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A Prayer for Our Nation and Churches

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I offered a prayer before my sermon that interceded for our nation and churches in the midst of the current tensions. A number of people asked me if I could post it, so here it is:

Lord our God, you are the King of kings,
And the Lord of lords.
You are the God who holds together
Grace and truth,
Justice and righteousness,
Holiness and mercy.

At this time, we ask for your restoration
In our individual lives and in our land.
Bring Your grace as a healing balm to us;
Let Your truth uproot falsehood and prejudice;
Uphold Your true justice in our nation for all people;
And may Your righteousness strengthen us for good.
In Your purity and holiness stand strong in our midst, O Lord,
Yet do not fail to pour out mercy upon us
For, as the Scripture says,
we are poor and needy.

Especially on this day,
We grieve together with our African-American brother and sisters
Who sense that things are not as they should be in our nation.
We know that all people have been made
In Your image and are precious in Your sight.
Lord, give us grace to live in that way today,
That all might enjoy the common grace You have given
Without fear of prejudice or distrust.

We particularly pray for the African-American men
In our nation, city and church,
That You would protect them from all harm,
Give powerful grace over their daily lives
That they might grow as mighty men of God.

We also pray for help and great grace
for those in positions of authority,
and particularly those who are in law enforcement
That they would find mercy and strength
In the midst of their challenging jobs,
Particularly, in times of need.

As Jesus prayed, we ask that
You Make us one, Lord, as you are one;
Protect us from the divisions
which the evil seeks to open into wide gulfs.

May our church be a light to the city and nation
Showing that Jesus changes everything.

And now, Lord, lead us into Your truth
As we draw near to Your word.
For in You alone is our hope,
Strength, joy, and peace.

May I decrease, Lord,
So that You might increase.
Occupy our minds, our hearts, and our attention –
We have come here today to meet with You,
The Living God.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2014 in prayers

 

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What the Church and Pastors Need to Learn from Ferguson

Chris Brooks & Matt EricksonThis blog post is co-authored by Chris Brooks and Matt Erickson. 

As I watched things unfold in Ferguson recently, I felt a surging of different thoughts and feelings within me. There was a mixture of sadness and fear, anger and helplessness, and my mind raced to come to terms with what this means not only for our nation but for the church. I’m a pastor of a multiethnic church in Milwaukee. Our church has been a community that is diverse ethnically, socio-economically, politically, and in other ways. As I sat and watched the events and all that has followed since, I wondered, “what is required of the people of God when such difficult and painful things grip our nation?”

As I have reflected since that painful evening last week, I have reached some preliminary conclusions. Let me suggest the following things we need to do as Christians, and a few action steps specifically for church leaders in light of the events of this past week and the ongoing national dialog.

1. Humble yourself: A posture of humility allows you to hear God’s voice above the political commentators and the ungodly opinions of this fallen world. In this situation, humility means that we are willing to step beyond our own desires, fears, and pride to consider things from God’s perspective and desires.

2. Think theologically: This is not just a social issue, this is a theological issue.  God created all of humankind in His image, yet not all are necessarily treated as “image bearers.”  This should cause unrest and lead to repentance within our Churches and Christian Institutions. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2014 in Issues and Theology, Multiethnic Church

 

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All I Want is a New Beginning (discussion questions)

All I Want for Christmas Series Gfx_Web AdHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “All I Want for Christmas is a New Beginning,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This was the second part of our series “All I Want for Christmas.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. As we continue our series, “All I Want for Christmas,” this weekend, we will study Isaiah 61:1-11. Whether on your own or with a small group, take a moment to begin with prayer, asking God to speak through your study of the Scripture. Next, read that Bible passage out loud.
  2. Background: In the 8th century B.C., the people of Israel and Judah were exiled from their homeland to Babylon. A good portion of the land, as well as the religious and political center of Jerusalem, lay in ruins. Scripture tells us that God exiled the people as punishment for their disobedience to Him as expressed in the covenant at Mount Sinai. The prophet Isaiah addresses these exiled people with a message of hope and new beginnings.
  3. Within Isaiah 40-66, there are four major ‘servant songs’ that speak of how a servant of the Lord, perhaps an individual or the people of Israel together, will suffer while also bringing a revelation of God to the world (see Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-9; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12). Isaiah 61:1-3, is often grouped with these as conveying a message from a servant-Messiah sent by God. Describe this servant-Messiah’s job and message as outlined in verses 1-3?
  4. How do you think Isaiah’s promise of such a figure would impact the Israelite people exiled in Babylon?
  5. In contrast to the destruction and plundering Israel had experienced, Isaiah speaks a strong message of restoration in verses 4-6. What are the elements of this message? How might this change Israel’s view of their losses, as well as their relationship with surrounding nations?
  6. In Isaiah 61:3 and 7, as well as 60:17, God promises to exchange a certain set of things for another set of things for His people. What sort of exchange does He promise and to what extent does it go?
  7. Where in your own life do you long for God to make such a great exchange? How might you pursue that today?
  8. What does verse 8 say about the character of God?
  9. Verses 10 & 11 describe a life powerfully transformed by God’s touch. What does it look like? Where have you experienced God’s touch in this way in your own life?
  10. In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus reads Isaiah 61 to launch His public ministry in Galilee. Read that section of Scripture aloud. How would you say that Jesus fulfills what we read in Isaiah 61:1-11?
  11. What is one thing you will take away from this study about new beginnings? If you are alone, share that with someone this week. If you are with a small group, take some time to discuss these things with one another. Close in prayer.
 
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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Eastbrook, Scripture reflections

 

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All I Want for Christmas is a New Beginning

All I Want for Christmas Series Gfx_Web AdWhen I was a kid, one of my favorite type of books to read was the “choose your own adventure” type. There wasn’t really a story line because you had the option to make decisions in the midst of the book. When you came face to face with a monster on page 7, you could decide to either fight the oncoming monster (turn to page 22) or run away (turn to page 37). Many times, I found myself wanting to turn back the pages and begin again after a bad decision.

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church I continued our series “All I Want for Christmas” by looking at the new beginnings God gives us. In Isaiah 61:1-11, the prophet speaks about the hope of a Messiah to come who brings new beginnings.

You can view a video of the message and the accompanying outline below. You can listen to the message via our audio podcast here. You can also view all the messages from the “All I Want for Christmas” series here. Connect with us further at Eastbrook Church on VimeoFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

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Posted by on December 14, 2014 in Communication, Eastbrook

 

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All I Want is Some Good News (discussion questions)

All I Want for Christmas Series Gfx_Web AdHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “All I Want for Christmas is Some Good News,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This was the second part of our series “All I Want for Christmas.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Name a time in your life when you received some good news right when you needed it. What was happening at that point? What was the good news?
  2. This weekend at Eastbrook, we continue our series “All I Want for Christmas” by looking at Isaiah 40:1-11. In preparation, ask God to speak to you through your study of the Scripture and then read that Bible passage aloud.
  3. Background: Isaiah was a prophet in the 8th century B.C., speaking to the people of Judah (southern part of Israel) during times of great pressure. Surrounding nations were threatening them, and eventually many were exiled into Babylon. The book of Isaiah is divided into two major sections. Chapters 1-39 speak to the judgment on God’s people and chapters 40-66 speak to the restoration God will eventually bring. Chapter 40 begins the second major section aimed at bringing hope for God’s people based on His direct and personal intervention.
  4. Isaiah 40:1-11 contains three sections built around ‘voices’ – or people – speaking into specific situations (see verses 1-2, 3-5, and 6-8). How would you summarize what the first voice is saying in verses 1-2? Why would this message be important in the midst of a difficult situation like the exile?
  5. The second ‘voice’ in verses 3-5 speaks about God’s personal intervention in a crooked and wild place. What is the significance of this message and why might it be good news in Isaiah’s time?
  6. Verse 5 highlights the glory of God revealed so all people will see it. This is one of the few Old Testament passages referenced by nearly all of the Gospel writers (see Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:1-3; Luke 3:4-6). If Isaiah was foretelling God’s future comfort, what are the Gospel writers trying to tell us by mentioning it?
  7. In verses 6-8, the third ‘voice’ tells the prophet to cry out. What is the message the prophet is given? Why would this be a meaningful announcement for a people exiled at the hands of another powerful nation?
  8. This passage culminates in verses 9-11, which focus on bringing good news that is centered in God’s revelation. What is the message here about God and why is it good news?
  9. In response to this study, consider the good news God has spoken to you. How has it changed you? Now consider the good news God brings in Jesus Christ for others. Who in your life most needs to hear the true message about Christ this season? What is God calling you into this year? If you are alone, write it down somewhere so you can think about it further this week. If you are with a small group, take some time to discuss these things with one another. Close in prayer.

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Posted by on December 9, 2014 in Eastbrook, Scripture reflections

 

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All I Want for Christmas is Some Good News

All I Want for Christmas Series Gfx_Web AdIn our world, nation and even our personal lives, we hear all sorts of distressing news. In the midst of that, it sure seems like we could all use some good news.

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church I continued our series “All I Want for Christmas” by looking at the good news that comes to us from God. The prophet Isaiah speaks good news to the people of Israel in the midst of their exile in Isaiah 40:1-11. That same news is made even more real for us today through Jesus Christ.

In the middle of the message, I addressed some of the current tensions in our nation around racial disparities and police accountability. It was Martin Luther King, Jr., who referenced Isaiah 40 in the midst of his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963 (you can watch the speech here). The dream is alive, but tarnished today. Still, there is no place where the dream of people coming together across racial lines should be more evident than in God’s people, the church, living into the dream of Revelation 7:9, ” a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

You can view a video of the message and the accompanying outline below. You can listen to the message via our audio podcast here. You can also view all the messages from the “All I Want for Christmas” series here. Connect with us further at Eastbrook Church on VimeoFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Communication, Eastbrook

 

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Living Between Advents: Immanuel through Terror!

Matt Erickson:

A friend and colleague in ministry, Francis Omondi, shared this post recently in response to the tensions in northeastern Kenya over the last few weeks. Francis powerfully brings together the longing of Advent with the challenges of terror attacks. It is well worth the read.

Originally posted on waanglicana:

Living Between Advents: Immanuel by Rev. canon francis Omondi

We are called to live between Advents. Christ’s first coming which we celebrate every Christmas (First Advent) should give us a great sense of preparedness for the Second Advent. Meanwhile the Advent promise should sustain us in the in-between period with its great pressures. Here is the promise: God is with us, so that we might live. God is with us, so that we might believe. God is with us, because it is hard to believe, and God knows it!

We come into this year’s Advent season grieving. The brutal killing on Saturday 22nd November of 28 people and again on Tuesday 2nd December of 36 Christians in Mandera at the hands of Alshabaaab has shocked and frightened us. Here were Christians who had selflessly served the Muslim community, giving essential services mainly in education and health, whose dream of joining…

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Posted by on December 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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