Saturday, April 01, 2006

Why Has Asian Art Become Such a Hot Commodity?



Has Asian Art arrived as a hot collectible category?

If Asian Week, a period when New York art auction houses sell Far East pieces, is indicative, the answer is, "Yes." According to Art Info, the houses have so many sales during this seven-day period that no afficionado could possibly attend all of them. Christie's compiled seven sale catalogues, while Sotheby's put together four.

This morning's New York Times reported on a Sotheby sale held yesterday which brought in about $13.2-million, including "$979,200, more than twice Sotheby's high estimate of $350,000" for Bloodline Series: Comrade No. 120. The Times reports that total sales for that one auction exceeded high estimates by more than $5-million.

What's going on? Why has Asian art, especially Chinese art, become such a hot category? Well, for one thing, the art collecting world, as usual, seems to be catching up with everybody else.

Back in 1972, after Richard Nixon made his historic trip to China, the country became the fawning object of attention by mass culture in this country.

Diplomatically, China was a hot commodity for the US and other democracies as a counterbalance to the Soviet Union.

Throughout the 80s, China was a chic tourist destination, not just for America's and Europe's wealthy, but also for our middle classes.

And of course, western business communities savor the mass market and the cheaper labor China can provide.

But interest by western art collectors has apparently taken some time to build to the crescendo we now see.

One reason for that is that collecting is a bit faddish. It's been my observation that people collect art for a variety of reasons. Often a single individual buys art both out of love and as an investment. When fads or trends develop, collectors, whether motivated by love, money, or both, jump on board.

The art world's love of Asian art is the high-toned after-effect of a love for Asia that started in the rest of the western world about thirty years ago and has included everything from long lines for martial arts movies to the multiplication of Chinese, Thai, and other Asian-cuisined restaurants.

Because collectors must be cautious about how they spend massive sums of money and if they are investing, take care in how they spend those sums, art collecting isn't a leading cultural indicator; it's an echo of trends that have already established themselves.

Lower and middle income people almost always drive the directions of cultures. For example, rock music, variations on which can be heard today in Broadway theaters and symphony concert halls, began among lower-income white and black folks in the American South. Rap music started on the streets of Washington, D.C. and New York; today, Will Smith, Ice Cube, and others are major stars and rap is mainstream. Country music has undergone a similar odyssey.

It's always been this way. Those with less money find inexpensive ways to reflect on their lives and to entertain each other. Later, those with money to throw around, baptize and legitimize their artistic expressions with money and street cred.

My guess is that given the development of India, the new American friendliness with that country signaled by President Bush's recent exemption of India from adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the increasing popularity of Bollywood films, and the growing presence of Indian restaurants, that in about twenty years, Western art collectors will be paying the kinds of money for Indian art that we're seeing them pay for Chinese and other Asian works of art today.

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 28

Servants know that to finish strong, they must keep going back to the beginning.

The list of things that servants do at which we’ve looked the past two weeks is daunting. Servants, we've said: pursue a process of trial, error, and success in finding their own brand of servanthood; serve in hidden ways; don’t overlook the service of small things; guard others’ reputations; allow others to serve them when appropriate; demonstrate common courtesy; show hospitality; attentively listen to and bear the burdens of others; give generously of themselves; forgive; choose to forget the hurts others have inflicted on them; and tell others about Jesus Christ.

No wonder many who begin by offering their lives to Christ--the ones who rely on their own brain, muscle, and enthusiasm--give up! But how do we keep serving God and neighbor when things like discouragement, weariness, or resentment of those who take advantage of us, set in?

I offer two passages of Scripture to encourage you. First, Jesus says: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He says this while speaking of His relationship with all who are part of the Church. He is the vine and we are he branches, Jesus tells us. We draw everything we need to live and “bear fruit” from Him. (“Bearing fruit” means living lives that reflect the presence of Christ in our lives.) This passage tells us that although our commitment to reflecting our gratitude to Christ by being servants falters, as long as we remain attached to “the vine,” Christ’s life, energy, and inspiration will flow into our lives, renewing our commitment to servanthood.

The second passage comes from the apostle Paul, who said: “I can do all things through Him [Christ] Who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). In a few moments, I intend to vacuum the first floor of our house. But unless I plug the Kirby into the outlet, I won’t get much sweeping done and in the end, I’ll quit from discouragement. If we’re resolved to be servants who don’t give up, we must keep going back to our power source: the God we know in Jesus Christ.

Without Him, we can’t accomplish anything that matters. With Him, we can do everything that truly matters.

Servants know that to finish strong, they must keep going back to the beginning: Jesus Himself!

[You know the Bible passages to ponder today. They’re the ones mentioned above.]

Friday, March 31, 2006

Second Pass at This Weekend's Bible Lesson: Ephesians 2:1-10

[For the first pass at this weekend's lesson, see here.]

Verse-by-verse comments:

1You were dead through the trespasses and sins
(1) Many explanations are offered of the uses of we and you in this section. Some claim to see a distinction being drawn between Jewish and Gentile Christians. I frankly don't see it. Clearly, when the term we is used, it's referring to all believers in Christ, irrespective of their ethnic or religious backgrounds.

(2) As in verse 5 or in Colossians 2:13, the writer has in mind the state of alienation from God that predates a relationship with Christ.

(3) The connection between sin and death in vv. 1-3 is typical of Paul (check out Romans 5:12-21; First Corinthians 15:56; Colossians 2:13).

(4) NIB points out that the assertion in vv. 1-3 that the power of sin is the evil set loose in the universe. This argues in favor of Paul's authorship, reflecting as it does his cosmology.

2in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.
(1) The air was the place that Paul often located the demonic.

(2) See Ephesians 6:11-12 and Colossians 1:13.

3All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.
(1) "passions of the flesh" doesn't mean sexual desire. It has to do with the sinful impulse to live for the self or for instant, personal gratification. It can refer to such things as that second piece of cake after dinner, fishing for a compliment, or pretending to be asleep when someone calls for our help. Living for the flesh is the opposite of the Christian's call to live in love for God and neighbor, or in subordination to God's will for optimal personal living. It also means, as one commentator has said, living "apart from God's redemptive power."

(2) "wrath" refers not so much to the enacted anger of God (though God can and does get angry), but to the consequences of living outside the bounds of good living as established by God.

(3) "children of wrath" refers to our inborn circumstances, inherited from Adam. (Check out Psalm 51)

4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
(1) God refuses to give up on us, even in our fallenness.

(2) NIB points out that if Ephesians 1:15-23 describes God's power, this section of Ephesians describes God's love.

(3) By His enthronement, all who believe in Him are raised up and enthroned with Him.

(4) The three with statements are interrupted by the phrase, by grace you have been saved. We are with Christ through the power of God's grace.

(5) Grace translates the New Testament Greek word of charitas (transliterated into English as charity). This is the undeserved merit and favor of God, displayed in Christ toward those who, on their own, are hopelessly dead in our trespasses and sins. (That's all of us, folks.)

8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
(1) God's grace, which is accessed by faith in Jesus Christ, is a gift we cannot earn. It comes from the God Who made us to live in a community of love for God and others, expressed in a lifestyle of servanthood which God prepared for us before we were born.

[Among the commentaries I've consulted this week are two by Chris Haslam here and here.]

Fire in the Heart in Practical, Christian Terms

Here are links to a five-part series I did on goal-setting. I hope that you find these pieces helpful:

Goal Setting: A Christian Approach (Part 1)
Goal Setting: A Christian Approach (Part 2)
Goal Setting: A Christian Approach (Part 3)
Goal Setting: A Christian Approach (Part 4)
Goal Setting: A Christian Approach (Part 5)

Fire in the Heart

Steve Goodier writes wonderfully insightful inspirational pieces that he's included in many books. He also regularly emails some of his writings to subscribers. Here's a wonderful piece he sent out recently:

FIRE IN THE HEART
The teacher quizzed her class: "He drove straight to his goal. He looked neither to the right nor to the left, but pressed forward, moved by a definite purpose. Neither friend nor foe could delay him, nor turn him from his course. All who crossed his path did so at their own peril. What would you call such a man?"

A student replied, "A truck driver!"

If he is a truck driver, he is likely a successful truck driver, for anyone who pursues a vision with such passion is sure to be a success.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel got it right when he said:

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."

Nothing will kill a dream or douse the fire of a good idea more quickly than indifference. To whatever endeavor you commit yourself, be on guard primarily against that spirit-quenching attitude of apathy.

At what do you wish to succeed? A project? A job? A relationship? A
personal mission? A financial goal? A life purpose? "Each one of us has a fire in our heart for something," says Mary Lou Retton. "It's our goal in life to find it and keep it lit."

In order to succeed greatly, one must care greatly. For indifference is no match against a well-attended fire in the heart.
__________
This reading is found in Steve Goodier's popular book
A LIFE THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE: 60-Second Readings That Truly Matter

If you'd like to subscribe to Steve's emailed inspirations, send a blank e-mail to LifeSupport-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. You'll be subscribed automatically.

Steve's web site can be reached here.

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 27

When the time is right, servants tell others about Jesus Christ.

In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul is dragged in chains before Herod Agrippa. Agrippa was a king over portions of Palestine. The Romans found him useful for their purposes, putting a local face on their foreign rule. Agrippa had power to advise Festus, the emperor’s representative, to free Paul...or to have him executed.

When asked to defend himself, Paul tells the king about Jesus Christ, His death, and His resurrection and of how all who turn from sin and trust in Christ can live with God forever. Luke, the writer of Acts, tells us: “Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In this short time do you think you will make me a Christian?’ ‘Whether a short time or a long time,’ Paul answered, ‘my prayer is that you and all the rest of you who are listening to me today might become as I am---except, of course, for these chains” (Acts 26:28-29, Today’s English Version). With his own life on the line, Paul wasn’t concerned about protecting himself, but about sharing Christ!

Believers in Jesus are called to be “ambassadors” for Him, His representatives in the world, whose aim is to help others know the Savior Who sets us free from sin and death so that we can live with God (Second Corinthians 5:17; Matthew 28:19-20). Much of the time, we will make our appeals for Christ through our acts of service. "Preach the Gospel [the good news about Jesus] at all times,” Saint Francis of Assisi said, “If necessary, use words."

When words are needed, servants aren’t hesitant about using them. “Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect” (First Peter 3:15-16, Today’s English Version). We get ready to tell people about Christ by maintaining a strong relationship with Him and by asking God for the opportunities to witness.

Servants tell others about Jesus Christ.

Bible Passage to Ponder: “Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.’” (Acts 26:28-29)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

"Would it have been better for Eugene O'Neill had he never been born?"

Speaking of Charlie Lehardy and his AnotherThink blog, be sure to read his reflections on the life of Eugene O'Neill, the impact of parents on their children, and abortion. As always, Charlie presents us with thought-provoking stuff, written in his gentle, persuasive way.

A Christian Perspective on the Immigration Debate from Jollyblogger

For an interesting, Christian overview of the issue of illegal immigrants in this country, check out what David Wayne, Jollyblogger, has written. (Thanks to Charlie Lehardy of AnotherThink for bringing David's post to my attention. I had the privilege of meeting both David and Charlie at GodBlogCon last year.)

Spring Haiku

The wind, that once stung
with cold, now warmed by the sun,
feels like an old friend

Caressing us all
after spending the winter
in Tampa or Phoenix

Checkout Haiku

The girl smiles at the
baby clutching her mother
in the checkout line

The child buries her
face into her mother's neck
a ploy to vanish

But then, furtively,
she looks back to find the smile,
fright'ning, attractive

The stranger still smiles,
a clue that all the world is
not so foreboding.

Two Curious Assertions in Current Immigration Policy Debate

There are strong feelings on all sides of the immigration debate happening in America today.

I frankly haven't formed opinions on the various proposals currently before Congress...and wouldn't express them here even if I had.

But this week, I have found myself scratching my head at statements made by people with strong views on immigration policy.
Mr. Mehlman was asked about the position taken by Los Angeles-based Cardinal Mahoney and the Roman Catholic Church in this country. That body has said that it deems it wrong for America to turn immigrants away. Said Mehlman (with the curious assertions italicized):
Cardinal Mahoney and these religious leaders are essentially asking us to give charity with other people's resources. They are saying to people: We're sorry. We think there are people on the other side of the border who have a case that is more compelling, and we're going to ask you to sacrifice your job, or part of your wages, or your children's education.

There is no religious or ethical system that permits you to give charity with other people's resources. If the church wants to give charity with its own resources, that's one thing.

But when they start telling other people within the community, you know, "We're sorry; you're no longer going to be to work as a contractor in the city because there are 20 people waiting in the parking lot at Home Depot who are prepared to do that job for half the price."

Then they're giving charity with somebody else's resources. That's not moral, and that's not ethical.

Agree with the stance taken by the Roman Catholic Church on this matter or not, they're not engaged in some nefarious plan to spend "somebody else's resources."

The Church is simply participating in a societal debate, just as Mr. Mehlman is.

And, just like Mr. Mehlman, Roman Catholic citizens pay taxes. They don't intend to spend other people's money. They're talking about how Washington spends their money.

They're saying, just like the advocates of other causes--be it tax relief for investors, NASA missions to Mars, the war on Iraq, or whatever, "This is what we think the policy should be; this is how we think federal dollars should be spent."

They have as much right to do that without having some childish or nefarious motives ascribed to them as anyone else.

I'm no fan of Church engagement in politics. If the Church is lobbying Congress on this issue, it's possible that it's violating 501c3 laws. That would be wholly different from speaking out on a public issue out of pastoral or prophetic concern.

Be that as it may, when people oppose a stance taken by a Church body, they're under still obliged to make sense. Mr. Mehlman didn't make sense on Monday.
  • But I find the arguments of those favoring amnesty and a fast-track to citizenship strange, too. The argument seems to be: People need to milk the American cash cow; so, let's make them citizens.
This is part of a bigger problem that we have in America today. Americans appear to suffer from a misunderstanding about who we are and what we're about. We're losing a sense of something that is very real: American Exceptionalism.

The United States has never been simply an economic entity. To define America economically is to insult those who have lost their lives in the cause of American nationhood. Doing so ignores the ideas and ideals which have fashioned our country.

Historically, when Americans have talked about freedom, they've meant a lot more than the freedom to work a job or pile up cash. They've meant the freedom to speak, to worship, to vote, to live in peace with one's neighbor, to choose one's own job path.

The term, The American Dream, wasn't coined to describe the lust for money. The American Dream is about enjoying freedom within a community of mutual respect.

Sadly, Americans who have lived here their whole lives have come to identify the American Dream in crass economic terms. So, it should come as no surprise when citizenship is economically defined, as is happening in the immigration debate.

Nor should it surprise us that students who see America as nothing but a cash cow should show contempt for this country by hoisting the US flag upside down. We all need to pay attention to our History before we lose sight of what this country is really about!

[For more on The American Dream, see here, here, here, and here.]

I Think That This is Encouraging

Not only is the peacekeeping force in Darfur strengthened, but Muslim leaders are making a stand against a Muslim government engaged in genocide.

Jill Carroll Released

I thank God that prayers for this remarkable person have been answered in the way we yearned for them to be answered. What a great day it is for her and her family!

In Spite of Persecution, Iranian Blogging Community Grows

Read this interesting article and pray for freedom in Iran.

The Britney Birthing Sculpture: Four Questions

There are four things I don't understand about the Britney sculpture causing so much controversy right now:
  • Why does the face look nothing like that of Britney Spears?
  • Is this the sculptor's idea of the physical position in which a woman should give birth?
  • What's up with the animal head?
  • In what sense is the sculpture pro-life, which the artist claims it to be?
UPDATE: Spencer Troxell, who gets his blog on, has linked to this post. Thanks, Spencer!

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 26

After they forgive, servants strive to forget.

Love, Paul writes in the New Testament, “doesn't keep score of the sins of others” (First Corinthians 13:5, The Message).

Servants of God try to be as forgetful of the hurts inflicted on them by others as God is of the hurts they’ve inflicted on God. The power to forgive and to forget comes from Jesus Christ. But only those who decide that they want to forgive and forget will be given that power, which in turn translates into what the Bible calls a “fruitful” life of servanthood.

Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross, knew this. It’s hard to believe that the person behind such a benign organization had her detractors, but she did. Once, on a tour, a woman who had treated Barton particularly unkindly sent word that she would like to have dinner with her. The aide with whom Barton was traveling was mystified at how readily Barton agreed to the dinner. She reminded Barton of the woman’s vicious misdeed toward her. But the Red Cross founder seemed not to recall it. “Don’t you remember?” the aide asked. “No,” Barton replied, “I specifically remember forgetting it.”

Forgetting doesn’t mean that we’re heedless of our past experiences with people. An abused wife shouldn’t give her abusive husband more opportunities to do her harm, for example.

A man I know has lashed out at me many times. I’ve decided that the interaction of our personalities is like a meeting between gas and fire. We can’t be friends. To that extent, I remember our past experiences together. But whenever I see him these days, I’m always friendly and courteous. Often, I even enjoy his company. God helps me to forgive and forget and so be freed for Christian servanthood.

Chuck Swindoll says that “forgetting” sins perpetrated against us has three elements: refusing to keep score (First Corinthians 13:5); being bigger than any offense (Psalm 119:165); and harboring no judgmental attitude (Matthew 7:1-5).

After they forgive, servants strive to forget.

Bible Passage to Ponder: Love “doesn't keep score of the sins of others” (First Corinthians 13:5, The Message).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Does Rioting Create Jobs?


So Helen Reynolds asks, casting an eye on the disturbances going on in France these days.

Of course, riots create jobs.

They create jobs for:
  • police and security personnel
  • first responders
  • ER personnel
  • carpenters, bricklayers, ironworkers, and others who rebuild vandalized and torched buildings
  • auto workers who manufacture replacement vehicles for those destroyed in riots
They also increase job security for reporters and editors.

Maybe those sly rioters know what they're doing after all.

Maybe not.

First Pass at This Weekend's Bible Lesson: Ephesians 2:1-10

These "passes" are designed primarily to help the folks of the congregation I serve as pastor, Friendship Church, to get ready for weekend worship. If others find them helpful, that's great.

For readers who have been keeping up with the 40-Days to Servanthood daily readings (or the weekend messages which, during Lent, are also focused on servanthood themes), this pass might be helpful to you as well.

The Bible Lesson: Ephesians 2:1-10
1You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.

4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

General Observations:
(1) Authorship of Ephesians is disputed. Traditionally, it has been attributed to Paul. However, the vocabulary and theological categories used in Ephesians are sufficiently different from those used in the acknowledged writings of Paul (what's called the Pauline corpus) that many scholars dispute this. Furthermore, in the ancient world it was deemed legitimate for the followers of teachers or those schooled in their ways of thinking to write as though they were that teacher.

On the other hand, many argue that distinctions in style, vocabulary, terminology, and theology between this letter and other writings of Paul can simply be attributed to his growth and maturation as a Christian.

(2) One strong argument in favor of this being the handiwork of Paul, so far as I'm concerned, is that verses 1-7 comprise a single sentence! This is characteristic of Paul, who, except for brief greetings he might include in his own hand, always dictated his letters to an amanuensis. (I've always been amazed by Paul's facility for juggling so many thoughts at once, ultimately bringing them to a logical conclusion. Whether this blog proves it or not, I've always found that easier to do on paper than while I was speaking.) Often, when I'm translating some of Paul's writing from Greek, I find myself thinking, "Alright, Paul, bring it in for a landing!"

(3) The New Interpreter's Bible (NIB) points out that the phrase "by grace you have been saved" appears both in v.5c and in v.8. Being with Christ and the new life we have in Christ has nothing to do with our jumping through the proscribed hoops, it has everything to do with the charitable gift of God, granted through Jesus Christ!

(4) NIB also says that our passage features:
"Three negative statements [that] are reversed in the event of salvation: (a) dead through trespasses (vv. 1, 5), made alive in Christ (v. 5); (b) living according to passions (v. 3), risen with Christ (v. 6); (c) subject to demonic power (v. 2; v. 3b, treating 'children of wrath' as equivalent to 'those who are disobedient'), seated in the heavenly regions with Christ (v. 6)."
(5) NIB notes that the "co-enthronement language" in v. 6 isn't to be found anywhere else in Paul's writings.

I would point out though, that something like it is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In Matthew, Jesus is recorded as speaking with the Twelve:
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first. (Matthew 19:28-30)
In Luke, where Mary speaks of the great leveling work of God in the Magnificat ("He has brought down powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly"), Jesus later tells the Twelve:
“You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Luke 22:28-30)
(6) NIB also rightly points out that in this passage, Ephesians "removes all spatial and temporal separation between believers and the exalted Christ." In v. 6, for example, believers are seated with Jesus right now.

I observed that this is consistent with the varied theologies of Mark (with his frequent use of the word, immediately); Luke (for whom the presence of the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ now is so important); and John (with its frequent allusions to the coming kingdom that now is, and its notion that as we follow the way today, we are already in eternity with God).

(7) In a beautiful reflection on this passage, the master preacher Fred Craddock reminds us that many scholars believe that the first three chapters comprise an address to ancient baptismal candidates. (In the ancient church, in many places, adults who were to be baptized underwent a period of instruction in the faith--a catechesis--and were baptized and confirmed during the Easter Vigil.)

In our lesson, Craddock suggests, the Church is interpreting Christian experience, answering the question, "What does it mean to become a Christian?" Craddock says that our passage in Ephesians answers the question in three different ways: (a) Experientially; (b) Historically; (c) In a cosmic context. (I may very well steal Craddock's outline for my message this weekend...with due attribution, of course.)

Through each of these answers, the Christian and the Church are seen to be "with Christ." As Craddock writes:
The life of the believer is set in a narrative far grander than the narrow parentheses of one lifetimes.
The believer's story is part of God's story. Without God, our own personal life histories make no sense. The believer lives with the awareness that even when we don't know what we're doing or why, while we walk with Christ, our story is moving in the right direction. To paraphrase Craddock, our lives move from God to God. For the follower of Jesus, the part in between is a life lived with Christ, just as He promised.

Another pass at this lesson later in the week, maybe.

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 25

Servants forgive.

“Forgiveness,” Chuck Swindoll writes, “is not an elective in the curriculum of servanthood. It is a required course, and the exams are always tough to pass.”

Paul writes in the New Testament, “Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, The Message).

Jesus conveys the same notion, but far more pointedly, in His explanation of the Lord’s Prayer petition that says, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Says Jesus: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). An unforgiving heart is a wall between God’s grace and us. An unwillingness to forgive others makes us useless instruments in God’s Kingdom.

Recently, I was reading the Bible and praying when a thought crossed my mind: Without realizing it, I had failed to forgive people who had hurt me. I suddenly saw that these feelings were blocking God’s power from parts of my life. I asked God to help me to forgive others so that I could allow His forgiveness to come to me. I began listing those I needed to forgive, each name I added coming as a revelation to me; I hadn’t known the bitterness I was harboring.

I’m sure that the people on my list would be as surprised to learn of my bitter feelings for them as I was. I have no intention of now self-righteously telling them, “I forgive you.” My unforgiving attitudes had little to do with them and everything to do with me. After my time of prayer, I felt liberated, ready to be a servant!

If you’re intent on being a servant of God, you might want to ask God to reveal the names of any people you haven’t yet forgiven so that your relationship with God will be renewed and you can be set free for living the life He has in mind for you.

Servants forgive.

Bible Passage to Ponder: “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Some Wrong Reasons to Serve God

That's the title of a piece written by Howard Travis of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Midland, Michigan. It's great!

Reasons not to serve?
It's a distillation of material from the book, Shoulder to Shoulder: Strengthening Your Church by Supporting Your Pastor by Dan Reiland. This is good stuff to remember when reading all of the stuff on servanthood appearing on this blog during this Lent.

Second Chances and America's Favorite Indoor Sport (Column Version)

"The sad thing is that people will denigrate all these terrific teams that have had great years," I said. "If teams don't win national championships, they're considered losers."

The subject of conversation between my son and me was this year's NCAA tournament. Cinderella-like, teams that weren't supposed to be in the Final Four were still there on the tourney's last weekend. But I lamented the way good teams are savaged if they aren't the last ones dancing.

And we don't just apply this "all or nothing" mentality to sports. It crops up in more consequential areas of life.

Like the American presidency. On many occasions in US history, losing candidates for the country’s highest office were re-nominated by their parties. Some won. Grover Cleveland won a term, lost a re-election bid, then ran again and won.

Today though, there seem to be no second chances in American politics. A pol who's been implicated in some hugely unethical act may have a better chance of being elected to high office in America than does someone who loses a big election.

American life sometimes appears to have become a stupid un-reality show. Like the savage masses gathered in the ancient Roman Colosseum, our thumbs itch to point down.

And part of our dismissal of those who lose after striving for the highest places in their fields--whether it's an NCAA championship, a Super Bowl ring, or the Presidency--is seamier than that, I think.

We resent those whose talents are more honored than our own. Their achievements make us feel badly for failing to develop those talents we do possess.

Perversely, when talented people with good work habits fail to climb to the peaks of their own Mount Everests, it makes us feel better about ourselves. We take solace from being able to dismiss the prominent or high-achievers as mediocrities. By our criticisms of them and our refusal to give them second chances, we effectively say, "They're just like us, after all and we’re going to make sure they stay that way."

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul writes, "By the grace of God, I am what I am." Here is reflected both deep humility and high self-esteem.

In first-century Christianity, Paul, who had once persecuted the Church, was a johnny-come-lately to faith in Christ, the "last of the apostles," as he put it. Some questioned his right to be a proclaimer of Jesus Christ, God-in-the-flesh Who offers freely forgiveness and eternity to all who believe in Him.

Paul responded that by God's grace--God's charity--he was who he was:
* The last kid picked, but picked nonetheless.
* Undeserving, but welcomed by God anyway.
* A sinner, but forgiven for the sake of his repentance and faith in Jesus.

Grateful for a place in God's Kingdom, Paul focused on being his personal best, rather than excusing his worst by tearing other people down.

I have a suspicion that if, like Paul, we dared to accept the acceptance of us that God offers through Jesus Christ, we would feel no need to drag others down. We would be so busy honing our own talents and abilities to do our best for God, our communities, our families, and ourselves that we would have no time (or patience) for making others look small.

Next time you're at the water cooler and people start playing America's favorite indoor sport, ripping other people, from politicians to co-workers, try finding something good to say about them instead.

[Mark Daniels is pastor of Friendship Lutheran Church, 1300 White Oak Road, Amelia. Worship is at 5:30PM on Saturdays and 10:00AM on Sundays.]

Second Chances and America's Favorite Indoor Sport

[With a little editing, this will be the next column for the Community Press newspapers.]

"The sad thing is that people will denigrate all these terrific teams that have had great years," I said. "If teams don't win national championships, they're considered losers."

The subject of conversation between my son and me was this year's NCAA tournament. Cinderella-like, teams that aren't supposed to be in the Final Four are still there as we approach the tourney's last weekend. But I was lamenting the way good teams are savaged if they aren't the last ones dancing.

"The same thing happens every year to the team that loses the Super Bowl," I pointed out. "People dismiss them as bums."

And we don't just apply this "all or nothing" mentality to sports. It crops up in more consequential areas of life.

Like the American presidency. William Jennings Bryan was nominated for President by the Democrats three different times. Adlai Stevenson was nominated by the Dems to oppose Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and after getting his clock cleaned by Ike, got nominated again in 1956. Richard Nixon lost to John Kennedy in the race for the presidency in 1960 and was seen as a terminal loser after getting beaten by Pat Brown in the California gubernatorial race in 1962. Yet, Nixon won the presidency in 1968 and retained it in 1972.

Today though, there seem to be no second chances in American politics. A pol who's been implicated in some hugely unethical act may have a better chance of being elected to high office in America than does someone who loses a big election.

Consider John Kerry, for example. In 2004, Kerry received more votes than any Democratic candidate for President in history. He narrowly lost the presidency to an incumbent who, as my son pointed out to me, was also a wartime chief. I'm not a Democrat, but no matter what your politics, you'd have to conclude, after his 2004 performance, that the guy deserves to be the front runner for the 2008 Dem nomination. But he's dismissed.

American life sometimes seems to have become a stupid un-reality show. Like the savage masses gathered in the ancient Roman Colosseum, our thumbs itch to point down.

We can rightly rail against the buddy connections that give the husband of a wealthy widow or the son of a former President shots at the nation's highest office they might not otherwise enjoy. It's legitimate for us to dislike the politics of privilege that should be foreign to democracies.

But part of our dismissal of those who lose after striving for the highest places in their fields--whether it's an NCAA championship, a Super Bowl ring, or the Presidency--is seamier than that, I think.

We resent those whose talents are more honored than our own. Their achievements make us feel judged for failing to develop the skills we do possess.

When talented people with good work habits fail to climb to the peaks of their own Mount Everests, it makes us feel better about ourselves. We take solace from being able to dismiss the prominent or high-achievers as mediocrities. By our criticisms of them and our refusal to give them second chances, we effectively say, "They're just like us, after all."

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul writes, "By the grace of God, I am what I am." Here is reflected both deep humility and high self-esteem.

In first-century Christianity, Paul, who had once persecuted the Church, was a johnny-come-lately to faith in Christ, the "last of the apostles," as he put it. Some questioned his right to be a proclaimer of Jesus Christ, God-in-the-flesh Who offers freely forgiveness and eternity to all who believe in Him.

Paul responded that by God's grace--God's charity--he was who he was:
  • The last kid picked, but picked nonetheless.
  • Undeserving, but welcomed by God anyway.
  • A sinner, but forgiven for the sake of his repentance and faith in Jesus.
  • Grateful for a place in God's Kingdom, Paul focused on being his best, rather than excusing his worst by tearing other people down.
I have a suspicion that if, like Paul, we dared to accept the acceptance of us that God offers through Jesus Christ, we would feel no need to drag others down. We would be so busy honing our own talents and abilities to do our best for God that we would have no time (or patience) for making others look small.

Next time you're at the water cooler and people start playing America's favorite indoor sport, ripping other people, from politicians to co-workers, try finding something good to say about them instead.

NYTimes Has Great Q-and-A on Avian Flu

Read it here.

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 24

A commitment to servanthood will include giving.

Pastor Chuck Swindoll, in his helpful book, Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, says that a servant is “a giver.” Servants give away more than money. A man recently told me, “Money is the easiest thing to give away, Mark.” He’s right. Often, we give money as a guilt-offering or as a way of placating others who need more valuable things than we feel we can afford to give.

Servants are generous in the donation of their time, energy, love, support, prayers, encouragement, and money. They take to heart the words of Paul in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit...Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

Swindoll recounts an incident that took place in bomb-ravaged London after the Second World War. In a bakery one morning, sweet rolls were being baked and iced. A little boy, dressed in ragged clothes, pressed his nose against the bakery window, looking longingly at those rolls. An American soldier, part of the force still in England, happened by in a jeep. Taken by this sight, he stopped, for a time staring at the boy. The soldier then climbed out of his jeep and walked over to look in the bakery window.

“Would you like one of those rolls, son?” the soldier asked the boy. “Oh, yeah!” the little guy replied. The soldier went into the bakery, ordered a dozen of the rolls, and brought them out to the boy. “There you go,” he said and turned to walk toward the jeep. Just as he was climbing in behind the wheel, the soldier felt a tug on his coat. It was the little boy. He peered into the soldier’s face and asked, “Are you God?” Swindoll concludes that we are never more like God than when we give.

I would add that when we give, we also get to see God in those to whom we give. “Whenever you do it to the least of these...” Jesus has said, after all (Matthew 25:31-46).

A commitment to servanthood includes giving.

Bible Passage to Ponder: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

A NOTE OF THANKS: Bruce Armstrong of Ordinary Everyday Christian has once more kindly linked to posts from this series. Thank you, Bruce!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Falter Ego Continues to Courageously Share His Journey of Recovery

Take the time to read this account.

Is This Meant to Make Me Sympathetic?

Dr. Guillermo FariƱas Hernandez, a Cuban, is at day fifty-seven in a hunger strike. His goal: To gain unfettered access to the Internet for all Cubans. The Cuban government, like the equally reprehensible regime in China, restricts their citizens' access to the worldwide web, fearful as Havana is of the free interchange of ideas.

Hernandez's cause is certainly a noble one. But frankly, I think that his tactic is ill-advised. People who deliberately starve themselves to death in hunger strikes have never impressed me.

Though the stakes are much higher when one refuses to eat, such strikes are, to me, the moral equivalent of a five year old holding his breath until he gets his way.

Were it not for the fact that, barring a medical intervention, hunger strikers would die, I've always been tempted to say that the appropriate response to this ploy is the same one parents should give to petulant children when they refuse to breathe: Ignore them.

From a Biblical perspective, it should be said, our bodies are precious gifts from God. Starving one's self is an act of contempt toward one's creator.

But the value of the gift of our bodies is compounded for Christians. Paul asks in First Corinthians 6:19: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?"

I confess that I don't take adequate care of my body. I should exercise more. I should eat less and eat more healthfully. But there is no cause so great as to incite me to deliberately abuse God's gift by starving myself to death. God will never call someone to commit suicide, irrespective of how noble their cause.

So, while some seem to be rallying around Dr. Hernandez, I can only lament what I consider to be an unwise course of action and pray that he will finally have a bite to eat.

(For more, see here, here, here, and here.)

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice has linked to this post. Thank you, Joe!

So, Who Was George Mason?

See here.

Keep Dancing, Cinderella!


I have a feeling that except for the partisans of Billy Donovan's Florida Gator men's basketball team, most of the country is preparing to root for George Mason in the upcoming Final Four weekend. The madness of this year's March Madness has been wonderfully, intoxicatingly mad, with upsets galore.

Of course, there are reasons why, for the first time since the NCAA men's tournament went to a 64-team format, that no number one seeds are still dancing. There's the dispersion of basketball talent stemming from scholarship limits. There's also the departure of underclassmen for the NBA. (Where they play a brand of basketball I consider inferior to that of the college game, by the way.)

But whatever the reason, the fact is that George Mason's Patriots are a very good team and deserving of their spot in the Final Four. They're so good, in fact, that some are claiming that the Cinderella designation doesn't apply any more.

That may be. But when an eleventh-seeded team whose inclusion in the tournament roused complaints from basketball experts knocks off one college powerhouse after another, it's a most unlikely, Cinderella-like scenario. And should the Patriots win the national championship one week from tonight, who could deny them not only the trophy, but also a glass-basketball shoe?

George Mason guard Tony Skinn said after yesterday's upset win over Connecticut, the team I projected to win this thing from the beginning, "I think it's been working for us, calling us Cinderella...We were not supposed to get into the tournament, we got into it. We were not supposed to beat Michigan State and we beat them. Weren't supposed to beat North Carolina and we beat them. We definitely weren't supposed to beat UConn. ... We don't mind being the Cinderella.''

Of course, the appeal of George Mason's 2006 odyssey is the same as the appeal of Cinderella, Hoosiers, Rudy, Rocky, or any Horatio Alger story. We all identify with the underdogs for the simple reason that all of us, in one way or many, are underdogs most of our lives. We derive hope from seeing people who are counted out and may actually be on the mat, like the Patriots were several times in yesterday's game, get to their feet and achieve their goals.

Dance on, Patriots! Win or lose against Florida's very tough Gator team, you've already won the hearts of most of the basketball world this March.

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 23

In your commitment to servanthood, be sure to include listening and sharing others’ burdens.

These two forms of service, often separated by others, seem intertwined to me. Each is rooted in an attentiveness to others.

Dale Carnegie, in his classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, tells the true story of a mother who sat with her small son. “I know you love me very much,” the little guy told her. “Of course I do,” she replied, “but what makes you say that?” “Because,” he said, “you always listen to me.” Attentive listening is a form of love.

One of the most disturbing and inspiring books in the Bible is Job, found in the Old Testament. God allows the devil to attack a faithful man named Job. The result is the deaths of his children, the destruction of his property, the loss of his livestock, and a disease that covers Job with open scabs.

Learning of his affliction, three of Job’s friends show up to be with him. For seven days, they do the right thing: They listen to Job give voice to his agony and his questions about God and God’s goodness.

Then they make a mistake: They open their mouths, trying to explain the unexplainable.

They did more good when they simply listened. That had been a way of bearing Job’s burdens.

Of course, there comes a time when, out of their attentiveness to others, that servants take action. Our burden-sharing needn’t be an action that will get us the Nobel Peace Prize. Simple serving will do. A man in my former parish died. While I visited his widow, several others visited. People from the church and the community were dropping off food to help the family during a period when nobody felt like preparing dinners. Between her tears, the widow dabbed her eyes, smiled at me, and said, “There’s a lot of love in that refrigerator.”

Servants are attentive to others; they listen and they bear others’ burdens.

Bible Passage to Ponder: “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

UPDATE: Thanks to Phil Gerbyshak for linking to this post...and for the kind words!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Second Most Powerful Person in the World

[This message was shared with the people of Friendship Church at worship celebrations on March 25 and 26, 2006.]

Mark 10:35-45

Google, as anybody who has ever touched a computer knows, is a “search engine” that allows you to type in a few words and find anything that has ever been written about or that includes those words on the entire worldwide web.

On Friday, I tried a little experiment. I went to Google and typed in the word leadership. The search told me that leadership is mentioned, in one way or another, on 871,000,000 web sites. Then I typed in servanthood. Only 428,000 sites mentioned it.

To tell you the truth, I was feeling sort of smug when I saw those figures. They seem to convey a certain truth that we Christians often lament about our world: Everybody wants to be number one, but very few are interested in serving others.

My case of the smugs didn’t last long, though. I decided to refine my Google search. For each of two entries, I typed in two words. The first set of words were leadership, Christian. For this, 48,600,000 sites were listed. Then I typed in servanthood, Christian and saw that this combination of words came up in only 278,000 sites.

The subject of leadership is an important one for Christians, of course. But I suspect that those numbers reflect a simple fact: We Christians are just as attracted to being the people in charge and just as turned off by being servants as the rest of the world is.

It’s always been that way. In today’s Bible lesson, the apostles and former fishermen James and John approach Jesus for a little chat. They do so immediately after Jesus has told them and the other ten apostles:
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
This is the third time that Jesus has said that He will die at the hands of executioners and that He will rise from the dead. What happens next makes clear that neither James or John--or the other ten--get it or even have heard what He’s said.

On Saturday in our junior high Catechism class, we spent some time considering what scholars call the Intertestamental Period, the time between when the last Old Testament book was written and the day Jesus was born. During this time, which lasted hundreds of years, ideas developed about what would happen when God’s Anointed One--the Christ, the Messiah--arrived on the scene. God’s people had been conquered and forced to live under the ruling hands of a long succession of foreigners, among them the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Syrians, and then, the Romans. Many of God’s people dreamed of the day when God would send a king, a descendant of David, who would forcibly throw the Romans out and establish a strong Jewish kingdom that would be filled with righteousness and prosperity. As I've described it before, they thought there would be a chicken in every pot and a Maserati in every garage. The notion of a Messiah who would serve and die for others was totally foreign to them, even though the Old Testament prophecies said this was what the Messiah would do!

But, filled with religious triumphalism and delusions of grandeur, James and John ask Jesus for places of privilege in His kingdom. Jesus tells them (and us) that He can’t promise anybody special privileges. But He does promise that if we follow Him, we’ll drink the same cup and experience the same baptism He experienced.

Jesus' cup, of course, was the experience of death. It was the very cup He asked God the Father to prevent Him from drinking during His night of agonized prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, even as He submitted to the Father's will.

Jesus' Baptism reflects both the tradition of varying baptisms practiced in ancient Judean and Middle Eastern cultures. For a people who were usually terrified of the water, who saw the sea as a place where the sea monster, leviathan, menaced them, immersion in water represented death. Psalm 69 reflects this view with its cry to God:
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.

I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.

I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
(Psalm 69:1-3)

For the Christian, baptized in the Name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Baptism is the place where the old self, with all its sinful impulses, is drowned and the new self rises to live with Jesus Christ. (Paul talks about this in Romans 6.)

Picking up on this theme in The Small Catechism, Martin Luther points out that so long as we're living on this earth, our old sinful selves will still be alive and that each day, we'll need to renew the covenant relationship God initiated with us in Baptism, so that our old selves can die and our real selves--our God-selves--can rise to live with God.

Like Jesus, we who follow Him will taste death. We must die to sin in this life and only after experiencing death itself will we rise again to live in God’s perfect kingdom forever.

After pointing this out to James and John, Jesus says this (I’m reading Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase from The Message):
You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around...and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served--and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.
Every person who commits to following Jesus Christ also commits themselves to being servants, even those among us who may be called to be our leaders. That’s because the Savior Who is our ultimate leader has secured our release from the death grips of sin and death by the power of His serving. And He calls us to be like Him.

In our 40-Days to Servanthood readings, we’re going to spend several more days this week looking at the things servants do. We’ll talk about hospitality, listening, sharing, giving, forgiving those who have sinned against us, leaving grudges in the past, and telling others about the new life that Jesus Christ gives to all who turn from sin and follow Him.

Servants may not make it onto the front covers of magazines the way prominent leaders do. But by their serving, they may present opportunities for good lives to young people like Todd Williams, the Clermont County Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year who has shared his story with us this weekend.

Servants may also let others see Jesus Christ. In my wife's and my home church, there was a woman named Flo. On Christmas Day, 1975, her husband died. The morning after, my wife and I, who were the junior high youth group sponsors for our church, showed up at her door with our pastor for a pre-arranged meeting. (I say “our” pastor, by the way, although I really didn’t yet consider myself a believer. I had been drafted into this job with my wife and went along somewhat unwillingly.) When Flo had learned on Christmas Day, the day of her husband’s death, that not all of our youth were going to be able to go on a long-planned trip New York City because we didn’t have enough cars, she told the pastor that we could use her car. Her husband’s funeral, she said, could be put off until after the pastor and the rest of us returned.

What person has more right to be wrapped up in herself than grieving widow who adored her husband? And yet, Flo reached beyond herself to serve others as she could at that moment. I can tell you, that Flo’s act of selfless service was one more nudge God used to help me to see and to surrender to Jesus Christ. For me, Flo and other servants at our home church who helped me to understand that Christ changes a life are more important than all the presidents, kings, prime ministers, and Fortune 500 CEOs in the world combined!

Like James and John, you and I may be tempted to think that our lives only matter when we have lots of money or lots of power, when we have a seat on the dais or a prominent title. But the most powerful person who ever walked this planet didn’t have a home of His own and died with a single garment as His only possession. But by His serving and dying and rising, Jesus has opened up eternity to the whole human race. All who turn from sin and believe in Jesus Christ will walk with God forever!

Do you know who the second most powerful person is? It’s anyone who surrenders to Jesus, commits to following Him and serving in His Name, and lets God use them for His purposes. Today, I have a simple message for all of you: Be that person.

UPDATE:
John Schroeder at Blogotional has linked to and aptly amplified some points in this piece. Thank you, John!

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 22

Servants of God show hospitality.

Hospitality is one of the most valued forms of Christian servanthood. It’s exemplified repeatedly in the Bible. And, in Romans 12:13; First Peter 4:19; First Timothy 3:2; and Titus 1:8, to name just a few places, it’s commended as a lifestyle for believers.

In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the preacher says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). He’s alluding to an incident recorded in Genesis. There, Abraham and Sarah, sent by God on a journey to an unknown destination are living a nomadic life. Three strangers arrive at their tent under an oak tree at Mamre. Abraham and Sarah entertain them, refresh them, and provide them with something to eat. It isn’t until the three are preparing to leave that their identities become apparent: God has come to Abraham and Sarah along with two of His angels (Genesis 18:1-15).

Without knowing who these strangers were, the father and mother of Biblical faith had welcomed them simply because that’s what people grateful to God for His blessings do. The Bible affirms that when we encounter believers in Jesus, we’re really meeting Jesus Himself (Acts 9:4-5). The same is true whenever we meet people who are hungry, thirsty, homeless, or imprisoned (Matthew 25:31-46). All people are created in the image of God and therefore worthy of our hospitality (Genesis 1:26-28).

Writer Richard Foster warns us not to make hospitality something that it isn’t. He tells the story of a hostess who was flitting around, busily trying to make everybody feel comfortable. After awhile, one of her guests told her, “I don’t want any coffee. I don’t want any tea. I don’t want any cookies. I don’t want a napkin. I just want to visit.” That’s the object of hospitality: To honor the Jesus in every other person by simply and attentively visiting with them.

Servants of God show hospitality.

Bible Passage to Ponder: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).