Growing up we had a close knit relationship with several of our neighbors. We lived on a cul-de-sac and everyone knew everyone and we watched out for each other. I grew up playing kickball in the street with all the kids who lived nearby and the parents all were friends too. But, even though we were friendly with all our neighbors, didn't mean that everyone didn't have different rules...they did.
Our next door neighbors were nice, and had kids my age, but they had LOTS of rules. To enter their house was to enter a museum (and not a kid friendly one). Shoes had to be removed, the carpet and couch were white and not to be touched by kids and no part of that house was kid friendly. Though I liked those kids, I didn't enjoy going to their house at all and often politely turned down chances to come over and play. I never really felt welcomed, only tolerated.
Another friend's house was very different. I always felt welcomed and loved to go over and play. The mom was so nice and the dad was fun. Their basement was full of toys and the family invited me over to play games or watch movies. I loved going to that house and went as often as I could.
Churches aren't that much different, really. Some churches feel cold and sterile, not like a place where you want to spend time or feel welcomed. Other churches feel homey, like a place you can kick up your feet and have a chat over coffee. The building can play a part in this, but what matters more is the atmosphere of welcome (or lack thereof). People make you feel welcome. People invite you in. People befriend you. People care about you.
I want Six Points to be a welcoming place. I want visitors to come and find they are not just tolerated, but beloved. I want new families to feel accepted. As our community grows and changes, I want our church to be a church that people want to come to...that has a reputation as warm and welcoming. We already do this fairly well, but we can always improve and make an effort to greet the new couple, to introduce ourselves to a new family and help them meet others. Can we make Six Points a welcoming church that people will be excited to return to?
In my Bible 101 Zoom Study we are looking at how to read and understand the Bible and I've told those who are a part that reading the Bible for understanding requires work; and in truth most people don't want to do that work. Most people, if they read the Bible on their own, kind of skim it looking for tidbits that they like and pulling those out as verses that encourage them or make them feel good. While I understand the desire to find parts of the Bible that you enjoy, we can't just ignore the parts that we don't like or that are hard if we want to be good students of the word.
The truth is that the Bible is an ancient document that has been translated into our language and contains many rites, rituals, symbols, poetry and cultural references that make it very hard to understand at times. A true student of the Bible is willing to do the work to find clarity and ultimately will have a better understanding of who God is and what the scriptures really say.
And you shouldn't feel bad if you have trouble understanding the Bible. One little referenced comment from the Apostle Peter about the Apostle Paul is from 2 Peter 3 where Peter says this about Paul's writings (which make up most of the New Testament) "His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do other scriptures, to their own destruction."
So even Peter says that parts of scripture are hard to understand. If Peter, who literally walked with Jesus and who personally knew Paul, has trouble at times understanding the meaning of what is written; why wouldn't you. But I am convinced that it is worth the work to try and learn and know the scriptures because in them we find the words of life and hope that we need. The Bible is where we find the story of God and his love for us. The Bible is where we meet Jesus and see his great wisdom, mercy and sacrifice. The Bible is worth the work because it is where we find that we are beloved children who have been given the great gift of grace. It's work, but it's worth the work!
So let's study, let's dig deep, let's do the work together of knowing the word of God so that we can better know God.
Our home is a bit older (built in the 70's) and has a few quirks, including one particular pipe that will freeze if the temps stay below -10 for a few days. My wife was very upset about this and wanted to do a big insulation project to fix it; but I told her that the fix was a lot easier than that; we just drip the sinks. Somehow just having a tiny amount of water going through the line keeps the pipes from freezing and allows us to avoid damage or the dread of no hot water on a cold day. The key is movement, as long as that water is moving it won't freeze.
Movement matters in faith too. Looking back on my life of faith, there have been times when my faith grew a lot in a short time; and other times where it seems it was almost stagnant...but no matter what, I've worked to keep moving forward, even if it was only a step at a time.
If we stop moving, it's easy to become complacent and allow apathy to set in and eventually we find ourselves stuck (or frozen) in place.
Philippians 3:13-15 says "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do; Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal"
So don't get stuck, keep on moving toward Christ.