What’s in a word… (week 4)

Introduction: If you’ve found those who want to join you, gather together with warm greetings and any necessary introductions. If not, find a comfy place and let’s share.

Prayer:

Begin with a few seconds of silence… breath in… breath out… Allow the cares of the day to be set aside and center your thoughts on God.

Father God, we praise You for Your generous open-hearted hospitality. You receive us just as we are and right where we are, no matter how great or small.

Touchstone Reminder: Hospitality

Last week we considered God’s open reception of everyone as the basis for our practice of hospitality when we gather in community. Because of God’s openness toward us, we open our hearts to all who come. To be hospitable is to offer a “generous and friendly welcome” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

When God generously receives us, how do we reciprocate? How can we show God hospitality in our lives?

Welcoming God into our lives can include setting aside time with Him daily, listening to what He says in His Word, conversing with Him in prayer, and offering whatever we have for His use and pleasure.

The heart of hospitality is seen in a readiness to receive and in generous giving. God Himself readily receives and gives in abundance.

  • What gifts did God generously give you this week?
  • How did you respond?

Opening our hearts to let God in is a bit daunting. It can be messy in there and not seem nearly good enough to please Him.

What keeps you from opening your heart to God in the full spirit of generous hospitality?

Let’s look at how He sees others in their reception of Him through giving.

Read Luke 21:1-3

  • Who did Jesus see? and what were they doing?
  • What life circumstances fueled their giving?
  • What was revealed about the heart of the giving in each instance?
  • Do you give more often out of your wealth or poverty?
  • What does this reveal about the way you view God?

Even though the rich gave much, they did not give their all, they held something back for themselves. But the widow, in her poverty, gave all she had. Her heart wide-open to God even though it wasn’t much in the world’s eyes.

Jesus sees our hearts. Its present condition will not offend Him, He only cares whether we will welcome Him in with open generosity. Genuine hospitality is not an act of showing off for others, but an act of love. He loves us and wants to be with us. Loving Him in return, includes opening our lives and hearts to Him without fear of being turned away or not being seen as enough.

The people Jesus saw at the temple were giving material gifts, but that is not the only measure of generosity. We also have our time, energy, and ourselves to offer generously to Him.

We too, in our gatherings, are called to be open-hearted and generous with others right where they are. And in sincere hospitality, we don’t shut anyone out because of the mess they may find in our hearts.

Hospitality is a mark of love. Other-centeredness. God-centered hospitality is a building block of community because everyone wants to belong, feeling and knowing they are loved.

Carol says:

God has changed my attitude and view of hospitality as I’ve journeyed with Him over the years. In my late twenties and early thirties, hospitality was hard for me. Every time I opened my home it felt like I was opening myself to judgment. (And fear of feeding someone something that would cause harm. One of my crazy phobias.)

I’m sure my children suffered because of my reluctance to let them have friends over unless the house was in order. And with three children five years apart in age that just didn’t happen.

God has taught me hospitality isn’t about a clean house or even about whether someone else judges the way you live or not. It is an openness to let others in. Into your messiness, into your heart, offering what you have with a desire to get know others and be known — just as you are.

I have many regrets about the way I lived for so long, especially for my children. But I’m grateful for the transformation He’s brought and how He’s drawn me into community. How He’s taught me how to love.

Community:

We love because [God] first loved us.

1John 4:19

It is only possible for us to love one another because of God’s love toward us.

Read the following quote a few times. Pay attention to the words that rise up and speak to you in some way.

Deep down in our hearts, we need to know that we are beloved. A community of love isn’t just necessary for good practical formation and accountability, it’s needed so that the voice of God’s love can break through our fear and assure us that we belong, that we are beloved, that his love will be enough for us.

—Rebecca Konyndyk Deyoung, Glittering Vices

Consider the following questions:

  • What words or phrases have special meaning for you? Why?
  • What communities do you consider communities of love in your life?
  • How is love shared in those communities?
  • What about them makes you feel like you belong?

Read 1John 4:10-12

  • How did God show love for us?
  • What does God’s love call us to do?
  • How is God’s love made complete?

Through Christ we are invited into the most hospitable community. We literally join hands with Father, Son, and Spirit in a way that is much like a dance. All give, all receive, and a sacred community where all completely belong becomes reality. In our love for God and one another, He becomes visible.

Christian communities not only offer practical guidelines, and accountability, they offer a place where we can hear God’s voice.

Share:

Reflect on your experience with the One Word discipline this week, whether you have received a word or you are still waiting and listening.

  • What moment stuck out to you this week? Why?
  • What about the moment gave you new insight?

Carol says:

My word for the year is: Restore. Its Scripture: Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. — Psalm 51:12-13

There was a moment this week which utterly surprised me. I actually saw how He has restored an aspect of the joy of my salvation.

For the most part, what He asks me to do has not filled me with joy. Mostly anxiety and fear of getting it wrong. As I obey, I try hard to listen and do it His way and keep myself out of the way. And I’ve found joy in the process as He reveals and leads, but otherwise it’s just been… stressful!

What I noticed this week, was joy in what I’ve been doing for Him. Recognizing how He has used me. The same joy I experienced early in my walk with Him when He found uses for me. Any use at all, like showing up where He said and I was just in time to do what needed to be done, or stepping out to take dinner to someone I didn’t know very well.

But where He’s called me, into writing and teaching… it has left me feeling vulnerable, open to judgment, much like the way I used to view hospitality. Yet something shifted over the last couple of weeks. And in this call which exposes me in ways I’m uncomfortable, I found myself surprised by the overall feeling of joy at His finding a use for me… even me

He has restored to me afresh, an important aspect of the joy of my salvation. Serving Him as He calls me to work with Him.

  • Did you recognize any resistance to the word you received? Or maybe resisting a word all together?
  • What does this resistance reveal to you?

Stacy says:

My word for the year didn’t come easy. In fact, when I heard it a true battle began. My word, Rest, was not my first choice. As the battle raged inside my head, I noticed something I haven’t experienced in my practice of this spiritual discipline. Resistance. In the past as God lead me to a word for the year I felt much excitement when I decided and moved forward. This year… not so much.

Resistance confirmed my word for the year was Rest. I realized God would grow me no matter what word I chose. The level of resistance I had pointed me in the direction I knew God wanted me to go. The harder road to travel, and it hasn’t been easy.

I’ve much work to do when it comes to rest. But I’m learning and growing and that makes all the difference.

Scripture Foundation: One Word

Read Luke 8:4-15

  • What does the seed represent in the parable?
  • What four places does the sower’s seed land? What does Jesus tell us each represents?
  • What happens to the seed or word in each of these places where it’s sown?
  • How does this relate to the practice of One Word?

The seed is the Word of God, the sower in the parable is God Himself or His representatives. The Word is heard by many different people with different levels of openness to God and what He has to say.

Hearts which are hard toward God are the ones deeply entrenched in the ways of the world. This is the path where the devil steals the seed. There is no hospitality for His Word from the world’s point of view.

The hearts filled with rocky soil receive the Word gladly, but when hard times come, they do not have the deep roots needed to persevere. Perhaps they are only seeking their own good, a prosperity gospel, and when it doesn’t pan out the way they think it should, it all seems like a lie. So they walk away.

Some hearts are like a patch of briers.The Word takes root and grows, but it finds itself in competition with the world. Both worldly worries and worldly pleasures. Distraction and unbelief, doubt and a divided-heart choke out the Word and the fruit God wants to grow in their lives.

But the good soil, the hospitable soft heart, fully receives God’s Word. Takes it to heart. Believes. Perseveres. And bears the fruit of the Spirit.

Please note the word “perseveres.” Sometimes we think a good heart is a character trait, we either have one or we don’t. But God uses this metaphor intentionally: heart and soil. Good soil doesn’t just happen. There has been a breaking up of hard ground, a tossing out of rocks and weeds, and the addition of compost. The persevering work we do is the work of preparing our hearts as good soil for God’s Word and presence.

When God blesses us with a word for the year, we can receive it in any of these ways. The open heart receiving the one word, will be led to the Word. With perseverance and patience, belief and trusting faith, we will begin to see the fruit of God’s Word in our lives. Transformation.

Read 2Corinthians 9:10

  • What does God supply to the sower? Where does the bread come from?
  • What does He do with the seed for sowing?
  • What is the result for the one who sows?
  • How does this speak to the One Word discipline?

God supplies seed to the sower and bread for food. Bread comes from previously planted seed. Perhaps it was sown by someone else, and the sower benefited from his work. With the nourishment of the bread the sower has the energy to plant the seed given him, from there God multiplies it to increase the harvest.

The seed, as we now know, is the Word. The harvest we gain in the sowing of seed/His Word is righteousness. The Bread which sustains us is Christ Jesus.

Receiving a word and sowing it in our lives as we rely on Jesus, will produce a harvest of righteousness. Just one word… can lead us into more and more of His Word…

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Matthew 4:4 ESV

Close:

Remember to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking with regard to your one word for the year. He is faithful and He will answer.

February we will move into a new discipline to practice alongside our One Word discipline: The Examen.

See you next week.

May you openly receive the One who receives you with generous, gracious, abundant love.                       

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