Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Plea for Hospitality + A New Study Bible

Welcoming Strangers in Our Midst

“The foreigner [or stranger, Hebrew ger] residing among you must be treated as your native–born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”
—Lev. 19:34

In the ancient world, hospitality was a high moral ideal, a kind of “law of the desert.” All nomads or seminomadic people needed hospitality from time to time. Welcoming a foreigner/stranger into your own tent ensured the same treatment when the tables were turned. Expectations developed in the ancient world that hosts would provide food, shelter and protection for the foreigner. This is well attested to in extra–Biblical sources as well as in the Bible itself (see Dt 16:13–15;Jdg 19). Abraham and Lot were seen as righteous, in part because they extended hospitality to travelers. Their behavior toward strangers is juxtaposed against the lack of hospitality shown to the same men by the people of Sodom.

The Bible has its own internal commentary on Sodom and Gomorrah:
  • “This was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy" (Eze 16:49).
  • “Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah!…Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isa 1:10, 16–17).
  • Jesus said that on the day of judgment, it will be worse for cities that refused hospitality to his disciples than for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (see Mt 10:1–15).
  • Jesus said that on the day of judgment, when the Son of Man separates the sheep from goats, it will be a person's treatment of the less fortunate – the stranger, the sick, those in prison, those who needed food, water and clothing—that will be taken into account (see Mt 25:31–46).
The Bible seems to expect all people to treat the stranger and the vulnerable members of society with respect. Apparently, God does not tolerate abuse of people by even those outside the covenant and the law. The Bible reveals a moral map that needs no list of commandments. To state this universal law in poetic terms: “Do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 7:12). Who then are the most vulnerable members of our society? Who are the strangers? How should they be treated?

** Excerpted from an Article in the NIV First–Century Study Bible.

Place the Scriptures into the context of it's original authorships and recipients is vital to understanding the text. There's a new resource available to you to do just that and we highly recommend checking out the NIV First-Centuray Study Bible. Experience the Bible through Eastern eyes by exploring the cultural, religious, and historical background of the Bible. This hardcover study Bible allows you to understand God’s Word in its original cultural context, bringing Scripture to life by providing fresh understanding to familiar passages, beloved stories and all the Scripture in between.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Great Book on Church Unity + Mission

Something we forgot to mention in today's Gathering (on 9.07.14). John Armstrong wrote a great book, Your Church is Too Small, that deals with the issues we pondered as we read through Romans 14 + 15.  We highly recommend it and we some copies on the back table! Here's the scoop on John Armstrong and the book...

We’ve been friends and supporters of John H. Armstrong for a long time now. His current ministry, ACT 3 in Carol Stream, Illinois, serves “to advance the missional mandate of the Lord Jesus Christ in the third millennium.” Armstrong founded ACT 3, formerly Reformation & Revival Ministries, in 1991 for the purpose of encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening. Read here about it’s mission and purpose. He has a new book coming out soon entitled Your Church is Too Small.

In Your Church Is Too Small, John Armstrong presents a vision of the unity possible for Christians across social, cultural, racial, and denominational lines. When Jesus’ followers seek unity through participation in the kingdom of God and031032114x the mission of Christ, they demonstrate God’s character to a watching world…
Book Description: Your Church Is Too Small gives voice to a gnawing sense many believers share: the contentious nature of differences among Christians cannot be pleasing to God. Jesus’ prayer in John 17, “May they be one as we are one,” seems like a dream possible only occasionally at best. Minister and teacher John Armstrong tells the story of how his own passion for Christian unity was ignited, shares his vision of individuals and churches united in the mission of God, and gives direction for how this vision can become a reality for God’s people. However, such unity will not happen by sheer willpower or denying the real differences among believing communities. Armstrong encourages Christians to rely on God—Father, Son, and Spirit—to build the worldwide church. Such reliance entails both a deeper experience in the triune life of God and a connection to the church’s past. More specifically, the history, belief, and practice of early Christians form the roots that today’s church requires to chart a unified path for the future.
Some other resources by John Armstrong:
John H. Armstrong’s Blog - ACT 3: Equipping Leaders for Unity in Christ's Mission
You can sign up to receive free podcasts, download lectures and sermons here at ACT 3. 
Watch and listen to this recent YouTube clip from Kiononia on Lesslie Newbigin’s life and influence.