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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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What is Biblical Hospitality?


I should title this article as “Do as I say, not as a I do”, because biblical hospitality is an area that I need to demonstrate some growth in. Every Christian is called to practice hospitality, but not everyone practices it the same way. Hospitality is so important that the Apostle Paul listed it as a requirement of the office of an elder in a local church:
“Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” 1 Timothy 3:2
I’ve recently read two books that have challenged me in the area of hospitality –Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Area of Unbelief by Matt Chandler and The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield. Let me share what I have learned about biblical hospitality from these two books.
Pastor and author Matt Chandler tells us that when we talk about what it means to be courageous and faithful in the age of unbelief, we have to talk about the Great Commission, which is our mission. He believes it’s more true than ever to say that evangelism is going to look like hospitality. He states that hospitality means to give loving welcome to those outside our normal circle of friends. It is opening our life and our house to those who believe differently than we do.
Why would the Bible be so serious about hospitality? Chandler tell us that it’s because God has been hospitable to us, saving us as sinners and inviting us to eat at his table in his eternal home. He tells us that we demonstrate that we truly appreciate the divine hospitality we have received as we extend our own hospitality to those around us.
He offers four helpful suggestions regarding hospitality:
1. Welcome everyone we meet. He means literally to greet everyone you see. That may be easy for Chandler, an extrovert, but it will be harder for introverts like me.
2. Engage people. He tells us to care about and take an interest in those we run across.
3. Make dinner a priority. Here he’s not talking about dinner with friends, but going back to his definition of hospitality, he’s talking about give loving welcome to those outside your normal circle of friends.
4. Love the outsider. In every setting, work, neighborhood, etc., there are people who for whatever reason are kind of outliers. Chandler tells us that we tend to run away from differences and from being around people who think differently and look differently than we do. Chandler tells us that Jesus would have moved toward those people, and because God extends radical hospitality to us, we should as well.
Chandler tells us that missional hospitality is costly. It costs our time, our money and comfort. It requires trust in God instead of ourselves and demands courage. He tells us that the extent of our courage will be shown by who sits around our table.
Rosaria Butterfield is a pastor’s wife and has an incredible story that she tells in her first book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. In her new book she writes about “radical, ordinary hospitality”. She defines this as using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers into neighbors, and neighbors into the family of God. It brings glory to God, serves others, and lives out the gospel in word and deed. Its purpose is to build, focus, deepen, and strengthen the family of God, pointing others to the Bible-believing local church, and being earthly and spiritually good to everyone we know. She tells us that daily hospitality, gathering church and neighbors, is a daily grace.
But, Rosaria states, daily hospitality can be expensive and even inconvenient. It compels us to care more for our church family and neighbors than our personal status in this world.
Radical ordinary hospitality creates an intimacy among people that allows for genuine differences to be discussed. It cares for the things that our neighbors care about. It means esteeming others more highly than ourselves.
And like Chandler, Butterfield addresses the issue of our personality type in her discussion of hospitality. She writes that knowing your personality and sensitivities does not excuse us from ministry. It just means that we will need to prepare for it differently.
I learned a great deal about hospitality and was challenged in this area by these two books.
What would you add to this discussion of biblical hospitality?

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The Eagles and James Taylor Concert in Washington D.C.

The Eagles and James Taylor at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. (June 26)
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This concert was actually my wife and my Christmas gift to each other. It was the most (by far) we had ever spent on a concert ticket, and it wasn’t nearly the highest price ticket for the concert. And it turned out to be one of the best concerts we have ever been to – and we’ve been to a lot of them over the years.  Back in the late 1970’s we saw Fleetwood Mac and were stunned at the ticket prices – at the time they were $20 each.  My oh my how times have changed.
James Taylor is one of our favorite artists. We have seen him in concert several times, and he’s always outstanding. He was the “opening act” on this warm and humid night at the packed home of the baseball Nationals in our nation’s capital. “JT” was backed by his “All-Star Band”, and they all got an opportunity to show off their many talents. Taylor and the band were clearly having a great time during their 90-minute set (as an opening act, somewhat shorter than his usual set). The only disappointment was that surprisingly, Taylor didn’t play any songs from his 2015 comeback album Before This World.  Instead, he focused on his more popular songs from his catalog, beginning with “Something in the Way She Moves”, from his 1968 debut album on the Beatles’ Apple Records.
Taylor started his set precisely on time at 7:00 pm, as the music on this evening would not end until 4 and a half hours later. Check out Taylor’s setlist here.
I had last seen the Eagles more than 38 years ago when they played the Alpine Valley Music Theatre about 45 minutes from Milwaukee, Wisconsin in June 1980, with Christopher Cross as the opening act. I had just started my career the month before, and that concert was on a weeknight. Despite the three-hour drive home (after getting out of the parking lot), I still went to work as scheduled the next morning. Oh, to be young!
After the death of Glenn Frey in 2016, I doubted that the Eagles would tour again. But with country artist Vince Gill and Frey’s son Deacon joining the band, the Eagles have returned, and they are at the top of their game.
After about 35 minutes to change the stage, the Eagles opened with a pitch perfect ‘Seven Bridges Road’. With five different vocalists – Frey, Gill, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh – taking leads, the band would play for two and a half hours without a break. Unfortunately, some fans had to leave before the end of the show in order to catch the last Metro ride from the Navy Yards station.
The band’s vocals sounded great throughout, and their harmonies in particular were incredible. Gill tended to take care of the high notes that needed to be hit and Frey did a great job singing some of his Dad’s most popular songs, such as “Take it Easy”. Joe Walsh, a fan favorite, took over the last part of the concert, with James Gang favorites “Walk Away” and “Funk #49” and the sing along “Life’s Been Good” and “Rocky Mountain Way”, one of three encores with “Hotel California” and Don Henley’s closing “Desperado”. Check out the Eagles setlist here.  The Eagles and JT gave us the Christmas gift to remember.


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Our Trip to the Museum of the Bible

We recently traveled to Washington D.C. On our “must do” list was a visit to the new Museum of the Bible. Unlike many of the museums (Smithsonian, etc.) in our nation’s capital, this museum is a non-profit organization, and is dependent on donations. The suggested donation for an adult is $19.95. Other experiences at the museum were available for an additional donation. We chose to go with the standard admission, and with that there was certainly plenty to experience.
The museum includes six floors, and we started at the top floor and worked our way down. When we reached the top floor, we were met by three “Secret Service” looking guards, blocking our path. We asked a museum employee what was going on, only to be told that there was a special guest present. Thinking perhaps that a member of Congress was present, we asked who it was. It turned out to be a controversial TV pastor from Texas who was there for an event. We wondered if John the Baptist would have had such security detail and thought for a minute it was something for The Babylon Bee.   
Side note of comment to this pastor titled BE AVAILABLE by Bob Goff:
“Take it from a guy who had the audacity to put his cell number in the back of his book: there’s a huge power in just being present, being available, to those around you. What if you took time for the people in your life? What if you made some audacious plans to rock their lives? Try it and see what happens!” 
The 6th floor had some excellent views of the Washington Monument and the Capitol building. It also had the Manna restaurant, a biblical garden and the Gathering Room.
The 5th floor includes the World Stage Theatre, which offers an immersive and multimedia Bible reading experience. We enjoyed the Israel Antiques Authority presentation, featuring many artifacts from the biblical period.   Picture the 5 smooth stones of David when he fought Goliath – they were actually the size of small fist-size cannonballs!
The 4th floor was probably my favorite. It features more than 600 artifacts and 50 media programs. It immerses you in the Bible’s journey through technology and culture. I enjoyed the many exhibits in this area, and the different bibles, from Martin Luther’s translation, a first edition King James Bible to an English Standard Version (ESV) that I use today.
The 3rd floor includes a 30-minute Hebrew Bible Experience and a walk-thru the World of Jesus of Nazareth experience. It also includes the New Testament Theatre, which was very crowded, so we did not attend.
The 2nd floor was about the impact of the Bible in diverse areas like music, fashion and government, and its significant impact on American culture. I enjoyed seeing a replica of George Whitfield’s field pulpit. Among the many other items featured was Elvis Presley’s bible.
The 1st floor, which is where we had entered, features a 140-foot digital ceiling, a Vatican Museums and Library exhibition and a gift shop.
The Museum of the Bible was beautiful, and very well done in every aspect. It didn’t cheapen Christianity like the Orlando theme park “The Holy Land” does. There was quality in every aspect of the facility, from the many video presentations, displays and exhibits.
We spent two hours at the museum, but you could easily spend much more time than that. We did notice many busloads of children at the museum. I’m not sure how much children will get out of the experience, but for adults, this would be time well spent. To find out more about the Museum of the Bible, go to their website.


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American Airlines Flight 1002

We recently traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Eagles and James Taylor concert. We had enjoyed visiting the area multiple times years ago, and so decided to turn it into a short vacation and visit some sights that we hadn’t seen since our last trip there ten years ago. But looking at the weather forecast cast a pall over the trip. The D.C. area had experienced heavy rain over the preceding week, and rain and t-storms were forecast for our entire stay, including during our outdoor concert at Nationals Park.
Looking at the forecast I could feel my anxiety starting to rise. You see, I very much enjoy the benefits of flying (getting there quickly), but I sure don’t like the turbulence. My wife Tammy tells me that I would pay good money at a theme park for the bumps and drops you experience during turbulence, but I always say that it’s different when you are 35,000 feet in the air. It sure looked like we would be flying into heavy thunderstorms as we headed out east. But, as I have to be taught over and over, things don’t always happen the way you anticipate that they will.
Our trip had “bumps” from the beginning, including having to wait on the runway of our small regional airport to fly to Chicago. Then, in Chicago, our flight was delayed about a half hour due to the storms in Washington D.C. Once we were in the air, I was ready for the turbulence. But the turbulence that we experienced was not what we expected.
About a half hour into our trip, we noticed that a male passenger five rows in front of us was having some medical problems. A message was flashed up on our monitors asking for any medical personnel on board to assist.
For the next hour or so, a wonderful woman comforted and worked on the man in question. As time went on, the airline flight attendants and another volunteer assisted the woman. Eventually the man was moved to the center aisle of the plane.  There, CPR was performed on him for at least fifteen minutes and his heart was shocked multiple times as we made an emergency landing in Pittsburgh.
Although we never heard for certain, our assumption is that the man lost his life that day. Neither he, nor his family, would have ever thought, boarding that flight, that this was to be his last day on earth.
And to the two volunteers who assisted him, and the flight attendants on American Airlines flight 1002, a big “Thank You”. You were brave and heroic under the most difficult of circumstances.
And our flight from Chicago to Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.? Well, it was smooth with absolutely no turbulence. Our flight home five days later in beautiful weather? Well, that one had significant turbulence, even though the weather seemed perfect for flying. What does that teach me? To depend on the Lord to take care of us. I was worried about a few bumps, but a man lost his life. Later, when I expected a bump-free trip home, we experienced a lot of turbulence.
What similar stories do you have that you could share?


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Enjoying Your Summer Vacation

Growing up, my family always went on a summer vacation. It seems like we hit most states, as I remember many great vacations, including trips to Florida, California, Canada, Wisconsin and New York. And to think that my Dad made all of those plans without the benefit of the Internet, and we got to where we were going without a GPS app!
Since we have been married, almost every year, Tammy and I have been blessed to take a week’s vacation with her sisters and their families. We’ve seen the “kids” (nieces and nephews) grow up, get married and start families of their own. Each year we start having discussions about the next year’s vacation destination around the holidays. Talking about where everyone wants to go is great fun. Over the years we’ve enjoyed great family vacations at Hilton Head Island, the Ozarks, the Hamptons, Door County, Wisconsin, Breckinridge, Colorado, and other locations. Recently, we decided that this year’s trip will be to Maine.
A vacation is a great way to get rested so that you can return to your callings with new energy and a fresh passion. Hopefully you and your family will enjoy some time away together from work this summer, be it a trip to a favorite or new destination, or a “stay-cation”. Here are a few suggestions for your vacation:

  • Strengthen relationships. These days, some of the family members that go on vacation with us live far away, and we only see them a few times a year. Use the time you have together on vacation to get caught up and strengthen those relationships. I know as I get older, relationships become more and more important. Enjoy doing some incredible things but be intentional about strengthening relationships as well.
  • Don’t check work email. If you are constantly checking on what is going on back in the office, you are not going to relax and get in “vacation mode”. It will probably take you a few days to totally relax anyway. It used to take my brother-in-law about half the week to do so. I was always fortunate to have leaders on my team who would manage my email while I was out of the office. They took care of things so that I could get up and running quickly when I returned to the office. If you don’t have that option, identify a backup or two, and then put an “Out of Office” message with that information on your computer and phone.
  • Enjoy the outdoors. If you take a trip, enjoy the beach, the pool, a hike or biking. If you stay home, enjoy reading out on the patio, listening to the birds and watching a beautiful sunset. Either way, enjoy God’s wonderful creation.
  • Read good books. One of my favorite things in preparing for a vacation is to decide what my “vacation books” will be. Years ago, that meant packing several books in our suitcase, while today it just means adding them to my Kindle. I know not everyone is a reader, but if you are, a vacation is a great time to get caught up on that book you’ve been wanting to read and just not had the time.
  • Consider unplugging, or at least cutting back, from social media, etc.. Why not take a break from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. during your vacation? This will give you more time to be with those you are on vacation with. I know most of us want to post photos of the great fun we’re having on Instagram or Facebook, but why not be intentional about trying to at least cut back?  Maybe even disconnect from screens (phone, TV, computer) altogether?  Where we go in the Ozarks you can only get 3 TV stations and one wireless provider, but you can see the Milky Way and enjoy the chorus of crickets in the evening.

These are a few of my suggestions for making the most of your summer vacation. What other thoughts do you have?


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My 2018 Mid-Year Favorites

It’s hard to believe that we are at mid-year already. As I have in the past, I wanted to share with you my favorites from the first half of 2018 in a variety of categories. Except for books, these are all items that were released or took place in 2018. For books, I include my favorite books that I’ve read thus far during 2018. Enjoy!  Please let me know what you think of my list, and also share some of your favorites.

Movies

Best: Tie ~ Black Panther and Paddington 2

Other movies I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, were:

  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
  • Incredibles 2
  • Peter Rabbit
  • Calvinist
  • The Post
  • I Can Only Imagine
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Isle of Dogs
  • Ready Player One
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp

Worst:  Below are the worst, or at least the most disappointing, films I’ve seen, in no particular order:

  • Hostiles
  • Phantom Thread
  • The 15:17 to Paris
  • God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness
  • First Reformed

Music

Best: Resurrection Letters: Prologue/Resurrection Letters Vol. 1 – Andrew Peterson
  
Other music I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, were:

  • You’re Driving Me Crazy – Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco
  • Let the Trap Say Amen – Lecrae and Zaytoven
  • Surrounded – Michael W. Smith
  • Into the Night – Social Club Misfits
  • One More Song – Ashley Cleveland

Top Songs

Best: Is He Worthy? – Andrew Peterson

Other songs I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, have been:

  • Take Me to the Water/Cool Down by the Banks of Jordan – Ashley Cleveland
  • I Can’t Lose – Lecrae and Zaytoven
  • Everyday I Have the Blues – Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco
  • The Holy Grail – John Fogerty
  • Bridges Burn by NEEDTOBREATHE
  • Better Than I Used to Be by Mat Kearney
  • Don’t Know by Paul McCartney

Books

Best: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row – Anthony Ray Hinton

Other books I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, were:

  • Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 – John Maxwell
  • Servant Leadership in Action – Edited by Ken Blanchard
  • The Gospel According to God – John MacArthur
  • The Gospel Comes with a House Key – Rosaria Butterfield
  • How to be a Perfect Christian – Babylon Bee
  • How to Get Unstuck – Matt Perman
  • Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief – Matt Chandler
  • Immanuel Labor: God’s Presence in Our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work – Russell E. Gehrlein
  • The Gospel at Work: How the Gospel Gives New Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs(Updated and Expanded Edition) – Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger
  • Paul Simon: The Life – Robert Hilburn
  • Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock – Gregory Alan Thornbury
  • Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization – John Wooden and Steve Jamison

Blogs

Best: Tim Challies’ Ala Carte. This is required reading for me each Monday through Saturday. Challies includes helpful Kindle deals, links to a good variety of helpful articles and a quote.  Check out Tim’s website here.

Podcasts

Best: The Briefing – Albert Mohler. Each weekend morning, Albert Mohler hosts a podcast providing worldview analysis about the leading news headlines and cultural conversations. This is required listening for me. Check out Dr. Mohler’s website here.

Honorable mention goes to the third season of Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent podcast Revisionist History. On each episode, Gladwell goes back and reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.

Television

Best: Victoria

  • The Resident
  • This is Us
  • The Profit
  • The Blacklist
  • The Crown

Concerts

Best: U2 – Experience and Innocence Tour in St. Louis

Honorable Mention: John Hiatt and the Goners, featuring Sonny Landreth. Slow Turning 30th Anniversary Reunion Tour in Bloomington, Illinois

New Resources

Best: Messages from the 2018 Ligonier National Conference which had the theme “Awakening”.

These are my mid-year favorites in a variety of categories. How about you? What were some of your favorites?


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My Faithful Pastor

I don’t know the average length of time a pastor stays at a church these days. I remember reading David Wells’ excellent 1993 book No Place For Truth: Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology, in which he wrote that it was about three years at that time. I’ve read some statistics indicating that by 2016 the average tenure for a pastor had increased to about six years. What if I were to tell you that my lead pastor has been faithfully serving our church for 25 years? That is almost unheard of these days, and quite a blessing to our church. Just last Sunday our congregation celebrated that milestone, thanking God for His faithfulness and that of His servant Pastor Bob Smart and his wife Karen.
My wife Tammy and I started attending our church in December, 1994, the year after Pastor Smart began serving there. We were a very small church at the time, with about 80 in attendance each Sunday. We met in rental property in a business park that included a rock radio station on the floor above us. In fact, a large boom box that the radio station used at events was parked in the parking lot that we shared. As you can imagine, that probably raised some eyebrows of first time visitors to the church.
At that time, Pastor Smart did it all – from wearing a headset to answer the phone (there was no full-time secretary), to emptying dirty diapers out of the nursery, to preaching on Sunday. There were no associate pastors, just a few faithful elders and deacons to help Pastor Smart lead the church. Over the years our church has seen steady growth, resulting in our move to a beautiful new church building in 1999 and the addition of a few associate pastors to help Pastor Smart lead the church.
Pastor Smart, who has encouraged many to pursue seminary education over the years, continued to grow himself, achieving a PhD. He has authored or edited several books, regularly teaches his Identity in Christ material, has taught pastors internationally and gone on a number of missions’ trips. Through it all, for 25 years, he has remained faithful to the local church.
Day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year he has been faithful. Last Sunday was not only our church celebration, giving God thanks for the Smarts, but it also marked another milestone. Pastor Smart preaches through books of the Bible, first a book in the New Testament, then a book in the Old Testament. Back and forth, preaching through all 66 books of the Bible, until this past Sunday when the last sermon, in the last book of the Bible (Nehemiah) that he was preaching through, was preached.
The calling of a pastor is hard. It is not flashy or glamorous, but ordinary, as Michael Horton has written. There are no established hours, and a pastor is always on call, even on their days off. A pastor rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Pastor Smart has faithfully prayed for his people, studied and preached, taught and counseled. His focus has consistently been on Word and prayer. He has preached the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2) and is worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17).
Pastor Smart is also a very humble man, never wanting the attention on himself, but all glory to be given to his Savior. So that’s how I’ll end, praising God for using His servant for 25 years at our church.

Soli Deo Gloria!