Author: Heath Neal

How To Have a Great Marriage

Marriage, as Paul says in Ephesians 5:32, is “a great mystery.” Yeah… we know. He goes on to say, “but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” I think it is interesting when we inside the church google the best gift to buy at Valentines or the best place to take my wife on vacation for our anniversary or what gift a wife can give to celebrate his manhood. We want quick fixes for a great marriage. You, like me, may have a book with advice like leaving a rose everyday on the counter for your wife, or telling your husband how attractive a shirt makes him look as he leaves in the morning. But where do these things leave us on being one in the way Christ and His church are one? I think advice like this leaves us thinking we are the ones who can create the type of closeness referred to by Paul. We seem to think “two are united into one” has everything to do …

Are You Keeping An Eye on the Harvest?

My in-laws own a strawberry farm. They live in Gallatin, TN, so if you are ever passing through in the month of May, you should stop. There really is nothing better than popping a juicy, fresh picked strawberry into your mouth. It’s sweet and flavorful and you’ll never buy from a store again once you’ve had field fresh strawberries. Every year when the season comes around, late April to early June depending on the weather, we head up several times to help and enjoy the harvest. My girls love this time of year. They help at the selling hut and walk the rows with their cousins, showing people how to pick the best berries. The plants are always loaded with berries, but not all the berries are ready to pick. Each day new berries become the deep red, juicy goodness you are looking for and the girls are experts at picking the best ones. Sometimes people pick berries that aren’t ready and they have a sour experience. (Fun fact: a strawberry never ripens after you …

Remembering Christmas in the New Year

I love Christmas! It is an incredible time of year. Normally I’m not allowed to bring the outside in, but every year Karen is so excited to go with our girls and cut down a tree and decorate it with them. We bring out decorations that have been boxed up for 11 months and spread them all over our house. We bake special treats, sing seasonal songs, and get together with family. I enjoy giving things to others and seeing how it makes them happy. Watching my girls open presents and get excited about simple things like socks and doll clothes makes it all the more fun. A couple of years ago, Reese, my oldest daughter, received toys for a doll from a grandparent when we saw them before Christmas Day, the day she was getting the doll. I don’t think she put two and two together, but if she had, she would have been able to see what was coming. This is Christmas for us. It’s like a gift you get on Christmas Eve …

But Its My Gift and I Don’t Want to Share

Remember the first day you got to drive a car? Alone? Maybe you were lucky enough to get a new car that day. Or maybe you were just grateful to be able to borrow the family car. Either way, you were given the gift of freedom. You didn’t have to depend on anyone to go where you wanted anymore. You could just go. I got to drive the family car when I was 16 and the privilege to do so was a gift I didn’t take lightly. I had dreams of grandeur, driving around and picking up my friends to go and do… I don’t know what. We didn’t do a whole lot other than hangout and play basketball. I found out quickly with my new found gift there was an expectation to share the gift with my sister. She was younger, but she needed the car to take her places also. I needed the car to get to the store, school, a friend’s house, and church. So did my sister. And now with the …

Is Your Love The Enduring Kind?

We recently started our third round of our in house Biblical counseling training called Equipped to Counsel. It is really exciting to spend nearly a year with people looking at how God’s truth changes people. I know His truth has changed me and I’m sure you can speak of how it has changed you, too. One of the things that we try to get across to our trainees is the idea of sacrificial love, or agape love. We’ve been looking at 1 Corinthians 13:7 as part of our sermon series. One of the parts of that verse says, “Love endures all things” (ESV). The NLT says, “endures through every circumstance.” To be honest, I think this is one of the truths hard for people to believe in counseling. On the surface we believe it. “I can endure anything,” we tell ourselves. “I’ve been through childbirth,” or “I survived (fill in the blank).” But real, sacrificial, agape love endures every situation, no matter how hard, or what the consequences may be. When someone comes for counsel …

Are You Living in the Hope of Tomorrow Today?

Everyday you wake up and it’s today. You don’t get a re-do on yesterday and you never wake up in tomorrow. Granted, tomorrow became today, but you get the idea, right? Every time we wake up, we get the chance to live in a fresh new today. But isn’t it common to want to live in yesterday or to anticipate tomorrow and miss out on today? I think this happens in our spiritual life as well. When we live out this new life we have in Christ (remember, you are saved by grace through faith! see Ephesians 2:8), we should look to the past with thankfulness for forgiveness of sins, mercy, love, judgment removed, and debt paid. Knowing what God has given us is important, but it isn’t enough. We can’t simply look at what has happened and say, “Okay. I’m good to go now.” We still have today to live. And, likewise, we know what future has been promised to us by God; namely, eternity with Him. That will be an incredible time! I …

Would You Like to Get Well from Your Sickness?

In John 5 we find the story of Jesus healing a sick man. We learn a lot about who Jesus is through this story. Jesus shows us He understands people when He saw him and “knew he had been ill for a long time” (v.6). Jesus demonstrates He heals us when He wants to because He wants to, not because we did something to earn it. Jesus shows that He is God in human flesh by speaking with authority to the man (v.8, 14). Jesus speaks with such a tone and with such assurance that the man instantly obeys. No objection, no disbelief, no self-doubt, just pure obedience to a believable authority. We learn some about human kind in the story as well. We see a man who sort of wants to get healed; “I can’t, sir” (v.7). Aren’t we often like this, too? “I need healing, but I’m going to sit here in my self-pity, not asking for help, just complaining about my situation.” Jesus asks an incredibly deep question, “Would you like to …

What Do Your Passions Say About Your Heart?

Where do your passions come from? Are you passionate about food, sports, your car? For some of us it revolves around our families. For others it may revolve around our extra curricular activities. Or perhaps for you it is your work. What are the things in life which make you excited? I love good food. One could easily say it is a passion of mine; ask the other staff members. I enjoy recommending specialty food items they have to try. I have tasted and enjoyed the wonderful flavor, so I want others to experience it as well. I believe my passion for great tasting food can lead other people to a great experience. But, if my passion comes from the wrong place, then I end up just serving my self and my own lusts in life. I may want you to try this incredible new entrée at the latest restaurant, but if my motivation is to make you like me, appreciate me, or herald me as the best connoisseur of food, well that isn’t God …

Who We Are, What and How We Do It

If you have been around Southern Hills at all in the last year, you know something new is coming. It has been on the horizon for a while now and we are getting super close to moving to City Station. Obviously, a new building means a new location, new procedures, new habits, new needs, new people.  While it’s been the buzz at SoHills, City Station isn’t the only “something new” that has been going on in our church. Over the past several years, our church family has been intentionally working on becoming disciple-makers. While an old command, we want to approach each day with this mission made anew. Because of Christ in us, we are seeing more and more new people walking through our doors, ready to take on this mission as well. Our mission of making disciples who make disciples is hard to miss when you first come to SoHills. After you have been on campus a few times, you’ll start to understand (or least we hope you’ll understand) why this is what we do. Our mission comes out of …

Are You Choosing to be Wise?

We have been studying 2 Timothy on Sundays for the last 4 weeks. As a pastor, I love Paul’s writings to Timothy. Paul gives him, a younger pastor, clear direction on what to do in his role. At the same time, he is giving us clear direction on how to live out the role of every believer. If you haven’t, I’d encourage you to read through 2 Timothy on your own. As we close this series, I’d like to focus on two verses: All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul understood that wisdom comes from one place: God. God has left us His wisdom in Scripture, written out for us to read, learn from, and live out. We know it is truth, and not just something that …