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

Feb
11

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

We live in a polarized world. People have opinions about everything. We judge people on where they get their news, which athletes they cheer for, and which products they buy. We accuse people of being fearful if they are wearing a mask. We accuse people of being calloused if they are not wearing a mask. Everything has become political, and we are not better off for it.

In a divided world, the focus of our conversations can easily become about winning. We demonize the other side. We think the worst of others. We set out to prove people wrong and ourselves right. We see this behavior all the time on social media, the news, and in our daily interactions. It is not righteous or good. We are not treating others as we would like to be treated.

The goal of Christian conversations should always be to love our neighbors. This is our first priority. We are not to look down upon others or treat them disrespectfully. We are to listen and understand. We are to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. We are to encourage and uplift and seek peace wherever we can. Winning an argument is not a victory. Loving our neighbor is a victory.

The church comes to the table of the Lord each Sunday. We are a gathered people that come with different backgrounds, beliefs, and opinions. We look different and we were raised differently. We do not unite around the table because we have the same politics. We unite around Christ. He is greater than anything that might divide us. He is greater than any differences we have. In a divided world, we must keep our eyes on Christ.

Feb
03

People want life to be fair, but as Christians, we cannot expect this. Life is not fair for Christians because we are to do good while others do bad. We are to tell the truth even if others lie. We are to love while others hate. We are to seek peace as those around us fight. We are to forgive when people hurt us.

The unfairness of our call is attested to in verse after verse in the Bible.

“Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matt. 5:39-41)

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44)

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

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Pet. 2:12)

The life of a Christian is not fair. We are not to treat others as we have been treated. We are to treat others as we would like to be treated regardless of how they have treated us. We will not reach a lost and dying world by being fair. The world needs grace. The only way to reach a lost and dying world is to show them Jesus. Do good when others do evil to you. Love even though you are hated. Seek peace when someone starts a fight with you. Give to those who do not deserve it. Tell the truth to those who would lie to you. Don’t worry about fair. Be like Jesus and watch people transform as they encounter his grace.

Jan
27

Eden, Ark, Sojourning, Egypt, Wilderness, Promised Land, Divided Kingdom, Exile, Diaspora, Roman Rule

The two constants throughout the Bible are God and change. The people of God continually find themselves in changing situations. Often, God is the initiator of change. He invites us to follow him. He invites us to take risks. At the same time, the world around us is always changing. Leaders come and go. Movements begin and end. Nothing stays the same.

Change is inevitable. We cannot stop it from happening. The only choice we get to make is how we respond. Will we kick and scream and fight, or will we faithfully and maturely accept our new circumstances? Will we grow angry and bitter, or will we grow in patience and Christlikeness? Accepting what is imminent does not mean we approve of it. It allows us to both be present and move forward rather than being stuck in the past.

If we refuse to acknowledge change is a part of life, then we are refusing to accept reality. If we deny reality, then we cannot respond in faith. God has not placed us in a bubble where everything remains the same. We live in a changing world. It is here that we are called to minister, love, serve, and encourage. We cannot truly help others or ourselves unless we recognize the reality in which we live.

Change comes in many different forms. Most importantly, we are expected to change. If we don’t accept change, then we will never change. We cannot remain the same and call ourselves Christian. The life of a Christian is one of continual change. We are becoming like Christ. We are being transformed into his likeness.

The life of a Christian is one of seeking first the kingdom of God. It is a perpetual searching after the reign of God in every aspect of life. Our lives must be open to disruption for the sake of the kingdom. Our seeking never ends. We must be open to the things of God even when we grow old because God is always at work. He may bless us with a child in our old age or call us to a new task. If we fear change, then we cannot be faithful.

The Christian ideal is not a life of monotony where we seek to keep everything as it is. It is a life of surprise where we welcome holy disruptions on our way to becoming like Christ.

Jan
22

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

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

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

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

Jan
21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan
15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec
31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov
17

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

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

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

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

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

Oct
26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct
19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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