Daniel: Apocalyptic Imagination and Exile Faith

This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church we begin a new sermon series entitled “Daniel: Apocalyptic Imagination and Exile Faith.”

What does it mean to live our faith out in the midst of a foreign land? How do we image what it means to be followers of God when the imagination of our culture is bent? Daniel models a life of faith as an exile in Babylon. He does this in large part through an imagination set ablaze by the Holy Spirit, enabling him to see himself and the world in light of God’s kingdom. He lives with faith under pressure, standing up to the culture without compromise, while also rising to a position of influence within society. He was a man of prayer and faith who heard from God. He was used by God powerfully within his generation for the good of others. How might we become people like Daniel in our own day and culture?

Join us at Eastbrook each weekend, or follow-along online here.

A Prayer of Ascents

Here is the prayer that I concluded my message with this past weekend at Eastbrook. I wrote this prayer as a way to reflect and weave together themes we have experienced throughout this series, Ascend.

Eternal God,
guide us who live as exiles and strangers
upon the time-bound paths of earth;
in our trials and tribulations give us grace,
and in our overflowing joys receive praise.

Grant us faith that, walking day by day with You,
we may seek an eternal country
more than we seek the goods
of these our earthly countries.

Strengthen our drooping hands and weak knees
that we might not grow discouraged along the journey,
but might run the race set out for us
with the goal of winning the prize in the upward call in Christ Jesus.

May we run together as one –
people of every tribe, tongue, and nation –
showing Your glory to a watching world
by the way in which we love one another in grace and truth.

We pray for Your grace and strength in our journey
until the day when we round the last hill’s rise
and gaze into the Eternal City
where we will see You face to face
in the new heaven and new earth,
where all manner of things will be made new.

Until that day, we say: come Lord Jesus.
Amen.

The Pilgrim Way

pilgrim way.jpgAn old spiritual offers the following description of our life as Christians:

I am a pilgrim and a stranger, traveling through this wearisome land,
I’ve got a home in that yonder city, good Lord, and it’s not…not made by hand.

An overused theme of life is that it is a journey. The reason this idea is overused, even cliché, is that it is true. We are, as the Apostle Peter writes: “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). Day after day, year after year, we are moving along the way of our lives until we reach some sort of destination. Of course, many of us have different sense of the destination, but the author of the letter to the Hebrews says that people of faith “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth….seeking a homeland….they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

This has been a returning theme of our series, Ascend: A Study of the Psalms of Ascent.  In particular, the first weekend, “Peace,” I made reference to the concept of pilgrimage, around which the grouping of the psalms of Ascent is structured as a response to God’s call to His people in Deuteronomy 16:16-17:

Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.  Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.

Pilgrimage is something woven throughout the faith life of the Hebrew people. It is something Jesus Himself participated in with his family and neighbors, traveling to Jerusalem at least twice in his early life that are recorded in Scripture (Luke 2:22-38, 41-51), but likely more often than that.

Yet, pilgrimage is a concept that is foreign to most of us in North America. While we give a lot of attention to vacations, the idea of taking a religious journey is not something we think of too often. However, the concept of pilgrimage is not only current within other faith traditions, but woven into the history of Christianity as well. The Camino do Santiago, or the Way of Saint James, a well-worn pilgrimage route through Europe has become an increasingly well-known in North America, perhaps in part due to the movie “The Way” featuring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.

In his book, The Way is Made by WalkingArthur Paul Boers relates his own journey on the Camino, offering insights about how this physical pilgrimage taught him about the spiritual pilgrimage of our life with God in Christ. Here is an excerpt that gives the feel of why we need to recovery pilgrimage as a guiding metaphor for our spiritual lives:

Pilgrimage in its truest sense is religiously motivated travel for the purpose of meeting and experiencing God with hopes of being shaped and changed by that encounter. Pilgrimages are often concretely physical – journeying to a particular place, perhaps with some extraordinary expense and exertion – and spiritual – one hopes to meet God in this travel.

An irony – indeed a danger – of pilgrimage is that we try to settle in a final destination, considering only that particular place holy and forgetting the call to be faithfully on the move for God. Think of Peter wanting to remain on the mountain where he, John and James (Santiago) experienced the transfiguration: “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” His suggestion is dismissed: “He did not know what to say, for they were terrified” (Mark 9:5-6). Christian pilgrimage always calls us to further growth. As Origen wrote: “Travelers on the road to God’s wisdom find that the further they go, the more the road opens out, until it stretches to infinity.”

Pilgrimage sites are not merely an end in themselves. They are not strictly speaking even necessary. They richly symbolize the fact that our lives are to be a journey with and to God. Even if not all of us can afford or are able to go to famous places for prayer, every time we venture to church for worship we make a small pilgrimage to deepen our faithfulness. The Greek word paroikia means “sojourn” and is “also the root of English word ‘parish’, meaning a congregation of pilgrims.”

I love that phrase at the beginning of the last paragraph: “our lives are to be a journey with and to God.” So, wherever we are today, let’s lift our legs for one more step, lift our hearts to our God, and fix our eyes on the eternal kingdom, which is just around the next bend in the road.

Exile Community (discussion questions)

Exiles Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Exile Community,” which is the final part of our series “Exiles” on the book of 1 Peter. This study walks through 1 Peter 5.

  1. We conclude our series, “Exiles,” on 1 Peter by looking at chapter 5. Begin your study in prayer, asking God to speak into your life, and then read that passage aloud.
  1. Peter draws his letter to a close by discussing some final matters about the life as God’s exile community on earth. He begins by addressing “the elders among you,” which is a reference to the leaders of the church. What does Peter call these leaders to be and do in verses 1-4?
  1. What should motivate these leaders of the church, according to verse 4?
  1. With verses 5-6, Peter turns his attention to the rest of the church. It is most likely that “you who are younger” is less a reference to age than it is to the rest of the church who are not seen as ‘elders’ or leaders. What does Peter call the rest of the church to do in relation to the elders? What do you think this means?
  1. What should the defining attitude of the church be according to verses 5-6? Why?
  1. What do you think it means to “clothe yourself with humility”? What is one way you could clothe yourself in humility this week?
  1. In verses 8-11, Peter contrasts the work of the devil and the work of God. What is the work of the devil in relation to the sheep and the shepherds (compare to verses 1-5)?
  1. What should our response be to the work of the devil?
  1. According to verses 10-11 God is at work in the middle of all of this. What do we know about God and what can we expect from God?
  1. What does it mean to you that God will work with and for you according to verses 10-11?
  1. The personal greetings of verses 12-14 remind us that Peter himself lives as an exile (“in Babylon”) and is surrounded by others who are living out the exile faith-life with God. His summary statement is found at the end of verse 12. What is it and what do you think it means for you?
  1. What is one specific thing you sense God is speaking to you through this study today or through the entire “Exiles” series? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray about what you share together. If you are studying on your own, write it down, pray about it, and share this with someone during the next few days.

Exile Community

Exiles Series Gfx_Web HeaderThis past weekend at Eastbrook Church I concluded our series “Exiles: A Study of 1 Peter” by looking at chapter 5. I spent a good deal of time talking about the first four verses which offer the distinctive exile understanding of leadership.

You can watch the message here or subscribe to our audio podcast, following along with the outline below. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site.

If you’re interested in getting to know us more at Eastbrook, please take a moment to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Vimeo. You could also join our community by downloading the Eastbrook app.

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Occupied with Suffering (discussion questions)

Exiles Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Occupied with Suffering,” which is part of our series “Exiles” on the book of 1 Peter. This study walks through 1 Peter 4:12-19.

  1. Have you ever personally experienced or heard about someone else suffering for their faith? What happened?
  1. “Exiles” continues as we look at 1 Peter 4:12-19. Begin your study in prayer, asking God to speak into your life, and then read that passage aloud.
  1. In this letter, Peter returns again and again to the theme of suffering as a Christian. In 1 Peter 4:12-13, what sort of attitude does Peter encourage his readers to have about their suffering?
  1. It may sound odd to encourage someone to rejoice in the midst of suffering. In verse 13, what reason does Peter give for the joy we can have in suffering now?
  1. With verses 14-16, Peter turns his attention to the practical reasons that we may suffer at the hands of others. If we are Christians, what does he say is the right reason for suffering and what is the wrong reason for suffering?
  1. In some ways, Peter is challenging believers to persevere for our faith, even in the midst of suffering. While most of us do not face threats of death for our faith, we still may suffer in some ways for our faith. What does it look like for you to persevere as a Christian in your everyday life?
  1. In verses 17-18, Peter unfolds an interesting idea that the judgment of God upon the world actually begins with God’s people. Comparing what you read in these verses with what he wrote earlier in 1 Peter 2:1-10, why do you think this might be the case?
  1. Peter suggests that the suffering to come upon “those who do not obey the gospel of God” (4:17) is worse than what the believers were experiencing presently. What does the Scripture say about this idea? What do you think Peter is talking about?
  1. 1 Peter 4:19 returns to some themes from throughout Peter’s letter: suffering, God’s faithfulness, and doing good. Why would Peter summarize this section on suffering for Christ in this way?
  1. What is one specific thing you sense God is speaking to you through this study? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray about what you share together. If you are studying on your own, write it down, pray about it, and share this with someone during the next few days.

Occupied with Suffering

Exiles Series Gfx_Web Header

What is a Christ-centered perspective on our suffering?

That question was the focus of my message, “Occupied with Suffering,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church as I continued our series, “Exiles: A Study of 1 Peter.” Suffering is a theme of Peter’s letter, but he brings it into sharp focus with 1 Peter 4:12-19 by exploring the significance and approach to suffering because of our faith as disciples of Jesus Christ.

You can watch the message here or subscribe to our audio podcast, following along with the outline below. You can also view the entire series at our web-site.

If you’re interested in getting to know us more at Eastbrook, please take a moment to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Vimeo. You could also join our community by downloading the Eastbrook app.

Read More »