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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 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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Unity – the driving aim in Jesus’ prayer

2014-11-13 13.14.09A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting the Middle East, in order to spend time with some friends and church partners there. Jordan is one of the most stable countries in the midst of a particularly turbulent region, thanks to a variety of factors, including . Even though the Christian population of Jordan is less than 3% of the entire nation, the relative stability of Jordan gives tremendous opportunities for the church and individual Christians to touch the lives of those who are seeking refuge in their country.

In one part of the country, where refugees are spilling over the border from neighboring Syria and Iraq, I witnessed a number of people and groups from various backgrounds working together. The needs are massive, but the total amount of work being done was much larger than what one person or group could do on its own.

It is amazing what happens when people come together to serve a great need with greater unity. Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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All I Want for Christmas

All I Want for Christmas Series Gfx_4x3 Title

Beginning this weekend, November 29/30, we begin a new series at Eastbrook entitled “All I Want for Christmas.” Christmas is a time when many of us begin to write down what we hope to acquire. Sometimes we write down simple lists of gift ideas, but other times we begin to write more serious lists of personal needs or world hopes. In the church year, Advent is a time of anticipation and expectation leading up to the Messiah’s arrival that focuses some of our strongest hopes and desires through the word of the prophets. So, what are you really waiting for this year?

November 29/30 [1st weekend of Advent] - “All I Want Is for God to Show Up”

December 6/7 [2nd weekend of Advent] – “All I Want is Some Good News”

December 13/14 [3rd weekend of Advent] – “All I Want is a New Beginning”

December 20/21 [4th weekend of Advent] – “All I Want is Someone to Believe In”

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2014 in Communication, Eastbrook

 

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Models of Evangelism

crossroadsToday at our ministry staff meeting at Eastbrook Church, we talked broadly about the topic of evangelism. We watched a video from the Exponential 2014 conference by Rick Richardson on six models of evangelism seen in 20th and 21st century evangelicalism:

  1. Evangelism as proclamation – exemplified in the life and ministry of Billy Graham
  2. Evangelism as discipleship – exemplified in the life and ministry of Dawson Trotman
  3. Evangelism as acts of service, justice, compassion and peace – exemplified in the life and ministry of John Perkins
  4. Evangelism as the demonstration of God’s power- exemplified in the life and ministry of John Wimber
  5. Evangelism as church planting and church growth – exemplified in the life and ministry of Bill Hybels
  6. Evangelism as the counter-cultural life of the alternative community – exemplified in the life and ministry of Shane Claiborne

Rick suggests that these six models of evangelism are mutually complementary and necessary in the life of the church, and that they can be traced throughout the 2,000 years of the church’s existence.

We had a fascinating discussion of which models we appreciate and which are harder to appreciate for each of us. We also wrestled with the fact that these are predominantly Western models and examples.

That being said, it was a helpful picture of what we want to do.

After that, we spent time studying how Jesus engaged evangelistically in His encounters with people from list below. We noted that Jesus: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2014 in Ministry Reflections

 

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Vision Weekend at Eastbrook Church

This weekend at Eastbrook Church was the kick-off of our ministry year and I took the opportunity to refocus us on Jesus and our vision as a church. Our vision statement is:

To proclaim and embody the love of Jesus Christ in the city and in the world.

Along with that, we are focusing on six priorities (see below) with two focus words for the year: deep and wide.

The outline and video file for the message is below. You can listen to the message via our audio podcast here. You can also visit Eastbrook Church on VimeoFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

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Posted by on September 7, 2014 in Communication, Eastbrook, Uncategorized

 

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The Unselfish Way of Jesus

No one should seek their own good, but the good of others….I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:24, 33; 11:1)

The Apostle Paul’s theme in this section is the importance of thoughtfully seeking the good of others in our actions. We are not to selfishly pursue an individualistic good in what we do or how we live. This is Paul’s example, which he learned from Christ. The way of Jesus is the unselfish way.

Jesus’ Selfless Example
First, it is important to grasp Jesus’ selfless example. He endured the Cross for the joy set before Him, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God’s throne (Hebrews 12:2). He did this so that He could bring many people into the glorious family of God. Jesus’ aim was to lead many to Himself by laying down His life. He aimed for a greater, selfless goal and we, too, should live selflessly for the greater aim of God’s purposes in this world and our lives.

Letting Go of Individualistic Good
At times this means, secondarily, that we must forego some apparent ‘goods’ that come into conflict with the good of others. For the believers in Corinth this meant considering certain freedoms they enjoyed, such as the eating of meals, in light of how those freedoms would effect others and their life of faith. When we see that certain actions or ways of living that we enjoy are inhibiting others from experiencing God, then we must reconsider what we are doing or how we are living. With that consideration in view, we may even need to let go of those actions or ways of life either temporarily or permanently. This, of course, flies in the face of self-actualization or the pursuit of total freedom so strongly promoted in our world today. In God, our grace-given freedom is a liberation from sin into a new sort of life characterized by God’s truth and righteousness. That way in God does not release us from all the demands of others but intricately binds us together with others under God.

Should We Seek Ill for Ourselves?
Third, we must understand that seeking the good of others does not mean seeking ill for ourselves. Pursuing ill for ourselves is not helpful for anyone. Without a doubt we may face trials and endure hardship in life, but seeking the good of others must also include good for ourselves. Paul’s words here are aimed at a sort of godless selfishness which does not take into account the lives of others. He is not asking the Corinthians – or us – to set aside helpful self-awareness or self-care. It is important that we move beyond guilt-ridden lies from the evil one that say any thought of ourselves is selfish and not honoring to God. It is important to note that the interpersonal element of the ‘Great Commandment’ given by Jesus reads: “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

The equation here means acknowledging what we would like to seek for ourselves, yet placing it on the table of consideration with the needs of others before God’s caring and purposeful eye. Ultimately, we must say with our Savior, “Lord, not my will, but Yours be done.” Then we move forward, like Jesus, for the joy set before us in obedience to God with appropriate love for others in the unselfish way.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2014 in Discipleship

 

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