RAGBRAI 2014

Sally Ites, an elder at Good News, shares this Brightspot:

Good News hosted approximately 150 bicycle riders who spent the night on our church grounds. They were welcomed by members of our church with smiles, a handshake, cold bottled water, and served a free spaghetti dinner by both missional communities. The church has already received a thank you from one of the bike club's members. The email mentions that Good News provided freely what others were charging a high price for as we extended hospitality toward them. Way to go selfless servers of Good News!

By the way, the next morning there was not one sign of refuse or damage left behind by the group!

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18 Attending Rocky Mountain High - Be In Prayer!

We praise God that we have 13 students and 5 adults that will be attending Rocky Mountain High this year, a transformational encounter for students with God in Estes Park, CO. 

They dates of the conference are July 26-30. Please be in prayer for this group and our youth director Laurie Simington as they embark on this journey with God.

YOUTH LEADERS
Laurie Simington
Brad Simington
Michael Anthes
Sonya Anthes
Leane Gustafson

STUDENTS
Contact Laurie if you would like to pray for specific students.

Welcome to the Brightspots Blog

We believe that stories matter.

Sometimes we can confuse church for archaeology. Archaeology is the skill of seeing ancient artifacts and making educated guesses about the past.

Sometimes church can feel like that. We all have a copy (or five) of an ancient manuscript called the Bible. We dig through it and pull out what seems like fossils of what God used to do, used to be like, used to act like.

This problem can become more emphasized when we begin to make a massive disconnect between that God of the Bible, and this God right now in the present time.

But the good news it that we worship the same God.

We believe that God still acts within His creation to bless His people and to show them His glory. He still moves and acts in grace and love.

But in order to know that, believe that, and trust that, we have to tell those stories. We have to hear and read those stories. Because that is what gives us hope for today and tomorrow and the next.

So this blog will be about the stories. The stories of God who still is loving and gracious and kind; who still changes lives for the better; who still blesses people so that they may be a blessing to the world.

So bring on the stories.

Not Home Yet

Christmas season has always been hard for me.  It is supposed to be the season of love, joy, and peace but it seems to me that it is more about self-satisfaction and stuff.  A time when we are supposed to be intently focused on the other-focused, self-giving Son of God arrived in the flesh seems somehow to disappoint more than inspire.  I’ve struggled with this “gap” between the promise and reality for years.  So I ask myself, “is it my expectations that are out of whack?”  Or do I misunderstand the whole Christmas season thing?

This year, in a blinding flash of the obvious, I’ve come to a conclusion!  [Don’t miss this point.  Coming to a conclusion is a major accomplishment!]  The conclusion I have reached is this:  perhaps my issue with Christmas has to do with the difference between promise and fulfillment; the “gap” between the ideal and the present.  Jesus came to usher in the Kingdom of God by his life, work, and witness.  He came to preach the good news.  He embodied the good news.  He IS the good news.  But somehow I had missed, all these years, that his flesh-embodied divinity was perfect in accomplishing what he come to do, but it will only be when he returns that all things, in fact, are perfected.

In the interim, we live in the gap; the difference between what has been promised and what actually is.  And, in a strangely God-indicative way, the difference between what is and what is promised causes us to question, to yearn, to pursue.  Things are NOT all as we are promised they will be.  And that is never more obvious than at Christmas—especially to those who deal with the wounded-ness and imperfections of humanity. 

During Christmas season, depression seems darker, the cancer diagnosis is more dire, the relational fractures more nagging.  And that is as it should be.  Because when we are focused on the perfection of God, coming in flesh for the freedom, light and life of all that He has made, it would be absurd for us to respond with ordinary “acceptance” or the resignation of lukewarm satisfaction.  No, this is not acceptable. 

This is NOT the way its supposed to be!  And it won’t be this way forever.  The Promised One who came over two thousand years ago is coming again!  And this time, every thing will be made new, perfect, completed. There will be no more gap because the promise has become reality.  So, living in the gap mean we constantly need to remember that we are not home yet.  As those who are on the journey home, we should, we must, yearn for what is to come.  WE must remember that Christmas is about TWO comings: one past and another still future.  We who know the reality of the first coming must help ourselves and others persevere until the second.  Because, after all, we’re not home yet!

Thanksgiving in Pain

A few days earlier I had watched my infant daughter die in my arms.  Telling me that all things work together for good was pouring gasoline on my emotional bonfire.  I was hurting and confused, gut-kicked by life and gasping for air.

I was reliving the same nightmare from a few years earlier.  Daughter died.  Pastor arrived at my home, appropriately polite and empathetic.  Toward the end of the visit, I was asked if I’d like to pray.  I said “no!”  I did not want to pray.  I did not want to turn toward a God who just seemed to stand by and watch the pain and suffering.  Why didn’t he do something?  Why didn’t he FIX it? Why did I have to lose a child to this thing called Turner’s Syndrome?  No, I did not want to pray.

I wanted to scream!  I wanted to be able to breathe again.  Being a good Army officer, I wanted to blow something up!  I wanted to blame someone.  Someone had to be responsible for this.  No!  I did not want to pray.  I wanted ANSWERS!  Even though I demanded answers for my pain and loss, I didn’t hear anything.  And I screamed and yelled and wanted to blow something up some more.

That was 1986.

Now here I was in 1989 facing the same pain, the same gut kicked feeling, the same inexplicable nightmare.  I wanted to know WHY?!  I wanted ANSWERS!  I wanted to know the reason this was happening, WHY would God allow it?  So I screamed and yelled and wanted to blow something upagain.  But something was slightly different this time.  This time I was able to turn to Scripture in my demand for answers.  I searched and searched for the verse that would soothe the raw edges of my agony.  And I asked, no begged, God to show me WHY this happened, looking through book after book to see in black and white the reason God would give for allowing my second daughter to die.

And all I heard was silence.  So I screamed even more.  And then one day, in spite of all my searching and demanding of answers, in the midst of my screaming pain, I realized two things:

I realized that screaming and yelling, when they are directed to God, IS prayer (but the blowing stuff up part might not be).

I realized that reasons don’t relieve the pain.  I realized that in place of answers and reasons, I had received a relationship with the person who knew exactly what I was going through—and in some way that I can’t explain, shared my pain.  The Lord says to all of us, even me, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people... I have heard them crying out, and I am concerned about their suffering.”(Exodus 3:7)   

So I ask myself now… Is it enough (for now) to know that God knows my pain and is deeply concerned?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  It certainly doesn’t make it any worse, like spouting “all things work together for good, John” did.  And since 1989 I have learned something else: I have learned that I can be grateful even in the midst of pain.  I can be thankful even when my life and circumstances are far from my desired comfort level; a great distance from where I would prefer to be.  I am growing in thankfulness year by year for one thing in particular: That God is God and I’m not.

In the season of Thanksgiving, 1989,  Jordan Elizabeth died on November 14th.  Her funeral was a week before Thanksgiving.  This year, 24 years later, I found that I needed to scream and yell some more.  And God was there with me, concerned about my suffering.

And you may be relieved to know that I no longer feel the need to blow anything up.

Worship Is Attitude and Expectations

The church’s greatest danger is not the anti-gospel outside the church. It’s the counterfeit gospel inside the church. 

… Imagine the church without the true gospel. What would it look like? Ray Ortlund gives some possibilities: 

  • “a confident manipulation of managerial technique” 
  • “a drive toward church growth” 
  • "a deep concern for the institution of the family” 
  • "a clever appeal to consumerism by offering a sort of cost-free Christianity-lite” 
  • “a sympathetic, empathetic, thickly-honeyed cultivation of interpersonal relationships” 
  • “a warm affirmation of self-esteem” 

All of these false gospels exist in our world. Many peoples lives are spent worshiping in accordance with their false gospel—and God is re-fashioned to fit their human gospel.

The “Entertainment god” is always showy and glamorous, funny and always easy-going. Sin doesn’t get mentioned and the hard times, the pain and suffering in the world are rarely addressed in a personal way. But the music and the show is great! 

The “Self-esteem god” is full of tips to maximize your potential, always ready with a reassuring word—never a rebuke or criticism. Sin is never the problem—only low self-esteem, which is always someone else’s fault. The self-help God exists to tell you that you can do it. No matter what. You have everything you need within yourself to be a better person, to become what you want to become…(just watch TV and tune to the right channel on Sunday morning!) 

All very man or woman-centered gospels are self-worshiping. God exists to serve us, we don’t exist to serve him. You see, it all comes back around to idolatry. Who do you serve? That question is inseparably linked to the answer to “What gospel are you believing?” It all affects what God you are truly worshiping. Because we are all worshiping a god of some sort, either the true one or a false one. 

I think the Westminster Catechism got it right when it says, “the primary purpose of human beings is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” 

That truth supersedes all the false gospels. 

So worship is all a matter of heart: A heart devoted to the true gospel and glorifying the Christ of the true gospel. 

Worship Is Obedience

Eugene Peterson strikes at the heart of true worship in a way that I had never truly understood before. It profoundly changed by attitude to Scripture and worship. Peterson wrote:

…at age 35 I bought running shoes and began enjoying the smooth rhythms of long-distance running. Soon I was competing in 10K races every month or so, and then a marathon once a year. By then I was subscribing to and reading three running magazines! Then I pulled a muscle and couldn't run for a couple of months. Those magazines were still all over the house, but I never opened one. The moment I resumed running, though, I started reading again.

That's when I realized that my reading was an extension of something I was a part of. I was reading for companionship and affirmation of the experience of running. I learned a few things along the way, but mostly it was to deepen my world of running. If I wasn't running, there was nothing to deepen.

The parallel with reading Scripture is striking. If I'm not living in active response to the living God, reading about his creation/salvation/holiness won't hold my interest for long.

[The most important question isn't "What does this mean," but "What can I obey?" Simple obedience will open up our lives to a text more quickly than any number of Bible studies, dictionaries, and concordances.]

Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book (William B. Eerdmans, 2006), pp. 70-71; paraphrased in the September 18 entry of Men of Integrity (September/October 2009 

Ever wonder why you just can’t get into reading and studying the Scriptures? It is possible that you aren’t reading/studying for the purpose of obeying God. If obedience isn’t your motive, you’ll find your interest is lacking. If you want to obey God, you’ll find that your interest in Scripture increases. 

 

Bible studies, classes and small groups are for the primary purpose of increasing obedience to God, aren't they? Of becoming more Christlike? If we aren’t concerned with that, what gospel are we serving?