Below are some long answers to some short to real questions:
Is the Bible True?
We say that the Bible is vital to our faith and life, but what exactly is the Bible? Here are four ways to view it:
The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books, thirty-nine in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) and twenty-seven in the New Testament. These books were written over a one-thousand-year period in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke), and Greek.
The books are of different lengths and different literary styles. In the Hebrew Bible we find legends, histories, liturgies for community worship, songs, proverbs, sermons, even a poetic drama (Job). In the New Testament are Gospels, a history, many letters, and an apocalypse (Revelation). Yet through it all the Bible is the story of the one God, who stands in a covenant relationship with the people of God.
In early times and over many generations, the sixty-six books were thoughtfully used by faithful people. In the process their merits were weighed, and the community of believers finally gave them special authority. Tested by faith, proven by experience, these books have become sacred; they’ve become our rule for faith and practice.
In Israel the Book of Deuteronomy was adopted as the Word of God about 621 B.C. The Torah, or Law (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), assumed authority around 400 B.C.; the Prophets about 200 B.C.; and the Writings about 100 B.C. After a struggle the Christians determined that the Hebrew Bible was Scripture for them as well. The New Testament as we know it was formed and adopted by church councils between A.D. 200 and A.D. 400.
We say that God speaks to us through the Bible, that it’s God’s Word. This authority derives from three sources:
- We hold that the writers of the Bible were inspired, that they were filled with God’s Spirit as they wrote the truth to the best of their knowledge.
- We hold that God was at work in the process of canonization, during which only the most faithful and useful books were adopted as Scripture.
- We hold that the Holy Spirit works today in our thoughtful study of the Scriptures, especially as we study them together, seeking to relate the old words to life’s present realities.
The Bible’s authority is, therefore, nothing magical. For example, we do not open the text at random to discover God’s will. The authority of Scripture derives from the movement of God’s Spirit in times past and in our reading of it today.
How do I find Purpose?
We believe you find purpose by using your gifts to make the world a better place.
Every child of God is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, specially gifted to play a unique and valued role in the body of Christ. No one is without gift or purpose.
Spiritual gifts are not our talents or skills. They are the grace of God at work within us, empowering us to match our deep passions with the world’s deep need. The gifts are given to individuals, but they are given to build and strengthen community and to meet the needs of those around us.
Begin the journey. Discover your gifts. Talk about your gifts with others. Strive together to understand your gifts and how you can use them to serve God, neighbor, and world. You have been gifted. You have been given a purpose.
What do Christians Believe?
Who God is:
When we say the Apostles’ Creed, we join with millions of Christians through the ages in an understanding of God as a Trinity—three persons in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God, who is one, is revealed in three distinct persons. “God in three persons, blessed Trinity” is one way of speaking about the several ways we experience God.
We also try to find adjectives that describe the divine nature: God is transcendent (over and beyond all that is), yet at the same time immanent (present in everything). God is omnipresent (everywhere at once), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omniscient (all-knowing). God is absolute, infinite, righteous, just, loving, merciful…and more. Because we cannot speak literally about God, we use metaphors: God is a Shepherd, a Bridegroom, a Judge. God is Love or Light or Truth.
What God Does:
We cannot describe God with certainty. But we can put into words what God does and how we experience God’s action in our lives. God works in at least these seven ways:
- God creates. In the beginning God created the universe, and the Creation is ongoing. From the whirling galaxies, to subatomic particles, to the unfathomable wonders of our own minds and bodies—we marvel at God’s creative wisdom.
- God sustains. God continues to be active in creation, holding all in “the everlasting arms.” In particular, we affirm that God is involved in our human history—past, present, and future.
- God loves. God loves all creation. In particular, God loves humankind, created in the divine image. This love is like that of a parent. We’ve followed Jesus in speaking of God as “our Father,” while at times it seems that God nurtures us in a motherly way as well.
- God suffers. Since God is present in creation, God is hurt when any aspect of creation is hurt. God especially suffers when people are injured. In all violence, abuse, injustice, prejudice, hunger, poverty, or illness, the living God is suffering in our midst.
- God judges. All human behavior is measured by God’s righteous standards—not only the behavior itself but also the motive or the intent. The Lord of life knows our sin—and judges it.
- God redeems. Out of infinite love for each of us, God forgives our own self-destruction and renews us within. God is reconciling the individuals, groups, races, and nations that have been rent apart. God is redeeming all creation.
- God reigns. God is the Lord of all creation and of all history. Though it may oftentimes seem that the “principalities and powers” of evil have the stronger hand, we affirm God’s present and future reign.
Should I go to Church?
If a Christian is simply someone who assents to belief in the Triune God, then the answer is no. If a Christian is someone who is kind, caring, and keeps the basic ethical teachings of loving God (without specific practices) and loves one’s neighbor, then the answer could be no, one does not have to go to church.
However, if a Christian is someone who has been baptized into the church and professed the faith of the church, then the answer is yes.
At baptism or in confirmation/profession of faith, we make very important promises. We renounce evil, the spiritual forces of wickedness, and repent of our sin. We declare that we accept the freedom God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression. Then we declare we trust in Christ for salvation and promise to serve him in unity with his church.
In those promises we accept God’s acceptance of us within the beloved community, we promise to serve WITH THE CHURCH, and the church welcomes us as members of Christ’s royal priesthood.
John Wesley taught and practiced accountable discipleship. He knew what we deep down know today–we can’t keep on the path with Christ without the help and support of other Christians. Without hearing the Word read and preached, without gathering with other Christians around the table to share and feast upon Christ who is host and sacrifice for us, and without becoming part of the fire of the Spirit, we are like embers of a fire separated from the community of grace. We grow cold and the fire and flame of love grow cold and we die spiritually. We may still believe, but we stand outside the covenant in our practice.
However, it is important to add God does not let us go or give up on us. What God promises, God does not revoke. We are still marked as Christ’s disciple and still called to live in and with and for Christ.
So what is the answer? Ask yourself, can you be a Christian–baptized, table sharing, connected to Jesus and one with his body–the body that Paul says we are to discern when we gather to remember (See 1 Cor. 11)?
The plain point is this: without God’s grace we cannot live the Christian life. God’s grace is everywhere at work and always available. And if we really seek it and must have it, why would we go anywhere but to where Christ has promised, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
What is the Meaning of Life?
We have found that meaning in life only comes through “reaching in and reaching out with Jesus Christ.” This means that we are seeking to grow in our relationship with God and reach out with God in mission and ministry. By reaching out to community and those on the edge of our society we are bringing heaven to earth as God uses of to make the world a better place.
Why am I Lonely?
There are so many answers to this question. From a church perspective, we have found that people who lack others around them that offer compassion and the opportunity to give to others compassionately can feel disconnected and/or are absent a community to share life. A healthy church can be this for people.
How do I Pray?
The more you pray, the richer your prayers become.
To deepen your prayer life, don’t be a slacker. Like anything in life, to become good at prayer you must be disciplined. Just as running is an exercise in physical fitness, prayer is a spiritual discpline.
Prayer is active.
Prayer involves action; namely being attentive to God’s voice in your life. Listening for God means stopping and sitting still. It means paying attention to what God may be saying to you at any point in your life.
Prayer should not be an afterthought.
Prayer was the backbone of Jesus’ ministry. Often, he broke away from his disciples to spend time with God. In the same way, prayer is essential to individual lives and to the life of the church. Break away from your daily routine for quiet time in prayer.
Surround yourself with people who are seasoned at praying.
People who’ve established prayer routines have much to teach those wanting to draw closer to God. Seek out those who can help guide and encourage your prayer life.
God doesn’t require eloquence.
Don’t worry if you fumble for words when you pray. God is not looking for Toastmaster’s graduates, but sincerity (not that you can’t have both at once). If the words won’t come, God still knows what’s in your heart. Lift up that desire.
Prayer need not involve words.
The great Christian saints all write of prayer as a time of sitting quietly with God. Jesus even went off for 40 days of prayerful solitude. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Follow the breath as it flows in and out of your body. Think of it as the spirit of God breathing life into you.
Prayer is a time for conversation with a friend: God.
Whether you see that friend routinely or just every once in awhile, know that whenever you turn to God, you’re turning to someone who loves you.
Ask God for help if you get stuck.
Maybe you’ve hit a dry spell. There’s no shame in asking God to guide you to pray in a new way.
The three Ls of prayer: Listen, listen, listen.
Listening for God is central to prayer, according to the great saints. It’s so critical that St. Benedict began his famous Rule with this command for monks: “Listen with the ear of your heart.”
And remember, prayer can happen anywhere — it doesn’t have to take place in a church.
How Do I Become a Christian?