Tag Archives: Gospel

The power of the Gospel

The Gospel is the power of God for salvation!

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16–17)

1This glorious Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection is not passive, but active. It works. It does stuff; it accomplishes things. It’s also not just that the Gospel can be powerful when put to appropriate use, for example by powerful preaching or testimony, or when accompanied by confirming signs and wonders. The Gospel is powerful all on its own without any of these very good things attending it. Stand-alone, the Gospel is powerful! It is the power of God for salvation. It’s glorious to partner with, and it certainly makes good use of our gifts and callings, but the Gospel all on its own is able to save, for saving is its purpose, and save it does.

EarthGlobeAfrica.tif.746x600_q85The creation account helps us to understand. God the Father decreed; He spoke by the Living Word, Jesus; Holy Spirit did the work. Will, Word and Works, and there you have it – the Trinity in glorious synergy bringing something out of nothing. Into the dark, formless void that was, Father decreed, and that which was Spoken was accomplished by the Spirit, who was to be found brooding over the project to do all that was willed. In exactly the same way, salvation in Father’s will, through and in Jesus, and by the Spirit. When the Gospel is proclaimed, the Good News and the Spirit work together in creative synergy – Will, Word and Works – their sublime redemptive poetry, joyfully engulfing, loving, and saving, just as choreographed to do before time began.

GerminationJesus Himself made the same point very simply when He described the Gospel as a seed. Fertile seeds are powerful things, containing everything necessary for maturity, including life, thanks to their ingenuity in design. The whole oak is in the acorn. In the same way, the freedom and fullness secured for us in Christ is in the Gospel. Jesus crucified, died, buried and raised – such a tiny seed – yet therein lies every provision and every victory, sufficient for everyone who believes, and in an abundance befitting eternity. Just as fertile seeds can lie dormant for decades before conducive conditions facilitate germination, in the same way the Gospel shared can patiently await its appointed time. Like any seed, harvest depends upon the soil into which it’s sown, but scant harvest on occasion in no way reflects upon the perfection of this seed. On the contrary, just as we’ve witnessed plants of all kinds breaking through paving or rock, the Gospel produces exceedingly abundantly above expectation, again and again, even in the most adverse of circumstances.

Both Jesus and Paul demonstrated their confidence in the power inherent in the Good News in a rather noteworthy way. Both encountered self-appointed ministries whose motives were questionable, and neither sought to put a stop to them. Both knew that the Gospel was well able to look after itself. Good motive or bad, the power of the seed remained unchanged.

picture1This blog post sets up a series of a further ten posts, each expanding on what the Gospel does. It works wonders; awesome wonders. The Gospel bears fruit; plentiful, abundant, lasting fruit. The Gospel does all that the Lord designed it to do. It is ever so worth our while teasing out the richness of the Gospel’s power, so as to better to understand, admire, appropriate and communicate it. The beauty is that the Gospel doesn’t justify or redeem or reconcile or …; it justifies and redeems and reconciles…. Where one stops and another starts is of little consequence, for the colours, flavours and facets (pick the metaphor you most prefer) work off and into one another in magnificent, enriching, enhancing and compounding splendour.

downloadContemplating the Gospel in this way is comparable to gazing into the night sky. It will always be breathtaking, and there will always be more to see. This is the nature of the infinite. Describe what you see in terms of planets, stars or galaxies, whichever you prefer, for magnificent remains magnificent, even when perspective shifts. My prayer is that this exercise in Gospel-gazing will whet your appetite for a lifetime of exploration. Together we will forage on the fringes of the inexhaustible, exploring the limitless bounds of the revelation of our Lord that will keep us captivated for all eternity.

Adapted from the e-book Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever! by Gavin Cox

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Don’t fence the waterhole

“Why are your standards higher than mine?”

I have a long, rich history of one-liners from the Lord. They are inevitably paradigm shifting, and often come as questions to which I somehow know the (wrong) answer. In other words, they always cut to the quick of a matter in an instant. This one was no different. I had grown sufficiently in insight into the realities of the New Covenant to know exactly what He was alluding to.

david-bucklow-landscape-fenced-windmill-303278Membership of our church required submitting to a process described as Basic Foundations. It was a series of weekly gatherings for prospective members, including a camp-style weekend away, which had a clearly defined exit point. That exit point included baptism in water and baptism in the Holy Spirit. In other words, speaking in tongues was a requirement for membership. It also included clarity regarding the doctrine, vision, values and ethos of the church. That in turn required prospective members to be in a small group, be signed up to serve in one department or another, and to be faithful in attendance at the worship service. It involved subscribing to a ten-percent-of-gross financial commitment with offerings over and above, although we never policed this in any way. Participation in the prayer meeting was also preferable. With this list of criteria in place, and with both parties considering the fit good, the prospective member moved into membership via a public affirmation of covenant, which was an extra-biblical pledge which we had gleaned from Moravian and Wesleyan traditions.

That’s what it took to be a member of our church. Jesus’ church required considerably less: Believe! Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone and because of Christ alone. The thief on the cross had no problem achieving full, eternal membership in Jesus’ church. He’d have had no chance with us.

What followed was the dismantling of our formal membership roll. At the time it felt like a radical step; now it seems the most natural thought process in the world. What an accurate Gospel does is turn the volume down on the local church, it’s demands and distinctives, and the volume up on the universal, eternal, catholic church, where all who are in Christ belong to Him and to one another. The local church, we now understand, is simply a manifestation in time and space of that glorious church universal.

I had long defended our rigid membership rituals by arguing for the need for like-mindedness in vision and values, and by insisting that any leadership serious about giving account to God for their flock would need clarity regarding who was in and who was not. I now see that it was a means of manipulation and control, fundamentally divisive in the context of the broader church, and a keystone of our practice of exclusivity. If the windows and the doors of the house were to be open, then elaborate membership procedures would have to cease.

imagesThe Lord reassured our hearts by encouraging us to not fence the waterhole. Fences, after all, keep things out and keep things in; it just depends on which side of them you’re on. Our intention was to become more a game reserve and less a typical farming operation. He made it clear that the sheep were His, not ours. He taught us that as His under-shepherds, we elders remained accountable to Him for oversight of the corporate expression, while not being responsible for managing the freedoms of the individual sheep. Slowly our paradigms moved towards free-ranging, and we were able to open our hands and release our membership into following Him. By the way, they’re so much more secure now, because their security is in Him, and no longer in the church they attend.

To change the analogy yet reiterate the point: It is my conviction that should a Martian beam down into our parking lot and ask any church member, “who is your shepherd?”, the answer should be “Jesus”. Change the question and ask them to identify the leaders of the church, and they should point to the elders. This is no semantic difference; it is foundational to how we understand the local church. The people of God belong to Jesus. He is their shepherd and they are by definition Spirit-led. Leaders have no right to make church or personal loyalties a point of accountability. Our role is to help them discern and obey the will of God. Nothing more; nothing less. And then to be grateful for the degree to which that has them faithful to the local church.

This in turn has enormous implications for the funding and otherwise resourcing of local churches. Things must be done differently. This is not only possible; it is preferable. Thinking in this way has rendered me bi-vocational, and has positioned us to preach the Gospel of God’s unconditional love without strings attached. There is simply no mechanism in place to embroil anyone in our brand. Those who settle amongst us do so because the Lord Himself settles them. That thief on the cross would fit in amongst us just fine now. Week after week we enjoy gathering at the well of Living Water, celebrating Jesus and all that He has done, and watching His people gather to drink, just as we would enjoy an evening at the waterhole in the game reserve, watching His magnificent creation draw near to be refreshed and replenished.

You’re welcome, any Sunday morning, 09h30.

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Preach the New Covenant

“Preach the New Covenant”, said Jesus. This one-liner reverberated through my being with absolute authority and audible-voice clarity, answering what had been the cry of my heart for many months.

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It was a one-liner I didn’t see coming. I knew that I had to open the windows and doors of the church to the many, but what I didn’t know was that I was in for Extreme Makeover: Belief System Edition. (For the backstory in more detail, click here).

What followed was as extended period under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit in a special and unusual way. It sounds arrogant to claim as Paul did that I received the Gospel from the Lord, but that’s exactly what happened. Amidst very difficult times in ministry and local church, the Spirit opened the Scriptures to me in a fresh way, and it was as if I was “born again” again. The parallel discovery was the degree to which my belief system had been a mixture of Old and New Covenants, of Law and Grace.

1345804-inlineMy Extreme Makeover: Belief System Edition can be likened to a theological world tour, with numerous significant stopovers. I spent time in Romans 8:1, discovering that every aspect of my life was condemnation-ridden. My self-speak, my marriage, parenting, relationships, preaching and ministry all oozed condemnation, disqualification, and the demand for increased effort. From there it was across to Hebrews 4 and the discovery that salvation is rest from one’s own work and complete reliance on the work of another. This was quite a revelation for a permanently exhausted individual living and laboring in a burnout-conducive culture. Then came the visit to Security, where I discovered that most of us Christians are desperately and unnecessarily insecure. There were also notable stopovers in Peace and Joy, which are gifts accompanying salvation. Time was also well spent in New Nature (just like Jesus), in Holy Spirit (an indwelling Helper who will never leave us, and is an enabler in righteousness), and in Bible (an account of seven covenants, only one of which applies). Through it all I discovered that Jesus is God’s message (and perfect theology), that God is Good (and only good), and that God has made up His mind about us in Christ. If I had to identify a single highlight, it would have to be what I now regard as my favourite passage of Scripture: “For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14 ESV). Our justification is absolute, and we who are in Christ are therefore irrevocably righteous!

the-gospel-changes-everythingYears on, I continue to grow in the revelation and application of the New Covenant, but it is no exaggeration to say that everything has changed: My understanding of the Lord, salvation, myself, others, our world and His church. Every Sunday, I now enjoy the privilege of proclaiming a salvation that is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. This puts salvation within reach of everyone, and recognises that the grace that saves is the grace that sustains, empowers, and sanctifies. What was a Churchianity has become Christianity. It really is all about Him after all!

Following on has been progressively unfolding revelation of what it means to serve, lead and govern the local church from within New Covenant paradigms. Again, the Gospel has changed everything. What was at times a manipulative, controlling, stressful and exhausting environment has become one of peace, joy, freedom and fullness. The New Covenant is literally so much Good News as to be out of this world. Day by day we enter into greater measures of the benefits of this New Covenant, in which we have been included in Christ Jesus. And to top it all, no one is excluded. The windows and doors of the house are open, and the beauty of the local church accessible to all. The Gospel is for the whosoever will, and so it is with His church. What grace. What mercy. What goodness. What kindness. What love. Praise be to our God!

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Good News

downloadThe Gospel is news. It’s news about Jesus – about who He is, what He did, and why He did it.

His story goes right back to before the beginning, when He partnered with the other members of the Godhead in formulating their creative and redemptive plans, agreeing on their respective roles. He was then so successful in His mission that its impact is comprehensively retroactive and will be never-ending. The cross spans time and space, for by it God was reconciling all things to Himself – things on earth, and things in heaven.

Throughout the ages, this story has been told by those who saw, heard and experienced it unfold and develop. It is so well attested to all along the way that it comes to us as eye-witness news, with many of those witnesses having been martyred for their unwillingness to waver in testimony. Yet, in contemplating its enormous scope, let’s not imagine that the Gospel story is a complicated one, for this is not so. The poignant facts are all to be found condensed within the life of a single individual, Jesus Christ. The Gospel is short and simple, easily remembered, and easily told. Even little children can understand it.

imagesWhen this news – Jesus crucified, died, buried and raised – first broke on the streets of Jerusalem on Pentecost morning a little more than two millennia ago, it did so empowered by the Spirit, and immediately went viral. The believing community of a hundred and twenty soon gained three thousand more, and from there it snowballed. Confirmed by miracles, signs and wonders through the centuries, today the worldwide community of believers numbers hundreds of millions, and the forward momentum of this message gives no indication whatsoever of slowing down.

Wherever the news about Jesus has gone, it’s been just as controversial as Jesus Himself was. This has been a good thing, for it means that this news has been interrogated and tested every step of the way. The first major think-tank – and there have been many since – took place as the key role-players in the believing community gathered at what we today refer to as the Council of Jerusalem. This was necessary because the news was leaping across ethnic divides, and they wanted to make sure that everyone was getting the facts, and not some culturally distorted version of the facts. This Council was presided over by James, the half-brother of Jesus. Like him, many of those present had seen first-hand what Jesus had done, and heard what Jesus had said with their own ears. This gathering therefore constituted the ideal forum for crystallising the Gospel, paring it down to its essentials. What was then viral is now global, and those early leaders served us well, as did many others through the years. Much has happened, but the facts remain, and today the Gospel is as clear as it has ever been. What we learn through it all is that truth remains true, and ceaseless attention simply polishes the diamond all the more. The news, as proclaimed by Peter on the streets of Jerusalem, is the news we herald today.

download (1)Jesus lived the sinless life no descendant of Adam could. Every one of Adam’s line is a sinner, due sin’s wages, but sinless Jesus received these on our behalf. He died for our sins. Three days later, God raised Him from the dead, thereby vindicating His claims, and establishing His vicarious death as redemption for sinners for all time. All who believe this, in so doing appropriate His substitution personally, and thereby enter into a glorious exchange – their sin for His righteousness. All of it, for all of it! He received what sinners deserve, and in believing, sinners become saints as they enter into all that He deserves. The Gospel believed is salvation received, and it is by faith alone that men and women are put right with God. The Holy Spirit makes them alive and anew. In the moment of faith, those who believe are instantly transported from darkness to light, from death to life, and from being in first Adam to being in Christ (last Adam). God Himself, who made this possible for them, does it to them. We believe; He works! This is the Gospel!


Best News Ever 3D

From Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever! Available for download from a broad selection of e-book platforms. Click on the image to go to the book’s page and select the version that best suits you.

 

 

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The Gospel (by Ross Penniall)

The Gospel is more than just scandalous. It’s an offense to almost every culture, and will continue to be so for many centuries to come. But say what you must, it is incredibly good news to the people who have come to the end of themselves.

John wrote what is arguably the most famous verse in the Bible: John 3:16. It is so because it captures the heart of the Author, and His love letter, in one easy-to-understand sentence. It doesn’t need a professor to interpret it or a scholar to to unpack its truth. It’s simple: God loved. Jesus came. Men believe. Eternal life is given. John expresses the ease with which one is rescued from eternal condemnation: Believe in God’s one and only Son.

But that should cause one to stop and ask: What does it mean to believe in Jesus? What exactly are we to believe about Jesus that will grant the gift of eternal life to the one who believes?

Allow me to answer these all-important questions for you …

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GOD

Many don’t like the idea, But God is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-present. He gives and sustains life,  and without Him nothing would exist. He is righteous and holy, perfect in every way. He exists outside of time. He sees all, and knows everything about everyone. Like it or not, He is Lord of all, including us.

MAN

We are unholy. We are unable to save ourselves, even though many don’t even believe there is an actual afterlife. We are rebels to the core. We are lost in our sins. We are worshipers of ourselves and live to please ourselves. We are unable to please Him or know Him. We don’t desire Him on any level. We are lost. Our destination is damnation. And truth is, that’s a just sentence, and we are in desperate need of a savior.

Side note: A good doctor doesn’t just give a sick man medicine. A good doctor whips out the x-rays. He displays pictures of the disease. He doesn’t hold back. He calls a spade a spade and gives the sick man a blunt, open and honest diagnosis of how bad it really is, to the point that the sick man is virtually begging for the remedy. One of the reasons why men don’t desire God’s remedy (Jesus) is because they aren’t aware of how sick they really are.

REMEDY

Jesus is God’s remedy for a sick and dying world. He came to seek and save the lost. Jesus paid the penalty for every lost man’s sin, and this for all time. He died for me and He died for you! He took the full brunt of God’s wrath at sin upon Himself. He reconciled God to the world. On the cross, He who knew no sin became sin, so that through Him many would become righteousness. He is the only way to God. He is the only remedy for a lost and dying world.

RESPONSE

God is holy. I am unholy. I need saving. Jesus made it possible for me to be saved. That’s the message. The invitation is simple: BELIEVE! Church attendance is not a prerequisite. Neither is obeying the commandments or praying every day. “Quit smoking!” “Stop using foul language!” “Stop watching Internet porn!” “All good advice, but not the Good News. Jesus is the Good News. He lived the life we couldn’t live. He died the death we all deserved to die. He then gives us a salvation we could never earn. Grace is given to those who don’t deserve it. That’s you and me, my friend! And so, man’s response is so simple: just believe. Unwrap the gift and say thanks.

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That’s why the Gospel is an affront to just about every culture. Lost men don’t like to be told they are sustained by a loving Creator even if they don’t know or acknowledge it. Lost men don’t like the idea of being told that they are not good enough, no matter how hard they try. Lost men don’t like the idea of being told that they need help. Even those who believe in a God up there somewhere don’t always like the idea that Jesus is the only way to Him. And having crossed that bridge, the thought that we owe no debt or payment in return is scandal all the more. It sounds too good to be true. But it is so good because it is true!

I will never stop enjoying these truths. In fact, we’ve only scratched the surface in understanding how glorious the Gospel really is.


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A guest post for SMGN by Ross Penniall – lover of Jesus, lover of life, and lover of SoMuchGoodNews.

 

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Living in the Will of God

Will of God 3D

Living in the will of God is the application of the New Covenant in our day to day lives. This book is full of well illustrated and very practical instruction on how to do just that. The will of God is the will of God for all of His children, and you too can confidently live in it.

What Beta Readers have to say about the book

The story goes that a visitor to New York hailed a cab and asked, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The cabby’s reply was short and to the point: “Practise, practise, practise!” This was clearly not what the tourist expected. Whereas he was requesting directions to a destination, he received instructions on how to achieve success. This is so true of Christians who are trying to find a way to live in the will of God. We are given lists of instructions comprising a series of do’s and don’ts and told to practise, practise, practise. The truth is that we can practise until we die and still never achieve any degree of success. This is because thinking in this way makes it all about US and our performance. Receiving direction is entirely another matter. While it’s possible to receive both accurate and inaccurate directions on the subject, accurate directions always point to the finished work of the cross and what JESUS has already done. There is a sense that we do need to practise, but it has nothing to do with improving performance. The more we “practise” Jesus as the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the more likely it is that this will become our default position and the assurance that we are in His will, a lifestyle.

This little book is an excellent departure from the hundreds of self-help manuals and books on shelves around the world. In it Gavin does a superb job of showing us how to live in the will of God and avoid embarking on a journey that leads nowhere. Because the Gospel is all about Jesus, the road always leads to Him. Read it for yourselves to discover how uncomplicated this “how” really is. I give it five stars.

This is the third in the “Not Confused” series. Do yourselves a favour and read the first two as well.

Who should read this book and why?

LIVING IN THE WILL OF GOD is not difficult or complicated. As a matter of common sense, living in God’s will is God’s will. Surely? Why then would our Heavenly Father put it beyond the reach of any of His children? Rather, simple logic dictates that it cannot possibly be the preserve of the spiritual elite, but that living in the will of God is for everyone.

This book is for anyone who has wrestled with these matters. What you’ll discover is that the only real obstacles to living in the will of God are between our ears. This must be so if the grace of God is always sufficient. Obeying Him doesn’t rely on our own resources or abilities. Neither is it dependent on any particular situation or circumstance. The Lord always supplies what He later requires. What obstructs is an amalgam of misinformation, misunderstanding and misbelief. Lodged in our thinking and reinforced by those around us, these keep us bogged down in a veritable quagmire of unbelief. Fortunately there is Good News at hand. The Lord has provided a way out of that swamp. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. It brings light and life, imparts faith and releases the power of the Spirit. Hence the Bible’s confident assertion that those who know the truth are set free by it. The Gospel is not information, but revelation that enables transformation. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation, and it delivers.

This little book is unashamedly a Gospel “how to”, with the emphasis on Gospel, because Jesus has already put in the hard yards. Living in the will of God relies on His efforts, and not our own. As the truths of the Gospel are applied, faith arises in hearts and minds are renewed. God is the initiator; we are the responders. He loved first. We love in return because we are loved.

Download your copy today!

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Bang for your buck

downloadI recently encountered an intriguing thought process on the subject of church funding, budgets and expenditure. The point made was that the best measure for evaluating where things are at money-wise is cost per head of the Sunday gathering. In other words, if a congregation with an average attendance of one hundred has a monthly budget of forty thousand, and the average month has four Sundays, then the cost per head per service is one hundred (whatever currency applies).

Churches do a heck of a lot more than host a Sunday service – anything from counselling, small groups and youth ministry through church planting and TV ministry – and unless these are separate cost centers, these costs will inflated the cost per person per service number, because they’ll be wrongly included there. That said, the number arrived at is accurate when it comes to giving required per head per service, because that is precisely how much the church needs on the incoming end in order to meet budget.

Once you’ve done the maths for your church, here are some factors worth considering as you think things through. In random order, then, and with the stated intent of provoking thought – 1. Church as we know it is a very expensive endeavour. Spiritual food, it seems, comes at restaurant prices. 2. Staff and facilities are typically the biggest expenses, and when we break our number down into what goes where, we’re likely discover that much more is going into making Sunday mornings happen than what we would’ve initially thought. And 3. The bigger the church gets, the higher the number is likely to be. Large churches seem to attracted a better-heeled membership and can appear awash in money, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to an economy of scale, because bigger demands better in our day and age, and better doesn’t come cheap. Bigger churches being more expensive to run per member than what smaller ones are seems counterintuitive.

These same dynamics are all-the-more evident when we consider how the church spends its human capital, which is far more precious than cash. Innumerable volunteers spend endless hours making Sundays happen. The bigger the ship and the more its sails, the bigger the crew. Except that in this department tiny churches are probably the most demanding, because it’s an all-hands-on-deck affair. Could it be that inordinately high levels of demand are because churches set out to provide a forum for people to come to be baptised and discipled, when what Jesus explicitly commanded us to do was to go out, baptising and discipling as we did so?

Throwing stones is always unhelpful, and running the numbers for the church I love and lead simply exposes me as another noisy fella with a megaphone who is standing in a glass menagerie. The truth is that the measuring any local church’s effectiveness and efficiency is less than straightforward. For me and mine, we are not where we once were on these matters, but neither are we yet where we want to be. There is also no desire whatsoever to entrench any form of poverty mentality; the Bank of Heaven is certainly not cash-strapped. That said, I am convinced that a significant key to taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth is a radical rethink about what we’re doing with what we already have. How much bang for the buck we’re getting is an integral part of that. What do you think?

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Book launch proper (at last)

Di Wilson - NC Bible hi-resComplete at last, with an additional chapter on the Eternal Covenant, and with the kindest of forewords by Rob Rufus. Here is some of what he had to say …

“The entire time I read this book, not only was I encouraged, but I kept thinking “Oh Lord, if only all of your people understood this truth”. In my opinion there are too many optical distortions that parade themselves as legitimate Christianity but still leave people confused. This book will evaporate so much misery that precious brothers and sisters carry as a burden that they think is from God, but is not. It will demolish cynicism and feelings of hopelessness, and flood people with confidence in God.”

The idea is to get this material into as many hands as possible. The price has been set at $0.99 on Amazon.com and at a comparable entry-level price on all the other platforms. For those who would like to download a copy now, click here (the book’s page), and then use the links at the bottom of that page to take you to the online vendor of your choice.

Di Wilson - NC Gospel hi-resIn other news, I’ve been working hard on the next offering in the NOT CONFUSED series, and hope to have it published within weeks. Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever!‘s preliminary blurb reads like this …

The Gospel is the good news about who Jesus is, what He did, and why He did it. What He did was so extraordinary, and its impact so enormous, that it will affect everything for all time. This book describes the richness of the Gospel, and outlines what the Gospel does when believed, for the Gospel believed is the power of God unleashed in one’s life.

It, too, will retail at $0.99 or the comparable across platforms.

Please spread the word. If you enjoy one of the books, please go back to the point of sale and write a review. The more books that sell, and the more reviews that are written, the more visible the book becomes on line. It will be so appreciated if you help where you can. Thanks for subscribing to this website; invite and encourage others to do the same. Interact with the site. Comment on the blog posts. Like my author Facebook page and follow me on Twitter (click on the links to take you there). Like and share the Facebook posts and tweets. It only takes a moment but contributes substantially to SoMuchGoodNews‘s visibility, helping a great deal with the dissemination of this very Good News.

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Rodriguez

rodriguezThe sultry PE evening turned turgid with sounds rich, mellow and pleasing. The middle-aged crowd stood and swayed appreciatively as the legendary Rodriguez rolled through his playlist. I puzzled over the urge to grow my hair again as I soaked up the atmosphere. None of us cared that the star was past his prime. Those of his caliber have nothing left to prove, and the obvious challenge of his deteriorating eyesight only increased our respect for the beloved septuagenarian.

The unexpected delight of the evening, though, (and there was much to delight in), was the man’s one-liners. Randomly tossed to the audience with casual aplomb, I found myself eagerly snatching them from the festive atmosphere with unexpected glee.

“Long live Nelson Mandela”, he said, reminding us of what a wonderful nation this could be, and of the attitudes it will take to make us that. “It’s descriptive, not prescriptive”, he said of Sugarman, a song extolling the virtues of recreational narcotic use. “Don’t do drugs”, he added. “Don’t start”. Sage advice from one likely more knowledgeable than most of us. And towards the end of the evening, “thank you for giving me a life”, in gratitude for South Africa’s role in turning talent to stardom; obscurity to adulation. The way in which it was said left us in no doubt that Rodriguez is grateful. Humility is an attractive virtue, we learned.

12662725_10153960076916757_6119109403535790055_nBut the uncontested pearl of the evening, in this blogger’s book anyway, was when Rodriguez preached the Gospel, even though it’s possible that he did so inadvertently. “I know it’s the drinks”, he said, “but I love you too”. We might never know the specifics on this, but it is the Gospel nevertheless. Allow me to illustrate it this way: When a fellow Christian tells me that he or she loves me because Jesus says they must, it assures me of two things. a) They are under law, and b) They don’t love me at all. But fortunately there are other brothers and sisters who really do love me. They a) Never have to persuade me that they do, and b) It’s not because they are under orders, but because of what God has done in their hearts. They’re not trying to love me; they do love me. Big difference! This is why the Scriptures encourage us to be filled with the Spirit as a superior alternative to being drunk with wine; the result is authentic Jesus. Yep, Rodriguez said it well – it’s because of the drinks that we love each other!

 

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Fresh Starts and New Beginnings

Germination

Both are desirable; both are needed; both are good!

The fresh start is what we long for when we’re in a bind. Nothing wrong with that. This is the stuff that lotto-winning fantasies are made of. The stuff of miracles. New job, new house, new car, new country, new life! The dreams of others touch us deeply because we identify. New bone marrow, new liver, new optic nerve. And how uber-cool it is when these things happen. And they do! Our God is a God of miracles, and if you’ve been around Him much you’ll have seen it all – new job, new house, new liver, new optic nerve.

But fresh starts are not always good enough. The Lord once offered Moses just such a fresh start (Exodus 32:7-14). “New everything”, God generously offered (I’m paraphrasing loosely). To folks in a bind his response is incomprehensible. “Thanks for the offer”, he said (more loose paraphrasing), “but let’s rather stay with this mess” .

Why would anyone do that? Two reasons in his case. The first is obvious. Accepting God’s offer meant certain death for well-upwards of a million people, some of whom were Moses’ family. By declining, he was saving lives and granting multitudes a second chance. It’s a great lesson. Sometimes we stay with the mess for the sake of others.

The second reason Moses declined is because he understood. He understood that he was just like the rest of us, and any fresh start would be a temporary solution. None of us can pull off the ideal. He made a good call; he was excluded from the Promised Land along with the rest a little later on. The truth is that fresh starts don’t produce utopia because of the fallen-factor. However much we might resist the thought, miracles are in and of themselves only temporary fixes. Tomb-exiting Lazarus is not still alive today. Winning the lotto destroys many lives. New jobs don’t always work out, new cities become old, and new cars fender-bend just as well as the old ones.

Thank God for miracles, but the new birth is much more. Being born again is a permanent solution. It is much more than a fresh start. It is a new beginning; a re-defining; an altogether-other intervention. Praise God for miracles, but the engine-room of transformation is not the fresh start but the new beginning! This is so, because, rather than settle for a change of circumstances, the new birth produces a brand new you!

This new beginning was not an option for Moses – the New Covenant had not yet been cut; the Spirit had not yet been given in fullness; union with Christ and regeneration was yet come. It was not yet an option for Moses, but it is our reality. The new beginning that was beyond Moses was in reach of Jesus, who began anew for Adam, and in so doing began anew for all of us. In Christ, we are new creations. We have been made new! Miracles deal with symptoms; the new birth deals with underlying causes. Fresh starts are great – they intervene in our circumstances; new beginnings are even greater – they transform us. Miracles bless us; the new birth makes us blessed.

You might need a miracle today. Many of us need a few. Let’s ask God for them and believe for them without apology. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are already a new beginning. This is who we are! All the time. Because we are new, every situation and circumstance is already infused with hope. Because we are new, every day is a new day. In making us new, God has already made up His mind about us. He has plans for us, and His are good plans.

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