An invitation to the table

My daughter says her friends call her the “Snack Queen.”

She always has snacks, she tells me.  Everyday, she’s handing out granola bars, breakfast bars, pretzels and mini-muffins.

I tell her that’s what my friend calls me:  “The Snack Queen.”  How can we have the same nickname?

So, she accepts  a downgrade.  “I’m the Snack Princess then.”

We laugh about it and I think the title fits.  After all, the Snack Princess has snacks with her to share because The Snack Queen gives them to her.

I like to pack little snacks wherever I go.  Little ones can sit through a lot if they have a cup of goldfish, and life seems a little less tragic to a tired three-year-old when they have fruit snacks to ease the pain of sharing or missing naptime.

Long days of errands and waiting rooms are so much easier with Cheerios.

Maybe I come by this honestly because Jesus seemed to serve up a lot of snacks, too.

In fact, Jesus perpetually invited those around Him to fellowship over food.  He invited them to feast.

Jesus began his ministry with the wedding party at Cana and went on his way, eating with sinners and tax collectors, having dinner at Matthew’s house and Peter’s house, Zaccheus’s house and in Bethany with Mary and Martha.

He multiplied lunches into picnic spreads that fed thousands and then served the disciples the bread and the wine on the night He was betrayed.

After His resurrection, He  cooked up breakfast over a fire by the side of the sea to feed the hungry disciples who had been out fishing.

I love this about Jesus, how He meets us right there in the nitty gritty of life, the eating and drinking and sleeping.  He doesn’t preach at us to be more spiritual or act like none of these physical realities around us are necessary or even good.

Other philosophies told people to deny the material world.  It didn’t exist.

Jesus told His followers to come, sit, and eat, not because the physical reality is better  or more important, but because it is part of living with Him.

He entered right in to humanity and broke down the dividing line–the spiritual, the physical.  It can be both and it can be good.

Our Jesus, who laid out feasts for  His followers and who told stories over meals, shows us this:

  • He PROVIDES:

He provides for our physical needs, handing out fish and loaves to  a crowd that had nothing.  But He does more.  He handed the disciples the Passover bread and the wine in the cup and He told them to remember.  This was His body.  This was His blood.

Jesus provides not just for physical needs, but for our deepest, desperate spiritual need for  a Savior, satisfying the greatest hunger we will ever have with the Bread of Life Himself.

  • WE’re welcomed in

There is a place at the table for us and He welcomes us in.  Pharisees and tax collectors, sinners and religious scribes all dined with Jesus. He is a God who invites.

That means the invitation is there for us to accept or decline, not just for a feast here and now, but for the marriage feast we can share with Him in heaven if we’ve followed Him as our Savior.

The angel declares:

Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9 ESV).

  • HE GIVES US REASON TO  CELEBRATE

Because we are so blessed, because we as Jesus-followers anticipate this great heavenly feast, we celebrate!  We raise the roof with our joy!

We should become people of invitation,  because we’ve also been invited.  We welcome, because we have been welcomed.

Jesus gave His very own self for us so that we could be saved and that is cause for rejoicing indeed!

Isaiah describes the wonderful sight:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.  Isaiah 25:6-8

This will be the ultimate joy, not just individual salvation, but redemption for this whole fallen physical world.

All that has been broken and destroyed by sin will be restored and made new. It will be made right as He lays out the table with the marriage feast, and we who believe Him and follow Him and love Him join Him at the table.

Living In-Between, Part II

He had these red boots.

A missionary speaker at our church years ago told the story of being a boy growing up in Africa.  In the pile of shoes donated to the kids in his village, there was a pair of fabulous red boots and he loved them. They fit perfectly.  He felt like a super star when he wore them and he wore them everywhere.

Over time, he had to push a little harder to get his heel down in the boots.  His toes began to pinch a little and then curl to squeeze into the shoe.  Instead of choosing to go out and play with his brothers, he’d decline, knowing that walking and running would hurt his feet.  But he didn’t want to admit the boots were too small.  He loved them too much to stop wearing them.

In “Living In-Between, Part I,” I wrote about the first pitfall of our transition times in life.  We tend to run ahead of God.  We want to skip over the waiting time or the training period in order to get right to the good stuff of God fulfilling and completing His work in us.

The second pitfall, though, is no less dangerous.  It’s holding onto the past when God tells us to move on.  It’s squeezing ourselves into too-small red boots, making ourselves uncomfortable and hampering our service to God.

The past holds us hostage to shame.

The apostle Paul wrote:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

If anyone understood how the shame of the past could imprison you, it was Paul, once a murderer and persecutor of Christians and now a follower of Christ.

He knew you couldn’t just “forget” what happened in the past, but that you had to constantly engage in “forgetting.” This process is ongoing because Satan is forever picking up the clumsy club of shame and beating us over the head with it.

“God can’t use you,” he says.  “You messed up.  Don’t you remember your sin?  Your mistakes?  How you’re impure and worthless?”

Paul also wrote that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  We cling to that daily.  When Satan looms over us with shame, we banish him by purposefully forgetting what is behind and straining ahead to reach all that God’s grace has for us.

The past makes us comfortable with the known.

The missionary knew his red boots were fantastic, albeit ill-fitting. What if some new shoes didn’t measure up?

Some of us settle down so comfortably into the routines of life that we tremble at threats of change.  This is how the Pharisees felt as they were shaken from their roosts of power by an unexpected Savior.

Jesus announced:

“I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:47-51).

He was offering people revolutionary sustenance—the Bread of eternal life.  They preferred to remember the manna in the wilderness. Not that manna was bad.  It was miraculous and sustaining and perfect provision from God at a necessary time.

Yet, manna was no more than a precursor of the ultimate heavenly provision—our Messiah and life-giver.

Are you choosing manna over the Bread of Life?  Have you declined what God is offering because you’re content with what He’s already given?

In A Year With Jesus, Eugene Peterson prayed, “I don’t want to live on the memory of old miracles, but experience fresh ones in faith.  Draw me into the fullness of this day’s grace in which you have new things to do in and through me” (p. 427).

Finally, the past reveals selfishness.

It was hard to do, but at last the little boy admitted the beautiful red boots didn’t fit him anymore.  What good were boots if you couldn’t wear them or walk with them? Reluctantly, he handed the boots down to his younger brother and stepped into some new shoes of his own.

And there’s the key for us.  How long had his brother been without the blessing of perfectly fantastic red boots all because his older brother couldn’t let them go?

Who are we hindering when we refuse to step down from ministries when God has told us to stop?  Who does He want to raise up, to train, to use, to call and to bless?

James wrote: ” But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17, NKJV).

Heavenly wisdom means we are willing to yield.  Sometimes that means we let others pass or we invite them into the steam of ministry traffic.  Sometimes it means slowing down and giving someone else a chance to jump in.

But, it depends on us to obey God peacefully, gently, with mercy and without hypocrisy when He tells us to stop hoarding the boots all to ourselves and to bless someone else with them instead.

We look forward to a new year full of new encounters with God.  Are you willing to go where He leads even if it means leaving some things behind?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King