Sunday Worship & Discipleship

I grew up in a large church in Memphis, TN.  This church had over 700 folks in attendance most Sunday mornings.  It was always an exciting time walking into the church gathering, singing and hearing the message from the Pastor.  I must admit that I might have nodded off to sleep a few times in my teen years, but it was always special.  Yet, those times in Sunday worship are still some of my fondest memories of church.

Something has happened in our culture.  The church culture most specifically.  This something is the idea that Sunday AM worship is not important anymore.  Claims of wanting more authenticity and needing deeper relationship are used to justify this viewpoint.  As a result many in the church no longer make regular attendance in worship important.  Most who consider themselves regular attend just two times a month.

This saddens me, because it was through the Sunday morning worship that I learned to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Here are some of the ways that Sunday morning worship shaped my walk with Christ…

  1. Attending every Sunday (unless I was sick or out of town) taught me that following Jesus is about being consistent and not hit and miss.
  2. Singing with a large group of folks gave me a taste of what heaven will be like.  It is not just about my worship and my walk.  It’s about our worship and our walk.  Jesus  made this clear in the Lord’s Prayer, when he said – OUR FATHER.  Following Jesus is not as much about ME as it is WE.
  3. Hearing messages (even the boring ones) has taught me how to study and read the Word of God for myself.  Sure, I’ve gone to college and seminary.  However, I really learned to study the Word by hearing my pastor walk through passages in God’s Word.
  4. Experiencing an invitation at the end of the sermon has taught me that God’s Word is not just something we read or hear, but God speaking and calling us to respond.
  5. Getting to pray and serve in that church opened my heart to surrender to God’s call to ministry.  I still remember a youth Sunday where I was chairman of deacons for the day.  Even though I never became a deacon, I saw that I had a place in the church.
  6. Giving my tithe once I started to work taught me that it all belongs to God.  It is not my money – It’s his.  He has just entrusted me with a small portion, so I would learn to trust Him more.

Now, I know that church doesn’t have to have a certain structure or schedule.  God was good to give us freedom in that.  However, we are called in Hebrews 10:25 to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.”

How regularly do you attend worship with God’s people?  You will be amazed at what will happen and how much you grow, if you would just make being with God’s people a regular habit.

Advertisements

Discipleship: In A Small Group

For the past four years on Tuesday nights Julie and I have hosted a group of folks in our home that we call “Community Group.”  This group is an integral part of our weekly routine and family life.  If we are out of town or our routine is upset our kids will ask, “Are we not having group this week?”  To be honest during the Christmas break Julie and I will often look at each other and say, “I can’t wait for our next group meeting.”

Why is that?  Why has this group become so important to us?  What is it about that group of 8-15 people that has marked our lives so much?

Is it the realtionships?  Yes, the relationships have been so important to us. The folks in our group are our best friends.  However, there is something more to it.

Is it the prayer we share together?  I would have to say, “YES!”  I have seen God move in the lives of the friends in my group in some very powerful ways over the last few years and even months.  Even with how powerful the prayer has been in our group times, there is something more to it.

Is it the Bible study and discussion?  Sure, the Bible study has been good.  The discussion of God’s Word – though off topic at times – has been very powerful and challenging.  Yet, with all the great moments we’ve had digging into God’s Word together, there seems to be more to it.

So, why has this group impacted my life so much?

After a good bit of soul-searching and personal inventory, the answer is one word – Discipleship.  Through the time spent in deep relationships, powerful prayer times and diving into the Word; God has made me a better disciple.  I see my weaknesses more clearly.  I rely on his strength more fully.  I see how important small group gatherings are in the process of making disciples.

Being a pastor and student of the Word, you would think that I would know that.  However, just like the first generation believers, I had to experience myself.  Here is what they experienced…

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.  – Acts 4:42-47 (ESV)

Here’s the truth – You will never know how a small group of believers will make a better dicisple until you get involved in a small group of believers.  So, as I was up this post, I want to ask – will you get involved?  Will you make the effort to become part of a small group and experience the growth that will happen in your life when you commit to being a disciple in a small group.  It may be a group of men, a women’s Bible study, a Sunday School class, a fellowship of Christian motorcycle riders, etc.  Just find a group and jump in.

If you would like help in getting connected to a group, give me a shout at revnow09@gmail.com.  I would love to help any way I can.  

Discipleship: Face-to-Face

Have you ever been around someone that really helped you to grow in your relationship with the Lord?  I am not talking about that person whose sermons you listen to or whose books you read.  I am talking about that person that when you hang out together teaches you what it means to follow Jesus.  I am talking about that person whose words challenge you to think about what you believe and why you hold so dearly to it.

This week I got to spend sometime with a guy like that.  That person is my brother-in-law.  To give you a little history about our relationship, I have known him longer than my sister has.  He and I met while we were in college together at Union University.  We graduated together, have eaten tons of BBQ and Taco Bell Chalupas together and enjoyed listening to 90’s CCM songs while riding down the bypass in Jackson, TN.  Our friendship spans two decades, and this week it was just like we picked where we left off last time.

The thing that I was reminded of by our time this week is how important face-to-face realtionships are for discipleship.  Without other believers in your life for you to spend time with, you will not grow in Christ-likeness.  Sure you can get more information from sermons, podcasts and the internet.  Yet, the one thing you need in relationship.  

Discipleship happens best in relationships.

Why are face-to-face relationships so important to our spiritual growth?  

The answer is  – that’s the way Jesus did it.  Sure Jesus used other methods, which I will write about in the coming weeks.  However, he primarily used one-on-one relationships to shape his disciples.  It is the one-on-one conversations that stuck.  His disciples may have remembered a portion of His teachings, but what he told them face-to-face they never could shake.  I bet Peter never forgot, “Feed my sheep.”  I bet the lame never forgot, “get up and walk.”  I bet John never forgot, “behold your mother.”

There is something intimate and personal that happens when discipleship takes place one-on-one and face-to-face.  So, I want to ask – do you have someone like that in your life?  Do you have someone you hang out with regularly that challenges you to grow in Christ?  Are you that person for someone?  Discipleship is not a one-sided thing.  It’s a two lane road.

I want to challenge you to find a friend like that and be a friend like that.  If you don’t have a friend like that, you need some new friends.  If you need help, give me a shout at aaron@betherevolution.com.  I’d love to grab a cup of coffee with you sometime.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17

Time Alone With God

Over the last 20 years of serving in ministry I have spent much of my preaching/teaching time talking about a Christian’s time alone with God.  It seems like lately it comes up in every sermon I preach.  Why is that?  Why is it so important?  Why do I talk about it so much?

Well, over the last couple of years, I have come to realize how important daily communion/fellowship with God is to my walk.  I have had a quiet time in some form for 25 years or so.  However, in the last couple of years God has shown me more of why time alone with Him is so important.

This past weekend I was out of town with my extended family at a graduation. We had the privilege to stay at a park on Lookout Mountain in Georgia.  On Sunday morning I got up and went for a 4 mile hike.  I put on a book I was listening to and just went for the hike on the trail.  It was a fairly vigorous hike, but more than that it was breathe taking.  At some points alone the hike I had to stop and just say, “Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

For about an hour or so I listened, prayed, praised, and spent time alone with God.  It was so good for my soul.  I needed that time away.  At the bottom of this post, I have included a picture of a few spots along the trail.  I hope these give you just a snap shot into the glory of God and the beauty of His creation.

Now, what does my quiet time and a 4 mile hike have to do with one another?  It all has to do with what God has been showing me about my time alone with Him.  Here are a few of the takeaways…

  1. My time alone with God keeps me focused on Him.  I get so busy with life, to do lists, and meeting with folks that I can forget what life is really all about.  It is about God.  When I spend time alone with God, I am reminded that He is God and I am His child.  I need that reminder each and every morning.
  2. My time alone with God washes my heart and mind.  I take in a lot of information from social media to movies to in depth coversations.  I need what Pastor James McDonald calls “the washing of the Word.”  I need God’s Word to wash my mind and set it straight on what is true, right and godly.
  3. My time alone with God makes me a better follower of Jesus.  I am a guy who is trying to figure out what God wants me to do just like the next dude.  However, I struggle less at the following, when I spend daily time alone with God.
  4. My time alone with God makes me a better human being.  I can be grumpy.  I mean real grumpy at times.  I can be a tough person to get along some times.  However, when I spend time with God, I am quite literally a better person.  If you don’t believe me just ask my wife.  She knows.
  5. My time alone with God grounds my mind in the truth.  My mind gets pummeled with all kinds of thoughts each day.  I entertain a lot of the enemies lies about myself sometimes.  Lies like – you aren’t good enough, you are failing, etc.  When I spend time with God, He reminds me that I am His child, He doesn’t make junk and I am accepted in Christ.

I dont’ know where you are.  I don’t know if you have a daily time alone with God.  I just know from personal experience that if you will make the time, God will show you great and mighty things.

So, I want to encourage you to take time today and spend some time with God.  You can do it on a hike or sitting in your chair.  Just do it.  You will be amazed at the impact it will have on you.

We All Have Doubts

Now that Easter is over and the eggs have all been hunted, it is easy for us to resume life as normal.  When we read the accounts after the resurrection we see that life was far from business as usual.  As a matter of fact it was even more difficult that the day of Jesus’ execution – at least for his disciples.  They were still trying to figure out what was going on.  It still hadn’t all clicked.

One disciple who was not with the others when Jesus revealed himself had his own doubts about the resurrection.  He had doubts about what God had done and what He was up to.  Here is the account of the disciple called Thomas in John 20:24-29…

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I don’t know about you, but I find myself quite often like Thomas.  I find myself needing more evidence.  I find myself needing more concrete proof that God isindeed working and moving on my behalf.  I find myself wanting to see Jesus face to face, so that I no longer have to guess what He is up to.  I often find myself doubting God’s power.
So, what do we do when we doubt?  What do we do when we are struggling to find proof that God is there and that He does care?

Look at what Thomas did.  Thomas didn’t go on some spiritual pilgrimage, eat some holy flower or chant himself into a spiritual frenzy.  He simply stayed close to God’s people and kept doing the next indicate thing.  If you want God to reveal himself to you.  You need to tuck in close to God’s people and be obedient to the things God has placed right in front of you.

Our tendency is to run from the safety and protection on community.  Our tendency is to run back into sin patterns and bad habits.  Yet, if we will just lean in a bit more, we will see God move in power and might like never before.

Are you struggling right now?  Do you wonder if God is there or if He cares?

If so, don’t run.  Dig in.  Dig into fellowship, worship and community with God’s people.  That is where you are going to get the answers to your questions.  You will not find them while running or in isolation.

The truth is that more and more we all have doubts about God being present and caring for us.  The facts are that the average Christian attends church less than he or she did 10 years ago.  Why would we pull away from the community where the answer to our doubts are found, when we have them the most?

So, I would like to encourage you to press into a local church family this week.  Get involved.  Make attendance a regular thing.  The answers will be found as you journey with God’s people, so keep journeying.

Good Friday 2017

On Good Friday Jesus laid down His life as a sacrifice for our sins.  As He draws His last breathe He utters these three words – IT IS FINISHED.  These are some powerful words.  They point to the fact that the cross is the apex of human history.  It is not a blip on the radar.  It is the center of all human history.

Today, as you spend the day at home or rush off to work, remember that today is not just another Friday.  It is the day we remember the depth, breadth and full span of God’s love for us.  It is the day that we remember Jesus dying for our sins.  It truly is a Good Friday.

As you remember today, I encourage you to spend some time in prayer and personal worship.  Take some time to thank God for making a way for you to know Him.  Take some time to evaluate where you are in your walk with the Lord.  If you can, take the opportunity to attend a Good Friday service at church somewhere.  If you live in the Oakland or Memphis area, I would love to invite you to our service tonight at 7PM.  For more details, visit us at www.betherevolution.com.

Maundy Thursday 2017

Have you ever had to tell someone ‘good bye’ not knowing when or if you would ever see them again?

I remember the day that I left for college.  I had just turned 18 and was excited about beginning the next phase of my life and making new friends.  Yet, as soon as I said good bye to my mom and sister, I began to cry uncontrollably.  (I know this is hard to believe for those who know we now, but it really did happen.)  I was leaving all that I knew for the unknown.  I was leaving the comfort of all the relationships I knew.  It was tough.  

On Maundy Thursday we see Jesus doing just that.  He was saying ‘good bye’ to His disciples and closest followers.  He was leaving them to go be with the Father.  He was leaving them so they can fulfill the mission that He was sending them on.  If he stayed even after dying on the cross, the disciples would have just piled up wherever Jesus was and would not have spread the Gospel around the world.

Here’s the upside of saying, “Good bye.” When someone leaves or you leave, you are breaking the comfortable to step into new opportunity.  It’s not easy.  It’s not something you want to do every day.  However, it’s exactly how God propels us forward in life and uses us to share the Gospel.

Are you having to say ‘good bye’ to some things or someone?  If so, don’t just see the pain and loss.  See the opportunity that God is going to bring from it.  The new relationships.  The new moments to share Christ.  The personal growth that you will experience as you have to lean more on Him and less on comfortable relationships and familiar surroundings.