A Prayer of Daily Dedication

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. (Philippians 2:14-16a)

Lord, take my life and shape me around Your life.
transform me from the inside out.
Let the fruit of my life—that which is seen
and experienced by others—reflect You.
This day, Lord, I bring You
my words and my attitudes.
Set me free from grumbling and arguing
which is the overflow of a distorted heart
set on the self and selfish will,
unyielding to the unplanned and difficult.
May the attitude of my life reflect surrender
to You and Your ways even as I serve You and Your kingdom.
May You be the center of my words and attitudes
that I may not distract others from You
by my mumbled grumblings of frustration
or my thoughtless arguing for my way.
Lord, have mercy upon me and change me.
Grow me to be like You in every way.

The Way of Jesus and the Way of Herod

This past weekend we began a new series “Power in Preparation” at Eastbrook Church. This begins the second part of our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew. This message is a study in contrasts drawn from Matthew 1:18-25 and Matthew 2:1-18.

You can view the message video and outline below. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.” (Matthew 2:16)

A Conversation about Ways

  • What it means to choose a “way”
  • The consequences of certain ways (Proverbs 14:12)
  • Jesus: “I am the way…” (John 14:6)

The Way of Herod

  • disturbing power (2:1-8)
  • knowledge and deception (2:4-8)
  • controlling through violence (2:16-18)

The Way of Jesus

  • incarnate power (1:18, 20)
  • grace and truth (John 1:14)
  • saving through humility (1:21)

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into the contrast between Jesus and Herod in one or more of the following ways:

Mighty God

This past weekend I enjoyed the opportunity of preaching at Elmbrook Church as part of their series on the names of God from Isaiah 9:6-7. This was the second week of that series, focused on the second title listed for the Messiah: “Mighty God.” I built much of the message around Philippians 2:5-11, which served to illuminate the nature of Jesus’ might as the Messiah.

It is always a privilege to be at Elmbrook, where I served as the College Pastor for 5 years (2003-2008). I helped to run a multi-campus college ministry called “The Ave,” which met during the school-year near Marquette University’s campus in “the big red church” at 10th and Wisconsin and back at Elmbrook campus during the summertime.

You can view the message video here and the outline is included below.


“And he will be called…Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6)

Mighty Enough to Let Go

  • resisting the corruption of power
  • Jesus and the temptation in the desert
  • Philippians 2:5-7

Mighty Enough to Enter In

  • a different sort of might; childlike power and wonder’
  • a might that chooses less
  • Philippians 2:7-8

Mighty Enough to Make a Way

  • Light shining in the darkness
  • Exodus and salvation
  • Philippians 2:8

Mighty Enough to Reign

  • Isaiah 9:7
  • Advent and the expectation of the returning king
  • Philippians 2:9-11

Becoming One: the developing unity of the church as the community of Christ

As we continued our series, “One: The Being of God in the Life of the Church,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church I turned a corner from our focus on God’s part in bringing unity to our part in upholding unity. The first message in the series, “God is One,” explored how unity comes through the Triune God’s indwelling presence, and the second message, “Made One,” explored how Jesus brought unity with God and humanity at the Cross. Now we look at how we are becoming one as we choose to uphold unity through selfless love.

You can view the message video and outline below. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” (Philippians 2:5; 4:2)

The Philippian Challenge (Philippians 4:2)

  • We are one, but we don’t live like it
  • Even the mature suffer disunity and conflict

The Philippian Solution (Philippians 2:1-11; 2:12-13)

  • Choosing a different way (2:1-4)
  • Having the mindset as Christ Jesus (2:5-11)
    • pouring out (kenosis)
    • taking on servanthood
    • humble obedience
    • from humiliation to exaltation
  • Working out salvation with God’s power (2:12-13)

How Do We Uphold Unity in the Face of Conflict?

  • Live out of the overflow of life with God
  • Seek humility instead of vain conceit
  • Look to others’ interests instead of pursuing selfish ambition
  • Cultivate the same mindset as Christ Jesus

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into the theme of the unity of our Triune God in one or more of the following ways:

Make every effort and see to it!

marathon

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. (Hebrews 12:14-16)

In this passage the writer of Hebrews admonishes God’s people to live together centered on life in God instead of turning aside.  Two decisive verbs capture our attention in this section.

The first of those is “make every effort.” The believers are to make every effort to live in peace together and also to be holy or to be sanctified. As we discussed last week, there is a call to Christian unity in the peace of the Lord that requires effort and hard work. We have to help one another and stand together in the long endurance race of faith. It is not easy because we will grow weary and sometimes are wounded, but that is why we are called to make every effort. This is not contrary to the grace of God but our strength for the effort comes as an overflow of God’s grace.

This unity is fueled and sustained by holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. Holiness is essential to unity and we cannot sacrifice holiness on the path to unity. Otherwise, we are not talking about Christian unity but something else. Holiness means that we are increasingly reflecting the presence and character of God in our lives. To become holy means that we are turning away from sin and being increasingly re-formed to look more and more like Jesus. This is a work of God in us by the power of the Holy Spirit that will continue until the day that we are with the Lord face to face.

Holiness requires us to “make every effort”; not that we make ourselves holy, but we make the effort of putting ourselves steadily into the place where God can have His way in us. It is firstly a decision of the will, and secondly action within our lives. This is not opposed to God’s grace, but it is both our response to God’s grace and preparatory to God’s grace having its way in us.

The second of the decisive verbs in this section is “see to it.” “See to what?”, we might ask.

First, see to it that no one in the community falls short of God’s grace. Help one another. Walk together. Encourage one another. Correct one another. This is what it means to be the body of Christ. We are not in this for our own growth alone, but for serving one another as the body of Christ. This is why Paul the Apostle writes to the Philippians:

“if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)

Just as the Apostle Paul finds joy as he sees the believers live in such tangible unity and care for one another, so, too, the writer of Hebrews calls them to see to it that God’s grace makes its way into each and every one of their lives together.

Secondly, they are to see to it that no one gets off course through sexual immorality or godlessness. Esau is given as an example of someone who just loses their way through godless living, eventually losing the birthright and blessing of God – something that he could not get back.

Brothers and sisters, if we see someone losing their way in sin, we need to gently, but decisively, address it. The writer calls out sexual sin because it was pervasive in the culture of the day but also because it is one of the clearest and most basic manifestations of a life that is at odds with God’s way. This does not mean that sexual sin is weighted as worse in the grand sense, but it is a sign that the same sort of godlessness decried in Esau is happening in us. We should not approach one another with condescending judgmentalism but with humility and grace. The goal of addressing such sin is not condemnation but encouragement and the strengthening of God’s grace in our lives matched by growth in holiness throughout the community.

At its heart these verses call us not to walk away from the essential faith in Jesus Christ. Verse 15 say see “that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many,” which is a reference not to bitterness but to idolatry – a turning away from God – that gripped God’s people during the Exodus. The warning in these verses calls us to stay on course with God and not to lose our way through sin. Make every effort…see to it!

[This is excerpted from my message, “Make Every Effort,” on Hebrews 12:14-29.]