Jesus ate his way through the gospels….

From a blog post by Mark Glanville.

Ever noticed how many of Jesus’ meals are in the gospels? Meals feature so prominently in the gospels that scholars have commented: ‘Jesus ate his way through the Gospels.’ Herbert Anderson and Edward Foley even claim: ‘… they killed him because of the way he ate; because he ate and drank with sinners.’ Jesus revealed the Kingdom as he shared meals with others. And Jesus’ ‘fellowship meals’ are formative for the mission of the local church today.

Have you noticed how much ministry Jesus did around the dinner table? Here are some

The wedding at Cana, Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen, c. 1530

examples. For ‘starters’, pardon the pun, two meals, the last supper and the feeding of the 5,000, are recorded in all four gospels. Also Jesus’ meal with Levi the tax collector and his shadowy friends is found in all but John’s gospel. We add the feeding of the 4,000, found in both Mark and Matthew. Total these up and we have four meals, found in thirteen passages! But there are many more. Meals are particularly prominent in Luke’s gospel. Take a look at two very uncomfortable meals at the houses of Pharisees (11:37-54 and 14:1-24), the meal with Zacchaeus (19:1-10), and the meal that followed Jesus’ resurrection appearance on the Emmaus Road (24:30). The list is still not complete. You can see why scholars have said, ‘Jesus ate his way through the Gospels.’

Jesus’ fellowship meals didn’t come from ‘out of the blue’. They are the delightful ‘second course’ to follow the feasts and celebration of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament Israel’s yearly calendar was punctuated by festivity at the sanctuary, which always included eating! Feasts of weeks and tabernacles were joyful celebrations of thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest (see for example Deuteronomy Ch 16:1-17). And tone of these meals is celebration: Israel is repeatedly exhorted to ‘rejoice!’ [1] Jesus’ feasting and celebration then was not a new invention. Rather, in his fellowship meals, Jesus was being what Israel was always supposed to have been: a centre of joy, celebration and justice for the whole world!

The relational richness of Jesus’ ministry contrasts with the isolation of suburban life today. Skye Jethani observes how private and isolated the lives of westerners have become:

Family zones are demarcated by fences. And within the home, family members are zoned into private bedrooms – each with a television, Internet connection, and telephone. The suburb, like the consumer worldview from which it came, forms us to live fragmented and isolated lives of private consumption.[2]

The result of individualism and isolation in western culture is pervading loneliness. Many people feel that they lack connection and meaningful relationships. I find myself regularly surprised as yet another friend expresses desire for richer relationships. My friends are capable and socially skilled but isolated by the suburban way of life. Jesus’ fellowship meals speak into our culture of individualism and isolation. They show us the shape of life and flourishing. They display the beauty, feasting and joy of the new creation – that is secured in Christ’s resurrection. There seems to be something about the bare sharing of a meal that reveals the kingdom of God. In light of Jesus’ fellowship meals, it is no surprise that the second coming of Christ is also conceived as a meal – the ‘wedding supper of the lamb’ (Rev 19).

We Christians must learn from these meals, to bring Christ’s joy to our neighbourhoods and workplaces. Tod, a city lawyer and friend of mine, demonstrates how this Biblical theme of festivity can shape the church’s mission. Every Friday Tod arranges for colleagues in his law firm to meet after work at a local cafe or bar. Colleagues gather to share life and relationship and Tod is the initiator. In this context of shared celebration, Tod takes opportunities to ‘give an answer for the hope that he has’. In this way Tod exemplifies how a Christian can bring the celebration of Christ into a work place. Jesus’ fellowship meals teach that we Christians ought to be hubs of relationship and celebration in our communities.

But dig deeper into Jesus’ fellowship meals by observing who Jesus eats with – this too is critical for the church’s mission. I will take Jesus’ meal with Levi as an example. Mark 2:15 says:

And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him (ESV).

To continue reading…

A Meal with Jesus

We will continue with our focus on Everyday Church this Sunday by looking at how Jesus used meals to reach out to those needing him.

Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the table:

“Consider for a moment what happens at the feeding of the five thousand. God gives out bread. On a massive scale. Or think about the wedding at Cana. Jesus turns perhaps 120-180 gallons of water into wine. Quality wine. At the beginning of the Bible story, the first thing God does for humanity is present us with a menu: “The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground, the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Gen. 2:8-9). At the end of the Bible story, God sets before us a perpetual feast. God likes doing the catering. He thinks food is a good thing.

God incarnate eats. Jesus would have eaten two meals a day. When he ate with the rich, he might have had white bread, but most of the time he ate the barley bread eaten by the poor, along with cheese, butter, and eggs. Meat and poultry were too expensive to be eaten except on feast days. He may have had fish on the Sabbath. There was of course no tea or coffee. Jesus would have drunk wine, generally mixed with three-parts water. Honey was the primary sweetener, along with figs. Pepper, ginger, and other spices were imported, but were expensive. Such was the diet of God incarnate.

The risen Christ eats. Indeed he makes a point of doing so publicly: “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them” (Luke 24:42-43). Eating in the presence of God is our future. Food will be part of the renewed creation. Food is not left behind with the resurrection. References to a future feast are not just metaphors for an ethereal future existence. Our future is a real feast.

The point is that food isn’t just fuel. It’s not just a mechanism for sustaining us for ministry. It’s gift, generosity, grace. Jesus gave thanks and broke bread. In so doing, he affirms that food is to be received as a gift from God. Food matters as matter. It’s a physical substance, and part of God’s good world. We’re to embrace the world as it is—not merely as a picture of some other spiritual world.

Food is a central ingredient in our experience of God’s goodness. It’s not merely an illustration of God’s goodness. If it were a mere illustration, we could leave it behind once we’d gotten the idea.”

From the book by Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus.

The Christian temptation to tell clean stories….

This is perhaps not what you are looking for.

By “clean” I mean that Christians often want to tell conversion stories that are clean: I was a sinner and then I found Jesus and now I’m squeaky clean. This kind of story happens sometimes — and I know lots of people like this. So this is one kind of story.

But there is another kind of story that is far more normal than the “clean stories” suggest. The fact is that many if not most Christians struggle, especially until they line up into the ruts and routines of middle age (and then some are still struggling). If struggling is far more common than we often hear, why don’t we tell more of those stories. Will it, as some have suggested, create a bad model and steer the struggling into thinking that their struggles are OK or that they can sin and it is OK?

I doubt it.

Some tell this story: I was a sinner and still am; I am a Christian but not all that good of one at times; I wish I were a better one. God be merciful to me a sinner.

Scott McKnight

Why Does Anyone Become a Christian?

I asked this question during one of our Wednesday night meetings. Tim Keller gives three very compelling reasons.

“The earliest Christians were widely ridiculed, especially by the cultural elites, excluded from circles of influence and business, and often persecuted and put to death. Hurtado says that Roman authorities were uniquely hostile to them, compared to other religious groups.

Why? It was expected that people would have their own gods, but that they would also be willing to show honor to all other gods as well. Nearly every home, every city, every professional guild, and the Empire itself each had its own gods. You could not even go to a meal in a large home or to any public event without being expected to do some ritual to honor the gods of that particular group or place. To not do so was highly insulting, at the least, to the house or the community. It was also dangerous since it was thought that such behavior could bring the anger of the gods. In particular, it was seen as treason to not honor the gods of the empire, on whose divine authority its legitimacy was based.

Christians, however, saw all these rituals and tributes as idolatry. They were committed to worship their God exclusively. While the Jews had the same view, they were generally tolerated since they were a distinct racial group, and their peculiarity was seen as a function of their ethnicity. Christianity, however, spread through all ethnic groups, and most of them were former pagans who suddenly, after conversion, refused to honor the other gods. This created huge social problems, making it disruptive or impossible for Christians to be accepted into most public gatherings. If an individual in a family or a servant became a Christian, suddenly they refused to honor the gods of the household.

Christianity’s spread was seen as subversive to the social order, a threat to the culture’s way of life. Christians were thought to be too exclusive to be good citizens.

But in light of the enormous social costs of being a Christian in the first three centuries, why did anyone become a Christian? Why did Christianity grow so exponentially? What did Christianity offer that was so much greater than the costs? Hurtado and others have pointed out three things.

First, Christians were called into a unique “social project” that both offended and attracted people. Christians forbade both abortion and the practice of “infant exposure,” in which unwanted infants were simply thrown out. Christians were a sexual counter-culture in that they abstained from any sex outside of heterosexual marriage. This was in the midst of a culture that thought that, especially for married men, sex with prostitutes, slaves, and children was perfectly fine.

Also, Christians were unusually generous with their money, particularly to the poor and needy, and not just to their own family and racial group. Another striking difference was that Christian communities were multi-ethnic, since their common identity in Christ was more fundamental than their racial identities, and therefore created a multi-ethnic diversity, which was unprecedented for a religion. Finally, Christians believed in non-retaliation, forgiving their enemies, even those who were killing them.

Second, Christianity offered a direct, personal, love relationship with the Creator God.People around the Christians wanted favor from the gods, and eastern religions spoke about experiences of enlightenment, but an actual love relationship with God was something that no one else was offering.

Third, Christianity offered assurance of eternal life. Every other religion offered some version of salvation-through-human effort, and therefore no one could be sure of eternal life until death. But the gospel gives us the basis for a full assurance of salvation now because it is by grace not works and by Christ’s work, not ours.

I hope that by now you can see the relevance of these studies. The earliest church was seen as too exclusive and a threat to the social order because it would not honor all deities; today Christians are again being seen exclusive and a threat to the social order because it will not honor all identities. Yet the early church thrived in that situation. Why?

One reason was that Christians were ridiculed as too exclusive and different. And yet many were drawn to Christianity because it was different. If a religion is not different from the surrounding culture, if it does not critique and offer an alternative to it, it dies because it is seen as unnecessary. If Christians today were also famous for and marked by social chastity, generosity and justice, multi-ethnicity, and peace making — would it not be compelling to many? Ironically, Christians were “out of step” with the culture on sex to begin with, and it was not the church but the culture that eventually changed.

Another reason Christianity thrived was because it offered things that no other culture or religion even claimed to have — a love relationship with God and salvation by free grace. It is the same today. No other religion offers these things, nor does secularism. Nor can the “spiritual but not religious” option really capture them either. These are still unique “value offers” and can be lifted up to a spiritually hungry and thirsty population.

The early church surely looked like it was on the “wrong side of history,” but instead it changed history with a dogged adherence to the biblical gospel. That should be our aspiration as well.”

Written by Tim Keller

 

 

If You’re Going To Do Church That Way, Do It Well…

I enjoyed this article written by Karl Vaters that I decided to pass it on.

“There are so many ways to do church.

As long as you’re honoring the Bible, worshiping Jesus and loving people, no method or structure is wrong.

But any method or structure can be done wrong.

Thankfully, it can also be done right.

Whatever program, asset or resource you think your church needs in order to become great, you can find a church somewhere that became great without it.

It’s not about what you have or don’t have. What you do or don’t do. It’s far more about doing it well, not matter what you have or don’t have.

For instance…

A church doesn’t need to own a building. But if you do, use it well.

Use the church building to honor God and serve people. Don’t use the people to serve and honor the building.

Use the church building to honor God and serve people. Don’t use the people to serve and honor the building.

If you don’t own a building, you can do that well, too.

There are so many advantages to not having a permanent building as a church home. From the portability, to the monetary savings and more.

So, if your church doesn’t own a building, don’t fight it. Lean into it. Find the advantages of not having a mortgage or maintenance, and use those advantages in the best way you can.

A church doesn’t need to have a pastor. But if you do, treat them well.

Many churches are lay-led and function just fine. But if your church has a pastor-led structure, do that in the best way you can.

Honor your pastor, appreciate their hard work, ask “how can I help”? And remember to pray for them and their family regularly. They bear a burden deeper than you’ll ever know.

And if you are the pastor, be the best pastor you can be. Pray, preach and teach. Equip the saints.

And always remember your family is your first and most important arena of ministry.

A church doesn’t need to be a certain size. But do your size really well.

Is your church mega? Do mega well.

Take advantage of the opportunities that come with increased visibility, resources and options to exalt Jesus and bless people even more.

Is your church small? Do small awesome!

Get to know each other. Help each other.

And create an environment that welcomes new members of the family with open arms and hearts.

A church doesn’t need to be in a denomination. But if you are, respect it and participate in it.

In the last few years, I’ve spoken to and worshiped with almost every major denomination there is. And I’ve learned a great deal from all of them.

One of the main things I’ve learned is that there are no perfect denominations. If you’re fed up with yours, look before you leap. Whatever group you’re thinking of jumping into has a bunch of pastors who are ready to jump out.

It’s not that switching denominations – or dropping denominationalism entirely – is wrong. It’s just that we need to look at them all with open eyes and gracious hearts.

Wherever you are, as long as you’re there, you owe it to that group to give it your best.

And if you’re non-denominational, do that well, too.

The nondenominational tag shouldn’t just say what you’re not. Find something to be for.

Use your independence to reach out to others, build networks, support each other and bless the entire body of Christ.

A church doesn’t need to have any particular liturgy. But honor and explain the liturgy you have.

Every church has liturgy.

Some are old, formalized and recognized.

Some are new, informal and unacknowledged. But it’s still there.

So, if you’re in an older church with a deep, rich, liturgical style, honor it and celebrate it.

If you’re more informal and casual, go with the flow.

But whatever you do or don’t do, please remember this. Explain to your guests why you do what you do – and don’t do what you don’t do.

Explain to your guests why you do what you do – and don’t do what you don’t do.

Not in a divisive way (“we’re not like that bad church down the street”), but in a way that helps newcomers understand what’s going on.

And not just newcomers. In every church there are people who have been doing things for years without knowing why.

Do you have designated seating? Are drinks allowed in some places, but not in others? Can I have kids in the adult service with me? Am I allowed to participate in communion if I’m a guest?

We do so many things without thinking about them, but they can be very confusing to a first-timer.

No, we can’t answer every possible question in every service. That would take the entire service time. But every church should make the answers to their FAQs as obvious as possible.

Other Things A Church Doesn’t Need…

Your church doesn’t need a worship team, a choir, small groups, Sunday School, hymnbooks, video screens, or any other “must have” resources, programs or groups. But if you have them, use them well.

If you can’t do them well, it’s better not to do them at all.

And if you don’t have them, don’t be in a rush to get them.

Churches don’t become great by adding more programs. They get better at the ones they already have.”

Written by Karl Vaters.

Parenting From the Tree of Life

parentingPARENTING FROM THE TREE OF LIFE  is an interactive course presenting skills and tips to parent your 3 – 13 year-olds

When: WED, 19 JULY
Time: 7 pm
Where: The Junction

Join us for an INTRODUCTORY EVENING to Parenting from the Tree of Life.
Raising children who are kind, courteous, respectful, cooperative, confident and sensitive to the needs of others, is not a wish list from “never-never” land!
For more information contact Niek or Heidi 072 345 3744

Sharing Your Faith 101

Maybe you’re afraid to share your faith because you don’t know what to say. Or maybe you’re sharing the Gospel but nothing is happening; people aren’t committing their lives to Christ. Are you doing something wrong?

You can’t open someone’s heart to the truth of the Gospel—but God can, by His Spirit. The Apostle Paul wasn’t eloquent, but God used him because he depended on the Holy Spirit to guide him (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). God guided many others in the Bible as well—like Moses, who at first asked God to get someone else to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land, or Jonah, who didn’t think the wicked Ninevites deserved God’s mercy and tried to run the other way.

Remember that God does not call the equipped; He equips the called—and as Christians, we are all called to share what Christ has done. Some of Christ’s last words on earth were, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Sharing our faith isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a command. And God is with us when we obey Him.

What do I do?

One of the best ways to share your faith is to live a godly life. Non-Christians often look at Christians as hypocritical because we say one thing but do another. Show those close to you that you care—spend time with them, help meet their needs and offer to listen when they have problems. You might not be able to answer all of their questions, but they can’t deny the reality of what Christ has done in your life. If you find this is hard to do, perhaps God is speaking to you about your own need to walk more closely with Him every day.

Another important part of sharing your faith is to pray for those you interact with. If you can’t think of anyone who isn’t a Christian, pray for God to place someone in your life who needs Him.

Also make a habit of reading the Bible, praying and going to church. (Read more about diving into your walk with God through prayer, Scripture and relationships.) These things shouldn’t be done for attention or for the sake of doing them, but to help you grow in your own faith. Being passionate about Christ will help others see that there’s something different about you, and they will want to know what it is. You can also reflect Christ through kind words, patience, a gentle temperament, choosing to love even difficult people, carefully monitoring what you watch or listen to, and treating others with respect.

At the same time, we must do more than live godly lives. People need to hear the Gospel—to hear that God loves them, Christ died for them and that they can have eternal life. Romans 10:13-14 says, “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

4 Simple Steps

To share the Gospel, you can follow these 4 simple steps:

1. Tell them about God’s plan—peace and life. God loves you and wants you to experience the peace and life He offers. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). He has a plan for you.

2. Share our problem—separation from God. Being at peace with God is not automatic. By nature, we are all separated from Him. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God is holy, but we are human and don’t measure up to His perfect standard. We are sinful, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

3. Talk about God’s remedy—the cross. God’s love bridges the gap of separation between you and Him. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave, He paid the penalty for your sins. The Bible says, “‘He Himself bore our sins’ in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by His wounds you have been healed’” (1 Peter 2:24).

4. Our response—receive Christ. You cross the bridge into God’s family when you accept Christ’s free gift of salvation. The Bible says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

 

This article appeared in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organisation’s website.