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

May
13

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The assembly of the saints on Sunday morning should set the tone for everything we do throughout the week. The Lord’s day should not be the only time we pray, sing, give, and commune. Our worship to God should shape us, transform us, and follow us as we go out into the world. We must be marked by prayer and praise, and this will only happen if we incorporate worship into our everyday lives.

The people of God have always found times to pray and meditate on God’s word outside of corporate worship times. When Jesus gave the greatest command, he was quoting from Deuteronomy 6. This passage was a foundational text for God’s people because it taught them how their life was to be organized.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

These words of God were to go with them whether they were at home or away, whether they were resting or awake. The Jewish people set aside specific times of the day to pray, and this practice was adopted by the early church (Acts 3:1). The first Christian document outside of the New Testament instructs people to pray three times a day (Didache 8:3). The Jewish people and the early church both viewed prayer as a central part of life. For them, prayer was not a minor thing one may or may not do before a meal. It was a way of organizing one’s day. Everything was centered around prayer.

Daily prayer is more than a discipline. It is about what you desire and what you are seeking after. If your desire is wealth, then you will organize your day around that pursuit. If your desire is fame, then the focus of your day will be on becoming famous. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus says, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” For Christians, the focus of our day should center on God. This does not mean we must think about God at every moment of every day, but it does mean we center our day around practices such as prayer, Bible reading, helping others, etc. This then infuses everything else we do. Rather than working to get rich or to gain notoriety, we work to glorify God, provide for our family, and have the means to give to people in need.

What does daily prayer look like? It is a simple practice. Set aside time at the beginning and end of the day. In the morning, pray for the day ahead. Pray for the people in your life. Pray for the activities you have planned. In the evening, take time to reflect on your day. Consider what went well and what did not. Take these praises and concerns before the throne of God. Incorporating the prayers of Scripture and others into your prayer life can also be very helpful, especially when you find it difficult to pray. Beginning and ending the day with prayer will impact everything else you do. 

It is also beneficial to look for times throughout the day to prayer. This will look different for everyone because our lives are different. You could pray on your lunch break or in your car. You might take a break each day at 3:00 in the afternoon and pray just as Peter and John did in Acts 3:1. Find a practice that works best for you. 

Daily prayer can also be combined with Scripture reading, singing, or reflection on God’s creation. Sometimes finding a quiet setting where the beauty of God’s handiwork is evident helps us to focus on God. Reading the Bible goes well with prayer since we are speaking to God and he is speaking to us through the inspired word he has given us. 

By praying daily, we are inviting God to be an active part of our lives. We are being formed and shaped by God. We want everything we do and say to be influenced by our life with God. He has not promised to be with us for only one hour on Sunday. He has promised to be with us always, and this should cause us to organize our lives accordingly.

May
12

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A minister is hired to provide spiritual nourishment for the congregation, but what happens when he needs spiritual nourishment? Ministry involves talking to people about their problems, but who does the minister talk to when he has a problem? Ministers encourage people who are feeling down, but where does a minister turn when he is feeling down? Ministry can be lonely and difficult. Ministers must receive the self-care they need so they will be properly equipped to lead the congregation.

A church should expect to be guided by a spiritually and emotionally healthy minister. If this is the expectation, then what is your congregation doing to ensure that this happens? Attending to the spiritual and emotional health of the minister is not only the Christian thing to do, but it is also the best thing for the congregation. A healthy minister is going to lead better, counsel better, teach better, and deliver better sermons.

Self-care begins with the minister. Every minister must take it upon himself to be in God’s word daily, have an active prayer life, seek out mentors and others to converse with, and balance his time wisely. Because ministers spend each day preparing classes and sermons, they sometimes neglect their own spiritual needs. A minister should set aside time outside of his typical study for spiritual nourishment. The minister should have times throughout the week when he reads the Bible, although he is not preparing a lesson. This should be combined with prayer and a balanced schedule that allows time for family and rest. If a spiritual or emotional need arises, then the minister should seek help. He may seek it from a mentor or professional, but he should also feel comfortable enough to take his need to the elders of the congregation.

What can congregations do to help promote the spiritual and emotional health of their minister? A church first needs to recognize that their minister is human. He is a person with spiritual and emotional needs. A minister is not a superhero. He has needs just like everyone else. Acknowledging this is essential. There is a temptation to put leaders on a pedestal and ignore their weaknesses. This is an unhealthy expectation and it can do much harm. We do not help ministers when we refuse to recognize legitimate needs they may have.

A church needs to make sure its minister is getting some kind of spiritual nourishment. This is much easier in our technological age. Ministers can listen to sermons and classes online. They can connect with other ministers on social media and via video conferences. However, there is a vast difference between listening to a sermon online and being a part of a community with a teacher who is present in the room. Churches recognize that members need much more than a recorded message on a screen, so why try and pass the same off to ministers as spiritual nourishment? Churches should provide time off for ministers to go and sit at the feet of another minister or teacher. Churches should encourage and even offer financial assistance for ministers to receive the spiritual nourishment they need. 

The idea of Sabbath is found throughout the Bible. Human beings were designed to need a time of rest and reflection. Ministry is a unique vocation. A week off is not an adequate amount of time to rest from ministry. There are several reasons for this. Often, ministers still receive calls, texts, and emails while they are away. Rather than let these requests pile up or try and find someone to address them, many ministers will go ahead and handle them while on vacation. Ministers plan sermons and classes in advance. A good minister will want to set with a sermon or class as long as he can before he preaches it. A week away from preaching and teaching usually means that the minister is thinking about next week’s sermons and classes the whole time he is away. It is because of this and many other reasons that ministers often struggle with burnout. They never receive the rest they need and they keep pushing themselves until it all falls apart. What churches should do is offer their minister a sabbatical after so many years. If a minister has ministered at a congregation for seven years and they want to make sure he is there for another seven years, then they should allow him a paid sabbatical. A sabbatical is not a vacation. It is a time of focused rest to draw closer to God and return refreshed. 

Churches need to understand that the minister is not an employee. He is a member of the congregation. He is under the care of the shepherds of the congregation. If he is not being spiritually taken care of, then the elders are responsible because the minister is part of the flock. The best thing a congregation can do for a minister and his family is to befriend them. Treat him and his family like family. Often, ministers are living away from their extended family. Be a mother and father to the minister and his wife. Be a grandparent to their kids. Make sure the minister and his family do not spend a holiday alone. Include them in your family activities. This alone will greatly bless the spiritual and emotional health of the minister and his family.

What is suggested above will not only bless the minister, but it will also bless the congregation. You cannot have a healthy church without a healthy minister. The spiritual and emotional health of a minister is not a minor thing. It is not something churches can ignore. It is our Christian duty to help all those in our midst and this includes the minister.

May
11

Apr
30

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“When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve.” (Matthew 26:20)

As churches contemplate returning to worship services in their buildings, one issue that will need to be addressed is how to do communion. We may never pass a tray or plate again in worship. The idea of making changes to communion because of sanitary concerns is not new. Not long ago, people never imagined communion being served in multiple cups. I was in college before I ever saw a church using individual pieces of unleavened bread. Why were these changes made? They were not made for Biblical or theological reasons. Churches adopted these new practices to be more sanitary.

Many churches cannot go back to serving communion the way they did before because we must protect the health of our members. At the same time, we must be careful how we proceed. Sanitary concerns should not be our only concern. One could even argue they should not be our main concern. We are talking about the Lord’s Supper. This meal is the centerpiece of Christian worship. It is why we gather on the first day of the week. If all we are concerned about is the sanitary way it is served, then we have missed the point. The Lord’s Supper could become so sanitary that it no longer is the Lord’s Supper we are taking.

I believe we should avoid individually wrapped communion packages where the bread tastes like styrofoam and the juice tastes like grape soda. There is nothing individual about the Lord’s Supper. It is a communal meal that we take with fellow believers. These individual packages may serve in a pinch, but they should not become common in our worship.

What should we do then? Perhaps, there is a way to make the Lord’s Supper theologically more meaningful while also making it more sanitary. Most Churches of Christ have emphasized the importance of the table in worship. The table sits in between the pews and the pulpit. When we gather, we come to the table. Since we have traditionally given the table a significant role in our worship, why not continue this? During the Lord’s Supper, why not have people get up and go to a table to receive communion? This would emphasize the theological significance of the table while also eliminating the unsanitary practice of passing the plate.

Each congregation would have to figure out the logistics of how this would work. They would have to decide how many tables to place in their worship area and how the elements would be distributed at each table. They would have to determine how and when people would go to the table and return to their seats. It would take more planning than using individual cups, but the end result would be worth it.

Many of us would like things to go back to exactly the way they were before. Sadly, that is not an option at the moment. Would getting up and going to a table take more time? Yes, it would, but that shouldn’t be important. How significant would it be to break bread with fellow believers at a table? How meaningful would it be to be served the Lord’s Supper at a table? How important would it be to have someone tell you each Sunday this is the body of Christ broken for you and the blood of Christ shed for you?

We shouldn’t rush through the Lord’s Supper. We shouldn’t individualize the Lord’s Supper. We should observe the Lord’s Supper as it was observed by Jesus in his disciples in an upper room and that was at a table.

Apr
29

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What if my state or local government requires me to wear a mask?

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:1-2)

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (1 Peter 2:13-15)

What if my elders (church leaders) ask me to wear a mask?

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

What if a fellow church member would feel better if I wear a mask?

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. As long as it does not go against God’s will or violate our conscience, we should be mindful of what we can do for our fellow Christians and do it. A church gathering is the last place to exert our power. We are to live sacrificially. We are to live cross-shaped lives. This means we lay down our wants and desires and think of the interests of others.

Apr
28

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As states begin to ease shelter-in-place regulations and open up, churches are going to have to decide how best to move forward. This will likely lead to some tense meetings since there are many opinions on what to do next. In many places, federal, state, and local governments do not even agree. Some states have allowed barbershops and tattoo parlors to open first. Other states have thought it best to open restaurants and movie theaters first. Some states have not opened at all. It is likely many church leadership meetings will look the same. There will be a wide variety of opinions, and leaders are going to have to do their best to arrive at the best decision for the congregation.

Here are some guidelines to follow when you meet.

Remember Your Goal – Your goal is to do what is best for your congregation. It is not to solve other problems. It is not to discuss federal or state problems. Stay focused. Don’t get sidetracked by other discussions that you have no control over. Don’t divide over problems you don’t need to be discussing. Keep the conversation focused on the local church and how best to serve the local church. You have been entrusted with the spiritual care of others and the most important thing you can do is make this the point of your conversations.

Keep Politics Out of It – Most congregations strive to keep politics out of the pulpit. Leaders should do the same when they meet. Politics divide. The church is to be united. Leaders of the church have more important things to discuss than political opinions. Church leaders should be more concerned with spiritual matters than political matters.

Be Willing to Consider Differing Opinions – Understand when you go into a meeting that everyone will not all agree. People are going to see problems differently. They are going to have different experiences. They are going to have talked to different people and read different things. This is especially true in a situation where churches are dealing with three sets of guidelines that are not in agreement. One leader might be talking about federal guidelines while another leader is talking about state guidelines. There is no room for pride in church leadership. Every church leader must embody the spirit of humility and be willing to consider other perspectives.

Extend Grace to Those Who Disagree – There is going to be a lot of disagreement in the coming days. Church members are not going to agree with church leaders. Deacons are not going to agree with elders. Elders are not going to agree with ministers. This is a given. Understand this now and be prepared to be graceful towards others. Remember that your bond in Christ is stronger than any disagreements you may have. Be respectful. Listen. Use kind words. Acknowledge there are other ways to approach a situation. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Saturate Every Meeting in Prayer – A meeting of church leaders is a spiritual matter, not a business matter. Pray often throughout the meeting. Read Scripture. Keep your mind on spiritual things. Remember that God is present when you gather. Your focus should be on the mission of God in your community and the most important thing you can do is pray.

Apr
14

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The recent pandemic coupled with sheltering-in-place has led some to surmise about all kinds of conspiracy theories. Contemplating unfounded theories from the comfort of our home might be an innocent exercise if it were not for our ability to broadcast them to the world. Private speculations have become public proclamations and this has led many Christians to engage in the practice of spreading falsehoods, whether intentionally or not.

In 1 Timothy 1:4, Christians are instructed not to “devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies which promote speculations.” Myths is a broad term that can refer to any number of things, but as Philip Towner points out “it can stand as a category meaning essentially falsehood.” Andreas Kostenberger says of endless genealogies that “they’re of a highly conjectural and irrelevant nature: they’re both pointless and fruitless.” A few verses later in 1 Timothy, Christians are warned against involving themselves in “vain discussions.” Although the apostle Paul certainly did not have conspiracy theories in mind when he penned 1 Timothy, it would be remiss of us not to notice that what Paul is describing aligns with most modern conspiracy theories.

Instead of involving ourselves in fruitless discussions, we should seek to encourage and build others up with our speech and social media posts. We should be a people known for speaking truth rather than passing along meaningless speculations. We should avoid sharing any lie or falsehood whether we mean to or not. We must pay attention to how we speak of others. It is not proper for Christians to spread hatred of any kind. We are to assume the best of others, a principle that many conspiracy theories violate. Most of all, the aim of our interactions with others should be love. We are to love our neighbors with what we say and post online.

“Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.” (Proverbs 4:24)

Apr
04

This week, I look at the theological message behind Sam Stone by John Prine and why this song and others like it can help reconnect us with an important Biblical practice.

Mar
27

In this new video series, I will be examining the theological message behind popular songs. This week I take a look at Turn Off the News (Build a Garden) by Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real.

Mar
01

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We find ourselves in challenging times. Our culture is growing more and more secular. Christianity is shrinking in America. Many churches are in decline or are dying. Younger generations are leaving the faith. The fastest-growing group in America are the nones. These are people who claim no religious affiliation at all. We look around us and it is difficult to know just what to do. It is going to take leadership if we are going to make it. It is not going to be easy to navigate these waters, but this is the challenge before us. We cannot turn away. We cannot ignore it. We must be faithful in the moment in this moment.

We need to be prepared for what we face, so here are four keys to leading the church in the 21st Century. 

SOULS OVER TRADITION: We must care more about souls than our traditions. Every congregation has traditions. You meet at a certain time. You have a particular order of worship. You may have some type of dress code whether it is spoken or unspoken. You do things a certain way at your congregation and that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with tradition. Churches cannot exist without tradition. A decision is made one day about this or that and before you know it, your church has been doing it that way for 30 years. This is often how traditions get started. Most traditions are harmless, but we must understand that souls are of much greater value than traditions. It is not even close. If one soul can be won by giving up or altering a tradition, then do it. We are called to win souls and we should not allow a tradition to stand in our way.  

Most people understand this but it can be hard because we get comfortable with things the way they are. We like using hymnals rather than a projector. We get used to having midweek Bible study at a certain time. We like our minister to wear a suit. We don’t like change. This is human nature. We want to keep things as they are. This is ok when we are talking about Bible things, but when we’re talking about traditions, we need to be willing to change if it is going to help bring someone to Christ.  

TRUTH OVER CULTURE: We are born into a world that has been corrupted by sin. We are immersed in a culture that is often contrary to the ways of Christ. We have to deal with cultural forces from a very early age. They are all around us and we are influenced by them more than we realize. Why is the church facing the challenges it is facing? Why have things changed so rapidly? It is because of the culture in which we live. The culture is telling us one thing and the Bible is telling us something else. This causes friction. It causes friction in our lives, in our families, and in the communities to which we belong. We cannot escape unscathed. We are all going to feel it.  

We must choose truth over culture. We must stand with the word of God. We must stick with the Biblical answer on gender and sexuality. The Bible should form our morals and ethics. We must choose Jesus over the divisiveness of politics. We must choose the lamb over the donkey or the elephant. The people in the world need to know us as Jesus people above all else. The culture will disappoint, but Jesus will never disappoint. The culture will tell you lies, but Jesus never lies. The culture will lead you down a destructive path, but Jesus saves. Jesus is the truth. We must choose Jesus over culture. The church must decide to be a counter-cultural community that looks like Jesus, acts like Jesus, and talks like Jesus. We are the body of Christ and because of this Jesus should matter more than anything else.

LOVE OVER PREFERENCES: Jesus says,

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

Many of us know this verse, but I’m not sure we always do a good job of following it. This verse should be hung in our buildings. It should be taught to our children. It should be professed regularly from the pulpit. Jesus says love is what Christians will be identified by. Love is what is going to set us apart from other groups and movements. People should look at us and be amazed by how we love. I’m not sure this is always the case. I’m afraid we often make a big deal of other things and love gets pushed to the side.

Why is this? I think it is because love is hard. Jesus defines love for us when he gives us the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10. This story begins with a discussion between Jesus and a lawyer. They are talking about what it means to love your neighbor. This discussion leads Jesus to tell the story of the good Samaritan. Jesus is defining two things for the lawyer. He is defining “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus says our neighbor can be anyone, even someone we hate. Jesus also defines what it means to love. Love costs us something. It cost the Samaritan his time, his resources, and his money. He risked his life by stopping and helping the man. He used his oil and wine to care for the man. He placed him on his donkey. He took him to an inn and he took care of the bill.  

Love is sacrificial. Too often, we just give off the top and call it love. We go through our closets and we give away whatever we weren’t going to wear anyways. We see a homeless man on the street and we give him the loose change we have in our cupholder. This is not love. It’s a nice gesture. It’s a good deed, but it is not what Jesus defines as love. Love comes with a cost. We cannot just give off the top and call it love.

In Philippians 2:3, Paul writes,

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3)

This is what we are to strive for. We are to love one another. We shouldn’t be arguing over whether to sing new songs or old songs. Why? Because we love one another. We shouldn’t be fighting about what special days a person or church observes. Why? Because we love one another. We shouldn’t be concerned with what a person does with his hands in worship. Why? Because we love one another. If we’re going to take Jesus seriously, then we need to let go of our preferences and get serious about loving one another.  

MISSION OVER COMFORT: We are a church on mission. Do our congregations know this? Do they understand that God has entrusted us with a mission? Church is more than just what we do inside the walls of our buildings. Our mission goes beyond our walls and out into the world. If the doors of your congregation closed tomorrow, would your community know it? If not, then you should think about your mission in your town. We are called to be a light to our community and if our communities don’t know we exist, then we are not properly shining our light.

If our congregations are going to survive in the 21st century, then we must get serious about mission. This is going to be hard for some of us because we have grown comfortable with the status quo. Some members only attend Sunday morning and this is because that is all that is expected of them. Sometimes in leadership meetings, we can become overly concerned about what happens at our building and never once talk about our mission to our neighbors. If we are more concerned with our comfort than our mission, then our churches are doomed. We will not make it.  

Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him. This is not a call to comfort. It is a call to sacrifice. Our goal is not to live the most comfortable life we can on earth. Our goal is to share the gospel with as many people as we can. This is what will change the world.  

We face great challenges in the days ahead, but we must remember that God has placed us in this moment and he has given us everything that we need to succeed. It is not about our strengths. It is about our reliance on God. We must turn to him. We must look to God for guidance in all that we do. We need to be focused on being a people shaped by the cross. The world is a confusing place, but if we show people the cross, then we can give them hope. We can be a light in a dark world. We can be a community marked by the love of Christ that offers a true alternative to the chaos in the world.