Resurrected Life Brings Living Hope

Sermon from John 20:19-31

The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything for us. He is making us new from the inside out, and, in the words of 1 Peter, he have given us “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3).

People often wonder why Christians usually meet to worship on Sunday, the first day of the week. I’ve heard it explained that it is because the resurrected Christ first appeared to his disciples on the first day of the week (John 20:19), and many other resurrection sightings took place on that day. As Christians, we choose this day to gather as a celebration of new beginnings and new life. Every Sunday is the possibility of a new start, a new resurrection that can happen in our lives.

So what is it that is being made new for Christians? How is the resurrection made real in us? Let’s look at how it happened for the disciples.

First, the resurrection is an opportunity for us to say goodbye to insecurity and fear in our lives. In John 20, the disciples are hiding behind locked doors in fear, and Jesus walks straight past those locked doors to bring incredible peace to them. I feel like this has a direct application to our current context. We are stuck in our homes behind our doors because of quarantine due to the coronavirus, out of fear of spreading the illness. Stay at home right now is an appropriate action, but I just want to acknowledge that Jesus can bring his peace straight through those locked doors.

Metaphorically, what fears and insecurities are keeping you behind locked doors? Allow the resurrection of Christ to bring fresh hope and new life to those areas of your life.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

John 20:19

Second, he also commissions them to go out with apostolic authority. Although we cannot physically go out because of our stay-at-home orders, the Gospel is not chained behind locked doors. We have technology that can still allow us to communicate, and we can use all of those media to spread the truth of Christ.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

John 20:21

Third, as he sends them, he also empowers them with his Holy Spirit, and he gives them the responsibility of being the very means of God’s grace and forgiveness in the lives of others.

He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

John 20:22-23

We are ambassadors of his ministry of reconciliation. Maybe this current context can give you the opportunity to think about relationships you have where there are problems that need to be resolved. Is there anyone that you can extend grace and forgiveness to right now?

As the Scripture passage continues, we learn that poor Thomas was the only disciple who wasn’t there at that time, and so he missed the spectacular encounter that the others had with Jesus. I call him “poor Thomas,” because I think he has gotten a bad reputation from this story as “Doubting Thomas.” Yes, Thomas did doubt at first, but who wouldn’t when presented with such an outrageous tale as this? Later, when he does personally encounter the risen Christ, he is one of the first people ever recorded as calling Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” What a marvelous response to the truth of the resurrection! I think a better name for him would be “Worshiping Thomas.”

If you find yourself struggling with doubt like Thomas, please know that God wants to directly address those doubts the same way he did with Thomas. He wants to speak his peace into your heart, to bring new life and confidence to your insecurities, and he wants to commission you to become a means of his grace in this world. He wants to use this trial to test the genuineness of your faith (1 Peter 1:6-7).

John goes on to say:

These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:31

Jesus wants each of us to claim the new life that he offers through his resurrection. He offers us the fullness of his resurrected life.

Into the Father’s Hands

A Palm Sunday Sermon from Luke 23

I found myself emotional as I was watching the online service led by our worship team on the video screen. I’ve been involved in corporate worship for 25 years, and now because of the Covid-19 quarantine, it has been weeks and weeks since we have been able to meet as a corporate body and worship together. I realized the word for what I’m experiencing is grief.

Grief hits us all in different ways at different times, but it always comes in stages. I can see now how I’m going through them all in regards to my grief over the loss of the church body in my own experience right now: anger, bargaining, denial. And now we must come to acceptance, because the reality is that things are probably still going to get worse before they get better.

And so this Gospel passage finds even more significant application on this Palm Sunday as we face these unprecedented times. As Jesus is hanging on the cross dying, he says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). He is surrendering himself totally to the will of the Father. He knows that the will of the Father is his own death, as an act of atonement for the world, a way of expressing God’s love.

This statement from Jesus could be seen as his own acceptance stage of grief. We had previously seen him grieving in the Garden of Gethsemane, truly agonizing over the ordeal he knew was to come. Yet there, on the cross, he comes to acceptance: “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

As we consider what Jesus went through, we see that he not only experienced the physical suffering that any person who died by crucifixion would. But Jesus also uniquely bore the spiritual suffering of the punishment for all the sins of the world. And yet he was the only person ever to die innocent. All those who witnessed his arrest, torture, and death could see it (Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22, 47). This is what makes him the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world – the Lamb of God, whose sacrifice would reconcile the world back to himself.

Jesus’ death was the will of the Father, and it was the most difficult will anyone would ever have to bear. The good news for us now is that Jesus bore it on our behalf, and so now we don’t have to.

Jesus bore the most difficult will of the Father, and yet in the same way, the Father calls us to bear great difficulties – corporately and personally. We must follow Jesus’ example and surrender ourselves into the loving and trustworthy hands of the Father.

Take a moment to consider whose hands you are entrusting yourself to. Are we placing our trust in the hands of government officials who are making decisions about how we are to weather this crisis? Are we placing our trust in the hands of medical professionals, whose skill and sacrifice are crucial to our survival? Are we placing our trust in the hands of financial planners and banks who can help us weather the financial crisis? We are always entrusting ourselves to other people, and that trust is often well founded – we SHOULD be trusting people who know how to help us get through.

However, our ultimate trust should be in the good hands of God the Father. There is NO ONE more trustworthy and able to control our outcomes.

Like Jesus did, we should commit our spirits, our life, our breath to God the Father. It’s striking that in the current circumstance, the Covid-19 virus attacks our breath – it is the respiratory system that often fails under this disease. Will you entrust your very breath to the Father, even when it is under targeted attack?

The thief on the cross next to Jesus models this very thing to us. Facing his imminent death, he entrusts himself to Jesus by begging him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus shows him favor, love, and kindness, proving that his trust was well-founded.

As we face our own dangerous and uncertain times, let’s commit our own spirits to God the Father in the way Jesus did.

Eyes Healed, See the Light

Sermon from John 9

Corrie Ten Boom was a heroic woman who lived during the time of the Holocaust. She would hide Jewish children in her home, in a place that is known as “The Hiding Place.” After the war was over, she would travel around speaking about her experience, and she used to bring an old tapestry to show her audience. She would hold up the backside, showing lots of knots and loose threads – it looked like a tangled mess. However, when she turned it around, the tapestry revealed that those threads were all working to together to make a beautiful golden crown. She used this as an illustration, saying that often the things we see in our lives and in the world around us feel like a mess, but from God’s perspective, he sees glory. She encouraged her listeners to try to see things from God’s perspective, and this Scripture passage gives us the same message.

In this Scripture passage, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. Continuing the illustration above, this is a single thread, that many people couldn’t understand how this difficult situation was contributing to a good big picture. People looked at this man, and they said that the man’s lifelong blindness must be the result of sin. However, when they asked Jesus about it, he explained God’s perspective.

Jesus said that the blindness was not an evil or a problem or a reflection of sin, but rather it was an opportunity for something glorious.

In today’s circumstances with illness, fear, and isolation, it’s easy for us to focus on the negative, assuming that God is punishing us or that he has lost control. However, if we open our eyes and minds to consider what God might be doing during this time, he is more likely using this challenging time as an opportunity to reveal his glory.

Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (v. 5). In the midst of darkness and challenge, a light is shining, and that light is Jesus.

During this time when we are unable to go to church to meet with God and his people, we have an excellent opportunity to step back and recognize that church is not the only place that Jesus can be found! If we have eyes to see, we can recognize that wherever we are is where God can be found. Our homes are to be the dwelling place of God.

One thing to think about regarding this Scripture passage is that many people suffer from blindness. Blindness is not just a physical affliction, but also a spiritual one. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were blinded by their legalism, their skepticism, and their pride.

Their blindness prevented them from accepting Jesus’ healing of this man, because he had done it on the Sabbath, and they focused on his breaking of that rule rather than on the amazing miracle Jesus did and what it meant for who he was (v.16).

Does our own blindness keep us focused on the rules and our own intellects and busyness, and prevent us from seeing what God is doing? He desires for us to focus on a relationship with him rather than on the way we think things are supposed to be.

The Pharisees also expressed their skepticism about what Jesus even did. They doubted the the man actually had been born blind, and so they questioned the man’s parents (v. 18). The parents gave in to their fear of the religious leaders, and they let it prevent them from being courageous in faith, even though they had seen the amazing miracle Jesus did for their son.

Like them, we have allowed our fears, doubts, and skepticism to rule our hearts. In today’s world, we have a common enemy – the coronavirus – and we have an opportunity to unify together in calling on the Lord. Now is not the time to be giving in to doubt and unbelief, but rather to be grabbing hold of our faith and living out the Gospel of Jesus.

The man who had been healed from blindness can be our example, because he stood up in courage and testified to what Jesus did for him (v. 24-34). Because of his testimony, the Pharisees cast him out of the synagogue, which many Jews would have considered to be devastating. However, the man went straight to Jesus, where he found faith, affirmation, and acceptance.

In the same way, the Lord is faithful to us, to always shine his light in the darkness in our lives, and to turn difficult and challenging events in our lives, and use them for good. I encourage you during this dark and difficult time to take a pen and some paper and actually write down all the blessings God is giving you during this time, and the ways he has blessed you in the past.

As you open up your eyes to see what God has done and what he is doing, he will continue to open your eyes to see how he is the eternal and unchanging Light of the World.

Spiritual Warfare – Sending Satan on His Way

Sermon on spiritual warfare from Matthew 4:1-11

In today’s time of division, we often find ourselves at odds with other people – adversaries with flesh and blood. But the apostle Paul reminds us that our real enemy is spiritual, against Satan and his schemes (Ephesians 6:12). Our primary battle is a spiritual warfare. So what are the devil’s schemes and how can we fight them?

Satan’s schemes are very predictable – he has been using them for a very long time. His main tactics are doubt and distortion. We can see this even from the very beginning, when he used these tactics against Eve. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) –The enemy was casting doubt on what God said, and distorting the truth of what God said. And we see immediately that his tactic was successful, because then Eve also distorted what God said, by adding to God’s rule of not eating, saying that they weren’t allowed to touch the fruit either.

As soon as Satan gets us to doubt what God said or to believe a distorted version of what God said, we fall.

The wonderful thing about Jesus is that when we often fall, Jesus never fell for it. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was “tempted as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). So we can look at how Jesus defeated these tactics in order for us to learn how we can deal with them ourselves.

There are three areas in which Jesus was tempted, and we face them In our spiritual warfare, too.

1. Satan tempts us to doubt and distort who we are.

Satan kept using the phrase, “If you are the Son of God…” trying to sow doubt in Jesus’ mind about who he is (Matthew 4:3 and 6). He does the same thing with us. Scripture tells us that those who believe in Jesus are called children of God (Romans 8:16), but we often doubt our identity in Christ in times of vulnerability and weakness. Satan takes advantage of those weakened times to make us doubt and distort who we already are!

2. Satan tempts us to doubt and distort what we are called to do.

Satan challenged Jesus to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple in what basically amounted to an act of suicide, in order to test whether angels would protect him (4:5-6). The truth is that Jesus actually did come to earth to die, but not this way! It’s a gross distortion of what Jesus was called to do. In the same way, God calls us to make bold choices and do great things for his kingdom, but Satan tempts us to give up, to change course, to doubt God’s calling, to kill our dreams and purposes.

3. Satan tempts us to doubt and distort what we have been given.

Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offered to give them to Jesus if Jesus would sell him his soul (4:8-9). But Jesus already possessed not only all the kingdoms of earth, but also the kingdom of heaven! How many of us would throw away the mission of God in our lives because we would rather have the trinkets of this world than the keys to the kingdom of heaven!

Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual enemy in this world. James gives us the key to victory: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8).

Spiritual warfare in a nutshell is simple. All you have to do is repeatedly say no to Satan. He can’t take our refusal and must flee. He cannot keep God’s people down when they know who they are, they know what they are called to do, and they know the incredible inheritance they have already been given.

Read more of The Rev. Charlie Holt’s teachings on Spiritual Warfare in his book The Spirit-Filled Life: All the Fullness of God.

Learn more about the Holy Spirit!

The Most Forgiven People in the World

And the most forgiving...

In the first session of the Crucified Life I say, “Christians are the most forgiven people in the world, and therefore Christians should be the most forgiving people in the world.” I recently had a parishioner ask me if I would elaborate on that statement.

Christians believe that Jesus has forgiven all of our sins, past, present, and future on the Cross. He has paid the price in full for our entire debt and burden.

That is not to say that other people in this world who are not yet Christians do not have that same grace available from Jesus’ work on the Cross. They do. As we say in our Eucharistic prayer, Jesus’ offering of himself on the cross was “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.”  However non-Christians either do not understand the offering of Jesus, do not know about it, or do not believe it necessary or applicable to them. We have our work cut out for us. For, that same grace and forgiveness is available to everyone in this sinful and fallen world, and everyone desperately needs it. And so do we.

As Christian believers, we have seen the depth of our need and called out for grace to the living God. Yet, if a person on one hand trusts in the words of Jesus, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”, then on teh other hand harbors unforgiveness in the heart, we reveal a profound spiritual disconnect. To be forgiven and not forgiving betrays a character that has not truly internalized or comprehended the magnitude of God’s gift. Forgiving others is costly. Forgiving us was costly.

Christians are the most forgiven people on the planet. Therefore, we should be the most forgiving people on the planet. As we make the grace in which we stand our character, God reconciles the world to himself through our proclamation and character witness to the Cross. As we forgive those who trespass against us, we loose on earth those bound under the burden of guilt, shame, and law.

No other religion or belief system in the world offers absolute unearned forgiveness and grace for any and all who believe. The price is paid in full by God for us.

As Jesus taught, “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Christian Life Trilogy (Houston, TX: Bible Study Media, Inc., 2014)

The Christian Life Trilogy is a formation tool for the church and individual. At the heart of the Christian faith stands the Cross, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus Christ. These three redemptive acts of Jesus shape the character of Christian formation for the church and the individual follower of Jesus.

The Christian Life Trilogy is a 20-week Bible study curriculum that is divided into 3 studies: 

Each study is designed to bring transformational change through in-depth study of what the Apostle Paul calls the “things of first importance.” “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

Download Free Previews and Samples Download Now

The Crucified Life focuses on the Last Seven Words of Christ on the Cross, and it is intended for use during the season of Lent. The Resurrected Life is intended to begin at Easter and walk us through all the areas in which Christ brings us newness. The Spirit-Filled Life is intended for use around Pentecost, and it instructs believers in the power that can be found through life in the Holy Spirit.

In addition to the Christian Life Trilogy leadership materials, The campaign kit will include a sample study guide, a daily devotional book, and a teaching DVD for each of the three parts of the Christian Life Trilogy. Order your Christian Life Trilogy Campaign kit today!

Campaign Kit includes:

  • 1 Campaign Training DVD
  • 1 Campaign Manual
  • 1 Crucified Life Devotional Book (Paperback)
  • 1 Crucified Life Small Group DVD
  • 1 Crucified Life Small Group Study Guide
  • 1 Resurrected Life Devotional Book (Paperback)
  • 1 Resurrected Life Small Group DVD
  • 1 Resurrected Life Small Group Study Guide
  • 1 Spirit-Filled Life Devotional Book (Paperback)
  • 1 Spirit-Filled Life DVD
  • 1 Spirit Filled Life Small Group Study Guide

Christian Life Trilogy Campaign Kit

On sale now for a limited time! Click here to purchase your Campaign Kit for only $99! Start now to plan your campaign for Lent 2018!

Training Materials:

The Campaign Manual and DVD provide resources and training as to how to maximize the engagement of your congregation by doing the Christian Life Trilogy as a church-wide campaign. Each of the three titles can stand alone. Many congregations use the Crucified and Resurrected Life for Lent and Easter, and then kick off the Spirit-Filled Life in the Fall season.

The Training Videos provide teaching for the senior pastor and campaign leadership teams, as well as the small group hosts.


SESSION 1: FOCUS ON THINGS OF FIRST IMPORTANCE

SESSION 2:  EXPONENTIAL THINKING

SESSION 3: BUILDING A TEAM

SESSION 4:  PLAN YOUR CAMPAIGN

SESSION 5:  HOW TO RECRUIT HOSTS

SESSION 6:  HOST TRAINING SESSION

SESSION 7:  THE VALUE OF A CHURCH-WIDE CAMPAIGN

Under Guard for Christ and By Christ

In the book of Philippians, both Paul and the Philippians were experiencing difficult situations of persecution in their lives due to their commitment to the Gospel. Paul was imprisoned for the Gospel by the imperial guard in Rome. From an earthly perspective, this could become the occasion of tremendous stress, worry, and despair. Paul used the example of his own sufferings to help the Philippians see a different way of looking at the trials of life.

First, Paul sees the incredible fruit that is being brought forth by his imprisonment (1:12-18). The entire guard is hearing Christ proclaimed; the faithful are being encouraged to boldness because of Paul’s witness; and Paul’s rivals are seeing an opportunity to gain a place in the pulpit for their own selfish gain. Yet, in all of these things Paul rejoices because “Christ is proclaimed” (1:18).

Secondly, Paul has a different way of looking at the sufferings of this life because of the glorious resurrection life to come (1:19-26). In a “to be or not to be” reflection, Paul reveals that whether he lives or dies, he knows that he is blessed in Jesus Christ. He knows that if he dies, it will result in being with Christ. His continued life means more fruitful labor for the church. So either way Paul is filled with joy. Live or die, he simply can’t lose!

In chapter 4:6-9, Paul will encourage the Philippians to lay aside their own anxiety in their struggles by turning their worries over to God in prayer with thanksgiving and by setting their mind on that which is glorious and good. If they will give God their troubles in prayer, God will protect their hearts from anxiety.

Even though Paul is under guard of Rome, his heart and mind are guarded by the peace of God, so he can rejoice in the LORD. The same Peace of God will guard the members of the Philippian Church as they focus their attention away from their trials and onto the Lord and the blessings of their lives:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7

As citizens in a fallen world, you are guarded in persecution because of the Gospel. As citizens of heaven, you are guarded for eternal life in the unfathomable peace of God.

Prayer: Almighty God, today I am concerned about many things, yet you are in control of all of them. You are sovereign. Help me LORD that I may rest under divine guard and protection with my heart and mind trusting you for the outworking of your plan for my life. Amen.

This post originally appeared on The Bible Challenge.

The Adoption Process

An Excerpt from The Spirit-Filled Life Daily Devotional

Parents of foster or adoptive children will tell you this again and again: Adoption is a process.

The first phase is simply the decision to adopt. Unlike the natural birth process, adoption involves a clear, conscious choice on the part of the parents to bring a new child into their lives. Once a child is identified and chosen, the parents are in for an arduous and challenging gauntlet of paperwork, interviews, research, travel, and financial and emotional expense. What gives adoptive parents the endurance to get through this phase is the sheer love they have for the child and the determination to secure that child against all odds and over any barriers.

We must never forget that the Lord has done the same for us! He knew us before we knew Him:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. – Ephesians 1:3-6

The process of our adoption into the family of God began long ago—before the foundations of the world were laid. The Father has loved you and me from before time and forever. Understanding God’s absolute determination to secure us as His children before we were even born can bring a great sense of self-worth and value.

Once a little girl was playing on the playground with other children. When they began teasing her about being adopted, she responded, “My parents chose me; your parents got stuck with you!” Indeed. You are special because God chose you as His child. He called you to Himself, adopted you, and you are His.

Once a child is brought into a family, there is often a honeymoon phase during which the child and parents enthusiastically embrace their new relationship. Parents receive the adoption papers that confirm the child belongs to them with all of the appropriate legal seals. There is a great celebration when the child is brought home. The child is a full member of the family now. That moment of realization can be euphoric! It also can bring some fear and trepidation as a new reality is born.

There are similarities to our adoption by the Lord:

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:13-14

You may remember the day when you first heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. How did you receive the news of your adoption into the family of God?

You have the full rights of inheritance as adopted children of God. Your adoption papers are signed and sealed! Your inheritance of eternal life is secure. The guarantee is the abiding Holy Spirit of God.

The challenge of your adoption process now becomes living into that new reality. The Father has called you into His family, yet the challenge to know and trust His love is real. Do you ever struggle with believing that God truly loves you? What is behind that struggle? The Father would have you know His abiding love; you are chosen and dearly loved!

Excerpted from The Spirit-Filled Life: All the Fullness of God, p. 66-71.

I am the Resurrection and the Life

The stage is set for a climactic revelation of Jesus’ glory through the resurrection of a dead man. The disciples are very much aware that a return trip to Judea could result in Jesus’ persecution and death by stoning. Jesus persists in His determination to return to Bethany in Judea because “Lazarus has died.” Jesus hints at some great sign He will perform “that you may believe.” Thomas has his doubts as he girds up to go and die with Lazarus (and Jesus).

The miraculous raising of Lazarus from being dead three days becomes not only a demonstration of Jesus’ divinity but also of His humanity. “Jesus wept” (11:35), is both the shortest verse in the Bible and perhaps the most profoundly compassionate. When He sees Martha and Mary, and Lazarus’ friends and family all weeping, Jesus is described as being “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” Not only is Jesus acquainted with human sorrows and grief, He shares in them.

Jesus also is the one who can reverse human suffering and sorrow. One day, He promises to wipe away every tear from our eyes. In a display of the “glory of God” (11:40), Jesus calls a three-day-dead Lazarus to “come out!” (11:43)

Here, Jesus utters the fifth of His seven great “I am” statements.

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (11:25-26)

Jesus is God in the flesh; He is the great “I am.” Jesus wept.

He holds the power of life and death in His sovereign hands. He is the bread of life, the only one who deeply satisfies our hungers. He is the light of life who disperses falsehood and darkness. He is the source of living water who heals our hurts and quenches our deepest thirsts. He is the only gate which leads to eternal life. For, He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.

Do you believe this?

Martha’s response was, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

What is your response? Do you believe this? Today in prayer, offer your “Yes Lord; I believe” to the Lord and Savior of the World.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life. Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.


This post originally appeared on The Bible Challenge here.
Featured image: The Raising of Lazarus by Jean Jouvenet via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jean-Baptiste_Jouvenet_-_The_Raising_of_Lazarus_-_WGA12033.jpg