Open the Door

In the parable of the big dinner from which this year’s verse, “there is still room,” is taken from (Luke 14:22), the host sends his servant out with an invitation a total of three times. The first invitees believe that their personal business is too important to put on hold for his dinner, and they refuse to come. Their lame excuses are taken personally, angering the host. The second group, those who were despised and outcast, respond and enter in. Finally, upon hearing that “there is still room,” the host sends the servant even further, acting on his desire to fill up his house. By the end of the parable, there doesn’t seem to be anyone within walking distance of the host’s home that he hasn’t invited. He has flung open the door—the door of “welcome.” 

Pause and reflect for a moment. Can you recall a time in your life when you felt wholeheartedly welcomed? When someone stopped what they were doing the moment you arrived and moved toward you to greet you, to talk with you, to spend time with you? How did it feel when you were invited into a place or into a conversation?

It’s close to unfathomable, but the Lord has the capacity to give personal attention to every person who has ever lived. Our God has thrown open the door of welcome and has extended an invitation to a relationship based on the finished work of Jesus Christ. There is no one that He hasn’t invited; God has the capacity to include everyone who responds. God is not limited to a physical space in a house; He earnestly desires fellowship with every person He has created.

We see God’s heart when the perspective reverses and the Lord is on the outside of the door asking to come in: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). God is both knocking and using His voice to get our attention. This demonstrates His eagerness to enter and fellowship with anyone and everyone who will open the door.

We manifest God’s heart when we are welcoming like Him. We display a piece of His character when we open the door for others, connect, and build relationships for Kingdom impact.

But what if you, like me, have blown it? What if you’ve lived somewhere a long time and haven’t been very welcoming? What if you’ve been too busy doing things at church to open your door to unbelieving neighbors? What if you’ve even become enemies with some of the people around you? Do not despair. Instead, repent!

I’m not sure where it originated, but I’ve adopted the phrase “it’s not what you do, it’s what you do next.” Be honest with people, admit to falling short, and demonstrate the sincerity of your desire to do better by issuing one invitation this month. There is still time, and there is still room. Open the door!

There is Still Room

For many of us, summer is a wonderful time for slowing down, savoring the longer days, and enjoying a relaxed ministry schedule. For others, summer is a busy season of navigating multiple opportunities for family, creative, and recreational activities. If you happen to have some extra time for reflection right now, I encourage you to make space to think about hospitality and generosity and to let that sit in your soul for as long as necessary.

The verse chosen for our second year of Belong is this: “There is still room” (Luke 14:22). This simple statement infers a desire to fill an empty space.

In response to this declaration, I find myself asking a variety of questions: Do I have room in my schedule and in my heart? Do I have a desire to extend hospitality and generosity toward others? If not, why not? Am I overscheduled? Is there something I need to stop doing in order to create space for obedience to God’s next prompting? Have I adopted a “poverty mentality” that causes me to believe I must guard and hoard precious resources such as time and agency?

Perhaps these next few weeks will provide opportunity for you to consider these same questions.

Scripture is full of imagery of abundance. The story begins with a generous and creative God filling a space that was “empty and void” with a delightful variety of plants, animals, and sources of light and life. I read commands such as, “Enlarge the place of your tent . . . do not hold back” (Isa. 54:2) and “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Ps. 81:10). I read promises such as, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Cor. 9:10) and “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).

Do I believe it? Do I trust my generous and good Father to provide all that I need, even to an overflow for others? Will I believe that God is willing to do what He did for the widow of Zarephath in Elijah’s day when “the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry” even during famine (1 Kings 17:16)? Will I, like Jesus, receive and respond to the commission to go to other towns, to unfamiliar places, to people who have not yet seen or heard the good news of the Kingdom (see Luke 4:43–44)?

These reflections are worthy of my time and my response. For this season, I will allow my Good Shepherd to lead me to green pastures and quiet waters to refresh my soul. Then, when it is time for me to get up and be guided along the right paths for His name’s sake (see Ps. 23:2–3), I will be one who is welcoming in my demeanor and generous in my spirit.

There is still room—for His glory and the good of others. Amen.

Open Heart, Open Home

Christmas 2021

Dear family and friends,

Christmas is forever linked to hospitality because of Luke. The Evangelist includes the detail of absence in Bethlehem for the birth of our Savior. No one knew who he was.

And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:7).

The irony of the incarnated Son of God in a feeding trough exists because there was no room left in the local lodge. The glut of travelers, who were obligated to register for the census in their hometown, caused the shortage.

Fortunately, during our programmed six-month home assignment, we never lacked a place for us. Our daughter and her husband graciously invited us to stay with them in Aurora, Colorado, whenever we were not traveling among Alliance churches. (The day we arrived in May they surprised us with the news that they were expecting their first child! We are excited to be abuelos early in the New Year!)

And travel we did. Our tour calendar took us far from Colorado to upstate New York, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois. Over these last six months, between the two of us, we have reported, clarified and inspired 35 churches with what God continues to do in Spain.

And everywhere we went we received hospitality. We stayed in simple houses and sumptuous ones, spacious houses and cramped ones, quiet houses and boisterous ones. The commonality in all of them is that they were not just houses—places to stay—but homes. Homes with fellow followers of Jesus that received us generously and graciously in his name.

Though “tour” (as we call it in the Alliance) could be considered an inefficient use of time, for us “breaking bread from house to house, sharing table with glad and generous hearts” (Acts  2:46) was invaluable. Showing hospitality is truly a hallmark of authentic love as Paul enjoins in Romans 12. We bless all of you who opened your homes or shared your table with us.

We value it so much because is vital to our ministry. Pre-Covid, Marilyn and I had people in our home for meals about twice a week. We missed this dearly during the pandemic. For five of the last seven years we have had several young adults living with us in our apartment in Tres Cantos. We look forward to getting back to sharing our safe space again!

Hospitality has power, no matter how simple and basic. Marilyn was humbled by the hospitality of impoverished Honduran women in a mountain village in 1981. God called her to mission there. That same year Tim was humbled by the hospitality of Cambodian refugees toward my parents in the camps in Thailand. Welcome and honor and attention in the humblest of spaces are all that are really necessary.

I learned this fall that the number one desire of international students who come to study is to be invited into an American home. Many Spanish exchange students we have met in Spain over the years have been deeply impacted, some even to faith by Christian host families. Most of the English Camp monitors from 2004-2016 would say that the most memorable and lasting part of their experience in Tres Cantos was two weeks in the homes of Spanish host families. Some friendships last to this day. Hospitality is a genuine biblical value that we must not lose because of the pandemic. Opening our home can mean opening our heart in friendly reception of beloved guests, passing visitors and even strangers (yet-to-be-friends!).

With grateful hearts,

Tim and Marilyn

 

*published with permission from the authors

Hospitality Must Resist Fear

I sent my husband to the store the other night to pick up some tahini for the hummus I was making. We were having an open house for our church family the next day and that was one of the recipes we were going to enjoy. As he wandered the aisles trying to find the ingredient, he ran into some of our neighbors from down the street who are from Pakistan.

My husband mentioned what he was looking for, and the neighbor said, “You don’t want this store brand. I’ll bring over the real deal from my country.” Later that evening, he proceeded to do just that. It was a wonderful opportunity to invite him in, have a short chat with him, and invite his family to our open house the next day.

I am wired for hospitality and have a love for all people—no matter where they are from or how different they are. If we are to reach the world for Christ, we must resist the fear of interacting with people who are different than us. We must fight past the tendency to stick with the comfortable and familiar. We need to listen to those who think differently than we do, including those who have a different political viewpoint or ideology than we have.

We often view hospitality as being good at hosting and entertaining, and while it can include that aspect, hospitality is more so about being welcoming. Are you including people into your circle and conversations? Do you make a point of reaching out to those who aren’t part of the crowd? Do you go out of your way to encourage the lost, the hurting, and the broken? Are you able to listen without having an agenda? Are you open to opportunities to invite someone in?

Jesus often interacted with those on the fringes of society—the woman with the bleeding issue, the Samaritan woman, lepers, tax collectors, and sinners. He was always on the lookout for these people in the crowd that followed Him, and He was able to draw them in and include them. He extended grace and hospitality, and He listened to their fears, their concerns, and their hurts. Because He showed love and care, they turned to Him.

As we interact with others, let’s make sure we are putting aside fear of the different or unknown. Let’s work on being generous and inviting to those around us. Look around and be on the alert for those who are overlooked or hurting and offer a hand of hospitality.