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This Week's Teaching: "Repay Evil With Blessing"
You are going to be insulted by someone today. You will be offended by someone today. Someone will speak evil or do evil to you, and you have a choice how you respond.
If you listen to how we talk, we believe that other people are measured by their worst, and we are measured by our best. The reality is, if you wanna live a life full of blessing, you need to bless others when they are at their worst.
We reap what we sow. If you want to reap a life of blessing, you sow blessing. But this isn't just about doing good so that good will come to us. This is about doing good.
In Peter's first letter he writes, "All of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another. Be compassionate and humble." And then he writes this: "Do not repay evil with evil, or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing because to this you were called, so that you may inherit a blessing."
Then he quotes Psalm 34. He says, "For whoever would love life and see, good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good. They must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ear is attentive to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
I believe in the church, we have taken our cue from the world way too much. We fight and we bicker, and we insult and we trade jab for jab. We repay evil with evil. And I believe God wants to remind you today, to do good to those who do bad to you, to speak genuine, heartfelt blessing over those who speak genuine, heartfelt curses over you, to pray God's grace over those who mistreat you.
This is the Christian way, and it's uncomfortable if this world is our home. If this world is the best that we will ever get from God. It's uncomfortable if our sole hope is that we would experience the kingdom of this world, the kingdom of this earth. But our hope is beyond this. Our hope is set on eternity. We will one day receive an inheritance from God.
If you want to receive blessing, be someone who speaks blessing. "Keep your tongue from evil, your lips from deceitful speech, and do good, seek peace and pursue it, for the eye of the Lord is on the righteous and his ear is attentive to their prayer, but he sets his face against those who do evil."
Be encouraged. Speak peace, speak blessing, and in this you will be blessed. Take that into your day.
Thank you so much for partnering with us in this!
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This Week's Teaching: "How much of the gospel do you need to understand for it to save you?"
I'm thinking this morning about the gospel and how it relates to water. Or rather how we relate to the gospel, often, like many of us relate to water.
The gospel is water. It's water for your soul. Jesus said, "Whoever's thirsty, let him come to me." That's the good news. That's the gospel.
We can actually go to Jesus and have the deepest needs of our lives, of our souls met in him. The gospel. It's like a drink of fresh water for our soul. We drink the water and our thirst is quenched, our bodies are replenished. It's good.
Some people love to fixate on the details of the water. Like, we all drink it and it's good, but then some people start to say, "But did you know that it's H2O? It's two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen. You need to believe that in order for the water to really be meaningful to you! You need to make sure that, as you drink that water, you understand its makeup, what it's actually made of, and how it actually replenishes your soul. You need to believe this. If you don't believe it as you drink it, it won't do its work in your body. It won't truly replenish you. If you don't understand that it's H2O ."
Other people think, "Oh the water. It's good. But did you know that there's a certain alkaline that needs to be..." I don't even understand this stuff. I'm not interested in this stuff, so it's hard for me to even talk about it. But some people, they're so interested in the alkaline or the properties of the waters they say, "Make sure that the alkaline is right!" In fact, they spend lots of money on things that make sure that it's just right because if the alkaline is right, that water is gonna really do well for your body. And maybe it will, maybe it won't. I don't know. I just, sometimes it just feels like overkill. It feels like they've been-- my apologies to you if you've bought the big, expensive alkaline systems, but it just feels like it's a gimmick and sometimes it even feels a little bit cultish, like, "Gotta make sure the alkaline is just right. It's going to fix your whole life."
Other people, they taste the water and they say, "Oh, but did you know if you put a little bit of mint in it? Oh man, it's so refreshing." And they chase after the mint. Like, "If you put this little mint in the water, oh man, then the water is really sweet. Oh, that's so good."
And some people even carry around these little packets of energy booster that they add to the water and, "Oh, man, the water really picks you up." And I'm not really sure how much you can add into the water until it's not something with water in it, as opposed to water with something in it.
If you drink coke, is that flavored water or is it something with water in it? Some people, they will drink coke all day long. Because they prefer it over water. And is there water in Coke? Yeah. Is Coke flavored water? Well, probably more than that. It's probably something with water in it. You can't live on just Coke. Even if it's Diet Coke. Or Coke Zero.
If you drink milk, is that flavored water or is it water with something in it?
At some point it just comes back to the water. The gospel is: "Drink the water. It will refresh your soul. Turn from your sins and turn to Jesus. Let him replenish you. Let him refresh your soul."
If you want to study the atonement theories, it's great that people understand H2O, it's great that some people have very developed opinions about how Jesus going to the cross atoned for us. It's wonderful.
But if you don't understand H2O, if you don't understand alkaline, drink the water. It's good for you. If you don't understand atonement theory, turn to Jesus. He will save you.
Turn to Jesus, he will save you.
Some people say, "But you need to make sure you worship this way. You need to search for this add-on. You need to make sure that you are filled with the Holy Spirit with a certain evidence."
And some people will even say, "Oh, have you heard such and such ministry? Oh man, the Holy Spirit is really present there. If you go to whatever place in California or whatever place in North Carolina or whatever place in Tennessee, oh man, there the water is really sweet. Oh man, that energy drink â€” that energy stuff that they put in the water there, that will really liven you up! Man, you will really be on fire for God! if you believe in that gospel, if you go there and worship to their songs or listen to that preaching, or if you join in with their ministry, or if you give money to this or that, man, that will really energize the gospel in your life."
And I'm saying, you know, too much energy drink poured into the water, you'll get tired of it. It'll eventually leave you just craving water. And I'm saying, for the gospel, just turn to Jesus. Turn from your sins. Turn from the things that screwed you up and turn to Jesus. Say, "Lord, have mercy on me. I'm a sinner. Have mercy on me. Give me all of you. I accept your love. Free me from the things that have me in bondage. Set me on a new course. I want to follow you, Jesus. I wanna love you better. Make me holy, make me pure. However, the prayer is that comes out of your heart, just turn from the things that have wrecked your life and turn to Jesus and ask him to fix your life. The gospel. Turn to the Lord. He loves you. He is full of compassion. He's slow to anger. He is fully righteous and faithful and full of justice, and he wants to give you good things, but he wants to turn you from the bad things so that he can fill your life with good things.
It's the gospel. He loves you so much. He loves you so much.
If you're thirsty, drink the water. If your life is wrecked, receive Jesus. Put your hope into him. Turn to the gospel.
And if God gives you understanding about the other things, don't be dogmatic. Don't require other people to put the mint in the water. Don't require other people to believe the properties of H2O. Don't require that. Introduce it to the conversation, if it's of interest, if it genuinely is edifying and encouraging.
But just turn to the gospel. Focus on the gospel. God loves you. Jesus saves you.
As I've said it recently: God is good, loving and powerful-- and if this is talking about "alkaline" or about "H2O," receive it for what it is. But if it helps you to know what's water and what's Coke, receive this:
God is good, loving and powerful, and Jesus is the exact representation of his being. Humanity is idolatrous, adulterous, and powerless, and you are the exact representation of its being. But Jesus redeems, reconciles and restores all who turn to him and put their confidence in him. Make sure that you've done that.
"The grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."
This is the gospel. He wants to redeem you from all that ruined your life. He wants to redeem you. Turn from the junk. Turn to Jesus.
Thank you so much for partnering with us in this!
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This Week's Teaching: "The Prayer of a Righteous Person is Powerful & Effective!"
You know, it's possible that the reason your prayers aren't being answered is because you're not living a righteous life. Now, I know some of us have been taught to totally react to what I just said because we think that we've just set up a legalistic system, a conditional love of God that we have to live life just right or else he won't care enough to answer our prayers.
But let's look at scripture and see what it actually says about it.
James, chapter five, verse 16 says, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." It says, "Elijah was a human being even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it didn't rain on the land for three and a half years. Again, he prayed, and the heavens gave rain and the earth produced its crops."
Prayer can effect so many changes. We can talk to God and ask him to do incredible things, and he can do them for us. But the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. I wonder if you've given enough thought to that recently.
I've been chewing on that. Am I living my life in a way that when I go before God and make my appeals and inquire of him, that he's saying, "I see how you live and I can tell that you really want this because of how you live." Am I living my life in a way â€” am I making choices, in the mundane, that would support, that would back up my appeals to him? Am I living a righteous life?
Now, I get it. I understand that there's a doctrinal emphasis that Christ's righteousness is imputed to us. I get that. Set that over here. You don't need to undermine that understanding in order for what I'm saying to make sense.
To live a righteous life is to choose to do what's right. It's to choose to be right in your heart and in your conduct before God. Right in your heart, your words, and your action. To be right before God, to live a righteous life.
Are you living a righteous life?
James, a chapter earlier, he says, " You do not have because you do not ask God. And when you do ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." And he says, "You adulterous people. Don't you know that friendship with the world is enmity against God?"
How we live affects our prayers. How we live affects our prayers.
Peter writes about it in his first epistle. 1 Peter 3:7, he says, "Husbands in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect... so that nothing will hinder your prayers."
How we live does affect whether our prayers are answered.
Many of us have been taught that we need to claim things with faith. We need to declare things with faith, that there's power in our words. And I get that there's power in the things that we speak. The word doesn't create power. But there is power in training our hearts.
There's declarative power. That's not the same as generative power. So we can declare things as a decision, and our words don't have generative power. You don't find that in scripture. God is the one with generative creative power. He can do anything, everything, totally. And we can declare things with power, with authority. We can appeal to creator God, Redeemer God, savior God. We can appeal to him with confidence, with authority.
But when our lives don't reflect that we are followers of him, when our lives don't reflect that we have laid down our lives for his honor, if our lives reflect that we're still just pursuing the things of this world, that we're still just friends with this world â€” I'm talking about the values of this world â€” that we're still just scratching the itches of the flesh, if our lives still indicate that we are fully in the flesh, is it no surprise that God would hear our prayers as a mockery to not be entertained? As a mockery, to not be answered?
I don't mean this as a word of condemnation. I mean this as a word of encouragement.
What's that thing that you're asking God to do? What's that thing that you, oh, you just want God to do it so bad? Let the process of it, not just refine what you're asking him, but also refine your life.
Every time you're aware of that desire, that need, that thing that you cry out to God from the depths of your soul â€” every time you're aware of that, let it make you aware that "the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
Check your life. Is there anything in your life that looks more like friendship with the world? If it does, if it does, James would say to you, "You adulterer. Don't you know that friendship with the world is enmity against God?" Don't be an enemy of God. Be someone who's righteous, who pursues the things of God, who is godly.
Now this doesn't earn you any favor with God. God's grace bestows his love on you. But it does give you the ability to make your requests with integrity. As one who has laid down your life for the kingdom, you can now make requests: "your kingdom come, Lord, your will be done here on earth, here in my life, even as it is in heaven."
Be encouraged by this: "the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
Now, if you've never put your faith in Jesus, turn to him. Turn from all the things that are opposed to him. Turn from sin, bow before him. Just give him your heart. Lord, I confess that I am a sinner, that I need you. And I call out to you, Jesus, forgive me of my sins. Pull me into a relationship with you. Show me who you are." Just give him your heart. Start laying down your life for him. Open up scripture. Get to know it. And find a group of people who can help you with that.
In our X242 network, we meet in very small groups. I love it. Microchurches. Reach out to me. I can help put you in one. I can help you start one. Whatever makes most sense. But reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org. And we'll talk.
If you would click, like on this video, make sure you're subscribed. It's an honor to talk to each week.
So be encouraged. God wants to hear your prayers. He wants to know what you desire. And he wants to know that you desire it from the place of a righteous heart, fully committed to him, fully devoted to seeing his glory and his honor, because this is the establishment and the foundation of all that's right and true.
This is glory. In Jesus' name.
Thank you so much!
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This Week's Teaching: "Try Praying This Way"
Someone said to me recently that they pray all the time. They love to pray , but they said, "But I don't know if I'm doing it right." And it reminded me how often I've had that same conversation with many people. Oftentimes people, they value prayer, but they say, I don't know how to pray. I'm not sure I'm doing it right.
My first inclination is to say, "Ah, if you're talking to God, you're doing it right." But as I reflect on that, and as I reflect on what many people talk about as prayer, they're simply meditating in order to find some sense of spiritual peace. And that could be a well-guided meditation or it could be a misguided meditation. If I'm just meditating to find a sense of peace, I could be inclined to engage the God of the universe, or I could be inclined to just talk myself into feeling better about myself. I could chew on things and worry. I could try to find a more positive outlook on life. And simply the power of positive thinking is going to make me feel better about my circumstances. And that is not necessarily the same as prayer.
Now, if I'm talking to the God of the universe, I might end up at those same places. I might end up with those same consolations. But it's through the power of the one I'm talking to, not just me talking to myself, meditating, or trying to feel at one with the universe or whatever that is.
So I was thinking about the difference between meditative prayer and praying to God, between just the common prayer that many people do, and actually talking to the Lord, who created us, who watches over us, cares for us and is powerful to effect change, and who we do well to submit to.
This is the difference.
Jesus disciples came to him and they said, teach us to pray. And he said a few things which we commonly refer to as the Lord's Prayer, but he wasn't giving a prayer for them to memorize and pray. Although it's fine, it's helpful that many of us have memorized the Lord's Prayer.
It's helpful. But he wasn't giving us a prayer to memorize and pray as some sort of an incantation that gets things right. He was saying, when you pray, pray for these sorts of things. Pray like this. And he starts that off by saying, when you pray, don't just throw a whole lot of words at God, as if by your constant babbling, he's going to hear you more.
He's like, that's what pagans do. They think that the power is in their praying. They pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. He said, don't be like that. When you pray just keep it simple, but keep it earnest. He says, when you pray, pray like this:
"Our father in heaven." Remember the relationship. You're talking to someone. You're not just thinking thoughts. You're talking to someone who exists, the Lord God. I know it's weird to say "someone" and talk about him as a "person." That's somewhat technical. But he is someone who exists. See that someone just happens to be the God of the universe. He exists before everything and is eternal and is the only all powerful God.
"Our father in heaven." He has begotten us. We are his children. I am his child, and so when I go to him, "Thank you Father. I,'m talking to you as my father." There's relationship there.
"Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name." I recognize you as holy. May your name be recognized as holy in this world. That's what it truly is. You are good, loving and powerful. Hallowed be your name.
"Our father in heaven. Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come..." meaning his reign, his sovereign rule and reign where he has the power to do whatever he wants to do and he has the authority to command whatever he wants someone to do. And in heaven, when he gives the command, it is done. The angels do whatever it is he says.
Now we as humans, we resist that. He gave us the freedom to resist that, and there's an ultimate plan in that for our redemption. But in heaven, he says, do it and they do it.
Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. I believe this is calling out to our father in heaven, hallowed be your name. You are holy. Your kingdom come. May your kingdom be established, your rule and reign be established in my life, even as it is in heaven. May your will be done in my life willingly as I submit to you. As I obey you. Your kingdom come, your will be done here in my life, even as it is in heaven, and then collectively here on earth, even as it is in heaven. Lord, this is my desire that your rule and reign would be established here.
Now you're hearing the difference between this and just meditating to find peace in the world.
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May you rule and reign be established here on earth." This would be beauty. This would be the wholeness of the universe. This would be the reestablishment of purity and wholeness to all things that are wrong.
"Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread."
Lord, I am dependent on you for even the things that I eat today.
Give me wisdom to make good decisions so that I can eat, so that I have something, I'm not gonna worry about tomorrow. Lord, give me today my daily bread. Give us today our daily bread.
"And forgive us our sins."
This is confession. Lord, I confess that I have sinned against you, against others, even against my own conscience.
And I confess that I'm not the one to forgive myself. I can't forgive my-- who am I to forgive myself. I can let God forgive me and I can align with that. I can agree that I am now forgiven. I can choose, and I need to, I need to choose. Once I am forgiven, I need to stop living as if I haven't been. And so oftentimes we talk about that as you need to learn to forgive yourself, but I'm no one to forgive myself.
I have no authority to forgive myself. I'm the one who did the wrong. When I wrong God, he has authority to forgive me. Lord, forgive my sins, forgive my debts. I confess my sin, and I ask you to let it go. To erase it so that it no longer stands against me. And this is just this bold, audacious request.
Some of us have done some grievous sins and we're not saying, Lord, pretend it didn't happen. We're saying, Lord, look right at it. And would you, in your gracious, compassionate love, just erase it? Because, Lord, I wish I wouldn't have done it. I wish I wouldn't have done it. Lord, can you press a reset button?
"Lord, forgive my sins, even as I forgive those who sin against me."
Lord, teach me your compassion, your mercy. Lord, I'm not asking you to do something for me that I'm not willing to do for someone else. I'm not asking just for a get outta jail free card. I'm not asking for just a buy. I'm not asking for a freebie. I'm asking Lord, show compassion on me and I will show compassion on others. Show compassion on me even as I have shown compassion and mercy to others. I repent of my sins and I am bearing fruit in accordance with that repentance.
"Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And lead us not into temptation."
Lead me not into temptation. Lord, I'm prone to wander. I'm easily seduced by the things of this world. Lord, lead me down a path that is not fraught with danger. That is not overloaded with temptation. Lord, you understand my weak nature, Lord, by your Holy Spirit, empower me to be righteous. I want to be righteous.
"Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one."
Lord, you are my savior. You are my provider. You're my protector. You are my king, my father. Lord, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from all the ways of darkness, all the powers of evil that would try to get me to wander and that would work evil against me. Lord, I trust you and I bow down before you in worship. You are my God. You are my Lord.
And so this is the difference between the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, the Christian prayer where we talk to God and we align our lives with him, and we ask him to come and lead us to teach us new ways of doing things so that we can go and be aligned with him, that we can live for him.
The difference between that and just spending time thinking thoughts, prayerfully meditating in order to find peace in life.
I wanna be honest. Meditate to find peace in life? Like just think thoughts? You can find peace. You can reestablish peace, but you could reestablish peace around a lie. You can talk yourself -- I can do it -- you can talk yourself into being at peace with things that you should never be at peace with. If you meditate, talk to yourself long enough, you could find yourself being at peace with things that are not at peace with God. That is the most dangerous place you can be.
But if you meditate on the things of God, spend time in scripture and go through it. If you meditate on the things of God and talk to God and align your life with God and ask him to influence you, and ask him to provide for you and to protect you, if it's a conversation with God rather than just a conversation with yourself, then you will find that you are one who is becoming righteous in life. And you are finding peace in life. And your life is filled with joy, a rooted joy, not just happy circumstances. And love, because you were receiving love from the God who created love, from God who loves you perfectly, and you're learning to love others in the same way.
When we treat prayer as talking to God about these things, rather than just meditating, now it makes sense that Paul would write in Colossians about how Epaphras "is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured."
If prayer shifts from just meditating to find peace in life, and it actually shifts into engaging the God of the universe and aligning myself with the Lord, now I can do work with God. I can wrestle in prayer for people that I care for. And I believe this is a growing edge for many of us, and I would encourage you to lean into that growing edge.
So, you don't have to wonder whether you're doing it right. Just do it right. Talk to God, your father, who you are in relationship with. Desire His holiness to be made known in the earth. And his kingdom to be revealed everywhere â€”in your life, his rule and reign to affect everything about you, to be established here in this earth. Entrust your needs to him. Confess your sins to him. Forgive others as you've been forgiven. And ask him to lead you down the path of righteousness, away from temptation, away from the evil one. Commit yourself to prayer this way and it will go well with you.
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Thank you so much!