The Power of the Cross

Holy Week is always a special time as we walk with Jesus to the cross and beyond. However, for many long-time followers of Jesus, sometimes the gravity of the price paid for us loses its power in our lives. We can grow numb to all Jesus endured for us on the cross. This following post from Lynn Hendrich was a great reminder to me, and I pray to you as well. Lynn & her husband, Steve, went on their first international mission trip with us two years ago to Moldova. There they met precious Maria. Lynn instantly fell in love with Maria. Maria was blind, and Lynn felt God’s call to help. Lynn & Steve worked with Dr. Wang here in Nashville. About six months ago Lynn & Steve brought Maria to the States for an amazing journey of healing and faith. Through the generosity of Dr. Wang and the power of God’s healing touch, Maria is starting to see. But, also, God is moving in Maria’s heart. Here’s what Lynn wrote on Monday of this “Holy Week:”

“Over the past several weeks I’ve “caught” Maria watching a movie on her computer.. Behind closed doors:)I walk into her room to check on her and there she sits at her desk, tissues in hand and tears streaming down her face.As I walk closer to her I can see what she is watching and I’m caught off guard as to what I see. All by herself she has searched and found a movie in her native language….Romanian. Well, again tonight I come into her room to find her weeping at this movie she cannot get enough of. Friends and family… This movie she is watching is a movie of the life of Jesus. She weeps when they betray him and spit on him… And she just can’t understand why they would beat him and crucify him. Questions like.. Why would he endure that for me are asked and as we try and explain to her why HE did that for every single person on the face of the earth… She just weeps more. We tucked her into bed and she prayed a beautiful prayer and continued to cry through her prayer. I looked at her beautiful face tonight and was so ashamed at my own personal numbness to this season we are entering into. Why don’t I weep and cry anymore when I think of what HE did for me? Sometimes I really believe that God uses children to help us see what truly matters in this life. As we enter Holy Week.. May we be ever mindful and more sensitive to exactly what Jesus endured for us… And maybe even shed a few tears in gratitude for the salvation he offers us through his death and resurrection. Happy Easter with much love and thankfulness for you!!”
Wow! May this be encouragement to us all of the depth and gravity of this Season. May we never grow numb to the incredible love and grace of Savior! May you experience the rich, abiding power of the cross in your life this Easter.

 

Priorities

Life is busy. Ask most people how they are doing, and the response you receive is, “I’m so busy.” This has become the mantra of our American lives. We run from one appointment to the next. We are in meetings, taking kids to sports, and trying to keep up with laundry. Life is simply busy. However, we must never confuse activity with accomplishment.

Most of us believe if we could just have more time, we would be able to do all we need to do. But we all have the same amount of time. Therefore, it is not really about time – it is about priorities. How do we maximize what we have been given? The challenge for all of us is to not let the immediate, pressing needs rule our lives, but to focus our time and energy on what really matters.

God first. Our first priority always must start with God. This is how life functions best – when God is at the center of our lives. Jesus said the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) (“strength” here means all your “umph;” “your gut;” “your passion.”) Keeping God first is a challenge. There are so many other demands on our time and our mind. Starting and ending the day in God’s Word as well as prayer throughout keeps us centered on Him. In the midst of the job, the laundry, the dishes and all the normal demands of life – keep God first. If you do not get anything else done in a day, but you love God a little more and your know Him a little deeper, then you will have had a successful day.

Spouse second. If you are married, or you would like to be married one day, your spouse is intended to be your next priority. This is a real struggle with most people. While dating it is easy to make this person a priority; in fact, the danger in dating is to not let this person move into first place before God. However, once married, priories tend to change. Men tend to move career ahead of spouse (and sometimes God), and Women tend to move children ahead of spouse (and, again, sometimes God). The reality is that jobs will change and children will grow up. You and your spouse are together “until death do us part.” Keeping your spouse as a priority means scheduling time together and communication. Remembering what it was like when you first fell in love? Ephesians 5 tells us that our marriage should radiate to the world how Christ loves the Church. Does your marriage do this?

Children third. Children are a gift from God, but we always have to remember they are His. We have the privilege to raise them and give them a strong foundation in Christ, but they are never meant to be worshipped or idolized. So many parents find their identity in how their kids are doing – in school, sports, theater, etc. Our identity should always come in Christ alone – what God says about us, and that is that we are His. He loves us with an unconditional love regardless of how much we weigh, what we look like or how our kids perform. We are called to love our children with the same kind of unconditional love. Discipleship is always more “caught” than “taught.” As children see your love for God (that He is first in your life), then they will understand what it means to have a foundation in Christ. Also, when children see that your spouse is our next they will understand what a godly marriage should look like and they will desire that for their own life as well.

Keeping these priorities is a key for a healthy life. This will allow us to say “yes” to what is important, and “no” to the things that are not. Without priorities, we are busy, but we are unproductive. We all have one shot at life; one opportunity to live this life for the glory of our great God. Let’s not miss it. Yes, laundry is important and so are dishes, sports, social media and so much more. But, when God, spouse and children are in the right order, everything else will fall into place.

Take some time to evaluate: What are your priorities?

I love being a Dad!

I actually woke up this morning thinking, “I love being a Dad!” As I reflected over the past several weeks, there have been some amazing times together of laughter, learning and life.

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The Daddy / Daughter Ball – This is an annual highlight in our house, but this year was extra special. This is the first year with all three girls! Kate is now “officially” old enough, and we tore it up! We had an absolute blast! I was actually sore the next day because we danced so much :). I pray often for the men they will marry one day, and I pray I am teaching them the standards they need to see in a godly man.Unknown-3Unknown-2

Sledding – We had one day of sledding this year, and we made the most of it. Not a lot of snow, but school was closed and we took off to our secret sledding spot. The girls went crazy, and we had an amazing time. I pray they are learning to enjoy life. Life can be hard and there is always more to do, but I believe God also wants us to enjoy life. We will never get this time back, and I want my girls to love being kids.

Our “Next Steps” talk – As a church, we called everyone to take a “Next Step” spiritually. It has been awesome to watch people make first-time commitments to Christ, to be baptized, to go on mission trips, to read the entire Bible, to tithe and even to give one-time gifts as well as 24-month pledges to the Lord. The night before our “Commitment Sunday,” Lisa and I sat down with our girls. We prayed together, and we told them the commitment Lisa and I were making for the next 24-months. We gave them each a commitment card and asked what commitment they wanted to make to the Lord. I will never forget this special time of watching our girls taking their “next steps” as they grow spiritually. Thankful!

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Feed My Starving Children – This is the second year our church has hosted a mobile packing event for FMSC. With over 500 volunteers on a Saturday, it is incredible to see God work as we pack meals for the hungry children of the world. Also, it is a special time to serve alongside my girls as we teach them to serve others. We have been blessed in order to be a blessing. I pray they always know the importance of serving and giving. As a church, we packed over 100,000 meals! It was an exciting day, and I love serving with my girls!Unknown-4
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Family Devotionals – As a family, we are taking a “daily step” and reading the Bible together. It is so great to see our girls growing and learning. Grace asking, “Daddy, why does Jesus sometimes say, ‘Don’t tell anyone I healed you,’ and other times He says, ‘Go, tell everyone?’” Great question from a 10 year-old. Mabry seeing the power of God in the feeding of the 5,000, and Kate knowing the rainbow is a sign of God’s love and faithfulness. In addition, there is something powerful about hearing your kids pray. As they pray each night at the close, to hear them pray for God to “heal Mr. Brent of his cancer,” “take care of Ms. Danielle’s dad,” and “thank you for Nana and Papa.” As a parent, you heart wells up with love when you hear your kids pray.

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Being a dad is such a blessing! I know I only have a few years to teach them foundational truths about God and His Word, and I cherish every moment. Also, being a dad makes me appreciate even more my earthly dad as well as my heavenly Father. I am blessed beyond measure, and it is such a joy to share the love that has been invested in me with my girls. I love being a Dad!

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Taking a “Daily Step”

Every day we are either stepping closer to God or we are drifting away. This is why, I believe, God established the daily sacrifices at the Temple. Following Him is an every day commitment. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” It is a daily relationship to which Jesus calls. Putting Him first in our lives and in our hearts. If we do not, then we will be like the people of old (or people we may know) who simply drift away from God. They wake up a year from now, five years or ten years and say, “How did I get here?” Our life is a product of the daily decisions we make.

God calls us to a daily commitment. This is why it is so important to read God’s Word and to pray each day. This is foundational to our spiritual growth and maturity. Now, I love God’s Word! No matter how many times you read a passage of Scripture, there is always a deeper layer, truth or way God speaks to you. As a church we are committed to read through the Bible over the next 24-months as a “daily step.” Lisa and I have been reading through the passages with our girls. We pray we are establishing a foundation in them to take a “daily step” toward God as well.

In Genesis, we have seen God creating man for a relationship with Him. Then, here comes sin and the consequences of sin both spiritually and physically. God calls out Noah, and we are seeing the call to obedience. Our girls love the story of Noah. We read through it, talked through what it must have been like on the boat, how people probably made fun of Noah, and yet how God used Noah in his day and time. We talked about our call to be faithful to God despite what people may say or do.

In Mark, we read how Jesus came on the scene and changed everything. In Mark 1:27 as Jesus begins to teach, the people were amazed! They say, “What is it?” We looked back in the book of Exodus when the people asked, “What is it?” There they were referring to manna, but here the people are referring to the teaching of Christ. His Words are the bread of life. As we know the Word of God, we are nourished in our soul and spirit.

As Jesus is healing people in Mark 1 and 2, Grace asked the question, “Daddy, why does Jesus say to people sometimes, ‘Do not tell anyone about Me healing you,’ and yet to others He says, ‘Tell everyone?’” We talked through how Jesus’ time had not yet come. When He heals a Jewish person He says, “Don’t tell anyone,” but when He heals a Gentile person He says, “Tell everyone.” Jesus healed both. Jesus loves all people! Great news for all of us. But, Jesus knew that the Jews would try to make Him King, as the Messiah. He was waiting for God’s perfect timing to be fulfilled.

I love reading God’s Word! And, there is something incredibly special about diving into God’s Truth with others – whether your children, spouse, friends, a Small Group, Men’s or Women’s Group. Sharing insights God gives you is an important way to edify and grow with one another.

How are you doing on your “Daily Step?” Are you moving closer to God or are you drifting away. As Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Let’s continue to reach out, grow up and give all as we follow Christ together. And, let’s always take a “daily step” toward Him.

 

What are the “Next Steps” in your Faith Journey?

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At church, we have been talking about taking Next Steps in our faith journey. I am so excited to see what God is doing in individuals as well as together as the Body of Christ. People are stepping out and growing deeper in their spiritual life than ever before. I believe God is calling all of us to take a “Next Step” in 3 areas:

  1. Reaching Out – giving 2% of our time in the next 24 months to reach out to others.
  2. Growing Up – take a Daily Step by reading through the Bible in 24 months!
  3. Giving All – put Christ first in our finances for the next 24 months.

It’s incredible to think about the impact that your Next Steps will have on your personal spiritual growth, our families, communities and the world as we follow Christ together! Through your Next Steps we’ll be (as a church) reading through the Bible together over the next 24-months, impacting others as we reach out and commit to mission trips, and impacting future generations of Christ-followers through new teaching space, the Franklin Estates building, a Foster Care Center and, eventually a new home for South Nashville. Exciting times!

I love being on this journey with God’s people. I pray not for equal gifts, but equal sacrifice. We are all on a personal journey with Christ, so no two commitments look the same.  I do hope, however, that we all sacrifice. Take time this week to pray about YOUR Next Steps.  Don’t simply settle for something you can accomplish on your own; leave room for God to move – stretch as you give, serve and grow! As William Carey once said, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”

This is our time in history. This is our defining moment as disciples of Jesus Christ. Will we be obedient and step out for Him? Let’s be faithful and watch God bless!

What is your Next Step?

Jungle Pastor’s Conference in the Amazon

Brazil- Boat on AmazonI recently returned from being in the Amazon. We hosted a Pastor’s Conference for Jungle Pastors of villages throughout the region.These pastors are amazing! It took many of them days in their canoe to come to our Community Center (the John Pac Center) for the conference. Can you imagine weeks in a canoe? Sleeping and eating just to hear more about Christ, His Word and how to be a better pastor of the Gospel? Many people in the States will not even come to church in their air conditioned car if it is raining outside.

As with any mission trip, we go to serve and yet we are the ones who are transformed in the process. Seeing the passion and commitment of these pastors and their wives was inspiring. For instance, Pastor Cosme. Pastor Cosme told of preaching one Sunday when the river was at flood stage. The people gathered in the church, sitting on planks near the roof, because the water was so high. Pastor Cosme held his Bible in one hand and killed 10 snakes with the machete that was in his other hand. In the States, sometimes we complain if it is too cold in church, but at least there is no snakes!

jeff-brazil-pastorsjeff-brazil-pastors2Then there was Pastor Delmo. When asked what he needs to do even greater ministry, Pastor Delmo and his wife responded, “Transportation. There is an Indian tribe several hours from our village that have never heard about Jesus. We want to go share Christ with them.” Then they added, “We heard that they ate a priest who went, but we know someone needs to tell them about Christ.” They ate a priest! And, you still want to go? There was Pastor Gnome who cleaned toilets during the week in Manaus, so he would have enough money to go pastor his church in the village on Saturday and Sunday. Wow!

I fell in love with these pastors. Their commitment to Christ is so authentic and contagious. Jeff-brazil-conference As Mike Minter, the Pastor of Reston Bible Church, who was with us said, “We teach them theology and the Bible, while they teach us Jesus.” I love this. So many times we measure spiritual growth simply by knowledge, but these Pastors (many of who have never been to seminary or Bible college) demonstrate an incredible spiritual maturity. Jesus took “ordinary, unschooled men” (Acts 4:13), and changed the world. It is truly “Christ in me, the Hope of glory;” God’s Holy Spirit working in us and through us. Mike Minter inspired me as well. He has pastored Reston Bible Church for over 40 years! And, here he is in the Amazon, at the age of 69, teaching pastors. He could be retired on a golf course, but he knows God is not finished with him (and the word “retirement” is not in the Bible).

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The Amazon is beautiful and enormous. It has been called “the lungs of the earth.” Somehow you feel so alive when you are there. Maybe it was the large sloth outside our room hanging in the tree or the jungle sounds that lulled you to sleep at night. Maybe it is the dolphin you see or the incredible amount of stars because there are no lights. Everything is so beautiful and majestic. You truly feel like you are in another world, and God is very close.

We went to several villages to deliver food bags, to love on the people and to assess the Jeff-brazil-girlschools. For the past three years, we have sent mission teams from our church to the Amazon. Last year, John Pac gave all the assets – the Community Center, 14 schools, the Discovery Boat, Staff – to JMI (Justice & Mercy International). I have seen the pictures and heard the stories, but this was my first time to experience it myself. $1,000 will pay for a school teacher for an entire year. $50 will provide a food bag that will feed a family for a month. $150 will pay a pastor’s salary for a month. For more information, visit justiceandmercyamazon.org.

I saw it, felt it and tasted it, and it is good. I saw Clorena’s, a 38 year-old woman with cerebral palsy. Clorena lives with here mother and siblings in a two-room shack in the middle of the Amazon. No electricity and no running water. Clorena spends most of her life in a hammock in the middle of their home. Yet, when Mary Katharine Hunt (our Ex. Director of Operations for JMI) and Kelly Minter entered her village, she lit up. She smiled, laughed, and thrashed in her hammock with joy. Kelly pulled out her guitar, sat on the floor by Clorena and sang her the most beautiful song. This is where Jesus works, and this is life-change for us all.

Jesus is among the poor, the brokenhearted, the lonely and the forgotten. We go to help people – and we do – food bags, medical care, education (building schools) and more. But, in the process, we are the ones who are helped the most. Helped to see that life is not all about materialism, schedules, and things of this world, but that God is present with us all. Present with the forgotten and present when we step out in faith to be His hands and feet.Jeff-brazil-worship

I love what God is doing through JMI and through His church here at Rolling Hills. It is an amazing ministry of love and grace. Lives are being helped and transformed by the Spirit of Christ. Come and see. Come be a part, and experience what only God can do. You will go to give and God will use you. However, you will be changed in the process. You will become more like Christ, and somehow I pray, we all all become more like a Jungle Pastor. May our faith, commitment and love grow exponentially.

Father & Son Bowl

Eight years ago a backyard football game took place. Darin Clark, the father of four boys, invited some dads and their sons to come over and play. About 15 players showed up. Darin thought, “What if we could involve more dads and sons? What would the impact be on families and on our community if we could help strengthen the relationships between fathers and sons?” This past Saturday, Darin and his wife Caree hosted the seventh annual Father & Son Bowl – with 1,168 players!fathersonbowl - rhcc guys fathersonbowl- huggingfathersonbowl- boy running

There are so many aspects I love about the Father & Son Bowl. First, this is the “church being the church.” Darin knew he could not do this alone. As a partner at Rolling Hills, he asked people to join him in God’s work, and the Body of Christ responded. With over 150 volunteers (many serving for over 13 hours) and countless more playing, it truly takes everyone. God’s Word says, “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22). This is the church impacting our community with the love of Christ. Second, seeing Darin share his testimony with all the men is powerful. Darin tells the men that he did not have a good relationship with his dad growing up. It wasn’t until he discovered a relationship with his heavenly Father later in life that he and his dad were able to have a relationship. Darin shares his love for God and his desire to see dads connect with their sons. “This is why I spend hundreds of hours doing this,” he shares with the men. This takes boldness, courage and passion. I am so thankful for Darin’s heart for the Lord. Third, all the proceeds from the Father & Son Bowl go to two amazing organizations: JMI (Justice and Mercy International) and FrankTown Open Hearts. Both of these organizations work with fatherless boys – one here in our community and the other internationally. I love this!

Finally, what I love most about the Father & Son Bowl is watching the faces of the kids. For many, this is their favorite day of the year! They are playing football with their dad (or, grandfather, mentor, neighbor – someone who believes in them and invests in them). You can see it on their faces – their smiles, the joy – they are valuable and important. To watch these kids score their first touchdown and everyone on both teams, as well as the sidelines, erupt with cheering is simply priceless.fathersonbowl- son on shoulders fathersonbowl- running

Check out some of these posts:

As far as my son is concerned THIS was the Super Bowl. He was up before the sun was because he didn’t want to be late. Big fun and priceless memories! And already talking about next year’s bowl game.
 
My boys had an awesome time! Stephen couldn’t say enough what a great and well-run event it was! 
 
Colby’s 1st touchdown at 5 1/2 yrs old!! Big news in the Barone house. As Jett would say “touchdown baby!!”
 
A special day with my close friends and all our sons at the 2014 Father Son Bowl!!
 
Happy Birthday to Michael! He is starting his birthday playing in his first Father and Son Bowl with Colin. They are both so excited! Wonderful memories will be made today! So blessed!
I love what God is doing in and through His people at Rolling Hills. Days like this make everything so clear. We’re not called to simply talk about church, but we’re called to be the church in our community. We are called to share the love of Christ with others. There is nothing like being a part of what God is doing. All glory to our great God for lives that have been impacted for Christ through the Father & Son Bowl. What a joy to see Him impact lives with His joy and love!

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Launch of a New Campus – Rolling Hills South Nashville

Guest Post by my wonderful, amazing wife Lisa after the launch of Rolling Hills South Nashville yesterday:

How do I put into words my thoughts about today and the launch of Rolling Hills South Nashville? Here’s an attempt:

1. Thankful! I’m so thankful for God’s provision, protection and blessing of Rolling Hills over the past 11 years. Through every step God has gone before us and provided beyond our wildest dreams. Today was another amazing example of that.

2. Grateful! I’m so grateful for the many friends that God has brought along the way through Rolling Hills’ journey. Those that were there in the very beginning at the Alara Farms Clubhouse and those that are with us today. The journey is much lighter and sweeter when shared with others.

3. Proud! As we walked into RH South Nashville today, I was so proud. From the greeters in the parking lot to the children’s workers, the band, the signage, the sound, the preaching, the set-up and tear-down. Everyone was so kind, welcoming and excited. Everything was done professionally and with excellence. Great job South Nashville team – you did an excellent job today. I left wanting to come back next week and my kids said the same thing.

4. Excited! There is just an awesome excitement about being a part of a church plant. There really is nothing like it. There’s almost a greater boldness to invite neighbors and complete strangers to a new work. The feeling of anticipation of God showing up and doing something new and great is just an awesome thing to experience and be a part of both then and now. I can’t wait to see all that God is going to do in and through RH South Nashville.

5. A little sad. As I walked down the halls and looked around the room at so many familiar faces of people that I have come to love over the years, I have to admit that I’m a little sad that I won’t be seeing these faces every week. I completely support, believe in and I’m fully in but I am going to miss seeing my friends on a week to week basis. We will visit often. :

6. Humbled. I remember saying to Jeff many years ago, “If we do this and it fails, then we’ll just do something different. But if we don’t do this, then we’ll never know what God would have done.” I can’t imagine missing out on this journey.  I am so, so very humbled that God has allowed me to be a part of this and allowed me to see all that He has done. It makes me wonder how many times I’ve said “no” to God and missed out on a huge blessing.

Jason, David and the entire RH South Nashville team – I’m so thankful you said yes to God’s call. We walk proudly beside you and can’t wait to see all that God will do and we eagerly anticipate hearing the stories and meeting the new faces that will become your/our new family and friends. Such an exciting day. I’m so thankful that I got to experience it with you. I’ll be praying for you my family and friends!!!!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!Ephesians 3:20-21

God’s Math: From 5 to 27

I love God’s math! His math is not like our math – His math is “immeasurably more.”

Soon after we, as His church at Rolling Hills, moved into the WareHouse, we started to pray about 5 acres of the land to the north of us for future growth. We thought it would be great to have some land for green space, children’s playground and some future parking. At the time, the owners quoted us a price of $300,000 per acre since it was away from the main road. Obviously, this was more than we could afford. The 5 acres was a part of a total of 27 acres. The entire 27 acres carried an asking price of $8,500,000. One night I was standing in the home of Steve Craver, one of our godly lay-leaders at church, and Steve said, “Jeff, God is going to give us all 27 acres.”

Over the next 3 years, we have continued praying and watching. We periodically made more inquires about buying 5 acres, but it just never seemed to go anywhere. But, at the end of 2012, God did an incredible miracle.

By His grace, we were able to buy our own loan on our building back at a discount from the FDIC. In one night, 2.8 million dollars was gone. Then, this past September of 2013, we found out that the land was going into foreclosure – all 27 acres. The current owners had not paid on the land, so it was reverting back to the original owners. We did not know what would happen at this point. Jason Holwerda, a wonderful lay-leader of our Land & Facilities Team, showed up for the scheduled foreclosure at the courthouse and met the attorney of the estate. The attorney said he would talk with this people and they would let us know if they were interested in selling.

The next week we received a call that they were interested, but they only wanted to sell all 27 acres – they did not want to break it up. We asked for a price. They said that the family who owned it only wanted the money that they paid for it years ago out of it, so the entire 27 acres would be $2,350,000. This was an unbelievable price! For instance, we would be paying about $1.80 a square foot whereas land down the street is listed at $9.50 a square foot (they probably will not get $9.50 a square foot, but it does give us some perspective).

We drew up a contract and sent it off to the owners. We did not hear anything for a week or so – we knew something was up. Finally, the Executor of the Estate called and said that one of the owners had changed her mind and now she did not want to sell. The attorney and the Executor deeply apologized because they felt they had misrepresented her intentions to us. We were bewildered, but we knew God was in control. He was the One making everything happen in the first place. If He wanted us to have it, then He would provide.

After a couple of weeks, the head of our Land & Facilities Team called the Executor. The Executor told us, “You guys must have been praying, because yesterday this deal was dead. Dead as a doornail. Now, today, both owners wants to sell and they want to close by the end of January because they need money for a new house.” We were shocked and excited at the same time.

We only have three weeks to close, and there is a lot to do. From surveys to appraisals, there are still many things that need to come together. But, as only God can, everything seems to be lining up. By God’s grace, we had already arranged financing (before we knew they might not sell), so when they asked for an earlier close date we were ready. A bank has stepped up, given us a great interest rate, and now we are just waiting for the appraisal and closing documents to be executed. We are continuing to pray for whatever God wants in this situation. This is His church, and He continues to do miracles!

We are not sure what all God will want us to do with this property. Obviously, we will need future parking because God is continuing to grow His church. Also, we know we want a children’s playground, green space and possibly sports fields for our community. In addition, there may be an opportunity to sell off part of the road-frontage to help pay for the rest of it. We are not exactly sure, but we know God has a plan.

As Steve said, “Jeff, God is going to give us all 27 acres!” From a refinance one year ago and 2.8 million gone, to the land being foreclosed on in 2013 and the price for all 27 acres being 2.35 million; I would have to agree and say, “Yes, God is giving us all 27 acres.”

I love my God, and I love His math! Watch the church announcement here!

Reflections of 2013

A New Year always grants the opportunity to reflect on the past year as well as anticipate the future. As I reflect on 2013, I do so with a grateful heart. What an amazing year, and all glory to our great God. The year began with an unexpected flight to London to be with John Pac. I will never forget the “holy moment” of being with this incredible man of God on his last full day of life here on this earth. Through his passion and generosity, he passed his mission work in the Amazon – 14 schools, a million dollar community center and the Discovery Boat – to Justice & Mercy International (the non-profit that Rolling Hills began just five years ago). The work is going great and continuing to prosper. Honoring John’s legacy for Christ in the work to the poor will always be a driving encouragement to me. We are truly surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses” as we live our lives each day.

In addition, 2013 was a year of transformation. I celebrate what God is doing in the lives of so many precious orphan children in Moldova. On our mission trip this summer, I was blown away at the teenagers in our Transitional LIving Program and how well they are doing physically and spiritually. Lives are literally being saved for God’s glory. Case in point: Maria. This precious orphan girl from Moldova was brought here by Steve & Lynn Hendrich. Maria was blind, but by the grace of God (and through the very generous work of Dr. Ming Wang), she can now see! Wow! This is New Testament miracle level. Along with physical transformation, I love seeing spiritual birth. By God’s grace, we saw more people baptized at Rolling Hills than any year before. In fact three men, who are dear to me and who I have been praying for several years, were all baptized in 2013. Praise be to our God! Now I need to add some people to my prayer list for 2014. Thank You, Lord!

Looking back, I experienced some amazing times of growth this past year. Our Biblical Study Tour in Israel was an awesome time to grow deeper in God’s Word and His story. I feel I am learning more and more about Biblical Jewish culture, the major and minor prophets and the “in-grafted branch.” My love and appreciation for the sacrifice and security of Christ grows daily. In addition, the Global Leadership Summit gave me a deeper conviction of communicating the love and grace of Christ in a way that is relevant to our world today. As Moshea, my Jewish Pharisee friend said, “Our God is not just the God of the past, but the God of the now.” As a disciple of Christ today, and a part of God’s progressive story of redemption, I have a call to share His love with my generation. I pray He finds me faithful and giving my best for His glory.

Time with my wonderful, beautiful and amazing wife grows sweeter through the years as well as time with my daughters. I love being a husband and father. I find that as the girls grow older, our conversations about Christ, God’s Word and life are deeper and richer. I know God has an incredible plan for each of them. I long as a father to invest in them well. Our vacations this year were so fun. As a family, we laugh a lot, pray together and simply enjoy being together. I pray my girls know that God and I will always love them.

Along with my girls, I also celebrate the amazing people God has placed in my life. 2013 allowed me time with all of my closet friends. I am so blessed with dear friends from high school and college. Friendships in Christ that grow stronger through the years. Along with these amazing men, God surrounds with me with godly men at church. Awesome men that I love locking arms with and serving our God together. In addition, we have an incredible Staff Team that God continues to grow. Both on the Rolling Hills side and JMI, I am blessed to serve with people who are godly, gifted, passionate and dedicated to Christ. From our Staff Team to our Board, Finance, Land & Facilities and A6 (Acts 6 Servant/Leaders) teams, God has surrounded me with awesome friends, fellow servants, supporters and encouragers. I am blessed beyond measure!

However, as I reflect on last year, not everything was easy. The passing of Lisa’s dad (“Paw Paw” to my girls) was a challenging time. This Christmas was truly different for Lisa as both of her parents are now in heaven. However, I am thankful for the strong legacy in Christ they have passed on to our family. Also, walking with my dad through his health challenges was difficult as well. I love my parents, and I am so thankful for them. It is a strange feeling to watch your parents grow older. I want to be a great son to them just like they were great parents to me. In addition, walking with dear friends as their parents passed on to the next life is something that is so important. Everything stops in times of crisis, and I pray I can walk with people well through these times of life.

I praise my God for an awesome year. A year of love, of growth, and of Kingdom-impact. As great as 2013 was, I feel God is preparing for an even greater 2014. Through His Holy Spirit, I have this inner-sense that God is setting the table for something great through His church and through JMI. I know there will be hardships, but I can’t wait to see what God will do. I simply pray that I will hold on to Jesus, love people well, and bring glory to the God I love so much! Thank You, Father, for 2013 and I submit my life to You for 2014 and beyond!