The Movable Feast

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is about who comes to dinner (Luke 14).  Do we just invite our friends and family or do we include those who are marginalized from Christian society. His “ministry strategy” was like a movable feast.   He took “church” with him and ate with people who were not usually welcome to “worship services” in the temple or synagogues.

The strategy that Jesus and the apostles used is worth revisiting.  Jesus followed a very simple strategy.  Most often he taught his disciples in a public place or in a home around a meal.  The apostles followed the same methods, not just for evangelism or missions.   This was how “church” was done for the first 300 years before the state church began building cathedrals and establishing a professional clergy and priesthood.

A Return to Simplicity

The way we structure our church culture is the way our spiritual descendants will reproduce it.  The simpler it is, the more naturally and quickly it will reproduce.   The less it isolates us from the culture around us, the greater the impact upon that culture.

Jesus told us to go and develop disciples and He would build His Church.  We reproduce disciples by revealing the presence and values of the Kingdom in the context of relationships. We invite pre – Christians to follow us as we follow Jesus. We demonstrate discipleship by loving God, loving one another and loving our neighbors. In this way we reproduce disciples who are equipped to reproduce disciples.

Jesus showed his disciples how to reveal the kingdom of heaven to the world.  Then he imparted the Holy Spirit to them and released them to do the same.   His purpose was to model for them a corporate lifestyle which they were to reproduce after he was gone.

“Greet the church which meets in your house” (1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philemon: 2, Rom. 16:5 and so on). Apostolic teams visited house to house and taught them (Acts 20:20). They ate together and hosted the presence of God (Acts 2:42).  “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were saved.” (Acts 2:46-47, 4: 1-4)

Story Time

Jesus’ often told stories around a meal to explain the Kingdom and how it is manifested on earth. His disciples had trouble understanding what he meant by the “Kingdom” because they envisioned an earthly nation of Israel restored to her former glory and sovereignty, with a great king like David or Solomon sitting on the throne in Jerusalem.

Jesus’ teaching didn’t make any sense in that context.  “The kingdom is here.”  “The kingdom is within you.” The “kingdom” is about who you invite to dinner, where you sit at the table, who your neighbor is, where and how you build your house or invest your money.  It has to do with how a farmer sows and harvests his crop, how a shepherd cares for sheep, how fishermen sort their catch, how yeast works in dough, how merchants value pearls and how treasure hunters respond to treasure.

The Kingdom is to be on earth as it is in heaven. He has given us the Kingdom. We are to bring heaven’s values and resources to earth through our relationships, families, communities and work.  The creation longs for this revealing of the children of God.  We are “the light of the world”.  That light must not be hidden behind religious walls but rather placed in full view (lights set on the hills) of family, business, education, government, media, arts, religion, etc.

“They will…

  • Rebuild the ancient ruins,
  • Restore the devastated places and
  • Repair the ruined cities.”    Isaiah 61:4

Each household and social network was potentially an intentional community of disciples.  The life and affairs of the church were concentrated primarily within these groups.  Each group functioned as part of a larger community of groups within a city.

Heads of households hosted the presence of God.  They were not restricted by spiritual gifting,  or gender.  They may not even have been believers yet,  only “men or women of peace”.

The larger community of households was served by selected overseers who provided accountability, coaching and spiritual oversight to the house churches.  These overseers were chosen by the apostolic team from among the household gatherings.

What Happens at a Movable Feast ?  We eat together, pray, sang, worship, heal the sick,  share communion, read and discuss the scriptures.  We intercede and look for “lost sheep”,  love one another, encourage and build each other up in the faith  and cared for the poor.

I suggest that we consider limiting our reliance on frequent large gatherings, large events and stage performances. These can actually slow down the growth and development of disciples if they become too frequent.  Equipping ministries  (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists) should focus on giving away ministry by appointing elders and mentoring overseers, and key leaders.  Keep the groups small, simple and rapidly reproducing.  When they become too large for an average size house, divide the group, open another home and release more people into ministry.

My purpose is not to be critical of the church but to increase her exposure to the world.  The world longs for the revealing of the children of God.  We are “the light of the world”.  That light must not be hidden behind walls but rather placed in full view (lights set on the hills) of  family, business, education, government, media, arts, religion, etc. 

By: John Cooke

The Movable Feast

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The Human Enemy Is Not My Enemy

I was born in China in 1948 to missionary parents. My family was forced to leave China in 1950. The Lisu Chinese pastor who dedicated me to Jesus was later commanded to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. He said that he must obey God rather than men, so they cut out his tongue and said, “Now preach”. He bled to death for his faith.

Pastors, evangelists and teachers were executed or imprisoned. It became illegal to own a Bible or assemble for worship, but the number of believers in Christ grew more than 100 fold over the next 50 years. The testimony of those who are martyred for their faith only serves to strengthen and increase the victory of Jesus in the world. The recent testimonies of Coptic martyrs and their family members in Syria, were filled with expressions of forgiveness from those suffering and grieving.  It is not surprising to discover that the number of Jesus followers is growing faster in the Middle East in the places of greatest persecution, than anywhere else on earth.

This is not just about non-violent resistance, which is a powerful political strategy demonstrated by the wonderful examples of Gandhi, Dr Martin Luther King,  the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela. It is about the testimony of Jesus and His kingdom which “are not of this world” (not about human politics or government). The battle of Christ and His followers is not against evil persons (flesh and blood).  The human “enemy” is not my enemy.

Jesus refused to engage Pilate by resisting the authority of Rome. The Lisu pastor was not resisting Mao or the Peoples Republic.  Jesus’ battlefield is not even between religious systems (such as Islam and Christianity) but against cosmic spiritual wickedness and deception.

As for people, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”.  Here… let me put that ear back on.

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For the Royal Family

I bow my knee before the Father, from whom every family  (or all fatherhood)
in heaven and earth derives its name” (or finds its identity).  Eph 3:14-15 (parentheses mine)
Apparently family and fatherhood are at the center of the universe and fundamental to the administration and government of both heaven and earth. We are not so much governed “by” as governing “with” the Family. Not so much “subjects” of the universal Government as we are heirs and therefore co-administrators.  ​We are  to reign with Him.

The government of the planet is upon our shoulders, (with and in the Name of the Divine Family).   Every name, title and authority has become subject to Him and placed under His feet (and therefore under our feet), who are the fullness of Him who fills everything.  (Eph. 1:22-23).  Where are His shoulders and feet, if not in His Body?   It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.

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Is that really You, God?

Hearing and knowing God’s voice is foundational to discipleship. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them …and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).  The scriptures are full of instructions and corrections to people’s subjective experiences and claims about God. Listen to God’s voice with an open Bible.  Expect God to speak to you when you read the Bible. It functions as an instruction or “Owners” manual to illustrate how people through history have heard God’s voice, what His voice is like and what it is “not” like. They provide an important valuable safety net to the churches tendency to error and deception. I have spent a lifetime reading and studying the scriptures and I love them. I worry about people who say they don’t need the Bible. It has always made me hungry and thirsty to know God for myself the way David and Daniel and Peter and John and Moses and Jesus knew Him. It constantly challenges the poverty of my experience with God and calls me further and deeper and higher. Could we do without the Bible? Yes. Most believers before the invention of the printing press did not have access to the scriptures in their own language.  I have been in remote villages in China where most of the people are following Jesus but there have been no Bibles for more than 50 years. We have the Holy Spirit who inspired the scripture.  He has been given to us to “lead us into all Truth.”  Knowing the scriptures is no substitute for knowing the Author any more than reading a love letter is a substitute for knowing the lover. But why would I want to ignore her letters to me? They help me to know her better.

John Cooke –

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A Tibetan disciple reacted when I introduced myself as a follower of Jesus. He broke into a big smile, “Yes Jesus, the Savior. You know, the Dali Llama has the same Spirit, but in a different body.”  I returned his smile and said, “Me too!”.

Christ in us, is the hope of glory. That God is present with us, that we can know Him and walk with him, know his voice, That Glory is not just about a future glory some day in heaven, but is a revealing of the glory of the incarnation in us and through us.  Not the old humanity fixed but reborn, a new creation (or race) mirroring the likeness of Christ, templing the Shekinah.  As Christ was, so are we to be in the world.

John Cooke –

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Trumping Karma

It is commonly taught that in order to preach the Gospel we must convince people of their sins and that they are “sinners”.  The real problem, however, is broken relationship with the Source. Sin is merely a symptom. The amazing glad news of great joy is that Sin no longer stands between God and us. The Lamb has taken away the sins of the world! God has reconciled the world through the work of the cross. New Testament preaching is not railing against sin and sinners. Jesus (representing the heart of the Father) did not come to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.  Therefore, neither should we condemn the world.  As far as God is concerned, since the cross, sin is a non-issue. It has been completely dealt with at the cross. Repent means to change the way you think. You are now free to Know your Creator and walk with Him in His Kingdom. Oh, and by the way, “sin” shall not be a problem for you!

The primary Problem is broken relationship with the Creator our Father.  In the first place relationship was broken because of a deception, believing a lie. This is the real problem. Romans 1:21 describes this process very well.  “Even though we knew God we broke relationship with Him, which resulted in our thinking becoming futile and our hearts unenlightened”  (paraphrase mine).  This breaking of relationship with the Father is the primary Sin resulting in many actions called “sins”.

I do not say that Sin and sins are a non-issue from our perspective.  Apart from restored relationship with God through the Savior’s work on the cross, sin will work death in us and through us. There are consequences. Damage is done in us, in others and to the planet (which groans under the weight of a humanity out of relationship with the Creator).

What I am saying is, that from The Father’s perspective, our sin is no longer standing between us and Him. The Lamb of God has taken the barrier away. The door is wide open. Everything that was against us has been nailed to the cross. All humanity is welcome. Whoever will may come! As far as He is concerned we have been reconciled to God and He has given us the authority to proclaim that reconciliation to all humanity; to declare forgiveness with authority.

So, you may ask, what stands in our way? Not the Father. It is our false ways of thinking, what we believe that needs to change. That is why believing in Him and the wonderful Good News is so powerful. To believe Him requires a change of thinking (and that is repentance). This is the only way to trump “karma”. Be reconciled to restored intimate relationship with your Creator.

Some have expressed concern that this sounds like “universal salvation”, that everyone will be saved. From God’s perspective it is obviously universally available, as I have stated above.  We have the authority to offer it to all. As to who believes and enters into the Kingdom, that is not my call.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “All this is from God who reconciled us to God through Christ…that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ… not counting men’s sins against them.”

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Jesus, the Way to Know the Father

Jesus said, “If you really knew me you would know my Father as well.”  (John 14:6-7)  In other words, the way to know Father is by knowing Jesus.  Jesus is the most accurate image of the invisible God.  The Son unveils or reveals the Father.  So, we know the Father by knowing the Son.  “If you have seen me you have seen the Father…  I and my Father are One”.

The idea that the Gospel is primarily about Salvation from Hell, and a ticket to Heaven when we die, misses the point.  The Good news is about relationship with God in whom we were designed to “live and move and have our Being”.  Without knowing Him we will continue dying like fish out of water, falling short of our intended humanity as sons and daughters of the Father,  mirrors of God’s image.  Jesus shows us what the Father is like and what it means to be fully human. The New Birth allows us to “see the Kingdom of Heaven” now,  not just enter heaven when we die .  Eternal life is not just about what we experience after death, but an Eternal Source of life that begins by knowing the Father in this life as well as the next. The Kingdom of Heaven has come near to us, is within us, on earth as it is in heaven.

Have you ever wondered how the Creator can truthfully say, “I never knew you”  to anyone He has created.  I thought He knows everything about us, even how many hairs are on our head?  Perhaps that’s because we western thinkers tend to mistake knowledge about  someone for relationship with someone. When the scriptures speak of knowing a truth or a person they mean knowing by experience or by relationship.  When the Creator says,  “I never knew you” He means we never had a relationship!   So, we can only know the Father and His Son by relationship.  Without “knowing” the Father we continue dying, cut off from the Eternal Source of life.  If you want to know the Father, get to know Jesus.  You will become Family, a son or a daughter of the Creator.  You share the same DNA as Father and son.  You will find out who you are.

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