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

Apr
08

God hears and answers prayers. He does not always give us what we ask for or answer prayers as we expect him to, but he does answer them. When answering prayer, God most often works through natural means. He works through human beings. He puts people in our lives to be an answer to prayer. If we need help, then he may send us someone to help. If a loved one is sick, then he may connect us with a doctor who can provide the care needed. This is very natural and looks normal, but the hand of God is at work.

Sometimes, God does something that is not natural. We call these acts miraculous because they transcend the laws of nature. We cannot explain them by natural means. It is obvious that God has answered our request in a special way. These instances are rare. They are atypical. This is why we call them miraculous.

When we pray to God for protection, we should expect a natural response. God regularly uses other human beings to carry out his will. Many people have prayed to God for protection from COVID-19, and we now have three vaccines available to us in the United States. God has used the natural abilities of scientists and doctors to save lives. He has answered our prayers. It might not have been what we wanted, but it is an answer. Praise God! Praise God for scientists and doctors. Praise God for the many many lives that have been saved over the years because of vaccines.

We must also acknowledge that over half a million lives have been lost due to COVID-19 in the United States. There are no easy answers to some events in life. We mourn the loss of life. We weep with those who weep. We patiently await the day when our questions will be answered, but even then we may not receive the answers we expect to receive. Our scope is limited. God knows all and sees all. Until then, we honor those who have gone on before us by faithfully living out our days on this earth. We do not take any day for granted. We thank God for the gift of life.

Apr
06

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13)

Discontentment is rarely the result of not having something we need. It is often the desire of wanting something we don’t have to have. The problem is not about our inability to acquire, but about our desire for more. We must learn to be content. We must come to understand that Christ is the answer to many of the desires within us. We don’t need more possessions. We don’t need more pleasure. We don’t need more money. Having more will not ultimately fulfill our desires. We will still want more. We need Jesus. We need to walk in his ways. We need the mind of Christ that causes us to abandon our selfishness and to think of others.

Contentment is about more than what we possess. It is also about our relationships with others. It applies to our feelings about our circumstances and environment. When we constantly feel angry or upset, then we are discontent. If we can find no goodness in others or our circumstances, then we are likely discontent. If we cannot find peace or joy, then we lack contentment. Again, the problem is not outside. It is inside. It is not that others or our circumstances are the causes of our discontentment. The problem is we need a deeper relationship with Christ. Contentment is found in knowing Christ.

If you feel discontent, don’t look outward. Don’t try buying more things. Don’t sever relationships. Don’t quit your job. Don’t abandon your church. Look to Christ. Follow Jesus. Embrace the mind of Christ. Pray. Serve others. Forgive. Encourage the people around you. Tell the truth. Be generous. Bless and do not curse. Do good. Contentment is found when we know Christ and follow him. Don’t look anywhere else.

Apr
01

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:14-15)

The apostle Peter informs us about hope in the verses above. He presents two important facts.

  1. Our hope is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  2. There is nothing in this world that can take that hope from us.

The letter begins by identifying the source of our hope. The resurrection changed everything. Because of the resurrection, death does not have the final word. Because of the resurrection, new creation is a reality. We look at the world differently now. Our lives are not the same because we are connected to the same power source that raised Jesus from the dead.

The Christians Peter was writing to were being persecuted, but they were still living in a way that their hope in the resurrection of Jesus was evident to everyone around them. This should be true of us today as well. When people see us, they should know we are Jesus people who place our hope in the resurrection. They should want to ask us about the hope that is in us. Our hope in the resurrection of Jesus is greater than what is happening in the news. It is greater than any current event. It is greater than the world of politics. It is greater than whether or not the stock market is up or down. It is greater than death. We are not children tossed to and fro by whatever news comes our way. We are followers of a resurrected King. The good news of the gospel is what matters most in our lives, and this should be evident in every conversation and interaction we have with others. Jesus has risen, and this changes everything!

Mar
30

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (Matt. 6:33)

What does it look like to seek first the kingdom of God?

It means prioritizing the kingdom of God over my wants and desires.

It means my first concern is what is best for the kingdom of God.

It means my loyalty towards God and his kingdom is greater than any political allegiance I might have.

It means the most important thing I can do for my family is seek first the kingdom of God.

It means prioritizing the kingdom of God in my relationships with people online and offline.

It means God is never secondary.

It means the kingdom of God comes before my personal comfort.

It means when the people of the kingdom meet to worship or serve God, I am going to be present.

It means always considering the kingdom of God when making decisions regarding time, money, and resources.

It means personal activities do not take precedent over kingdom activities. 

It means I am first and foremost a citizen of the kingdom of God wherever I go.

It means people will know God is first in my life by what I say and do. 

It means I will share the good news of the kingdom of God with others.

It means my greatest desire is God and his kingdom. He has captured my heart. Nothing is more important.

Mar
26

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23)

“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?” (James 3:10-11)

Formation is happening all the time. We are being transformed into something. We are either becoming more loving or more antagonistic. We are growing in joy or bitterness. We are cultivating peace or discontentment in our lives. There is no neutral ground. Our thoughts matter. Our words matter. How we think and the stories we tell ourselves are forming us into a certain kind of person.

For Christians, our formation is to always be moving in the direction of Christ. Our ultimate goal is to become like Jesus. This does not happen overnight. It takes place in the small decisions we make every day. What we think. What we say. What we do. What we consume. What we tell ourselves.

We now live in a world where our comments are not limited to just the people we know. Most of the comments made on social media are about people with whom we do not know. They are about politicians, celebrities, athletes, actors, etc. Many conversations we have with others are about these same individuals. We may think that because we do not know them, what we think or say about them does not matter, but this is not true. It does matter because we are being formed.

Choosing not to use words that are unkind, ugly, or hurtful is just as much about us as it is the person our words are directed towards. How we choose to think of others directly influences our spiritual growth. When we think poorly of others or say unkind things, we are doing damage to our souls. It doesn’t matter whether we know the person or not. The result is the same.

Often, we say things online that we would never say to someone in person. Before posting ask yourself “How would I address this person if they were standing right in front of me?” We tell stories about people we know and don’t know. We believe a person is nice or mean based on their politics even though we have never met them. We interpret a statement by a friend as being personal even though we have not asked them about it. We do this without thinking. The stories we tell ourselves tend to be negative. We think the worst. We are being formed, and we are making judgments that are not spiritually healthy.

How are your words and thoughts forming you? Are you exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit? Do your words promote peace or dissension? Do you bless as well as curse people? These questions matter. They matter because we are to love our neighbors. They matter because we are being formed. If we are not content with our lives, it could be we are being formed into something that is not like Christ. It could be we are choosing words and thoughts that are leading us away from Christ instead of towards him. Every choice matters. When we have a choice to make, let’s choose Christ.

Mar
23

As more and more people get vaccinated, state and local officials will begin to ease up on mask mandates and other restrictions associated with COVID-19. Churches will also make changes to their policies, and we will begin a new normal. Life will not be what it once was. It is impossible to pick up where we left off a year ago. Too much has happened. Relationships have changed. We have lost loved ones. We are not the same. We see the world through a different lens. All of this influences how we do church.

Church has looked different throughout the pandemic. Online worship has become more prevalent and the norm for some. Many church programs have come to a halt. Fellowship meals and other similar gatherings have ceased. Communion has changed. Some things will go back to normal, but some will not. Even if we resume things as they were, they will not be the same. People will be missing. Our experiences will cause us to look at them differently.

We want to move forward, but how? We need to embrace this as an opportunity to refocus and reset. Don’t expect everything to be what it once was. It’s not going to be. However, we can make wise and long-lasting decisions that will bless people as they begin to gather again. Here are three things we can do.

Emphasize the holiness and mystery of worship – For much of the pandemic, worship has lost its sense of holiness and mystery. We have gathered around TV sets or computers to listen to a message and watch other people sing. When we began meeting in-person, we sanitized and rushed communion. For many in Churches of Christ, communion used to be the focus of worship. Now it is something we do as quickly as possible.

When we come to worship, we need to remember we are in the presence of God. When we commune at the Lord’s table, we are communing with Jesus. Worship and communion are not to be taken lightly. They are not to be rushed. We are engaged in acts of divine mystery. God comes near. We offer sacrifices to the Almighty. We are no longer sitting in our pajamas in front of the TV. We are worshiping before the throne of God. We need to be aware of this as we gather. Worship is a holy moment.

Ask more of Christians, not less – COVID has struck a blow to cultural Christianity. Reluctant worshipers will likely not return. People who only came to church because it is what their family did might not come back. If some people were coming to church for cultural reasons rather than Christ, then there is a good chance they will not be seen again. This is sad, but it is a reality.

Some churches may want to focus on being as accomodating as possible. Certainly, we want to welcome and encourage everyone to return. However, now is the time to remind people of the cost of being a Christian. It is not always easy. The people who stayed understand this. They get what Christianity is all about. Encourage them. Reach out to others like them. The emphasis going forward should be on building a stronger church, not just a larger one.

Focus on hospitality – One of the biggest losses the church suffered during 2020 was its relationships. The emphasis was on worship and nothing else. We missed out on hugs, handshakes, meals, and fellowship. We began to understand that church is more than what we do for an hour on Sunday. It is relationships. It is friendships. It is family.

Hospitality must be practiced and encouraged. A church is not a church if we do not know one another. We are called to do life together. We are to be brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters to one another. The only way we can do this is by eating together and spending time together. This is how Jesus did ministry. It is what the early church practiced. You cannot have a church without practicing hospitality. It is time to gather around tables again to strengthen and form lasting relationships.

Mar
20

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord…” (Psalm 27:4)

I don’t know when I first learned about the Grand Canyon. It must have been when I was young. It appears in children’s books and cartoons. It shows up in trivia questions on paper menus in restaurants. We, human beings, are obsessed with this marvel. It is a part of our culture. None of us can probably recall the first time we learned of this majestic place because we find mention of it everywhere.

Like everyone else, I grew up learning about the Grand Canyon. I learned about the geography, geology, and history of this place. I have seen more pictures of it than I can count. I know it when I see it. I recognize it from the many times I have seen it in textbooks, travel books, and social media. A person can go anywhere in America, perhaps the world, and start a conversation about the Grand Canyon, and people will know what you are talking about and join in.

Before I ever saw the Grand Canyon, I knew a lot about it. I had studied it in school, seen documentaries on it, and memorized facts about it. My head was full of information on the Grand Canyon. I also knew what it looked like from the many images I had seen of it over the years.

Wasn’t this enough?

No, because when I first saw it with my own eyes, all of that other stuff didn’t matter. I forgot all the facts. The many images I had seen over the years were now meaningless. I was in the presence of beauty. All I could do was stand there and take it in, and it was magnificent. It is indescribable. It doesn’t matter how many facts you learn and pictures you see. It is something that must be experienced.

Something similar happens with God and us. We grow up going to Sunday school. We read our Bibles and attend worship. We have a pretty good idea of who God is and what he looks like. We do our best to follow him, but one day, we will be in his presence. When we are standing before God, all the rest of the stuff we thought mattered won’t matter anymore. Our paltry attempts at Biblical interpretation and theology will seem insignificant in God’s presence. Our thoughts on this issue or that issue will disappear, and all we will know is God.

What an incredible day that will be!

We need to remember this. It doesn’t mean theology, Biblical interpretation, or thoughts on issues are unimportant, not at all. It means we know our place. We are not God, but one day we will be in his presence. The beauty of God will overwhelm any other thoughts inside of us. We long for this day. Until then, may we be humble in our pursuit of knowledge and our disagreements with others. May we seek to catch glimpses of God’s beauty here on earth and meditate on the majesty we will one day behold.

Mar
09

I am encouraged by the young people I know. Younger generations are smart, creative, and passionate. They care about what is right. They want to make a difference.

As I grow older, I want to consider my responsibility toward younger generations. I want to have the right attitude towards them. I want to be a help to them, not a burden. Here are some things I want to do.

Young people see the world differently, and I want to learn from them. Maybe, they see something that I have missed.

I want to be a person they can trust. I want to be approachable, and I want them to feel like they can discuss anything with me.

I want them to know that I respect them. I do not look down upon them. I do not see them as being inferior. They have something to offer.

I want to share my wisdom with them. I want to share things that will be helpful to them. I want to be open about mistakes I have made so they can learn from them.

I want to be a mentor and friend to them. My relationship with younger people should not be one-sided. I want to be a blessing to them as they bless me.

Mar
07

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7)

“Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matt. 9:13)

“[The merciful] share in other people’s need, debasement, and guilt. They have an irresistible love for the lowly, the sick, for those who are in misery, for those who are demeaned and abused, for those who suffer injustice and are rejected, for everyone in pain and anxiety. They seek out all those who have fallen into sin and guilt. No need is too great, no sin is too dreadful for mercy to reach. The merciful give their own honor to those who have fallen into shame and take that shame unto themselves. They may be found in the company of tax collectors and sinners and willingly bear the shame of their fellowship. Disciples give away anyone’s greatest possession, their own dignity and honor, and show mercy. They know only one dignity and honor, the mercy of their Lord, which is their only source of life.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship

My father could use a little mercy now
The fruits of his labor fall and rot slowly on the ground
His work is almost over it won’t be long, he won’t be around
I love my father, he could use some mercy now

My brother could use a little mercy now
He’s a stranger to freedom, he’s shackled to his fear and his doubt
The pain that he lives in it’s almost more than living will allow
I love my brother, he could use some mercy now

My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit it’s going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful who follow them down
I love my church and country, they could use some mercy now

Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race towards another mushroom cloud
People in power, they’ll do anything to keep their crown
I love life and life itself could use some mercy now

Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don’t deserve it but we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance dangle ‘tween hell and hallowed ground
And every single one of us could use some mercy now

– Mary Gauthier, Mercy Now

Mar
03

There have always been tensions between generations. One generation does things one way, and the next generation decides they will do it differently. Christians are especially concerned with younger generations because a large portion of them are leaving the faith and not coming back. Like the generations before them, they see the world differently than their parents and grandparents. How we grapple with these differences is important. If we are going to effectively engage young people, here are some things to keep in mind.

Don’t be negative – One reason why some young people might struggle with church is they never hear anything positive said about their generation. Anytime their generation is discussed, it is always about what they are doing wrong. People don’t want to be a part of a group where they are constantly being criticized.

Don’t talk as if they are without hope – Young people will be turned off by Christianity if Christians speak of them as a lost generation that cannot be saved. There are problems with every generation, but no generation is without hope. If we cannot offer people hope, they will not want to be a part of Christianity.

Live out your faith in front of them – If we do not take Christianity seriously, then why should we expect our kids and grandkids to take it seriously? If they do not see us worshiping, praying, serving, teaching, etc., they will not do these things. The most important thing we can do for the generations to come is to faithfully live out our faith in front of them.

Listen and don’t dismiss their concerns – We do not have to agree on everything, but we do have to listen and respect others. If we dismiss people or disrespect them or their views, they will want nothing to do with the church. We must be willing to listen and have mature conversations about topics that matter to others.

Avoid stereotypes – We live in a complicated world. Telling people who they are and what they believe is not a welcoming invitation. If we already have our minds made up about someone before they walk through our doors, then why should they open up to us? Don’t tell people who they are. Let them tell us.

Don’t water down Christianity – The young people who are interested in Christianity are really interested in Christianity. They are not looking for Christianity lite. If we water down the message or are not serious about following Jesus, then they will likely keep looking for a church that is.