Hungry to Leave a Legacy

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About a year ago, our family went on a trip to Washington, DC, to take in the historic sites and museums. One thing you cannot help but notice are the monuments to one historic figure after another: George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many more Each monument tells a story about the legacy of how those figures impacted the nation and generations of people.

We all hunger to leave a legacy with our lives in one form or another. Most of us may not aspire to constructing a monument to our personal legacy in Washington, DC, (let alone somewhere else) but we all still desire to leave a meaningful legacy with our lives. In Ecclesiastes, the Teacher says that God has “set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In our hearts God has placed a sense of the eternal, and that sense of eternity connects with our hunger to endure and to leave something that endures after we die.

This hunger to leave a legacy is a gift from God, but it can be bent toward wrong ends. We all know the stories of someone who seems fixated on being important, being remembered, or being praised after death. Ironically, this prideful fixation on being remembered often makes a person sadly forgettable or humorously entertaining. The heart that is rightly ordered with God allows God to build His own legacy in our lives for His glory. As the Psalmist writes: “we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done” (Psalm 78:4).

In this week’s devotional we will explore how to leave a legacy in our lives that is neither prideful nor laughable, but honoring to God and His ways.

RESPOND THIS WEEK:
Each week’s practice will feature some aspect of the process Paul describes for us in Ephesians 4:22-24, where we are to TAKE OFF something from our lives that has become corrupted or distracting and PUT ON in its place something God wants us to do.

Take Off:Fast from social media, or some other place where you seek recognition from others, during this week. Choose not to post to your social media accounts this week or check your feeds.

Put On: Replace your time spent on social media with time listening to God. Ask Him to point out someone you can serve in secret this week. Plan a way to bless them in some tangible way.

[This a devotional I wrote with Jim Caler as part of the Eastbrook Church Lenten devotional, “Hungry for God.”]

Hungry for Peace

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No one wants to live feeling depleted and empty. We all want to live out of a place of abundance, satisfaction, and peace. We hunger to feel like our lives are on the right track and that everything is ‘right,’ in the best sense of the word. The biblical word for this is peace or, in Hebrew, shalom. Shalom means more than simply lack of conflict. Instead, it conveys a sense of completeness, success, welfare, and peace. A short definition for shalom is that all things are right in God’s world as they are supposed to be.

When Jesus begins His public ministry, he enters into an episode that would not be described as peaceful. Shortly after His baptism by John, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry” (Luke 4:1-2). This temptation is a power encounter between the prince of this world, the devil, and the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Messiah. From start to finish, the three temptations of the devil are classic temptations of humanity, described by Henri Nouwen as the temptation to be relevant, popular, or powerful. Hungry and tired, Jesus experiences all the raging temptations of a peace-less world thrown at Him.

Jesus overcomes the temptations of the devil, however, and we realize that He is a new sort of king with a new sort of kingdom that will move in ways different from the ways of this world. When Isaiah the prophet describes the Messiah as “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), we know this is exactly what we need. We need true shalom in the midst of our hunger for peace because we cannot ultimately satisfy it ourselves. This realization does not come quickly. Sometimes we must intentionally step back from some things, even normal things like the eating of food, to realize exactly what is going on in our lives.

It is no wonder that immediately before ascending to the Father, some of Jesus’ final words to His disciples are: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). The Prince of Peace has come to bring us peace, and that is very good news for us.

RESPOND THIS WEEK:
Each week’s practice will feature some aspect of the process Paul describes for us in Ephesians 4:22-24, where we are to TAKE OFF something from our lives that has become corrupted or distracting and PUT ON in its place something God wants us to do.

Take Off: Fast from food (in some form), perhaps for one meal a day or for an entire day. If you are physically prevented from completely fasting due to some health concerns, consider if there is a particular food, drink or “treat” you can deny yourself this week. Use the space below to take note of your experience this week.

Put On:In the place of eating the food you are fasting from, take time with God in solitude and silence to experience the peace that God brings. Consider how He provides for you all you need. Use the space below to take note of your experience this week.

[This a devotional I wrote with Jim Caler as part of the Eastbrook Church Lenten devotional, “Hungry for God.”]

The Hunger to Know [Hungry for God]

During Lent at Eastbrook Church, we are exploring how our hungers lead us to God in order to find true rest for our souls. The series, “Hungry for God,” parallels the season of Lent, and has a companion daily devotional that you can access here.

This weekend I explored the hunger to know. This is a very wide-ranging topic but I decided not to go deep into philosophical issues, such as epistemology, and instead focus on four key aspects of the hunger to know:

  1. The hunger to know ourselves
  2. The hunger to know the created order
  3. The hunger to know others and be known by others
  4. The hunger to know God, or the divine

I then turned toward Moses’ dialogue with God in Exodus 33-34, marked by an especially memorable request from Moses: “show me Your glory.”

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.

Read More »

The Weekend Wanderer: 9 March 2019

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.

Lent fast word cloud“What to Give Up for Lent 2019? Consider Twitter’s Top 100 Ideas” – Once again, you can follow in real time what Twitter users say they are giving up for Lent, which this year begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6.  As in past years, food is the most popular category for abstention, followed by technology and ‘vices’ like smoking and drinking alcohol. After analyzing the first 1,500 tweets—both serious and sarcastic—OpenBible.info’s Stephen Smith noted that ‘perennial favorites’ such as social networking, alcohol, and Twitter lead the list so far.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 11.57.21 AM“In Praise of Boredom” – With reference to Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head, James K. A. Smith engages with the dehumanizing aspects of distraction and the importance of boredom for our recovery. “But how to overcome distraction? How to break through the bedazzling glare of our screens, the latest threat to parade as an angel of light? The problem isn’t simply that the technologies of distraction prevent us from making or appreciating art. This isn’t simply a competition for attention. The concern is more egregious: our distraction demeans us.”

 

iphone keyboard“Repenting in the age of iPhones and instant gratification” – Lent helps us learn repentance in our lives at multiple levels. Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill reflects on what this mean in the smart phone, social media culture. “The work of naming our wrongdoing to ourselves and to God is unlikely to bring immediate gratification. Nor will it engender the sort of external and public validation we may crave from our frequent forays into Twitter, Snapchat or FaceBook. The Creator of all will not be giving a ‘thumbs up’ to our expressions of remorse. The Divine Majesty is probably not going to ‘follow’ our episodic utterances of regret on Instagram. No, repentance is an I-Thou exercise.”

 

Welcoming the Stranger“A Migrant Invasion?”Noah Toly, Professor of Urban Studies at Wheaton College, reviews the revised edition of Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang’s Welcoming the Stranger. Both Matt and Jenny were part of our Mission Fest at Eastbrook a couple of years ago, and this updated edition of the book is even more timely given our current debates. Toly offers a fine review of the book with helpful reflections on why Soerens and Yang’s work is “more than a counterpoint to anti-immigrant uproar, it is an antidote to the propagandistic way of being in the world.”

 

hands folded“Integrating Justice Into our Spiritual Disciplines”Kevin Garcia opens a discussion about gaps in classical spiritual formation related to justice, reflecting on ways that he has attempted to integrate the pursuit of justice within his spiritual formation rhythms. “Everyday there are several rhythms that shape our beliefs. What podcast do we play the most? What books do we read? What channel do we go to for our news? Who do we follow on Twitter? I began thinking more deeply about this recently as our church joined in a fast to start the new year. During this time, I immersed myself in some works considered classics on spiritual disciplines.”

 

Pope Pius XII“Vatican to open secret archives on World War II-era and Pope Pius” – “Pope Francis has announced that the Vatican next year will open its secret archives containing World War II-era documents from the controversial papacy of Pope Pius XII. The archives cover the years 1939-1958 and consist of several hundred thousand letters, cables and speeches. Critics of Pius say he did not do enough to publicly combat the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy. Supporters say he worked diligently behind the scenes to save Jews from the Holocaust.”

 

Macrina“This Church Mother Comforted the Grieving with Scientific Thinking” – “In AD 379, Basil the Great, one of the men who contributed to the Nicene Creed, died. Basil and his brother Gregory of Nyssa were two of the three Cappadocian Fathers­—men responsible for major theological decisions made in the early life of the Christian church. What is less well known is that they also had an older sister, Macrina. She was deeply precious to them for her love, her insight, and her wisdom; they even called her ‘Teacher.'”

 

gary saul morson“The greatest of all novels” –  At The New Criterion, Gary Saul Morson reflects on how Leo Tolstoy explores the complexities – not the simplicity – of human existence in his masterpiece, War and Peace. “All purported social sciences held that, as with Newtonian astronomy, the complexity of observed phenomena was explicable by a few simple laws. But with society and individual psyches, Tolstoy insisted, the very opposite is the case: ‘the deeper we delve in search of these [fundamental] causes,’ Tolstoy observes, ‘the more of them we find.’ Things do not simplify, they ramify.”

 

Music: “Forgive Us” from At the Foot of the Cross, volume 2, featuring Julie Miller, David Mullen, and Gene Eugene.

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 11 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.

 

Chabros“God at the Margins (Part 1 of 3)” – My dear friends, Michal and John Chabo, share their story of God’s faithfulness in the midst of the challenging environment of Syria. You do not want to miss this amazing story from these two wonderful men. You will also enjoy finding out more about their work with Chabros Music, including leading worship at many churches and telling their story as an encouragement to others.

 

HybelsThe ongoing saga at Willow Creek Community Church continued to heat up with the August 5 New York Times article “He’s a Superstar Pastor. She Worked for Him and Says He Groped Her Repeatedly.” Shortly before this, Lead Teaching Pastor Steve Carter announced his immediate resignation in protest of the way the women who have come forward have been treated (read his “A Diverging Path”). Then, on Wednesday night, Lead Pastor Heather Larson announced her immediate resignation, and that the entire Willow Creek Board of Elders would be steeping down. If you don’t know the entire story about what has come forth in regards to former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels and the way in which leadership of Willow Creek handled accusations of sexual misconduct, take a look at Scot McKnight’s recent post in this regard. You may also benefit from reading Mel Lawrenz’s reflections on what this speaks into the lives of leaders.

 

Indianapolis“These 15 U.S. Cities Have the Most Churches” – While this article was created by basically dividing city populations by the number of church buildings that exist there and not something more complicated, it is still interesting to take a look at this list of fifteen cities that have the most church buildings in the US. You will probably be surprised by number 2. [Thanks to Warren Bird for sharing this article.]

 

83011“Rwanda Restricts Fasting as 8,000 Churches Closed” – This is not what you’d typically expect to see within a news headline, but the government of Rwanda has been addressing lack of training and safety concerns in churches and mosques in recent months. “About 8,000 official and unofficial churches, as well as 100 mosques, have been closed in Rwanda for failing to comply with health, safety, and noise regulations. This includes 4 in 10 congregations belonging to a nationwide association of 3,300 Pentecostal churches.”

 

savs-504074-unsplash-e1525470662382-770x400“A Letter from the Angry Black Woman in Your Pew”Lysaundra Campbell at The Witness speaks out: “This is not a time for performative theological discussions that do not result in action. We do not need a conference, panel discussion, or one-time awareness training about gender-based violence. If our conferences, panels, and pulpits are cultivating a culture that mirrors the broader society and diminishes the value of black women and girls through racism and sexism, we have a much deeper heart issue.”

 

EvangelicalImmigrationTableLOGO“Citing Religious Liberty, Evangelical Leaders Urge Trump Administration to Support Refugee Resettlement” – Evangelical Christian leaders have sent a letter asking the Trump administration to raise the refugee ceiling, citing religious liberty and our nation’s history of offering safe haven to people fleeing religious persecution. Signatories express deep concern that further cuts to the U.S. refugee resettlement program would harm religious freedom internationally. The letter was sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.

 

82941“The Truth About the Catholic Church and Slavery” – Rodney Stark takes on one of the most-debated issues in relation to the culpability of the Roman Catholic Church in relation to the international slave trade. The claim that Christians were actively involved in promulgating slavery is beyond debate. However, Stark suggest that the role of the institutional church and its teaching came against that much more clearly and much earlier than often claimed.

 

Insert-ghost-“Ghosts on the Shore” – “Japanese awareness of ghosts – yūrei – goes back centuries, rooted in ideas of justice and injustice, and in a fear of unfinished business. If a person’s spirit is looked after at death, by a family providing a proper funeral, praying for that person, and visiting the grave, then the deceased is able to pass peacefully into the next world. From there, the dead look out for their still-living relatives, providing help and protection. Every year, in summer, they return to this world, welcomed by their families at the festival of Obon with food and drink, fireworks and dancing.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix and Prufrock News for sharing this.]

 

[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.]

Resources for Prayer

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 10.20.07 AM.pngWhen I was Pastor of Collegiate Ministries at Elmbrook Church, our ministry, The Ave, hosted a 24/7 week of prayer in partnership with other college ministries around the city of Milwaukee. We drew a lot of our ideas from a group based in the UK, known as 24-7 Prayer, founded by Pete Greig. They have an excellent resource page that a friend, Caitlin Ewing, shared with me and my wife, Kelly, just this past weekend (thanks, Caitlin!).

Weave prayer into the daily rhythm of your life. Whether you find prayer hard, boring or if you’re simply looking for new ideas –  this section will help you pray, every day:

SIMPLE PRAYER IDEAS – Get started with these 6 ways to pray

TAKE TIME – Go deeper in your prayer life and spend a little longer in God’s presence.

PRAYING THE LORD’S PRAYER, DAILY   Start a new rhythm of prayer using the Lord’s prayer

ANCIENT PRAYERS – Different prayer ideas from centuries past

PRAYING THE BIBLE – Simple ideas to help you pray using the Bible

BIBLE STUDIES ON PRAYER – Find out what Jesus and the early Church taught about prayer

FASTING – Find our how fasting can encourage powerful prayer

HOW TO PRAY USING A JOURNAL – How writing your prayers can help you to develop a rhythm of prayer

LEARN TO LISTEN – Helpful tips on listening to God

WHAT’S YOUR PRAYER PERSONALITY? – How each of us can use our different personalities to pray

PRAY FOR THE WORLD – How to engage with the world around you

BLESSING MUSLIMS IN PRAYER  – be equipped to pray and bless Muslims with resources from our friends at Mahabba and Frontiers.

Fasting for Spiritual Growth

I often refer to fasting as an important spiritual growth tool in our lives. Some time ago, I wrote a number of posts on the subject of fasting and I am gathering all of those together here as a resource for understanding fasting in general. These posts also address a number of specific aspects of fasting, biblical background on fasting, and some practical helps for how we approach fasting. I hope this is helpful as you step forward by fasting in order to say ‘no’ to yourself and ‘yes’ to God for growth into the abundant life by the power of the Holy Spirit.