The Friday Briefing 9 (4 May 2018)

Christ Ascended for Us Jesus’s ascension will be celebrated in a few days’ time – on Ascension Day, Thursday 10th May. His 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, Jesus’s ascension is hugely important.

The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God by Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow This remarkable little book can transform the way you think of Jesus’s ascension.

Gerrit Dawson: Jesus is still a Human Mike Feazell interviews Dr. Gerrit Dawson about the importance of Jesus being human even after His Ascension. As well as teaching about the Ascension, Dr. Gerrit – himself a pastor – also brings a pastoral perspective on what Jesus’s Ascension means for us.

The True Tabernacle In John 1.14, we read, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The word “dwelt” can be literally translated “lived in a tent” or “tabernacled’. Mike Moore writes, ”In his Gospel, John reveals the glory of the Word by showing how every piece of furniture in the Tabernacle corresponded to a glorious quality in Jesus.”

Wanted: people to lead us in the way of wonder Trevin Wax writes, “In an age of disenchantment, a world in which people are starved by superficiality, we need . . . .  . . . theologians and pastors who combine their desire for theological accuracy with the desire to showcase biblical beauty, until we stand in awe—of this world in all of its haunted goodness and of the gospel in all of its long-awaited surprise.”

The film you have been waiting for: Puritan A new documentary, PURITAN: All of Life to the Glory of God, is due for release early next year. This release includes, as well as the documentary, up to thirty short lessons on Puritan people and Puritan themes, a workbook, and another book introducing the Puritans authored by Michael Reeves and Joel Beeke. Joel writes, “Why would we do this, and why should you be interested? The answer is that, in the providence of God, the Puritans are colossuses in church history. . . . . By the Spirit’s grace, the Puritans will enrich your life as a Christian in many ways . . . .”

Christ Ascended for Us by Nick Needham.

Jesus’s ascension will be celebrated in a few days’ time – on Ascension Day, Thursday 10th May. His 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 (which I reviewed some while ago) Jesus’s ascension is hugely important. When He 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 – a Member of our own human race – in heaven. And Jesus still has a physical body. His 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 – as Dr Needham brings out so well in his article.

Dr Needham’s original article is available HERE. My review is available HERE.

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The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God by Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow.

This remarkable little book can transform the way you think of Jesus’s ascension. His ascension may simply seem like a postscript to His life here on Earth. But it’s a vital part of His saving work for us. As the authors point out, “Atonement was not complete until Jesus stood before God on our behalf.” Jesus is our ascended Priest and King, our ‘Man in Heaven’ at our Father’s right hand, enthroned in absolute authority over Heaven and Earth!

Our calling and destiny as God’s people is to be His royal family, made in His image to rule over His creation. The authors explain that the ascended Jesus has realised this destiny: “The ascension of Jesus is the foretaste of the ascension of a new humanity to our royal status.” And through His ascension, He has secured that destiny for every one of God’s people: “Those in Christ will . . . be what we were meant to be and what we were born to be.”

Perhaps the authors’ greatest achievement is to set Jesus’s ascension squarely into its context in the whole of God’s redemptive plan from creation to the new creation.

And Jesus’s ascension inevitably raises questions. Where exactly is Jesus now? Jesus is in heaven, yet He’s present with His people. We live here on Earth, yet we’re seated with Him in the heavenly realms. How does this all work in our universe of space and time? Where exactly is heaven and how does it relate to our own world? And what happens when Jesus returns to Earth at the end of the age? The authors guide us through this mysterious terrain.

Read the publishers description of the book HERE.

Read my original review HERE.

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Gerrit Dawson: Jesus is still a Human.

Mike Feazell interviews Dr. Gerrit Dawson about the importance of Jesus being human even after His Ascension.

Mike Feazell begins the interview by asking: “Let’s begin by talking about Jesus’ incarnation and especially, his incarnation after his death and resurrection – a lot of people think of Jesus as being God in the flesh while he’s here on earth walking and talking and breathing, but once he’s crucified and resurrected and ascended and at the right hand of God, we don’t think of it quite the same way. We think of him, now he is fully God again, but not fully human as well. What’s wrong with that?”

You can see the interview, or read the transcript HERE (read the transcript by clicking ► Program Transcript (click to view): lower down the page). Gerrit Scott Dawson received his D.Min. degree in 2002 from Reformed Theological Seminary. He is currently senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As well as the theology of Jesus’s Ascension, Dr. Gerrit also brings a pastoral perspective on what Jesus’s Ascension means for us.

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The True Tabernacle.

“The only building ever constructed upon this earth which was perfect from its very beginning and outset in every detail, and never again needed attention, alteration, was the tabernacle in the wilderness … Every single detail was designed by Almighty God, every part had a prophetic, redemptive and typical significance.” (M.R. DeHaan, quoted by Philip Graham Ryken in his commentary on Exodus, Crossway Books, page 813). Mike Moore writes, “The Tabernacle was the house of God. It was the meeting place of heaven and earth. In Exodus 40, as the Tabernacle was raised and dedicated, the glory of God descended and entered the Holy of Holies.”

“In John 1:14, John tells us, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt [literally, “tabernacled”] among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John chose his words carefully. “The Word became flesh and tabernacled” among his people. John intended to show us in his Gospel that the tabernacle was a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Word of God, and that Jesus is in fact the true tabernacle in whom the glory of God shines. In his Gospel, John reveals the glory of the Word by showing how every piece of furniture in the Tabernacle corresponded to a glorious quality in Jesus.”

Read the whole article HERE. A formatted PDF version of this sermon is available HERE.

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Wanted: people to lead us in the way of wonder.

Trevin Wax writes, “In an age of disenchantment, a world in which people are starved by superficiality, we need writers and pastors and artists who can feed us with the wonder of existence. . . . . We need theologians and pastors who combine their desire for theological accuracy with the desire to showcase biblical beauty, until we stand in awe—of this world in all of its haunted goodness and of the gospel in all of its long-awaited surprise.” Read the whole article HERE.

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The film you have been waiting for: Puritan.

Joel Beeke writes, “I am excited to announce that Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Reformation Heritage Books, Media Gratiae, and Stephen McCaskell are together creating PURITAN: All of Life to the Glory of God. This includes a feature documentary, up to thirty short lessons on Puritan people and Puritan themes, a workbook, and another book introducing the Puritans authored by Michael Reeves and me. Why would we do this, and why should you be interested? The answer is that, in the providence of God, the Puritans are colossuses in church history. . . . . They were imperfect, largely seventeenth-century men seeking to live faithfully in and through very difficult circumstances.”

”By the Spirit’s grace, the Puritans will enrich your life as a Christian in many ways as they open the Scriptures and apply them practically, probing your conscience, indicting your sins, leading you to repentance, shaping your faith, augmenting your prayer life and meditation, guiding your conduct, comforting you in Christ and conforming you to Him, teaching you how to live through affliction to God’s glory, rebuking your pride, increasing your reliance on the Holy Spirit, and bringing you into a more robust assurance of salvation and a lifestyle of gratitude to the triune God for His great salvation.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in direct quotations) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Friday Briefing 8 (27 April 2018)

Reading the Bible as one story Michael Goheen writes, “If the church is to be faithful to its missionary calling, it must recover the Bible as one true story. If the story of the Bible is fragmented into bits it can easily be absorbed into the reigning story of culture rather than challenging it. A fragmented Bible can lead to a church that is unfaithful, syncretistically accommodated to the idolatry of its cultural story, or in the words of Paul, a church “conformed to the world” (Romans 12.2).”

10 Bible translations you’ve never heard of Jost Zetzsche introduces ten lesser-known English translations, all but one of which were translated by individuals. He writes: “My hope is to pique your sense of adventure to seek out these or other translations and immerse yourself in them.”

The rise of comic superheroes and our longing for one Eric Geiger writes, “An unprecedented 20 superhero movies are expected to come to movie theaters between 2018 and 2020. Superhero movies are on the rise and people rave about the heroes in Black Panther, Avengers, and Spider-Man. Where does our longing for superheroes come from?”

Paul Young’s “Lies We Believe About God” Dismantles Precious Truths from Scripture Randy Alcorn writes, “Last year, Paul Young, author of The Shack, had a book come out called Lies We Believe About God. Ironically, many of the doctrinal concerns that I and many others expressed about his novel The Shack (and in response, were told “it’s just fiction” and “this isn’t theology” and “that’s not what he’s saying”) have proven to be true. This book clearly reveals the author’s actual theology.

Mission through meals Following on from last week’s review of Tim Chester’s book A Meal with Jesus, here is a video in which Tim explores the power of meals as a context for building community and sharing the gospel.

Reading the Bible as one story.

Michael Goheen writes, “All of human life is shaped by some story. . . . . For those of us living in the West, basically two stories are on offer: the biblical and the humanist. As [Lesslie] Newbigin points out: “In our contemporary culture . . . two quite different stories are told. One is the story of evolution, of the development of species through the survival of the strong, and the story of the rise of civilization, our type of civilization, and its success in giving humankind mastery of nature. The other story is the one embodied in the Bible, the story of creation and fall, of God’s election of a people to be the bearers of his purpose for humankind, and of the coming of the one in whom that purpose is to be fulfilled. These are two different and incompatible stories . . . .”

“The story of the Bible tells us the way the world really is. It is in the language of postmodernity it is a “metanarrative”; in the language of Hegel, “universal history.” Thus, the biblical story is not to be understood simply as a local tale about a certain ethnic group or religion. It begins with the creation of all things and ends with the renewal of all things. In between it offers an interpretation of the meaning of cosmic history. It, therefore, makes a comprehensive claim: our stories, our reality must find a place in this story.”

Michael concludes, “If the church is to be faithful to its missionary calling, it must recover the Bible as one true story. If the story of the Bible is fragmented into bits it can easily be absorbed into the reigning story of culture rather than challenging it. A fragmented Bible can lead to a church that is unfaithful, syncretistically accommodated to the idolatry of its cultural story, or in the words of Paul, a church “conformed to the world” (Romans 12.2). Much is at stake in reading the Bible as one story. Students who want to be faithful pastors or scholars would do well to master this story so that they might help others indwell it with them.

Read the whole article HERE.

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10 Bible translations you’ve never heard of
.

Jost Zetzsche writes, “English readers have access to more translations of the Bible than readers of any other language. The American Bible Society estimates that there have been around 900 full and partial biblical translations into English.” Jost introduces us to ten lesser-known English translations, all but one of which were translated by individuals. He writes: “My hope is to pique your sense of adventure to seek out these or other translations and immerse yourself in them. . . . . When it comes to having access to a richness of Bible translations, no other readers of the 7,000 or so world languages are as privileged as English readers. So why not use that resource? . . . . In the original preface to the King James Version of 1611, its translators wrote ‘that varietie of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures.’” Read the whole article HERE.

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The rise of comic superheroes and our longing for one.

Eric Geiger writes, “An unprecedented 20 superhero movies are expected to come to movie theaters between 2018 and 2020. Superhero movies are on the rise and people rave about the heroes in Black Panther, Avengers, and Spider-Man. Where does our longing for superheroes come from?” Eric comments, “Stories of rescue that grip our culture remind us that people were created for the greater Story, for the greater Rescuer.” Read the whole article HERE.

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Paul Young’s “Lies We Believe About God” Dismantles Precious Truths from Scripture.

Randy Alcorn writes, “Last year, Paul Young, author of The Shack, had a book come out called Lies We Believe About God. Ironically, many of the doctrinal concerns that I and many others expressed about his novel The Shack (and in response, were told “it’s just fiction” and “this isn’t theology” and “that’s not what he’s saying”) have proven to be true. This book clearly reveals the author’s actual theology. I wanted to believe the best, and not be quick to misunderstand or accuse. I have friends who read Paul’s writings, and my desire isn’t to take away from the positives they’ve received from The Shack. However, Lies We Believe About God shows in the author’s own words how far he has departed from some basic and central evangelical doctrines. I’ve read the whole book, and I saw truth intermixed with unbiblical error. But as is often the case with false doctrine, the truth serves to make the error appear more credible. . . . . I recommend this summary of some of the unbiblical content in Lies We Believe About God, well expressed by Tim Challies. While Paul Young remains a likable person, this doesn’t change the danger of revising God’s truth and telling people nice-sounding things on God’s behalf, when some of those explicitly contradict what He tells us in His Word: “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar” Proverbs 30:5-6 (ESV)).

Read Randy Alcorn’s whole article HERE.

Read Randy Alcorn’s earlier article Reflections on The Shack HERE.

Read Tim Challies’ article What Does The Shack Really Teach? “Lies We Believe About God” Tells Us HERE.

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”The Son of Man came eating and drinking”. (Matthew 11.19). Meals played a big part in the ministry of Jesus. In this video, Tim Chester explores the power of meals as a context for building community and sharing the gospel.

I review Tim Chester’s book A Meal with Jesus HERE.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in direct quotations) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Friday Briefing 7 (20 April 2018)

Why we must understand the covenants to understand the Bible Thomas R. Schreiner writes, “If we don’t understand the covenants, we will not and cannot understand the Bible because we won’t understand how the story fits together. The best way to see this is by quickly surveying the covenants in the Scriptures.

Why churches and church leaders need curiosity Barnabas Piper writes, “In order to represent God to the world we must know Him, and to do that we must learn. We must search for truth about His nature, His character, and His work. We must explore both His Word and His world. We absolutely must be curious if we are Christians. Without it we cease to grow and we become incapable of fulfilling our purpose in life.”

Why do some pastors deliberately avoid teaching doctrine? Jim Eliff writes, ”. . . I’ve watched an unintentional doctrinal imprecision on the part of many pastors become intentional. . . . . Simply stated it is the “wisdom” of attempting to circle in more people for our churches by unashamedly minimizing, or perhaps nearly eradicating, the restricting influences of doctrine.

The Weight of Glory: C. S. Lewis’s remarkable (and surprising) sermon On 8th June, 1941, in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford, C.S. Lewis delivered one of the most famous sermons of the twentieth century. Justin Taylor writes, “Do we know that Lewis takes some surprising turns in this address, . . . . But if you could use some motivation or guidance, or simply want a substantial overview of the whole thing, I’ve tried my best to summarize the whole thing, tracing the various places Lewis takes us in this profoundly and edifying meditation.”

Book review: A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table by Tim Chester Right through the Bible we find God Himself inviting people to feast at His table. It’s no coincidence that there’s a meal at the very beginning and the very end of the Bible. In this book, 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 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 . . . .”

He’s still risen What would it be like today if the followers of Jesus suddenly heard – for the very first time – that He had risen from the dead? This video imagines the scene.

Why we must understand the covenants to understand the Bible..

Thomas R. Schreiner writes, “The Bible isn’t a random collection of laws, moral principles, and stories. It is a story that goes somewhere; it is the story of redemption, the story of God’s kingdom. And the story unfolds and advances through the covenants God made with his people. If we don’t understand the covenants, we will not and cannot understand the Bible because we won’t understand how the story fits together. The best way to see this is by quickly surveying the covenants in the Scriptures.” Dr Schreiner then briefly overviews these covenants: the covenant of creation, the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Israel, and David, and the New Covenant. Read the whole article HERE. Dr Schreiner also overviews these Bible covenants in his book Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World: read the publisher’s description HERE.

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Why churches and church leaders need curiosity.

Barnabas Piper writes, “Humans are unique. God did not make anything else in His image. . . . . Author Joe Rigney explains the most significant implication this way: “Being made in God’s image is a vocation, something that we are called by God to do and to be.” A vocation, a calling, a work we are to dedicate out lives to. That means it is on purpose and with a purpose, not just a state of being. . . . . We must reflect God intentionally each day.”

“What this means for the Church, and for churches, is profound. We are a community of image-bearers, each uniquely gifted and tasked to reflect something particular of God. . . . . . . our reflection of God is not passive. . . . . We reflect on purpose, with intention, by taking action. One of those actions is discovery – about God Himself. In order to represent God to the world we must know Him, and to do that we must learn. We must search for truth about His nature, His character, and His work. We must explore both His Word and His world. We absolutely must be curious if we are Christians. Without it we cease to grow and we become incapable of fulfilling our purpose in life. . . . . We need someone to teach us and show us what it means to live in godly curiosity. That is the job of church leaders.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Why do some pastors deliberately avoid teaching doctrine?

Jim Eliff writes, ”I have been involved in leading churches for four decades, with an emphasis on church planting in the last few years. I’ve also visited and addressed hundreds of churches around the world and have had the privilege of meeting thousands of Christian leaders. Through this time I’ve watched an unintentional doctrinal imprecision on the part of many pastors become intentional. . . . . Simply stated it is the ‘wisdom’ of attempting to circle in more people for our churches by unashamedly minimizing, or perhaps nearly eradicating, the restricting influences of doctrine. . . . . The problem is, it works.”

He comments, “In all of this acceptance of doctrinal sloppiness and miasma of beliefs, I find that many have totally disregarded a tenet that should be obvious to any Bible reader. I mean this: The apostles began churches with the intent to grow them as solidly as possible by means of a steady and meticulous interest in doctrine. The biblical data is overwhelmingly in line with this conclusion.”

He concludes: “We must be loving and comforting, praying and available, transparent and visionary, but as leaders we cannot dismiss what God insists on. . . . . Therefore give yourself to sound doctrine and make much of it from now on. If you cannot do this, resign. And if you are not a pastor, but a listener, go to those responsible for dispensing the truth with a sincere appeal for them to teach you doctrine without compromise. Tell them you cannot grow without it.”

Read the whole article HERE

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The Weight of Glory: C. S. Lewis’s remarkable (and surprising) sermon.

On 8th June, 1941, in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford, C.S. Lewis delivered one of the most famous sermons of the twentieth century. Justin Taylor, of the Gospel Coalition, writes, “I suspect that this celebrated address is more ‘sampled’ than read straight through and understood in full. Many of us know the famous opening, where Lewis observes that we have settled for mud pies in the slum, ignorant of a holiday at the sea, and that we are far too easily pleased. Or we might know his section observing that we have never met a mere mortal. But what is the argument of the piece as a whole? Do we know that Lewis takes some surprising turns in this address, . . . . But if you could use some motivation or guidance, or simply want a substantial overview of the whole thing, I’ve tried my best to summarize the whole thing, tracing the various places Lewis takes us in this profoundly and edifying meditation.”

Here are two well-known passages in Lewis’s sermon – (passages that have been quoted, in full or in part, innumerable times):

“. . . if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. . . . . It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

Read Justin Taylor’s whole article HERE. Justin also gives a historical overview of that sermon and tells us about this sermon’s subsequent influence HERE. Read the original sermon HERE.

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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.

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.

In this book (which I reviewed earlier HERE) 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 . . . .”

This book is published by IVP and Crossway. Read IVP’s description HERE and Crossway’s HERE. Read the introduction HERE. Tim Challies reviews it HERE.

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What would it be like today if the followers of Jesus suddenly heard – for the very first time – that He had risen from the dead? This brief video imagines the scene.

See the publisher’s page HERE.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in direct quotations) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division 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.