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.
All of us want to experience love. Sometimes this hunger for love looks like a longing for friendship. Sometimes our longing for love surfaces in the desire for intimacy. At other times, this hunger for love is as basic as the desire to belong somewhere with someone. Near the beginning of Genesis, in the account of God’s creation of human beings, we are told that this basic longing for love is seen in the connection between Adam and Eve: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
Elsewhere in Scripture we see that the hunger for love and connection is directly related to the fact that we have a built-in hunger for God. The Psalmist expresses this longing powerfully:
“You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)
In the New Testament, Paul the Apostle echoes this longing for love in a prayer for early Christians about the significance of God’s love in our lives and growth with Christ. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).
Our theme for this week is the hunger for love. Throughout this week’s devotional, we will explore how hunger for love relates to human love and divine love.
RESPOND THIS WEEK:
Each week’s practice will feature some aspect of the process Paul describes for us in Ephesians 4:22-24, where we are to TAKE OFF something from our lives that has become corrupted or distracting and PUT ON in its place something God wants us to do.
Take Off: This week’s practice starts with taking the time to identify some of the false loves in our lives we try to find our self-worth through. You can begin by simply listing the relationships you turn to in order to find love, value, and acceptance in your life. Have any of these become unhealthy in some way? Are any of these causing you to compromise who you are and/or your values in order to be accepted or loved? Are any of these contractual (as long as you do this for me, I’ll love you) or codependent (they are enabling or encouraging poor choices in your life)? Pray for God’s wisdom in how to respond to what you have identified.
Put On: Take a step this week to enter into meaningful Christian community, whether through an existing relationship with a Christian, a small group of some type through church, or some other means. A meaningful Christian community is one where you can know (and are known by) other Christians, where you can pray for and encourage one another and where together you can interact with the Truth of God (through a study, discussion, etc.). If you need ideas for how to find community like this, please contact the Eastbrook Church office. Use the space below to take note of your experience this week.
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46-48)
“Love is blind.” At least, that is how the saying goes. The phrase means that when love is in play, a person is prone to overlook, or just plain fail to see, the problems within the person being loved. There is some truth to that, but the kind of love we all deeply desire is a love that truthfully sees everything about us and still loves us. Love that is blind – that turns away from reality – is false love, while love that sees – that leans into reality – is real love.
John 3:16 is such a well-known Scripture passage because it describes God’s love as real love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17). In the midst of a world stuck in the cycle of death, Jesus the Son of God comes to bring liberating life. Even as the world could potentially be condemned because of evil and injustice, God takes a different route by sending Jesus to save the world. Jesus Himself echoes this later when He says, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). We see in Jesus the Messiah that God’s love is an eyes-open love, leaning into the reality of our world and our lives. Jesus shows us just how far God will go to hold us in His loving embrace.
When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing God’s plan to bring the Messiah to birth through her, Mary was astounded. Her question, “How will this be?”, was both a question about the manner of the Messianic birth since she was a virgin and simultaneously a question about the possibility that something like this could occur in human history. When Gabriel emphasized God’s decisive plan to intervene through Jesus as Messiah, such knowledge eventually leads Mary to erupt with praise: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation” (Luke 1:46-47, 50).
That little word ‘mercy’ is an echo of the Hebrew word hesed, which refers to God’s uniquely steady and faithful love. Mary grasps, and shares with us today, that God sees what is really there in the world and still chooses to love humanity from generation to generation throughout the earth. Mary becomes a picture not only of humble obedience to God’s call, but also boisterous praise of God’s love. As we draw close to Christmas Day, let us join Mary’s wondrous call to praise our God whose love is not blind, but rather eyes-open about us and our world. Let us draw near with anticipation to experience once again the tenderly tenacious love of God found in Jesus the Messiah.
- What difference does it make to you that God loves you—no matter what, just as you are?
- Who in your life needs to hear that God loves them…absolutely and completely? How and when will you tell them?
A Prayer for the fourth Sunday of Advent (from the Revised Common Lectionary):
O God of Elizabeth and Mary,
you visited your servants with news of the world’s redemption
in the coming of the Savior.
Make our hearts leap with joy,
and fill our mouths with songs of praise,
that we may announce glad tidings of peace,
and welcome the Christ in our midst. Amen.
Join in with the daily Advent devotional here.
This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I continued a two-part reflection on the nature of the church. My working title for this series is “The Multi-Everything Church,” which is an outworking of our vision to become a Revelation 7:9-10 type of church with attention to some other aspects beyond multi-ethnicity.
Following last weekend’s message on the church as an intergenerational family, this weekend I looked at two more important aspects of the church, first as a multi-ethnic community and second as a kingdom-oriented community.
This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I began a two-part reflection on the nature of the church. My working title for this series is “The Multi-Everything Church,” which is an outworking of our vision to become a Revelation 7:9-10 type of church with attention to some other aspects beyond multi-ethnicity. This weekend’s message looks at the image of the church as an intergenerational family, where we are all equally children of God by simple faith, yet also embracing the entire church, young and old, as having a place of belonging and value. I spent a bit of time talking about the problems with the frameworks of generational thinking, calling us to a deeper grasp of Jesus’ prayer for unity and call to love.
This 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:
“that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” (John 17:21-23)
Jesus plunges ahead in prayer to the deep place of God’s relational unity: “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” This is one of the great and mysterious truths of the Christian life. God is one in the unity of His substance, yet at the same time distinguished as three persons. There is a unified community of being within God that Jesus expresses here in prayer. Jesus points to God’s essential unity within diversity and diversity within unity. It is this unity within God that is the basis for the unity within God’s people seen in Jesus’ prayer.
Many times when we talk about unity, we begin to talk a lot about love. We know that love is critical to upholding unity within the church and is the essence of what it means to live the Christian life. Love is incredibly important, and we all must learn to love others more deeply and truly.
But Jesus takes His prayer for unity in a different direction. Jesus does not pray here that God would give His people greater capacity or ability to love one another. He prays about something else entirely. He prays that His glory would flow into His future followers and lead them into transformed relationship with God and, therefore, with one another. What is God’s glory? It is the fullness of God’s goodness and greatness being revealed. When Jesus’ prays for God’s glory to fill God’s people it is a prayer that the goodness and greatness of God would be manifested within the lives of His people.
Biblical scholar Raymond Brown points out that “unity is not simply human fellowship or the harmonious interaction of Christians.” There is “both a horizontal and a vertical dimension” to unity. What Jesus knew, and we need to recognize, is that our breakthroughs to unity with others depend upon the glory of God descending into our lives and relationships. The more we are transformed in our relationship with God by His indwelling presence, the more our relationships with others will be likewise transformed. The result is a glorious unity with one source in the Living God.
As we seek unity, let us pray for God’s glory – His goodness and greatness – to become even more present, yes, even preeminent, in us.
Lord, please pour out Your glory in us
that our lives might be overcome by who You are.
And as Your glory becomes more and more prominent in us
may Your beautiful unity also take root within us.
What we really want is to be more like You,
individually and corporately as Your people.
We know there is no other way for that to happen
than for You to have Your way in us.
Come, Holy Father,
Come, Jesus the Son,
Come, Holy Spirit,
Live in us!