Many of us have a mat that sits right outside our front door with the word “Welcome” on it. This mat symbolizes the fact that the occupants of the home will be hospitable towards visitors. The welcome mat is not for the residents of the home. It is for guests. Whether a person is visiting for a few minutes or for a few days, we welcome them into our home with the expectation that they will be leaving our home at some point in time. If people stay at our house too long, we may put the welcome mat inside the house, inviting them to explore life on the other side of the door.
I believe this idea of welcoming guests carries over into our spiritual lives when we speak of welcoming God into a place, space, or life. We tend to speak of God like a guest instead of a resident. We even make Christ a guest at His own church! We welcome Him into the worship service, as if He needs an invitation. Instead of welcoming His presence, we should acknowledge His presence.
Jesus did not live, die and rise so that He could visit us. He conquered death so that He could live with us! In John 14:23 Jesus says, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (NKJV). God wants to take up residence in our lives. He does not want to be a visitor. He wants our hearts to be His home!
When God is at home in us, it transforms what we welcome into our hearts. Not everyone and everything should be welcome. The works of the flesh shouldn’t be allowed to visit us. If you want to change the atmosphere of your home, abide in Christ and He will abide in you. Don’t invite Jesus to be a guest. Allow Him to be who He is: Lord!
In John 5 Jesus has some harsh words for the Jews, who failed to acknowledge that He was sent by the Father. Jesus says in John 5:39-40, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (NKJV).
Earlier in the gospel of John, Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath who had been sick for 38 years. The Jews sought to kill Jesus because He healed on the Sabbath and called God His Father, thus making Himself equal with God. So Jesus addresses the issue of the authority and validity of His ministry. He uses the witness of John, the testimony of His wonderful works and the witness of His Father to show that he is truly sent by God.
He then tells the Jews that they are reading the Word because they think that if they do what it says, they will have eternal life. But what they don’t understand is that the words of the scriptures they are reading illuminate the path to Jesus, the living Word. They got so caught up in looking at scripture to prove a point that they missed the point.
There are times in our work of the Lord and in our lives when we seek the praise, prestige, honor and fame of men rather than the glory of God. There are times when our desire to be deep and profound overshadows the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ. There also are times when we diligently search, examine, investigate and study the scriptures, yet we miss Jesus.
We must get the point that scripture points us to Jesus. Jesus didn’t just fulfill scriptures, Jesus is the point of the scriptures. Don’t miss the point looking for a point. In our teaching and living, the name of Jesus must be lifted up. It is easy to get so caught up in hermeneutics that we miss His holiness. We can be so captivated by the question of which sea was the Red Sea that we fail to Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. Some are so engrossed with what’s going on in the brotherhood that we fail to let brotherly love continue. Many of us are so worried about the church that we forget it belongs to Christ. We can get so caught up in our ministry that we forget it is the ministry of Christ.
Get the point. The scriptures are life and they are light because Jesus is life and light. They are the power of God unto salvation because Jesus saves. They are able to change the hearts of men because they testify and show the way to Jesus.
There are some people who tend to get overlooked by others. Their lives seem to be insignificant. They aren’t that popular. They don’t have very many friends. They may often wonder if they were not here, would anyone miss them.
In Genesis 16, there is drama between Sari and Hagar, Sari’s servant. As a result of an unauthorized plan concocted by Sari and approved by Abram, Hagar is pregnant with Abram’s child and now Sari is upset. She kicks Hagar out of the house. Hagar is an Egyptian, so when she is kicked out of Abram and Sari’s house, she is hundreds of miles from her homeland. She is wondering in the wilderness. The distance between where she started and where she is in the text was a 5-6 day journey. She stops to rest by a spring of water. A messenger from God sees her and says to Hagar, where have you come from, and where are you going? Interestingly, Hagar tells the angel where she came from, but she can’t tell him where she is going. She is pregnant, alone, and homeless.
The messenger of God appears to Hagar and gives her a command. She is to return to Sari. Then after the command, she is given a promise. In the promise, God lets Hagar know that her child will not be the blessed seed of Abraham, but he will still be successful. There will be difficulties and conflict in his life, but he will still thrive. You shall call his name Ishmael. The name Ishmael means God hears. Every time Hagar called her son’s name, it was a reminder that God heard her in her darkest hour.
Can we be faithful enough to receive the promise? Promises are often a benefit of a divine command. Do you have an Ishmael in your life? Do you have a something that reminds you that God heard you even in your darkest hour?
Your Ishmael might be a grocery store receipt reminding you of the time when you didn’t have any food or money, but God blessed you to find $5 so you could eat. Your Ishmael might be your hospital bracelet that you saved after your successful surgery. Your Ishmael may be your report from the doctor’s office that you are still cancer free. Your Ishmael may be your wedding ring. It looked like the marriage was over and divorce was certain. But God touched hearts and your difficult days are behind you. Your Ismael may be your child who was born pre-mature and spent weeks in NICU, yet now is healthy and exceeding expectations. God hears us even in our affliction. And when God hears, He responds.
Minister Ross' creativity, wisdom, and insight have inspired community, church and corporate audiences throughout the United States.