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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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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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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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The Slippery Slope of Peacemaking

In my message this past weekend on working through conflict in relationships, I mentioned the “slippery slope of peacemaking” developed by Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker and Resolving Everyday Conflict. There are a variety of ways we can respond to conflict in our lives. Sande highlights a spectrum of dealing with conflict and seeking peace. The the top of the slope is where we want to be in proactively dealing with conflict by making peace. The extremes are the tendencies we move toward as we slip off the path of pursuing peace in our conflicts.

slope

I summarized Sande’s “slippery slope” around three ideas:

1. Peace-faking by avoiding or escaping conflict. This is typified in the life of Jacob who steals his brother’s birthright, deceives his father and then flees from the conflict by hiding with his uncle, Laban (see Genesis 28). The problem with avoiding or escaping from conflict is that, except in extreme circumstances, it puts us into greater difficulties than before and we still have to deal with the conflict in the end.

2. Peace-breaking by attacking others in response to conflict. We find this in brunt reality when Cain is incensed by God’s favor toward his brother Abel. In rage, he kills his brother Abel instead of actually trying to work through the tensions with Abel or with God (see Genesis 4).

3. Peace-making by choosing a pathway toward resolving conflict and bringing deep peace. This happens when we live into the realities of the gospel of peace (see Ephesians 2) and make the statement of James our motto: “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” ( (James 3:18).

You can read a much more detailed description of the slippery slope at Ken Sande’s web-site here.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Relationships

 

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Working through Conflict in Relationships (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message on working through conflict in relationships from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church as part of our series on relationships entitled “Made for It.”

Discussion Questions:

1.     When was a time that you faced tremendous conflict in relationships? How did you resolve it? If it didn’t resolve, then what did you do?

2.     As we conclude our series, “Made for It,” we are entering the messy waters of conflict in relationships. Before you begin your study, ask God to speak to you through your study of the Scripture.

3.     In Genesis the purity of the Garden of Eden is quickly tarnished by sin and evil. Read Genesis 3 and 4. Reflect on why and how conflict erupts in these first few chapters of the Bible? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2014 in Eastbrook, Scripture reflections

 

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||40days|| week six: live in peace

Have you ever felt worried or distressed? Right, I know, that’s a ridiculous question because we have all felt worry and distress. Today, as we continue our ||40days|| journey, we want to follow Jesus into a life marked by peace. The Bible is not far away from these real experiences of our lives. In fact, the writer of Psalm 4 expresses thoughts we all could likely relate to:

Answer me when I call to You, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. (Psalm 4:1)

Where do you turn to find peace in these times? Often, we turn to friends or family for support, or look to distractions like television or reading a book. In Psalm 4, we are directed in another way. the psalmist instructs us in the way we should turn in our distress.

God’s Strong Presence
First of all, the psalmist shows us to whom we should turn. ‘Of course,’ you might say, ‘you are going to say that I should turn to God.’ Yes, that is true, but it is not enough of the truth in this case. The psalmist says that Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Discipleship

 

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