Be Hospitable…Without Grumbling!

By Esther Hylden

1 Peter 4:9

     Ladies…isn’t this the scariest verse in the Bible?  Did Peter really know what he was talking about when he slipped that verse in between the End Times, Prayer, and a discussion on Love?  Did he know how long it takes me to clean my house, including vacuuming , washing the floors, dusting, cleaning the bathrooms, picking up and organizing the clutter that threatens to overrun our  home, making food…all the while taking care of children, answering the phone…and to do it all without grumbling???  What was he thinking?  Or maybe the better question is, what was I thinking about when I read, “Be Hospitable…without grumbling.”  Am I the confused person?  Am I the person mixing up Entertaining with Hospitality?

Many years ago, I read Open Heart Open Home by Karen Mains, and you could say that is changed my heart, and my life.    Karen Mains is a Pastor’s Wife, she wrote this book during their time of ministry in the inner city of Chicago.  During this time, they rented church space on Sunday morning, thus the Mains home was open to Council Meetings, Bible Studies, Counseling sessions, their neighbors, people who needed a place to stay; it was the site of almost weekly suppers for people in their parish and  popcorn parties.  It was the house where neighbor kids came to play.  Karen knew what she was talking about!   As a young wife, I took what she said to heart.   I grew up in a hospitable home, my Dad was a pastor, and my parents hosted many meals, housed many missionaries, VBS teams, visiting speakers and neighbors.  I learned to “serve from the Left, clear plates from the right!”   It seemed that the best conversations always occurred around the dinner table.  So…I was comfortable with having people over… or so I thought!

When I read this book, I was in my early 20’s, married to Mark, and living in married student housing at NDSU.  The first Thanksgiving that we were married…I decided to host Thanksgiving for both sides of our family.  Our little married student housing measured around 12 ft by 50 ft!  We borrowed a card table and chairs, and squeezed 10 people in our little apartment!  It was a lot of fun, we had more than enough food, and somehow the turkey fit in our little oven. The Bible has a lot to say about hospitality…   in 1 Timothy 3:2 it reads; “Now the overseer (what is an overseer?  It can refer to a pastor or church leader) must be the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable…and hospitable!”

Hospitality…what exactly does it mean?  What is God telling us to do?   Especially in contrast to what our society calls “entertaining.”  Karen Mains puts it this way: Entertaining has little to do with real hospitality.  Entertaining’s source is human pride.  Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating and my gourmet cooking.”  Hospitality, however, seeks to minister.  It says, “This home is not mine.  It is truly a gift from my Master.  I am His servant and I use it as He desires.  “Hospitality does not try to impress, but to Serve.”  Hospitality focuses on the guests, their needs; whether it is a place to stay, a hot meal or a listening ear.  Hospitality can occur in a messy house, sitting around a table eating a warmed up can of soup.

Entertaining always puts things before people. “as soon as I get the house finished, the living room decorated, my housecleaning done—then I will start inviting people over.”  “Hospitality however puts people before things.  Hospitality says, “We have no furniture; we’ll eat on the floor, the decorating may never get done, please come just the same.”    I understand this all very well…when our children were young, we spent a Sunday attending many High School graduation parties…when we were on our way home; Jarrod said to me, “Mom, did you know that some people have matching furniture?”    Obviously, he had been raised in a home filled with mismatched, hand-me-down furniture!

The desire for a lovely home is a common desire, and sometimes this longing becomes a barrier to our Lord’s directive, “Be Hospitable”.  When I was a little girl, I used to draw house plans…I filled notebooks with plans for the house that I hoped to live in someday.  They were quite grand, filled with many rooms, and I even remember outfitting one with a bowling alley!  When I was a newlywed, many of our friends built homes, or moved into lovely homes.  However, we were a struggling farm family…and we built a basement, thinking that we would stay in it for 2 years, and that then we would finish our home.  2 years stretched to 5, 10, 15 and finally, about a year ago, after 25 years, we finished our home and moved out of the basement!  That was a joyful day!  So how do you think that I felt about being a basement dweller for 25 years?  Well…we had many moments of joy, and laughter often filled the walls…and we had some moments, especially in the winter when we had blizzard after blizzard, and we had to spend day after day in our little space, that I thought I would go crazy!  So, I guess that I would say that living in a basement home, without a garage in Northern North Dakota for 25 years was not easy…in fact it was very hard.  At first I would pray every day, please God let us finish out house soon…day after day, year after year.  Then, I got a little mad at God…and Mark…and had a slump…a time of bitterness.  One day, during my dark time, I read 1 Thessalonians 5: 16: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  It seemed like a light bulb went off in my head…”God is telling me to give thanks…now…in everything…”  And so, in obedience, I started to give thanks, I thanked Him for our two bedroom, basement home…I thanked Him for the dirty dishes that I had to wash, I thanked Him for the piles of laundry that threatened to overflow the laundry room…I thanked Him for my husband, I thanked Him for our sons, I thanked him for my job…   And so the years passed, we didn’t wait to be hospitable until we had a grand home.  We opened up our little basement home with the ugly entry way, to many youth group events, bonfires, decorating Christmas cookie parties, holiday meals, sledding parties, suppers with friends, 4th of July parties, Bible Study’s, coffee parties, pre-hunting meals, meals for the combining crew.   I didn’t apologize for my home; I welcomed people as they walked down the ugly outdoor entry to the door that lead to our house.  And I learned, that hospitality is not about having a perfect house, it’s not about making the perfect gourmet meal…it is about Loving God, and loving others,  it’s about sharing the Good News of the Gospel.  Because…  a Christian home is a miracle, it is a treasure, and God calls us to share it.

Now…you may be saying to yourself…that is all fine and dandy…but how can I live this out in my life?  I can barely get the breakfast dishes cleaned up before lunch???  Even though we all say that our house doesn’t have to be perfect…we know that we don’t want our home to be a health hazard!

Continued  next week………………………………

 

 

 

 

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An Abundance of Waters

By Jonni Sliver

I was just recently in Curitiba with Paul and Becky Abel, always a precious experience, but this time God had a special Blessing for me.

A young man named Igor was in the car when Paul and Becky picked me up from the bus stop. He is a member of the church family and lives in the neighborhood down the hill from the ARCA; he had gotten a ride with the Abel’s to the dentist. As he got out of the car Becky asked him to tell his mom that they were working on the water, a curious statement. We had gone maybe two blocks when a lady stuck her head out of her window and called out “how is the water coming?” Becky responded “soon, we hope”.  Becky explained that there was a problem with the pump for the artesian well at the ARCA and everyone was high and dry – but what did that have to do with a whole neighborhood a good mile from the ARCA. Well, it is a lovely story.

Eighteen years ago Paul and Becky had a shallow well on their property which augmented the water they received from the city – the problem was it wasn’t enough water for them and the ARCA. They decided to dig a deeper artesian well. The project was costly, involving the digging of the well, the installation of a pump and the purchase of the water tank. The Abel’s were blessed when an American supporter contacted them to say God had laid it on her heart to provide the pump and its installation. She couldn’t know at the moment how many lives she would touch with her generous gift.

Originally the retreat center, the care takers, and Paul and Becky were supplied with crystalline water from this well. Within a short time the Bateias Church moved from a limited area in the city center to a larger property that allowed for growth, just a stone’s throw from the ARCA – and it had water. With the move of the church, the pastor and several church members moved to properties that bordered the ARCA, and all of them had water.

More than a decade ago, a new community sprang up not far from the ARCA. Poor families began building on land just outside of the city on cheap, untitled land. The community grew. Then a few families came to Paul and Becky asking if they could receive water from their well. Eventually the neighborhood grew to approximately 100 families. All of them receive water from the same well. The pump that was installed 18 years ago has blessed not just the ARCA and its workers, not just the missionaries, not just the church, but a whole community of people who found grace when they knocked on Paul and Becky’s door.

Maybe you are thinking about the same story I am – Jesus sitting beside a well, offering living water to a woman desperately in need of it. She went to the well to satisfy her thirst; Jesus met her there to satisfy her spirit.  Paul and Becky have been offering the same words of hope, together with the blessing of clean, clear water for nearly two decades thanks to the obedience of one precious sister. Only the Lord knows how far His blessings will reach!

Abundant Life

By Lori Willard

Abundant – “ABUND’ANT, adjective Plentiful; in great quantity; fully sufficient; as an abundant supply. In scripture, abounding; having in great quantity; overflowing with.

The Lord God is abundant in goodness and truth. Exodus 34:6.”

Taken from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

John 10:7-11

New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus the Good Shepherd

7 “Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

Jesus not only provides us life; but also, He provides abundant life – to the full!  It all begins with the Holy Spirit bringing us to recognize our need for the Good Shepherd to save us from our sinful nature and to direct our lives.  We are nothing without Him!  We enter this abundant life through Jesus – The Door.  Included in this full life is pasture which provides shelter/protection from enemies, food to eat, a place to rest, and most importantly – A Good Shepherd Who watches over us and does His work through us.  Abundant life is ours if we do not resist the Holy Spirit leading us to “The Door” and we allow the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to be our guide, always.

Protection is found in our Jesus Who has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  Hebrews 13:5.  We have protection whether we are in the sheepfold – a place where sheep are collected, and protected – (Devotional Time with the Lord, Church Worship Services, etc.) or in the green pastures of abundance (new eternal life here on earth and in Heaven) He is ever present with us.  Oh the joy to have peace and freedom found only in His presence!  Have you ever seen young lambs bounding and jumping for joy?!  The Lord wants the same for us spiritually, emotionally, mentally and quite possibly – physically.  J

John 14:27 NKJV

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NKJV

Vs. 17” Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

Jesus mentions thief, thieves and robbers in connection with this abundant life.  They come to steal, kill and destroy.  We are deaf to them.  We have ears only for our Great Shepherd.  We listen to Him through His Word and His Holy Spirit.  We follow only Him.  John 10:1-5.  Jesus warns us of those evil deceivers but He is ever present to protect us and comfort us from them.  No one can snatch us from His love for us.

Romans 8:35-39 NKJV

Vs. 35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Vs. 36 As it is written:  “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Vs. 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 

Vs. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 

Vs. 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In the pasture, we:

EAT, DRINK, LIVE, PLAY – How He desires for us to feed and grow in His word; and to apply His Word in our daily lives while in the world!

Psalm 1 NKJV The Way of the Righteous and the End of the Ungodly

Vs. 1 “Blessed is the man
          Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
          Nor stands in the path of sinners,
          Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

Vs. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
         And in His law he meditates day and night.

Vs. 3 He shall be like a tree
         Planted by the rivers of water,
        That brings forth its fruit in its season,
        Whose leaf also shall not wither;
        And whatever he does shall prosper.

Vs. 4 The ungodly are not so,
          But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.

Vs. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
          Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

Vs. 6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
         But the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

Meditating is another word for MUSE – Deep thought; close attention or contemplation, to ponder; to think closely; to study in silence.   When we want to illustrate the opposite of something, we usually put the letter “a” in front of it, for example, AMUSE – which means to not think deeply, not to pay attention to, not to contemplate,  not to ponder, not to think closely, not to study in silence, etc.  We need to be careful to muse on His Word.

REST

Psalm 94:12-15 NKJV

Vs. 12 “Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord,
           And teach out of Your law,

Vs. 13 That You may give him rest from the days of                           adversity, Until the pit is dug for the wicked.

Vs. 14 For the Lord will not cast off His people,
           Nor will He forsake His inheritance.

Vs. 15 But judgment will return to righteousness,
           And all the upright in heart will follow it.” 

The Lord does several things for us as we feed on His word:

  1. Instructs or disciples us in truth.
  2. Guides us in His law.
  3. Gives us rest or relief from evil days until the very end when the pit is finally completed for the wicked and we are together in Heaven with Him.
  4. He also provides us encouragement.

He promises He will not:

  1. Cast off or abandon His people.
  2. Forsake His inheritance.  Forsake: To quit or leave entirely; to desert; to abandon; to depart from.

Friends and flatterers forsake us in adversity.

Jesus is The Door to eternal life and fullness in this life because the judgment that was intended for us was placed on Him.  We are transformed to righteousness through faith in Him.  We will follow that righteousness.

Through Him, we go out from the sheepfold, into the green pastures, and there, Jesus continues to go with us.  He provides us strength, endurance, ability, joy, peace, patience, etc. (Galatians 5:22, 23) to the FULL so we can fulfill His will for us – to just “be” with Him or to carry out His ministry through us.

Oh!  The fulfillment this brings!  He planned this indescribable abundance He has for each of us before we were even born.  Life to the full!

In the movie, “Second Hand Lions”, a nephew was being interviewed regarding his deceased uncles.  The interviewer said, “Well, they died with their boots on!  Did they really LIVE?!”  The nephew said, with a smile on his face, “YES!  They REALLY lived!!”  May we say the same about our lives with Jesus too!!

 

Thank You from Jonni

Precious Ladies of the WMF, and Amery Family,

You both worked so hard to get us a dryer, I just have to show you a picture of it in action! It may not look so impressive in the picture but it dries 15 kilos of clothes at a time and that is WONDERFUL when it has been raining for two days! Bless you and thank you for your loving generous hearts!!!!

Jonni

 

Drier at Miriam Home web ready

ALWAYS FAITHFUL

By Sarah Langness

In six or so short weeks, things are going to start looking a little bit different at our house. I’ve got a laundry basket of purple and pink sleepers, onesies and pants sitting on the couch waiting to be folding testifying to that change. Our little boy moved into a big boy bed two weeks ago, allowing us to move the crib across the hall into the room affectionately known as “Baby Sister’s room”. The quickly accumulating empty buckets of ice cream bear witness to one of my favorite (and most indulged in) pregnancy cravings.

In just six or so short weeks, our lives will once again be turned wonderfully upside down.

Upon reaching the 34th week of pregnancy, my local doctor sent me to another doctor in Bismarck where Baby Sister will – hopefully – be born. (I say “hopefully” because I never want to give birth on the side of the road. Or in my house – more power to those of you who do, though!) When I was pregnant with Ezekiel, the transition to a doctor in Bismarck proved . . . eventful, to say the least.

In short, at that initial appointment, I was measuring smaller than the doctor liked to see; as a result, weekly non-stress tests and ultrasounds were performed to make sure our baby boy was growing as he should. And praise God, he was and did and was born healthy! So when Jordan and I traveled to Bismarck on Monday, I was expecting similar events to take place.

And, they did.

Once again, I was measuring smaller than the doctor liked to see. He ordered a growth ultrasound to check on Baby Sister. The next day we had not one but two ultrasounds to check baby’s growth and the blood flow to her via the umbilical cord. Today we received a call informing us that baby is simply small, but otherwise growing well. Again, praise God!

I’ll never forget the fear in my heart during that first doctor’s visit in Bismarck when I was pregnant with Ezekiel. Seeing – or sensing – the doctor’s concern as well as hearing phrases like, “If the blood flow from you to baby isn’t good, we’ll have to take this baby today”, made me fearful for what could be. I didn’t know what to expect. Simply waiting for the ultrasound results was agonizing, not knowing what news we were going to get about our baby. I can still remember the fear, the tears, and the prayers Jordan and I shared that day.

But we were not alone.

My brother sent me a text that day with some of the most comforting verses in all of Scripture to remind me of that truth:

“But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the watersI will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fireyou will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . . You are precious in My sight . . .You are honored and I love you,'” – Isaiah 43:1-4, NASB (emphasis mine)

I love those promises. And I am so glad they are not simply words on a page.

This week, there was none of that fear. Okay, maybe just a little bit for a short amount of time. Especially after receiving a call only ten minutes after our first ultrasound saying another one had to be completed. But in comparison, that fear lasted only minutes and wasn’t nearly as intense.

Because we had walked this road before.

I was confident that Baby Sister was doing fine. That I simply carry more inward. That different doctors measure differently. That, as her brother before her, our little girl would be found growing as she should.

And while all this is true – I do believe different doctors have slightly different techniques at measuring, hence the difference that spiked the concern of our Bismarck doctor’s – I realized last night that my trust was completely misplaced.

I was trusting in what knew. In what had experienced before. In what believed.

Instead, I should have been trusting wholly, completely, utterly dependently, upon the One who was faithful in this same situation two years ago. In the One who is knitting together our little girl. In the One who has never left us and has guided us through every step of each of these pregnancies.

“Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.” – Lamentations 3:19-25, NASB (emphasis mine)

No matter if the path we are walking seems familiar or completely uncharted – we are not alone. The Faithful One is there, ready to prove Himself once more. Ready to sustain. Ready to strengthen. Ready to carry.

Let No One Despise Your Youth

by Jonni Sliver

Alex is 19 years old, a child of God for two years and a Bible school student for one year. He is one of our “Timothys”. He got saved while in a recuperation program, and this precious young man has an intense gratitude for the gift of salvation he has received and an overflowing joy. During his first year in the Bible school he was one of the students who asked if they could do evangelism in the local jail (they have shared with hundreds of prisoners and prayed with dozens).

Alex went home to Curitiba for his Christmas break, and he took with him a young man from Campo Mourao, a son of the Free Lutheran congregation here, who had started to get involved with drugs. Alex has been talking with him, sharing his own story, and trying to influence Nathan in a positive way, but Nathan was only listening with one ear, so Alex thought it might be interesting for Nathan to visit the recuperation house he had gone to. Nathan would hear every one of the young men there tell him how they began a life of addiction doing the same “innocent” things he was doing, playing the same dangerous games.

While Alex and Nathan were in Curitiba they met a teen-ager, Lucas, on the street. He was obviously drugged and he was scared because he had fought with some members of a gang and he thought they would hurt him while he was sleeping. Alex talked Lucas into going to Paul and Becky Abel’s house, where they spent the night. The next day, with his mind clearer, Lucas talked to Alex and to Paul for hours. He finally decided that they were right, that he had no future on the street, and that he needed to make a change in his life. Just days before Christmas, Becky went on a search for a recuperation house that had a place for Lucas, and after three days she found one! Lucas entered the program. Alex and Nathan enjoyed the holidays and Nathan returned the first week of January to Campo Mourao.

I would love to say that this is the end of the story – everyone blessed and growing in the Lord, but life isn’t a script that we write as we would like it to be. Two weeks after entering the program Lucas decided that he didn’t need to be told how to live his life. He left the recuperation house and two days later he was shot and killed (likely by the same people he had fought with weeks earlier).

As Alex told me the story his eyes filled with tears, but he ended the story with an affirmation – he wasn’t going to stop reaching out to anyone willing to be helped. Lucas may have given up, but Nathan had not! It blessed me to see his heart moved but his faith not shaken, and I am imagining the wonderful ways God will use him. It is so amazing to be allowed to be a part of the lives of these precious students!