When Kids Break My Stuff

Through the years of training people to open their homes as ministry, we have encountered different reactions to “changing” our life patterns for the gospel. For some, change is refreshing and welcome; for most, downright dreadful. The simple truth is this, changing my life to open it up for gospel ministry is often difficult to cope with.

One of the simple markers of this ministry change at living-room level is what happens to our precious home when children from other families arrive; not just the growing, hungry ones but the little “ISIS” ones. Seriously, how were they ever recruited to such violence at so young an age? 😉

Some families do really well with this. They throw their arms, cupboards, and refrigerators open and say, “La casa mia è la casa tua!” Other families, wellllll, not as much. Practically, we share that God is sanctifying your home from the ground up. If you have ever prayed the prayer, “Lord, we open our home to you,” or, “Lord, we want to bless others with our family” or possibly, “I surrender all…” Then, the Father has heard you from Heaven and is answering your prayers!!

kids and stuff comicYes, everything from waste-level and down in your home is being sanctified and put up on the altar for God. Community in Christ is one of the ways that Jesus simplifies our homes and shapes our hearts. When you hear the crash, the zap, the scream, or the shatter and you know instantly something irreplaceable has happened, it’s one of the Lord’s cute ways of saying, “I told you, you didn’t need that anyway. It’s mine. Just look to me in this moment.” It’s cute because the Father has lovingly placed a little human, belonging to other bigger and “not-paying-attention” humans, right into the middle of the situation. The decision in that very moment is radical; it’s either wrath or trust. Is it not?

I share all of this with a little “tongue-in-cheek” playfulness. However, what is working more deeply is the gospel against pride. Yes, this is hard. It is pride of stuff and pride of identity and pride of parenting and pride of independence which says I don’t need community (at least this one) anyway. I like my life cozy and nice and safe! It’s pride that places temporary treasures over eternal people; my treasures over God’s treasures. All those kinds of pride together begin to surface and boil over into one, bad minestrone. I know! I am good at making bad minestrone.

But it does get better with time and experience. In fact, it becomes more joyful. God will simply change our hearts until his treasure becomes our treasure and his joy becomes our joy. And what is his joy? It is when one sheep, coin, or son who was lost repents and is found (Luke 15 where God throws parties). Remember, we broke his stuff – badly – and he still wants us as his children. Our homes are being brought into mission and that mission exchanges stuff for joy which is priceless.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  – Philippians 2:3-11

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If I Open My Window, You Open Your Door

It’s a nice church, but it’s not somewhere I feel that I could really bring my friends or colleagues. It’s over their heads, they’ll get bored, and they may even walk out. I don’t think I want to risk all the awkwardness.”A window from the local village of Polcenigo

What a frequently painful comment to hear about a church. And yet, it’s an accurate comment albeit a general one. I have heard this expression in numerous places that I have been, have you? (members of Serenissima are not permitted to answer that!)

How did we (the church in general) get to the place where our own people would not want their friends, colleagues, and neighbors to share in the joy that has transformed their lives? Jesus basically said the world will know that he is God and sent by the Father just by how we love one another, but many don’t even want others to meet their church family.

When a congregation arrives at that point, whose fault is it? Is it the pastors’ fault? Or the people’s fault for thinking like that? I think it’s both and I offer a start to reduce the emphasis on this over-emphasized clergy-laity divide where we should all be living missionally in our respective roles:

Pastors’ Fault!

I was listening to a pastor’s consultation held in England a few years ago. Tim Keller was speaking along with many others about how our preaching needs to be missional. In other words, is our teaching only for the faithful? He said something timely along these lines, “You should preach to your congregation as if your city is listening-in through the windows and one day they’ll be in the seats.” At the very least, this begins to evaporate an us vs. them language and mindset. The truth is that as we gather in our congregations, it’s an all-of-us before God reality.

One of my personal preaching questions is, “What if I were sharing this message with my entire province? — because I am. Is it clear, faithful, applicable, and grace-full? Will they be able to see & start to understand Christ in their current cultural ways of thinking?” Asking this question among others is me learning how to open the windows. And I live in Italia… hello, this is not an easy question to answer! However, we really must strive to speak both to our people and their friends. If we preach with closed windows (the “us”, the faithful), our people will simply not be missional and we’ll just stick them into “small groups” without ever mentioning that we even have small groups. What we as preachers are really communicating is that we hope our people will just magically understand and “get it.” Then, they will turn into sacrificial, missional Christians and we will be able to say, “See, we told you all along.”

People’s Fault!

And yet, Gospel-listeners must be diligent actors or the sum-total of their Christian maturity will be sermon-tasting. One of the greatest apologetics that we have to show the power and reality of King Jesus is the compassionate treatment of one-another in his name. Jesus said it this way, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

So, there is our mandate, our new commandment. Be around one another in such a way that people who haven’t met Jesus yet can clearly see him. And the best place to do that is in the place where you are who you are the most — your home.

Frankly, people will taste more of what it means to be a Christian through our homes and how we live our lives than in a formal church meeting. Are our doors open? Do we allow our homes to be the church so that people can meet Jesus? If we live with closed doors, then the preaching we hear will turn into information-passing because people will never be able to experience the reality of the church as they can’t see it being lived before them.

Can you see the sad cycle? Pastors who preach with closed windows point the finger at the people with closed doors who have come to expect pastors to teach comfortable, closed-up messages — and thousands of people neither hear nor see the King of all while we blink at each other.

So, if I open my window, then you open your door.  Deal?

With love,  Portiere Rob

7 Lessons of Gospeltality

Jesus is invited to a meal where he takes the opportunity to disciple two sisters in hosting and communing. The story is found in Luke 10:38-42 just before he trains his disciples to pray. The intent of the passage is to have both sisters banqueting at the feet of Jesus. In this case, however, the quiet and resting Mary acts as a foil to her agitated and busy sister, Martha. And that is where we see the discipleship lessons of Jesus coming into play. The presence of the Good News (Gospel) coupled with the activity of teaching and training in a meal setting (hospitality) is where we combine the words to get Gospeltality. On a lovely side note, isn’t it great that Jesus is discipling women and also how he disciples them through their home and everyday lives? By doing it this way, Jesus went beyond the cultural norms (women weren’t discipled) and did it so that it wouldn’t be scandalous to others (informally at a meal setting). 

Our gratitude goes out to Sister Martha who represented us so well. We needed these discipleship lessons:

  1. We need to make sure that we understand who the host is correctly. Jesus said in verse 42, “…this one thing is necessary…” He is the one thing.
  2. We need to understand what is being hosted. The bigger picture of Jesus is why we serve. He is the living meal of God; the one, good portion that will never be taken away.
  3. We need to get our attitude right about our circumstances. If the presence of Jesus is there, then we need to recognize it and rest at his feet.  
  4. We need to forsake the kind of hosting that gives pride to our cooking, cleaning, and homes (our stuff). Otherwise, that will become all that we are about.
  5. We need to help people interact with Jesus. People should be able to see and hear Jesus when they intersect with our lives. If Martha doesn’t learn this, people will always see her. Mary got it.
  6. We need to give-way to Jesus to do his ministry in our every-day world.
  7. We need to allow the marginalized to host us. Jesus came to his own and was unwelcome (Jn. 1:11-12). There were plots to kill him. Jesus had no home, and he was poor. He also made himself the marginalized King by leaving heaven to be the friend of the broken and the least. And so, Jesus says, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:40).  We have so much to learn from those who are on the outside. We also have a great opportunity to be humble because we will be constantly surprised how Jesus enters our homes and our worlds. If Jesus doesn’t host us, we will always be the host, rival him, and make ourselves superior to others.

Martha3

Rival Hosting 2: Stressed-out Martha

Luke 10:38-42

Martha is anxious and troubled about many things, says Jesus. Here’s my question,
What does she have to be troubled about?

There’s no dishwasher, no microwave, no playlists to queue, no cellphones ringing, no status to update that she’s “…cooking for the King of kings. How about you?” Copy. Tweet. Like.

She’s not taking pictures, chasing toddlers, or printing out a new recipe. The floors are made of hardened clay so they’re naturally a bit dirty. She has a simple broom, but no vacuum and the broom is faster anyway in such a small house. She doesn’t have dish soap, so it’s always rinse cycle and there’s a certain relaxing bliss to being ignorant about germs. The furniture and utensils are simple so she’s not using her fine China. Can she even find China? It doesn’t matter because their internet connection is perpetually down so there’s no stream of superfluous information. And she’s not living in the Age of Distraction, but Martha is inventing multi-tasking which hasn’t even been named yet.

How many things could she possibly have to be so stressed-out about?

If Martha, being so troubled by the simple stuff of life-back-then, were living today — she would implode. She would never make it! Give our world a try, Martha!

All the more desperation is necessary, therefore, to recover the life-rhythm of allowing Jesus to host his Gospel of grace through our homes. If it happened to Martha back then, I don’t think we are better-off now.

 

Galilean_kitchen
note: for more information about this picture and Galilean kitchens, click here.

 

Rival Hosting

Martha, the anxious hostess, invites Jesus the Kingdom-host to come into her home. She wants him to be around her house, but she’s not yet ready to surrender her life to him. Martha craves the admiration and affirmation of a powerful Rabbi. Instead, the events start to turn against her will and she breaks-down into anxious anger.

Galilean_family_room

What’s really happening is a small power struggle; a rivalry of hosting. Martha is in her “every-day-world” where she is queen; it’s her home. Hosting is where Martha shines. And like all of us, home is where “Martha is Martha.” The plot thickens when Martha invites the King into her world who is at home in all of his world. Who should impress who? Which one should host the other?

A quick discipleship lesson we can learn is that we can’t rival the host where it matters the most — in the center of our everyday lives, or what we call home. Otherwise, our homes can never be gospel homes. Jesus hosts, or we do.

Luke 10:38-42

 

note: for more information on this interesting photo and a Galilean family room, click here.

3 Uses of Food for Ministry

We recently completed a three-week series at Serenissima entitled Major Ministry Tools. We looked at how our food, homes, and families are things we live with every day that can share the great story of the Gospel.

Here were 3 insights from the message on Food as a Major Ministry Tool.

  1. Food is not just fuel; it’s faith:  If I only regard food as fuel, then what I’m really doing is using food to fuel my own agenda instead of being nourished by it to follow the Lord’s will. Physical hunger takes me back to the table where I remember (repeatedly) that I am a dependent being. The very act of eating shows that I have to trust in provisions beyond myself. We give thanks to the Lord to recognize that He is the source of all of these provisions. Eating is our act appreciation and trust for our lives. It gives us a window on faith.

  2. Food is not just good; it’s grace: By God sharing his bounty with me to meet my need (common grace), I can share with others to point them to God through Jesus (special grace). I wrote about how food is an image of grace in our last post. In previous centuries, food was much harder to come by so it was easily hoarded. But God desires a righteous and generous people who live like He thinks. Both the act of sharing your food and the people with who you share your food is telling a story of grace. Could it be that food and hunger were both created to give us the ways to understand and re-tell this Good News?

  3. Food is not just for consumption; it’s for communion:  Jesus compared himself to food (bread & water of life). When you invite someone in to your home to share a meal, you are sitting down with them as a peer. You’re looking eye-to-eye with them and sharing in each other’s lives by allowing them to have a seat — where you are. That’s how God offered the most precious meal of Jesus, the Paschal Lamb. God invited his enemies to come through the Door of his home and sit at his lavish banquet feast and commune with him. The table of the Lord is offered to those who will turn to Jesus (ie. consume & assimilate) and commune with him.
    Multiplying_loaves

Family Minestra

Ciao!


When one of my friends in our ministry saw that I was starting this blog, she wrote and exclaimed, “LOVE it. So great- can’t wait for you to spill your beans on the screen. 🙂 ”    Well said. What might look like good soup to me, in reality, is probably just a mess of spilled beans on the screen. I’m still encouraged, however, because I know there’s at least one who doesn’t mind me spilling beans.


So, let’s start cooking (or spilling) here through Holy Minestrone. Thanks for reading and please feel free to reply or comment. Cooking with friends makes the kitchen really enjoyable. Just ask my wife — I keep her company while she does the cooking all the time.


Family Minestra (soup)


I wanted to share a quote that stuck with me since the time I read it in 1996. The church is the family of God, and the family is the church of God. It is a simple thought with a depth of truth. The author was speaking about how Jesus is a real person and if we have his mind, it will impact our church structures. Here is a little more of the author’s context:


Church structure must be compatible with this personal emphasis. Structures should bring people face-to-face with Jesus Christ as responsible persons…Obviously, this will require a proper accent on one-to-one relationships in the Christian community…a whole glorious web of believer-to-believer relationships…small groups are necessary to provide opportunity and stimulus for such relationships… [And] In a sense, the Christian home is one of the structures of the church. In God’s intent, the church is the family of God and the family is the church of God. We must rethink the family on the basis of the biblical understanding of the Body of Christ. [H. Snyder, Radical Renewal, p. 112]


I’ve never heard Christian believers say, “I just want to be deeply connected and involved in a lousy church.” No. The opposite is true. We all say, “I want to be in a great church!” But often, we get the program confused with the mission. So, what’s the secret ingredient to being a part of a great church?


Christian community begins at home. Great churches are made through redeemed homes. If a home is passionate about Jesus, his presence fills that family and makes it his church. Really, the one, must-have ingredient of any church is the magnified presence of Jesus. And, if Jesus can be encountered like that in your home, the front door of your house becomes the front door of his church. I think Jesus even claims to be the Door to where we family (John 10:7,9).


The redeemed, Jesus-filled family — there’s just no other recipe like it on Earth.

 

Upcoming: a book recommendation & more beans on the screen.