Matters of the Heart

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I continued our preaching series, “Who Do You Say I Am?”, after our two week hiatus for our annual MissionFest. This week I worked through Jesus’ teaching on the heart and what truly defiles in Matthew 15:1-20. What continually strikes me about Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of Matthew is the drive toward the heart of humanity. Jesus is not interested merely in the outward obedience or form of holiness, but wants to bring a heart transformation. In a way, Jesus is a spiritual cardiologist.

This message is part of the sixth part of our longer series on Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” and “Stories of the Kingdom.”

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” (Matthew 15:18)

Conflict Between God’s Commands and Human Tradition (Matthew 15:1-9)

The visit from Jerusalem

“The tradition of the elders”

Corban (qorban)

Jesus the True Teacher (Matthew 15:10-20)

Understanding the purpose of God’s commands

Identifying what really defiles human life

Discerning between false and true guides

Listening and understanding

Making It Real

Seeking to listen and understand

Recalibrating God’s truth in relation to human traditions

Choosing Jesus the True TeacherLetting Jesus the Heart Doctor give attention to our hearts


Dig Deeper:

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 15:10-11 and/or 15:16-17
  • Journal, draw, paint, or ink this story or some aspect of it as a way of reflecting on who Jesus is and how you most need to meet with Him.
  • Take some time to reflect on the nature of your own heart with God. Perhaps you could use the guide developed by Nancy Lee DeMoss Wolgemuth, “A Heart God Revives,” found here
  • Consider digging deeper into this concept by reading A. W. Tozer’s book The Pursuit of God or Henri Nouwen’s book The Way of the Heart

Eastbrook at Home – October 24, 2021

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Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM.

After two weekends dedicated to our annual MissionsFest, this weekend we resume our series, “Who Do You Say I Am?,” as I preach about Jesus confronting the Pharisees and reflecting on what is most important in our lives in Matthew 15:1-20. This is also a child dedication weekend at Eastbrook.

This series continues our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes our previous series “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” and “Stories of the Kingdom: parables of Jesus.”

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, and you no longer need to RSVP ahead of time.

If you are new to Eastbrook, we want to welcome you to worship and would ask you to text EBCnew to 94000 as a first step into community here at Eastbrook.

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.

The Weekend Wanderer: 23 October 2021

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. Disclaimer: 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.


125694“How Might the COVID-19 Crisis Reshape our Churches for Good?” – Kyuboem Lee in Christianity Today: “In March 2020, as the American public only began to grasp the growing scope of the global pandemic, we suddenly went into a shutdown. Churches could no longer meet in person; many scrambled to find ways to broadcast their Sunday services online instead. Initially, many of us thought (wishfully, as it turned out) that the shutdown would last a few weeks and we would return to normal. But the shutdown dragged out for months and months. Many churches were unable to meet in person for more than a year. Pastors began wondering out loud to me if their churches would survive financially. They fretted about their buildings, sitting empty week after week. They were concerned about giving amid sudden job losses and economic downturn. They worried about a drop-off in online service attendance. There was much cause for deep anxiety, and the pandemic’s long-term impact on churches may be felt for years to come. But I don’t believe that the pandemic is a crisis we simply need to recover from. Instead, the crisis of the pandemic and its aftereffects presents an opportunity to reshape the church in transformative ways. It offers us a moment of clarity to perceive our need for reinvention for the sake of our mission.”


womanlightingcandleembed“Responding to Persecution: Where Western Christians would stand and fight, Eastern Christians have learned to endure – or flee” – Luma Simms in Plough: “In 2007, my friend Ishraq was an Iraqi biologist working in quality control in a government agency testing products coming into the country for contaminants – food products and plants, anything meant for consumption or planting – a job she had studied and worked hard to attain, a job she loved. Her husband, Luay, owned a car dealership. Although other Christians were leaving Iraq after the chaos that engulfed the country after the US invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein, they didn’t want to leave their homeland. With the increase in crime and the abduction of Christians, they thought it best to sell the dealership and wait it out until things settled back down. One rainy day as Luay got ready to drive Ishraq to work, two cars pulled up in front of them. Men got out and snatched Luay. As they dragged him through the mud, she grabbed hold of his leg, shrieking. One of the kidnappers disentangled her from Luay and flung her off. ‘I lost my mind, I was screaming like a crazy woman, I was screaming for someone to come help us,’ she remembers. The men shoved Luay into one of their cars and left. A minute later a police officer came driving by and stopped when he heard her crying. He got out and stood over her as she lay shaking on the ground. When she told him what had happened, it became clear he knew who the kidnappers were. ‘He gave me his card and told me that when the kidnappers called me to ask for ransom money, to let him know and he’ll see what he can do. I told him, “What you can do is get in the car and go after them right now.” The policeman left and I just sat there in the mud on the side of the street wailing.'”


imrs.php“You’re a different person when you travel. Here’s why, and how to transform yourself at home.” – Jen Rose Smith in The Washington Post: “Every so often, I pack a bag for a solo trip that lasts as long as I can manage. The lifelong habit has weathered career changes, a pandemic and marriage. ‘Where is your husband?’ people ask. ‘Why are you here alone?’ ‘He’s at home,’ I say, perhaps while splashing through leech-filled mudholes in Borneo. ‘Because I like traveling by myself.’ I’m after more than sightseeing. Family, home and work are magnetic poles in my life; at times, I need to consult my personal compass away from the strong pull that they exert. When I leave familiar things behind, I look at the world with fresh eyes. Strange foods become new favorites. Curiosity surges. I am a different person when I travel. In her book, Getting Away from It All: Vacations and Identity, sociologist Karen Stein sheds light on the reasons that travelers, whether they’re going it alone or with friends, might feel different when on the road. She argues that travel is a chance to try out alternate identities — a temporary respite from ourselves.”


main-v00-81-1536x1024“China crackdown on Apple store hits holy book apps, Audible” – Matt O’brien at Religion News Service: “Amazon’s audiobook service Audible and phone apps for reading the holy books of Islam and Christianity have disappeared from the Apple store in mainland China, the latest examples of the impact of the country’s tightened rules for internet firms. Audible said Friday that it removed its app from the Apple store in mainland China last month ‘due to permit requirements.’ The makers of apps for reading and listening to the Quran and Bible say their apps have also been removed from Apple’s China-based store at the government’s request. Apple didn’t return requests for comment Friday. A spokesperson for China’s embassy in the U.S. declined to speak about specific app removals but said the Chinese government has ‘always encouraged and supported the development of the Internet.’ ‘At the same time, the development of the Internet in China must also comply with Chinese laws and regulations,’ said an emailed statement from Liu Pengyu. China’s government has long sought to control the flow of information online, but is increasingly stepping up its enforcement of the internet sector in other ways, making it hard to determine the causes for a particular app’s removal.”


29russellmooreembeddove“Integrity and the Future of the Church” – Russell Moore in Plough Quarterly: “Something was happening at the Vatican; I cannot remember if the issue was another sexual abuse cover-up or a contentious synod meeting. But I do remember seeing a woman I knew to be a serious Roman Catholic post on her social media an old music video, with no commentary. The video, R.E.M.’s 1991 song ‘Losing My Religion,’ prompted friends to ask if she had lost her faith. She responded that she hadn’t, but was afraid that she was losing her church. No wonder her friends were concerned. The song, after all, has entered popular culture as the soundtrack to almost any story of an ex-Catholic or an ‘ex-vangelical.’…In light of the current crisis of religion – seen perhaps most starkly in my own American evangelical subculture – I’m not sure that these are entirely different things. Perhaps ‘losing religion’ now is about both interpretations of the song, if not as much about intellect and argumentation as about grief, betrayal, and anger.”


John Coltrane

“Coltrane’s New ‘Love Supreme'” – Adam Shatz in The New York Review: “At a press conference in Tokyo in July 1966, a Japanese jazz critic asked John Coltrane what he would like to be in ten years. “I would like to be a saint,” he replied. Coltrane, who died the following July of liver cancer, at forty, reportedly laughed when he said this; but among his followers, he was already considered a spiritual leader, even a prophet. His reputation rested not merely on his musicianship, but on the example he set, the self-renunciation and good works required of every saint. Unlike the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, who launched the bebop revolution with the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, Coltrane was not a fully formed virtuoso when he first emerged, but rather a committed and tireless student of the horn—a hardworking man who arrived at his sound through a practice regime of almost excruciating discipline. “He practiced like a man with no talent,” his friend the tenor saxophonist Benny Golson remembered. The saxophonist Archie Shepp, one of Coltrane’s many protégés, exaggerated only slightly when he remarked that he never saw him take the sax from his mouth. The trumpeter Miles Davis, in whose mid-Fifties quintet Coltrane first rose to prominence, made the same observation, though more in exasperation than worship.”


Music: John Coltrane, “A Love Supreme, Pt IV – Psalm (Live),” A Love Supreme – Live in Seattle.

Luci Shaw, “Arrangement in space and time” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Luci Shaw’s poem “Arrangement in space and time” from Polishing the Petoskey Stone: New and Selected Poems.  Luci Shaw has served as a writer in residence at Regent College (Vancouver, BC) since 1998 and is the author of eleven volumes of poetry.


Spring-cleaning should have
rid me of them. Summer should have
gathered a fresh bunch.
But this armful of autumn
is almost as antique as the pot
that first received it—the mouth
open like an O, like the rough
circle a woman makes with her elbows
to accept a bouquet.

Brittle, the milkweed stalks break
clean as bones and show the same
straw color. Freed from time, no
seasons pump their juices,
extend their shoots an inch an hour
after rain, swell the silver
strands in their pale purses.
Like dust, timelessness gathers
on the pods and the thin, split
blades. Having lost growth,
they have achieved a kind of
immortality, there where they fill
the winter window,
spilling their tarnished silver
and some old gold.


Previous poems in this series:

Soil for Spirituality: Eugene Peterson on the Right Conditions for Spiritual Growth [Under the Unpredictable Plant 3]

I recently re-read Eugene Peterson’s classic book on pastoral ministry based in the life of Jonah, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1992). There is so much in this book, but I am merely sharing a few pieces that have stuck out powerfully to me in this particular season of time.

Picking up on Peterson’s earlier discussion of askesis he offers a view of spiritual growth through the lens of organic farming. I find Peterson’s outworking of this all very helpful because he recognizes the conditions in which we live our lives as intimately tied to spiritual growth.

Earlier I used the words organic and soil as metaphors for the development of a customized askesis. These metaphors from organic gardening are apt. They are also useful for guarding against the proliferation of mechanical and imposed schemes of spirituality that promise so much and ruin so many.

I use the image of soil to represent the place in which I cultivate the life of prayer which then develops into my vocational spirituality. When analyzed, this soil is seen to comprise many elements: actual congregation, family background, personal education, individual temperament, regional climate, local politics, mass culture. The soil conditions in Vermont are different from those in Texas. Any attempt to grow crops that is not mindful of soil will not be successful.

Any attempt to cultivate a spirituality copied from something grown on someone else’s soil is as misguided as planting orange groves in Minnesota. Careful and detailed attention must be given to the conditions, inner and outer, historical and current, in which I, not you, exist. Nothing comes to grief more swiftly than an imitative spirituality that disregards conditions. Spirituality cannot be imposed, it must be grown. Prayer is not a scarecrow put together from old scraps of lumber and cast-off clothing and then pushed into the soil; it is seed that germinates in the soil, sensitive to everything that is there — nitrogen and potash, earthworms and potato bugs, rain and sun, April and October, rabbit teeth and human hands. Most of what goes on is invisible and inaccessible to human control. Everything is connected, proportions are important, size is critical. Anyone who works this soil of spirituality for very long becomes wary of artificial additives. Pesticides and fertilizers that perform miraculously for a season are often ruinous over a lifetime. Tools must be used according to what the plant and soil need, not according to what we are good at doing: enthusiasm with a shovel will destroy a tender tomato plant when all that was needed was the deft application of a hoe to loosen the soil. Knowledge of the tools (disciplines) is necessary, but the knowledge will surely be destructive if not incorporated into a practiced familiarity with the actual soil conditions and a studied reverence in which vegetables, fruits, souls, and bodies actually grow.

Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 108-110

Other posts in this series: