Unity Park

by Phil Baker

I went running yesterday for the first time in years. I chose to go to a park near my home. I’ve passed it many times on my way to church so it seemed like a nice place to visit.

The south Nashville area I live in is very culturally diverse and it’s reflected at this park. As I jogged the trail that encircled the playgrounds and soccer fields, I saw Hispanic families, African American families, Indian families, Kurdish, Egyptian and many others. As a white male, I actually felt like the minority! In fact, now that I think about it, I was the only white person I saw.

The weird thing is that I didn’t feel out-of-place at all. There was no sense of not belonging, disenfranchisement, or being unsafe. It just felt like I was around families. And even though these families were different colors and many of them spoke different languages, they were all very much the same. Friendly competition was divided only by jersey color, not skin color. The laughter of children knows no language barrier.

“This is heaven!” I thought to myself. “A picture, a foretaste of heaven!” The sun was shining. The trees and grass were green. A cool breeze blew through everything.

I was alone at this park. I didn’t know a soul. But somehow I felt united, part of my community. Just by being there and sharing in this communal space I was part of the many cultures and families there. I was part of their day. I was a member of their family.

In heaven, we dream about being reunited with loved ones and, of course, our Heavenly Father. But I also look forward to that day to be united with all the many tribes and tongues of the world. I look forward to having no division, no borders, and no barriers (language, financial, cultural or otherwise). There will be no social media arguments, no political debates, no aggressive negotiations. I will be united to the rest of the human race in one common holy occupation – praising God!

I can’t say I “loved” running that day. But I do plan to go back to that park. I will run for my health. But what will really bring me back is seeing “my families” again.

This fairly new park has a name. But I think I will call it my “Unity Park”.


Barley Fields & Bad Calls

Barley Fields & Bad Calls

by Brock Benson

Depending on who you were rooting for yesterday in the AFC and NFC championship games probably effects how your morning and week is getting started. For those who are Rams and Patriots you are elated and joyous to see you teams go to the biggest game on the biggest stage in two weeks down in Atlanta. But for Who Dat Nation and Chief Nation you probably have a little bit of a bitter taste in your mouth. If you are a Saints Fan you are feeling like your season was blown by a bad call. And if you’re a Chiefs fan you’ve sworn Belichick figured out a way to hack into the replay camera system. Let the conspiracy theories begin as we replay in our minds what could have been as Saints and Chiefs fans.

The past two weeks at Revive Church we’ve started a study from the book of Ruth and some of what we have been talking about I believe sheds particular light on the current NFL conversations and I’m sure will be the topic of some Super Bowl parties. The book of Ruth starts out in an incredibly depressing fashion. There is famine, death, and depression all wrapped into one. Naomi, a Jewish woman who has fled to Moab with her husband during a time of famine returns to her homeland without her husband and two sons and feels God’s hand is against her. A sentiment I bet is shared by a lot of Saints and Chiefs fans today. This is not meant to make light of Naomi’s loss or down play the frustration of loyal fans who love their teams. It’s simply a reality I think that’s worth looking at. Because the narrative in our minds about whatever it is that happens whether it’s a bad call or severe loss in life shapes the way we think, decisions we make, and the attitude we share to the world around us. Personally I think the events that unfolded last night are an important example of a bigger truth we many times fail to yield to.

Let me bring us back to the events transpiring in Ruth and Naomi’s journey. The narrative inside Naomi’s head is that everything is bad and everyone is against her. But this isn’t exactly true because she wasn’t returning completely empty. Her daughter-in-law Ruth decided to dedicate herself in loyalty and return with her mother-in-law. Ruth leaves the comfort of home in Moab and goes back to a land she doesn’t know about with her mother-in-law of all people. And to top it off her mother-in-law is not the most gracious person at this point in her life either. Naomi was in a place we’ve probably all experienced before and felt like. As if nothing is going our way and we’ve just come up short on luck.

When the Saints and Chiefs lost their games last night social media immediately began the conversations and thoughts in a lot of peoples’ minds. Why do the NFL overtime rules stink? Why does one call have to end our season? Why can’t we ever win the big game? Are these legitimate questions? Sure they are. To not ask them and to not think about them is to have your head in the proverbial sand if you will. Sports teach so much about life and so much how we really deep down view God. And that’s why they are powerful metaphors.

Each of these questions isn’t so much just a question about the game of football. It’s really about the game of life if you will allow me to explain. If we are not careful to guard our hearts, we blame bad calls or bad things that happen to us as the reason for our misery just like Naomi. We question the rules God’s ordained for us to live by because we struggle to believe His way is best. We are a people constantly battling to surrender our will to His. If the games yesterday didn’t show you that, or the current government shutdown doesn’t point you to that, then you need to have your eyes checked.

My dad always told me the game is bigger than one call (or several calls for that matter). Do those calls effect your psyche? Sure! They can impact it a whole lot. Calls can discourage and impact you greatly. I won’t diminish that fact for one minute. But we have to remember God’s hand is over the game of life and each of circumstances too. Upon arriving in the foreign land of Israel Ruth is led into a barley field by the hand of God. It’s in that field we see God’s plan is good and he works us around what we might think are bad calls to ultimately help us see its always His call!

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. If there was ever a contemporary example of someone who didn’t focus on bad calls but kept persevering it was him. Both Ruth and MLK should compel us as believers to not be shaped by a call or our own perceived rules system but to actively yield to God and his plan.  This is not easy and it takes a lifetime to fully understand what yielding our spirit means.

But that’s the journey we are on!

The Arrival of Advent

by Phil Baker

If you watch a documentary, you might hear a line like this…

“With the advent of the telephone, people could talk to loved ones miles away.”


“With the advent of the automobile, people no longer had to live in the city but could drive to their job from suburban communities.”


“With the advent of the airplane, people could travel great distances in a matter of hours.”

In instances like these, the word advent is casually used to gloss over the arrival of an invention that greatly altered the course of history. That’s all it means – arrival. You could just as easily say “With the arrival of the telephone, automobile or airplane…”

This time of year we like to pluck the word advent out of obscurity, dust it off and hoist it high into liturgical tradition. But it still just means arrival. And it actually signals more than just an arrival. It’s an arrival that changes things. Just as the telephone, automobile and airplane radically changed the world we live in, Jesus’ birth radically changed the world. And the funny thing is, we almost missed it. He didn’t burst onto the scene in a blaze of glory. He was born in a quiet little corner of the world. Only a few wise men and a handful of shepherds took notice. Surprising since we’d been looking for and expecting the Savior for hundreds of years before. Unlike the telephone, automobile and airplane which were inventions we didn’t see coming, the Christ had been necessitated and prophesied about all throughout the Old Testament.

It’s surprisingly easy to overlook world-changing events. We look so hard for what we think we should be expecting that our happiness, our purpose or even our salvation slips right past us. The countdown to Christmas begins earlier each year. Some people start on Thanksgiving. Others on Halloween. Some will even start counting down the day after Christmas! Why? What are we counting down to? We look forward to that one day when the whole family is under one roof. But I find that Christmas is not just a day. It’s a season. Christmas isn’t coming. It’s already here! Christmas music is playing on the radio. Christmas trees are up. Lights are on houses. For all intents and purposes Christmas is here! Ignore the countdown clocks. There’s nothing special about December 25th that can’t be enjoyed right now.

So don’t wait for Christmas day. Call that family member. Christmas is here!

Knock on your neighbor’s door. Christmas is here!

Enjoy time with friends. Christmas is here!

As we enter this Advent season, what are you expecting the arrival of? Could it be that that thing is already here? Is it (or something better) right under your nose? Don’t be so focused on the future that you forsake the present. Take a moment to look around. It could radically change your world!

Romans Pt. 1

by Brock Benson

Happy Halloween and Happy 501st Reformation Day! I’m glad to be back in the swing of things having preached now for the past two weeks and getting back in the flow of thought with the epistle of Romans. On Sunday we concluded the first major section of Romans as we explored chapter 11 and wrestled through the implication of God kicking Israel out and grafting us in and then how he will graft them in again using us! Heavy stuff I know so hopefully you’re not reading this early in the morning or late at night otherwise that might create some headache’s. Nevertheless I trust our time in the word Sunday was profitable for you and you were drawn closer to Jesus.

Romans chapters 1 -11 are some of the heaviest doctrinal chapters in all the bible and since today, after all, is Reformation day I wanted to do a special post kind of summarizing some of the major themes we have touched on up to this point. Before I do just a quick historical blurb for those lost on the reformation day reference. Reformation Day, October 31st, is not primarily owned by culture as Halloween. It’s also the day Martin Luther, because of God’s revelation to him in large part through the book of Romans, decided to nail 95 theses of theology to the chapel door in Wittenburg and with that started the Reformation which would in a sense give birth to a new denomination known as Protestantism. At Revive we are a Southern Baptist church in our specific denomination but protestant in a wider sense also. We started our journey through Romans last November and with almost a year past since we’ve covered certain parts of this gigantic book it’s simply a good idea to take this moment to do some inventory.

Part of my motivation for this post is pragmatic too. I came across a survey this week that really kindled my belief in the need for this post and for why we’ve been walking through the book of Romans for as long as we have. The survey specifically mentions the need for more central Christological teaching within the church. No survey is perfect and it definitely is not infallible as God’s word is but it still points out concerns I think are wise to discuss in a forum like this. Romans has major contribution to Christology too so what better opportunity to give us all some savory Halloween reading.

Starting Sunday we’ll begin looking at what most call the practical part of Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 12. But up to this point he has laid the foundation for what he will say in the final section through the doctrines of chapters 1-11.  Specific to the survey mentioned above is Romans 5 which we covered back in May of this year is how Jesus is the second and better Adam. The original Adam in the garden suffered from sin in the fall but Jesus, the eternal second Adam, gives us hope that the fall wouldn’t have the final answer. He did on Calvary and ultimately will when He returns! I don’t need Halloween candy right now my blood sugar is already spiked!

The thesis is found in chapter 1 verse 16 to 17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to all everyone who believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written the righteous shall live by faith.

If you stand back now with me 11 chapters into Romans we can more fully see how these verses inform Paul’s train of thought. Both in Paul’s day and in our own. It’s critical we see the importance and priority on not just belief, but right belief. It’s increasingly popular to embrace spiritualism in the current era but it’s less popular to say there is real discernible truth. Romans forces the believer to square up to the idea of not only personal but corporate depravity as itself a discernible truth. Through the first two chapters in Romans Paul especially harks on the idea that sin has distorted us and everything we experience. While it might not be a truth we readily like, it’s still a truth we have to be reminded of. How this pragmatically helps you and I is with interpretive discernment on critical cultural conversations that will inevitably continue to happen. Sin has distorted those with a conservative political persuasion and those with a liberal outlook. Or to put it more crassly since it is Halloween, Republicans and Democrats are both wrong and right some of the time but neither is right or wrong 100% of the time.

God’s judgment, another major part of what we’ve considered this past year, covers all sin not just the sin we want to mention. Let me just pause a moment here and specifically bring to mind our conversations from Romans 2 again. It was here Paul addressed what I believe to be the most dangerous and damning of all sins to our specific area and time which also would be judged by God’s judgment “religiosity”.  Let me unpack that further for a moment. In Nolensville specifically it’s become increasingly clear that we are a town full of extremely good people. The mayoral candidates have both mentioned this I believe in their campaigns. That should really cause a pause in our hearts as gospel-centric people who realize from Romans how demining good works are to save our souls from the wrath of God’s perfect righteousness. Now before you write me off please come to hear what God has laid on my heart for this Sunday too because I believe good works are critical in the life of someone who says they are a believer but they also can be traps in a community like ours.

Time is running away from me so I am going to summarize the rest of where we’ve been in three words. Faith, Life, and Access. Faith alone is what Paul compels and argues for especially with his Jewish counterparts trying to Jewishize gentiles at the time he wrote. Life is not simply a torture sentence to be endured until Jesus returns. Rather it is a beautiful journey God compels us on through his very power (Romans 6-8). Finally God is accessible to all Jews and Gentiles. His gospel plan includes both of us. The events in Pittsburg or Washington don’t take God by surprise. He knows believers everywhere are suffering and his plan is still to bring ultimate restoration soon!

There are many, many more doctrines and teachings in Romans we haven’t fully addressed in this post nor in the sermons the past year because truthfully God’s word is in-exhaustible. It’s the gold mine that keeps producing! Or it’s the proverbial candy jar that never runs out! (I really want a Kit-Kat right  now) However you want to look at it understand God’s word and the book of Romans is full of treasured truth we do well to study, consider and apply. I wish we could talk more about the doctrines of election, sovereignty, and covenant vs. dispensational theology. But for now we will leave this section of Romans with hopefully a better framework then when we started!

See you Sunday!

Fear Not

Fear Not

by Phil Baker

Have you ever heard this sound?

If you’ve watched any amount of reality TV you’ve heard it. It’s a staple of Hollywood sound design. This sound usually signifies a plot twist or the dubious intents of an antagonist. It’s simply a bow being drawn across a cymbal.

How about these sounds?

This unique instrument creates a variety of sounds that have the same effect – to chill us to the bone!

With these audio cues, TV and movie producers create a sense of fear in us. They tell us something bad is about to happen.

It’s fun to be scared…sometimes. Like on Halloween. But this is the safe, fun kind of fear. Its similar to the kind Hollywood churns out. And Hollywood has gotten really good at fabricating fear. But there are some fears that aren’t so fun. Fear of losing your job. Fear of getting sick. Losing a loved one. If we’re not careful, fear can overtake our lives.

But the Bible tells us to not be afraid.

“Fear Not” appears in the Bible 365 times. People have always been afraid. Especially of God. “Fear Not” is usually said when God shows up. But we really shouldn’t fear God. At least not in the sense I’m talking about here. Psalms actually says “fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

Fear of God is actually the only fear we need. All those other fears are…well…fake. If you pursue God first, everything else will fall into place. So fear of anything else is a lie (Thanks Zach Williams).

This world can manipulate our feelings and create fear in us just as easily as reality tv. Don’t let it. Don’t listen to those fake sound effects. They only serve to give you pause when you should immediately obey. Look to God and His word. Fear not.


Give yourself Up: Sermon Recap

by Brock Benson

Sometimes technology fails us. For those of you who were out of town this past Sunday celebrating Labor Day and tried tuning into the worship service, the internet went down on so we couldn’t stream to our normal place on Facebook. However for those who of you who would like to go back and listen to the message you can click here. Or it’s on our podcast channel too.

The big idea and take away Sunday was giving ourselves up. In Luke 5:8-10 Peter had given himself up in his declaration to Jesus even though certain scholars might debate me on that. Regardless I think it’s safe to say at the most basic level this was the beginning of the sunrise for Peter’s salvation moment.  The term “sinner” is the first time Luke uses the word in his gospel. And so we aren’t exactly sure what he means by it until later on in his gospel where we have more context and instances of its use. However we still know Peter is being shaped by Jesus in a profound way. Furthermore those near Peter are also being shaped by Jesus and their views are being expanded because of this whole fish catching episode. Some of those present are simply caught in the moment of excitement and some are seeing Jesus in a whole new way and their view of him is being expanded. From this point forward the disciples would continually have Jesus stretching and expanding their view of him. This leads me to reiterate a very important question from Sunday’s message – How big is our view of God?

If we have a limited view of God and he isn’t actively shaping and stretching us in new ways, we can be sure our motivation and desire to share who he is with others will be negatively affected too. Some practical suggestions I’d like to give are a few books. A.W. Tozer- The Pursuit of God, JD Greear –  Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, and Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C .Wilson are all books I can say with a high level of confidence would help in this particular area. Two of these I have in my personal library at the church office if you’d like to borrow them.

Luke 5:10 is the heart of the passage where Jesus connects the dots and finally issues the mission to the fisherman of Galilee they will now be involved in a new enterprise – People catching. One of the more profound points I think from the verse is Jesus initial instructions. “Do not be afraid.” In such an upbeat passage as this one is with all of the celebratory ideas we see happening why does he tell them not be scared? The New living translation translates verse 9 as people were awestruck at what had happened. I believe part of Jesus encouragement and instruction about not fearing is a crucial part of any evangelistic efforts we engage in. I think this is a main takeaway for those of us who are historically on this side of the passage.  But in the moment of Jesus miracle I have to wonder if the direction to not be scared was because only he realized how deeply wounded their identity now was. Professional fisherman being out fished by the carpenter from Nazareth doesn’t go well on the fishing guide resume. And it doesn’t get you the big corporate sponsorships. Perhaps Jesus knew that to engage in evangelism as he was doing meant one had to be willing to deeply wound someone’s identity so they could know who their true identity comes from. Jesus was actively showing us his willingness to confront, love, encourage, and challenge all at the same time in his effort with the fisherman. This is evangelism and discipleship in its purest form.

Yesterday Cassie and I took the boys to see Incredibles 2.Kandler had already seen it once but this would be Garner’s first movie-going experience. He did great and I think he loved the movie except for a few moments when the music got really loud.  Watching the movie reminded me of common strategy I think many of us have the capability of employing for gospel efforts but don’t take readily advantage of. (SPOILER ALERT: Please forgive me but I might end up giving away a little bit of the movie but I can’t help it because it stood out so clearly.) In the movie there were three major movements. Chosen Mom, Loving Dad, and a baby boy who helps the whole world see again. If you’re a believer those three movements should scream out to you the movements of our story. The Story of God redeeming us. My brother-in-law Kyle Reed shared with me several years ago something I won’t soon forget “every good story is retelling the story.”  I’m misquoting his exact words but this was the essence of his thought. Since that point it’s been cool to see how this is so true. I’m deeply grateful the Bakers who lead Movies by Moonlight also subscribe to this philosophy by creating questions and thoughts for our feature presentations at MxM during the summer who help those in attendance see the gospel through the film.

Fishing in the first century wasn’t a leisurely past time like it is for a lot of us today. In fact in the NET bible it says this notes for Luke 5:10

The occupation of fisherman was labor-intensive. The imagery of using a lure and a line (and waiting for the fish to strike) is thus foreign to this text. Rather, the imagery of a fisherman involved much strain, long hours, and often little results. Jesus’ point may have been one or more of the following: the strenuousness of evangelism, the work ethic that it required, persistence and dedication to the task (often in spite of minimal results), the infinite value of the new “catch” (viz., people), and perhaps an eschatological theme of snatching people from judgment.

So many times I am passive about so many things including evangelism. I take too much of a God’s sovereign approach. (Which He is!!!!!) But watching Incredibles 2 with the family yesterday reminded me how God can use anything as a bridge to the gospel. But I have to be faithful to keep net casting so those who need to know the living God might.

Often I’ve thought of evangelism and discipleship as tracks and studies. I think both of those strategies have their place and time. But many of us are missionaries to people who are in many senses much like us. Building a wooden bridge between your driveway and your neighbors wouldn’t be natural when you can just walk right down the sidewalk. There are sidewalks all around us.  Let’s learn to walk down them and see who’s on the other side.

May we become better fisher of men!

On the journey with you,

Pastor Brock

Cast – Partnering Problems

Cast – Partnering Problems

by Brock Benson

Sunday we continued on with another week of Cast in Luke 5 where we started back in the spring.  Our attention has been learning about Jesus’ calling of the first disciples and how we can become fishers of men. As we discussed Sunday, this entire passage and series is on the subject of evangelism and what it looks like to be a fisher of men. Sharing our faith isn’t easy. Especially when we are unsure what the person on the receiving end believes or thinks about faith in general.

It’s critical we remember the command to share isn’t an optional one but an expectation Jesus left us with. There are millions of opinions on what is right, wrong, and how far is too far when it comes to sharing Jesus with someone else. So much so we could spend an eternity talking about the best methods. But that’s not really the point. The point is we have a life changing proclamation of good news. It is the only cure for the human condition of sin.

During Sunday’s message we centered our focus on the response of Peter and the disciples to the miracle Jesus performed while on the boat with them. Luke 5:6-7 tells us the disciples caught such a larger number of fish upon obeying Jesus WORD that their nets were breaking and their boats were sinking. Peter was so convicted by the whole encounter he told Jesus to get away from him because he realized he was in the presence of true deity. Peter was beginning to see himself clearly and God more clearly. This was Peter’s moment. It was in this moment that Jesus drew even nearer to Peter as we will discover this week and next week. This is paramount for us as we rest in the gospel. The gospel is about us seeing who we are; sinners, and simultaneously seeing who God is – Savior. Peter’s response is a typical one you’ve probably seen if you’ve had the chance to share Jesus with someone before. I’m not worthy so get away. But Jesus doesn’t leave! Jesus stays! All the while on a boat!

Upon catching the fish there is a situation we see unfold in Luke 5:7. The catch Luke tells us was so great the fisherman on Peter and Jesus’ boat had to signal to their partners in the other boat to come to their aid. Asking for help is something first century fisherman or any fisherman for that matter are rarely accustomed to doing. But they did it in this instance because their mission had overwhelmed them. God’s mission is too big for one boat.

Another idea and observation we discussed was the act of retrieving the nets into the boat once Peter’s partners had been called. Were they on different boats because they had differing fishing philosophies to begin with? Was there friction during the excitement of getting the fish on the boat as to how best to go about the process? Some of these things we don’t know. But one important point is God’s blessings and power brings challenges and problems. New people to a team normally bring new ideas and thoughts which sometimes create real challenges.

One of the core principles I was always taught when it comes to bible study and bible teaching is called “crossing the hermeneutical bridge”.  In other words what is the passage saying for the 21st century believer me? Be careful when you ask this question because sometimes you really learn. LOL.

Tuesday morning driving to work I was in my normal routine of taking the trash to the dump and heading into the office when some of Sunday’s message hit me square in the eyes…literally and spiritually. I like to drink a big cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee in the morning with about a third of the cup filled with creamer. (Here is my man card.) Another abnormal trait I have is I like to drink my coffee out of a mug with no lid (so the mug doesn’t tear my lips up). (Again presenting my man card.) I had drunk about half the cup as I made my way down Sunset Road to the church office when I got lost in the moment listening to the radio. I set the cup on my thigh as I headed through the Sunset school zone when I hit one of our lovely bumps along Sunset road. Coffee went flying out of the cup before I realized it and made the proper adjustment. While it wasn’t a complete spillage it was enough to grab my attention.

One of the top concerns it seems like I’ve heard about Nolensville is how poor our roads are. And how bad they all are because of the construction. Is this true? Absolutely! Sunset Road looks more like a train track at some places than it does pavement. Often times I swerve driving down it so I can avoid the crazy potholes that are every 3 feet. It’s seriously ridiculous. But as this happened the hermeneutical  bridge came into clearer view. Sunset Road is a part of my community and it’s wrecked because new people are moving to our community seemingly overnight. Construction is booming and houses can’t get built fast enough. The havoc that is Sunset Road is one of those good problems. Like the nets breaking and the boats sinking. It means people are here. People are a part of God’s mission. This doesn’t mean wrecked roads makes us more holy as a town. It simply means more pavement is going to have to be purchased and crews hired to patch, build, maintain etc. But to fail to see the bigger picture I’m afraid is us missing the plan of God as it unfolds.

As we finish the week up and we look forward to circling back together as a family Sunday morning, look for the moments God’s giving you. Sometimes the moment is an irritating one and others might be really subtle. Part of being a good fisherman is learning to read the water. By God’s grace may we have eyes to see!

On the Journey with you!