Posted on Thursday, August 30, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Contemporary Westerners have a difficult time understanding the deep significance of the table fellowship described in the Bible. Indeed, Western people have a hard time understanding much of anything from ancient Palestine connected with food. We have food in abundance; those in the ancient East did not. Our food is very easy to come by. It was quite the opposite in the ancient East. Our meals are often rushed. In Jesus’ day people reclined around the table and took their time. Because of this, the way we think about sharing meals with people will be quite different from that described in the Bible.

Hospitality is a significant theme in God’s Word. Romans 12:13 says, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” In Hebrews 13:2 we are exhorted, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for some have entertained angels unawares.” The apostle Peter tells us to “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (I Peter 4:9). In I Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:8 Paul mentions hospitality as one of the requirements of an overseer.

The New Testament word for hospitality literally means, “love of strangers.” Considering that definition, the Gospel implications of hospitality begin to surface immediately. God loved us while we were His enemies. He sought us out when we were not willing to seek Him. God drew us to Himself when we were alienated from Him. He did all this at tremendous personal cost.

The New Testament helps us see our homes as places where we nurture others from our own resources of safety and supply. As Tim Keller observes, “hospitality is essentially treating others as family.” In the same article Keller writes that hospitality, “incorporates newcomers into household, common, daily activities such as eating a meal, sharing a cup of coffee, or painting a room. It treats peers as brothers, sisters and cousins. It treats older people as fathers, mothers, aunts, and uncles. It treats children as sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews.”
For the Christian, hospitality has deep theological moorings. When we have someone in our home we should consider how our welcome and treatment of them can give them a taste of the goodness of God’s coming kingdom. The kingdom of God will be a place of radical generosity, security, acceptance, and abundant supply. It will be unhurried and entirely satisfying. The way Jesus behaved at meals and social gatherings reflected these qualities of the kingdom. Jesus so regularly fellowshipped over meals, even with ‘sinners’ that he was accused of being “a glutton and a drunkard” (Luke 7:34). If the Gospel is to be advanced effectively and Christian community nurtured then Jesus’ habit of lingering regularly with others in homes must be recaptured by Christians today. “Indeed, recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition more generally is widely needed in our fast-paced, self-centered lifestyle” (Blomberg, 171).

In his helpful book Contagious Holiness Craig Blomberg carefully examines the texts of Scripture that depict Jesus sharing meals with “sinners.” He writes:
“Perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that, when Jesus asked His disciples to ‘duplicate’ his miracle of feeding the multitudes, He envisioned a later day when they would do so by non-miraculous means. The majority of our world’s inhabitants have no difficulty looking forward to the prospects of a future age when material as well as spiritual sustenance will know no bounds. Even we who remain satiated most of the time can usually reflect on special meals that whetted our appetites for the biblical vision of an eschatological banquet in which all God’s people will enjoy one another and all of God’s good material provisions for ever, with none of the selfishness, injustice, or alienation that so often mar even the best of our celebrations in this age” (p. 170).

Gospel-driven hospitality requires an “up-closeness” with different kinds of people. It bridges gaps rather than reinforcing them. And this is probably one of the most significant hurdles relating to hospitality for Christians today. We are simply not comfortable with people who are different from us. Blomberg quotes Christine Pohl who observes that “churches have generally done better with offering food programs and providing clothing closets than with welcoming into worship people significantly different from their congregations. Because we are unaware of the significance of our friendship and fellowship, our best resources often remain inaccessible to strangers” (p. 172).

It seems clear that for hospitality in our homes to happen more regularly there will need to be changes in the way that most of us live. It is not easy to exercise hospitality. It usually requires some planning. It requires resources of time, money, and emotions. Also, it is usually the wife of the household that is burdened with the responsibility of making all the arrangements. While there are some households where this arrangement works well, there are probably many others where it is unrealistic. Hospitality needs to be a team effort. Husbands must help their wives shoulder the burden and make sure that they are involved in the scheduling of home gatherings. To ignore this will introduce conflict into the home and destroy the atmosphere of comfort and joy that Gospel-driven hospitality requires. For the unmarried adult, their singleness is an advantage at this point. Their freedom to plan and be flexible is a blessing to their ministry of hospitality.

Busyness is an enemy of hospitality and Americans are busy. We fill our schedules with an abundance of activities. We work 50, 60, and even 70 hours each week. Our kids are involved in sports and various other activities. What is more, those who are actively involved in church will often find themselves committed to a demanding schedule. It seems that quiet evenings at home are rare. When this is the case, the last thing we want to do is have guests. Who has time to actually forge a relationship with a lost neighbor?

Michael Prior has written that there is a “desperate need for Christians to excise innumerable church meetings, in order to free their diaries for proper meeting with unbelievers.” Jesus ministered to people of various backgrounds and social standing. He shunned neither rich nor poor, insider nor outsider. This model of ministry “challenges us to cross the culture-gap between the Christian sub-culture of cozy meetings and holy talk and the pagan culture of our local community. The task of identification with and incarnation into our contemporary paganism, of all kinds, is one of the biggest tasks confronting the church” (Blomberg, 173).

The hope for Metro East is that we will increasingly view our corporate facilities and individual homes as arenas for ministry to those who find themselves on the outside. How can we think creatively about the ways we use our church building? How welcome would someone feel who does not look like a typical Wichita suburbanite? Are there ways we can expand our facilities to include a storefront in a location that is more accessible for those not used to attending church? Could such a location be used to serve coffee and host teaching times and discussions that would appeal to those who do not know Jesus?

How can our homes become places of refreshment and friendship for our brothers and sisters in Christ? What about those within our congregation who are lonely? When was the last time we forged a friendship with someone in our church? Has our circle of friendships expanded in the last 12 months? Let us also consider how our homes can be tools for the advancing of the Gospel. Are we approaching our neighbors with a fresh commitment to be their friend? We must not treat them as a project. For Jesus’ sake, they need a friend whose life is driven by the Gospel.

Alexander Strauch’s excellent book “The Hospitality Commands” is a great resource. It is a study of what the Bible teaches about hospitality. It will give you a fresh vision of how to use your home to advance the gospel. I commend it to your reading.

Posted on Thursday, August 30, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Here are some interesting thoughts on tattoos and body piercing from John Piper (Desiring God).

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

John Piper on the Holy Spirit's role in regeneration (TheResurgence). Salvation belongs to the Lord!

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Great words from the Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs from his classic "Gospel Worship."

"The reason men worship God in a casual way is because they do not see God in His Glory. If a man has ever had Isaiah's vision of the Holiness of God, he would be changed in an instant. But until men have seen God as He truly is they will be forever guilty of the very same rebuke that God gave to the wicked in Psalms 50:21 'You thought I was just like you'."

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Justin Taylor has posted this stunning observation from Sally Morgenthaler(Megachurches).

Posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

http://youtube.com/v/lj3iNxZ8Dww

Bless her heart. I couldn't resist.

Posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

As the two previous posts demonstrate, the love of money is a sin that pastors cannot afford. Don’t misunderstand. Sinless perfection regarding lust for money is no more attainable in this life than is sinless perfection regarding lust for pleasure, lust for recognition, or lust for vengeance. Pastors battle these sins just as those do whom they have been charged to shepherd. But this is not an excuse for failure or complacency. Pastors must join the battle against these sins.

A money loving pastor exists in an impossible tension because his heart is divided. Jesus offers us a sobering warning: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:19-21, 24). Paul warned the younger Timothy that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (I Tim 6:10).

The sinister “genius” of the prosperity preachers is that they have devised a way not merely to excuse their lust for wealth but to celebrate it. Their multiple mansions, private jets, and lavish expense accounts, they declare, are the very signs of God’s blessing upon them. They have “gotten” it. They have learned to live in “victory!” They have sown their seed and it worked. Now, if the rest of us would just buckle down and sow our seed in their ministries then we may be fortunate enough to reach similar heights of blessing.

Two of the worst offenders are Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar who pastors, sadly, one of the largest churches in the U.S. Copeland once famously said, “If we are children of the King shouldn’t we be living like princes?” The aptly named Dollar recently swaggered across the front of his church telling his listeners that they ought to “biggee size everthang!” The “you can have it all” message of these men and others like T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyer erase the boundaries between loving God and loving money.

Love of money leads pastors into business ventures and various other distractions that steal away their time from study, disciple-making, and prayer. What is more he will surely rob time from his family as well. So, not only will his primary responsibilities as a shepherd suffer but so till will his wife and children. The tragic story of Randy and Paula White demonstrates this all too well (see previous post).

None of what I have written is meant to suggest that there is something inherently noble about poverty. Some of the most money-obsessed people I have known have been those who have very little money. I believe the key for pastors is the prayer found in Proverbs 30:8b-9: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

The people of God have a responsibility to take care of those who serve the Gospel in a full-time capacity. Scripture is clear on this. Nevertheless, pastors should not press their rights too strongly. The same Paul who affirmed the rights of Gospel ministers to be compensated refused to exercise that right in the Corinthian church. So careful was he to not be accused of ministering for the sake of money that he refused financial support from the Corinthians and instead made tents to support himself. He writes, “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision…” (I Cor. 9:13-14).

Pastors should be models of godly contentment. “[F]or I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13). No pastor can love God and money simultaneously. And the voracious appetite that some of America’s most prominent ministers display for wealth and luxury betrays their idolatrous and divided hearts.

Of course, my own heart is afflicted with the same divisions and idolatries. That is why I have to starve the lust to have more and more. If I feed it, it will become a beast. This requires that pastors must know their hearts well. They must know every dark corner that lies within. This is not a call to asceticism. The church must be careful to make sure the men who serve as shepherds are adequately provided for. At the same time, pastors must to learn to say “I have enough. I am content.”

Posted on Monday, August 27, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Two well known "pastors" in the prosperity movement announced their coming divorce (MSNBC.com). This is a tragic report. It is a dangerous thing to follow men (or women). How can so many people follow preachers who have so clearly abandoned Christ for success and money? I am speachless.

Posted on Monday, August 27, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Christianity Today has posted this interesting article on their live blog site (Christianity Today). It seems that Ted Haggard and his wife need money to fund their living expenses while they both pursue degrees in psychology and counseling. This is another prime example why pastors need godly accountability. The modern "pastor as CEO" model has not served the church well.