The Good News of Jesus

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This weekend, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at Eastbrook Church, we will begin a two-week message series exploring “The Good News of Jesus.” Drawing upon the post-resurrection accounts within the Gospel of John, we want to bring into sharper focus the ways in which Jesus brings good news to the world.

April 20/21 [Easter]: “The Good News of the Resurrected One” – John 20:1-10, 30-31
The resurrection of Jesus from death brings good news into our lives. As we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, we will also explore three themes of how this is good news: light overwhelming darkness, freedom overcoming prisons, and life overpowering death.

April 27/28: “The Good News of New Beginnings” – John 20:11-21:25
After Jesus’ resurrection, John offer a series of encounters that Jesus has with real people. Each of these encounters sheds light on the way in which Jesus’ resurrection is good news: God’s presence in loss (Mary), God’s peace in fear (disciples in the upper room), God’s guidance in doubt (Thomas), and God’s restoration in failure (Peter).

A Prayer by 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.

Seeking God’s Will: The ‘Three Lights’ of God’s Guidance and Hearing God’s Voice

crossroadsMany of us search for God’s will in our lives. In fact, one of the most pervasive questions I receive as a pastor is: how do I know God’s will in my life?

In his book, The Secret of Guidance, F. B. Meyer writes these words:

God’s impressions within and his words without are always corroborated by his providence around, and we should quietly wait until those three focus into one point. . . . The circumstances of our daily life are to us an infallible indication of God’s will, when they concur with the inward promptings of the Spirit with the Word of God.

According to Meyer, there are ‘three lights’ that serve as guiding points of reference when we discuss hearing God’s voice or gaining guidance in life. They are: impressions of the Spirit, words from Scripture, and our circumstances. Along with these three, some will often include the wise counsel of godly friends and mentors.

When we are seeking to know God’s will and make decisions in accordance with His will, it is very helpful to consider how God might be speaking to us through these three lights. It is worth paying attention to what we are reading in Scripture, what our circumstances may be highlighting for us, and also how the internal voice of the Holy Spirit is speaking to us.

Dallas Willard writes about this in his book Hearing God:

It is possible to understand this precious advice in such a way that it completely resolves any problem about divine guidance. . . . But for those who do not yet have a confident, working familiarity with the Voice, the three lights may speedily result in a swirl of confusion (183).

So, when we think of ‘getting guidance’ from God, we not only need to consider the three lights that F. B. Meyer holds before us. We also need to grow in familiarity with the voice of God. The more familiar we are with a friend, the more easily we can understand what he or she is saying and what the nuances of their voice means. The same is true with God. The more we listen to Him and familiarize with Him by daily walking in closeness to God, the more easy it will be to discern His will. The more we know who God is, the more easily we will be able to rightly grasp the guidance He is giving through our circumstances, the Spirit’s impressions, and the Scripture.

Sustaining the Good Life (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Sustaining the Good Life,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, the second part of our two-part series on Psalm 23 entitled “The Good Life.” I am preaching from the English Standard Version during this series, so here is the text of Psalm 23 from the ESV:

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was one of your most challenging times in life? What did it feel like to endure it? How did you make it through that time?
  2. This week we continue our journey into “The Good Life” from Psalm 23. As we explore what it means to live a Psalm 23 type of life all the time, this week we look at the challenging times of life. Psalm 23 is built around two strong images: God as our shepherd (verses 1-4) and God as our host or friend (verses 5-6). We will bring those two images together in our study this week. Whether you are alone or with a small group, begin by asking God to speak to you and then read Psalm 23 aloud.
  3. Verse 4 highlights the reality that even though God is our shepherd, we will still face dangers and hardship. What is the source of hope for the psalmist in the midst of hardship?
  4. The shepherd’s rod was a club of sorts for fighting off enemies. The shepherd’s staff was used for keeping sheep on the path or prying them out of crags or holes. What might these metaphors convey about our life with God?
  5. To be in the presence of enemies usually means to be fear-filled and hasty, but verse 5 offers a quite different situation. What does this verse tell us about God’s presence and power as our friend in the face of enemies?
  6. What enemies are surrounding you right now? How might your perspective or approach be changed by the truths of verse 5?
  7. In verse 6 we encounter the unending commitment of God (“all the days of my life”) and the pursuing kindness of God (“shall follow me”). What hope do these words bring you about your daily life and eternal life?
  8. What is one specific truth or point of application that God is speaking to you through this study, and how will you live that out this week? Write it down. If you are in a small group, share your thoughts with one another.

Living the Good Life (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Living the Good Life,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church as part of our series on Psalm 23 entitled “The Good Life.” I am preaching from the English Standard Version during this series, so here is the text of Psalm 23 from the ESV:

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Discussion Questions:

  1. This week we begin two weeks looking at “The Good Life” through Psalm 23. We want to explore what it means to live a Psalm 23 type of life all the time. Whether you are alone or with a small group, begin by asking God to speak to you and then read Psalm 23 aloud.
  2. The image of the shepherd is commonly used of God in the Bible. Read some or all of the following passages, then consider what it means that the LORD (Yahweh) is your shepherd:
  • Genesis 49:24
  • Psalm 77:20; 78:52, 70-72; 79:13; 80:1
  • Isaiah 40:11
  • Micah 7:14
  • John 10:11
  • Hebrews 13:20
  1. What would you say is the difference in meaning between the phrases “God is a shepherd” and “the LORD is my shepherd”? What does that communicate to you about your relationship with God?
  2. Sheep require certain conditions for peace, comfort and provision. What is significant about God’s actions and provision in verses 2 and 3?
  3. The end of verse 3 offers perspective on what God’s ultimate aim is. How do you think God’s presence and provision for us might relate with it being “for His name’s sake”?
  4. We will continue to look at verse 4 next week, but it is sufficient to mention that God’s presence changes the encounters we have with dark and fearful valleys. When and how have you experienced God’s presence in dark times in life?
  5. One notable thing about Psalm 23 is that it is attributed to David who, as a great warrior king, was both powerful and strong. What is the meaning and significance of David putting himself in the place of a sheep with God as his shepherd? What does it look like for you to live that way in your life?
  6. What is one specific truth or point of application that God is speaking to you through this study, and how will you live that out this week? Write it down. If you are in a small group, share your thoughts with one another.

||40days|| week four: listen in the other

One of the greatest challenges for any parent is trying to communicate with a child. With young children, there are times when you have to sit them down, make sure they have steady eye contact, and then slowly speak your points. After that, you may ask the question, “Do you understand what I am saying?” The parent can only hope the message has gotten through. (Of course, some children have the same concern with their parents!)

One of the ways we can hear from God is through the voice of another person. As we continue the ||40days|| journey through Lent with attention to listening for God, we look today at what it means to hear God in another person. Even as God speaks primarily through Scripture, what does it mean to hear from Him in another person. Let me suggest seven things to consider when evaluating whether a person is worth listening to as a representative of God, whether at a personal or corporate level:

  1. God speaks through people who love God’s words (2 Timothy 2:14-3:10). When Paul offers instruction to the young pastor, Timothy, he calls him to hold to the truth in contrast to those who lose focus through godless chatter and a departure from the truth.
  2. God speaks through people who bring His truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). What we hear from others is not God’s word if it is devoid of biblical truth or biblical love. If those elements are there, however, we do well to listen for God in another person’s words.
  3. God speaks through people who help us develop and grow (Proverbs 27:17). We read inRead More »

||40days|| week four: listen to interruptions

Have you ever tried to get something done but cannot seem to finish because of interruptions? Maybe it’s that paper for class that keeps calling your name, but friends or your job keep you from completing it. Maybe the ‘something’ is that magazine you are trying to read through but your kids keep interrupting you to say something or get your attention. Or maybe it’s the meal that’s simmering away in the midst of phone calls and people stopping at the door.

Interruptions can be such a pain. But what if the interruption are the ‘something’ that needs attention? And what if God is trying to speak to us more in the interruptions than in the things we think are so important? This week in the midst of the ||40days|| journey, we are trying to listen for God. But sometimes God speaks in unexpected ways.

This calls to mind the story of the Apostle Paul. With a sense of clear purpose and direction, Paul Read More »