Facing Failings in the Character of the Church

Crying in Church

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

If, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2, Christ is our peace, who has reconciled us to the Father, then the calling upon us as God’s people is to walk in humility, gentleness, patience, peace, and love with one another. This will happen as we yield to the Holy Spirit, who is the deposit of our salvation and bond of our peace.

Yet you may say, “But, Matt, the church doesn’t look like that. I see pride, fierceness, impatience, discord, and lack of love at times.” I know. I see it too. When we see that in those around us, it should lead us to deeper humility and intercessory prayer on behalf of our local church and the church around the world. It should also lead us into meaningful conversations with others about areas of deficiency from our calling, not in judgment, but in the desire to grow together.

However, if we only see it in everyone else around us, but never in ourselves, it might be good for us to hold these characteristics up against our own lives for consideration. It might be good to ask: “Am I completely humble? Am I gentle? Patient? Am I bearing with others in love? Am I upholding the bond of peace?”

If we answered “yes” to all those questions, then it’s probably time to let the Holy Spirit bring us into a more honest self-assessment. Not any of us will perfectly live out our faith. As Paul says in Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” This is not an excuse for sin and brokenness, but it is our reality. The revelation of our shortcomings is painful. Yet, that revelation is also a gift from God to push us back to God in repentance from our own sin and turning in greater reliance upon Him for power to walk worthy of our calling.  It is a return to the heart of justifying faith: “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

So let the words of the Apostle lead us into the humility of our human inadequacy and the exaltation of God’s superabundant grace in Christ.

Comprehensive Praise: some reflections on worship from Psalm 150

sunshine-dust-motesThe psalms are the prayerbook of the Bible, prayer-songs that were often used within the corporate and private worship of the people of Israel. They are also one of our strongest biblical resources for shaping our life of worship today within the Christian church. The entire psalter concludes with a summary psalm of worship, Psalm 150, and I would like to share some thoughts that leap out to me about worship from this psalm.

Worship is God-Centered
The beginning word of Psalm 150 is simple: Hallelujah, which means, “praise the Lord.” The theme and tone of this psalm, something which sums up the entire book of psalms, is God-directed praise. This word, hallelujah, sets our spiritual compass to true north in God. Here at the beginning of this psalm, yet at the end of the entire psalter, we remember that God is the center-point of attention for our worship and rooted anchor for our lives. An oft-repeated phrase about worship is: “its’ not about me.” Hallelujah is the personal and communal exclamation of that reality. When we conclude the final word in the psalms with an introductory word, “praise the Lord,” we are forced to remember that worship and life is not about me but about God.

The Intersection of the Mundane and the Holy
In the next verses of Psalm 150, we find location in worship within God’s sanctuary or tabernacle even as our imagination stretches up to the heavens or the firmament of the sky. The psalmist reminds us that worship simultaneously draws us near to God in a Read More »

A Crash Course in the Gospel (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Ephesians

One of my favorite books of the Bible is the Psalms. Through the Psalms I have learned how to pray. One of my other favorites is the Gospel of John. John’s telling of Jesus’ story has helped me connect my spiritual longings with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ so powerfully. Right after the Psalms and John comes Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Here, the basic contours of right thinking about God and right living with God come together in such a short space that every sentence strikes with power.

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, as I continued with our series “Ephesians: A Crash Course in Basic Christianity,” I had the privilege of addressing one of my favorite Scriptural texts in this favorite book of mine. I turned to Ephesians 2:1-10 for “A Crash Course in the Gospel.”

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 here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement.

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A Prayer for Ascension Day

The Ascension of Christ - Giotto.jpg
Giotto, The Ascension of Christ, fresco; 1305.

Almighty God and Father,
thank You for Your everlasting love revealed in Jesus Christ,
who did not consider equality with You
something to be used to His own advantage,
but emptied Himself and took on the nature
of a servant and became human
for us and for our salvation.

Thank You that in Your infinite wisdom
this divine descent of the only begotten Son from eternity
made the way of the Cross
truly to become the pathway to abundant life.
Thank You that through His death and resurrection
the gateway to eternal life
not only brings us into Your household as children
but also seats us in the heavenly places
where He now lives and reigns with You eternally.

As we enter into true life through Him,
and we enter into Your forever family through Him,
so, too, do we find ourselves held in prayer through Him,
as He eternally intercedes for us at Your right hand,
Jesus the Messiah, ascended to glory,
the Name above all names, and our High Priest forever.

For all these blessings
beyond anything we could ask or imagine,
we thank You.
May our lives – in thought, word, and deed –
exist as living sacrifices of worship to You,
who reign with Your only Son, Jesus Christ,
and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forevermore.
Amen.

Prince of Peace [Name Above All Names]

NAAN-Series-GFX_App-Wide.pngThis past weekend at Eastbrook Church we continued our series exploring the titles of Christ, “Name Above All Names,” with a look at Isaiah 9:6:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

What does it mean that Jesus, as the Promised Messiah, is the Prince of Peace? This weekend we explored what that peace is and what that peace is not, as well as three specific ways in which Jesus brings the peace of God into our world and our lives.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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The Church: A Multi-Ethnic, Kingdom-Oriented Community

Church Vision Series GFX_16x9 Title.pngThis past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I continued a two-part reflection on the nature of the church. My working title for this series is “The Multi-Everything Church,” which is an outworking of our vision to become a Revelation 7:9-10 type of church with attention to some other aspects beyond multi-ethnicity.

Following last weekend’s message on the church as an intergenerational family, this weekend I looked at two more important aspects of the church, first as a multi-ethnic community and second as a kingdom-oriented community.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Living like God’s Children

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)

he-qi-prodigal-sonAt a pivot point in the letter of Galatians, the Apostle Paul highlights a new reality that has come into our lives through Christ. In Christ, we are saved by grace through faith. God’s law has served as a tutor in regards to both God’s ways and our sinfulness in order to lead us to Christ as Savior.

Now, by faith in Christ, we are all “children of God” (3:26). Whereas we previously were children under a tutor, striving to live up to our identity, now in Christ we are children with full belonging. Paul will return to this theme letter in relation to our inheritance, but suffice it to say for now that we have a new relational position with God through Christ.

Not only that, but by faith in Christ, and through the sacred action of baptism, we “have clothed yourselves with Christ” (3:27). Baptism reflects our appropriate by faith of the work of Christ, who has died to sin and lives alive to God. So now, we too are dead to sin and alive to God (see Romans 6:1-14). We have a new existential identity with God through Christ.

Continuing, Paul tells us that by Faith in Christ, we are “all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28). This well-known verse helps us understand that the things that often divide us in our cultures – ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic status – have been radically nullified in Christ. In Jesus, God has done something new, as Paul writes elsewhere, which is “to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:15). We have a new relational community with God through Christ.

Finally, Paul emphasis that by faith in Christ, we are “Abraham’s seed…and heirs according to the promise” (3:29). As Paul writes later in this letter, “since you are his child, God has made you also an heir” (4:7). What does it mean to be heirs? It means that because of Jesus we now assured as full recipients of the blessings of God. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). We have a new promised hope with God through Christ.

We need to live like God’s children. How might we do that?Read More »