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A Prayer by St. Augustine

Saint_Augustine_PortraitAs I was reading St. Augustine’s Confessions this morning, I stumbled into this prayer at the end of Book 4, Part 16. The words were striking, powerful, and tender, so I thought I’d share them :

O Lord our God, let the shelter of your wings give us hope. Protect us and uphold us. You will be the Support that upholds us from childhood till the hair on our heads is grey. When you are our strength we are strong, but when our strength is our own we are weak. In you our good abides for ever, and when we turn away from it we turn to evil. Let us come home at last to you, O Lord, for fear that we be lost. For in you our good abides and it has no blemish since it is yourself. Nor do we fear that there is no home to which we can return. We fell from it; but our home is your eternity and it does not fall because we are away.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Books and Quotations

 

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Abide (discussion questions)

Chosen Words Series Gfx_4x3 TitleHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Abide,” on John 15:1-17 from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This continues the series, “Chosen Words,” where we will journey through John 13-17 over the next number of weeks.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Spring is almost here! What plants do you most look forward to seeing as Spring returns? Why?
  2. This week we continue our series, “Chosen Words,” by looking at Jesus’ words about abiding or remaining in God from John 15:1-17. Before you read this passage of Scripture aloud, take a moment to ask God to speak to you as you read His word.
  3. Jesus picks up the extended agricultural metaphor of the vine and branches bearing fruit in this passage. This image is used throughout Scripture, often to describe the people of God, as seen in Psalm 80:8-19 and Isaiah 5:1-5. Jesus takes the image a slightly different direction here. What does he say the vine, branches, and gardener represent?
  4. One clear theme of this passage is the concept of bearing fruit. Take a moment to notice how often the word ‘fruit’ appears in this passage. What do you think Jesus mean by ‘bearing fruit’ in this passage?
  5. Would you describe yourself as someone who bears fruit for God? Why or why not?
  6. In verse 4, Jesus says: “neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” If bearing fruit is directly tied to ‘remaining’ – or ‘abiding’ or ‘staying put’ – in Jesus, what does Jesus specifically mean by remaining in Him from this passage?
  7. Jesus emphasizes love when He says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (vs 9). What do you think this means? What sort of love is Jesus talking about?
  8. How have you cultivated the life of remaining or abiding in Christ? Are there specific spiritual practices that help you with this?
  9. Jesus offers some very specific requests near the end of this passage: ‘love each other as I have loved you’ (vs 12), ‘you are my friends if you do what I command’ (vs 13), ‘so that you might go and bear fruit’ (v 16). How do you think this call to action connects with the call to remain in love?
  10. What is one specific thing that God is speaking to you through this study? How will that shape your life in the coming week? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone.

[Next week we continue our series, “Chosen Words,” by exploring Jesus’ words about overcoming difficulty in John 15:18-25 and 16:16-33. Read that portion of Scripture ahead of time.]

 
 

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Listening to God in Prayer

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I spoke from Genesis 18:16-33 about the prayer of faith in a message entitled “Praying in the Midst of Promises and Problems.” One of the five types of prayer that I mentioned from that passage was the prayer of listening to God. One aspect of this passage from Abraham’s story in Genesis is that God reveals His plans for Sodom and Gomorrah.

When we pray, we often voice our needs to God but one important aspect of faith-filled prayer is listening to God. Listening to God enables us to enter into agreement with God and His purposes.

But one question all of us ask is: how do we listen to God?

davidpicDavid Bryant, a leader in prayer movements and prolific author on the topic of prayer, speaks to this in his book With Concerts of Prayer. In that book, Bryant encourages us to listen to God in four specific ways (page 200). I shared these in my message this past weekend and wanted to post them here so people could return to them:

  1. Study the Scriptures – Familiarize yourself with the mind, heart, and character of God through His inspired word. This is the foundation stone and basis for our life of prayer. When we listen to God in Scripture, what we pray for, the way we pray, and our expectations of the answers to prayer are brought into alignment with God.
  2. Be aware of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in your life – All who come to Jesus Christ by faith are now temples of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us and strengthens us for daily life with God. Because of this, we need to grow in awareness and responsiveness to the Holy Spirit’s activity in our lives. As we listen to the Holy Spirit in us, we begin to grow in awareness of how God is at work, which inspires our prayers.
  3. Learn what God is doing in the world today – Some of the most powerful movements of God happening today, are happening off the radar and in unexpected ways. When we pay attention to what God is doing around the world, it shapes not only how we live, but also how we pray. It lifts us into a greater awareness of what God is doing and how we can talk to Him about it.
  4. Talk to others about what you want to say to God – It is common to pray with others, but it is important to also talk to others about what we want to talk to God about. When we share our approach and thoughts about prayer with others, we also enter into a listening relationship that leads us closer to the heart of God with others.

A necessary tool for the journey of faith is a prayer that agrees with God through listening to His plans for all situations.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Discipleship, prayers

 

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Praying in the Midst of Promises and Problems (discussion questions)

Faith Life Series Gfx_4x3 TitleHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Praying in the Midst of Promises and Problems,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This was the seventh part of our series “Faith Life.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you define ‘prayer’? Do you find it easy or hard to pray? Why?
  2. As we continue our “Faith Life” series on the life of Abraham this week, we will look at Genesis 18:16-33. Ask God to speak to you before your read this chapter of Genesis aloud.
  3. Earlier in Genesis 18, we find God meeting with Abraham and Sarah in the form of three travelers en route to Sodom and Gomorrah. Beginning in 18:16, two of the travelers continue on as God lingers to speak with Abraham. In verses 17-19, God reflects aloud to Himself about whether He should speak to Abraham about what is in store for Sodom and Gomorrah or not. What does God decide and why does He choose this?
  4. In verses 20 and 21, we find that an ‘outcry’ that has arisen against Sodom and Gomorrah to God. This outcry is likely the voices of the wronged rising up to God. What were the wrongs of Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 13:13; 18:20-21; 19:1-14; Isaiah 1:10-17; 3:8-9; Jeremiah 23:13-14; Ezekiel 16:49-50)? What do you think it means that God hears this outcry?
  5. Abraham begins a bold conversation with God in verses 22-25 that almost seems like haggling or bargaining. Take note of the questions Abraham asks God in these verses. What is Abraham asking of God and how does that relate to God’s character?
  6. When have you entered into a time of prayer that felt like a sort of haggling of pleas with God? What happened?
  7. Through verses 25-32, it is interesting to note that Abraham is not merely pleading for Lot’s protection, but for entire cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. What does this teach us about the way we approach intercessory prayer?
  8. What is one way you could tangibly respond to what God is speaking to you about your own life of faith through this week’s study? If you are on your own, make a plan to put it into action. If you are with a group, take some time to discuss this with one another.

[Next week we will look at God’s fulfillment of His promises with the birth of Isaac and its impact upon Ishmael in Genesis 21:1-21.Read that passage ahead of time to prepare for the study.]

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2014 in Eastbrook, Scripture reflections

 

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Praying in the Midst of Promises and Problems

Faith Life Series Gfx_16x9 Title

What does faith-filled prayer look like?

That was the central question I set out to answer this past weekend as I continued our “Faith Life” series at Eastbrook Church. Drawing upon Genesis 18:16-33, I outlined five types of faith-filled prayer that we see in this wonderfully entrancing dialogue between God and Abraham.

You can watch the video for the sermon and follow along with the sermon outline that is also included below.

You could listen to the message via our audio podcast here. You can access the entire series of messages from the “Faith Life” series here. You can also visit Eastbrook Church on VimeoFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2014 in Communication, Eastbrook

 

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Listening to God

Faith Life Series Gfx_16x9 TitleAs a response to my message this past weekend on Abraham’s calling by God, I want to provide a spiritual exercise that we could all put into practice on listening to God. We see in Abraham’s life that his faith journey began when God spoke. So, too, in our lives faith begins by listening to God.

I want to encourage you to take time with the spiritual practice of listening to God sometime this week. Set a specific time this week where you can be in a quiet, undistracted place with God. In that time and place, invite God to speak to you as you begin to meet with Him. Slowly read Abraham’s story in Genesis 12:1-9 three times. Quietly reflect on what is happening in the story. Next, listen for how God is speaking to you about your own journey of faith. You may become distracted. That’s to be expected. Just take those distractions and release them into God’s hands. Listen for God for an extended amount of time. As you conclude this exercises, write down anything you sensed God speaking to you and then thank Him for His presence in your life.

You may also want to take a look at a small series of posts I wrote a few years back on this topic:

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2014 in Discipleship

 

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||40days|| week seven: Jesus Prayed

Before His arrest, Jesus gathered with His closest followers. After teaching them, He knew what was to come and so He prayed (John 17).

He prayed that God would be glorified through Him.

He thanked His Father for the privilege of unfolding the Father’s will in showing Himself to these closest followers. He prayed that they would have the full measure of His joy. He prayed that these followers would not be removed from the troubles of this world, but that they would be protected from the evil one. He prayed that they would be sanctified as He sent them into the world.

He prayed for those who would become followers of Him through these first followers’ proclamation. He prayed for unity within His followers, just as He and the Father experienced perfect unity. He prayed that the world would believe through the unity of the followers to come. He prayed that the love of God would fill them. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Discipleship

 

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