Faith Steps

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The other day I was thinking about all that God is doing at Thrive Church. We are truly blessed to be a part of this adventure. We have come to realize that Paul was so right when he said in Ephesians 3,

“Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.”

I think back over the past year and so much has happened it is beyond imagination. Last year around this time we were searching for a permanent space we could call our own. It wasn’t long before we found a suitable space. It was a 24-hour gym that had gone out of business over a year earlier. The problem was the space had been padlocked by a bank for failure to pay their business loan. They had seized the equipment in the building and were holding it.

We prayed and believed that this was the space God was showing us. Over the next couple of months, we negotiated a lease on the building and got the bank to agree to remove the gym equipment from the building.

We hired a construction company to renovate the space and transform it from a gym into a church. Now here is where it gets amazing. I felt God saying that we shouldn’t get a loan for the construction but instead trust Him and pay cash. I stood before our small congregation at the time and said we are going to do this without getting a loan!

We initially thought we could do the construction for $20-40,000, which we had in our funds. When we met with the contractor and he presented the estimate, it was triple what we have thought. To do everything we wanted, it was going to cost over $120,000. I knew that God had said don’t get a loan and to trust Him, so we told the contractor to begin the work, even though we didn’t have the funds to cover the cost.

Over the next several months, literally, every time a payment was due, God would provide the exact amount we needed to make it. This happened three times!

We moved into the space the week after Easter. We believed that it would be enough room for us for at least two to three years. Boy were we wrong! We starting growing almost immediately and continued to grow even during the summer! Within a couple of months, we realized that in order to accommodate the folks God was sending to us, we were going to have to add a second service. In September we had a special service to share our goals for the coming year with the church. It was an amazing day – many people came and excitement filled the air. There was a real sense that God was going to show up and do something bigger than any of us!

The very next Sunday we started our two-service format and we are continuing to grow! People are finding Jesus! People are building new relationships and finding healing from past hurts. God is doing an amazing work and we are blessed more than we could have ever believed!

We have been on the ride of our lives! If God is giving you a vision for the future, I would say without any doubt, go for it! Step out in faith and trust Him! You won’t be sorry!!

There’s No Place Like Home!

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Anticipation of something that is going to happen is exciting! Don’t you agree?

I remember as a kid looking forward to Christmas every year. The tree and the lights - and of course I can’t forget the toys under the tree. Almost as good as Christmas were birthdays! I remember being totally excited about the party and games and presents and the cake!

At this time of year, I looked forward to the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation. Although I’m sure by the end of August my mom and dad eagerly anticipated the beginning of the next school year. 

There are over 400 references to “Heaven” in the Bible. God definitely wants us to know about Heaven. And it’s written about all throughout the Bible. 44 of the 66 books talk about Heaven. The Bible is the infallible Word of God. Its contents are proven true and they can be trusted.

I honestly believe that Heaven is going to amazing! I can’t even imagine how awesome it will be. We are going to live face to face with Jesus. We are going to live in the most perfect place ever dreamed of. I have been to some really nice places like the white sand beaches of Florida and Jamaica, but they won’t even be close to what Heaven will be like!  Wherever your dream destination would be, it seriously pales in comparison to the mother of all dream destinations-Heaven. 

The cool thing is that God doesn’t want even one of us to miss what He has in store for us. He sent Jesus to die on a cross to ensure our place in Heaven. The price of admission has been paid in full! 

The question comes down to this: Have you asked Jesus into your life? Have you established a relationship with Him? It only takes a step of faith and a humble prayer to ensure your ticket is punched!

I have my ticket and it has been punched! One day I will be with Jesus in that great place! I am sure I will say, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like Home!”

We as followers of Jesus are looking forward to something too. One day we will take our final breath on this planet and in the next moment be face to face with Jesus. It will be our final destination! Heaven!

It IS REAL!

Thrive Church worships God together - April 8, 2018

The last time I wrote a blog entry (which I confess was way too long ago), I talked about the journey from a backyard meeting to the realization that God was about to do something huge.

I called that entry “It’s About to Get Real.” Well since then, so much has happened – we have seen God move in ways I never dreamed possible. Over the past 4 months, we watched a former 24-hour fitness place be transformed into the very first “home” for Thrive Church. 

When the metal wall studs were erected, we brought the folks from Thrive to the building one Sunday afternoon after church. We gave them black markers and they went around the space writing the names of loved ones and friends they were praying for to find Jesus on the wall studs. Almost 400 names were written that afternoon. The names became a permanent reminder for the people to continue to pray. 

A month or so later, we stood in awe as walls went up to define our Children’s Space and our Worship Space and a lobby and offices and oh yeah, I can’t forget, a kitchen. Electricians, plumbers, HVAC techs, and carpenters were working everyday to transform this space into Thrive Church.

A couple of weeks before the completion of the project, 15-20 of our folks descended on the building armed with paint, brushes and rollers ready to turn drywall into beautiful finished walls.

The last week of the project, people scurried all over the place putting the finishing touches on everything; cleaning, mopping and vacuuming. Our AVL team was busy connecting speakers, mixers, lights, and computers. 

The night before our very first service in our new space, I walked about the building just praising and thanking God for everything. It really is true that God can do more than we can ever imagine.

Sunday morning, April 8, 2018 at 10:30 AM it totally became REAL! Almost 100 people came for the service and people’s lives were changed! People asked Jesus into their lives and folks asked for prayer after the service for a variety of things ranging from healing to personal situations, to financial issues, to losing a loved one. 

As I left the building that morning and got into my Jeep, I thought to myself – THIS IS REAL!!!!! Thank you God!

It’s about to get real!

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I am reminded of an evening back in the summer of 2016. Four of us sat around in a circle in Jay Anderson’s back yard. I shared with each of them the vision God had given Dawn and I. The vision to go plant a church in Portsmouth that really would make a difference for the Gospel and the people of Portsmouth. A vision where people would be able to Thrive and become everything that God wanted them to become. That night we said to each other – “It’s about to get real!”

Over the next several months, a lot of work was done to build a launch team that would be the catalyst for Thrive Church. The team starting meeting weekly in homes - but quickly we outgrew the homes. A decision was make to begin a weekly service for the team and God opened a door to a place for us to meet. The week before we sat around a living room assigning responsibilities and duties for that first launch team service – we looked at each other and said, “It’s about to get real!”

Over the course of the last year we have had some opportunities to learn about leasing property and what it would really take to have a place of our own for Thrive Church. Sometimes the learning was painful and sometimes it was enlightening.

We finally found a place that would meet the needs of Thrive Church and we began the process of negotiating a lease all the while going through the process of becoming incorporated as a church. There were several times we looked at each other and said, “It’s about to get real!”

The week of Christmas we signed our lease for the future home of Thrive Church, 5555 Portsmouth Blvd. We met with the architect and contractor. Plans have been drawn and work is about to begin – it’s about to get real!

I believe that God is doing something totally amazing and we get to be a part of what He is doing. The vision that God planted in Dawn and I is becoming reality and soon Thrive Church will be a lighthouse in the city of Portsmouth. Thrive Church will be a place where people come and find Jesus and begin to serve - and yes, Thrive!  IT’S ABOUT TO GET REAL!

Christmas Memories!

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It is Christmas time and I get all excited! I love this time of year – the traditions, being with family, the lights, the Christmas Story – it is a special time of the year!

I was thinking back 38 years ago – Dawn and I celebrated our first Christmas together after getting married. We were starting traditions that would last throughout the years. One of those traditions was getting a real Christmas tree.

Growing up, my parents had an artificial tree so the idea of a live tree was totally different. Dawn’s parents always had a real tree; she wanted to continue that with us.

But a little problem came up - neither one of us had ever purchased a real tree. We didn’t know what to look for or how to tell if the tree was fresh or not.

We went to the tree lot and walked around for what seemed like an hour before we decided on the perfect tree, or at least we thought it was the perfect tree. It had a really good shape and full branches. We bought the tree and then realized the second problem – how are we going to get the tree home. We ended up putting it in the trunk of the car and tying the lid down with string.

Back then we were living in a cute apartment in Old Town Portsmouth. We had a bay window in the living room and decided it was the perfect place to put the tree. From there it could be seen on street below. It would look so “Christmas-sy” with the lights and ornaments.

We didn’t have any decorations or lights for the tree so it was off to the store. We spent what seemed like a fortune on ornaments and garland and lights. We stayed up late that night decorating the tree. It looked amazing! Our first Christmas together with our first Christmas Tree. Everything was perfect!

Or so we thought.

Over the course of the next several days, we wrapped presents and placed them under the tree. That is when we first noticed it. At first, we didn’t know what that noise was – a tickling sound coming from the tree. Upon further inspection we realized what was happening.  Our beautiful tree was dropping needles – not just a few but dozens all the time.  It was so dry that it wouldn’t take water.

The closer to Christmas it got, the browner the needles were turning. I wasn’t sure it would make it to Christmas, but it did – barely. As we pulled the presents out from under the tree on Christmas morning, the more needles fell to the carpet below.

By the time we finished opening presents on our first Christmas morning the floor around our tree was covered - and I do mean covered - with needles.

A day or so after Christmas we decided the best thing was to take the tree down and put it to the street. Removing the lights and ornaments created even more needles falling to the floor. When all was said and done, we filled the vacuum bag to the brim with needles.

Another thing I remember about that Christmas – we had a little dog named Ebony. She was part poodle and part something else. She was all of about 10 pounds and totally black.

One night not long after we decorated the tree – oh and by the way, decorating included hanging real candy canes on the tree – we were sound asleep.  Then Dawn woke up - to a crunching sound coming from under our bed.

She looked under the bed - and there was Ebony with a stash of several candy canes and she was crunching on one! When Dawn looked under the bed, Ebony growled at her. Ebony had decided that all those candy canes were hers and that was final!

Those memories of that very first Christmas together, even with the "not-so-perfect" tree and a dog stealing candy canes are precious. I encourage you to think back to a Christmas past where memories were made for you.

Dawn and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! And remember, Jesus is the reason for the season!