The Key to Living a Bigger Life


I was recently at C3 Church Santos. My good friends Fabio and Dani Aguieiras are the pastors there and are doing an incredible work in that city. They were finishing up a sermon series called “The Game of Life.” The series focused on some really important issues and Pastor Fabio asked me to speak on “The Key to Living a Bigger Life.”

What is that key to living a bigger life? Click here to watch the message. My friend Erick Stocchero translated for me. I know you are going to love this message!

Please consider a year-end gift for our missionary work here in Brazil. Your gifts are making a difference in so many lives! Click here to get involved. Obrigado!

Keys to Avoiding a Blue Christmas


It is no surprise that what should be a joyous, happy season, is for so many people just the opposite. Many experience serious depression during the Christmas Season. One study showed that almost half of all Americans experienced depression during the Christmas Holidays. This depression could be triggered by many things, the loss of a loved one, divorce, loneliness, family discord, financial problems, or not feeling that they will live up to others expectations. Psychologists even have a special name for depression that shows up during this time of year, Seasonal Affective Disorder,or SAD.

What does this Seasonal Affective Disorder look like? For some people, there will be an emotional heaviness as the holidays approach. There might also be a feeling of weariness. You struggle to get out of bed in the morning. Feelings of sadness because of the loss of a loved one or sadness because of the bad memories associated with Christmas might come into play. Many people would acknowledge that the guilt they feel about being depressed at Christmas only compounds their SAD.

What can someone do to combat SAD?

1. Look Outward. I understand that there are times when people need professional help to treat their depression. I can’t help but wonder, though, how many people would be healed if they could get their eyes off of their own situation for a while and look for ways to help other people. Depression is a very self-absorbing condition. What would happen if I got my eyes off of myself and looked for people to bless? There is something healthy and therapeutic about helping those who are less fortunate than us.

The good news is that there are so many opportunities to serve others during the Christmas Season. From the Salvation Army to the USMC’s Toys for Tots, there are plenty of opportunities to give money or time to help others. Our church in the US, for example has participated in the Angel Tree program. This organization reaches out to children who have a parent in prison. Angel Tree’s goal is to let these children know that they are not forgotten and to give them a joyous Christmas. For just a few dollars, you can put a smile on a child’s face. It is tough to stay depressed when you are helping others. If you look, you can find a place to serve this holiday season.

2. Go to Church. If church is not a normal part of your life, Christmas is a great time to go. Most churches have special presentations, musicals, and other special services designed to help people celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. For someone struggling with SAD, being around positive, loving, and affirming people is one of the best things that we can do. The atmosphere that a person creates around their life is one of the main factors that affect their outlook on life.

3. Plan Who You are Going to Spend Time With. Family is often one of the triggers for Christmas depression. If that is the case, decide ahead of time who you are going to visit and how much time you are going to spend with them. It can be nice to visit relatives, but it can also be nice to leave! Planning out ahead of time how long you can stay at Aunt Gertrude’s is a proactive way to eliminate stress. If you are married, talk to your spouse about this prior to the visits. Make sure you also plan to visit some people who are not going to contribute to your depression. This type of planning will not be practical for everyone but many people have found that limiting the time that they have to spend with crazy relatives and including time with non-crazy ones goes a long way to helping them overcome SAD.

4. Exercise! If exercise is not part of your normal schedule, why not start now? A regular exercise program has been shown to be one of the most effective tools in combating depression. You know that dropping a few pounds is going to be one of your New Years Resolutions. Why wait until the New Year? Even if you just commit to taking a long walk a few days a week during December, I think that you will notice a difference in the way that you feel. If you already have an exercise regimen, don’t neglect it during the holidays. Staying active during the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years holidays will help prevent you from packing on extra weight.

Can you think of any other ways to fight the holiday blues?

If you would like to help us have an impact in Brazil, here is the link. Obrigado (Thank you!) and Feliz Natal! (Merry Christmas!)



Where Do You Want to Go?


“Are you more afraid of staying where you are now, or are you more afraid of taking the hard steps to get to where you really want to be?” Al Pittampalli

This is such a good question for all of us to ponder. Are we happy where we are? Maybe you are. There is nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, maybe you are tired of where you are. You know you want to live a bigger, more fulfilling life.

At the end of 2015, what would you like to have seen change in your life? In other words, in twelve months or so, what would you like to look back on having accomplished? What would it take to get from where you are now to where you want to be? What would that journey look like?

Maybe you are looking for a career change.

Maybe you would like to drop a couple of pant sizes.

Maybe you are wanting to get out from under the mountain of debt that is enslaving you.

Maybe 2015 is the year for you to buy your first home.

You might be struggling with something spiritual. You may feel that God is calling you to become more active in your local church. Maybe you sense God calling you to re-locate to another country to help build His Kingdom. You may be wrestling with a feeling that God wants you to increase your level of giving to your church.

The danger for all of us to suppress that little voice that is challenging us to step out of our comfort zone. Why don’t you get a piece of paper or create a file on your computer or phone. Write down three things that you would like to focus on over the next twelve months. For each of the three things you write down, put two or three steps under each one to help you get there.

For example, maybe you want to lose some weight. What are three steps you can take, and actually will take, to make that happen? Your three steps might include eliminating soft drinks from your diet, exercising three or four times a week, counting your calories for a couple of days to see how much you are taking in, drinking more water, and packing a healthy lunch to take to work instead of going to McDonald’s.

Small steps eventually add up. If you are willing to take a couple of small steps, you will be rewarded when you step on the scales or when you have to buy smaller clothes. If you read through those steps and mentally started making excuses, don’t be surprised that you don’t reach your goal. Without a willingness to step out of your comfort zone, in twelve months, you will be right where you are now.

What is one thing you want to see change in your life? What are you willing to do to make it happen?

Annie and I are serving the Lord in Brazil. Your financial support is allowing us to impact many lives. If you would like to get involved, please click here. Obrigado!



Don’t Do It!


I know you are tempted to go sit in traffic, drive around the mall for half an hour looking for a parking space, shove your way through the crowds to grab that last shirt from the sale rack, but there is a better way! Save the gas, save your sanity, and keep some Christmas spirit by shopping on-line. There is still plenty of time for your gifts to arrive before the Big Day.

Everybody has that person or persons on their list that is hard to buy for. Here are a few suggestions to make your Christmas shopping so much easier!

Great Books: Street Cop and Street Cop II: Reloaded

There has been so much negative press about the police over the last few months. Americans have been bombarded about how bad, racist, poorly trained, and aggressive they are. Both of these books are packed with true, fast-paced, hard-hitting stories about my life as a street cop. What is it like to make life and death decisions in fractions of seconds? What is it like trying to arrest violent criminals who do not want to go back to prison? What is it like going through an internal investigation after you have killed a criminal who was trying to kill you?

The stories that I share here are stories that I lived. Being a police officer was an incredible experience that left its mark on me forever. Before you let the media tell you what to think about the police, take a ride with me for a few shifts in these books. It will change the way that you view those who serve their communities by wearing a badge and a gun.

Books always make great Christmas and birthday presents. If you are interested in the other books that I have written just click here and check them out!

A year end gift to help with our missionary efforts in Brazil would be much appreciated. We are in the process of helping plant several churches and your gifts make a difference in so many people’s lives. Just click here to get involved. Obrigado!

A Tip for Reading the Bible More


With the new year coming on, many people are making resolutions and setting goals to read their Bibles more. This is an incredible goal for each of us to have. There are many different reading plans available on-line, through the various Bible apps, and even in the backs of some of our “old fashioned” paper Bibles!

What I have noticed in my many years as a pastor, though, is that too often people get bogged down trying to read through the whole Bible in a year and eventually give up. Their intentions were good. They meant well. The reality is, the Old Testament can be difficult to understand.

As a New Testament scholar, I have found that people who master the New Testament first, have a much easier time of working their way through the Old Testament. Don’t get me wrong. I think that the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, the Jewish Bible, etc., is very important. For the Christian, however, a thorough knowledge of the New Testament must come first.

This is why I propose that for those who are new to Bible reading, read through the New Testament a few times before trying to tackle the Old Testament. There are two main reasons for this.

1. It is shorter than the Old Testament. The New Testament contains 260 chapters compared with the over 900 chapters in the Old Testament. Even if someone only read one chapter a day, they would read through the New Testament one and a half times in the space of a year.

2. It is easier to understand. For the novice Bible reader, much of the Old Testament is difficult to understand. Leviticus and Numbers are two of the first five books of the Bible and have claimed many a soul who was trying to read through the Bible for the first time. The New Testament, as a whole, is much more familiar to most people. There are many familiar stories and narratives. In fact, the first five books of the New Testament, the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, are collections of stories from the life of Jesus and the early Church.

How have you done this past year with your daily Bible reading? What is one way that you feel like you could improve?

Please consider becoming a part of our support team as Annie and I serve in Brazil. Your support is making a difference in many people’s lives! Please click here to get involved. Obrigado!

Christmas Memories as a Parent

Sarah and Trina

In my last post, I shared a few of my childhood Christmas memories. Here are a few memories about Christmas with my children. One of our family traditions was to load the kids into the car after dinner and drive through neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights. Rachel very quickly got the hang of this and became very excited at seeing all the lavishly decorated houses. She was only about two years old and could not quite make the “L” sound. As we started off one night to look at Christmas lights, Rachel said excitedly, “Yook, yights!” I did not have the heart to tell her that it was just a traffic signal changing from green, to yellow, to red.

One of the things about our kids which always amazed me was the fact that they could sleep through Christmas. Annie and I would usually have to wake them up on Christmas morning. When I was kid, I was awake at like five in the morning, not understanding why my parents were not as excited as I was and not understanding why they kept sending me back to bed. Not our girls. We would have to wake them up, reminding them that it was Christmas morning.

Rachel at Christmas

One year, early on, they started asking for a dog. Sarah was six and Rachel was three. They both worked it pretty hard. A dog was on both of their Christmas wish lists. They were constantly telling us how much they wanted a dog and how hard they would work to take care of it. I told them emphatically that we were not getting a dog and that they needed to put that thought out of their minds.

At the same time, I was working feverishly behind the scenes trying to find a Christmas puppy. Because puppies make great Christmas presents, I was having trouble finding any. I asked one of our police K9 handlers if he had any suggestions. He gave me the name and number of another K9 handler with a nearby police department. When I called him and told him what I wanted, he said he had a German Shepherd that was due to have a litter of puppies the middle of November. This guy usually only sold his dogs to police departments, but when I told him I was getting one for my children, he gave me a great discount.

When Christmas morning came around, we had a nice time of opening presents, playing with toys, drinking hot chocolate and listening to Christmas music. There was no mention of a dog. After lunch, I said I was going to get some batteries for one of the kids’ toys and I went and picked up Trina, our newest family member.

The look on Sarah and Rachel’s faces was priceless when I walked in the door. Their mouths dropped open and their eyes got big. “This is Trina,” I told them. When she recovered her voice, Sarah said, “Can we keep her?” I told them that Trina was their Christmas present. Sarah said, “This is the best Christmas ever!” The hugs they gave me had me agreeing with her.

If you would like to help us have an impact in Brazil, here is the link. Obrigado (Thank you) and Feliz Natal! (Merry Christmas!)




Christmas Memories


I find that the older I get, the more distant those childhood memories of Christmas become. Thankfully, with modern or semi-modern technology, we can look back at old home movies and family photo albums and relive those days. I say “semi-modern” because I think my parents bought the very first movie camera. It did not have sound and to work in-doors, the user had to attach a special light bar to the top of it. If you look at all the home videos from when I was a kid, you will notice that I was always squinting. These lights were at least a million candle power each and it was like staring at the sun as my mom would say “Look at the camera. Smile and wave!” I was the only kid who went back to school after the holidays with a Christmas tan.

One of the best Christmas gifts that I ever received was a go-cart. It was kind of a metallic purple color but this was the ’70’s so it fit right in. Now it was clear that this go-cart had already been around the block a time or two, literally, but I did not care. Most people’s first car is used. I was thrilled to have a used go-cart. It was mine and I was going to race around the neighborhood like my hero, Speed Racer. For those who remember Speed Racer, you also remember all the cool things that his car could do, jump, fly, go underwater, etc. My go-cart could not do any of those things. I don’t think I did it any favors when I tried to jump the ramps that we had set up in the street for our bikes. The go-cart did not really jump the ramp. It just went up it and dropped off the end. Fortunately, the ramp was only about two feet high so I did not pull an Evel Knievel and break every bone in my body. I just smashed my privates against the steering wheel.

The beginning of the end for my go-cart came when I thought I could drive it between two trees in the backyard. I should have got a measuring tape out first. The rear wheels both caught on a tree and bent the rear axle. Thankfully, as an adult, the Gwinnett County Police Department let me use a police car for almost thirty years so I could drive fast and pretend that I was Speed Racer.

One of the earliest Christmas memories that I have is also one of the most vivid. I must not have been any older than five or six years old. This particular Christmas, we were celebrating with my father’s parents in the tiny town of Salemburg, North Carolina. On Christmas Eve, I was beside myself with excitement. I could not wait until the next morning to see what Santa might bring me. Maybe, if I was lucky, I could stay awake and catch the old fat man in red in the act of dropping off my presents.

But, like children through the ages, my quest to stay awake and catch Santa did not work. I fell fast asleep. The next thing that I remember, though, was my dad waking me up the next morning and saying, “You better wake up. I think Santa just came by,” At that moment, from the living room, I heard a loud, deep, “Ho, ho, ho,” and then the sound of a door shutting. My grandparents did not have a fireplace so Santa had to pick the lock of the front door.

I felt the rush of adrenaline through my young body. I jumped out of bed. “If I hurry, I can catch him in the yard before he takes off,” I thought. I started running towards the front door. As I was approaching the door, I started having second thoughts. “What if Santa doesn’t want to be caught? He might not appreciate me trying to see him as he makes his escape. Maybe some things are just better left alone.” I turned around and quickly focused my attention on the presents under the big Christmas tree. I never heard my grandfather quietly slipping in the back door and then joining us for the morning’s festivities.

What is your most vivid childhood memory of Christmas? I would love to hear it!

If you would like to help us have an impact in Brazil, here is the link. Obrigado (Thank you!) and Feliz Natal! (Merry Christmas!)





Was Jesus Really the Messiah?


The Christmas season provides a wonderful time for many Christians to evaluate their faith and an opportunity for those who are not Christians to explore what the Bible has to say about God, faith, and Jesus the Messiah. Matthew’s Gospel is an excellent place to begin an exploration. This Gospel includes one of the two narratives of Jesus’ birth. Matthew appears to be written to a predominantly Jewish Christian community. The author goes to great lengths to show that Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies found in the Hebrew Scriptures.

The Gospel of Matthew provides an excellent jumping off point to examine some of the Messianic prophecies. The first prophecy that Matthew mentions is found in Matthew 1:20-24. This refers to the prophecy found in the prophet Isaiah 7:14 and emphasizes the fact that the Messiah will be born of a virgin. Both Matthew and Luke’s Gospels emphasize the fact that Mary was a virgin whom God chose to give birth to Jesus.

This idea of the virgin birth was as shocking in the first century as it would be today. There was a stigma attached to Mary’s pregnancy that both she and Jesus had to live with for the rest of their lives. The Old Testament contains at least one more prophecy related to the virgin birth. Most scholars understand Genesis 3:15 as the very first Messianic prophecy. This verse contains God’s judgment of the serpent who had induced Eve and Adam to sin in the Garden of Eden. What is interesting about this passage is that God said He would place enmity between the woman’s offspring and the serpent’s. The Hebrew word for “offspring” is actually the word where the word “seed” or “sperm” comes from. As anyone who has had a biology or sex education class knows, the seed or sperm is produced by the male, not the woman. Here, God seems to be looking ahead to the day when a woman would have the Seed of God placed within her and this Seed would be the one Who would ultimately destroy the serpent and his kingdom.

The second prophecy that Matthew records is found in 2:4-7. This prophecy predicted where the Messiah would be born, as recorded in Micah 5:2. Both Matthew and Luke’s Gospels show Jesus being born in Bethlehem. The prophecy that Matthew quotes from Micah is one of the strongest Old Testament Messianic prophecies. Not only does it predict where the Messiah would be born, it also refers to the Messiah as the One, “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” There was not a clear understanding in the Old or New Testaments that the promised Messiah would be divine. This passage appears to make that point.

Matthew 2:13-15 contains the next Messianic prophecy. This passage refers to Joseph taking Mary and the baby Jesus and fleeing to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod. The Old Testament passage quoted is Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” This passage poses a problem, however, because it is clear that Hosea was referring to Israel and not the Messiah. In light of the totality of Jesus’ ministry, though, it becomes obvious that Jesus saw Himself as the embodiment of Israel. In a very real sense, He was the new Israel, seeking to fulfill God’s plans for His people.

While Matthew mentions many other prophecies in his Gospel, a look at one more should suffice for this discussion. In 8:14-17 the author discusses Jesus healing ministry and quotes Isaiah 53:4. The entire chapter of Isaiah 53 is clearly a strong Messianic prophecy. For Matthew’s purpose, however, he only quotes a short passage to show that physical healing was going to be part of the Messiah’s ministry. In Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus performed many miraculous physical and spiritual healings. It is clear that He also expected His followers to do these same works because He sent them out with instructions to do them.

Most scholars number between three and four hundred Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. Each of the four Gospels, lists and enumerates some of these. Matthew’s Gospel, however, contains more of these than do Mark, Luke, or John. This study has only highlighted a few of them but they should be enough to help the reader get started who wants to pursue a closer study of the Messianic prophecies.

Please consider a year end gift to support our missionary work in Brazil, or even become a part of our monthly support team. Your gifts make a difference in many people’s lives! Just click here. Obrigado!

Brazil Update- A Visit to the Northeast


Pastor Ronald and I recently visited the city of Recife in Northeastern Brazil. It is about a five hour flight from Curitiba. A young pastor and church planter there found out about C3 Church and contacted us looking for more information. He flew down in September while Annie and I were in the US and spent a couple of days with Pastor Ronald and the team.

With Pastor Romûlo's daughter, Giovanna

With Pastor Romûlo’s daughter, Giovanna

I have been exchanging emails with him for a couple of months and we felt that the time was right to make a visit. We spent a weekend with Pastor Romûlo, his family and their small church, Igreja Cristá Doxa. Even though the church has been going a year, it is still very small.

In their Sunday service, Pastor Ronald shared about C3’s vision for reaching Brazil with healthy, Spirit-filled, life-changing churches. He also shared about his journey of planting a church in Curitiba and feeling so alone because he had no one to help him. When Ronald connected with the C3 family of churches, he knew that he had found his tribe and his family.

Ronald wanted me to preach while we were in Recife to bring the international flavor of C3. I preached on “God Loves Lost People.” We talked about the story of the Prodigal Son. This is one of the most popular stories in the New Testament. Have you ever thought how different it would be if we removed the element of grace from the story?

If I was writing the story, or maybe if you were writing the story, we might not go so easy on the boy. He is right, he had sinned against his dad and was not worthy to be called his son. Maybe it was a good idea to let him be like one of his dad’s servants. The father could apply part of his earnings to pay back what the boy had wasted.

What happens if we take the element of grace out of the story? The story loses its impact. The reason the story still speaks to us is because the boy got what he did not deserve. This is a message the church needs to re-embrace today. Too often, we are like the older brother who does not want anything to do with his sinful younger brother. In reality, God is calling us to have his heart for a lost a dying world.

We are going to stay close to Pastor Romûlo and see what God might do there. We

Recife is a beautiful coastal city but it is also very strategic to reaching the Northeast of Brazil.

Recife is a beautiful coastal city but it is also very strategic to reaching the Northeast of Brazil.

would love to have a C3 Church in Recife! Romûlo has a great heart for people and a huge vision. Ronald and I gave him some ideas and he has a clear strategy for growth in 2015. Even though his church is small, Romûlo is already looking outside the doors to his community. He has partnered with Samaritans’ Purse. Igreja Cristá Doxa will be distributing 400 gift boxes to children in and around Recife.

Would you please pray for pastor Romûlo, his wife Carol and their daughter Giovanna? They are also expecting their second child in May. Please pray for God’s blessing and protection on their lives. Pray that God would give them wisdom as they are laying a solid foundation for their church. Pray that God would send them workers to help build a great church.

Please consider becoming a part of our support team. We have three other possible church plants in the works. I will keep you updated as we continue to move forward! Your financial support is making a difference in so many lives. Please click here for more information. Obrigado!

Why is there a Star on Top of My Christmas Tree?


There are many different toppers that people put on the top of their Christmas trees. By far, however, the most popular is the traditional star. In many cases, these stars have a light inside them and shine brightly, complementing the other lights on the tree.

While many people display a star on their Christmas tree, it is probably safe to assume that most people, and especially children, have no idea as to the significance of that star or what it represents. This Christmas would be a great time for people to learn what the star represents and share it with their children. As children get older, Christmas memories and traditions can be reinforced. Talking about the significance of the star on the Christmas tree this holiday season could be the start of a new tradition for your family.

The Christmas Story is found in the New Testament. The gospels of Matthew and Luke both contain a birth narrative of Jesus. Matthew’s story is the one that talks about the star. Matthew 2:1-2 says, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Most scholars understand these “Magi,” to be Babylonian astrologers. A special star or even possibly a comet had gotten their attention and somehow pointed them to the area of Palestine. Being learned men, they likely were familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. When they saw the star leading them towards Palestine, they probably studied the words of the prophets and understood that the star was announcing the birth of a king.

Their first stop was in Jerusalem where they checked in with King Herod. Surely, a king would be born in the palace, surrounded by royalty! King Herod, however, knew nothing of this new king. He did understand the importance of the Magi, though, and recognized that they probably had seen a sign in the heavens. The king spoke to his advisers about where the messiah would be born. The advisers told the king that the baby would be born in Bethlehem.

Herod passed this information onto the Magi, sending them on their way to Bethlehem to look for the child. Herod asked the Magi to let him know when they found the child so that he might come and pay his respects as well. In reality, Herod intended to kill the baby. He would not take any chances that a messiah might have entered the world who would one day take his throne from him.

Matthew then wrote of the Magi, “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” (Matthew 2:9-10) The star led the Magi right to the house where Jesus and His family were. “They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

Clearly, the Magi understood that this child was no ordinary Baby. They had been directed to His location by a supernatural star in the sky. There were numerous prophecies that had been fulfilled at His birth. The fact that they worshipped Him and presented gifts provides us with an idea of how important they understood this Child’s birth to be. When the Magi were ready to leave, they did not report back to Herod. God had spoken to them in a dream not to return to Jerusalem, so they just mounted their camels and started for home.

After the star guided the Magi to where the Baby was, it was never referred to again. It had done its job and pointed the way to Jesus. Even though the special star would never be heard from again, Jesus Himself would be referred to as, “the Light of the World.” Listen to how John describes Jesus, “The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it…The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world.” (John 1:5,9)

This Christmas, as you are putting that beautiful star on your tree, why not take the time to explain to your children what that star represents? Helping them to understand the significance of the star will help them to understand the true meaning of Christmas. Sure, Christmas is about family, sharing, creating memories, giving and receiving gifts, and spending time with those we love.

First and foremost, however, Christmas is about Jesus. At that first Christmas, God sent a special star to guide the Magi to where the Baby Jesus was. God’s light is still shining through Jesus, drawing people to Himself. Christmas is a wonderful time to reflect on that light. For those who are willing, God will put His light in them as well.

Would you consider a year end gift to support our missionary work in Brazil? It is tax deductible and your gifts are making a difference in so many people’s lives! Just click here. Obrigado!