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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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Trusting Your Life

Trusting Your Life to Jesus

I grew up in a loving home. My parents loved us. Imperfectly, as well all do. What was difficult is the constant tension. The tension between my parents created a tension in us children. Arguments would get volatile. Shouting was often heard. We never knew when it was going to blow up. I loved Jesus. I never wavered in Him. But I waived with myself. Why? Again, the instability in our home created an instability within me. Some of us got into harmful behaviors. Some of us worked hard to prove ourselves. We loved God, but we were struggled with trust.

Trust is harder in an unstable environment. We may question, “Am I good enough?” What gets in the way? Trying to prove our worthiness to God. Trusting is easy to talk about, its different when you actually have to trust in an unstable place. Where you cannot see the way forward.

Trust verses mistrust is one of the earliest things a child learns. If raised in a safe and caring environment trust comes easier. If raised in an unsettling or harmful environment trust is harder. We all have learned mistrust well. We all have encountered unsafe and harmful people. We love God, but it’s hard to trust when we throw our mistrust of people on to God.

Jesus said, ““Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” John 14:1

He comes to still our troubled hearts. He comes to instill in us what we do not have within us. He instills the faith we need to trust him. This is a lifelong process. We live in an unstable world. We learn trust though every circumstance that threatens to destabilize us.

When the money is just not there, and you are tempted to panic. When your health is threatened or even permanently weakened, you can be overwhelmed with frustration. When deep loss suddenly appears, pain and fear can grip your heart.                                                                  

Jesus says in every circumstance. “Don’t let your heart be troubled”. That seem so simplistic and may even cause us to question if that is possible. I have found that it may be hard, but it is possible.

The promise of Jesus is what sustain me.  He said, “I will never leave you.” Think about it for a moment. Let that sink in. Let Jesus words change your focus from what you lack to the One who provides all you need.

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Who's Got Your Back?

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Who's Got Your Back?

Who takes responsibility for your life? Who ultimately is responsible for your success? In one way we each must claim this for ourselves. But we were never meant to go it alone. By our very design we are relational and must have someone who cares enough to partner with us for our personal success.

Keith Ferrazzi make this point well in his book Who’s Got your Back?He makes clear that to be successful we need three people who will hold us accountable for us to be our best selves. I so need this, otherwise I drift and become ambiguous in goals and personal development. Who are those three people? They are the ones who will take responsibility for my success. For me they are people who have qualities I admire, who care about my well being and can add a fresh perspective.

There is One who ultimately has your back. There is a One who takes personal responsible for your success. Like any life coach the He holds you accountable and will not let you down. To the degree that you cooperate with your life coach, to the degree you are receptive to his “whispers” is the degree to which you become all of what the Creator intended you to be.

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Living with God's Power

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Living with God's Power

Everyone wants to have the ability to live well. We desire to have the strength within us to face the challenges with-out us. Where do we find that power? We serve a powerful God. Psalm 62:11 says, "Power, Oh God, belongs to you.."  His power is stronger than we imagine. But, His power does not work the way this world does. In seeking to live powerful lives, we need to let go of somethings and hold on to somethings. We need to let go of using power in ways that hurt and hold on to ways that help.

There are may different words in the Bible to describe power. One is the Greek word “bia”. It means force or violence. It is like a violent mob or threatening waves crashing against a ship, It is to force yourself upon another person. Whenever I try to force things to happen it leaves God's power out. It is easy to get off track and try to get pushy and default to "bia" power. I have made many decisions that I have forced and latter regretted. Whenever I have forced my will on another person, I  always regret it. Forced power is always second rate and causes harm to me or others. It is destructive and always life-taking. We must let go of it.

The other is “ischys”.  It means strength, the ability to make something happen. That's what we want. The ability to manger our loves. God’s power is the ability to make something happen, but it works invisibly and always it is life-giving. We must hold on to it.

God is poweful How do people misuse or misunderstand God's power?

1.  They act as if God was absent. They have to force life to get what they want in this world. “Bia” power. Or they feel abandoned by God and powerless to make things happen and withdraw. A denial of “ischys”. The ability of God.

2. They act as if their agenda is the same as God’s. "God is on my side. So my side is right and everyone else is wrong." How many times have people used God’s name to justify war, aggression toward another group of people. To get what they want.  People have even used the Bible to get people to behave. The Bible says…, then blasted another person without even hearing them out.

This is so unlike God.  In order to let God's power work in our lives we have to believe that he is working. That He is near and he will give us his power to live.

When we find ourselves at the wrong end of power, people using or misusing us. Or, us using or misusing power, then God gives us hope. Isaiah the prophet says, "He (God) gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary." Isaiah 40:29-31

We wait.

We wait expectantly for him to work. One prophet Zephaniah told the king that the battle is not won by human ability. He said it like this. “It is not by force or strength, but by my Spirit says the Lord.”

We wait. We wait in expectation. 

Jesus promised his followers great power from Holy Spirit. What instructions did he give to them? Go out in power? get busy doing? No, before they did anything, they were told to wait until God's power came upon them. Then and then only would they have the effective persistent power to do what only God could do.

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