[Fires Burning Brightly] The Great Invitation

Priming the Pump

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.” – Psalm 23.5 NASB

What if we approached the Good News of the Kingdom like it was an invitation to a HUGE BANQUET with all the best things that would satisfy our deepest longings and desires?

What if we realized that it is our mandate to go to the poor, crippled, blind and lame in the city as well as into the highways and along the hedges to the masses participating in the GREAT INVITATION?

The Banquet Is Prepared.

In Luke 14, Jesus tells a parable of a man who planned to give a large banquet and when the time came for the invited guests to arrive, they were all busy and distracted with other things which were more important and declined to attend.  Interestingly, this parable came on the heels of another regarding guests choosing seats of honor at the table vs. allowing the host of the feast to exalt them and bring honor in due time.  Right after which, one guest proclaimed, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God,” leading into the parable of the banquet.

Now, let’s keep in mind that both of these parables were told at the same party around the same table to the same guests.  However, telling stories is not the first thing that we see Jesus do upon arrival at this particular home on the Sabbath.  First, we see him healing a man.  Just like the time that he healed the man’s withered hand in the Synagogue (Mark 3.1-6), the Pharisees were watching to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, which, in their estimation was unlawful.  In fact, they were as legalistic about this as with anything, to the extent which, in the rabbinical writings we find,

“if a man has an ailment in his throat, he might not gargle it with oil (for the purpose of healing), but he might swallow a large quantity of oil and, if he is healed, he is healed”

RIDICULOUS.

But I digress…

As I was saying, if we look at these parables together along with the occasion immediately preceding, we find that it all flows toward one common point.  The banquet IS NOW, don’t miss it.  The Kingdom IS HERE.  Put away your preconceived notions and see.  Humble yourselves and repent of your stiff-necked religious ways.  All of your posturing and religious success will profit you nothing.  Cease from your striving.  Instead, sit with me and eat.  Be satisfied.

The Now and Not-Yet. 

The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t something that we’re waiting for or working to be a part of.  It’s not something which we will eventually enter into when we roll up our “earthly tent”.  Rather, the Kingdom is within us by nature of the fact that we belong to the King.  And yet, there is a future fulfillment that we look forward to.

I think the same is true with this banquet that the Lord has prepared.  It is now…and it is not yet.  Right now, it is laid out.  We can come, eat, drink and be satisfied.  All of our deepest longings and desires can be met reclining at the table with Jesus.  Though, we know that one day we’ll be with Him and see Him face to face.

It is important to point out that when we talk of such things we can never allow the “not-yet” to negate the “now.”  What I mean is that we cannot allow the “not-yet” to create a theology around not seeing everything that we are promised in the “now”.  That, friends, is foolishness.

Go, therefore.

Going back to the parable of the dinner in Luke 14, the mandate for you and I is simple.  GO THEREFORE…

  • proclaim that the feast is prepared and all are invited
  • offer a sampling of what is already at the table
  • reflect the character and culture of the host

[Fires Burning Brightly] Reckless & Extravagant

Priming the Pump

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you.  Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”  – Isaiah 60.1-3 NASB

Are we, as God has indicated here, shining as the sun at the dawn of a new day bringing light which dispels the darkness?

God’s is calling us to be FIRES BURNING BRIGHTLY, a sacramental people through which the world is able to see and encounter Him.  His presence, His glory, His goodness, everything that is Him, that is what we are meant to reflect.  Essentially, we’re receivers and responders.  Mirrors, conduits, vessels, whatever term you like, it all boils down to the same bottom line.  There is a Presence in me that is not of me.  Yet, this is no impersonal “force” that bends to my will.  This “Presence” is the person of the One True God, the King, the Creator and Sustainer of all and He commands that I “bend” to His will and join in His agenda.  He is wooing me, forming me, transforming me, sculpting me as it were into His own image.  And as amazing as all of that is, the thing that really blows my mind is that He doesn’t give up on me.  And not only that, but He actually still continues to use me in spite of all of my short-comings and inadequacies.

Friends, let me be clear.  I am in many, many ways, a complete mess.  I am a work in progress in need of lots of extra attention and fine tuning.  I fall short of the mark in so many ways that it makes me dizzy to think about it.  But the hope that I am being re-imaged to look like my Father exists outside of my behavior and even outside of my mental comprehension of that truth.  As such, this hope is not sullied in the slightest way by my momentary failures.  He just keeps giving and giving.  He doesn’t seem to run out and He doesn’t seem to grow weary.  You might say that God is reckless and extravagant with His blessings.

definitions.
reck·less
ˈrekləs
adjective
1: marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences.

ex·trav·a·gant
ikˈstravəɡənt
adjective
1: lacking in moderation, balance, and restraint

imitators.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children…” – Ephesians 5.1a NASB

We are called to be like Him – givers; reckless, extravagant givers.  Yet, I find sometimes that I withhold the blessings of the Kingdom because I feel I may not have enough or that the intended recipient is undeserving in some way.

But, what do I have that our Father has not given?  And if He is the Source and is calling me to pour out that which He has given, can I run out?  Furthermore, what do any of us really deserve from God?  Am I deserving in any way other than the fact that the Giver has declared me to be so?  The blessings of the Kingdom are richly and abundantly being poured out on me as His beloved child.  So, how should I in turn approach pouring out those same blessings on the world around me?

  • peace and joy
  • mercy
  • forgiveness
  • hope
  • provision
  • healing
  • reconciliation and restoration

Our Father is calling us to be reckless and extravagant with the blessings of the Kingdom, as we’re called to be givers just like Him, the Ultimate Giver.  How will you respond?