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Posts Tagged ‘Good News’

One of Webster’s definitions of the word ‘welfare’ is the ‘organized efforts to improve the living conditions of needy persons’. 2000 years ago there was one such effort. Matthew, in the 11th chapter and 36th verse of his gospel, records this about Jesus: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”.

Jesus didn’t just have compassion on them; He did something to make their living conditions better. When a person finds themselves in a helpless state, assistance can give them hope that they will see better days. And so this is what He did; He offered assistance.

In the movie, ‘Cinderella Man’, much of which takes place during the depression, we see, maybe for the first time, government assistance. People who lived through that period of our nation’s history, were definitely a needy people. They were used to working, but work ran out. And when work ran out, food ran out. Heat ran out. The organized efforts of our government to improve the living conditions of our people, was much needed.

But what began as a much needed effort to temporarily assist a needy people, has now grown to an ever expanding group of people who believe it is our governments duty to provide assistance perpetually. What began as the organized temporary assistance to help a needy people through to better days, and to a people who gratefully, yet with reluctance accepted it, has now spread to a much larger group who insists they are entitled.

Have we as Christians, to some extent, done the same thing? Have we who were provided the much needed assistance of forgiveness – given to help us through to better days – settled instead for the assistance?

Are we as stuck in a Christian welfare state as many today are with our government? Some undoubtedly are. It is really no different today than it was in the days when the disciples and apostles were preaching and writing to the believers of their day. The writer of the letter which we know today as ‘Hebrews’, was making this same point when he said the following:

“Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death.” The writers point is that we should not become dependent on the assistance of forgiveness. Instead we are expected in time to move on to maturity, able to ‘distinguish’ and choose ‘between good and evil’.

It was never intended for us to be stuck there. It was intended that after this initial assistance that we should go on to maturity. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he gives a clue as to how this is to happen. The same power that God used to raise Jesus from His physical death, he said God will use to ‘transform our lowly bodies’.

I especially like the way Peter puts it in his second letter. ‘He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world caused by evil desires.’

Like with people today who receive government assistance, some really need it. But some just choose it. Some have the ability to work their way into better days but instead they choose the easier path of assistance. Likewise with some Christians, some really need the assistance of forgiveness. But some who have received it continue to choose its easier path. They have not taken advantage of what the assistance was intended to do for them.

It is at least a little like the nation of Israel when God brought them out of Egypt. He gave them assistance to help them on to better days. It would require that they believe and follow as He led into battle. Instead they doubted and followed as He led them through 40 years of wandering.

He didn’t lead them into something they could do themselves; He led them into something they couldn’t do without Him. Similarly today, He did not offer us something that we could do for ourselves; He offered us something that we could not do – that we could not have – without Him and His help

There’s some fighting that has to be done. After 40 years of wandering, Israel was ready to do some fighting. They had had enough wandering. I was a lot smarter than they were; I only wandered for 30 years. For any today who have had enough – who are ready to do a little spiritual fighting – there are some improved living conditions to be gained.

It is not easy breaking out of a pattern that has developed over years; what takes years to do, takes a little while to undo. His forgiveness doesn’t wipe away all that our bad choices have caused, it is an invitation to follow Him out of all they have caused. There may be a fair amount to undo, but if we engage in the following He will lead us to the better living He intended for us to have. No matter how bad the pattern or how deep the hole, He knows how to lead us out. He wants to lead us out.

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I love the Psalms. They are written records of individuals pouring their heart out to God. Occasionally I find phrases that express more clearly than I have been able to, the cries and yearnings of my own heart and soul. They give me specific words that I can use myself as I pray.

One such verse is Psalm 74:11; “Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of you garment and destroy them”.

Although I don’t have people I want destroyed, I have had situations I wanted to see destroyed. The image of God standing with His hand tucked in the folds of His robe, knowing it could come out at any moment, was a helpful image to have in mind as I prayed.

It was especially cool to see it finally come out. And now having seen it, I can pray another verse; but now with more feeling and meaning than ever before. It is so simple but it says so much. Psalm 118:7; “The Lord is with me; he is my helper”.

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In need of Your light Lord;
my life is such a mess.
Without it there’s no hope Lord;
of this I must confess.

Show me what to do Lord;
I’m ready to listen now.
My way didn’t work Lord;
would you please show me how?

Didn’t intend to forsake You Lord,
but I guess that’s what I’ve done;
one thing then another Lord,
till there’s little of the One.

Forgive me of my wrong Lord;
come and light my way.
Show me what to do Lord;
hear these words I pray.

Help me as I start Lord;
often please remind.
Show me everyday Lord;
life as You designed.

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A Little Good News

“The word of God came to John.”  I have had ‘the word of God’ come to me before.  It is unmistakable.  In the midst of a sea of my own thoughts that are as unstable as water itself, finally . . . His thoughts are heard.  It is exactly what is needed.  It is direction that can be counted on.  It firms up the unstable ground.  It is life.

This is the kind of word that came to John.  It firmed up what he was to do—what he was to say.  His words would be the beginning of the good news that would come to be known as the Gospel. 

First was a new means by which sin would be forgiven.  It had required the sacrifice of animals – the regular shedding of blood.  When someone sinned (did something that was contrary to what God required), to be forgiven for it, they would bring an offering to be sacrificed for atonement.

This new means, ‘repentance for the forgiveness of sins’, would accept Jesus’ offering – His one time shedding of blood – His one time sacrifice for atonement.  Can you imagine after thousands of years of bloody sacrifices, how good this new news would have been?      

But it didn’t stop there.  It is not just a better way to handle offenses; it is much needed help in life’s difficulties.  Valleys will be filled in, mountains and hills will be made low, crooked roads will be made straight, and rough ways made smooth. 

It does not mean He will take away your problems.  The valleys, mountains, crooked roads and rough ways will still be there; but knowing nothing is greater than what He can handle, that nothing is too hard that He cannot make a way, if you can stay focused to see the way He clears, it is the equivalent of filling in, bringing down, straightening and smoothing.

And there you have the Gospel (the good news) in a nutshell.  A better means has been provided for which offenses are paid for and forgiven.  Plus you can be assured of help through life’s difficulties.  If you can remember that nothing you face is greater than creating the sun and setting it place (think about that) you can have assurance that nothing you face is greater than what He can handle.  Would you not agree that that is indeed a little good news?

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