Tagged spiritual growth

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2016 – The Year of Immeasurably More

2016 – What a year, and what a God! This has truly been the year of “Immeasurably More.” When I think about what God has accomplished in my life as well as at Rolling Hills Community Church and through Justice & Mercy International, I am simply in awe of Him. What all has God accomplished in your life this year?

Here are my Top Ten God-Experiences of 2016:

  1. Kate’s Baptism – baptizing my youngest daughter on Father’s Day – as a parent, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
  2. By God’s grace, was able to share the story of life-transformation through God’s church with others through a book called Immeasurably More – It has been amazing to see God transforming people’s lives for His glory and I love the stories of His people that can be read about in the book.
  3. Watched God provide the funds for another Transitional Living Home in Moldova – we have 10 precious orphan girls and a house mother ready to go into this new home.
  4. Church packing 108,000 meals for Haiti – I got to serve with 500 volunteers from church to pack this many meals, mostly for children in Haiti after the hurricane.
  5. Biblical Study Tour to Israel – I journeyed with a team of 25 from church for 2 weeks throughout Israel with our guide, Yoni. It sure is life-impacting to see the Bible come to life.
  6. Mission Trip to Moldova – a wonderful experience every summer, but this year was extra special with our Transitional Living Home Graduation Celebration.
  7. Pastor’s Conference in the Amazon – I thank God for my time with these amazing pastors and their wives for a week as well as the incredible team from the States. God’s mercies stretch beyond measure.
  8. Vacation with my girls – from taking my oldest daughter, Grace, to Washington D.C. for her 12th birthday to new places with the five of us, we had the best time! I love my family and am blessed to be their husband and dad.
  9. Father & Son Bowl extra day for the fatherless – the Father & Son Bowl is a highlight every year, but adding the extra day for the fatherless was the perfect next step for this amazing ministry.
  10. Wedding vow renewal for Dolly & Carl – an unexpected addition this year, but it was so special to officiate at Dolly Parton and Carl’s 50th Anniversary Wedding Vow Renewal. I am thankful for their marriage & influence.

Praise God for each of these moments, as well as His many other incredible blessings! It wasn’t all easy, however: 2016 was also a tough year in that my dad went home to be with Jesus. I truly miss him, but I know that he is experiencing the “Immeasurably More” life in heaven…right now! I am so proud and thankful for him.

This is my Top Ten – what about yours? What did you see God do in your life this year?

I pray your 2017 is even better. I pray you press into God even more, and see Him do miracles. I pray that you grow in your love for Him and for those around you. I actually pray that 2017 is your best year yet! Stay strong in the Lord. Give Him praise and follow Him all the days of your life. He is with you and He is for you.

Praise God for 2016 and blessings on you in 2017!

In Christ,

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“What is This?” | Everyday Manna from Heaven

The Old Testament is all about God preparing His people for the Messiah. It’s a people longing for people and the story of a God of salvation and deliverance. This is so clear as God, through 10 plagues, delivers His people from slavery in Egypt and takes them on a journey, through the desert, to the Promised Land. Along the way, God teaches His people to trust Him.

Now, sustaining a million-plus people in a desert for 40 years is not a small undertaking. But, God. God supplies their every need. He gives them “manna” (this bread-like substance from heaven for their food and nourishment), quail and even water from a rock. Manna literally means “what is this?” for when the manna showed up, the people were surprised and had no idea what it was. Yet, God sustained His people with manna, and He grew their faith in Him.

Exodus is the most powerful book on salvation in the Old Testament.

Now, fast forward to the New Testament.

Mark begins his gospel not with the birth narrative, but he immediately moves to Jesus’s earthly ministry. In Mark 1, Jesus is teaching at the synagogue in Capernaum. It says, “The people were amazed at His teaching, because He taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:22) During His teaching time, Jesus heals a man from an evil spirit. Then it says, “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this?’ A new teaching – and one with authority!” (Mark 1:27)

“The Torah” – the first five books of the Old Testament – does not simply mean “The Law,” but is better understood as “The Teaching.” Jesus came and taught in a different way than the “teachers of the law.” Jesus was concerned about the people – physically and spiritually. He came not only to bring deeper insights into the Law, but to bring life to the people through the Teaching. Salvation. Life-sustaining and transforming salvation.

The contrast was so evident that the people realized this was different. “What is this?” – this is what they longed for. This was what the entire Old Testament journey was preparing them for. This is life that was truly life. Not religion (the Law) but a relationship (the Teaching and the Teacher). The One who came to fulfill the law and to bring life – physical and spiritual.

Our story mirrors the journey of the Israelites.

We all stand in need of salvation. We long for physical sustenance and spiritual life. Jesus told the people in John 6:34, “I am the bread of life. he who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” Jesus meets our deepest needs. When we were slaves to sin, Jesus brought deliverance. He sustains physically in the wilderness while He leads us to the Promised Land. He is the “author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Are we still amazed at His goodness in our lives? Do we thank God every day for the bread He gives us to eat that sustains us physically? Jesus even teaches us in the model prayer to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Everything we have comes from Him – daily He meets our physical needs. And, are we still amazed at His Teaching? Are we hungry for God’s Word and are we growing spiritually? Jesus came to teach not simply for knowledge, but that we might have life. His teaching is meant to draw us to the heart of a God who provides healing and salvation for us. How amazing that the Israelites waited for the Messiah and Jesus is born in Bethlehem. The name Bethlehem literally means, “House of Bread.” Jesus meets our deepest physical and spiritual needs. He truly is “the bread of life.”

Never lose the wonder of what God is doing in you. Just as the Israelites were surprised and overjoyed for the manna, and the people of Capernaum were amazed and overwhelmed by His Teaching. So, let’s be a people who never lose the sense of awe that comes when we realize that the God of all Creation sent His Son into the world to save us. Stay hungry for His teaching and see your life sustained, but also transformed.

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Kate’s Baptism

I’d like to share this with you!

I love being a dad, and this past Sunday was such a great celebration for our family as our youngest daughter, Kate, was baptized! At Rolling Hills we endeavor to do a video for each person being baptized talking about their salvation experience. For Kate’s video, Tom, our expert video directer, added footage of her actual baptism. I want to share this with you, and with the whole world! I am so thankful for the salvation we receive in Christ Jesus. He is our Hope and Life. And, when your child experiences this – there is nothing better.

I am humbled at what our God is doing, and thankful to serve Him with each of you. Thank you for the difference you make in my life, our family, God’s church and in His Kingdom. To our great God be the glory!

With a full heart and much love,

Jeff

 

Why This Father's Day is So Special

Why This Father’s Day is Special

Father’s Day is always a special day. In our home, my girls spend weeks making cards and working together on choreographing a song-and-dance. On Sunday afternoon, after church and some lunch, we all gather in the living room where the girls sing their songs, share their cards and give lots of hugs and kisses. It is always special.

This Father’s Day will be even more special. Yes, we will have time for the dances and cards, but also something more: we will be celebrating our youngest daughter, Kate’s, baptism! For the past two years, Kate has been asking spiritual questions. Seeing her sisters come to know Christ personally, being in church, and the times of talking about Jesus at home have been preparing her heart.

_MG_2642cAs Christian parents, we begin laying the spiritual foundation in our children when they are born. Through the books we read, the songs we sing, the prayers we pray and attending church. Lisa and I have been reading the Bible together with our girls since they were babies. We have moved from a “Read to Me Rhyme Bible” to the “Jesus Storybook Bible” as our children have grown. Every night we pray with them and over them. And, they have been at church since their first Sunday in this world. Through all of this, we have prayed for our God to draw each of our girls’ hearts close to His and that they would come to know Jesus personally. Not just about Jesus, but to have a life-long relationship with Him.

_MG_0505By God’s grace, each of our oldest two children have committed their lives to Christ and been baptized as an outward expression of their faith. As Kate, our youngest, started asking these questions, we knew God was working in her heart. As a parent, you feel this tension of wondering if your kids are too young to understand, but at the same time not wanting to stifle the Spirit of God’s work in their life. As our children start asking spiritual questions, it is important to take those seriously. Responding to their questions – not blowing them off. It is okay to say, “I don’t know. Let me find out and get back to you.” Making this a priority and being excited about their spiritual sensitivity.

_MG_1725As Kate started asking more and more questions, we prayed about managing this tension. Not wanting to do this too early and then her coming back five years later and wanting to do this “for real.” But, also not wanting to squelch what God is doing in her life and leaving her discouraged. As our discussions became more and more frequent, we signed up for the Kids Baptism Information Class at church. This class helps children process what God is doing in their life, and it helps parents with key concepts (like sin and salvation) that we want to help our children understand.

Kate prayed and asked Christ into her life several months ago – she was ready. It was so obvious God was working in her life. When we asked her about baptism, she said she wanted to be baptized on Father’s Day. We gave her other options, but she was adamant. As a dad, I can’t tell you how much this means. I have had the honor, privilege and joy to baptize my oldest two and now to baptize Kate on Father’s Day is incredibly special. As parents, we celebrate this spiritual marker – make a big deal!

I am so thankful for all the people who have partnered with Lisa and I in Kate’s spiritual journey. From her grandparents to her sisters and her teachers at church. From her first Sunday morning in the baby room at church to preschool worship and children’s ministry and community group. So many people have encouraged her and prayed for her.

I jokingly told Lisa, “My job as a dad is over – all my girls will have been baptized and I will have taught them all to ride their bikes! Now, you can take over and talk to them about body changes.” In all seriousness, though, the role of a father never ends. Even when our kids grow up, they will always need a parent to pray with them, counsel them and encourage them. Baptism is just the beginning of Kate’s spiritual journey. I am so excited to see how God will use this wonderful girl for His glory!

What makes this Father’s Day even more special is that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and draws us to Himself through His Son, Jesus. He has saved all three of my daughters, and I am forever grateful. Our Heavenly Father deserves all the credit and the glory. I love my Heavenly Father. I love Him more every day, and I want to honor Him this coming Sunday, Father’s Day, and every day of my life.

_MG_5793In addition, this will be my first father’s day without my dad on this earth. I loved my earthly father so much, and I wish he could be here to see his granddaughter, Kate, being baptized. But, by the grace and mercy of my Heavenly Father, I know he will be watching this Sunday. He will be peering over the edge of heaven and staring down at a baptismal pool in Franklin, Tennessee. As Kate goes under the water, symbolizing her dying to her old way of life, and then as she comes up out of the water, symbolizing her new life in Christ, my dad will be high-fiving all of his friends and the angels in heaven. He will point to Kate, and then give all the glory to his Heavenly Father right there.

I am blessed to be a father. I am blessed to have a spiritual legacy that was passed down to me. Now, I have the opportunity to pass that legacy of faith in Christ on, and that is what makes this Father’s Day is so very special.