Live in Peace

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Have you ever felt worried, distressed, or anxious?

Yes, I know that might seem like a ridiculous question. In one way or another, we have all experienced worry, distress, or anxiety. These real experiences of our lives are the sort of things we encounter throughout the Scripture. In fact, the writer of Psalm 4 expresses thoughts we all 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 themselves, none of these things are bad. However, within 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 Read More »

The Weekend Wanderer: 4 August 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.

 

1000“Rare medieval bible returned to shelf at Canterbury Cathedral” – “A 13th century bible, one of a handful of books which survived intact when the library of Canterbury Cathedral was broken up at the time of the Reformation, is back in the building after almost 500 years. The Lyghfield bible – named for a monk at the cathedral who once owned it – is the only complete bible and the finest illuminated book known to have survived from the medieval collection. The cathedral won a grant of almost £96,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and raised £4,000 more to buy it at a recent rare books sale in London.”

 

Willie Jennings“Can ‘White’ People Be Saved?” – At the beginning of July I spent a week in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a small group of pastors, professors, and non-profit leaders learning from Dr. Willie James Jennings around his outstanding book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. I wish I could have taken everyone there with me because the conversations were transformative for me, even as I continue to ponder all that I experienced. Since I couldn’t take you with me, I’d like to share this video of Dr. Jennings’ session at Fuller Theological Seminary, in which he helps define “whiteness” and the ways in which Christianity has been distorted through a racialized imagination. This is not for the faint of heart, but I highly recommend you wrestle with this challenging message. [Thanks to Nic Fridenmaker for sharing this particular link with me.]

 

29.thumb“Choosing Church: There are lots of reasons to avoid church, but here are the reasons to look again” – After listening to Jennings, you may find it helpful to look at this essay written over a year ago by Marilyn McEntyre, in which she addresses questions about Christianity’s relevance in the context of the rise of “religious nones” and  in a politically and racially divided world. McEntyre offers both admission of reasons to avoid church while also pointing to the ways in which the church is still important.

 

tal_vertical“Come All Ye Faithless” – A couple weeks ago on “This American Life” Eric Mennel told the story of one church planter, Watson Jones, who sets out on his mission to build a new church in a very challenging setting. As I listened, I was reminded again and again of the challenges of urban, multi-ethnic church planting. This episode will make you laugh and cry, particularly if you have been a part of efforts like this. [Thanks to the ten different people who shared this link with me.]

 

57221732_6481d1d067_o“Archaeologists May Have Discovered a Church Built on the Site of Constantine the Great’s Conversion to Christianity” – “Archaeologists working along the banks of the Tiber river in Rome last week discovered what may be the remnants of an early Christian church likely dating to the fourth century CE. The site of the church is only about 150 to 200 meters from where the emperor Constantine fought his rival Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312 CE — and in close proximity to the place where historical accounts indicate that Constantine saw a cross emblazoned in the sky, a cross that convinced him to convert to Christianity.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 5.31.55 PMWhile in conversation with some colleagues in ministry, one of them shared a ministry resource with me that I had not encountered. The Flourishing in Ministry project is organized by the Well Being at Work initiative of the University of Notre Dame. “Flourishing in Ministry examines what motivates pastors and priests to be engaged in ministry—and what disrupts them from experiencing wellbeing in their work. In our research, we attempt to explore how clergy—often working with lean resources—can give so much to others, and experience a sense of fulfillment and growth in their daily work lives.” Explore it and flourish.

 

BN“Barnes & Noble says sales of books related to anxiety are soaring. Here’s why” – If you’ve been feeling anxious about life in our current cultural climate, you may not be the only one.  “Sales of books related to anxiety are up more than 25 percent through this past June from a year ago, according to Barnes & Noble. The bookseller said ‘we may be living in an anxious nation.'”

 

Bergman“Remedial Bergman: On his centennial, introducing the great director to a new generation” – One of my favorite movie directors of all time is Ingmar Bergman, both in relation to the themes of his work and the skill with which he directs movies. John Simon offers a helpful introduction to Bergman and his work over at The Weekly Standard. He writes: “Bergman is unequaled in his filming of the human face; he uses faces in eloquent, sometimes sublime, close-ups to tell much of his stories. This is one reason why conventional synopsis often doesn’t suffice with Bergman’s films.”

 

[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.]

When We Feel Like Running Away

There are times in our lives when we feel like running away. I still remember when I was an elementary school kid and one of the bullies came after me during a recess football game. I definitely felt like running away…and I did! As fast as I could go.

As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve encountered much more threatening things that make me and others want to run away. I’ve seen a father of four crushed by lack of work. I’ve seen parents helplessly lose a child they love. I’ve seen a single mom struggle to parent teenage children in rebellion. I’ve seen students feeling overwhelmed by confusing decisions. I’ve seen churches challenged by dire situations. These things and more can make us feel like running away.

In Psalm 11, we hear of a similar situation. The writer is struggling with the advice from a friend to simply run away:Read More »

Worry and Faith (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Worry and Faith,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series “The Kingdom Life.” The text for this week is Luke 12:22-34.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When have you experienced the greatest worry in your life? How did you deal with it?
  2. This weekend we continue “The Kingdom Life” series by looking at Luke 12:22-34. After beginning your study in prayer, ask God to speak to you, and then read those passages aloud.
  3. This teaching from Jesus begins with a strong exhortation not to worry. What does Jesus say not to worry about in 12:22, 29?
  4. Jesus offers two examples from nature – the birds and the wildflowers – for His disciples. What do these two examples tell us about worry and faith?
  5. What does Jesus tell us about God’s thoughts and actions on our behalf in relation to our worries (12:24, 30-31)?
  6. How have you learned to give your worry to God? Take a moment to read Philippians 4:6-7. How does this illustrate the connection between prayer and worry?
  7. Jesus’ summary statement in 12:31 is well-known. What do you think it means?
  8. In 12:32-34, Jesus exhorts His disciples to not fear, but to do something else instead. What does He call them to do?
  9. What do you think it means to live as a reflection of Jesus’ words in 12:34?
  10. What is one way that God is speaking to you personally through this study? If you’re on your own, write it down and share it with someone later. If you are with a small group, discuss this together.

 


Daily Reading Plan

To encourage us together in our growth with God, we arranged a daily reading plan through this series. You can also join in with the daily devotional here. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.

Monday, May 8                     Luke 12:22-26
Tuesday, May 9                    Matthew 6:25-27
Wednesday, May 10             Psalm 147:1-11
Thursday, May 11                 Luke 12:27-34
Friday, May 12                      Matthew 6:28-34

Worry and Faith

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church we continued our series “The Kingdom Life” by exploring the topic of worry and faith. My message centered on Jesus’ words in Luke 12:22-34, giving some attention to John 20:19 and Philippians 4:6-7 as well.  Here’s my contention: if Jesus opens the doorway to God’s presence through the Cross and the Resurrection, then it is possible to move from a place of fear to fearlessness in our lives.

I started off with the results of the 3rd annual Survey of American Fears. I’m not sure what you’re most afraid of, but you might enjoy looking at the last few entries on the list of all fears Americans have.

You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Also, you are welcome to join in with the daily reading plan for this series.

 

Read More »

Surrendered

imageThis weekend at Eastbrook Church we continued our series, “Journey to the Cross,” by looking at Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Mark 14:32-42.

The message, entitled “Surrendered,” drew out six observations about Jesus’ time in Gethsemane with application to our own approach to human distress and suffering in our own lives. In some ways, this was my attempt to speak into the life of our local church fellowship that has experienced some significant, untimely losses of key church members these past couple of weeks.

You can listen to my message at the Eastbrook web-site here. You can also follow the RSS feed for Eastbrook sermons or follow Eastbrook Church on Twitter or Facebook.

The six key points of message are included below:Read More »

Resurrection and Fear

After Jesus rose from the grave, the Apostle John records four meetings Jesus has with people. The first of these that I want to look at today is Jesus’ appearance in the locked room to His disciples. We read about it in this way:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. (John 20:19-20)

There are three major things happening as Jesus enters this story bringing resurrection power in the midst of fear.

Jesus Comes Into and Stands Within Our Fears

It seemed like the locked room would not be penetrated by anything good or evil. The disciples were holding the door closed out of fear from others and fears circulating in their own minds and hearts. But Jesus came through the locked door and entered into their midst. No lock could hold Him out – neither could any fear hold Him out – because of His resurrection power.Read More »