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.
“They’re so spiritual.” “They’re so deep.” Many of us long for words like those to be said of us. We’re hungry for that sort of recognition and appreciation. The trouble is that someone someday is going to out-spiritualize us and steal our glory, leaving us with a hollow and longing feeling inside. In the City on a Hill, though, there’s a deeper reward; a longer lasting reward. It just doesn’t come from the other people in town…
It’s a common assumption that anyone without enemies must have defeated all of them. They proved their value by winning. This assumption is baked into our sports, our movies, and even our churches. In the City on a Hill however, there are no enemies. Not because they’re defeated, but because they’re loved. And when an enemy is loved like a neighbor, it changes them... and you.
Play fair. That’s what we all grew up believing was the cardinal rule of friendship and citizenship. What’s interesting then, is that the play is irrelevant...it’s all about fair. So if they’re nice, you’re nice. If they’re mean, you’re mean. As long as everything is even, everything is excusable. In the City on a Hill however, the rules of friendship and citizenship are a little different. And fair? Not really part of the equation.