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

Jan
22

Many of the things my mother said to me as a child were not just for childhood. Her advice was often godly advice that is beneficial at any age. The world would be a better place if we all heeded the godly advice passed down from our mothers.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21) It is never right to do wrong. There is no justification for it. More wrong does not make the world better. It only makes it worse. It is always right to do right. This can be difficult because the world doesn’t play fair all the time, but it is how we are to live as Christians. We do right no matter what others do to us.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. “Let your speech always be gracious.” (Col. 4:6) James warns us that our speech can get us in big trouble real quick. (James 3:5-6) It is hard to keep quiet, but sometimes that is the best thing we can do. We live in an unfiltered world where everyone has a platform to say whatever they want to say whenever they want to say it. This has not made the world better. What would make it a better world is if we all showed some discipline and restraint and refused to give in to the temptation to post whatever is on our minds. Instead, we should choose to use our words to encourage and build up. The world doesn’t need any more critics. The world needs believers, mentors, teachers, and friends.

Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1) We are not to follow the world. We are to follow Christ. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. It doesn’t matter if our friends are doing it. It doesn’t matter if our leaders are doing it. It doesn’t matter if our enemies are doing it. We have one example, and that is Jesus. If we are not following Jesus, then we are not doing what we are supposed to do.

Jan
21

“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” – Jesus

The biblical position concerning fear is clear. Do not be afraid is one of the most frequently found commands in Scripture. Fear can keep us from following God as we should. There are many things we shouldn’t fear. However, we are all afraid of something.

To say that we do not fear is like saying we have no sin.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

We treat fear like we treat sin. We want to talk about everyone else’s fears, but we don’t want to talk about our own. We are quick to point out what others might be afraid of while ignoring the fears we hide deep inside.

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3-4)

Everyone is afraid. What one fears varies from person to person. It might be death, poverty, aging, change, loss of freedom, loneliness, government overreach, loss of memory, rejection, failure, sickness, or any number of other things.

What can we do about fear? Telling someone they are afraid typically doesn’t do much good. More often than not, it makes people angry and this does not lead to godliness. The bigger question is why we are worried about others when we have fears of our own. We have no control over what others fear, but we do have control over our fears.

The best thing I can do as a Christian is to stop the finger-pointing and work on my relationship with God. I can consider the following questions: What do I fear? How does this affect my faith? Am I not following God in some way because I am afraid? What can I do to change this? What steps do I need to take to draw closer to God?

“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” – Jesus

We are all on a journey to fear less and trust God more. Let’s not beat each other up. Instead, let’s encourage one another as we all seek to be better followers of Jesus.

Jan
15

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone.” (1 Peter 2:16-17)

One of the most disturbing recent trends in our culture is a total lack of respect for others. Sometimes, this comes from a place of selfishness. When we become so focused on ourselves or our rights, we don’t care who we disgrace in the pursuit of our individualistic desires. Sometimes, it comes from a hatred of others. When we fail to love our enemies, disrespect is an easy move as we seek to destroy the people we hate. The problem is that these behaviors and the reasons behind them are not Christian.

Over the last several months, I have seen people scream at random strangers who were trying to eat a meal at a restaurant. I have seen people brazenly ignore the guidelines businesses have posted for shopping in their stores. I have seen people shout at politicians in airports and on airplanes. I have seen protestors show up at private residents with the intent of making life miserable for the people inside. I have seen looting and the destruction of property. I have seen people disrespect places of worship by disregarding the protocol church leaders have put in place. This is not a left or right problem. It is a problem of disrespect.

This behavior has been shocking to me because I was raised to respect others. If I disagree with someone, I would never consider shouting at them in public. If I cannot follow the guidelines a store posts, then I won’t go in that store. To do otherwise is a reflection of my character. I am not making someone else look foolish. I am making myself look foolish.

As Christians, we are required to consider others. We cannot live from a place of selfishness. If I only seek my interests, then I will lose my life, not save it. (Luke 17:33) We are also required to love our enemies and do good to them. Our goal is not to see our enemies destroyed. It is to see them saved. If we only love those who love us, then we are no different than anyone else. (Matt. 5:46-47)

We are to honor everyone whether they deserve it or not. We do not do this because of what they have done, but because of who they have the potential of becoming. Every person is created in the image of God. We are to respect this. We are to understand that every person has something of God inside of them. They are not going to grow in their godliness if we act ungodly. Ungodliness does not produce godliness. Only godliness produces godliness.

As a Christian, I have to pay attention to my words and my actions. I do not want to disrespect or dishonor anyone. I do not want to demonize others with my words. I cannot think only of myself. I have to live into a better reality. I have to be a light in a dark world. I do this because I want my children to inherit a better world, a world where people respect one another. I do this because I am a Christian.

Dec
31

“We were in church every time the doors were open.”

I have heard this sentence or something like it many times in my life. I have heard it uttered by Christians and townspeople in describing their upbringing. I have even heard it in some interviews with actors and musicians detailing the culture in which they were raised. There was a time in which time with God was honored above everything else. People put on their Sunday best and showed up to worship, Bible class, and all other church-sponsored activities.

Those days are long gone. We live in a day and age when some churches have shut their doors for good. Other churches struggle to get people to attend any service or activity outside of Sunday morning worship. The expectation has shifted from “people will show up” to “people probably won’t show up.” The impact of our secular culture is apparent on Wednesday nights when gymnasiums and ballparks are full while many churches are half-full or empty.

I do not want it to seem as if all was perfect in previous years. Viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses is not helpful. When worship and Bible class were a priority, many churches failed to see past the walls of their building. Everything was about what happened inside the church building, and there was little focus on being the church in the community. There were plenty of opportunities to expand one’s Bible knowledge, but few opportunities to serve the poor or minister to people in need. The focus in recent years on what is happening outside the church building has been a needed corrective.

Younger Christians are eager to live out their faith. They want to serve and help beyond the walls of the building. This is great, but we must also not forget the importance of meeting together. The church will not survive on good works alone. We need doctrine. We need to grow in our knowledge of the Bible. We need the encouragement and fellowship that we get from regularly being in the presence of other Christians. It does us no good to give up study or fellowship for service.

The abandonment of services and activities outside of Sunday morning is not unique to young people. Grandparents and parents are absent as well. We face many challenges as human beings. Giving up time with Christians and time in God’s word is not going to help us. We have faced a challenging year, and there will likely be more challenging times in our future. If anything, we need more time together, not less. Time spent in Christian community is God’s plan. We are in danger of losing this if all we can give is one hour on Sunday. We need more. We need it for ourselves. We need it for our kids. Coming together as a Christian community is a wonderful blessing, and now is not the time to abandon it.

What a marvelous thing it would be if our kids and grandkids would one day say, “We were in church every time the doors were open.”

Nov
17

Hillbilly Elegy was never meant to be a movie. It was a memoir written by J.D. Vance about growing up in a poor and broken family from Ohio. The book struck a nerve and quickly climbed the bestseller list. This is because it is about more than one man’s story. It is about a part of America that is often overlooked. The stories told in the book are about simple people, but their stories are complex. Condensing the lives of J.D. and his family into a two-hour movie is impossible.

The film Hillbilly Elegy focuses on much of the conflict the family endures regularly. The viewer is shown one yelling match after another. The brokenness of the family is unmistakable. All of this is found in the book. However, unlike the book, we are never allowed to get to know the characters and care for them. I suspect this film will be viewed differently depending on whether one has read the book or knows people like the ones in the movie. Being able to relate to the characters is essential, and this will be difficult for some viewers.

It is understandable that Ron Howard would attempt a project like this. It is a story that needs to be told. It is a story in which many Americans have already found some connection. It explores questions like: Why do people hold certain values? Why do people vote a particular way? The book explores these questions much better than the movie, but we still get glimpses into a way of living for many Americans.

As a reader of the book, I enjoyed the movie because it brought me back to the book I loved. I am not sure how people who haven’t read the book will react to this film. Some might be confused, but I believe there will be others who connect with it because they have lived it themselves or known someone who has. With all its faults, this is still a film with something to offer. It is an exercise in empathy, and although this may not be the film America wants to see right now, it is a film we need. In a polarized society, we desperately need to understand the other side. We need to find ways to empathize and connect, and this movie helps us do that.

Hillbilly Elegy is also a reminder that we live in a deeply broken world. It is a world that is complicated, and the answers to our problems are not always easy. J.D.’s story is amazing and encouraging, but there are many J.D.’s in this world whose story did not turn out the same way. We live in a world full of broken families and broken people. We cannot ignore this. We cannot pretend the problem doesn’t exist. I am not sure what all the answers are, but I do know we must keep this in mind when we speak to people and interact with others. We have no idea what people are going through. The least we can do is be kind. Perhaps, we might encourage a J.D. who is on his or her own journey.

Oct
26

“You’re afraid!”
“You don’t care.”
“You are not compassionate.”

Phrases like these are common nowadays. We live in a polarized society where disagreement has become the norm. No one wants to give an inch, and so we accuse others of impure motives.

“You’re only acting this way because you are afraid.”
“You are doing this because you don’t care about us.”
“You are behaving that way because you lack compassion.”

We demonize the other side. We not only want to disagree with their conclusions, but we also want to attack them personally. These accusations are judgments about something which we cannot know. We do not know how a person feels or what their motives are. The only way we can know is if they tell us, but we either never ask or refuse to take their word for it. We would rather win the argument.

Judge not, that you be not judged. (Matthew 7:1)

There are certain things we can judge and certain things we cannot judge. One of the things we cannot judge is the intentions of the heart. Only God can do this. When it comes to intentions or motives, all we can do is listen and accept what people tell us.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Love listens. This is what we are to do. In our current environment, we are not going to agree on everything. We may experience many disagreements. 2020 has produced many things for us to debate. We will find ourselves disagreeing with neighbors, family members, and even fellow Christians. We should accept this. What we cannot accept is failing to treat the people around us with love and respect.

We must do the hard work of listening. Rather than make an assumption about another person’s intentions, we should ask them. We should listen and seek to understand. We may not agree but listening and seeking to understand is one way we love our neighbors. It builds trust. It helps create a healthy relationship where conversation is encouraged. It opens doors rather than shuts them.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

It is difficult living in a polarized world, but God never promised our Christian walk would be easy. When we encounter people who see things differently, our goal is not to wear them down until they give up. We shouldn’t see our interactions with others as battles. If we view the world through an “us vs. them” lens, then we can expect no victory. We have already lost. Instead, we are called to be faithful. We are called to be Christlike. When we are conversing with someone with whom we disagree, we should be considering how we can exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Our goal should always be to love our neighbor. Because of this we should always consider what we say and how we say it. We’re not looking to use words that might win an argument. We want to use words that are respectful and will strengthen and build relationships.

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

Oct
19

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)

Hypocrisy is a subject Jesus warns against on multiple occasions. He mentions it four times in the Sermon on the Mount. Christians are not to be hypocrites. What does this mean? One thing it means is that we are not to point out the sins of others while ignoring our sins.

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-4)

Doing so destroys our witness. It ruins any credibility we may have. If we go around pointing out the sins of others without dealing with our own, then our words become meaningless. No one will pay attention. No one will listen because we have given them no reason to do so.

“Self judgment is the first duty.” – Jack P. Lewis

Hypocrisy thrives in the realm of politics. This ungodly behavior is encouraged. To not be hypocritical is frowned upon. To tell the truth and admit the faults of your side is to show weakness while blatantly repeating the faults of others, even if they are minor or untrue, is considered a winning strategy. Politicians and pundits practice this daily on the 24-hour-news channels. There is nothing fair or admirable about it.

The problem is that many Christians join in this bad behavior. Some social media accounts are filled with post after post criticizing the other side. What is missing is any critique of the party they belong to or the politicians they support. It doesn’t matter if every post is true, it is hypocrisy. It is what Jesus warns against. When we do this, we are wrecking our witness. We are sabotaging our credibility.

What ultimately matters in life are eternal things. To think we might miss out on sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with someone else because we hypocritically pursued a political victory is appalling. We should care more about our witness than winning any election. We should be careful that we don’t sell our birthright for a mess of pottage.

Sep
28

“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44)

It pains me to see Christians dividing the church over political issues. I am not surprised because this happens every election year. Some Christians adopt a secular apocalyptic narrative that says everyone must vote a certain way or our country is doomed. One would think that because we have heard these false prophets speak the same message election after election and it has yet to come true that we would stop listening to them, but this is not the case. They continue to find plenty of listeners with itching ears. As Christians, the kingdoms of this earth should not be of first concern to us because we are citizens of an everlasting kingdom.

If we are allowing an earthly narrative to cause division within the kingdom of God, then we have our priorities mixed up. Paul does not write to the Philippians to remind them of their Roman citizenship, a prized possession in the ancient world. He writes to remind them that their citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). He does so because many people are going about “with minds set on earthly things” (Phil. 3:19). He reminds the Philippians that when we set our minds on earthly things our end is destruction, but when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we have hope in receiving a resurrection like his.

To cause division over a vote is to divide over earthly matters. It is to speak where the Bible has not spoken. There are no commands in the Bible saying a Christian must vote this way or that way. One may try and say a Christian cannot support sin and therefore cannot vote a certain way. I would agree that Christians should not support sin, but what sins are we talking about? Are we talking about adultery, murder, sexual immorality, lying, greed, jealousy, corrupt speech, mistreatment of orphans, mistreatment of foreigners, racism, slander, wrath, etc.? Both major political parties in America have a sin problem. We cannot pick and choose which sins we are ok with and which ones we are not. This is being hypocritical, and not only is it wrong, but it also does great harm to our Christian witness.

The truth is that one day our nation will come to an end just as every nation comes to an end. I hope that day is far off in the future, but it will come. We should do what we can to seek the welfare of the nation in which we live as sojourners and exiles (Jer. 29:7; 1 Pet. 2:11), but we must not let our disagreements on such matters divide us. This is because we belong to a greater kingdom. We are citizens of a kingdom that will never be destroyed. Our allegiance to this kingdom is of far greater importance than where we may reside on earth. Why would we even entertain the idea of allowing a temporal disagreement to stand in the way of our eternal destiny?

There is only one apocalypse, and its message is clear. Jesus wins! The kingdoms of this world will continue to disappoint. Jesus does not disappoint! The kingdoms of this world will continue to cause division. Jesus unites! He is lord of Lords and king of Kings, and we are Jesus followers. We wear the name of Christ. Let us act accordingly. Let us not divide over an election that means very little in the grand scheme of things, but instead, let us bear witness to the eternal kingdom of God in which we are citizens.

Sep
21

We are a staunchly divided nation. One of the reasons we find ourselves in the situation we are now in is because we have abandoned fairness and decency in the public square. Being a public servant is no longer about doing what is right. Long gone are the days of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Politics is all about power, and this means there is no room for fairness and decency. Simple Biblical principles have been abandoned.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

Politicians cannot follow the same rules. They create rules and break rules as they please. They do whatever benefits their side. There is no concern for the other. There is no concern for treating other people the way they want to be treated. All that matters is power and winning.

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37)

The words of politicians are meaningless. They say one thing one day and something different the next. It doesn’t even matter if it was recorded or caught on tape. Politicians use words to benefit them in the moment. Words are twisted. Lies are told. Wrongs are rationalized or excused. Anything is on the table as long as it benefits the politician.

“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20:25-26)

Jesus warned that Christians are not to seek power as worldly people do, but are instead to serve one another. What is happening in politics is often what Christians are not to do. We are to live sacrificially. We are to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Politics is the opposite of this. It is the pursuit of power.

So what? We are not politicians, so why do we have to worry about what politicians do? We may not be politicians but when we interject ourselves into politics, we often find ourselves supporting and encouraging this behavior. We start believing the rules should favor our side and not the other. We are ok with politicians using words however they please to get whatever they want. We’re fine with the pursuit of power as long as our side wins. If we approve of improper behavior among politicians, how long before we accept it in our own lives and communities? How long before our children begin to embrace these behaviors that we support? Our support is not harmless.

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17, 21)

The Bible is clear about what we must do. We must do what is good. We must do what is right. We must do what is fair. We must tell the truth. We must do this even if it puts us at a disadvantage. We must do it even if it means we lose something for which we are striving. The greater loss would be to lose our morals, our reputation, or even our soul.

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Sep
15

We are living in what Charles Taylor calls a secular age. Many of the changes that have caused us to arrive at this point have happened slowly over 500 years. We often do not realize the extent to which we have embraced the secular. It is in the air we breathe. It is everywhere. We are secular, and we don’t even know it. Churches and spiritual institutions are not immune to these changes. One of the problems we face is that seekers who are searching for the sacred will be turned off by churches that have embraced the secular. We must take a step back and consider what it means to be religious in a secular age. Here are five things Christians should be doing to survive in a secular age.

Abstain From Politics – 24-hour news networks and talk radio are not spiritually healthy, and they are hurting the church. It is sad when Christians talk more about politics than Jesus. It is disheartening that Christians are more apt to share their political views on social media than their faith. Even at church, many people would rather talk about politics than the text that was read in worship or the sermon. We need to turn off the 24-hour news networks. We need to stop listening to talk radio. We need to unfollow politics on social media, and we need to focus on Jesus. If you want to be informed, then read a newspaper. Limit your news intake to no more than 30 minutes a day. Vote if you want to participate in elections, but don’t be consumed by politics. We are not reaching our communities with the good news about Jesus because they are not hearing or seeing good news from us. They are hearing and seeing politics.

Follow the Sermon on the Mount – We are living in a polarized society where violence is common. Christians are to be set apart. We are to be different from the world around us. We do this by following the Sermon on the Mount. We need to read it regularly and do what it says. Don’t explain it away. Don’t make excuses. We need to live out the instructions found in Matthew 5-7. We are citizens of the kingdom of God, and this should be evident in how we live and act. We must refrain from worldly responses to division. It is time that we take Jesus seriously and do what he says.

Embrace the Sacred – Without knowing it, churches have embraced the secular. We have adopted secular calendars. We have doubted the miraculous. We have neglected prayer. We have made worship about emotional music and a motivational speech. In many ways, churches are no different than secular groups and institutions. It is time that we reclaim the sacred. We need to acknowledge God is at work. We need to devote ourselves to prayer. We need to recognize worship is an encounter with God. We need to be formed by what is sacred, not by what is secular.

Proclaim the Gospel – What message are we proclaiming? We are sending messages all the time, what are they? People are not going to believe the good news about Jesus if they never hear us talk about it. They are not going to believe our lives have changed if they do not see it. Too often, the message we are proclaiming is one about politics, sports, entertainment, fashion, etc. There are people all around us who are interested in spiritual matters, but they will never ask us if we are too busy proclaiming a secular message. If all people hear us talk about is politics, sports, entertainment, fashion, etc., then they will assume this is how we make sense of life. We don’t have to become street preachers, but people need to hear spiritual talk from us. We need to be sending the message that God matters.

Be Committed to Community – One hour on Sunday will not cut it in a secular age. We need one another. We need relationships. We need friendships. The early church was committed to community (Acts 2:42-47), and we need to follow their lead. People are searching for true community. They are not interested in joining another social club. If the institutionalized church cannot achieve this, then other options may need to be examined. House churches and small groups may provide the answers. Every member is important. Every member needs to be contributing to the work of the church. Showing up and checking out is not an option. Without true Christian community, congregations will die in a secular age.