The Holy Spirit in Us: Living in the Kingdom of God Now

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church we continued our series, “The Kingdom of God.” This first two weeks of the series I explored the theme of the kingdom of God through the Old Testament and New Testament. This week , I walked through three main aspects of living in the kingdom of God: personally living in the kingdom, living as the community of God in the kingdom, and joining God’s kingdom work in the world.

You can view the message video and outline for the message is below. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, 
but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’” (Romans 14:17)

I: Life in God’s Kingdom by the Spirit

  • Life in the Spirit (Romans 14:17-18)
  • The surprisingly blessed life  (Matthew 5:2-12)
  • The obedient and fruitful life (Galatians 5:13-26)

We: Life Together in God’s Kingdom by the Spirit

  • The community that takes on Christ’s kingly character (Ephesians 4:14-16)
  • The community that takes on Christ’s servant character (Philippians 2:1-11)

They: Kingdom Mission with the Spirit

  • Word: The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8)
  • Deed: The Great Commandment  (Matthew 22:34-40)

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into the theme of living in the kingdom of God in one or more of the following ways:

Patience and Personal Discipleship

Good things come to those who wait, I’ve been told, but, honestly, I have a really hard time with that.

Let me give you three situations many of us face. Number one: music tries to calm me down as I anxiously wait behind unending lines of traffic, hoping I arrive reasonably on-time to my next appointment. Number two: I carefully choose which check-out line at the store I will head to with my items. I evaluate whether it might make the most sense to go for self-check-out and skip dealing with people altogether. Number three: I head to the DMV, knowing that the actual business I have there does not necessarily need to take more than a few moments but anticipating the reality that I will wait agonizingly long to simply get this taken care of.

“Good things come to those who wait,” but wouldn’t we all prefer to have good things come precisely when we want them? I know that we have heard patience is a virtue, but deep down we all want instant gratification. Now, more than ever, the possibility of instant gratification is within reach as technology married with enterprise has brought us the possibility of getting what we want immediately while never leaving the comfort of our homes. Don’t misunderstand me, I am as prone to enjoy Netflix and Amazon Prime as the next person, but our culture of instant gratification is doing something to us that is not nearly all helpful. The eight-second attention span[1] and inability to delay gratification are making us more anxious and impatient,[2] affecting more than our pace of life and consumption of goods. Now we say, “good things come to those who wait…but let my waiting be short (e.g., eight seconds for information, sixty seconds for music and movie downloads, and twenty-four hours for my online shopping)!”

This anxious impatience is eroding our spiritual lives as well. Spiritual transformation only comes via “a long obedience in the right direction.”[3] Paul the Apostle describes our growth as Christians as a process of growth and maturing, moving from spiritual infancy to nature adulthood, “so that the body of Christ may be built up…and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). We understand this physically, expecting babies to grow to toddlers and on to teenagers before becoming adults. Yet, somehow, we forget that this same process of growth applies to the spiritual life of discipleship. It is not something that comes quickly, but must go through a similar process of growth and maturing over time. Spiritual growth does not happen overnight, let alone in sixty seconds, but must happen over a lifetime.

There is no more valuable, nor more difficult, character trait necessary in the Christian life in this regard than patience.  The Scripture shows both that patience is invaluable in our own lives (Proverbs 19:11; Ecclesiastes 7:8; James 5:7) and in our relationships with others (Colossians 3:12; 2 Timothy 3:10). Our discipleship, as a matter of fact, is a growth in which God shows forth His patience with us from start to finish (Romans 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:16). If we want to grow with God, following Jesus as our Leader and Savior, then we must commit to the patient journey of discipleship over the long haul.

Within the Bible, one of the clearest pictures of this is seen in the Psalms of Ascent. This little collection of psalms was utilized for prayer and worship on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Groups of believers would journey together, caring for one another and building one another up, as they prepared to meet with God and His people in worship. The pilgrimage journey of the Psalms of Ascent provides us with a soundtrack for the patient journey of discipleship. We need songs in our mouths and hearts, we need others to journey with, and we need lives that move steadily closer to God. 

This patient journey of discipleship, and the place that patience begins to have in our lives, is often seen as a key to seeing change in the life of others (Proverbs 25:15; 2 Timothy 4:2). In a culture of anxious impatience where many have misplaced hopes of relief, a patient, peaceful community of people living daily life with God speaks louder than all sorts of religious activity.

Maybe now is a time to disconnect from the impatient pulse of a technologized angst in order to reconnect with the patient journey of discipleship with God. Our very lives, both in word and in deed, may become a living witness to an eternal God who is unhurried in His life and purposes.


[1] Timothy Egan, “The Eight-Second Attention Span,” New York Times, January 22, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/22/opinion/the-eight-second-attention-span.html.

[2] Emma Taubenfeld, “The Culture of Impatience and Instant Gratificaiton,” Study Breaks, March 23, 2017, https://studybreaks.com/2017/03/23/instant-gratification/.

[3] With a nod to both Eugene Peterson and Friedrich Nietszche.

[This post originally appeared as part of the Gospel in Life blog.]

Preaching the Psalms of Ascent: A Soundtrack for the Pilgrimage of Faith

Psalms of Ascent PT

An article I wrote for Preaching Today on preaching the Psalms of Ascent came out last week. This article came to life through my own journey of preaching the Psalms of Ascent at Eastbrook Church in late 2017 through a series entitled “Ascend: The Psalms of Ascent.” Thanks to Andrew Finch and Matt Woodley at PT, who have been a great encouragement to me and continue to provide me opportunities to write. I’m including an excerpt of the article below, as well as a link here to one of the sermons I preached from that series, entitled “Our Journey with God,” that PT is including on their website as well.

Since our kids have been young, one of the highlights of our road trips has been listening to music. In the “old days,” everyone would bring a favorite CD or two on the trip so we could take turns listening to music. These days, we create playlists or switch out smartphones, letting everyone have a turn at picking a song to share with everyone else. We learn a lot about one another through the music, even as we enjoy the travel experiences, and the beauty of God’s creation matched by the soundtrack for the journey.

Now, one of the most cliché phrases about human existence is that “life is a journey.” Like many such phrases, however, it is so overused because it seems so resoundingly true. That concept is woven throughout Scripture about our lives as human beings: we are on a journey, or pilgrimage, through our days. Ideally, that pilgrimage is with God but, regardless, journey is an accurate description of the human way of experiencing life.

One portion of Scripture where this is particularly clear is in a grouping of psalms known as the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). While there are different ideas about what “ascent” is a reference to, the most widely supported idea is that these psalms were sung and prayed by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. These pilgrims traveled to the Temple in celebration of the three main festivals of the Hebrew people: Passover, Pentecost, and Booths (Exodus 23:14-17). No matter where they were, they would ascend toward Jerusalem because it was on the topographical heights, but also because it symbolized the spiritual high point where God dwells with human beings.

These journey prayers provided a soundtrack for the people of God, a spiritual soundtrack for the pilgrimage of faith. The Psalms of Ascent returned the Hebrew people to their nomadic faith roots in Abraham and the liberation journey of the Exodus with Moses. They served as a reminder that God’s people were a pilgrim people on the way with God.

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 August 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Last week I took a break from “The Weekend Wanderer,” as I was at Fort Wilderness speaking for one of their summer family camps in the beautiful north woods of Wisconsin. Here are a couple of photos of the beauty.

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Beirut explosion“16 Beirut Ministries Respond to Lebanon Explosion” – Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, directly affected people within our church and partners in that part of the world. We are praying for the country and the believers as the recover and talking with church partners as they fashion a response (support our efforts by giving financially here). Here are some examples of ministries responding on the ground in Beirut in an article at Christianity Today. You may also benefit from reading about the way this reflects deeper problems in Lebanon (“Beirut Explosion Looks Like An Accident — And A Sign Of The Country’s Collapse”), the impact on humanitarian aid for refugees (“More than $600,000 in humanitarian aid for refugees destroyed in Beirut explosion”) and one journalist’s attempt to explain this disaster to his children as they live in Beirut (“How I Explained Beirut’s Explosion to My Kids” ).


CT bodily worship“Preserving Our Body and Bodies for Worship” – One of the most important aspects for worship and discipleship is our bodies. Those who serve an incarnate Lord serve Him incarnationally, following Him by offering our bodies as living sacrifices and living together as the redeemed community. Here is Hannah King reflecting on the importance of this in relation to the body of Christ, our bodily life, and the church at worship. “Corporate worship demonstrates this reality weekly. We gather as bodies, presenting our whole selves to God in praise and thanksgiving. We sing and lift our hands, we kneel to confess and to pray, we take the bread in our hands and eat. But we also gather as a body of bodies, embedding our individual faith within a larger, corporate reality. Christianity is never merely personal and private, but interpersonal and familial. Our communion with God is the fellowship of a family.”


51MxgeRI+ML._SL250_“Barbara Peacock – Soul Care in African American Practice – Review – In The Englewood Review of BooksOpe Bukola reviews a book I hope to read soon: “Though I was drawn to contemplative practice, the little I knew of it made me doubt it was ‘for me’ as a 30-something Protestant black woman. I know my share of prayer warriors, so praying intentionally resonates strongly as part of black Christian practice. But contemplation? Not so much. I’ve since learned of the African roots of Christian contemplative practices, from church fathers like Augustine and Tertullian, to 20th century giants like Howard Thurman. So when I first heard of Dr. Barbara Peacock’s book, Soul Care in African American Practice, I was immediately drawn to the term ‘soul care.’ In the book, Peacock highlights the spiritual practices that have sustained generations of African American Christians and urges black Christians to prioritize intentional soul care.”


Science_poetry_98603463“What Poetry Means for Doctors and Patients During a Pandemic” – As a lover of poetry and limping writer of poetry, I found this article in Wired fascinating. What is it about poetry that helps us in times of difficulty? “When Rafael Campo took over as poetry editor at The Journal of the American Medical Association a little over a year ago, he wasn’t expecting to field quite so many submissions….At first, Campo says, he got about 20 or 30 poems each week. Some are from patients or family caregivers. Most come from doctors and nurses. But as the pandemic got underway, more and more poems arrived. Now, his inbox is bursting with over a hundred weekly submissions. ”


White fragility“White Fragility: Why this Book is Important for Evangelicals” – Ed Stetzer invites Allison Ash to be the first in a series of interactions with Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. She writes: “I think this book is important for evangelical Christians, particularly white evangelical Christians (both people who would identify as progressive, conservative or a combination of the two), because it speaks a language that has been almost completely missing within the white evangelical church throughout its history.” For another perspective you may want to look at an article I posted in July by George Yancey, “Not White Fragility, Mutual Responsibility.” 


Flannery O'Connor“The ‘Cancelling’ of Flannery O’Connor?:  It Never Should Have Happened” – Flannery O’Connor is a twentieth-century southern novelist whose Christian faith weaves in and out of her work with a mesmerizing and sometimes ghastly force. If you’re not familiar with her work, I’d encourage you to start with her short stories in A Good Man Is Hard to Find. O’Connor, however, has recently come under scrutiny for some of her views, leading Loyola University of Maryland to remove her name from a building because “some of her personal writings reflected a racist perspective.” In Commonweal, Angela Alaimo O’Donnell takes the university to task for this decision.


Music: Bon Iver, “AUATC.”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Discipline is the Price of Freedom

discipline

I came across this excerpt from D. Elton Trueblood’s 1970 book The New Man for Our Time on the topic of spiritual discipline. It caught my attention as I continue to give attention to the disciplines of grace necessary for us to grow in the spiritual life, drawing upon the influence of writers like Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, as well as other spiritual writers of much earlier eras and today.

When we begin to ask what the conditions of inner renewal are, we receive essentially the same answers from nearly all of those whom we have most reason to respect. One major answer is the emphasis upon discipline. In the conduct of one’s own life it is soon obvious, as many have learned the hard way, that empty freedom is a snare and a delusion. In following what comes naturally or easily, life simply ends in confusion, and in consequent disaster. Without the discipline of time, we spoil the next day the night before, and without the discipline of prayer, we are likely to end by having practically no experience of the divine-human encounter. However compassionate we may be with others, we dare not be soft or indulgent with ourselves. Excellence comes at a price, and one of the major prices is that of inner control.

We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom, to the effect that we are most free when we are bound. But not just any way of being bound will suffice; what matter is the character of our binding. The one who would like to be an athlete, but who is unwilling to discipline his body by regular exercise and by abstinence, is not free to excel on the field or the track. His failure to train rigorously and to live abstemiously denies him the freedom to go over the bar at the desired height, or to run with the desired speed and endurance. With one concerted voice the giants of the devotional life apply the same principle to the whole of life with the dictum: Discipline is the price of freedom.

[From D. Elton Trueblood, The New Man for Our Time (New York: Harper & Row, 1970).]