Monday, June 28, 2010

From our newest guest blogger, Stan Nussbaum, comes this encouraging and challenging word about making a difference.

June 27 – Power to make a difference
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come." Lk. 4:18-19 (NLT)

The world is full of young people who want to make a difference and older people who have given up on that idea because it did not work out for them. Our idealistic Boomer generation thought it had rocked the world in the 60s but now we see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Wars are no less common, poverty is undented, big companies get away with murder, and politics has a bad name. In light of this, our generation has “matured,” lowered its expectations, and mostly resigned itself to the goal of making a living.

Since so many people either want to make a difference or are a bit sad they were not able to, this should be an easy world to evangelize. The Messiah has exactly what people are looking for and can’t find elsewhere—the power to make the difference they want to make in the world. They ought to be fabulously excited about Jesus because he came to make a difference in the world too.

In fact, they are not excited at all. People are leaving the Church in droves, especially the young people, perhaps because my generation gave them the impression that the Messiah was in the “ticket-to-heaven” business instead of the “making-a-difference-on-earth” business. Actually he is in both, but he had a lot more to say about the earth business.

The messianic announcement is all about the earth business, bringing good news to the poor, the captives (or the enslaved), the disabled, the oppressed. The news is not that all these people will get tickets to heaven. It is that “the time of the Lord’s favor has come,” that is, Jesus is going to make a difference in their lives inside and out. He will change their outlooks and their circumstances.

Pentecost also is all about the here and now. Would we really have needed Pentecost at all if we were in the ticket-to-heaven business? I doubt it. The cross and the resurrection were known before Pentecost, and they would have been all we needed in order to explain sin, forgiveness, and going to heaven. Why an outpouring of spiritual power with visible physical effects? Because the Messiah did not want his followers just to pass out tickets until he comes back. He wanted them to give heaven a ticket to earth!

That is what we do when we give ourselves and our bodies to him. His Holy Spirit does not live on mountaintops, in volcanoes or trees or rivers or birds or animals or statues. The Spirit lives in human beings who welcome and honor Jesus. He comes from heaven and he brings heaven’s power along with him, putting it into these people so they can make the difference Jesus wants them to make. Jesus’ plan for the world is not on hold. He is aggressively pursuing it right now.

As we saw last week, now that the Spirit lives in us, things we thought were too big, too complex, too deep, or too painful ever to change are actually changing. And as that power changes our own “unchangeables,” we are empowered to make a difference in other people’s lives. The heaven in us shines out, spills out, or at least leaks out now and then, and every time it does, it makes a difference, just like the Messiah himself planned it.
Welcome: Welcome back to earth, Jesus. Put heaven into us by your Spirit and make the difference you want to make in our world.

Affirmation: The best way to make a difference in the world is to let the Messiah make his difference in us, showing the world what his presence does to people.



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