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Your Home
March 2000

I am not domestic by nature, so housework is truly ďworkĒ for me. One of the ways Iíve been able to deal with it, though, is to realize that it is a privilege to have a home that needs attention in the first place. There are plenty of people who will be sleeping on the street and under freeway bridges in Salt Lake tonight who would love to just have a kitchen with food in it they could cook up or a bedroom with a real bed. I have nothing to complain about. These jobs around the house are part of the blessing and I donít want to ever be found guilty of lack of appreciation. The Lord provided me with this home in a good area of the Salt Lake Valley ten years ago this month and a year ago this month I got it paid off. Every day or so, I still find myself saying ďthank you Lord for my home.Ē

A lot of you reading this have homes. A few years ago, I looked around our small congregation at Church of the Risen Christ (which meets in my home) and thought it would be a good thing if everyone there who wanted a home could have one. So I prayed that way. Within 18 months, everyone at Church of the Risen Christ had bought a home of their own and were gaining equity instead of filling a shoe box with rent receipts.

But I believe what we do with our homes is what God is watching. Iíve tried to be a good steward in this as I see my home as a blessing and therefore something to be shared. Blessings, like good times, are brought into our lives by God Who intends that they should be shared. (There are few exceptions if you think about it).

For me, there is a thin line in the way I view my home: on the one hand, it needs to be a refuge for me, a place where I can hide out. Thatís why I often work through my post office box and donít give out my street address. After all, when I counsel people (Iíve counseled 243 already this year), it helps to be able to get up and saddle up when youíre done. You can do that in a neutral location, like a restaurant. Otherwise, if I counsel everyone at my home, weíd finish up and then Iíd want to get to my desk, return some calls and the like, but theyíd still be parked at my kitchen table (the BEST place to minister, I found) because itís comfortable and they like it. Thatís a mixed blessing -- theyíre enjoying being here but I need to move on without being selfish about it. Trying to get them to leave is sometimes like dislodging Bill Clinton from the White House!

Donít get me wrong -- some folks I donít mind counseling here at the house because theyíre savvy enough to know when the time is up and that I have things to do yet. Or, theyíre just low maintenance enough that they can hang out if they like and I donít feel like I have to try to be more hospitable than Iíve already been. (Making that second pot of cowboy coffee is pushing it). But for the majority of the folks that I counsel, I prefer to do it away from the house so that when weíre done, weíre done.

My home was intended to be a ministry home in the first place and thatís one of the reasons several people helped me out with buying it. So, I try to use my home for ministry and for refuge, both. Timing is everything.

But it also is a home and a refuge right now for Tim and I donít want to forget that while I have the deed, it is his home too as long as the Lord has him here. We have an agreement about checking with each other before just inviting people over, especially if it is my doing a ministry situation here at the house. Keep in mind that some people who come to your home can often bring something into it that may not be of God. Without being selfish about it, you do need to consider being protective of this gift God has given you -- your dwelling, and how what you do there will affect others. Sometimes the timing and type of ministry you may try to do in your home can actually end up having a detrimental effect on those who are living there with you. Iíve seen children neglected and spouses ignored by some who loved their ministries more than their loved ones.

Keeping all the above, now letís talk about YOUR home:

Some of the best ministry that can happen happens in the home. It can be a home prayer meeting or just you dedicating your home to prayer where you might be the only one because your ministry is one of intercession -- a lonely ministry that involves no one but the Lord and you at those times. Or it can be a home church. After all, the early Christian Church always met in homes. Church buildings became a thing of convenience to assemble and eventually corral larger numbers of people together, but they soon and became impersonal. People thrive best in cell groups, I find, or home-based ministries which is probably why so many churches are going over to cell groups. It has really impacted places like Korea, Guatemala and El Salvador and was the means of survival for many believers in nations hostile to the Christian Faith.

While I could go on why I believe that homes are where a body of believers ought to meet, enough of you know where I stand on that already and, if you read the New Testament, particularly Acts and II John, youíre going to get that idea anyway. Iíd rather go in a different direction for now.

How are you using your home? Your abode can be yours or it can be Godís with you living there, hopefully in partnership with Him. How many homes have you gone into where, without the people living there being ostentatious about it, you can feel the Presence of God? And how many others have you been in where there is Christian junk and posters scattered about, even crucifixes, yet no peace?

To muddy the water a bit more, I also understand that some of you reading this may have unsaved spouses who would not be sympathetic to anything you might try to do for the Lord in your home. You find ways to work around that; many do.

Iím not saying that you have to have worship services in your home like I do to prove that you have given your home over to Godís use. Take it from me, worship services can be disruptive of your home. If you donít plan for it, you can easily feel invaded. Or the smaller annoyances like the coffee hour afterward where you can count on a week-long search looking to see where your kitchen helpers put the ketchup after the last meeting. We have services here but they are scheduled so it doesnít disrupt the life of the house.

Some years ago, a Brethren friend from Indiana had come to Utah to ski and used my place as his base but, because of his interest in Utah Mormon culture, he wanted to check out the local LDS ward [church]. He attended that Sunday morning and they were all over him like too-friendly flies. By the time he left the ward chapel to come back to my place, he had more dinner invitations than he could count and one man offered to let him borrow his car for the week he was going to be here! I had similar treatment when I visited the Christian Science church (minus the offer of a vehicle) years ago. This is one reason cults succeed -- they friendship.

While I understand many of you couldnít do more than you already do with what God has given you, many of you could be doing a LOT more with your homes than you do. Do you believe that God gives you things for just you? Maybe sometimes, but most of the time, He imparts things to us that are intended to be imparted to others. It seems to be a principle of the spiritual realm that what you give away seems to increase in size and quality and your resource never runs out.

You may think you have the right to turn your home into your refuge, and you do, but some of you have almost made it an impenetrable fortress! Iíve been appalled to do home visitations at times and see what some of the homes are like of folks who appear to be the pillars of their churches. You can tell a lot about a personís spiritual walk by the way they keep, guard, groom and maintain their homes.

Then thereís the whole issue of hospitality. I know folks who, at a low point in their lives, turned to the churches to find fellowship as well as spiritual nourishment. They ended up disillusioned because not one person ever invited them home or even out for a meal when they visited when all they needed was a bit of fellowship.

I donít think there is ever a time I have attended church where I havenít invited someone to go for lunch, supper or back to my home for a meal afterward. (If you do this, expect to pay the whole shot when you do -- another ministry with your money you can do if your budget will allow for it. If they offer to help out with the bill, or the tip, then youíre still a cheerful giver -- God says He loves them -- in Godís sight and youíve learned to be able to receive too).

To me, that time of fellowship over a meal is an extension of the worship service, not just the coffee hour in the parish hall immediately following Communion. Heck! Communion is all about a meal! But for many itís a ritual that ends there; the idea of dining together doesnít flow across their synapses.

I remember the first worship service I went to after I first moved to Los Angeles. Paul Carden had invited me to attend his church, Laguna Church, one Sunday morning just a short time after I settled in and unpacked. I said, ďOK,Ē showed up that Sunday morning with Paul and we sat next to a Marine near the front row. At the end of the service, as I was going to greet folks and ask one or two of them to go to lunch, the Marine turned to me and beat me to a lunch invitation I probably would have offered to him and Paul. His name was Jeff Freeman, a discouraged South Dakota cowboy who was making his way back to the Lord at that time. Within a month we had become prayer partners, I baptized him in the Pacific Ocean, God baptized him with the Holy Spirit, and two years later he was my missionary partner to Utah. Weíre still close friends to this day, even though heís now married, a father of two, active in his local parish and living in northern Illinois. Between Jeff and me, we were able to lead several of his Marine buddies to the Lord at the USMC base at Tustin, California. And it all started with an invite to lunch after church.

Iíll say it again: your home, your wallet, your resources, are Godís gifts to you. But, like any blessing, they are meant to be shared -- with wisdom, of course. (I donít want to hear that some of you single gals brought home Jack the Ripper for dessert). Assess what your blessings are from God and what He would want shared with others. Then determine with whom and to what degree. In it, you may find your true gifting and ministry, by the way.

Most Christians I know are walking around with the gift of salvation under their belts, even wearing their faith openly (with crosses and Christian jewelry and the like) and yet donít want to be inconvenienced so to have to actually invite someone into their home, much less into their life because, Gee! that might cost too much! No, it doesnít. Things cost too much if you canít afford to pay them. Many of you can afford to practice a ministry of hospitality so it isnít just the pastor who is expected to do it. (And plenty of them donít either). And if you canít or shouldnít attempt that kind of hospitality, turn your surroundings into one of prayer, at least. That right there has changed the whole atmosphere here at Holy Trinity (the name of my home) so that even God will feel comfortable being there. You may have to get rid of some stuff first, though, to make room for Him.

Jesus said He had nowhere to lay His head, not even a home to sleep in compared to the critters He made (foxes, birds, etc.) Yet He has gone on ahead to prepare us a place, a mansion, from the way He described it. In the meantime, whatís your excuse?

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