New series of videos: ‘The Journey’. Video 10: ‘Immanuel, God With Us’

The Journey is a series of 16 videos (of around 25-30 minutes each) that will take us through the Bible story. The YouTube video above is number 10 in this series. Entitled Immanuel, God With Us, it begins the New Testament story by looking at Jesus’s birth and life, and His ministry and teaching until He enters Jerusalem shortly before His crucifixion. And we’ll see how each of the four Gospels gives us a unique view of Jesus’s life and character and ministry.

This video series can be used for group study (in fact, it’s currently being used in the author’s home church in the United Kingdom for group study). Each video is accompanied by a two-page Leader’s Guide, in PDF format. These give a few questions for group discussion, and provide guidance for the leader in helping the group to answer the questions. Click on the PDF icon below to download this.

The next video in this series will cover Jesus’s trials and crucifixion, and His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. It will be uploaded on Thursday 23rd March. As we approach Good Friday and Easter, these two videos, and their accompanying Leaders’ Guides, might provide a suitable study for your church or Bible study group at this season when we remember Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection.

The writer Dorothy Sayers pronounced the Christian faith to be “the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man . . .” It’s helpful to step back and view this drama in one great panorama – a kind of large-scale map from Genesis to journey’s end in glory.

This series of videos (supplemented with the written studies entitled The Big Journey provided on this website) aims to be that map. It’s a panorama of the Bible narrative from creation through redemption to new creation. We explore the Old Testament story, Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, and the story of the Church from the Day of Pentecost to the present day. Finally, we’ll look at what happens at the end of this age, Jesus’s Second Coming, and the New Heaven and Earth. In particular, we’ll see how Jesus’s life, death, resurrection and ascension is the focus of all history, and the key to God’s plan for us and our world.

Along the way, the series introduces some of the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith at appropriate points in the narrative (for example, the Incarnation is explained in the video above, which tells about Jesus’ birth and life).

‘The Big Journey’ audio series – part 1

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Image ¸ gigi 62 ~ Flickr.com (CC BY- 3.0)

We are beginning to upload The Big Journey as a series of audio talks. The first one, entitled Charting Our Course is available here as an MP3 – just click on the MP3 icon below:

mp3-icon

This audio recording will be the first of around 20 or so taking you right through the Bible.

These audio recordings will supplement the Small Group studies we are beginning to upload here. Though written with small groups in view, they would also, of course, be useable for individual study.

Each study could comfortably be completed in a week’s study. At this pace, in just 4 months your group would go right through the Bible, getting to grips with its big picture and learning about some key themes and doctrines.

Each study consists of:

BAn introduction followed by Bible passages to read and around half a dozen questions to think about. The questions in this series of studies are designed primarily to help you learn about the Bible’s big picture and some key Bible doctrines.

BA Leader’s Guide – this gives guidance in answering each of the questions.

BA study guide, which goes more deeply into the subject area covered by the introduction.

The first Small Group Study, which this audio talk accompanies, is available in PDF form HERE. The Leader’s Guide is available HERE as a PDF document. The accompanying full study guide (it’s 12 pages long and goes into more detail) is available HERE as a PDF document.

Small Group Studies – now revised

Bible Overview Bible Survey

Small Group Studies

The Big Journey’s Small Group studies have now been revised. There are 16 in the series. This series takes you right through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. They will be uploaded here at regular intervals. Though written with small groups in view, they would also, of course, be useable for individual study.

Each study could comfortably be completed in a week’s study. At this pace, in just 4 months your group would go right through the Bible, getting to grips with its big picture and learning about some key themes and doctrines.

Each study consists of:

BAn introduction followed by Bible passages to read and around half a dozen questions to think about. The questions in this series of studies are designed primarily to help you learn about the Bible’s big picture and some key Bible doctrines.

BA Leader’s Guide – this gives guidance in answering each of the questions.

BA study guide, which goes more deeply into the subject area covered by the introduction.

The first Small Group Study follows. This introduces the whole Bible story. This study is also available in PDF form HERE. The Leader’s Guide is available HERE as a PDF document. The accompanying full study guide (it’s 12 pages long and goes into more detail) is available HERE as a PDF document.


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Image ¸ gigi 62 ~ Flickr.com (CC BY- 3.0)

Why this course?

BFirstly, we hope it will make the Bible story clearer. Many things in the Bible seem rather haphazard and obscure – especially in the Old Testament. But when we see them in the context of the whole story that the Bible tells, we see their true significance.

BWe hope it will help you to understand the Bible in a new way. We want to teach more than simply the Bible’s storyline. We hope that this course opens up a larger, richer understanding of the Bible – and of God, of ourselves as His people, and of the Universe He created.

BWe hope it will help you to explain to others what you believe and why you believe it – the Bible makes sense of life, the Universe and everything!

BWe hope it will help you in your personal walk with God. The stories of our own individual lives are part of God’s big story – the story that the Bible tells. So our lives only really make sense in the context of that story. From conception to dying moment and beyond, God has a purpose for us. God’s plans for His creation involve us, His people! And when we see how faithfully and purposefully God has dealt with His people through history, we can trust Him to do the same for each of us.

The Bible is, at its heart, a story. Its 66 books were written by around 40 authors over 1,500 years. It includes all kinds of literature – history and biographies, genealogies, legal codes and moral guidelines, songs and poems, prophecies and letters. But through them all runs a single story – a story that begins at Creation and continues into the New Creation.

And you’ve never heard a story like the one the Bible tells. Dorothy Sayers pronounced the Christian faith to be “the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man . . . .” It’s a drama played out on a cosmic stage, a drama that spans all eternity.

A Hindu scholar captured the wonder of the Bible’s message when he commented to the Christian missionary Lesslie Newbigin: “I can’t understand why you missionaries present the Bible to us in India as a book of religion. It is not a book of religion – and anyway we have plenty of books of religion in India. We don’t need any more! I find in your Bible a unique interpretation of universal history, the history of the whole of creation and the history of the human race. And therefore a unique interpretation of the human person as a responsible actor in history. That is unique. There is nothing else in the whole religious literature of the world to put alongside it.”

The Bible tells us how things came into being. It explains what’s gone wrong with this world, and how God is going to put it all right. The Bible shows me who I really am, why I am here, and where I am going.

Bernard Bell comments: “Psychologists know that a sense of purpose is essential to emotional and psychological health. We look for . . . an overarching story that makes sense of all of the little stories of our lives.” In the Bible I discover that my life has meaning and purpose and significance beyond what I could ever dream of. We can only really make sense of the stories of our individual lives in the context of God?s great Story, the Story we read in the Bible.

A map for the journey

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gi dad plans the route ¸ nick farnhill on Flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Planning the route.

A party of tourists arrives in Britain for the very first time. They decide to travel throughout the island from Land’s End to John O’Groats. What kind of map do they need to plan their journey? The standard-scale maps aren’t much use to begin with. What they need first of all is a map covering the whole of Britain – showing where they’re starting from and their destination in the far north of Scotland.

Genesis to Revelation is a very long journey. Like that tourist, we need a map that shows the whole journey from beginning to end. This series of studies aims to be that map. We’ll view the whole Bible story in one great panorama – taking us the whole way from creation to the glorious new creation.

In the preface to his series Unlocking the Bible pastor and writer David Pawson said this: “I suppose this all started in Arabia, in 1957. I was then a chaplain in the Royal Air Force, . . . . . . . How could I get these men interested in the Christian faith and then committed to it? Something (I would now say: Someone) prompted me to announce that I would give a series of talks over a few months, which would take us right through the Bible . . . . It was to prove a voyage of discovery for all of us. The Bible became a new book when seen as a whole. To use a well-worn clich‚, we had failed to see the wood for the trees. Now God’s plan and purpose were unfolding in a fresh way. The men were getting something big enough to sink their teeth into. . . . . . . . the results surpassed my expectations and set the course for the rest of my life and ministry.” To travel through the whole Bible was a voyage of discovery for David Pawson and his hearers. We hope that you, too, will catch the thrill of this great adventure as we journey from creation to New Creation!

Along the way, we’ll trace some of the Bible’s key themes, such as the covenants and the Messiah. We’ll see how these themes fit together and lead to God?s ultimate purpose – the establishment of His perfect Kingdom on Earth.

And as we travel, we’ll pause from time to time to look at some basic Christian doctrines. For example, what does it really mean that we’re made in God’s image? What really happened on the Cross when Jesus died? And what happens when Jesus returns to Earth? Such questions are too important to hurry by, and we’ll take a little time to look more deeply at them.

Learning for life

On our journey through the Bible, what will we learn?

We’ll learn about God

A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” What we believe shapes our destiny. At the beginning of human history, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to believe lies about God. They believed those lies – with catastrophic consequences for themselves, for us, and for this world.

But God continued to reveal Himself to mankind – His love, His burning holiness, His omniscience and limitless power. Then, one day, God Himself came to earth in the Person of His Son. He revealed Himself in flesh and blood. Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1.15) and “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1.3). He declared: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14.9). Jesus shows us what God is really like.

And as we travel through the Bible, we’ll see God’s purposefulness, wisdom and faithfulness – and His sovereignty, too – as He works out His master plan for the Universe.

We’ll learn about creation

Secondly, we’ll learn about the universe we live in. We’ll discover how – and why – God created Earth and sun and moon and stars. And we’ll glimpse something of the glorious destiny He has in store for creation.

We’ll discover, too, that Earth and the heavens we see around us are only part of a much bigger created realm. There are heavenly places, too, that we cannot see. What happens in these heavenly places affects us in ways of which we are only dimly aware. And what happens here in our visible world impacts that unseen world, too.

We’ll learn about ourselves

David the psalmist himself asked: “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8.4). We’re all eager to know who we really are, where we come from and what has made us the way we are. Alex Haley’s best-selling book Roots, and the TV series Who Do You Think You Are? are testament to that.

Who are we? Oswald Chambers once pointed out, “the most marvellous thing in the whole of creation” is not the heavens, the moon and the stars – it is ourselves. God created us in His own image and likeness. We’re not actually divine, of course. But we are as like God as it is possible for any created being to be. God has crowned mankind “with glory and honour” (Psalm 8.5). The Psalmist sang: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139.13-14).

Sin, of course, has scarred us. But in our essential nature, we still bear God’s image (see Genesis 9.6, James 3.9). And God is now restoring us, His people, to bear His image perfectly. Our pattern is Jesus. In His selfless love, His unpretentious dignity and calm authority, His penetrating insight, His cloudless fellowship with His Father and His simple unquestioning obedience to Him, we see what God wants us all to be. One day, we shall be like Him! And one day we’ll rule all creation with Him. What an astonishing destiny!

So along our journey, we plan to stop for a while to explore what it really means to be human.

We’ll learn about Satan

Finally, we’ll learn about our enemy, Satan, and his dark kingdom. Neil Cole, in his book Organic Church relates a scene from the film The Two Towers, the second of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings. The nation of Rohan finds itself facing the wicked army of Goblins. When Theoden, king of Rohan, realises the Goblins are determined to wipe out his kingdom, he resolves to avoid war in order to shelter his people from danger. He declares: “I’ll not risk open war with my people”. But Aragorn the warrior warns him: “Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not”.

Open war is upon us, too. We cannot avoid it. In the heavenly places, as Paul explains, there is a terrific spiritual battle going on between Satan and his forces and Jesus Christ and His people. And we’re involved in this cosmic battle! We’re called to be soldiers. We need to learn how to wage war.

And to wage war, we must know our enemy. Every military commander must understand his enemy – how he thinks, what his strategy is, his strengths and weaknesses. It’s the same for us. In the Bible, God teaches us about our enemy. He reveals Satan’s aims and strategies, and exposes his lies.

pickup crosses mountain road winding in twilight

Image ¸ ollirg on Fotolia.com

Reading and reflecting

Read Genesis 1.1-3.24, Revelation 20.7-22.5.

O?BWhat links are there between these passages in Genesis and in Revelation?

O?BWhat do you find in the new creation described in Revelation 21 and 22 that you don’t find in Genesis chapters 1 to 2?

O?BWhy do you think New Jerusalem is pictured as a Bride (Revelation 21.2, 21.9)?

O?BDorothy Sayers said, “the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man . . . .” What is a drama? In what way is the Bible a drama?

O?BHow does seeing the Bible as a single story help us in evangelism?

O?BIf a non-Christian friend of yours asked you to tell them what the Bible was about in just a couple of minutes, how would you reply?

O?BWhat do these passages in Genesis and Revelation teach us about God?

CREDITS ◆ Text copyright © Robert Gordom Betts. ◆ Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ (ESV™), © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

‘Christ Ascended For Us’ by Nick Needham

Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

Image from Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. No known restrictions on publication. Image edited from original.

Early photograph of Jerusalem taken from the Mount of Olives (taken around 1890-1900). From Luke 24.50 and Acts 1.12 we learn that Jesus ascended on the Mount of Olives, in the vicinity of Bethany. The place where this photograph was taken is perhaps close to where the ascension took place. Certainly this view, taken around 120 years ago before the development of the modern city of Jerusalem, is the kind of scene that Jesus and His disciples would have been familiar with. Of course, in Jesus’s day, the great Temple rebuilt by Herod would have dominated the view of the city, rather than the Dome of the Rock which stands on the Temple mount today.

Jesus’s ascension is not a subject we perhaps think about very much. If we do, we may perhaps think of it as a postscript to His incarnation, life, crucifixion and resurrection. Yet, as Nick Needham makes clear in this article, His ascension is hugely important.

When Jesus returned to His Father at His Ascension He didn’t stop being a Man. Being human wasn’t just a temporary condition that He assumed whilst on Earth and divested Himself of on His return to Heaven. He is still a Man, and will remain so for all eternity.

There is now a Man in heaven – a Man with a physical body. Jesus’s body is glorious, incorruptible, perfect. But it is a true physical body nonetheless.

This has staggering implications for each of us individually, and for our human race as a whole – implications that Dr Needham brings out in his article.

Firstly, Jesus’s continuing humanity in Heaven tells us that God is for us. Dr Needham writes: “The eternal Son, the second person of the majestic Godhead, the Creator and sustainer of the universe, he is the human being, a son of man, a child of humanity. . . . . He has the same nature as us. He is flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. . . . . You may know how it is when you feel lost and alone in a strange place among unknown people and then suddenly you discover someone from your own country or your own city speaking your own language, maybe your very dialect. An instant bond springs up between you and your compatriot. Well, look up to heaven. You won’t just find angels there in all their alien angelic nature; you’ll find a man there; you’ll find a native of your planet who speaks your language.”

Secondly, Jesus’s resurrection and continuing humanity in Heaven is guarantees that we, who believe in Christ, will be resurrected as well. Dr Needham writes: “There is a man in the glory. The dust of the earth has entered the highest heaven. . . . . That has the most profound and the most wonderful significance for us. I’m human and in Jesus Christ humanity has ascended into heaven and lives in glory and so that means the way is opened for me as well and if I, in my humanity, am united to Christ, in his humanity, by the Holy Spirit, human on earth united with human in heaven, then the presence of the ascended Jesus in glory becomes the unbreakable pledge and promise that I will follow him there and I will share his glory.”

Thirdly, Jesus’s continuing humanity in Heaven means a Man – a Member of our own human race rules the Universe. That is an astonishing thought. Dr Needham asks: “Who is on the throne of the Universe? Who is King? God we say instinctively, God is the reigning King of the Universe. Our God reigns and that is true, but the New Testament adds a further truth. The man Christ Jesus is on the throne of the universe. . . . . There is a man on the throne of the universe.

This, in turn, has implications for our own destiny. God gave Adam and Eve dominion over this world, saying: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1.28 ESV). But now, as Dr Needham explains “The destiny that Adam lost has been restored and has been more than restored in the second Adam victorious over death. Humanity in Christ has been exalted to be the lord of the entire cosmos, with heaven as well as earth bowing beneath his feet.”

Finally, Jesus’s glorified human nature defines what God intends for our own human nature in the world to come. Dr Needham says: “In other words, it is the man Jesus in his final condition, ascended, glorified, exalted who finally stands before us as the perfect definition of humanity. It is only in the exalted Christ that human nature comes to its full bloom, its full flowering, its final development of powers and capacities. If I want to see what human nature is ultimately capable of I do not look at my own stunted twisted deformed, diseased, shattered and pathetic shell of humanity. No, I look at the man Christ Jesus, risen from the dead and exalted to the right hand of the Father. That is real humanity, human nature according to God’s final definition and purpose. . . . . And that’s the pattern according to which God the Father intends to mould you and me. . . . . Our human nature is going to be lifted up and augmented to heights of perfection that currently, frankly, we can only dream about. Our powers and capacities will be wondrously enriched and expanded in ways that are utterly beyond our present understanding when we are glorified.”

He concludes: “Now if all of this is the case, how can you and I be satisfied with earthly pleasures? How can you and I settle down contentedly here, our horizons limited by the activities and ambitions of life on earth; how can we do that? I say this with reverence. We’ve hardly been born yet. For the Christian life on earth is like being in the womb. The real life is yet to come and the ascended exalted Christ is the measure and the pledge of that glorious life.”

I urge you to take a few moments to read this article – and be edified and encouraged.

Dr Needham’s article is available as a PDF HERE.

Rev Dr Nick Needham holds the degrees of BD and PhD from the University of Edinburgh. He has published several books, including three volumes of a projected five-volume series on Church history entitled 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power (see the publisher’s description HERE). He teaches Church History part-time at the Highland Theological College, Dingwall. He recently accepted a call to a pastorate in Inverness.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

‘Getting Excited about Melchizedek’ – an audio message by Don Carson

Melchizedek, Abraham, Colin Nouailher

Image by Marie-Lan Nguyen / Jastrow : Wikimedia Public domain

‘Melchizedek and Abraham’, attributed to Colin Nouailher (painted between 1560 and 1570) and held by the Louvre. Melchizedek meets Abraham and his troops (the figures are depicted in clothing and armour of the 16th century).

Melchizedek isn’t a Bible character that we imagine anyone could get really excited about. Yet he’s one of the most significant pictures of Jesus in the Old Testament. He prefigures Jesus as our High Priest and King. Augustine wrote: “The New Testament is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.” Melchizedek is one of the outstanding instances of this principle.

Melchizedek was the priest of the true God and king of Salem. Salem seems certain to have been the city later called Jerusalem. In Genesis 14 we read that Abraham and his allies defeated a confederation of kings who had seized Abraham’s nephew Lot. Then we read: “After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14.18-20). We next encounter Melchizedek in Psalm 110. David wrote: The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110.4). In the New Testament, the only passages that relate to Melchizedek are Hebrews 5.5-10, 6.20-7.25. The writer tells us: “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5.5-6).

If anyone could get us excited about this mysterious Old Testament priestly king, it’s Don Carson – one of the finest Christian speakers and writers of the present day. Dr Carson tells us: “. . . precisely because he is both king and priest, the figure of Melchizedek turns out to be one of the most instructive figures in the entire Bible for helping us put our Bibles together. He helps us see clearly who Jesus is. . . . . . . . he turns out to be utterly revolutionary in opening our eyes to the glories of our Savior.” With his characteristically clear and compelling way, Dr Carson takes us through the Bible passages that relate to Melchizedek and explains how significant this man is.

The audio of Don Carson’s message (as MP3) is available HERE. The video is available HERE and HERE. The text is available HERE.

Don Carson preached this message at The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 national conference at McCormick Place in Chicago. The eight plenary addresses from that conference, including Dr. Carson’s address, have been edited by Dr Carson and published under the title The Scriptures Testify about Me. The publishers’ descriptions of this book are online HERE and HERE.

Don Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, USA. Dr. Carson has written or edited more than fifty books, including The Gagging of God, An Introduction to the New Testament, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, How Long, O Lord? and The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. He has served as a pastor and is an active guest speaker in church and academic settings around the world.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

‘A Meal with Jesus’ by Tim Chester

‘A Meal with Jesus’ by Tim Chester
Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus, meals, covenants, eating, church, fellowship

A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table by Tim Chester. Published in October 2011 by Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham, UK. ISBN 9781844745555 (paperback); 160 pages. Also published in April 2011 by Crossway Wheaton, IL, USA. ISBN: 978-1-4335-2136-2 (paperback); 144 pages. Electronic versions also available from both publishers.

The publishers’ descriptions are online HERE and HERE.

In the world of the Bible, sharing a meal is far more than filling stomachs to stay alive. It’s a time of fellowship. Scott Bartchy writes: “It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of table fellowship for the cultures of the Mediterranean basin in the first century of our era. Mealtimes were far more than occasions for individuals to consume nourishment. Being welcomed at a table for the purpose of eating food with another person had become a ceremony richly symbolic of friendship, intimacy and unity. Thus betrayal or unfaithfulness toward anyone with whom one had shared the table was viewed as particularly reprehensible. On the other hand, when persons were estranged, a meal invitation opened the way to reconciliation.”

That’s why the Jewish religious leaders were so angry with Jesus for eating with “sinners” (Matthew 9.11, Luke 15.2). By eating with them, He was receiving them as His friends and companions. In fact, the very word ‘companion’ is derived from the Latin cum (meaning ‘with’) and panis (meaning ‘bread’) – i.e. someone you ate bread with.

Even in Western society today, sharing a meal together still has significance beyond the physical act. Alexander Shmemann comments: “Centuries of secularism have failed to transform eating into something strictly utilitarian. Food is still treated with reverence. A meal is still a rite – the last ‘natural sacrament’ of family and friendship, . . . .”

Right through the Bible we find God Himself inviting people to feast at His table. He invites them to enjoy fellowship with Him, to enter His ‘family circle’.

It’s no coincidence that there’s a meal at the very beginning and the very end of the Bible. God offered Adam and Eve the fruit of the Tree of Life (Genesis 2.9,16-17). But they ate from another tree; they refused fellowship with God. From that moment, God wanted to bring mankind back to His table – back into fellowship with Him.

So we find God inviting people to His table. In the Old Testament, there’s the annual Passover meal. When God made a covenant with Israel through Moses, chosen representatives of Israel banqueted with God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24.9-11). And among the various sacrifices there was the fellowship offering – the sacrifice that the offerer and his companions ate together in God’s presence.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus shared a meal with His disciples – the Last Supper. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper with our brothers and sisters at the central act of our life together as God’s people.

And when God’s Kingdom arrives in its final glory, God’s people will enjoy “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19.9). They will feast with Jesus for eternity – they’ll enjoy eternal fellowship with Him in the new heaven and Earth.

Tim Chester picks up this theme of the meal and takes us through Luke’s Gospel. He opens up the meaning of the meal for Jesus and for us, and places this theme in the context of the whole Bible story. And, as one reviewer on Amazon.com, Arthur Sido, comments: “Tim is calling the church back to a place where deliberate, intentional sharing of our food, our home and our time takes priority in the life of the church”.

Crossway, the US publisher, summarises: The meals of Jesus represent something bigger. They represent a new world, a new kingdom, a new outlook. Tim Chester brings to light God’s purposes in the seemingly ordinary act of sharing a meal—how this everyday experience is really an opportunity for grace, community, and mission. Chester challenges contemporary understandings of hospitality as he urges us to evaluate why and who we invite to our table. Learn how you can foster grace and bless others through the rich fare being served in A Meal with Jesus.”

In his introduction, Tim writes, “If I pull down books on mission and church planting from my shelves, I can read about contextualization, evangelism matrices, postmodern apologetics, and cultural hermeneutics. I can look at diagrams that tell me how people can be converted or discover the steps required to plant a church. It all sounds impressive, cutting edge, and sophisticated. But this is how Luke describes Jesus’s mission strategy: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking.” We can make community and mission sound like specialized activities that belong to experts. Some people have a vested interest in doing this, because it makes them feel “extraordinary.” Or we focus on dynamic personalities who can hold an audience and lead a movement. Some push mission beyond the scope of “ordinary” Christians. But the Son of Man came eating and drinking. It’s not complicated. True, it’s not always easy—it involves people invading your space or going to places where you don’t feel comfortable. But it’s not complicated. If you share a meal three or four times a week and you have a passion for Jesus, then you will be building up the Christian community and reaching out in mission.”

The chapter headings are:

  • Introduction: The Son of Man Came Eating and Drinking
  • Meals as Enacted Grace: Luke 5
  • Meals as Enacted Community: Luke 7
  • Meals as Enacted Hope: Luke 9
  • Meals as Enacted Mission: Luke 14
  • Meals as Enacted Salvation: Luke 22
  • Meals as Enacted Promise: Luke 24

Read the introduction HERE.

Tim Chester introduces the book in a brief video HERE.

Tim Challies reviews it HERE.

Tim Chester is involved in The Crowded House, a church-planting initiative in Sheffield. He was previously Research and Policy Director for Tearfund UK. He has spoken at Word Alive, Keswick, and on Christian training courses. Tim’s books include The Message of Prayer“, Good News to the Poor, The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness, Total Church and The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God. He is married with two daughters.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Kingdom of God – a briefing

Forest, sunlight, path, trail, Kingdom of God, New Earth, New Heaven and Earth

Image © Joda – Fotolia.com

Sunlight scatters the shadows on a woodland trail. One day, God’s Kingdom will arrive in its full and final perfection. Heaven will invade Earth; Heaven and Earth will be blended in a way we cannot now imagine. God’s presence will fill our Earth.

Briefings
Over the coming months, I’ll be uploading short articles on a range of topics. These ‘Briefings’ are planned to include the Kingdom of God, the Messiah, the Jewish feasts, the unique character of each of the four Gospels, Daniel 9, etc. Browse the Briefings menu tab to locate these. The first is a brief overview of the Kingdom of God, and it’s reproduced here.

The theme of the Kingdom of God underpins the whole of the Bible story. Here’s an outline of how this theme unfolds through the Bible. In fact, this is really a summary of the whole Bible story. (The eight headings are borrowed from Vaughan Roberts’ excellent little book God’s Big Picture.)

The pattern of the Kingdom

God, the Creator and King of the Universe, lives in harmony with his people in His paradise, the Garden of Eden. God gives Adam and Eve dominion over everything on Earth (Genesis 1.26,28); they themselves are to be under His authority. As they trust Him and remain obedient to Him, they’ll experience unimaginable blessing. They’ll enjoy a wonderfully abundant and rewarding life – a life under their Creator’s richest blessing, truly the best that life could ever be. This is, in Bible language, is ‘the kingdom of God’. In Vaughan Robert’s words, “In the Garden of Eden we see the world as God designed it to be”.

The perished Kingdom

Adam and Eve reject God’s authority and decide for themselves how to live their lives. God has to banish them from His paradise and His immediate presence. They live frustrated and troubled lives outside God’s paradise.

The Kingdom restored
In His love and mercy, God acts to bring humanity back under His authority and all the blessings that brings. In other words, God restores His Kingdom. The rest of the Bible tells how He does this.

The promised Kingdom

God calls Abraham and promises him a land. Deuteronomy 8.7 9 describes it as a bountiful paradise. God tells Abraham that he’ll become a great nation, and that his offspring will possess this land. That nation is Israel; the land is Canaan. Here, God’s people will live in His presence in His paradise.

But God goes further. He promises Abraham that he’ll father a multitude of nations. Through this man all the families of the Earth would find blessing – blessing that can only be found in God’s presence (see Psalm 16.11 and compare Revelation 7.15-17). God is looking forward to the time when His ransomed people would be drawn “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5.9, and see Revelation 7.9) across the globe, to a time when God will live within them by His Spirit (see Galatians 3.14).

The partial kingdom

God rescues His people from Egypt and gives them His law to teach them how to live. He settles them in His promised land. And He lives among them in His sanctuary – initially the Tabernacle, but finally Solomon’s grand Temple.

God’s people are living in God’s paradise in the presence of their King and under His rule and blessing. The Kingdom of God has come – but only partially. Sin and all its consequences still blight creation. Even God’s own chosen people prove inveterate rebels. The kingdom of Israel falls apart and ends in conquest and exile. Only a remnant return to rebuild a ruined land.

The prophesied Kingdom

But during this period of Israel’s decay and downfall, God astonishes His people – and us – with breathtaking visions of glory. Woven through rebuke and warning, God pledges to redeem His people. He promises that they will live in God’s paradise. A King will govern them – and that King is God Himself! God is going to establish His Kingdom.

The present Kingdom

Then the King Himself comes to Earth! Jesus, Son of God, opens His ministry with these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1.15). In Vaughan Roberts’ words, “God’s king had come to establish God’s Kingdom”. He teaches about God’s Kingdom and demonstrates God’s sovereign power through His miracles. His death and resurrection strikes the decisive blow against Satan and deals fully with sin and all its fallout. His victory paves the way for God’s Kingdom to come in power.

The proclaimed kingdom

On the Day of Pentecost, God begins to fill people with His Spirit. God Himself comes to live inside those who repent and believe His gospel. They’re citizens of God’s Kingdom – they live in His presence and under the blessing of His rule. God’s Kingdom has come in a revolutionary new way!

The perfected Kingdom

Jesus the King returns to Earth. All God’s enemies are banished; sin is eradicated and all its consequences dealt with finally and fully. God renews Heaven and Earth. God’s people live in His presence and under the blessings of His rule in His perfect paradise (Revelation 21.1-4, 22.1-5). God’s Kingdom has come in all its glory!

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

‘The Good, the Bad, the New, and the Perfect’ by Bernard Bell

‘The Good, the Bad, the New, and the Perfect’, by Bernard Bell.  A brief overview of the Bible.  Available free online HERE.

Bernard Bell writes: “Psychologists know that a sense of purpose is essential to emo­tional and psychological health. We look for a meta-narrative, an overarching story that makes sense of all of the little stories of our lives. Fragmented by the loose strands of our lives, we yearn for a sense of ending that ties everything together.” 

We can only really make sense of our individual lives in the context of God’s great Story, the Story we read in the Bible.  Bernard Bell brilliantly captures this overarching story in four short studies that combine faithfulness to the Bible’s narrative, spiritual insight and pastoral wisdom.  The studies are entitled ‘This is my Father’s world’,  ‘Adam, where are you?’, ‘Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham’, and ‘The end of the beginning’.

Bernard Bell is Pastor of Peninsula Bible Church Cupertino, California.  Other sermons by Bernard Bell are available HERE.