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

Feb
21

Jan
10

2019 just began, but some people are already talking about 2020. This is because we will have another presidential election just like we did in 2016, 2012, 2008, 2004, 2000, and so on and so on. Because of social media and the 24-hour news networks, we are constantly reminded of an election that is more than a year away. I do not know what the future holds, but I am confident we will hear things over the next two years that are contrary to the gospel, and it is essential that we prepare ourselves to be ambassadors for Christ rather than ambassadors for a politician, political party, or some other cultural force.

You will hear that the upcoming election is the most important election ever, but Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” (Matt. 6:34)

You will hear lies from politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle, but the Bible says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor.” (Ephesians 4:25)

You will be encouraged to hate those who disagree with you, but Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44)

You will be asked to proclaim a political platform to everyone you know, but Jesus tells us to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)

You will be challenged to convert your neighbors to a political party, but Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)

May we remember in 2019 and 2020 and for every year to come that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)

Jan
03

The new year is a time when people set resolutions. These are goals that are set at the beginning of the year in the hope of accomplishing some task or bettering oneself. The problem with resolutions is that they are easily broken and once they are broken they are not considered again until next year.

Setting goals is a good habit. Whether we call them resolutions or not doesn’t matter. As Christians, we are to be striving towards something. The apostle Paul had goals. He wrote, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) What is important is that we keep striving to accomplish our goals even if we falter along the way. If you choose to set goals on January 1st and break them on January 2, don’t give up. Don’t abandon your goals just because you had a bad day or a bad week. Keep pressing on!

There are certain goals we should have as Christians. Our most important goal should be to look more like Jesus this year than the year before. We should be maturing in our faith. We should be growing as a Christian. We should have a goal of living with God for eternity. These are lifetime goals, but you could also set smaller, more immediate, goals like reading the Bible daily or praying more often.

Once we set a goal, we then need to ask ourselves, what do I need to do to achieve this goal? For instance, attending worship on a regular basis, spending time around Christians, reading my Bible, and praying is going to set me on a path that leads to heaven. These are things I need to do to help me reach my goal of being more like Jesus and spending eternity with God.

Dec
22

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I want to invite you to remember what it was like to be a child on Christmas morning. Think back to waking up and being filled with excitement and wonder, rushing into the living room where the tree was lit and decorated and surrounded by presents, opening gifts in the presence of your family, and enjoying sweet treats and one another’s company. These are memories that we cherish. We hold on to them and cling to them because they mean so much to us. We attempt to recreate these moments for our children and grandchildren. Why? It is because these are moments where we experienced overwhelming joy.

We were filled with joy because everything in the world was right, as far as we knew. We knew nothing about war and rumors of war. We knew nothing about poverty and injustice. All we knew is that we were surrounded by the people we love and we were receiving generous gifts. Someone had been very good to us, and if we thought about it long enough, we might admit that we were not deserving of such generosity and abundance. Of course, this would only make our joy increase. This is why Christmas is so wonderful. It connects us with an essential Christian characteristic, joy.

As we all know, we don’t stay little forever. We quickly grow up, get a job, pay our bills, and all of a sudden we discover that Christmas is not the same as it was when we were a child. Life happens, and things change. For some, Christmas can be difficult because they have lost a loved one. Memories of loss can especially be fresh around the holidays. Sometimes we are burdened by debt, and we see Christmas as a time that only increases that debt. Others might not be able to visit their family for Christmas. They might be separated from the ones they love.

One thing is for sure, as we grow older, we are much more aware of the sin and evil that corrupts the world. We know all too well about hunger, injustice, war, and the many other problems people are facing around the globe. We might get a day or two off from work to be with family and friends, but then we are immediately thrown back into the daily grind. On Christmas morning, we are already thinking about the coming workday. We are contemplating what has to be done. It is difficult to be joyous when we cannot take our minds off the thorns and thistles we labor among.

For us to grasp the meaning of Joy to the World, we must be more in tune with the little child on Christmas morning than with the middle-aged adult who frets about life and all its problems. Perhaps, this is why Jesus says,

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3)

As a child, it is much easier to experience joy and celebrate joyous occasions. Joy is not difficult for a child, but for adults, it is sometimes hard to obtain.

On the night Jesus was born, an angel appeared to some shepherds and said,

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy…” (Luke 2:10)

The birth of Jesus is a joyous message, and it should be celebrated as such. This is what the song Joy to the World is all about. It was written by Isaac Watts in 1719 and is based on Psalm 98.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare him room,

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven and nature sing



Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!

Let men their songs employ,

While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat the sounding joy

At the news of the birth of Christ, all the world should rejoice. All nations and all peoples should celebrate the arrival of the newborn King. People have waited many many years for this moment, and it has finally arrived. All that waiting and longing finally burst forth in an abundance of praise, but it is not just people that should be celebrating, it is all creation. It is the rocks, hills, and plains. It is heaven and nature singing. This isn’t the creation of Isaac Watts. This is what we find in the Bible. This is what Isaac Watts read in Psalm 98. It is what we read in Luke chapter 2. Rejoice, everybody! Rejoice, everything!

When Jesus took on flesh and came to earth 2,000 years ago, he arrived to the sound of rejoicing. Angels, shepherds, and wise men were celebrating the good news of the Messiah’s birth. We are far removed from this moment. Centuries and centuries have passed since that glorious day, and yet our response is supposed to be the same. Christians are to be a people filled with joy because Jesus took on flesh and came to earth. This is expressed in 1 Peter 1:8.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” (1 Pet. 1:8)

Though we have not seen Jesus with our own eyes, we believe in him, we live for him, and we rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible. Is that what people see in you? Peter says this is who we are to be. It is what others are to see in us. We are to be a people known for our joy. We are to be like Scrooge’s nephew who shows up at his uncle’s shop and joyfully invites him to Christmas dinner even though he has likely been rejected year after year after year. The nephew’s joy is much stronger than his uncle’s greed.

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul commands,

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)

Rejoice and then rejoice some more. This is to be our life as a Christian.

Joy is not something that can be manufactured. It is not something we can make ourselves feel. Most people want to be joyful, and most people struggle with being joyful, so what are we to do?

We know what abundant joy feels like. We felt it as a child on Christmas morning when we believed everything in the world was as it should be. We now know otherwise. We cannot put toothpaste back in the tube. We cannot unknow what we know now. This would be impossible.

The joy of a child on Christmas morning is somewhat naive. They are able to be overwhelmed with joy because their knowledge is somewhat limited. However, the joy they feel and express is closely related to what we are to feel and express as Christians. The child rejoices because all things are right and he or she is abundantly blessed. We are to rejoice for the same reason. We cannot unknow what we know now, but we don’t have to. Jesus has come to right all wrongs. He has come to bring peace to earth. He offers us the greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation. He has promised to return one day so that we might all enjoy a great feast together. In Scripture, this feast is a wedding banquet, but it would not be too far of a stretch to think of it as being like a Christmas banquet. It will be a joyous meal with all the past, present, and future saints. It will be a time with the people we love where all things are right, and we recognize we are richly blessed.

As you prepare to celebrate Christmas this year, pay attention to the joy of the children in the room and remember it’s not just for kids, it’s for all of us who wear the name of Christ.

Dec
06

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The holidays can be hard for some people for various reasons. It is good for us to be aware of this and to do what we can to help. Here are some things to be on the lookout for this time of year.

Lonely – Some are lonely because they don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with. This could be a person who is single, widowed, or is living away from family. You could help by including them in your holiday plans. Invite them to a party or have them over for a meal. Make sure no one spends the holidays alone.

Grieving – We tend to think of the holidays as being a time of joy, but for some, it is a time of sadness. The holidays are difficult for people who have recently lost a loved one. Be mindful of this and considerate to those who may not feel like celebrating. Let them know it is ok to be sad. Be present with them as they grieve.

In Need – There are families in every community who cannot afford a Christmas meal or gifts for their children. If you know of such a family, help them out. This can be embarrassing, so try to be discreet. Do as Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 6:4 and give in secret. Leave an envelope underneath the door, send an anonymous letter, or drop off some wrapped presents on their doorstep.

Overspenders – One of the reasons some people feel burdened is because they go into debt buying presents for everyone. It is crucial that presents not become the focus of the holidays. Things such as spending time with family, sharing a meal together, and focusing on what God has done for us are much more important than presents. If you know someone who feels pressured into buying presents, free them of this burden by letting them know it’s not necessary.

Tense Situations – The holidays are the only time some family members see one another. This can be a joyous occasion, but it can also be a tense one because of hurt feelings or other unfortunate circumstances. Be a peacemaker. If it is possible, work to mend broken relationships. Listen to those who have been hurt. Be a calming presence if a situation becomes tense.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

Dec
04

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Sectarianism is defined in various ways. One online dictionary lists factional and separatist as synonyms. Christianity has boundaries that we must uphold, but a sectarian is someone that sets up unnecessary boundaries. They purposefully separate themselves from others who faithfully profess the Christian faith.

There are parts of the Bible that are plain and simple, but there are other parts that are difficult to understand. This is apparent in Acts 8 when Philip encounters an Ethiopian Eunuch.

“Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?'” (Acts 8:30-31)

The Ethiopian Eunuch was a court official who could read. This means he had an advantage over most of the people in his day, and yet he needed assistance in understanding the Bible.

Our approach towards Scripture needs to be a humble one. We should always be striving for truth, but at the same time, we must recognize that there is the possibility that our understanding of a passage or doctrine might not be complete. Scripture is infallible, but our ability to interpret it is not. There are some beliefs for which we can be sure, but there are others for which we must be graceful to one another.

The sin of sectarianism is that it doesn’t allow room for grace. It lacks humility because it says I have everything right and there is no possibility of me being wrong. It seeks to divide rather than unite. It bases unity off of a person’s interpretation of a passage or passages rather than the foundations of the Christian faith.

Sectarianism is often associated with those on the right, but it is alive and well on both the right and the left. Sectarianism on the right often looks like legalism. The only way to be a “faithful Christian” is to agree with someone’s interpretation of various passages and doctrines. Disagreement on even one issue might mean expulsion.

Sectarianism on the left looks a little different, but at the core, it is the same. Rather than agreement on a variety of doctrines, sectarians on the left are looking for agreement on a few doctrines that are important to them. The main one of these doctrines is egalitarianism, but others sometimes include acceptance of the LGBTQ lifestyle, an open stance on immigration, etc. If you are not in agreement with one or more of these positions, then you are labeled abusive, hateful, oppressive, or something worse. They see no room in Christianity for a viewpoint that is different from their own. They claim to be tolerant, but they are only tolerant of people who are in agreement with them.

Sectarianism is contrary to the desire for unity that Jesus expresses in John 17. There are times when taking a stance on a particular issue is necessary. Christianity is not without boundaries. There are beliefs that place one outside of the faith, but sectarians go beyond what is clearly revealed in Scripture and make their interpretation a matter of fellowship. This behavior is divisive and should be called out for what it is for the sake of the unity of the church.

Nov
13

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You might mistake the trailer for Instant Family as the third installment of Daddy’s Home or some other shallow comedy that offers a few laughs with very little substance. If you did, you would be wrong. Instant Family is a lighthearted comedy, but it is one with some depth. One of the things that makes this film different from others that are similar is that it is loosely based on the life of Sean Anders who directs the film. Instant Family is a passion project that focuses on adoption and family.

Instant Family is the story of Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) who decide to start a family through foster care adoption. They take in three children, including a fifteen-year-old girl. They quickly realize that parenting is difficult, but their eyes are also opened to the joy of caring for children. They are assisted along the way by Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro) who work for the foster care agency. There are many opportunities for laughs as Pete and Ellie learn the ins and outs of parenthood.

What makes Instant Family unique is that it is a movie with heart. It is evident throughout the film that this was a project that meant a lot to Sean Anders. Mark Wahlberg, who is open about his faith, also gives it his all and turns in a nice performance. Instant Family does not rise to the level of art, but it is an entertaining piece of work with a message. We need more films like Instant Family. There are many important art films made each year that challenge us, but the viewing public has little interest in these films. There are also a plethora of meaningless movies that do nothing more than rob us of the time we spend watching them. These movies are often popular, but they have little or no value. They do not benefit us culturally or intellectually. Instant Family is a popular-level film that will make you laugh, engage you emotionally, and make you aware of a vital issue in the world.

Some nights people are not in the mood for a serious film about some weighty subject. I get that. Instant Family is a wonderful option if you are looking for something a little lighter but still has something to say.

Hopefully, the message of this movie will resonate with audiences. There are many children in our country who are in need of a family. Fostering a child or children is not something to be taken lightly. It is a demanding sacrifice, but as Instant Family reminds us, it is one that is worth it.

Oct
23

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“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.'” (Genesis 2:18)

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

According to researchers and medical professionals, we are in the middle of a loneliness epidemic. People of all ages and backgrounds are experiencing loneliness at higher rates than before. This stems from people being less involved in groups and clubs, as well as a decline in church participation. Families no longer invite people into their homes and entertain as they once did. As the average size of homes has grown, families are spending less time eating together, conversing, and spending time with one another.

What can the church do to address this crisis? First, we must embrace the fact that we are a counter-cultural movement. We are called to live in the world, but not to be of the world (John 17:15-16). There are patterns in society that are causing the loneliness problem in our country. We must resist these patterns. This will not be easy. What might this look like? Here are a few suggestions.

* Eat together as a family.
* Place limits on technology use.
* Invite people over to your home.
* Prioritize attendance at worship, Bible class, and other church activities.
* Arrive at worship early and don’t rush home after the closing prayer.
* Get to know your neighbor.
* Be purposeful about developing and fostering friendships.
* Mentor a young person.
* Participate in service projects with your church.

Oct
16

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This is a guest post written by Peter Horne.

Several weeks ago I was having a conversation with someone about worship. Suddenly, it

dawned on me how much my thought process differed from other worshippers.

  1. There are some people who come to church each week asking “Will they sing the songs I like?” “Will the sermon meet my needs?” “Will my friends by there?” “Will my prayers be answered?” “Will my life be improved?”
  2. Then there’s another group of people who come wondering who God will bring this week. They’re praying for opportunities to speak encouragement into someone’s life. They’re looking around for people they can meet and serve, and hoping that some first time guests will attend this week.

At first glance I hope that #2 seems more spiritual, more godly, more mature. Generally speaking, I agree. But generalizations have exceptions. We should bear in mind that we all have times in our lives where we need to receive rather than give. We need to be served rather than serve. Additionally, at some point almost all of us walked through the doors of a church as guests with a list of questions asking whether this was the right church for us.

We were seekers seeking.

Some of us knew what we were seeking. Others found the object of our search only when we stumbled upon it. We were all seeking.

Jesus asked a crowd of people a similar question in Matthew 11:2-15. Jesus’ cousin John has been imprisoned by Herod and sends messengers to Jesus. It seems that John wants confirmation that his ministry and now suffering were for the right reason, that they were worthwhile and that they mattered.

Jesus responds by giving a list of examples from his ministry, such as “the blind can see” that can be connected to messianic prophecies in the book of Isaiah such as Is 61:1-3. But then he turns to the crowd and asks this important question:

“Who did you go out into the wilderness to see?” Who were you seeking?

Matthew 3:5 records that, “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan river.” That’s a lot of people going to see and hear John the Baptizer. Now, some years later Jesus asks, “Who did you go out into the wilderness to see?”

He gives some choices: “Was it a reed, blown in the wind, waving this way and that?” “Was it someone in fine linens who’d make your life more comfortable and prosperous?” “Or did you go to see a prophet.”

Jesus knew well that people came to see him for a variety of reasons: Entertainment, financial gain, truth seeking, overthrowing the Romans, or protecting the status quo.

This blog series challenges us to reconsider our motives as we follow Jesus.

  • Do we participate in his kingdom out of obligation or passion?
  • Does our status as adopted children of God seem real to us, or a theoretical concept?
  • Do we worship to please others, or because we love God?
  • Do we desire to participate in expanding the borders of God’s kingdom, or do we like our church the way it is?
  • Do we long to grow our relationship with God, or are we comfortable with our current level of knowledge and commitment?

What are you seeking? Really?

Imagine you had the opportunity to interview Jesus like you might interview the leader of a church you’re considering attending. What would you ask him?

  • Jesus, will my relationship with God be restored if I follow you?
  • Jesus, will my relationship with my husband be restored if I follow you?
  • Jesus, will my family finally accept me if I follow you?
  • Jesus, how much (or little) money do I need to give you to make you happy?
  • Jesus, will I still get to do the things I really enjoy doing?
  • Jesus, can I keep my friends?
  • Jesus, how much time will I need to give you each week?

Without putting on your holy hat, what would you ask Jesus? What are you seeking…really? Will you take 10 minutes and make your list? When you’ve done that, pray over it. Read it to Jesus and see how the Holy Spirit moves your mind.

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Peter Horne moved to the United States from Australia in 1999 to pursue training for ministry. Having filled the roles of children’s minister, youth minister, and college minister in various locations around the US and Australia, he now gladly serves as the minister for the Lawson Rd Church of Christ in Rochester, NY. You can find more of his writing on his blog: www.aussiepete.wordpress.com. He also writes to equip multi-ethnic churches at www.culturalmosaic.org.

Sep
20

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The participation of the worshiper in worship has varied over the years. In the early church, worshipers were engaged in every aspect of worship, but nowadays it is possible to attend a worship service where nothing is expected of the worshiper. This raises an important question. Have we worshiped if we have not participated in worship?

What has changed? There have always been worship leaders, but we have gone from a house setting where all were likely seated together to one person being on a stage and everyone else seated below. This setting is familiar to us. We find the same arrangement when we go to a concert, play, performance, or movie. We know what to do. We take our seat, and we watch the show. Nothing is expected of the audience. It is not surprising then when we do the same for worship. We take our seat in the pew, and we watch as whoever is leading worship performs what they need to perform.

I am not advocating that we sell our buildings or get rid of our stages, but we do need to be aware of the arrangement. We can encourage participation in every aspect of worship with the arrangement we have now, but we are going to have to be purposeful about it. We must understand that a visitor walking into our sanctuary for the first time is going to recognize the setting of a stage and seats for an audience and probably assume they are there to observe rather than participate.

How did the early church participate in every part of worship? Some acts of worship are easier for everyone to join in than others. The Lord’s Supper is something one must refuse if they do not want to participate. Giving actively involves the worshiper. What about prayer? Nowadays, it is often the practice for one person to stand before the congregation and say a prayer while everyone else sits silently waiting for it to be done. The only way to participate is to silently focus on the words that are being prayed. In the early church, there were several different ways the congregation was engaged in the practice of prayer. One would be if they recited the Lord’s prayer together (Luke 11:2; Didache 8:3). The other was the expectation of the congregation to say Amen together at the conclusion of the prayer. This practice is evident in the writings of Justin Martyr and Paul.

“Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the ruler in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen.” – Justin Martyr, First Apology 67

“And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen.” – Justin Martyr, First Apology 65

“Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?” – 1 Corinthians 14:16

The practice of saying Amen as a congregation could also be practiced at the conclusion of a sermon. It serves as a reminder that a prayer or a sermon is not the act of a single individual performed for the benefit of a human audience, but that it is a part of worship to God in which every worshiper participates.

Worship is a time for us to show adoration to God. Someone else cannot do this for us. We must be active participants in worship.