Becoming Real: The Sermon on the Mount – a new series at Eastbrook

This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church we begin a ten-week preaching series entitled “Becoming Real,” walking through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, chapters 5-7. This is the third part of our longer journey through the Gospel of Matthew, building upon “Family Tree” and “Power in Preparation.”

This series explores Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount as a basic manual on Christian discipleship, life in the kingdom of God, and re-humanization in Jesus Christ. Jesus begins His ministry – His ministry is becoming real. He invites us to follow Him and learn from Him – discipleship is becoming real. That invitation to Christ calls us toward true humanity – in Him we are becoming real. Join us as we begin the journey with Jesus of becoming real.

You can also join in with the daily devotional for this series online, as a downloadable PDF, via the Eastbrook app, or through a limited-run of paper copies available at our in-person worship services or by reaching out to the Eastbrook Church office.

Join us each weekend of this series in-person or via Eastbrook at Home.

Here are the weekly topics for the series:

February 21 – “Real Life” – Matthew 5:1-11

February 28 – “Real Identity” – Matthew 5:12-16

March 7 – “Real Righteousness” – Matthew 5:17-48

March 14 – “Real Spirituality” – Matthew 6:1-18

March 21 – “Real Treasure” – Matthew 6:19-24

March 28 – “Real Faith” – Matthew 6:25-34

April 4 – “Real Life” – Easter Resurrection Celebration

April 11 – “Real Perspective” – Matthew 7:1-6

April 18 – “Real Prayer” – Matthew 7:7-11

April 25 – “Real Love” – Matthew 7:12

May 2 – “Real Response” – Matthew 7:13-29

Stepping Forward into 2021 with Focus

Emmaus Road

This week, I am sharing some spiritual practices for reflecting on the previous year and stepping forward into the new year.

Stepping Forward with Focus

Just as we look back at the previous year gone by with thanksgiving, lament, and repentance, it is important to step forward into the coming year in a personally engaged and meaningful way.

First, let me encourage us to step forward into the new year with focus. Psalm 63 is a beloved psalm reflecting both our need for God and the power of right focus upon God.

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)

The psalmist is apparently in a difficult time, an important moment, but it is clear that the psalmist is stepping forward into that moment with focus on God.

Some will say that the most important thing we can do is to put “first things first.” As we step into this year, there is nothing more important – nothing that should more truly be a first thing – than God Himself. Our focus must be on Him.

Jesus also emphasized this when He said:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Entering into the new year, we must consider how to keep our focus on God. We need to consider what it looks like to prioritize relationship with God in the midst of all the relationships in our lives. We want to establish some specific ways to do that this year that more than a resolution, but is a prioritization of the Living God in our live.

A good question to ask ourselves is: what is one thing I will do to prioritize life with God this year?

The Weekend Wanderer: 28 September 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.

 

BRAZIL-LGBT-EVANGELICAL-CHURCHEvangelical Has Lost Its Meaning” – Ever since the last presidential election, there have been debates about the meaning of the word ‘evangelical.’ Books have been written not merely about the history of the movement and meaning of the word, but, more recently, whether the word has any continue relevance (watch for the forthcoming book edited by historians Mark Noll, David Bebbington, and George Marsden, Evangelicals: Who They Have Been, Are Now, and Could Be). I think, in many ways, the central question is whether the word ‘evangelical’ has any shared meaning that communicates broadly, as it did in the past. I doubt that it does, and here is Alan Jacobs to make a much more convincing case than I could about that as he reviews Thomas S. Kidd’s recent book, Who Is an Evangelical? The History of a Movement in Crisis. You may also enjoy Christianity Today‘s recent “Quick to Listen” podcast with editor Mark Galli, “So, What’s an Evangelical?” and The Englewood Review of Books booklist “Evangelicalism – Ten Books for Assessing its Present and Future.”

 

Bible translation“Why it matters if your Bible was translated by a racially diverse group”Esau McCaulley, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, engages with whether the make-up of Bible translation committees is important or not. “As a New Testament scholar, I’ve discovered that people of color and women have rarely led or participated in Bible translation. On one hand, this doesn’t trouble me much. It is hard to mess up the story of the Exodus, distort the message of the prophets or dismantle the story of Jesus. It is all there in every English translation. On the other, I believe it matters who translates the Bible, and that more diverse translation committees could inspire fresh confidence among Christians of color. Such a translation would allow black Christians and others to ‘know with certainty the things that you have been taught’ (Luke 1:4).”

 

1_0rZWywtB3AYoRJVH08RUbQ“Black Christians Deserve Better Than Companies (And Churches) Like Relevant Media Group” – When I read this article I was simultaneously disappointed and not surprised. These issues are so very difficult to navigate, and few are doing it well. Every majority culture leader/pastor needs to pay attention to what Andre Henry is saying as he recounts his negative experiences as an editor at Relevant. “RELEVANT remains without excuse for the patterns of tokenization of black people and fetishization of racial justice efforts that characterize their work, and the harm it has caused to Black people within and outside of the organization. As long as they refuse to acknowledge this about their praxis, they’ll remain an unsafe environment for Black people and a collaborator in the racist status quo while giving themselves credit for being an ally.” You can also read Relevant‘s response here and a summary of related news gathered by Religion News Service.

 

Visual Commentary on ScriptureVisual Commentary on Scripture – I was talking after our worship services this past weekend with an artist within our church about some of the images I use while preaching, which are often taken from paintings on themes somewhat related to the passage from which I am preaching. Not too long ago, I came across The Visual Commentary on Scripture, which is a fascinating resource “that provides theological commentary on the Bible in dialogue with works of art. It helps its users to (re)discover the Bible in new ways through the illuminating interaction of artworks, scriptural texts, and commissioned commentaries.” Maybe you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

 

5YQEW5F6EBGR7L5MJG7QRUYI4A“Wheaton College students sue city, say rights to free speech, religious liberty were violated by guards booting them from Millennium Park, restricting access” – When I was an undergrad at Wheaton College, I decided to join in with a team of students sharing their faith in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. This team was led by a group of students with a passion to share Christ in a loving yet clear way with others. One of them was my wife, Kelly, who challenged me then (and still does today) to let the passion I had for Christ make its way out of my mouth through spiritual conversations. With all the conversation about the loss of evangelistic zeal in the North American church today, I was surprised on several fronts to read this Chicago Tribune story of Wheaton College students sharing their faith at Millennium Park in Chicago and also the free speech lawsuit that has arisen around them being asked to not share in the park. This isn’t just about religious groups, but also pertains to political groups and the like. It does raise the question of the nature of free speech in contemporary democratic societies. I also can’t help but think of the fascinating tradition of Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park.

 

2019-09-19-hui-crackdown-efeng-04_custom-008e193490d162aa9422f4172aaf25de549fbd52-s1400-c85“‘Afraid We Will Become The Next Xinjiang’: China’s Hui Muslims Face Crackdown” – Religious freedom in democratic societies seems lightweight compared to what happens in non-democratic societies. If you have not paid attention to the intensification of pressure on religious minorities in China, let me urge you to start paying attention. This latest NPR piece focuses on minority Hui Muslims, and is an echo of the efforts brought against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and Christians throughout the country.

 

18.large“Seeing the Beauty of Dappled Things: Gerard Manley Hopkins” – Confession: my favorite poet of all time is Gerard Manley Hopkins. I appreciate the poetry of so many other poets that I hate to mention them by name here, but I find myself returning to Hopkins again and again. Perhaps that’s because my first reading of his poetry in high school startled me awake to literature and faith with such vibrant metaphors, skipping rhythms, and striking imagery. I hope that you enjoy as much as I did reading this 2017 article by physician Raymond C. Barfield on how Hopkins’ poetry enabled him to see the beauty of God’s world with fresh eyes.

 

songbird-domain“North America Has Lost More Than 1 in 4 Birds in Last 50 Years, New Study Says” – John Stott, the renowned Bible teacher and author, enjoyed birds for their own sake and as teachers of theological truths. In his most unique book, The Birds, Our Teachers: Essays in Orni-theology, Stott takes the reader on an adventure inside his own wonder and theological reflection over the variegated beauty of birds. In his own inimical way, Stott was attempting to live out what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Consider the birds of the air…” (Matthew 6:26). But today we have to consider this startling news:  a recent study records a drastic decrease in bird population in North America. As stewards of the earth, we should be concerned. As those who enjoy this world charged with God’s grandeur, we should be grieved.

 

Music: Charlie Parker, “Ornithology,” from the original motion picture soundtrack for Bird.

[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.]

Family Camp at Fort: The Art of Prayer

IMG_3117.JPGIn the last week of June I had the opportunity to speak at Family Camp 2 for Fort Wilderness in McNaughton, Wisconsin. If you’re not familiar with Fort, you should definitely consider their amazing range of ministry opportunities throughout the year. Every Winter our Student Ministries takes a group for Winter Retreat up in this beautiful place.

Since I have been spending so much time thinking and speaking on prayer, I kept that theme for the Family Camp, speaking on “The Art of Prayer.”

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 5.28.47 PM.pngFort has posted those messages online here. The five messages I gave were:

  • “Making Space for Prayer” – a look at the way that Jesus’ ordered His life around His relationship with the Father through prayer
  • “Jesus on How We Should Pray” – beginning to look at Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6
  • “Praying Like the Master” – specifically walking through Jesus’ teaching on what is known as the Lord’s Prayer
  • “Praying in Difficulty” – learning from Jesus’ approach to pray in John 17 in the midst of stressful circumstances
  • “Praying with Paul” – looking at one of Paul’s notable prayers in his letters from Philippians 1

 

I am so thankful for the staff team at Fort that I had the chance to work with during the week, as well as all the families that gathered for a week in the Word and in the woods together.