Grateful

The last couple of weeks have been a crazy blur of activity between moving and preparing for Easter. I wanted to pause today to celebrate God’s goodness and grace.

I am grateful for God’s provision. He has given us a wonderful house, in a neighborhood loaded with missionary opportunity, and at an affordable price. We’re excited to call Rock Hill home now and look forward to building our lives here.

I am grateful for our church. North Rock Hill Church has been so gracious in receiving us. You have also been a huge blessing as we have moved. We’ve had meals and groceries provided along with tons of help getting moved and settled. I am honored to be your pastor, we’re honored to join you, and we’re thrilled about what is ahead.

I am grateful for our staff and volunteers. You pushed and worked very hard to prepare for a challenging Easter schedule and you pulled it off masterfully. 5 services, 5 teams of volunteers, lots of new volunteers, lots of new attenders…you guys were incredible and I am very proud of you!

I am grateful for the way the people of NRHC invited friends to Easter at North Rock Hill. There were a ton of new attenders at NRHC this weekend and so many of them were invited by NRHC partners and attenders. That is awesome! Keep the relationship and conversation going and invite them back this week!

I am grateful for the many people who trusted Jesus as Savior last weekend. In every service, there were multiple people who indicated they had trusted Jesus as Savior! They walked in dead in their sin and walked out ALIVE IN CHRIST! That is a transformation that will impact generations to come in their lives and families. And that NEVER GETS OLD!

I am grateful for God’s strength and healing. I came down with a crazy stomach bug after our two Saturday night services. I was up all night and somehow, by God’s grace, made it through the 3 Sunday morning services. Our middle daughter had it as well. I am just now getting over that crazy thing!

I am grateful for my family. They have been so resilient with this transition. The girls have made fast friends in Rock Hill and Lara Beth has been incredible throughout the process. And, I am grateful for LB’s parents and my Mom who have been invaluable in helping us pack, move, and unpack.

Most of all, I am grateful for Jesus. He is ALL…and I am learning to rest in that more and more as He stretches me as a disciple, husband, dad, and pastor.

So, that’s a few of the big reasons I am grateful today. I’m sure you have seen God at work in and around you as well. Take some time today to celebrate God’s goodness and express your gratitude.


How to Prepare for Easter at North Rock HIll

It’s hard to believe, but Easter at North Rock Hill is almost here! We have been praying for and planning for this weekend for a long time. I can’t wait to see how God is going to move as we gather to worship Jesus, our risen Savior and King!

As we get ready for the big weekend, there are 3 things I want you to know:

  1. THANK YOU for your response to the Saturday service options! Because of your generosity, we have more seats for more people at the most popular times on Sunday morning. We have a few tickets remaining for all services, so if you still need tickets for you or for guests, you can download them here or stop by the office this week.
  2. You need to bring your ticket with you to the service you are attending. We will have a basket at each entrance to collect tickets as you and your guests enter the auditorium.
  3. As long as seats are still open, we will have tickets available before each service for people who show up without a ticket. The tickets have helped tremendously in planning and in adding value, so we have a good idea of how many people are coming and how many seats are available in each service.

Now, 3 things I want you to do this week to prepare for Easter weekend:

  1. PRAY :: I’m not saying that because it’s the Christian thing to say. I really mean it – we need to pray for the presence and power of God to fill every service this weekend. Pray for God to open hearts to the gospel and to change lives this weekend. Also, pray for our staff and volunteers as they lead and serve.
  2. SERVE :: If you are not involved in serving at North Rock Hill, this would be an incredible weekend to start. With the larger crowds and additional services, we need more people to serve. There is a place for you to get involved and make a difference in people’s lives - greeting, parking lot, kids, etc. If you are able and available to serve during a service, click here to get signed up. THANK YOU!
  3. INVITE & BRING::  One of the biggest reasons why we used tickets for Easter at North Rock Hill was to help you invite your friends. Your response has been incredible – so many of you have invited and will be bringing guests with you this weekend. If you haven’t invited anyone or just aren’t sure what to do, check this post out for some ideas.

Over the last several weeks, we have seen numerous people responding to the gospel and experiencing the transforming power of God at work in their lives. I believe that is going to happen in many, many people’s lives this weekend. By praying, serving, and inviting, you get to be a part of what God is doing to transform lives!

Pray for God to change lives, invite and bring your friends and family, and come expecting a move of God as we celebrate Easter at North Rock Hill. I can’t wait – see you this weekend!


How to Invite People to Easter at North Rock Hill

If studies are correct, then over 80% of your friends who are not Christians or do not attend church are at least open to and likely to respond favorably to your invitation to church for Easter. In anticipation of what God is going to do and to create more room to invite more people, North Rock Hill will have five identical Easter services - 4:30pm and 6:00pm on Saturday and 8:30am, 10:00am, and 11:30am on Sunday.

A lot of you grabbed extra tickets with the intention of inviting friends and family. By the time you got home or printed the tickets, the fear had already begun to set-in. What if they say no, what if they punch me in the face, what if they cuss me out, what if inviting them hurts our friendship…all these thoughts may have run through your head.

Let me encourage you to push out of your comfort zones and fight through the doubts to invite your friends this weekend. Your invitation just might pave the way for God to change their lives.

If you had tickets for choice seats to see your favorite sports team play, you would have no problem inviting people to join you. This is really no different…but it is because what Jesus has done for us is WAY more important than anything teenagers or grown men/women have ever done with a ball or a puck!

Here are some practical ways you can invite friends to Easter at North Rock Hill:

  1. Pray for people by name  each day. Trust that God is already at work in their lives. Ask Him to soften their heart.
  2. Share a meal or a cup of coffee with your friend and give the ticket during or afterwards. Or, you could invite their family over for a meal in your home and invite them. Serve them well.
  3. Offer to pick them up to ride together to church or offer to meet them in the parking lot so you can walk in and sit together.
  4. Talk about Easter at North Rock Hill on Facebook and Twitter. Aim for at least one status update per day that would include an invite and a link to the Easter at North Rock Hill page on our website.
  5. Walk through your neighborhood and invite people who are out working in the yard, playing outside, out for a walk, etc.
  6. Put some tickets on your desk, your coffee table, your car console, etc. where people will see them and ask you about them.
  7. Keep tickets with you all the time and be ready to step up when the opportunity pops up!

The point is this - God can use your invitation to radically transform a life. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to invite your friends to hear and respond to the gospel on Easter weekend. 100% of the people you don’t invite will not attend. But, my guess is a high percentage of those you do invite WILL attend.

I’m praying for you as you invite your friends and people you cross paths with this week. And, I am praying that the people we invite will hear and respond to the gospel this weekend!


Why We’re Using Tickets for Easter Services

You’re used to having to have a ticket to attend a sporting event, a concert, or a movie. But, tickets for church? Seems a little weird to have a ticket to attend church, doesn’t it?

This year, we are offering tickets to attend our Easter services at North Rock Hill. We are offering 5 services - 4:30pm and 6:00pm on Saturday, April 7, and 8:30am, 10:00am, and 11:30am on Sunday, April 8. We are praying for God to do great things and for many lives to be changed by the power of the gospel.

So, why are we offering tickets? Here are a few reasons (list adapted from Tony Morgan):

  1. We want to be sure we have seats for you to invite your friends and family. Crowds are larger on Easter weekend and if everyone showed up to the same service, we wouldn’t have near enough seats. Offering tickets will help spread out the crowd so we have more seats for more people.
  2. Tickets will make it easier to invite your friends. By far the number one reason a person attends a church is because a friend invited them. Having a ticket with all the info on it will make it easier for you to invite your friends.
  3. Tickets communicate value. Each ticket represents a seat. When you invite your friends, you’re saying, “I have reserved a seat just for you.”
  4. Tickets communicate that Easter at North Rock Hill is open to the community. You may not realize this, but many of your friends who do not attend church do not assume they can come anytime. Many of them feel like they need to be invited in order to attend…not just Easter, but any Sunday.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Pick the service you and your family will attend.
  2. Get tickets for you and your family. Yes, we need you to get tickets for yourself, too.
  3. Get tickets for friends you want to invite.
  4. Invite, invite, invite and pray, pray, pray – ask God to move powerfully in the lives of those you invite!

You can get your tickets online, on Sundays at the Information Booth, or at the office during the week. I can tell you now that a couple of the services are starting to fill up, so get your tickets soon.

Please understand…all of this is in an effort to reach more people with the gospel. We’re pretty big on seeing lives transformed by the gospel, so we want to do everything we can to create space and opportunity for that to happen.

Get your tickets, invite your friends, and pray for God to move powerfully on Easter weekend at North Rock Hill!


Three Years

In many ways, it seems like yesterday. In others, it seems like it was 100 years ago. Sometimes, it seems like it’s not even real. Still.

Three years ago today, my Dad passed from this life and into eternity with Jesus. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him, miss him terribly, and wish so much to talk with him.

A friend counseled me after my Dad died that I’ll never truly “get over” losing my Dad. Life just has a new reality and times of sorrow and grieving will pop up randomly. He was right.

But, those times of grieving and sorrow are not a dead end. They are an invitation.

In May 2000, my Dad’s life and our family’s life changed forever. My Dad was diagnosed with cancer and given a very minimal chance of beating it. Of course, our initial reaction was absolute devastation. I feared for how my Dad would respond. My greatest fear was that he would get so angry at God that he would just give up.

The opposite happened. For the first time in his life, something was wrong that he couldn’t fix. He knew very well he couldn’t fix it. And it wasn’t just cancer.

For the first time in my life, I heard my Dad confess that he was helplesshelpless to fix his body and helpless to cover his sin. Rather than turning away in anger, my Dad turned to Jesus in humility and brokenness. God saved and healed my Dad spiritually. And then He healed him physically.

In May 2001, my Dad was cancer free. New life spiritually and new life physically. God gave us 8 more wonderful years with my Dad. In so many ways, God compressed the wasted previous years and opportunities of my Dad’s life and gave him the opportunity to make things right. That was the theme of 2001-2009 – making things right.

I saw my Dad love and serve my Mom like I never had before. For the first time in my life, I knew I had his love and support no matter what. My Dad became my trusted mentor and friend. It wasn’t always perfect because he and I are very different. But, I grew to love and respect my Dad deeply.

I saw my Dad love and enjoy his granddaughters. I got to shake his hand and receive his congratulations when our two oldest daughters were born. A Dad congratulating his son who just became a Dad…priceless.

I saw my Dad love others he had struggled to love. I saw him forgive others he had struggled to forgive. I saw him seek out old friends to make restitution. I saw him enjoy life, work, and rest. New life was flowing into and through him.

Three years ago on this day, my Mom and I held my Dad, surrounded by our family, while he breathed his last breath on this earth. Cancer had returned and his body was spent. As he took his final breaths, I had this vivid picture of what was next for my Dad. No more cancer. No more suffering. No more hospitals. No more tests. No more medication.

Jesus crushed death, cancer, Satan, and sin for my Dad. Death lost it sting. God’s grace won.

I had the high honor of preaching my Dad’s funeral. It was and will be the highest honor of my life because I got to brag on the immeasurable riches of the grace and mercy of God evidenced in my Dad’s life (Ephesians 2:1-10). I got to preach my Dad’s funeral as his son, friend, and brother in Christ. Only God!

I would have never picked cancer as God’s means of humbling my Dad. But I thank God that He does in fact work together all things…ALL things…for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory (Romans 8:28).

So, there is definitely sadness today. Tears have filled my eyes the entire time I’ve been writing this post. But, right behind the sadness is true joy.

While I grieve the three year anniversary of losing my Dad, I celebrate the three year anniversary of my Dad being with Jesus. I can’t wait to join him.


How Do I Make the Cut?

As part of our current sermon series, The Gospel, I invited our church to read through the gospels over the next 40 days. In today’s reading (Matthew 24-25), Jesus is teaching on His return with vivid imagery and language.

In chapter 24, He describes the suffering and tribulation that will precede His return and reveals the nearness of His return. Then, in chapter 25, He tells a series of parables to encourage His disciples and others to be prepared for His return.

Pretty intense stuff. Someone should write a series of novels about Jesus’ return and then make a movie about it with Kirk Cameron starring. Oh wait… :-)

For many of us, when we read Jesus’ words here, our panicked thought is, “What must I do so I make the cut when Jesus returns?” At first glance, it appears Jesus answers with increasing clarity in chapter 25.

He starts off talking about virgins and a bridegroom. Most of us say, “Huh?” Then, He talks about servants multiplying their master’s investment in them. Okay. “Still don’t get it,” we say. “Just tell us the answer, Jesus!

Then, it appears He gives us the silver bullet answer. In v. 31-40, it looks like Jesus says, “serve those in need and you’ll make the cut.” Ah ha…that’s it!

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give out bottled water
  • Donate clothes to Goodwill
  • Invite the lonely guy down the street over for dinner
  • Visit prisoners and sick people

So, we get to work. But, it’s not long into doing this work that we miss an opportunity…maybe lots of opportunities. And then we start to worry…“Am I going to make it? If Jesus comes back tonight, will I get in? Have I done enough?”

The good news is, Jesus never said, “Get to work so that when I return, you’ll make the cut.” His point here is the exact opposite: those who will be with Jesus do not get in because of what they have done for Jesus, but because of what Jesus has done for them.

The righteous are not welcomed into God’s kingdom because of their works of compassion; rather, their works of compassion are evidence that their hearts have been and are being transformed by Jesus. The righteous are declared righteous because they have trusted Jesus and His righteous life, wrath-bearing death, and victorious resurrection on their behalf.

As we abide in Jesus and His love for us, His heart, compassion, and life are reproduced in us. We live with compassion for others not so Jesus will accept us, but because we have already been accepted by Him. He lives in us and His life is reflected in our lives.

Those who are welcomed into Jesus’ kingdom are surprised at Jesus’ commendation for their compassion (v. 37ff). Weren’t they keeping score? Weren’t they totaling up all they had done for God so they could show Him they are worthy of Heaven? Nope. They were just living out the new life that comes when Jesus moves in.

I love that Jesus said, “When you served others, even though you didn’t even realize it, you were doing it for Me.” You don’t realize it because you don’t serve to gain God’s approval, but because you already have His approval.

So, how do you make the cut? Repent of your works, good and bad, and believe the gospel of Jesus. Then, rest in His love for you and live out the new heart He has given you knowing you are already accepted, approved, and secure in His kingdom.


Every Week is Somebody’s First Week

Over the last several weeks, we’ve seen a surge in the number of first time guests attending North Rock Hill on Sundays. This is an exciting trend and one that we want to see continue. One of the best ways to see the trend continue is to go over the top to serve our guests well and make it easy for them to get connected.

Every week is somebody’s first week…and every somebody has a story. We have no idea what is going on or what God is up to in their lives. We just know they are with us and now we have an opportunity to be a part of what God’s work.

The critical question for us to answer is, “Will we serve or ignore our guests?

Here are a few ways we all can be involved in serving our guests well:

  1. Be a “guerrilla greeter”. You don’t have to be an official member of the “greeter team” to greet new people. As you walk in the building, get coffee, check-in your kids, and sit in the auditorium, look for AND speak to new people. A simple hello, welcome, and introduction of yourself can go a long way.
  2. Offer a hand. If you see a family with small kids coming in with arms full of bags, jackets, etc., offer to carry a bag. If it’s raining, share your umbrella. If you see people who are unsure of where to go, walk them to the place they are trying to find.
  3. Scoot in. This is especially important in the 9:45 and 11:15 service when seats are at a premium these days. As you find a seat in the auditorium, scoot to the middle of the row to make it easy for late arrivers and for guests to find a seat on the ends of the rows.
  4. Come expectant and fully engage. One of the greatest proofs of the power of the gospel is our engagement in worship. Every Sunday when we gather for worship, we should come expecting God to move in our lives. This expectation leads us to fully engage – to be on time, to sing with passion, to receive the Word with gladness, and to respond to God in worship. There is no more powerful apologetic than God’s people passionately engaged in worshiping Him.
  5. Minimize distractions. Do everything you can to keep distractions to an absolute minimum. Visit the restroom before the service, arrive on time, stay to the end of the service, etc.

Walking into a church for the first time can really be a terrifying experience. We want to do everything we can to help our guests have a fantastic experience and most importantly, to experience God at work in their lives.

Every week is somebody’s first week. Every somebody has a story. Let’s serve them well and trust God to work!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.