Real Spirituality: three vital spiritual practices

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our series “Becoming Real” on the Sermon on the Mount by looking at Matthew 6:1-18. This passage builds on the earlier teaching by Jesus about surpassing righteousness (see “Real Righteousness”) by exploring three vital practices for spiritual growth: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire “Becoming Real” series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.
If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 6:1)

Who Are We Living For?: The Audience of Our Righteousness (6:1)

  • Practicing, or doing, righteousness
  • The assumption: “When you give to the needy…and when you pray…when you fast” (6:2, 5, 16)
  • The hypocrites and their audience: “in front of others to be seen by them”
  • The real righteous and their audience: the Father
  • A word about “reward”

Giving to the Needy (6:2-4)

  • The way of deficient righteousness: announcing it for honor
  • The way of surpassing righteousness: secrecy in giving that gives for the Father

Prayer (6:5-15)

  • The way of deficient righteousness: public prayer to be seen by other or babbling prayer in hopes of being heard
  • The way of surpassing righteousness: secrecy in prayer and few words in prayer that rests in the Father
  • A pattern for prayer
  • Forgiveness and prayer

Fasting (6:16-18)

  • The way of deficient righteousness: looking somber so others see it
  • The way of surpassing righteousness: secrecy in fasting that hungers for the Father

Practicing Real Spirituality as Disciples of Jesus

  • Disciples put real righteousness into practice with real spirituality
  • Disciples practice real spirituality with secrecy and hiddenness
  • Disciples practice real spirituality for an audience of One

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ teaching on real spirituality in one or more of the following ways:

Journey to the Cross 2021: beginning our Lenten journey

Join us this Wednesday, February 17, at 7 PM, in-person or via live stream for the beginning of our Lenten journey at Eastbrook Church with our annual Journey to the Cross service. Each year, we invite everyone to fast during the day and break the fast by participating in the Lord’s Supper together at this service. For more information on fasting, take a look here.

You can access the Journey to the Cross Program here and the kids packet for the night here.

This also begins our Lenten (and beyond) devotional journey, “Becoming Real,” written by the Eastbrook community that accompanies our new sermon series on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. You can access the devotional online, as a downloadable PDF, via the Eastbrook app, or through a limited-run of paper copies.

For more information on the importance of Lent and the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, consider reading this post: “What is Ash Wednesday and Lent?

A Call to Prayer and Fasting

We all recognize that we are at a very challenging time in our personal, national, and global history. The COVID-19 pandemic, racial tensions, our national election, and other challenges to the body of Christ around the world have brought us to a dramatic encounter with our needs and limits, while also making it clear that we need a move of God in our day and time.

In light of this, we are calling Eastbrook Church to a season of prayer and fasting during the upcoming preaching series, “One: The Being of  God in the Life of the Church.” While you could certainly do more, we are calling the church to the following, either as individuals or as groups:

  • pray at least once per day (see suggested prayer points below)
  • fast at least one meal per week, dedicating that mealtime to prayer

If you would like more information on the nature of fasting, please visit here.

As we engage in this season of prayer and fasting, please prayer for the following, as well as other items that the Holy Spirit may bring to mind:

  • pray for the unity of Eastbrook Church, as well as other churches
  • pray that God would speak to us and lead us as a church as we seek to navigate these days for His glory
  • pray for true peace in our city, the nation, and the nations of the earth in this divisive, confusing, and painful time
  • pray that God would guide our elections, both federal and local, for His glory
  • pray against the powers of evil that seek to disrupt and destroy, both in the church and nation
  • pray for revival in our church, city, and nation; that God would lead people to a true understanding of the gravity of sin and evil, as well as the power of the Gospel in Jesus Christ
  • ultimately, pray that God’s kingdom would come and His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven

As God brings other specific prayer points to you, feel free to share those with the staff and Council here: info@eastbrook.org.

Senior Pastor Video Update in the Time of COVID-19 (April 8, 2020)

Here is my latest video update for Eastbrook Church as we navigate the time of COVID-19. I will continue to re-post these weekly video updates here at my blog for those who have not seen it or who are not part of our church but could use the encouragement. You can watch it here or at the Eastbrook Church Vimeo channel.

In my video update, I mention Eastbrook’s Holy Week services and experiences for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. You can access it all here, and I encourage you to look at some of the resources and experiences ahead of time so that you can utilize them at home on that day.

For Maundy Thursday:

  • resources for older and/or younger children
  • recipe for unleavened bread and communion service
  • foot-washing ceremony
  • simple seder meal  instructions

For Good Friday:

  • resources for older and/or younger children
  • fasting
  • observing silence from 12-3 pm
  • experiencing the Passion

You could also participate in an online “Way of the Cross,” a virtual walk through Jesus’ final moments..

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.