Living As “Aliens and Strangers”

What’s the first word you think of when you hear the word “stranger?”

For many, the answer is “danger.” Of course, there are good reasons that we warn small children not to trust those unknown to them, but sometimes even as adults—perhaps even as a society—our first reaction to those who are different than us is to suspect they could be a potential threat.

The Bible calls for a different approach to strangers. The Greek word for hospitality, philoxenia, literally means “the love of strangers.” We tend to think about hospitality as having our friends over for a meal—but so long as it is our friends whom we are entertaining, it is not genuine hospitality, at least in the original sense of the word.

The Bible never promises that all strangers are safe, but nevertheless we are commanded repeatedly to love them. When we do so, the book of Hebrews suggests, we may just be welcoming an angel without realizing it. Those whom some in our society presume to be a threat could actually be a blessing.

Another key biblical teaching about “strangers” is that, if we profess to follow Jesus, we are strangers. Paul, Peter, and the author of Hebrews all use the idea of immigration as a metaphor for what it means to be a Christian. Our primary identity—superseding our allegiance to our country, our city, our family, or any other entity—is as citizens of heaven, and that means that we ought never to fully “fit in” on earth.

While it is appropriate to be grateful for and loyal to our country, we must be careful never to conform fully to the culture around us, because our ultimate home is elsewhere. Refugees—who, even as they integrate into a new country, often carry in their hearts a longing for the country they were forced to leave behind—have much to teach us about what it means to follow Jesus, living and seeking the good of this land while always conscious of our true homeland.

Reflection Questions:

1. How might the biblical command to hospitality—to love strangers—inform how you respond to refugees who arrive in your community?

2. If your first allegiance is to God’s kingdom above any country on earth, how might your views toward foreigners be different than those who are not Christians?

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HOW WE SHOULD LIVE – PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11

If you are a father, you have likely tried multiple ways to motivate your kids: threats of punishment, promises of rewards, wielding your authority, and reminding them of all you have done for them. In many ways, pastoring a group of people is a lot like parenting. When the apostles wrote letters to the churches, they cared deeply for the people receiving them and viewed themselves as their fathers in the faith.

How did the apostles strive to motivate people to live in response to God’s greatness and grace? How did they encourage them to live the reality of their new identity? The apostles often rooted the imperatives (the commands) God gave in the indicative (what Christ has done). To understand their letters, it is helpful to understand the difference between imperatives and the indicative.

Imperative = Commands or “Do”

Indicative = What Christ accomplished or “Done”

You will find that the apostles’ letters are filled with imperatives, but these imperatives are grounded in what Christ has done (indicative). That’s because if our hearts are not refreshed and renewed with what Christ has done for us, our hearts are unable to obey Him. We need to be in awe of His grace to be motivated to live out the commands (the imperatives).

Let’s look at some passages written to the churches. Note if they are imperative or indicative.

EPHESIANS 5:25: Husbands, love your wives (imperative), just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. (indicative)
ROMANS 6:1-2
EPHESIANS 4:32
ROMANS 15:7
2 CORINTHIANS 8:7,9

Do you see the common theme? The imperatives are there—Do this, but they are always rooted in the indicative—because Christ has done that. As your heart is constantly refreshed with what Christ has done, you want to obey Him. You want to follow Him. His commands don’t feel like a burden because this world is less and less attractive to you as you view Him as greater and greater.

Let’s close with this example: We are to think of others first (imperative) because Christ put our salvation ahead of His comfort (indicative). Ponder this as you read PHILIPPIANS 2:3-11.

What’s the difference in an imperative and an indicative?

What are some examples of indicatives that motivate you? Why do they motivate you?

What happens if we get the imperative before the indicative?

Finding God Part Thirteen

Here are some other steps you can take in your new relationship with God:

* Be in community with others following Jesus. The difficulties of living as a Christian in a sinful world are many. It is essential that you seek other sincere, Bible-believing Christians to help you sustain your resolve. Both individual Christian friends and a solid, Bible-based Christian church are essential. God will continue working in your life through the lives of other believers.

* Tell someone else. Take a stand for Jesus Christ; make your life count. Someone you know needs to hear this good news about eternal life through Jesus. Tell them.

* Trust God for every detail of your life. He is never done loving us and guiding us.

Click ahead to the next day for more Bible passages that will help you understand what God wants for you. Welcome to your permanent, new life in Christ!

Listening – Hearing what God has to say

Everyone that has ever prayed to God has wanted a clear answer to some request or question. Often those answers are not what we expect or when we expect them. The key to finding and understanding those answers is making time to listen to God. We have to be very intentional when we listen so we actually hear what God is saying. The Bible talks about how Jesus found time away from everyone else to just be with God.

Spiritual quiet time often is mixed in with prayer and reading the Bible. That means finding a quiet place where you can settle your heart. It means turning off all the things that compete for your attention. When we focus solely on connecting with God and hearing what He wants to share is when we receive direction, hope and answers.

There is no set time or formula for doing this or for guaranteeing results. It is about determining where you can best hear God and connect with His spirit. But also realize that God can answer you and reveal himself through many different ways including other believers, worship and your circumstances.

Once you are in the habit of listening and find what works best, you should take note of three things: (1) The time of day it is best for you to do this. (2) The place you are most productive meeting God. (3) The activities such as prayer, Bible reading, music and other things that get you most focused on God. As you learn what works best in these three areas, you need to commit to doing this in a way that is most likely to be honored by God.

Prayer – Talking with God

It is actually pretty awesome to think that we have a direct line to the Creator of the universe. We often make a relationship with God more complicated than it needs to be. If you look at your best relationships, it is usually because you care about one another, you spend time together, and you value what the other has to say. The same things hold true for a relationship with God.

Prayer is simply talking with God. It is being honest with Him but also recognizing His ways are beyond what we can appreciate or understand. One person once said that if you knew what God knows, you would answer every prayer just as He does. This means we have to accept that we won’t always understand why God responds as He does or why we don’t get everything we seek.

In fact, we should simply seek His will and the strength to accept it rather than what our own hearts may desire. He wants what is best for us and has a perfect eternal perspective. Find time each day to pray and talk with God. This will help you to start learning how to trust Him with everything in your life.

There is no formula you have to use for prayer, but many have found a simple model that works well. It is based on the acronym ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Adoration is expressing to God how great He is and how you love Him for it. Confession is admitting your sins and being accountable for disobeying Him so you can be cleansed.

Thanksgiving is thanking God for His grace and forgiveness in our lives and expressing your appreciation for everything He has done for you. Supplication is asking God for help with the things in your life that need change as well as praying for others. Find time each day to pray and talk with God. This will help you to start learning how to trust Him with everything in your life.

Covered By The LORD

There are benefits, advantages and promises directly correlated to one’s absolute trust in God. God loves each and every one of His children and just like a parent or guardian displays love and protection for their child, God abounds even more than that in our lives, because He has the resources, wisdom, knowledge and power to do more than we can ask, think or imagine. We are covered by the LORD regarding all aspects of our lives. Nothing about you is insignificant and as a child of covenant you are covered in God’s:

Love, Grace, Mercy, Increase, Promotion
Lovingkindness, Joy, Peace, Gifts
Protection, Healing, Son-Jesus Christ, Redemption
Forgiveness, Future, Fulfilled Calling for your life, Care
Peace, Favor, Timing, Relationship
Promises, Blessings, Rewards, Plan and so much more!

The Lord completely covers us when we trust him completely and know without a doubt that He is our refuge, strength, promise keeper and protection. In life it is easy to pick up the futile acts of worry, anxiety, fear and doubt but when we completely trust God no matter what is going on in us and around us worry, fear, anxiety and doubt will be forced to leave because our faith in God is greater than any circumstance. We are truly covered by the LORD.

God knows who we are, what He has created and what we are equipped to accomplish. God is completely aware of our inabilities and He possesses all ability to cover us in every area of our lives. When you read God’s word let it sink in as a direct promise to you, because that is exactly what it is. God has covered ALL in your life but we are commanded not to worry, not to fear and Trust God no matter what it looks like. In the natural it may be tough but spiritually and with God’s grace you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).

Life is full of challenges, choices, changes and characters but remain encouraged today by Psalm 91 that you are completely covered by the LORD in all things regarding you. To God be the Glory!

Power to Provide

Individuals at one time or another have experienced financial setbacks, loss of relationships, postponed desires, unsettling health reports, unforeseen emergencies or even disconcerting news regarding loved ones. During those challenging times it is important for believers not to worry about how they will survive, but to trust in God’s ultimate power to provide in the midst of difficulty.

At times we want God to work the circumstance out our way according to our time schedule, but God is all powerful, all knowing, full of wisdom and he will forever show us that nothing is impossible for him as long as we trust his plan and his way.

In the Bible we witness God’s providing power with the Israelites as he provided them with supernatural:

Guidance – as he led them out of captivity towards the Promised Land
Sustenance – when he turned bitter water sweet, caused bread to rain from heaven, water from a rock and quail (meat) to literally come towards them
Prosperity – as the Egyptians favored them and gave them whatever they asked, including articles of silver, gold and clothing.

Now only God has the power to provide that way! God provided the Israelites with nourishment, prosperity and guidance utilizing resources that are above our intellectual comprehension. It is important to accept that God’s ways are not our ways and to avoid looking through distorted lenses regarding God’s resourcefulness and power.

There are several other stories in the Word of God that display God’s providing power and in each circumstance God did the supernatural. I’m at the point in my life now where I don’t try to figure out how God will do it, I just thank him for what he will come through and fulfill!

God will come through in powerfully providing for you in regards to your: God-honoring goals, church attendance, finances, family relationships, family restoration, wisdom, discernment, fortitude, confidence, desires, education, clothing, transportation, residence, entrepreneurial efforts, friendships, marriage, courtship, beauty, integrity, health, guidance, protection, provision, covering, children, peace, joy and so much more.

God’s providing power was also witnessed when he sent his son to die on the cross for our sins! Praise be to God for powerfully providing salvation by and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

God comes through in Power!