Positive Look Around

My family and I have recently relocated to Henry County in Virginia.  We knew that this is an economically depressed region, and that it is a far far different environment from our cozy suburban home in Midlothian Va.  I've been most surprised at the attitudes of many leaders and even institutions.

There seems to be a pervasive sense of depression everywhere.  I hear, there are no jobs, no opportunity, no hope... but when I look around I see opportunity and beauty.  The internet has changed the world.  Education is at the heart of change.  We the people make the difference in our community. If "We" continually perpetuate the talking point of decline, depression, and hopelessness, we are contributing to the very essence of the problem.

The MHC of 1975 will not be returning. The factories will not be reopening as they once were. The old times were good. Recent times were bad.  The future is what we make of it.
We must support our community and our neighbors. We must look around and embrace the incredible natural beauty of our area. We must indeed remember that God is in control and that all things work together for his purpose.

My friends and neighbors. I sing a song of faith, hope, and love this morning, inspired by the rolling clouds, worship at First United Methodist yesterday, and the words of Rev Keith Ritchie.

Look around you.. Love Deeply and take a deep breath.  Every day is a unique opportunity and we are each specific, beloved firstborn children of Christ.

We should act like it and step up. We should set the example and shine our light.  We should be positive, and certain in all things that we are more than conquerors. We are blessed.  The road is in front of us. It is time to take a positive look around and step up and out.

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From the MESSAGE:  Romans 8:15-39

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!
That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

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