Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ishmael Moment's

Have you ever had an Ishmael moment? You know, like Abraham and Sarah, you grow impatient, or become frightened that the way it seemed as a dream or promise was going to be fulfilled may not happen, so you decide to help God out. For Sarah, it was the suggestion that Abraham have a son by her servant Hagar. (I always find it interesting that Abraham didn't argue about the idea, but was perfectly willing to spend a night with Hagar, but that's another story.) So Ishmael is born.

But this wasn't God's plan. What happened? I think Abraham got so locked in on what he wanted that he wasn't willing to let God do what God wanted to do. In Genesis 15:2, after God tells Abraham about all the ways He is going to bless him, Abraham says: “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son?” Abraham had such tunnel-vision on what he wanted, he was willing to go outside of God's will to acquire what he wanted...a son.

But Abraham didn't understand that God’s promises aren’t just goods and blessings to make us happy. Though God does want us to be happy and He does give us good gifts, the deeper meaning is what lies behind the promise. Abraham wanted a son and it would have been nothing for God to give him a son quickly. But the bigger picture was how God established His covenant and sealed it with a miraculous promise. The promise wasn’t just Isaac, but the never-ending promise that linked Isaac to the coming redemption of Jesus Christ on the cross. Isaac was only a piece of the bigger plan of God.

But most of us are not too unlike Abraham. We get so focused in on our dream, our desire, or our problem, that we are willing to step outside of God's promise to move us either close to our dream or resolve our problem. And most of us have to admit, that like Abraham, the times we have done that have created tremendous issues for us.

Let me close today by giving you two suggestions when you are tempted with Ishmael moments. Of course, number 1 is, trust God to accomplish what He has promised in His way. His way will always be better. And number 2, if you have had an Ishmael moment and you are struggling with the consequences of your choices, take heart. God is a master and blessing our Ishmael moments. More about that next time!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


It is a part of life that all of us have to experience, yet few of us enjoy...waiting. Whether it is waiting at the doctor's office, waiting at a red-light, waiting at a restaurant, or waiting for a sermon to get over so we can go wait at a restaurant, waiting is a shared struggle in the human experience.

One of the more difficult things about being a Christian is waiting on God after God has made a promise to us. Abraham and Sarah certainly knew what it was like to wait on the Lord. Twenty-five years passed from the time God promised a son to them until the fulfillment of that promise was realized.

So I think we can call Abraham an expert on waiting. Later this week, we are going to look at two wrong responses we have when we are forced to wait on the Lord, and three right responses that Abraham demonstrates while waiting on the Lord.

But let me leave you today with this wonderful promise to those who find themselves in a position of waiting on the Lord. It is found in Isaiah 40: "But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."

Friday, August 9, 2013

How We Treat Our Guests Is Important

Why is hospitality so important? We, who tend to come to church every week, kind of take for granted that we will be here again next week, and the next week. But almost every Sunday, there is someone at our church who may never return. Perhaps some are because of sickness; others because of death; but, most will simply choose not to return.

So every time we walk in these doors, there is a good possibility that there is someone here that this will be the only shot we get to fully express the love of God to them. (1 John 4:12).

I love the way Pastor Brad Powell of Northridge Church in Michigan tells the story. If you have about three minutes listen to this story:

So how do we practice hospitality (Romans 12:13)? In Genesis 18:1-8, we are told of a time when Abraham welcomed some guests into his home. There are six things he did, that I think would help us as endeavor to practice hospitality:

1) He made them feel welcome (verse 1-3). This is more than shaking hands and saying "Welcome". It is having a servants attitude towards our guest.
2) He refreshed them (verse 4). People who enter our church need to be refreshed from the struggles of their daily lives.
3) He offered them rest (verse 4). There are all kinds of things that take place in the secular world that we need to ensure don't happen inside our walls: battles, politics, anger, etc.
4) He gave them the best seat (verse 4). Maybe the back rows should be reserved for guests!
5) He energized them for their journey (verse 5). May the people who leave our church on Sunday fell charged for the week ahead!
6) He stood ready and willing to serve (verses 2, 8). For the people who call Hickory Valley their home, church is not a place we come to be served, but a place to serve.

As Brad reminds us, let me re-interate something that we have a tendency to let slip into the background. Every Sunday, we will have someone for whom eternity is on the line. In fact, every day we will meet someone for whom eternity is on the life. Our faithfulness to worship, our attitudes toward servanthood, our acceptance of our guests, may make all the difference for eternity.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hospitality Is The Heart Of God

The God that we serve is welcoming. He pursues us and loves us. 1 John 4:12 says, “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression through us.” John is basically saying, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” His logic is: No one has ever seen God, but Jesus came and he made God known.

John also says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love, we make him known.”

The Greek word for full expression is exēgesatō. It means exegesis or exegete. When you exegete a passage of Scripture, you discover the original meaning or full expression. John says that Jesus exegetes the meaning of God. He removes all of our interpretations, and he shows us God in his full nature.

John also says that we get to exegete God by loving others. The Pharisees thought that God was a nitpicker, a rule keeper. Jesus exegetes God in a whole new way: God full of grace and truth. The story of the Prodigal Son exegetes God as having a heart of radical, costly, extravagant welcome.

Jesus exegetes God and he wants us to do the same. That’s our job. In Western culture, we use hospitality to mean this: Inviting someone we like for a brief visit. This isn’t bad, but that’s not how the Bible defines hospitality. Here’s God’s hospitality: Pursuing us in order to win us at a costly love, willing to die for them in order to adopt them as sons and daughters of heaven, to come live in your house forever. Some theologians say the chief attribute of God is hospitality.

The word hospital captures this sense of divine hospitality. The more busted up you are at the hospital, the more priority you get. That’s getting close to divine hospitality. When we are willing to sacrifice and stretch our own comfort zone to welcome others, That’s how we exegete our God.  We are willing to stretch ourselves to serve those who are busted up.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Practice Hospitality

A mother invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to her six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?" "I wouldn’t know what to say," the girl replied. "Just say what you hear Mommy say," the mother answered. The little girl bowed her head and with sincerity in her voice said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"

Listen to these words by the apostle Paul concerning hospitality found in Romans 12:13: “Share with God people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Notice that he doesn’t say, “Show hospitality”. But “Practice hospitality”.

I love this old school video from the Beverly Hillbillies when Granny is missing Southern hospitality after the Clampett clan move to Beverly Hills.

Why do we need to practice hospitality? Why do we need to practice anything? Because the more we practice it, the better we get at it. Now I have a theory. I don’t know if you can prove it, but I believe it is true. And since I said it is a theory, it really doesn’t matter if it is true or not, I can state it whether it is or not (just kidding). I do believe this theory is true. Here it is: Left to ourselves, we tend to drift from relationships rather than toward them. We tend to drift toward isolation rather than community. We tend drift toward separation rather than inclusion. To become good at community, at inclusion, we have to practice hospitality.

That’s my theory. You can decide whether you agree or not. I just know that when guests visit a church, the natural tendency of most people is to stay away from them rather than approach them.

This week we are going to look at how God is hospitable, a Biblical example of hospitality, and why  hospitality is especially important for a church?