Looking Back on 2013 & Anticipating 2014

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On a regular basis, I like to email our leaders at Revolution and remind them of where we were last month, last year or 5 years ago. For me, seeing where I’ve come from, where our church has come from, helps me to rely on God but also celebrate his grace towards us.

With that, here are some celebrations at Revolution in 2013:

  • 20 people were baptized this year, many of them new Christians. This is the most we’ve ever baptized in one year.
  • Our average attendance grew by 21% in 2013, from just under 200 to a little over 250. Each of those numbers represents a story and a person that is impacted by the good news of Jesus.
  • Planet Rev has grown by 25% in the last 3 months under the leadership of Jennifer Ingram, Cat Hibble and Rachel Redman. I love the passion these women bring to this important ministry. Since the start of Revolution, our kids attendance has made up over 30% of Revolution Church.
  • Mike DeAlto leading Rev Up. Mike is young (although he’s the same age Paul and I were when we started working in student ministry) and is on his way to becoming the leader God has called him to be.
  • Jason Wood started providing leadership to our Missional Communities and the impact he has made is already obvious.
  • We had 10 newcomer’s lunches with an average attendance of 14 adults.
  • We have 75% of the finances we need to launch our second Revolution Church (not sure on the location yet). From day 1 of Revolution, our dream has been to plant churches around the city and we are closer than ever to realizing this dream.
  • We preached through Ecclesiastes and the gospel of John. This is the first time we went through an entire gospel and it was stretching for me and our church to look at Jesus so in such depth.
  • We helped to plant Central Church in Midtown. So excited to see how God continues to use Dave Goffeney and his team.
  • Over $5,000 was given to our Christmas offering and over 100 pajamas were given to Magee Middle School to give to kids in foster homes in Tucson. I love the generous heart of our church.
  • We had 20 people take the 90 day giving challenge and take the first step in trusting God with their finances and letting go of control in an important area.

Things to anticipate in 2014:

  • We are doing our first woman series called Beautiful and our first man series called FightThis is the first time we’ve ever done anything like this and I think it will challenge the men and women in our church to be who God created them to be.
  • Rev Up participating in a summer camp. The impact that happens in a student’s life when they go to camp is enormous. Lives, futures and destinies are changed by going away and hearing from God. I’m so excited that Mike DeAlto is doing this.
  • Begin preview services for our second Revolution Church location in the fall/winter and Lord willing launch sometime in 2015.
  • Adding a second service. As we continue to grow, this will become more of a reality and open up space for more guests and give people options of attendance on Sunday morning. I had a mentor tell me: the more options you give people, the more people opt in. 
  • Hiring a full-time children’s pastor. I’m not sure when this will happen, but we are getting closer and closer to this reality and need. Our families need someone dedicated to this ministry on a full-time basis.
  • Adding at least 5 more missional communities. We need more space for the people God is sending to us.

[Thanks to Luke Simmons for the Image & idea for this blog]

Top 13 Sermons from Revolution Church in 2013

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It’s that time of year again, time to share my top lists of the year. Below are the top 13 sermons downloaded from Revolution Church in 2013:

13. What Prayer Changes (John 17:6-26)

Big Idea: Prayer always changes someone and always does something.

12. For God So Loved You (John 3:16-21)

Big Idea:  God loves us before we sin, not in spite of our sin.

11. Designed for a Purpose (John 3:22-36)

Big Idea:  Everything is designed to point to Jesus.

10. Living with the End in Mind (Ecclesiastes 7)

Big Idea: Wise people live with the end in mind, not by the seat of their pants.

9. Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering? (John 11:1-57)

Big Idea: God breaks us to build us.

8. How to be a Man (John 5:18-47)

Big Idea:  Men who accomplish anything worthwhile are focused on the right things.

7. The Life God Created You For (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14)

Big Idea: Following Jesus means making Him first and living different from others.

6. Jesus and Miracles (John 2:1-11)

Big Idea:  Jesus transforms our shame and guilt into joy.

5. Seeing Clearly (John 9:1-41)

Big Idea: Jesus allows things into our lives so we see our need for him, so He can heal us and glorify God.

4. Seeing Jesus (John 1:6-18)

Big Idea:  Jesus came to show us grace.

3. Come Home (John 14:1-6)

Big Idea: Coming home means trusting Jesus as the way to life.

2. Finding Meaning and Purpose (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11)

Big Idea: The search for meaning without God leaves us longing for more.

1. Jesus Loves Whores and Hypocrites (John 4:1-45)

Big Idea:  The labels people put on you could cause you to miss God’s plan for you.

I’m really excited for what 2014 holds for Revolution Church and what we’ll cover. For the first time, we will do a series geared completely towards women called Beautiful and one geared completely towards men called Fight. We are going to cover 1 Corinthians, do a relationship series called The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating, a series on the afterlife and to kick off the new year, we are doing a series called Breathing Room

Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Thom Rainer on 7 ways pastoring has changed in the last 30 years.

We are out of clichés about change or the pace of change. Sometimes we forget how much particular vocations have changed in a short time. In fact, in thirty years pastoring has changed in ways we likely would have never predicted or imagined.

Mark Driscoll on 16 daddy Christmas tips. Here are mine.

Tis the season for Dad to drop the holiday ball, stress out as the money is being spent for presents, and miss yet another providential opportunity to lovingly lead his family.

Brian Dodd on The one thing every pastor needs to do to go to the next level.

As a leader it is always important not to project your personal experience onto others.  Their journey is not your journey.  What God is showing you may or may not be what He wants to show another leader.

Brandon Cox on 2 false assumptions to leave behind when you preach.

I realize that we pastors are going way beyond motivational speaking in our sermons. We are sharing the gospel and leading people to the cross. But we are still speakers and communicators nonetheless, and our effectiveness and influence depend on our understanding something about the nature of speaking.

Aaron Armstrong on Book hoarders.

Up until recently, A&E ran a creepy show called Hoarders, showing the struggles of people who can’t part with their stuff and their road to recovery. These are people who are living surrounded by overwhelming amounts of stuff—and often in terrifyingly unhealthy situations.

Mez McConnell on My ministry is harder than yours.

One thing, however, picks away at me as I travel and speak to church planters, pastors, leaders and lay people. It is simply this. The misconception that somehow what we are doing here in the schemes of Scotland is particularly brave or difficult and requires some sort of super human faith and character. Like it is actually hard graft.

Michael Horton on How Can Jesus Be the Only Way?

 

Planning a Preaching Calendar

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I mentioned in my mind dump on Monday that we have our sermons for 2014 planned out and I got a few emails from guys asking how we plan that far in advance, what goes into it, how we decide what to do that far in advance, etc.

So, here are some thoughts.

First, why plan that far in advance. This often gets debated. Should you plan at the last minute or plan ahead. The fly by the seat of their pants guys will often say, “I’m waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak” or “If you plan that far in advance, you will take the Holy Spirit out of it.” I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit can speak 1 hour before I preach a sermon and 1 year before I preach a sermon. I just need to listen. I think planning ahead is biblical and wise, whether it is your life or ministry. Can you take the Holy Spirit out of things by planning that far in advance? Yes. You can also take the Holy Spirit out by being a last minute guy because you are more likely to preach what you want to preach.

Here are a few things I think through when planning a preaching calendar:

  1. What have I already preached on. It is important to know what you have already preached on and not repeat it. If you have just done 3 NT books of the Bible, change it up. We try to alternate between old testament and new. It doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s the rhythm we seek to have. We are in John right now and before that we did Ecclesiastes, Ephesians, Joshua, and before that 1 & 2 Peter. You don’t have to rigidly lock into that, but it helps to make sure you are preaching different books, topics and genres of Scripture.
  2. What topics do I feel like my church needs to hear. This gets at who is at your church, who you are hoping to reach, what questions your culture is asking. Every year at our church, we seek to preach on marriage, relationships, generosity, and money. We will hit those topics every single year regardless of what books we preach through. Why? Our culture is always asking questions about those things. In this point, you need to think through time of year. We talked about doing a series on pain and suffering in February 2014, but people aren’t asking those questions then. They are still asking questions about meaning, purpose and how to have a better new year, be a better person. You can argue those aren’t great questions to ask, but you can’t argue with the fact that they are asking those questions.
  3. What haven’t I talked on recently. This helps to identify the places you gravitate towards and help expose things you are afraid to address or have simply skipped. This is when you look back at your old sermon schedule and see where you’ve been.
  4. What am I passionate about. This can be good and bad. It is good because you have to preach what you are passionate about. Otherwise, no one will listen. It is bad because you can easily preach what you are only passionate about. It took me 5 years at Revolution to preach through a whole gospel. Why? Because I love the NT letters more. That can be unhealthy for a church if it goes too long. Other preachers stay in the gospels and ignore Paul, or ignore the OT.
  5. Where is my church going. This is a vision question. What is coming up in the next year that you can preach towards? For Revolution, we are praying towards planting Revolution Church | Midtown next year, because of that, I want to preach towards that. We are going to go through 1 Corinthians next year leading up to that moment. This will allow me to hit topics of a gospel centered church, what the gospel does, talk about how a church responds to divorce, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, how a church functions with spiritual gifts, leadership and other issues that arise in a church. This means though, as a pastor you need to lead with vision and know where you are going.

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Monday Morning Mind Dump…

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  • This weekend was one of those as a pastor that you despise and love at the same time
  • It was brutal preaching yesterday
  • On Friday, I found out that good friends of ours, people we used to live in the same neighborhood as, he became a Christian in our MC, baptized in our church that she has stage 4 pancreatic cancer and it has spread to her liver and lymph nodes
  • It was a punch in the gut on Friday when Katie and I found out
  • Sitting with them at the hospital was one of those holy moments you don’t forget as you could just sense the Holy Spirit there
  • It was raw, tense, hopeful and yet realistic
  • Brutal
  • There are no words that can describe that
  • You can read more about their situation here
  • Be praying for them and their family
  • I was able to pray with their MC leaders today
  • Love the leaders God has placed in our church and their desire to shepherd and care for the family of God
  • All weekend then I felt unsure about my sermon, where it was going but I didn’t have any better ideas than what I had already written
  • Until…
  • 11pm Saturday night
  • I ended up staying up til 2am rewriting my sermon and then got up at 6am to keep my morning routine to pray over my notes, listen to the worship set and focus my heart
  • By the time I got up to preach I was beyond spent
  • God definitely carried me through
  • The connection during my sermon was incredible
  • I talked about how a follower of Jesus should handle adversity and walk through pain and suffering
  • Timely as I planned on preaching this passage in John over 18 months ago
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here
  • Next week, we’ll look at how God turns pain and tragedy into joy
  • Speaking of pain and adversity, how about my Steelers
  • Holy cow we are horrible
  • Unreal
  • I mentioned today a book that has been helpful to me on the topic of pain, suffering and adversity is Tim Keller’s Walking with God in Pain and Suffering 
  • It has definitely been a long season for me and our family and I’m looking forward to my monthly retreat day tomorrow
  • Always helpful to get away with my bible and Jesus, listen to worship music and walk around the woods praying and refilling my soul
  • Speaking of working ahead, we landed on our preaching calendar for 2014
  • We’re going to go through Habakkuk, do a series on the life of Samson and walk through 1 Corinthians
  • Should be fun to cover suffering, heaven, hell, adultery, divorce, homosexuality, speaking in tongues, healing, getting drunk at church and a whole host of other topics
  • So cool to meet so many guests at Revolution today
  • I’m blown away by how many new people keep coming to our church and are getting plugged in
  • Awesome to hear how Rev Up and Planet Rev are growing
  • So excited for the leaders we have in those areas
  • Huge prayer need for our church: praying up new MC leaders

When Eating Becomes a Sin

Little boy choosing between a cupcake and apple

I get asked a lot about losing the weight I have and keeping it off. Losing 130 pounds was really hard, but keeping it off and is incredibly difficult. I’ll often get asked about eating habits as that is where most people get hung up.

One of the things that rarely gets talked about is that eating can be a sin, an idol. The reality is, we are told our bodies are the temple of the holy spirit and we are to take care of them (1 Corinthians 6:19). Most Christians use this verse to say drinking and smoking are wrong while eating their next 2,000 calorie church potluck meal.

The reality is that eating is a sin when:

  • We do it mindlessly.
  • We do it when life feels out of control.
  • We do it to feel better or find comfort (ever hear someone talk about comfort food?).
  • Or, when we eat too little to be prettier or skinnier.

So what do you do?

The first thing you must do is understand why you eat. What drives you to food. It is not that you are hungry, we often eat when we aren’t hungry or continuing eating when we are full, so there is more to it than that. If you never uncover why you eat, you will continue to eat in a sinful way by finding your god in food.

Because overeating or not eating enough is a sin and can be an addiction, you have to approach the way you would someone who is addicted to porn, shopping, drugs or working too much.

When you approach those sins, you make a plan, create some accountability around them to keep you from falling into those patterns. It is the same with food.

Here are some ideas:

  • Get an accountability partner for exercising or eating.
  • Don’t buy the snacks that are bad for you. If it isn’t there, you can’t eat it.
  • Make a meal plan so you eat well. If you make a last minute meal it is rarely good for you. If you go out to eat, always know what you will eat before you arrive. Looking at the menu causes you to eat more than you should or food you shouldn’t.
  • Drink at least 100 ounces of water a day. Water fills you up and helps to clean out your system which helps to move things through better. Also, if you drink that much you eat less. If you drink this much water, you are less likely to drink soda. I’ve read cutting soda out of your diet can drop 10 pounds in less than 2 weeks.
  • Eat higher protein meals which will lead to less hunger in between meals. I eat 5 eggs every morning and am rarely hungry before lunch. Not snacking makes a huge difference.
  • Start slow. The big mistake most people make is to jump from what they are doing to eating like Bob Harper tells you to eat on the biggest loser. While that’s great if you can do that, it is often unrealistic. Take small steps and then add to it. It took me 18 months to lose 130 pounds but I went slow and have kept it off for almost 4 years now.

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Monday Morning Mind Dump…

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  • This weekend was the moment our family has been waiting for for the last 4 years
  • Katie left on a plane yesterday to go to Ethiopia to bring Judah Mamush home
  • Here’s an update
  • I’m so excited for him to join our family
  • And for Katie to come back home
  • I had a guy today who said, “Must be excited about a break from your wife”
  • As nicely as I could I said, “If I was excited I wouldn’t have gotten married”
  • Because of coming back from San Diego on our family vacation on Wednesday and getting Katie ready to leave, I felt out of sync when it came to preaching today
  • When my week isn’t normal it makes preaching hard
  • Ironically, I got more comments about today than most recent sermons
  • Go figure
  • If you missed it, you can listen here
  • Had a great week in San Diego
  • I love family vacations and the change of pace they bring
  • So many fun memories
  • Can’t believe we are almost done with the book of John at Revolution
  • I’ve loved preaching through a gospel
  • Can’t wait to start 1 Corinthians in January
  • Going to cover topics like divorce, spiritual growth, dating, sex before and outside of marriage, homosexuality, spiritual gifts, healing, speaking in tongues, heaving, hell and the afterlife
  • Should be fun
  • Say a prayer for our family as Katie is traveling
  • She will be exhausted and need supernatural strength as she travels home with Judah
  • Pray for the transition of him joining our family and all that will mean

Why We Aren’t Healthy

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John is a friend in his mid-30s who works out very little. He has never had to think about his health or his eating habits. He can eat 3 cheeseburgers in a meal and not gain any weight. Each day he eats fast food for lunch. This has created a lifestyle that is not sustainable, as he gets older. He confided in me recently that for the first time in his life, he feels lethargic after eating and is starting to feel like his clothes are getting tighter.

In high school and college Daniel was in great shape as he played sports. But then he got a job, got married and his exercise habits slowed down while his eating stayed the same. He is now almost 30 and starting to long for what he used to look like and the pace that he used to live. He always feels behind at work and home and wishes he had the stamina he once had.

Heather is single, works part-time, and goes to school full-time. She wants to get married, but has always struggled with her weight. It isn’t that she eats a lot of food; she just makes poor choices about food. She wishes that she could have more time to exercise, but with school and work, it ends up being a quick bite here, a short night of sleep there, and a Friday night with friends that leaves her feeling lonely and unhappy. Whenever she sees her friends who keep their weight off, eat whatever they like (at least in her mind) and women she sees at the mall or in a magazine, she feels heavier and heavier. She wants to have time for community and church but struggles to make this happen on top of a healthy lifestyle.

Austin is overweight by about 60 pounds. He works too many hours each week, sleeps too little, and eats too much. He never exercises. He takes time to be with his family and attend church. He doesn’t have a desire to lose weight or be healthier and doesn’t really see the need as it hasn’t affected his health–yet. In fact, he would say that his weight isn’t a problem and it certainly isn’t a sin.

Lisa is married, in her mid-30s, and a mother of 2 toddlers. She spends her days chasing after her kids and picking up after them. She’s wants to get back to her pre-baby weight, but is too tired. She looks at magazines, which never help her to feel better. They only remind her of the body she used to have. Her husband doesn’t complain, but she is unhappy. She feels like a failure as a mom because of how tired she is, longing for 5 minutes of quiet, a hot shower and to know that she is making an impact on her kids. She misses the romance she and her husband used to share and laments the feelings she has whenever her husband asks her about sex because of how she feels about herself.

Any of these sound familiar?

The problem for many people is that these things are so normal and so accepted that we don’t think twice about them.

Let me ask you this. Do you find yourself eating mindlessly? You start a snack and before you know it, the bag is empty? There are leftovers on the counter or food on your spouse’s plate that you just eat? When you have a long day at work, do you find yourself eating to numb the pain or bring some comfort? If a meal you make is so good, you find yourself having seconds and then a third trip?

Answer yes to enough of these questions and you are addicted to food. If so, you are not alone. Most Americans are.

In fact, if you attend church, it is one of the addictions you can have that no one will call you out on. Think for a minute. When was the last time you heard a sermon on weight or eating habits? We talk about overindulgence, but always in relation to alcohol or money. Pastors typically stick to the really “big” sins partly because it is easier, and partly because most pastors are overweight.

It is so accepted in our culture to be overweight. It is almost expected.

Let’s Talk about You

I’ve spent some time talking about my story, so now it is time to talk about you.

Where do you fit into this? Do you have an eating disorder where you won’t eat anything or throw it up out of fear of what you look like or trying to look a specific way? This tragic thinking affects so many people, particularly women. I remember talking to a college student who couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds telling me how fat she felt. It was heartbreaking.

Maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum and you can’t stop eating. At the end of a long day you find yourself not eating one Oreo, but the whole box. It seems there are many foods that you can’t eat just one of.

Another is when we work out and can’t take a rest day. If you workout and enjoy it like I do, if you miss a day do you get angry? Frustrated that you will not be building the muscle that you want?

The Image of God

So how do you think about your body? Many people who attend church regularly every week and follow Jesus do not believe the truth of Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” And, 1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20 says: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Together, these two verses lay out a simple truth that many followers of Jesus know in their heads, but fail to live out in their lives. Why do we not connect the dots on these two key verses? If we truly believed that we were created in the image of God, we would look at our bodies with more wonder, more joy and gratitude for how we were made instead of thinking about why I can’t be thin or even lose weight. We live as if God messed up in the process of creating us and gave us the wrong body.  We often take 1 Corinthians 6 as simply a suggestion, yet rarely take it seriously and think through how we honor God with our bodies, how we treat them, and what we put into our bodies. We thank God before a meal, and then stuff thousands of calories into it, slowly destroying the body God has given us.

It’s popular in our day to think our bodies belong to us. We think, “No one can tell me what to do with my body!” In fact, in our culture nothing is more essential to our identity than the freedom to express ourselves and use our bodies as we choose. But God says our body belongs to him, not us. We are temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15). The body is no longer for self-gratification, but for God-glorification (vs. 20).

Let’s go back to Genesis 1 for a minute. If you and I are made in the image of God, then that means we are not an accident. The body, DNA, and genetics you have when it comes to how you burn through food, or not, are not an accident. They were planned. According to Ephesians 1, God planned these things before he created anything. Think about your body and what you would change. Maybe it’s your nose, love handles, legs, or arms. Those were planned and created by God, in his image.

1 Corinthians reminds us the price that God paid for us. Jesus went to the cross to redeem our bodies. They are broken; sin is real and has brought havoc to us in the form of our eating habits and how we think about our bodies.

The only time I’ve heard 1 Corinthians 6 mentioned has been in connection with why someone says a Christian shouldn’t smoke or drink alcohol as we stuff chicken wings into our mouths. Our view of this verse is too small and misses the grandness of its intentions. Taken together, these verses reflect how our body is to be a reflection of God to the world around us. On top of this, we see God’s love and care for us in our body that he has created.

Self-Control

Several years ago my brother-in-law asked me when I was at my heaviest, almost 300 pounds, “How can you challenge people in your sermons to have self-control if you don’t have any?” It’s a tricky question. Why do people lack self-control? Is it just born in them (or not in some cases)? Are some people just more strong willed than others and that’s it?

The reality is that personality-wise, some people tend to be more driven and strong willed than others. As a follower of Jesus, though, self-control is something we’ve been given by God. In Galatians 5, after Paul lays out how followers of Jesus have been set free by Jesus, he tells them how to see this truth in their lives in verse 22. He says that they will have fruit, evidences in their lives of this change, in the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (emphasis added).

The Holy Spirit has given followers of Jesus the power of self-control. This has enormous implications in how we eat, exercise, look at our bodies, sleep and work. Those moments of weakness when you want to eat another piece of pie or stay up and watch one more show, you have the power through the Holy Spirit to control yourself. The moments that you find your mind drifting and thinking about the body you wished you had or are trying to please in appropriate ways, you have the power through the Holy Spirit to control your thoughts and focus on how God created you. Sound impossible? But is anything that is worth doing not hard in the beginning but gets easier as you commit to it?

Do this: when you are finished reading this, go and stand in front of a mirror. I know, I know. For some of us, mirrors are our enemies, but hang with me for a minute. As you look in the mirror, look at the things you would change. Now remind yourself that God created those things for a purpose before the foundations of the world.

Then, think about what you ate today, the pace you have kept with work, and exercise and sleep in the last week. Are you honoring God with your body in those areas?

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