This Week's Teaching | Prayer Requests
Click above to watch
The first believers "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer... and they enjoyed the favor of all the people." But soon enough they were persecuted, and this continues to be our lot.
As Wendy and I get ready to set out on our mission adventure, planting and encouraging microchurches around the U.S., this phrase is meaningful to me. I believe we are enjoying God's favor for it. And, while we are not truly persecuted for our faith in the U.S., it's true that our gospel does not enjoy the favor of all the people. And this makes our call especially poignant.
Our heart is to go bring the joy of the gospel to people who have become resistant to the "messenger" of big church, and to set people in families where they can again become tender to the Holy Spirit, and to each other. Your prayers and support are so appreciated!
Read below as you watch above.
<TRANSCRIPTION OF ABOVE VIDEO>
In my microchurch, the one that we started in our house, we've been going almost two years and we went through Luke and then just finished Acts a couple nights ago. We did it in an interesting way.
You know, when you're reading through the scriptures, the goal isn't to like quick get through it. There's no timeline to get through it. It's the same way that I read scripture. It's to spend time , letting it speak to you, asking questions of the apostles, so to speak, and talking our way through it.
So here last Tuesday, we found ourselves with a decision to make, because as Wendy and I prepare to leave, we were still at Acts 20. Do we finish out Acts or not? Our group is gonna continue to go, but then two other couples are feeling called to start other microchurches.
We wanted to finish out Acts and there were eight of us in the room, eight adults in the room. So each of us read one chapter. We would read the chapter out loud and then not talk about it, which normally we read the chapter in sections and then we talk about it. But we read the chapter and then I would say, "Okay, no comments, just make yourself some notes, reflect on what you just heard." Then we would read the next chapter to the next chapter and the next chapter. We got to Acts 27 and Acts has 28 chapters in it. So one chapter left. And then we did something. We've never done it this way before. We each read a verse in succession, just around the room, just each reading a verse. And we concluded the book of Acts. And then we started talking about it. Which was a wonderful way to do it.
The reason we went through Acts and started with Luke — and for those of you who haven't been listening from the beginning — I wanted us to go through Acts because we're looking to find what is the simplest, most essential way to be church. And I wanted to know what is it to go back and be church like the early believers did in the book of Acts. And I thought, Acts is a sequel. It starts with the gospel according to Luke. And so we actually went back and started with Luke. And I think the first time we met, we went through four verses of Luke 1. So we went through Luke and that took a long time. And then we went through Acts. And we just finished it up.
In Acts 2:42, now this is where we get our network name. X242 is shorthand for Acts 2:42. The Holy Spirit falls on the believers. The 120 are gathered for prayer. Jesus has died, been resurrected, and he returns to heaven saying, " Go and take this gospel to the nations."
And the believers are gathered in the upper room. 120 of them or so. And they're praying and the Holy Spirit falls on them with what looks like tongues of fire on their heads, and they start speaking in other languages, speaking the praises of God. Everyone comes running and then Peter preaches the first sermon and it's: Jesus came, you all crucified him. They say, what should we do? And he says, repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and receive the Holy Spirit. This promise is not just for you, but it's for you and all your children, all who are far off. And so they did that. 3000 people were added to their number that day.
And then it says in Acts 2:42, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
Now, we don't read that as a prescription. This is what we're supposed to do. We read it as a description. This is what they did. What is it that the first believers did when the Holy Spirit first fell on them before they had added other things? What did they do? Well, they gathered around the apostles and said, teach us, tell us what you know. And they were in fellowship with each other because that's what the Holy Spirit always does to believers. And they broke bread in their homes and they shared communion, but they also just ate together and they prayed together.
And we just said, that's what we want to do. And so that's what we've been doing in my microchurch that meets in my home for the last almost two years. One month shy of two years, and it's been really good.
Now it's interesting. This morning I was reading Acts 2 and just reflecting on it and after verse 42 it reads on that, " Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts and they broke bread in their homes and. Ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily, those who are being saved."
Now, I would say that for those of us in the West in America, do we enjoy the favor of all the people? Well, it's tempting to say that we're being persecuted and yes, we're being pushed against. Sure. But here in the West, none of us is facing a legitimate threat of death or imprisonment or dismemberment for our faith. It can happen in isolated cases, of course, but we aren't living under direct persecution that if you're Christian, you will have your house taken from you or your arm taken from you, or your life taken from you. We're not facing that. So you could say that we live with the favor of all the people.
And yet on the other hand, we're constantly being pushed back at because the Christian Gospel, our gospel is not one that the world receives. They don't enjoy the gospel because it always begins with bad news. It's good news, but it begins with bad news. As I said a few weeks ago, my articulation of the gospel that I meditate on these days:
God is good, loving and powerful, and Jesus is the exact representation of his being. Humanity is idolatrous, adulterous and powerless, and I am the exact representation of its being. And implication is that you are too. The world is too. But Jesus came to redeem and reconcile and restore all who put their faith in him and turn to him and put their confidence in him.
This is our gospel, and if people would tolerate the second part of it long enough and face it honestly, they could get to the third part, which is the good news. But most people don't want to hear that they are idolatrous, adulterous and powerless. They don't want to hear that they're in need of salvation.
And so do we enjoy the favor of the people? Our gospel doesn't.
As we read through Acts — so Acts two and then three and four and five — as we read through the apostles, then very soon start to be persecuted by the Jews. And then ultimately they are persecuted by the government and the religious institutions.
And the church does not enjoy the favor of all the people. It's Acts 8, after Steven is martyred, the church is scattered. But this actually serves God's purpose and the faith, our faith, the gospel, the good news penetrates the different areas of the Roman Empire.
And we find Paul then who persecuted the church, comes to faith, and then he becomes, one of the chief apostles going as a messenger, going and carrying this message to the world.
As Paul goes and plants faith, and then goes back and encourages and strengthens the believers, he encourages them to remain true to the faith, to remain faithful to God. And lets them know that we must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.
It's not an easy thing that we call people to. It's a sure thing. It's a hope-filled faith that we will receive our reward. But it's not easy to follow Jesus in this world.
As Paul goes forward, the Holy Spirit keeps saying through prophets — and it's interesting, many people these days set up prophets on pedestals. But it's interesting, who's Agabus? We know about him just a little bit here, and some other people who come in and they speak prophetically and yet they don't have positions of power in the church. They simply bring a message of God's heart and mind. They're able to articulate it to the people in front of them. And as Paul goes on, prophets keep on coming and saying, "If you go toward Jerusalem, it's not gonna end well for you." And then eventually Jesus says to Paul, "You gotta go to Rome." And Paul keeps on going toward Rome, not just walking toward it, but being escorted by Soldiers because he is under arrest. And he finally gets to Rome. And the book of Acts ends before it tells us what happens to Paul there. We know from history that Paul eventually loses his life, but I think it's some 11 years after he gets arrested and it's during those times that he's writing what we know as the scriptures, the epistles, when he's under arrest.
I'm inspired by this thought that God takes even what we would relate to as inconvenience or hardship or disruption of our plans, and he uses it for good. If Paul wouldn't have been arrested, we wouldn't have many of these scriptures. He was too busy in front of people.
But because he was arrested, we can read his counsel to the people who he had brought to faith, and it's good. It's good.
Wendy and I leave in a couple days. I'm recording this on Friday. We leave in a couple days, Lord willing, and we're going to go and encourage microchurches. We're gonna encourage faith wherever we can. It's not about just this new system of microchurches. That really is secondary.
Our gospel is not "simpler church." Our gospel is the gospel of Jesus. But I am filled with this conviction that many people have difficulty engaging the gospel of Jesus because we have made a gospel of big church that alienates them or that they find utterly uncompelling for various reasons that I would agree with.
And yet we are not those who condemn the gathering of the larger group of people. As I keep on saying, wherever believers gather, man, my heart is there. Like, totally. Passionately. And especially when the two or three gather, when the six or eight gather to open scripture to let it speak, to pray together, to love each other as family, to carry each other's burdens.
And so we're going to encourage people who feel called to do church in this simpler way, to be church in this simpler way. So in a few days, we head out of here, out of Sarasota and head north. Your prayers are appreciated. May God open a door for effective ministry wherever we go.
We want to encourage the saints, we want to explain the gospel to people who have yet to fully engage it. And we want to set up very simple church gatherings that can be sustained and reproduced without wearing people out, without people becoming disillusioned by it.
And so that's what we're doing. Pray for us please. If you wanna see what it is we do, x242.net. If you wanna support what we're doing, you can do that. We feel honored that X242 is helping to make this happen. And so if you go there, there's a support button there and that ultimately helps us do what we're doing.
But mostly pray for us, pray that God would use this to lead people to faith in him and to take the discouraged, disillusioned, disconnected believers and bring them together. Peter writes, God takes us and puts us into families. We wanna put them into families.
And so that's our prayer. If you know anyone who might be interested in it, that might be in our path , just give them this video and let them know.
As always. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. That's probably the easiest way to connect. If you have my cell, just text me. That's the definite way to connect.
I pray God's blessing over you.
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message..." (Colossians 4:2-3).
Weekly Teaching: "Choose to Be a Blessing!"
Click above image to watch
As Wendy and I prepare to head out next Monday to go plant and encourage microchurches, I can't help but reflect on God's goodness these past two years. And I can't help but recommend that you adopt the same motto that we adopted: "We just want to be a blessing." Here's what happened to us along the way. And what we believe is happening to us next.
Read below as you watch above.
<TRANSCRIPTION OF ABOVE VIDEO>
Today, if I could, I just wanna remind you to be a blessing wherever you go, to choose that as your orienting statement, the inner dialogue: "I just want to be a blessing wherever I have opportunity to bless."
In Colossians 3, Paul's writing, and he says, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion and kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." He says, "Bear with each other and forgive one another, if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."
And then he says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body, you were called to peace. And be thankful." (Filled with gratitude.) "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom. Through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks" (gratitude) "to God the Father through him."
And then he says, "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged. Slaves..." (Now, in our setting, we might apply this — let's not do it too indiscriminately — but we can apply this to employees.) "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything and do it not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ, you are serving." Not just your master, not just your employer. "It is the Lord Christ you are serving." You are blessing. You are coming to be a blessing to.
"Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for the wrongs and there is no favoritism. Masters," (and we might apply it: employers, bosses) "masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair because you know that you also have a master in heaven."
And then he says, "Devote yourselves to prayer. Being watchful and thankful."
A couple years ago when Wendy and I stepped out of vocational ministry, full-time occupational ministry as a pastor â€” had been that for 22 years, that was what put a roof over our heads, that's what put food on the table â€” when we stepped out of that, we didn't know what we were gonna do.
We had given ourselves fully to it, and, even though I can't say that during my 22 years of ministry, I did everything well, I can say that I chose to do what was right. I did my best to love those under my care. I did my best to love my enemies. Of course, I failed at things, but my conscience was clear. At the end of that, my conscience was clear that I had decided to do good to those who hate me, bless those who curse me, pray for those who persecute me. And so that's what I did.
Coming out of that, yes, we were blessed. But we didn't know what the future was gonna hold for us. We just knew that we needed to do a new thing, meaning boil down this thing of church into something way more vital than all the extra programs that we like to throw into church, into being church.
We decided that we wanted to see what it is to do the essential things of being church and see whether that's enough. But we didn't know what that would mean for us vocationally.
Somewhere along the lines early on in that, we started using language of, "We just want to be a blessing."
Three weeks or so after we left the vocational ministry, we had opportunity to clean Airbnbs. And we went in saying, "We just want to be a blessing." And literally I was cleaning toilets. Wendy got the kitchen. I got the bathroom. Literally I was cleaning toilets, praying for the people who owned the Airbnb and for the people who were going to be renting the Airbnb. "I just want to be a blessing. Someone has to clean this toilet. I just want to be a blessing." And so we went in each day with gratitude. We just want to be a blessing. We just wanna be a blessing.
Around that same time, someone came to us and asked whether we could clean some ice cream equipment â€” Yoder's Southern Creamery. " We need someone to just clean the equipment after hours, to help out the crew so that they can keep on making ice cream, so they don't have to stop and clean and things." And we said, "Sure. If we can be a blessing, let's do that."
And we went in and we were trained by people half our age to clean things. And it stands out to me as this one time, Rhonda was teaching me how to clean a machine and I mean literally teaching me how to take a soapy rag and wipe down a machine. Literally just that. And so I do that and I looked at it and I said, " How's that?" And she looked, and she said, "You missed a spot." And it stands out as so humbling to be taught by someone half my age simply to wipe stuff off of a machine. But I went in day after day: "I just want to be a blessing. I just want to be a blessing." The Rhondas and the Elizabeths and the Joshs, the people who he got to work with. I went filled with gratitude: "I just want to be a blessing. I just want to be a blessing."
We'd been doing that probably, it wasn't quite a year, uh, maybe six, eight months, and one day the president of the company came out and said, "Hey, I want to talk to you." They have a n ice cream shop downtown. We were literally leaning on the mops and He asked whether we would be interested in managing Main Street Creamery. That was something that we had prayed for probably 15 years earlier, 10 years earlier at least. Like, like, and we had stopped really praying for it. Because of our season of life, it was something we would enjoy doing, but we didn't feel like we were supposed to try to put all our resources into something like that at the time. But what we would pray is, "What would be ideal is if someone else had a shop and we could just manage it. We could just run it." And what he said to us, "What if you were just to run it all? Like just take care of it all?" And we talked for a couple weeks on that and decided to take it, and went into the next season, just saying, "We just wanna be a blessing."
We just wanna be a blessing to the customers who come into Main Street Creamery in downtown Sarasota, and to be a blessing to Bill and Nate and the people that we work for, to be a blessing to our coworkers, those who work with us and work for us. Just to be this blessing to those people.
And to each person who comes in. We decided we just want to enjoy them. Every customer who walks in, we just want to give them joy. We want to give them an experience of feeling like someone has enjoyed their presence. Enjoyed them as a person. And so we went in every day with gratitude.
It doesn't mean it wasn't hard work, it doesn't mean we never got tired, but just with gratitude: "We just want to be a blessing. We just want to be a blessing."
And I had opportunities to coach a worship pastor at Bayshore Church and then he took a job somewhere else and they asked me if I would be interim worship pastor, and I was able to step in and be a blessing. When I went there, it literally, genuinely was, "I just want to be a blessing." I'm able to lead worship. I'm able to lead worship teams, and I believed that I have something to offer there. Not out of a self-confidence thing, but just out of experience. I decided, "I'll go be a blessing there." If someone wants to worship God, yeah, I'll lead you in worship if you are responsive to that. I had opportunity to go lead worship, and it became one month and two month and three months. And seven months later I'm still leading worship. I just wanted to be a blessing. I just wanted to be a blessing.
As God's call to leave Sarasota for a six month mission trip in this RV — as it became more clear that we're supposed to go in and plant and encourage microchurches around the US, people that have been reaching out to us and just to start conversations with people who don't even know we're gonna be there yet — as it became clear that we were supposed to do that, our decision was, "We still want to be a blessing." How we conclude or whether we conclude these responsibilities, we just wanna be a blessing.
And I said it so often, that at times I hoped it wasn't sounding like a rehearsed sort of thing. I hoped that me saying, "I just want to be a blessing," hadn't lost its meaning. And I'm telling you that it hasn't. I still, I just wanna be a blessing.
As we go forward and set our sights — right now, setting our sights toward Virginia, the Harrisonburg area — we just wanna be a blessing. And so I'm reaching out to people up there: Hey, can we come in and start a conversation and pray together and see what God wants to do? It seems like there's some interest in microchurch in the Harrisonburg area. So we're gonna pull in: "Who wants to join us?" We just want to be a blessing. Not coming to ply our wares. Is that how you say it? Not coming to sell something, but coming to be a blessing. To bring a blessing, to bring encouragement from Sarasota to give it to Virginia. And then from there heading over to Holmes County, Ohio, where there seems to be interest. There seems to be some interest there. We just wanna bring a blessing from Harrisonburg to Holmes County and to Indiana and to Wisconsin and to Washington and Oregon and wherever we land. Kansas, Leavenworth to just bring a blessing to people.
My encouragement to you today is that if you orient your life with gratitude, that "I want to take the blessings that have been given me" — whether it's just energy and strength, or a mind that can figure out things, or simply a smile to give to people — I wanna encourage you that if you can orient your thinking with gratitude to go and be a blessing to people, it will fill you with such deep and rich blessing.
Now in our case, it's met our needs and the people who we said that we wanted to bless have turned around and they are blessing us, giving us opportunity to continue to work remotely while we do this mission. Man, that is a huge blessing. For as long as it works, we won't hold anyone hostage. But if it works, then they're giving us opportunity to pursue the mission while still being a blessing to what's happening back in Sarasota.
Bayshore? We're going to continue to be a blessing, however we can, as long as there's a need.
We know that nothing beats onsite presence. Which is why we're going to be on site and to be present in some places that we're supposed to be and encourage microchurches.
And now X242 is giving the go ahead, giving the sign of blessing saying, yes, we wanna support what you're doing. Blessing us back.
And so we feel like we've blessed, but now we receive blessing in return. And honestly — honestly, genuinely, sincerely — the desire to be a blessing wasn't because we knew that we would get blessed back. It was because we had already been blessed. We had opportunity to bless someone, and so we blessed them.
And in the end, some people I'm sure have not blessed us. Some people who blessed us initially, then grumbled about it. It doesn't always work in your favor. You will always have enemies. Jesus promised that people would treat you like they treated him, if you follow him. There will always be people who grumble about you and complain about you. Always.
When you bless others, you don't always just receive blessing in return. But when you take the blessings you've received and use them to bless others, you will end up blessing others who take that blessing and bless you back. It's just how God's Spirit moves in people who are obedient to him, who are responsive to him.
So my encouragement to you today. Most of us aren't called to do what Wendy and I are called to do, to go out and encourage and plant microchurches. Or to clean toilets and Airbnbs or to clean ice cream machines or, to lead worship at Bayshore Church.
Not everyone is called to bless in the same ways. You have received blessing, that God says: Whatever you do, do it with all your heart. Whatever you do, serve those that you get to. Bless them openly, richly, generously, bless them. Give what you've received as a blessing. Give it to them as a blessing. Go not to be rewarded with their blessings, not to get paid. Go to be a blessing to them, to bless them richly with whatever you've been given.
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for humans."
"Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Jesus."
Go be a blessing. Go be a blessing. God will take care of you. It won't always look like you wanted it to, but God will take care of you.
And so this is my encouragement today. Go be a blessing. Just go live that way. Be a blessing today. Whether you face hardship or ease, go be a blessing. Fill your heart with the peace of Jesus and let it overflow as love and joy and peace to everyone you meet. Go be a blessing.
It's a joy to encourage you. If God puts it in your heart to pray for us, pray that there's a work of God there in Virginia, and pray toward the next destination, Ohio. Just start praying that God would start to open up doors for an effective ministry. And I will be praying that you â€” as you decide to use today as an opportunity to be a blessing â€” I pray that your ministry is fruitful and effective in the name of Jesus.
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message..." (Colossians 4:2-3).
Weekly Teaching: "Talitha koum!"
Click above image to watch
The words "talitha koum" are unfamiliar to most of us. But my prayer is that its message would be heard deep in the hearts of discouraged pastors and church leaders who feel like they are a failure.
I'll let the teaching itself explain what the phrase means and how it applies. I'll also let it explain why Wendy and I just moved into our RV, and why we plan to live in it for the next six months, traveling around the country.
Strengthened by your prayers and support, may our message be as "talitha koum" to the people we meet. And may our X242 way of being church be a refreshment to many.
<TRANSCRIPTION OF ABOVE VIDEO>
A couple days ago, I was reading in the scriptures and I just turned to the next chapter. I read Mark five and it's a familiar story. I've read this so many times, but it jumped out at me with such conviction.
Today's message is specifically for the pastor or leader of a small church, whether you call it a micro church or whether you just call it a church that's trying, my heart is so heavy and compassionate for what you're going through. Many pastors have been told that until their church reaches a certain size, they're not a good pastor, that they haven't succeeded. So they've put themselves under the care of so many experts that talk about how you have to break the 200 barrier or the 300 barrier. And some of you are still just going, I wish I could hold 80 or 50, and some of you are down to 20 or 30, and you're wondering why you're no good at pastoring. My heart is to encourage and strengthen you. This passage that I'm going to read, I want it to pull you back to a confidence in Jesus that he cares more about your church than you do, and he wants to strengthen you and encourage you with a message that sounds unfamiliar to the business culture era of church growth.
Here's the passage and then we'll see whether you relate.
" When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him . Then one of the synagogue leaders named Jairus came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet.
"He pleaded earnestly with him. He said, 'My little daughter is dying. My little daughter is dying, please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.' So Jesus went with him.
"A large crowd followed and pressed around him, and a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had. Yet instead of getting better, she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak because she thought, 'If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.'
" Immediately, her bleeding stopped. And she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
"At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and he asked, 'Who touched my clothes?' And his disciples said, 'You see the people crowding against you? Like, why would you ask, "Who touched me?"'
"But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. And he said to her, 'Daughter, daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace, and be freed from your suffering.'
"While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader, and they said, 'Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?'
"Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, 'Don't be afraid. Just believe.'" Don't be afraid. Just believe. Think that it will happen.
"He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John, the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion with people crying and wailing loudly.
"He went in and said to them, 'Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep!' But they laughed at him."
They knew it wasn't true, scientifically.
"After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, 'Talitha koum,' which means, 'Little girl, I say to you, get up.'"
Little girl. I say to you, get up. Talitha koum.
"Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around. She was 12 years old."
She was apparently born around the same time that the woman had started her hemorrhaging.
"At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this and told them to give her something to eat."
What jumps out at me when I read that — "Talitha koum; little girl I say to you, get up" — my heart heard Jesus saying to the little church, "Little daughter of mine. Little daughter of mine, you believe you're dead. You're just asleep."
You believe you're dead. And that it's hopeless. And I believe Jesus wants to take you by the hand and just say, "Talitha koum; little daughter, little girl, I say to you, arise, get up."
I believe he has compassion for you, but you have to stop believing that your church is dead and start realizing that your church is just asleep. And you have to stop â€” if I can mix the two, the woman who went to all the experts and suffered greatly at all their methods that were unproductive â€” please, stop going to those who want to tell you how to raise your church, how to stop the bleeding so that people stop leaving. Stop relying on people telling you how to do this. It's not working.
Just go to Jesus and touch his clothes. Just crawl to Jesus.
You feel like your church is dead and Jesus comes and says, "Why all the commotion? Why are you running around so frantically? Why? Why are you wailing? Why all the commotion? Your church isn't dead. It's asleep. Talitha koum. Little girl, I say to you, little church, little tiny church, I say to you: Get up. Arise."
My heart is to connect with pastors and leaders of small churches. And for some that's gonna be people who have decided to start a micro church in their home or wherever they want to meet. Or people who started a conventional church and they just knew this was gonna be the one. This was gonna take off. This was gonna be that next megachurch. It was gonna be the hit. People were gonna come because you had the contacts, you had the friends. You had people telling you, "You need to do this!" And then when you opened the doors, they didn't come. Or they came for a while, and because you didn't have the right programming, you didn't have a good children's minister, a good youth minister, the music was a little bit subpar. Whatever it was, they decided, you know, God bless you in your efforts, but we're gonna go someplace else where they actually offer this because our kids need this right now. Or they would say, " The music used to be great, but when so-and-so left, the music isn't quite what it used to be. And, you know, for me to stay around a church, really the preaching needs to be pretty spot on. And so, I'm sorry, I just need to leave." And your heart is crushed. Your heart is crushed.
So I just say, my heart is for the pastor who has tried, and you just feel like you're not measuring up because your little daughter died at 12. Your little daughter died before she could mature. Your little church is just bleeding. People come in and they leave. You just can't keep anybody. My heart is to encourage and strengthen, not to say you can be big, but to say you are enough. You are alive. You can wake up. You can get up and start walking. The bleeding can stop. You don't have to suffer under "how to break the 200 barrier" and " how to really lead." You don't have to suffer under the expectations that unless you have multiple staff that somehow you haven't quite arrived.
You don't have to suffer under that.
So what I'm bringing to you is a testimony that when I left all that and started meeting in house churches and micro churches â€” not with an angst to "do it the right way." I have to keep on saying this because house churches have a bad reputation and it's earned because so many house churches are just malcontents thinking, "We can do it better!" And this isn't what we're doing. We're just saying we can do the essentials and it is enough.
And so what we've been doing: we gather, we share a meal. A couple nights ago, we shared communion. We open scriptures, we talk it through. We pray together we are church. It is enough.
My heart is just to encourage and to strengthen and say, yes, like what Paul said in Acts 14:22. He went around strengthening and encouraging the disciples to remain true to the faith, and he said, "We must go through many hardships under the kingdom of God."
In other words, it's not just gonna be easy. You might have easy times. Of course, you'll experience times where you feel like you are in the favor of God. Right now, I'm feeling like I am in the favor of God, but I know that hard times will also come and hard times have been here. We do have to go through many hard times to enter the kingdom of God. It's what God calls us to, to do the hard work.
And my heart is to encourage you, to give you courage to do the hard work. Do the hard work. Be strengthened. Be faithful in all things.
Crawl to Jesus. Fall down before him. Touch the hem of his garment, plead with him, "Please come and raise up my little daughter."
And he says to you, "Don't be afraid. Just believe. Don't be afraid. Just believe. Just think that it will be done." Just like the woman, she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." And Jesus said to the father of little girl, "Don't be afraid. Just believe. Just think that it will be done. Just believe."
In a little bit, my wife and I are leaving in this RV, this fifth wheel. We're heading north. We're right now in Sarasota, Florida and we're heading north to connect with people who've reached out to us for encouragement or for instruction about microchurch. And my heart, as I read Mark 5 the other day, I just started to cry. As my wife and I held hands yesterday and we just prayed, I just started to cry.
My heart is to encourage those who feel overlooked, left out. When all the area pastors are invited to the meeting. You're not even thought about because you just have a little struggling church. My heart is to come to you and encourage you, whether it's a half hour conversation or staying for a few weeks, whatever that looks like.
My heart is to see what does God want to do in the various places? Where is this Holy Spirit moving in a way to say, "Little girl, talitha koum, little girl, I say to you, get up." I just wanna see what does God want to do in the various places.
And so that's something that we're getting ready to embark on. I'm gonna continue to teach in this way, but just from a different location — different locations — and I'm excited about it. Consider it our mission trip.
Right now we're planning to be gone six months. And then we'll come back, treating Sarasota as home base. Your prayers are appreciated. And if you know anyone who is in need of encouragement, anyone who's in the ministry, have them reach out to me. Let's do it by sending an email to email@example.com.
And let's talk. Let's see whether there's opportunity to get together, pray together, gather some of your friends, gather a few people, whatever it is in your fellowship, and pray about what God wants to do.
We've set our course north and then west, across the north and then back down working southeast, back to Sarasota. If you think that there's opportunity, please reach out.
Thank you to everyone who pays attention to these teachings every week. I am truly — it's a weird phrase, but I'm humbled and honored. I'm humbled to be honored that you would take time to listen to what I have to say. I would be doubly honored if you would pray for us in this.
Pray for opportunity. Pray that everything works well, like we've never RV'd before. We're learning this as we go. Pray for us in these things. Pray for safety of course, but safety's not the most important thing. Pray for fruitful ministry. And of course, pray that Wendy and I are refreshed in the whole experience. It's just gonna be Wendy, me, and the dog, Francis.
Talitha koum. Talitha koum. Little girl. I say to you, get up, arise.
Oh my heart.
This Week's Teaching: "If You Could Kill God In Order to Become God, Would You?"
Click above image to watch
It's a provocative question: "If you could kill God in order to become God, would you?"
I think you would have by now. Maybe not. But I'm sure I would have by now. Not in my better moments, of course. But in my worst moments? If it was a legitimate opportunity? If I could get away with it? You bet I would have. I hate saying that, but that's part of the gospel. It's part of the good news, because it's the bad news that Jesus faced head-on, to rescue me from even my worst, most despicable self.
In this week's teaching, I use this question to explain again a three-statement articulation of the gospel that I find helpful to meditate on. The second of the three statements deals with who we are at our worst. And, while we don’t dwell on our sins, it is good to dwell on God’s grace that has saved us from it all.
Take time to meditate on this week's teaching, and make sure that you are continuing to respond well to the gospel. And if you have a friend who needs to consider it, bring them into the conversation as well.
Watch above as you read below.
<TRANSCRIPT OF ABOVE VIDEO>
I dunno, maybe you find the thought objectionable. Most people do. But if you could kill God and become God would you? Like, I believe that if given the legitimate opportunity to kill God and become God, I believe I would've done that by now. And I actually believe you would've done that by now.
For some reason we want to resist that. We want to claim, "I wouldn't do that." But honestly, looking at all the little decisions that I've made in my life, man. Like, even if, sure at my best I wouldn't do it. But looking back at my worst, at my most selfish time, if given the legitimate opportunity to kill God so I could become God, man, I know I would have done it. And I believe you would've done it too.
When Jesus was walking this earth, he did good. Not only didn't do bad, but he did good. He healed people. He taught them. Delivered them. And then when given the opportunity to kill Jesus, to avoid his message, people took it. We took it. I, I hate the thought , I hate the thought that I would have killed Jesus because I relate to Jesus as someone I love, someone I worship, I admire, I revere, I follow. Man, I wouldn't kill Jesus.
But I would kill God. I would have by now.
I said several weeks ago that God is good, loving and powerful, and Jesus is the exact representation of his being. And I said, humanity is idolatrous, adulterous and powerless, and I am the exact representation of its being. And I would say you are the exact representation of its being.
If you look at your life, you will see idolatry, where you have worshiped things other than God. You'll see adultery, spiritual adultery where you have allowed your loyalty to be swayed, where you've been seduced by the things of this world. And if you look at your life, you would see that you've been powerless to say no to temptation over and over and over again.
Humanity is idolatrous, adulterous and powerless, and you are the exact representation of its being. I am the exact representation of its being.
The good news is that Jesus redeems, reconciles, and restores all who turn to him and put their confidence in him.
He redeems us. Where we gave in to the promise of Satan, that we could defy God and live forever, and that became entrapment where we sold ourselves to the enemy, Jesus came in and redeemed us. He purchased us back. He died our death so he could give us his life. He came and he redeemed us. He bought us back.
And where we had alienated ourselves from God by deliberately, continually choosing to defy him, where we had driven a wedge between us and him, where we were alienated because of our evil behavior. Jesus came in and reconciled us to God. He no longer counts our sins against us. We are reconciled to him.
And where we were powerless over the things that held us captive, he came in and restored us to our right mind. He came and restored us to his heart. He came and gave us his Holy Spirit, the spirit not of timidity, but the spirit of love and power and a sound mind. He came and restored us.
And so we can say it: God is good, loving, and powerful, and Jesus is the exact representation of his being; humanity is idolatrous, adulterous, and powerless, and we are the exact representation of its being; but Jesus redeems, reconciles, and restores all who turn to him and put their confidence in him. This is the gospel.
One day he had opportunity to lay down his life for you. And then one day he took it back up. He went into the grave so he could defeat death and bring back life for all who choose.
Now as I explain this, you are in one of four camps.
You're disbelieving. It just doesn't ring true to you, and I can't do anything about that. I would love for you to believe as I do, because it's so freeing. It's such good news. I would love for you to believe, but I can't make you believe and so I won't try. I mean, that's just condescending. And all that's up to God. That's up to you. Some hearts just are closed to this message. Minds are closed to this message. Now, how Jesus would explain it is that, as I've just explained the gospel, the devil comes and snatches it away so that you can't believe. Your heart is hard to the message. Your life is hardened. And so it doesn't come in. Man, I wish I could change that. I can't, so I won't try. So maybe you're disbelieving.
Or you're disillusioned. As I've explained this gospel, you say, yeah, I did that. I tried that. I threw everything into it. But then hardship or something came along and it just wasn't what you thought you had bought into. And so you became disillusioned and discouraged and you just wandered away. And maybe you still sort of believe, but it's just not something you put too much effort into. Disillusioned.
Or it could be that you're distracted. You would say, " Of course I'm a believer." But either you're pursuing the luxuries and the lusts of this world, or you're worrying about not having enough. You're distracted by all the things of this world, whether it's getting more or just getting enough. You're distracted by all the worries and cares of this life. And so you've put your faith in Jesus, but then you've just gone back to living a very earthbound life, a very temporal life, a life oriented around the things of this kingdom. The kingdom of this world. And so your faith is unproductive. It's unfruitful. You're distracted.
I can't affect whether you're disbelieving. If you're disillusioned, I would say come grow roots. Renew your faith in Jesus today. Let him prove again that he is worthy of your confidence. Grow roots. Get connected to a fellowship of believers who love each other, who pray for each other, who open scripture together and just start to grow roots. Grow them deep, so when the struggles of life come, you don't wither away.
And if you're distracted, it's time to repent of those things. Turn back to Jesus and say, "I'm sorry I've worried so much. I'm sorry I have lusted after the things of this life so much. I renew my confidence in you, Jesus. Today is a day that I restore my faith in you and I fan to full flame everything that you've given me. Today is a day that I renounce all the attractions of the things of this world, and I restore my love for you. I turn my attention toward you, Lord. I renew my devotion to you, Lord."
That'd be my invitation. If you do that, then you're in the fourth camp: those who Jesus said hear and accept, and then by persevering, produce great fruit. And I believe that if you will give your attention to this gospel -- if you'll align your life with Jesus, if you'll allow him to redeem you and live as if you are redeemed, and reconcile you and live as if you are reconciled to God, and restore you and live as if you've been restored, if you'll put your faith in Jesus, if you'll turn to him and put all your confidence in him and follow him as far as you can go in everything -- I believe if you do that, you will be fruitful in your faith. And you will find this to be a very rewarding life. Even if you have to lay it down in this life, you know that one day you will receive eternal life. You will be rewarded for your faith. This is our gospel.
This is our gospel. He died your death so he could give you his life. Today would you renew your confidence in that? If you've never prayed to put your faith in Jesus, pray it. "Lord Jesus, I confess my need for you. I confess my sin. And I turn to you, Jesus. Let me see you for who you are."
Renew your faith, put your faith in Jesus, and it will go well with you. This is my prayer.
This Week's Teaching: "How's Your Zeal?"
Click above image to watch
In the time of adversity, I know of no prayer more zealous and faith-filled and trusting than this: "Lord, remove this suffering as soon as it has served its purpose. Not a moment after, but not a moment before."
We think of zeal as enthusiasm. It is, sure! But that doesn't mean hype. It means hope. It means a radical, lived-out hope that even affects how we do adversity. This radical hope is bold enough to endure whatever comes, be it outright persecution or just the hardships of life, because it believes passionately that God is good, loving, and powerful, and that he can be trusted to lead us to maturity and completeness. And it believes that he is fully capable of removing the suffering with a word, with a blink, with a nod, with the authoritative twitch of his finger. There is nothing he cannot and will not do for the good of those who love him.
And sometimes that means we must endure hardship.
In this week's teaching, we look at the scriptures that prepare us for hardship and adversity, and we learn this prayer of faith: "Lord, remove this suffering as soon as it has served its purpose. Not a moment after, but not a moment before."
Watch above and read below. And start praying it over everything that comes your way.
<TRANSCRIPT OF ABOVE VIDEO>
I was talking with a man in an Asian country where it's illegal to be Christian. And he told me that when he turned from the faith of his people and became a follower of Christ, the village where he lived, beat him one day, threw him in the bushes, and left him for dead. After about four hours, he got up and went into the village. And he said, "It was that day that I became very bold in my faith."
In Romans 12, it says, "Keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord." Keep your zeal, serving the Lord.
We think of zeal as worshiping greatly, or being expressive in demonstrative ways or rallying for things that we believe in. "Zeal!" Like, really believing in God for things.
But when I hear his story about being persecuted to the point of death , I think that's where the zeal is!
Today I just want to do a zeal check. How is your zeal doing? And how do you measure your zeal? Zeal for the Lord? Your spiritual fervor? I mean, sure, it can be the things that you believe God for, your love for him, your affection, your great devotion, all those things. Absolutely.
But I want to ask: How do you respond to adversity. How do you respond to trouble and hardship? Do you just believe God for it to be taken away from you, or do you allow God to use it to make you bold, to endure it, to walk through it, in spite of it? Because I would suggest that it's there that zeal really shows itself.
In Acts 4, the persecution is starting to break out, and we read that the believers got together and they prayed, " The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Indeed, Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and..." rather than asking they — get this, they don't pray, "Now, Lord, consider their threats and rebuke them. Take it away. Deliver us from that." They pray, "Now, Lord, consider their threats toward us and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness." Not "take this away," but "enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness." Even if it means the worst.
They say, "Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." and it says, "After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." Even though to do so invited persecution.
What if instead of praying against discomfort, we prayed for boldness? What if instead of praying against suffering, we prayed for endurance? What if instead of praying against persecution, we prayed for steadfastness. And what if this was our go-to? Even if all this world's powers break out against us, what if we could say, "It was that day that I became very bold in my faith"? What if it would also be said of us: " The place where they were praying was shaken and they spoke the word of God boldly"?
What if instead of praying for hardship to be taken away from us, we prayed for endurance to go through it.
Jesus told us that if anyone wanted to be a follower of him, they must take up their cross daily and follow him. To follow Christ means self denial, denying my flesh the things that it craves choosing not to please the flesh, but to please the Holy Spirit. It's a daily zeal of dying to self and living to Christ.
What if instead of praying against the hardship in your life, you prayed to God for boldness to go through it? You prayed to God for endurance, for strength, for steadfastness.
In Romans five, we read, " We boast in the hope of the glory of God, but not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope."
In Colossians 1 verse 24, Paul writes, "Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, which is the church."
Philippians 1 , "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in the manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Then whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved, and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him."
Philippians 3:10. " I want to know Christ, yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow attaining to the resurrection from the dead."
In Acts 9, when Saul came to faith, Jesus said, "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." And then in Acts 14, when he and Barnabas were going around and encouraging the church, it says "they strengthened the disciples and encouraged them to remain true to the faith." And their message was this: "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."
Hebrews 12. "Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined, and everyone undergoes discipline" — that's not me saying it, that's this saying it — "and everyone undergoes discipline. If you are not disciplined, then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all... God disciplines us for our good in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time. It's painful, but later on it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and your weak knees. Make level paths for your feet so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."
We glory in our sufferings. It doesn't make sense in this world, but we glory in our sufferings.
This is the zeal check. How is your zeal doing? Are you only zealous to have trouble and hardship and discomfort taken away from you? You can muster up a lot of zeal to believe that God will take those away, to declare it away? Or! Is your zeal such that you would say, "God, I am here to endure whatever you allow to come my way. May it train me in righteousness and peace as I submit to it, as I endure it. As I participate in the sufferings of Christ, as you've called me to, so that I may somehow attain to the resurrection of the dead, that I may participate in the sufferings of Christ, that I might share in the death of Christ."
You see, we think of faith as rebuking suffering. But the Bible speaks of faith, and the early believers acted as if faith, and those apostles taught as if faith, was not rebuking suffering, but trusting God in the suffering and being willing to endure suffering, even to the point of laying down their lives for Christ. Not picking up their lives and making something of themselves in this worldly kingdom, but saying this kingdom has nothing for me. I live for the kingdom of God. I will lay down my life in this kingdom so that I might attain to the resurrection of the dead. Where it all makes sense.
How's your zeal? What if instead of believing for things to be taken away from us â€” what if instead of believing for hardship to be taken away from us, we committed ourselves in faith to faithfully go through the suffering?
Zealous for God. "It was that day that I became very bold in my faith."
How's your zeal?
What if we really did glory in our sufferings, because we really did believe that suffering produces perseverance? And what if we really believed that perseverance produces character? And what if we really believed that character produces hope.
And what if we really believed what James says, to "consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
What if we decided that we would "Let perseverance finish its work in you so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
What if we believed that "blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."
What if we really believed this? How's your zeal doing?
Some years ago, I taught my congregation a prayer that said, "Lord, remove this suffering as soon as it has served its purpose. Not a moment after, but not a moment before."
That is a prayer of great faith that trusts that God is good, he's loving, he's powerful. He will never bring harm to us for harm's sake. He is good and loving and powerful. He will love us to the nth degree — way more than we can imagine. And he's powerful. He can do anything he wants to. If it is his will to do it, he can do it. If we fully believe that he's good, loving and powerful, we can pray even over the worst suffering, "Lord, remove this suffering from me — I know you can — remove this suffering from me as soon as it has served its purpose. As soon as it has produced perseverance and character and hope, as soon as it has disciplined me, as soon as it has taught me what I need to learn in order to produce a harvest of righteousness and peace, as soon as I have submitted to its training, as soon as it has served its purpose, take it from me.
Lord, remove this suffering as soon as it has served its purpose, not a moment after, but also not a moment before. Because I trust you, God. I believe that you have a design for me to mature me, to make me complete, and you are giving me opportunity, even in suffering, to be trained. To become mature, and complete.
Lord remove this suffering as soon as it has served its purpose. Not a moment after, but also not a moment before. I trust you.
And with that, I would add: Lord, strengthen me to endure this suffering for as long as it's necessary to fulfill its purpose. Yes, Lord. I trust you. Amen, Lord. I trust you.
How's your zeal doing? Is it just to believe God to have life better, or is it actually to lean in and to take up the cross and to do the most radical thing that you can do — the thing that this world will just mock you for — to lay down your life for God?
How's your zeal doing?
Be encouraged to be strengthened. We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. This is our lot, but our hope is eternal life in Christ. Wow.