Heaven

Have you ever wondered what Heaven is like? I believe God wants us to know. Yet, there are so many misconceptions about heaven. When I was young, I would lie awake at night and wonder what I would do for eternity. I could not get my head around it. Plus, I thought it would be boring. Now, I love church – which helps, considering I am a pastor – however, I thought being in a worship service for eternity would be almost unbearable. In addition, I never wanted to play a harp or sit on a cloud all day. Yet, as I have studied God’s Word more and more, that is so far from the truth regarding the incredible place that God has prepared for us!

We are the first generation of Christians who have not longed for Heaven. Every other generation couldn’t wait for Heaven! They experienced problems, hurt, and pain, so they were excited about, and looked forward to, a place of perfection! Even though we have the same problems, hurt, and pain (since we live in this fallen world), we medicate ourselves. With drugs, money, travel, spas, and more we mask the pain. In addition, we do not know what the Bible actually says about Heaven, so we live with the misconceptions. Yet, when we actually understand Heaven, it changes everything about how we live this life!

What does the Bible teach about Heaven?

1. It is a place
Jesus told His disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-2. Heaven is a place. It is both spiritual and physical. It is in the continual Presence of God. He is the light of Heaven. God is Love, and we will be eternally in the Presence of everything good.

2. It is paradise
Jesus told the thief on the cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.” Luke 23:43. Paradise literally means a beautiful, “well-kept garden.” Think about the Garden of Eden. Think about a perfect place where you can enjoy, eat, be in right relationship and share life.

Now, the Bible clearly teaches that if you are in Christ (Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”), then when you die, you will immediately go to Heaven. However, here is the amazing part: There is more to this incredible story! This Heaven will not be our permanent home. God is doing something even greater!

In the book of Revelation, God gives the apostle John a glimpse into His ultimate work because God wants us to know what it is like. He doesn’t want us to dread going to Heaven; in fact, He wants us to be excited about this place that He is preparing for us. Here is what John writes in Revelation 21:1-5, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

Think about this: “A new heaven and a new earth,” and “God is making all things new.” Do you know what this means? God is redeeming this world in which we currently live. One day Christ will return, and this current world will end (The “End Times”). He will banish satan for all eternity, and He will stop the pain, hurt and suffering we all endure (by the way, there are more prophecies about Jesus’ Second Coming than His first). At that time, God will bring Heaven to Earth. The Holy City – streets of gold, fine jewels, etc. – will descend to this earth. God will reside with His people and He will make everything new. We will have brand new, resurrected bodies that will never wear out. No more tears, and no more death. Forever in the Presence of God. (You can read more in Isaiah 60, 65-66 and Revelation 21-22). Think about all these “re” words in Scripture: Re-birth, Re-newal, Re-turn, Re-demption, Re-conciliation. God is Re-deeming and Re-storing us and His Creation!

 Now, Imagine Heaven:

  • Imagine a place that is perfect.
  • Imagine being in the Presence of God – fully known and fully accepted.
  • Imagine seeing your loved ones again – those who have gone before you.
  • Imagine having time to explore, see and experience waterfalls, mountains and places you have always dreamed of seeing.
  • Imagine all of our senses being fully utilitzed – not dulled by sin or the Fall. Perfect taste buds, sense of smell, sight in high def, feel and touch.
  • Imagine no more war or fighting, but just grace and love.
  • Imagine having a job to do, and it is in your sweet spot – your gifts and talents. Doing what you love and having the time. (Work was actually given before the Fall).
  • Imagine time to create, dream and build.
  • Imagine taking walks with your friends and having time to spend together.
  • Imagine animals and man in perfect harmony.
  • Imagine worshipping God with Christ-followers from every nation and tribe.

This is Heaven! This is our eternal home!

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you get neither.

D.L. Moody wrote, “Soon you will read in the newspaper that I am dead. Don’t believe it for a moment. I will be more alive than ever before.”

Heaven is better than we can dream or imagine! What we do here on this earth impacts eternity. Therefore, let’s live our lives here for the glory of our great God who has prepared this awesome place for us! Heaven!

Let’s Eat!

I like to eat! Now, I don’t know if I would technically be considered a “foodie,” but I do love to eat. I am not a vegetarian, – although, I have many friends who are – you will not see me on GMA asking people to get up early for a “big announcement” and the reveal being that I don’t eat meat (thank you, Beyoncé). No, I like food too much. All kinds of food. In fact, on trips I love finding good restaurants and enjoying local cuisine: Seafood at the beach, Steaks in Texas, BBQ in Tennessee, Pasta in Rome. Whatever the state or country has to offer. Obviously, one of my favorite days of the year is Thanksgiving – Oh, the feast! (I also understand about the sin of gluttony, so I try to avoid being too obsessed).

Have you ever thought about how much of the Bible is built around eating? From the Old Testament to the New Testament, this theme of food and eating is a huge focus. The fall of man centered around eating (taking the fruit of the forbidden tree) and the redemption of man was, again, centered around eating (“The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you…’” 1 Corinthians 11:23-24). The Old Testament can be summarized by man’s fellowship with God, man’s rebellion, and God drawing man back to Himself through feasts (The Feast of Passover, The Feast of Weeks, The Feast of Tabernacles, etc. – there are 7 major Feasts and Festivals given by God to His people in the Old Testament). The Old Testament outlines multiple feasts in order for man to remember and celebrate God’s faithfulness. The New Testament can be summarized as man searching for God, Jesus coming to meet man’s deepest longing, and then preparing a redeemed man for a great Feast! Jesus fed the 5,000, the 4,000, the disciples on the beach, and He calls us to share Communion, the Lord’s Supper, as a way to remember Him. There is a lot of eating in the Bible. This physical act is consumed by the spiritual as God meets man at His table.

The fact is, all of history will one day culminate in an incredible feast. The Bible calls it “The Wedding Feast of the Lamb.” Here’s what the book of Revelation says: “Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!.’” (Revelation 19:9). Can you believe this? The biggest feast you ever had in your life will pale in comparison to the Feast that is coming!

Imagine for a moment “The Wedding Feast of the Lamb.” Imagine perfect taste buds. Think about having taste buds not dulled by sin and the fall. Taste buds that unpack every amazing flavor. Imagine the best foods of every nation. Imagine the greatest chefs and the perfect combinations. Imagine eating and not having to worry about calories or whether what you are eating is unhealthy. Wow! Freedom. And, imagine the joy of the celebration. Have you ever noticed how some foods just taste better when you are with those you love? Now, imagine perfect love, perfect peace, and ultimate joy = “The Wedding Feast of the Lamb.” God is inviting each of us and calling us to prepare for this Feast.

Next time you have a meal, think about God’s grace and His love for you. Say a prayer, and sincerely thank Him that you are able to have food to eat in a world where many do not (I believe that many of us who have so much in this world should wait to let our brothers & sisters in Christ, who have so much less in this world, go first at the ultimate Wedding Feast!). In addition, prepare your heart for this Feast that is to come for all who believe in Christ. Jesus said, “Take and eat in remembrance of Me.” I can’t wait to be there with you!

Looking forward to His table! Let’s Eat!

Embrace the Moments

The Moments. They come in all our lives. Like flashes of lightning, they burst on the scene illuminating everything in sight. I remember when my first daughter, Grace, was born. Time seemed to stop – for a moment. Holding her in my arms changed everything. It was a moment. Then, there were many more moments to come. Her first smile. Her first laugh. Her first steps. Her first day at school. And then, last night, was her graduation from elementary school.IMG_3880

IMG_4526_L9P5273 cropped 2 4x6IMG_0715 4x6 Last night was a moment. My little baby giving a speech in front of hundreds of people. Walking across a stage and announcing to the world, “Here I come!” As her dad, I was so proud. Yet, I wanted so desperately to hold on to this moment. Part of me wants her to stay in elementary school and not grow up. But, I knew this was a moment to embrace. To celebrate. And, that this moment had to leave in order for other, just as powerful, moments to be able to come.CArol and Grace 1 Grace IMG_0344

Time seems to go faster each year. The moments, if we are not careful, are lost among the deadlines at work and the routines of life. But they are there. And they are precious. Like a glimmering nugget of gold in rushing mountain stream, the moments shine forth in our lives. Embrace them. Hold on to them. Take mental pictures and mark the moments however you can.IMG_2706.JPG

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One of my heroes growing up was Jimmy Valvano. Jimmy V was the coach of the North Carolina State team that won the 1983 NCAA Championship game against the heavily favored Houston Cougars. When the buzzer sounded, there is this great image of Jimmy V running around the court in complete joy trying to find someone to hug! It was a moment.

A few years later, Jimmy V was diagnosed with cancer. At the ESPY awards, here’s what he said, “I will thank God for the day and the moments I have. They are precious. I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To laugh, to think and to have your emotions moved to tears. If you laugh, you think, you cry that is a full day. That is a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week and you will have something special. Cancer can take away my physical abilities, but it cannot touch my heart, my mind and my soul.”

Embrace the moments. They are precious. Hold on to God and thank Him every day that you have these moments to cherish. Don’t always long to be somewhere else and miss the moments that are in front of you today. Because, before you know it, the little baby in your arms will be walking across a stage. Embrace the moments.

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The 4 C’s of a Diamond Marriage

I stared at my wife’s wedding ring. The diamond still sparkled like the first day I bought it. This week Lisa and I celebrated our fourteenth wedding anniversary. Yea! We are so blessed! As we were talking at dinner that night, her ring caught my eye. I thought back to how much time and energy I had spent picking out that ring many years ago. I studied intently the 4 C’s of a diamond – clarity, cut, carat and cost. Before I asked Lisa to marry me, I had no idea about what all was involved in choosing the right diamond. However, I did know how much I loved Lisa, so I went from store to store and looked at what seemed like hundreds of diamonds in order to find the right one for her. I studied intently all four of these C’s before choosing the diamond for her. It was more money than I had spent on just about anything else I had ever bought, but I am so glad I did. Now, fourteen years later, it still looks beautiful on her hand and it still communicates every day my love for her.

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Even more important than the ring I gave her, I want us to have a Diamond Marriage. When you look at the anniversary gifts you are supposed to give each year, the Diamond Anniversary is on your 60th. My goal is not to simply have a great ring, but to have a great marriage. If God will allow – a Diamond Marriage. To stay in love for 60 years! After watching my parents being married for 57 years and counseling hundreds of other couples, here’s what I believe are the four C’s to a Diamond Marriage:

1. Christ – A marriage is like a triangle with each person at the bottom and God at the top. As each person grows in their individual relationship in Christ, then you naturally will be drawn closer to each other. To me, this is the most important aspect to a healthy, growing marriage. Throughout our marriage, there are greater and greater demands on our time. With kids, career, sports, church, friends and more, many times the first thing to be dropped is our personal time with the Lord. However, this is what makes a growing disciple, and if you personally are not healthy and growing, your marriage will not be healthy and growing. Instead of always trying to “fix” your spouse, spend time with Christ and watch your marriage come alive.

2. Communication – Remember when you were dating? All you could think about was your future spouse. You wrote notes, chose songs and went on dates. Yet, so often, after you are married you stop doing these things. When was the last time you wrote a love note to your spouse? When was the last time you when on a date? Most of the time we stop “dating” because we don’t have the time or the money. But we must give our marriage the priority it deserves. Schedule the time and spend the money (for a babysitter), and go on dates! As Lisa and I talked at dinner, I was reminded of how precious time alone with my wife really is to me. I love being with her! Vacations are important – you need “family time.” And, Date Nights are just as important – you need intentional time with your spouse in order to grow a healthy marriage.

3. Church – The Bible says, “You are known by the company you keep.” This is so true. If you want to have a healthy, growing marriage, spend time with people who are healthy and growing in their own marriages. This is why, I believe, it is so important to be involved at church and in a Small Group. No one has a perfect marriage, but you need to be around people who are pursuing God and investing in their relationship. In addition, you need some older, more experienced, couples around you. Again, this is where church is so important. Finding a “mentor” couple will help you tremendously. We all need people who will pray for us and encourage us. We need to see couples who are modeling for us what a healthy, growing marriage really should be.

4. Celebrate – It is important to celebrate. Special occasions such as, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. give a great opportunity to reflect and celebrate what God is doing in your relationship. As Lisa and I sat at our recent anniversary dinner, we strolled down memory lane. We talked about our wedding. Then, we walked through some of the major milestones in our journey together – the birth of each child, the planting of the church, parents, friends, vacations and more. Taking time to celebrate shows you just how far you have come. Each time you celebrate, do the following: Share a Blessing – Write a card (it is important to write it down); Speak a Blessing – Say, “Thank You” and “I love you” (these are not implied, and they need to be said at every celebration); Mark a Blessing – Give a Gift (give something that marks the celebration); and Pray a Blessing – Thank God for this special moment (hold hands and pray together). Grow in your love, and celebrate along the way.

Being married is a gift from God. So often “little” deals can become “big” deals in a marriage. We must always remember that the goal of our marriage is to “present one another perfect in Christ.” We cannot let the little things consume us and distract us from this incredible calling. As it says in the book Sacred Marriage, “God gave us marriage not to make us happy, but to make us holy.” When you bring together two sinful, broken people then there will definitely be some challenges and friction. However, always focus on God’s desire for your marriage. Don’t spend time majoring in the minor, but work, grow, pray and love each other well. God’s desire is for our marriages is to model for the world the way Christ loves His church.

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Invest your time and energy in the 4 C’s of a Diamond Marriage, and watch God bring your marriage to life! Make it goal to be in love for 60+ years! God wants you to succeed! God wants you to have a healthy, growing marriage. I love my wife, and I am so thankful for our marriage! I pray these 4 C’s will help your marriage be awesome! Blessings!

5 Ways to Raise Brave Kids

How do we teach kids to be brave – especially in the world we live in today? Just think IMG_2579.JPGabout it: our world has changed so much. I remember as a young boy growing up and riding my bike for miles through the city or Trick-or-Treating for hours far away from my home. The world is different today. In today’s world, this is neither prudent nor safe. As parents, we are afraid to let our kids out of our sight. We don’t want our kids to walk alone, be out at night or to be by themselves. Yet, we have this calling as parents to prepare our kids to be out on their own. Independent. And, a huge part of this is teaching our kids to be brave. But, how? How do we help them to learn to figure things out on their own? To be resourceful? This is a major challenge for all of us as parents.

Kids today are growing up in a world of fear. Whether school shootings, riots in major US cities or school-age kids being kidnapped in other countries – all of this leads to fear and anxiety. Kids are scared. Through the internet and tv, kids see people being shot, decapitated, and other acts of sheer brutality. Our society is become more and more medicated in order to cope with the fear in their world.

As parents, we must help our children learn to be brave in the midst of this fearful world. Being brave is a major part of the move from dependence to independence. This is a challenge for them, and for us. However, if we can manage this well, then we will grow healthy children who are ready to face the world. And, let’s be real. We want to grow kids who don’t just cope with the world, but change the world. We want to raise children who are tomorrow’s leaders. Kids who will bravely take on the challenges of the world, and through the love and power of Christ, will bring transformation and hope.

So, how do we do this? How do we teach our children to be brave? Here are five ways that can help us raise brave kids:

1. Pray – Try as hard as we might, we cannot be there all the time. There are times when are kids are at school or someone else’s house, and we do not have control. But do we really have control anyway? Their ultimate protection is not us, but God, Himself. As a parent, pray daily for God’s protection over your kids. Also, pray for God to help your kids become brave. This all begins with their personal walk with Christ. Helping them learn to read their Bible and be a part of His church is essential to their growth in Christ. As they grow spiritually, they will develop a strong spiritual foundation which will lead to a heathy self-worth and a boldness through Christ.IMG_2635.JPG

2. Teach – We must teach our kids that they are never alone. God is always with them. There will come a point when you cannot be there. As parents, our job is to prepare our kids for the real world. Prepare them to fly out of the nest. Joshua 1:8-9 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Have your kids memorize verses like this. Teach them that even when you are not with them, God is. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart! I have overcome the world.” He is greater than anything they will face in this life.

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3. Send – We need to send our kids to places where they can experiment with being brave. Something like Summer Camp or a Mission Trip can help accomplish this. These are simple, yet controlled, ways where they are out of the house, but still in the company of adults. These are places where they can learn to succeed even when you are not around. Places where they must learn to be resourceful and to make decisions for themselves.IMG_2605.JPG

4. Process – Our kids are going to hear about scary events. Whether they see bombings on the news or participate in bomb drills at school, there will be things that they will be confronted with at young ages. Kids need to talk about these things. Just trying to shield them all the time is not the best way. There are definitely times that you want to protect your kids, but there are also times you need to process with your children what this means. They need to know that these are isolated events that occur. They need to know what to do in emergencies, but that don’t need to live in fear. Talk with your kids.

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5. Stretch – Expand the boundaries each year. Maybe they could only ride their bike on your street at a certain age. The next year, allow them to ride within two blocks. The following year, expand even more. Gradually expanding their boundaries allows them to experience more freedom and gives them greater responsibility. Take them on hikes. Take them on vacations to new places. Give them greater challenges to face at each age of their life. This has to be intentional if we are to grow our kids. Allow them to volunteer at church or at a non-profit. As they grow older, encourage them to get a part-time job. Help expand your kid’s boundaries, so they learn to be responsible and confident.

There is no greater calling than being a parent. With our kids, we only have a few years to help shape who they will be for the rest of their lives. Raising brave kids is a huge part of our call. Our kids are the future leaders of our family, community, country and the world. We must empower them to be brave. We must challenge them to learn and to lead; and this takes being brave. As a parent, there will always be a tension between protection and empowerment, but we must find the balance without stifling their God-given call and potential. Let’s teach our kids to be brave. The result will be healthy kids who will, one day, step into the darkness of this world to bring hope and change.

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Developing a Healthy Work / Life Balance

One of the most challenging aspects for many people is how to have a healthy work / life balance. We are all busy. In fact, if you ask someone, “How are you doing?” Many times, this is what you will hear, “I am so busy.” We are consumed with life, and it doesn’t slow down. However, sometimes we can be busy and not accomplish what we truly desire. We all want more time in the day, but it will not happen. We cannot manufacture more time, therefore, we must learn to better manage the time we have been given.

Developing a healthy work / life balance is essential if we are to fulfill our God-given potential in life. Our lives will move from “busy” to “full” as we focus on what really matters. In order to develop a healthy work / life balance, we must implement three important strategies:

  1. Set priorities – What are the priorities of your life – God, spouse, children, career? You choose where you invest your time. Sometimes we feel like work is consuming us. Well, we have to set priorities. What are we trying to accomplish with our life? For most people, work should be a “means to an end” as opposed to the end itself. WE want to do a good job at work, but we also work in order to provide for our priorities – family, etc. Therefore, we want to do a great at what we do, but we don’t want this to consume us and leave us with no emotional or physical energy for where we truly want to invest in our lives. Time is analogous to money – we have a limited amount of money, so we have to make a budget. A budget helps us set priorities. Again, we have limited amount of time, so again we must set priorities. What do you feel like God really wants you to accomplish with your life? To be more like Christ, to excel as a great parent, to have a wonderful marriage, to achieve some career success, or something else? Setting priorities is essential. Set priorities and then bring your time, money, and energy around these priorities. Instead of letting everything else control you, you set the priorities.
  2. Set boundaries – We all want to do a good job at work, a great job at home and still have time for ourselves to enjoy life. Is this possible? Yes. First we set priorities and second we set boundaries around those priorities. Work can, and will consume you. Life can easily spin out-of-control. Therefore, put boundaries in so that you can protect what is important to you. Some boundaries may include:
    1. Don’t bring your computer home – work can take over family time. There is always one more e-mail to respond to or one more assignment to get down. Personally, I like to work when the kids go to sleep. This is a great time for me. But, sometimes this becomes a distraction and can take me away from my family. I can be “home” without truly being “home.” There are times I need to leave work at work.
    2. Be present – Whether you are at home or even at work, give your full attention and energy where it needs to be. You do not get this time back with your family. Therefore, be emotionally as well as physically present.
    3. Don’t stay on your cell phone on vacation – This is so important. If you are to be present, you have to set some boundaries. Otherwise, you will not accomplish work or life well.
  3. Be intentional – Once we set priorities and boundaries, next we have to be intentional to keep these. How do we do this? Let’s say that our priority is our marriage. Therefore, you must schedule time with your spouse. If we are not intentional, then work, kids, and busyness will rob our marriage. Schedule “date nights.” Make this a priority – once a week or at least every two weeks. Put in our your work calendar, and plan these in advance. If your priority is your family, then schedule vacations as well as special time with your kids. Again, if you don’t plan it, it will not happen. If your priority is a new career, then be intentional to carve out time to do the research, planning and study necessary now to be where you want to be later. Again, if you are not intentional, it will not happen.

Overall, we must learn to manage the seasons instead of striving for balance. Realize there will never be “balance.” If we wait for a 50/50 between “work” and “life,” you will never achieve it. Instead of balance, understand that life comes in seasons. There are seasons when work is exceptionally busy – deadlines, projects, tax season, etc. There are seasons when you need to more focused at home – birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, etc. Instead of trying to be balanced every day, strive to manage the seasons. This changes at different stages of our life. As our children grow up, the demands change. As we have more responsibility at work, the demands change. The fact is, this is a constant battle for us to fight – but, the fight is worth it! This will help give your life focus.

God has a great plan for your life. In order to reach your full potential, you have to learn this skill of developing a healthy work / life balance. So many people burn-out. They fall short. God wants us to run the race, and the race of life is a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s put into practice what God is teaching us, and commit to make the most of our lives for His glory! The best is yet to be…

Holy Week

This week is Holy Week: The week we journey with Jesus to the cross and the tomb. As we prepare ourselves for the greatest day in history, this coming Sunday morning, when our Savior conquered death and rose from the grave! In order to experience the triumph of the Resurrection, we must prepare our hearts with the gravity of the price that was paid.

Walking with Jesus to the cross opens our hearts to all He endured for us. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus endured spiritual, emotional and, of course, physical suffering for us. Feel the tension building as we go through this week. May we grow in the depth of our understanding of His love.

Palm Sunday – The Triumphal Entry

(Matthew 21:1-1, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:29-44 and John 12:12-19)

Jesus makes it very clear that He is the Messiah! He comes at Passover (“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” John 1:29) and on the back of a donkey (Messianic prophecy from Zechariah 9:9).

Monday – Jesus Curses the Fig Tree and He Cleanses the Temple

(Matthew 21:18-19 & 12-13 and Mark 11:12-14 & 15-18)

Jesus shows that it is not about what you look like on the outside, but what God does in your heart. He makes it very clear that it is not about “religion,” but about a “relationship” with God through Jesus Christ.

Tuesday – Jesus Teaches in the Temple & His Authority is Questioned

(Matthew 21:23-23:39; Mark 11:27-33 & 12:1-44 and Luke 20:1-21:4)

The drama is building. The Religious Leaders are confronting Jesus, and He is not backing down. The confrontation is coming. Everyone must give an answer: What do you believe about Jesus? Is he just a great man, prophet and teacher OR is He the Messiah, the Son of God?

Tuesday Evening – Jesus Anointed at Bethany

(Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9 and John 12:2-11)

Those who are committed to Jesus stay faithful. When we are forgiven much, we love much. This extravagant act of love is still talked about today. Is Jesus the Love of our life and the Joy of our heart?

Wednesday – The Religious Leaders Plot to Kill Jesus

(Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11 and Luke 22:3-6)

Jesus lived 33 sinless years. By His goodness and grace, He forces everyone to make a decision – our will or His will. Do we want religion OR are we willing to accept Jesus?

Thursday – The Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane

(Matthew 26:17-29 & 36-46, Mark 14:12-25 & 32-42; Luke 22:7-20 & 40-46 and John 13:1-38)

Jesus shares the Passover meal with the disciples, whom He loves. He makes it very clear that “His Body” is the bread broken for us and “His blood” is the new covenant poured out for us. Jesus is willing to pay the price for our sins, so that we can have an eternal relationship with God.

Thursday Night – Jesus’ Arrest & Trial

(Matthew 26:47-27:26; Mark 14:43-15:15; Luke 22:47-23:25 and John 18:2-19:16)

Make no mistake – it was not the religious leaders or the soldiers who arrested Jesus that night. Jesus could have called down legions of angels and stopped this at any moment. But, the Love and Grace of God took Jesus to the cross.

Friday – Jesus’ Crucifixion and Death

(Matthew 27:27-56; Mark 15:16-41; Luke 23:26-49 and John 19:17-30)

Jesus suffered and died for you and for me. He laid down His life, so that you and I can truly live. “For the wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23, and death is eternal separation from God. Jesus took our place; He stood in the gap. He made a way for us to have eternal life. Thank You, Jesus!

As we read what Jesus endured for us, may we be forever grateful for His love, grace and mercy. This week should draw us closer to our God. My prayer is that we all grow deeper in our faith and more passionate about our relationship with the God who loves us more than we can ever dream or imagine.

May this Holy Week prepare us for living each day in the Love and Grace of our Savior!

A Purple Slide

Seven years ago, our church was meeting in a movie theater. The movie theater was an amazing place and God moved in a mighty way; however, we knew we could not stay there for the long term. God was calling us to a new place – a “promise land” of sorts – that He was preparing for us. As His people, we prayed, we imagined and we believed.

During the year, we asked people to share their “Wildest Dreams” for God’s church. It was so exciting to hear people express dreams such as: “A place where people can immediately feel God’s Presence.” “A place where we are discipled in God’s Word and then sent out in missions all over the world.” “A place for preschoolers, children and students as we raise up the next generation in Christ.” “A place where we can do ministry in our community 7 days a week.” It was awesome hearing people share their “Wildest Dreams” for God’s church.

One Sunday morning as people were sharing their “Wildest Dreams” on video, someone asked my 3 year-old daughter, “What is your ‘Wildest Dream’ for God’s church?” My daughter, Grace, immediately responded, “A purple slide.” We all laughed, but she was serious. She even reiterated that she thought wherever we went there needed to be a purple slide.

The more we thought about it, the more we realized that God was speaking through her. “A purple slide” was not just an afterthought, it was God calling us to reach children, our community and to be a place where people have fun. “A purple slide” represented God’s heart for His church. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14. Along with this, one of our core values at Rolling Hills is “Joy.” Core Value #5 – “Church will be enjoyable. Joy will permeate everything we do.” What says this better than a purple slide?

God has provided us with an incredible building – more than our “Wildest Dreams!” A wonderful place in order to raise up fully mature disciples in Worship and the Word. A place for ministry 7 days a week. A place where you can truly feel God’s Presence. We even have tenants who pay for our mortgage.

This past Sunday at Rolling Hills, we opened our new Preschool, Children and Student space. This has been a huge undertaking, and God has been so gracious. Through the generosity of God’s people and His amazing blessing, we now have fantastic space dedicated to preschool, children and students. Multiple classrooms for children to learn the Word of God, little potties so teachers do not have to leave the room and can maximize learning time, stages for worship, TVs for curriculum and an incredible playground for children to just have fun coming to church! Thank You, Father!

And, like the cherry on top, God blessed us with “A purple slide.”

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Isn’t that just like God?! He always exceeds our expectations. He does, “immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.” Ephesians 3:19. I love being on this journey with Him. Every day He is doing something new in your story and mine. Our God is awesome!

Now, my prayer is for all the children who play on this purple slide. Growing up, my family belonged to a great church. What made the church great is that the people loved Jesus, loved each other, focused on God’s Word and invested in kids. I am a product of their investment! It’s easy to just focus on adults (after all, they are the ones making the decisions and paying the bills), but the churches that invest in children are the ones impacting the future! The purple slide shows that children matter! Our God is our Father, and He is so generous to us. Even when we can do nothing in return, He graciously pours out His love! I pray for every child to be impacted with the love of Jesus! I pray for God to raise up a generation who will live their lives for Him! I pray for children to have “Wildest Dreams” for God’s church like “a purple slide.”

Daddy Daughter Ball

One of the highlights of my year is our annual “Daddy Daughter Ball.” It is amazing! Being the dad of three girls, this is one of the days I want to do really well. I love seeing them so happy and having so much fun! Now that my oldest is 10, I am realizing how quickly time flies. We all dress in our best, and we have a great time!

The girls start getting ready as soon as they get home. They curl their hair, paint their nails and put on their new dresses. When they are ready, I come to the door with flowers for each. We go to dinner together, and then off to the Ball.

This year’s theme for the Ball was “Winter Wonderland.” The decorations were amazing, and everyone looked beautiful! We danced for three hours (being the dad of three little girls, I never get a break :)). The girls laugh, twirl, and have an awesome time. After the dance, we go get ice cream and talk about how much fun we had. I love seeing them so happy.

One day soon, I know some hairy-legged boy is going to come knock on my door and ask to take one of my precious girls on a date. I pray I have set a high standard. I pray they know how a girl should be treated, and that they don’t settle for less. I tell them all the time to make sure whatever boy comes around to make sure he treats you well, and that he loves Jesus even more than you.

I love my girls! I hope they still want me to take them to the “Daddy Daughter Ball” even when they are 12, 15, 18 and 30. However, as their dad, I also know my job is to prepare them for the man God has for them one day. This means that I love them so well that they don’t have to try to find love in just any boy because they never received it at home. And, it also means that they don’t lower their standards, but that they are willing to wait for God’s perfect person for them. In addition, I do pray for the boys they will marry one day. I pray they treat the women in their lives with love and respect. I pray they are godly young men who one day, as God allows, will take my granddaughters to the “Daddy Daughter Ball.” And, if I am able, we can all be there dancing together :).

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3 Keys to being a Great Dad!

This week we launched the Men’s Leadership Network. Over the next 7 weeks, we will cover topics designed to help men grow. This first week’s topic was “How to be a Great Dad” and I interviewed Jeffrey Reed, the Director of LifeWay Kids. Jeffrey leads a large team at work and teaches/speaks about parenting across the country. Jeffrey is a great leader, friend and partner in ministry at church. Even more so, Jeffrey is a great dad! He has four amazing kids. You can see the entire interview below, but here are three keys that came out of our time to be a great dad:

1. Spend time with your Heavenly Father – Whether you grew up with a good earthly dad or not, we all have access to the perfect Heavenly Father. All of our earthly role-models in fatherhood are flawed. None of them are perfect. Even the earthly dads mentioned in the Bible made mistakes. And, the fact is, none of us are perfect either. We all make mistakes. When we do, we need to admit those mistakes, ask for forgiveness, learn from them, and move on. The more we grow in our relationship with our perfect Heavenly Father, the better dad we will be to our kids. We need patience, love and grace – all of which we receive from God.

There are times that we need to stop and pray – pray before we speak, before we discipline and even before we engage our kids. Every day as we pull into the driveway and before we walk into the house, we need to ask God to fill us with the same love that He has for us. We need to focus on God’s love and His grace. Time with our Heavenly Father every morning is the biggest key to becoming a great dad.

2. Schedule time with your kids – For most of us, our lives revolve around our calendars. If we don’t schedule it, then it’s not going to happen. So, we need to schedule the most important things first. Before all the meetings and extra-curricular activities, we must schedule time with our kids. Obviously, birthdays and holidays are important, but also things like, “Dinner at home tonight with the family.” Or, “Family Devotional on Sunday Evening.” These are important as well.

Our kids grow up fast. We do not have a lot of time. And, the fact is, everything competes for our time - from work, school, sports, to so much more, it seems we do not have time for much else. Yet, one day soon, our kids will be grown and gone from the home. Then, we will wish we did not “major in the minor” and miss the important.

Scheduling time is essential. Whether it’s a “Daddy / Daughter Date Night” or taking your son to a baseball game, it needs to be on your calendar. Even consider prioritizing a trip once a year with each child in order to have some special one-on-one time. Get this – as dads we work so hard to provide our kids with “stuff.” But, the fact is, your kids don’t want stuff – they want you! Scheduling time is another key to being a great dad.

3. Pray for and with your children – Maybe you are not one who likes to pray aloud. This is an area in which you can grow. Praying with your children at night or in the morning will become you most special time. Even simple prayers make a huge impact. Not only are we asking the Lord of All Creation to provide & protect our children, in the process of praying over them we are speaking blessing into their lives and precious hearts.

There is power in prayer. Praying for your children often will impact them, and it will impact you. Texting your child that you are praying for them will brighten their day. Telling them what you are praying will invoke courage in their souls and spirit. Our Heavenly Father invites us to pray. We want our kids to know that we love them, but even more we want we them to know that God loves them. God will be with them throughout their lives. As dads, we want to always be pointing them to their Heavenly Father.

These three keys will help us be great dads! And, here’s a bonus: Love your wife well. We are demonstrating to our kids what marriage looks like. The way we love our spouse will impact their dating life, how they love today and in the future, and will shape so much of who they are. Handling conflict in a healthy way, being faithful in the hard times, and loving consistently will develop strong emotional lives for our kids.

We only have a few years with our kids at home. Let’s make the most of this time, and let’s become great dads!