JP walks us through the first half of Acts 16. He shows us the helpless are the objects of God’s affection and both hospitality and hostility reveal the objects of our affections. He challenges us to take an honest inventory of our affections and to grow in our generosity—and even more, our hospitality—as we strive to use God’s provision in our lives for serving others rather than serving ourselves.
How to Be Provoked Well. Paul and Us Among the Athenians
How to Love a World Filled With Rompers
Do You Believe in the Myth or Follow the Man
The Hopeless, the Hospitable, and the Hostile
Stuck on Mission
The First Church Council and the Matter of First Importance
I have to start today by sharing with you something that happened to me the other day here. It was unbelievable. I had just gotten to work for staff prayer Tuesday morning, and I'm walking through the parking lot, and I get to the porte cochere, the awning out there, and there's a man who has clearly been running. He's sweaty and holding his phone and kind of walking around like he's lost, so I engage him and introduce myself. "How are you doing?"
His name was Uno. So I met Uno, and I said, "Hey, can I help you find something?" He said, "Yes. It says here on Yelp that one of the best coffee shops in Dallas is right here. Do you know where?" I said, "Yes. Come on in. Let me show you." I bring him inside into the town hall out there, and it is the best coffee shop indeed, not because of the coffee, which is also great, but because of the way this man was loved, and I got to see it through fresh eyes just being with him.
Ginger, behind the coffee shop desk asked his name and said "Hey, how are you doing?" and other folks came around and engaged him, and then somebody bought his coffee, and then I took him down and said, "Feel free to work from here or make yourself at home. There's free Wi-Fi." He was like, "Everybody is so kind." I said, "Do you have a faith?" He said, "I'm Buddhist." I said, "Are you from Dallas?" He said, "No, I'm visiting from Japan. I'm here for a conference. I'm a doctor in Japan here for a doctor's conference."
We began to talk about faith. I said, "Well, do you go to temple?" He said, "No, I don't. I'm not really practicing." Then he goes, "What is your profession?" Because up until this point he just thinks he's in a giant coffee shop. He's like, "Everything is bigger in Texas. Wow." I say, "Well, I teach the Bible," to which he says, "What Bible?" I said, "Well, the Christian Bible." He kind of thinks, and he's like, "Oh yeah. I've wanted to read that."
I said, "Well, do you know what Christians believe?" He said, "No." I said, "Can I tell you?" He said, "Sure." I said, "Well, we believe there's a God who created all things and he sent his Son Jesus Christ to the earth." He said, "What?" I said, "You know, Jesus Christ." He said, "Is that a name?" "What?" Think about what's going on right now. I don't know that this has ever happened to me. Truly. I've been six days down the Amazon River to get off in the jungle to talk to people who knew about Jesus.
I've been in the jungles of Africa. I've been in the Masai Mara and talked to people there who knew Jesus. I've been hours up the mountains in Haiti to a rural tribe to see people who knew about Jesus. The irony… I'm in a church in Dallas, Texas, and I'm talking to this young man, this doctor from Japan, and he has never in his life… I asked every question I could to confirm. He has never in his life heard of Jesus Christ.
It was a crazy experience, because I just wanted to be like, "Guys, guys, come here! Everybody, come here. You've got to see this one. This is crazy!" As I began to share the gospel, it was a whole new starting point for me. I'm like, "Okay, how do I explain this? Well, I have a son, and can you imagine if I gave my son…?" I was moved with emotion starting at this new starting point. It had to be how Paul and Silas felt, because they've been in Jerusalem. They've shared the gospel with people who were like, "Oh, I remember that guy. I remember him dying on a cross."
Then they go to the Gentiles, we're going to see today, jumping over the Aegean Sea into Greece, where they're sharing with people who have no concept of Yahweh. They can't even start with, "Oh, you know, Yahweh, creator God." They just know of Zeus. You're starting from a whole new place. I was just thinking that had to be how they felt. It was interesting. As I shared with Uno, he was very kind, very receptive to listening. I think he would have listened all day had I sat there with him.
However, he didn't really respond to the gospel in that moment. I don't know what God is going to do, but there, as I took an honest read of his response, it was "Eh, I'm not really looking for Jesus. I'm looking for coffee. I'm a doctor. I'm going back home to my family, my great job. I'm comfortable. I didn't really come into this place with a hurt, a habit, a hang-up, or a need, or something I'm looking for God to take care of. I'm all good."
As I think about that… You think of the rich young ruler. Jesus says, "It's easier for a camel to get through the eye of the needle than one of these to get into heaven." Why? Because he's just so comfortable. He doesn't need God. He's not looking for salvation. So often, what keeps us from experiencing all that God would call us to is simply our comfort, simply us kicking back and saying, "God, I'm all good. I just want to be safer and more comfortable and have everything together. That's really what I'm looking for."
Today, we're going to see God's love for these people, how the gospel moves to these people, how God loves these people. Then we're going to see that when people love God how they also in turn love people, and then when people don't love God how they use people. It's a message I call The Helpless, the Hospitable, and the Hostile. We're going to be in Acts 16, verse 6. As a recap, two weeks ago we saw Paul and Barnabas get in a little skirmish over Barnabas wanting to bring John Mark with them on the journey.
So they divide and conquer. Paul goes over here, up into Troas and then Macedonia today, and he does so with Silas and Paul's new recruit in the beginning of chapter 16, Timothy. What we saw two weeks ago is how God can move in and through our dysfunction to move us back on mission. No matter what kinds of problems we find ourselves in, God can move us back on mission, as we learn through these historical narratives.
Today in verse 6, The Helpless, the Hospitable, and the Hostile, we always see the heart of God moved toward the downtrodden. You always see the heart of God caring for the poor, caring for those who have need, but today you're going to see the heart of God move to an area of influence and affluence, an area that thinks they have it all figured out. "We're good. We worship Zeus. We have smart guys like Aristotle and Socrates, and we're all good." You're going to see God move after that.
Verse 6: "Paul and his companions…" That's Paul, Timothy, and Silas. "…traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' After Paul had seen the vision, we…"
Do you see that word we? Something just happened there in verse 10. Luke, who the Holy Spirit is using to write this, has joined them, so now it's "Team Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke." "…we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." It is very clear that the Holy Spirit is directing their steps. This is a weird text, because it's like, "We wanted to go to Asia. No, Bithynia. No."
I liken it to… Have you ever been in a maze of mirrors at the fair or a carnival or something? It's like you're walking… Boom! "Okay, not there." Then back over here. Boom! "Okay, not there either. Okay, this way." That's what it feels like. The Holy Spirit is like, "No, not Bithynia. No, not Asia. This way up to Troas and then to Macedonia." A man appears in a dream. They're really not even going to a neighboring area. They're going far with the gospel into a new area.
It's kind of brilliant for God, if you think about it, because like I said, he always goes toward the downtrodden, but this is an area of higher learning, an area of influence. They still have incredible influence over our universities. Pick a college. Drive down the street. You're going to see houses with some random Greek letters on them. "Si Alpha Sigma" whatever. "Sigma Alpha Epsilon." "Tri Delta." Still to this day our culture is influenced by the people he's about to reach right here.
There's an irony in this text, that the man of higher learning is appearing to Paul yelling for help. One theologian said it was like a Harvard graduate saying, "Hey, come and help educate me." It made me think about this: the man who has everything but does not have Jesus has nothing. God is going to these Zeus worshipers, this place of Greek mythology, and he's cracking it open and inserting the gospel. That's what's happening in this text right now.
You say, "Why do you say that? Why is that relevant?" It's how it got here. In this short section, the gospel moves to Europe and into Western civilization, ultimately reaching us here so that our country would be founded on Christian values. It all starts here in Acts 16.
1._ The helpless are the objects of God's affection. In verse 9, Paul has a vision of a man begging him for help. We have to redefine _helpless, because these are not people you think of when you think of people in need. If I came to you and I was like, "Hey, I'm going to help people," you would say, "Oh, are you going to Houston? Are you going to Florida? Are you going to Haiti after the earthquake?" And I was like, "No, I'm going to the Hamptons" or "No, I'm going to go to Manhattan. I'm going to go to Beverly Hills."
You'd say, "Why would you do that?" I'd say, "Because people are influential there, and I'm going to use my influence to influence them for the sake of Jesus." They need help, even though it doesn't look like it. In some ways, they're the most helpless. The truly helpless are people who have so much they think they don't need help. You imagine that guy, Uno. He traveled 6,500 miles. God in his grace and mercy brought him to a place where he would hear the gospel.
He's going to go back to his home and be comfortable and sitting there as a doctor, and where is he going to be 50 years from now? What's going to be of Uno 50 years from now? It all depends on how he responds to a little story, a historical narrative he heard in a coffee shop in Dallas, Texas. Think about that. I think sometimes we're so comfortable we think we don't need God. That self-sufficiency is the enemy of salvation.
Do you know what the wisest man in the graveyard is? Dead. Do you know what the wealthiest man in the graveyard is? Dead. This perspective, that there is a help we need regardless of what we have… There's an irony here. Remember where Paul wanted to go and preach the gospel? He wanted to go to Asia. God said, "No, don't go to Asia right next door. Go up to Macedonia." So he goes past Asia to Macedonia, and the first person he's going to meet is from Asia. He's about to meet Lydia.
The point is that you're always on mission, that God has you where you are on purpose, whether it be Park Cities or Lake Highlands or Lakewood or West Dallas or Plano or Richardson. Wherever he has you, wherever he has you in work, God in his sovereignty has placed you there for a purpose, and he even has a purpose in the closed doors. He's moving you where he wants you to be in the closed doors.
Verse 11: "From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace…" A little island in the Aegean Sea. "…and the next day we went on to Neapolis." A port city. "From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days." Why did they stay there for several days? Because I think he didn't know what to do.
Paul's church planting model was always to find a synagogue and to start with that Jewish foundation and transition to Jesus. To have a synagogue in an area you'd have to have 10 Jewish men. There are no Jewish men here in Philippi. Philippians is the only one of Paul's letters that has no Old Testament reference, because there are no Jews there.
There are no Jewish men here. We're about to see that. There's no synagogue, so Paul is like, "I don't know where to go." Philippi was named after Alexander the Great's father Philip. Alexander the Great moves south, conquers the Macedonian area, and is tutored by Aristotle. This area of higher learning, if you will. This is an area where Roman soldiers would live.
Verse 13: "On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river…""I don't know where else to go. There's no synagogue." "…where we expected to find a place of prayer." That's called a proseuche. We're going to see it again in a minute. Place of prayer, proseuche. "We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there." Because there are no Jewish men. There's a group of women who are gathered there to pray.
"One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God." This "worshiper of God" appears in the New Testament a few times. It means God-fearer. She was a God-fearer. She was a Jew. She worshiped Yahweh, but she didn't know Jesus until right now.
"The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. 'If you consider me a believer in the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay at my house.' And she persuaded us." Remember that. "She persuaded us."
Recap. Paul doesn't know where to go. There's no synagogue. "I think people might meet out here for prayer." They gather there. Oh, there's a group of women there. One of them named Lydia responds. She's obviously a very powerful woman. She goes into her home and says to her whole household, "Hey, household, listen. I just trusted in Jesus, and you're going to too, and we're all going to get baptized," and they do.
Then she says, "You come and stay at my house." It says, "She persuaded us." In the Greek it's this: "We argued about it, and she won." A powerful woman. She said, "Come stay with me." We said, "No." She said, "I insist." We said, "No, thank you." She said, "Please, come into my home." We said, "No, thank you." She said, "You're coming with me." We said, "Okay." So there they were.
Let me talk about Lydia for a minute. She's a cosmopolitan. She's comfortable in two cultures. Commentaries say she had a house in Thyatira and a house here in Philippi. She's a wealthy woman by all accounts. She sells purple cloth. What does this mean? Thyatira was known for this purple dye. It was very expensive. They didn't have brands there. In this time there were no clothing brands. What there was were clothing colors, and basically those were like brands.
If you bought cheap clothes they were a cheap color. If you bought expensive clothes they were an expensive color. Purple was the most expensive color. Purple was the equivalent of Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Versace. Lydia is a Versace dealer. That is what she does. She sells beautiful clothes to beautiful people. She has a high-rise in Manhattan and a house and business in LA, and she commutes back and forth, and she's balling out of control. That's what Lydia is doing.
And she is hospitable. She says, "I want to use what I have to help the church." In fact, in a moment (next week, actually), these guys are getting thrown into prison. It's an amazing story. Don't miss it. When they get out, they and the ex-cons go to Lydia's house. The church in Philippi starts in this woman's house. It's a large house. The Philippian church starts in this lady's house.
2._ Hospitality displays the objects of our affections_. Do I love my neighbors? Not the ones who don't come over. Do you love your neighbors? Not the ones you have not invited into your life. That's hospitality. Hospitality is a more intimate form of generosity. Generosity gives out. "Hey, here." Generosity sends a check. Hospitality says, "Come in. I want my life to bump up against yours. I want it to intertwine with yours. I want you to be family. Come in."
Hospitality is what Jesus does for us. "Hey, come into my Father's kingdom. It's now your kingdom. All that I have in God is now yours. You've been invited into it. You are family." Hospitality is a road that the gospel has traveled on. Hospitality is demonstrated for us so well in this woman by all accounts. Consider how easy it was for me to share the gospel with Uno. The easiest thing I could do, much easier than engaging a stranger.
Someone had just bought his coffee and invited him in. "Have a seat. Free Wi-Fi. This is your home now. Can I tell you about Jesus?" Easiest transition ever. When people love God they love people. I've never seen this like I've seen it here in so many of you. Some of you need to hear these words and be tremendously encouraged. When I came on staff here, I found myself at a staff retreat that was our entire staff taking over your homes for the weekend. You cared for us and provided for us.
I'll go one step further. Consider the leadership here, the elders here. All of them have people living with them. Some of them have adopted into their family up to three children. Others of them have newlyweds living with them. Others of them have residents living with them. They've modeled this for us. "Hey, come. This bedroom? We don't have a guest bedroom. That's your bedroom."
Monica and I experienced this here. For the first six years of our girls' lives we had up to four people living with us at a time. The kids would call them the "men on the other side of the wall." It sounds like a horror movie. "The men on the other side of the wall." It's beautiful that God would have us talk about this today, with over a million people leaving Florida, over 100,000 people displaced in Houston, a city we share the state with, and 40,000 houses destroyed in Houston, Texas. Do you have an empty bedroom? Can you bring someone into your life, into your home?
I want to give you another number I care a lot about and have thought a lot about lately. It's 3,600 foster children, orphans in our area. What's interesting about that number as I thought about it in the context of this text…please hear me…you could make it go away before the sun sets. It's not a very big number. On one hand, it's a staggering number. On the other hand, we could solve that problem before the sun sets today.
You bring a child into your home. Is it an inconvenience? An unbelievable inconvenience. Absolutely. Hospitality always is. I mean, not as bad as dying on a cross but certainly an inconvenience. If those ideas are too lofty for you… You say, "I don't know that I want to go that far." Why not just walk across the street and engage a neighbor and say, "Do you want to come over for dinner? Let me tell you about Jesus." That we would just do that.
If your lives are too busy for that, your lives are too busy. Your lives are too busy to live as Christians. That's the truth. I think this is something we in the West could learn from our Eastern friends. They get hospitality. I can remember when I was in Jordan. You have to be careful if you compliment someone on something, because if you're like, "Oh wow, that's a pretty goat," they're like, "It's your goat."
"Oh no, it's okay. I don't need a goat. I'm all good on goats right now."
If you would walk too close to someone's house, they would just grab you and bring you in, not out of hostility but out of hospitality. They'd say, "Oh, come in. Come visit me. I will kill the fattened calf. I will kill my prized goat for you." They have this concept that everything they have is for the purpose of serving others and caring for others. They just think that way. We think everything we have is stuff we've worked really hard for, and it's mine. Like the toddler who says, "Mine!" Like it's the only word they know. "Mine!" Some of us haven't outgrown that. "Mine. It's mine."
I want to make this point before I transition because it's beautiful. The Philippian church, the church that is starting right before our eyes in this text… Paul writes a letter to them in the future. He writes Philippians, and in chapter 4 he speaks of their generosity. The Philippian church was known as the most generous church. That's what their reputation was. Why? Because Lydia was there at the beginning. Her mindset bled throughout that congregation. She modeled it for them. Philippians 4:16. Paul is writing to them later in the future.
"…you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."
The most generous church was due in part to the generosity of their leadership found here in this powerful, influential woman named Lydia. Verse 16: "Once when we were going to the place of prayer [the proseuche] , we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future." Where it says "female slave" the Greek gives hint to her age, probably 10 to 13, a girl, a young woman, probably sold into slavery by her parents.
Where it says "a spirit that enabled her to predict the future," there's not one English translation that covers what this actually says. It says the "spirit of the python." Why? Because they're in an area where they worshiped Greek gods. The Python was the god Apollos who was said to embody a python who was believed to have possessed this girl and allowed her to predict the future.
Here's my point. Satan doesn't care who you worship. He'll take it. He will receive any worship from any god that is not the one true God. You can worship money. You can worship stuff. You can worship status. You can worship the god of Muhammad. You can worship any other god and he'll receive it, as long as it's not the Father, Son, and Spirit.
"She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.""Earned a great deal of money." They're also wealthy. "She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, 'These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.'" What? What's going on there? That's so weird. She's following them. You're like, "Well, that's not so bad." She's yelling, "These men are servants of the Most High God!" She's like a roadie. She's just like, "These guys, listen!"
Here's what's going on. Satan is trying to discredit their ministry by association. He does it in the church all the time. He puts some evil in the church so your friends will watch it on TV and write off all of Christianity. That's what he's doing here. "She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, 'In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!' At that moment the spirit left her."
The Bible is so honest. Some people say the Bible has been changed. If the Bible has been changed it would read like this: "Then Paul, moved with compassion, turned to this young woman and pleaded with the spirit to give her a break." That's not what it says. Some say the Bible is historical fiction. Historical fiction doesn't read like that. This is an eyewitness account. You wonder, "What's going on there?"
I think about my son Weston. If you do not acknowledge what he says, he will keep saying it. "Daddy, will you look at this? Daddy, will you look at this? Daddy, will you look at this? Daddy, will you look at this? Daddy, will you look at this? Daddy, will you look at this? Daddy, Daddy, will you look at this? Daddy, will you look at this? Daddy, will you look at this? Daddy, will you look at this? Daddy, will you look at this? Daddy, Daddy, will you look at this?"
"In the name of Jesus Christ, come out!" I last about 20 seconds. Paul lasted a few days. Let's give that brother a break. He is just frustrated here. Verse 19: "When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone…" That's what they care about. "…they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, 'These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.'"
Here's what happened. They incited a racist riot. There's tension between the Jews and Romans. Watch a crucifixion narrative. Watch Ben-Hur. You will see the tension between Jews and Romans. During this time, the Jews had just kicked the Romans out of a city nearby. These men are angry that they're losing money. They cut down their money tree. They killed their cash cow, and they're mad. So they're like, "What do we do? Oh, here's what we'll do. These Jews are making us Romans do things we don't want to do," and they're going to have them arrested.
There's no compassion for that little girl. I'd say 10 out of 10 preachers would take this text and teach to you the salvation of this little girl. I don't see the salvation of the little girl, if I'm honest with you. We could probably assume she became a Christian. Something evil came out of her life. The Spirit of God came into her life. You could probably make that conclusion. The text just doesn't say that. What I see being repeated is this.
"She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling." Then verse 19: "When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone…" I see men who care about the bottom line at the expense of people. Remember the Gerasene demoniac? There's a man who's enslaved by the grave, and he's in chains and is cutting himself and screaming day and night. He's possessed by Legion. Jesus brings out Legion, casts him in the pigs, and the pigs run off the cliff.
Do you remember what the people said? "Thank you so much for caring for that young man. We've been so concerned about him. We love that man, and we're terrified of him." That's not what they said. They said, "Get out. You've got to leave. What did you do with my pigs? That's my livelihood. That's my agriculture. That's how I feed my family. That's my livestock. You got rid of the pigs. You need to go." That's these men right here. They care about money. How do I know they care about money? They're angry it's gone.
3._ Hostility displays the object of our affections._ Our hostility, what makes us angry, displays the object of our affections. I've heard it well said. What makes you angry is what you worship. These guys worshiped money. The irony for me in this text is they possessed a slave girl. They were the slaves. The girl is now free. They still are enslaved…enslaved to their greed, enslaved to the love of money, enslaved to their anger, enslaved to their rage.
What makes you angry? A relationship? A job? A boss? A neighbor? What makes you angry? Your hostility points to the objects of your affections. It displays the object of our affections. Greed has made many people do crazy things. There is a type of person here today who looks at the devastation of people and immediately thinks on "How do I capitalize on that?" When you bring it to an individual person to where you're exploiting people, it is satanic, it is evil, it is wicked, it is ungodly, it is unholy, and it should be stopped.
God's people should stand up against that. When people don't love God, they use people. So the application for us is don't love money and use people; use money to love people. If you have it, it's why you have it. It's why it has been entrusted to you. I've talked to guys here. I've had the pastoral care meetings where somebody is devastated because their business has tanked and they're mad at God. "I'm so mad at God. I lost my money. I lost my business. Why would God do this to me? I'm so angry at God."
Your money was your god. You're mad because you lost your god. You worshiped money not God. God simply has you where a lot of other people are who worship him in delight, but you don't know how because you lost your god. We have ground to take here, that we would see everything we possess as tools we use to enjoy God and bring others to enjoy God forever. We have ground to take.
If there was a test that could assess how we're doing at this… Are we more hospitable Lydia or are we more hostile business owners? Is it more hostility or hospitality that marks our lives? How would you do? That's something I want you to think about, because I think the help we need here is not borne out of what we don't have but wisdom to steward what we do have. I was at a gas station. I was pumping gas the other day, and a man walks up and asks for money. "Can you spare $2?" Has this ever happened to you? "I need $2 for a bus pass."
"Man, I'm happy to get you a bus pass."
"Oh man, I need some food. I need some gas. I need a bus pass. Can you give me $2?"
"I'm happy to give you food. I'm happy to get you gas."
I don't want to give him money. I don't know what he's going to do with it. I don't know this man. He might buy some weed. He might buy a fifth of whiskey. I don't know what problems I'm enabling by giving him $2. Do you ever feel this way? I'm like, "I don't want to just give you money. That might be irresponsible of me." I was spending time in the Word, and I had this thought.
If I was God… Let's all just stop and thank him that I'm not, but if I was, I think that's how I'd feel about me. "I don't want to just give you more. You might just buy another TV, another steak dinner. If I just gave you more, I know how you're going to spend it. That's why I'm not giving you more." That might be how I feel. What gives me the right to completely justify not giving it to that guy but assuming I deserve it? "I'll be a much better steward. I'll spend it on much better things."
In summary, God loves the helpless. He moves toward them. Our hospitality shows who we love, and our hostility shows what we love. I have three kids, two girls and my 4-year-old son Weston. The girls run into my room the other day, and they're just like, "Daddy! You've got to see. Weston is playing this game, and he's so good at it." I'm like, "What game is my 4-year-old so good at? What could it be?"
The day goes by. I didn't think much of it. They come in again a couple of days later. "Daddy! You've got to go see Weston. He's playing this game. He's just owning it. He's so good at it." I'm like, "All right. I've got to see what it is." So I walk in, and he's playing Tetris. Do you know Tetris? It has these little shapes, and you move them to fit together like a puzzle, and then when you make a line it disappears, and you try to keep it low.
He's playing Tetris, but the way he's playing it and just owning it and so good at it is what he's doing… He can only push one button. It's the button that drops the block from the sky immediately, and he's just stacking them up as fast as he can and saying, "Game over." Like, Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! "Game over. Did you see how fast I did that?" I'm like, "That's not how you play Tetris. You're doing it all wrong."
I sit down, and I'm teaching him. I'm instructing him. It's discipleship happening. I'm showing him how to play Tetris. I'm like, "You want to fit the pieces together." It's kind of like packing the car, if you're lost. You're going for a vacation, and you fit the luggage in so that it fits. I'm teaching them how to play Tetris, and I'm showing them. They're like, "Daddy, you're so good at this game. Have you played it before?" I'm like, "This is old school, guys. This is my game. Yes."
I was like, "You're doing it all wrong. You're playing the game all wrong." I thought I don't want to get to the end of this deal and find out, "You've been playing it all wrong. You were trying to stack stuff up as fast as you possibly could. You built a prison around yourself of greed and selfishness, of stuff and status. You've imprisoned yourself with these blocks of material things. I gave you those things so that you'd be a conduit, so that you'd give them out, so that you'd bring people in, so that you'd share them with others. You played the game all wrong."
I don't want to hear that, but I can read in this and so many other… There are no cross-references here, but so many verses support this idea that we are to be conduits of God's things, not stacking them up so we could consume them personally, building a prison for ourselves. You test it. See if I'm wrong. You test it. You pray about it and see if I'm wrong. Help me, men. Hold me accountable. I don't want to be at the game over and find out I misunderstood the rules. Let me pray.
Father, thank you for the example of Lydia and her hospitality and the way you built a really strong church from it. Encourage our hearts to be that way, to consume the inconvenience of bringing others into our lives and sharing our lives with people. God, thank you for the example of the slave owners, that we can compare and contrast our lives, that there would still be things in our lives that overlap with their capitalism, with their desires to exploit others for their own benefits.
God, would you allow us to examine our lives against these two groups of people, and would you trim off the things in our lives that are not yet conformed to the image and the character of your Son Jesus and the generosity, hospitality, gratitude, thanksgiving, and celebration that marks the lives of the fathers of our faith, the brothers and sisters of our faith?
Would you magnify that? Would you increase that? Would you grow that in our lives? Please, God. And the things that still look like they're enslaved to the desires of our flesh, would you change them and help us to live a life that matters, not just here but in eternity, that we can store up for ourselves treasures there. Not treasures here but treasures there. In Jesus' name, amen.