Work as Intimacy: Scratch Notes on Hebrews 13

Core References: Hebrews 13:2; 13:15-16

Supportive References: 1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12:13, 1 Timothy 5:10, Acts 28:2

Key Word: Hospitality

Communal Goals of Hospitality

  1. Making God accessible to people
  2. Helping people connect to God’s love/see their ‘loved by God’ identity
  3. Extending fellowship to all men (i.e. weary, broken, lost, searching, etc.)

The Contexts of Hospitality

There are several contexts behind hospitality in Scripture. For today, we’ll mention three of them: welcoming, intimacy, and suffering.

In the context of welcoming and receiving, our hospitality should radiate and reflect eagerness, enthusiasm, and intercession – the kind of heart that says…

We’re ready for you when you get here because we thought about you before you arrived.”

By embracing this posture, we allow prayer to invade both our heart to serve and our anticipation to serve (more on this in future posts).

In the context of intimacy, especially when engaged corporately, our hospitality is a lead-in helping people realize God is closer to them than they think. Likewise for many of the saints, we are more wired to touch people than we think since we’re not only close to God, but IN Christ IN community.

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In the context of suffering, our hospitality is an overflow of having received our ‘made in Christ’ identity and the renewing of our minds (Hebrews 12:1-2). We see this through the Jesus pattern in Scripture. From pre-ministry to Cross, Jesus continually allowed suffering to define new depths of intimacy. Even when He didn’t understand or lacked the strength, Jesus never stopped pursuing the Father’s heart knowing it was key to serving and saving people.

Applied to real world, we may not always sense the fullness of God’s presence, but this doesn’t mean our grief is the stronger reality or that our souls are being abandoned (Psalm 16). Rather, as we see in Gethsemane, when God’s presence lifts, we should see it as an invitation to reach up…to stand at the door and knock (Revelation 3:20) into deeper places of vulnerability. How awesome to think this moment in time not only provides a hospitality word picture, but emphasizes the direction of our worship at the same time!

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In Jesus’ case, when He asks God to remove the cup (Mark 14:36; Matthew 26:29; Matthew 26:42; Luke 22:42; John 18:11; Isaiah 51:22), He finds the strength to embrace grief as an instrument of redemption. To him, not only was preserving through suffering a joy but the suffering itself.

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As to how this applies to hospitality, consider how our ‘new nature’ identity connects to God’s ministry of reconciliation. In this life, we know trials and tribulations will come; however, we also know divine appointments often come with them. Accordingly, the joy set before us can manifest as hospitality through pain even as we’re transformed into Christ’s likeness. After all, to serve one another should not be a means we endure pain, but a way we love in pain.

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Core Scriptures on Hospitality 

I love how Hebrews 13 captures the sacrificial aspect of hospitality.

Hebrews 13:2 (AMP) – “Do not neglect to extend hospitality to strangers [especially among the family of believers—being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Hebrews 13:15 (ESV) – “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”

Hebrews 13:16 (MSG) – Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.”

Concerning my point on suffering, note how v. 12-13 (AMP) threads these passages connecting back to v. 1 (MSG):

“Therefore Jesus also suffered and died outside the gate so that He might sanctify and set apart for God as holy the people who believe through His own blood. So let us go outside the camp holding on as He did when we are abused.” 

“Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love.” 

Again, I’ll come back to this due to the amount of series potential in the giving/suffering relationship.

For now, let’s combining core and supportive references…

Contribute to one another’s needs through grateful giving. See compassion as a fragrant offering (Ephesians 5:2) and sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). Don’t worry about your reputation, but let selfless care speak for itself. Wash the feet of the saints and keep the door open for strangers. Whatever they’re going through, you have something to offer as partners in the divine. What can’t be seen, you are making it seen. Even when you’re outside your element, let extraordinary kindness kindle a fire for the dreary and heavy laden.¹

The Bottom Line of Hospitality

Through practical acts of kindness, whether intentional or random, realize the table you’re setting for God to show up and showcase His greatness – the parts of His nature we’re to taste and see as good (Psalm 34:8).

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Paraphrased by Cameron Fry
Cover photo creds: XCHM; content inspired by September staff meetings @ The Gate Community Church

Work as Freedom: Hearts of Flesh (Part 1)

Inspiration passages: Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10

Backdrop passages: 2 Corinthians 3; 2 Corinthians 5:13

Core concept 1: God has qualified us to communicate the Gospel as Kingdom influencers; however, to walk in this competency, we must receive hearts of flesh in place of hearts of stone.

It’s no secret the world bombards us with the idea success is an identity we achieve through ability. If we want to get something, we got to first become something; if we want to reach ‘x’ status, we must set an ‘x’ goal; to reach an ‘x’ goal, we must get there by ‘x’ effort, etc.

However…

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For example, you may have a counselor’s heart, but doubt its validity since you’re not a licensed counselor. The world would say until you receive the proper credentialing, you’re not a counselor. But to God, you are a counselor because that’s what He’s made you to be. Of course, you may have much to learn and have to wait a few years until certification. But this doesn’t mean you’re not who God has called you to be.

You see, the world wants you to think it’s all about the process…that what you hope to be can only be accomplished through how you get there. But think about it: In order for there to be a ‘how’, there has to be a ‘what’ and for there to be a ‘what’, there has to be a ‘who’, right?

The question is: Who do we believe when it comes to who we are?

While the outcomes are many, by allowing God to be the answer, we can know the sweet reality that not only is our salvation secure for those who believe (Romans 10:9-10), but our purpose, our destiny,  and our future as well.

Accordingly, growth and improvement should not be seen as functions of development, but of yielding. After all, what you hope you are, you already are because your identity is not a matter of be-coming and self-refining (heart of stone thinking), but be-lieving and aligning (heart of flesh thinking).

This in mind, if what you seek to experience has already been prepared, why not enter into God’s best with a ‘yes’  than effort with a sigh? Why not accept His ‘realized new’ than take a chance missing it all for the sake of going your own way?

Core concept 2: To receive a heart of flesh is to believe God always sees the ‘finished you’. Accepting this sets us up to experience radical life in the Spirit…to be transformed through the Spirit’s inner power.

Consider this illustration from my dad/Gate senior pastor, Steve Fry (8:46-11:30)…

As created (or in this case, painted)…

…there’s amazing freedom to be found when we accept our future as known and pre-determined rather than unknown and self-determined.

Understandably, this can be challenging to accept since we often seek to control our destiny through achievement and effort. We think as long as we work hard and ask God for the right things, they’ll be given to us and to a certain extent, this is true; however, if making requests to God and modeling faith through excellence are detached from alignment, are we not craving what He can give versus valuing what He creates?

If so, dare to view present and future struggle through David’s Psalm 51:10-12 heart-cry, where he asks not only for a clean heart, but a new one! (more on this in a sec)

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As Paul emphasizes in 2 Corinthians, we’re not changed into a new creation, we are made as a new creation. We aren’t born again through accrued improvements; we’re born again through the Spirit’s transformative power which enables us to become what God has and continues to declare. As for us, all we have to do is align to God by His Spirit and walk His appointed paths through daily tuning and reliance. In a sense, that is life in the Spirit – an ongoing presence meets power, abiding meets trusting reality with God.

Think of this way: If the Good News is ‘Jesus is alive and has set you free‘, then by extension, you don’t have to earn your freedom because your efforts aren’t the keys to your life. Instead, you can relish in your freedom knowing you don’t create it by self-effort, but discover it being present with God.

Core concept 3: Believing God sees the ‘finished you’ allows you to embrace helplessness and surrender your veils.

When Paul mentions ‘veil’ five times in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, it’s easy to assume he’s talking about revealed glory; however, when we consider v. 17 and its modern-day application, we find Paul is doing, at least, three things:

  1. He’s linking Christ’s finished work on the Cross to our finished person (to see freedom through the lens of the New Covenant is to accept both Cross and weakness as the plan for our transformation). 
  2. He’s charging the church to fearlessly turn to the Lord.
  3. He’s cautioning the body against obedience through self-effort.

Concerning point #3, it’s worth noting even when we do the right thing, if the act is rooted in fear, our hard hearts will remain since trust is self-reliant. That’s why the flip-side is so radical. To do the right thing by trusting God is to allow God’s tender heart to tenderize your own. This is evident when we turn to Jesus in moments of dependence, desperation, and/or negative thinking. When you turn to Jesus, you’re essentially abandoning fear of conviction and exposure for the sake of discovering new levels of His nature, character, and glory. It’s the ultimate ‘His fullness exceeds my voids‘ proclamation…an acceptance of God and His desire for us to know His heart out of abundance, not fear.

As mentioned in Core Concept #2…

God doesn’t want to change your heart; He wants to give you a new one! He doesn’t want to improve you; He wants to take out your heart of stone and put in a brand, new heart of flesh. 

Yes, God is able to fully restore health (Jeremiah 30:17), relationships (2 Corinthians 13:9-11), fortune (Job 42:10), strength (Isaiah 40:29), and the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12), but with our hearts, our inhabitable being, He never stops wanting to go deeper; hence why God implants new hearts in His people so the larger dimensions can contain the future ‘more’ He’ll inevitably reveal.

As for our response, remember we don’t believe the right things so we can experience the cool buzz of God’s presence. We contend for them so the glory of Lord can fill our spaces…work, church, living, family/friends, etc. God desires His created to be free from performance and fear-based systems of thinking; however, we can’t tap into this desire if we try to effort our way there. Instead, we must yield our way to His way. That’s the hope of glory meeting the Good News as modeled in our own life!

Final Thoughts:

  1. Stop trying to be a Christian and turn to Jesus regardless of how you feel
  2. Accept God’s acceptance of yourself
  3. Pain is real, but irrelevant when you consider we are his workmanship created not only for good works, but for fullness from our finished future. Side note: Combining Colossians 2:10 and Ephesians 2:4-10 is super fun!)
  4. (see graphic below)

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from your effort, self-reliance, systems of performance, and the deepest of emotional hurts.

Stay tuned next time for ‘part two’ when I’ll discuss how this theology works in the marketplace. ‘Til then, praise the One with the key not only to your heart, but your future as well.

Selah.

Cover creds: Heartwell
Content inspired by ‘New Heart’ series @ The Gate Community Church

Halftime: Reflections on 2019 and the Road Ahead

It’s a rainy day in Marais when the light comes on.

Like Yusuf’s dream in Inception, there’s much noise in this gothic paradise. A sleepy ambiance met by projections reminding me 4,357 miles isn’t enough to hide from the past.

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But the scene, at least, is a start. What I’ve desired for years…now a temporary reality. Finally, I’m not in familiar territory. For once, it feels right to be an alien.

Wife in hand, this stroll along an endless alleyway of cafés reaches a final turn. This walk to remember a fitting yet haunting reminder to how far we’ve come in nine months…and how far we still have to go.

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I dare not repeat last year’s tale with context so easily accessible these days. I guess if there’s anything worth saying, it’s nothing you haven’t heard before.

We are all works in progress. I, like many, drifting high in the ranks wondering…

…How can one feel stronger and weaker at the same time?

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For instance, four, five plus years ago, I would have needed someone to acknowledge growth to feel it was genuine. I would have needed positive affirmation, especially from peers, to believe I had something to offer.

But this year, that insecurity has faded into a fastened peace. Sustained victory, once foreign, now an emerging trend in a maturing faith. No longer do I see my value as accomplishments divided by voids. No longer am I trying to please people. No longer am I finding meaning in ego.

Progress. It’s a beautiful thing.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m no longer finding security in what I once feared (i.e. loneliness and escape). Or that there aren’t days when I feel like a UFO standing in the rain…

…going down but still the same.

Indeed, the upticks are real, but there are plenty of days when all I can do is stand…

…and I long the norm to be ‘run‘ again.

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On paper, there’s much to be excited about. The countdown to Milo. Lys thriving as a children’s pastor at our home church. Caeden and Everly are better than ever. Projects like His Girl Fryday, Fry Freelance, Commission U, Momma Wears Many Hats looking to take flight.

I get what the tab says.

At the same time, the year has been unique for other reasons. My closest colleagues at work are now gone. God-given assignments are struggling for traction. And for the first time in years, I’m pouring into roles I may not ever occupy.

In all things, courage is a daily choice amidst the hustle, especially on days when I feel surrounded by enemies…when I wish I could have more time with those who had something to pour in.

But it’s those moments when I’m reminded how thankful I am for…thanksgiving. Honestly, I don’t know how God’s joy as strength would be possible otherwise.

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If 2019 has taught me anything, it’s how poor I am in receiving from the Lord. Call it a burden of heritage. Call it self-preservation. Call it a performance mentality on its last leg. Either way, I’d much rather sow into people on an empty tank than not be sowed into at all. I figure worst case, I’m at least getting somewhere while doing something right.

But there is a best case…and it’s one I’m basking in as I write this: As much as we want to open certain eyes and reconcile the impossible, I believe in all we say and do there’s always a way to worship God with one hand up (raised) and one hand out (open-palmed)…a way to exalt Him with hopeful expectation regardless of circumstance.

No entitlement. No efforting. Just faith and hunger colliding into total praise. Abiding simplified in its purest form.

As I told Lys last week, when crap hits the fan, I never want to take the easy way out; I want to take the simple way out. Sure, life may get complicated, but that doesn’t mean my reactions have to be. Christ’s power in me, I can possess my emotions. I can see the ‘God problem’ behind the ‘person problem’. And I can endure with perseverance as I receive His rest, especially when it doesn’t make sense.

After all…

…perseverance isn’t a means to strength, but a means to endure when strength is lacking.

Granted, who am I to say ‘be strong’ when my first daily checklist item is ‘take Bupropion’. Seems I should be free of that sorta thing if I’m to break out and do what I was meant to.

Then again, in a year that started with three antidepressants, maybe being down to one is an apposite microcosm…

…to one who’s not only making it, but shaking it off and shaking it out.

Slowly but surely…

…the best is yet to come.

Selah.

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Cover photo creds: HDWallpapers

 

Kingdom Awakeners: The Reason We Exist (Part 3)

In recent days, I’ve been thinkin’ what we, at His Girl Fryday, stand for.

‘Cause outside looking in, it may not be easy understanding what we’re about. Yes, we are a written resource. Yes, we have a heart for vocational leaders with ministerial influence. And yes, we have a bio on this page you’re welcome to view at your leisure.

But perhaps we haven’t done the best job conveying how you fit into the message we carry. Like an expanding thumbnail struggling for resolution, perhaps we can sharpen the image not only on what we do, but how we aim to do it.

Assuming ‘yes’, permit me to zoom out and bring it back in.

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From my experience, I think it’s safe to say those saved and walking with Christ are united to see the lost, found, the blind, see, and the broken, healed. For those in daily relationship with God, actively choosing faith over fear, I believe we are unanimously burdened by those in proximity struggling and searching for deep answers.

But what if I told you wanting these people to find Jesus (be it our co-workers, our friends and family, our business partners, the next generation, etc.) is the beginning of evangelism, not a means or an end?

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…and that this desire can’t be separated from helping them discover not only their strengths, but their use as motivational/community gifts at work?

I don’t know about you, but I see the part I must play.

Like many, I’m concerned for the homeless, the backslidden, and the religious. I’m wary for the depressed, the oppressed, and those thirsty for rest.

However, I’m also burdened by the fact my neighbor, though a church goer, doesn’t realize she’s called to be an apostle in the education industry. I’m burdened by my friend at work oblivious to his call as a teacher/pastor in financial arenas. And I’m haunted by a supervisor unaware she has a prophetic mouthpiece geared for real estate.

Granted, these are fictional profiles that may or may not apply to you reading this.

The point is: At one point or another, many of us can relate to having carried a separation of church and state into our fields of expertise. While we continually hope our colleagues accept Christ (and for others to mature in Christ), not nearly as many think they can do anything apart from pointing in the right direction.

Not to suggest pointing by itself is a bad thing. There are times all we can do is point. I get that.

But I also think we often settle thinking our career is solely a parallel track to evangelism when in reality, it can be perpendicular as well. For instance, who’s to say a nurse can’t be a pastor when on the clock? Who’s to say the gift of exhortation can’t be applied when administering medical support?

Think of it this way…

There are seven ministry offices outlined by Ephesians 4 and 1 Timothy 3/5: Apostle, deacon, elder, evangelist, pastor, prophet, and teacher. Now, overlay them with the seven community/motivational gifts specified in Romans 12/1 Corinthians 12. Do the same with the nine manifestation gifts also listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Finally, consider the thousands upon thousands of career fields in the world today.

Like a Sonic drink algorithm, that’s a whole lot of options to be like Jesus, lead like Jesus, serve like Jesus, and reach like Jesus.

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The problem is we vastly reduce this number (assuming it can be quantified) thinking only a licensed pastor can do pastor things, a full-time missionary can do evangelist things, and so forth.

Why we do this…well, there are many reasons. For now, let’s just say that’s why His Girl Fryday exists…and plans to stick around for a while. True, we may not lead thousands to salvation like some of you will; however, we figure by encouraging downcast vocationals, we can join you in helping people around the world unlock their God-given purpose.

After all, none of us can do what we’re called to do without someone on the other side. Why not lock arms and enjoy the ride.

Let’s go…

Cover photo creds: eaglessight.com