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

Sep
16

One of the last things Peter commands in his second letter is for us to “grow in the grace…of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Grace is unmerited favor. It is treating others better than they deserve. This is what Jesus does for us. “While we still were sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Grace is a gift that transforms lives. It penetrates hardened hearts and encourages love and goodness.

Every Christian is aware of the magnificent grace Jesus has shown us, but we cannot stop there. Becoming a Christian means we are to grow in this grace and practice it ourselves. We are to show grace to others just as Jesus showed grace to us. We are to embody the grace of Jesus in a world that lacks grace. This is not an easy calling. Grace means we are not focused on treating people fairly but on treating them better than they deserve. Grace is something we extend to all people, including our enemies. We are not called to practice grace on our terms. We are called to practice the grace of Jesus.

We live in a world where grace is disappearing. To practice grace and to be a community where grace abounds is countercultural. Grace stands out. It is not what people expect. Grace is central to the gospel, and this is what we embody when we practice it. Grace is powerful, but it is also costly. It was Jesus’ willingness to extend grace to us that led him to the cross. Grace means we are kind when others are not. Grace means we are loving when others are unloving. Grace means we forgive even when others refuse. Grace means we are patient with people who don’t have any patience. Grace manifests itself in many different ways. We have multiple opportunities every day to practice and grow in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sep
10

“The chute opens, the bull draws blood, and the gift is accepted by God”
– The Killers

As the music industry continues to experience changes, I hope the album never goes away because when it is done right, it can be a beautiful work of art. Pressure Machine, the new album by The Killers, is an outstanding example of this. It is a concept album reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska about life in a small western town. Religion is a prominent theme in many songs, and the good is highlighted along with the bad.

Terrible Thing is the third song on the album. It is about a teenager wrestling with suicidal feelings. The problem is that he lives in a town where “culture is king,” and there is no compassion for him in this culture. We learn throughout the song that the culture that is king is wrapped in religion. The name of Christ is invoked, and sacrifices are made, but the cultural Christianity that is revered does not set people free and does not always resemble Jesus.

Culture is often used in churches in a negative way. The bad things in society are the fault of the culture. What is wrong with the world is the culture’s fault. The problem is that we cannot escape culture. We create culture. We are a part of the culture. We may not like one aspect of culture, but we have our culture with its baggage. Christianity gets co-opted and used as a cultural tool. It becomes good news for some and bad news for others rather than good news for all.

We live in a complicated world. We may wish it were not so, but this is our reality. There are voices and powers in our world who want to use Jesus selfishly for their benefit. There are voices and powers in our world who will use the name of Jesus to harm and abuse others. Some voices and powers will even use Jesus as a weapon against others. This ought not to be so, but it happens. What we must do is tune out the voices and reject the powers and spend time with Jesus ourselves. Read the gospels. Listen carefully to the stories about Jesus and the words he speaks. Meditate on them. Make sure our words and actions resemble Christ, and we are not using his name for other purposes. Share the gospel that is good news for all.

I am grateful for songs like Terrible Thing that are not easy to listen to but cause us to reflect on important issues. May I be compassionate like Christ. May I be gracious and merciful to everyone I meet. May I be aware of people around me who are hurting and need a friend. May I offer good news to people who need to hear it.

Click Terrible Thing to listen to the song on YouTube.

Sep
09

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)

It is fascinating how we emphasize certain commands in Scripture while overlooking others. We all do it. It is part of being human. We judge some commands as more important than others. We may downplay the commands we struggle to keep while highlighting the ones we do keep. We often focus on the ones that whatever political group we belong to deems to be essential. We have our favorite parts of Scripture, and some commands may go unnoticed. Thankfully, we are saved by grace, but even so, we should pay attention to the commands we overlook and try to understand why as we seek to do a better job of following them.

Romans 15:7 is one such command. I suppose it gets overlooked by some because, at first glance, it doesn’t seem very important. Welcoming may be relegated to a simple greeting. Others may neglect it because it is at the end of Romans and not in one of the more frequently read chapters. Whatever it may be, this is a rich command that deserves our attention. It is a call to be like Christ.

Who does Jesus welcome? Jesus welcomes prostitutes and tax collectors to dine at his table. Jesus welcomes the hungry and feeds them. Jesus welcomes the sick and heals them. Jesus welcomes the spiritually bankrupt and gives them living words. Jesus welcomes us as we are. We are sinners in need of God’s grace.

We can change the lives of people around us just by welcoming them as Jesus did. We should be ready with food, a listening ear, healing words, a place at our table, and grace for those who are in need. They are all around us. All we have to do is follow Jesus and learn to be people who welcome others.

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matt. 25:35)

Sep
08

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude…Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, 7)

We live in an age of distrust. We do not trust institutions, and we see this play out in the news almost every day. There is distrust of government, school boards, doctors, police, religion, etc. It has become common to publicly display our displeasure with whatever institution we have decided not to trust. What is even more troubling is that we have now begun to distrust one another. Our suspicions are no longer limited to institutions. We are uncertain of our neighbors, family members, and coworkers.

To live in a state of constant suspicion is not healthy. Communities, where suspicion is rampant, cannot thrive. They will shrivel and die. Galatians 5:14-15 presents us with the possibility of two different communities.

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”

One community is founded on love. The other community bites and devours one another until it is no more. These are the options. The type of community we create is up to us.

A community founded on love trusts one another. They share meals together. They form relationships that can weather life’s storms. When disagreement occurs, they seek clarification. They assume the best of others. They draw closer to one another in challenging times. Grace is abundant, and forgiveness is practiced.

A community where trust is absent is suspicious of one another. The worst is always assumed. Relationships are weak and easily broken. Sacrifices are made for self but not for others. Grace is absent. Accusations are plentiful, and reconciliation is not possible.

The world cannot exist without communities built on trust. We will bite and devour one another. Communities are people, and the type of communities we have depends on us. Here’s what we need to do to build trusting communities.

Talk face to face whenever possible.
Assume people are good and have good motives.
Regularly work on strengthening relationships.
Practice grace all the time.
Cultivate opportunities for joy.
Serve one another.
Spend time together often.
Encourage regularly and only critique when necessary.
Focus on your shortcomings rather than the shortcomings of others.

We also need to be aware of influences in our lives that are sources of distrust. If something or someone is causing you to distrust people you love or creating rifts in communities you have belonged to for years, then get rid of it. Be aware of dangerous voices that are bent on destruction.

Choose trust even when it is difficult. Choose trust even though you may get burned. Choose trust even though the world tells you not to. It is a risk. Love is always a risk, but the reward is great, and the possibilities beautiful.

Aug
27

Charlie Watts, the drummer for the Rolling Stones, passed away this week. Although most people know the names Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, fewer people recognize the name of the drummer for one of the greatest rock and roll bands ever, and that’s how Charlie would want it. He was a unique individual. He was not a fan of fame, and he had a disdain for social media and self-promotion.

Rock and Roll bands who garner the type of notoriety the Rolling Stones have often don’t last. Egos are typically to blame. The Stones did not escape this problem. Mick and Keith are bigger-than-life figures with the egos to match. They have had songs written about them (Moves Like Jagger) and inspired movie characters (Captain Jack Sparrow). The difference in the band was Watts. He was grounded. He was the glue that held the band together in their more difficult times.

For Watts, the Stones weren’t everything to him. They were not even the main thing. While touring, his mind was often on his home and family. His heart was with them. He had other passions, one of them being jazz. Playing in the Stones allowed him to do what he loved. When he was not on tour or with his family, he played in a jazz band. Watts was able to look past the fame and appreciate the greater blessings of life.

Perhaps, understanding who Charlie Watts was can best be seen in the drumkit he used. Rock and roll drumkits have a reputation for being excessive. The bigger, the better. Watts’ drumkit remained small and simple over the years. This did not make him any less of a drummer. He was one of the best, but maybe, more than anything, it was a reflection of his character.

Is there anything to learn from the life of Charlie Watts? I believe so. Stay grounded. Love your family more than your work. Remain humble. Take time to appreciate beauty when you find it. Keep it simple. In a world full of inflated egos, be a Charlie Watts.

Aug
26

What is church? This may seem like an unusual thing to ask, but it’s important. The English word church has multiple different meanings. It can refer to a building or a denomination. The word church in the pages of Scripture does not refer to either one of these. The Greek word translated church means “called out.” Church is a community of people called to serve Jesus.

What is church? One of the easiest ways to sift through the confusion and define church is to go back to the beginning. The roots of the church can be traced back to Acts 2, and in Acts 2:42-47, we are given a description of church. This description is not exhaustive. A church can be more than what is described in this passage, but it should not be anything less.

What is church? Culturally, we have reduced church to something we do one hour on Sunday. We go to church. We put on nice clothes, drive to a “church building,” participate in worship, and go home. We then do it all again the next week. Nowadays, participating in weekly worship is becoming more and more uncommon. A person may “go to church” every other week or once a month. Fewer people are attending worship services. Cultural Christianity is dying. What is wrong? Could it be how we define church?

What is church? At its very essence, church is community. It is eating together, serving together, praying together, learning together, spending time together, and worshiping together. We cannot choose one of these, neglect the others, and say it is church. Church is a called-out community. It is people committed to Jesus who are doing life together. It is people who share one another’s burdens and struggles. It is people who rejoice together when there is something to rejoice and weep together when there is something to weep. It is people who know one another and care for one another. It is people who are committed to one another and will not give up on one another. The cultural idea of church will fade because it is incomplete. The Acts 2 model of church will continue to flourish as it transforms lives and communities.

Aug
25

Here are 10 questions spiritual leaders should be asking themselves on a regular basis.

How can I help?

How can I comfort?

How can I be an instrument of peace in the midst of conflict?

Who needs me to listen to them?

Who do I need to be praying for?

Who can I encourage?

Who can I mentor?

Who can I invite to share a meal with me?

What do I need to pay attention to within myself?

How can I embody Christ in my interactions with others?

Aug
19

Some people eagerly speak for God each time breaking news scrolls across the screen. I understand the motivation. We want to be correct, and we want others to do what is right. However, we must be careful. Speaking for God is not something anyone should take lightly. It is serious business.

We need mouthpieces for righteousness in our world, but not everyone is qualified. Some baptize their politics or an ideology and are speaking in the name of God, but not for God. Some imagine God to be on their side even though they spend little or no time with God. Just because someone claims to speak for God does not mean their message is from God.

So, how do we discern which voices to listen to and which ones to ignore? Here are a few indicators.

They have a relationship with God. They spend time with God. They pray, fast, and meditate on God’s word. They are dedicated to knowing God, and they want others to know him also.

They seek first the kingdom of God. There is no hidden agenda. They aren’t trying to get a vote or win an argument. They want what is best for the kingdom of God.

They are slow to speak. A person of God understands the importance of words and the danger of words. They do not rush to be the first to comment. They are not looking to make a name for themselves or promote their brand. They listen. They weigh the evidence. They pray for wisdom, and then they speak.

They do not speak from a place of anger. They do not retaliate with words. They understand “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). They are patient and kind. Their words are gracious and build others up.

They look like Jesus. They do not serve God in name only. They feed the poor, practice hospitality, love their enemies, and forgive others. They take Jesus seriously, and you know this by the way they live.

There are lots of voices in our world, but they are not all equal. Listening to someone who affirms all of our beliefs doesn’t do us any good. Jesus never did this. The words of Christ are challenging. We need voices in our lives who point us toward Christ and his ways.

Aug
07

We cannot get through life without conversations. To converse is human. We are relational beings, and we must have interaction with others. However, not all conversations are the same. We can speak with someone and feel encouraged, uplifted, joyous, enlightened, comforted, etc., or feel frustrated, invisible, upset, undervalued, hurt, etc. How we talk with each other matters. We should consider what we are doing and what we want out of our conversations before we have them.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29)

Am I using my words to build others up? Am I graceful in what I have to say? Do I give others the benefit of the doubt? Do I treat others as I would like to be treated?

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

Are my conversations me-focused or others-focused? Am I more interested in listening or telling others what they should believe? Do I do most of the talking in the conversations I have?

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25)

Am I repeating something because I like it or because I know it to be true? Am I responsible for spreading falsehoods, knowingly or unknowingly?

“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)

How am I loving others with my words? Are my conversations joyful? How have I brought peace to other people’s lives through what I have said? Am I patient in conversations? Do I allow others to speak first? Do I say things in a kind manner? Do I exhibit self-control?

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10)

How do I speak of others? Do I curse people who have been created in the image of God? How do I speak of celebrities, athletes, politicians, actors, and others whom I don’t even know?

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Are my conversations filled with hope? Am I fixated on what is wrong with the world or on Jesus who has overcome the world? Are people going to ask me about the hope I have in Christ?

Jun
23

It is no secret that many congregations in America are dying. According to Barna, the number of practicing practicing Christians in America declined from 45% of the population in 2000 to 25% of the populating in 2020. During the pandemic, one out of three practicing Christians stopped attending worship altogether, including online services. COVID-19 has accelerated what was already a major problem for Christianity in America. Many churches are dying, and a few are thriving. It is past time for Christians to wake up and recognize this new reality. Congregations will either choose to thrive or die. It is no secret what distinguishes a thriving church from a dying church. Here are some of the main distinctions.

Thriving churches

Practice hospitality

Invite people to worship, small groups, etc.

Evangelize and disciple

Invest in the next generation

Are welcoming and friendly

Use social media to reach people

Mentor future leaders

Serve their community

Are generous with their time and money

Show up and volunteer

Care for their facilities

Have members who are joyful and hopeful

Are outward focused

Have healthy leadership

Live out their faith (Practice spiritual disciplines)

Love their church

Dying churches

Do not talk to others about their faith

Have facilities that are outdated, dirty, and/or not well maintained

Lack of volunteers

Ignore their youth

Complain more than encourage

Value personal preferences over souls

Attend worship infrequently

Lack vision and do not prepare for the future

Are indifferent about their church

Are not involved in outreach

Have an outdated webpage

Are inward focused

Have little or no social media presence

Lack joy and hope

Have a disconnect between what members profess and how they live

Have dysfunctional leadership

Lack a plan for welcoming visitors

Reside in a community or town that is unaware of the church’s presence