A Thrill of Hope for a Weary World

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The Christmas Eve services at Eastbrook were themed around a line from “O Holy Night”: “a thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices.” My message in the services explored that theme, turning attention to how Jesus helps us see what God is really like and how the incarnation gives us true hope. In particular, I drew upon Hebrews 1:1-3:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.

I attempted to draw into sharper focus three ways that Jesus shows us something about God:

  • That God exists
  • That God cares for us and the world more than we understand
  • That God is here – God “shows up”

You can watch the message below.

 

Sprouting Glory: A Christmas reflection

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Dusty, the longing rises from the ground,
a small leafy sprout breaking from the stump.
Where the green is, eyes look in wonder,
as hope grows from sprout to sapling.
The earth, scorched with anger and loss,
ignores at first, but cannot fail to notice,
amidst the ashen landscape, as first leaves
and buds begin to raise their forms to light.
While all around seems decayed with death,
here – only here – life begins again.
Like a phoenix, hope surges in flames,
as Holy Spirit quivers amongst every leaf and branch.
Now, now is the moment, the time of arrival,
and all the angels cry out, “Glory!”

Waiting on the Lord: Living with Hope in the Land Between

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One of the most pervasive themes in the psalms is waiting.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3)

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield. (Psalm 33:20)

Lord, I wait for you;
you will answer, Lord my God. (Psalm 38:15)

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)

The waiting described in the psalms is not some abstract waiting, but waiting that is focused on a person: the Living God. Unlike generalized “waiting for the world to turn” or “waiting for a miracle,” waiting on the Lord is based upon what we know of who God is – His character – and what God does – His activity.

Waiting on the Lord says, “I know who God is. I know what I’ve seen god do in times past in biblical history, other human lives, and in my own life. Because of that, I wait for God to meet me and act in my life.”

This sort of waiting is hopeful waiting. Hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” Hope is fixed on a future but affects the way we live now. It is both anticipation and arrival at the same time. Waiting on the Lord is hopeful because we can both rest in God in the present and trust in God for the future.

But what does it look like to wait on the Lord? Does it mean we simply stop everything and sit around until God does something? No. Waiting on God is active. We continue with our lives, doing our best to walk in God’s ways, witness to God’s character, and fulfill our responsibilities as best as we can. In the midst of that, waiting on God gives us hope that transcends our circumstances as we look for God to work in our lives.

Here are three specific ways we can wait on the Lord with hope:

  1. First, we wait on God by reading His word. The psalmist says, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope” (Psalm 130:5). Hopeful waiting with our hope in God means that we both hope in and live by His trustworthy word. As it says in Psalm 119:166, “I wait for your salvation, Lord,
    and I follow your commands.” The word of God gives us perspective and understanding so that we can move forward with God as we wait. Reading it regularly and transformationally helps us meet God in our waiting.
  2. Second, we wait on God in prayer. Prayer is simply talking to God – calling out to God – in the midst of our lives. It is particularly important in times of waiting because we both need to express what is happening in our lives and wait upon God to speak to us. The regularity of calling out to God in prayer while waiting helps us give voice and give ear to God: “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice” (Psalm 5:3). As the psalms show us, prayer is a lifeline in the midst of waiting.
  3. Third, we wait on God by watching for Him. Transformational reading of Scripture changes us internally and prayer makes us attentive. From this new vantage point, we want to be watchful for God. What is God doing? Where is He at work? It is of little use if we read the Bible and pray in the morning and then zone out from God for the rest of our day. “I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning” (Psalm 130:6). To wait on the Lord in hope means we watch with expectation for the Lord to act.

Lord, I wait for You.
There is so much happening in my life and the world today.
Give me eyes to see You and ears to hear You as I wait upon You in my life.
I trust You and I rest in You today.

The Weekend Wanderer: 26 October 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.

PF_10.17.19_rdd_update-00-020“In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace” – How many times have you heard about the decline of Christianity in the US in the past few years? More than you’d like to say, I would expect. There are some voices saying that the statistics speak to many other changes in culture, others the theological truth tells us something else, while other voices say the implications are not all bad. Here is the latest look at the data from the Pew Research Center on religion and public life. The bottom line: Christianity of every stripe is in decline in the US while the religiously unaffiliated (“religious nones”) are on the rise. What does this mean? Well, that is certainly a larger discussion that must take into account the nature of organized religion, shifts in social value of religion, shifts in social engagement as a whole in the US, and honesty about personal engagement within religion.

 

92589“Why We Still Prophesy Hope” – I have been involved here in Milwaukee with efforts to transform the racial divides both in our city and inside the church fellowships here. This type of work involves honest self-assessments, engaging with painful stories, encouraging those different from one another to journey together, and also somehow pointing to real change. It can be exhausting, humbling, and frustrating work at times. It is also hopeful work. Here is Dante Stewart speaking to that from his own journey and story.

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-24 at 9.38.10 AM“Accusing SBC of ‘caving,’ John MacArthur says of Beth Moore: ‘Go home'” – I first encountered the teaching of John MacArthur in probably the worst way possible. After coming to Christ through a charismatic renewal, someone shared MacArthur’s book, Charismatic Chaos, with me in an attempt to fix my “bad” theology of the Holy Spirit. It didn’t work, but it did serve as a strange introduction to a renowned American Bible teacher. Since that time, others I respect helped me to appreciate certain aspects of MacArthur’s expository preaching ministry. Still, I have always struggled with his less than irenic approach to controversial issues. That was confirmed further when, at a celebration of fifty years of ministry, when MacArthur was asked to make word associations with certain theological issues or figures, he responded to “Beth Moore” with “Go home.” You can listen to the whole clip here. I have friends who do not support women in preaching or ordained ministry and we can have a healthy discussion about our differing views, but MacArthur’s sharp words do not seem helpful here. Beth Moore responded via Twitter, and others, such as Kay Warren and SBC President J. D. Greear, have weighed in. In many ways, this is nothing new for MacArthur, as Christianity Today highlighted, “John MacArthur Is No Stranger to Controversy.”

 

8rriw2o“Pilgrims, Priests, and Breaking Bread in an Alpine Monastery” – I’m not alone in thinking that there is not enough silence in our lives. Of course, the lack of external silence is often a reflection of the lack of internal silence in our lives. For me, drawing away from the noise, voices, and busyness regularly helps me to recovery my identity. I often do this in nature, but have at times gathered in spaces set apart for this, such as retreat houses, monasteries, or camps. Every once in awhile it’s refreshing to catch a view of this experience from someone with fresh eyes. Timothy Egan does just that as he relates his encounter with Ignatian spirituality, silence, space, and listening in a visit to the Great St. Bernard Hospice.

 

Columba Stewart“A Monk of the Secular Age” – Speaking of monks, why not read about the life of Columba Stewart, a Benedictine monk who has traversed the world to help save and catalog ancient religious texts. Even finding himself in the midst of war zones, including Iraq, he has worked tirelessly to gather and digitize these texts to preserve them and make them accessible to scholars and the broader world. This reminds us of the historic efforts of monasticism to preserve works that would otherwise be lost, giving us links to earlier eras and societies that have formed the history of thought in ways we should not underestimate.

 

St Lydias Brooklyn“Dinner Church, anyone?” – What is church? How should we live together as church? These questions repeat in discussions again and again. They are not new, but they always bring new answers within the changing context of human culture and social experience. I was talking with a friend over lunch just over a week ago, and we shared our own thoughts about these questions. When I read this article by Michael Frost, I was reminded of some of that discussion, because this very idea had popped up there. I’m not really into pursuing fads in church models, but Frost’s exploration and sharing of examples is thought-provoking. Here’s Frost: “So, what is dinner church? Well, it’s dinner. And church. Scrunched together. But there’s so much more to it than that. Here’s a few dinner churches from around the world to give you a little taste.”

 

Music: Mavis Staples, “You Are Not Alone,” from You Are Not Alone (written by Jeff Tweedy)

[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.]

What Are You Waiting For?

MP900442844When someone asks you, “what are you waiting for?”, a number of responses may jump to your lips:

  • “The start of the football season.”
  • “A response to that job application I sent in.”
  • “That special someone to come along.”

Waiting is a regular part of our lives, but it is not something we are always very good at.

Where are you?
In Psalm 130, the writer cries out to God from the depths (verses 1-2). For the Israelites, the depths convey a place of fear, confusion, or trouble. Pharaoh and the Egyptian army “sank Read More »

A Crash Course in Knowing Christ (Ephesians 1:15-23)

Ephesians

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I continued our new series walking through the New Testament book of Ephesians, entitled “Ephesians: A Crash Course in Basic Christianity.” This weekend, I continued with the second half of chapter 1, which offers us a “Crash Course in Knowing Christ.” This is really a prayer of Paul that unfolds for us how prayer in gratitude, intercession, and worship helps us know Christ more fully in our lives.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement.

Read More »

Ephesians: A Crash Course in Basic Christianity

Ephesians

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, we began a ten-week series walking through the New Testament book of Ephesians, entitled “Ephesians: A Crash Course in Basic Christianity.” Written by the Apostle Paul as a circular letter for young churches in Asia Minor, Ephesians covers the basics of our faith: God’s plans in Jesus for humanity, the essence of the gospel, relationships inside the church, living for Christ in the world today, spiritual conflict, prayer, and so much more. Join us for a crash course in basic Christianity with Paul in Ephesians.

You can watch Will Branch’s message from this past weekend, “A Crash Course in Blessing,” right here.

Below is the week-by-week outline for the series.

June 1/2 – “A Crash Course in God’s Blessing” – Ephesians 1:1-14

June 8/9 – “A Crash Course in Knowing Christ” – Ephesians 1:15-23

June 15/16 – “A Crash Course in the Gospel” – Ephesians 2:1-10

June 22/23 – “A Crash Course in Unity in Christ” – Ephesians 2:11-22

June 29/30 – “A Crash Course in the Church” – Ephesians 3:1-13

July 6/7 – “A Crash Course in the Love of Christ” – Ephesians 3:14-21

July 13/14 – “A Crash Course in Spiritual Growth” – Ephesians 4:1-16

July 20/21 – “A Crash Course in Christ-like Living” – Ephesians 4:17-5:20

July 27/28 – “A Crash Course in Christ-Centered Relationships – Ephesians 5:21-6:9

August 3/4 – “A Crash Course in Spiritual Conflict” – Ephesians 6:10-24