What’s Your Best News?

Bad news seems to grab most of the headlines, but what about Good News? What’s the best news you’ve ever heard? For me, one that ranks pretty high is what we called “Two Pink Lines.” The pregnancy test showed one pink line for Not Pregnant, and two pink lines for Pregnant. So seeing the Two Pink Lines for the first time after a long wait was good news indeed. We even made up a silly song about it. My life would never be the same after that, and of course that culminated months later with more Good News: “Its a boy!”

But what about you? What’s the best news you’ve ever heard?

Perhaps it was when you heard or said “Yes” to the long-awaited marriage proposal. For us I remember hiking together on the side of our favorite mountain during a beautiful sunset, and stopping at the edge overlooking the valley. I stumbled through some now-forgotten but heartfelt words, popped the question, popped open the ring box, and quickly snapped it shut (so the ring wouldn’t go flying off the edge of the cliff). We couldn’t wait to share the news of our happiness with everyone. Actually, in my excitement leading up to that night, I couldn’t help but divulge the news to anyone I would run across, so she was nearly the last to know.

There’s all kinds of possibilities for good news. Maybe your best news was when the doctor gave the all-clear, giving you a new lease on life. When once there was only darkness and the threat of death ahead, now the light breaks through to new possibilities. Suffering had finally given way to health and strength. I’ve known this kind of Good News too, and it was indeed life-changing.

Perhaps your best news was when the war was finally over, and the troops were sent home. When once death and destruction were constant threats, now peace reigned and families were reunited. Those who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice made it all possible.

Or perhaps you heard those magic words: “You’re Hired!” All your hopes and dreams of a fulfilling career had finally come to pass, and things were looking up like never before. The purpose and passion of your life was becoming a reality.

Maybe for you it was when the judge declared “Not Guilty” and you or your loved-one was finally set free. Somehow, some way, by some miracle of justice or mercy or both, incarceration gave way to freedom.

So what’s the best news you’ve ever heard? The best news that I know of is all of these things rolled into one: the gospel of Jesus: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

The word “gospel” simply means “good news,” and if you stop and think about it, this really must be the Best News Ever. Just like the good news of pregnancy and new life is thrilling, so the good news of new spiritual life is eternally life-changing. The culmination of human love in a marriage is good news indeed, and yet God’s perfect love for you is even better. The personal resurrection found in a terminal illness being cured is like nothing else, except the eternal spiritual resurrection that God offers you in the gospel. The news of a peace treaty can change history, and the good news of Jesus achieving peace between you and God changes your eternity. The good news of new job opportunities can set you on a new path, and yet the best news of God’s love and forgiveness sets you on the path to God himself. And the good news of being declared innocent and set free is indeed liberating: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

If you don’t agree that the gospel of Jesus Christ is truly the best news ever, then perhaps you haven’t understood it yet. There’s lots of confusion and misunderstanding about the true gospel out there, but in its essence it is quite simple. If you would like to learn more, ask questions, or receive this Best News for yourself, I would be honored to help. First Baptist Church of Bennington is offering a free course called Christianity Explored, which is a seven-week seminar for anyone who wants to think about the big questions of life, and explore what the Good News is all about. It is starting soon, so please contact me at 802-440-0934 for more information, or join us any Sunday at 10:30am at 601 Main Street or sign up here.

May the Good News of Jesus’s love for you be the Best News you’ve ever heard.

The Story of St. Patrick

Happy St. Patrick’s day!  The real St. Patrick was one of the greatest Christians who ever lived, and some say one of the greatest people who ever lived. His story is amazing, and true. Here’s my re-telling of the true tall tale of St. Patrick.celtic-cross.jpg

Patrick spent most of his life in Ireland, but he was actually born in England, who were the enemies of Ireland.

Patrick was born around the year 390 – over 1600 years ago. His grandfather was a Christian pastor, and his family went to church, but he himself did not believe in God or believe in Jesus as his Lord and savior when he was young. When he was 16, his life changed forever: he was kidnapped by pirates and taken to Ireland, a wild and crazy place with wild and crazy people.

In Ireland he became a slave, and he was forced to work as a shepherd in the wilderness all alone. While he was all alone in the wilderness, he began to pray, remembering what he heard about Jesus when he was young. God answered his prayers, and eventually Patrick trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins, and in faith Patrick made Jesus the king of his life, turning from his sin and becoming God’s child. He remained a slave all alone in the wilderness, yet he trusted God and prayed day and night.

Eventually God spoke to Patrick in a wonderful dream, telling him to go back home to England. So Patrick escaped from slavery, and God protected him on his long walk across Ireland, and provided a ship that was sailing to England. God had rescued him twice: first from sin and death when he believed in Jesus, and now from slavery in a strange land.

Back home in England, Patrick joined the church, studied the Bible, and after many years became a pastor, leading his church. He was so full of Jesus’ love that he wanted to share it with everyone. Life was surely good for Patrick back home.

Eventually, God spoke to him in another dream, and this time it was much harder than before. God told Patrick to go BACK to Ireland, to the place where he was a slave, to the land of his enemies, a place with wild and crazy people who did wild and crazy and evil things. God wanted Patrick to share Jesus love with his enemies. What should he do?

People in his church surely told him that he should not go. They knew how wild and crazy and evil the Irish people were. They were sure no one would listen, and that Patrick would be hurt and killed. Yet Patrick obeyed God, because he loved God, and he loved the Irish people, even though they were the enemies of his people. He knew that Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Patrick knew that he must tell the Irish people that God loved them so much that He sent Jesus to die for them, and live again, and if they believe in Jesus they can have eternal life, be God’s children and know God’s love too.

And that is just what he did. Patrick sold his land and all his things and moved to Ireland, leaving the safety of his home in England. God protected Patrick from being killed by the wild and crazy and evil Irish people, although they did throw him in jail at times and did try to kill him! Patrick preached and taught the gospel all through Ireland. He told them to turn away from their false gods, turn away from their sin, and to believe in Jesus, the son of the one true God, who alone can save us from our sins. He used music and art to share the gospel. He took care of the poor. He prayed to God to heal the sick, and God did powerful miracles through him. They say he even used the 3-leaf clover, which is found in Ireland, to try to explain the Trinity, that there is one God in 3 persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God blessed Patrick, and through him many, many people became Christians in Ireland. He started about 700 churches and thousands of people had eternal life in Jesus. Patrick died and went to heaven at age 77, having served his whole life for the people who enslaved him, so they might have eternal life.

If St. Patrick was here, he might tell us his story, but he wouldn’t stop there. He would tell us an even better story. He might say something like this: “You know how I gave my whole life to serve those I loved, even though they were my enemies? I did it because Jesus gave his life for us, even though we were his enemies. I simply believed in him, received his forgiveness, and followed in his footsteps. Isn’t Jesus wonderful?”

Christianity Explored

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COMING SOON! We will be hosting a 7-week group called Christianity Explored, starting the week after Easter. Would you, or someone you know, like to be introduced (or re-introduced) to the true heart of the Christian faith? Stop in sometime or contact Pastor Bob at 802-442-2105 or sign up here:

 

 

The Evolution of “Mercy Street”

Mercy Street Slides - Oct 2018The monthly gathering we call Mercy Street began here in Bennington in July 2017. The idea was to have a safe and welcoming gathering for all affected by addiction, to remember we are loved–loved by God, loved by our church community, loved by each other. We sing songs of hope and redemption. We share our stories. We pray. We connect. For about a year we also enjoyed a meal together (thanks to the Turning Point!).

Now we are evolving again, this time to re-emphasize the music and de-emphasize the food (although we will have coffee and snacks afterward). We will still emphasize sharing the love of God with anyone who has been touched by the opiate crisis and other addictions. We will fight the lies that say you are unlovable and unworthy; we will fight to remember that You Are Loved.

We will also open our arms wider, to include all who may find themselves in need of hope but not necessarily affected by addiction. In these dark times we all could use a blast of light. So whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you’ve done or not done, please know that you are welcome to Mercy Street.

Our next gathering is this Thursday February 28 at 7pm at 601 Main Street. We’ve assembled a lively folk/gospel/rock/blues band for your listening and sing-along pleasure (if you’ve been to one of our recent Good Friday services, you’ll remember the infectious, toe-tapping joy of singing along to songs of hope and healing).

Come as you are, my friends, and remember: “earth has no sorrow heaven can’t heal.”

For more info please contact Pastor Bob: PastorBobWiegers@gmail.com

The Spittin’ Image of God

The other day I met someone who knows my son, but hadn’t met me yet. It went something like this: “Oh, I know whose dad you must be!” and “Wow, your son looks exactly like you!” My usual response: “Yeah, I know. Poor kid.”

Why does my kid look like me? Of course genetics has a lot to do with it. We’ve also spent 14 years together, so for better or worse, he’s picked up quite a few of my mannerisms, habits, phrases, and quirks, not to mention an outstanding sense of style. He is, as they say, my spittin’ image.

Did you know that YOU are made in God’s “spittin’ image”? In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, you’ll find an astounding affirmation of the dignity and worth of every human being: “God created humankind in his own image…” (Genesis 1:27). Take a moment and think of the best of humanity and the ultimate in human achievement, and perhaps you’ll be approaching what it means to be made in the image of God. Who do you think of? Perhaps a humanitarian, an athlete, an artist, or perhaps someone unknown but beloved. That person was made in the image of God.

And yet take a moment to think of the worst of humanity, the depths of depravity and human evil. Who do you think of? Perhaps an infamous criminal, dictator, or terrorist, or perhaps someone obscure that has done unspeakable harm to you. That person too was made in the image of God. How can this be?

Genesis was originally written in the Ancient Near East. The ancient kings there laid claim to their far-flung territories by setting up large statues of themselves. These statues were made in the image of the king, there to remind everyone who was in charge. This is the same idea that Moses, the author of Genesis, apparently had in mind when he first wrote those inspired words: “God created humankind in his own image…” Human beings are here on earth as God’s royal representatives. We’re not just here by accident. We’re not created out of conflict and chaos, as all the other ancient creation stories claimed. We’re here on purpose: created to create, blessed to be a blessing, made good to do good.

Every person you’ve ever met, and every person in human history, is one of God’s royal representatives here on earth. This is why we affirm the unparalleled dignity and value of every single human life, whether she or he be the tiniest of babies in a mother’s womb, or the eldest of the elderly among us, or anyone in between. There will always be some who deny the inherent dignity of others, but the downtrodden and the marginalized are made in the image of God too.

It is often hard to fathom why, or how, someone made in the image of God can do the terrible things that we are all capable of. But then we turn the page to Genesis 3. Evil entered the world when human beings rebelled against God’s good grace, and we’ve been stained and twisted ever since. So we are all a bit of a paradox: made in the image of God, but broken and twisted. We’re still made “very good,” but things quickly go very bad.

But right on the heels of our rebellion, God promised to fix it (see Genesis 3:15). He didn’t want to leave his royal representatives stained and twisted. Fast-forward thousands of years as God’s rescue plan unfolds, and the true Image of God arrives on earth: baby Jesus. We wouldn’t have guessed it, but this Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus was and is the unstained and untwisted true Image of God: his true royal representative here on earth. He came to show us how to live as people made in the image of God. He came to undo the brokenness of humanity. And he came to sacrifice his perfect life to pay the penalty of our rebellion. Jesus ultimately came to restore you to the true image of God.

So I don’t know if you’re the spittin’ image of one of your parents, but I do know that you’re gloriously made in the image of God. That alone is worth celebrating. Yet it is even more glorious to be re-made into the image of God by Jesus himself, otherwise you’re stuck in your rebellion and eternally separated from God. You too can be made new by turning from your rebellion and trusting and following Jesus, the true Image of God.

Genesis Resources

We’re starting our journey through Genesis! Check out the resources below to help you read and understand.

Recommended Bibles
ESV Bible (many design options)
ESV Study Bible
ESV Student Study Bible

Genesis text online
ESV translation
NIV translation

Genesis Audio on YouTube
Genesis Audio – ESV simple reading
Genesis Audio – ESV dramatic reading
Genesis Audio – “Message” Paraphrase (part 1) (part 2)

Genesis Overview Videos HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
“Bible Project” overview (part 1) (part 2)
“Read Scripture” overview (part 1) (part 2)

Mobile Apps
YouVersion
Bible Gateway