40 Days Through the Gospels

As part of our new sermon series, The Gospel, I challenged our church to read through the four gospels over the next 40 days. I wanted to share a few thoughts and tips to guide you in your reading and to encourage you to stay in the game the entire 40 days.

Before I start…how did you like Day 1 starting with a list of names in Matthew 1 that no one can pronounce?! For a GREAT explanation on why those names matter and why they are in the Bible, check out what our Executive Pastor, Ryan Allred, wrote on the NRHC blog.

Here are some thoughts to guide your reading time:

  1. Remember the primary purpose for your reading is not to increase knowledge or to check off a box, but to worship God. Start your time in prayer thanking God for who He is and what He has done for you through the finished work of Jesus. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you.
  2. As you read each section, find a verse or two that really stand out to you. Spend some time meditating on that verse or those verses and write them out in a journal.
  3. Write down your observations from your key verses and/or the entire passage. What do you learn about God? What are the key phrases or words that appear multiple times or are prominent in the entire passage? How do you see the gospel in the verses and/or the entire passage?
  4. Determine how you can apply the truths you’ve read to your own life. Is there a sin you need to repent of? Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there someone you need to serve? Is there something you can share with a friend who does not know Jesus? Is there an encouragement you need to apply to your life? Write down your application points and steps.
  5. Close your time in prayer. Thank God for His Word. Thank Him for speaking into your life. Ask Him to help you apply His truth to your life and to those you interact with.

A few practical tips & ideas…

  • Pick the same time each day to read.
  • Consider taking at least one day per week to reflect on how God spoke to you through the last week
  • If you get behind, don’t get discouraged! Just pick up where you missed and keep going.
  • Consider meeting and reading with 2-3 other people, maybe from your Journey Group or people you serve with. Or, ask 2-3 people at your office or in your neighborhood , get them a reading plan, and ask them to read with you.

If you didn’t get a reading plan or if you’d like to share it with a friend, you can download one here.

I can’t wait to see what God does as we engage Him through His Word!

Rejection is Not the End

As I prepared to preach from Isaiah 53 to launch the Christ Alone series, God spoke clearly to my heart and challenged me in an area that is a constant battle for me. It might even be my thorn in the flesh.

I have an unhealthy fear of rejection. Sometimes, it’s very unhealthy. Other times, it’s sort of dormant. But, it’s a constant battle.

Isaiah 53:3 says of Jesus that “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…” The rejection started from early on in His life and carried all the way through to the Cross.

He was rejected by His own family. He was rejected in His hometown. He was rejected by the religious community. He was rejected by the ones He came to save.

How many accounts are there in the gospels of people walking away from Jesus’ invitation to follow Him? One that stands out is John 6 when after His teaching, nearly the entire crowd walked away.

And of course, the ultimate rejection when Peter denies Him, Judas betrays Him, the crowd chants, “Crucify,” and He is mocked and spat upon while He hangs bleeding on a criminal’s Cross. It seems that the earlier rejection was preparation for this ultimate rejection.

For Jesus, rejection was not the end. Yet for me, so many times it is.

Ideas, dreams, plans, goals, etc. seem to fall by the wayside way too easily just because someone walked away, someone said “No,” or something didn’t come through like I thought it would.

Yet, the author of Hebrews encourages us to keep “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrew 12:2). The joy set before Him was pleasing the Father and accomplishing God’s mission for Him, no matter what.

There is no “rejection free” way to please God and accomplish His mission. The question is not, “Will you/I face rejection?” The question is, “Will you/I press through rejection like Jesus did?

Jesus’ worth was not driven by people’s acceptance or approval of Him. If that were the case, He would have gone stir crazy. His worth came from His Father, who never leaves and never forsakes.

Jesus’ mission was not tied to things being “gee whiz and Hallelujah” all the time. If that were the case, He would have skipped the whole crucifixion event. Just because it gets hard doesn’t mean God’s not in it.

When you’re doing what God has called you to do, rejection doesn’t have to be the end. It wasn’t for Jesus and it doesn’t have to be for you and me either.

The Means of Renewal

I’ve been preaching through the book of Nehemiah the last few weeks at Awaken. Nehemiah’s vision was never just to rebuild the walls, but to rebuild the walls and renew the people as a means of restoring the glory of God to Jerusalem.

Yesterday, we turned the corner from the work of rebuilding the walls to the work of renewing the people. What we find is renewal in any city starts with the people of God and renewal within the people of God always starts with God’s Word.

God’s Word is not a moral law book that must be followed in order to receive God’s love. Just the opposite, it’s the story of God’s love and pursuit in spite of our absolute failure to follow His law. Our joy and freedom to follow Him are based on what He has done for us, not what we must do for Him to earn His grace or favor.

It’s in experiencing this joy and freedom that is ours in Christ that we long to submit to His authority and to live for His glory. It’s through His Word that God gives us His heart for people, our city, and the nations.

That can’t happen if we are not intentionally studying God’s Word with others and individually. Here are some tips to help you take that important step:

  1. Set a no exemption time and place to meet with God. Get up extra early, use your lunch break, take a break during the day. Whenever, wherever…just pick the time and place and commit to it.
  2. Start your Bible reading with prayer. Spend time worshiping God for His goodness and grace. Spend time confessing known sin in your life and ask God to restore you. Ask God to speak to you through His Word.
  3. Have a plan. Don’t just flip the Bible open and go. You need a place. There are several great plans you can follow online or on your phone, several you can print and take with you, and others you can use a variety of ways. Pick one that works and go with it.
  4. Write down significant insights and scriptures. Get a notebook or a journal and spend time after each Bible reading writing down key insights and scriptures. Write about verses that give joy because of how they reveal the gospel, verses that convict you of present sin, verses that teach you how to follow and honor God, etc.
  5. Share your reading and insights with others. Following Jesus and gleaning from His Word was never meant to be a solo sport. You need others to keep you accountable and to help you understand and apply the Word. You can do the same for others. This will be a key part of Community Groups (launching in March!) at Awaken.
  6. Commit to action. The book of James calls us to not just be hearers of the Word, but doers. As God reveals His will to you through His Word and as He prompts you to follow Him, do what He says! Give, serve, share, go, tell…whatever it is, do it!

If we want to see renewal come to our lives, our city, and if we truly want to see God’s name made great in and through out lives and our church, then we must be people who are hungry to hear and committed to do God’s Word.

Get started today. If you miss a day, just pick up where you left off and keep going. Just because you miss a meal doesn’t mean you stop eating!

Go for it – your joy and freedom to follow Him will explode as you dive into His Word!