Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr



Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:32-44)

This is an intimate story in the life of Jesus. We see things with Jesus here that we do not see in other places. We see how he interacts with people who are very dear to him. We see him mourn and even cry. Jesus has feelings and we may be a little surprised by this. Over the years, some commentators have tried to explain this away. They think that emotion is a sign of weakness and that God has none. This was a belief the ancient Greeks held, but it is not a Biblical idea. A careful reading of the Bible will reveal that God is an emotional being. At times he is angry. Other times he is sad. In the New Testament, God is described as love.

This text is about a time of lament and grief. Lazarus dies and his family is distraught. Death and tragedy is something we must deal with, and this story gives us some insight about how God comforts the mourning. We like easy answers. We want something to say that makes everything better, but the truth is there are no magic words. There is nothing we can say that will erase the pain of the loss of a loved one. In this story, Jesus offers no words of comfort, but instead he enters into their grief. The text simply says, “Jesus wept.” Whenever we experience loss, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus is with us. He understands our pain. He identifies with what we are going through. His presence is never far from us and he is grieving along with us.

This should bring us a since of comfort. We don’t have to have any words. We know that the God of the Universe understands our grief and is mourning alongside us, but this is not the only thing we learn from this story. It also gives us a since of hope because this story foreshadows an event that will forever alter human history. Jesus has the power to bring Lazarus back from the dead. He speaks and Lazarus comes to life. This is remarkable, but what is even more remarkable is that not too much longer after this event Jesus will be crucified and he will be raised from the dead three days later. Jesus will claim victory over death. The pain and separation we experience in this life is not permanent. One day death will be no more. One day we will be reunited with the loved ones we have lost. One day all things will be made right. What a bright and glorious day that will be!



We live in a world that is much smaller than it used to be. Things like satellites and the internet have made global communications simple and easy. We can now communicate with someone halfway around the world on our cell phone. We receive news from other countries as it is happening. We belong to online communities comprised of people from different cities, states, and countries. The interactions we have with individuals on a daily basis is no longer limited to the people who live in close proximity to us.

The news we receive and care about is global in nature. Not too long ago, we received news from the daily newspaper and maybe at 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., but now we have 24-hour news. There are multiple channels that broadcast nothing but news. Talking heads constantly discuss issues that may have little to do with our lives. Newspapers have been replaced by online news sources where news is reported as soon as it is received. We are reminded of big issues and global events throughout the entire day.

These little changes are impressive. Technology and progress can be beneficial, but they also influence the way we see things, including our faith. Rather than focus on how we treat our neighbor, we begin to think in global terms. We think we must make this gigantic impact on the way things are. We think we must save the world. This can be quite dangerous because it sets us up for failure.

What does the Bible expect of us? Jesus came to save the world, but we are not expected to do the same. In fact, it would be wrong to think we can do what God alone is capable of doing. What is required of us is to be faithful to what is before us. We are to love God and love our neighbor. We are to love our enemies. We are to help those in need. When our focus becomes global rather than local, we can either become burdened by the overwhelming work there is or use it as an excuse to neglect the people God has placed right in front of us. Neither is good.

We are not a failure for our inability to change the world. God is not looking for superheroes. He is looking for faithful servants who will do his will. When we do the things God has asked us to do, then we can rest assured that we are pleasing in his sight. When we go out into our own community and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the orphans and widows then we have done what God has called us to do.



Some friends of mine used to play a game called, “Quotes out of context.” It was a comical game where you took a snippet of what someone said and made them look silly or foolish. It’s quite easy to do. When you quote someone out of context, you can make them say almost anything. One of my favorite examples of this is from the movie “Dinner With Schmucks.” Steve Carrel plays Barry and in the movie he says, “In the words of John Lennon, ‘You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not.'” Of course John Lennon actually said, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” How we handle another person’s words is quite important.

The same is true of the Bible. Religious people are notorious for having verse wars. This is when one person quotes a verse and another person counters with their own verse. These discussions often do not lead anywhere, and it typically results in people becoming angry or upset. When we only speak in verses, we talk past each other, and we never get to the heart of the passage. The Bible was never intended to be a compilation of snippets, quotations, and verses. The Bible is a collection of letters, history, poetry, and more. The letters and stories that have been passed down to us were meant to be read in their entirety. When a church received a letter from Paul in the first century, they didn’t just read the parts they liked. They read the whole thing.

Verses and chapters were not a part of the Bible when it was written. They were added much later. They make it easy for us to find things, but they can quickly become a crutch that cause us to miss important elements of Scripture. Most verses are not even a complete sentence. When all we do is look at the verse, we often begin reading in the middle of a sentence. We don’t even get the entire thought the inspired writer has given us. This can cause us to misread Scripture and sometimes change the meaning of a text entirely. How do we avoid missing the point of the Bible? Here are a few principles.

1. If you can, read the entire book or letter in one setting. This is how these documents were intended to be read.

2. Read Scripture in large chunks. If you want to study a verse, then be sure and read the entire chapter. If you have time, then read the chapter before it and after it. The more you read, the better.

3. Paragraph Bibles are helpful. Over the years, translators have realized how dangerous it is to read Scripture one verse at a time. Newer versions still have verses, but Scripture is put into paragraphs. This alerts the reader to a complete thought the author was trying to make.

4. Keep in mind that the Bible cannot be reduced to one verse or a handful of verses. Even topics such as the nature of God, salvation, the work of the Holy Spirit, and many others cannot be reduced to a single verse or a collection of verses. The Bible has much to say about all these things, and we do them a disservice when we champion a few verses over what is said throughout the rest of the Bible.



“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Florence and the Machine

“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” (Luke 1:78-79)

When we are young, we have a certain idea about how the world should be. We have dreams about what life will be like when we grow older. A lot of times these ideas and dreams come from television or movies. Our understanding of life is heavily shaped by a two-hour drama that contains a certain amount of conflict, but everything works out in the end. What we learn as we grow older is that the flickering pixels that come across our TV screens are often unrealistic. They do not always present an accurate picture of what life is and how we should live it.

Life is not always exciting. It is often monotonous. We do the same things and visit the same places day in and day out. Life can be painful and even dark. Anyone who has lived long enough has had a brush with darkness. Some of us live in the darkness while others simply dabble in it, but it is always present, and it is real. The people living in the first century understood how dark the world could be. They were being oppressed by a foreign nation. They were heavily taxed. Their leaders were corrupt, and they had not heard from God in several hundred years. It is in these circumstances that Zechariah speaks these words of hope.

“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” (Luke 1:78-79)

This is one of the greatest promises we find in the Bible. Because God is so merciful, the dawn will break, and he will give light to people sitting in darkness and to people who are surrounded by death. God alone is able to do this. He is able to bring light to the darkest moments of our lives. He is able to step into our darkness and make it better. This is the God we serve. He cares about us. He understands the difficulties of life. He knows the troubles we face and he has promised a light at the end of the darkness.

I don’t know what you are going through in your life, but I do know that as long as you are a follower of Jesus, darkness will not have the last word. The darkness will not have victory. It will not overcome. Light is always stronger than darkness, and this is what God has promised us. If you are surrounded by darkness, do not give up. Remember this promise in the Gospel of Luke and trust in the God of the Universe to provide the light you need in these troublesome times.



“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Scripture is sometimes referred to as a sword, but what does this mean? When we think of a sword, we probably think of it as a weapon to be used in battle. We pick up our sword, and we go on the offensive. This is a common way to think of the word, but in Hebrews 4:12 sword is not used in this way. It is not a weapon for battle, but rather a scalpel for surgery. The sword is not used on others but turned on ourselves. We are able to judge people by their fruits (Matt. 7:15-20), but not by the “intentions of the heart.” Only God can judge the heart (1 Cor. 4:5). This means Hebrews 4:12 is a passage about how the word of God works in our lives.

We should spend time reflecting on how we use God’s word. Are we using God’s word to win an argument? Are we using it as a weapon against another person? This is not what God’s word was designed to do. It was designed to live and work within us. It was designed to work on our soul and spirit. It was designed to transform us into the image of Jesus. The word of God speaks to us like no other written text can. How we use the word of God is of upmost importance. If we are not using it as it was designed to be used, then it will not produce what it was designed to produce.

The word of God is closely tied to prayer. Immediately after the author of Hebrews explains what the word of God is intended to do, he talks about prayer (Heb. 4:14-16). Simply reading the word of God is not enough. We must have a relationship with God. We must spend time in prayer. We need this. Jesus is able to relate to us (Heb. 4:15). God grants us the grace we need in our time of need (Heb. 4:16). It is not just God’s word that is alive within us, but the Holy Spirit, God himself, dwells in us. Together the word and the Spirit help to transform us to look like Jesus.



Each year, I try and make at least one taping of Austin City Limits. I have seen some great acts over the years (Fleet Foxes, Punch Brothers, Future Islands, and Joanna Newsom). This year I was fortunate enough to see Courtney Barnett. She is an up and coming musician from Australia. She plays a brand of alternative rock that is reminiscent of music from the 90’s.

One of my favorite songs off her new album is Depreston. Songs are poetry, and it is best to sit with them awhile and allow the music and lyrics to sink in. Depreston is a stripped down song. It is Courtney and her guitar. The song has a nice melody that soothes as it draws you in.

The lyrics could be straightforward. Much of her music is about herself and it is possible this is an autobiographical piece about a certain time in her life. The first half of the song is adventurous. I picture a young couple striking out on their own. They are searching for their first home. They find a nice home in a nice neighborhood. It reminds me of being a newlywed and how little things that seem so simple now were exciting at the time.

The song then takes a sharp turn. It’s a “deceased estate” and at first you think they must have gotten a good deal. There is no controversy over buying the home, but once they move she begins to notice certain things about the house that remind her of the previous tenants. There is a “handrail in the shower”, a “collection of…canisters”, and a picture of a man in Vietnam. This changes her entire perspective of the house. She can no longer think of it as it once was.

The song ends with the possibility of knocking the house down and starting over, but it is not really a possibility because the cost is too high. Perhaps, some would try to erase the past and begin again but they cannot. The same refrain is repeated over and over.

If you’ve got a
Spare half a million

You could knock it down
And start rebuilding

I believe the song turns philosophical here, and there are several possibilities, but like all good songs that is left up to the listener.

Some might find the song a little too depressing, but it is one of my favorite songs of the year. Listen and enjoy.



In the most famous sermon Jesus ever preached, he repeats several phrases over and over again. One of those phrases is “when you”. He says things like “when you give to the needy” (Matt. 6:2), “when you pray” (6:5, 7), and “when you fast” (6:16). Jesus assumes that we will have incorporated these practices and others like them into our lives. Part of being a Christian is doing things like giving and praying day in and day out. Why? These are good things to do, but there is something deeper happening when we engage in these daily practices. We are being shaped into the image of Jesus.

When Jesus speaks about these practices in Matthew 6, he focuses on the motivation behind them. It is not just to obey the command. Obedience is good. If these practices begin out of a desire to obey God, then that is fine. We should want to obey God in all things, but at the same time our motivations for fasting, praying, and giving should transcend obedience. As we are fasting, praying, and giving we should reflect on the kind of person God wants us to be. God’s goal for us is to be transformed into the image of Jesus.

How do these practices shape us? If someone is greedy, the practice of giving can eventually set them free from their greed. Spending time around others who are in need can help us grow in our compassion. Praying for our enemies will help us to love them as Jesus commands. Fasting from technology or TV should cause us to pay closer attention to others and our relationship with them. These practices will not change us overnight, but when we do them on a regular basis with the right motivations, we will become more like Jesus.



Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
    which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
    so the Lord surrounds his people,
    from this time forth and forevermore.
For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
    on the land allotted to the righteous,
lest the righteous stretch out
    their hands to do wrong.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
    and to those who are upright in their hearts!
But those who turn aside to their crooked ways
    the Lord will lead away with evildoers!
    Peace be upon Israel!

Psalm 125 is an interesting psalm. It is a good psalm to meditate on. It is only comprised of five verses and easily be read multiple times in one setting. It begins by encouraging people to fully trust in God (vs. 1). Those who do “cannot be moved”. This is because God surrounds his people just as mountains surround Jerusalem (vs. 2). This promise is not limited. It is not just for a moment. God promises to surround his people forever.

The psalm ends by dividing humanity into two groups, the good and the evil. This is common in wisdom literature. Psalm 1 introduces the book of Psalms by describing two ways, the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous. It is clear there are two ways to live. There is a right way and a wrong way, but it would be difficult to divide all humanity into these categories. Why? Paul tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Each of us has spent time on the wrong path, and the temptation to meddle in evil is always present.

The most interesting verse in Psalm 125 is verse 3. It describes the continual presence of evil in the land of the righteous and the constant temptation for the righteous to do what is wrong. Walker Percy described this temptation in his novel The Last Gentleman with this line, “War is better than Monday morning.” As we go about our ordinary and everyday lives we are tempted by pride, envy, lust, greed, and other things that create conflict in our lives and the lives of others. Boredom may get the best of us. As the old saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” It could be that these evil ways seem more intriguing at the moment. We are tired of monotony and desire something new. Whatever it is, we need to be aware that even in the land of the righteous, evil is always present.

Thankfully, Psalm 125 is only part of the story. This psalm is a great reminder to be faithful. It offers an important warning to always be aware of the evil in our midst, but it does not tell us all there is to know about sin and evil in the lives of human beings. Paul reminds us that we are all guilty (Rom. 3:23), but he also tells us that we have forgiveness through Jesus. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross makes forgiveness of sins possible, but more than that the life of Jesus shows us in human flesh what the way of the righteous looks like. The temptation to meddle in evil will always exist, but now we have the extraordinary promise of forgiveness and the incredible example of what our lives should be.

May we fully trust in God by living as people who have been forgiven and who now strive to follow in the footsteps of Jesus every day.



Last week I watched Two Days, One Night, and it reminded me once again of the lack of depth in mainstream American cinema. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good action thriller like Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, but the films that are widely popular often do not challenge us like many smaller independent and foreign films. I don’t think we can place all the blame on the major movie studios, even though they handle the content that is released. I think they often give us what they think we will want. Most of us want entertainment, not art. We want to be distracted, not asked to contemplate the deeper things of life.

Two Days, One Night is a foreign film with little action. For viewers accustomed to constantly shifting camera angles and multiple explosions, this film will feel dreadfully slow. However, if our criteria for judging a film is how many explosions it has and if it can keep our attention, then we may need to reconsider our expectations for what is good and what is not. Two Days, One Night demands our patience, but the payoff is well worth it.

The story the film tells is rather simple. Sandra (Marion Cotillard) has been off work for some time. When she decides to go back, she discovers the boss has made the employees choose between her or a significant bonus. The small company cannot afford both, and so a vote is going to be held on Monday to determine the outcome. Sandra spends the weekend visiting her co-workers to ask them to vote for her.

The film can feel monotonous at times. The same situation is repeated multiple times. Sandra goes to a door, rings the bell, and then explains why she is there. What is interesting is that even though these situations throughout the film resemble one another they are each different because Sandra is speaking to different people. It is a fascinating character study. Some people are eager to help. Some people only care about the money. Some people really want to help Sandra, but they also desperately need the money. They need the money to pay their bills or put their kids through school.

Toward the end of the film, Sandra visits a man who is a new employee. When she presents her dilemma to him, he begins to contemplate his situation. He could use the money to help provide for his family. If he votes for Sandra, then he will be persecuted at work by those who want the bonus. His life will be made more difficult by voting for Sandra, but he also says, “This is what God wants me to do.” The dilemma that he and others are facing is bigger than the needs and wants of two individuals. It is about what is right and wrong.

In Two Days, One Night the name of Jesus is never mentioned. God is only mentioned once. I don’t think the Dardenne brothers set out to make a Christian film, but that is exactly what they have given us. It is a film that asks us to consider how much we would sacrifice to help our neighbor. Jesus says the second greatest command is to love our neighbor as ourself. We know this. We talk about it, but what does it look like? Two Days, One Night shows us what it looks like and what it doesn’t. It is an exploration of what it means to love our neighbor as ourself.



This is a guest post by John Dobbs. 

Disappointment is an experience that everyone faces … and often in many varieties and shades. Sometimes disappointment comes at the hands of others, and sometimes we create it all on our own.

You know, that weight you were going to lose by now. The degree you were going to earn has somehow eluded you. The order you were hoping to establish in your daily routine escapes in the trap of too many late nights and way too early mornings. The books you wanted to write that once started remain unfinished. The commitment to write for someone else that has found you looking at an empty document, fingers stalled on the keyboard. The preacher who thought he would have been able to lead his church to greater heights.

Oh, excuse me… didn’t mean to spill MY disappointments in myself all over the place. But I bet I’m in good company.

“Life is a long preparation for something that never happens.” ~W.B. Yeats

Age has a way of sneaking up on us. Health issues slow us down when we thought before that we could be active any time we wanted to. Like the addict who swears he has no problems, we blind ourselves to reality until one day when the stark reality of who we are doesn’t leave us any way out. We realize that all the things we thought we might be, well, they aren’t likely to happen.

After the crucifixion of Jesus some disciples grappled with their own disappointment. As they tried to sift through the information … he died … the women said they saw an angel who said he was alive … but we haven’t seen him … he must be dead.

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” ~ Cleopas and another Discouraged Disciple on the road to Emmaus.

How can there be any power in a disappointing story? You get to the end of the book only to find out the main character has died. Powerful? Not really. You watch all the episodes of a show that has you hooked, but in the end they just ruined the whole thing. Disappointment. Well, we may not be able to rescue fictional works that turn sour in the end, but your life is different. It’s nonfiction, no matter how crazy the details. Disappointments – great or small – can actually turn out to be a pretty powerful experience.

Sometimes out of the rubble of disappointment is a new reality you couldn’t have designed or pictured if you tried.

Thankfully, our disappointments matter to God, and He has a way of taking even some of the bitterest moments we go through and making them into something of great significance in our life. It’s hard to understand it at the time. Not one of us wants that thread when it is being woven in. Not one of us says, ‘I can hardly wait to see where this is going to fit.’ We all say at that moment, ‘This is not the pattern I want.” ~Ravi Zacharias, The Grand Weaver

When Jesus revealed himself to the disappointed disciples on the road to Emmaus, new light was given to their faith.

Luke 24:32-33 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

Instead of continuing toward Emmaus they went to Jerusalem to join the other formerly disappointed but now ecstatic disciples.

Maybe your disappointments seem irreversible. Divorce. Financial ruin. Accused. Arrested. Abandoned. Abused. Mourning the loss of a person or even a pet … disappointment is one gut-punch we don’t just walk away from.

The one thing that never disappoints us is hope. Hope that is certain of what lies ahead. While our knowledge of God’s promises is secure, the road that we travel between here and there can be rugged. The reason hope never disappoints us is that we carry it with us through the dark streets of shame and uncertainty.

When God saved you He poured hope into your heart. Not just a little, but filled your heart up because He knew that there were going to be some real struggles along the way. If you’re disappointed, just clear out all the troubling thoughts and focus intently here:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:1-5

If you didn’t feel some disappointment lift, read it again. See the friendship with God expressed there? The assurances just pour out of this passage.

We are justified by faith.

We have peace with God through Jesus.

We have access to grace in which we stand.

We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

We … boast … in … our … sufferings (disappointing, isn’t it, that sufferings have to enter into this passage).

People who suffer endure. Character is produced. Hope, the kind that can never disappoint us, has been given to us. Because God loves us. All in the face of suffering.

So, dear friend, when you’ve felt the pangs of disappointment, remember that your story isn’t finished yet. The hopes you had might be eclipsed by a more glorious plan that God has for you – even when it’s hard to understand.

Here’s a Prayer for the Disappointed
God so often my eyes are clouded and I can’t see the Powerful Risen Savior because the ‘facts’ of the day are staring me in my face. I am disappointed because I thought maybe You would provide for me in a different way. But in faith I affirm that You know much more about my tomorrows than I do. I know you’ll walk with me through days of glory and days of gloom. Would you bring healing and serenity to my hurting heart today? I don’t have to know all the answers. I just want to know You more. Father please remind me of the power of a disappointing story and how Your hope never disappoints. This hope, found only in your son Jesus, my Brother. Amen.

John Dobbs is the minister for the Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe, Louisiana. He is married to the former Margaret Willingham. He has two children. Nicole, who has provided two beautiful grandchildren. John Robert, who is deceased. John has blogged for many years and was recently listed as a Church of Christ “Top Blog” by the Charis Website. Here are some ways to connect with him:

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