Hospitality To Go

Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

From time to time, I marvel at friends of ours, a couple who are particularly good at hospitality. They have a special knack for putting their guests at ease and drawing them into an atmosphere of acceptance, peace, and inclusion.

aloneWe typically think of hospitality as hosting others in our own space, such as in our home, our office, or even a hospitality suite. And rightfully so, for opening to others our place of peace is a gift thoughtfully offered and refreshingly received. Yet the longing to be welcome, warm, and wanted follows people wherever they go, and, unfortunately, public places where we know no one can be the loneliest locations on earth. I know it’s not just me, because I see isolation on faces wherever I go—in the bakery-cafe, in the grocery store, or at the gym. It can be especially pronounced in church, where people seek hope, only to come and go, untouched.

So I’ve decided to respond to “alone in a crowd” when I see it. Often it takes no more than a genuine, purposeful smile that says, “You matter.” Sometimes, it is a helping hand that elicits the silent shout, “Someone cares about me!” And we may never know the impact of stepping away from the comfort of our group and into the life of an uncomfortable stranger.

Hospitality can be served up at home, or we can make it to go. For people savor “You are welcome here” wherever it is found. May they find it in us.

Lord, today help me see people in need of a touch of hospitality, and grace me to know how best to extend it. Amen.

[Read today’s Scripture in Romans 12:9-16.]

Speechless

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. . . . Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. (Acts 9:5-7)

speechlessThink for a moment, have you ever been left searching for words only to come up empty? It usually happens when actual events exceed anything we could have anticipated. Perhaps it was someone’s sacrificial act of kindness that locked up your lexicon for the moment. Maybe it was beauty beyond belief that completely abridged your inner Webster. On the other hand, it could have been an affront you didn’t see coming, or just plain fear.

It happened to the men in Saul’s entourage. On their way to arrest believers in Damascus, a brilliance surrounded them, and they heard the voice of One they could not see. They stood there, overwhelmed and at a loss for words. Scared speechless we might say.

I’m guessing sensory overload was not the only thing that dumbfounded the posse on their would-be roundup that day. For inside of Saul now burned a fire that overshadowed any light they beheld with their eyes, and it changed their leader in an instant. The One he had persecuted to this very moment, Saul now called “Lord.” From those he had intended to arrest, he now humbly sought guidance and help. In a flash, he was transformed from doubt to belief, from one seeking to imprison others to one declaring their spiritual freedom. Even his name was new: Saul had become Paul.

God transforms us in astounding ways—ways that leave us confounded and, yes, speechless. Today, take a quiet moment to reflect on His “body of work” in your life or in someone you know well. Marvel at his craftsmanship, how He shaped you through His word, a caring friend, or just the circumstances of life. Contemplate how you have come to trust Him, even as He draws you closer to Himself. And let your life praise Him in return, even when your tongue falls silent.

Father, I don’t have the words to describe the love you have shown me. Fill me with your Spirit that my life would declare your faithfulness. And use me to bring hope and promise to others as we journey this life together. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

[Read the story of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9:1-17.]

The Kingdom without Boundaries

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” (Acts 8:24-26).

stormThough retired from the insurance industry, I still hold my breath a bit during hurricane season. Atlantic storms go wherever they please and damage whatever they choose. They don’t stop at state borders, and they could care less about county lines. Man-made boundaries mean nothing to these and other forces of nature.

In a sense, the same can be said of the word of God: no person, no government, no border can constrain it. Like the wind, it rushes from the mouth of one into the heart of another, regardless of political ideology. Like a forest fire, it leaps from the page of Scripture and ignites the soul, no matter one’s nationality. From those with no degree to those with advanced degree, God’s word topples walls of resistance with seismic power. And wherever the word of God is received in faith, there the kingdom of God—His rule in the heart—is established.

In today’s Scripture, Philip encountered a government official—Ethiopian by nationality, Jewish by faith—and explained to him Isaiah’s foretelling of Jesus, the Messiah. As the man listened, the Spirit overwhelmed him like a flood filling every void in his soul. “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” God’s kingdom had expanded by a population of one.

We don’t know where God’s reign will be established next—whether in this heart or that one—but it will spread, unseen, reaching and giving new birth to people of every nation, every race, and every religious background. And in this confidence, we share God’s word, tell our stories of His transforming work in our lives, and serve people in the name of Christ , whose kingdom is established in all who receive Him.

[Read today’s Scripture in Acts 8:26-36.]