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This Week's Teaching: "Stop Dividing the Church"
A gentle but heartfelt appeal: We have to stop dividing the church around petty human opinions.
A couple weeks ago, I was in a small town and I was looking for a place to fellowship with other believers. When Paul was on his missionary journeys and he would go into an area, the first place he went was wherever he expected to find God-fearing people. He started there. And so for him it would be going to the synagogue and then if he wasn't welcomed there, he would go perhaps to a place of prayer. One time in Acts we read that he went to a river expecting to find a place of prayer, and there he met with people and then ultimately, yes, he ends up in the marketplace and everything.
As we travel across America, when we land someplace, I start thinking, where is the place of prayer? Where is the place of worship? And in this setting, for now, that's finding a place that we think of as church. When I go into an area, I think where's the closest, smallest church that I can find?
We were in a small town. And I found one that I actually had some affinity with in my background, and I thought, well, I can go there. And as I looked into it, it was a church that was born out of division. Their story is that there were people who were suggesting change and they held out and now they have a new denomination. They wouldn't call it that, they wouldn't say it that way, but they have everything right. According to them, they were the ones who held their ground. They were the ones who still have men and women separate in worship. They're the ones who still dress the right way, who don't dress the wrong way. I decided not to go to that one.
I found another one that was even a little bit closer but, as I looked at them, they were born out of division. The denomination, the group that they're a part of was born out of division. They believed that their baptism was the only true baptism. They actually divided over whether they could accept someone who is baptized by another church, would they accept them into their church? And their answer was, "No. Our baptism is the only one that counts." I didn't go to that one.
I went to another church and there I found easy fellowship. I was welcomed as a brother and there was wonderful message on relationships and the selflessness of relationships. In fact, a message that I come back to often.
And then I went to another church that wasn't as easy a participation for me, but I enjoyed the spirit there. And the message there was that suffering for the Christian is inevitable. Another message that I come back to often.
But it started me thinking about Divisions in the church. And my appeal is that we must stop dividing the church around petty differences of opinion.
Now, none of us would divide over what we think is petty. I'm calling it petty. I'm saying that it's non-essentials. It's differences of opinion, theological or cultural where we say we got it right, the other people got it wrong, so therefore they have no part of us anymore. We have no part of them. And we treat it as wickedness and it's just differences of opinion.
I'm also a part of some house church discussion groups on social media and stuff, and I'm just as distressed by what I see happening there. It seems that some of the people who are caught up in the house church movement are more concerned about making sure that they condemn the institutional church than they are about just wanting to know Jesus, wanting to love one another. And it seems that their gospel is a combination of pro-housechurch and anti-institutional church. And so they're always just railing against pastors and all. And I would say to them, we have to stop sowing division. We have to stop dividing the church.
1st Corinthians 1.
"I appeal to you brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus. That all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. And what I mean is this. One of you says, "I follow Paul," and another says, "I follow Apollos," another says, "I follow Cephas," and still another, "I follow Christ." And Paul says, "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?"
Of course not. Of course not.
"Therefore, if any of you have encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any, common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of the others."
"I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
Skipping to verse 11. "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and the teachers to equip his people for works of service." And I would ask you, Is there anyone that you're following right now? Any human leader? So Paul says, don't divide the church around human leaders, which one you follow? Here, "Christ gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and the teachers to equip his people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith, and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
"The acts of the flesh are obvious..." If I read most of them, you'll get sidetracked. I'm just gonna read two of them. "Dissensions, factions." "Dissensions, factions."
We have to stop dividing the church. And listen, we're not talking about dividing organizations or institutions. We're talking about dividing up the body of Christ. We're talking about cutting apart the bride of Christ. We're talking about separating the family of God and saying, you go over there. We'll stay here. We don't want anything to do with you. We have to stop doing that.
Like I say, this is a gentle but heartfelt word, and I believe the Lord is indignant about this.
So what's the solution? It is not just to force unity. If you try to force unity, you just end up diluting our understanding and our practice in the faith. It's not to force unity. It's not unity for unity's sake.
The solution is love. Love one another. Love each other. Love in such a way that you prefer another's good over your own. Lay your life down for your brother and sister. Let God be the judge. Stop condemning each other.
Yes, hold to your convictions. Yes, open up scripture. Ask the apostles what they meant. Yes. But stop dividing the church. Whether that's around a system that you like or whether it's around a doctrine that you believe is core, stop dividing the church.
I know it's complicated. Paul told Titus, "Warn a divisive person once, then warn them a second time and after that have nothing to do with them." There is a time to go separate ways. But my challenge to you and my challenge to myself: Let's not be the ones pushing for that separation. When we split up the body of Christ, it causes him pain, and it should cause us pain too.
Like I say, a gentle but heartfelt word. We've got to stop dividing the church around petty differences of opinion.
Now, I don't know if I'm speaking to anyone with authority in any of these situations where churches have divided. If you are someone with decision making authority, here's my challenge. That group that you just split from, pray for them, lay your life down for them.
"Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
Ah, this does the Lord's heart good when we make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the of peace.
My prayer over all of us is that we would become very tender toward each other and that we would stop separating over doctrinal differences.
One day we will all bow before the Lord. Some of us who've been hardened toward the Lord will fall before him and it'll be a time of trembling. And I don't know if it will be regret or if we'll continue to be under delusion. I don't know. But those of us who have bowed the knee to Christ already will see him and will fall face down before him. And there we will experience such a great equalizer face down before the Lord receiving our reward, his promise, the salvation of our souls shoulder to shoulder with people that we dared to divide from on this earth, but find ourselves united with in our confession of Christ.
One day we will bow down, face down before him. Yes, there are probably people in your circle, and I may even speak to this coming up. There are probably people in your circle who are trying to say that certain kinds of morality don't matter or are fine, or however they say it. I'm not arguing for tolerating wickedness. "Cast the wicked person out from among you." I am not talking about that. Those who persist in sin, who persist in wickedness, the Lord will separate them out and say, "I didn't know you." But let's make sure that we don't separate the church around our own opinions. Let's make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
My prayer for you is that you would find opportunity this week to extend a hand and to show grace and to be humble toward those who perhaps others in your circle have cut ties from. We've got to stop dividing the church around petty differences of human opinion.
Finally, God always takes care of his church, God's got us. It's his church. It's not your church. It's not my church. It's not our church. It's his church. And here we are. Let's serve him well.
Mission Update & Prayer Requests
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This Week's Teaching: "God's Beautiful Creation is Reserved for Fire?! "
This is crazy.
We're here in the Badlands in South Dakota and just experiencing this absolute beauty. We're boondocking and we've been spending the last few days here. I feel in awe that we would be so blessed to be able to do it. And I realize that there's favor in that and there's privilege in that. And everything.
But this morning I had an interesting interaction with it. I sat out here looking at the view behind me. And I'm reading in Second Peter right now. I can't get past first and second Peter. It shows up in my teachings and in my reflections, even if I don't name it specifically.
I believe that it has something for these times. We need to be paying special attention to the message that Peter wrote a long time ago. It applies to us today.
Now here's the tension that second Peter will cause you. Chapter two talks about false teachers. And I think it's good to spend time there. Let's not be so quick to just divide the church around like ticky tack fouls and differences of opinion that we call false doctrine or false teaching. But let's also not shy away from calling out what Peter calls "depraved conduct" and people who are led by greed and they "love the wages of wickedness" and all that. I'll let you read second Peter two. Actually read first Peter and second Peter.
I'm gonna read second Peter three. I'm just gonna read it and with this as the backdrop, pay attention to when it causes you tension.
"Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.
Above all, you must understand that in the last days, scoffers will come scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word, the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters, also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends. With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years or like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar. The elements will be destroyed by fire and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation...
Therefore , dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to him be glory both now and forever. Amen."
Here's the tension this creates for me. Behind me is just this demonstration of God's creative majesty, of the beauty. It's incredible. And yet when God looks on the sinfulness of mankind and on the waywardness of all creation -- he designed it for one purpose and it's gone astray -- he looks at the beauty behind me and he says, I'm going to bring judgment. I'm gonna cause all of that to burn up in the judgment as I execute my wrath and my judgment; my final judgment on all of creation.
If God is willing to destroy the beauty behind me, it must pale in comparison to the beauty of holiness and righteousness, and the new heavens and the new earth that he's preparing. Everything beautiful that we find in this creation -- that we're tempted to worship, to bow down to, to devote ourselves to -- everything that's confined to this creation that grows up out of the ground, that springs up from our ambitions and all that, all the things that we're tempted to devote our lives to pale in comparison to the holiness and righteousness of the new heavens and the new earth that he's preparing for us.
And so I want to encourage you read First Peter and second Peter. Devote yourself to it these days. Just keep on studying it, chewing on it. Don't try to get through it, like do a once through, but then go back and just chew on things and you'll read things like, "God has given us everything we need for a godly life." He's called us and given us the ability to "participate in the divine nature." He calls us to "make every effort to add to our faith goodness, and to goodness knowledge, and to knowledge self control" and these things. And he talks about, suffering, and things that will put the hardships and the beauties in perspective for you.
My prayer is that it puts it in perspective for you as it has for me. And so this is my message this week. Just an encouragement to read first Peter and second Peter. Turn off YouTube. Yeah, press like and follow and all that stuff. But then turn off YouTube, open your Bible, and spend time chewing on it.
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This Week's Teaching: "Affirmations & Cautions About The 'Prosperity Gospel'"
Is it God's will to prosper you? Yes.
Is it his will to make you rich? Not necessarily.
It's his will to give you everything you need.
Is it God's will for you to desire prosperity? Yes.
Is it his will for you to desire great riches? No.
It's his will for you to be content with what you have.
Now, with that comes wisdom that he gives us, so that we can make good use of the provisions that he puts in our way. In Proverbs 28: 19 we read "those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty." We read, "a faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished." We read, "the stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them." We read, "the greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper." We read, "those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses."
Chapter 24, this is just the wisdom of God: "put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready. After that, build your house." There are certain things that we can do to make sure that we cooperate with the laws of wisdom that God has sewn into the fabric of creation. If we do these things, it goes well with us. If we ignore these things, it's a foolishness and it doesn't go well with us. And so we might find ourselves struggling with what we believe is injustice. Sometimes it is injustice, but other times it's just that we haven't learned to cooperate with the laws of wisdom that God sewed into the fabric of creation.
There's all sorts of things. Read Proverbs, read Ecclesiastes, and you'll find all sorts of things where it just says, this is how you do things. If you do these things, it will go well with you. If you honor God in these things, it will go well with you.
Is it God's will for you to prosper? Yes.
Is it God's will for you to be rich? Not necessarily.
It's God's will for you to have everything you need. And along with that, he gives you wisdom in order to cooperate with the laws of wisdom that he has sewn into the fabric of creation. And sometimes injustice sweeps it all away. And other times it's just that we haven't done what we should.
But here's my concern with our fascination with prosperity. Now, I'll also say this: in the past, I have taught that the prosperity gospel is a false gospel. I still believe that it teaches false things. I don't believe that it's God's will for you to be rich. I don't believe that it is always God's will to heal you. We all die at some point. This body stops living; the ultimate sickness or whatever. God doesn't heal that. He gives us a new body. He heals it in that way. And I believe that God doesn't just want us to have this overabundance of wealth. He wants us to be content with what we have.
So in the past, I've called it a false gospel. Right now, I don't call it a false gospel. I call it an incomplete understanding-- and prosperity is not the gospel-- but I call it an incomplete understanding.
I believe, yes, God wants to prosper you. But if that's the focus of it, it is an incomplete understanding of God's wisdom that leads people into deception, that allows people to chase after things like riches that God never intended for you to chase after.
And so, "False Gospel"? Let's not talk about it that way. Let's just say it is incomplete, it is immature in its understanding of the wisdom of God.
Paul, when writing to Timothy in First Timothy, he says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
Hebrews 13: 5, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have. Because God has said, 'Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, the Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid" [of poverty, of anything]. "What can mere mortals do to me?" What can the things of this earth do to me if God is my helper?
Jesus himself said in Matthew six. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. [It'll rot.] But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is there, your heart will be also." He said, "No one can serve two masters. You can't serve God and money." You can't. He says, "Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you'll eat or drink or about your body, what you'll wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes. Look at the birds of the sky. [They don't sow, they don't store away, and they're fed.] How much more valuable are you than they? Can any of you by worrying [or chasing after riches], add a single hour to your life."
He says, "You of little faith, do not worry. Pagans run after these things." After the riches, after the excess. "I wanna make sure that I have enough, I wanna store it up and everything so that I don't run out." And he says, "The Pagans run after all these things and your heavenly father already knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
Now, don't read that as if you seek his kingdom an abundance, an excess of all these things will be given to you as well. Jesus isn't saying that. He's saying, Make his kingdom, the Lord's kingdom, the center of your heart and your needs will be provided for. He will take care of you.
It doesn't mean that you'll never have hunger pangs. Of course not. It doesn't mean that you'll always have new clothes. Of course not. He will take care of you. He is your heavenly father. He knows what you need.
Now, in that, he will give you opportunity, and if you learn to cooperate with the laws of wisdom that he is sown into the fabric of creation, you will be able to prosper in ways that those who reject those laws don't.
But that prosperity is not to amass wealth. It's not to live in gaudy excess. It's simply to have your needs met.
Those who chase after riches will fall into temptation and into a trap. That never goes well.
Philippians four. "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry," Paul writes, "whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
"Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, [woman of God, you who chooses to be a person of God,] flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession."
Don't chase after riches. Be content with what you have.
Now to those of you who have cooperated with the laws of wisdom, that God sewed into the fabric of creation and you're able to cause abundance, or perhaps God has just given you a responsibility of excess so that you can help others, here's what I am obligated to say to you. Because I am told, "Command those who are rich in this present world, not to be arrogant, nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." It is a joy to have what we need. "Who richly provides us with everything for our in enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."
Like Jesus said, don't store up treasures here on earth. Store up treasures in heaven by giving it to those in need.
I heard a story recently of a prosperity teacher who was given opportunity to help get a plane for a ministry that flies supplies down into Haiti and places like that. They had lost a plane and he went to them and asked, " How much do you need for the plane?" They said, "A million dollars." And he got them a million dollars.
Now I have my issues with the teaching, because I believe there is an over attention on money. Nevertheless, I must admit that when you take that money and give it away, you are storing up treasures in heaven.
So here's my prayer. My prayer is that those of us who see differently on this wouldn't divide around it, but simply that we would press in toward God; that we would seek his kingdom and not anything about the kingdom of this earth; that we would crave his blessing and not the blessings that spring out of the earth; that we would see as our great wealth, the eternal kingdom of God, and not just the things that we call bank accounts and money and stuff; that we would actually crave his kingdom and his righteousness and be content with what we have. Be content with what we have.
And so this is my message today. Does God want you to be prosperous? Yeah. Does he want you to be rich? Not necessarily. He wants you to be content. Does he want you to desire prosperity? Yes. Does he want you to desire riches? No. Does he want you to be content with what you have? Yes, desire him. Chase after his kingdom and his righteousness, trusting that he is a good father and he will give you all you need.
Now, I welcome comments on this. Let's talk about it because it is a prevalent teaching in the church that is dividing many. And my prayer would be that we would be united around the clear teachings of Jesus, that we would be laying up treasures in heaven, not storing up treasures on earth. If God has given you an abundance, use it. Use it well to help those who don't have that abundance.
I don't know. What do you think?
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This Week's Teaching: "The End Is Near So Do This"
Here's the question I have for today: If you knew your life was ending tomorrow, how would you spend today? If you knew for sure that your time was short, that the end was near, that you were going to leave this life tomorrow, how would you spend today?
In first Peter, chapter four, he says, "The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray."
You know, I hear people talking and it's a common thing. People say, "Ah man, I'd live it up. I'd party." And that's the language of foolishness. I get why people do that; we sort of catch it. But I wanna encourage you to be sober-minded and alert. The end is near. At the very least, the end is nearer now than it was yesterday. But the apostles have always held that the end is near.
Now, in the context of first Peter, he's writing about suffering. We are going through much suffering. He says, don't be surprised at the fiery ordeal that you're having to go through. Don't be surprised. Like what I said last week: "After you have suffered a little while, the Lord himself will restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
And so that's the context of what Peter is writing. He says, "The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray."
Now, I don't know about you. If I know that my life is over tomorrow, I don't know that I want to just get alone and talk with God.
Too often we think of prayer as getting away and having a moment of concentration with God, and that's good. "Be alert and sober-minded so that you may pray." But I don't know that that prayer is necessarily "get away from the people in your life and just pray." I believe that it's "lean into the relationships."
In fact, what he writes right after this is he says, "Above all..." So, "the end of all things is near so be alert and of sober minds so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins."
And so this is the apostle that spent three years with Jesus, that denied Jesus, and then Jesus reinstated him and told him to take care of the other apostles, and of the church. And he says the end is near. So pray, don't just party hardy. Pray. But then he says, but above all, love each other deeply. And why? Because love covers over a multitude of sins.
What are the reasons that you find it difficult to love other people? What are the reasons why you would just pull away from relationship and not invest yourself in love? Most likely is because of offenses that you have received or perceived that make it hard to wanna be in relationship with others. You've learned that to be in relationship with other people is to receive wounds, is to be frustrated, is to be disappointed, is to be made angry, is to receive injustice because others have received the same thing from you. It's the give and take of relationships that we end up wounding each other and then pulling away from relationship with each other.
But Peter says, yes, you are gonna suffer much in this world. But listen, the end of all things is near so be alert and sober-minded so that you can pray. And then above all, love each other deeply, not just at a surface level, not just, "I like you." Not just hugs, not just the handshake of fellowship. That's great. But love each other deeply, deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. All the things that you have reason to pull back from people on.
So Wendy and I are living in an RV on mission. I talked about it elsewhere. The last week we got to go back to Sarasota, where our home is and where we have family and close friends. And there was something about the reinstating of relationships, the sitting across from the table with dear friends, the looking each other in the eyes, the sharing stories, all that, that reminds me how much community, how much fellowship is a necessary part of a healthy faith, of a thriving faith.
And that's key to what we're doing in X242, pulling people into closer fellowship, not just going to shows-- church shows-- and sitting facing forward and receiving a show. But actually facing each other in a room, facing each other where the circle is small enough that you can have chitchat, where the circle is small enough that you can actually know the people that you're making eye contact with. And they know you.
And so that's what we're doing. The community, the fellowship, it's so meaningful. And for us to go back to Sarasota for a week and to have that fellowship was renewing. It's wonderful.
And it reminds me: the end is near. I don't know if I will see them again. "The end is near so be alert and of sober mind so that you can pray, and above all, love each other deeply for love covers over a multitude of sins."
I don't have any sense that I was wronged by anyone when we were back there. And I hope that no one feels wronged by me. But what I know is that loving each other deeply covers over those sins. As we read in Proverbs, " wisdom yields patience. It is to your glory to overlook an offense."
And so he goes on: "Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins." And then he gives application. Practical application.
"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." Receive them into your space and don't grumble about it. Offer hospitality. "Come on in." "Hey, come over."
"Offer hospitality to each other without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others."
Now, this goes against the witness of the world. You use the gift in order to get ahead. You use the gift in order to serve yourself. In this world systems, you use the gift to get ahead, to establish a nest egg. But Peter says, and God says, "Use whatever gift you have received to serve others," to bow, to get on your knees, to serve others "as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."
And so when you use the gift that you've been given from God to serve others, you are actually a steward of God's grace. You talk about grace and all these different ways theologically, but when you serve someone with the gifts that you've received, you are a steward of God's grace to that person!
"Above all, love each other deeply for love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God's grace in his various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength that God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen."
So for you, if you knew that today was your last day, how would you spend it? The end of all things is near. Be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. And above all else, love each other deeply. Cover over those multitude of sins. If someone has wronged you, forgive them. And if you have wronged someone else, go and seek their forgiveness. This is thoroughly Christian. In fact, it is unchristian not to.
Love each other deeply. Love each other deeply. Use whatever gift God has given you to serve others.
This is not only the will of God, this is the invitation of God to a life of incredible blessing. What if you did cover over the multitude of sins against you by loving deeply?
The end of all things is near. Be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. And above all, love each other deeply. Get at it. Go do it. Do it today.
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This Week's Teaching: "Revival is Coming But Not of Hype and Hubris"
Last week, I said, I believe hardship is coming and that when it does, many people will fall away from the faith. And I said that in the coming weeks, I would have additional thoughts. My thought this week that I just wanna follow up, is that, revival is coming.
(Sorry about the finger. I slammed it in my truck door.)
Revival is coming, but it will not be of hype and hubris, like we tend to think.
Now, before I say that , I had a conversation with someone last week. I presented that same message about hardship. I presented it live at a church. And someone came up and said, "You know, I'm willing to die for my faith, but these days it feels like I'm being persecuted for lies. Like people accuse me of being or doing things that aren't true." And, as he and I related, we realized -- and I've thought about this before -- I'm willing to take a bullet for Jesus. Like if it's, " Deny Jesus or you will die," of course I'm not gonna deny Jesus. Like to become a martyr like that, there's an honor, a dignity to it. But to be accused of being something that you're not. To be accused of being a bigot when you're not, to be accused of something that you said or believe about someone, when it's just not true, and then being persecuted for that, or being killed simply as a matter of convenience, like a convenient crime for someone, like no one wants to give up their life for that. No one wants to lay down their life for something that just seems untrue or insignificant.
And so we talked through that and Jesus said in Matthew five, " Blessed are you when people accuse you falsely because of me." That's our lot. That's what Jesus said we could expect. Jesus said that this is how it would be. People would accuse us of things that aren't true because of our identification with him, whether they know it's because of our identification or not.
So we talked that through and thought, well, yeah, that's hard, but it still is our lot. And so we take encouragement in it that God knows what is coming our way.
Let me pull over here and I'll read some scripture to you.
Still looking for a place to pull over. I wanna be a good example.
Okay in scripture. I was just reading it this morning. First Peter five, verse eight. "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen."
God knows what we're going through. He knows that hardship is coming. He knows that we'll be tempted to fall away. He knows that some of the hardship that we endure, that we suffer will be totally unwarranted, nothing to do with truth. And yet, after we have suffered a little while, he himself will restore us. His grace is eternal. Like I said last week, like it's an eternal reward that we're waiting for. It's not about what we get in this earth.
So all that ties into actually that second statement. If hardship is coming and many will fall away, it's also true that revival is coming, but it will not be of hype and hubris.
I say this because many of us have fallen in love with the sensational revival tent meetings and stuff. And it's fine if people are meeting under a tent and someone preaches the word and people come to faith, that's great. Like anywhere anyway. If people come to faith, that's great. And even if it's at such quantity that it feels like there's a revival happening. Great. Wonderful. Second chapter of Acts, was that a revival? Sure.
But I think people have become accustomed to hearing the language of revival as something that happens when you have a bunch of people in a room, or in a tent, facing a stage where there's music -- which, music is great. I make music! When I'm playing guitar and leading worship that's a wonderful thing for me! I'm not cutting that! I'm just saying that we have made music into something more than what it is. And so we feel like if we're at this event where we have an emotional response, we call it revival. But sometimes our heart is moved by the music, by the experience, and it simply is a wonderful moment of prayer, or it simply is a reaction to something culturally, I don't know.
And so we think that revivals are big, sensational things where there's lots of zeal, there's lots of jumping around, lots of screaming "hallelujah" -- and again, if you express yourself that way, amen, hallelujah. Do it. I'm one who can be pretty expressive at times.
But I don't believe the revival that we're gonna see, if the Holy Spirit is really leading this, it's not gonna be a revival of hype and hubris. It's not gonna be gathering people together to go on marches, to do chants , to try and raise a ruckus, to try to raise the fever. Like, it's not gonna be that hype. It's not gonna be trying to gather attention for a movement, like a show of force. It's not gonna be any of those things.
Or of hubris where, "We are special, we are somebody, we are kings, we are princes, we are the children of God and no one is gonna stop us because we have God's favor." Like, it's not propping ourselves up with how special we are, even if it's true that God loves us. But it's not gonna be a revival of hype and hubris.
It's gonna be a revival of self denial. A willingness to pick up our cross, to lay down our lives. And we always flip that. We always, we pick up our cross and then we lay down the cross in order to pick up our lives because the cross is not fun. The cross is a death instrument. And so we lay down the cross to pick our life back up.
Jesus says, "Lay down your life. Pick up your cross, and then follow me to the daily death of self, of the fleshly impulses, the temptations that I resisted in the wilderness, to feed my appetite, to satisfy my anxieties, to become somebody. Pick up your cross, lay down your life. Follow me."
Well, let me read that. Luke nine. " 'The son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the law. He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.' Then he said to them all, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me, we'll save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit their very self? '"
Revival is coming, but it won't be revival of hype and hubris. I believe there are a number of us who are resisting the hype and hubris that we see in the church these days, and maybe we're going too far in it, but I just think it's a corrective thing. We're pulling back and saying it's not about the worship concerts. It's not about the celebrity pastors. It's not about the show. It's not about trying to impress people. It's not about big crowds. It's not about those things. It's being willing, actively, to lay down my life for Jesus, for each other, for my neighbor, for the least of these, and even for my enemies.
I'm recording this right now 4th of July weekend, and we have a wonderful picture of the difference of hype and hubris, and self-sacrifice. If you can imagine people back in the day, totally up for this new thing, the United States of America, and they go on marches, they wave flags, they declare themselves independent, and they're so overjoyed at the thought of what's happening and that can be a revival of a sense.
But on the other hand, there are those who actually risked their lives. Not just willing to risk their lives, but risked their lives in order to make it happen. Laid down their lives, not knowing if their lives would be given back to them again. That is an example of the kind of revival that I'm talking about. And please don't misconstrue that. I'm not talking about Christian nationalism or anything. I'm saying, as an example, to declare yourself, "I'm a child of God" is a whole different thing than to lay your life down, including all the royalty stuff, all the benefits. I will lay my life down for Jesus, for my brother and sister, for my neighbor, for the least of these, and even for my enemy.
I believe revival is coming, but it won't be a revival of big worship concerts and motivational speeches. It won't be the revitalization of church institutions. And it won't be the restoration of America to Christian values. I mean, obviously, Christian values are good, but it won't be those things. It'll be the active, applied willingness to lay down our lives for Jesus, for each other, for our neighbors, for the least of these and for our enemies.
So this is my prayer. I believe it is the prophetic witness of the Holy Spirit these days. That this is what he is leading us toward.
So if you're a part of conventional church or something and you still enjoy those things, which again, please hear me, those things aren't in and of themselves bad. I'm just saying what we've done with the big worship concerts and stuff can be bad. If you're looking at what we're doing, pulling back from those things and thinking that we're naysayers and everything, think again: Are you willing to lay down your life? Are you actively laying down your own preferences? Are you following the scriptures in this? And when the scriptures say that hardship is coming and that you must lay down your life, do you resist it? Do you declare something better-sounding over your life? Or do you simply say, "Amen Lord. So be it. I am willing, let revival come."
Hardship is coming; many people will fall away from the faith. Revival is coming, but not of hype and hubris, but of an applied, active willingness to lay down your life for Jesus, for each other, for our neighbors, for the least of these, and even for our enemies. Let's crave that revival.