You can view the message video and sermon outline for this message below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast. Also, join in with our daily devotional that accompanies this series during Lent.
Ah, St. Patrick’s Day is here. One of those interesting festivals based on the life of a real person and their work that now has nothing to do with the life of that real person or their work.
Perhaps you didn’t know that St. Patrick wrote a magnificent work reflecting on his life and ministry.
Why not give it a read?
I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.
And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.
Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.
For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name…[read the entire Confession by St. Patrick here.]
This is a message that shared this morning at the all school worship for Eastbrook Academy. We gather every two weeks with students (K4-12th grade), staff and faculty to worship the Lord.
The Nanjing Bridge is an impressive three-mile, two-tier span across the famous Yangtze River in China. It was acclaimed as an engineering feat for China when built in 1968 during the cultural revolution.
But these days, the Nanjing Bridge is famous for something quite different … it has become a popular spot for people to jump to their death. In the hot and noisy atmosphere, there is a long drop into the muddy, brown waters of the river below.
For the past several years, one man has chosen to spend every weekend patrolling that bridge, watching for the opportunity to save people. Chen Si, who works during the week as a transport company manager, patrols the bridge, seeking out the despairing & depressed to stop them from throwing themselves over the bridge. Up to now he has saved more than 100 lives, sometimes even putting his own in danger.
He is always on the lookout, his eyes constantly darting back and forth. He has learned the telltale signs of desperation. He says, “From the crowd of people I’ll single out those who look depressed … and I’ll go and talk to them.”
With each new life he saves, Chen says, his sense of burden grows.
The Bible and the Love of God
If you were to read through the entire 66 books of the Bible, you would find more than a theological textbook. You would find the story of God’s love affair with humanity. It spreads from the beginning of Creation in the book of Genesis to the end of the created order as we know it in the book of Revelation.
God is passionately pursuing the people He has created with a free, full, and ongoing love beyond all human comprehension.
We are failed, sinful, and broken by the Fall and God reaches out to us first and forever.
Maybe you’ve never thought of God like that. Maybe you’ve had an inkling of it. But let me tell you this: God loves every single one of us.
God’s Love for Us Hear this statement from 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.”
Because He first loved us. All of us grow up with a longing to be loved.
Throughout our world, when people tell of their ups and downs, you can hear the resounding chorus: “I just want to know that someone loves me.”
And God has already done it. “He first loved us”!!
Before any of us were born, before our greatest successes and our worst failures ever came into being – GOD FIRST LOVED US!
Here these words of the Apostle Paul from his letter to the believers in Rome:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all Creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Let me say something here: I used to believe that all sorts of things within me could separate me from God’s love:
I was afraid of not doing enough of right things.
I was afraid of someday God letting go of me b/c of some wrong thing that I’d done.
I was afraid of not praying enough.
I was afraid of not reading my Bible enough.
I was afraid of not going to church enough.
I was afraid of not doing the sorts of things that could keep God loving me.
But listen: nothing can keep God from loving us.
Why? Because God loved us first and then he keeps on loving us.
Regardless of anything in us or in this world. That’s why God’s love is described throughout the Bible as unfailing. It doesn’t stop. He won’t let go of us. Again, let’s hear those words from the Apostle Paul:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all Creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing will be able to separate you or me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When I was four years old, I remember going to preschool while my parents worked as school-teachers. It was a great place with toys, those little cut-out puzzles, cushy naptime rugs, and awesome big wheels. But I always missed my parents. I even had this aching sense every day that they might not come back. “They’ve left me here again and I wonder if they’ll return!!” I would think within myself. But my greatest joy during that time was at the end of each day, while playing outside on the playground, when my parents would come back to pick me up at the end of the day. I would run to them across the playground and leap into their arms. Everyday became a reminder that I was loved by them. If I could have articulated it at the time, I think I would have said something like this: “They’ve come back. They loved me when they dropped me off and they still love me now. I am loved.”
God’s love is the same for us – He loves us first – before we were ever born – and then he keeps on doing it, day after day, month after month, year after year! God loves us!!!
And it is in Christ that He reaches out to embrace us in His love. We hear of it in another place in the Scriptures:
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
May the love of God get inside us and rattle us free from fear, doubt, and confusion. May it center our souls and release in life. Do you know the love of God like that today?
 “Samaritan Patrols Bridge for China’s Lost Souls” by Louisa Lim. NPR. March 15, 2007.
After returning from international travels this past week, I returned to Eastbrook to continue our series “The Life of Joseph: God’s Sovereignty in Our Suffering.” This weekend we explored Genesis 42-44, with special attention to the transformation that occurs in Joseph’s brothers, particularly in Judah. My goal in this message was to open up the ways in which the pathway to healing often involves stepping into painful places to catalyze growth. I outlined three cuts – or steps – into difficulty that we see helps restore relationship and ignite spiritual growth in these chapters.