What are you thankful for?

I am thankful for…

  1. Jesus – As the apostle Paul wrote, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift.” 2 Corinthians 9:15, my heart is full today with thankfulness to a God who would send His own Son for me. In my sin and depravity, Jesus came to redeem and restore. I can never say “Thank You” enough, and I will forever be grateful!
  2. Family – I am so thankful for my amazing wife, three beautiful daughters, wonderful parents, sister, niece, nephews, and awesome friends that really are “family” as well. My God has truly blessed in this area of family and relationships. I am thankful for the interconnectedness and the blessing of living life with those I love.
  3. Church – I am thankful to be a part of a Body that loves Jesus and shares Him with others. Our God is so alive and moving here at Rolling Hills! I am thankful for His Presence and for the love of His people. I am thankful to see God using His Church to impact our community and world through Justice & Mercy International as well as through the daily lives of His servants. What a joy to serve Him with people I love.

What are you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!


We have all been there – the questions, the wondering, the doubts. Most of us don’t doubt the existence of God (we know there has to be Someone bigger than us), but many times we doubt that this God will come through. Through worry, concern, anxiety and fear we express our doubt. Does God really see what is happening in my life? And, if He does see, then why doesn’t He do something about it?

Doubt is nothing new for Christ-followers. John the Baptist struggled with doubt (Matthew 11) as did the disciples (John 20). St. Augustine said, “Doubt is but another element of faith.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of 80 million Anglicans world-wide, when asked if he harbored doubts, replied, “It is a really good question…The other day I was praying over something as I was running, and I ended up saying to God, ‘Look, this is all very well, but isn’t about time you did something, if you’re there?’ Which is probably not what the archbishop of Canterbury should say.” Even Mother Teresa commented in her diaries that she struggled with doubt.

However, doubt is not a sin. In fact, doubt becomes the seedbed of faith. Doubt is not the opposite of faith – that is unbelief. There is a reason it is called “faith.” Faith implies that we don’t have everything figured out. Our finite brains cannot handle all the knowledge in the universe, therefore we have to believe. We all believe in something. Faith is a decision. It is a commitment we make. It is a stake we put in the ground – to wave a banner and to cling to in the midst of the storms.

Doubt arises when things do not go our way. When God doesn’t respond like we want Him to, then we wonder, we doubt. Yet, God is God. He is Sovereign over all. He can handle our doubts, questions, worries and fears. We must learn that our faith is in Him, not in our circumstances or even His blessings. He becomes our Rock and our Refuge. As Julia Baird wrote in the New York Times, “Just as courage is persisting in the face of fear, so faith is persisting in the presence of doubt.”

God always comes through. Our call is to “live by faith and not by sight.” Our God is doing a greater work than we can see or imagine. We must hold on, trust and believe. And, in the process of praying and holding on, our faith grows. We move past the layer of doubt and draw deeper in our love for Christ. The doubts will come, and when they do, our response should be to open our spiritual eyes to a Savior who is holding His nail-pierced hands out to us. He loves us, and He invites us to come to Him – even through the doubts.

Preparing Your Heart for Worship

Psalm 120-134 are known as the “Songs of Ascent.” These 15 psalms hold a special place in the heart of worshippers. Back in the Old Testament, there were 3 special feasts that God called the people to observe. Regardless of where you lived, you were to travel to Jerusalem in order to worship God at the Temple. The Feasts were Passover (remembering how God delivered His people from the bondage of slavery under the Egyptians by sending the death angel. All the Israelite homes covered by the blood of the lamb where “passed over” by the death angel), Pentecost (this was when the crops were planted and the recognition that God would bring the rain) and finally Tabernacle (this called the people to live in boxes, remembering their time in the wilderness and how God provided for them. This also celebrated the harvest that had just come from God our Provider).

Every feast, people would travel with their family and friends from small towns throughout Israel to Jerusalem. Jerusalem sits high on the mountains, and it is beautiful. There would be an “awe” for the weary travelers that would lift their hearts and spirits as they approached the Holy City. As they came to the Temple, they would begin to worship.

jerusalem_temple_stepsThere were 15 steps that led from the Court of the Gentiles into the Court of the Women at the Temple. God resided in the “Holy of Holies” at the center of the Temple. Only one time a year could someone enter into God’s Presence (The Day of Atonement as the High Priest offered sacrifices on behalf of the people). Otherwise, the worshippers would gather in the Court of the Gentiles, the Court of the Women, the Court of the Men or the Court of the Priests. Therefore, all Jews would come up these 15 steps as they entered into the Temple.

The Songs of Ascent were sung as the people walked up these steps. Psalm 120 was sung, and then the family, friends or individual would take a step up. Psalm 121, and then a step up. 15 steps. You can imagine, by the time they had sung these 15 Psalms and climbed up these steps, they were ready to worship!


We did this at our most recent staff meeting. Together, our staff team started at the back of the room, read a Psalm and took a step. Someone read Psalm 120, then we all took a step. Next, another person read Psalm 121, then another step. Psalm, step. Psalm, step. Psalm, step. By the time we finished Psalm 134, “Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion,” we were ready to worship! We then responded in corporate worship, and it was powerful!

So often on a Sunday Morning, we come with so many distractions. We are late for church, wrestling with kids, or focused on seeing all our friends. Many times our minds and our hearts are far from God until we walk into the main room. Yet, there is power in preparation. When we take the time to prepare our hearts, we are so much more apt to experience God in worship. Do you come to church distracted or prepared? We are meeting with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. There is a call, and a responsibility, to prepare our hearts before our bodies arrive. We would not think about walking into a business meeting unprepared or a school classroom, and yet we are meeting with Someone so much more important. One who loves us, but also One who is worthy of our time, respect and best.

Begin to prepare your heart for worship and watch your spiritual life come alive. Take some time to read through the Songs of Ascent. Try reading Psalm 120-134 this coming Sunday before you arrive, and see the difference in your experience with God.

Men’s Leadership Network

For years, I have been burdened by the need for men to engage spiritually. We all know that when a man steps up spiritually, then this impacts his marriage (or future marriage), children, church, community and ultimately, generations. Our God is calling out men to be spiritual leaders, but so few men know how or feel equipped for this huge calling.

At the beginning of this year, we launched the Men’s Leadership Network in order to help men become the spiritual leaders that God has called them to be. Through the spring and fall semesters, we have had incredible godly men share from various leadership positions. A few of them include:

  • Travis Rosen, American Ninja Warrior
  • Dr.Ken Moore, Mayor of Franklin, TN
  • Drew Maddux, Former Vanderbilt Commodore basketball player and Head Coach at Christ Presbyterian Academy
  • Jimmy Gentry, World War II veteran and liberator of the Dachau Concentration Camp
  • Dave Anderson, Retired Naval Aviator with over 400 aircraft carrier landings
  • David Thomas, Family Counselor and Author
  • Coach Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt Baseball Coach and NCAA Championship in 2014

Who better to talk about handling stress under pressure than a Top Gun pilot; or who has a better perspective on the topic of leaving a great legacy than a World War II veteran who was there when the Dachau Concentration Camp was liberated? We’ve covered a wide range of topics this year including “How to be a Great Father,” “How to Maintain a Healthy Work/Life Balance,” “Healthy Ways to Discipline your Children” and “How to Have Great Sex” (record online attendance on this one). Each topic addresses issues at the core of being a great leader and speakers provide practical advice and biblical truths for overcoming some of the biggest challenges that men face in leadership at any level.

While each topic is different, I have noticed some common threads running through these interviews. First, the importance of spending time with God daily. There is just no substitute for reading God’s Word and for spending time in prayer each day. While it sounds simple, it takes daily discipline. Second, there is a strong need for men to have community. Being surrounded by other godly men brings confidence. This “band of brothers” mentality is powerful for men. It is the way we were created. Herein lies the importance of church and being a part of something like the Men’s Leadership Network. Third, this powerful call for men to engage. Engage in their marriage, with their kids, in church and community. Our society presents men as passive, but godly men step up and step out. The call to be bold and to be intentional is inside the heart of every man.

I encourage every man reading this to go watch some of these podcasts at www.mensleadershipnetwork.com. Also, wives reading this, encourage your husbands to listen as they drive to work, mow the lawn or work out at the gym. The impact is exponential as men engage in spiritual leadership. In addition, share this with other men—neighbors, co-workers, and other men at church. Finally, be on the lookout for more of the Men’s Leadership Network over the holidays and into 2016.

It is awesome seeing men step up and be spiritual leaders. I am so thankful for the godly men in my life, and I, personally, want to grow in my own call to be a spiritual leader in my home, church and community. As men, this is our chance to lead. This is our one opportunity to make an impact for Christ. This is our day and our generation. May our God find us faithful!

Here is a sample of a recent Men’s Leadership segment. In this clip David Thomas helps us know how to raise great kids. Check it out, and find more at www.mensleadershipnetwork.com.

Fear or Faith? That is the Question.

So much of the world we live in today is driven by fear. Every news story we see is about a shooting, a storm, a war, a financial collapse or some other tragedy. Fear sells, and we buy it. And, while real challenges face all of us, each day we must decide if we are going to live by fear or by faith. The Kingdom-life that God calls us to is based on faith. Every day we have to determine if we are going to live for this world or for God.

Let’s be honest, so often fear creeps in and begins to take up residence in our heart. It manifests itself in worry, sleepless nights and endless games of “What if?” Have you ever noticed how our minds usually default to the worst-case scenario? 90% of what we worry about never comes to fruition, but that doesn’t keep us from worrying about it. Our minds have a tendency toward fear, and that is why God calls us to a “renewing of our minds” in Romans 12. Think about your immediate response when: the money in the bank doesn’t seem to be enough; the kids are struggling with finding their way; or a loved one needs to go to the doctor. Does fear take over, or faith?

In the Old Testament, Joshua faced some overwhelming challenges; yet in the midst of the struggles, God spoke to him (and I believe God speaks to us today). Here’s what God said in Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua went forward in faith. In the New Testament, Jesus spoke to His disciples before He ascended into Heaven. In Matthew 28:19-20 He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations. Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and listen—I am with you wherever you go.” Will we go forward in faith? “I am with you” is the recurring theme of Scripture, the Power of the Presence of God with us. Our faith is not based on our circumstances unfolding as we want, but our faith is in the One who is always with us.

As followers of Christ, we are called to live by faith (“and not by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:7). We serve a Sovereign God who is in control. While circumstances around us may seem overwhelming, we must “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2), and always remember that “Our God is greater” (Romans 8) than anything we face. Always remember He is with you, wherever you go.

So, here’s the question: Are you living your life by fear or by faith? What is the driving force behind the decisions you make? Do you trust that God will meet your needs financially and physically? Do you have faith that He will provide for your every need, and that He will guide you as you go forward in life? Don’t buy into this culture of fear, but live in the confidence of God’s amazing love for you. God is with you today. Live by faith!

This One Matters

I am so thankful for what our God is doing through Justice & Mercy International! I love being a part of God’s work here. This video shows why we do what we do.

I have known Ala for many years and have watched her grow up. Yet, there are so many other precious orphan children like Ala. If you’d like to link arms with Justice & Mercy International through sponsorship opportunities in Moldova, the Amazon, or South Africa visit: justiceandmercy.org/sponsorships. Sponsor a child, go on a mission trip, and make a difference in kids like Ala.

Reminders of His Love

God is constantly telling us He loves us. Whether it be through the beautiful planet on which we live, or through the wonderful blessings of food, water and shelter that He provides for us. God’s heart beats for those He loves, and He reminds us all the time. He is constantly inviting us to open our eyes and our heart to Him. Here is one of those amazing ways that God reminds us of His love—this is from a note that Lisa, my wife, wrote in her journal:

“I prayed that You would give me a word today, and I opened my Bible to find a faint note (written in a margin) that said, ‘I love you, Lisa! Love, Nan.” It was so faint. I’ve never seen it. it’s been in my Bible for 19-20 years, and today I discovered it. Why today? You had her write that in my Bible 20 years ago so that I would read it…today! That blows me away. You’re such a planner!!! Always thinking ahead. Why today? Why Nan? I taught Nan at church when she was 10 or 11ish, and I didn’t even think she liked me so much – and yet, she wrote this is my Bible. This gets me on so many different levels. 1 – She loved me, and I didn’t even know it. 2 – You had her write it for today (20-years later). 3 – You honor our efforts even when we think we stink at something. 4 – Why today? 5. – Where is Nan now? 6 – What are You wanting me to hear from You today? I believe, You are trying to tell me that You love me. Thank You, God, for loving me. Thank You for putting it in a small note 20 years ago. Thank You for allowing me to hear you, and forgive me when I don’t!”

I truly believe our God is constantly reminding us of His love for us. Sometimes it is a note in a Bible and other times it is His still, small voice speaking directly to our hearts. Will you hear Him today? Will you understand that God loves you, and will that alone change the way you think about yourself? Here’s your reminder for today—God loves you! Regardless of your mistakes, feelings or flaws, you are a loved, redeemed, gifted child of His. Find your worth and value in Christ, and look as well as listen for God today to remind you of His love!

The Power of 40 Days

Research has shown over and over again that there is power in 40 days. Maybe you have done a “cleanse” in order to reset your body physically. Behavioral scientists tell us that 40 days is what it takes to start a new habit or to break an old habit. There is power in 40 days to impact and transform your life.

This power has been seen for a long time—God instituted 40 days and it is seen all throughout Scripture:

  • It rained on the earth for 40 days while God prepared Noah for a greater work.
  • Moses spent 40 days on Mt. Sinai as God prepared him to lead the nation.
  • The spies spent 40 days exploring the goodness of God in the Promised Land.
  • Goliath taunted God’s people for 40 days until God raised up David to lead.
  • God gave Nineveh 40 days to repent and then used Jonah to bring revival.
  • Jesus walked on the earth for 40 days between His Resurrection and Ascension, preparing His disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit and His Church.

I invite you to take this challenge: 40 Days to Live Like Jesus:


  1. For 40 days: Pray and read God’s Word every day. Spend some time with Jesus.
  2. For 40 days: Make it Personal. Pray for God to do one big thing in your life. Maybe in your marriage, a dream, a child, a ministry—something only God can do. Just look at the miracles above. God is preparing you for what He is preparing for you.

Last night, my 6-year-old daughter, Kate, said, “Daddy, I need to read my Bible before I go to bed because I’m taking the 40-Day Challenge.” I love her, and I love her commitment.

Join me over the next 40 days and let’s live like Jesus—watch our God do what only He can do! You can find each day’s challenge here.


One of our Mission Teams returned from the Amazon this week. When asking one of the team members about a couple of trip highlights, he told me about all the work they did on the John Pac Center – our Justice & Mercy International (JMI) community center in the middle of the Amazon that ministers to about 29 villages. They painted, cleaned gutters, and cleared brush for a new soccer field. Then, he told me about unveiling our Children’s Sponsorship Program in a nearby village called Terra Preta with a big celebration and prayer time. But, even over all that, what stood out to me most was his description of one incredible scene…possibly because it reminded me a little of what heaven might look like.

Unknown-2Two years ago, Mary Katharine Hunt (Executive Director for JMI) and Kelly Minter traveled with me to a small village to meet a woman in her mid-twenties with Cerebral Palsy. Clarinha lived in a hammock in a small house just off of the Amazon River. For years, her mother had faithfully taken care of her, even when her father left. They lived in a small village, and over the years the entire village has adopted Clarinha as their own. On that first visit, I watched as Mary Katharine and Kelly loved on Clarinha and her mom in a very special way. We all sat on the floor around Clarinha, who was smiling ear-to-ear, as Kelly played guitar and sang Clarinha’s favorite songs. I remember Kelly commenting that of all the places and stages in the world that she had performed on, this was the one where she felt closest to Jesus. We gave the family food bags, and prayed the sweetest prayers over this precious child of God. You could clearly see how much Mary Katharine and Kelly loved Clarinha and how much Clarinha loved them. And, you could truly feel the Presence of God with “the least of these.”

Unknown-3The following year, someone donated a new wheelchair for Clarinha. Although it was quite a challenge to get to her, it ultimately became a huge blessing in her life. What a difference this made! Clarinha could sit up, which made it easier for feeding and allowed her to be in a new position throughout the day. Now, however, the challenge became taking Clarinha anywhere outside the home – the ground was so sandy and soft that the wheelchair could not roll.

Then, in February 2015, at our annual Pastor’s Conference in the Amazon, many of our leaders took on the challenge of building a boardwalk from Clarinha’s house to the little church building in their village. Although this sounded easy, it was quite a daunting task. The building was about 300 yards from Clarinha’s house and all the wood and logs had to be transported in by boat. Alas, after six full days of hard work, the boardwalk was built! Now, Clarinha’s mom was able to roll her daughter all the way through their village to church. Clarinha could worship, sing and experience the Presence of God with those in her village.

During this most recent trip, it was Clarinha’s birthday. In all of her years, she had never had a birthday party, and so our Mission Team decided to change that! Armed with cake, ice cream and popcorn, our team threw what they called “the biggest surprise birthday party the Amazon had ever seen” for Clarinha and her entire village. Everyone was brought to the John Pac Center by boat, and the all had an awesome celebration. This was the first time that some of the children in the village even had ice cream and, like any child around the world, they loved it! The party also had a movie-showing of “The Prince of Egypt” in Portuguese.

IMG_3184Jesus told a story about a shepherd leaving the 99 to go after the one. I believe that Clarinha is the one. With all the great work Justice & Mercy International is doing in the Amazon – the 14 schools, the John Pac Community Center, the child sponsorships, food bags – maybe God called us here just for Clarinha. Or, maybe it was for her mother, who desperately needs the encouragement and support. Or, maybe for the village that had supported Clarinha all these years. Or, maybe it was for the one, like Clarinha, that God will lead us to in another village. You see, I truly believe we see Jesus in the heart of the poor. We see Jesus when we “Make Justice Personal.” We see Jesus at a surprise birthday party in the Amazon. We see Jesus in Clarinha.

September 10 Video – Amazon from Rolling Hills on Vimeo.


Jesus Wept

The shortest verse in the Bible is only two words, but it speaks volumes. The first word being the Sovereign Saving Grace of God Himself, followed by the second word – almost unfathomable:

“Jesus wept.”
John 11:35

That is it. But, think about the power and the truth contained in these two words. The God of the Universe – the Creator and Sustainer of life – wept. He cried. He opened His heart and allowed His emotions to overflow.

Now, the context of this moment happens at a funeral for one of Jesus’ best friends, Lazarus. Jesus heard he was sick, but waited before going to him, because Jesus knew what He was going to do. He planned to do a miracle. He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. This would be the last big miracle before Jesus would be arrested and ultimately crucified for our sins. He knew what He was about to do – and the message He would send would be very clear – so then why did He cry?

When Jesus arrived, He was greeted by Lazarus’ two sisters, Mary and Martha. He loved this family. I believe, when Jesus saw their hurt and pain, He was moved to tears. The emotion of the pain they felt welled up inside of Him. He did not weep for Lazarus or His own grief, but for those in mourning as He watched them go through this difficult time. Jesus loves completely. When He sees the hurt and pain caused by the brokenness of this world, He is moved to tears.

Throughout Scripture, great men of God have also wept:

  • David wept over the sin and brokenness in his own heart and life.
  • Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet.” Clearly, he cried a lot.
  • Nehemiah wept when he heard the walls of his beloved Jerusalem were broken down, he poured out his heart to God.
  • Paul wept on multiple occasions as he prayed for the churches that God had called him to plant. He loved them so much.

When you truly love, there will be times you are moved to tears. Sometimes, the tears come as you see people trying to satisfy their own lives without God. Sometimes, you cry because you know what God can do in the lives of those you love – if they will only let Him. Sometimes, you cry because you see people hurting in this fallen world. The truth is, if you truly love, then at some point you will cry.

In a society where “real men” and “big girls” don’t cry, the Bible paints a different picture. God created tears for a reason. Our spiritual heroes were ones who loved God and loved others so much that they were willing to allow their hearts to be moved. If you are a parent, you know this kind of love. Sometimes my eyes will well up as I watch one of my children sleep. I love them so deeply. May our hearts never grow so hard that we lose the love that moves us to tears. May we never grow so callous to our own need or to the hurt in this world that we fail to radically love like Jesus.

One of my favorite Jewish practices happens in times of mourning. In the passing of a loved one, friends of the family will show up and just sit. No one talks, they just cry together. This can go on for days or even weeks. Nobody has to worry about saying the wrong thing because they are called to just be there: “Weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

This is the Power of Presence. Jesus was there. Jesus loved his friends so deeply that being with them in that moment moved him to tears. Jeremiah loved God’s people, the Israelites, so much that he wept. Nehemiah loved God’s city, Jerusalem. The apostle Paul loved God’s church. And, what about you and me? Who do we love, and how do we express it? Never lose the love and passion for the things of God.

When was the last time you cried? When was the last time you had your emotions moved in such a powerful way that the only thing you could do was to allow tears to flow? Let’s love God and others so deeply that we are impacted emotionally (just like Jesus). Do not let your heart grow hard. Practice the power of Presence with your spouse, your kids, your friends, people at church and even those you are praying for, even if you don’t know them. Don’t be so callous to God transforming lives that you don’t shed a tear at a baptism, wedding or funeral. These are holy moments – moments when the Divine is present in love – and this is worth our response.

Jesus wept. And, at times, so should we.