What are 5 things you’re thankful for this year?

We all have reasons to be thankful. Throughout Scripture, we are encouraged to remember and rehearse together the reasons we have to give thanks to God. The Psalms reverberate with this charge:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 106:1)

The Apostle Paul encourages believers in local churches to do this together:

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

He also reminds us that our ultimate reason for giving thanks is found in Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose in victory over sin and death for us:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Even though we should give thanks at any time, it helps to have a season of year where we give special attention to remembering and rehearsing with others the reasons we are thankful.

One of our practices as a family is to give thanks for five things everyday together. So, what are five things you are thankful for today or this year? You can share them here in the comments of the blog, or simply reach out to share them with family or friends.

Living for God in Our Bodies: notes on embodied discipleship

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

This past weekend at Eastbrook I preached about our belief in the resurrection of the body (“I believe in the resurrection of the body”), emphasizing different implications of that belief, from the historical resurrection of Jesus to our future resurrection at Christ’s return. However, the last phrase of Galatians 2:20—”The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”—highlights the resurrection impact on our lives now.

If we have been crucified with Christ and transformed by the resurrection life of Christ, then our daily, bodily living should reflect that change. Although Jesus came to bring God’s truth, Christianity it is not an abstract philosophy, but rather an embodied approach to living. We cannot walk toward heaven while living like hell. Instead, our life in the body must increasingly display the present, dynamic life of Christ.

While calling the Corinthian believers to repentance from sin and idolatry, the Apostle Paul declares the human body of the Christian to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s exclamation at the end of this challenge is a moving description of our embodied discipleship: “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20). What does honoring God in our bodies mean other than letting God’s presence pervade our bodies and God’s ways be preeminent ins how we daily live in our bodies? Our physical life—eating and drinking, work and rest, affection and sexuality, speaking and acting—must all honor God.

“Faith in Christ” is the theme of Galatians, permeating the entire letter. The word ‘faith’ or derivations of it appear over 20 times in this brief letter. In a sense, the entire letter is an exposition by the Apostle Paul of the prophet Habakkuk’s words: “the righteous shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). But this faith is not an abstracted faith but a faith rooted in the incarnate Son of God, Jesus the Messiah, who saved us through His body given and His blood poured out for us. Because of His sufficient work, our faith is now lived out in the body. Our spirituality as Christians is embodied.

Portions of Western Christianity have developed a fundamental divorce between body and spirit. The easiest thing to blame is the Enlightenment, but it seems like this challenge runs all the way back to the early church. The Apostle John wrote his epistles in part to combat an early form of gnosticism that claimed Jesus did not really come in a body. These early gnostics appear to have downplayed the body and creation in favor of an abstracted spirituality. Today a sort of neo-gnosticism has arisen within Western Christianity, where the body is either devalued through a skewed asceticism or overvalued with a materialistic hedonism.

But this is not what we find in Scripture, which instead points to a fundamental continuity between body and spirit. The Jewish concept of nephesh, which is sometimes translated soul, refers to the totality of the person: body, mind, heart, and spirit. The early Gospel writers made it absolutely clear that when Jesus rose from the dead, He did so physically. He was alive in a resurrection body not as some disembodied spirit. John even goes so far as to show Jesus eating fish with His disciples after the resurrection. Paul elaborates on this when writing about Christians’ future experience of resurrection bodies. He says that just as Christ is the “first fruits” of the resurrection, so we will be raised anew with resurrection bodies when He returns (1 Corinthians 15:20). In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul’s letters are often structured around divine truth (first half) and application to real, embodied living (second half).

Thus, if Christian spiritual is fundamentally embodied, then the way we steward our bodies and physical resources, such as generosity versus hoarding and our physical care of our bodies, is spiritual. If Christian spirituality is embodied, then the food and drink we take in has spiritual significance, not only for communion, but also in relation to nutrition (see Paul’s discussion of food sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians 10). If we truly want to live our faith out in our bodies, then the physical actions of worship and devotion, such as kneeling, raising hands, fasting, and even the physicality of the space for worship, hold spiritual significance. If our bodies and creation are important for the kingdom, then the way we care for the created world has spiritual meaning. If the life we live in the body is for the glory of God, then the physical needs of the sick, the poor, and the needy have spiritual meaning beyond just keeping someone alive to share the gospel with them. If our discipleship is implicitly embodied, then we are not simply trying to save people for heaven, but equipping people to live embodied on earth for God’s glory until the dawning of the new heaven and new earth.

So, let me ask us a few questions for reflection:

  • Do we believe in the value and spiritual significance of your body?
  • Do our lives of faith reflect that bodily spiritual significance or a disembodied spiritualism?
  • How do you think we can live a life of worship of the true Creator God in our physical bodies?

Lord, thank you for buying me at a price.
May my bodily life reflect my relationship with You.
Thank You, Jesus, for Your faithfulness to the Father that gives me new birth.
Help me to live each day full of faith in You, my living Savior.

I believe in the resurrection of the body

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our preaching series entitled “Living the Creed: Connecting Life and Faith in the Apostles’ Creed.” This series walks through the Apostles Creed as a basic summary of our faith but also as a way to live our faith out with God in the world. Each weekend of this series will explore the biblical and theological roots of the Apostles Creed, while also providing specific spiritual practices and approaches to living out what we know as we ‘proclaim and embody’ the Apostles’ Creed in our daily lives.

This weekend I continued preaching on the third article of the creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”

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

“Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” 

(John 11:25-26)

The Resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-8; John 20)

The physical death of Jesus

The physical resurrection of Jesus

Present Resurrection for Us through Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:12-14; Ephesians 1:18-20; Colossians 3; Galatians 5)

Joined with Jesus’ death and resurrection through faith now

Resurrection power at work within our lives now 

Future Resurrection for Us through Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:20-49; 1 Thessalonians 4; Revelation 20)

Our future bodily resurrection will look like Jesus’ bodily resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-28)

Our resurrection bodies will be like and unlike our present bodies (1 Cor 15:35-49):

  • Perishable → Imperishable
  • Dishonor → Glory
  • Weakness → Power
  • Naturally animated body → Spiritually animated body

Living Out Our Belief in the Resurrection of the Body

Praise God the Father for the resurrection of Jesus resurrection

Live by faith now in our bodies for God’s glory 

Live with hope for future resurrection bodies

Dig Deeper

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

Standing Firm in the Lord: a reflection on Ephesians 6


Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10-11)

What always captures my attention in these verses is the reality of our conflict and the source of our defense. Paul takes it for granted that the devil has schemes that work against the Christian community. The devil opposes  God and God’s people with efforts that are sometimes straightforward and at other times are wily schemes. As followers of Jesus, we do well to be on alert with watchfulness and ready at all times to take our stand against these attacks, regardless of what form they take.

The source of our defense, though, is not our own watchfulness or steadfastness. Instead, our strength is “in the Lord and in his mighty power.” We clothes ourselves not just with the greatest of human virtues but with “the full armor of God.” Our source is God Himself and the strength that He offers. Our defense is a God-birthed and God-like character of life: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvations, and the word of God. Armed by God to become more like God, we are well-equipped to stand firm in the face of attacks.

To take one’s stand in the face of attacks, particularly the schemes of the devil, is not easy. We all have encountered the power of gossip, falsehood, slander, distortions of truth, and more. These are the mere tip of the iceberg of the devil’s schemes. The moment you give attention to defusing one, another pops up unexpectedly.

It is in facing into these schemes with all their diverse nefariousness that standing firm is both so difficult and so powerful. It should come as no surprise that of all the exhortations Paul offers in Ephesians, this is one that he repeats several times. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13, emphasis mine). Again, Paul offers a similar exhortation to the church in Corinth because of the power of Christ’s resurrection. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you” (1 Corinthians 15:58a). This is not the immovability of prideful stubbornness, but the persevering steadfastness of humble dependence upon God. When attacks come, and they will, the believer must stand firm in God.

Lord, give us grace today to stand firm in You. Help us not to be surprised by the attacks, but to turn to You for power to persevere. Save us from trust in fading hopes—”chariots or horses”—that often appear so powerful. Instead, we declare that we will “trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).

Come Alive :: Stanley Spencer, “The Resurrection, Cookham”

Spencer - The Resurrection at Cookham.jpg
Stanley Spencer, The Resurrection at Cookham; Oil on canvas; 1923-27.

Death is something we all must face and all, in one way or another, fear. There is a finality to it that is shocking and feels unnatural to us. Even though we understand and experience the breakdown of our bodies, even “natural” death feels wrong, not to mention the death that feels untimely. We all grieve over loved ones who have passed away, and someday others will likely grieve over our passing. One of the most important aspects of our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is the way He turns the tables on death in the most dramatic of ways. Jesus dies on the Cross but is not held in death. He burst forth with life, thereby destroying death. As the Apostle Paul writes, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). The flip-side of death’s destruction is the promise of resurrection to all who have faith in Christ Jesus. In his painting, The Resurrection at Cookham, Stanley Spencer depicts the wonder of resurrection in the churchyard of Cookham, the village where he lived many years. Up from their tombs rise Spencer’s family members and local friends, as well as those from faraway lands. Right in their midst are biblical figures, like Moses, and all are under the gaze of God on the church porch. There is a wonderful mixture between the ordinary and the extraordinary in this painting. We are reminded that the most glorious work of God in Jesus’ resurrection touches ordinary lives in ordinary places both in our present time and at the end of all time.