The Suffering Servant: Advent Devotional, Week 2

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Read Psalm 22

One of the most memorable events of my life was seeing my grandfather, a person I respected greatly, enter into a battle with cancer at the end of his life. While he retained great dignity to the end, his body became worn out and drawn thin. When we see people of strength in our lives go through times of suffering, it is a difficult thing to watch.

Of all the psalms connected with Jesus, perhaps the most penetrating is Psalm 22. This psalm of anguish and suffering serves as a backdrop for Jesus’ crucifixion, the first phrases leaping from His lips while He hangs affixed to that tortuous wood. There is a wonder here because the chosen one, anointed by God and by His Spirit, now enters into the suffering of humanity. He endures both the suffering humanity deserves and the suffering humanity inflicts. The intensity of the cup of suffering that Jesus drinks at the Cross finds expression in the strong words of this psalm.

It is ironic that the political and religious leaders who gather around to watch Jesus’ crucifixion mock Him as He suffers. “They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One’” (Luke 23:35). They seem to delight in the suffering of this supposed Messiah, even as Jesus’ followers hide away in fear or lurk nearby in anguish. This is ironic because even as they mock, the Jewish belief structure of Jesus’ time earnestly anticipated a messiah figure to relieve their suffering under the oppression of the Roman regime. As happens to all of us, they failed to see that what they most need is right in front of them.

Advent may seem like an odd time to focus on Psalm 22. The theme and words seem more like a Good Friday portion of Scripture. Yet the anticipation of Advent calls us to a watchful attention of the way that God works. Even before the foundations of the earth, God had a plan to reveal His glory in Christ and to bring us back to Him through the suffering of Jesus. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8a).

As we continue our Advent journey, may the suffering of Jesus the Messiah, described in Psalm 22, give us hope that God has come to rescue us. And may we meet that hope with faith as we live for God and wait for Christ’s return. R

REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT:

  1. “The Lord works in mysterious ways” is a phrase we often hear. In what way was the arrival and suffering of Jesus a mysterious path of God? And in what way would you say it all made sense?
  2. As you reflect on the birth stories of Jesus from the Gospels, where do you see His purpose and suffering anticipated? What is your reaction to God’s long-planned and perfectly-executed plan for our salvation?

FAMILY TALK WEEK 2

INTENDED FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN

When park rangers rescue someone from a mountaintop or deep in a canyon, they have to do a short-haul rescue operation. This means that they y a helicopter as close as possible to the rescue site, then one ranger straps on a harness and is let out of the helicopter on a cable. The ranger dangles over the rescue site and eventually lands near the person to be rescued. The ranger links his harness to the stranded person, and together they are pulled back toward the helicopter where they can be safe.

Short-haul rescues are really dangerous! Park rangers who do them know that they are risking their own lives to save someone else’s.

This is exactly what Jesus did—but so much more! Jesus did lay down His life in order to save us. This is the whole point of the Savior Song in Psalm 22. Even though it was written hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, this psalm gives clues about Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. It tells us that Jesus would feel all alone (verse 1-2), that He would be made fun of (verses 6-8), that His body would be weak and broken (verses 14-17) and it even tells us that soldiers would play games for His cloak (verse 18). It’s a sad picture!

But, it’s also a hopeful picture. Jesus loved us enough to rescue us—to take the punishment for our sins! Like the short-haul rescuer, he links Himself to us and brings us to safety! We know that Jesus rose again, and those of us who trust Him, will rise to live forever with Him!

[This is part of the Eastbrook Church 2019 Advent devotional, “Songs of the Savior.”]

The Promised Lamb of God [Name Above All Names]

NAAN-Series-GFX_App-Wide.pngI continued our new series, “Name Above All Names,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This series began with our Christmas celebration of Jesus as the light of the world, continued in the last two weekends with Jesus as “Friend of Sinners” and “The Gate” (Thanks, Pastor Dan Ryan!), and now turns to Jesus as the “Promised Lamb of God.”

This message leaps off from John the Baptist’s description of Jesus in John 1:29:

Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

The message then looks at four “clues” to Jesus’ identity as the Lamb of God found throughout the Hebrew Bible: the ram provided on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22), the Passover lamb (Exodus 12), the daily sacrifice (Leviticus 1), and the suffering servant (Isaiah 52-53).

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.

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I am Loved Beyond Measure (message at Elmbrook Church)

Game Changer.pngThis past weekend I had the chance to speak at Elmbrook Church as part of their summer “Game Changer” series. Returning to Elmbrook is always a joy for me because my first full-time vocational ministry role was as Elmbrook’s College Pastor with The Ave (2003-08).

This series allows speakers to share Scriptural truths that were “game changers” in their lives. For me, growing in my understanding of God’s love changed me from the inside out and has continued to transform the way I think about God, myself, and others. Some aspects of this message were derived from a weekend in a series we did at Eastbrook entitled “Who Am I?”  However, I always find that preaching is an experience of three-way communication between God, a congregation and a preacher that makes the preaching event always unique.

You can watch the message below:

 

Also, my dear friend Mike from Kettlebrook Church in West Bend opened Scripture with Eastbrook as part of our “Great Prayers of the Bible” series while I was away. You can watch his message here as well:

I Am Loved Beyond Measure

“What’s love got to do with it?”

“All you need is love!”

“I wanna know what love is.”

“I will always love you.”

Any number of songs within our culture talk about the power of love in our lives. When we are loved we find a deeper meaning in our lives. Often, being loved and loving others helps us find out what is most important in life, and even to discover who we are.

In our current series at Eastbrook Church, “Who Am I?“, we are exploring biblical answers to questions about our identity as human beings. This past weekend I explored how knowing and experiencing the love of God shapes our sense of personal identity. I referenced a wide variety of Scripture passages, as well as a few nods of the head to Kevin Durant, Mother Teresa, and the movie Arrival.

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

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Righteous Suffering (discussion questions)

Exiles Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Righteous Suffering,” which is part of our series “Exiles” on the book of 1 Peter. This study walks through 1 Peter 2:11-25.

  1. When was a time when someone noticed that you were a follower of Jesus just by the way you live? What happened?
  1. This weekend we continue our series, “Exiles,” on the New Testament letter of 1 Peter. Take a moment to begin your study in prayer, asking God to speak to you and transform you through His truth. Then, whether you are alone or with others, read 1 Peter 2:11-25 aloud.
  1. Building upon the last section of identity markers (1 Peter 2:9-10), Peter begins this section of the letter begins by returning to terms he used earlier: “foreigners” (1:17) and “exiles” (1:1). Why do you think Peter highlights these terms again here?
  1. There are two major exhortations Peter offers in verses 11 and 12. What are they?
  1. Peter introduces the concept of spiritual warfare here. What do you normally think of when you hear the phrase ‘spiritual warfare’, and how does that relate to what Peter is discussing here?
  1. In verses 13-17, the letter turns toward the meaningful social responsibility of God’s exiled people. What are the major instructions Peter brings to his readers in these verses?
  1. Peter highlights the freedom of God’s people in verse 16. What does he say the point of this freedom is?
  1. Some people say that Christians should always quietly submit to authority, regardless of what the authority asks us to do. Others say that Christians should challenge the established authorities at times when they deviate from the public good. What do you think? How do the themes of submission and doing good inform the way we think about this question?
  1. With 1 Peter 2:18-3:7 Peter applies his teaching to the basic unit of Roman society, the household. He does this in an unexpected way, beginning by addressing the ‘least of these’ personally. How does Peter both dignify and challenge the household servants in verses 18-21?
  1. Peter holds up Jesus as the example for the household servants – and all Christians – to follow in verses 23-25. He does so by weaving Isaiah 53 throughout his words on Jesus. Take a moment to read Isaiah 53 aloud. Where do you hear echoes of Isaiah’s words about the Messiah in 1 Peter 2:23-25?
  1. Why do you think the example of Jesus would be such a powerful example to these early believers who feel like foreigners and exiles? How does Jesus’ example speak to you?
  1. What is one specific thing you sense God is speaking to you about your life through this study? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray about what you share together. If you are studying on your own, write it down, pray about it, and share this with someone during the next few days.

[Next week: We continue our “Exiles” series with a discussion of “Righteous Relationships.” Prepare ahead of time by reading 1 Peter 3:1-12.]