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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mark Batterson » Mark Batterson - Please, Sorry, Thanks

Mark Batterson - Please, Sorry, Thanks

Mark Batterson - Please, Sorry, Thanks

On October 18, 1968, a 22 year-old long jumper named Bob Beamon took 19 strides, planted his right foot, flew more than six feet into the air, threw his arms behind him, and landed in a large sandbox. The whole thing took less than six seconds, but it took more than 20 minutes to measure the jump because Bob Beamon had outjumped the electronic measuring device in the long jump pit. They had to find an old-fashioned tape measure, and they could barely believe the tale of the tape. The world record going into the 1968 Olympics was 27-feet, 4 and 3/4 inches. That world record had been broken 13 times over the precious 100 years by an average of two and a half inches. Bob Beamon obliterated the world record by almost two feet. He flew further than any human in history, landing 29-feet, 2.5 inches from where he took off. Bob Beamon's jump was so unbelievable, so improbable, that it became known as The Jump.

I love that story, but there's an even better backstory. Bob Beaman fouled on his first two attempts. He was one fault away from being disqualified from the Olympic games. Four years of training comes down to one jump, no pressure. It was before that third and final jump that his teammate, Ralph Boston, who had already won a gold medal in the Rome Olympics, who was actually a favorite to metal, pulled Bob Beaman aside, and he whispered these words into Bob Beeman's ear, "Take off early. You have room to spare. Give 'em two inches on the front and you will take two feet when you land. Your legs have never been as strong as they are now. At this moment your body weighs nothing. Your mind has wings. Fly up and fly out". That gets me fired up 50 years later. And I would argue today that Ralph Boston's words were Bob Beeman's wings. Simply put, words create worlds. And that includes world records. Linguists call it the constructive conception of language. Our words don't just represent the world objectively. Our words create the world subjectively. If you want to change the world, you have to change your words.

Now, this idea that words create worlds is as old as King Solomon. Proverbs 18:21, The power of life and death is in the tongue. Did you know that studies have found that negative words spoken to plants, causes them to languish, and positive words spoken to plants causes them to flourish? What's true of plants, newsflash, is true of people. Our words have the power to bless and to curse. Our words are the difference between languishing and flourishing. Our words can create worlds of hurt or worlds of healing. Words matter. Now more than ever. Over the next three weeks, we're gonna talk about the three words that change everything. The greatest predictor of success in life, in love, and in leadership is your proficiency at three simple yet powerful words: Please, sorry, and thanks. PhD is great, but a PST. Please, sorry, and thanks, that's what changes the culture at work, that's what restores broken relationships, that's what helps us overcome trauma, that's what helps us grow in a relationship with God, that's what helps us win friends and influence people.

If you're good at those three words, you're good to go. Nothing opens doors like please. Nothing mends fences like sorry. Nothing builds bridges like thanks. It seems to me that we find ourselves in a cultural moment with an awful lot of political polarization and racial tension, a lot of shaming and baiting and trolling on social media, a lot of canceling in culture that we can afford a rising tide of please, sorry, and thanks. But they can't just be words we speak. They are only as effective as they are authentic. And there is an art and science to each of them. And so we'll talk about the psychology of please, the science of sorry, the theology of thanks. But the goal, the goal is for you, for you to personalize your please, to signature your sorry, to thumbprint your thanks, to own those words and to make them a unique expression of who you are. Ready or not, here we go.

You can meet me in Genesis 1:1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, B'reshit Elohim bara, the first three words in the Hebrew Bible, and they set precedent. The first revelation of God is as creator and he creates ex nihilo, out of nothing, and he does it how? How? How? With words, with his voice. Genesis 1:3, God said, "Let there be light". And those four words are still creating galaxies at the outer edge of the universe. The universe's God's way of saying, "Look at what I can do with four words". The first function of God's voice is to create. Everything you see was once said. In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God. And the word was God. Through him all things were made. And without him, nothing was made that has been made.

Now, according to linguists, abracadabra is the most universally used word that does not require translation. It's a word employed by magicians, but its etymology is more spiritual than magical. Those ancient words in Aramaic literally mean as I speak, I shall create. For better or for worse, our words are self-fulfilling prophecies, everything is created twice. The first creation is internal. Second, creation is external. First creation is in the mind. Second creation involves matter. First creation is words. Second creation is worlds. And and you may be thinking to yourself, I mean, that's great that God can big-bang the universe, but I'm not God. No, you aren't. But you are created in God's image. And one of the things that sets us apart from the rest of creation is our unique ability to language. Dogs bark, birds chirp, dolphins click, but they don't write novels. They don't pen poems. They don't draft legislation. They don't score sonatas. Only those who bear the image of God have this unique capacity to create worlds with their words.

And so the first thing God does with his words is to create. This is so important. The second thing God does with his words is to bless. Genesis 1:28, God bless them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it, rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air". Before original sin, there was original blessing, and that sequence is significant. Blessing is God's most ancient instinct. And blessing, I believe, is our deepest longing. And and so these are the first recorded words spoken by God to us, and they are words of blessing. This is so very simple, but can I suggest that God gave us the capacity to communicate for that very same reason. He gave you vocal chords to use those words to create and to bless those around you. That is the original intent of words. And so it's not surprising that the priestly blessing is at the epicenter. It epitomizes this idea of using words to bless. And by the way, in Judaism repeated twice a day, maybe we should follow suit.

Can I just say, there are a lot of things I love about pastoring. I'm hard pressed to think of very many things that I love more or enjoy more than pronouncing that priestly blessing. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his countenance towards you and give you peace. But I wanna remind us today, that's not my job, that's our job. We are the priesthood of believers. It is a call, we are called upon to be the ones who pronounce blessing on everyone in our lives. And when we do, we mirror what God modeled. And so God uses his words to create. God uses his words to bless. Go out and do likewise. Mary Ann Bird was born in Brooklyn 1928, born with a severe cleft palate, required 17 surgeries as a little girl, very difficult for her to form words, difficult for her to drink from a water fountain. But even more challenging than the physical dimensions were the psychological dimensions, because she was teased by her classmates.

Along with that cleft palate, Mary Ann Bird was deaf in one ear. And so her least favorite day, and this is how they did it 100 years ago, was the day that the teacher gave the annual hearing test. The teacher would whisper words, "Sky is blue. I like your new shoes". Student would have to repeat it back. Mrs. Leonard was her teacher that year. She was the most beloved teacher in the school. "I waited for those words," said Mary Ann, "which God must have put in her mouth, those seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard leaned across the desk and whispered, 'I wish you were my little girl.'" The heavenly Father is whispering those words today. I have no doubt about it. This is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased. Do you remember this moment in the gospels where Jesus heals the woman with the issue of blood? 12 years been to every doctor, spent every dime, at the end of her rope, she fights through the crowd to touch the hem of his garment. And Jesus heals this woman. But he doesn't just heal her body.

What did he say to her? It's the only place in the gospels where he uses this word. He says, "Daughter, daughter, your faith has made you whole". What a moment. Changed her life. Here is my prayer for us. May God give us seven words. May God give us kind words. May God give us encouraging words. May God give us words of knowledge and words of wisdom and prophetic words for the people around us. "But Pastor Mark, I'm not a prophet". Oh yes, you are. Everyone is someone's prophet. We hear the word prophet and we think someone who predicts the future. No, no, no, 1st Corinthians 14:3, it's someone who, with the help of the Holy Spirit, speaks words of edification, speaks words of comfort, speaks words of encouragement at just the right moment. Everyone is a prophet to someone. Moses said, "I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets".

In Judaism the prophetic gift was not reserved for the few, the proud, the Marines. It was for everyone. It was believed to be the pinnacle of spiritual growth. That you cannot grow spiritually and not become more prophetic. And by that, I almost wanna say that the litmus test is life giving. That it's just, it's words that bring someone else to life in a little different way. And I know this is like a literal example, but the best example I can think of is a guy four days dead. And Jesus says, "Lazarus, come force". And his words bring Lazarus to life. Oh God, anoint us. Would you just pray it right now? Anoint me. Make me a prophet. God, give me words. Words of encouragement, prophetic words. Help me here with a prophetic ear. Help me see with a prophetic eye. Help me see the people around me. Let the image of God in me see the image of God in others. No matter what you do for a living, you need to put a hyphen in your occupation. You are a prophet-coach, a prophet-teacher, a prophet-doctor, a prophet-barista.

If you drive Uber, you are an uber-prophet. According to Laurie Beth Jones, 40% of our lives are based on personal prophecies. She shares a story about a man named Michael who grew up in an alcoholic household where about every word was not life giving. But there was a dry cleaner in the neighborhood who kept candy on the counter. And one day this dry cleaner said to Michael, "Michael, you are a very smart boy. Someday you're gonna run a very big business". "I would listen in disbelief," said Michael, "and returned home only to get called a dog by my dad. Jimmy, the dry cleaner was the only person I can remember believing in me. Today, I run a multimillion dollar healthcare organization just like Jimmy predicted. I guess you could say that a dry cleaner was the prophet in my life". You are a prophet. Your words can create worlds of healing, worlds of meaning, worlds of joy, worlds of peace, worlds of faith.

Oh God, give us the words. You are the only Bible some people will ever read, and you are the only church some people will ever attend. Two questions this weekend. What do you need to stop saying and what do you need to start saying? When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, Jeremiah objected. He said, "I do not know how to speak. I am too young". Jeremiah did what we do. He immediately identified what was wrong with himself. And we're so in tune with that, aren't we? We all know what we're not good at. And and if you're looking for an excuse, you will always find one. What does God say? Do not say, don't say it. Don't say it. Don't give it power. Don't verbalize it. Don't let it get through your vocal courts. Because if you say it, all you're doing is reinforcing a negative narrative. You're just giving it power. Don't do it! Don't say you're too young. God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies to called. Don't say it.

What do you need to stop saying? "Whether you think you can or think you can't," said Henry Ford, "you're right". And I would just push the envelope and say, whether you say you can or say you can't, you're right. Love the story about the school teacher had her class sit down and take out a pen and write down all the things they could not do. Now, I know that seems contrary to what I'm saying, but it's what she did next. So they wrote down, "I can't do this, I can't do that". And then after the class had penned all of their I can'ts, she collected all of them, put 'em in a shoebox, took 'em out to the playground with a shovel, dug a hole, gave a eulogy, and buried all the I can'ts in the shoebox. When Jesus walked out of the tomb, all of those I can'ts went into the shoebox. He buried them. If the tomb is empty, then all things are possible.

And so we live in a... Man, all of a sudden I'm thinking about, remember Steve Jobs? What was it called? Like they called him a reality distortion field. Is that right? Jesus was the ultimate reality distortion field. Like you couldn't get within 100 feet of him and not have faith for unbelievable miracles, for things that would happen that just defy the imagination. What do you need to stop saying? According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 60,000 thoughts a day, 80% of them negative. It's the negativity bias that all of us need to overcome. There are words we need to stop saying, but here's the key, and maybe jot this down. The best way to break a bad habit is to make a good habit.

So you can't just stop saying certain things. You need to flip the script. Well, how do we do that? Short answer, scripture is our script cure. And that's not just the play on words. Words create worlds, but nothing creates worlds like the Word of God. His word does not return void, Isaiah 55:11, God is watching over his word to perform at Jeremiah 1:12. There is no habit in my life that's more significant than just a daily Bible reading plan. Why? 'Cause there are a thousand narratives that I need to overwrite. I need to overwrite my fear with faith. I need to begin to overwrite my problems with his promises. Oh, and I'm sure this is nobody else, but I need to overwrite selfish desires with his good, pleasing and perfect will. There's something about the Word of God, because it's living inactive, that when you get into it, when it gets into you, it begins to rewrite our negative narratives.

I think everybody, and just consider this a homework assignment, everybody needs five promises on speed dial. If God is for me, who can be against me? He began a good work. We'll carry it to completion. I am in Christ, Christ is in me. That is the hope of glory. I am God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, prepared for me in advance. Not a him who was able to do immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine according to his power that's at work within me. Now I'm ready. Let's go. Let's go. Now it's game on. Now I'm not operating in my negative narratives, now I'm standing on the Word of God. I'm gonna take it one step further. In psychology, there's something called the generation effect. Simply put, we have a better memory for things we say out loud. And that makes sense. Sometimes you need to hear yourself say it.

And by the way, I was on the phone with Dick Folf not long ago, and he's in a Bible study with a bunch of guys going through the book of Mark. And he said he told those guys, "Read it out loud". Read it out loud. Just try it. When you read your Bible, just read it out loud. Sometimes you just need to hear yourself say it in order to to believe it. I got an email from someone this week, and I love it when they point to a page of a book. It was page 53, do it for a day. And they said, as they were reading, the Holy Spirit convicted them of a negative spirit. I love what they did next. He said he repented, and then, for the first time in his life, threw himself into worship. I'm not holding back. I don't know if he's sang or didn't sing, but man, he just started like letting it rip.

And by the way, it doesn't matter if you're on pitch, make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Just use those vocal chords to worship God. And he said, "I started to sing with my voice, projecting my praise. And I even started getting some body posture on, you know," listen, for some of us, we just kind of need to get here, kind of here, and if you're here, maybe here and then, then come on. And you know what, when it's going on, two things are gonna happen with me. Either I'm gonna end up on my knees saying, "I surrender to this holy moment. I'm gonna let the Holy Spirit seal it," or I might do one of these. Not just the open, just something like, the victory is ours. I sense the breakthrough. Everything's created twice. First breakthrough in worship. Can I just tell us today, worship is when and where and how miracles happen. Worship is when and where and how spiritual gifts are released. And when we worship, we are mirroring what happens in heaven.

But here's what I'm believing for, there's another level. How many of you believe it today? There's another dimension of praise for you. That God wants to get us to the place where it's not just gratitude, thanking God for what he has already done, it's faith, thanking God for what we believe he is going to do. And that we call prophesying our praise. Now we're giving God the sacrifice of our praise. Not praising because of our circumstances, 'cause frankly we don't like our circumstances, but praising God because we're believing for a breakthrough. The same goes for prayer. Prayer is the way we write history before it happens. That's why I think house of prayer, I think it's the most important thing we do as a church. It sets the tone, it sets the pace. When we gather and pray, God begins to move in the spiritual realm.

I had a moment, as you know, what a joy and privilege for us to host the Easter Sunrise at the Lincoln Memorial. I mean, it's still a little surreal. Like, did that really happen? So praise God, and you're going to hear me continue to shout out Pastor Amos and Sue Dodge, 'cause we drink from wells we did not dig. So praise God for their obedience to a prompting, praise God for long obedience in the same direction. The truth is, all of us are standing on someone else's shoulders. But there was a moment, I had forgotten about it, but do you remember the prayer walk we did Juneteenth 2021, from the Lincoln Memorial to the National Museum of African American History and Culture? And we had some moments. Whoa! And I remember like thinking to myself, are we allowed to pray this loud at the Lincoln Memorial? Like we don't have a permit. Is this okay? And then, man, I'll never forget some of the praise that we lifted at the museum, and it was amazing. I don't think, and it dawned on me Sunday, very early in the morning, wait a second, how did this happen?

I'm preaching where we prayed two years ago. I just don't think those two things are unrelated. That when we pray, God begins in his sovereignty to set things up. Okay, I'm gonna close with this Deuteronomy 30:11. "This commandment I give you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not in heaven. It is not beyond the scene. Nom, the word is very near you". Oh, let this get into your spirit. How did I miss this? How could this not even be in the book? It's not even in, "Please, Sorry, Thanks". It feels like a sin of omission. Here it is. Here it is. "It's in your mouth". It's in your mouth. See, we think that the answer is on top of the mountain. We think the answer is on the other side of the sea. No, no, no, the answer is right here, because words create worlds. Remember Mary Ann Bird, seven words totally changed her world. That's all it takes.

D'you know, when I was a teenager, 10 words changed my life, and they, you'll be nonplus bite, it doesn't even sound dramatic, actually sounds a little generic, but at this really fragile moment in life, like where do I go? What do I do? Which I guess is every teenager, right? Like we're trying to figure things out, and there was this moment that we had a guest missionary at church. For whatever reason, I felt like I'm just gonna go down to the altar and pray. And this missionary came over and he started praying for me. And in the middle of that prayer, he prophesied over me and said, "God is going to use you in a great way". There have been moments of tremendous self-doubt. And the Holy Spirit will bring those 10 words back to mind. My self-confidence, I think, relatively speaking is low. My holy confidence is off the chart. Because I've experienced too many miracles not to believe God for the next one. And I really think that holy confidence was conceived in my heart with those 10 words. That missionary would have no idea who I am. Wouldn't even remember that moment. Oh God, let us be the ones who speak seven words, who speak 10 words.

"But Pastor Mark, I'm not good with words". Oh, I got some good news. Moses said this. The same guy who said, "I am not good with words, I am slow of speech, I am tongue tied," that same guy says words matter, and the answer is in your mouth. Maybe you feel like Moses, "I don't know what to say. I don't know what to pray". Can I just take a lot of pressure off today? You don't have to pray in the King James version. It's not about stringing together lots of fancy words. God hears your heart more than he hears your words. And so we've talked about four words. Let there be light. We've talked about seven words, about 10 words. Why don't we just end with one word? For 40 years, I had severe asthma. There weren't 40 days and 40 years that I did not take a puff of my inhaler, my rescue inhaler. Then on July 2nd, 2016, I prayed a bold prayer.

Prayer I prayed hundreds of times, why God hadn't answered it before, I don't know, that's past my pay grade. But I knelt next to an altar and I said, "God, would you heal these lungs? That was 2,475 days ago. How do I know that"? Because that's the last time I took an inhaler. But I'm gonna share something. I don't think I've ever shared this. Even in recent months, there have been multiple times where in my dreams I have to take my inhaler. Because when you have a 40-year narrative. when you have a 40 year narrative, it is hard to overwrite that narrative.

So I was out running a couple of weeks later and I said, "God, I need a confirmation. I need a word. I need a word". And I could show you the spot where I got a word from God. And this should come as no surprise. It was the Word of God. It was Mark 7:34, a man who could not speak, could not hear, and Jesus with one word heals him, "Ephphatha," be opened. And the man hears and speaks. I mean, I can't help but imagine that moment, like the very first, this is the first word He hears, ephphatha, and that word creates a whole new world. I felt like God said, "Mark, ephphatha. Be opened". Almost done.

A couple of months ago, I went back and reread "The Cloud of Unknowing," 14th century mystic, whose name we don't even know wrote it, but it's kind of a classic. But what struck me was one little statement at the end of the book, the author said, "Short prayer pierces heaven". And he explained it this way. "Why does it pierce heaven? This short prayer of one small syllable? Because it is prayed with a full spirit". And so all the pressure is off today. I'm gonna tell you today, some of the most powerful prayers are one-word prayers: help. Help. Mercy. Mercy. Amen. So be it. Now, I'll give you one more and we're gonna sing it in a moment. Jesus. Come on, when you don't know what to say, let's just say that name, the name that saves, heals and delivers, the name that is above all names. The name at which, and this is not a threat, it's a promise, it's a promise, the name at which every knee will bow, every tongue will confess in heaven and on earth. In Jesus name, amen. And amen.
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