The Vineyard Church of North Grand Rapids
Speak Life & Hope Into Your World
Watch the video opener to this week's talk
Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death
We don't like to think our words are that powerful, do we? But throughout the Bible, we find this message that the way you talk is a matter of life and death.
Prov. 10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life
Prov. 15:4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
Today we're talking about speaking life and hope into your world. Now for a lot of us, the only message we've ever heard on speaking Christianly is: "don't curse, don't take the Lord's name in vain, and don't tell rude jokes." Does that about sum it up?
And we think, well if I can just keep my mouth shut when other people are telling jokes around the watercooler; if I can just manage to keep the earmuffs on the kids when I talk about my mother-in-law. If I can just delete the expletives from my vocabulary (at least when I'm at church). But that kind of talk, that's like a whole other universe of goodness and life and holiness and purity and love.
Now the first time I watched that, I thought, its almost laughable, the parking guy that tells you what you want to hear (even when its not true). Heartwarming, cute, but this is the real world. Come on!
The problem is there's something inside of us that knows that that's the way the world was supposed to work. Those are the kind of words we were created to hear. Words of life, words of affirmation, words of perfect love. The way a parent looks at a child, no matter what that child looks like, whether the child is thick, thin, tall, short, faster, slower, able-bodied or in a wheel-chair and say, "My God, you're perfect. You're so beautiful! I couldn't have designed you more perfectly.
We were created for that! And its no lie, its no exaggeration to say that each of deserve that kind of love and affection. I mean, wouldn't we give that to our children, and mean it from the bottom of our hearts.
Watching that I was reminded of this scene from John's gospel, chapter 6. Its a story in which Jesus starts saying some hard things, and John writes, "On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" It says, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
Jesus asked the others, "Do you want to leave to?"
Peter just looks at him and says, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.
I mean Jesus was a fountain of life. Can you imagine being affirmed, being celebrated by Jesus, hearing him call out the best in you.
Remember what he said to Peter, Peter who was always messing up, always getting in the way of Jesus' plans, failing miserably: " I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of death will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven..." Matt 16:18-19
Or to the woman caught in adultery about to be stoned: After sending the accusers away, he says to her, "where are your accusers, neither do I condemn you; Go and leave your life of sin." John 8:11
Or to Mary, who was judged by her sister Martha, "Mary, you've chosen the best part!"
Can you imagine hearing words like that from Jesus?!
Hearing a word from God can save your life. It did for Scott, and it did for me, it has for me over and over. Its saved me from depression and despair, hearing a word from God has saved me from suffocating fears. The way the Bible talks about God's word is like food: satisfying, thirst-quenching, sweet, salty, so good.
Psa. 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Jer. 15:16 When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight,
Jesus after starving for 40 days in the desert, tempted by the devil, says, ‘People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " Matt 4:4
Have you had that experience? I tell you what, these last few years I've had some real ups & downs personally, just trying to figure out how to be a pastor and a dad and husband, times I've just felt so empty and scared and just desperate. And I've got a habit of getting up in the morning and just praying, "Oh God, I need to hear from you today." And I tell you, when I sense him speaking right to me, when one of the words from this book just grips me, it often feels to me like I've just eaten a Thanksgiving dinner. Such a feeling of fullness. God's words are like that. A fountain of life.
And here's the challenge to us: we are God's personal megaphone. Sure, sometimes God speaks from heaven, he speaks from the Bible, but God's preferred method of communication is you and I. You are God's megaphone!
How you doin' at that?
For most of us its not that good:
Paul says in Romans that we live in a sinful world full of sinful people and sinful talk, here's how he describes it, "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips." "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."
So where do we go with this? I mean I watch Hugh Newman, the parking validation guy, and I think, "I'm not even half that kind and caring, even when the sun's shining and I've got a latte in my hand.
Like anything else God tells us to do, we don't learn by praying about it, talking about it, thinking about it, we begin by doing it, putting it into practice.
I've got a friend that's a pastor up the street and he told me that they've been trying something new at their church. He said, "we've got this thing going where we try to call out the treasure in other people." You guys should try this at the Vineyard. And I said, "Treasure? "Yeah, like all the great stuff inside them that's fighting to get out. Everybody's got treasure inside of them. And he said, we just try to encourage the good stuff we see in people, instead of always pointing out the stuff that needs fixing.
"And I said, well John, that's great, but, you haven't seen the people at the Vineyard, they're lazy, crazy and mean, everyone of them! No I didn't say that, not you guys. Actually, I said, John the problem is I'm not so good at seeing the good in other people, I thought being a pastor was about figuring out what's wrong with other people.
And don't we think that's what being a Christian is all about sometimes? Figuring out what's wrong with people. Trying to constructively criticize the sin right out of people.
Now I'm not saying there is never a time for confronting, exhorting. But what a sad thing to be known for, huh? Especially when we've got this opportunity to speak life into other people. To raise people to life with our words.
I mean, that was the Apostle Paul's vision of the early church, at its best.
Ephesians 4:29 "Do not let any unwholesome (bad, rotten) talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs."
So here's how it works: first you take note that Christian you ever meet is like a dirty clay pot on the outside, but then you remind with a treasure hidden on the inside, and that treasure is Jesus. You see, anybody that's a Christian is on their way to becoming like Jesus. The Apostle Paul would say, you've got "Christ in you, the hope of glory!"
And so you see someone that is destroying their life, someone that's broken, sinful, obnoxious, depressed, deluded - you can literally call the treasure out of them, encourage it right out. Its there, the problem is you're not so well-practiced at seeing it.
We need to start practicing looking at people as if we were a loving Father, a loving mother - a little less like angry siblings.
But this isn't just for people that already know Jesus - you know that every person you've ever met, according to the Bible, was made in the image of God. Everyone!
And so probably the greatest gift we can give each other, the most affirming thing we can say to each other is..,"you know, you look just like your Father. You're your Father's daughter. I can just see Jesus in you when you do that.
You can actually say that to people that aren't Christians, that don't even know Jesus, you know, you're such a great waiter, wow, no one has ever served me dinner with that much skill, "I just think God loves this about you!"
Those are the words of life. Those are the words of a loving Father.
Story: I tried that this week at my regular coffeeshop...
We've got this tradition here at the Vineyard with the teenagers, everytime we take a road trip, missions trip or the like, we always try to finish it out with the "Candle game"
I wish they didn't have to grow up and live in the real world where we don't do that kind of thing.
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