage is from a letter from Lord Foulgrin to his protege, so it is written from the perspective of a demon.

What's most exciting is how we've served up moral relativism to the forbidden squadron. Relativism reigns in the church--the sludgebags improvise morals as they go. Ask Conhock about it. One of his patients recently walked away from her marriage because "the Holy Spirit gave me a peace about it." And her so-called Christian friends offered no argument! After all, they were to "judge not," and show love to their friend by refraining from disagreement.

There've always been Christian sludgebags who disobey the forbidden book. But there have never been so many who kept right on going to church and claiming the spiritual high ground in the midst of their disobedience.

The vermin explain their sin with sanctimonious language like, "We've prayed about it and sought counsel, and we feel it's the right thing to do." Don't let it dawn on them that to the Enemy what they feel is inconsequential (emphasis added). His moral laws--confound them--don't give a rip about how any of us feel. The sludgebags have no more power to vote them in and out of existence than they have power to revoke the law of gravity.

...the forbidden squadron will never be more than a baptized version of the world, with mere cosmetic differences.

Take cheer, Squaltaint. An unholy world will never be won to the Carpenter by an unholy church (emphasis added).

In just a few paragraphs, Alcorn has targeted two of the major problems in the church today: the misapplication of "Judge not lest you be judged." and the reliance upon feelings rather than obedience to determine truth and direction.

"Judge not" is a post-modernists dream, for its misapplication almost immediately silences all criticism and discernment. However, we as Christians are called to judge (discern) all the time. This verse is more pointed...we cannot judge as God judges. That's a huge difference. We should absolutely judge when it comes to the breaking of God's moral statutes, especially by those who claim allegiance to Christ.

In this therapeutic age, we give far too much credence to "feelings" when determining right and wrong, determining truth or falsehood, or determining direction in life. God's patterns, principles, and precepts are not subject to how a person "feels" about them on a given day. Rather, they are absolute. As a believer, God expects you to invoke the power of the Holy Spirit and act according to His commands...regardless of how you feel! To do so will result in that pattern of action becoming normative in your life...and you are one more step along the path of sanctification!

Both of these attitudes, the lack of discernment and the reliance upon feelings, cause the church to be a mere "baptized version of the world." If there is to be an impact upon our world, we must be a holy church, and to be a holy church, we must be a holy people. That will only happen if we are a separate people who live according to God's revealed Word.

So, as a start in countering the falsehoods put forth by the demons (and our culture):

1. Judge in a discerning manner according to the Word of God!

2.Don't listen to feelings (feelings lie), but rather obey God's Word in the power of the Spirit!