Pascal on the Infinite Abyss

Blaise Pascal

I came across this quoted Pascal in his work Pensées as I prepared for my message this past weekend. It is one that I have shared in previous messages, but it is so relevant to our searching for identity:

“There was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.

You can access this specific section here, as well as the entire work at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Who Am I?: a new series at Eastbrook Church

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, as we celebrated the resurrection, we launched a new series entitled “Who Am I?: Finding Identity in Christ.” My first message in that series, “He Is – I Am,” explored how the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah leads us into the discovery of what it truly means to be human in relation to God and as our unique selves.

The remainder of the series addresses this pervasive question within our culture: who am I? We receive all sorts of advice in answering that question, from ‘following our noses’ to trying on different identities to reacting against the prevailing culture or our histories. But how do we discover our personal identity? Even more, is the concept of personal identity even something that is helpful to consider?
This series looks at what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection mean for our personal identity with God in Christ.

Here are the titles of the series:

  • April 7/8: I am not stuck
  • April 14/15: I am known by faith
  • April 21/22: I am more than my image
  • April 28/29: I am made uniquely
  • May 5/6: I am unfinished
  • May 12/13: I am loved beyond measure
  • May 19/20: I am filled with God’s power

Join us throughout the next two months in person or online to gain a deeper grasp of our identity in Jesus Christ.

He Is – I Am: resurrection message 2018

As we celebrated the resurrection this past weekend at Eastbrook Church we also began a new series “Who Am I?” on identity in Christ. My Easter message was a linkage between our deepest questions about finding who we are and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

You can view the message video below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

The Elusive Midwestern Identity

Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_ProjectThis past May I traveled to a Pastor’s Conference at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, as part of my sabbatical. While there, I had numerous opportunities to answer the question, “Where are you from?” Since most of the attendees were from western Canada or the Pacific Northwest, it was always entertaining to explain where Milwaukee is (‘just north of Chicago’) or what it means to be from the Midwestern region of America. What is the Midwest, anyway, and is it really unique to be from there?

That topic is exactly what Phil Christman explores in his article, “On Being Midwestern: The Burden of Normality,” in the latest edition of The Hedgehog Review.

After my Texas-born wife and I moved to Michigan—an eleven-hour drive in the snow, during which time itself seemed to widen and flatten with the terrain—I found myself pressed into service as an expert on the region where I was born and where I have spent most of my life. “What is the Midwest like?” she asked. “Midwestern history, Midwestern customs, Midwestern cuisine?” I struggled to answer with anything more than clichés: bad weather, hard work, humble people. I knew these were inadequate.

As a lifelong Midwesterner I thoroughly enjoyed Christman’s exploration of the stereotypes, artistic representations, self-deprecating humor, and perceptions of the Midwest. Referencing Fargo, Abraham Lincoln, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, and social commentary over the past one-hundred years, Christman addresses the burdens of life in the Midwest. What burdens, you may ask?

What does it do to people to see themselves as normal? On the one hand, one might adopt a posture of vigilant defense, both internal and external, against anything that might detract from such a fully, finally achieved humanness. On the other hand, a person might feel intense alienation and disgust, which one might project inward—What is wrong with me?—or outward, in a kind of bomb-the-suburbs reflex. A third possibility—a simple, contented being normal—arises often in our culture’s fictions about the Midwest, both the stupid versions (the contented families of old sitcoms) and the more sophisticated ones (Fargo’s Marge Gunderson, that living argument for the value of banal goodness). I have yet to meet any real people who manage it. A species is a bounded set of variations on a template, not an achieved state of being.

Give it a read here.

What About Our Image? (Study Questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church entitled “What About Our Image?

Discussion Questions

1. On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable are you in our own skin – how comfortable are you with yourself – right now. Why?

2. Genesis 1 tells the story of the creation of the world. Read that chapter out loud and reflect on the differences between humanity’s creation and the creation of the rest of the world. What is distinct or unique about human beings?

3. The phrase ‘image of God’ or ‘likeness of God’ only appears three times in Genesis:  1:26-28; 5:1-2; and 9:6. However, Psalm 8 is often seen as a commentary on Genesis 1:26-28. Take some time to read through Psalm 8 and reflect on what it says about humanity.

4. Given the Scripture you read through previously, how would you define humanity in the following categories:Read More »