Good News

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Good News

Did you ever have a day when everything seemed right with the world? When everything seemed good. It didn’t last, did it? What would it look like if that good day would last forever? What if you hear it about a way that could happen? Wouldn’t you want it? That would be good news!

The Gospel of Jesus is what every Jesus follower believes. Gospel means “good news”. We all could use some good news. Everyday we hear about bad news. Its seems we are all addicted to it. We hear a shocking story and want to hear more. Why are we so intrigued with what politicians and celebrities do? In some ways they affect use. The way the culture is going, the way leaders lead, trends and movements influence the environment we live in. But good news is different. It doesn’t just pique our interest. Real good news is like a breath of fresh air.

Good news is personal. When Jesus was approached by a man names Nicodemus, he got right to the heart to this man. (See the Gospel of John 3:1-7) Nicodemus inquired about Jesus at night, so as not to be seen my his religious peers. He had a gnawing question. “How can I live a righteous life?” This was THE religious questions at the time. It may not be yours. He was asking what Jesus was all about. “What are you about?” a gang member asked a pastor walking in the inner city. What would you say? This could be a tense fearful encounter. The pastor simply said, “I’m all about Jesus.”

Nicodemus was a seeker. He wanted the truth. How can I be all about what God is all about? That would be like saying today, “What is the best way to live to have a good life?” For the religious leaders of Jesus day, living righteously was closely tied to laws given by their ancestor Moses and ultimately what God required. Right living was their highest priority. You may have discovered that right living comes with frustration. We can never get it quite “right”. We fall short. The good doesn’t last. The answer must be out there somewhere. So we try all kinds of ways to get that good day feeling to last. Jesus peered into Nicodemus heart and found what he was missing. Jesus does the same for us. He needed a spiritual restart. Living a good life starts with the spirit. Something within us has to drastically change. A vacation or a raise may help for a while, but lasting change comes from within.

Spiritual living, living the good life, does not begin with us. We are not the center. Neither our good intentions nor our disappointments are the center. Jesus comes to recenter us. It begins with God’s Spirit doing something new and fresh in us. Jesus says, “You must be born again. You must be born of the Spirit.” Start over- let God’s Spirit breathe new life into your Spirit. We all need this. Our hearts can become crusty, selfish and even self-righteous. Jesus comes and makes us right as we trust him with our lives. It’s like a huge load has been lifted off our shoulders. This is very good news. This is like a breath of fresh air. I don’t know about you by I need that every day. The Lord is the center. To live a good and right life begins with him.

Pray with me. ”Lord Jesus I thank you for the good news. I receive again your fresh life-giving Spirit within me. Make my heart new. Take the heaviness. I belong to you and by the Spirit live a good news life. I will go out with this being my faith declaration. Amen.

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Living with Limits

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Living with Limits

There are a lot of popular ideas that say we can rise above our limits. There is the truth that with God we can overcome much in our life. But we still live within limits. We have only so much energy, so much time and can only be in one place at time (although I try). Scripture says to live remembering that “the end of all things is near”. We may think this idea of limits is limiting. Actually it is freeing. When we consider our limits we tend to focus on what is important and are less likely to get sidetracked. When we live knowing that there is an end, it does not need to bring us down. It frees us to let go of everything superficial. Jesus said what when we make Him a priority our lives will be filled with joy. Living in the reality that Jesus is our focus, that Jesus is the source for all of our strength and love, makes us aware that we cannot afford to waste one day of this precious life. We can live above and beyond the stress and distractions of every day. What happens, then, is that every moment becomes energized with more and more of God’s presence and we are motivated more and more by God’s purposes.

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Open Doors and Getting Unstuck

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Open Doors and Getting Unstuck

When we find ourselves stuck in life, it is a wake up call that something needs to change. The stuck phase may be caused by circumstances we did not create. Sometimes,though, we have let fear keep us from addressing the road block. Conquering the “stuckness” is always a matter of perception.

I find that three things are essential. One is prayer. Prayer may seem like an inactive thing to do, but can be a life-giving breath of fresh air when we do pray. Not all prayer will do. When prayer becomes totally focused on our fears or circumstances, we are merely talking to ourselves. It is important that we realign our emotional state by going beyond ourselves. The Bible exhorts us in Colossians 3 to set our affections on things above, not earthly things. This is not to deny the reality of things we face but realizing that present crises are not the whole picture.

Secondly, we need people who have our backs, people who care just as much about our success as we do. Comfort may be helpful, but to get past the impasse we must confront it head long. We cannot see a larger perception with the same mindset that gets us stuck. Friends can help here. Friends call out any self-deprecation they see in us. They also can call “foul” when people or circumstances have bumped us off-balance. 

Thirdly, then there is some action we are required to do. Some movement that gets us to a new place. This may require more discomfort, but it is a “yes” that begins to open up new possibilities. I love the statement that Thomas Merton says in his book No Man is an Island, “when a door closes the whole world opens up to you.” That openness will mean we need to do something that explores other options for us. Then, as we move in a direction, we adjust the course as we receive input through prayer and honest friends and colleagues.

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Beyond the Black Panther

One of the latest Marvel Comics movies The Black Panther is about a mythical nation called Wakanda in Africa. Using a combination of African tribe cultures, the creators of this movie combined superstition and advanced technology. It's message is about the power of unity and working together to make the world a better place. Oppression will not work. The super-natural is shown working in conjunction with the natural world. Interestingly, the supernatural is still not generally accepted in our world, but the world seems to have a fascination with it. Why is fantasy mixed with technological power so popular in movies today? It could be we all just like a good adventure movie that gives us some relief from our day to day pressures. We also could find it appealing because it stirs up in us something deeper. We wish we could have that kind of power to control things in our lives and in our world.

The movie industry’s appeal often misses the mark. The popular media’s version of power can be very self-serving. It is always about an impersonal power. It tends to champion using supernatural powers (or violence) over others.  It is rarely about an internal moral power. The Black Panther movie does have a positive moral message. But how it uses power to change things is beyond anything we can relate to. Christians too can applaud the message of unity and cooperation. Christians too see how oppression works evil in the world. But I believe that our power is of a different kind.

The world is weary of power abuse. The world is weary of the disrespect and incivility people of different ideologies have toward one another. They need to see God working though his people, the church. I believe that people need a demonstration of God before they will ever be open to an explanation of God. Christians believe in power beyond themselves. But is it very different than what we hear in the movies. And it always involves an internal change.

The Apostle Peter explained what was necessary to respond to God’s Spirit. He said, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Acts 2:38-39.

In the book of Acts God’s power was released and created the beginnings of the church. The presence of God was being poured out into the very hearts of people. No longer was this an external set of rules that people had to conform to. It was the will of God, the desire of God, places within people. It was the personal power of the Holy Spirit. But Peter did call people to repent of sin and turn to God: repenting of thinking we have the power to change is the first step in the right direction. repenting of wanting a power we control. We need to repent of attempting to solve human problems with human means.

Without the power of the Holy Spirit things will not change. Without an internal change, the goodness of God will not be seen through our lives. The good news is that God is willing to pour his presence out on anyone willing to receive the Sprit. God is not holding back himself from any people. Jesus comes into our lives and brings the peace of God by the Spirit into our souls.  When the Spirit is being poured out, boundaries and prejudices and broken and people are filled with the goodness of God.

Could it be that the Spirit of God is saying that the people of God need to show a demonstration of God's love before any explanation will be heard?? Could it be that the love that the Spirit of God pours out in the church is ready to be poured out on the streets? I believe so. I believe the power of God demonstrated through the lives of people who are full of God's Spirit is beyond any imagined power we may think we have.

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