Looking to Jesus

So how do we “look unto Jesus” in our daily lives?

I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.   — Psalm 119:147

The most obvious example that comes to mind is: to whom do I look first thing every morning? Whether it is first before anything or the first activity requiring thought, am I looking to the Word for sustenance? It is tempting to look to our family members and their needs, or even to social media to check on what happened in the world, but then we are distracting ourselves from the “one thing.” When we look to the Word, we will let Him set the tone for our minds, our hearts and our days.

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.   — Psalm 5:3

Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.   — Psalm 119:97

Building on that, as we move through the day, are we basing our actions on a desire for Christ-likeness? Are we feeding our own selfish pride or seeking to reflect the humility of Christ?

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  — Philippians 2:1-7

Scripture is also full of wisdom for life, which guides us through countless small daily decisions and also tough decisions. When we come to a crossroad and don’t know which way to go, we do have a Guide and can trust Him to provide what we need to make good choices. When we need to respond to a situation, having already saturated ourselves with who Christ is and the truth in His word as discussed above, we will be able to respond well.

For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding — Proverbs 2:6

As we feel weak, where do we look for help? Do we make everything work ourselves? Or do we acknowledge our weakness and His strength, deepening our trust in Him?

The Lordis my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.  — Psalm 28:7

What do we do when fear takes hold on occasion? Our sovereign God is our Rock, and trusting in Him is the best answer to our fear.

Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?  — Psalm 56:3-4

These are just a few examples, and I’d love to see others share encouragement. Please comment below with how you have turned your eyes to Christ in your life.

Eyes on the Prize

One morning this summer we thoroughly enjoyed heading out to the country and shooting clays. It is one of my hobbies, and this particular morning was a real winner. The sun was shining. There was a nice breeze. Clays were shattering. It was beautiful!

As I have been learning and improving, some expert advice was given that was helpful in the process: Keep your eye on the clay. Get your stance correct and solid. If you are in the right position, your body will naturally follow your eye.

It is true. When I was focused where I should be, I was successful. The shots I missed were most often because I wasn’t paying attention or got distracted by a bug or didn’t move past a comment from the peanut gallery.

As we left the field after shooting that morning, I thought about how the principle works for more than just shotguns.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Our lives tend to follow our focus. When our eyes are on Christ, we can follow Him much more easily. Our lives will naturally follow our attention. (Speaking for myself, I NEED that aid.) We will not be drawn off the racetrack by distractions. Sin will have a harder time trapping us. We will not be confused about where we are heading. We will be motivated by the glory we view ahead. We will see our Savior and know the path to joy.

Committed Love

 

But Ruth said:
“Entreat me not to leave you,

Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”

These words are a beautiful expression of the committed love Ruth showed Naomi, a reflective flicker of the incredible covenantal love of God for His people.

In our premarital counseling, our pastor reminded us that sometimes marriage will require love that will stay in the car and ride even into the ditch. You can see the danger ahead and calmly share your concern, but sometimes the decision is still to continue. You then buckle up and ride out the crash (and pay the repair bill and allow the bruises to heal) together. Note: this is not referring to life-or-death or sin situations.

Yes, commitment is that committed. Committed love goes all the way to the end. The idea is beautiful and we love being loved that way, but how often are we committed?

How often will we go out to eat IF we like the restaurant? If it’s not a menu we like, it doesn’t matter with whom we are eating (never mind Proverbs 15:17).

How much have we been willing to be friends AS LONG as we share interests and think alike? It’s more efficient and comfortable. No need to stretch (Proverbs 27:17).

Have you ever caught yourself thinking, I’ll love AS LONG as they love me? Fair is fair, and I have my rights.

I have fallen in all these traps. That’s not love; it’s an even exchange of goods.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.” — John 15:12-14

We often think of the Ruth passage related to weddings. I find it interesting that neither of these Scriptures are referring to marriage. Ruth loved her mother-in-law. Christ commanded His disciples, and by extension the church.

Who are we loving today?

sanddunes-2

 

Kingdom Hospitality

by Mary Clare Freel

Hospitality gives us the opportunity to minister to the household of faith and beyond. In this session we want to explore various ways Scripture exhorts us to practice hospitality. With that in mind, let us look at different types of people to which our hospitality is to extend.

Those in the Family of God — Acts 2:46-47, Romans 12:13, I Peter 4:8-9

All these passages are within the context of functioning within the body of Christ. Believers are joyfully fellowshipping together. This should not be radical thinking within the church, but unfortunately it is. It should be a natural outflow of our love for one another.

What are particular ways to express hospitality to the saints? You may be one who hosts a Bible study in your home, or prayer group (Acts 5:42). When our church first started, for the first year we met in homes. Another way is by hosting guest preachers or missionaries in your home as they pass through (I Kings 4) or are on furlough. Your house may be a stopover for traveling Christians — friends, relatives, church conference attendees, or friends of friends. It helps establish relationships with those in other local churches. College students may need a home away from home, a weekend family for them. Inviting church members or visitors over for a meal should be a regular practice in the church.

Ministering to Strangers — Hebrews 13:1-2

We live in a violent society, one of locked doors and security systems. In the newspapers we read of atrocities committed daily, so the idea of allowing strangers into our homes is somewhat uncomfortable.

Remember the story of Lot in Genesis 18 & 19? Lot lived in one of the most violent, sinful cities since the Flood, so much so that God destroyed it for the lack of 10 righteous people. It is in this setting Lot invited these strangers into his home. What if Lot had not extended hospitality? He would have perished with the rest in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Entrusting God to take care of us, do we throw caution to the wind? We must use wisdom and discernment when dealing with strangers. I am not suggesting that you invite a strange man knocking at your door in for tea while your husband is away, but we can be willing to have those whom we do not know into your home. Perhaps seek out opportunities to do this. Mutual acquaintances are strangers to you, but have been recommended by someone.

Some options are radical hospitality, and not everyone is equipped to do this. You may have troubled individuals into your home for temporary housing. Housing for those involved in a natural disaster may be an excellent opportunity as well. Foster parenting or adoption may be an option. These all require your family to be on a strong footing and your home organized. You and your family will also need the ability to give of yourselves emotionally (James 1:27). There are also government regulations connected with fostering and adoption, so there is much to consider beforehand.

Hospitality to Enemies — Proverbs 25:22, Matthew 5:38-48

How do we express hospitality to enemies? Enemies are not just people that get on our nerves; an enemy is one that feels malice or hostility towards another. Ideally, this should not be believers. It may be a neighbor angry with you for some reason. Or a work situation. Enemies of God are our enemies. They may hate us because of our faith. God can and will handle His enemies.

You can go the extra mile. If your enemy loses his job and can’t pay the bills, you can offer meals or financial help. If their house burns, you could offer housing. Romans 12:18 says to live at peace with them as far as possible. God may use your gentle kindness, your hospitable attitude, your peaceful way of responding to your enemy, to humble him and bring him to Christ or to reconciliation with you.

A Biblical Means of Evangelism — Acts 5:42

Hospitality is a creative, but not manipulative, means of evangelism. Invite neighbors and coworkers into your home and get to know them. This is friendship evangelism. Encourage your children to ask friends over. Welcome them to stay for dinner and be a part of your family — especially those who come from troubled homes. Karen Mains, in her book Open Heart, Open Home, likened her home to a maternity ward where she saw many born into the kingdom. Your home may be the very place that God uses to bring someone from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, and you can experience that joy firsthand!

Now that we have discussed so many opportunities, your ideas may be flowing at an overwhelming level. Our next post will explore ways to simplify hospitality and hopefully relieve some of the apprehension of it.

God’s Call to Practice Hospitality

by Mary Clare Freel

The pattern of hospitality starts with leadership. Elders and deacons are servant leaders and pattern hospitality to the body they serve. They are given to the church for the very purpose of equipping the saints to minister in the body of Christ. See I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

A word to elders’ wives: Much falls on you here. Your attitude towards hospitality is a key element in your husband’s success as an elder. A good deal of shepherding can take place in the context of your home.

But all believers are expected to practice hospitality. The rest of you are not off the hook. The congregation cannot leave hospitality in the hands of the elders. Some are gifted with hospitality, but we are all told to practice it. It is a way that our love for each other is acted out.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Romans 12:9-13

Note, we cannot pick and choose how to love. We are responsible for all the commands above. Love is very practical — not a mushy feeling that fluctuates like the weather. None of these aspects are always easy, nor are they always convenient, but all are important.

As Christians, our homes belong to Christ, and we cannot have the mindset that, “This is all mine, and I don’t want any of it messed up.” We have been purchased by the blood of Christ, and all we have is provided by God to use for His glory — money, time, food, clothes and our homes. We are stewards and must use them wisely, but always with a loose grip.

If all this sounds foreign to you, and the idea of serving someone is repugnant to you, maybe it is time to search your own heart. Maybe you have never considered where you are in relationship to God. If you have not humbled yourself before Him in repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that is the matter at hand for you. Your are not one of His servants. Either you are a slave to your own sin or you are a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no greater goal or higher purpose in all of life than knowing and serving the Lord Jesus Christ. To have a relationship with the Lord of the universe is what you were created for.

The home is a useful tool in the service of the King. Consider how to serve God with your homes. Pray and ask Him to show you opportunities and make you willing. Be ready to respond accordingly because opportunities will certainly come your way. They may come in the form of little children. I used to find myself grumbling about the neighborhood kids playing at our house so much. They are food vacuums and mess makers. Jesus reminds me in the gospels that to give a cup of water to a little child is a way of serving Him. It may not be children. It may be distressed souls. It may be a neighbor suffering in her marriage. It may be the elderly. It may be anyone.

Be proactive in hospitality; don’t just wait for the perfect opportunity. Invite people over. Volunteer to host church activities, depending on the room you have. Manage your home well so you are not thrown off by spur-of-the-moment guests. You don’t have to be a great housekeeper to be hospitable, but it sure helps to be organized. Keep your pantry stocked. Efficient cleaning routines are helpful. Involve your children.

Be sensitive to those who live in your home when considering hospitality (i.e., roommates, parents, your own family). In your zeal, don’t forget to be considerate of them. If you are unable to practice hospitality in your home, you can offer to help to host a fellowship dinner with a friend at her house. A heart of service is the key. God knows your heart and will honor your willingness to use what you have for His glory.

I hope you see from Scriptures that it is the responsibility and privilege of all in the body of Christ to share in the ministry of hospitality. In our next post we will discuss the various ways hospitality is used for the advancement of the kingdom of God.