A Prayer on the Transcendent Gift of Adoption in Christ

Blue sky sunshine

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17)

Thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Holy Spirit which we have received through faith in Jesus Christ. We could not buy or earn this favor but have received it from You as a generous gift. We don’t take it lightly. Thank You that the Holy Spirit makes us children, not slaves, and brings us boldly and lovingly into Your family. Thank You that we can call out, “Abba, Father!”, by the Spirit and know that we belong and will be heard.

What dramatic sort of gift is this, Lord? How could it be that any who come by faith through Christ might receive the immeasurable gifts of belonging, adoption, and being able to call on You? All these gifts are beyond value. Many things that we pursue with our lives for and strive endlessly after still outpace our wild grasping or earning. Yet here with You we find all we most need given as sheer received gift! What else can we say but “thank You”? Thank You for the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit who speaks of our adoption, confirming within our spirits what the Scriptures tell us is true and our new reality.Thank You that we are heirs of Your full kingdom as we become children—even co-heirs with Christ. Thank You that we are privileged to share in both the suffering and the glory of discipleship with Christ Jesus. As Peter writes, this is “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade…kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Thank You!

And so, Father, with abounding praise and gratitude we step into this day as children of God, heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ, and recipients of the Holy Spirit. We choose to yield and surrender ourselves to You again. Let us enter into the fellowship of Your suffering that we might also enter into the fellowship of Your glory. Strengthen us to deny ourselves that we might also find the abundant life in You. Give us power each step of this journey that we might live a long obedience in the same direction. Again, today, Lord, we declare that we are Yours.

The Significance of Jesus’ Ascension

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Edward Bolwell, ascension day, Acrylic Paint on MDF Board; 2017

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,”they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

Today is Ascension Day, when we celebrate the ascension of Jesus to the Father in heaven after His resurrection from death (Luke 24:49-51; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:3-10). I believe the ascension is one of the most-neglected aspects of the life of Jesus with greater significance for our life with God as disciples of Jesus than we usually realize. Here is a traditional collect from the Book of Common Prayer for Ascension Day:

Almighty God, whose only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven: May our hearts and minds also there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I wrote three posts in 2018 about the importance of the ascension for our faith because of Jesus’ reign as King, Jesus’ mediation eternally, and Jesus’ future return in glory, and would encourage you to join me in considering the significance of Jesus’ ascension.

Read them here:

Transfigured: a prayer reflection

Fr Sieger Köder, “Transfiguration”

“While he [Peter] was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: ‘This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.'” (Matthew 17:5, MSG)

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV)

Light. Brilliant and blazing. Unearthly on earth.
Our eyes streaming. The radiance overpowering.
This is who He really is but we had not seen it.
The Voice. Booming with love. Knowing and known.
Unveiled and vulnerably open. Glorious apocalypse.

And we, too, are thus a glorious apocalypse.
Seeing Him and seen by Him. His voice speaking love in and over us.
Known and knowing. Transforming us to who we really are.
His glory overpowering us. Our eyes streaming.
Holy Spirit residing in us. Divine presence in flesh and bone.
Light blazing through clay vessels. Transfiguring us in Him.

“Glory to the Newborn King”: Christmas Eve message 2021

Here is the message I was to deliver at Eastbrook Church at Christmas Eve services before coming down sick. Thanks to Jim Caler for delivering it in my place.


I love singing Christmas carols and Christmas songs. Maybe you do too. A couple weeks ago I was at a Christmas party, and we sang a couple Christmas songs together and I noticed that as the songs got going people just lit up and joined right in.  If you had to make a choice, what would you say is your favorite Christmas song or Christmas carol? Maybe turn to someone near you and share that right now.

A little earlier in the service we sang the song “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” It says:

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King”
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled
Joyful all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

There are few Christmas hymns that are so jam-packed with good theology and biblical truth while also being so singable and full of joy as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

That phrase, “Glory to the newborn king,” is so rich with meaning. But that meaning is twofold. First, Jesus comes to bring us His glory. And second, we, in return, bring our glory echoing back to Him. 

We bring glory to Jesus the newborn King because the newborn King first brings glory to us.

The Newborn Kings Brings Us Glory

We heard earlier of the birth of Jesus. We’re told that Mary gave birth to a son and Joseph gave him the name Jesus: “She gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus” (Matthew 1:25).

Later, when the Maji from the east arrive, they say they have come, following a star, to find a newborn king that they might worship Him: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

There is a newborn King who comes to bring us His glory. 

Now, there are a lot of different kingdoms on earth. There are great kingdoms of the past and there are great kingdoms of the present. There will even be kingdoms of the future that we have not yet encountered. 

But Jesus brings a different sort of kingdom. He comes to bring God’s kingdom. At the beginning of His preaching and miracle-working ministry, Jesus declares: 

“The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

This newborn King brings a new sort of kingdom that calls us to repent, which literally means “turn around” or “do a 180,” and embrace the good news. Why is this new kingdom a “good news” kind of kingdom? Because it reveals the glory of God.

All through the Bible there are glimpses of glory, specifically the glory of God. What is “glory”? Well, it is the visible radiance of the being of God – God’s beauty or majesty – His goodness and greatness unveiled to us. 

Jesus, this newborn King, has come to bring God’s kingdom and reveal to us God’s glory – His majesty, His beauty, His goodness, His greatness. 

As the early Christian leader Paul writes in Colossians 1:15: 

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15)

And this newborn King, Jesus, brings this glory close to us, right where we live in our everyday lives. Hear it again:

“‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” (Matthew 1:23)

God with us. His glory brought to us. Not just to a select few of highly regarded and well-groomed people, but to all of us. 

Yes, I know we all tried to get dressed up for this Christmas Eve service, but deep down we all know we’re a rag-tag bunch of rough & tumble people who need God to intervene in our lives. 

We may be special or stand out for one reason or another that our mother enjoys, but Jesus doesn’t base His decision to bring glory to us on that sort of thing. He brings His glory to anyone who wants a taste of salvation’s savor; to anyone who longs to behold God’s beauty; to anyone, no matter how apparently undeserving, who wants to join the shepherds and the wise men at the manger in worship.

Ordinary people – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, you, and me – we all can experience the glory of God that the newborn King Jesus brings to us.

We Bring Glory to the Newborn King

But the second half of the great truth of Christmas is that we have the privilege of echoing back glory to that newborn King.

Maybe you already know that an echo is just sound bouncing back to us from a hard surface. It’s one thing to experience an echo in the shower where your singing never sounded so good, but it’s an entirely different thing to hear an echo bounce back over a tremendous distance in the perfect environment, such as a canyon or rock face near water. 

Or even in a built environment, such as the Hamilton Mausoleum in Scotland, that will sustain echoes of 15 seconds before they fade from our ear.

An echo is not the original sound, but it does replay or return the sound that originally was released.

Just as sound released in the right environment brings forth an echo in response, so God’s glory in Jesus Christ searches for a right environment in human lives bringing forth echoes of glory in response. 

We should echo back, giving glory to the newborn King who first gifts us with a revelation of God’s glory.

An early church leader, Irenaeus of Lyons, once write that “The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and the life of humanity consists in beholding God.”[1]

We receive the glory of God—His beauty and majesty, His goodness and greatness—into our lives through faith in Jesus and we bring glory to God by living in response to Him today and all our days. Our lives are intended to be an echo. 

So how do we echo back glory to Jesus? 

First, we can take seriously the glory revealed in Jesus. It’s all about Him. We can live with our eyes fixed on Him—knowing Him more, searching the Bible to better understand Him, and digging deeper into a real, transformational relationship with Him.

Second, we can respond with our hearts and our lives to Jesus. We can take a step of faith today with Him, perhaps for the very first time. We can choose to orient our whole way of living around Jesus and His teaching.   

I don’t want to miss the chance for us today to consider what that means for us in our lives in a very real and tangible way.

In the program today there is a response card. It offers some specific ways we can respond to the glory of God revealed in Jesus. I’d like to ask you to look at that part of the program, or those specific responses online.

There is a space for you to fill in your name and information, as well as make one of several responses:

  • I would like to talk with a pastor or staff member about Jesus Christ and the Bible
  • I would like to find out how to explore my faith 
  • I would like to receive more information about Eastbrook 
  • I would like to explore joining a small group to grow in my faith 
  • I would like prayer for something in my life

I would like to urge you, whether you’re online or in person, to take some time to consider your response to God right now. No one else can become an echo for you. Only you can respond to God. 

If you’re in person you can fill out the card and put it in the bins that the ushers will have by the doors as you leave.  If you’re online, you can respond to the online host or send us an email at info@eastbrook.org.

Conclusion

In the late 19th century, Christina Rosetti wrote a poem that was later turned into a song known as “In the Bleak Midwinter.” The poem traces the incarnation of Jesus, reflecting on the wonders of Him leaving the Father’s presence to enter into our earthly realities. It concludes with a final stanza of self-reflection upon what gift we could possibly give in return for the marvelous gift of God’s glory revealed in Jesus. As we conclude tonight, I cannot think of better words for us to ponder:

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd, 
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.[2]

Let’s pray.


[1] St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, Book IV, Chapter 20, Section 7.

[2] Christina Rosetti, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” stanza 5.

His Glory Brings Joy

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our Advent journey and our new preaching series entitled “‘Tis the Reason.” This second week of the series takes us to one of the most fascinating stories in all the Gospels. In Matthew 17:1-13, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him to a mountain where Jesus is transfigured before them and speaks with both Moses and Elijah. What does the transfiguration tell us about glory and what does that mean for our life with God in the everyday?

This message is part of the seventh part of our longer series on Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” “Stories of the Kingdom,” and “Who Do You Say I Am?”

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.


“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’” (Matthew 17:5)

A Vision of Glory (Matthew 17:1-3)

Jesus and the three

Jesus’ transfiguration 

Jesus in conversation with Moses and Elijah (cf. Luke 9:31)

Glory Surpassing Human Comprehension (Matthew 17:4-8)

Peter develops a plan

The divine interruption 

Overwhelmed by the glory of the Lord

Elijah and the Messiah to Come (Matthew 17:9-13)

The Messianic secret

Elijah who is to come and has come

Finding Joy in the Glory of Jesus

Celebrate God’s glory revealed in Jesus

Take joy in God’s glory mingled with love and mercy in JesusWorship with awe before God’s glory that surpasses human understanding 


Dig Deeper:

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