Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ruth 1- Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Ruth. For four weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the redemptive story of God. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
Head down, heart empty
Ruth 1

The book of Ruth is one of two books in the entire Bible that are named after women. Ruth is the only book in the Old Testament named after a non-Jew (She was from Moab). This speaks to the impact that Ruth had on the people of God. The book offers us no hint to who authored it, but the time frame puts it in the time of the Judges. Ruth takes place during the time of the Judges and likely early in that era, as Boaz is the son of Rahab, who helped the Israelites very soon after they entered the Promised Land. The book contains a great deal of dialogue. The three main characters are: Boaz, Naomi, and Ruth. Of the three, Ruth is the one who speaks the least in the book.

1) The book of Ruth is a true love story. It contains heartbreak, loss, tragedy, romance, and drama. When you think about your favorite love story, what is most appealing about it? What is most memorable?

2) Read Ruth 1:1. There was a famine in the land but the author doesn’t explain its origins. In Deuteronomy 28:15-68, Moses tells the Israelites what will be the consequences for their disobedience. Look over these verses and discuss.

3) Elimelek’s name means- God is my King. His departure from Bethlehem could be an example of his loss of faith. When have you wanted to walk away from God? What kept you from walking away from the Lord? What drew you back?

4) Read Genesis 19:30-37 to see the start of the Nation of Moab. Read Numbers 25 to see how the Moabites lead Israel astray. Talk about the history of Moab.

5) Read Ruth 1:8-15. Naomi is insistent on sending Ruth and Orpah back to Moab. She uses tough love, encourages them to return, and blesses them. Why do you think Naomi didn’t want them to return with her? Why does Naomi bless them, but see herself as being at enmity with the Lord?

6) In Ruth 1:16-17, Ruth makes a bold statement about following Naomi. What are some key elements of her commitment? What was she giving up and what did she gain by following the Lord?

7) Read Ruth 1:19-21. Naomi saw herself as an enemy of God. When have you been in bitter distress and in need of a Godly friend? How did that change things?

Close your time in prayer

Monday, May 13, 2019

My Introduction to Compassion International


When I met my wife she introduced me to a ministry called Compassion International. I had never heard of them before and knew nothing about it, except that when Charity talked about Compassion her eyes lit up and her smiled widened. Charity began to tell me that as a seventeen year old she began sponsoring a child in another country. I was shocked; what seventeen year old gives their own money to help another kid in a another country. I didn’t have any context for this in my mind.

The more we spent time together the more our relationship began to heads to marriage. One day Charity said something like, “The only way I’ll marry you is if you sponsor a child with Compassion too.” I was taken back but later that week I realized how important this was to her but more importantly to God. I began searching the Scripture to see God’s heart for the children who were oppressed, marginalized, and forgotten. It was at that point I became a sponsor with Compassion.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself in Africa working on churches that would soon be centers for Compassion to meet. One day we had the opportunity to visit a Compassion Center that met at a local church.

While visiting this center, one of the directors told us about the impact of Compassion. Students, families, or individuals will sponsor a child for $38 a month. That provides the child with access to: clean water, education, Bible lessons, and nutritious meals that the family can’t provide. They have a day that they call Compassion day when all the kids come to the church. On this particular day a young boy didn’t show. The Compassion staff walked to his home and found him lying in a ditch. They brought him to the church and gave him medicine that cost about $2 and his life was saved. I asked what would have happen if he wasn’t a part of Compassion and they told me he would have died.

That day I made a promise that I will help in any way I can. I don’t think that kids should die because they can’t afford $2 in medicine.

If you're curious about how you can help, check out Compassion International.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

One win and one loss

How many of you have ever needed someone to help you out? It might be emotional support during a breakup, a ride to the hospital for a surgery, or financial assistance.

A couple years ago I was getting a tattoo. It was late and the streets of Vegas began to quiet down. My artist had walked outside for a smoke. The shop was silent until a woman slowly peaked her head in. She was looking to get a tattoo and began sharing her story with us.

She couldn’t stand still as she began telling me about how she wanted to get a tattoo for her son. I was surprised because I was in the middle of getting my son’s handprint on my inner arm. I showed her the progress and when she saw my tattoo she began crying. I didn’t know what was taking place but knew a story was coming. Through her tears she began to tell me how her son was killed just a few months earlier.

She didn’t go into details but her face told the pain of the story. Her son was just a few months older than my son at the time of his death. The most painful part was our son’s shared the same name. She tried to leave and I asked if I could pray for her but she rejected it. I have no clue what happened to that woman after she left. But I believe God has kept a close watch on her life.

In the Gospel of Luke chapter 10 we read one of the most familiar stories in the entire Bible. It’s called “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.” For most of my time as a pastor I haven’t taught this passage. My logic is that many have heard the parable and I didn’t feel I had much to offer. But as our church has looked at how the compassion of Jesus changes us, it seemed right to look at the words of Jesus in this familiar story.

Asking the wrong question

Luke provides no specific time frame for this story (read Luke 10:25-29). The man came to Jesus with a hostile question. He is defined as expert in the law. He is not a teacher of the law or a student of the law, but an expert. He presents a question to Jesus in an attempt to be sure he can enter heaven. He knows that eternal life can’t be bought or earn, but inherited. Salvation is a free gift for those who place their faith and trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. He’s studied the Scriptures and has a great handle on them.

In fact, the Apostle Paul made sure the church in Rome knew that salvation isn’t something that can be earned (read Romans 8:3). The law was powerless to DO. Salvation is not spelled “do” but spelt “done.” The work of salvation was done for us by Jesus on the cross. Jesus conquered sin and death so we could enjoy eternity with Him in heaven. When we turn back to the story we read that Jesus answers the question with a question. Jesus responds to the hostility with grace of the God.

The Bible points us to the grace of God. The man was able to summarize the truth of God. His answer is correct (read Deuteronomy 6:4-5). He essentially quotes what a devout Jewish person would recite twice a day. It’s called the Shema. The condensed version is a command to love God and love others. His answer pleased Jesus. If you were standing around looking at the crowd you might have seen people give a small golf clap. Onlookers would have whispered to each other. Older Jewish woman would have wished their daughter had married this man.

Through the quiet accolades, the expert in the law broke the silence; he wanted to justify himself. He may have wanted public praise or inner clarity. He furthers his lawyer type response asking Jesus to clarify who his neighbor would be. The man asks the wrong question. Instead of asking who is his neighbor, he needed to ask; “Am I a neighbor?” He didn’t think about who he could bless, or care for, or be kind to, but longed for justification for his actions.

So many times we ask the wrong question. The problem is we are self-centered by nature. We have a tendency to overlook situations that we feel are out of our control. We marginalize people based on our preconceived notions and actions. We’ve been raised in a certain environment and therefore can miss what is happening the rest of our county, state, and country. We think about what we can gain from a situation instead of what we can add. So often we have things backwards and Jesus wants to change our perspective. I’m not condemning us, but pointing on what we need to be aware of in our personal life.

Interrupted travel plans 

Jesus seems unshaken by the question and shares a brief story (read Luke 10:30). The road has been called the road of blood—it’s an extremely dangerous road. Jerusalem sits on a mountain 2500 feet above sea level, you always go down from Jerusalem no matter which direction you take. Jericho was seventeen miles east of Jerusalem and approximately eight hundred feet below sea level.

The man was dehumanized. He is beaten and left half dead in the middle of the road. Given the desert landscape, robbers would hide around corners and in caves to attack unsuspecting people. He didn’t intend to get jumped. Another version of the Bible says, “he fell into the hands of robbers.” This happens so often. Talk to an ex-drunk and they will tell you they never intended to allow their life to spiral out of control. Prostitutes tell the same story, they fell into the lifestyle. I just finished a book called Ghettoside based on the gang lifestyle in Los Angeles. Many of these young men fell into the gang life in their teens to protect themselves; it’s horrible.

We have the scene set and it looks like a crime scene waiting for the police to arrive. Then Jesus says these words (read Luke 10:31). Yes! A priest is coming this way, this guy has to be superman in the story. Surely the priest will be the hero who arrives before the police. But he passes the man by.

Many of you are wondering what just happened. This isn’t how a priest would treat this man. The priest may have just finished his Temple service. He was anxious to arrive home. Levitical law stated he was only allowed to defile himself for a close relative. Only if a close family member passes away can he be near. He doesn’t want to take the risk of this man dying and making him unclean. He crossed to the far side of the road. He did all he could to avoid this man. He throws his hands up, stops quickly, and walks the edge of the road. We must keep in mind he is only a fictional character, but either way his actions are painful for us to read.

Jesus continues (read Luke 10:32). Next a levite comes by. Levites were helpers in the Temple Service. He would have been an assistant to the Priest. Of course this man of God will help this beaten human. Both of these men had to know the Shema and the command to love God and love others. But this man also dances to the side of the road. He turns his head from the desperate situation. He does his best to convince himself it’s someone else’s problem. He justifies his actions in his mind so he can walk on with a clean conscious. A man lies in the road, hanging on to life by a thread, and two men of God have just passed by without offering any help.


It’s tempting to get some righteous anger. We wish we were sitting close enough to interrupt Jesus and make a statement. We want to know why these men passed with doing nothing. In the spring of 2012 I graduated from seminary. Afterwards our family went to lunch. Then we got on the road to head to the hotel. I had my family of four loaded in the car and accelerated on the freeway onramp. Halfway up the onramp was what appeared to be a transient couple. As we drove nearer I could see the woman on the ground clawing to get away from the man. He had fist drawn in the air and was yelling at her. Guess what I did? I did nothing. I continued on the gas and left. God had sent help. I just graduated seminary but for some reason I froze and was useless.

Maybe something like this happened in your life. You had the means to help and didn’t. Maybe you froze like I did. Maybe you didn’t know how to help. Maybe the sight of the blood was too much for you and you went the other way. Maybe you thought the small amount in your pocket wasn’t enough to give away. We’re great at making excuses to keep us safe. We’re great at creating narratives that help us remain arms distance from the place God wants us to engage.

Just like our story, this story isn’t complete (read Luke 10:33-35). Next a Samaritan comes by. This is an emphatic statement in the text. For whatever reason, Jesus intentionally choose a race that Jews hated. The Jews and Samaritans hated each other equally. But in this story, we read that the Samaritan had pity on the man. Another translation might read compassion. In the Greek language it’s to be moved deeply in your bowels. The man had such a deep, inner, sympathy for this man who was hurt. His reaction is a stark contrast to the first two men. If everyone had been holding their breath, it has been let out.

Hope comes when one person shows compassion. That’s all it takes for everyone leaning forward in their chair to relax. The oil would have soothed the pain of his wounds. The wine would disinfect it. This man has been brutalized so bad that he can’t even walk to help himself; he is placed on the donkey and taken from the horror zone. He is brought to an inn where the Samaritan pays for his ongoing care. The amount given would cover about twenty-four nights of lodging and he offers to pay more if the costs increase.

The Samaritan gave his personal resources to help out. He invested his time to help out, he gave his resources to care for the man, and gave his money. All of this he did for a man he never met. What compels a person to act in such a way. He appears reckless in caring for this man.

My friend Gary Gaddini once said, “The greatest things done in Jesus name always surpass reason.” What this Samaritan did is unheard of. The hate between these two groups of people and that one would care for the other. The Samaritan allowed his travel plans to be highjacked to help out a person he never met and may never meet again.

To bring a conclusion to the story, Jesus asks the final question of the encounter (read Luke 10:36-37). I imagine Jesus asking the question in a very humble tone. He is direct and fixes His gaze on the other man. With his head down he gives is answer.

There are some literary clues we need to point out to grasp the weight of this. First the expert in the law couldn’t say that it was the Samaritan who was the hero in the story. Second he never addressed the compassion aspect. He uses a different word. He called him “man” and said “mercy.” His use of mercy suggests the man almost deserved what he got. Jesus tells him to go and likewise. If you want to inherit heaven, have compassion on others. Surrender your life to Jesus and live to help others.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Ghettoside- Book Review

Title- Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

Author- Jill Leovy

Publisher- Spiegel & Grau

Pages- Audio Book (paperback is 384 pages)

Quotable- Since I listened to this book I don't have an exact quote to share

A couple weeks ago I began listening to Ghettoside. I have to admit that it was heartbreaking to hear the horrible stories that are taking place less than two hours away from where I live.

There is an area in South Central Los Angeles where gang violence is extremely high.
It's a place where cops don't want to live.
It's an area with one of the highest murder rates in America
It's an area where young men join gangs to survive

Growing up in Big Bear Lake I've heard about the gang violence in Los Angeles. I lived just a few hours away, saw the pain on TV, but never experienced the type of violence explained in this book. The stark contrast of my home life and the lifestyle explained here is on opposite ends of the spectrum. I grew up in a community that felt 95% white... that is not Los Angeles.

Jill Levoy does a fantastic job at explaining the history, context, and pain of gang life. She gives a background on some of the most known gangs, talks about turf wars, and the cops hoping to bring peace to a war-torn community. She also explains some of the factors that go into the gang violence for young black men. Levoy brings out stats about gang-violence, and how tough it is for a young man to escape this world.

I'd guess about half way through the book she introduced the true story of a cops son who was shot down in broad daylight by a young gangster on drugs. Bryant Tennelle was shot in the head and died shortly after. The young man had no gang ties and was hoping to graduate high school. His death is a tragic loss of life that doesn't need to happen.

The case was going cold when Detective John Skaggs was assigned to it. I'm not going to go into the details of the case, but highly encourage you to read this book. Then we need to ask ourselves, "Has God put me in a place to help someone?" Skaggs shook every tree, complied stories, and took the case to trial.

If you've read the book, what are your thoughts?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Colossians Small Group Questions- Week 7


Our church is currently studying the book of Colossians. For seven weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a brand new life in Jesus. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
The Credits
Colossians 4:2-18

As Paul concludes the letter to the church in Colossae he packs in more instructions on living for Jesus. Paul has a unique way of sharing a deep amount of spiritual truth in a few short sentences. Paul begins by addressing a thriving prayer life and moves to encouraging the church to make the most of every relationship they have. He transitions to introducing the men who are serving alongside him in the ministry of the gospel. In his words you can see his care and compassion for each man. You can see how much he cares about investing in others and not doing life in solitude.  

1. Neal began his sermon by sharing about the unique opportunities that were presented to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. What unique opportunities have come along your path that brought you were you are?  

2. In Colossians 4:2, Paul writes about having a devoted, watchful, and thankful prayer life. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, Philippians 4:6, and Luke 18:1-8. What do these passages teach us about these characteristics of our prayer life?   

3. Paul longed for the church in Colossae to have an impact on their community (read Colossians 4:5-6). He spoke about their actions and words. Read James 1:22-26 and Ephesians 4:29. What impact do your words and actions have on the people who are closest to you? 

4. How can we walk in wisdom towards people who don’t know Jesus? 

5. Read Colossians 4:7-15. Identify each person in this list that Paul mentions and take some time to talk about each man. What characteristics of these men do you want to be known for in your life and what do you need to do to make that happen?  

6. Epaphras was the one who started the church in Colossae (Colossians 1:7). Now at the end of the letter we learn more about his life and ministry. How can looking at his prayer life help you grow in the ministry of prayer? 

7. Paul closes the letter by offering grace to the church. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. Where else in Scripture have you read about grace and how can you be gracious to others?  

Close your time in prayer 

Monday, April 08, 2019

Colossians Small Group Questions- Week 6


Our church is currently studying the book of Colossians. For seven weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a brand new life in Jesus. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
The ___________ Centered Person 
Colossians 3:18-4:1

In Colossians 3:18-4:1, Paul wrote about reshaping the Roman household. In these verses Paul is going to be really practical  and shows the Colossians what this new humanity can look like in their homes. The Roman household was a highly authoritarian household. That means the father would lead with an iron first. He held power over all who lived under his roof and would do as he pleased with those people. Paul is going to show us that the home led by Christ is much different than what they grew up in and have experienced to this point in life. What Paul writes here was so counter-culture to the Roman world that most of them would have had a tough time understanding this.

1. Neal shared about the Stanford Prison Experiment from 1971 and what happens when you put good people in an evil place. When have you seen group evil take place or someone allow power to go to head so their actions hurt others? 

2. In Colossians 3:19, Paul commanded husbands to love their wives. Read Ephesians 5:22-33 to get a greater understanding of what Paul was encouraging husbands to do in their home. How can husbands fulfill the responsibility Paul lays out here? Who are some Biblical examples of a husband that men can emulate?  

3. As Paul continued to reshape the Roman household he instructed fathers on how to treat their children (read Colossians 3:21). Read 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 and Romans 8:14-17. How can we apply the God treats us as children to our children?    

4. Some women have a husband that is easy to submit to and others might be more difficult. Read Colossians 3:18 and discuss how a wives submission to her husband is in direct relationship to her love for the Lord. What Biblical examples submission can you think of?  

5. Paul directed children to obey their parents (Colossians 3:20), it seems like a direct quote from Exodus 20:12. Why do you think this is the only commandment, of the Ten Commandments, with a promise attached? 

6. How can parents encourage their kids and not embitter them? 

7. Pauls peaks of relationships between slaves and masters. How can you serve those in authority over you with the end goal of helping them know Jesus? 

Close your time in prayer 


Monday, March 25, 2019

Colossians Small Group Questions- Week 4


Our church is currently studying the book of Colossians. For seven weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a brand new life in Jesus. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
Alive in Christ
Colossians 2:6-23

Paul wrote this letter to the church in Colossae because they were dealing with false teaching. The theological threat was a major concern to the Christian faith. The believers in Colossae were being bombarded with the worship of angels and Jewish legalism. They knew the truth but were in desperate need of encouragement to follow Jesus. The theological threat concerned two major tenets of the Christian faith. In this section Paul addressed the theological foundation of sanctification and the person and work of Christ primarily related to His work on the cross.

1) Read Colossians 2:6-8. Paul begins this section by encouraging the church to continue living their lives in Jesus. He uses three words: strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness. Where do you see this evidence in your life?

2) Thinking about Colossians 2:8, what are some hallow and deceptive teachings that draw you away from following the Lord?

3) Paul wanted the church in Colossae to be clear about the Deity of Christ (read Colossians 2:9-2). Read John 1:1-14 to see what the Apostle John wrote about Jesus. What similarities to you see in these passages?

4) Neal talked about circumcision of the flesh and the heart. In Jewish Law it was required for a boy to be circumcised on the 8th day (Leviticus 12:3). But the Prophets spoke about God changing hearts (Ezekiel 36:23-29). How do you think this truth impacted Israel?

5) Paul talked about being dead in sin and alive in Christ. In Colossians 2:15, we read that Christ disarmed the powers and authorities. What does Paul mean by this? (Matthew 27:51, Genesis 3:14-15, Revelation 19:11-21, 1 Peter 5:8-9)

6) Why is legalism so popular among Christ followers today? Share an experience you’ve had with legalism in your life or impressed on you.

7) Read Colossians 2:16-19. Paul gave two warnings to the church. One was to avoid asceticism and the second was to avoid to angel worship. Which of these false teachings is most difficult for you to avoid? Why?

Close your time in prayer

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A church revitalized by prayer

As many of you know, about eighteen months ago our family moved to Ventura to be a part of Coastline Bible Church. Coastline has been in the community of Ventura for almost nintey-seven years now.

Our church had a rich history of being a lighthouse in this community for Jesus.
Our church has a rich history of planting churches, sending missionaries, baptizing and leading people to a relationship with Jesus.
Our church had a rich history of investing in kids, students, and families.

When we arrived we realized that God was getting ready to do something new here. We had a vision of what that would be, but needed more clarity.

One thing we did was restate our Core Values. For months I crafted what I felt like God was leading us to. I worked with staff and elders to make sure we were heading in the right direction. To finalize them we had a big gathering of staff and elders to make sure the language was correct. I love how one of our elders put it. He said something like, "We just put them in modern language." It was the perfect statement.

One of our Core values is:
We Pray Bold Prayers
We know that God is awesome and capable, so we make “the big ask” of God in our prayer life. We come to God with a bold list of prayers and take time to actively listen to Him on a regular basis.
1 Samuel 3, Mark 1:35, Acts 12:5, James 5:16

You might be wondering where I'm going with this, but stay with me.
About a year ago we created a new gift to give our guests.
We wanted something they would use and not throw away.
We wanted something that wasn't cheap.
We wanted something that would be valuable to them.
We landed on Coastline mugs (because who doesn't love coffee).

After the mug was created I began taking them with me to speaking engagements, conferences, small gatherings, vacation, and more. I began giving them to all our friends who were praying for us and supporting us. I gave them to friends in different cities, counties, and states.
The one similarity was that I would ask them to pray for Coastline every time they used the mug.

Some friends would send texts, others would send pictures. They were always encouraging.
In the last three weeks these came in. Some had text messages and others I just knew what the pic meant.



















Praying! This mug is the best gift you’ve ever given me...I think I pray for you more than anyone else....





















Prayed for you and the grand re-opening this morning. Love you guys.




Been drinking coffee out of my Coastline mug last couple mornings and praying for you guys.






















All of this got me thinking about how God longs to converse with us in prayer. Then I got to thinking, "What would it look like to invite more people into your life to pray for you and what God is doing?"

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Colossians Small Group Questions- Week 3


Our church is currently studying the book of Colossians. For seven weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a brand new life in Jesus. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
The Mystery of Christ
Colossians 1:24-2:5

Paul wrote the letter to the church in Colossae to combat false teaching that was sneaking into the church. So far, Paul has done a brilliant job at encouraging the church to live for Jesus, praying for the church, and explaining the greatness of Jesus. Paul has been so busy talking about the greatness of Jesus he’s barely said anything about himself. In this next section of Scripture that is all about to change. Paul addresses himself in multiple ways based on how he seems himself through the eyes of Jesus.

1) Paul begins this section by sharing about his sufferings for Jesus. Read about some of those sufferings here: Acts 21:30-32, 23:1-2, 27:39-41, and 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. Share about a time you suffered for Jesus and the gospel.

2) Paul regularly refers to himself as a servant of Jesus (read Colossians 1:25). Think about the duties and requirements of a servant. What is the goal of a servant to accomplish and how does one do so joyfully?

3) Paul longed to share the love of Jesus with the Gentiles (read Colossians 1:27). God has always longed for His Kingdom to be multiethnic (read Psalm 22:27 and Acts 11:18). In what ways can we continue to help Coastline be a multiethnic body of people following the truth of Jesus?

4) In Colossians 1:29 Paul talks about strenuously contending for the Gospel to advance. Neal reminded us that to strenuously contend is hard work. How are you strenuously contending for those in your circle of influence to grow in the love, truth, hope, and grace of Jesus?

5) Paul wants the church in Colossae to be united in the love of Jesus (read Colossians 2:2). In addition he wants them to have the full riches of the mystery of Jesus. Why is it so important for them to be united in Christ?

6) Thinking about the importance of unity, where do you see Coastline united for the Gospel? How can you, personally and corporately, help to strengthen this unity to reach our city for Jesus?

7) Paul didn’t want them to be deceived, how does deception sneak in a church?

Close your time in prayer

Monday, March 18, 2019

Rejoice in suffering

Have you ever been around someone who seemed to be in tough, desperate, or even hard times… but they had the joy of the Lord exuding from their life?

About eight years ago I was in a situation that caught me off guard. I was preparing to bring a team to Mexico to help build a church. I wanted to take a pre-trip to see the site, learn the land, and meet the pastor we'd be serving. I don't fully remember his story but recall that this pastor had faithfully prayed for a piece of land for years.

We went to see this piece of land and it wasn't what I thought.
The site had been empty and the neighborhood turned it into a local garbage dump.
I was shocked to see the condition of the land but this pastor was thrilled at what GOD was doing in his community.

The pastor talked about the site with our team.
He shared his vision to reach the community.
He shared about the spiritual climate of the area.
He told us how thrilled he was that the dump site would one day be a church that praised our Lord.

I hoped in the truck and headed back to Vegas. We were told that over the next month the land would be cleared and a foundation laid.

Our leadership team returned home and got a team of twenty-five people ready to come and help. Now I have to be honest, I was leery that the site would be ready for us, but when we arrived what was once a dump was ready for a GOD to build a church. Our first morning in Mexico we held a worship gathering on the land. I love that the pastor had the foresight to begin the time with praise. I might have just started working.


That week we erected walls, painted, and roofed the new location.






We invited the community and had a huge party.


What once was a dump was now a house of worship.

Sometimes things aren’t always the way we see them.

The pastor in Mexico taught me about seeing things the way God sees them and not the way I see them. He rejoiced when I thought it was time to suffer.

Now let me share one last thought. All of this wasn't possible with one person. This took a group of people, vision, determination, smarts, knowledge and more. It would be a miss to not share the team pic from Las Vegas that played a role in working alongside the team in Mexico to help make this a possibility. I'm so thankful that each of these people allowed me to serve alongside them a decade ago!

Monday, March 11, 2019

The supremacy of Jesus


We live in such a time where we want to hear what we want to hear when we want to hear it. We live in a time where we don't want to think about God being supreme because that means our personal agenda will be impacted. This same thing was happening in the city of Colossae.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
Colossians 1:15-18
Paul moves into some of the most theologically robust passages in all of Scripture.

You can see that Paul longed for the church in Colossae to know the fullness of Jesus. Paul begins in verse 15 with two key assertions about Jesus from Nazareth:
1) Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God
2) Jesus is the firstborn over all creation

Let’s talk about Jesus being the visible image of the invisible God. 


Jesus is the visible representation of God. Think with me about what you know about Jesus. He loved people, He fed the hungry, He welcomed the unloveable, and Jesus was a great teacher.

Is this is image you have of God in your mind? As a pastor, I’ve found that many people have this skewed view of God. People have this view that God is out to get them, that God is looking for reasons to kill them. This is the image that I have of Jesus, I see Jesus as a loving Savior.

Some other people also wrote about Jesus being the visible image of God. The author of the letter of Hebrews wrote:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:3 
Jesus is the exact representation of God and the radiance of His glory. This is huge for the Jewish community because they believed that a person could not look at God. But in Jesus they see the nature and character of God.

But that’s not all, the Apostle John shared this:
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1:18
Jesus spent time with God the Father and came to earth to display the love of God to us. Jesus came as the visible image of the invisible God.

The second statement Paul made was that Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. 


Paul wants us to know that Jesus holds a special place in all creation. For some reason there are special privileges given to the firstborn child. You get to stay up later than the other kids, change diapers for your siblings, wash the car first, and more! But for reals, in Jewish culture there were certain privileges and birthrights given to the firstborn son. There were possessions and privileges that only the firstborn son was able to receive.

If we look back to Colossians 1:16, we read that all things were created through Jesus. This is a powerful statement for Paul to make. This means that Jesus created the sand, ocean, hills, and grass that grows on those hills. It means Jesus created the air we breath and the breathe we breath out that trees inhale. It means that Jesus created the stars we see and the ones we can’t. It also means that Jesus created us. It means we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). For some of you that might be hard to comprehend. For your whole life you’ve been taught the theory of evolution, but the Bible tells us that we are created in the image of God. For many of you this is a comforting truth. The theory of evolution didn’t sit well in your heart and this is healing balm to your soul.

Now we need to expand our thinking on this statement of the greatness of Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus holds everything together. Have you ever just thought about what that means?

The expanse of our creation is staggering! I think I heard Louie Giglio share this. If that doesn’t give you an idea of how majestic God is then you probably haven’t really considered it much. Think about this: scientists estimate that  Earth weighs about 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. If we took a hallow ball the size of our sun it would hold 1.2 million planets the size our our earth with room for 4.3 million globes the size of our moon! The nearest star to us is called Alpha Centauri and its five times larger than the sun. That is not even the biggest star out there.  There is a star named Betelgeuse that is one of the stars visible in the constellation Orion that is 248 times larger than our sun. It gets better! There is another star that scientists have named Arcturus that is more than ten times larger than that!

You already know this but just for fun a ray of light travels at 186,000 miles per second. A ray of light from here will reach the moon in a second and a half.  Imagine if you could travel that fast. You could reach Mercury in four-and-a-half-minutes. Traveling to Jupiter would take you a mere thirty-five minutes; that is shorter than some of your morning commutes. If you wanted to go visit Saturn its going to take you an hour. To get to the closest star to planet earth will take four years and four months to get there. If you wanted to reach the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy you are looking at 100,000 years to get there. You may want to take a few Aspirin trying to wrap your head around that!

We can allow ourselves to become so consumed with the mundane that we fail to consider the greatness of God. I’m not sharing these stats to sound smart, I want to point our thinking heavenward. When Neil Armstrong spoke of the first time he saw the earth from space he said: “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

Is is possible for us to summarize the greatness of God?

I don’t think we can. But we can remember what Paul said: we were created in Him, through Him, and for Him. Paul longed for the church in Colossae to understand the greatness of God. Paul longed for them to understand the nature of Jesus. See, I think we tend to minimize the greatness of God (God in a box). We forget that Jesus holds all things together. We stress on the mediocre and miss the magnificent. We long for great things but get bogged down with the boring. You and I were created by the God of the universe. We were created to be in relationship with Him.

Part of that relationship is being in relationship with others. Paul reminds us in verse 18 that Jesus is the head of the body, the church. For Jesus to be the head of the body means that the church isn’t some organization but an organism. This might be a new way to think about the church. The church was never meant to be a building, but an organism that helped others.

When I was a little kid we attended a church. One of the things I loved about that church was the donuts, but that’s a different sermon. While attending that church someone taught me this little song, and you might know it too. You take your hands and put them together like this and sing: “This is the church, this is the steeple, open the doors and the see all the people.” I wish it went something like this; “This is the church, this is the community, watch us reach all the people.” I know it doesn’t rhyme all perfect, but you get the point.

I was taught at early age that the church was a building. I don’t have the title of senior pastor because I believe that is reserved for Jesus; Jesus is the head of the church. We follow His leadership. Jesus told us to go and help people who need His love.

Colossians Small Group Questions- Week 2


Our church is currently studying the book of Colossians. For seven weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a brand new life in Jesus. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
Hope for God’s enemies
Colossians 1:15-23

From what we know a man named Epaphras had met Paul in Ephesus while he was preaching there. Epaphras shared the sad truth about believers in Colossae falling away from the Gospel and that prompted Paul to write this letter. False teachers had snuck and pulled the hearts of the believers away from Christ. They had begun worshipping angels and the false teachers began putting special rules in place; hindering them from following Christ. In Colossians 1:15-23 we find some of the most theologically robust passages about Jesus. 

1) A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” What comes to your mind when you think about God? Do you think you and God have a good relationship? 

2) Read Colossians 1:15-17. Paul makes two key assertions about Jesus: First, Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. Second, Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. Read Hebrews 1:3 and Exodus 33:20. In the past God veiled Himself but now has made Himself known. 

3) When we focus on the greatness of God it can be overwhelming. Neal talked about putting God in a box. Share about where you’ve been minimizing the power of God and putting Him in a box. 

4) Thinking about Colossians 1:18, we read that Jesus is the head of the church. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about the roles in the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). What way has God uniquely shaped you to serve in the church? If you don’t know, take time this week to figure it out and start serving!

5) In verse 21 Paul talks about the church being alienated from God. In what ways do you think they were estranged from Jesus? 

6) Reconciliation means to restore a relationship to right standing. How did Jesus reconcile us back to God? How can we take this message to others?

7) Throughout Scripture Paul describes himself as a servant of the gospel message. What keeps you from viewing yourself as a servant of Jesus?

Close your time in prayer 

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Colossians Small Group Questions- Week 1


Our church is currently studying the book of Colossians. For seven weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a brand new life in Jesus. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
How do you want to be remembered?
Colossians 1:1-14

The book of Colossians was written by the Apostle Paul and Timothy. Most scholars agree that Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Paul had most likely never visited Colossae but had heard about their faith in Jesus. The city of Colossae was in a location that allowed it to be influenced by all kinds of false teachings. Paul caught wind that this was happening in Colossae and he didn’t want the Christians to be confused with this false teaching. So instead of being apathetic, Paul engaged them with the truth of Jesus that had radically changed his life.

1) In the introduction of the sermon Neal shared about time where he almost died surfing. That experience made his consider his life. He asked us how we want to be remembered at the end of our lives. How do you want to be remembered at the end of your life?

2) The church is Colossae was struggling with Eastern mysticism, gnosticism, and other false teachings. What do you think are some of the greatest threats to the church in Ventura? (John 14:6 can be helpful here)

3) Thinking about Colossians 1:2, Paul speaks grace and peace over the church. These are two characteristics the world needs a little more of. How can you express grace and peace to others week. Come up with 2-5 tangible ways and find a way to keep each other accountable.

4) Paul had never met the church in Colossae but had heard of their faith. What do people say about your life?

5) Paul said that the Gospel is bearing fruit throughout the entire world. How can your small group be a part of the spread of the Gospel?

6) Read Colossians 1:9-12. Paul’s prayer seems to be all over the place. What most resonates with you? What can you take from Paul’s prayer and begin implementing into your prayer life this week?

7) In Colossians 1:13-14 Paul talks about Jesus rescuing us from the dominion of darkness and bringing us in the the light of Jesus. How does the light change lives?

Close your time in prayer

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Coastline Grand Reopening


You’re invited to our GRAND REOPENING worship gatherings on Sunday March 3, 2019 at 9:00 AM and 10:45 AM. Both gatherings will feature dynamic worship, engaging teaching, and a fun kids’ ministry from birth to fifth grade. We’ll also have bounce houses for kids, food for everyone, and corn hole on the quad between the services.

Coastline opened its doors in 1922, and for nearly 100 years has faithfully communicated and demonstrated the love of Christ both locally and globally. The past several months we’ve seen God do a new thing and move in fresh ways in our faith community. People are finding hope in Jesus, experiencing belonging through community and receiving guidance for life situations. We want you to experience this too!

Join us at our Grand Reopening! We’re putting on a big celebration to let our city know that there is a place they can come to find community, ask tough questions, and discover hope through the truth in the Bible.

Everyone is welcome! We can’t wait to see you on Sunday, March 3!

426 S. Mills Road
Ventura CA 93003

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

14 Thoughts on 14 Years of Marriage

Earlier this month Charity and I celebrated our 14 year anniversary.
That means: 
We’ve watched countless movies together
Our marriage is the same age as a high school freshman
We’ve stood on three continents together
We’ve traveled all over the States
She’s taken care of me when I’m puking
We kept a plant alive
We kept a few fish alive (they actually had babies before us)
We multiplied a few times
God has protected us in a crazy world
She stood by me as I buried my dads
We bought a home together

As I reflect on 14 years of marriage I want to share 14 thoughts to help you in your marriage. Here are some things that have helped us and shaped us:

1. Read God’s words together 
One of my favorite things we do is talk about God’s word. Charity is great at asking me what I’ve read in the Bible that day. It helps affirm what God is teaching us and keeps us connected spiritually.

2. Make vacation a priority 
We love to travel. For our anniversary this year we went to Death Valley. We make it a priority to spend time together in rad places.

3. Find a shared activity 
One area that is a constant struggle for us is finding a shared activity. I love snowboarding and Charity loves the beach. We know this is a weak point in our marriage and are constantly looking to find things to do together (right now it’s hiking).


4. Go get counseling 
Around the seven year mark we went to marriage counseling (like intense marriage counseling).

5. Turn your phone off and focus on each other 
I’ve spent too much time with my phone and not enough with my wife. This year I’m making a priority to spend more time with Charity.

6. Pray together
Every night before we go to bed we pray together. Sometimes I pray, sometimes she prays, sometimes we both pray. Sometimes we don’t want to pray, but we do.

7. Pray for each other 
Pray for your spouse. No one knows what they are going through more than you do.

8. Step out of your comfort zone
Marriage has put us out of our comfort zone. It’s ok to try a new adventure, food, or Bible study with your spouse.

9. Do something you don’t like 
I really don't like heights but when we were dating I took Charity on a sunset hot air ballon ride. It was epic and I was scared I was going to fall the entire time, but she loved it!

10. Make sexual intimacy a priority 
Yep! Don’t ignore your sex life.

11. Say “Yes” to what fills your spouse 
Charity knows I love to snowboard and she says “Yes!” I know she loves to hang out with her friends so I say, “Yes!” This helps us both stay encouraged.

12. Give your spouse a “night off” as needed 
Sometimes we need a night off from being a parent. Put the kids to bed for the other, give them a bath, or do the dishes.

13. Cuddle in bed 
Especially before the kids come!

14. Work together 
Last year we remodeled our home. I loved working along side Charity. We’ve done this before and it’s so fun.

Here are some ideas. What would you add to the conversation?

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

A Practical Bible Reading Plan


When our daughter was two years old we had a tough time with potty training. We tried and tried but no progress. One day we picked her up from kids ministry and the leader shared that for the last month she had been going to the bathroom with all the other kids. We were perplexed! She would go at church but not at home.

What we learned was that she was influenced by the other kids and did what they were doing. It was expected that she would go at church, so she went. She didn't come home and tell us because it wasn't the expectation at home.

This is like reading our Bibles in community.

When we all start reading our Bible in community we are going to see Spiritual progress happen. This is a challenge for each of us to be in God’s word more. Text people what you’re learning. Ask good questions about the Bible to others. Light up your social media with Scripture and application that you are learning from God’s word. I really hope you will accept the invitation to read God’s word this year.

This year, at Coastline, we’re inviting everyone to start reading their Bible.
We’re laying out three options for every stage of spiritual development. 


Option 1

The first option is a month long commitment to reading the Proverbs. If you read one chapter of Proverbs a day you will read the whole book this month. It will take about three to five minutes a day. 


Option 2

The second option is a little more of a commitment. It’s a 100 day reading plan of the Essential 100. It gives you an overview of the whole Bible in fifty Old Testament stories and fifty New Testament stories. It’s a great way to get a complete overview of the Bible in 100 days. 


Option 3

Read the entire Bible from cover to cover. This is the black diamond level speaking in snowboarding terms. It only takes about 15 minutes a day. It’s about three to five chapters a day.

If you are interested in any of these plans talk with your small group leader. Our hope is for our church to know of God’s word than for the TV shows we are watching. We’d love to see you start off your morning by reading God’s word. We’d love to see you take the time you have in life to grow spiritually on your own. A huge way to accomplish this is to do it in community. Find a person to encourage you to make it happen.

Almost nineteen years ago I was invited to attend a church service. I had just got out of DUI class and was looking for hope. The man who invited me asked me to start reading God’s word. He told me to write down questions and ask him. I did. There were times I was confused. There were times I was tired. There were days I didn’t read. But I gained a love for God’s word. Starting to read the Bible on my own changed my life. How will this book change your life this year?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Focus your praise on God


In the Christmas story we see an amazing pattern of praise from two amazing women. It's not a praise for the gifts they received or what was under the tree. It's a lifestyle of praise for the great things God has done.

I'm convinced that many of us have missed the point of Christmas. When you read the Gospel of Luke it ignites your heart to the things of God:
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)
This portion of Scripture has often been called the Magnificat. It’s from the Latin for “magnificent” and is based on the first word of Mary’s song of praise. When we think about what God is doing it really is magnificent.

The first part of Mary’s song of praise focuses on the role she will play in the birth of Christ. Mary never complains that she doesn’t get what she expected. She doesn’t whine about missing out on typical teenage things. She isn't mad she won't go to prom or that the other kids at Nazareth High will talk behind her back.

She knows that God has been mindful of her, based on her humble state. It’s a fascinating piece of literature from a teenage girl. Mary had a deep sense of understanding the power of God and His love for His people. Mary is an emotionally healthy young lady who placed her entire trust in God.

Listen to this: "Mary praised God for what he was about to do and for the part she was privileged to play in his plan." -Robert H. Stein

I want to point out that we can learn from anyone in our lives. Right now we are learning how to praise God from a teenage girl! I know another teenage girl who taught me a lesson. Her name is Kailee Johnson and she was a student leader when I was a High School Pastor. We were planning a big “Invite Night” to help our students reach their friends with the love of Jesus.

Our student leaders showed up early to decorate the room and prepare for the evening. I stopped in to see how things were going and asked Kailee if she needed any help. She looked at me, from the top of a ladder, and said, “Neal, I need you to go write your sermon. I’ve invited some friends and your message better not suck!” It was a perfect response and freed me up to do my role that night. I learned an unforgettable lesson from Kailee that afternoon. What else have you learned from someone you didn’t expect to learn from?

In verse 50, we read a shift in the focus of Mary’s praise:
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (Luke 1:50-56)

Mary moves from taking personally about her soul glorifying the Lord to emphasizing the greatness of the Lord. So let’s talk about the mercy of the Lord. Mercy means compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm. God could have punished or harmed us for our sins, but instead He chose to send Jesus instead to show us love. We don’t normally expect mercy; we expect to get what we deserve. But God gave us mercy!

Mary mentions the mighty deeds of the Lord and the power of His arm. I wonder if she thought about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea after God parted it. I wonder if she thought about God providing manna for Israel so they wouldn’t starve in the desert. What do you think about with God’s mighty arm? Can you think about a time where God intervened to help you in life? Today are you longing for that to take place?

God wants to move on your behalf.

See Mary talks about the greatness of God. She focuses her praise on the Lord. If you are struggling today, make this your song. Sing it, shout it, memorize it, whisper it, and let it roll off your tongue. God helps His servants. God moves on behalf of His people. He hasn’t forgotten any one of us. Many of us have a song in our mind, but is that song honoring God? I can think of many different tunes I know, but I want my praise to be focused on the Lord.

Live a minute of praise 

One of the last parts we read is that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then went home. We don’t read that the truant officer came looking for her or that her parents were scared. But when we reflect on this passage, it’s easy to think about how we are doing at praising God. I wanted to talk about living a life of praise and how we can plan out the next five, ten, or fifty years of our lives,  but that isn’t really practical. It’s much more practical to focus on worshipping God in the next minute of this day. What if you just asked yourself, “How can I praise God in this next minute of my life?” What would change?

We are really good at praising people. Some of us have the gift of encouragement and we love to tell people what a great job they are doing. Others of us have the gift of discouragement, and we love to point out the problems we see in others. First let me suggest that we focus on praising the creator. Mary was really good at directing her praise to God as the creator. She understood the goodness and compassion of God. She didn’t praise Elizabeth for being so wise and the baby John the Baptist. Mary didn’t praise her parents for being such good parents or her relatives for opening their door for her to stay there with them. Mary had her praise focused on God.

For us to have God as the center of our praise means we need to address what our eyes are truly longing for. As a parent, it is easy to praise our kids. It is easy to praise a spouse. It is easy to praise a lifelong friend who has helped us navigate a tough time in life. I’m not saying to withhold encouragement from these people, I’m asking for you to evaluate who you are praising and make sure you make it a priority to praise the creator this Christmas season.

Secondly, I’ve found that during Christmas it is easy to focus on material possessions. Have you noticed that half of the commercials on TV right now are telling you to buy a new car!? It’s crazy. It seems like every day my kids are telling me another gift they want under the tree. I can tell you this, I am not getting them a hamster no matter how much they beg for one. Christmas is not about the price tags possessions. Christmas is not about the gifts we receive, it’s about praising the giver of life. I know there are some presents you are longing to get, but don’t forget to give your praise to God this year.

Finally, praise God for His goodness in your life. It can be easy to think that we are super smart, have all the answers, and know what we’re talking about. But let’s redirect personal praise to praise for God. When Elizabeth praised God for what He was doing in Mary’s life, Mary went straight to praising God for His goodness. Mary pushed that praise right to God. God has done amazing things in your life. God has brought each of us through tough times. Praise God for the good things He’s done in your life. Praise Him and don’t curse Him this Christmas.

I know that we are all in different places in our spiritual lives. Not everyone is a believer in Jesus. That is what the church is all about, helping people find and follow Jesus. That means we all can grow in our walks with Jesus. Some of us are great at worshipping football more than Jesus while some of us worship Jesus more than anything else. I also know that familiarity breeds complacency. If this is your first time hearing this story, it’s all new information to you. But if you’ve been around church for a while, it might be repetitive.

Pastor Daniel Schreiner once said, “For many of us, the familiarity of this Christmas story has deadened the impact it should have on our lives. We have lost the wonder.” When we keep our praise on God, it keeps the wonder in Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Circle Maker- Book Review

Book Title- The Circle Maker

Author- Mark Batterson

Publisher- Zondervan

Pages- 226

Quotable- "Yet many of us prayer as if our problems are bigger than God." (page 73)

Over the summer I preached a sermon series on prayer at Coastline. We called it "Conversations with God" because I think we've complicated prayer too much. For the sermon series I grabbed about 4-6 books and dove into the subject of prayer.

I looked at the prayer lives of others, the habits of others, the struggles, and more. I read about churches who started a prayer movement. I looked the Scripture to see what God said about prayer. It was a great time of personal study. The hardest part was figuring out what to share and what would stay in my heart.

Circle Marker is one of the books that grabbed my attention and heart. Mark Batterson captivated me with his historical and practical understanding of prayer. Mark shares stories of history from people who prayed and God answered. Some of the stories are straight from the Bible, while others are written in history. Mark talks about his own prayer journey which resonated deeply with my soul.

Mark shares about the prayers prayed for him and the prayers he has made. The idea of being a circle maker is taken straight from a man named Honi. You have to read the book to learn about Honi because it's a fantastic story. But the idea of being a circle maker has changed my prayer life. I'm intentionally leaving this paragraph ambiguous to encourage you to read the book. I honestly believe we need more circle makers in the world.

My prayer life has shifted from long prayers to focused prayers. I've begun going on prayer walks more frequently. I've thought about my posture in prayer. I've tried to kick myself out of cruise control on prayer and focus on what I'm asking the God of Heaven. I've prayed circles around my kids, marriage, and church. I just prayed a circle around the 39th year of my life because of this book!

Mark breaks the book into four sections:
  1. The First Circle- Dream Big
  2. The Second Circle- Prayer Hard
  3. The Third Circle- Think Long
  4. Keep Circling 
I would defiantly recommend this book to any believer at any stage of life. I'm grateful for the concept of praying circles and the stories Mark shares about God answering his prayers. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A time to celebrate


We’re in a time of year where kids are writing their list, heading to the mall, visiting Santa and looking for the gift that will give them happiness. At the same time, teenagers are trying to finish up classes so they can have a break in school. Parents are staying up late shopping on Amazon and wrapping presents. Grandparents are planning to visit family or receive family who is coming home to visit them. Each of us are preparing for Christmas and the end of 2018 in a different way.

In my opinion, this really needs to be a time of gratitude. This needs to be a time of celebration, pause, reflection, and joy.

It’s a time to celebrate what God has brought us through this year.
It’s a time to pause and spend time with God.
It’s a time to reflection on how we’ve lived in light of the gospel.
It’s a time to have joy for health, family, and love.
This is a time to celebrate.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Using the time God has given me

Every week we are each given 10,080 minutes to invest into living a generous life.

A recent study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census tells us how many Americans spend that resource each year. 

Commuting: 9.4 days
The average American commutes 52 minutes per day or 225 hours a year.

Working: 120 days
The average employed American works 7.9 hours a day or 2,883 hours a year.

Cleaning house: 27.4 days
The average American spends 1.8 hours a day or 657 hours a year on chores.

Exercising: 4.9 days
The average American spends 0.32 hour a day or 117 hours a year on exercise.

Sleeping: 134 days
The average American sleeps 8.8 hours a day or 3,212 hours a year

Calling, mailing & emailing: 2.4 days
The average American spends .16 hours a day or 58 hours a year
Total: 306 days a year—84% of your year on the daily grind.

This study made me evaluate how I'm using the time God has given me. In fact, I'm more convicted by the time I waste on social media, playing games, and watching TV.

So what can we do about the time we've been given? The Bible talks about being a good steward of what we have. You can also read Ecclesiastes 3 to learn about the different seasons in life. 

Instead of simply knowing what the Bible says, I think we’re all longing to apply God’s truth to our daily life. It’s good to have information but what we really long is life transformation. 

When we think about our time on earth and living a generous life, remember this: My time needs to be invested for God’s Kingdom. Invest the time you have been given to grow God’s Kingdom. See the author of Ecclesiastes is longing for the meaning of life. He seems to be experiencing a time of hopelessness and despair. 

So how do we use this time to invest in God’s Kingdom? Let’s talk about three simple ways you can apply to your life this week!

1. Enjoy the season you are in. 

It is so easy to long for a different season. If you are single you might long for a spouse. If you are married, you might long for kids. If you have teens, you might long for them to leave the house. Enjoy the season are in and ask God what you can learn in this time. God has given you this season to embrace the good things He has for you. 

2. Invest your time to honor God. 

What does it look like to invest our time. Well, we are all familiar with investing our money in the stock market. We evaluate what it taking place and make wise choices with what we have So let’s take the 10,080 minutes we have this week and invest that into honoring God. 

What does it mean to honor God? To honor God is to put Him first in all we do. It means to worship God in all we do, to live a life focused on God. be generous this week and help someone find Jesus. Maybe you have a friend in your life who is curious about spiritual things, schedule a coffee and use the time God has given you to help that person draw closer to Him. Use the time you’ve been given to pray for your neighbors. 

Once of the ways you can invest the time you’ve been given is to study God’s word. If you are new to church, start reading the book of James. It’s a great book in the New Testament. You can also read the Gospel of Mark. It’s only 16 chapters and I think you could read it for 5-10 mins a day and finish it in less than two weeks. A few weeks someone from our church stopped me in the lobby and said that because I talk so much about regularly reading your Bible that she is doing it every day now. I love hearing stories like that! 

3. Evaluate how you spend your time. 

This is a tough thing to do. A couple weeks ago I updated the software on my phone and was able to set limits on how much time I can spend on certain apps. I did this because I know I am prone to zoning out and using my phone too much. 

Another exercise is to track your time for a week. Write down how much time you spend doing tasks, sleeping, reading the Bible, eating, watching TV, and exercising. Evaluate if this is the best use of your time. You might be shocked to see how much time you spend in one area. 

About a decade ago I was working on seminary and really struggling with time management. I could barely get my work done, snuck school assignments in at the last minute, and neglected my time with my family. I shared this struggle with a prof one summer and he committed to helping me. It took me seven months of practice, and a few meetings with him, to figure it out. But I needed to assess how I use my time and the best way to invest it. I realized that I was neglecting my family and now Charity and I have a regular date. 

I rarely get stuck at the office late because I invest my time well into what I feel God has called me to accomplish. You can live in this freedom too by evaluating how you invest your time. 

You might be feeling guilty about how you’ve invested the time in your life. You might feel confused about what to do next. You might feel content that you have invested your time well. You might even feel overwhelmed about the weight of viewing your time in a different way. 

Let me remind you that you are alive right now. You still have time to make adjustments. We can all invest our time in a meaningful way this week. 

When I think about time and learning how to be generous with the time I have I’m reminded of what a family friend once taught me. I was seventeen years old and raking leaves with her. I was a punk and she was trying to help me make wise decisions. She said, “Neal, I need to tell you three things that you need to know about life. First, life is a lesson learn from it. Second, life is a lesson learn from it. Third, life is a lesson learn from it.” 

We can learn from God’s word about using our time to invest in God’s Kingdom.

Monday, November 19, 2018

I stole from the offering plate

It was a normal Sunday morning in my family. We were heading to church and I was probably six years old. After church we would always go to the grocery store. This morning my mom told my sister and I that we were a little tight on money so we wouldn’t be able to get a treat at the store and I was obviously heart-broken. We went to church like normal, were dismissed, and drove to the grocery store.

When we got out of the car, my mom reiterated to us that we didn’t have much money this month and we weren’t going to be able to get a treat at the store. At this point, I reached into my pocket, pulled out a twenty dollar bill, and handed it to my mom. My mom was shocked. Where did her six year old get a twenty from?

So of course she asked me, “Where did you get this?” I proceeded to tell her that she said we were low on money this month, so when the big plate of money came by at church, I grabbed a little for us. This was probably a warning sign for my mom of what she was going to deal with when I became a teenager.


Yesterday I shared this story at Coastline. Our church is talking about living a generous life and what we do with our financial resources says a lot about our heart. I don't think I stole that money out of greed but out of a solution to help my family. Jesus talked about money a lot in the Gospels. Of His thirty-eight parables, about half of them deal with money and possessions. In the Gospels, one in every ten verses deal with money. Why so much talk about money? Because our attitude to money reveals a lot about us.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19–21
Jesus commanded His hearers not to accumulate material possessions that would not be used for the building of His Kingdom. Verses 19 and 20 are almost exactly the same except for the command regarding where to store up the treasures. 

The original listeners would have known something about their environment that we miss out. Moths and rust were common concerns in the hot, sandy, Palestinian climate. Moths were prone to eating garments and rust was common for items buried in the ground. Jesus also mentions the threat of thieves coming into a person’s home and stealing their possessions. Have you ever been robbed or had your home broken into? Window smashed, door kicked in, drawers ransacked and been robbed of your belongings? This is one of the most violating experiences a person can go through in their lifetime. This is a reality for earthly investments; they are not safe from anything but are vulnerable. 

The opposite, however, is true for Kingdom investments. That is why verse 21 is so important for us to hold on to, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

When our treasure is invested in heaven and we don’t fall into believing the myth that worldly wealth will bring up satisfaction, that is when we can find the freedom to invest in what can never be taken away from us. Ultimately what Jesus is getting at here in verse 21, is how our view of money reveals our heart. He doesn’t come out and say it, but He leads us to that conclusion. 

We have to ask ourselves some tough questions about where we’re investing our money and for what reasons. We have to check our heart’s motivation. Now I’m not suggesting you stop investing in retirement or saving for your kids to go to college. But Jesus is asking that you think about where your treasure is, because when you can define that, you will discover where your heart resides. I love what Pastor Rick Warren says on the subject of money, “Never put your security in something that can be taken from you.” 

The next time we’re presented with an opportunity to love money more than we love God, we need to remember this: You cannot serve both God and money. 

It’s impossible to do so. We must evaluate our true desires and make sure we’re ready to count the cost of following Christ. Because of a book I read a few years ago, I was deeply convicted on this topic. The quote that most stuck out to me was: “If your heart’s crammed tight with material things and a thirst for wealth, there’s no space left for God.” -Ian Morgan Cron

Monday, November 05, 2018

Daniel 10-12 Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. For ten-weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a courageous life. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
The End Times
Daniel 10-12

As we continue our study in Daniel we see Daniel is visited by a heavenly being. The story in Daniel 10-12 is best read as a continuous event. Daniel 10 focuses on the visit of the heavenly being and Daniel’s response to him. As we move into Chapter 11, we read about things in the past and the Antichrist to come. Daniel 12 helps us keep our focus on living for the Lord and finding our inheritance in Him. The book of Daniel is a reminder to us to stay courageous in the Lord and live daily for Him.

1) Share about a time in your life when you prayed for something or someone for a long period of time. Has God answered that prayer? Did you give up? Or are you still praying?

2) In Daniel 10 we read about a heavenly encounter that Daniel has. Who do you think the heavenly being is that Daniel speaks with? Could this be the same person written about in Hebrews 7?

3) Throughout His public ministry, Jesus cast out numerous demons. Read Daniel 10:20. Do you think there are demons assigned to different regions of the world to torment, cause trouble, and keep people from following God?

4) Read Daniel 11:32. Throughout history there have been godly men and women who have stood for what is right. Who you know that is currently standing for the good things of God? Are you prepared to stand for the good things of God in an evil age?

5) The Antichrist is completely against God is all things. There will be a seven year time period where this person is allowed to rule. Daniel 11:36-12:4 speak of the Antichrist. When you think of the Antichrist, what comes to mind?

6) In Daniel 12:1 we read about a book with the names of people written in it. Do you think this is the same book mentioned in: Psalm 69:28, Philippians 4:3, and Revelation 20:15? What is the importance of having your name written in this book?

7) The book of Daniel ends with a promise that Daniel will receive his allotted inheritance. What inheritance do you think this is? Is this the same inheritance that Peter tells us about in 1 Peter 1:3-5?

Close your time in prayer.