"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Monday, November 8, 2010

Raising The Standard: Hospitality Is Providing An Atmosphere Which Contributes To Growth

"Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and a hatred therewith." ~ Proverbs 15:17
"In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity." ~ Titus 2:7
From The Pages Of Scripture:
The home is more a classroom than a castle. Each parent must be a learner as well as a leader, and one course every member must pass is how to demonstrate hospitality. Only then will there be an atmosphere in the home which is conducive to learning and living the principles of Scripture. One of the most outstanding couples in the New Testament was skilled in hospitality. They demonstrated it to each other and to every guest who entered their home. They made each visitor a vital member of a working team, including the apostle Paul who was one of their guests. Their home became a center for spiritual growth and greatly strengthened the outreach of the early Christian church. A famous guest experienced true hospitality in the home of a certain couple. They made him a working part of their family, and he made them a working part of his ministry. Who was this couple? Aquila and Priscilla.
How Does Scripture Illustrate Hospitality In Providing An Atmosphere That Contributes To Growth?
A shocked couple listened to the proclamation. The emperor Clausius had decided that certain people could not be included in the plans he had for his capital. These undesirable people were ordered to leave Rome, and this couple was included in the group. They hastily packed their belongings, traveled to another city to find a home, and began to reestablish themselves. This experience may have been a motivation for them to learn and demonstrate hospitality to others. One day a man knocked on their door. He explained that he practiced the same trade as they and that he was looking for lodging. This man was not particularly handsome, and his speech was not eloquent; but there was a power in his words and a humble graciousness in his spirit. He found a warm welcome at the home of this couple. Soon he became a working member of the family. During their meals, he taught them the truths of Scripture. He worked diligently with them in making tents. It was a happy teamwork that often lasted far into the night. This visitor was the apostle Paul. Each week he went to the local synagogue and boldly proclaimed the Gospel to those who were there. After weeks of his convincing ministry, there was a large following of believers in the city. A new dimension of hospitality was added to this couple's lives as they ministered to and strengthened the new converts. Just as they had included Paul in the activities of their home, he included them in the further outreach of his ministry. These three Christians traveled to distant cities proclaiming the Gospel, demonstrating hospitality, and establishing churches. One day this couple listened to a powerful speaker named Apollos. He was eloquent and sincere, but they recognized that he did not yet know vital truths which Paul had explained to them. They took him aside privately and taught him the way more perfectly. Then they demonstrated a further aspect of hospitality by introducing him to their friends in other cities. The great influence of this couple is indicated in Scripture. Paul stated that they were his helpers in Christ Jesus, that they risked their lives for his, and that "unto whom not only he gave thanks but also all the churches of the Gentiles." Aquila and Priscilla provided an atmosphere in their home which contributed to the growth of the early Christian church. That church continued to expand until one day the very city that rejected this couple became a major center for the Gospel. (From Acts 18:1-28)
How Did Aquila And Priscilla Contribute To The Growth Of The Gentile Church?
Paul wrote these words to the church at Rome, "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus, who have for my life laid down their own necks; unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles." (Romans 16:3-4) Like Paul, this dedicated couple was ready to die for their faith. We do not know the details, but in an unknown incident, they voluntarily exposed their lives to some extreme peril in behalf of Paul. This may well have been related to one of the many dangerous encounters Paul experienced at Ephesus while staying in the home of this couple (cf. Acts 19:29-30; Acts 20:19) Since the churches owed their spiritual lives to Paul, and Paul owed his life to Aquila and Priscilla, the churches were indebted to them as well. A further contribution this couple made to the church involved their ministry in the life of Apollos. Their instruction provided the basis for a more effective ministry on his part in his journeys to the various churches (cf. Acts 18:28; 1 Corinthians 3:6).
What Did A Christian Commitment Cost Aquila And Priscilla?
It cost them the love of their family and closest friends. As Jews, many in their family and many of their friends would condemn them as blasphemers because of their belief in Christ as the Son of God (cf. Matthew 10:25-36). It cost them their roots ... from Rome, to Corinth, to Ephesus, back to Rome, and then back to Ephesus. The constant prospect of moving and reestablishing a home must have been especially difficult for Priscilla. The moves were costly from a monetary standpoint, for each time they relocated they had to reestablish their business. Their commitment cost them their privacy. Housing the apostle Paul meant crowds in their home well into the evening hours (cf. Acts 20:7, 11). They also hosted the local church at Ephesus and at Rome (1 Corinthians 16:19; Romans 16:5). Finally, it cost them their safety (Romans 16:3-4).
What Example Did Aquila And Priscilla Leave For Christian Couples?
When Paul wrote from Ephesus to the church at Corinth, he may have had Aquila in mind. "The time is short; it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had none." (1 Corinthians 7:29) The couple had probably just recently been sent to Rome. Their willingness to uproot again provides an example, especially to missionary couples, of flexibility and faith (cf. Hebrews 11:8-10). Contrary to the negative example of the infamous New Testament couple Ananias and Sapphira, they provide an example of generosity with the possessions entrusted to them. Finally, Aquila and Priscilla are an illustration of the benefits given to those who are given to hospitality. Because of their initial hospitality to Paul, they learned the great teachings the Lord had given him to proclaim. They heard firsthand reports of his missionary journeys and the amazing things God was doing through him. They established a friendship with Apollos, were able to see young believers grow up in Christ, and shared with them in the inestimable joys of Christian fellowship.
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
This species of rattlesnake is the only North American snake that still has as its common name the one given it by the Indians. In the spring these swamp rattlers are found along the shores of ponds, streams, marshes, swamps, and lakes. During the summer months they are more likely to be seen around the edges of fields and fencerows or under planks and stones. Even though the massasauga inhabits much of the midwestern United States it is becoming very rare. It appears to be losing ground in its battle for survival as more and more land is developed. Unmolested, it can live fourteen years and grow to twenty to forty inches in length. The massasauga is shy and non-aggressive and makes every attempt to avoid confrontation.
How Does The Massasauga Rattlesnake Illustrate Hospitality By Providing An Atmosphere For Growth?
Slithering among rocks and leaves, the long, slender creature slowly worked its way to a sunny knoll of the hardwood forest. Here it would bask in the rays of the warm sun. It was late August; the hot, muggy weather of summer had passed. Now the days were pleasingly cool and comfortable. Like all snakes and reptiles, the massasauga rattlesnake avoids the cold. Lacking body mechanisms to maintain a constant temperature, it relies on outside sources such as sun, shade, or burrows to regulate its body heat. At forty-five degrees it can barely move; at one hundred ten degrees it will die. The temperature for which it is best suited is between eighty and ninety degrees. In hot weather it cools off in a comfortable shaded spot. To warm itself, the snake seeks out a sunny area and lies there to absorb the sun's warmth. Today the temperature was bout seventy degrees. The snake was by no means immobile, but neither was it at its peak of efficiency. By sunning itself in the afternoon it would be in better condition to hunt for food later. As it made its way along the ground, maneuvering around large, white oak trees, the snake suddenly encountered a large bird. Both became aware of each other's presence at the same instant. Hoping to avoid the risk of attack, the snake attempted to conceal itself by sliding close to the base of large boulders. The wild turkey promptly came over to investigate. Quietly the snake waited for the gobbler to satisfy its curiosity and then leave, but suddenly the turkey's bill became a lethal weapon mercilessly jabbing at the snake's body. The snake instinctively coiled, weaving its head back and forth in an attempt to avoid the jabs and to position itself to strike. Every time it tried, the bird jumped away. The turkey was too quick. Realizing it was no match for the bird, the snake desperately tried to escape. It had more at stake than just its own welfare. With each attempt to retreat, the bird unleashed another hammer-like blow. The massasauga was beginning to feel the effects of this one-sided fight. Its half-coiled body now made wild aimless strikes. As the snake waited for the bird's next attack, it caught sight of an opening between the large rocks. Feebly, it made a desperate effort to crawl inside. It was able to get its head and part of its body to safety before the bird realized what was happening. Racing over, the turkey reached down, latched onto the base of rattlers, and pulled furiously. The snake braced itself and wedged its muscular body against the stones. As both pulled harder and harder in opposite directions, the rattlers broke off. The massasauga quickly withdrew its battered tail before the bird had another opportunity to strike. There within the safety of the rocks, the snake's life would quietly slip away. But it wasn't ready to die yet' it still had a mission to accomplish. Disregarding its own desperate condition, it began to exert all its remaining strength in a series of muscular contracitons. Soon eight little sacs, one by one, were ejected from its body. As it lay dying, the sacs began to open. Within the safety and comfort of the rocks occurred a phenomenon common only to a few snakes. In those last moments of its life, the mother snake had given birth to eight, self-sustaining snakelets. By holding the snakelets within her body, she provided an atmosphere conducive to growth. She continued to do this until her dying moments when she provided an impenetrable fortress among the stones for her young, assuring their survival against the formidable bill of a turkey.
Scriptural References To The Snake:
"Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made..." ~ Genesis 3:1 One of the more frequently mentioned creatures in Scripture is the serpent. In its original state it possessed a splendor and cunning quite unlike its present form. After Satan used it to tempt Eve, it was cursed. "Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." (Genesis 3:14)
"They shall lick the dust like a serpent..." ~ Micah 7:17
Critics of Scripture have assumed an error in these verses. Further research, however, reveals that snakes do take dust into their mouth for a precise purpose, and only by dust shall they live. It is ironic that Satan promised Eve she would have superior knowledge by tasting the forbidden fruit. Now the snake must gain knowledge for eating by taking dust into its mouth. The serpent became a symbol of sin and God judged Israel with firey serpents in the wilderness. God told Moses to make a brass serpent and lift it up on a pole. Those who went out of the camp to look at it would be healed (Numbers 21). This symbol referred to Christ who was lifted up for our sin (John 3:14). The serpent is not included in the background for the symbol of medicine.

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