The Hunger for Greatness [Hungry for God]

During Lent at Eastbrook Church, we are exploring how our hungers lead us to God in order to find true rest for our souls. The series, “Hungry for God,” parallels the season of Lent, and has a companion daily devotional that you can access here.

This weekend I explored the hunger for greatness by looking at a quirky story in Mark 10, where James and John ask Jesus to give them a special place of honor when He returns in glory. The other disciples are incensed and it provides an opportunity for Jesus to discuss the nature of true greatness.

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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Jesus is Local and Personal

Healing_of_a_bleeding_women_Marcellinus-Peter-CatacombI’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ way of doing ministry recently. A number of years ago, I read Eugene Peterson’s outstanding book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. Ever since reading it, I have grappled with what it means to truly minister to people in Jesus’ way.

In the midst of my reflections, I have been surprised once again by how Jesus always spoke and acted with specific people in specific places. In many ways this is so straightforward that I initially failed to give it much thought.

However, Peterson helped me to see how this is often not the way that we tend to think about Jesus or ourselves as North American Christians today.

We tend to be captivated with formulas and generalities that we can mold and apply to our Christian life, whether habits or purposes or principles. Jesus, however, did not offer generalities or formulas that could be broadcast on billboards or used as marketing slogans.

Instead, Jesus dealt with specific people in their specific places.

He asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water and then conversed about life, human soul-thirst, and the nature of the Messiah (John 4). Walking along with His disciples, Jesus addressed prevailing notions of sin and its physical repercussions by interacting with a man born blind. He spit in the dust, caked it over the man’s blind eyes, and told him to go wash in a nearby pool (John 9).

Jesus is undeniably local, personal, and relational. He does not seem too concerned with developing broad-based programs or ideas into which people are plugged like so many disposable appliances in an over-crowded kitchen. Quite the opposite!

What Jesus does is this. He calls this one – Zacchaeus – into relationship in a personal manner as they talk about life over a meal (Luke 19). He calls these four – Peter and Andrew, James and John – to follow Him from their lake-fishing into people-fishing for the lost while walking along the shore (Matthew 4).

Jesus lives locally with specific people in specific places. What about us? Do we live in that way? Do we minister in that way?

The Hunger for Love [Hungry for God]

St. Augustine of Hippo famously wrote near the beginning of Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, we began a series that explores how our hungers lead us to God to find true rest for our souls. The series, “Hungry for God,” parallels the season of Lent, and has a companion daily devotional that you can access here.

This weekend I explored the hunger for love by walking through the story found in John 4 of Jesus’ conversation with a woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria.

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.

Read More »

Hungry for God

This week at Eastbrook Church we begin a new series entitled “Hungry for God.” Every human being has deep longings and hungers that propel us forward in life. We are hungry for love, hungry for belonging, hungry to leave a lasting legacy, and so much more. Where do those hungers come from and how can we fill them?

St. Augustine of Hippo famously wrote of God: “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in You.” In this series during Lent, we will explore the hungers of our souls, how God fills those deep hungers through Christ, and the ways in which we can lean into our hungers to experience life with God more fully and with greater satisfaction. Each week, there will be suggestions of specific spiritual practices of taking off certain things (fasting) and putting certain other things (replacing).

Along with the weekend messages, I want to invite you to join a 40-day devotional journey with us at Eastbrook. You can find out more about how to access that devotional in print or electronically here.

March 6 – “Hungry for God” [Journey to the Cross]

March 9/10 – “The Hunger for Love”

March 16/17 “The Hunger for Greatness”

March 23/24 – “The Hunger for Joy”

March 30/31 – “The Hunger to Know”

April 6/7- “The Hunger for Peace”

April 13/14 – “The Hunger to Leave a Legacy” [Palm Sunday]

Beginning with Hunger

Hungry for God Series GFX_16x9 Title

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?”
(Psalm 42:1-2)

In the story of Israel after the exodus from Egypt, God’s people were hungry for many things. They were hungry for food, so God provided miraculous manna and quail (Exodus 16). They were thirsty for water, so God provided miraculous water from a rock (Exodus 17). They were hungry for guidance from God, so God provided the miraculous Ten Commandments and other instructions (Exodus 20). They were hungry for victory over their enemies, so God provided them with a way through the Red Sea and success over their foes (Exodus 14 and 17). They were hungry for rest, so God instituted the sabbath (Exodus 31). 

Yet there were times when their hungers stretched beyond what God would give. They hungered for a god they could control, so they constructed an idol in the form of a golden calf (Exodus 32). God interrupted that desire by sending Moses down to stop that idolatrous feast. There were other times when God’s people reached out for satisfaction in ways God knew would not bring life to His people. Eventually, they wandered for forty years in the wilderness until, purified of their sinful attempts to satisfy their hungers, they were ready to enter into the Promised Land (Numbers 14). They needed to feel their hunger deeply and discover that their hungers could only be satisfied in God.

Today we begin a journey that parallels the forty years of wilderness wandering for Israel. It is a journey in which we will get in touch with our hungers and desires. In this journey we want to allow God to search through our hungers, including ways we attempt to satisfy our hungers that are skewed. We will enter into the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24: 

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Through it all, the foundational level of our journey is remembering that only God can satisfy the deepest longings of our souls. Let us join in this journey together as a community, beginning with the prayer of Psalm 42:1-2: 

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?”

Let us say together: God, we are hungry for You.

[This a devotional I wrote for the first day of the Eastbrook Church Lenten devotional, “Hungry for God.”]

Is the Kingdom of God Fair?

In Matthew 19:16-20:16 we read one of Jesus’ most challenging conversations, an exchange with a wealthy young man, which is followed by a parable about workers in a vineyard. It is challenging to read both because the wealthy young man struggles with Jesus, but also because the parable quickly touches upon some of our in-built cultural values in North America.

First, the wealthy young man cannot give all for following Jesus because the possessions in his life have too strong a grip on him. He cannot obey Jesus’ words, “go, sell your possessions and give to the poor…then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). The greatness of his wealth became a roadblock to his discipleship. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). The apostles are flabbergasted in light of the prevailing Jewish view that wealth affirms God’s blessing on one’s life. If those who are wealthy cannot enter the kingdom with ease (19:23-24) then what about those who are not wealthy? What about the ones, like them, who have little and have even given their meager resources for the kingdom? How much more difficult, they thought, will it be for people with little to enter the kingdom.

And so, Jesus goes on to tell a parable to expand on the idea that “many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (19:30). It is a parable of troublesome grace for those, like me, who operate on the system of fairness. A landowner hires five rounds of workers through the course of the day to work in his vineyard. While those hired first worked all day, those hired last worked only a few hours. But here is where the scandalous grace comes in: the landowner pays all the workers the same day’s wage regardless of when they began work. The earliest workers agreed to this (20:2, 13), but they are offended by the generosity of the landowner. In the back of my mind, a voice cries out like an alarm: “it’s just not fair!”

But that is just the point. The Kingdom of God is not about fairness, but about grace. What the earliest followers of Jesus thought was the system of fairness in God’s blessing was turned upside down. “Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Why? Because in His scandalous generosity, God unleashes grace without measure on all who come to Him. Whether early or late, we all receive an equal portion of the grace of God that is without measure or bounds.

The Unselfish Way of Jesus

 

No one should seek their own good, but the good of others….I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:24, 33; 11:1)

The Apostle Paul’s theme in this section is the importance of thoughtfully seeking the good of others in our actions. We are not to selfishly pursue an individualistic good in what we do or how we live. This is Paul’s example, which he learned from Christ. The way of Jesus is the unselfish way.

Jesus’ Selfless Example
First, it is important to grasp Jesus’ selfless example. He endured the Cross for the joy set before Him, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God’s throne (Hebrews 12:2). He did this so that He could bring many people into the glorious family of God. Jesus’ aim was to lead many to Himself by laying down His life. He aimed for a greater, selfless goal and we, too, should live selflessly for the greater aim of God’s purposes in this world and our lives.

Letting Go of Individualistic Good
At times this means, secondarily, that we must forego some apparent ‘goods’ that come into conflict with the good of others. For the believers in Corinth this meant considering certain freedoms they enjoyed, such as the eating of meals, in light of how those freedoms would effect others and their life of faith. When we see that certain actions or ways of living that we enjoy are inhibiting others from experiencing God, then we must reconsider what we are doing or how we are living. With that consideration in view, we may even need to let go of those actions or ways of life either temporarily or permanently. This, of course, flies in the face of self-actualization or the pursuit of total freedom so strongly promoted in our world today. In God, our grace-given freedom is a liberation from sin into a new sort of life characterized by God’s truth and righteousness. That way in God does not release us from all the demands of others but intricately binds us together with others under God.

Should We Seek Ill for Ourselves?
Third, we must understand that seeking the good of others does not mean seeking ill for ourselves. Pursuing ill for ourselves is not helpful for anyone. Without a doubt we may face trials and endure hardship in life, but seeking the good of others must also include good for ourselves. Paul’s words here are aimed at a sort of godless selfishness which does not take into account the lives of others. He is not asking the Corinthians – or us – to set aside helpful self-awareness or self-care. It is important that we move beyond guilt-ridden lies from the evil one that say any thought of ourselves is selfish and not honoring to God. It is important to note that the interpersonal element of the ‘Great Commandment’ given by Jesus reads: “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

The equation here means acknowledging what we would like to seek for ourselves, yet placing it on the table of consideration with the needs of others before God’s caring and purposeful eye. Ultimately, we must say with our Savior, “Lord, not my will, but Yours be done.” Then we move forward, like Jesus, for the joy set before us in obedience to God with appropriate love for others in the unselfish way.