GOOD NEWS •••
NEW LIFE •••
January | New Year
Happy New Year! Happy New You?
Okay, everybody. All together now... (sung to the tune of Happy Birthday):
Happy New You this year!
Happy New You this year!
Happy New You dear.... (insert your name here)!
Happy New You this year!
One of the near-universal, every-year hopes is exactly that: somehow a fresh, new start with the simple turn of a calendar page.
The proverbial Clean Slate. Out with the old! Bring in the new! Right NOW!!
And so each year we repeat the ritual. We drag our old baggage out of our ‘junk closet’. We dust it off, pack it full of new plans, hopes and dreams (a.k.a. ‘new year’s resolutions’). And we lug it into the bright, shining new year.
Then the same old story plays itself out. The daily life plays with our plans. And the daily us plays along. The problem is that without a new ‘us’, a new life’s not possible.
Decades ago a pollster asked a number of very bright people how they would define insanity. Einstein’s answer quickly became legendary for it’s simple brilliance. Paraphrased:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and somehow expecting a different result.”
In other words: no ‘new life’ without a ‘new us.’ It’s a good thing there’s good news!
The Bible tells us that God sent His Son, Jesus, to offer us a truly new life – His Life alive in us.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
We invite you to receive the free gift of new life God has for you.
Come worship with us in this new year. 4:00 PM Sundays.
December | Christmas
One of my favorite Christmas stories is John Grisham’s short novel Skipping Christmas.
The book paints a humorous portrait of Christmas in contemporary America. I like the book for two basic reasons. The first is the storyline itself. The second is the timing of its publication.
The storyline follows a suburban couple’s decision to skip Christmas altogether and go on a cruise instead. They’ve had enough of the season’s frantic commercialism and the expectations of others. The cold, snowy winter weather adds its own motivation. A Caribbean cruise beckons them with a sunny smile.
As you might expect, the plot twists wildly away from their well-laid plans. I won’t spoil the story for you. But the effect is one of holding up a humorous mirror to society and inviting a time of reflection. Isn’t Christmas more than just getting and giving gifts?
As for the timing of its publication, the book was released on November 6, 2001. That’s just eight short weeks – to the day – after 9 /11. The nation still mourning. People angry. We were preparing for the war on terror. If I were the publisher, I’d have delayed the book’s release. Society was already looking into a very painful mirror. Why hold up another mirror... even a funny one?
The fact is that sometimes we need a bigger perspective – even when we’d rather not look at it. Such is the case with the commercialized Christmas.
Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ. The tradition of giving gifts comes from acknowledging God’s ultimate “Christmas gift” to us. Specifically, His gift of eternal life in Heaven through Christ.
The Bible tells us God loved people (you) so much that He gave His only Son so that anyone trusting in Him could have everlasting life. It is the best gift exchange offer ever! Jesus gave His life for ours. We give our lives to Him. In the process, He develops His character, His strength, His life direction in us. And His gift is yours, free for the asking. What a deal!
We invite you to receive the free gift of new life God has for you.
Come worship with us this Christmas season. 4:00 PM Sundays.
November | Thanksgiving
“We have a family
tradition,” I told the group of more than sixty people. “We go around the table one at a time…
each person tells one thing they’re especially thankful for.”
Our town’s American club was hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for some of our town officials in a German-American cultural exchange. The Americans nodded. I saw question marks on the German faces.
“So I’ll start it off to show what I mean,” I said. “I’m very thankful for my wonderful wife of 40 years.” I smiled at my wife on my right, and I gestured to tour town’s mayor sitting to my left that he should continue. I sat down to watch how things developed.
“I’m thankful to meet so many friendly Americans,” he said and sat down. A promising start. Next came a town councilman. “I’m thankful to be on the town council in opposition to the mayor,” he said.
“Hmm. That’s a novel approach,” I thought. Another councilman stood. “I’m thankful to be in opposition to both my friend, here, AND the mayor,” he said. The next one stood. “I’m thankful for all my American friends of many years. But I still hate American foreign policy!” He sat down emphatically, his face way too grim for Thanksgiving.
“Okay,” I thought, “maybe I didn’t explain it correctly.” I was about to stand and clarify when the next one stood. “I’m thankful for my family,” she said. I decided to wait and let it play out. Others followed with thankfulness for a generally good life... reasonably good health... children doing well... a long, reasonably happy marriage to a good husband / wife... success in business... a good boss... all the good stuff of daily life.
The mood in the room lightened noticeably.
It’s amazing how thankfulness does that. Thankful people are much nicer to be around than unthankful people. It’s a good attitude to cultivate.
Here we are again... Thanksgiving on the near horizon... our family tradition
still in effect... and I’m still thankful! Still thankful for my wife? ...our
Yes! More than ever.
But even more than that, I’m thankful for new life in Christ. Jesus is the foundation for all the rest. And best of all His new life is free for the asking.
Don’t you want it? Come and get it! 4 PM Sundays.
Good News / Great News
The Good News...
We all like good news. Then we turn on the evening news and wish we hadn’t. No good news there! So if we all want good news, where does all that bad news come from?
comes from us. All of us. I’ll explain. Ever made a bad decision? Really bad?
Okay, multiply your answer by 8 billion not-perfect people and the bad news
picture begins to emerge.
So where’s the good news? Glad you asked!
The Bible tells
us that God actually made us perfect. He made us in His image. A rough-sketch
self portrait, if you will. He also gave us the greatest gift He could give
responsible adults... a free will.
Then we used our shiny new free will to turn away from Him.
Think this out:
The Bible says ‘God is light’. So if you turn away from light, what are you
turning toward? The Bible says ‘God is love’. Turn away from love and you turn
toward... what? Darkness... hate... violence... greed.... You name it on the
bad side.... Suddenly the ‘bad news’ source snaps into focus. It’s us turning
away from God - the source of true light... love... peace... generosity.... You
name it on the good side. Which do you prefer?
“So, where is
God in all this dark-side nastiness?” you ask. Years ago, as a young atheist, I
asked the same question. A friend gave me this illustration:
At night you
don’t say ‘there is no sun’. You understand the earth has turned its back on
the sun, and therefore it’s dark outside. It’s like that with us and God.
Except, in this case, our turning away is a moral choice against good... and – by
default – a choice for bad. And the Bible says that choice is a one-way street
away from God... toward eternal separation from God.
Wow. Why doesn’t He
He already has.
The Bible tells us that He loves us so much – despite our bad choices – that He personally intervened to open a door of return for us. He sent His Son, Jesus, to live a life of never turning away, and to give that life as payment for our turning away.
... And The Great News Is...
…the Good News is free! Jesus paid it all to give it all to you... if you want it. And if you want it, come and get it!
<<<><•><>>> • • • God’s Character…
“Wow... I did a
really good job! Hey, y’all, check this out!!”
that’s not a direct quote. But looking at
the Bible’s creation account, the facts are clear. God was pleased with His
Six times in
Genesis 1, God looked at what He’d made – the sun, stars and moon, seas and
fish, sky and birds, earth, trees and animals – six times “God saw it was
good.” Then God made mankind in His own likeness (like an artist drawing a self
portrait), and for the first time, it says He saw that it was “very good”. Very
Wow. Think about that for a moment. So when’s the last time you were
described as ‘a really good job’? Or, more precisely, as “very good”?
And then the
follow-up: when was the last time you saw yourself as very good?
on which day you’re asking, right? And if “very good” was God’s accomplished intent,
why does our reality look so different? Well, because He gave us a very good
free will and we don’t always use it in a very good way.
And all of that “not good” brings bad consequences.
So if God made
us in His likeness, what does He look like? The Bible gives several answers,
but we’ll focus on one. It helps to think of us looking like God’s character.
But when we turned away from Him, His character was no longer possible for us.
So God sent His Son Jesus
to restore our relationship with God – IF we’ll accept His invitation. When we
do, God begins to develop and grow His character in us. The Bible describes nine of the various
aspects of God’s good character like good ‘fruit’ as if growing on a fruitful
tree. (see Galatians 5:22-23) These include:
• Love (God’s love - much higher than ours)...
• Joy (you’d like more joy in your life, right?)...
• Peace (the ‘peace of God beyond understanding’)...
• Patience (we all need more, especially on the autobahns)...
• Kindness (this is getting better and better)...
• Goodness (a good thing)...
• Faithfulness (also a good thing)...
• Gentleness (from a position of inner strength)...
• Self-Control (this one is
We’ll cover all these in more detail in future posts.
But in the meantime, know this: The Good News is that God’s intent for you is “very good”. But we all need God’s help to have God’s character.
... And The Great News Is...
God’s character is yours - if you want it. And if you want it, come and get it!
<<<><•><>>> • • • LOVE
The Good News: Love is…
Casual ‘hooking up’? Total ‘all-in’ commitment?
What you think
about ‘love’ often depends on where you’ve been. If you’re looking back over 50
years of your blissful marriage, your view of love will be positive. If you’re
looking back on the last two years of
vicious vendettas in the wake of scorched-earth
warfare leading to devastating divorce, your view of ‘love’ will be something
else entirely. If you’re a child of either of these marriages, you’ll have yet
another picture of ‘love’.
But no matter what
you think of love, God has a better way. As God says about His ways in the
Bible: “For as the
heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways....”
His higher, perfect ways come from His higher, perfect nature and character. And His higher... perfect love
is part of His character. In fact, that
entire chapter (Isaiah 55) is worth a careful read and serious reflection. In it, God
issues a call to all of us to turn back to Him so He can bless us. He calls us to
stop choosing the lesser... the worthless… the imperfect... the broken... the
darkness... the envy... the hate... the hurt... the depression.... Think of any
evil you can, and it comes – all of it – from somebody, somewhere, at some point turning
away from God’s good to anywhere else they can think of.
As we’ve said previously, God is perfect. To turn away from His good is to turn
toward the evil. And that evil comes from the darkness that is, by nature, turned
away from God.
Now back to the earlier question of love. The Bible tells us explicitly “God is love.” (1 John 4:7,8)
exactly, is God’s ‘higher way’ when it comes to love?
God’s love puts the ultimate good and true needs of the beloved ahead of its own interests. He proved His love for us - while we were still rejecting Him - by the sinless life, atoning death and vindicating resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, on our behalf. So when we turn to God seeking reconciliation with Him, He begins to grow His character in us. And His character includes His love.
It’s not instant. But a start in the right direction is much better than continuing in the wrong direction. The transformation is a lifelong process that starts with us choosing God and His character.
Therefore the question:
If the love of God (and the other aspects of His character) were growing in
you, what kind of difference would it make in your life? Your marriage? Your
family? Your job? Your life?
Hm.... Good question. Ready for the good answer?
And The Great News Is...
Love - God’s
love - is yours ... if you want it. And if you want
it, come and get it!
<<<><•><>>> • • • JOY
The Good News: Joy is…
Everybody wants joy. But few seem to really find it. Everyone else seems to settle for something less without realizing it. Why is that? And where can I find true joy?
I find that when I want or need something good, it’s wisdom to go to the source of that good. So what’s the source of true joy? The Bible says that God is joyful (Psalm 16:11b). And one aspect of His very nature is joy (Galatians 5:22-23). The Good News is that God wants to share His joy with us… with you… with me.
But as we’ve said before in this space, the Bible says God is light… truth… love… mercy… goodness… kindness…. So when we turn away from God, what do we turn toward? In this case, when we turn away from God – and therefore from His joy – what do we turn toward? Sadness… despair… depression… gloom?
Is that God’s intent for us? No! The Bible records God saying this to His people (all of us IF we’ll turn to Him):
“... the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) Strength when you need it is good. And then this:
“The Lord your God is in your midst… He will exult over you with joy… He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” (Zephaniah 3:17) Wow. God rejoicing over me? With shouts of joy? Why, then, don’t I feel like it? Well, unfortunately we’re separated from God (and His joy) because of our turning away from Him.
“Okay,” you say, “how do I connect with God and get this joy?” Glad you asked. God has a plan. Let’s go back to the Christmas story in the Bible (Luke 2:9-14 – summarized).
Night... shepherds guarding their sheep. Suddenly an angel appears in brilliant light. The shepherds were very, very afraid. The angel says “Fear not! I bring you good news of great joy for all the people (in the original text ‘great joy’ is literally ‘mega-joy’ and ‘ALL the people’ includes us!). Today a Savior is born for you – Christ the Lord. Suddenly multitudes of angels sang “Glory to God... and peace on earth, good will toward people.”
The Good News is that God’s obvious intent for you is good. And His good intent includes sharing His nature with you – including His joy. It would be truly sad to live an entire life and never discover the true joy God intends for you.
... And The Great News Is... Joy – God’s joy – is yours... IF you want it. Come and get it!
<<<><•><>>> • • • PEACE
<<<><•><>>> • • • PATIENCE
<<<><•><>>> • • • KINDNESS
<<<><•><>>> • • • GOODNESS
<<<><•><>>> • • • FAITHFULNESS
<<<><•><>>> • • • GENTLENESS
(from a position of inner strength)