Thursday, December 5, 2013

White Fat Albert: Friendships

Since this last year I have lost 55lbs. You could have called me the white Fat Albert. Here is a picture of me from Thanksgiving 2012 and a picture from Thanksgiving 2013.

I have had numerous people ask me how I did it. I changed my lifestyle with diet, working out and being accountable. For me the biggest thing was being accountable! There have been many, many times I have tried to eat right and exercise by myself and never succeeded. This past spring I started working out with a buddy in the mornings. We used an app where we shared our calorie intake, exercise routine and weight progression. Knowing that someone was following up, motivated me.

I am a relational person and have a heart for people to build relationships. Working out with other people motivated me. I think as a whole we don’t like the word “Accountable” or “Accountability.” But in my mind all “Accountability” is, is an open/honest relationship with someone or a group who will speak truth and encouragement into your life, not just the things you always want to hear.  Too many times we undervalued the importance of those relationships - whether it is with our spouse or our closest friends.  

I can look back through my life and see the importance of friends. My best friend in high school was instrumental in my becoming a Christian. He invited me to a church where I would eventually meet my wife. He was the best man in my wedding and we meet for breakfast quite a bit. I looked forward to those times.

I have a best friend from college who is just a spiritual rock! I was the best man in his wedding and I am amazed at what God is doing in his life. We don’t talk that much other then a few times a year, but when we do, we don’t miss a beat.

There is a family in Ohio who accepted this southern boy as one of their own. I have never met any people more open to God’s will in their lives as I have this family. They are truly like my brother and sister. We talk often and get to see each other about once a year.

My Pastor/friend /mentor/boss has a huge impact on me and speaks so much into my life. I am lucky to get to work with someone with whom I can have a relationship like that.

My wife, who is my best friend, can put up with so much. She is definitely a Proverbs 31: 25 Woman (She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.) Plus she is an awesome mom.

I point all of these out because the Bible has a lot to say about friendships and we see many examples: David & Jonathan (1 Samuel 18); Ruth & Naomi (Ruth 1); Elijah & Elisha (2 Kings 2:2); Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego (Daniel 2); Jesus, Mary, Martha & Lazarus (Luke 10:38); Paul, Priscilla & Aquila (Romans 16:3-4).

Here are some scripture to give us direction with evaluating our friendships:

The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.  Proverbs 12:26

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. Proverbs 17:17

There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 20:6

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable? Proverbs 20:6

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.  Proverbs 27:17

Value your friendships. Maybe there are some friends who need to be just acquaintances because they either bring too much drama, don’t value the truth, or they are not loyal.  They will make you duller instead of sharpening you.

You need some tension in order to have open and honest conversation. It makes you smell better (Proverbs 27:9) and makes you sharper (Proverbs 27:17). Iron doesn’t get sharper without the friction of the stone. Here is the thing about friendships. It never means there will be no conflict or disagreements. It opens up the pursuit to find the truth.

If you are lonely, maybe start being a friend first by applying the above scriptures to your life. Understand that our ultimate and best friend is God because He has given us so much before we even accepted His friendship. Start with that relationship first and see what wonderful people He will bring into your life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Suspicious Marriage

Several weeks ago I listened to a Pod Cast from Andy Stanley talking about culture in your work place. He is one of my favorite leaders whom I listen to quite often. This particular pod cast has been ringing in my ears ever since I listened to it. The topic was, “Do You Have a Culture of Trust or a Culture of Suspicion?”

In a Culture of Suspicion there is never the benefit of the doubt, always finger pointing, no real honesty, always excuse making and you never get to the truth or the heart of the matter.

In a Culture of Trust there is the benefit of the doubt given in the same way you want it given to you, there is real honesty, you defend each other and you work hard to keep the trust.

I shared this in our staff meeting last week and since then it made me wonder: “What if I applied this to my marriage?” Not that I am suspicious of my wife but what if I gave her the benefit of the doubt in everything? I defended her and worked hard to keep the trust between us. I decide to believe the best in her. How would this transform my marriage?

If I have a culture of trust in my marriage, when conflict arises, it becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth in finding the best possible answer. Not if I win or Courtney wins but we both win. There is no win/lose in marriage because if one spouse loses you both lose.

In my marriage I have to do everything possible to be trustworthy. I have to let my yes be yes and my no be no. I have to be honest about my faults and mistakes. I have to take ownership of my misgivings. I have to work to maintain that trust.

Here is what happens when you don’t have a “Marriage of Trust”: you begin to live the Elvis Presley song, “Suspicious Minds.” No one wants to live in trap of suspicion. Nothing you ever say or do is right. You are caught in a vicious, unending circle of finger pointing at each other, doubt, and the flame of love is smothered out.

A choice needs to be made. I must decide to create a marriage of trust where I give my spouse the benefit of the doubt, I defend my spouse, I decide to believe the best in her and I will work hard at being trustworthy.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Microwave Moses

 I love the microwave. It is great at cooking preprocessed food and re-heating food. It is great at getting meals together quickly, but it is not good at cooking a Thanksgiving meal. The microwave, as great as it is, has made us impatient. We are a very impatient society - not just with food, but also with most things. We, including myself, want it all and want it now. We don’t want to go through the process of waiting. On the flip side - look at an Oak tree - it takes years and years to grow to maturity and lasts through generations. The same is true in our lives.

Let's look at the growth process of Moses' life:

For the first 40 years of his life growing up in Egypt, Moses had the best food, housing, education and training that there was, but he was not where God wanted him to be. The second 40 years of his life was spent in the desert with a bunch of sheep and cattle and that is where he experienced God. At 80 years old, God called Moses to lead his people. 80 YEARS OLD- that is double my age. 80 years of processing, 80 years of growing, 80 years of God working in his life. No microwave growth there.

Even at 80, Moses still didn’t feel ready to do what God called him to do. He questioned that, and instead asked God for his brother to help him (which later became a burden to him).

Here is the take away from this: Philippians 1:6 “And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ - developing and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.”

Even at 80 years old God was not done with Moses’ life. 40 more years leading a country with no land, to the place promised to them by God. In our own life, God will always be working on us. He never stops working on us.

We all have something to offer, something to do, no matter how old or young we are. The main thing is being patient, allowing God to work on, work in, and work through your life. We don’t want a microwave faith but an oak tree faith that will last for generations.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How did Moses do it?

Moses has been on my mind lately, mainly because of his leadership and relationship with God. I could not imagine leading ONE MILLION (close fist, extend pinkie, palm out and bring pinkie to lip) people for 40 years through the desert. These people saw many signs and wonders from God. They experienced daily miracles of being fed without labor, and yet they complained constantly!

How did Moses do it? How did he maintain his close relationship with God, “as a friend of God”? (Exodus 33:11  And the Lord spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend.)

To me, this is the key to how Moses was able to lead. He spoke to God as a friend. What an amazing picture! I have two people in my life that I talk to all the time, several times a day. There is not a day that goes by without me talking to them: my wife, Courtney, and my best friend, Steve.  They speak in my life; they say encouraging things to me, they also correct me, and let me know when I have been wrong in my thinking.

There are several things I want to point out about this relationship Moses had with God and it may take me several blog posts:

God uses other people to speak in your life. Moses constantly had people complain to him. Early on, Moses was the only judge Israel had. So day after day, people would bring him their problems for him to figure out. Could you imagine how this would weigh on you as ONE MILLION (close fist, extend pinkie, palm out and bring pinkie to lip) people bring their complaints to you day in and day out? Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, said that it was going to kill Moses, and that he couldn't do it alone. (Exodus 18).  So Jethro laid out a plan for Moses.

Moses listened to his father-in-law, and allowed him to speak in his life. But here are some key points we all need to remember:
1) The friends who speak in your life are looking out for you, 2) make sure what your friends say line up with what God is telling you.

Jethro said, “Hey Jack, I mean Moses, here is what you need to do - because if you don’t, you are going to kill yourself. “If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.””

Be careful of the people you let speak in your life, because they don’t always have the best intentions for you. Many times they can distract you from God.

More to come!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Udder Disaster

In this week’s Bible story, the Israelites grow impatient waiting for Moses to finish meeting with God (Exodus 32:1-35). They ask Aaron to build an idol for them to follow instead of God. When Moses returns to see them gathered around a golden calf, the Israelites immediately regret their impatience.

Our Bottom Line is: when you think you can’t wait, don’t forget what’s true. God had put Moses in charge of the Israelites and led them out of slavery. But in a moment of impatience, they forgot everything they’d experienced. From them, we can learn to be patient and trust the people in charge.

The monthly memory verse is, Wait for the Lord. Be strong and don’t lose hope. Wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14, NIrV When we start to lose hope, remembering the truth of what God has done will help us wait well.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Play it Cool. Trust it is worth the Wait!

From the very beginning, God has shown patience with people. All the way back in the garden, when Adam and Eve first chose their own way instead of God’s, God started His plan to give all of us a chance to come back to Him. And time and again, God is patient with us when we make daily choices that separate us from Him. He waits for us to turn back to Him.

As a fruit of the Spirit, patience is a foundational way that we reflect God’s character. When we show patience, we are less likely to hurt our relationships with others. We are more likely to trust that God has something better for us in the future.

Patience is waiting until later for what you want now. Waiting isn’t always easy. When having patience seems too difficult, the Lord will give us strength to wait. At its core, patience is fueled by faith. We trust that what we’re waiting for is best for us.

But patience is more than just waiting. It’s also about our attitude while we wait. A patient person can wait with joy even when the situation might be stressful or anxious. A patient person avoids searching or settling for a quick fix.

The monthly memory verse is: “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and don’t lose hope. Wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14, NIrV Sometimes it feels too hard to be strong while we wait, but our trust in God gives us the strength to wait well.

In yesterday's Bible story, Esau comes in from hunting and is very hungry (Genesis 25:24-34). Because he can’t wait, Esau ends up trading his entire inheritance for a full stomach. Our Bottom Line is: When you think you can’t wait, think twice. Don’t give up what’s best for something immediate.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Happy Together

In this week’s biblical principle, we learn that friends worship God together (Hebrews 10:25; Colossians 3:16). The early believers would meet in each other’s homes to worship God. They would sing praise songs, learn of Jesus’ teachings, and look for ways to help each other.

This habit of the early church was the foundation of Small Groups today. When we meet with our Small Groups, we worship God with our friends. Our Bottom Line is: friends worship with one another. So it is important for us to gather with our Small Groups on a regular basis.
The monthly memory verse is: A friend loves at all times. He is there to help when trouble comes.” (Proverbs 17:17 NIrV) We can worship God with our friends at all times, not just at church. Maybe you and your friends can help someone in your neighborhood or start a band that honors God with your songs. Worshiping God is always a great thing to do with your friends.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Together

In this week’s biblical principle, Paul teaches the Galatians to serve each other (Galatians 5:13b). He instructs the believers to use their new God-given freedom to care for the poor, widows, orphans, and others in need.

Our Bottom Line is: friends serve one another. When we get to spend time with our friends, we can serve them by thinking about what they would like to do, eating snacks they would like to eat, and looking for ways to help them.

The monthly memory verse is: A friend loves at all times. He is there to help when trouble comes.” (Proverbs 17:17, NIrV) The reason we look for ways to serve our friends is because we love them. Jesus showed us that loving our friends means serving them any time we get the chance. And many times, we can add new friends by serving people we might not consider to be our best friends.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tips for Helping Kids Survive Tragedy

When tragedy strikes, children respond in a variety of different ways. If your child has experienced any sort of loss, it’s important to help that child through the grieving process. True, there’s a big difference between being jilted by a boyfriend or girlfriend and sorting out feelings after a school shooting or a terrorist attack. But the process itself remains fairly consistent.
1. Allow your children to acknowledge the crisis. This may not take very long – or it may go on for weeks, depending on the event. But the first step in helping a child work through the grieving process is to encourage them to admit there’s a reason for grieving. This may be a bit unsettling to some kids. They like a sense of consistency and order in their lives. Help them to take ownership of the change.

2. Shelter your kids from graphic video and pictures. In our "24/7 live" news coverage from around the world, be aware that the graphic, often disturbing video and pictures - don't have to be part of conveying the "news" of what's happening to your children. My advice is that when tragic events occur – especially in the immediate aftermath – keep the television news programs off when your kids are around.

3. Give them the opportunity to respond to how they feel about the change. Kids are very creative in finding ways to express pain and grief. Encourage the use of the arts and music in particular. A poem about the event or how they feel about the aftermath can let the healing begin to flow in the life of a young person who can’t really put into words what’s happening in the hearts at that moment.

4. Reassure your kids - as best you can. Since we don't have control over natural disasters, or senseless acts of terror and violence, as parents, we shouldn't promise a child that we will protect them from any harm that such an event may bring. Our job here is to reassure them as best we can. If kids are worried about being caught up in a tragic event, we can tell them how unlikely it is to happen. And, of course, we can tell them, "Mom and Dad will do everything we can to always make sure you are safe from harm."

5. Don’t underestimate your kids’ spiritual depth. If you’ve ever wondered about what your children think about God or faith in Christ, you’ll probably find out in the wake of a crisis or trauma. Be prepared for questions about life and beyond you may never have heard from your child before. Kids really do want to talk about theological issues. Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring those questions to the forefront. Be ready—and don’t be surprised!

6. Do get the help they need. If you don’t have the answers to their questions, find someone who does. Be the grown-up and get the information. Put your pride on the shelf if you must. Your own self-esteem won’t be worth too much if it costs you credibility with your own child.

7. Give your kids something tangible to hold on to. My good friends John and Becky Hart serve a church in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. Their church is literally within eyeshot of what used to be the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York City. They saw and heard the 9/11 attacks from their neighborhood, and lost a couple of church members in the attacks. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Becky noticed the comfort her own daughter found in a small anchor she had given her. It served as a symbol that her faith in Jesus Christ was her anchor in the midst of the storm that resulted because of the terrorist actions. Crosses, doves, anchors and eagles all serve to remind us that we have a Friend like no other who will never leave us in times of trouble.

Remember the hope that lies in each one of us who believe in Jesus Christ and trust in His Name. Your kids will feel better about surviving a crisis when they see the confidence of God in you!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Write Stuff

In RiverKidz yesterday, our biblical principle comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:11a. Paul wrote these words to instruct his friends in Thessalonica to give each other hope, even though they faced persecution for their belief in Jesus.

Our Bottom Line or our main point is: Friends encourage one another. It’s important for friends to encourage each other with positive words; to cheer each other on when we’re tired or hurt.

Our memory verse is -->
“A friend loves at all times. He is there to help when trouble comes.” Proverbs 17:17, NIrV

Monday, April 8, 2013

Stuck Like Glue

At Jesus’ final meal, He spoke with His disciples about what it meant to have a lasting friendship with Him. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, NIV)

Days later, Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified on a cross to take the punishment for our sins, setting the example for ultimate friendship. But Jesus demonstrated friendship throughout His life. He walked alongside His friends. He helped their hurts. He never shied away from discussing important topics. He surprised them with acts of service.

Friendship is spending time with someone you trust and enjoy. Just as Jesus spent time with His friends so they could get to know Him better, we can build trust and have fun with our friends as we spend time with them.

But we often take friendship for granted. We have friend requests on Facebook and conversations through email that make us feel hyper-connected with anyone on the other side of the Internet connection. However, real friends are Stuck Like Glue and won’t let go when times get tough.
The monthly memory verse is: A friend loves at all times. He is there to help when trouble comes.” (Proverbs 17:17 NIrV). Everyone needs encouragement, especially in tough times. A friend will be ready with helpful words and simple actions to strengthen his friends.

In Week One’s Bible story, Paul writes to the believers in Rome teaching them about accepting one another (Romans 14:13; 15:7; Acts 9). Our Bottom Line is: Friends accept one another. Even if someone has different interests than us, has a different background, or makes a bad choice, we can still accept and help them.

Monday, March 18, 2013

All the Small Things


In this week’s Bible story, Zacchaeus was a thief and considered a traitor to his people (Luke 19:1-10) when he met Jesus. When Zacchaeus trusted Jesus, he decided to change to an honest life. But to earn his community’s trust, he had to make things right by repaying everything he had stolen, and then some.

When we admit we have not been truthful, we can earn back others’ trust. Our Bottom Line is: when you are truthful and make things right, you build trust. So often we think it’s going to pay to tell a lie and cost to tell the truth, but really it often costs to tell a lie and pays to tell the truth.

Our memory verse this month is: An honest person has respect for the Lord.” Proverbs 14:2a, NIrV Often our relationship with God helps us realize the areas in our life where we need more honesty. Apologizing to others and working to make things right not only builds trust with others, it shows our respect for God.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I’ve Got Truth Under My Skin

In our Bible story this week we meet Gehazi, Elisha’s trusted servant (2 Kings 5). When Elisha helps a high-ranking official, but will not accept payment, Gehazi lies to receive valuable gifts from the official. Then, when Elisha asks Gehazi about the gifts, he lies again to cover it up. Since Gehazi can no longer be trusted, he loses his health and the gifts he wanted so badly.

Our Bottom Line is: when you are not truthful, you lose trust. If we consistently use words that aren’t honest, people start to doubt if any of our words are true. When they doubt our words, it’s difficult to gain their trust. Honesty is also about living truthfully and acting on what we say.

Our memory verse this month is: An honest person has respect for the Lord.” Proverbs 14:2a, NIrV. A person who respects God uses truthful words, keeps their promises, and follows through with what they say. They earn the trust of others. Truthful words build stronger relationships with others and with God.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Moment of Truth

God told Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation of people and He did. God told the Israelites that He would provide for them in the desert and He did. God told Joshua that the wall of Jericho would fall if the people marched around it for seven days and it did. God told Mary that she would have a baby boy—she did.

Jesus said He would die and rise again three days later—He did!

Honesty is important because it builds trust. Honesty is choosing to be truthful in whatever you say and do. What God says is true; He has shown us that time and time again. And that’s one of the reasons we know we can trust God.

But the same should be true in our own lives. If we want other people to trust us, we need to live honest lives. When we tell the truth and we follow through with our promises, other people learn to trust us. But when we cover up who we are, what we’ve done, or we constantly break our promises, then the people around us stop trusting us. They begin to wonder if, in the Moment of Truth, can you be trusted?

The monthly memory verse is: “An honest person has respect for the Lord,” Proverbs 14:2a, NIrV. Living a life of honesty shows that we respect God and the people we care about. We can find a way to be truthful and still careful of the feelings of those we care about.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Negotiator

In Sunday's RiverKidz Bible story, Abigail intervenes (1 Samuel 25:1-35) when her husband picks a fight with David. Abigail immediately knew what was happening and made a plan to present gifts to David and calm his anger. Her quick action promoted peace between the two men.

Our Bottom Line is: prove you care about others by being part of the solution. Peace is sometimes about stopping an argument before it can escalate into something worse. Creating peace between two other people will take time and energy.

Our memory verse this month is: So let us do all we can to live in peace. And let us work hard to build each other up.” Romans 14:19, NIrV When friends are fighting, do all you can to encourage peace between them. Avoid gossip and taking sides. Help them find a peaceable solution so everyone can remain friends.

Monday, February 11, 2013

He Ain’t Hairy, He’s My Brother

Yesterday, the RiverKidz  Bible story was about how Jacob stole Esau’s birthright (Genesis 27, 31-33) taking his inheritance and his place in the family. It wasn’t fair that Jacob took everything from Esau, took his birthright and his family blessing though deceiving their father, but Esau eventually let go of his anger and forgave his brother. Our Bottom Line is: Prove you care about others by letting go of “what’s fair.” Preserving the relationship is more important. The application from the Bible Story is that we care more about each other then winning an argument.

This month's memory verse: So let us do all we can to live in peace. And let us work hard to build each other up. Romans 14:19

To read more about Jacob and Esau read Genesis 27:41-45; 31:3; 32:1-21; 33:1-11

Monday, February 4, 2013

Get Messy: It is Worth the Risk.

This month in RiverKidz we are talking about "Get Messy."

When sin entered God’s Magnificent Paradise, our relationship with Him was broken. God’s love for us was so great that He was willing to sacrifice to restore the relationship. God proved He cared about peace when He sent His Son to pay for our sins.

Peace is part of God’s character. And He wants us to reflect peace in our relationships with others. Peace is proving you care more about each other than about winning an argument.

Peace is more than just “not fighting” and saying the right things to keep people happy. Peace is living in a way that shows you care more about others than about being right. It’s about building strong relationships through mutual trust.

The monthly memory verse is: So let us do all we can to live in peace and let us work hard to build each other up, Romans 14:19, NIrV. That is exactly what God did for us when He sent Jesus to make peace with us. Peace cost Him something great, but out of His love for us, He gave His all.

In yesterday's Bible story, Isaac dug wells in his new land (Genesis 26:16-22, 26-31). When his new neighbors argued with him, he had every right to stay and fight but chose to walk away. Our Bottom Line is: Prove you care about others by walking away from a fight. Often, it takes a stronger person to have the self-control to walk away.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


 Hey Mom & Dad-

Rocky River Church is considering having a KidzCamp in August for rising 3rd, 4th, & 5th graders. It would start on a Sunday afternoon and end Tuesday Evening. The camp will be located in Kannapolis.
  The cost would be approximately $95.00. Any feedback you can give will help us determine whether or not to move forward with camp. If you have any feedback or need more information, please email Donnie, Pastor of Community, at