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.

What Is Ash Wednesday and Lent?

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the traditional season of Lent, a 40-day journey (minus Sundays) toward Easter. Here are some common questions about Lent.

“What is Lent all about?”
Lent is more than a worn-out tradition marked by self-absorbed sorrow and meal-skipping. Instead, Lent is a journey into greater depths of life with Jesus Christ. The 40-day journey reminds us of Jesus’ 40-day temptation in the desert before starting His public ministry. It reminds us of the people of Israel led by Moses through the wilderness for 40 years before entering the promised land. We enter into Jesus’ journey toward, into, and through the Cross. It is a preparation for a deeper experience of the joys of the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

“Why do people have ashes on their foreheads ?”
It is common practice on Ash Wednesday for Christians to begin the Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday by having the sign of the cross marked upon their forehead with ashes. This is a sign of our mortality, “that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14) and to dust we shall return. The ashes also are a sign of repentance similar to what we encounter in the Scripture: “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). In some traditions, the ashes are made from palm branches used on Palm Sunday of the previous year, thus connecting one Lenten journey to another through the suffering of Christ.

“Do we need to pay attention to human traditions like this?”
No, there is no Scriptural requirement to observe Lent. However, generation after generation within the Christian church have found great value in observing this focused journey toward remembrance and celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It may rescue us from merely ordering our lives around academic or holiday calendars, where the high points of Spring are holiday vacations or Easter candy. Instead, we order our lives around the life of Jesus Christ, with His Cross and Resurrection as the high points of celebration.

“How should I observe Lent?”
Lent is intended to be a community journey, so it is important to enter into this with others. This happens best through a local church community that takes on certain practices together, such as our 40-Day devotional at Eastbrook Church. Along with that, I often encourage the practice of traditional Lenten spiritual practices, such as fasting, prayer, sacrificial giving, and reading Scripture. These practices strengthen us to say “no” to ourselves and “yes” to God, through the movement of abstaining from something (fasting), turning to God (prayer), and putting another discipline in its place (almsgiving).

Here is a short video we put together at Eastbrook to help explain the significance of Ash Wednesday.

A Prayer inspired by the prophet Micah

Almighty God,
You see the ruin
that we as human beings
so often bring upon ourselves,
individually and corporately.

We acknowledge that we have looked
to human strength instead of your strength
and to human leaders in place of your kingly rule.
We long for someone to set things right
and all our worry and efforts
seem sometimes to only make things worse.

Have mercy on us, O God,
that we might receive
Your severe mercy of correction,
and find the grace of restoration
through Jesus Christ,
the Promised Messiah foretold in Micah
and the only One who can truly save.

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

Jonah [God in the Ruins]

God in the Ruins Series GFX_App Square

One of the hardest tasks of the preacher is to take a well-known part of Scripture and make it fresh for people again. This past weekend at Eastbrook, I tried to do just that as I preached on Jonah in our series on the minor prophets, “God in the Ruins.”

Unlike all the other minor prophets, Jonah tells a story about the life of Jonah instead of collecting messages from that prophet.

The prophet Jonah is mentioned one other place in the Bible in 2 Kings 14:25 as a prophet in the northern kingdom during the reign of Jeroboam II. This tells us that, if taken at face value, Jonah’s story would have taken place chronologically during the 8th century BC, at a similar time as Amos, during the 40-year reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 BC).

Because the story of the book of Jonah is told so dramatically in the book of Jonah, there is a lot of debate about its genre: is it historical, is it a parable, is it a real story told in an imaginative style. Regardless of the outcome on those issues, the message of the book is clear:

We can run from it or we can receive it, but the mercy of God is greater than we understand.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series on the minor prophets here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

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A Prayer inspired by the prophet Jonah

Almighty God,
You are the powerful Creator
of all the nations upon earth.
You are holy and wonderful
beyond what we understand.

We look at Jonah and we are startled
by his insolence in running away from You,
by his humility in recognizing Your rescue,
and his anger at Your mercy to those
he felt did not desire to receive it.

We are startled because we know
that same insolence, humility, and anger
run through our own lives and hearts.

Have mercy on us, our God,
and transform us from the inside out
that we might love what You love
and hate what you hate.
That our lives might overflow
with mercy like You overflow with  mercy.

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