Life on the front porch

Faith, life, kids & bikes


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Lasting Peace compared to Good Attempts to find Peace

After a hurried rentrée (return to school after a week off) and praying through the stressful situations that many of our friends find themselves in (and you too?!), I’m reminded that we do not live in a peaceful world. There is always something for me to be worried about. There is always something trying to steal my joy and peace.

The verse that came to my mind this morning was John 14.27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I am reminded of the ways that people around me (and me included) look for peace:

  • In political powers: my own nation of Canada is groaning and rejoicing with the political shift that has just taken place. In 4 years it will all shift again. Palestinians, Israelis, Syrians, Ukrainians, Romas are still waiting for political peace.
  • In economic prosperity: many of the deepest economic recessions have happened after stratospheric financial booms. A bumper crop can be wiped out with a hail storm.
  • In educational superiority: just when you think you’re getting somewhere, along comes someone who makes you seem very ordinary.
  • In family stability: we are all hoping that home will be a place of peace and security and look to copy those around us who seem to have it. Family is where tension and strife is most normal (and faith can make it even worse).
  • In physical health: one accident, one illness, one unusual test result and it’s all shattered.

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What will the church look like on the day Jesus returns?

God’s vision for the church is found in the story of Rebekah

I was excited to bring encouragement to a local congregation recently because the scripture from the Old Testament was the story of Rebekah. I knew that this woman was an example for the Jewish people, of service and hospitality. Rabbis, pastors & scholars have used this woman’s story to describe God’s people on the day of the return of the Lord. In the generation that sees God’s messiah return, a faithful people will be found that reflect the story of this mother of our faith.

Perhaps you look at the churches in your city or at the people of faith in your social circles and, like me, you wonder, “Is this really what Jesus had in mind when he came preaching, healing & loving? Is this what Jesus died for?” The current reality seems bleak, the church weak and many people of faith can’t be distinguished from everyone else by their life and entertainment choices. Two voices come to my mind:


I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.” – Ghandi
The best money has never been on the church. Yet the church has outlasted every economic and political system.” Gary Best


 

God, in the story of Rebekah, is telling us our story. You’ll find this gem in Genesis 24 and it’s the longest story told in the book of Genesis (longer than Noah, creation or Joseph). There a number of perspectives on this, but today let’s just look at this story as a shadow of our story. Continue reading


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Are Alpha Churches ready for people who find faith in prison?

I have a theory, but it’s untested and I need some help.

Churches that run Alpha are more than halfway ready to welcome people who find faith during an Alpha Course in prison.

Now, it’s just a theory, but wouldn’t you like to help me test it?

If you’re in Winnipeg May 2, would you consider joining me for a roundtable discussion called Breaking the Cycle of Crime.  We’ve designed the time to be focused on building relationships between pastors, prison chaplains & those working in after prison ministries.  We’ll hear from Alpha for Prisons Director John Kreklo and have opportunity to talk together about what God may be doing in our city and province. Continue reading


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Training others in hospitality

Don't Let This Be You

Click this picture for a great post by my friend Colm

A few months ago I met Pascalyne at my church. It was her third time there and the first time that someone had even talked to her. Sadly, it wasn’t me who first noticed her or approached her. Then, when finally, someone greeted her, they found out that she was from Belgium – that’s when I was introduced and I invited Pascalyne and Patrick for supper at our home. That moment turned a bad church experience (at my church) into a friendship.

I love that the church is turning to hospitality as a way to engage our culture and as a way to demonstrate the Kingdom. Some people are real naturals and as a leader it’s easy to guide a natural. Others need a little more guidance.

Here are some top tips from some really smart Canadian youth workers.  (The big ideas were theirs, the notes and explanations are mine).

1. Get to know the five love languages: learning to show hospitality in ways that are valued by our guests.

  • Gifts, Time, Affirming Words, Acts of Service, Physical Touch

2. Getting beyond hello at church

  • Why not ask someone who’s been trained in customer service to come and talk to your volunteers about how to turn guests into customers and customers into ambassadors.
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Hospitality – Best Practices for Youth Workers

I recently sat with some amazing youth workers in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where we talked about best practices for hospitality. While I shared some of my ideas and stories I also collected their stories and best advice for growing a culture where hospitality is normal. In our western culture hospitality has become something that is used for commercial gain or to leverage our influence and the hospitality that Jesus compelled his followers to show has become unusual – radical.

The Long table Or desire is that Jesus brand of hospitality hospitality would move from being radical to being normal in our churches, youth groups and Alpha teams. We’re looking for men and women who open their spaces and lives to strangers with ease and grace. We’re also eager to see the hospitality of Christians as a compelling reason to follow Jesus. And we want to welcome Jesus himself, because we are told that we serve Jesus when we practice hospitality.  Whether you run Alpha or you’re an usher or you work the till at McDonalds, you can be radically hospitable.

Here are 5 categories for our best practices in creating a culture of Radical Hospitality:

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Stories that inspire Radical Hospitality

Last weekend I led a couple of seminars titled Radical Hospitality. As I prepared I began to feel that I don’t know nearly as much about hospitality as the people who will want to come to my seminar – I may have a few stories and I may know the Bible stories that inspire hospitality, but today I feel like just a writer.Love note

I asked my groups, what stories of hospitality do you have? When have you either experienced hospitality or extended hospitality? In asking this I was looking for stories that Jesus seemed to enter into or that we had climbed into his story and experienced God’s blessings. Continue reading


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Jesus became poor: Hospitality #3

Tonight I’m putting the final touches on my presentation on Radical Hospitality.  Funny thing is, I never offered to do this seminar – I was going to talk about Hospitality as Salvation in the context of inner city church work, but this thing has taken on a life of its own.

Last week, my boss Shaila talked about Radical Hospitality being one of our key values at Alpha Canada and that we were going to put this front and center in our training this spring.  So, I’ve got my juices running.
One of the most interesting point on hospitality for me came from Micheal Frost in a little video he did on The Work of

becoming the poor

Micheal Frost on becoming the poor

the People (a website of video resources I highly recommend).  In this clip he talks about the story from Luke 7 where Jesus is invited to a party at Simon’s house.  He’s a bit of celebrity but as the story moves along, we find out that the host is actually trying to impress everyone else.  Jesus isn’t welcomed properly and is actually insulted.  Then a beautiful thing happens when a working girl (prostitute) drops behind him, at his feet, pours expensive perfume on his feet and then washes his feet with her tears and hair.

Frost points out a beautiful Palestinian tradition of the hombre or shadow people.  These hombres were the people who were able to sneak into a party (uninvited).  Once in, they were entitled to be fed, but not given a place at the table.  I imagine that if a man wanted to show off his wealth and care for the poor, he’d let in many hombres.  It would be a good business or political move to be seen as compassionate and wealthy.
At this point I just want to consider, how often had Jesus been an hombre?  How many times had he and his brothers snuck into a party just to be fed.  The children of a carpenter would not have been wealthy or privileged.  And after the death of their dad, it may have become necessary to sneak out food to other family members.
In this story we’re reminded that Jesus was never a man of earthly means.  Though he generously fed 5000 with just a few loaves and fish, he seemed to require the hospitality of people more than he could offer it.  Christian hospitality therefore is not primarily following the example of Christ but rather an opportunity to show hospitality to Jesus.  Matthew 25 confirms with the teaching on caring for the poor being the same as caring for Jesus himself.
So, how have I shown mercy to Jesus today?  Will I see him tomorrow when he comes across my path as hungry, thirsty, in bondage, beat down or neglected?