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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Daniel Chapter 9- 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
Answered Prayer
Daniel 9

As we continue our study in Daniel we see that the prophecy in chapter 2 is fulfilled; King Cyrus now reigns on the throne and Babylon the great has been disposed. Daniel is reading Scripture and learns about the seventy years of exile. This drives Daniel to prayer and Gabriel comes to visit him with a prophetic revelation. Scholars agree that verses 24-27 are the most difficult verses to interpret and figure out (don’t worry if your group can’t completely understand them as they are a small portion of the entire text and Biblical scholars regularly discuss them).

1) Share about a time in your life where God answered your prayer. It might be something that just happened or a memorable time from the past.

2) Read Daniel 9:2. When times were difficult, Daniel turned to Scripture. What are some passages you regularly turn to when feeling down? What are some things, besides the Bible, you turn to when times are difficult?

3) Read Daniel 9:3-4. We read that Daniel had a vibrant prayer life and dedication to reading God’s word. What does your prayer life look like and how would you like to alter it based on Daniel 9?

4) Pastor Neal mentioned four other men who stepped in to intercede for God’s people. Moses (read Exodus 32:31-32). Elijah (Read 1 Kings 18:41-45). Jehoshaphat (read 2 Chronicles 20:3). Hezekiah (read 2 Kings 19:14-19). Who are others who interceded for God’s people?

5) Daniel prepared himself for prayer. What kind of ways do you prepare yourself for making your prayers effective, not only in getting answers, but also in changing your life and focus?

6) Read Daniel 9:21. God’s word said that Gabriel came in swift flight. it says nothing about him having wings. Bullets fly, arrows fly, and frisbees fly. What do you think angel travel looks like? Where else in Scripture does the Bible talk about angel travel?

7) Read Daniel 9:24-27. Pastor Neal explained the different ‘sevens’ that Gabriel spoke about. What do you think about these time periods?  

Close your time in prayer

Monday, October 29, 2018

Daniel Chapter 8- 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
Beyond Understanding
Daniel 8

Daniel now shares his second vision, and once more we read that animals are employed to symbolize empires. God’s people also needed to be warned of another crisis that would come in less than four hundred years after Daniel’s lifetime—the persecutions of a madman named Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–163 b.c.).  His reign would be one of the most horrible periods of time for those who trust God. Thankfully God knew that for that brief, but dark period, His people would need hope that things will get better.

1) Why do you think God spoke so often in visions in Daniel’s time but that it doesn’t seem to happen any more?

2) Read Daniel 8:1-2. Daniel says that he was taken to Susa in the vision. Pastor Neal said that Susa was the new capital city for the Medo-Persian empire. Why do you think Cyrus moved his kingdom 200 miles to the south?

3) Read 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 and Isaiah 45:13. Both of these passages explain that God put Cyrus in his role. Name some people in politics who God has used without them knowing it.

4) Read Daniel 8:14. Do you think reference of 2300 evenings and mornings means 2300 days or 1150 days? Does that time period make a significant difference on history?

5) In Daniel 8 there are a number of angelic beams represented. Read Hebrews 13:2 and talk about how we are constantly surrounded by angels. If we are surrounded by angels, does this mean there are demons lurking about too?

6) Read Daniel 8:15-18. Through this interaction we see how much God cares for His people. We read that when Daniel was terrified, God sent an angel to comfort him. In what practical way(s) do you need God to comfort you this week?

7) In the latter half of Daniel 8 we read about how Antiochus outlawed anything regarding the practices of Judaism. If that happened today, how would you take the message of Jesus underground and share your faith?  

Close your time in prayer

Monday, October 15, 2018

Don't Check Your Email First

For years I would walk into the office, sit at my desk, and check my email first thing.

For years I would walking into the office with a long list to accomplish and allow emails to distract me for the first thirty minutes (or more).

For years I would allow other people's priorities to trump my priorities.

It was my fault! I was the one who allowed it. I would even schedule the first thirty minutes of my day to checking email. I would make sure that my team was good. That things were planned and moving forward. I would even "unsubscribe" from a thing or two that I was sick of getting email from.

Over a year ago I stopped checking email first. It has radically changed the way I work. Here are three reasons you should stop checking your email first thing in the morning:

1) It derails your day

Have you ever walked into the office in a chipper mood only to check your email and find yourself shift to irate in a matter of seconds? The email you loathed to read came through. You had a sermon to write, a meeting to prep for, a paper to create and now you are derailed?

You're not the only person. I wish I could count how many times I've allowed my emotions to shift based on an email. There are times my emotions rise, but there are times I see the name of a person and the subject and I know what is going to happen.

When you work at a complex organization this might be more difficult to avoid, but you can set your priorities. Maybe you start small and wait for an hour to check your email. See if anyone notices. See if you get more accomplished. Do a pilot version of not checking your email first and see what happens in your day.

2) You allow others to create your priorities 

This is the second reason I stopped checking my email is that I found myself allowing others to create priories in my life. Someone would email asking for help on a project. I would need to check a letter that was going to be sent. I had to approve a graphic, but it required a 30 minute conversation and now my whole day was thrown off.

You need to know that I like check lists.
I love checking off boxes and accomplishing things. I have ten different "To Do" lists on my phone and all are categorized.

You might be an organized person or unorganized. Either way, email allows others to dictate your time and priorities. Setting a schedule and a time to check emails helps you regain control of your life.

I've begun checking email two to three times a day. I normally check it around 11:30am, just before I take my lunch break. I can see if there is anything I need to do right now. I can delete the eight junk mail things. I can see if people need prayer or my team needs my help. I look for the email I've been waiting for on the idea I'm stoked on.

After lunch I check it again. I do this because I'm already distracted from lunch and have used my most creative time of the day. I can follow up with something I didn't get to. Then I can shut down my email and check once more before the day is done.

3) You loose some of your best creative time 

I'm convinced that when you check your email first, you loose your best creative time. I'm listening to a book right now called Rest and it's helping me to create better rhythms in my life.

You can check email at any time of the day. You can call customers at any time of the day. You can invoice any time of the day. You can order supplies any time of the day. You can.... any time of the day.

Use the morning to do your creative work. Spend a solid three hours to focus on what only you can do. Then check your email in the afternoon.

In fact, I've deleted my work email from my phone completely. It happened on accident when my email required me to reset my password. I had trouble with the app and got upset. I didn't need to check my email that much so I just deleted the app. And guess what, I didn't get fired. I didn't become less productive. I think I'm more productive.

Email causes us to look distraction on other projects, people, family, and to be less involved in the now. Now I just check email on my Mac and sometimes on my iPad if I feel like I have to.

I've gained more creative time and I'm accomplishing more what of what I want (in fact, I'm writing this on Monday afternoon and my sermon for Sunday is already done. I've also written small group questions for next week!)

What would change if you stopped checking email first and less?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Daniel Chapter 7- 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
Reason to Celebrate
Daniel 7

It would be no exaggeration to say that Daniel 7 is one of the most important chapters in the Old Testament. In this chapter Daniel has a vision of things to come. If Daniel’s God was able to deliver him from the lions den, then He surely has the ability to show Daniel the future. God’s messages through his prophet were of the utmost value to Daniel and his people, for through them God assured the Jews that the nation of Israel would endure. Just as God had great plans for Israel, God also has great plans for Coastline!

1) When you think of a kingdom or nation, what are the images that come to mind. What is needed for a nation to thrive? What are some great aspects of a kingdom?

2) Read Daniel 7:2-8. Daniel shares about the four beasts he saw in his dream. Many scholars think these beasts represent the different metals in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. What do you think these beasts have to do with the past Nations and future nations? Discuss the connection in Daniel 2 and 7.

3) Read Daniel 7:21. When you think about the brutality of mankind, what is something that truly scares you or has impacted you in history? Is there a way God might ask you to bring hope to people who’ve seen such violence?

4) What kind of things do you see in our world that remind you that the kingdom of Satan is alive and well? How does this move you to compassion for people and how might God be stirring you to act?

5) Read Daniel 7:9-10. Talk about the character of God in this scene. Now read Exodus 3:1-4. Talk about God being associated with fire in both scenes. What aspect of God’s character to long to know more? How will you seek God out more?

6) Read Daniel 7:11-14 and Revelation 1:12-20. How do these descriptions of Jesus match? What do you long for most when Jesus returns?

7) There are over 100,000 people in Ventura who are far from God. These people need to find peace in their life through the message of Jesus. What are some creative ways you can reach those who are far from the Lord?

Close your time in prayer