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.

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