Category: Jesus (page 1 of 45)

Word and Table

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” ~Acts 2:42

The Greek word koinonea means fellowship. Communion. Sharing. Having things in common. Luke describes it in the above verse as eating together and praying together. That’s what makes a Christian assembly, those are the worship habits: Teaching and Fellowship. Scripture and Communion. Word and Table. That’s the time and place where everybody ministers together, everybody participates, everybody’s heard, everybody shares. God meets us, Jesus is present with us, and the Holy Spirit shapes us in our regular gatherings around Word and Table.

That two-thousand-year-old pattern, I believe, is based on the habits of Jesus during his ministry.

When Jesus taught, he generally did it in the context of a meal. He opened up the Scriptures and ministered to others around a common table. The Word is proclaimed and then the reality of the Word is practiced and experienced around the meal.

In Luke 14, Jesus is eating a Sabbath meal at the home of a prominent Pharisee and, as we would expect, he starts teaching: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

At the banquet at Levi’s house, Jesus gives us the Word: “I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And he’s sitting around a table with tax collectors and prostitutes. The Table is the tangible experience of the Word.

With five-thousand hungry people in the wilderness, Jesus tells his apostles, “You give them something to eat. You engage the mission. You participate in serving others.” And then he empowers them to do just that. Then they all ate together, as much as they wanted.

At Zacchaeus’ house, the Word, the teaching: “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost!” And around the meal, the hospitality and community of the Table: “Salvation has come to this house! This man is a son of Abraham!”

In John 13, on that last night before he was crucified, Jesus shared a meal with his disciples. And some teaching. The evening meal was being served, the Bible says, and Jesus got up and washed everyone’s feet. A tremendous act of humble service. Jesus made himself the least important person in the room in order to serve others.

“Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Our habits together around Word and Table shape how we think and act. It shapes us into a people who think and act like our Lord. Jesus gets up from the table during the meal to say to each of his followers to say, “I am your servant.” And he tells us to do the same for each other.

Some of us view our worship gatherings as a legal duty and everything has to be done exactly right. Some of us see our worship assemblies as an experience; it’s all about how it makes me feel, so there aren’t really any rules to follow. Some of us have grown up with no real understanding about community worship, so we don’t really think about it at all.

Our worship assemblies are the time and place where our living God meets us, where we all meet in the presence of God together. We are gathered by God’s Spirit around the Word. The Word of God reminds us who God is and what he’s doing and who we are and to whom we belong. The Word has to the power to teach us, train us, and transform us to continue the Kingdom work Jesus has already begun. The Word reorients us away from the shadows of this world’s fading kingdoms and toward the eternal realities of the Kingdom that has come and is coming.

And we experience those realities around the Table. The Holy Spirit brings us together around a meal where we actually experience God’s mercy, acceptance, wholeness, equality, compassion, and peace.

But we can get so wrapped up and bogged down in the details of our worship practices and the finer points of our traditions and our methods, that we don’t give much thought at all to the main point of our assemblies. We worry about how we do church and what we can and cannot do in church, forgetting this a Holy Spirit endeavor. All of this takes place in and by the Spirit.

We worship God in Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit who mediates God’s grace and the presence of Christ to us around Word and Table. God gathers us together. God initiates and enables our praise. God eats with us, the Holy Spirit prays with us and for us with groans we can never comprehend, Jesus intercedes for us. God gives us the words to say in our worship. God speaks to us through his Word and then places that Word into each heart in exactly the way he wants it to go. We are brought together in the presence of God and he’s the One doing everything!

We should relax about our rules and stop worrying about our methods and submit to what God’s Spirit wants to do. Instead of fretting about how we do church or how somebody else does church, we should pay more attention to how God does church.




His Presence is the Proof: Part 4

“Jesus himself stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.'” ~Luke 24:36

It’s a greeting of comfort. Peace be with you. It’s a blessing from the risen Lord to all the people gathered around the table. The presence of Jesus ends our anxiety about what’s happened to Jesus and whether God’s plan for our salvation is still going. Well, guess what? Jesus is alive and God’s plan is on!

The disciples are almost paralyzed by the realization that Jesus really is risen from the dead. Everything written about Jesus has been fulfilled! Everything Jesus said would happen has! There’s great joy and amazement around the table because the disciples are experiencing what Scripture promised and what the angels and prophets had longed to see.

The presence of Jesus at the resurrection meal provides the proof that there’s a direct continuity between who we are today and who we’re going to be on that great day. Suffering is not an unfortunate detour, it’s the designated path. Death is not the end, it’s the transition to the new creation. Jesus is with us at the meal to prove to us that what he’s saying is right.

And his presence makes all of us first generation disciples. It places all of our meals together on the table at Emmaus. The risen Lord is with us when we eat with his disciples in his name. It’s not just the people he appeared to during those 40 days after he rose. We don’t have to keep our faith alive on a think diet of two-thousand-year old reports of the people who saw him back then. We’re not second-hand Christians removed by time and space from those powerful events in the Gospel. Jesus is with us. The risen Lord is really present.

Now, I don’t know what’s going on with you. You might be in the same spot as those two disciples on the way to Emmaus. You might be in a place of despair. You might be experiencing grief. Maybe some dreams have been dashed. Maybe you’ve been numb for so long you’re used to it. You’re living in a fog. You’re resigned to the bad news, the bad feelings, and bad circumstances. You’ve given in. You’ve almost given up.

Accept  the invitation to the Lord’s Table. Take your place and participate in the supper. Listen for his voice. Be open to his leading. Be comforted in the warmth of his presence. Experience the meal. The meal explains what it is about Christianity that grabs us and holds us in the middle of everything that’s so wrong with our world and with ourselves. Jesus is alive and I’m going to be, too! God’s promises are real and they’re coming true!



His Presence is the Proof: Part 3

I asked Valerie last night if she did anything special for her 21st birthday. She told me that she and one of her good friends, Paige, had gone to Chick-Fil-A for lunch and Valerie had a Dr Pepper for the first time in over a month. See, Valerie is trying to eat healthier, she’s trying to exercise more — just like her old man, she’s really good at it during January and February. She ordered a water with her lunch, but Paige told her, “No, you’re getting a Dr Pepper.” Valerie replied, “I want water.” Paige insisted, “No. You want a Dr Pepper.” So, she got one. And it was amazing. I told Val, “You know, a lot of dads worry about their daughter turning 21 and looking for beer. You’re just craving a Dr Pepper.” She answered, “I love the burn.” Good kid.


“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was reclined at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” ~Luke 24:25-31

Jesus calls these followers on the way to Emmaus foolish and slow of heart to believe the Scriptures. “This is God’s design,” he says. “This is how it has to be!” And when he opens the Scriptures, it’s not just a couple of isolated passages or a few random texts. He explains all of Scripture to them, it says — the whole story! He tells them that salvation can only be found when God’s anointed Son takes on our suffering, when he takes the whole world’s suffering into himself, when he dies under the crushing weight of that sin and suffering, and rises again as the beginning of God’s new creation, God’s brand new eternal people. This is what had to happen, and now it has!

At the Lord’s Meal, Friday turns into Sunday.

Their eyes are opened when Jesus breaks the bread. They recognize Jesus at the table.

Now, allow me to say this about that:

Knowing the information is one thing. Getting the correct content into our brains, understanding the logic, engaging the truth with our minds — that’s very important. We shouldn’t neglect that. But let’s also nurture the emotional experience at the table. Let’s pay more attention to the tangible, touchable, tasteable proof we experience in the Church’s Meal.

The future reality of resurrection of us is experienced in the present reality of the risen Lord around the table. He’s here! He’s with us at the table!

Some days it can feel like our sin or the devil has more power than we do. Some years it can feel that way, I know. But we have direct access to the Holy One of God who has already overcome whatever Satan throws your way. He has already defeated everything the devil might possibly use against you. And we have direct access to him! We eat and drink with him all the time!



His Presence is the Proof: Part 2

Valerie Nicole is 21 today! Happy Birthday to our Little Middle! I wish I were there in OKC with you today, Sweetie.  Hopefully Aunt Rhonda is taking you to Ted’s for dinner!

We’re so proud of you, Val, and so blessed by God by your love for others and your joy for life. Have a wonderful day, daughter. We love you!


If the story of the Prodigal Son is the greatest story Jesus ever told, the story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus is the finest scene Luke ever penned. It’s got everything: sorrow, suspense, mystery, a little bit of humor, a gradual dawning of light, unexpected actions, and a flurry of excitement. This is such a great story. And it is so about us.

The story is found in Luke 24:13-35. And it opens with the two disciples walking and talking together on the way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It’s Sunday, Resurrection Day. The tomb has been found empty, the women have seen some angels, but nobody has seen Jesus.

But the focus of this story, at least here in the beginning, is on these two Jesus-followers. They’re in despair. They’re experiencing grief. There’s been a death and it’s ended their dreams. They feel hopelessness. For the past three days they’ve been in this place between dashed hopes and maybe possibly daring to hope again. There’s maybe a tiny fraction of a glimmer of expectation. But mostly it’s bad. For three days it’s been terrible. And these two disciples have adjusted to the numbness. They’ve accepted the reality of the situation and now they’re moving on. They’re in a haze, but they’ve accepted it and they’ve got to live with it. They’re resigned to the bad news, the bad feelings, and the bad circumstances. They haven’t given up, but they’ve certainly given in.

And they’re talking about these things with each other. Serious things. Life things. They’re not talking about their golf game or the dry weather or if anybody can ever beat the Patriots. This is a raw human conversation about important things, things that matter. And Jesus says, “That’s a conversation I want to be a part of!”

He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast.

It was difficult to articulate everything that had happened, how horrible everything was, the despair they were feeling. They couldn’t talk about it. It’s almost like they didn’t want to talk about it.

But Jesus forces the tough conversation. And then he opens up the Scriptures to them: “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

They arrive in Emmaus and the two disciples invite him into their home for dinner. And that’s where everything changes.

“When he was reclined at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” ~Luke 24:30-31

The story of the resurrection meal in Luke 24 perfectly mirrors our experience as Christians. We go through seasons of sad dismay at the failure of our human hopes. We endure periods of frustration and doubt, depression and despair. Let’s face it, sometimes we can get into a dark place where we question where all this is headed. We wonder if God really is in control, if Jesus really is alive and reigning at the Father’s right hand, if things really are going to work out for me at the end.

Then we take our places at the table and we realize that Christ Jesus himself is with us. He warms our hearts with his truth, he comforts us with his presence, he assures us with his peace.

The realities of the Christian experience are revealed during our meals with the risen Lord. His presence with us at the table is proof that humility leads to victory, that suffering leads to glory, and that, through God in Christ, death leads to eternal life.



His Presence is the Proof: Part 1

I’ll suggest that the Church’s weekly communion meal is shaped at least as much, if not more so, by the resurrection meals of Jesus on that first Easter Sunday than by the Last Supper in the upper room. It’s the Resurrection Day meals that most inform the Church’s Lord’s Supper and give it its meaning. One of the main reasons is that the disciples first encountered the risen and living Lord at those meals.

The very day he walked out of the grave, Jesus made it a point to be present with his followers at the main evening meal. He showed up at mealtime.

In Mark 16, we’re told “Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating.” They risen Lord is physically present with them at the table. Luke 24 says “Jesus himself stood among them.” They offered him some fish and “he ate it in their presence.” The Gospel of John is describing this same scene when it says “Jesus came and stood among them.”

Jesus is present with his followers at the Sunday meal. He is here. He is with us at the table, eating and drinking with us on the other side of the salvation work he came to do. On the other side of his death and resurrection, Jesus is present with his people at the meal.

And his physical presence provides the proof of God’s promises. It’s the proof the disciples need to know for sure that Jesus really is alive and that God is really doing everything he says he’s going to do.

In John, Jesus shows them his hands and his side. “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” Thomas runs his fingers along the Savior’s wounds, he touches Jesus’ scars. Jesus says, “Stop doubting and believe!” And Thomas does: “My Lord and my God!” In Mark, the disciples don’t believe the reports of Jesus’ resurrection. Twice it says they did not believe — they didn’t believe Mary and they didn’t believe the two disciples who Jesus in the country. But after the supper with the risen Lord, they do believe. The dinner provided the proof. Everything changed. “And the disciples went out and preached everywhere.”

In Luke 24, the disciples thought the resurrected Lord was a ghost or a spirit. They thought Jesus was still dead. Jesus says, “No, it’s me! Look at my hands and my feet! It is I, myself! Touch me and see! A ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones!”

“Look,” Jesus says, “I’ll prove it. Give me some of that fish.” And he ate it in their presence. And the disciples went from startled and frightened to joy and amazement. Their minds were opened, it says, and they understood everything.

It’s very easy to see why these resurrection meals carry so much weight. The risen Lord is present, he’s actually with us around the table. And it proves everything. This is not a dream or a vision, he is not a ghost or a spirit, this is not group hypnosis or wishful thinking. When Jesus appears on Sunday to eat with his followers, the realities are revealed. In Acts 10, Peter is preaching about the resurrection of Jesus. How do you know it’s real, Peter? Where’s your proof? Peter says, “We ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead!”

Yeah, the resurrection meals are loaded.

But the ultimate expression of the deep significance of these Lord’s Day suppers is found in Luke 24:13-35. This is the account of the very first of these resurrection meals, the first meal Jesus shared with his followers the day he walked out of the grave.

I’ll be breaking it down in this space over the next couple of days. In the meantime, you might read the text. You’re already familiar with this great story.



“In the World, Not Of the World”

The man comes up to Jesus and he’s covered with leprosy. He falls with his face to the ground and says, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” And Jesus say, “If I’m willing?!? Of course, I’m willing!!! That’s why I’m here! Be clean!!” And he healed him immediately.

A widow is wailing over the death of her only Son. Jesus says to her, “Don’t cry.” He raises the young man from the dead and gives him back to his mother. All the crowd is filled with awe and they praise God saying, “God has come to help his people!”

Everywhere our Lord goes, everywhere he is, he shines the light of love and forgiveness, he brings the Kingdom of grace and hope. In a culture of hate and violence and lies, Jesus is love and mercy and truth. He brings it. He lives it. People are blessed and the world is changed.

And then on that last night, around the table with his followers, our Lord Jesus prays. He prays for all people “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). He tells the Father “they know I came from you, they believe you sent me” (John 17:8). He tells God “everybody knows you sent me” (John 17:25). And he prays for his disciples:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” ~John 17:15-18

Then Jesus is arrested and crucified. Out of his deep love for us and his commitment to our forgiveness and righteousness and peace, he gives his life. On the third day, God’s Holy Spirit brings our Lord out of the grave. That evening the risen and reigning Jesus eats dinner with his followers and says:

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” ~John 20:21

When Jesus says we’re not of this world, that’s not a final destination or a future goal — it’s a starting point. By our baptisms and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are members of the family of God, we are citizens of the heavenly Kingdom, like Jesus. And, like Jesus, being not of this world is so we can be sent into this world.

I’ve heard it said all my life — you and I have probably both said this many times: “We’re in this world but we’re not of this world.” The way we say it implies that being in the world is a temporary accident we have to endure or, at worst, a really bad circumstance we must fight. We’ve paraphrased Jesus’ words into an isolationists slogan. We make it sound like we’re above everything and we need to take care of ourselves first and be separate from the world.

No, we’ve got it backwards!

Jesus says we’re not of this world precisely so we can be sent into the world. In the world is intentional, it’s the very core of God’s eternal plans. The Church is not a community of cautious isolation, we’re a group committed to courageous transformation! We don’t run from the world or rail against the world; we are racing into the world with the amazing story of God’s love that has captured our hearts and commissioned our lives! God gathers us together in his Church so we can better be on point for his mission in the world!



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