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Week Three | Meaning Invades Meaninglessness

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The Gospel on the Ground Online Biblical Study
Reading Assignment – Session Three (Pg. 60-83)
Listen to the Audio version | Reading Time: 5 minutes

My dad worked for a newspaper, as a photographer and journalist for 42 years, and still likes to watch or listen to the news throughout the day. I learned from a young age that although the news is important, the majority of what was on the tv news is very scary and depressing. Even as an adult, so much of the news is overwhelming and heartbreaking. Shootings, riots, fires, tornados, hurricanes, floods, and wars, hurt and devastate so many lives. Most of the time it’s too much for my compassionate heart to handle.

However, I usually enjoy the last couple minutes of most news coverage, because there are often inspiring stories of people making a difference in their communities. 

There is a wonderful story about a woman who saw a need in her community and opened a food pantry out of her garage, in Illinois. Now many of the people she helped in the past are paying it forward to support others in need.

I recently heard how there are thousands of Americans all across the country taking in and caring for Ukrainian refugees with open arms and hearts. They are opening up churches, activity centers, and homes, to provide for basic human needs and offer some comfort and love during these scary times.

A fisherman in Florida noticed his young neighbor’s father wasn’t around much, and he didn’t have a male role model so he started taking him fishing. He quickly saw there was a huge need for many children in his area to have this type of mentorship. So he started a program and is teaching thousands of children who have either lost their father or don’t have an active father figure, how to fish. He’s encouraging, mentoring, and giving them a connection and place to belong.

Don’t just look for the helpers, be the helpers

While watching the news, I have often thought of the wonderful advice I learned from watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Sharing advice his mother taught him, Fred Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. ‘”

This is wonderful advice for young children and even for us adults when we have to watch the scary terrible things on the news, but as followers of Jesus, we need to do more than just look for the helpers. We need to be the helpers, others can look to and see the love of Jesus through. 

The earliest followers of Jesus set a beautiful example of being the helpers when they lived for the kingdom of God rather than fighting against the world of empire.

They sought to bring the kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven. They wanted to create, to build, to share, to bless, to encourage, to meet needs, to make a positive impact, and to make a difference in the darkness of the world of empire. Rather than running from this darkness, they inhabited it and announced the year of the Lord’s favor in it, both in word and deed.

kristi mclelland, Pg. 81 of “the gospel on the ground”

I have a feeling the apostles would have been in several of our modern-day inspiring news stories. 

To go along with the scary stories of persecution, imprisonment, martyrdom, shipwrecks, and more, God instructed Luke to fill the book of Acts with so many amazing inspiring stories about the early followers of Jesus. 

We read the inspiring story of tremendous generosity, in Acts 2:45, when followers of Jesus sold property and possessions to give to everyone who had needs. 

I can imagine the news headline for Acts 5:12-16, “Peter’s Supernatural Shadow.” Just like we read in the gospels of crowds gathering to see Jesus, crowds of sick and needy people gathered from towns all around Jerusalem to receive help and healing from Peter and Jesus’s other followers. 

The testimony of a kind and generous woman, Tabitha, dying, in Acts 9:36-43, but then Peter praying to God and she opened her eyes and sat up, is the perfect positive inspiring story to close an intense news broadcast. 

And these are just a couple of examples from the beginning of Acts! There are so many more!

Meaning invades Meaninglessness

I’ve often wished the news could just be these kinds of stories, of kindness, generosity, compassion, and love. 

It’s so easy to get frustrated and feel discouraged and angry hearing about all of the awful destructive disagreements, and meaningless tragedies that are happening all around the world. If we’re not careful, we can become so focused on how against the evil we are that we miss opportunities to demonstrate the beauty of being for the kingdom of God.

But if you see the world of empire as a space that needs the light you can bring, as an opportunity to usher in the kingdom of celebration and bring meaning to meaninglessness, you will engage and lean in wholeheartedly like the believers we read about in the book of Acts and the early church histories.

kristi mclelland, Pg. 82 of “the gospel on the ground”

Jesus’s disciples and His earliest followers, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, responded to Jesus’s teaching when He told them

“Very truly I tell you, all who have faith in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12

They did the things they saw Jesus do, and they did even greater, all for the kingdom of God. And because they did these things we know, as faith-filled believers in Jesus, we can too! 

Now that’s inspiring! 

God has given us amazing examples, through Jesus’s first followers, of how to be the helpers and the light to a broken and hurting world. When we see hunger, we need to feed it. When we see pain, we need to offer aid and comfort. When we see loneliness, we need to invite people to join the family of God. 

While my dad is very informed about the news, our Heavenly Father knows exactly what is happening in the news in every corner of His creation. And He is continuing to use His faithful followers to share The Good News of Jesus to a lost and broken world. 

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The Gospel on the Ground | Kristi McLelland

A 7-week study unpacking the life of the early church in the book of Acts to see that the kingdom of God is always on the move, always looking outward to bring meaning and joy to a world searching for true fulfillment and hope.

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