The Voice of One Calling Out

This past weekend we continued our series “Power in Preparation” at Eastbrook Church by looking at the appearance of John the Baptist near the Jordan from Matthew 3:1-12 and how this sets the stage for Jesus. John is an extraordinary character in the gospels, whose life and preaching is incredibly challenging.

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 those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”  (Matthew 3:1-2)

John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-4)

  • Repentance
  • The kingdom of heaven
  • The voice (Isaiah 40:3)
  • The prophet (2 Kings 1:8)

The Wilderness (Matthew 3:1, 5-6)

  • Old Testament backgrounds: Jeremiah 2:2-3; Hosea 2:14-15; Ezekiel 20:35-38
  • Turning from self to God
  • Stripping and judgment
  • Purification and renewal

Brood of Vipers (Matthew 3:7-10)

  • Pharisees and Sadducees
  • Fruit in keeping with repentance
  • True children of Abraham
  • The tree about to be cut down

The One to Come (Matthew 3:11-12)

  • More powerful and even greater
  • A baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into the life and ministry of John the Baptist in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize John’s message in Matthew 3:2
  • Set aside some time this week to read Matthew 3:1-12 again. Then write, draw, paint, or pray aloud your own response to this series of events in Jesus’ life.
  • Read more about John’s life in the following passages:
  • Luke 1:5-25, 39-80
  • Luke 3:1-20
  • John 1:6-8, 19-34
  • John 3:22-36
  • Matthew 11:1-19
  • Matthew 14:1-12
  • Mark 6:14-29
  • Matthew 17:11-13; 21:32
  • Explore Bible maps related to the life and ministry of John the Baptist here.

Eastbrook at Home – January 17, 2021

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Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM. This weekend we continue our new series, “Power in Preparation,” which continues our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which began with the series “Family Tree.” This week we will look at the appearance of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:1-12.

Join in with the Eastbrook 365 daily devotional for this series here.

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, but you do need to RSVP ahead of time. Find out more info here.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 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. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.

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 your tithes and offerings to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.

Looking Back at 2020 with Lament and Repentance

Emmaus Road

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

Looking Back: Lament

Sometimes, however, when we look back over the year, particularly in this devastating last year, even while we’re trying to give thanks, we remember experiences, events, or relationships that we’d rather not have experienced. The options or more than we’d like to name: that diagnosis, that job loss, that divorce, that death, that financial hit, that relational rupture, that opportunity that disappeared…perhaps even all of 2020.

In times like this, our gratitude is mingled with sorrow. There is a space for this in the life with God that is exemplified in the psalms of lament. Lament offers us the space to express our sorrows and griefs in the presence of God.

Psalm 13 is one example of lament. The first few verses say:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
(Psalm 13:1-3a)

Lament is a valuable way to look back at the past year. Sometimes we need to name the painful areas of our lives in the presence of God without papering over them with false positivity or wishful thinking.

Writing about lament, Martin Luther said:

“What is the greatest thing in the Psalter but this earnest speaking amid the storm winds of every kind? . . . Where do you find deeper, more sorrowful, more pitiful words of sadness than in the psalms of lamentation? There again you look into the hearts of the saints, as into death, yes, as into hell itself…. And that they speak these words to God and with God, this I repeat, is the best thing of all. This gives the words double earnestness and life.”[1]

I want to give permission to each of us to look back over our year with God and lament. We may need to name something in our life as a source of great sorrow or wounding, and also bring it to God from the depths of our souls.

Perhaps you may do this verbally or, as I often do, you may want to write out your own personal psalm of lament. There is something powerful about laying it out in words, and giving that to God in prayer.

Looking Back: Repent

But it is not just painful things that have happened to us that we must bring to God, but also the painful things we have done that we must bring to God. We do this so that we can name them, confess them, and turn from them. The biblical word for this is repentance.

Psalm 51 is an extended prayer of repentance that is well known. It references a time of deep crisis in the life of King David, when he has committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband, Uriah, killed, and then tries to cover it all up. Nathan the prophet confronts him about it. Psalm 51 is the repentance response that David offers in response to his failures.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2)

Here is the naming of wrongs David has done. And it is followed by the request for forgiveness, cleansing, and turning away from sin.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

We all recognize that there are things in the past year that we have done to others and ourselves – ways that we have fallen short of God’s best for us. Let me suggest that it is not the best thing we can do to carry these things into the next year with us as a burden. It is important to lay them down in prayer with God, like burdens laid at the foot of the Cross.

Jesus taught His followers to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12). Although I think this is a good practice daily, I also believe the end of the year is a good time to draw near to God and name our sins – our wrongs – before God, to ask for forgiveness and cleansing, and to turn from them in our hearts.

Something I’ve done in the past is to write certain sins on  notecard or piece of paper, and then (safely) burn them as a sign of these sins being forgiven and cast away by God.

We receive assurance in many places in Scripture that God is forgiving, most notably in 1 John 1:9, which says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”


[1] Martin Luther, Word and Sacrament, Luther’s Works, vol. 1, ed. E. T. Bachmann (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1960), 255 –56.

The Only Way to the Kingdom

When Jesus proclaims that “the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15), He draws upon a powerful idea that pervades the Hebrew Scriptures and history. There was an expectation in the Hebrew Scriptures that God’s kingdom would catastrophically break into the world. The Scriptures described a figure—the Messiah or Son of Man—who would inaugurate God’s kingdom and bring renewal and change to earth. But even as He proclaimed the kingdom’s arrival, Jesus also offered a radically different understanding of what the kingdom was all about.

To help us understand that, let me offer a quick overview of four other approaches to the hope of God’s kingdom that were prominent in Jesus’ day. I am drawing upon the helpful summary of these approaches in Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen’s book The True Story of the Whole World.[1]

  1. The Pharisees – The Pharisees were a religious group deeply concerned about compromising with culture. Because of this they advocated for strong religious separation from pagan corruption and radical obedience to God’s Word. They worked within the existing religious structures, the synagogues, to urge the people to influence culture by being different. The wanted to bring the kingdom by forceful separation.
  2. The Essenes – Like the Pharisees, a second group had a similar desire to be different from the culture but took a very different approach to that. The Essenes withdrew from society, forsaking even the existing religious structures to form entirely separate communities centered on God. It is likely that the area of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, was an Essene community. The wanted to bring the kingdom through withdrawal.
  3. The Zealots – A third group, the Zealots, were furious with the Roman occupation of God’s land. Like the Pharisees, the Zealots called for radical obedience to God’s Word, but took it to another level. They promoted violent revolution against Rome. While the Zealots were not really one organized movement, these groups took their religious commitment frightfully seriously, sparking revolutionary movements against Rome that eventually led to reprisals from Rome, culminating in the  destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. They wanted to bring the kingdom by violence.
  4. The Sadducees – A fourth group was known as the Sadducees. The Sadducees were largely a priestly group responsible for the maintenance of the Temple. They held positions of power with great influence under the Roman occupation, but often made politically compromises with the occupying forces of Rome in order to stabilize the country and maintain their power. They sought to bring hope and God’s kingdom through compromise.

Each of these groups wanted to bring in the hope of God’s kingdom, but they took different approaches toward making that happen: forceful separation, withdrawal, violence, or compromise. Jesus’ approach is distinct from all of these. So let’s examine first what it is that Jesus declares and then what it is that Jesus does.

First, in Luke 4:16-21, Jesus declares that He is the One who fulfills God’s promises in the prophets – the One who is to come and usher in the kingdom. After reading in His hometown synagogue from Isaiah 61, which speaks of the arrival of God’s kingdom, Jesus boldly declares:

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)

 And when Jesus begins His public ministry, as we have already read in Mark 1:15, He says:

“The time has come…The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

This is a bold proclamation—a declaration that something new has come. The only response to such a thing is to repent; that is, turn around, pay attention, and respond to this new reality.

To those holding various other views, such as the Pharisees, the Essenes, the Zealots, and the Sadducees, Jesus essentially says, “Turn away from your current approach. God is doing something new in Me. Turn from your old ways of bringing in God’s kingdom and follow after Me and My way.” Yes, repentance is a turning from sin, but it is also a turning from alternate ways of living and alternate philosophies.

In a world that offers all sorts of philosophies of life, Jesus says there is one philosophy that truly brings in God’s kingdom and reflects God’s kingdom and it only comes from and in Him.


[1] Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, The True Story of the Whole World: Finding your place in the biblical drama (Grand Rapids, MI: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2009), 102-103.

A Prayer on Living for God, inspired by Micah 6:8

Creator God,
You have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless
until they rest in You.

We admit that we often live restless lives,
turning to all sorts of other ‘gods’
that promise life that is not life
We confess that in many ways we have spurned
Your way, Your truth, and Your life,
and we ask You to forgive us.

Strengthen us now, gracious Father,
that we might walk humbly with You—
not thinking more of ourselves than we should;
that we might love mercy—
reflecting You who are love toward others;
and that we might do justice—
manifesting Your character in our lives.
May Your kingdom come,
may Your will be done
here on earth—even in us—
as it is in heaven.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ,
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.