Witnesses to Hope

Over the past couple of years, I have participated in the Gospel Life blog hosted by the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College.

In my post there today I write about the need for us as Christians to become witnesses to hope. This post came out of a lot of my own conversations and reflections upon the present moment in our world and what it looks like to be a voice and presence of hope in the time in which we live. As hopelessness rises up, we must also rise up with hopefulness.

This past year has brought wave after wave of discouraging news. Many people I encounter feel overwhelmed by increasing political incoherence, racial injustice, and global chaos, not to mention their own personal challenges. Despair rises up around us like hunger in the stomach of a famine-wracked child. If I could pick one word to encapsulate the current tone of our society it would be hopelessness.

As followers of Jesus we are called to be people of hope, and this calling is even more important in light of the entangling hopelessness of our day. In fact, our witness as Christians at this present hour will remain inadequate if we do not recapture the hope inherent in the gospel…

[Continue reading the article here.]

Unshackled: Joy Beyond Circumstances

As we begin the new year, we also begin a new series this coming weekend at Eastbrook Church entitled “Unshackled: Joy Beyond Circumstances.” In a world at odds with itself, how do followers of Christ live with irrepressible joy in God? In this six-week series we will journey through the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians to develop a theology of joy. We want to begin the year with the fullness of God’s joy in Jesus Christ.

In preparing for this series I have been reminded of how many well-loved verses are found in Philippians. Here are a few:

  • “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6).
  • “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21).
  • the hymn to Christ in 2:6-11
  • “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you” (2:12-13).
  • “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (2:15-16).
  • “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” (3:7).
  • “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (3:12).
  • “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4).

It is that last verse which serves as a resounding theme of the letter of Philippians. Paul, writing this letter while imprisoned, illustrates through his own life that joy can exist regardless of our circumstances. Join us for this journey to joy as we begin 2018!

Mercy

As we continued our journey with the Psalms of Ascent, “Ascend,” this past weekend at Eastbrook, I opened up Psalm 130 for us. I explored the mercy of God as part of our spiritual journey with God in terms of prayer, forgiveness, waiting, and hope. In the midst of that I brought in the story of Jonah, illuminating parallel verses in Ephesians and Jude, an excerpt from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and a reflection on the life of Viktor Frankl.

You can watch the message and follow along with the sermon outline below. You can access the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast. We also have a reading plan for this series, which you can participate with here.

 

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Peace

We began our journey with the Psalms of Ascent, “Ascend,” this weekend at Eastbrook, spending time with Psalm 120. In this message, I explore themes of the spiritual life with God as a pilgrimage or journey, honesty and hopeful prayer, the need for community, and living in peace instead of hatred or hopelessness.

Here is the video and sermon outline of this first message of the Ascend series, “Peace.” You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast. We also have a reading plan for this series, which you can access here.

 

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Elizabeth in Shadows

woman in shadow.jpgIn the midst of all the grand things God is doing at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, there is something much smaller going on. In the midst of the story of God playing out in human history and the incense of the Temple in Jerusalem with Zechariah, there is a woman standing in shadows of shame and her name is Elizabeth.

Sometimes we wonder if as human beings we are mere cogs in the universe. Even if we believe in God, we may wonder if we are simply hidden, unnoticed beings before the divine majesty. I think it precisely in moments like this that the words of Luke 1:23-25 are for us:

Listen to the last verses of today’s passage:

And when Zechariah’s time of service was ended, he went to his home. After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

I love this because in the midst of all God is working out in cosmos through Jesus Messiah, there is still a message of salvation that is so relationally personal.

Elizabeth, who was last described by her barrenness (Luke 1:7), now experiences a work of God that is personal and transformational. She declares aloud: “The Lord has done this for me…In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

She knows that God has done this for her. A good theologian might want to correct Elizabeth by reminding her of the bigger thing God is doing in the world and for salvation. Yet here we encounter an important truth: God’s grand story always involves our personal story.

God is not so great that He forgets about us; in fact, He is so great that He remembers us.

Elizabeth’s childless years – the years of mourning have been changed. She has a child. It is a miracle child that promises something great for Israel and all the nations of the earth…

But this child speaks to Elizabeth that even for her, God is bringing a promise:
a promise of hope, of change, of new beginning.

As it says in Psalm 30:

“Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me….
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth & clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”
(Psalm 30:2, 11, 12)

So, for those of standing in the shadows of shame like Elizabeth, the work of God in Jesus Christ is also a personal, relational, and transformational. God is doing something new in Jesus now…for us.

 [This is an excerpt from my message “Promise” as part of our series on the Gospel of Luke.]