New Year: Questions for growth, reflection, and prayer

crossroadsMany of us make resolutions for growth and change in the New Year. Unfortunately, statistics show that most of these resolutions do not hold for long or really make much long-term change. I believe this is in large part because we do not include the Living God in this process of resolution, and also because we do not let our resolutions penetrate deep enough into our vision for the year and the transformation of our will. The following series of questions are intended as a tool for reflection upon the previous year and resolution into the coming year.

Reflecting back:

What am I most thankful for from the past year (5-10 items)?

How have I most seen God at work in me or around me this past year (3-7 items)?

Who am I closest to in my life and how has that proved true this past year (2-3 items)?

In what ways am I experiencing a lack of resolution from this past year in my personal life, my relationships, my endeavors, or my life with God (2-3 items)?

What must I confess to God or repent over from this past year (2-3 items)?

Gather all these responses up in prayer before God, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.

Looking forward:

What am I most looking forward to in this coming year (5-10 items)?

What do I sense are my greatest desires or needs for growth with God this year (2-3 items)? What are the practical means by which I will pursue that growth daily, weekly, or monthly?

Who do I want to become this new year?
What must I let go of in order to grow in this way (2-3 items)?
What must I grab ahold of in order to grow in this way (2-3 items)?

How are my relationships helping or hindering my growth with God or my development as a person (2-3 items)?
What relationships must I prioritize and how will I practically do this daily, weekly, and monthly in this coming year?

In what ways do I sense God is inviting me to serve Him by serving others this year (3-7 items)
How will I do that practically on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?

Gather these responses up in prayer before God, trusting His providence for your life, relinquishing control of your life, and yielding your will actively to the Holy Spirit for strengthening. Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.

Friend of Sinners [Name Above All Names]

NAAN-Series-GFX_App-Wide.pngThis past weekend at Eastbrook Church we began a new series entitled “Name Above All Names.” In this series, which flows out of our Christmas celebration of Jesus as the light of the world, we want to focus on Jesus, learning more about who He is by giving attention to the titles, or names, of Jesus.

Scripture tells us that after Jesus’ death and resurrection “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). We also believe “there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must saved” (Acts 4:12). A person’s name tells us so much about them and this is true even more with Jesus. Throughout the Scripture we find different titles – or names – given to Jesus, whether in prophecy, the acclamation of others, or Jesus’ own statements about Himself. In this series after Christmas we will explore ten titles of Jesus that help us grasp key truths we need to know about who Jesus is.

This weekend we looked at Jesus as the friend of sinners in Luke 7:18-35 and Luke 5:31-32.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Light of the World [Christmas Eve 2018]

At our Christmas Eve services at Eastbrook Church, we focused on Jesus as the light of the world. You can watch my message from the Christmas Eve service here. This begins a new series, “The Name Above All Names,” for us at Eastbrook on the titles of Jesus. I’m also including the text of that message below the video.

Christmas Eve 2018 – “Light of the World”

As we grow up, most of us learn the basics of life. One of those basics is that we have five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.

While there are other things we sense – pain, temperature, hunger – most of those are related to the classic five senses that we usually learn.

But there is a unique effect that sometimes occurs where the triggering of one sense leads to the involuntary triggering of another sense. One of the most well-known incidents of this was recorded in 1690 by the English philosopher John Locke who made a report about a blind man who said he experienced the color scarlet when he heard the sound of a trumpet.

That effect in which stimulation of one sense leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sense is called synesthesia.

The story of Jesus’ birth is an experience of multi-sensory stimulation causing an experience like synesthesia. As the story goes, Mary and Joseph both have angelic appearances, during a vision at daytime for Mary and during a dream at night for Joseph.

Those angelic appearances overwhelm them and are enough to help them believe that God is doing something new: God is rescuing the world from the powers of evil and sin by coming in the midst of ordinary people like them in the flesh. And all through those angelic appearances burst sights, sounds, and feelings that overload the senses with God’s purposes:Read More »

A Prayer by St. Teresa of Avila

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Lord, grant that I may always allow myself to be guided by You,
always follow Your plans,
and perfectly accomplish Your Holy Will.
Grant that in all things, great and small,
today and all the days of my life,
I may do whatever You require of me.
Help me respond to the slightest prompting of Your Grace,
so that I may be Your trustworthy instrument for Your honour.
May Your Will be done in time and in eternity by me,
in me, and through me. Amen.

By St. Teresa of Avila, Carmelite nun and mystical theologian.

The Weekend Wanderer: 29 December 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

iranian christians“Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey” – NPR reports on something that has been tracked by religious news agencies for awhile. “In Turkey and across the Middle East and Europe, evangelical Christians are converting Muslim refugees eager to emigrate to the West. The refugees in Turkey escaped Iran, where conversion to anything but Islam is illegal. There are hundreds of thousands of Christians in Iran. Those considered part of the native Christian communities are permitted to practice their religion with restrictions, but a Muslim converting to Christianity is considered an apostate. The Iranian government jails converts, especially those who proselytize. The authorities see it as a Western plan to turn Iranians against Islam and the Islamic regime, according to converts in Turkey.”

 

iweslej001p1“Counsel for preachers (and other Christians)” – Over at his blog, Alan Jacobs shares some penetrating insight from John Wesley on how preachers should approach life and preaching. What’s his advice? Read more to shape your faith and skill as a preacher. “What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading. I scarcely ever knew a Preacher read so little. And, perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep: there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with daily meditation and daily prayer.”

 

Griswold-The-Other-Evangelicals“Evangelicals of Color Fight Back Against the Religious Right” – Evangelicalism is changing in more ways than one. In The New Yorker, Eliza Griswold reports on one of the most significant changes. “In the United States, evangelicalism has long been allied with political conservatism. But under Trump’s Presidency right-wing political rhetoric has become more openly racist and xenophobic. In evangelical circles, hostility toward people of color is often couched in nostalgia for the simpler days of nineteen-fifties America….The growing number of evangelicals of color have begun pushing in earnest for more of a political voice in the church.”

 

persectued church 2018“The 10 Most-Read Stories of the Persecuted Church” – Christianity Today gathers together their 10 most-read stories related to the persecuted church in 2018. Ranging from Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey to Indonesian churches blasted by a family of suicide bombers, from North Korea’s decision to free American Christians and Leah Sharibu’s inspiration of Nigerian believers, and so much more. If you aren’t familiar with these stories, you should be.

 

hang christians“Jeremy Hunt orders global review into persecution of Christians” – On a related note, UK Foreign Secretary is calling for a global review of persecution of Christians. “The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has ordered an independent, global review into the persecution of Christians of all nationalities amid claims that not enough is being done to defend the rights of nearly 200 million Christians at risk of persecution today. The unprecedented Foreign Office review will be led by the Bishop of Truro, Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, and will make recommendations on the practical steps the government can take to better support those under threat.”

 

baby feet.jpeg“The Case Against CRISPR Babies” – Nicanor Austriaco at First Things: “A few days after Thanksgiving, a Chinese scientist named He Jiankui shocked the global community by announcing that he had created the world’s first gene-edited, designer babies—twin girls named Lulu and Nana. The two ‘CRISPR babies’ had been born a few weeks earlier to their HIV-positive father Mark and his wife, Grace. Many scientists expressed anger and frustration at the announcement. U.S. National Institutes of Health Director, Francis Collins, described Jiankui’s work as a ‘profoundly unfortunate,’ ‘ill-considered,’ ‘unethical,’ ‘scientific misadventure’ that ‘flout[ed] international ethical norms.'”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]