Answering Big Questions in Life

Why is there suffering?  Is Jesus God or God Jesus? How do you know that God loves everyone?

These honest questions are not simple.  But from the Christian community, the Zacharias Trust and Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics come some indications on how to think these through.  You can see short videos tackling those topics and others on Vimeo.

e.g. How do we know that God loves everyone?  (one minute vid)


Why is there natural suffering?  What about earthquakes?  Amy Orr-Ewing

e.g. Michael Ramsden – one of their dynamic communicators.  One of the most interesting parts about this is that the listeners are given questions, cards and asked to debate their answers in groups.  Does this happen in Church?  Do Christians learn to think about life and the universe, within their faith?

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Chapter and Verse: counter-cultural every day life


Photo by goMainstream via IM free – Creative Commons Licence

The Message version of Romans 12:1-2 puts it well 

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.

Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.

Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

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be who you were made to be

This morning, I have a sense that when followers of Jesus do what we are gifted to do ‘as unto the Lord’, no matter how we feel – that God says “You honour me” and it is pleasing to him. Simple worship.

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Thought for the day – from a wee shap in Glasgow

Herewith, the lesson o’ the day from ma pal, Keith, who works in a shap in Glasgow (and writes in Doric):

17991891_10155010402347787_6318529858797792955_n.jpgWe hae a regular customer that comes intae oor wurk practically a’day, wha’s name’s Andy.

Andy is mair kent as th’ “is everybody happy?” guy, as that is whit he shouts a’time he comes intae th’ shop an’ practically aw th’ way aroun’ it while he dus his shoppin’. Andy is quite an individual – he’s like Marmite – ye either like him or ye dinnae. Fowks tend tae judge him as he’s quite unique in his appearance, but only judge him frae th’ view ahin’ th’ bars o’ their ain cell. Ah‘ve got a lot o’ time fur him as he’s a pleasant soul.

Sae Andy likes tae spend his mornin’s doon th’ road a bit frae ma wurk at Costa Coffee enjoyin’ shoutin” “is everybody happy?” at th’ passers by wi’ a coffee in his hon, tae kind responses, nasty responses or nae response at aw, dependin’ oan wha’s passin’ by.

Sae when’er he eventually comes in fur his shoppin’ or his lottery we ayways hae a bit o’ an interaction which usually gaes tongue in cheek “did ye buy me a coffee th’day?..- naw? Ya selfish bam ye”.

Andy sed tae me th’ ither day “ye’ll be waitin’ forever fur a coffee fae me big man!”, followed by a smile an’ his endearin’ laughter. Tae which, if Ah’m honest, Ah thoucht wis actually true, e’en though oor banter wis just tongue in cheek.

Sae whit a shock Ah got when Andy comes in th’ day an’ efter years o’ ribbin’ him fur a coffee he smiles an’ hons me a cup o’ hot cappuccino.

If Andy wis tae pass awa th’morrah maist fowks wis min’ him as th’ “is everybody happy?” guy – how wull YOU be remembered?…

Daddy telt me twa hings th’day – 1: Ah wis wrang tae judge Andy (which Ah apologised fur) & 2: If ye spend years chippin’ awa at a massive boulder eventually it wull crack. 😉

Thenk ye Faither fur ma gift an’ fur valuable lessons learned. 😊


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Beginning Asset-based community Development

(from article Robert King “Death and Resurrection of an Urban Church, retrieved 15 April 2017)

Three steps in the process

1. Listen

Learn about your community by paying attention to its people and environment, including individuals; associations and other community groups; institutions such as clinics, schools and grocery stores; local economics; physical characteristics such as highways and valleys; and natural areas such as parks and woodlands.

2. Connect the dots

See relationships between ideas, resources and opportunities that others have not seen. Connecting the dots requires practice and collaboration; no one person can see the whole network.

3. Take action

Asset-based processes engage the gifts of people who are motivated to act. Meetings should end with a clear plan about who will take what steps.

For a practical guide to an asset-based approach to ministry, read “Discovering the Other” by Cameron Harder.


Questions to consider

Who do you serve? With whom do you partner? What difference does framing the relationship make in the outcomes achieved?


The Rev. Mike Mather asks people, “What three things do you do well enough that you could teach others how to do it?” How does a question like that shift the conversation?
Is anyone assigned to listen to your congregation and community? If so, do those listeners compare notes and connect what they are learning?
Mather realized that his church’s food pantry might be contributing to obesity and diabetes. Do your ministries produce unintended consequences? How do you envision the impact of your projects? How do you assess their impact?

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Growing Community

Have you ever heard church people talking about “reaching out into the community” – and noticed that this phrasing makes it sound like church is over here and community is over there – a completely different entity.  And then found yourself wondering: “surely church is part of the community”?

One church that was willing to die to a view of itself as the noble servant of the community, as the giver to the needy is Broadway United Methodist church in Indianapolis, led by Pastor Mike Mather.  Despite pouring church resources into traditional givings to community such as foodbank, youth summer activities, girl guides, after school tutoring etc in the church, he still had to bury 9 young men killed violently in the area around the church.  After a change of approach, he sought instead to be a friend and to find and grow community assets.

The turnaround came when a parishioner questioned him on the implications from his own sermon!  He had preached on “And in the last days it will be,” God says, “that I will pour out my Spirit on all people, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18 NET)  

“If we believe that God’s spirit is flowing down on all people, old and young, women and men — and on the poor,” the woman continued, “why don’t we treat people like that’s true?”  She pointed out that instead of being asked about their gifts, people had to fill out a Government form to prove they were really poor, in order to get food from the foodbank.

Pastor Mike employed a listener to literally hang around the neighbourhood and hear the potential in people. From that, they connected people of similar interests via simple shared meals, and collaborations, joint ventures and friendships were formed.  The church became a place to connect, and encourages local arts as a meeting place for a metropolitan youth orchestra, a pottery studio, gamers, a dance studio, and a commercial kitchen licence where local people make catering startups.  Here’s Pastor Mike in person:

(Video by Jack Pearpoint of Inclusion Press)


John McKnight

Supporting and inspiring this change-around is the research and thinking by John McKnight, an experienced community organizer and emeritus professor of education and social policy and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University.  He doesn’t advocate ignoring people’s needs and problems, but rather to look first for solutions within the community itself. Later, he said, institutions and services can help.

As he points out: “John 15:15 tells us that, at the Last Supper, Jesus said to the disciples, ‘I no longer call you servants. … I call you friends.’ So the final way of defining what Christianity is based on is friendship, not service

McKnight defines charity as “a one-way compensatory activity that never changes anything.”  Driven by wanting to demonstrate that people could have problems and assets, he co-wrote a book: “we got a grant and we collected about 3,000 stories of what people had done with the resources they have, from cities all across North America, in lower-income neighborhoods.  That’s what “Building Communities From the Inside Out” is.”

Broadway United Methodist Church has pursued this new model of friendly neighbour for 10 years, seeing its congregation growing from around 75 to 200.  Its website opens up with the statement: “Broadway seeks, welcomes and values all people”.  Its core values include:

We see abundance – We believe everybody is a child of God with gifts to offer the world. But society often overlooks these gifts, seeing only labels and categories, needs, and stereotypes.

We “have conversations and have faith” – We believe that the Spirit of God is alive in all people. We welcome persons of all age, race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation. We seek to acknowledge and honor this spirit in all people by having conversations and listening for opportunities to connect and invest in the passions, interests, and gifts they have to share with the world.

Amongst many other interesting parts of the website comes the news that Pastor Mike is currently writing a book on the church’s experiences….

Further reading – 

the original article by Robert King

(the workbook) “Building Communities from inside out: a Path towards finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets” by John Kretzmann and John McKnight (it’s not cheap but has 376 pages of analysis and case studies)

(online article)

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Tough times

A church honest enough to talk about tough times, “the wall”, the dark night of the soul, a crisis of faith, brokenness, wilderness, desolation, pain, grief… themes present throughout the Bible but not preached on, often.

Here is one church, talking real, with a row of people each telling their own story of when God felt absent or cruel or silent – how they got through that and what was on the other side.  This is depth, honesty.

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