Author: Heath Neal

What Would You Include In Your Autobiography?

Who doesn’t love a good story? Especially if the story is about you. Back when people read newspapers, it was exciting to have your story printed so others could read it. We love to share about the good in our lives and I think this is why so many famous people write their own autobiographies. The beauty of story-telling is you get to include or leave out whatever details you want. If I was having you write about my life, I’d start with all the good stuff, too. Very rarely do you read a story of someone’s life where they admit how wrong they were, how they screwed it up, or the stupid mistakes they made. We may include bad things that happened to us, but rarely sinful decisions we made ourselves. In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar was the ruler of the entire world. He had built an incredible kingdom as he looked over it, he said, “Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city …

It’s Not What It Looks Like.

Last November the church was going through a series on finances. I don’t remember the series name, but with our life groups we were using a book called the ABC’s of Financial Freedom. I remember I was in my office reading the book, preparing for how we would use a particular chapter when God opened my eyes to something I had never seen before. I wasn’t generous. I did a pretty good job of looking the part. Karen and I have tithed since we were first married, and there were times this was hard to do. We support several friends who are missionaries oversees. If you ask me to help you, I will. If you have a baby, we will bring you a meal. You get the idea. I read my actions and concluded I was generous. Here is the danger in this thinking. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax-collector. The Pharisee gave immensely and prayed a lot. He entered the temple and talked about all he had …

Living Out the Mission of The Gospels

If you are a Christ follower, you have been made a new creation because of Christ now alive in you. On the cross, Jesus became our sin so God could defeat it’s power in our lives through the resurrection. Now, you have been adopted into God’s family. You are joint heirs to the kingdom of heaven. You are purchased, forgiven, chosen, loved, saved, identified as His, seen as without fault (see Ephesians 1:3-14). We are loved by Him, sought by Him, never without Him! This is who you are! This should pump you up! If you are part of the Southern Hills family, you have probably heard, read, memorized, and bought the t-shirt for our mission statement: Making Disciples who Make Disciples. It’s our mantra, our call to arms, our understanding of what Christ called us to do. In all we do, we should be thinking about how we can fulfill the mission we have been called to complete. Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on …

Are You Leading For The Good of Others?

My second daughter, Vivian, is in Pre-K this year. As a member of the class, they share different roles. Each person will get to be a door holder, line leader, photographer, etc. She gets so excited when it is her turn to have one of the leadership roles for her class. I think her favorite is photographer. Life is full of leadership roles, even at a young age. What leadership roles do you have? Whether it is when you get a rebound and are the one dribbling the ball, deciding if it will be a fast break or a slow walk up, or you are a boss at work, parent at home, husband to a wife, a door holder, a dog walker or whatever other kind of role you play as a leader, we all play the lead at some point. When we live out those opportunities, we can either lead unselfishly, for the sake of those we are leading, or we can lead for our own gain. In Micah 3:1-7, the prophet is calling …

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 …