Children seem to have an infinite capacity to ask the “why” question. They start early with their questions. “Why do I have to eat my vegetables?” “Why do I have to go to bed?” As children go off to school, the questions keep coming. “Why do I have to get up so early?” “Why do we have to study calculus?” And sooner or later, children will ask the “why” questions about your family’s rules and moral choices. How you answer reveals a lot about how you see the world. How you answer will also shape your child’s understanding of your beliefs. What do you say when they ask why?
I remember a woman in one of my Bible studies in Japan who approached me, puzzled, one day. She said, “I don’t know what to do with the Bible. It contains stories that are so remarkable that they can’t be true. But it’s not written like any of our legends or myths. It reads like a collection of eye-witness accounts and historical records. How am I supposed to read it?” She was actually asking a very profound question. Whether people read the Bible or reject it, they often do so without considering what the Bible says about what kind of book it is. The Bible makes the following five claims about itself.
Over the last couple of weeks, the passages that I’ve preached from 1 Thessalonians have focused on our need for people (See: We’re Better Together). Time invested in fellowship with other Christians is God’s means for our growth, strength and protection. With that fresh in my mind, the blog article sitting in my inbox caught my attention, “Loving the Church but Dreading Sunday Morning.” It talked about the challenge of Christian fellowship for someone who struggles with social anxiety. Apparently, the author’s not alone. One statistic I read said that 18% of the population suffers from some kind of anxiety disorder and more than a third of those receive no treatment. So how do you manage the anxiety that keeps you from the people you need?
If there’s a stereotype about church, it’s of an old creaky building with an organ playing softly while people scurry about with hushed voices. There was a good reason for the stereotype. The church can be a place of meditative prayer and the serene mood creates an atmosphere for this. But that’s not the whole story. This week, I was reading about the first introduction of music to the worship of God in ancient Israel. And it changed some of my preconceptions about God, music and the worship He desires. Let me explain.
More and more people are choosing direct cremation without any kind of ceremony to mark the passing from life to death. It’s like we want to maintain the illusion of invincibility and don’t want anything to ruin the dream. Even when we do have funerals, the goal seems be all about celebration without any recognition that death is our “enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26) and that the passing of our loved one is a painful separation. By failing to mourn, the pain of grief remains unresolved and can lead to deeper issues down the road. A funeral doesn’t bring closure to a mourner’s grief, but it does create what Dr. Wolfelt call a “meaningful beginning” where healing can begin. To do that, he says that funerals should seek to accomplish six things. Let me explain them.
On Sunday, we started a new series in 1 Thessalonians entitled, “Living Life in Light of the End.” I’ll be away camping with my family this week so instead of my regular post, I want to encourage you to watch this video overview of 1 Thessalonians from The Bible Project. I hope it gives you a better feel for the letter. I’ll be back on Sunday for a look at 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6.
I read a doctoral thesis by George Bullard recently called, “The Life Cycle and Stages of Congregational Development,” and it compares the development of a church to various stages of human growth. It was helpful because our tendency is to just think of the church as a static entity but it’s more like a living organism that is either growing or dying. Let me explain the stages in the life-cycle of a church that Bullard presents.
I fear that people’s attitude toward Christianity can sometimes be a little bit like the Raptors victory parade. People can sit on the sidelines and cheer on the team and think they’re part of the game, when they’re not. There are no spectators in the Christian life. There is no all-star team to applaud. In fact, the Bible says that the less prominent service in the kingdom is often the most vital (1 Corinthians 12:22). And everyone’s needed on the court, not in the stands. Let me share some thoughts on serving that stand out in light of Monday’s parade.
I shared last week about some of the lessons I learned at Dr. Gendi’s, “How to Love Your Muslim Neighbour Seminar.” One of the things that really helped was being walked through what the Qur’an teaches about Jesus. While I knew that the Qur’an holds Jesus in high regard, I was not prepared for how much it describes of His life. Most Christians would be surprised to learn all that it says about Him. Even still, it is just as significant what it doesn’t say about Jesus. Let me share with you what I learned.
I’m embarrassed to say that I often need to remind myself that the heart of my faith is loving my neighbour. Today, it’s easier for people to be annoyed by their neighbours, threatened by their neighbours or not even know their neighbours. Part of loving our neighbours involves understanding them. On Saturday, I learned much from Dr. Amal Gendi on how to love the Muslim neighbours that are more and more a part of our community.