Have you ever said these words before? “I’ve never thought about it like that.” Do you realize that you’ve never, ever said that to yourself? It’s always because someone other than you offered their perspective or experience to you. Suddenly you understood some idea more deeply and with more clarity. It seems that the best learning happens with other people. New discovery. New understanding. New meaning always come within the context of community, including learning about God.
While we often cite individuals as the heroes of discovery, it is rarely one single person’s work. We talk about Benjamin Franklin as if he alone discovered electricity, but scientists named William Gilbert and Thomas Browne were already experimenting and writing about it when Mr. Franklin flew that kite. Think about explorers Marquette and Joliet discovering the ability to transport goods on the Mississippi from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. They did it together. “Finding God” is no different––it’s best done with other people.
In 1988, a review of research was published indicating that social isolation is on par with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise or smoking as a risk factor for illness and early death. It’s safe to say that a lack of social interaction is literally bad for our health. And in a society that is increasingly isolated, it seems like we’re all at risk. Community is written into the very fabric of what it means to be human––maybe this is why God sees it as vitally important too.
Have you ever had doubts about Christianity? Do you ever wonder if it’s true...if Jesus was really Jesus? We often throw these kinds of questions at the people we look up to spiritually. Because their faith gives us faith. But what happens if the person’s faith you are depending on goes down? You go down too. The good news is that Jesus anticipated our doubts and made space for our wrestling. He wants the faith to be our faith.
One of the things religious people are accused of on a regular basis is being judgmental. Have you ever wondered––honestly wondered––if that accusation is warranted? Are they true? Are we so busy sizing everyone else up that we’ve become nothing more than this? Or are we all just misunderstanding what Jesus meant when He said, “Do not judge?” Love seems to say so.
Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.” We laugh at the sobering truth in that statement, but why are so many of us perpetually worried? It’s as if we have a worry muscle that’s as involuntary as our heart beating or our eyes blinking. And stopping it or changing it doesn’t come from a process, just a person.
Sin is perhaps the most loaded word in the Christian worldview. The debate about what it is and what it isn’t has raged on for generations. And over time, many of us have come to think of it as the thing that makes God mad at us and warrants His punishment. But how does that jive with a God who sent his son to the world He so loved? Sin is worse than breaking a rule that God put in place, it’s actually something that breaks us. The good news is this: God is for you.
“Don’t be afraid.” That sounds absurd, doesn’t it? But Jesus said this all the time––it was one of his favorite commands for his followers. Is it even possible though? We all try and want this to be true of us, but life is all kinds of scary. That said, it’s unlikely Jesus would have said it if it weren’t possible. And one day, Jesus would make sure we knew that.
When you hear the word “commandments,” what comes to mind? For most people it’s probably a number: 10. Even if you haven’t been to church in a long time, you remember hearing about The Ten Commandments at an early age. And while they, and the other 600+ commands in the Old Testament are important, seeing the connection to Jesus and the New Testament can prove difficult. Is there any connection at all? What does the Old Testament have to do with us today? The answer may seem complicated, but it’s simpler than you think.
Ding! Another notification comes through on your phone, reminding you of the appointment that starts in fifteen minutes. Helpful? Yes. Harmful? Yes, too. Because for the next fifteen minutes, what are you thinking about? It’s probably not the person or task that’s right in front of you. This plays out on a much larger scale in almost every facet of our lives...and we…are...tired. In the City on a Hill however, tomorrow can wait. Not because we don’t care, but because we know who’s there.