The Necessity of Hospitality

Scripture: Acts 1:13-14, 1 Timothy 3:2, Luke 14:12
Date: 03/15/2008 
The subject of this sermon is on hospitality. The spirit of hospitality is necessary in the Christian's life. We are all longing for home. It is part of our lives to open our homes to others.
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

“And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” --Acts 2:44-47

Good morning, friends. Again I want to welcome everybody. Good to see each of you here. Things are a little different at Central Church in the sense that we had some technical problems this morning where a computer crashed so we’re trying to make do. You may notice that the screens and some of the things look a little different today. That’s because we’re sort of working a backup system.

Our message today, as you see on the screen, is dealing with the subject of hospitality, more specifically “The Necessity of Hospitality”. And before we go any farther, I need to begin by indicting myself. I am sharing the message today because it’s something I am convicted about that I need to hear. I’m not making any claims that I am an expert on this, but I have been under a growing sense of conviction that something has been missing, not only in the church, in our lives, and it’s around this subject of how crucial and necessary a spirit of hospitality is in the Christian life. When I say to you, Motel 6, if I were to ask you what slogan comes to your mind, what would you say? You all know that. “We’ll leave the light on for you.” You see there’s a little story behind that. Back in 1986 Tom Bodett, who became the voice behind that commercial, he was a radio announcer and an author, written some travel journals that were sort of humorous. They asked him to do some commercials. On the first day of taping those radio commercials it wasn’t even in the script. At the end of one of the scripts he just ad-libbed “We’ll leave the light on for you.” That became the best part of the script, and it became a marketing bonanza for Motel 6 because everybody was thinking, you know, when you travel and you stay in the hotel it seems so un-homey, it seems so unfamiliar, it seems so far away, that that visual concept of traveling through the dark night and there is the home and the light is on and it just was so inviting, it became a good source of encouragement. They did very well with that marketing campaign because people are looking for a home. The story of the gospel is the story of people trying to get home. The Exodus is the story of a nation trying to get from slavery back home. People are longing for home. Yet the church should be a place of great hospitality, and yet it’s beginning to disappear. It’s become a little thin. You might even ask whatever happened to hospitality. Why does it seem that there is less hospitality today in the church than maybe former ages? Well, you’re not all to blame. Some of it is the culture, but things have definitely changed. For instance, now where it used to be when people traveled, and Christians traveled, you read in your Bible they stayed with other believers. Now when people travel they typically stay in hotels. With the digital communications when someone had something to say to someone you went to their house and you said it. They didn’t have the postal system, they didn’t have email, they didn’t have the telephone. People would go and visit, they’d communicate, they’d relate, they’d network, they’d mesh, then they’d leave. Now we just live in little sound bites where we don’t really build relationships because we just text-message somebody. When someone wanted to sing and people sang together, if it didn’t happen in churches it happened in homes. You’ve probably heard me say before that before Thomas Edison, for the first five thousand, eight hundred years of human history if you wanted to hear music, you had to go to somebody’s house because they had no way of recording and reproducing music, people got together and they sang and they often sang in homes. Matter of fact, some of the genesis for this message here, it’s attributed to a few things if you’re interested, one is we just had some people come over to our home a few weeks ago and we sang together and I thought this was really nice. We just shared, we visited. Then Karen and I, a few weeks ago, we went over to the McIntosh house once again. Some other families were there. We sang together, we visited, we prayed together, and there hasn’t been as much of that. I thought we really need more of that.

Then I was studying this on my own, and while I was at the religious broadcasters convention last week in Nashville, a non-Adventist friend who has a ministry that’s heard on radio around the country, Chuck and his wife Kathy Chrisner, he came up, he said, “Doug, you’ve got to have my next book.” By the way, they watch our programs and they’re closet Adventists. He gave me his book. There’s a lot of them, you’d be surprised, out there. He gave me his book and the book was on hospitality, the power of hospitality, and I thought, “Boy, the Lord is trying to tell me something.” I said, “Now, I get a lot of books at this convention, Chuck, but I’m going to read your book.” And I did while I was still there at the hotel. I haven’t finished it yet, but I got enough where I said, I saw him next, I said, “I’m going to preach on this next week because I think the Lord is trying to tell me something.” I was amazed at how much the Bible had to say about hospitality. It used to be people developed their relationships through interaction with each other, often in homes, as you heard in our memory verse. They went from home to home and they shared these things. Now people get their relationships vicariously by watching soap operas. I don’t need to go to anyone’s home; if I want to know what’s going on, I just change channels. So really we do become a disconnected generation, and this happens in the church. The other thing is, people were willing to be inconvenienced and a little uncomfortable because hospitality was part of their religion. You may wonder in Bible times when you hear about Lot pressing that the angels stay with him, and people protecting their guests even going so far as to say I will put my own children out on the street for the mob rather than have the guest in my home lose sanctuary. Hospitality was something when someone came into your home you were to do everything you could to make them comfortable, to protect them even with your life or the life of your children. It’s still that way in a few places, in the Middle East and other parts of the world, but we’ve pretty well lost that concept of a person’s home was a sanctuary and others were invited in and you, when you invited them in, were responsible to provide for them, to share with them, to protect them. Just the sense of bringing people into their homes. I bet there’s a lot of men, I would appreciate some amen’s if you agree with me, that we sort of take on the mentality my home is not a sanctuary, it’s a castle. It’s to defend from intruders and invaders. When I’m done out there fighting the world, I’m coming to my castle and the drawbridge goes up. Anyone say amen out there? Thank you. But we’ve developed this mentality that this is where we go to hide from the world and we sequester ourselves and we insulate ourselves from the world, but that’s not what the Bible teaches the Christian home is to be. The Christian home is to be a place that’s open.

Chuck, in the book that he wrote, as I was reading I found out that he had the same problems that I had. His wife was very social and gregarious and he always wanted to shut the doors after a day of work and she always wanted to entertain and bring people in, and she said, “What a great opportunity to witness.” I resonated with a lot of things I read, and my conviction compounded in the process. This was the truth of the early church. Hospitality was part of their religion. You read for instance in Acts chapter one, verse thirteen and fourteen, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church after an episode of hospitality. They had been in the upper room and the upper room was not a synagogue, it was not a temple, it was not a business, it was a home. They spent ten days together in somebody’s home. It was the home of John Mark’s mother the Bible says, in this upper room praying together. In this home Bible study prayer meeting sing-along the Holy Spirit was poured out. Somebody was doing some industrial strength hospitality when that happened. They went into this upper room where they were staying. Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Altheas, and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and His brothers. The Holy Spirit was poured out in that context. It was part and parcel of the early church that they went from home to home. They had no churches for the first hundred and fifty, two hundred years of the church’s history. It was a requirement biblically for leadership. Hospitality was to be part of the skills of any leadership in the church. I used to think it was one of the gifts of the Spirit; it just wasn’t my gift. I’ve got the gift of evangelism and others have the gift of hospitality. But that’s not really what the Bible teaches. It’s a gift that we all have in varying degrees and we demonstrate it different ways. So 1 Timothy 3:2, listen, “A bishop” or an elder “then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach…” So opening up your home was part of it. Titus 1:7-8 “For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled…” It’s just one of the descriptions. Romans 12:9 “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.” So the context of all these Christian virtues he closes by saying “given to hospitality.” Open up your life. Open up your home. Be willing to invite people into your home and be willing to go into other people homes. Hospitality doesn’t just mean you open your home, it means you go to homes too. Jesus did both.

We should have hospitality for the lost. There’s a lot of concerns people have when we invite someone over to our home. Sometimes we’re afraid will we be able to host everybody and entertain everybody. Jesus told some parables about that. For instance in Luke 14:12 “Then He also said to him who invited Him, ‘When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.’” Now that’s not normally what we think about when we think about having someone over for dinner. Ah, I can’t count how many times, quite literally numerous times Friday evening either Karen and I will go to grandma and grandpa’s house for dinner. We did last night with our brother and sister-in-law or folks, family will come to our house for dinner and most of us have a small, little confederacy of friends that we invite over or they invite us over and we reciprocate from time to time. I’m not talking about that this morning. Most of us are pretty good at that. Some of us, I guess, don’t even have a few friends over. But you need to take that step at this point. Learn to at least have your friends over. But God wants us to become a little more vulnerable and invite strangers over. Invite, and start with folks in the church. Let’s face it, we’ve got people you’re sitting around right now that, you know, we’re casual acquaintances in church, but we don’t really know each other.

I was convicted yesterday reading this parable go out and invite people just from the community that you wouldn’t expect. On my way down to the church… Karen and I have been in the same home for, we’re in our fourteenth year right now, going on fifteen years. When we bought the home the lady that we bought the home from had a gardener that she really liked that was doing some of the gardening work, once a week came by and did basic things. She said, “I hope that you’ll be able to keep John,” our gardener. Nice guy. And we did and have for the last fourteen years now. Once a week unless the weather is forbidding he’s there, and nice guy. We’ve had him in the house before and when it’s hot we bring him out something cold to drink, but as I was backing out thinking about my sermon I looked at John who was there doing his work, and I thought, “What kind of preacher am I?” I’ve never invited him for dinner. It just never occurred to me. It’s like, oh, he’s our gardener. You don’t think about, why not invite your gardener for dinner? I’d probably shock him, for one thing, if I did, but would Jesus do that? I mean, isn’t this what the Bible is talking about here? And I think most of us don’t ever think about something like that. You go somewhere to drop off your clothes for the drycleaner. Have you ever thought? You know the person by name. Have you ever thought of saying, “You know, I’d love to have you over for dinner someday.” You’d probably shock them. Then do it. What a great means for evangelism because let’s face it, everybody has got to eat, right? I mean, it’s not like you go to somebody and you say, “Do you like skiing, do you like golf? What do you do? I could do…” You don’t know, but you could say, “Do you eat? Do you ever eat?” Sure. Well, we could do that together. Everybody eats, right? Right? Aw, come on. I’ve seen you at potluck.

You’ve heard the story about the mother who invited a bunch of people over to the house for dinner, and then just before they ate she asked their little six year old, “Mary, would you like to say the blessing?” She was nervous and said, “Well, I’m not sure what to say.” She said, “Just say what you hear Mommy say.” She folded her hands and said, “Oh, Lord, why did I invite all these people over to the house?” Some of us feel that way. We get a little stressed about company and we’re not sure how to act, and we wonder if our social graces are there. But you stretch yourself when you do that and everybody grows when you get together.

Hospitality is also important because Jesus said whenever you extend hospitality you’re not just doing it for the people, whether they’re friends in the church, acquaintances in the church, strangers in the church, people that are out in town that you might have acquaintances in the community where you work, but you’re doing it for the Lord every time you do it. So any hospitality given is really given to the Lord. Matthew 25:35, Jesus said, “for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in…” Now you don’t need to wait until people are starving around you before you help them. Any time you invite people to your home you’re doing it for Jesus. Would you like to have Him as a guest? Turn with me in your Bibles, please, to Genesis 18:1. I want to read something with you. Genesis 18:1, here’s an example of what we were just talking about. Verse one, a story involving Abraham, our father. “Then the Lord appeared to him” to Abraham “by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him…” by him means not far from him. “…and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground…” Now at this point he still doesn’t know who they are yet. He just sees some wayfaring people. Abraham understood that part of worship is hospitality. One way we worship God is through hospitality. So he went to these men, it’s a hot day. He figures they’re thirsty, they’ve got needs, they’re tired, their feet are sore and dusty, and he says, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” And they said, “Do as you have said.” So Abraham hastens to the tent of Sarah and he says, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it…” They go out and they take a fatted calf and they prepare a virtual feast for these strangers. You think about what Abraham did here. It really is remarkable. He welcomed them. He offered cleansing. He offered rest. He offered food. Now at this point he still just thinks that these are some dignified looking (It’s the Lord and two angels.) travelers. They look like wayfaring men is what the Bible says. But as he’s entertaining and giving and showing hospitality, what does he learn about the identity of these peoples? It says in Hebrews some people have entertained angels unawares. “Do not be forgetful to entertain strangers for in so doing some have entertained angels unaware.” Abraham found out he was not only entertaining angels, he was entertaining the Lord Himself. Anytime we show hospitality to someone we might not realize it, but it’s like you’re entertaining the Lord. Some of you remember the story where Jesus is walking on the road to Emmaus and He reveals Himself to those two disciples in the house. They did not know that they had invited Jesus into their home and later they found out that in entertaining Him they were entertaining Christ.

Now I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m going to talk more about that in a little bit. Galatians 5:14 “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” What better way to show your love for your neighbor than to take care of some practical needs? Leviticus 19:34 Not just the neighbors that you know, he says, “the stranger.” Leviticus 19:34 “the stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself…” Do you love strangers? What do we tell kids about strangers when they’re growing up? Don’t talk to strangers? Beware of strangers, after all, they’re strange. Right? No, really, we have that idea. So Christians, I think, we’ve been influenced by all the fear, and let’s face it, there are some strange people out there, and you hear about these crimes and people become very careful and guarded and there are weird perpetrators out there and because of those fears we’ve lost our openness to hospitality to strangers. Do you know what the fact is? I used to hitchhike all over the country. Every time I hitchhiked, with the few rare exceptions someone I knew picked me up, most of the time they’re strangers. And I’ve picked up countless hitchhikers. I hear from time to time, people say, “Pastor Doug, don’t you know that’s dangerous?” Well, you know what? Life is dangerous. There’s risk out there and if you want to be sure there’s no risk, well, I don’t know where you’re going to go. As long as you’re in this world there’s going to be risk. I have never been hurt by someone who picked me up hitchhiking, and I have never hurt anybody. So for the most part I met a lot of very neat strangers. Most of them that picked me up were really nice. I used to have a friend say, “The only people that pick up hitchhikers are Christians and crazy folk.” That was one of the sayings on the street, but I never found that to be true. There are just some normal, nice people out there that just want to help you. Oh, there were a couple that were odd, I have to admit, but they didn’t hurt us. So we’re afraid because of that. True hospitality is an act of worship and don’t forget, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I remember a story, true story. An old couple was going around New York City one night during a storm trying to find a hotel room and they couldn’t find one because there was a convention and all the hotels (this was a number of years ago) all the hotels were packed. Finally dripping and soaked to the skin they came to the desk of this one more hotel and they spoke to the clerk and they said, “You don’t have any more rooms?” He says, “I am so sorry, Sir. There are no rooms left.” But as they got ready to leave, he said, “Well, there is one room. Just give me a minute.” He came back out a few moments later. He took this dignified gentleman and his wife and he said, “You can stay in my apartment. Make yourself comfortable.” He said, “I can’t send you back out like that. Here are some clean towels and linens. The bed is freshly changed, and here, I’ll get you a little tea and something to eat.” Took good care of them. Next morning as the old man left he said, “You know, I’m here in town because I’m planning on building a hotel and I know right now who I’m going to pick to be the manager. You’re going to be the manager.” The man was John Jacob Astor and it was the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. True story. He showed hospitality. That hotel manager showed hospitality and Astor said, “I need someone like you who understands service to manage my hotel. You don’t know who you’re showing hospitality to sometimes and how it might ricochet back in blessing on you. Doesn’t the Bible say it’s more blessed to give than to receive?

Now we all have reasons that we concoct for neglecting this basic Christian virtue of showing hospitality. I’m too disorganized. The house is a mess. I’m afraid to have someone over. Know how many times as a pastor I’ll call someone up and I’ll say, “I’d like to stop by.” They’ll say, “Oh, the house is a mess!” So I’ve found it’s better sometimes if you really need to see someone, don’t call.” I mean what did pastors do for the first nineteen hundred years? Email folks, “I’m coming by. Is that okay?” No, they just showed up. And then what’s the first thing that is often said typically by the lady of the house? “Oh, you know I didn’t know you were coming by. The house is a mess. I’ve got to clean it up.” So people sometimes are afraid of what their dwelling looks like and so they never get it clean enough to invite anyone over in their eyes. You can’t use that as an excuse forever. By the way, the people who are coming, their house probably isn’t any cleaner. So just be yourself. I think we should be good witnesses, but that’s not an excuse. Some say, “I’m too shy. I don’t know what to say. It’s a little awkward, and I’m a very private person.” You heard that before? “I don’t know about bringing people into my… I’m a very private person.” You know everyone could make that excuse, but that’s part of what it means to open yourself up and to be vulnerable. These reasons for neglect, that doesn’t work. Or “I don’t trust people. I mean, invite people into my house? What if they start going through my medicine cabinet when I let them use the bathroom?” What are they going to see? You’ve got to make yourself vulnerable and trust that most people, you can trust them. Well, let me go back to this. I won’t say that. Erwin Lutzer says, “Hospitality is a test for godliness because those who are selfish do not like needy strangers to intrude upon their private lives. They prefer their friends who share their lifestyle. It’s inconvenient and we’re selfish.” Isn’t that right?

Now when we think about hospitality… I want to take you on a little panorama of Bible characters and examples of hospitality starting with the Old Testament and Noah. Noah is one of the great examples of hospitality. He built this ark and then he opened the doors and he said “whosoever will, come on in.” Those who came in, it was just his family, were saved. But there were all the animals. Now talk about having some guests that don’t have good habits. If Noah was willing to open up his home for the next year, talk about entertaining some strange guests! I bet some of those folks outside the ark that were mocking wished they had taken Noah up on his hospitality. It would have meant their salvation. The whole salvation story is in the context of coming into a home. By the way, listen to this, if you want to know in the last days, and Jesus said “as it was in the days of Noah…” 1 Peter 4:7, I’ll read through verse 10, “But the end of all things is at hand…” Don’t forget that. “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” Now he’s going to talk about how to show that love in the context of the last days. “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” You see? When we open our homes, it gives an opportunity to disseminate, to distribute the grace of God, the manifold grace of God in our homes. Peter is saying the end of all things is at hand therefore be hospitable. We don’t always think about the three angels’ message that part of that message is the world is ending, come into our homes. Isn’t this how Jesus prepared the church in the first century for the first coming? They went from house to house. They opened up their homes. They met together. They developed relationships. The Lord is saying in the context of the Second Coming, the end of all things is at hand, be hospitable. It is part of the final message. I think when God pours out the Holy Spirit on His church in the last days it may not happen in our church; it may happen as we’re gathering in our homes. Who knows how legal our church will be when that time comes. Where are we going to meet? So if we don’t get in the habit of opening up our homes and going to each other’s homes and inviting strangers in our homes, because the greatest part of Christ’s followers are not in our church right now; they’re still outside of our church home and they’re outside of our physical homes. By the way, hospitality in our homes will be reflected in hospitality in our church. Now as I share these things with you, let me just say I’m not saying this to try to condemn anybody. I told you I’m really condemning myself in this. We have folks here that are outstanding, exhibit A of great hosts. Our head elder, Renjifo, Mrs. Rengifo, man, they’re always inviting people into their homes and bringing food. They brought me some gifts today, very hospitable, lovely people. We’ve got a lot of families like that through our church that really are wonderful at opening up their homes. Traveling speakers or musicians come through and they say, “They can stay with me.” That’s what that gift is all about. But whatever is happening in our church homes, you’re going to see a change in our church literally when our homes begin to practice hospitality. It’s going to affect us in our relationships. These folks you bump into from week to week and you go, I wonder who they are? Or you ask them to sign the guest book and they say, “I’m a member here.” Because we just don’t know each other, especially in a big church. The relationships we develop as we go into each other’s homes and, by the way, it doesn’t just have to be Sabbath afternoon after church where you have lunch together. It can be… there’s no rule that says it has to be Sabbath. It can be any night of the week. You can get together for breakfast. I’m not just talking about eating together, it means opening up your homes to people who might be traveling through. Let’s face it, you know when folks come through we sort of relegate them to the local hotel. People call and say, “Yeah, I’m going to be in town.” And we say, “Well, yeah, right up the street there’s a nice place, hotel, Residents Inn.” I mean, we’re at the stage where we think maybe they want their time alone. I think it’d be good to just offer and say, “Would you like to stay?” By the way, it’d save a lot of money on the church. Everyone stays in hotels; no one thinks about staying with the church. I’ve stayed with a lot of families in traveling and I’ll tell you I’ve had some of my richest experiences are typically not in a hotel room. My richest experiences are when I’m with a family in another country in their home. That’s when you really get to know people and you develop those relationships.

A few more examples in the Bible about hospitality. I talked a little bit about Lot already. Hospitality can provide deliverance for you. When Lot urged hospitality on the angels that were visiting it reacted in the salvation of his life and that of his daughters. It saved him. And what about Rahab? In spite of her cottage industry, when Rahab invited those two messengers into their home it ended up being that when Joshua came and all of Jericho was destroyed everybody in Rahab’s house was saved. It wasn’t in Rahab’s church; it was in her home. Because she had received the messengers that were sent from Joshua into her home everybody that was in her home when Joshua came was saved. Who is our Joshua? He has sent messengers and as we open up our homes and we receive these people it can react in salvation in our lives. What about Moses and Jethro? Do you remember that story in the Bible? First of all, Moses became Moses because the princess of Pharaoh showed hospitality on a homeless baby. She took Moses into the palace, raised him, educated him, and by the way, that was God’s plan because he received information, an education and experience there that enabled him to be the leader he was. Then later when he was running for his life out in the desert and he delivered the daughters of Jethro, they reported back to their father, “Yeah, this man delivered us from the other shepherds that wouldn’t let us water the sheep.” Jethro was aghast. He said, “Where is he! Here he saved you and you didn’t bring him home and show hospitality.” And Jethro said, “Look, you’re welcome to stay,” and he ended up finding a wife that way, right? Hospitality.

When I talk about the subject of hospitality I want to be sensitive that it’s easy for us to talk about it in the context of families, couples inviting people home, but hospitality is for singles too. Sometimes I think singles feel a little awkward because there’s a get together where you’ve got several couples, they have dinner, and then you’ve got the single person, it’s like a stigma, that comes over. I know how you feel; I’ve been a Batchelor all my life so I can relate to you. I couldn’t let that pass. I’m sorry. It’s kind of a cheap laugh. No, I do know that sometimes it’s awkward. I’ve seen it before. Several couples get together and there’s that one single man or woman that’s there and they feel a little bit like they’re struggling to relate as the men pair off, the husbands pair off, and the wives pair off and this person kind of feels like an extra cog, but in the Bible it talks about even singles entertaining strangers and demonstrating hospitality. Do you remember the story of Elijah? You remember Ms Elijah? No, there is no Ms Elijah. Never talks about… if there was a Ms Elijah God probably wouldn’t have taken him to heaven in a chariot. He had no children, he had no wife, he was itinerant from the time he appears in the Bible until he disappears. When he, during the famine the creek dried up, where did God send him? He sent him to a widow that demonstrated hospitality. There was nothing romantic happening there and they were properly chaperoned because it said, “All who were in her house were fed” during the famine. But here you’ve got, basically they’re singles, and she’s inviting the man of God into her home. Did it end up being a blessing for her? What happened to her faith? She was not a believer in Jehovah when it starts out. She was a Canaanite woman. He stays with her and she sees a miracle of the food multiplying. Sometimes we say, “I can’t have people over because I don’t have enough in the cupboards.” Have you heard that one before? “I just have nothing to feed them.” I remember sometimes going to people’s houses and someone invited me home and they said, “Well, you know, we really weren’t expecting company at our little church today and my wife and I didn’t really prepare, but we’re just going to put more water in the soup and trust that God will bless.” And God multiplies. He takes care of it. So some of us say, “You know, we don’t have enough” or “We don’t have anything prepared.” I have never seen… when we invite somebody home and you think… man, you just go into the pantry and you start opening cans. You can make all kinds of things happen. Right? Just add a little more water to the soup, add some parsley to the water and call it soup. The Lord will work miracles. Did He work miracles for that widow to provide for this extra guest? Was she scared at first? He said, “Go make me a little loaf.” She said, “We have nothing to feed you.” He said, “Trust the Lord.” She opened up her home. When her son died, Elijah resurrected her son. There are some stories there for us to learn from.

Hospitality brings healing. You’ve got the story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman. Again, she invites Elisha home and he’s a single and Gehazi. She actually, hospitality for her was not just a meal. She built a room on top of her house so whenever Elisha was in the neighborhood, he was a man of God, bring him in, entertaining him. He was not even a member of her church! She was a Shunammite woman. We don’t even know her name. She had great hospitality. God blessed her for that. Not only because of her goodness to God, He blessed her even though it was long past time for her to have a child, she had a child. The child died of a heat stroke out in the field working with the father. She went to Elisha. Because they had that relationship, he worked a miracle and resurrected the boy. If she did not have that relationship with Elisha that wouldn’t have happened. Isaiah 58:7-8 Here the prophet… Go ahead. You can turn to it in your Bible. It won’t be on the screen so you might want to turn to this. Isaiah 58:7-8 talking about the attitude of worship for God, what a real fast is for a Christian. “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? …to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” And then there’s promises. Listen to this promise. “Then your light shall break forth like the morning…” God will reveal truth to you. And “…your healing shall spring forth speedily…” There is a promise that if you care about the practical needs of others and you bring them into your home and you’re willing to share of your resources because you care about their needs, God will heal you. That’s what He says. Don’t take it up with me. He promises that He will bless us, and not only is that physical healing there is a spiritual healing there. Did Jesus have some people that invited Him into their home periodically? Who first comes to mind that hosted Jesus? Martha and Lazarus, right? And they had a sister from Magdala whose name was Mary, but it was the home of Martha and Lazarus. Did Lazarus get sick? He got as sick as you can get. He died, right? What did Jesus do for Lazarus? Even though, I mean the mortician was done with him. He was very dead. He raised him. This was someone who had shown hospitality to Jesus. Is that true? I think that there’s a lesson there for us.

Now the Bible talks about not only giving hospitality but receiving hospitality. Some of us are very, as I said before, we’re private, we’re shy, we’re afraid to go, we don’t want to intrude on somebody. We feel like we’re putting somebody out. But hospitality in the church goes both ways. You need to not only be willing to open yourself up, be willing to go into other homes and be a good guest when you do it. The story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, Luke 19, “And when Jesus came to the place” where Zacchaeus was, “He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay (I must abide) at your house.’” You know he needed that little extra relationship because after, I mean this was the biggest sinner in Jericho, rich man, bad reputation and the crowd said to Jesus, “He’s going to be the guest of him which is a sinner!” So when we talk about hospitality I want to make it clear I’m not just talking about us inviting other members to our house, but we ought to be doing that caring for the household of God, but it means also inviting people from the community into our house. We’ve got some neighbors. Periodically we take their boy to school, and we bring him home and he spends time. It’s a widower, has a son that he’s raising, dear people and sometimes he comes to pick up his boy and Karen says, “Stay and eat with us. You’re right on time.” And he does sometimes. It was totally unplanned and you know what? That’s when we really get to know him. We’ve prayed with him and you develop a relationship. They’re not all members of your church. And that’s where you have your Bible studies. I bet Jesus, when he went to Zacchaeus’s house, I would like to have heard that. He said, “Now Zacchaeus, you’ve accepted Me and God has forgiven you and you can be changed and have a new heart. Let’s talk about some things.” And he did some teaching while He was there I’m sure just while they fellowshipped.

It’s in the context of hospitality God calls us to repentance. Matthew 9:10-13. After Matthew was called, another publican, to be an apostle, remember he left his tax booth and he followed Jesus. He wanted to show his gratitude so he invited Jesus to his home, hospitality, and not only did he invite Jesus, he said, “I’m inviting all of my friends so Jesus can talk to my friends.” So the house is filled with his former associates which are comprised of sort of the off-scouring of society, tax collectors and prostitutes. Matthew 9:10-13 Now it happened “as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.’” It’s not just showing hospitality to those who are in the church. We need to learn to make friends and build relationships with those who are out in the world, and open ourselves up and bring them into our homes. It doesn’t mean you’ve got to feed them every time. You might just say I’m going to have a home Bible study. A lot of things you can do in your house besides just eat. You invite people in to fellowship. Show them your bird feather collection. Do something, but just invite them. Something happens when people come into your home that’s very intimate. I know in doing evangelism we tell the evangelists, when you are preparing people for baptism and you study with them, when you’re doing a big meeting it’s real easy to make appointments with people and you sit with them here in the pew when the church is empty and you go over the vows and you ask them questions and you see if they’re prepared, you never really know people until you get into their home and you see them in the context of where they really live. If you want to know where a person really lives you’ve got to go to where they really live. If you want to know who they really are, you’ve got to see them in the context of where they live. There’s just something about that that helps you see people. Amen? This is true, but you’re very quiet. So it’s important for evangelism. When Jesus sent out the disciples preaching, Luke 10:5-7, He said, whatever house you enter. He didn’t say if you enter a house. He said “whatever house you enter” assuming they were going to go into houses and give Bible studies. “…first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not,” in other words, if they’re rejecting Jesus and the teaching “it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house.” Spend enough time there to get to know that person and to disciple them in the teachings. You notice Jesus said that when you enter in a house say “Peace be on this house” and the son of peace will be there. As you go into people’s house and you belong to Christ and Christ is in you, you are bringing by your presence the aura of the Spirit and a blessing rests upon that house because of you. Was there a blessing that came on the house of Potaphar when Joseph went to his house? Because of Joseph’s relationship with Jesus, he went into the house of a pagan, because he was received and treated well in that house the blessing of Jesus was on the house of this Egyptian commander. It’s a principal that’s very true. God blesses his children and that blessing can be transferred by your influence, by your prayers for that house. Acts 2:46 This was our memory verse. It says “daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” From house to house. Acts 20, going a little further in the book of Acts Paul says “how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,” so not only should the teaching be… and this is a good admonition for pastors. Not only do we stand up here and pontificate like I’m doing right now, and you preach and you lecture, but going house to house, meeting people in their homes, praying with them, letting them open up and not only intimate conversations but being vulnerable. You become a person when you sit knee to knee with somebody. You know I learned something from Bill May, one of the former directors of Amazing Facts and one of the founders of Amazing Facts. When they first called us to Amazing Facts, Joe Cruz called us there and we met with the board. Joe had passed away at this point. It was unexpected. Bill May was then the director and he called us back. He said, “I’d like to talk to you guys about accepting this call” because we were basically saying no at first. We said, “Well, go ahead and talk.” He said, “Oh, no, no, no. You don’t do that sort of thing on the phone.” He says, “I’m going to fly out from Maryland.” I said, “Well, you can talk now. I’d hate for you to come all that way.” He said, “No, we’re got to do this knee to knee.” I thought, you know, there really was something to that. He flew. That’s a long flight. He flew out, and came into the home and sat down in the office. Joe Cruz, when he first talked to Karen and I, came into our home, sat down with us in our home. They say you do that sort of thing face to face. Some things you don’t do on the phone. You don’t really get to know each other. We’re talking to some people right now at Amazing Facts about important positions and a call and I said, “We need to get together.” I’ve learned now. I said, “We can’t do this on the phone. We need to sit down together. We need to pray together and take a couple days and talk about it. It’s very important.” Some things like that, you don’t do it on the telephone. Being personal with people is where these things happen.

So being a Christian also involves not only giving hospitality; we need to know how to gracefully and graciously receive hospitality. Now can I be frank with you? I’ve been Doug so far, now I’m going to be Frank. Just wanted to see if you were listening. Have good manners if you are a guest in someone’s house especially because you are a Christian. You don’t want to completely explode your witness as a Christian when someone who if they’re not a Christian they invite you into their home and you eat all the food on the table and don’t leave anything for the guest and you don’t show some basic manners, you don’t offer to help clean up. It’s just you know what good manners are. You should show that. Be graceful. Wait for your hosts to sit down. Ask if you can help. Ask, when you’re invited, say, “Can I please bring something?” It’s always nice if you go to someone’s house bring flowers or a little something as a gift. Say let me bring desert, a card, something when you go to a person’s house. It’s like when we come to God’s house. Do we bring a gift? Yeah, there’s certain grace and good manners that you demonstrate when you’re in a person’s house. So you should be graceful. Don’t overstay your… You know, Benjamin Franklin said, “After three days fish and guests start to smell.” I misquoted that, but it’s pretty close. Somebody said “A constant guest is never welcome.” So you don’t want to be a constant guest. There’s a verse about that and it says, Proverbs 25:17. This week when we went to the NRB it was kind of interesting because the Amazing Facts booth… This is the national broadcasters’ convention. Thousands of Christian broadcasters were there. Amazing Facts had a nice corner booth and right across the aisle was Lonnie Melashenko and Jeanne Melashenko and the Voice of Prophecy. We’re looking at each other and waving. So I went over to visit for a little while, and after talking for a while I quoted this verse to him. I said, “I don’t want to wear out my welcome because people are stopping at your booth and talking to me, and we’re going to have branding confusion.” So it says, “Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.” I quoted that to Lonnie, I said, “I’d better withdraw myself from my neighbor’s booth; lest he weary of me.” So I went back over to my booth. You don’t want to hang out so long that… you want to leave while they still like you and they want you back again. You know what I mean? You don’t want them to be glad to see you go. So you understand how that works. Just have some grace.

It’s in the context of hospitality that Jesus really reveals who He is. We already talked about the story of Abraham. I alluded briefly to the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. You remember that they invited this Stranger into their home, and as He was breaking bread their eyes were opened and they knew Him. Sometimes we really don’t know who Jesus is until we open up our hearts and open up our homes. True hospitality is a sign of inviting Jesus to abide in our hearts. Every time you invite anybody into your home, remember Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it to Me”? Any time you invite somebody else into your home it’s like inviting Jesus into your home and it’s synonymous with inviting Jesus into your heart. Then think about it, friends. Ultimately heaven is the final hospitality. What does Jesus say? How many of you want to be invited to Jesus’ house? John 14:2 “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Now get this. He is not talking about there is a hotel up the street from my house in heaven where I’ve got a room for you. He’s talking about a Jewish wedding where after the groom had proposed to the bride, he then went back to his father’s house and on the father’s house they built what they called the honeymoon chamber. He would bring the bride back to his father’s house. It was part of that. Christ is saying, I am going to prepare a room for you in My house. Like the Shunammite woman prepared a room specifically for Elisha when he came by, Jesus says, I’m going to do that for you. I’m going to show you the ultimate, infinite hospitality. You are going to be abiding with Me. That’s what heaven is all about. I never finished my verse. “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” You know America has grown to be, I believe, the greatest nation in the world in spite of our problems. I don’t know anywhere else I’d want to go. But you know one reason? This was a nation that showed hospitality to the world. What do you think the Statue of Liberty represents? I mean, look around you. We’re a melting pot for people from all over the world. We made people feel welcome. Right there inscribed on the Statue of Liberty is that famous poem by Emma Lazarus. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” I mean, just the whole country basically said, “You’re looking for a home? Come here. You’re looking for freedom? Come here.” I know there are immigration issues and those things have to be dealt with, but let’s face it, we’re all here. Someone immigrated. Even the first Native Americans, there wasn’t another Garden of Eden here. They came here and it became a country, a new home. That’s why it’s this new nation that rises up out of the earth.

Well, the church ought to be a place where people find a home. Amen? People ought to be welcomed. We’ve got greeters at the door. That’s good. And they should feel like this is a place where they feel at home. I really am proud of how we do welcome all kinds of people to Central Church. We feed people every week and show that love. I want to see it more in my home. It’s not Karen’s fault. It’s me. I’ve had that castle mentality. I want to see it more in your homes. Some of you, you know, this resonates with what you’re saying. You’ve got an opportunity now to invite Jesus into your home. Hospitality is an act of worship. It’s in the Bible from cover to cover, friends. We’re losing the art of hospitality. I think we need to rediscover it. Do you agree with that?

I remember reading a story. Years ago the queen of England, I think this is back in the days of Victoria, she had a habit of periodically going to one of the homes of the common people and she would take a meal or tea with them. There was this one lady in the community, they called her granny. She was an old lady and she was a very devoted Christian. She used to preach to all of her neighbors and she was always talking about Jesus and her relationship with Jesus. Finally one day the queen came and she was picked from this community and she went to granny’s house and she had tea with her and then she left and all of the neighbors gathered around and they said, “Wasn’t that exciting to have the queen? Now, Granny, who is the most important guest that you’ve ever had in your house?” They expected her to say Jesus. She said it was the queen. They said, “What? We thought you were going to say Jesus was the most important guest.” She said, “No, Jesus isn’t a guest here. He lives here.” The queen was a guest. If Jesus lives in your home then you need to treat your home like it’s really His home and open it up to the huddled masses that are looking for Christ, that are homeless and help them find a home in Him. Is that your desire, friends? Our closing hymn is 577, and you’ll have that in your bulletin. What’s the name of that again, I forgot. “In the Heart of Jesus” 577. Let’s stand together.

In the heart of Jesus there is love for you, Love most pure and tender, love most deep and true; Why should you be lonely, why for friendship sigh, When the heart of Jesus has a full supply?

It’s an interesting time in Sacramento and America to be talking about hospitality when we’re having what they call a housing crisis right now. More people than in many years are losing their homes. There is a fear of people being homeless. Some people might even have an apartment or home or someplace that they’re renting but they feel like that they’re alone and they kind of feel like they’re homeless. You know the way to always have a home is to invite Jesus into your heart then you have a home. The Bible says He stands at the door and He knocks. He’s knocking on the door of your heart and if you give Him your heart as His home then you’re never homeless. Does that make sense? You don’t ever have to worry about that. Maybe you’ve had that kind of housing crisis. Has Jesus been invited into the door of your heart? Have you heard Him knocking? That’s where hospitality begins by showing hospitality to Jesus, letting Him into your hearts, that’s where He wants a home. Amen, friends? If that’s your desire, maybe you have some special prayer about accepting Christ. You can come for prayer and sing verse three with us.

In the field of Jesus there is work for you; Such as even angels might rejoice to do; Why stand idly sighing for some lifework grand, While the field of Jesus seeks your reaping hand?

Before we sing the last verse, I’d like to just ask generally, I even thought about doing this in two messages because there is so much in the Bible about hospitality, but if you got the point today and you’d like to say, “Lord, by Your grace I want my home to be a place where I can bring people in. I want to be willing to be a good guest in other homes.” And that as a church family not only that this is a place of hospitality, the house of God, but our homes are places where we bring people. Is that your desire, friends, that we could improve in this area? Amen. Let’s sing the last verse together.

In the home of Jesus there's a place for you; Glorious, bright, and joyous, calm and peaceful too; Why then, like a wanderer, roam with weary pace, If the home of Jesus holds for you a place?

Amen. I’m going to pray for you. Will you all pray for me that we can get a victory over this fortress mentality that we sometimes have and open our hearts to Jesus and open our homes to each other and develop relationships so we really have community as a church? That’s also the context where we are really witnesses for Jesus. Let’s pray.

Father in heaven, to begin with, Lord, we would like to give Jesus a home in our hearts. We want to open the door and invite Him in to be Lord of our lives, to bring in His grace and His mercy and His beautiful character. Then, Lord, I pray by dwelling and abiding with Jesus we can reproduce that in our lives and that we’ll open our hearts and our homes to others. Give us wisdom to know practical ways that we can do this and to be good hosts and to be good guests. And especially, Lord, I pray that here in our church family this can be a home where people will find Christ and be welcomed. Bless us that we can put into practice this very important Christian virtue of hospitality. We can’t do it without Your help, Lord, but through Christ we believe all things are possible. We praise You and thank You for Your goodness. Help us to take You into our lives through this day and through this week. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

You may be seated. Some will be staying in the sanctuary for special prayer. If you have some need and you’d like to remain in the house of God, we invite you to do that. It looks like the sun is shining outside, a good place for us to fellowship in the courtyard.

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