Author: Southern Hills Christian Church

Limited Faith in an Unlimited God

–written by JJ Cole Our God is not fickle, forgetful, or fragile in anyway.  He does not make mistakes.  He purposes the gaps.  He allows sacred spaces and blank places.  He leaves room. – Lysa Terkeurst Let’s talk about limited faith. Uncertain faith. Shaken faith. Questioning faith. Undeveloped faith. Challenged faith. For those of us who follow Christ and are growing in Him, the thought of anything other than unwavering, steadfast faith is abrasive. But in complete humility and vulnerableness, at any given time, I can identify at least one of the above descriptions to characterize an aspect of my faith. The story of Gideon is rich in evolving lessons as we follow his adventure. But I want to focus specifically on Judges 6:12-14 when we first meet Gideon. The way I read it, these two verses are key to understanding the rest of the story. They also speak to those of us who, at times, waiver and become shaken in our faith.  Then the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said: “The …

You Can Influence People Beyond Your Ability

-written by Matt Clotfelter  All of us like positive statements. Statements like, “You did a great job!” “You are important to me!” It feels good to be affirmed after we do something good. Keeping this in mind, I try to apply this principle as a dad. I take every chance to give my sons positive feedback. I also try to give positive pre-action statements. “I know you can do it!” “You’ve got this!” These sometimes give us the nudge we need to do something well outside our comfort zone. As a kid, maybe you were nervous to ride a roller coaster, but you had a buddy with you to give you that common encouragement, ”What are you, chicken?” While this particular statement may not be the most positive, many a young man has done something they thought they couldn’t because of it. We find this same principle in the Bible. In Judges 6, we find an unusual encounter between an angel and Gideon. Unlike most of the encounters in the Bible, Gideon doesn’t even realize he …

Are You Living Out The Forgiveness Given To You?

-written by Betsie Richards Some of my favorite Bible stories are the ones where Jesus gives open, no-holds-barred forgiveness to someone and. at the same time He puts the Pharisees in their place. It may be because I have a “bit” of a snarky side and when Jesus calls the Pharisees out, it makes me smile. It may be because I know I need that open, no-holds-barred forgiveness too.  I love the story of the woman who was caught in adultery and brought to the Temple where Jesus was teaching. Jesus silences a crowd full of accusers by writing in the dirt and telling the one without sin to throw the first stone. When the crowd leaves without one rock thrown in condemnation, Jesus replies to her with “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” This small statement is a declaration of forgiveness and purpose (see John 8:1-11) Another favorite of mine is the story of Luke 7:36-50. This passage tells the story of the “sinful woman” and how she washes Jesus’ feet with …

Together Let’s Act like the Church

–written by JJ Cole In the midst of a pivotable scene in the famous Mel Gibson movie “The Patriot,” Charlotte tells Benjamin Martin, “You have done nothing to be ashamed of.” Martin’s somber response was, “I have done nothing.  And for that I am ashamed.” I recently read through the book of Acts. So much ground is covered in those 28 chapters as we see the original disciples taking the torch and pressing forward with Jesus’ call “to go.” (see Matthew 28:19) In Acts, we learn of the courage and intentional acts of these men and women. (No wonder the book is called “Acts.”)  Peter and John were called into the streets of Jerusalem and it’s courts.  Stephen was called to stand his ground against the mob. Ananias was called to have compassion on an enemy. Paul was called to boldly take the message of Christ into the outside world, which would be us. It is sobering to contemplate what might be today, had these people not acted on their calling.  The privilege I have …

The Truth Will Set You Free

-written by Matt Clotfelter My family’s favorite holiday is Christmas. We enjoy the giving and receiving of gifts, but for us, it is much more than that. We love the experience: the music, movies, food, cooking, hot chocolate… Out of all these things, music has the greatest impact. We even have an unwritten rule about Christmas music: between January 1 and July 1, no one is to play more than a few Christmas songs in a row. After July 1, it is fair game. By Halloween, more often than not, Christmas music is in full swing. My boys have developed their own taste in Christmas music. One of their favorite songs is “Christmas with a capital C” by Go Fish with comedian Brad Stein. Stein talks about how we have watered down the Christmas season to avoid offending people. Listening to this song each year makes me think about the way we as people try to weaken truth. We try to make truth a concept that can be taken piecemeal. Take the phrase absolute truth. …

The Good Shepherd In Your Darkest Hours

–written by J.J. Cole That night there were shepherds staying in the fields near by, guarding their flocks of sheep. – Luke 2:8 I’ve been thinking about these shepherds lately and finding myself identifying with them. I picture them awake and alert, in the dark of night, guarding. Why are they awake and doing this when the rest of the world sleeps? Because they understood what lurked in the dark. They understood predators exist and danger is much closer then the sheep realize. Make no mistake, the reality of what the shepherd was is much different than what is portrayed in stained glass. They were rough, vigilant, capable of violence, and realists. To them, Christmas Eve was just another dark night.   I worked night shift as a police officer for a little over nine years straight, 6:00 PM – 6:00 AM.  The night shift has a way of sharpening you, for a variety of reasons. But there is also something about that “late” night hour; the period of time way after midnight and well before …

How to Write A Thank You Note to God

-written by Jean Daniel If my mother gave you something, she expected to receive a thank you note! It might be a wooden nutcracker for Christmas that she got on sale dirt cheap, or maybe just two dollars stuck in a birthday card. No matter how expensive or cheap the gift was, she would be looking for a handwritten “thank you” note in the mail. If she didn’t get one, she would say, “Well, I guess you didn’t appreciate what I gave you since you didn’t bother to write a thank you note!” The next year you might not receive a gift at all!  My children learned to write thank you notes very quickly. In this age of technology, when was the last time that you received a handwritten thank you note for a gift or thoughtful deed? Showers, weddings, birthdays, graduations. We zip off a text or email to the giver, if we bother to thank them at all.  Just last week, I received a note by snail mail from a friend thanking me for …

You Are More Than Just Useful

-Written by Matt Clotfelter If you are anything like me, you probably find yourself at night, lying in bed, reviewing your day. During that review, these questions come to me: Did I make a difference to someone today? Did I serve God in this world? Were my choices driven by my will or God’s will? I want to do my best to serve God faithfully with my life and work. I don’t want to interfere with His plan, but be useful to God. As we look at the story of the redemptive work of God, there were only a few people who had truly pivotal roles in the plan. There is Jesus, of course, who is God come down to earth to redeem man. There is Mary, who gave birth to Jesus. (Jesus had to get here somehow!) (see Isaiah 7:14). We find Judas, who betrays Jesus. Pilate, who has this opportunity to release Jesus, but instead, he caves to the crowd and orders him be crucified (see Isaiah 53:3). Finally, we find the soldiers who …

Taming the Destructive Fire of Your Tongue

-written by J.J. Cole A single wooden match weighs .15 grams. It is so light, that its weight cannot even be felt. It produces a small spark and flame, that can easily be pinched out with our fingers.  Nevertheless, when not respected, it can produce a monster that will destroy and even take human life. In 2016 a single spark resulted in 14 lives lost and 10,000 acres of the Great Smoky Mountains to be engulfed in flames, including significant portions of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.  A place with several decades of investment and effort that so many of us have visited laid in waste.  But, thanks to resilience placed in the human heart by God, rebuilding is happening. James 3:6 tells us that “the tongue is a flame of fire.” It goes on to explain in descriptive detail that it can “set your whole life on fire.” Basically, James 3:3-10 sternly warns us to respect the tongue, for at its core it is a match. Today, James may have included our fingertips as we …

Love Does Alongside the Greatest Visionary

-written by J.J. Cole Some believe that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found.  I’ve found it’s the small things.  Everyday deeds by ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. – Gandalf, Lord of the Rings Earlier this weekend Christine and I did a family devotional with the kids titled “Sandcastles & Monuments.” We decorated rocks with markers, depicting how God has shown Himself to us in our lives.  Gabby drew a rainbow on one rock and waters parting on another.  Tyler drew a fireball coming down from the sky (go figure) and the Cross. It struck me how the kids so easily reached for these “monuments” in history where God acted, where God demonstrated that love does. The rainbow – His promise to Noah The Red Sea parting – His deliverance of the Israelites The fireball from heaven – His support of Elijah The Cross – His willingness to go any length to save us Throughout the Bible, we see God works …