Grow Deep - The Excellent Encounter Edition Week 1

Week 1: December 1 – 7

Practice Extravagant Hospitality

Memory Verse: “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:13-14
When my brother returned from college one winter, he exclaimed, “Our house literally screams Christmas!” You could find candles, garland, trees, snowy town scenes, and nativities in every room. This setting became the backdrop for our annual Christmas party, when we opened our doors to friends and family, treating them to Mom’s appetizers and Christmas cookies and Dad’s whiskey sour punch with a fruit-filled ice ring. Christmas music wafted over speakers until it was caroling time around the piano. You didn’t have to bring anything. You didn’t have to get dressed up. It was the most conventionally extravagant display of hospitality I experienced each year and a highlight of the season.
This type of hospitality is challenging, though, to practice with any regularity. If we think we need a pristine home or perfect menu, some of us might not host anyone at all. (I’m guilty of lamenting, “There’s no way we can get everything done,” and then not extending an invitation.) Fortunately, God doesn’t require grand plans. He asks us simply to welcome others, care for them, and grow those relationships.
Truly extravagant hospitality is opening your home weekly so Christian friends can grow spiritually and relationally in small groups. It’s making the new employee feel like part of the team. It’s talking with a stranger at Sunday School so that she is no longer a stranger. It’s making dinner for a family in crisis, listening, and praying over them. It’s asking neighbors to the other side of the fence. It’s inviting the widower over for an ordinary evening to have ordinary conversations in a home that you haven’t spent hours making immaculate. 
During a season characterized by elaborate hospitality, we are
challenged this week to extend hospitality in everyday ways to share the love of Jesus with friends, neighbors, and strangers.

Sunday, December 1
Read: 1 Peter 4:7-9; Romans 12:12-15
The Greek word for hospitality literally means “love of stranger.” The call for God’s people to practice “extravagant” hospitality goes back to the moment God chose a group of people to be His own.
Reflect: How does hospitality connect with other commands in these verses? What things about extending hospitality are likely to make you grumble? How might you get past your grumbling?

Monday, December 2
Read: Deuteronomy 10:17-22
Even as God calls the Israelites to love the sojourner in their midst and practice hospitality, He reminds them that they were sojourners first whom God called into His midst.
Reflect: How might the reminder that they, too, were sojourners motivate the Israelites all the more to show hospitality? As Christians, how does this reminder apply to us as well?

Tuesday, December 3
Read: Leviticus 19:33-34
Again the Old Testament shows us how the outsider is to be welcomed and treated like part of the family, just as God took us in as outsiders and treats us as part of His family.
Reflect: What treatment does a person receive when he or she is native-born? Why might this treatment be difficult for some to extend to strangers, and how can they get over this hurdle?

Wednesday, December 4
Read: Luke 14:12-14
The call to hospitality did not end in the Old Testament. Jesus calls people to welcome not just those who are close to them but the least of these as well.
Reflect: When have you experienced or witnessed an outsider being welcomed with no strings attached? If you were the stranger, how might this kind of welcome feel?

Thursday, December 5
Read: Luke 11:5-10
Hospitality was a basic expectation in the time of Jesus.
Reflect: Considering this scenario, how much is our current world like the ancient world? What should we, as modern Christians, take from Jesus’ words?

Friday, December 6
Read: Matthew 25:31-46
Showing hospitality to the “least of these” is an expression of love to Jesus.
Reflect: What people or populations do you know who are “the least of these” today? What can you do for them, and by extension, to Jesus?

Saturday, December 7
Read: Hebrews 13:1-2
The command and blessings of hospitality continue with the early church.
Reflect: How do you show love to brothers and sisters in Christ? In a similar way, how can you show love through hospitality to strangers?