Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Live No Lies | Book Review


Author- John Mark Comer

Publisher- WaterBrook

Pages- 336

Quotable- “My point is this: lies distort our souls and drive us into ruin.”

When I initially began reading Live no lies by John Mark Comer I quickly realized that he is a scholarly leader. In the beginning of this book he provides a brief summary of where he will go in this book (page xx). He presents his working theory that we are at war with the world, the flesh, and the devil. This war begins with lies that distort the actions of humanity and ultimately lead us to living in a sinful world. Because of the sin that we encounter on a daily basis we need to be aware of the schemes of the devil so we can fight against the flesh and live for Jesus in the world. 

Throughout the book Comer works through his theory by beginning with the truth about lies. The devil is actively working in this world to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) and therefore the believer must be aware of his lies. I appreciated how Comer addressed the way the devil twisted the truth of God, in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3), and lured Eve and Adam into sin. From that moment until now the devil has been inviting people to sinful destruction through his lies. The results is that we live in a world that is against God and therefore we must be more prepared in our spiritual formation. 

I think Comer did a great job, in the first section of the book, to present how badly lies have hurt the world and the people in the world. His statement on page 36, and work prior to that, have been extremely helpful to me: “My point is this: lies distort our souls and drive us into ruin.” My understanding was that the basis for our stunted growth in Christ is that we believe lies and therefore don’t follow the truth of God. It’s hard not to believe lies. We live in a world full of lies and therefore are surrounded by lies that the devil has been spewing for centuries. 

When we move into the second section of the book I think Comer does a great job at making progress on the Spirit’s transforming work. Comer brings in modern examples of how the flesh is sinful (page 105) and our need to submit to the Lord (page 107). I appreciate how Comer brings in Paul’s exhortation to the church in Ephesus from Ephesians 6. Comer does excels at explaining how a person who submits to the flesh lives versus someone who is living for the Spirit. When we look at pages 134 and 135 we see that Comer is giving us a side-by-side comparison of what it looks like to live for the flesh and to live in the Spirit. 

I appreciate his modern examples of ways that believers are falling into serving the flesh. On the following page Comer teaches us, from Galatians 5, on how to live for the Spirit. I appreciate how the publisher lined this out in the layout of the print. Living for the Spirit is so far from what we experience on a daily life. We are bombarded with all the acts of the flesh in our daily life and it’s hurting our spiritual growth. 
 
I found it most helpful how Comer pushed me to think outside of what I’ve currently been thinking about. So often, I think we try to avoid the ‘big sins’ and Comer started with how lying is where evil begins. His writing in chapter one got me thinking all the way to the conclusion of the book. What I found most helpful, for my personal spiritual formation, was his writing on fasting. I have always viewed fasting as a denying of the self. I have fasted from: soda, sugar, social media, candy, and occasionally food. But Comer says that to fast from anything by food is just abstinence (page 178). 

I was convicted by this. I want to fast and beat my flesh into submission. But I also have three kids, lead a church, lead a small group, coach baseball, workout and get REALLY hungry. I am not the most pleasant person to be around when I don’t eat. In fact, I have made my life so structured that I have times of the day that I eat. It was fairly convicting to read this section on what I thought was fasting isn’t really fasting. It’s causing me to rethink how I can deny my flesh to connect more deeply with the Lord. I will keep you posted on how this progresses. 

I throughly enjoyed the entirety of this book. If I had to choose something that I would like to hear more on it would be his work on keeping in step with the Spirit (page 173). I would like to hear what he is currently doing on walking daily with the Spirit. I appreciate his work on fasting and confession. Maybe I think it’s more complex than it really it, but I’d love to hear him add a couple more spiritual disciples to this list.  

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Pastor Chris Lyons

On Friday morning I woke up to a text that my friend Pastor Chris has went to be with Jesus in heaven. Over the weekend I’ve had so many important memories stroll through my mind and I wanted to share them with you. 

In 2004 I applied for a Junior High Pastor role at a church in Henderson, NV (Las Vegas). When I was looking at the church website I read about one of the pastors on staff, his name was Chris Lyons. He was about 70 years old at the time and had been married for almost 50 years. I can still see the picture of Chris and Connie in my mind. I kept thinking to myself: “I would love to work with that guy.” 

A couple months later I was hired and working with Chris Lyons. My cubicle was right next to his and I was so nervous. He was a pillar of faith, a man of God, loved his wife, and knew how to care for people. I would end up working closely with Chris for eight years. Chris was like a father/grandfather to me. He was a pastor to me. Chris was a mentor and a friend all wrapped into one.

Chris taught me how to tie a tie. Every time I tie my tie I think about Chris. He would make sure my collar looked good in the back on Christmas Eve and that my tie was the correct length. He was so encouraging. 

Chris taught me how to preach, though he never gave me a “preaching class.” Chris helped me work on sermons, sermon series, and my delivery. He would always say: “If you can’t say it in 30 mins then get off stage.” I still think that in my mind. 

When we moved into the Freeway Campus at South Hills I still officed very close to Chris. Instead of having cubicles next door we were office neighbors. Every morning I would spend from 8:30-9:00am in his office. It wasn’t an appointment but an invitation. I would talk to him about: preaching, leading, marriage, parenting, writing sermons, sermon series, reaching students, seminary, conflict management, working with elders, pastor transition, and more. Those conversations with Chris are still one of the highlights in ministry. 

Chris showed up; all the time! He would come to church every time we were leaving for a camp. I remember one morning he showed up as we were getting ready to head to Hume Lake. So many of our students and parents loved seeing Chris. He would walk from group of students to group of students taking their picture and talking to them. The whole time he was spreading pastoral pixie dust (the love of Christ) on everyone. 

There was a young lady in Charity’s small group who told us the reason that she landed at our church. Since I was the high school pastor I was ready to hear about how it was because of me, but it wasn’t. It was because of Pastor Chris’ Sunday preaching. She loved hearing him preach and wanted a grandfather figure in her life. The dude was well into his 70’s and was the best, still is the best, preacher I’ve ever sat under. 

Chris would invite anyone and everyone to his home. I can’t tell you how many meals I ate with him and Connie. He was also so welcoming and loving. He would host our Young Adults ministry at his home and just be there to serve. Chris taught me about serving others. 

I could continue to write more memories, and most likely will. But for now I will remember all the great times with Chris. 

Monday, November 28, 2022

Luke 19 | Small Group Questions




For the month of November we’re going to talk about Absurd Generosity from the gospel of Luke. This isn’t the only place Jesus talked about money in the Bible. Jesus talked about money a lot in the Gospels. Of His thirty-eight parables, about half of them deal with money and possessions. Jesus frequently used money as a way to grab people’s attention for a deeper issue. 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. For this series I will write some of 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 | Giving it ALL back | Luke 19:1-10

We’re in the final part of a four-week sermon series on living a generous life. For this series we’re primarily looking at people who had an encounter with Jesus in the book of Luke. Luke gives us several examples of people who came to Jesus with financial questions. We’ve seen stories of dealing with an inheritance, what to do when you loose a job,  and how to be rich in God’s eyes. Today we’re going to look at a famous story about a man named Zacchaeus who climbs a tree to see Jesus. His experience with Jesus is wild and because of his generosity we’re still talking about this life today. Zacchaeus teaches us to live with an abundance mindset and not a scarcity mindset. 

1) Neal shared a personal story from his twenties when his mentor taught him about tithing. His mentor taught him how to give, what to give, and when to give. When did you first learn about tithing and what was your initial thought? 

2) Read Luke 19:1-4. We learn that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. Essentially he worked for the enemy of Israel; the Roman Government. How do you feel about people who take advantage of the poor and make their money off of others? 

3) We learn that Jesus knows Zacchaeus’ name (read Luke 19:5-7). Read Exodus 20:17, Isaiah 43:1, and Jeremiah 1:5. Talk among your group about how Jesus knows your name, life, and every action. How does that impact you're thinking? 

4) During this encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus committed to give away much of his wealth (read Luke 19:8-10). Zacchaeus did this because he found something better to live for. What hinders you from financial giving? What are the roadblocks? 

5) Most of this series we’ve been examining our relationship with money. Take the time to read Proverbs 30:8-9. This king makes a specific request to God on his relationship to money. What would change if you prayed this prayer daily? 

6) One of the commitments Zacchaeus made was to give half of his possessions to the poor. In Luke 18, Jesus invited the rich young ruler to give to the poor. Look through Scripture and find areas where we are called to care for the poor. 

7) Read Luke 19:10 again. Jesus is clear on why He came to earth. Jesus came with the expressed purpose of seeking and saving the lost (read Matthew 9:12, Mark 2:17, Luke 15:1, & John 3:17) Share some of what Jesus saved you from. 

Close your time in prayer.



Monday, November 21, 2022

Luke 18 | Small Group Questions



For the month of November we’re going to talk about Absurd Generosity from the gospel of Luke. This isn’t the only place Jesus talked about money in the Bible. Jesus talked about money a lot in the Gospels. Of His thirty-eight parables, about half of them deal with money and possessions. Jesus frequently used money as a way to grab people’s attention for a deeper issue. 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. For this series I will write some of 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 Rich Man’s Poor Choice | Luke 18

The closer we move towards Thanksgiving and Christmas the more we begin to think about what it means to be thankful and give good gifts. In Luke 18 Jesus has an interaction with a rich man who makes a poor choice. Jesus invites this man to follow Him but he walks away sad. He is one of the few people to leave the presence of Jesus with a deep disappointment. Jesus instructs us to think more about our investments in Heaven and not only in earth. 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. 

1) Neal shared a personal story about taking a $20 bill from the offering plate as a child. When you heard this story what thoughts or emotions did it evoke in your life? Have you ever been in a place that you had to steal to eat food? 

2) We talked about three areas that we are humans are confused on money: We think money provides security, When I have _________ it will be enough, God/church just want my money. What one of these areas do you struggle with the most and why? 

3) Read Luke 18:18-21. This man comes to Jesus and asks about inheriting eternal life. Read Ephesians 2:8-10, John 1:12-13, 3:3, and Romans 8:14-17. What do these passages teach us about eternal life and becoming children of God? 

4) Read Luke 18:22-25. Jesus invites this rich young man to give everything away and there he will find eternal life. Read: 2 Corinthians 96-8, Malachi 3:10, Matthew 6:19-21. What do these passages teach us about using our finances?  

5) The way Jesus teaches us to view money is different: receive, tithe, save, spend/pay, give. Read Proverbs 11:25, 30:8-9, & Mark 12:13-17. The Bible teaches us to be generous & to not love money. How will these passages change the way you life?  

6) Read Matthew 6:19-21. Jesus taught us to invest our financial resources into the Kingdom of God. The result of that lifestyle is: humble, generous, secure, relaxed, fulfilled. How does your relationship with money leave you feeling? 

7) Jesus ends the passage with a focus on living for the Kingdom of God. Read Luke 18:26-30, Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 2:42-47, and Colossians 2:203. How does your relationship with Jesus impact your relationship with those closest to you? 

Close your time in prayer.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Luke 12 | Small Group Questions




For the month of November we’re going to talk about Absurd Generosity from the gospel of Luke. This isn’t the only place Jesus talked about money in the Bible. Jesus talked about money a lot in the Gospels. Of His thirty-eight parables, about half of them deal with money and possessions. Jesus frequently used money as a way to grab people’s attention for a deeper issue. 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. For this series I will write some of 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 Game of Monopoly | Luke 12

The month of November tends to spark a heart of generosity in people. November is a month to be thankful for all we have. We begin to think about Thanksgiving, inviting family and friends to the house, and later in the month we will start thinking about Christmas plans. For the month of November we’re going to talk about Absurd Generosity from the gospel of Luke. Our passage in Luke 12 is not a parable about Monopoly; it's a parable about greed. In this parable Jesus exposes the tendency we all have to fall into greed and away from generous living. Jesus makes a compelling case for how destructive the love of money can be in our lives. He exposes the pull that greed has on our lives and teaches us how to live in the exact opposite of greed.

1) The point of the game of Monopoly is to buy property, improve that property, gain wealth, and have the money financial resources at the end of the game. How many of you love the game of Monopoly but have treated life with the same rules? 

2) We talked about four areas Christians are confused on money: Money is evil, I have to tithe, More Money = God’s Blessing, and It’s mine. What one of these four areas do you struggle with the most and why? 

3) Read Luke 12:13-15. In this interaction we see the heart of a greedy man exposed before Jesus. Read Deuteronomy 21:15–17, Numbers 27:1–11, and Psalm 133:1. Does it seem like this bother cared more about wealth or relationship? 

4) Read Luke 12:16-21. This man had a huge bumper crop and his first inclination was to build a bigger barn. Read Matthew 6:19-21, 2 Corinthians 9:7 & 1 Timothy 6:10. How does Scripture teach us to handle the financial resources we have? 

5) Jesus used a parable to expose the greed of this brother. Read Luke 21:1-4. This woman put in all she had to live on (it equates to about $2 in our economy). What would it take for you to leave a life of greed and move to generosity? 

6) Jesus has a private teaching moment with the disciples to help them understand their relationship to money (Read Luke 12:22-34). Jesus is teaching them to trust God in with their money (Proverbs 3:5-6). What would it take for you to fully trust God with your finances? 

7) Jesus chose to trust God with every area of His life (read Luke 23:44-49). Jesus trusted His life to God for our salvation. How does that impact your life? 

Close your time in prayer.


Monday, October 31, 2022

James 5:13-20 | Small Group Questions



James was a leader of the first Christian community ever. He was in a leadership role for 20 years and during this time the church fell on hard times; famine, persecution, and poverty. James lived with wisdom and courage during this difficult time. The book of James is really a letter of wisdom. Instead of writing to one church community, like Paul did, James wrote to all of the Christians to encourage them to live out their faith. For this series I will write some of 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 | Bold Prayers | James 5:13-20

After nine weeks we come to the conclusion of the letter that James wrote to the early church. The church was dispersed and spread out in various areas due to persecution. James was a caring leader in the early church. He loved the church and throughout the letter we’ve seen that expressed in how he addressed them. In the final verses of the letter we read about having a thriving prayer life. James could have written about anything but he knew that a thriving prayer life was an overflow of a thriving relationship with Jesus. James encourages the church to pray in all situations. One of the most powerful examples might be how James reminds us of the power of prayer from the Life of Elijah the prophet. 

1) With your group think about your personal prayer life. Think about a time when God didn’t answer your prayer. How did it feel? Now, think about a time when God answered your prayer but it was better than you could imagine. How did that feel? 

2) Read James 5:13-16. James asks several questions to the church about prayer. He exhorts us to pray in all situations (read Job 35:9-10, 2 Corinthians 12:6-10, and 1 Thessalonians 5:17) When you’re in trouble what is your first response? 

3) Looking at the life of Jesus we read that He healed many (read Matthew 8:5-13,  Mark 2:1-12, and Luke 9:37-43.  We are encouraged to seek prayer from the elders of the church during times of sickness. What hinders us from doing that? 

4) It seems that James includes an aspect of sin that can bring about sickness and/or hurt our relationship with others. Share about a time in your life where your sin brought about a sickness or broken relationship with someone in church. 

5) Read James 5:17-18. To fully understand the story of Elijah we have to look back to his life. Take some time in your group to read 1 Kings 17 and 18. After reading these stories of Elijah, what stands out to most about his life? 

6) James said that Elijah was a man just like us. Elijah prayed earnestly and God answered his prayers. How does Elijah’s prayer life encourage you? Are there times that you give up on praying and resign yourself to apathy in your prayers? 

7) The letter of James ends with a reminder to reach those who are living a life of sin (read James 5:19-20). Share about the person who told you about Jesus. Who is God inviting you to share your faith with? What will that take? 

Close your time in prayer.



Wednesday, October 26, 2022

James 5:1-12 | Small Group Questions

James was a leader of the first Christian community ever. He was in a leadership role for 20 years and during this time the church fell on hard times; famine, persecution, and poverty. James lived with wisdom and courage during this difficult time. The book of James is really a letter of wisdom. Instead of writing to one church community, like Paul did, James wrote to all of the Christians to encourage them to live out their faith. For this series I will write some of 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 to Treat People | James 5:1-12

As James nears the end of his letter there is a palatable shift in his writing style. James begins chapter 5 with a stern warning to those who are increasing in wealth by oppressing the poor. It seems that many of these verses are written directly to people who aren’t connect to the local church. There are people who are increasing their wealth by taking advantage of others and James calls out that behavior. Then there is a shift, James writes again to the Christians in the church. He gives them a double reminder to be patient. The characteristic of patience is a fruit of the Spirit that all believers need to actively grow in. 

1) Neal started the sermon with a story about the President of North Macedonia. There was a girl in his country who was being bullied and the President stepped in to show her value. Share about a time when you treated an oppressed person with dignity. 

2) Read James 5:1-6. James condemns the people who are oppressing the poor and not paying the wages of the works. Read Deuteronomy, 24:14-15, Leviticus 19:13, Jeremiah 22:13. Talk about how you can honor people in all walks of life. 

3) It appears that the wealthy people were taking advantage of day labors and not paying them their wages. Read what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:19-24. Do you have an area in your life where you hoard material possessions that you can give away? 

4) James isn’t condemning material wealth, he is condemning wealth by unjust gains. Read Matthew 20:1-6. How can you have a balance in your life of saving for: retirement, college, and your future while being generous to those around you? See 2 Corinthians 12:14, 1 Timothy 5:8, and Matthew 25:27. 

5) James shifts his attention back to the early church (Read James 5:7-9). James uses the illustration of farming to exhort the church to be patient. Read Galatians 5:22-23, 6:9, Mark 4:28-29, and Luke 8:11. Where is God inviting you to be patient? 

6) James furthers the example of patience (Read James 5:10-12). Read Acts 14:22, John 16:33, and 2 Timothy 3:12. Share about how the faith of the saints who’ve gone before you is an encouragement to stand strong in your faith. 

7) What three examples of patience does write that resonate most with you? Why do these resonate with your current stage of life today? 

Close your time in prayer.




Monday, October 17, 2022

James 4 | Small Group Questions



James was a leader of the first Christian community ever. He was in a leadership role for 20 years and during this time the church fell on hard times; famine, persecution, and poverty. James lived with wisdom and courage during this difficult time. The book of James is really a letter of wisdom. Instead of writing to one church community, like Paul did, James wrote to all of the Christians to encourage them to live out their faith. For this series I will write some of 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 | Do Good | James 4:1-17

James continues his writings and addresses the wars that wage within the human heart. James surfaces how our selfish desires put us in wrong relationships with others. He continues to address how our selfishness puts us in wrong relationship with God. The Bible is full of examples of how to be in right relationship and probably has just as many of how to be in wrong relationship. James has a deeper reason for what he is writing to us. This self-centeredness, and fighting, leads to quarrels among believers in the local church. James started this section with talking about the war with our personal desires and ends it with the will of God. 

1) Neal shared a story with us from 2012 about two runners. The first place runner slowed down before crossing the finish line and the second place runner helped him win the race. What do you think about this act of sportsmanship? 

2) Read James 4:1-3. James teaches us that the personal wars we face come from personal issues. Read Psalm 133:1, Colossians 2:2, and John 13:34-35. What do these passages teach us about being in right relationship with others? 

3) James knew that slander was occurring in the church (read James 4:11-12). James is specifically addressing how we treat other Christians in this passage. Come up with five ways that your group can stop talking negatively about people and move to a position of building others up. 

4) Read James 4:3. James is clear that our personal wars impact our prayer life. Read Matthew 6:5-15 and talk about what Jesus teaches us a vibrant prayer life. 

5) Read James 4:7-12. James has a logical progression from submitting to God, drawing near to God, and living a humble life. Read 1 Peter 2:13, Romans 3:23, and Ephesians 4:2. Talk about how important: submit, confess, and humble are. 

6) Throughout the book of James we’ve been encouraged to live a humble life. A humble life is the opposite of a prideful life. Read Deuteronomy 8:2-3, Psalms 25:9,  & Matthew 11:29. Where is God inviting you to a humble life? 

7) Read James 4:13-17. James longed for the early church to find the will of God. We long for everyone to do the same. What are some ways this passage teaches us to walk in line with God’s desires for our life? 

Close your time in prayer.



Thursday, October 13, 2022

James 3:13-18 | Small Group Questions




James was a leader of the first Christian community ever. He was in a leadership role for 20 years and during this time the church fell on hard times; famine, persecution, and poverty. James lived with wisdom and courage during this difficult time. The book of James is really a letter of wisdom. Instead of writing to one church community, like Paul did, James wrote to all of the Christians to encourage them to live out their faith. For this series I will write some of 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 | Two Kinds of Wisdom | James 3:13-18

As we move into the second half of the book of James we see a continuation of James 3:1. James taught us that not many of us should be teachers of the word of God. To help explain that, James gives a presentation on wisdom. In our passage James brings a contrast between worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom. Worldly wisdom is not the same as Godly wisdom. Worldly wisdom looks slick and polished while Godly wisdom is full of Godly characteristics that impact a generation for Christ. James teaches us that wisdom is made evident by our actions. Let’s study the passage further and see how we can live out Godly wisdom while living in the world. 

1) Neal opened the sermon with an example form the life of King Solomon. Solomon encountered a difficult situation that required Godly wisdom (see 1 Kings 3:16-28). Who is the wisest person you know? What makes that person so wise? 

2) Read James 3:13-16. Wise people show their wisdom by deeds done in humility (read Psalm 25:9, Proverbs 3:34, Micah 6:8, and 1 Peter 5:6). Thinking about these passages, and your life, where do you need to grow in humility? 

3) James gave three describing words for what composes worldly wisdom: selfish, boasting, and deceitful. Paul said that we used to live in this manner (read Ephesians 2:1-3). How we move away from worldly wisdom while living in the world? 

4) The contrast to worldly wisdom is Godly wisdom (read James 3:17-18). James starts the list with living a pure life. How can we live a pure life while living in the world? Read Psalm 19:9-10, 119:127, Proverbs 22:11, & Matthew 5:8. 

5) Looking at the entire list that James writes in James 3:17, what is one characteristic of Godly wisdom that you desire to mature in? Thinking about that characteristic, what needs to change in your life today so that can be a reality? 

6) Thinking about Godly wisdom, read Galatians 5:22-23. We read about the Fruit of the Spirit. It seems that Godly wisdom comes to those who are rooted in Christ (Colossians 2:6-7) and seeking the Lord. Who do you want to emulate that displays Godly wisdom in their life? 

7) James teaches us that peace-makers sow in peace and will reap a harvest of righteousness. We all know that if you sow corn you will harvest corn. What does it look like to sow peace in our lives? (John 14:27, 16:33, Acts 9:31 & Romans 5:1). 

Close your time in prayer.



Monday, September 26, 2022

James 2:14-26 | Small Group Questions




James was a leader of the first Christian community ever. He was in a leadership role for 20 years and during this time the church fell on hard times; famine, persecution, and poverty. James lived with wisdom and courage during this difficult time. The book of James is really a letter of wisdom. Instead of writing to one church community, like Paul did, James wrote to all of the Christians to encourage them to live out their faith. For this series I will write some of 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 | Faith Works | James 2:14-26

James was a leader in the early church. He was known as a pillar and peacemaker in the early church. His goal isn’t to teach new theological information but to get in our business and change how we live our lives. In our passage today James is going to teach us about genuine faith and how genuine faith is alive and active in every aspect of our lives. For us to realize what genuine faith is, we need to see some other examples. James teaches us about faith that is solely intellectually based; it has no substance. Then we learn about faith that is emotion driven with no action. Finally we learn from two examples in the Old Testament about having a dynamic faith. 

1) Neal opened the sermon with three examples of people who’s words didn’t match their actions. Think about a time in your life where someone’s words didn’t make their actions. Now share about a time when your words didn’t match your actions. 

2) Read James 2:14-17. James gives a very practical example of helping someone in the church who is in need. Jesus spoke about helping others (read Matthew 25:37-40). How can you be prepared to live out your faith by helping others? 

3) James teaches us that faith without action is dead. Read Hebrews 11:1, 6, and Romans 10:17. James is condemning a faith that is solely intellectual without action. What can you do this week to proactively live out your faith? 

4) Read James 2:18-19. The contrast of intellectual faith is emotional faith. Read Mark 9:14-29. Thinking about faith that has deeds, this father brought his son to Jesus for healing but he struggled in his faith. Where do you struggle in your faith walk? 

5) James makes an interesting point the demons shutter (an emotional response) but also have a solid doctrine. Read Mark 3:11-12, Luke 8:31, and Mark 5:1-13. What do these passages teach us about the demonic world and their understanding of God? 

6) Read James 2:20-24. James gives us Abraham as an example of a balanced faith. Read Genesis 12:1-3,15:5-6, and 22:8. Thinking of these three examples in Abraham’s life, what do we learn about his faith combined with action? 

7) Read James 2:25-26. James also teaches us about the life of Rahab. Her story is much different (read Joshua 2:1-11 and 6:17. What must it have been like for Rahab to act in faith based on her knowledge of God? How can we live out our faith daily?  

Close your time in prayer.



Thursday, September 15, 2022

Three ways to be formed in Scripture




Psalm 1 gives us a contrast of two lifestyles. One is the path of the blessed person and that is a life that prospers. The other path is the way of the wicked and it leads to destruction (read Psalm 1:1-3). 

Psalm 1 begins with the word, blessed, “Blessed is the one.” Blessed is used 26 times in the Psalms and can be translated as fortunate or happy. What a great way to start the book, to talk about the happy person. But the happy person isn’t described in the way we would expect based on the world’s standards. The person is happy because they are delighting in the law of the Lord. They are following a different way than the world. This way, this path includes several things. 

Recently I read about a man who took a journey throughout the United States, polling different people, asking them what was the one thing they wanted out of life, more than anything else. What would you guess the majority of responses were? Money? Fame? Power? The one response he got far and away above more than anything else was happiness. Everywhere he went, and he asked people, "What is it that you want more than anything else in life?" almost everyone without exception said, "Happiness." And then he asked about those other things, about money and fame and power. And they said, "Well, those things are means to that greater end. What we really want is happiness in life.” Our world is looking for happiness and the Bible teaches us how to get that. 

Look closely with me. There is a three-fold progression of how the blessed person lives. That person doesn't walk with the wicked, stand in the path of sinners, or sit in the company of mockers. The wicked are not just people locked up in prison who’ve done heinous crimes. The image for  the wicked person is anyone who has no place for God in their lives. The wicked want nothing to do with God because God gets in the way of their plans. They have their own agenda in life and there is no room for God in that agenda. They think about their needs first and neglect what is best for others. 

The blessed person also does not STAND in the way sinners take. To stand with sinners has to do with our actions and habits. The godly, don’t settle into the habits and lifestyle of those who don’t live for God. That means making tough decisions with whom you associate and spend time with. There’s a progression we see in verse 1, it’s a gradual descent into evil. To SIT means you’ve moved in. Think about stopping by your neighbors house, if you sit down you’re staying for a while. In this example, you’ve made their habits and lifestyle your own.

Let me be clear, this doesn’t mean we should stay away from people who do not know God! The New Testament and the life of Jesus are clear that we need to spend time with sinners. Jesus spent time with many notorious sinners of his day and God has called us to be a light in this dark world. The difference has to do with influence. Jesus had great influence over those he chose to spend time with. They weren’t pulling him down, he was pulling them up and pointing them to God. It’s good to spend time with those who are far from God, as long as your having a positive influence on them and they aren’t having a negative influence on you. You have to ask yourself: Who is influencing who? 

What the Psalmist says in verse 2 might be a surprise. Instead of giving tactical ways to avoid evil, we are taught to delight in God’s word. The instruction continues by telling us to meditate on God’s law. To delight in God’s word means to find joy and pleasure in spending time in God’s word. 

The blessed person doesn’t only delight in God’s word for five minutes in the morning and then go about their day. The blessed person delights in God’s law and meditates on it day and night. Christians love studying the Bible, hearing it preached and even memorizing it, but we leave the meditation stuff to those who do yoga. We need to redeem that word for Christ. The word meditation is the same word used for repeating a line, to speak or proclaim. We are to be immersed, in God’s word so that it permeates the life of a believer. 

The instruction or encouragement here for the blessed person is to delight in God’s word day and night. Are you delighting in God’s word day and night? 
Are you finding your source of joy from God’s word? 

I know I’m not always finding that. Many times we approach God’s word in an attitude of: “I need to get through this Bible reading so I can get on with my day.” What if God wanted to form us through His word instead of having us rush through it to the next thing? 

God's word is living and active, it changes our lives. I’m currently reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. He writes that God is still speaking to us through His word. Not that God spoke and no longer speaks. No, God is still speaking to you and I through His word: 
“He spoke a Book and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking HIs words and causing the power of them to persist across the years.” — A.W. Tozer. 
The result of meditating on God’s word is an agricultural one. This metaphor translates well in Ventura. All over Ventura we have gold in the trees, I call them avocados. These trees need water so they can yield their fruit at the right season. That season is called; guacamole! For the original audience they had a dry climate of the Middle East. Those trees needed to be planed by a water source so they could yield fruit for their owners. The Israelites needed to grow where God had planted them for that time. Now the difficulty I’ve seen with this is that we live in the microwave or the fast food generation. We want our growth to happen right now and not a minute longer. Please be patient as God is growing you. Be patient as God is growing me. We are growing together. God has uniquely prepared each of us for this season of life and we can trust Him in the growth process.

Three ways to be formed in Scripture
Let me share three ways that you can commit to letting this book form your life. 

The first way to be formed in Scripture is make a commitment to reading God’s word. We have to start this simple. For years I’ve encouraged people to read the Bible. When someone would ask me where to read I would generally say this: Start reading your Bible in the Gospel of John. You will learn about the life and ministry of Jesus. Read one chapter every day and in three weeks you will finish the Gospel account. You can also read the Proverbs in a month if you read one Proverb a week. Check this out, you can read more! The first thing is to proactively pick up this book and let it work into your life. 

Once you start reading God’s word the next step is to: Memorize the Bible. Look what we read later in the Psalms (read Psalm 119:11). I have hidden God’s word in my heart that I will never ever ever sin again. No! We hide God word in our heart in a hope to avoid sin. There was a time in this world that we had to memorize phone numbers, bank accounts, and addresses. We don’t do that anymore. We allow our phone to act as our memory. You are so smart. You’re brain is able to memorize more than you know. You have so much potential to know God’s word more than you think. If you have never memorized Scripture start with Psalm 119:11. You can memorize it this week! 

The third way to be formed in Scripture is: Make it a regular habit to read the Bible. Don’t stop reading it. Some people read the Bible for a week or a month and then loose the habit. When you keep reading the Bible your faith keeps growing. I love what God told His people in Isaiah (read Isaiah 55:10-11). God’s word won’t return void. Let me say it differently, when I'm talking about being formed in Scripture, this is not a waste of your time. This is the best investment of your time that you could ever make. If you’re taking notes write this down: Regular time in God’s word forms the direction of my life. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

James 2:1-13 | Small Group Questions



James was a leader of the first Christian community ever. He was in a leadership role for 20 years and during this time the church fell on hard times; famine, persecution, and poverty. James lived with wisdom and courage during this difficult time. The book of James is really a letter of wisdom. Instead of writing to one church community, like Paul did, James wrote to all of the Christians to encourage them to live out their faith. For this series I will write some of 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 | Favoritism Forbidden | James 2:1-13

James, the half-brother of Jesus, was a leader in the early church. He was known for his compassion, leadership, and influence over the early church. In this letter he writes to the entire church about the persecution they are enduring. He also gives them very practical ways to live out their faith. In James 2 we have a long example of why we are to treat everyone the same in Christ. Another way to say it is that we are not invited to show favoritism to anyone. In this time period, Jewish people coveted recognition and honor from others. It was typical to give a better seat to the wealthy people in the church. James wasn’t going to allow culture to influence the teaching of Jesus.

1) Neal grabbed our attention with the Disney story of Cinderella but turned it upside down with a real life example of a young girl was treated poorly in her family. Share about a time that you received special attention or favoritism. 

2) Read James 2:1, 5. Look at how James address the early church. You can see that he has a deep love for these people and a desire for them to grow in their faith. What can we learn from James about the way he thinks about people? 

3) Read Genesis 37:3-4. James gives a command to the church  not to show favoritism in verse 1 but Jacob showed favorites to his son. Read Matthew 22:16, Luke 21:1-4, Romans 2:11, and Ephesians 6:9. How do we not show favoritism in the church? 

4) Read James 2:5-7. James teaches us that faith that works doesn’t show favoritism. Discuss in your group what a church who doesn’t favoritism would look like. How can your group implement that to help reach our city for Jesus? 

5) James drives the point home by teaching on loving your neighbor (read James 2:8-11). James quotes Moses and Jesus here (Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 22:38). Also read Luke 10:25-37. How can we love those in need? 

6) James mentioned two of the Ten Commandants in connection of not showing favoritism. It seems that human people have a great ability to justify their choices. Talk about ways that you can justify certain actions over other actions and in doing so break the truth of God. 

7) The message in this section is obvious, our beliefs should control our behavior (read James 2:12-13). James connects favoritism to God’s mercy on us. Read Matthew 18:23-35. How can we show mercy because we’ve been shown mercy? 

Close your time in prayer.



Wednesday, August 31, 2022

James 1 | Small Group Questions




James was a leader of the first Christian community ever. He was in a leadership role for 20 years and during this time the church fell on hard times; famine, persecution, and poverty. James lived with wisdom and courage during this difficult time. The book of James is really a letter of wisdom. Instead of writing to one church community, like Paul did, James wrote to all of the Christians to encourage them to live out their faith. For this series I will write some of 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 | Finding Joy in all Things | James 1:1-18

The book of James is really a letter of wisdom. The book is full of short wisdom speeches and metaphors that helped the early church follow the teaching of Jesus. As we study this book together you’re going to see that James letter is primarily influenced by the teachings of Jesus, primarily from the Sermon on the Mount, and the Proverbs. In chapter one James gives an overview of almost every topic he will touch them. Then in chapters two through five he will expand on each of these topics. Today we’re going to talk about finding joy in our trials, finding joy in our position in life, and how to not be deceived by the things of this world.

1) Neal started the sermon with an illustration about the life of Forrest Gump. Forrest was unwilling to quit in many situations and, in the case of the shrimping industry, it worked in his benefit. Where have you persevered in life? 

2) Read James 1:1-8. James encouraged the church to persevere in their faith despite what was happening around them. Read Acts 4:1-4, 7:54-60, and 16:22-24. Thinking of the persecution the early church faced, how did they handle it? 

3) James teaches us that the testing of our faith develops perseverance. Share about a time in your life when you went through a difficult situation (you may or may not want to share the story). But share how you grew in your faith through that time. 

4) Read James 1:5-8. We are reminded that we don’t have to go through trials alone. Read Psalm 34:18, 139:7-12, and 145:18. Thinking about how close God is to you, where do you need to ask for wisdom in your current life situation? 

5) James moves on to teaching the church to find joy in their position (read James 1:9-12). Some believers were convinced that gaining wealth was better than a holy life. Talk about how Biblical giving has changed the way you think about money. 

6) Read James 1:13-15. James gives the believers a practical, logical, progression of the path of sin. Thinking about your own life, where do you see your evil desires begin to give birth to sin? What boundaries do you have in place to flee from sin? 

7) Looking at James 1:16-18, we learned that the unbeliever is deceived by unbelief and the believer is deceived by misbelief. Share a time in your life when you saw this play out. Maybe in a time you shared your faith or a time you realized you had been deceived in your faith. 

Close your time in prayer.



Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Learning the practice of solitude



What does our lives look like when they have intentional solitude? 

First off, how many of you have ever taken intentional time in quiet to be with the Lord? If you have never done this you might want to start small. Think of five minutes or ten minutes at first. You can increase to thirty minutes or sixty minutes as you progress. 

Some of you have been practicing solitude for a while now and you might be ready for a silent retreat at a monastery in the near future. The reality is that you will need to schedule time to make this happen, it won’t happen on accident. 

Let me just briefly remind us that this is not a modern self-help remedy that we’re talking about here. We’re talking about solitude as a spiritual practice of being with the Lord. For the introverts in the room this might be a welcomed practice. For the extroverts this might feel like solitary confinement. Remember during the pandemic when people said to start checking on your extroverted friends because they aren’t doing well? Well, this might be more difficult for some people than for others, that doesn’t mean any of us are exempt. 

So you’ve schedule time in your week to sit in solitude with the Lord. You have your journal in front of you and you’re ready to hear from the Lord. I want to give you three ways to go in your time of solitude. The first way is to practice listening to God. This comes from 1 Samuel 3:10. The Lord was talking with Samuel but he didn’t know how to hear God’s voice. His mentor told him to say this line. So you can schedule your time and place with the Lord and just sit and listen to God. You’re not coming to God to pray for your spouse, kids, parents, or next career move. You’re coming to God to primarily hear His voice. 

The next way you can sit with God in solitude is to practice silence. This idea comes from Psalm 46:10. The Psalmist teaches us to simply be still before the Lord. In this practice you are being still before The Lord. You are allowing the Lord to examine your heart. This might be one of the most difficult verses in the Bible to practice in solitude. We are great at going all different directions. So you are sitting with the Lord and you’re going to be tempted to start thinking about other things. You’re going to have to keep a tight reign on your thoughts. This is why we have a journal in front of us. We can write those distractions down to take care of them later. We can write down anything God speaks to us in this time. There is such a value of having this time. 

Listen to what A.W. Tozer said: “The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church is famishing for want of His presence.”

The last idea I want to share with you to practice during this time is asking the Lord to search your heart. If you turn to Psalm 139:23-24 for this time it will help guide you. What I want you to notice is that Scripture is the guide in every step of our time with the Lord. This might look like confession of sin. I like to use this time as deep down confession. Let me share what I mean. Sometimes we can confess our sin in the two minutes that we have with the Lord but we don’t ask God to search our heart and deeply confess sin. In this time you ask God to reveal the dark side of your soul and confess your sin all the way down. You are setting aside this time to confess its the right direction. 

Another thing that you can do in this time is sit with your journal and write down what God speaks to you. You might confess your sin or God might reveal somethings to you about your walk with the Lord that He wants to bring to light. When I’ve sat in this time I have brought my journal with me. It’s similar to when Moses sat with the Lord. We allow the Lord to speak to us about who we really are. 

For some of us, this just seems too hard. This seems like too much to add to your plate. You might be thinking that you don’t even want to do it. Solitude can feel boring. It can feel like a waste of time. The truth is that we love to have our schedules filled. We love to be busy. We love to look important and this doesn’t make us feel important. This feels like stopping instead of taking the hill. Can I encourage to find a special place to be with the Lord to practice listening, practice siren, and ask the Lord to search your heart? 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Exodus 2 | Small Group Questions



About twelve years ago is when I first remember hearing the term: Spiritual Formation. It was a class I took during my masters work with Tozer Seminary. For ten-weeks this summer Coastline will be looking at Spiritual Formations in a sermon series titled: Formed. We live in a culture that longs for immediate change but being formed spiritually takes time. Spiritual formation takes years, even decades, to become the person God is calling you to be.  For this series I will write some of 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 | Formed in Solitude | Exodus 2

The story of Moses is fairly familiar in the Christian church. We know about his childhood, him sending forty years in the desert, and then leading the Nation of Israel to the edge of the Promised Land. Sometimes we miss his preparation process. Moses was born to a Hebrew family in Egypt. During the time period that Moses was born it was dangerous for a Hebrew family to have children. There was a law in Egypt that all baby boys were to be put to death at birth. Moses survived and was destined to be a leader. He was raised in the palace in Egypt and groomed his entire life for leadership. Study these questions and look at how solitude shaped Moses’ life. 

1) We live in a time where we are bombarded with content. There are billions of hours of YouTube consumed on a regular basis. You could watch Netflix for years. What is your biggest barrier to getting solitude with the Lord? 

2) Read Exodus 2:11-15. Moses had a lot to sort through in his life. He was a murdered who was chased out of Egypt by his stepfather. How do you think Moses began to process his childhood in solitude? What do you think he learned about himself? 

3) Something change in Moses during that 300 mile walk from Egypt to Midian (read Exodus 2:15-17). Moses still had a strong sense of justice but learned to control his actions. How has sitting still before the Lord helped shaped you? (See Psalm 46:10). 

4) When Moses arrived in Midian it was clear that he was unclear about his identity (read Exodus 2:18-25). But something changed in him as he sat with the Lord, gave up his dreams, and got involved in community. Share about a time in your life when you sat with the Lord and it shaped you. 

5) The Bible is full of people who have been shaped by times of solitude with the Lord (read 1 Kings 19:1-9, Psalm 118:6,  and Matthew 4:1-11). Looking at Moses, Elijah, and Jesus what are some similarities that you see in their time of solitude? 

6) Neal defined solitude as intentional time in quiet to be with the Lord. He invited us to read 1 Samuel 3:10, Psalm 46:10, and Psalm 139:23-24. When you look at these verses what one are you going to bring with you in your next time of solitude? 

7) To make solitude a spiritual disciple it will require planning ahead. Solitude won’t happen on accident. Solitude can feel boring and we need to be prepared for that. Do you have any desire to be in solitude with the Lord? Why or why not?

Close your time in prayer.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Ephesians 4 | Small Group Questions




About twelve years ago is when I first remember hearing the term: Spiritual Formation. It was a class I took during my masters work with Tozer Seminary. For ten-weeks this summer Coastline will be looking at Spiritual Formations in a sermon series titled: Formed. We live in a culture that longs for immediate change but being formed spiritually takes time. Spiritual formation takes years, even decades, to become the person God is calling you to be.  For this series I will write some of 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 | Be Made New | Ephesians 4

For the ten-weeks of summer we’re going to talk about Spiritual Formation. There are a variety of words used to describe our process of spiritual growth. We are all being formed into something. We are all pointing our lives in a direction, we need to slow down and think of what that direction might be. In Ephesians 4 Paul teaches the early church about leaving their life of sin to be formed in Christ. Paul painted this church about five years prior and knows they are not continuing in their formation. He doesn’t use the word Sanctification but teaches about the process of how sinful humans are made holy for God. Think about how God is shaping your life this summer. 

1) On stage there were a variety of items from a stroller to a motorcycle. Pastor Neal taught us about the physical maturity of a human and then about the spiritual growth on a person. Where are you in the Spiritual Growth process? 

2) Read Ephesians 4:17-19. Paul reminds the early church that they have walked away from growing spiritually. Read Colossians 2:6-7, John 15:1-8, and Romans 12:1-2. What happens when we stay connected to Jesus and keep growing spiritually? 

3) Looking at the same passages, talk about what happens when we choose to slowly drift away from the Lord? Read Genesis 4:7, Psalm 51:5, Mark 2:5, & 1 Corinthians 5:17-21. How does sin hurt our relationship with Jesus? 

4) Paul teaches us about what he taught the local church (read Ephesians 4:20-21). When you think about the truth of Jesus Christ, what verses come to mind? What is the true message of Jesus that we need to share (see John 8:32)? 

5) Read Ephesians 4:22-24. Paul lays out the three stages of our spiritual life. First, we trust Jesus. Then our life is transformed. Finally we live out that hope in Jesus as our lives continue to be transformed. Share where you’re currently growing. 

6) Read Ephesians 4:25-32. Paul teaches the early church about how to leave their life of sin. He even goes the extra mile in teaching them to not only get a job but to be generous with others. Looking at this list of sins and struggles, what sin are you struggling with most in life right now? 

7) When we think about spiritual growth we have to make sure we’re not simply working on behavior modification. Talk with your group about how you make sure that you are partnering with the Holy Spirit in this work and not only yourself. 

Close your time in prayer.



Monday, June 20, 2022

Genesis 50 | Small Group Questions




The story of Joseph is a favorite among children’s tales. It’s a story of family dysfunction that leads to slavery. The pain of loneliness and abandonment that ultimate lead to Jospeh saving Israel. So often we don’t sit in the pain that Joseph experienced. We don’t think about what went through Joseph’s mind in the bottom of the pit. We forget that Joseph never went to his senior prom. We miss that he lost a vital relationship with his mother. 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 | Shaped by life | Genesis 50

For the last eight weeks we’ve studied the life of Joseph. We have seen a variety of scenes for the young man. We met him in Genesis 37 living in his father’s home. In Genesis 39 he was living in the home of Potiphar. Next Jospeh was in a jail cell. The last part of his life was spent in Egypt living in a home as the second in command of the entire Nation. As we look to the final chapters of Genesis we see the famine is over and Jospeh remains in a position of power. His father Jacob passes away and Jospeh follows his request to be buried in the tomb of his father. After Jacob is non Jospeh’s brothers fear the worst and plead with their brother for their lives. 

1) The subtitle of our Jospeh series was: When life doesn’t go your way. All of us have experienced life not going our way. It could be a job loss, a flat tire, failing a test, or the loss of a loved one. When has life not gone your way? 

2) Read Genesis 50:1, 10, 17. Jospeh could be the poster child for life not going his way. But in all his pain, abandonment, and harassment he kept a compassionate heart. What does Jospeh teach us about remaining tender for the Lord? 

3) Read Genesis 50:4-14. Jospeh and his brothers fulfill the dying wishes of their father. A great of people join them. Talk about what kind of influence Jospeh must have had on Egypt for that many people to join him in burying his father. 

4) Joseph’s brothers had a tough time forgiving themselves for what they did to Jospeh (read Genesis 50:15-21). They are keenly aware of their past sin but struggling finding forgiveness. Do you have a past sin that continues to haunt you? 

5) Jospeh teaches us about living a life that is filled with grace upon grace. For some reason we can struggle with accepting the grace of God in our lives. Read these passages (Ephesians 2:8-10, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8, & 2 Timothy 1:9) and discuss what it looks like to live a life filled with the grace of God.  

6) Read Genesis 50:22-26. Joseph passes away but speaks about the coming Exodus of Israel from Egypt (see Hebrews 11:22). Jospeh’s life teaches us that When life doesn’t go your way, God is still at work. How have you seen this truth in your life? 

7) Neal summed up Jospeh’s life as being in relationship with God. He also shared four ways we relate to God: Magic Theory, Causal Theory, Willpower Theory, or Relationship Theory. What way do you most related to God and why? 

Close your time in prayer.



Sunday, June 12, 2022

Living a life of integrity





This week I read a story about a successful executive who was making his way to the top of his field. A competing company reached out to him and promised him the moon. They interviewed him, wined and dined him, and at the end of the night offered him and unbelievable salary. That evening, when he arrived at his hotel room, he found a woman waiting for him in his room. She had been hired and provided by his prospective employes. He sent her away, packed his bags, left the hotel, and caught the last flight home that night. The very next day he emailed the company and said: “Forget it. If that’s the way you do business you don’t want me.” That is how integrity is lived out in our world. Max DePree, an outstanding Christian business man maintains this: “Integrity in all things precedes all else. The open demonstration of integrity is essential.” 

Are you ever tempted to cheat on a test in school? I cheated on tests in school. Are you ever tempted to lie to a police officer about how fast you were really driving? I have lied to police officers before. Are you ever temped to cheat on your taxes? Are you ever tempted to say that your kid is just one year younger to get into Disneyland for a little less money? Are you tempted to lie to look better? Are you tempted to fudge the numbers so things look better than they really are? We’ve all been in situations where we get to see how much our integrity is worth. Integrity keeps us honest. Integrity keeps our personal life in order.

If you are not living a life of integrity right now, look the Scripture to teach you how to do that. Instead of me telling you what to do, do a word search in your Bible about serving others. Start to read Scripture with a fresh set of eyes that are looking to grow in this area. Here is a very practical idea. Before you read your Bible, ask the Lord to teach you how to live a life of integrity from what you read. If you’re going to do this, I need you to know that living a life of integrity is tough. Integrity keeps your eyes on your paper during the test. Integrity makes you submit only true figures on your expense account. Integrity keeps your personal life pure and straight regardless of the benefits that might come your way for compromising in life. This is not an easy decision in life. This is a high calling in life. Living with integrity takes courage in life.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Genesis 47 | Small Group Questions






The story of Joseph is a favorite among children’s tales. It’s a story of family dysfunction that leads to slavery. The pain of loneliness and abandonment that ultimate lead to Jospeh saving Israel. So often we don’t sit in the pain that Joseph experienced. We don’t think about what went through Joseph’s mind in the bottom of the pit. We forget that Joseph never went to his senior prom. We miss that he lost a vital relationship with his mother. 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 | A Man of Integrity | Genesis 47

Genesis 47 starts out with the joy of a family reunion and quickly turns to the pain of a famine. The Egyptian people approach Joseph on separate occasions to stay alive. Jospeh models a life of character and integrity in the midst of a painful situation. What stands out in this passage is how the people of Egypt offer themselves to servitude to Pharaoh. Jospeh is not an active schemer in the plan but plays more of a passive role in their desires. Through all the pain we see God provide for Egypt through Joseph. Joseph comes up with a creative plan to keep the people alive and helps them to spread out into new land! 

1) Neal shared a story about how God provided for him to go to college through his local high school. Think about a time in your life when God provided for you through a way that you never expected to see Him provide. 

2) Read Genesis 47:13-17. We read that the Egyptians brought what they had to Joseph in exchange for food to stay alive. Think about the free gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10). What surprises you most about the free gift of salvation? 

3) The people came to Joseph with empty hands and he treated them with respect. He didn’t disrespect them or treat them poorly. Read Psalms 25:21, Proverbs 11:3, and Titus 2:7-8. What makes living a life of integrity so tough? 

4) Read Genesis 47:18-19. Pharaoh is an archetype of sin. Sin is anything that is contrary to God’s word or plan. Read James 5:16. What is a sin that you are struggling with that is hurting your relationship with God and others? 

5) Joseph comes up with a creative plan that will satisfy the people and please Pharaoh (read Genesis 47:20-26). What are some creative ways that you can come up with, that are theological sound, to help people? 

6) The Scripture is clear that we are not to oppress the poor. Read Proverbs 14:31, 28:3, and Zechariah 7:10. How do you view people who are poor? What might God be inviting you to do to help the poor in your city, county, or state? 

7) Jacob has his eyes set on not being buried in Egypt. He knows that Egypt is not his final resting place (read Genesis 47:27-31). For Christians, earth is not our final resting place but we get consumed with our lives on earth. What one thing do you want to change to help you keep more focused on heaven in your daily life? 

Close your time in prayer.



Friday, May 20, 2022

Genesis 41 | Small Group Questions




The story of Joseph is a favorite among children’s tales. It’s a story of family dysfunction that leads to slavery. The pain of loneliness and abandonment that ultimate lead to Jospeh saving Israel. So often we don’t sit in the pain that Joseph experienced. We don’t think about what went through Joseph’s mind in the bottom of the pit. We forget that Joseph never went to his senior prom. We miss that he lost a vital relationship with his mother. 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 Promotion | Genesis 41

We’ve all experienced times in our life when things don’t go our way. For Joseph it was about thirteen years of his life that were taken from him. At the end of Genesis 40 we read that Joseph was once again forgotten. But in Genesis 41 Pharaoh has a disturbing dream and Joseph is remember. If you notice Jospeh’s posture, he is a completely different person than the teenager we met in Genesis 37. Jospeh learned to point to God in all situations. We see here that in his darkest times God shaped Jospeh’s character so he could lead Egypt through an immense famine. God had uniquely qualified Jospeh but it took years of shaping. 

1) We started out looking at the fable of Cinderella. Her life started out so beautiful but endured dark times. The conclusion of her story is a fairytale. When you think about Cinderella, what in her attitude/demeanor stand out to you? 

2) Read Genesis 41:1-8. For two years Jospeh waited in prison with no excitement happening in his life. Think about a period of you life that seemed pointless or lackluster but looking back, you can now see God’s hand of shaping. 

3) Read Exodus 41:14-16. Offers Pharaoh peace in his time of trouble. God has called us to be peace makers (read Psalm 29:11, Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 5:9, and John 16:33). How can you be a person who offers peace to those in times of trouble? 

4) Joseph is able to be humble in the presence of Pharaoh because allowed God to shape him in the pain of his youth (see: 1 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Timothy 4:5, and Hebrews 12:2). What painful situations have taught you endurance as a Christian? 

5) Read Genesis 41:33-40. After interpreting the dream, Joseph offers a solution to Pharaoh’s problem. Joseph is patient in the situation and does’t resort to self-promotion. Do you struggle with patience or wanting to promote yourself? 

6) It’s obvious that what Jospeh’s brothers did hurt him (read Genesis 41:50-52). Think about a painful situation in your childhood. How did that shape the way you live your life? Have you surrendered that pain to the Lord for spiritual healing? 

7) As we look at how Jospeh has changed in the twenty years since we met him in Genesis 37, share some of the inner changes God has done in his life. What Bible verses do you run to as you seek the Lord to shape your life? 

Close your time in prayer.



Thursday, May 12, 2022

Genesis 40 | Small Group Questions



The story of Joseph is a favorite among children’s tales. It’s a story of family dysfunction that leads to slavery. The pain of loneliness and abandonment that ultimate lead to Jospeh saving Israel. So often we don’t sit in the pain that Joseph experienced. We don’t think about what went through Joseph’s mind in the bottom of the pit. We forget that Joseph never went to his senior prom. We miss that he lost a vital relationship with his mother. 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 Waiting is the Hardest Part | Genesis 40

We first met Joseph as a seventeen year old living in his fathers home (Genesis 37). His brothers wanted to kill him but ended up selling him into slavery. From there he was accused of actions he didn’t commit and thrown into jail (Genesis 39). During this entire time Jospeh was under the watchful eye of the Lord. Through his life we learn that God is always working in our darkest moments. As we’ve sat in these couple chapters of Joseph’s life we have to be intentional to not rush ahead and see what happens. Jospeh teaches us to look for the hand of God in our dark moments. Jospeh teaches us to be patient and allow God to shape our hearts for His glory. 

1) Thinking about the first three chapters of Jospeh’s life, that we’ve studied this far, what stands out to the you most? What part of Joseph’s life can your relate to and what part is extremely difficult for you to understand? 

2) Read  Genesis 49:1-4a. Joseph has learned to care for others in this waiting period. Read John 13:34-35, Romans 12:10, 2 Corinthians 13:11, and Ephesians 4:2. What does Scripture teach us about caring for others? 

3) Some people think that God had abandoned Jospeh but we read that God was close to Joseph during this entire time (read Genesis 39:2, 23). Also read Matthew 28:19-20 and talk about how Jesus is always with us. 

4) Read Genesis 40:4a-8. Instead of falling into a pagan culture, Jospeh spoke the truth of God in that dark prison. Where is God asking you to be the light of the world to those around you (Matthew 5:13-16)? What does that require? 

5) Thinking about the interpretations that Joseph gave to the men, we read that he told the truth in a difficult situation. The Bible calls us to be truth-tellers. Read and discuss these passages: Exodus 20:16, Proverbs 12:22, and 1 John 1:6-7

6) The time Joseph spent in prison was a time of character building. Briefly look at Acts 9. Make sure to focus on Acts 9:26-31. Paul’s life was changed but he eventually moved home to grow his character. Where is God shaping your character? 

7) When we look at the entirety of what happened to Jospeh’s life, can you think of any of his: mistreatment, abandonment, and disappointment that reminds you of your life? How did you respond? Where are you still growing? 

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength grow your character in the dark moments.