Some Good News Amidst The Bad

“For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.” – Psalm 112:6-7 (ESV)

Have you ever had to tell someone bad news? It isn’t very fun. It is no fun to let your parents know you got in big trouble at school or to tell a good friend the harsh truth.  We seem surrounded by bad news these days, in our local churches, in our homes, and in our own hearts.

We live in a broken world, and try as we might, we can’t hide from bad news or heartache by turning off the TV, ignoring it, or in a Netflix binge. None of those things will ever bring us peace because peace comes in the form of a Person: Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

That’s the good news about bad news: simply put, when the news seems all bad, there is good news. God is in control of history and anyone who acknowledges his need for God in Christ holds the key to inner peace and security. For in Christ, whether we live or die, we can’t lose. Christ gives us the key to eternal life and living this life victoriously.

God reminds us in His word that peace will not naturally just come our way. Psalm 34:14 says, “Turn away from evil and do good; search for peace and work to maintain it.”  There is no shortage of ideas on how to obtain peace. There are numerous books on the subject. They include suggestions such as – getting away for a few days, relaxing, being happy, taking a vacation, tuning out, just don’t think about stressful stuff, and searching for your inner place of peace. But these are all superficial fixes, that are at best temporary.

The peace of God is different. It’s lasting. Confident. Real. It gives us deep reassurance in the midst of all that we face in our past, present, and future.  Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace all who trust in, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”

No matter what we go through in this life, or what we’re up against today, we don’t have to be shaken. We’re safe with Him. At rest. At peace. He sent His only Son, the pure essence of Peace Himself, to give us lasting freedom and peace that only He can give.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you react to bad news?
  2. How can you turn bad news into peace?
  3. What are practical ways we can trust God for peace in our lives?

We Are Not Statistics

“ For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”   1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Maria Belon, the mother in The Impossible writes: “”They say my name softly. Yell it louder. I’m already walking towards the tunnel. …. ‘Mama, mama, wake up.  Did you get on the same wave as I did?'” Simon is covered in mud. Tomas with his chubby cheeks and tear-streaked face is at his side. He has scratches and blood. He is very sad and very serious. ‘Ma, aren’t you happy to see us?’” Huge swells of love and sadness pool just behind her eyes. She guesses she has always been like that but facing death made it all the more intense.

The tsunami resulted in at least 227,898 fatalities. The Belon family very nearly were additional statistics. But those statistics are people. How do we look at the lost? Are they statistics? Are they simply additional numbers in the total number of people who do not attend church or believe in Jesus Christ? Are those we know just part of that total?  And the still bigger question is, do we treat them as statistics?  Do they become numbers? It is difficult when the total numbers are so large and it seems your efforts won’t make much of a difference. There you are wrong. It is worth the effort to win one person to Jesus. But it often requires more work than we expect. 

You meet someone and after a few conversations – at work, or school or in the neighborhood – you invite the person to church. They explain that they have a lot going on, but thanks for the invite anyway. What they are actually saying is probably something like this: “Since you are not taking an interest in what interests me, how do you expect me to take an interest in what interests you.”

It is great that we invite someone to church but is that as far as our Christian interest extends? It’s almost like we have fulfilled our responsibilities to them.  They probably feel like an obligatory target or worse a statistic. Most people will not drop all their beliefs just to accept yours. We need to show an interest in what’s interesting to them instead of expecting them to be interested in Jesus the first time we mention the Savior’s name.  Some people believe that spending time with non-believers is conforming to the world. (Romans 12:2)   

What was Jesus major secret of being effective? He loved sinners. The religious leaders got upset when He was talking and eating with sinners. But Jesus said that he “…came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”(Matt. 9:10-13).

In Luke 15: 1-7, answering the charges that if He was really spiritual he would not be eating with sinners, Jesus said, “ if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

People matter to God so they should matter to us.  They are not statistics. God Himself became a man and left us an example of how we should care for the lost, then exhorted us to follow in His steps.  Jesus stated His purpose, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10). We should make His mission our mission.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you view those people you know who are far from the heart of God? How invested are you in your relationship with people you know who are far from the heart of God?
  2. Do you find it difficult to speak to others about God in this day and age? Why or why not?
  3. What has Jesus done in your life that you can share with others? How can you reveal God’s grace and mercy to others?
  4. Pray and ask God to provide you the wisdom to seize on the opportunities and possibilities He provides us with those far from the heart of God.

Work in Progress

The definition of perfection is the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects, the act of making something that can’t be improved. I think we would all like to obtain a level of perfection in something, whether in our work, or sports, in our attitude or in our relationships. The problem is we are flawed. And while we may be highly successful in one of those areas, we are not God, so perfection is an unattainable goal.

Another definition of perfection in the dictionary is “the act or process of perfecting.”

It doesn’t say perfect or a deadline to be perfect. It is a process. As Christians we should be striving to be perfect knowing we will never get there. But that’s not the point. What is more important is that we are making progress. It is easy to shy away from doing things rather than be average or even poor at doing them. What Paul is telling us in Philippians 3 is that we need to get out there and get started on furthering God’s kingdom even though we may will fall short occasionally on the way. Progress is the goal and progress can be slow incremental steps. When we try too hard to be perfect, to get it right, we usually get it wrong. We sometimes try too hard to get it right rather than simply trusting God to guide us along the way.

So just keep moving forward, baby steps or long strides. Keep improving and keep progressing. That is what God wants. God wants our best but he knows it is flawed. If you are ever going to become the person you know you can be, you must learn to accept the fact that failure will be an ever-present part of the process. But even failure often leads to progress.

The Holy Spirit also enables us to commit to the process of moving toward a destination. Running has taught me that when you focus on the progression, the great majority of the time you reach your destination. Many people love getting to the destination, but few do the hard work of progressing toward the end goal. And believe me there have been times when I have stumbled and bumbled my way a few blocks more than the last time. Still, it is progress.

So as you begin this new week, focus on progress and on the things you need to work on to get better. If you encounter setbacks and failures along the way, don’t be discouraged, but take comfort in knowing that what you are experiencing isn’t a bad sign, but simply part of the process.

Discussion questions:
1. Can we become perfect in this world? If it’s not possible, what was Paul shooting for?
2. How does Philippians 1:6, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” give you confidence to continue making progress?
3. Do you think making progress is better than not performing or even trying?
4. Philippians 3:14 says “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” How would your life look different if you pressed toward the call of God in Christ Jesus?
5. Set aside time this week to sit down with your Bible with no distractions. Evaluate your spiritual progress. Make/keep your plan simple. Track your progress. Keep your eyes on the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

We Are Rich

One of the more popular bumper stickers you see on cars everywhere reads, “God Bless America.” My immediate reaction to seeing that bumper sticker is to say, God has blessed America. We are being pretty naive when we start to think that our world is “the” world. We are fortunate to live in the United States.

The Worldwatch Institute says that the United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, uses about a quarter of the world’s resources. America has more private cars than licensed drivers. Over 92 percent of the people in the world do not have a car, and it doesn’t matter what make or year of car you drive, most of the world sees a car and they think rich.

We have access to clean drinking water. More than one billion people lack reasonable access to safe drinking water. We go the cupboard, pull out a glass, get some ice from the side of the fridge and pour a clean glass of water to drink. Hundreds of millions of people in the world that watch us do that daily task, that we take for granted, must think to themselves –  wow, it must be nice to be rich.

We probably ate more than we should have today. There are countless numbers of people around the globe who won’t eat today. A lot of them are children. People die from hunger every couple of seconds.

We are rich. God has blessed America.

1. Do you feel blessed?
2. Why or why not?