This Week's Teaching | SRQ Meetup | Prayer Requests
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"We Must Go Through Many Hardships to Enter the Kingdom of God"
If you believe that statement is false, you have believed something other than the biblical witness. And yet, due to the prevalence of teaching that suffering is never God's will, many are not prepared to endure hardship. As followers of Christ we should expect it. It's part of the gospel message. It's what Jesus taught.
Now, this doesn't mean we shouldn't pray for healing or deliverance when we suffer. There's a time to remind each other that God heals and God delivers. I have benefitted from such reminders. But I also have what I believe is a prophetic burden to "strengthen and encourage the disciples to remain true to the faith," even in hardship.
In this week's teaching I simply read the scriptures that speak to suffering. Follow along in your Bibles as you listen.
I hope it's clear: This isn't to discourage anyone from praying for healing or deliverance. Not at all. But my heart is to encourage and strengthen you so that when you face trials, you won't lose heart. And if you face persecution you won't kick and scream at it, but will instead be able to give a witness to the hope you have.
The Spirit does seem to be saying that hardship is coming. I don't really know what that will look like. I just think that most western Christians are not prepared for it. And I believe that what we're doing with X242 is helping to prepare for it.
I talked with a pastor friend yesterday who pastors in a conventional setting, and he reminded me what he said two years ago when I was discerning God's call to plant this network of microchurches. He believes hardship is coming. And he is glad to know that the network X242 is creating will be able to receive them when the above ground systems are no longer sympathetic to public gatherings.
Make what you will of that. Perhaps God will give the Church a time of peace in the United States. We pray for peace. But this statement is still true: "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."
Be strong. Be encouraged. Be ready.
SRQ Meetup: Tuesday, November 15, at 6:30p
Interest in the X242 network is growing. Some inquiries are from people who are already meeting. Others are starting to discern their first steps in planting a microchurch. Pray for strength of conviction and determination in those who lead, and are feeling called to lead. This week, specifically pray for those in the following areas:
And if I might ask for prayer the same way Paul did in Colossians 4:2-4, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should." This is my heart.
This Week's Teaching | Prayer Requests
"Sound Doctrine? It's Not What You Think!"
When the Bible talks about “sound doctrine,” most people think that means "correct theology." But sound doctrine is actually more about how we live than what we think.
Perhaps that feels like a forced distinction. What we think affects how we live. Of course it does. But I think it’s a necessary distinction — that is, if we’re to restore ourselves to a simpler faith.
The word “doctrine” just means “the teachings.” It can be the doctrines of a religious group, or of a political group, or of any group that has a common understanding that they gather around.
When we talk about the doctrines of the Church, it includes traditions and theological understandings — neither of which are inherently bad, both of which contain much good. But the foundational doctrines of the Church are simply the teachings of Jesus, as taught by his apostles.
If our only doctrine was what Jesus taught, that would be enough. That conviction is at the core of this “simpler church” model we’re following. When we “devote ourselves to the teachings of the apostles,” it is because we are following the teachings of Jesus.
We are followers of the Way of Jesus, as taught by the apostles, so we study the scriptures written by those apostles. And in those scriptures we read that elders (pastors, overseers) should “teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.”
I think most of us hear that as “teach theology.” And some of us are so energized by it that, in our zeal, we take charge of the conversation with fancy words to describe complex and abstract thoughts. Honestly, I love that God has created some of us with a knack for understanding complex thoughts, synthesizing different concepts, and boiling them down into a common language for our common good. But just as honestly, it’s overwhelming when people quarrel about words and meanings of words. It’s actually a sin. It doesn’t produce good fruit.
But, as we study the scriptures, we see that “sound doctrine” is less about what we think, and more about what we do. To teach sound doctrine is to remind and encourage people to live temperate lives, worthy of respect, being self-controlled, loving, kind, pure, reverent, etc., living in ways that are consistent with the teachings of Jesus. Amen.
Once we’ve prioritized that, it’s fine to have complex thoughts, and to develop theological understandings. Of course it is. It can even be helpful. But only if, ahead of that, we are following Jesus in how we live, not just thinking about it.
As I explore this further in this week’s teaching, I start off with two statements:
I trust you’ll find 20 minutes when you can watch prayerfully and consider what it means for your life and faith.
Devoted to Prayer
Please be praying for God to open a door for ministry in areas where there has been interest in our simpler way of being church, represented by stars in the above map.
When Paul writes to others from his missionary journeys, he talks about some places where “a great door has been opened for effective ministry.” It seems that God is starting to open such a door with regard to our X242 ministry. Please pray for wisdom and discernment that we would make the most of every opportunity in each of the above areas.
This Week's Teaching | Prayer Requests
"Do These Things, And They'll Keep You From Stumbling In Your Faith!"
Last week I taught on how God heals us spiritually. Where we’re lame, he heals us so we can walk. But we do need to walk, and that takes effort.
The healing is on him. The walking is on us.
Today many people live as if being in the Faith should require no real effort on their part. Some even feel like any effort at all somehow nullifies grace. As a result, they remain stuck in old ways, and never mature. “I thought God was supposed to save me!?” And their disillusionment becomes entrenched along with their sins.
I think most of us wouldn’t actually say it’s wrong to put in the effort. But we also live with a sense that God is supposed to fix our sin nature so that we no longer struggle with sin. And so, rather than working hard at it dying to self by resisting the sins of the flesh, we just wait to be released from it—and then we wonder why we aren’t fixed.
When Peter wrote his second letter, he twice used the phrase, “make every effort.”
Of course, we all do stumble — especially if we put little effort into adding these qualities to our faith. But to whatever degree we do put in the effort, we stumble less. This is the apostle’s witness, it is my witness, and it is the witness of the Church throughout the centuries.
I hope you’ll take 20 minutes to watch this week’s video where I develop these thoughts further. And as you watch, reflect on whether and where you need to put in more effort. Of course, it all starts with what Peter calls participating in the divine nature. And that’s where the teaching starts.
Devoted to Prayer
If you have any prayer requests, please reply to this email. God is faithful!
This Week's Teaching | Prayer Requests
Do You Feel "Lame" In Your Christian Walk?
Recently two of our churches were studying in Acts 4, where Peter and John healed a man who had been born lame.
As I considered it, I was given faith for how it might apply to people who seem to have been “born again lame.” I know that’s not a real thing, but we’ve all known people who have come to faith in Christ, but have never learned to walk victoriously in him. (And no doubt we’ve all experienced our own version of feeling lame at living out our faith.)
The Gospels and Acts are filled with stories of God healing people. God heals. He can and he does. Sometimes he heals the physical body now, and for a time. But there is an ultimate healing that awaits each of us through our death and resurrection! Scripture tells us that our transformed bodies will be glorious, unlike anything any of us has ever seen! This is our real joy and eternal hope, even if for a time our bodies wear out.
Now, it’s also true that God heals us spiritually. Anyone who calls out to him in faith will be given his Holy Spirit, and thereby renewed. It’s like being resurrected or reborn, as we lay down our lives, dying to self, and then becoming alive to him.
Sometimes a person calls out to Jesus and it’s like they spiritually jump to their feet and dance around shouting Hallelujah! Other times it’s more like someone else recognizes their need along with a seed of faith, or a glimmer of hope. And then, in faith, they reach out and take the person by the hand to help them into the faith—to help them stand up victoriously in Christ. Both are well worn stories amplified in the praises of God’s people.
My sense is that some of us probably feel like we were born again lame. Others of us are probably carrying the heartfelt burden of people we care about who have difficulty walking with Christ faithfully.
Whichever position you find yourself in, please watch this week’s teaching with this in mind: God may be calling you to receive your spiritual healing by taking someone’s hand. And he may be calling you to heal someone else spiritually by taking their hand.
I’ll teach next week about how we learn to walk, but it starts with standing to our feet. I believe God still heals, and he wants to heal all who are still spiritually lame.
Please watch prayerfully.
“They devoted themselves to prayer.”
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