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Friday, April 24, 2015

Lessons from 1985

On Sunday, July 21, 1985, Kat and I, having just moved to Fort Worth Texas, attended worship our first Sunday there at Travis Avenue Baptist Church.

It was the biggest church we had ever attended. I think they were running somewhere around 2000 or so at the time.  I had just completed a music degree and was pretty enamored with their large orchestra and its big string section, as well as their 200-voice choir. Kat says that I was singing so loudly during the congregational singing that people two rows behind us could hear me.

But we didn’t go for the music. We wanted to hear their pastor Dr. Joel Gregory preach whom we had heard a lot about from our pastor in college. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that sermon. He preached on Revelation 4 on the subject of worship. The sermon had a profound impact on me. To be fair, I was in a receptive mode, having just moved 992 miles across the country, seven months after being married, and getting ready to start seminary.

In our little apartment that afternoon I remember praying something like this, “God, I know that seminary won’t help me much by itself spiritually. Please help me remember this message I’ve just heard.” Sitting on that vinyl couch, I got the idea, or God told me (however you want to say it), that I should memorize the chapter. So over the course of that week I memorized Revelation 4. That went well and I found it to be encouraging, so I kept going and memorized Revelation 5. Then I went to the beginning and began memorizing Revelation 1. In a few weeks, I got close to having the first 5 chapters of Revelation memorized. I stopped at that point, but I’ve never forgotten how encouraging it was to have internalized those chapters.

We did not continue to attend that church, because by our third Sunday in town, I was asked to lead worship at a small church 20 miles south of Fort Worth. The pastor of the church was David Smith. He played a big role in our coming to Virginia a few years later, but that’s a story for another time.

Sunday I’m preaching on that passage Kat and I heard Dr. Gregory preach from all those years ago. Preparing to preach from this passage reminded me of this incident and has moved me to recommit myself again to the discipline of scripture memory. For almost a year, I’ve been providing a strength training verse to memorize that goes along with each Sunday’s message. But I’ve not emphasized them strongly either for myself or for anyone else. I hope to help us aim more effectively at that.


I’ve not heard anyone preach from Revelation 4 since that day in 1985. I’ve had a terrific time studying it this week and if the reaction of the children in AWANA on Wednesday to the passage is any indication, you will find the text fascinating as well. Maybe you will want to read through it before hand. Here’s the text and the outline.

The Path to Seeing the World Accurately Message Outline

The Path to Seeing the World Accurately
Revelation 4
Greater Vision, pt. 2

1. Worship God for his power

Revelation 4:1–3 (ESV) After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 

2. Worship God as judge

Revelation 4:4–8 (ESV) 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. 
And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within.

3. Worship God as holy

Revelation 4:8–11 (ESV) And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, 
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, 
who was and is and is to come!” 
9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 
11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, 
to receive glory and honor and power, 
for you created all things, 
and by your will they existed and were created.”

Friday, April 3, 2015

Hallelujah, What a Savior!

‘Man of sorrows!’ what a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood,
Seal’d my pardon with His blood;
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Guilty vile, and helpless we,
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full atonement! can it be?
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die,
‘It is finished,’ was His cry;
Now in heav’n exalted high,
Hallelujah, What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew this song we’ll sing,

Hallelujah, what a Savior!