Back To The Table

Carrying Fellowship Into Your Community

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath Day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphas and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about 120) (Acts 1: 12-15a)

When the day of Pentecost came they were all together in one place.
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1 and 3-7)

They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching:

Although Peter and John are two most mentioned, there were, including Matthias who was chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot, 10 other apostles who had traveled with Jesus and had been taught by him. They had experienced Jesus among them after his resurrection; they had received the Holy Spirit and were each enabled to speak a language not their own that could minister to groups of people in the crowd of new believers. I can imagine them scattered among the various groups of people mentioned in Acts 2:9-11, teaching them about Jesus and thereby preparing them for the time those new believers would return to their own nations.

And they devoted themselves to the fellowship:

That leaves 108 disciples who were not designated as apostles, who also received the Holy Spirit and were enabled to speak in a language not their own. I can imagine those 108 scattered among the new believers, welcoming them, encouraging them, maybe even weeping with them, being with them in the wonder of this totally new way of life. This experience of fellowship, those new believers would also carry back to their own nations.

As part of our church, we have those who preach, teach, lead us in worship and lead in a variety of other capacities. In addition, with them, we have many people who welcome, encourage, sometimes weep with and for each other, and who are devoted to the fellowship of other believers who are desiring to grow in the way of Jesus with his heart. We also are being prepared to carry what we learn and the fellowship we experience out into our community.

My community context includes: family, neighbors, grocery stores I frequent, restaurants where the people have become family, my auto mechanic and post office, hardware store, coffee shop and fabric store. Carrying fellowship out into my community means getting to know the people, their names, sometimes their concerns, families, and ways I can pray for them. Also, I can receive, with gratitude, the service and encouragement the people in my community give me. I can as well, ask them to pray for me.

This week make a list of people you would consider as your community that you do, or can fellowship with. Ask the Holy Spirit for enabling grace as you carry fellowship out into your community.

Carrying Fellowship Into Your Community2022-06-17T14:33:23-06:00

Sacrificial Hospitality In Desolate Places

I spent my childhood longing to explore the world outside my small, farming community in Nebraska. I tried to “play it safe” before attempting new ventures. Careful planning was a key element in any foray. Here are a few examples: I attended a large university where I knew no one; I traveled four weeks in Europe by myself; I tried to be a productive artist (painter) in isolation; and I moved to Washington, D.C. where I knew only one person. By that time I was 23, and after my planning had taken several wrong turns, I was depressed and ready for significant change. That change was following Jesus.

God immediately blessed me by connecting me to hospitable Christians who were not “playing it safe”. Their hospitality challenged me, helping me grow.

Like my hospitable Christian friends, these early Christians sound reckless.

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, (Acts 2:44-46 ESV)

What prepared these early believers for this largesse? Maybe experiences like this:

And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 15:33-38 ESV)

I imagine Jesus’ disciples…ready to “play it safe”… guarding their stash of bread and fish, thinking it wasn’t relevant to providing a meal for that huge crowd. Their protective instincts were heightened by the fact the crowd was overwhelmingly large and composed mostly of Gentiles. Holy Spirit hospitality wasn’t yet embedded into their radar. But this event and others factored into their perspective when the events of Acts 2 rolled around.

Let me relate their changed mindset to my experience.

Early in my walk with Christ, I was encouraged by the invitation of a particularly hospitable Christian couple who made me part of their family. I lived with them, they employed me, and we did ministry together. They not only welcomed me (the normal person who paid rent) but many others while I was with them. Some had strange faith, some had weird behavior, and some only offered need.

Sometimes I wanted to guard my “stash” and gain a sense of normalcy with a cozy circle of predictable Christians. But Jesus was calling me to sacrificial hospitality – not so I could get special kudos – but because others were in “such a desolate place”.

This kind of hospitality is sacrificial because it can’t be repaid. In Matthew 15 Jesus asked his disciples to relinquish all they had to eat. They then saw this generosity multiplied, not for personal benefit, but to further God’s kingdom.

Are we holding back our stash and playing it safe from those in desolate places? Let us allow the Holy Spirit to continue calling us into the partnership of his generous, sacrificial hospitality.

Sacrificial Hospitality In Desolate Places2022-06-17T13:23:00-06:00

Washed Out Picnic

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13 NIV

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NIV

In July 2018 my daughter spent a day preparing food for a young singles group outdoor picnic. It was scheduled to be dinner at Clement Park. In typical Colorado fashion, we loaded all the food in our car and got about 10 minutes from our house when the skies opened up with one of the worst gully washer rain and hail storms I have ever experienced. After pulling over to the side of the road, because I could not see to drive, and several phone calls between us and the leader of the group, we decided to turn around, go home, and invite all the young people to an evening of worship, sharing and dinner at our home.

As I navigated Littleton Boulevard, which was more of a river than a street at the time, my mind raced. I was thinking of how we could get our home ready for 20 or more young people with about 10-15 minutes notice. I imagine Martha may have had similar thoughts. I was thinking “where are the chairs?”, “should we set up outside?” Then I panicked thinking that my house was NOT company ready. Perhaps you have felt this way? But – then a calm set in, because I realized, the young people just wanted somewhere to gather. The food was already prepared, we simply needed to set up some chairs and tables outside, and everything would be fine.

The purpose of the gathering at Martha’s home was to see Jesus, hear his teaching, and be in His presence. Similarly, at our impromptu picnic, the rain stopped, the young people shared a meal, sang worship songs together, and enjoyed fellowship with each other. About 30 people gathered at our home that evening, including Joel, whose wheelchair my husband and his mom managed to get into our backyard so he could join everyone else. Our son Joshua was watching Clifford on his TV, and the young Rosenberger children joined him – it was a sweet time of children being entertained together.

As we gather this summer – let’s take advantage of these opportunities. Ask Jesus – what is your purpose in this gathering? What do you want me to focus on and what might not be so important? Who would you want me to invite? True hospitality needn’t be planned to the last detail. Be available, be willing, be welcoming, be hospitable.

Washed Out Picnic2022-06-17T13:00:42-06:00

The Battle Between

Paul says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

If the battle is not against human beings, why is there so much conflict between us? Why is it so difficult to connect – especially here in Denver?

We have an enemy who dwells in between.

From the beginning, the enemy has caused enmity between God’s beautiful creations (Genesis 4). His questions prompted suspicion. His lies provoked fear. His accusations produced shame. Peter warns faith communities,

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

We have the same enemy in Littleton today.

Specifically in the Denver Metro area, the enemy maximizes on the independent pioneering spirit of the air. We live in the Wild West and just like those pioneers sought after personal riches through challenging adventure and thrill of the unknown, so many flock to this city to independently find their best life now.

This causes major divisions between people. Subconsciously, we constantly evaluate and feel evaluated based on whether others are going to help us on this journey or if they’ll just weigh us down.

The enemy has put so much fear between us that overcoming the battle between us and flourishing community requires dying to pieces of ourselves we 100% believe are helpful and protective.

If we want to join together to overcome the enemy between us, we must kill every voice within that says:

  • “I am my own and responsible to no one”
  • “I got this. I don’t need people”
  • “Everything in my life depends on me, but I don’t have what it takes to do it all”

Friends, these are lies from the pit of hell. If you’re living as if this is true, you are siding with your enemy. Take a few minutes now to get honest about what you’re truly believing about your independence.

If we want to join together to overcome the enemy between us, we must fuel the voice of truth:

  • “I am responsible for the common good of all those around me”
  • “ I need people who are different from me to make me a better human”
  • “Others love me and want the best for my life so I don’t have to do it on my own”

Take a few minutes to imagine your life depending on a beautiful array of friends for community, support, and joy for living.

The Battle Between2022-06-17T12:28:01-06:00

Alone at the Table

‘God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. ‘

Psalms 68:6

I don’t know how you feel about eating alone. Even if you enjoy it occasionally, I suspect you would find yourself lonely as a common occurrence. There is something about being at a table alone that emphasizes loneliness.

Being a part of the church is more than a place to go on Sunday. God’s church family is meant to be a family for those who are alone. That means it provides full tables for the lonely and family for the single. That sounds like a beautiful potential, but it’s more than that.

Have you ever felt lonely even when you rarely eat alone? Perhaps you are around people all the time, and still, you feel alone. Even if you live with others, you can feel this way because proximity is not a guarantee of relationship. There may be more relational fullness when diversity is involved. What do I mean? If all your family and friends are similar, you may miss out on the fullness of God’s plan for you. Most of us naturally gravitate to people who are like us. Spending time with those in the same racial, socioeconomic, political, and occupational circles seems easier.

That is not the vision that God has for his church. Could it be that God’s plan isn’t JUST a plan to care for the outsider and the lonely? Could it be that God designed relationships to be more fulfilling when they are with a cross-section of all peoples? Learning to do that may be challenging, but it is also more rewarding. Maybe there is an aloneness that we feel when we are at a table with only people like us? Find someone who looks and thinks differently than you. Find a way to spend some time with them this week. Ask them about their life; it may help you feel less alone.

Alone at the Table2022-06-17T11:36:18-06:00

Taught a New Way to Pray

There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were blown away. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?”

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs.

“They’re speaking in our mother tongues, describing God’s mighty works!”

That day about three thousand took him [Peter} at his word, and were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, life together, the common meal, and the prayers.
(Acts 2: 1-11, 41-42) The Message Bible

I’ve had experience at retreats where several hundred people were invited to pray out loud simultaneously with each other. It’s quite a sound; praise and petition rising up with many voices as a single unit.

In my research on the way people prayed during the time mentioned in verse 42, that’s what would have happened. The difference? Many languages at the same time instead of mostly one. Quite a sound.

Trying to imagine a time when people walked, maybe hundreds of miles, to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for a feast, in this case, the Feast of Pentecost is hard for us. Also, in our time and culture, it is hard to imagine when all teaching/preaching was oral, with no teaching tools, sound augmentation, or note taking means to aid remembering. Repetition of the message, careful listening, and living examples would be essentials that would enable the pilgrims to take the message and their experiences back to their own country, And that was what took place during the time they were there.

There would be much to teach these people and I am convinced the one thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them would be top priority. And that is how to pray. Luke 11:1 records one of the disciples saying, “Lord teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.” In Matthew 6:5-9, Jesus teaches how not to pray. What Jesus taught in both Luke and Matthew was what we call the, “Lord’s Prayer.” I can imagine how revolutionary it would be for those pilgrims to be taught to pray to God as Father.

This week take some time to imagine what it would be like to be one of the crowd who heard for the first time what Peter and the other apostles were teaching about life in Jesus Christ and how Jesus taught us to pray.

What really tugs my heart; we will spend eternity worshiping with them in the presence of the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit!!

Taught a New Way to Pray2022-06-09T13:25:30-06:00

Breaking of Bread

So much of the Bible revolves around food.

Any Sunday Schooler will be able to tell you what the first sin ever was: Eating. The wrong thing at the wrong time from the wrong tree.

Many of Moses’ laws revolved around what to eat, what not to eat, when, how, where and why to eat. Don’t eat bacon, but do eat unleavened bread during Passover. Eat this bull in the presence of a priest, but don’t eat clams.

A friend pointed out that the Bible is divine comedy: Eating is what doomed mankind to death, but it’s also the means by which we are saved. First the serpent invited Eve to ‘come and eat;’ later it is the phrase Jesus extended to the sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors, and now to us.

Do this in remembrance of me.
Come and eat.
And you probably know how the Bible ends too: With a feast.

Seems like God loves to eat.

Jesus ate too. He is constantly caught at the table with ‘sinners.’ The cool thing is, this isn’t an isolated event that He did once to make a statement. We get the impression that Jesus made a habit of chilling with the societal outcasts. He likely even called many of them His friends.

Even more fascinating, we don’t get the impression that Jesus was a chaperone or missionary-type as He hung out with these people. Luke 7 implies that Jesus was often mistaken for a drunk and a glutton: He ate a lot and drank a lot. He wasn’t a bore to be around.

He didn’t wait for these ‘sinners’ to improve their lives or crawl out of their addictions before he sat and broke bread with them; Jesus moved into their space, where they were, and showed the world that they had value. That they were worth eating with.

So I ask myself: When was the last time I sat with a prostitute or inmate and ate a meal? When was the last time I exited my comfort zone to show someone I care about them? Who is that person for you?

Perhaps you’re the one who feels too dirty, unclean, and sinful to be wanted by the Lord. Let this be a reminder, especially to those of us who feel disgusting in the eyes of God, that Jesus looks at each of us and says, “Come, eat with me.”

He was willing to sacrifice His reputation in the eyes of the religious leaders to show love to the lowest of society. And He does the same to each of us.

This invitation is for the sinners, the broken down and the unworthy, and it extends even to people like us, the addicts, the perfectionists and workaholics.

This feeling of invitation and nearness may be foreign to you. Fortunately, the family of God is enormous and welcoming. The food won’t leave you wanting, nor will the drink leave you thirsty.

Come and eat.

Breaking of Bread2022-06-10T09:21:05-06:00

Dinner and a Show

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 NIV

Dr. Luke often begins a topic with a summary statement and then expounds on one or more of the details included in that statement. He began the book of Acts by describing Jesus, “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit,’” Acts 1:3-5. Luke told us of a gathering, around a meal, where Jesus taught the disciples and encouraged them about the coming Holy spirit.

In Acts 2:42-47 Luke described the day-to-day activities, spiritual practices and the gatherings of the very early Christian church members. He told us – as they gathered together, “Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles,” Acts 2:43. For example, a crippled man was healed by Peter and John in Acts 3:1-11. Luke again summarizes about signs and wonders in Acts 5:12-16. He told us many people were being healed and, “more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number,” Acts 5:14.

Luke goes on to tell us of Phillip’s actions and the results in Acts 8:4-8, and of many priests and others coming to know Jesus as their Messiah in Acts 6:7. The gathering together of the believers, the unity among them, and the way they shared everything with those who were in need is described in detail in Acts 4:32-37. People were attracted to this movement and many came to know Jesus as Messiah.

We also are encouraged to, “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching,” in Hebrews 10:24-25. The gathering together for Fellowship among the early church often accompanied miracles, signs and wonders. The Holy Spirit was present and working in people, then and now. Are you regularly attending a gathering of believers? If not, I encourage you to do that.

Dinner and a Show2022-06-08T14:31:28-06:00

Devoted To Teaching

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in Denver, you’ve heard the Denver Broncos football team has finally acquired a competent quarterback after years of subpar choices. Sportscasters are now sprinkling their commentaries with talk about a potential Super Bowl victory. Every player (a superstar in the making) is being analyzed and their abilities are projected for the coming season.

How does this remind me of the early days of the Church in the book of Acts? Here are some similarities: electric excitement, gathering together for strategy sessions, being wowed by the skills and intelligence of players, shared meals, interviews highlighting how victory has now emerged from defeat, declaring love for being part of the team, and letting interested outsiders know why future glory could arise.

But, just like the Broncos’ formation of a reassembled and newly supplemented team with a bevy of new coaches, most of the early days of the Church in Acts 1 and 2 depict activity prior to facing very formidable opponents – it was still the pre-pre season.

The early Church’s basic activities are described above in Acts 2:42. Are those four elements (teaching, fellowship, common meals, and prayer) a magic formula that will ensure a particular group of believers will win the Church Super Bowl over and over again?

No football player, even if he is a superb athlete, can become polished in his position on a team without devotion to “the playbook” designed by the coaches. Likewise, devotion to Jesus’ teaching is one central feature of the Church that has led to forming a strong body (or team)…a body prepared to successfully meet inevitable opponents.

Sound teaching is essential to building a growing, persevering Church. Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John warned against false teachers and encouraged sound doctrine (Matthew 7:15-20, Acts 20:29, 1 Timothy 6:3, 2 John 1:9, Titus 1:9)…and sometimes stated outright that teaching centered around God’s interests is difficult to maintain.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

…there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them, the way of truth will be blasphemed. (2 Peter 2:1-2)

So a clear understanding of Jesus’ words is one of the main components of a healthy, overcoming Church – one of the ways we host the presence of God in our midst and gain strength to do our part in building the Kingdom of God.

As you prepare to meet with other believers, friends, coworkers, and family this summer, seek ways to “set your table” to welcome the presence and wisdom of our Master and King.

Devoted To Teaching2022-06-08T14:43:39-06:00

Radical Hospitality

‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’ Acts 2:42-47

If you were the creator of the universe, how might you show Hospitality? You might create sunsets. You might create beaches and mountains and flowers. It seems to me that the beauty of creation is a beautiful example of radical Hospitality. If that isn’t enough already, when God sees humanity struggling to thrive, he becomes one of us to save us from ourselves. God isn’t satisfied with watching humanity languish in sin and pain; he entered our experience to rescue us. That is the premier example of radical Hospitality.

God’s radical Hospitality towards humanity is an example, but it is more than that. God shows us what he made us for by living it out himself. The old saying, it is better to give than to receive, isn’t just practical advice; it is our design. We were made to find more joy when we are hospitable than when we are not. When you read the text above, there is something beautiful about it. Even if we are skeptical that the community can sustain such goodness, I think we all long for it. That longing is God’s design in your soul, beckoning you towards God’s way.

Find a way this week to show Hospitality to someone. What does that mean? It simply means making someone feel a bit more comfortable. Help someone feel more at ease. Afterward, evaluate how you feel. Ask yourself, is this a better way of living than if I hadn’t shown Hospitality?

Radical Hospitality2022-06-10T10:08:28-06:00
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