Holy Monday 2017

On Monday – after Jesus’ powerful and electric entrance into Jerusalem – we see another powerful moment take place.  A moment that again shows the difference between fans and followers.  A moment where Jesus calls us to His plans and mission for the church.  It is found in Matthew 21:12-13.  Check it out below.

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭21:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Here we see folks gathered in the temple selling sacrifices and trading money for temple money all to make a huge profit.  They were literally using God for what they could get from Him.  This is a struggle for many of us in the church today.  We tend to use God for what we can get from Him.  Sure, God wants to give us good gifts, but that is not the point of our fellowship with Him.  The point is for us to learn to glorify and enjoy Him forever.

So, Jesus sees this scene and He does something about it.  He gets rowdy.  He turns the tables over and gets their attention.  When they are looking at him – probably ready to fight – He tells them that His house is supposed to be a house of prayer.  That’s the point of our fellowship with Him.  That’s how we learn to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.  It’s prayer.  It’s simply talking to Him and spending time with Him throughout our day.

So, as we reflect on Holy Monday, where are you at?  Are you just going to church to get something?  Is prayer an integral part of your daily life?  If not, I would like to challenge you to take a moment right now and pray.  Ask God to reveal your heart and help you to recommit to walking with Him and being a person of prayer.

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Palm Sunday 2017

Have you ever been to a concert or sporting event that was electric?  I am talking about high energy and a roaring crowd.  There is something very special, powerful and even exciting about an event like that.

As Jesus road into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey nearly 2000 years ago the city was like that.  Folks were shouting Hosanna and laying down their cloaks or palm branches.  It was a powerful moment.  Yet, it was a moment that draws a line in the sand.  That line is the line between fans and followers.  At this moment in history we see two kinds of folks gathered around Jesus.  We see fans – those who were just caught up in the moment- and we see followers – those who were with Jesus to the very end.

The truth is that not much has changed.  There are still those of us who are fans and those who are true followers.  The difference is about a a changed-life.  The difference is a surrendered life to Jesus and His mission.  The difference is between those of us who are only seen following Jesus in a crowd, but not when things get rough.

Where do you stand right now?  Are you a fan?  Are you a follower? Take a moment and read Matthew 21:1-11 to see where to stand.

If you are a fan, Jesus is calling you to much more than Sundays and church services.  He wants you to experience a life surrendered to Him for His glory.  If you are a follower, take the opportunities this week that God gives you to share His Gospel with others.  Also, don’t forget to invite someone to an Easter service with you.

If you don’t have a church home and live in the Memphis, TN / Oakland, TN area, I would like to invite you to join us this Easter – April 16th – at 9:30 AM or 11AM.  For more details, check out our website – www.betherevolution.com – and visit us this Sunday.

Sunday Sermon Recap – 01.29.17

Defeat is something that we’ve all faced at one time or another.  It may have been at a kid’s baseball game.  It may have been while trying to assemble the latest thing you bought at IKEA. It may have even been a relationship that completely disintegrated. Bottom line – we all know how defeat feels.

When we feel defeated our tendency as humans is to do several things – get depressed, dive into our coping method of choice or – worse yet – become utterly hopeless about ever finding victory again.  If this is you, then I have some really good news for you today.

IT’S NOT OVER, GOD’S NOT DONE WITH YOU YET!

I apologize for screaming, but this news is just too good not to shout from the mountaintops.  God is not done with our lives, when we face defeat.  The story has reached it’s final chapter when everything falls apart.  To be honest, it has just gotten interesting.  At the point of our defeat, God is writing a better story.  A story  of comeback.  A story of resurrection from disaster. All he is asking us to do is to join him in the process of the comeback.

How do we do that?  What do we do we comeback from defeat?

Let me take a moment and mention a comeback story in the Bible that is all about this very subject.  It is the story of the disciple named – Peter.  He was a rough a tumble guy.  A fisherman by trade, but Jesus called him out of that profession to fish for men.  When Jesus called Him, Peter was on fire.  He even said that he was willing to lay down his life for Jesus.  Yet, in the darkest hours before the crucifixion we learn that Peter ended up denying even knew Jesus on three separate occasions.

How do you come back from that?

Well, in John 21:15-19 (ESV) we see the resurrected Jesus help Peter on his comeback journey.  Here is what happened…

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” 

Here we see two important things for a comeback from defeat.

#1 – You’ve got to fall in love with Jesus all over again.

Often after a painfully defeating moment in our lives, we lose sight of our relationship and fellowship with God.  In v. 15 we see that Jesus begins that loving and gentle calling of Peter to fall in love with him all over again.

For me this very thing happened with in the last year.  I experienced a very difficult betrayal in my life and ministry.  A person I trusted betrayed my church family in a very bad way.  It nearly brought an end to the church.  It caused me to consider doing something else with my life.  The biggest thing it shook was my fellowship with God.  My relationship with God came about praying for my survival rather than simply being in God’s presence.  By God’s grace the last year, God has brought me back and reminded me of my first love – HIM.

 

Here are three quick tips.  First, spend time daily in prayer, but make sure you have a plan or you will pray like 2 minutes and start playing on your smartphone.  Second, read the Bible.  You will need a plan here as well.  You can find plenty on YouVersion.com.  Third, spend time with other believers.  Get involved with a small group bible study and stay committed to it.

Is this all? By no means.  Here is the rest of the story.

#2 – You’ve got to learn to follow Jesus step by step.

This is the tough one, but as we look back at this encounter that Peter had with Jesus we discover a simple process that helps us all learn how to follow Jesus one step at a time.  Let’s check out John 21:15-17…

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Here we discover a process whereby we all can learn to follow Jesus.  It goes as follows…

STEP #1 – LOVE HIM

STEP #2 – HEAR FROM HIM

STEP #3 – OBEY HIM

This what Peter did and many other in the Bible and throughout the Christian faith.  We fall in the love with Jesus.  He begins to reveal his will to us.  We obey Him.  We fall in love with Him more.  The process keeps going on step by step.

Here’s the thing.  This is tough at first.  After a while it gets easier.  The things is you can’t stop seeking after the Lord.  Once you do, it’s like starting all over again.

So, if you are feeling defeated today, keep pursuing God.  Don’t let you defeat lead you.  Don’t let depression overwhelm you.  Keep moving forward by God’s grace.  He will sustain you.

Oh, don’t forget.

IT’S NOT OVER, GOD’S NOT DONE WITH YOU YET!

Sunday Recap – The Comeback Kid – Part 3

Death is something that we all must face.  It is an annoying and ever present part of life that keeps coming back over and over again.  We see it in the death of cell phone that will no longer keep a charge.  We experience it in the death of a relationship that has gone the way of neglect and apathy.  We feel it as we lay a loved one to rest at a graveside.

As a result we all fight death.  We do it in our own ways, though.  Some of us fight it by trying to eat healthier and exercise obsessively.  Others fight it by going to the doctor’s office at a rate that makes our insurance company nervous.  And still others fight death by trying any and every spiritual path to understand death.

However, nothing we do can stop it.  Nothing we do can overcome it.  Sure, we can hold it off a bit.  We can even prolong our lives, but in the end dead comes for all of us.

I know at this point.  You are tempted to click out of this blog post, and try to find something more cheerful.  Please don’t.  What I am about to share with you is the cure for death.  This cure is found in the midst of the most powerful comeback story of all times.  It is found in the life of Jesus.

Jesus is God’s Son who left the comfort of heaven, came down to earth and wrapped Himself in human flesh.  He was born to a virgin named Mary.  He grew up in ancient Israel in a Jewish home.  He began to teach the scriptures at a young age.  At around 30 years of age he began to teach, preach and heal folks publicly.  This teaching upset the religious establishment, so at around 33 years of age they falsely accused Him and had him crucified.  Yet, that wasn’t the end of the story.

After three days in a borrowed tomb, Jesus rose from the dead.  This was unusual to say the least.  Jesus himself had performed some resurrection, but His own resurrection was not expected at all.  At least not by the those who carried out the execution.

So, what does this comeback story have to do with us?

In 1 Corinthians 5:20-28 a guy named Paul (who has his own comeback story) helps us connect the dots.  You can click on the scripture reference to read it for yourself, but let me summarize it real quickly. The resurrection of Jesus signals that…

GOD TAKES DEAD PEOPLE & BRINGS THEM TO LIFE THROUGH JESUS.

Let me break this statement down a little more.

GOD TAKES DEAD PEOPLE…

Who is dead, and why are they dead?

In 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 Paul shares with us that as a result of Adam and Eve eating of the fruit in the garden we are all dead.  What he means is that we are all dead spiritually and we will all die one day physically.  We can try to put that date off some, but it will come for all of us (Hebrews 9:27).

Why is this?

We are dead because of sin.  We are dead because of our own sin. That lie we told last week.  That pack of gum we stole as a kid.  That person we hate and wish was dead.  All that stuff is what has caused this death problem.

What can we do about it?  

That leads us to the next part of that statement.

…& BRINGS THEM TO LIFE THROUGH JESUS.

In 1 Corinthians 15:22 Paul makes the following statement – For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection can be ours as well.  We can experience a comeback from spiritual death.  We can comeback from doing al the stuff we do to ignore the fact that we are spiritually dead.  We can be alive.  I mean really alive.

How do we do this? 

We do this through acknowledging our sin (AKA deadness), crying out to God for forgiveness and surrendering our lives to Him.  To put it more simply let me share with you one of my favorite verses of scripture.  It is Romans 10:13Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Do you need to do that today?  Do you need to comeback to life?  Are you tired of struggling with the same sin, struggles and addictions?  

You can comeback.  It all begins with admitting you need a comeback, crying out for God’s help and surrendering to His plans. God will take it from there.

Remember…

GOD TAKES DEAD PEOPLE & BRINGS THEM TO LIFE THROUGH JESUS.

Sunday Recap – The Comeback Kid – Part 2

Classic Vintage Boxing Ring

Yesterday, was a powerful day in the life of our church family.  The worship service was packed.  The Holy Spirit was moving.  The worship was awesome.  The message that God laid on my heart to preach was spot on.  I just love days like that.

So, here is the gist of the sermon.  I was preaching on the comeback story of David.  David was a man who sought after God’s heart, but he was also a man who failed many times.  One of the most notable of his failures is that of seducing and sleeping with a married woman – Bathsheba.  Not only did he sleep with her.  He also got her pregnant and had her husband killed.  It was a colossal failure in David’s life both personally and spiritually.  One that seems impossible to ever overcome.

That is the part of David’s story that we all can relate to.  Sure we may never have slept with a married person.  Sure we may never have killed anyone.  However, we’ve all messed up.  We’ve all train wrecked some moments of our lives.  It is in these moments that we wonder if we will ever comeback to the way things were before. Here’s the good news – God specializes in comebacks.  It’s His thing.

So, how did David comeback from failure? How do we come back from failure?

In yesterday’s message we discovered in Psalm 51 (which David wrote after this series of failures) that to move forward after failure we’ve got to takes the steps of repentance. We actually went on to look at these steps.  Here they are in quick summary.

Step #1 – Cry Out For Mercy

This is the place where you acknowledge two things that all of us have to come to grips with on a daily basis.  First, you’ve messed up.  Second, God is the only one who can help.  These two things are essential for walking the road of repentance.  Without these realities we just keeping stacking up the sin and failure.

Step #2 – Acknowledge Your Sin

This is a tough step but is so crucial.  It is more than just admitting your’ve messed up.  It is acknowledging the true depth and impact of your sin.  The truth is that real repentance doesn’t take place until we come face to face with the fact that our sin has broken God’s heart.  It is not enough to see how it hurts us.  We will only move forward after failure when we see how our sin has hurt God.

Step #3 – Cleanse Your Soul

Sin has residue.  It is like Mexican food.  It tastes good when you are eating in the restaurant, but after you leave you still smell like you are sitting there.  That is why as part of repentance we have to join God in the process of cleansing our soul from the residue of sin. This is the step of repentance that very few folks take, but it is so necessary for a full comeback from failure.

Step #4 – Keep Walking With God

Our tendency as humans is to go back to business as usual once thing are a little better.  We do this with God.  After things are a little better, we fall back into not spending time in prayer and in God’s Word.  We go back to the very things that got us in the mess in the first place.  It’s at this point that we have to double down and keep walking with God.  This is part of repentance.

Of course there was a lot more to the message.  You can check out our church website on Wednesday for a copy of the message.  If you are in the midst of a failure of your own creation, I want to encourage you get on the road to repentance.  Just take it one step at a time.  God will do the rest.  If you will walk that road, your comeback is just around the corner.

 

Overcoming Quiet Time Obstacles

For me one of the greatest challenges in my walk with God has actually been carving out time to spend with Him.  From a very young age I was taught that I needed to have a quiet time.  So, when I received the challenge, I would start trying to have a quiet time with God.  Things would go well for a while and then life would happen.  I would wake up late.  I would not feel well.  I would wake up not “feeling it” at all.

As a result I have journeyed the past twenty-five plus years with God in a somewhat bi-polar manner.  I would have times when I was getting up and spending massive times with God followed by seasons when I would shoot up a quick prayer and read a devotional if I had the time.  The sad part of this confession is that many of these years where while serving as a pastor.  I was spending hours in Bible Study to teach and preach, but my walk with God was suffering.  Also, my preaching was suffering and I didn’t know it.  The best sermons come out of the overflow of a pastor’s walk (quiet time) with God.

For years I fought this back and forth.  For years I felt great when I was having a quiet time and guilty when I didn’t. For years I wanted things to be better, but I didn’t know how to overcome those continual obstacles that would get in the way.  I didn’t know how to navigate a hectic schedule, early morning meetings, kids getting up early, not feeling well, etc.

Over the last few years things have changed with regard to my quiet time.  It is very consist.  It is not the bi-polar back and forth. It is everything I hoped and thought it could be and so much more.  Yet, it didn’t just happen.  I had to learn to overcome the obstacles that stood between God and me.  Here’s a list of things I did, I hope it helps you overcome what stands between you and God.

  1. I made it the number one priority once I was awake. This means that I don’t do anything else first.  I don’t dive into social media, emails, TV or anything else.  I only get a cup of coffee first.  I think God understands the coffee thing.  Anyway, it is the number one priority when I wake up.  This also means that it impacts when I wake up and go to bed.  My schedule revolves around it.
  2. I prepared for it.  That is to say that I have everything I need for my quiet time sitting in the spot where I am going to sit and spend time with God.  I don’t have to look for a pen, Bible, devotional book or journal.  Everything is right there.  This takes the “Oh, well never mind” factor out of it.  Also, it is a practice I picked up from childhood, because my mom made me lay my clothes out every night before school and church.  Being ready to spend time with God makes it easier when you are coming out of the fog of sleep and have somewhere to get very soon.
  3. I started journaling my prayers.  By writing down my prayers to God and bullet pointing the things I pray about I am able to stay on track and focused in my prayer time.  Probably one the biggest obstacles in prayer is knowing what to pray.  I have taken that obstacles out of the way by having a written list of things to pray.  If you don’t have a prayer journal, I encourage you to pick one up and start journaling your prayers and requests.
  4. I have a plan.  I know exactly what I am going to read each morning. I don’t have to find something to read.  I know exactly what is next.  If you need help developing a Bible reading plan, check out YouVersion.  They have hundreds of reading plans and resources to help you out.  However, you can do what I am doing right now.  Pick a book of the Bible,  read one chapter a day and write down insights that the Holy Spirit gives you as you read.

I hope these few tips help you to overcome the obstacles that stand between you and a growing relationship with God.  I want you to know that there is so much more to Him than what you see right now.  You can discover more of who God is if you will make the steps to seek Him first.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

Sunday Sermon Recap – The Comeback Kid – Part 1

An old vintage boxing ring surrounded by ropes spotlit in the middle on an isolated dark background

This past Sunday we began a brand new series at Revolution entitled – The Comeback Kid.  In this series we are exploring some of the greatest comeback stories in the Bible.  We began this weekend looking at the story of a guy named Joseph.  We find his story in Genesis 37-50.  It is quite a ride.  You need to take a some time and read it.  It is a powerful story of a guy coming back from betrayal.

As we dug into his story we learned that the only way back from betrayal is to learn to forgive those who have betrayed us.  It’s tough to do that.  To be honest, it’s tough to even think about doing that.  However, if we don’t forgive those who have betrayed us we will forever be stuck in a place of bitterness, anger and never shake the feeling of being betrayed.

So, how do we do it?

As we looked at Genesis 50:15-21 we discovered three things we must do if we want to forgive those who have betrayed us.

#1 – STOP TRYING TO BE GOD.

We are not God.  Not even close.  We will never get the revenge we are seeking no matter how hard we try.  We will never teach them a lesson no matter how creative we may be.  Sure we may be able to hurt them and even give them a taste of their own medicine.  However, only God can teach them the lesson they really need to learn.

If you have been hurt, I want to encourage you to not waste your life trying to even the score.  Instead, spend your life getting to know the God who evens all scores.  It will be a better use of your time.

#2 – SEE THE GOOD GOD BROUGHT FROM THE BETRAYAL.

This is probably the hardest thing to read.  How can something good come from something that hurt so bad.  That is a mystery, but God specializes in that stuff.  He makes new stuff from broken pieces.  It won’t happen over night, but as we look back – after some time – we will see that God will bring some great stuff from our worst moments.

How do we do that?  How do we see the good in the wake of so much bad?

Here are four questions that you can ask yourself.  They will help you begin to see the beauty that God is bringing from the ashes of your story.  Here they are…

  1. What relationship do you have now that you didn’t have before the betrayal?
  2. What opportunities do you have now that were not present then?
  3. What have you learned about people and life that you didn’t know before?
  4. How have you learned to trust God?

I know it is hard to think that any good can come from your pain, but it can and it will.  You simply have to trust God and look for it.

#3 – SPEAK KINDLY TO & PRAY FOR YOUR BETRAYER

I know that is a tall order.  However, by doing this you accomplish two things.  First, you change you heart of bitterness to that of compassion for a person who is just as broken as you are.  This is how we get God’s heart for others.  Second, when you pray for your enemy, you are learning what it is like to really live as God’s kid.  It’s not an easy road, but it is the best and higher road.

As you seek to overcome betrayal, I want to encourage you today. Don’t give up.  Don’t throw in the towel.  Keep pressing on.  You will experience a comeback.  You just have to keep pressing on and not give up short.

If you would like to hear the sermon from Sunday, you can find on our church’s website – here.