Real Life: an exploration of the Beatitudes

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we began a new series “Becoming Real” which will explore the Sermon on the Mount by looking at the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12. The Beatitudes are a very familiar portion of Scripture, so it can be difficult to hear them afresh, but I did my best to help us see both how shocking and how life-giving these statements by Jesus about the flourishing life really are.

You can view 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.

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.”  (Matthew 5:1-2)

Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount

  • Matthew’s Gospel organized around 5 discourses:
    • Matthew 5-7
    • Matthew 10
    • Matthew 13
    • Matthew 18
    • Matthew 24-25
  • The disciples as the focus, but the crowd listening
  • The Sermon on the Mount as the Discipleship Handbook for living in God’s kingdom

The Beatitudes and What it Means to be “Blessed”

  • The meaning of μακάριος – blessed, happy, it will go well with, fortunate, flourishing
  • The flourishing life in the kingdom of heaven
  • The unexpected

Exploring the Beatitudes

  • Exploring them one at a time
  • Seeing the “two tables” of the Beatitudes

Living the Good Life in God’s Kingdom

  1. Knowing and following Jesus
  2. Responding to Jesus’ invitation to enter God’s kingdom
  3. Considering what it means to be blessed or to flourish
  4. Living with God now in light of the end

Dig Deeper

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

  • Consider memorizing one or all of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12.
  • Read and meditate upon the Beatitudes one per day on your own or with a friend. Write down one thing you learned each day and share with another person.
  • Consider watching Tim Mackie of The Bible Project discuss the Beatitudes
  • Explore parallels to the Beatitudes in other parts of Scripture:
    • Psalm 1:1; 32:1-2; 40:4; 119:1-2; 128:1
    • Isaiah 61
    • Matthew 11:6; 13:16; 16:17; 24:45
    • Luke 1:45; 10:23; 11:27-28

The Call of Discipleship

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we concluded our series “Power in Preparation” by tracing Jesus’ call to discipleship to Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John in Matthew 4:18-25. This was also a child dedication weekend at Eastbrook, so my sermon was a little shorter than other times.

You can view the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire “Power in Preparation” 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.

Also, watch for our new sermon series, “Becoming Real: The Sermon on the Mount,” which begins next Sunday with the beginning of Lent.

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”  (Matthew 4:23)

Introducing the Next Section of Matthew’s Gospel

  • The new geography: from Nazareth to Capernaum (4:13)
  • The beginnings of the Messianic community: Peter, Andrew, James, John (4:18-22)
  • The phenomenal growth and reach of Jesus’ ministry (4:23-25)

Jesus and the Call of Discipleship

  • The life situation of Peter and Andrew, James and John
  • The decisive call of Jesus
  • The response of these first disciples

Jesus and the Gathering Crowd

  • Jesus’ ministry: teaching, proclaiming, healing
  • “The good news of the kingdom”
  • The draw of the crowd
  • The crowd that followed Him

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into the significance of Jesus’ message and calling in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 4:19
  • Sketch or draw the scene of the disciples following Jesus from Matthew 4:18-22 or the crowds drawing near to Jesus from Matthew 4:23-25
  • Set aside some time this week to read Matthew 4:18-25 again. Meditate quietly on these words, asking Jesus what He might be speaking to you to let go of in order to follow Him.
  • Consider watching the word study video “Euangelion / Gospel” by the Bible Project

Revealing?: reflections on Willow’s “Follow Me”


I’ve finally taken the chance to review the second book associated with Willow Creek’s Reveal study entitled Follow Me. Better late than never, they say, so I’m sending off some of my reflections here at the blog.

Building off of the research from Reveal, this next part of the study looks at spiritual growth, what people are looking for from churches for growth, and provides some critical insights on how church leaders can catalyze and lead toward spiritual growth in their churches.

Reveal offered a four-fold framework , or spiritual growth continuum, for understanding where people are at in their faith: 1) exploring Christ, 2) growing in Christ, 3) close to Christ, and 4) Christ-centered.

In Follow Me, the study outlines three movements of spiritual growth that stretch across the continuum of faith (pp. 28-30): 1) early spiritual growth, 2) intermediate spiritual growth, and 3) advanced spiritual growth. The study then analyzed four categories of spiritual catalysts within the stages of growth (pp. 31-46), which they outlined as: 1) spiritual beliefs and attitudes (e.g., authority of the Bible, Triune God, salvation by grace) , 2) organized church activities (e.g., weekend services, serving within the church, small groups), 3) personal spiritual practices (e.g., reflection on Scripture, solitude, prayer), and 4) spiritual activities with others (e.g., informal spiritual friendships, serving those in need ‘on my own’).

So, this all sets the stage for the study to look into what helps people move from one stage of spiritual growth to another, or to see what are key catalysts for spiritual growth. While it is interesting to dig into the spiritual catalysts for each stage or movement of spiritual growth, it is even more interesting – even unsurprising – to find that the only common spiritual catalyst that reaches across all three movements of spiritual growth is “Reflection on Scripture” (pp. 114ff).

Everywhere we turned the data revealed the same truth: spending time in the Bible is hands down the highest impact personal spiritual practice. More specifically, ‘I reflect on the meaning of Scripture in my life’ is the spiritual practice that is most predictive of growth for all three spiritual movements.  (p. 114)

In some ways, this should not be surprising to us. As the writer of Hebrews says:

The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

But, we should be thoughtful as we reflect on what is being said here in Follow Me.  The call is not simply to say to people in our churches: “Go read the Bible. That’s it. Just do it.” This is not helpful.

What we should be doing is giving thoughtful consideration to how we are encouraging and equipping our people to regularly (that means in an ongoing and disciplined way) reflect (meditatively read with connection to life) on the Scripture in ways that provide continuity with what we are communicating in services (e.g., sermons, prayer, worship songs) and other venues (e.g., small groups, classes).

In this vein, I appreciated how Willow is doing their utmost to “extend the impact of our weekend services. We wanted to help people integrate what they were learning on the weekends into their Monday-through-Friday lives” (p. 123). Whether that is in the form of a journal for reflection they handed out, or having a thorough cataloguing of resources that people can access, they are trying to make the Scripture-focused impact overflow into peoples’ daily living.

Much more could be said about this fascinating book, whether it is changes from a seeker-driven church to a more radical disciple-making church, or retooling the mid-week service into a class structure that is driven to help people in each of the three movements of spiritual growth.

It is definitely worth the read, the reflection, and learning for ministry application in your own setting.