Lately, Wonderful David and I have been reading together before we go to sleep at night. We've been doing this for about six months now, and boy, has it changed our nighttime routine. It's nice to come together in unity of mind and purpose and read and pray before we drift off. It's a good reminder that we are on the same team!
There have been two books lately that have really made a huge impact on me- the first is "The Hospitality Commands" by Alexander Strauch, and the second is "The Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller.
The Hospitality Commands is wonderful because it gives the reader a nice kick-in-the-pants motivational talk about why hospitality is important, the scriptural backing to show God's opinion about it, and then some good get-started advice. And, it's only about 60 pages long. It took us about a week to read it through together (we took it slow- because it's that awesome...). Here's an excerpt that I like:
"I don't think most Christians today understand how essential hospitality is to fanning the flames of love and strengthening the Christian family. Hospitality fleshes out love in a uniquely personal and sacrificial way. Through the ministry of hospitality, we share our most prized possessions. We share our family, home, finances, food, privacy, and time. Indeed, we share our very lives. So, hospitality is always costly. Through the ministry of hospitality, we provide friendship, acceptance, fellowship, refreshment, comfort, and love in one of the richest and deepest ways possible for humans to understand. Unless we open the doors of our homes to one another, the reality of the local church as a close-knit family of loving brothers and sisters is only a theory."
Another excerpt from later in the book that I like:
"Truly every guest is an honored guest, a person of infinite value who will live forever. My wife always says to our family, 'We should treat every guest as an angel of God or as our Lord Himself. They are all important guests.' So, it is as much a privilege to entertain God's people todayas it was for Abraham to entertain angels. 'The encouragement assigned,' says biblical expositor William Kelly, 'is that some, as Abraham and Lot of old, entertained angels unawares. To receive God's children now is assuredly no less honour in his eyes.'"
I just love all of that book, but if I put anything else from it up, I will basically have typed out the whole book (it's not that long). Reading it has inspired me to think more about the way I treat others, and the way that I use the gifts God has given. I have felt encouraged to act on my desires to share my home with friends and loved ones, and I have been so, so blessed by God both in reading the book, and in following some of its advice.
The other book I mentioned is Timothy Keller's The Prodigal God. This is another book that I feel blessed to have read and shared with my husband. We have had many good discussions based on our nightly reading from this book. The only thing I wish was different about it is that I want it to keep going! I felt my heart pricked many times by the Spirit while we were reading this book, and I have found new trust in God and freedom from some of my perfectionist tendencies. The basic message of the book is about the parable of the prodigal son, and about the oft-forgotten elder brother from the parable. Basically, we all struggle in our relationship with God by being either a rebellious younger-brother type, or by being the prideful older brother. The older brother was no less separated from the father than the younger brother, he just displayed it differently. Instead, he sought to control the outflow of blessings from God through good behavior, instead of just demanding it outright like the younger brother. In both cases, their focus was on what the father would give them or do for them, and not on enjoying a loving relationship with him. I feel my heart has been quickened and softened through the message in this book.
Here's an excerpt:
(starting on page 35)
"...the brothers' hearts, and the two ways of life they represent, are much more alike than they first appear.
What did the younger son most want in life? He chafed at having to partake of his family's assets under the father's supervision. He wanted to make his own decisions and have unfettered control of his portion of the wealth. How did he get that? He did that with a bold power play, a flagrant defiance of community standards, a declaration of complete independence.
What did the older son most want? If we think about it we realize that he wanted the same thing as his brother. He was just as resentfulof the father as was the younger son. He, too, wanted the father's goods rather than the father himself. However, while the younger brother went far away, the elder brother stayed close and 'never disobeyed'. That is his way to get control. His unspoken demand is, 'I have never disobeyed you! Now you have to do things in my life the way I want them to be done.'
...Do you realize, then, what Jesus is teaching? Neither son loved the father for himself. They both were using the father for their own self-centered ends rather than loving, enjoying, and serving him for his own sake. This means that you can rebel against God and be alienated from him either by breaking his rules or by keeping all of them diligently.
It's a shocking message: Careful obedience to God's law may serve as a strategy for rebelling against God."
I would encourage everyone I know to read these books (if you haven't already...)! They are wonderful! :)