In Culture, Ethics, News, Newsletter

You know what? God’s not bad.

Wow. What just happened? Did the atmosphere shift, or what? You’re probably feeling a little weird right now. Like, “What do I do with that? Am I supposed to say, ‘God’s not bad, all the time’? That doesn’t really work, does it? Does it mean He is bad some of the time?”

Okay, let’s resolve this quickly: God is good (“all the time!”)!

I’m glad we cleared that up! But what did happen?

It was an example of negative versus positive. I spoke a negative and it changed the atmosphere, and not for the better. The positive brought it back, and then it did feel much better. I vote for positive!

We all can change the atmosphere because of the Holy Spirit in us, and we are supposed to do so. There’s that song lyric, “When You walk into the room, everything changes.” It’s talking about Jesus, of course, but with Jesus in you it means you too. Bishop Joseph Garlington says your attitude should be, “Hey, I’m walking into the room here, and everything is going to change!”

Why is this important? We all want revival, right? We all want more of the Presence of God, not only for ourselves, but also for the people and world around us. Well, it starts with us. Ephesians 5:14-19 says,

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.

In part, the Apostle Paul is saying, “What are you waiting for? Get out there with a positive attitude, and the glory of Christ will shine out from you for the world to see, and that will change the atmosphere like nothing you’ve ever seen!”

When we change the atmosphere for the better—that is, positively—the glory of Christ shines out, which attracts people to Him, which leads to revival, which is life. When we change the atmosphere by negativity, the opposite happens. It leads to death. With Christ in us, we not only have the authority to represent the Presence of God, we also carry it with us!

Even though that Presence is always positive, we can still choose to be negative. The Bible says daily choose life or death. Let’s form positive habits so we don’t have to keep choosing.

First of all, how do we change the atmosphere?

Sometimes the Holy Spirit in us just interacts with the spirits of the people around us and causes a shift. Sometimes it’s by how we behave, the example we display.

But most often it happens by what comes out of our mouths. So, if you want to know how to change the atmosphere, start by looking at both what you say and how you say it.

Jesus anticipated the old Johnny Mercer song, and He accentuated the positive, eliminated the negative and didn’t mess with Mr. In-Between.  

Words matter, and Jesus is The Word.

Let’s talk about Negative and Positive for a minute. Near my house there’s a small park with a sandbox, playground equipment and picnic tables. At the entrance there’s a sign that says “Carolina Laurel Park. Closed Dusk to Dawn.” You may say, “What’s wrong with that?” Well, all the information is there, but what if the sign said, “OPEN Dawn to Dusk”?

For me, “Open Dawn to Dusk” is much more uplifting, more inviting, less legalistic, happier even. It’s positive! A small example, but little things like this can add up to a lot.

For a historical example, did you know there is a positive and a negative version of the Golden Rule? Yes, it’s true. Both are based on Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Here’s that verse:

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.                                                                                     

Now that’s a positive statement, direct from God to Moses. However, what the Jews were actually taught in Mosaic Law prior to and during the time of Jesus was very different.

Hillel the Elder (c. 110 BC – 10 AD) was one of the most respected Jewish teachers. He was teaching just prior to Jesus’ ministry time on earth, and there is a story that he was challenged by a gentile who agreed to be converted to Judaism if the Torah could be explained to him while he stood on one foot. Hillel accepted the man’s terms. In his answer he did draw on Leviticus 19:18, but what he said was: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn” (Shabbath folio:31a, Babylonian Talmud).

That sounds good, but now let’s compare that to the version Jesus gave us:

Mosaic Law: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.

Jesus: Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)

The Law leaves wiggle room, doesn’t it? You can rationalize