Front Porch Missions – Seasoned with Salt Utterances

front porch 1The nations are all around us, even at our doorsteps.  That is why we say that “both the nations and the neighborhoods are important.”  We have been looking at the idea of open homes and building good relational/spiritual front porches in our lives.

Historically front porches built on homes were about enjoying the outdoors, engaging in hospitality, and interacting with others. Front porches were an attempt to be out of the house and in the midst of neighborhood life.  They were a place to see your neighbors, as well as people passing by.

Relational/Spiritual front porches are important for each of us individually and corporately to engage people.   We have to be intentional about having them. It is developing the spiritual and relational skills to be able to meet (show hospitality) and relate with others.

Year in and year out one of the most common social phobias among humans is public speaking because everyone is afraid of being embarrassed or negatively judged by others. This hinders us from developing our relational front porches.  Because of this we need to be intentional about developing good approachability signals we send to others in everyday interaction.

Approachability  has to do with how friendly we are and easy to talk to. “God so loved the world that He gave” is what motivates us to overcome our fears and engage people by making sure we have good front porches. Simple things like smiling, making the effort to greet people, engaging people with humor, finding common points of interest to talk about, and asking questions are all important

Seasoned with salt utterances

As we interact we are looking for ways to connect on a deeper Holy Spirit level. Paul uses seasoned with saltan interesting phrase regarding this issue, “let you speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt.” Col 4:5-6 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. (6) Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

In this verse “seasoned” means, “to prepare with stimulating condiments,” while salt means, “carefulness or forethought.” It basically means saying something that is impactive.

Seasoned with salt is the opposite of dull, boring, or routine.  We all know what that kind of interaction is like.  You ask someone, or someone asks you, “how are you doing?”  The mindless dull reply comes, “fine.”  One acronym for fine is “Feeling Insecure Numb and Empty.”    People don’t really hear those empty responses and they definitely don’t work to build front porches.  Dave Ramsey has a way of answering the question with a little salt in it, “better than I deserve.” It kind of catches people off guard and spices up the interaction at the same time.

Jesus used a “seasoned with salt” response with the Samaritan woman at the well. He basically said to her “if you knew who I really am you would have asked Me for living water.”  It was a thought provoking and stimulating answer that evoked a response.

The Holy Spirit seasons us with salty answers

We have a great advantage when it comes to getting seasoned with salt utterances. We have the Holy Spirit who is all knowing and is the Master Communicator. One thing I have been doing is to ask and listen for “seasoned with salt” utterances from the Spirit. I have been praying the prayer Paul prayed about this. Eph 6:19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. The word “Utterance” here means “Something said, a thought or topic, a weighty saying, or a brief to the point saying that has truth to it.”

As I pray this prayer about utterances I listen for Holy Spirit to give words or phrases in my interactions with people that helps me engage them. I have had many examples of utterances that have salt in them. I once heard a phrase over a guy that I asked him, “Who has been praying for you?” This opened up a dialogue that revealed he was a backslidden preacher’s son.

I once heard a phrase as the new manager of a local business come in the door while I was inside, “you are here by Divine destiny.” I called him to our table and simply told him the phrase. It resulted in an immediate open door in which he sat down with us and shared his heart. We ended up praying for him.

I once had a guy speak to me across the YMCA exercise room (I had opened up dialogue with him in the past with seasoned with salt utterances), “you are getting in my head.” I ask him to repeat himself and he said it again, “what you have been talking to me about is getting in my head. Something must be speaking to me“(meaning God).

Many times “seasoned with salt” utterances have opened up further conversations that enabled me to make known the mystery of the gospel/Christ.  I was speaking with a lady once and told her, “you personality is a gift from God.” She immediately teared up and that one utterance (I have repeated to her in different ways) has opened up a rapport with her that I can easily talk with her about Jesus.

Just today I was interacting with a guy named Philip running the register at Braums, “Philip is a great name and one of my favorite Bible characters.”  He smiled real big and said “what do you mean, who was Philip?” He was from a Catholic background and I was able to explain who Philip was and that he probably had a similar personality.  He asked me “what is an Evangelist?”  I was able to explain it to him briefly as someone came in line and I had to go but it will be good seed for future conversations.

I was once confronted while walking in Westport by a group of atheist who were handing out literature. The phrase came to my mind as one young lady gave me a flyer, “If you don’t believe anyone is up there then you surely don’t mind me praying to them for you.” At first she didn’t know how to respond and slowly said, “sure I guess so.” I think she thought I was going to pray later but I laid my hands on her right in front of all her atheist friends.  I prayed a faith filled prayer that God would visit her and make himself known.  It was a privilege to have all the other athiest watch the event and I believing God would touch them as well.

I even try to do it with my phone voicemail messages. Most people give a bland message, “not here please leave a message.” I try to give something a little more seasoned with salt. I have done things like asking people for credit card information so I can book my dream vacation, what was your favorite breakfast cereal as a kid, and what was the cheapest price you remember paying for gas growing up.  I try to do it with good taste and I record it with a smile on my face (which research proves makes you sound more pleasant).  I am inviting people onto my front porch.  It tends to put people at ease as they step on my porch.

Pray and ask God for utterances (Eph 6:19), then listen for phrases that have a little salt in them (Col 4:6).   See if it doesn’t help your front porch seem more inviting. Let people know you have a Spirit inspired personality (even though most won’t know what it is they will feel the difference).   The world doesn’t need any more religiously boring people who have no personality.  Let’s fill what is empty with salty, Spirit inspired utterances.

 

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Leave the light on

I have a goal for myself and others that we would love and appreciate God’s saving work so much that we would be willing to go both to the ends of the earth as well as the end of the block to share it. 

We’ll leave the light on for you

motel 6We need to increase our relational capacity so people can get close enough to us to see what Peter describes.  

1 Peter 3:15 Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.  People have to get somewhat close to us to see what Peter describes “why you’re living the way you are.”

I remember an ad campaign that Motel Six ran a few years ago on both Television and Radio using the folksy voice of writer and commentator Tom Bodette.  Every commercial ended with the tag line “We’ll leave the light on for you.”  It was very effective and ran for several years.

What was the appeal?  The folksy voice and the phrase “We’ll leave the light on for you” appealed to something inside of all of us.  It is part of the image of God that resides in people (both believers and unbelievers) that longs for connection, family, friends, and home.  Everyone bears that image because we were all made in the God’s image and He is a great family (Father, Son, Spirit of adoption  Rom 8:15-16, Gal 4:5-7).   Everyone looks for a place of belonging where people love them and want them around.

There is a drawing upon people of this image when they are shown care and hospitality (making people feel welcome).  This is why the Bible speaks of hospitality as such an important trait that is to exist among God’s people.  In the OT it  was seen in the laws of strangers an aliens (Exo 22:21-23, 23:9, Lev 19:33-34, Deu 10:18-19, 24:19-22, 27:19).  God’s people were to make outsiders feel like insiders.  The motive was that they knew what it felt like to be strangers in a foreign land.

The New Testament picked up on this theme with the idea of hospitality.   It was a call to make people feel desired and cared for.

Romans 12:10-13  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;..(13)  contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Hebrews 13:2  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. 

This is the heart of approachability.  We want people to know there is a light on for them.  Somehow in the way we communicate with people, even with chance encounters, we need to connect with them in such a way that they feel a light is on and a door open for them. We want to leave people with the impression that I heard someone once make, “that group sure is a friendly bunch.”  I remember a comment made to me from an international student whose mother was Buddhist but he was an agnostic.  We were friendly, invited him to sit with us, and we simply showed an interest to him.  He made an interesting comment, “you Christians have been so kind to me it makes me want to cry.”  That feeling what the presence of God flowing through hospitality.

It is a simple tool we often forget

An important relational tool is simply approachable caring.  It is amazing how simple things like warm greetings accompanied by smiles as well as taking an interest in people opens doors to speak about Jesus. It definitely turn’s a light on for you relational front porches.

Suppose you have to go into an unfamiliar business and feel a little awkward with uncertainty.  You walk into the front door and find several desks with people busy working.  A few of them glance up at you then immediately go back to their work.  Others don’t look up at all.  They seem engrossed in their work.  Which one would you feel comfortable approaching?

How about the same scenario with one person acting different?  You walk in amongst the busy people working at their desk and one of them looks up, smiles, greets you and ask how you are doing today?  Which desk would you approach?  The one in which the person turns on the front porch light.  Its a simple tool that we all can use.

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Nations and Neighborhoods are both important so build your front porch

strangerThe world doesn’t need any more religiously boring people who have no personality. They need to meet real people whose lives have been transformed by Jesus and are full of the life of the Spirit. 

1 Peter 3:15 Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. 

Jesus clearly told us that God was the “Lord of the harvest” and we are to pray for Him to send workers into it Mt 9:38, Luke 10:2.  We are on mission to the nations and the nations are often right in front of us everyday even our own neighborhoods.  One of the things that helps us be effective workers both in the nations and our neighborhoods is our approachability with others.

Front Porches

A while back I found a historic web site that listed the houses in our neighborhood. It included who built them, when they were built, and how much they cost.  I discovered that most of the houses, including ours, were built around 1915.

While I was on the front porch praying recently I looked at the houses on our street and noticed that they all had front porches.   I imagined what a typical evening was like in our neighborhood in the era the houses were built.  I imagined people sitting on their porches interacting with others who were either on their porches or walking down the sidewalks.

That was what the front porch was about, enjoying the outdoors and interacting with others.  The front porches were an attempt to be out of the house and in the midst of neighborhood life.

The Holy Spirit brought to my attention that the builders of those houses had to be very intentional about building the front porches and we have to be intentional about building our spiritual front porches in our lives.

I once read a book by Robert Putnam, about the breakdown of social connectedness in our culture.  The author made reference to the historical development of houses and neighborhoods.  He highlighted the evolution of the breakdown in reference to the front porch.  The boom in backyard living is the culmination of a decades-long retreat from the front of the house. The front porch was the social hub for most Americans pre and post-World War II. But families were soon lured inside by television and air conditioning — technologies that made the porch as obsolete as the milkman and the soda jerk.  When you add this idea with the rise of the transient society (anywhere from 12-14% of people move each year), there has been a breakdown of social connectedness.

As God’s people (His house), we have to be intentional about making sure we have good front porches in our lives.  Front porches are the approachability signals we send to others in everyday interaction.  It has to do with how friendly you are, and how easy you are to talk to.  Do we conduct ourselves in such a way that people feel we have a front porch that they can easily come upon to connect with us?

Jesus obviously had a good front porch when He walked on this earth.  He often said challenging things but even the rejects of the earth felt comfortable coming near Him.  Luk 15:1 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to HimEven children were not afraid to come to Him.  Mat 19:14 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Through the gospels Jesus had more than 40 meetings with various individuals, and most of them were first time encounters.  In 9 cases Jesus initiated the conversations (example Samaritan woman at the well).  In 25 instances the other party started the conversation (example rich young ruler).  In 6 instances conversations were triggered by third parties.  In more than half of these interactions Jesus simply asked questions.  All of these interactions indicated that Jesus must have had a very good front porch.

Importance of front porches in our lives

I once heard an example of the importance of approachability (our front porch).   Imagine you have a flat tire in the middle of nowhere.  Your cell phone has no service. You’re stuck!  So, you walk into town seeking help.   Later, you come across two houses on opposite sides of the road. One is dark, deserted and dilapidated. The other has its lights on and a family sitting out on the front porch with smiles on their faces enjoying the company of each other.  Which house would you choose? Almost everyone would choose the second house.  The people on the front porch gave friendly vibes that helped people feel comfortable approaching them.

According to the Bible we are all to practice hospitality which means making people feel welcome (by being approachable).  Rom 12:13  contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Heb 13:2  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.   Front porches are built simply by being friendly and building a rapport with people you interact with everyday.  We can improve our front porches by simply smiling, greeting people, listening to them, even when we disagree, and look for common points of interest to talk about.

We must remember that coworkers, neighbors, associates, and strangers are probably stressed out, dealing with personal issues, health issues, and marital problems etc.  Either they feel like they can come to you or not.  If they can see that you have a front porch and your light is on it will be more likely that you can develop a relational connection through which Holy Spirit will pour through you life.

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Authentic Christianity: Turning from our cause to His

His causeAn authentic Christian life is not living as a spiritual consumer picking and choosing the best deal at the lowest cost. It really is living a life consumed by Him.

Recently I have been praying quite a bit for backsliders. When people think of backsliders their minds often go to the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:4-32. Images of the younger son who left and wasted his inheritance on “loose living” (vs 13) usually come to mind. Even the definition of “prodigal” means “someone who is recklessly wasteful of what is valuable.” When you understand this definition, however, the idea of prodigal has broader implications.

Everyone who identifies themselves as a Christian has been given something valuable. Our capacities, abilities, and resources are all valuable things associated with our lives. Wasting those things isn’t just about using drugs or sexual promiscuity. It isn’t just what “we do” wrong that constitutes wasting our lives. Sometimes it is what we are not doing that constitutes wasting our lives, aka being a prodigal. You can do nothing morally wrong and still do nothing right and be just as much of a prodigal as a drug taking drunken fornicator.

The Purpose of our Life

The bestselling non-fiction hardback book in history, ”The Purpose Driven Life,” opens with the following paragraph. “It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by His purpose and for His purpose.”

Scripture clearly shows us that Jesus died so we wouldn’t ‘t live for any other purpose but His! 2Co 5:14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; (15) and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

You can avoid all kinds of “bad moral behavior,” even pray over meals, and still live for your own purpose. One thing Jesus said over and over when calling people to follow Him was a call to live for “His sake/cause” (Mt 10:39, Mk 8:35, Lk 9:24, Lk 17:32-33). Matthew 16:25 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall (cause) find it.  If His sake/cause isn’t the first motivation in our lives then we are prodigals no matter how many Christians labels we attach to our life or how many bedtime or mealtime prayers we pray.

When Jesus identified “His sake/cause” in Matthew 16:25 He wasn’t vague about it. He had already told them what His cause was a few verses earlier. Mat 16:18-19…upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (19) “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus building His church to reveal His glory in the earth is central to His sake/cause (Eph 3:10-11). This is why you see in the book of Revelation that before Jesus shows John anything about the future of the earth He spends the first 3 chapters walking among 7 local churches working to correct, strengthen, and equip them. This is what He told us He would do until the church comes to fullness and He returns (Eph 5:25-26).

Our Gifts for His Cause

Consider the aspects of not wasting our gifts and talents. There are only 5 places in the NT which speaks about personal gifts and callings (Romans 12:1-16, Cor 12:1-31,14:1-40, Eph 4:1-16, 1 Peter 4:1-10). If you look at the context of each passage the central focus is building up His church.

1Co 14:12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.

Rom 12:4-6 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, (5) so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (6) Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly…

Eph 4:8-12 Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”…And He gave some…(12) for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

1Pe 4:8-10 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another… (10) As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

If you think of church as a meeting you attend once a week these passages won’t mean much. If you see it as living God’s way of life among and through His people every day then you can begin to get it.  Let’s not “recklessly waste what is valuable” even with a Christian label while we live for our own sake/cause. Let’s live for His.  Let’s be “God’s family of Spirit-filled disciples together on His mission.”

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