A Prayer inspired by Hebrews 3:1-6

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Throughout our new series “The Final Word: Knowing Christ through Hebrews,” I am writing prayers related to the text on which we are preaching each week. This prayer is drawn from Hebrews 3:1-6. The complete list of prayers inspired by Hebrews is included at the bottom of this post. You could also view my message, “God’s House,” from this passage here.

Our Father, You are the builder of everything,
from the beautiful expanse of the created world
to the gracious household of Your people, the church,
both of which have come into being through Jesus Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ, we fix our thoughts on You.
You are worthy of greater honor than Moses,
who served God by bearing witness to the truth.
You are the Son of God who has not only born witness,
but sacrificed Yourself to birth that new household, the church.

We fix our thoughts and the eyes of our hearts on You, Jesus,
while also confessing that so many things cause us trouble.
We stumble and trip along the way because of sin and burdens.
Please strengthen us to hold firmly to our living hope in You.

We are absolutely lost without You,
and that is why
we pray to You,
the Triune God—
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—
to whom be all honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.


Prayers from Hebrews:

Eastbrook at Home – May 10, 2020

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Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home as we continue our new series, “The Final Word: Knowing Christ through Hebrews.” This weekend I will take us through Hebrews 3:1-6 as we compare Moses and Jesus while reflecting on what it means to be a part of the household of God.

Join in with a virtual small group on the sermon every Sunday, now at two times: 9:30 AM or 4 PM. More info here.

Each Sunday beginning at 8 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts.

As we continue to tweak this experience, please let us know your experience by emailing us here. You can also access or download the service directly via Vimeo or the Eastbrook app.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in a donation to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.

Does God Still Speak Today?

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Working through a preaching series on the minor prophets, again and again I come across a phrase, “The word of the Lord that came to…”

That phrase appears more than twenty times in the minor prophets (at least 10 of those are in Zechariah alone!):

  • “The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri” (Hosea 1:1)
  • “The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel” (Joel 1:1)
  • “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai” (Jonah 1:1)
  • “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” (Jonah 3:1)
  • “The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth” (Micah 1:1)
  • “The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi” (Zephaniah 1:1)
  • “the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel” (Haggai 1:1)
  • “the word of the Lord came to the prophet Haggai” (Haggai 2:10)
  • “The word of the Lord came to Haggai a second time” (Haggai 2:20)
  • “the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo” (Zechariah 1:1)
  • “Then the word of the Lord came to me” (Zechariah 4:8; 6:9)
  • “The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi” (Malachi 1:1)

Many times the word was unexpected, but it was always clear.

We see this throughout the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, in characters like Noah, Moses, Hannah, David, Mary, Zechariah, Peter, and Paul. Again and again, we see these people having encounters with God that are clear, in which God clearly speaks to them and they are truly hearing from God.

This raises several questions for us about what it means to hear from God.  Over the course of the next week on my blog, I want to wrestle with a few of those questions as a way to engaging more deeply with God in a lively, dynamic relationship of faith. Here is the first question I want us to wrestle with today:

Can we hear God like the prophets and these many other characters in Scripture?  To put it another way: does God still speak to His people today as He did in Scripture?

This question immediately raises two more:

  • If no, why not?
  • If yes, how can we experience it?

So, let me do my best to walk through some answers to this question a little bit at a time.

Some would answer that question with a resounding “NO.”

  • No, God does not speak to us and we cannot hear Him today like the prophets and others in the Bible
  • The biblical characters are unique in a way that we are not
  • They received special revelation so that we don’t need to
  • The Bible is sufficient – it is enough – and we shouldn’t look for some additional revelation from God

But, I think that the answer to that question is YES.

  • Yes, God does speak to us and we can hear Him today in ways that are similar to the prophets and others in the Bible
  • The overwhelming testimony of Scripture is to a God who speaks
  • In fact, what sets the God of the Bible apart from other purported gods is that our God speaks, uniquely in words
    • Genesis – “And God said…” – God creates with words
    • Exodus – Sinai covenant and the Ten Commandments – God guides with words
    • Prophets – “The word of the Lord that came to…” – God corrects with words
    • Jesus – “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14) – God is the Word
  • The overwhelming testimony of Scripture is that God speaks and Hs people listen
  • Jesus Himself said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. ” (John 10:27, NRSV).
  • That is also true in the history of God’s people after the time of the Bible– the pervasive testimony of Christians in history is that God speaks to His people
    • Augustine hears God speaking to Him through Scripture and the song of a child[1]
    • Teresa of Avila, a 16th century nun, speaks of hearing God and receiving visions from him[2]
    • Brother Lawrence, a 17th century French monk, speaks of developing a conversational relationship with God in the midst of his mundane duties, like washing dishes[3]
    • In more modern times, 20th century English evangelical writer Joyce Huggett tells of hearing the voice of God[4]
    • John Piper, a renowned conservative evangelical preacher and author, tells of clearly hearing the voice of God on March 19, 2007, in a way that changed his life.[5]

Again, our first question was “does God still speak to His people today as He did in Scripture?”  The testimony of Scripture itself and the history of God’s people over time and in various places is affirmative. Our God is a God who speaks, and we, His people, can hear His voice.

This, of course, raises the question: what does it mean to “hear God,” and to that question we will turn tomorrow.


[1] Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, VIII.29.

[2] Teresa of Avila, Autobiography and The Interior Castle.

[3] Brother Lawrence

[4] Joyce Huggett, The Joy of Listening to God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986).

[5] John Piper, “The Morning I Heard the Voice of God,” March 21, 2007; https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-morning-i-heard-the-voice-of-god.

All Saints’ Day: A Celebration

fullsizeoutput_ae3.jpegToday, is the celebration of All Saints’ Day. What is All Saints’ Day and why should we celebrate it?

Since the 4th century, Christians have celebrated the lives of saints and martyrs. However, it was not until AD 609 that Pope Boniface IV dedicated one day of remembrance for all martyrs. Since that time, and after a broadening by Pope Gregory IV in 837 into a celebration of all past saints, All Saints’ Day has been a solemn holy day in the Roman Catholic Church, often connected with reverence for past Christians and relics.  While often criticized for idolatrous veneration of departed Christians, even after the Reformation, most Protestants continued to celebrate All Saints’ Day as a way to connect God’s faithfulness to His people in times past with God’s faithfulness to His people now.

In Hebrews, chapter 11, the writer takes us through what is sometimes called the “Hall of Faith.” We hear of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Joseph, Moses and Rahab — all of whom faithfully walked through their ups-and-downs with God. The first words of chapter 12 take a sudden turn to the present: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The lives of great heroes of the faith are celebrated as an inspiration for the Christians listening in the present moment, that they too might live with God faithfully in their everyday lives.

I love that phrase: “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.” Those witnesses are the believers in God that have gone before us. They bear witness to us that there is a way to live faithfully with God upon earth now even as they also bear witness that there is future hope with God beyond our earthly lives. Although it may sound strange to our ears, all past believers are ‘saints’ in that they are ‘holy ones’ (the literal translation of the Greek word hagioi) through Jesus Christ. All Saints’ Day brings to the foreground the spiritual bond that exists between believers from all times and in all places. More specifically, All Saints’ Day highlights the connection between the saints who have gone ahead of us into God’s presence (sometimes called “the Church triumphant”) and the saints still upon this earthly plane (sometimes called “the Church militant”). We celebrate those who have gone before us so that we might be encouraged to run the race before us with our eyes fixed on Jesus.

In a culture dominated by the ever-pressing latest and greatest that is new and now, All Saints’ Day is a powerful corrective. It reminds that we are an important part of God’s story, but we are not the only part of the story. When we celebrate the saints of previous times we realize that we would not be here were it not for Abraham, Jacob, Ruth, David, Esther, Isaiah, Mary, and so many more.

In a culture that is obsessed with our present opinions about our present matters, All Saints’ Day offers us perspective. It helps us grow beyond “the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about,” to steal a phrase from G. K. Chesterton. We reconnect with Catherine of Siena and Augustine of Hippo, with Perpetua of Carthage and Janani Luwum of Uganda, with Sojourner Truth and Blaise Pascal. We need them; perhaps even more than we know.

In a culture that has forgotten how to think about the future, All Saints’ Day reminds us to have hope of a future day. Since there are saints who have gone before us, we can persevere now as saints upon earth. Jesus Himself told us that He is preparing a place for us and, as John testifies, there will be a great company there of saints from every tribe, tongue, and nation around God’s throne celebrating in God’s eternal kingdom.

By God’s grace, we, too, will join that great company. But until we do, we celebrate God’s faithfulness in their lives as a means to lean into God’s faithfulness in our own lives as persevering pilgrims in this land that is not our home.