Thursday, December 08, 2016

VALIDATING YOUR SON

The following is an excerpt of my teaching to 100 men at my church at Men's Fraternity. We are currently using the 33 series: A Man and His Father. This book has been huge in my life!

In all honesty, the Bible gives us a whole bunch of examples of inadequate fathers; fathers who didn’t validate their sons. Noah got so drunk he passed out and his sons had to cover up his naked body. Jacob exhibited such immense favoritism to one son that his brothers threw Joseph in a pit and sold him into slavery. David failed to discipline his oldest son, creating a rebellious child who attempted to take the kingdom from his father and eventually died.

Realistically, there is no example of a perfect father here on earth. To find a perfect father, we need to turn our eyes to God the Father. Move to the New Testament and we find it was a big day for Jesus as He walked down to the Jordan River to be baptized. As he came out of the water, Scripture records what happened next:
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17
Speaking from heaven, God the Father makes a bold declaration to the world saying, “This is my Son!” In other words, He’s saying, “No one make a mistake about it, He belongs to me. I am his Father and He is my Son!” God the Father makes no ambiguity surrounding His relationship to Jesus Christ. God was affirming Christ during a monumental time in the life of His son.

The affirmation doesn’t stop with God boldly declaring Jesus is His Son. God goes on, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Affirmation is powerful and we all desperately need it to feel validated! Right here God tells the world that He loves Jesus and is well pleased with Him. Think about this. At this point in His life Jesus has not yet, preached a sermon, healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out any demons, called any disciples, or done any miracles. However God the Father validates Jesus not for what He has done or for the future works he will do. The Father affirms Jesus solely because of who He is—His beloved Son! What an encouragement!

If you’ve experienced a lack of validation from your father growing up, please don’t hold back encouragement in your son’s life. The power of our words can bring life to our sons, name them and draw them out. This is what God to Jesus that day on the bank of the Jordan river. We need to see our sons, Fathers with older children, keep in mind the age of Jesus at His baptism. God remained engaged in Jesus’ life through every step and every stage of His life.

You son needs to be validated by you. Your son needs to be seen by you and encouraged by you. There is a huge power that comes in validating a son.

To learn more about the 33 Series watch the following video

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

THREE BOOKS EVERY MARRIED COUPLE WOULD BENEFIT FROM READING

How's your marriage doing?

Really, how is your marriage doing?

There are times that my marriage has been awesome and times that I needed to invest more into my marriage. There are times that I feel like a super-husband and times I feel like a selfish man. Next month Charity and I will celebrate 12 years of marriage (crazy huh!). We're super excited to celebrate our anniversary.

As I think about our marriage I want to share three books that have been a blessing to us along the way. Here are three books that have helped my marriage and I encourage you to not just read them. In fact, don't read them but apply them.


1) Love & Respect
This book has ben so helpful in my marriage. Charity and I went through this book at the end of 2011. We actually lead a small group through the book. It gave us some new language to help us understand each other. It gave me new ideas I never knew about. It also help me understand my wife in a deeper way.

The book is based off Ephesians 5:21-33. It goes into depth and shares about how women desire to be loved and men need to be respected. I don't want to give too much away but hopefully it's enough to encourage you to read it!

2) The Meaning of Marriage
In all honesty, I haven't read this book. But Charity read it and said it was awesome! She really enjoyed the content. If Charity recommends it, you probably want to check it out!

3) Sacred Marriage
This is the first book on marriage I ever read. I think I even read it before we got marriage. In addition, I'm pretty sure it was John Fairfield (Charity's dad) who gave me the book. This book rocked my world and has shaped my marriage. Gary Thomas is a fantastic author. He shares openly from his own personal experience.

A few quotes that I love from this book go a little something like this:

- A good marriage is not something you find, it's something you work for

- Marriage is like looking into a mirror and seeing all your faults

This book has helped me see how important it is to work on myself to help my marriage.

These books could impact you! As Christmas approaches maybe you could get one to help your marriage, a friend or an engaged person you know.

What other book would you add to this list?



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

WHERE CAN I RUN?

This Fall my church is going through the book of Joshua. It's been a fantastic series to see God's faithfulness to His people, His provision and His leading. On Sunday I preached on Joshua 20 and 21. I talked about how God is a refuge to those in need.


Watch the sermon here and share your thoughts on how it impacts you.
11/27/2016 - Neal Benson | Ventures in Faith: Where Can I Run? from Central Peninsula Church on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

THE POWER OF A VALIDATING FATHER

A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at Men's Fraternity at our church. It's a great ministry that meets at 6am. Me and 6am are not best friends. Thankfully there is warm coffee and a hot breakfast. Also there are almost a 100 other guys to keep you awake and make sure you're getting connected.

It was a huge privilege to speak at Men's Fraternity. Here is a link to my talk from the morning about the power of a validating father.

11/17/2016 - Neal Benson from CPC Mens on Vimeo.

Friday, November 25, 2016

BIG BEAR LAKE

Last weekend I had a really cool opportunity to speak at the church where I first met Christ. It was epic! Looking back on the weekend I have a handful of takeaways to share.

Traveling with my daughter
Since I've been traveling a lot lately it seemed right to bring one of children with me. Charity and I talked about it and thought Leah needed the time with me. It was so fun to travel with Leah! We rarely get any one on time. This trip gave us a bunch of one on one time.

We flew out of SFO together and traveled to my moms. Over the weekend it was great seeing my daughter enjoy my mom. Growing up in a small town I choose to leave after high school and have never moved back. Now that we have kids I cherish any time they get with my mom.

Seeing friends
As we planned the trip I had to reach out to some close friends to see them. My best friend Conrad came up to see us. It was great seeing him and his wife Karen. We also spent some time with their son Deagon. On Saturday we were able to see them, ride the Alpine Slide and go bowling!

We also had some time to see my good friend Brian. Brian had been a brother in Christ for 15 years. Brian gave his life to Christ while we both were living in San Diego. He has four children now and it was so fun seeing how well our kids got along.

We also had the opportunity to see more friends when I spoke at church on Sunday. At one point in the service I looked back at my friends and said: "It feels like high school!" It was so fun seeing so many friends in such a short time.

Speaking at Community Church 
A highlight of my trip was being invited to speak at the church I first was introduced to Christ at. When I pulled into the parking lot on Sunday morning I had to do a double take. Never in my life did I think I'd be speaking at that church.

Before getting out of my car I just sat there and thanked God for the invitation to speak there.
I'll admit I was nervous. Nervous for a few reasons. The people in my hometown know me. They know my mistakes and many of them saw them first hand. I was nervous they wouldn't see the change. I was wrongly nervous. I was so well received and was able to hug and see so many friends.
I also saw Bob Pool. Bob was a huge impact in my life. Bob invested me in as a young boy and it was great seeing him!

Looking back on the weekend it was a pure joy! It was great spending so much time with Leah, seeing old friends and sharing God's word with so many loving people.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

DO I NEED TO TAKE A DAY OFF?

We live in a culture where it's hard to really take a day off. We are attached to our phones. It's tough to rest with kids. It seems there is always something to complete around the house. How does a person really take a day off and rest?

To answer that question I want to look at the Sabbath from the Bible;


What does the Sabbath mean?
During Bible College was the first time I began to study the Sabbath. Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat meaning repose. Repose is a state of calm, peacefulness or rest. The Sabbath means it’s our chance to have a day of calm with no regular work. From what I’ve read about history the Jews would start their day when the sun set. This way the first part of the day would be spent with the family. This is not necessarily a spouse and children; but time with their entire family. Next they would sleep and conclude their day with work. It’s a fantastic way to view the 24-hour day.

In his book The Emotionally Healthy Leader, Peter Scazzero gives a definition that I really like. He says: “Biblical Sabbath is a 24-hour block of time in which we stop work, enjoy rest, practice delight, and contemplate God.” The phrases: “stop work,” “enjoy rest,” “practice delight,” and “contemplate God” give us a perfect road map to help us understand what the Sabbath really means. The Sabbath is more than a day off of work. The Sabbath is more than not working. It involves much more. The Sabbath means we get into a state of peaceful rest with the Lord. We avoid work and truly rest. This is how you can describe Sabbath to others next time someone asks you. (Special thanks to Cathy McIlvoy for her thoughts on this paragraph!)

To further help you understand what the Sabbath means let me explain a little more. The Sabbath is intended to be practiced weekly. One day a week is meant to be dedicated to the Lord. It’s a day where no regular work is to be done. Many people practice their Sabbath day on Sunday. This allows you to go shopping on Saturday, get the house chores done, wash the dog, clean your car and do other things that are work but not your regular job. If you don’t have Sunday off from your job you can be creative on what day you take. When I was in college I had Monday and Tuesday off so I would use Monday as my Sabbath day. The goal is not to be legalist on the day.

Now there are some questions about what is really work. When we talk about the meaning of Sabbath it’s a complete stopping of work. I do my best to take my Sabbath from Friday night to Saturday night. It’s a time where I don’t check email, I won’t slot meetings, I don’t do laundry and I won’t write a sermon. What I will do is clean the garage, wash the car or do yard work. Those are things that don’t feel like work to me. I’m a little OCD so having a clean car feels amazing. When my garage gets cluttered it stresses me out. It’s tough to clean it on a week night so I need to wait until the kids are resting on Saturday afternoon so I can clean it. Yard work actually refreshes me and doesn’t feel like work. There is something, for me, about raking the leaves, trimming the bushes and helping my backyard look more presentable. For you, this may sound stressful. The point of the Sabbath is do no regular work and rest. These are not my regular work and refresh me.

Why was it given?
Once we understand what the Sabbath really means is when we can begin to figure out why it was given. The first time the word Sabbath appears in the Bible is in Exodus 16:23. The Nation of Israel had been working their fingers to the bone. They were under the oppression from Pharaoh. They were required to make bricks so Pharaoh could expand his power and build up Egypt. God rescued His people from Egypt and after crossing the Red Sea the Lord commanded the people to take a Sabbath day (read Exodus 16:23).

Although this is the first time the word “Sabbath” appears, the term “rest” is used earlier in the Bible. In Genesis 2:2-3 God saw all He had made, and then He rested. How come an all powerful, all knowing, God stopped to rest? God didn’t have to rest. The Bible doesn’t say that God was tired. The reason that God rested was to set an example for us. God modeled a rest-filled life for each of us. God knew that He created us as human beings and not human doings.

The Sabbath protects people from burnout and being used for all they accomplish. During the aftermath of the French Revolution, the Sabbath was abolished, being substituted with one day’s rest in ten. Each person was expected to work for nine days and then take one day off. Apparently the experiment was a complete disaster. Men and women crumbled under the pressure and strain of the expectations. Animals were literally falling over in the street and dying for being pushed so hard. People need a Sabbath and that is why it was given.

There is a Bible Scholar who I really respect and he wrote a great part of the Sabbath. His name is Eugene Peterson. He started as a church planter and then became a teacher. He is also known for writing the Message version of the Bible. Listen to what Eugene Peterson has to say about this: “Sabbath: uncluttered time and space to distance ourselves from the frenzy of our own activities so we can see what God was and is doing. If we don’t regular quit work one day a week, we take ourselves far too seriously. The moral sweat pouring off our brow blinds us to the primal action of God in and around us.”

There is an old story about two men who went into the woods to chop down trees (axe picture). As the sun began to rise the men walked into the forest together. In a fun spirit one man challenged the other as to who could chop down the most trees. The bet was set and the day began. After a few hours of chopping down trees one of the men sat down for a quick rest. The other kept working. A couple more hours and the man sat down for a quick rest again. The other man kept working. As the day neared the end the man sat down for another rest! Finally it was time to go home and the counted up the trees they fell. To his shock the man who worked all day long had actually fell fewer trees than the man who rested. As they walked home he asked his friend how he worked less and dropped more trees. His response was quite simple, “While you keep chopping, I choose to sit, rest and sharpen my axe.”

Let’s a quick recap from the first two questions.
The first question was what does the Sabbath mean. Who can give me a sentence answer to that question? The Sabbath means to have a day of rest. The second question we grabbed from the fourth commandment is; “Why was it given?” Who can give me a quick answer to that question? The reason the Sabbath was given was so we can rest and not burnout from the load of work.

How do you rest?

Friday, November 11, 2016

CONGRATS LEAH

The other day Leah came home from school and said, "Guess what?! I got JoJo!"

JoJo is the huge jaguar you see in the picture. If you look at the write up on Leah you can read about why she got JoJo. I'm so proud of Leah for getting JoJo. I'm proud of her for listening and for her teaching seeing her notice.
I love how big she is smiling at winning JoJo (this is a big deal at our school).

Congrats Leah!

Friday, November 04, 2016

HALF-SLEEVE TREE TATTOO

For the last five(ish) years I've been wanting to get a tattoo on my left arm. When I say "a tattoo" I mean a half-sleeve.  I am not one to simply rush into a tattoo. I know its something on my body forever and it matters. I have tried to find an artist near me but each time I think about calling I just think: "I want Jonny to do the tat."

Jonny Five is my buddy in Vegas who has done basically all my ink in the last decade. I've spent many hours with Jonny and more importantly I trust him. He's a fantastic artist. He's well respected. He knows what he's doing.

So all that said, let me explain the tattoo to you and the reason behind it. When I was in seminary I had a pastor I respect very much pray over me. During that time he prophesied and prayed that I would be a tree for my generation.
He prayed I would be a father to the fatherless and a leader for leaders.
He prayed that God would use me to fight for the fatherless.
He also prayed that I would put down the gloves I've used to fight in the past and that I would fight for the Gospel to move ahead.
It was a moving time.

About six months after that I began thinking of getting a tattoo to remind me of that time. Each time I looked at trees I couldn't find the right one. After thinking about it for almost four years Charity and I were talking and it all clicked. I don't remember how the conversation went, but it was finally clear that I needed to get a pine tree (or some kind of mountain tree). It would remind me of my roots and the time in seminary.

The tattoo also makes me think of Psalm 1 where it says this:
Psalm 1:1-3
1 Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.


I love the dimension in the tattoo and the variety of trees. The main tree is dark black and then the trees vary from there. If you're familiar with Redwood trees you might know that they don't have deep roots but they have connected roots. The tree relies on its root connection to other trees in strong winds. This tattoo also reminds me of the need to stay connected with others. The Christian life is not meant to be experienced alone!

There are the four reasons this tattoo is so meaningful to me. Thank you Jonny for a great piece! If you're ever in Vegas go hang out with Jonny and get the tattoo you've been thinking about for years.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

FINDING CREATIVE WAYS TO SERVE WITH YOUR KIDS

The longer I pastor and the most I parent the more I look for ways to empower parents to be spiritual leaders in their homes. I often find myself having conversations with dads about how they can connect with their kids. I talk with moms about how they can shape the hearts of their sons. I talk with grandparents who are filling a role and looking for creative ways to serve with their kids.

(Sophie praying with me)
Throughout these conversations I am constantly thinking about ways I can serve with my kids. At my church we do something called Family Worship. It's a service where we invite elementary aged kids into our main worship service. Our team is constantly trying to find creative ways to make the service more engaging, more practical and helpful to families. We want the kids to leave the service thinking:
"I know God better because of that." We want parents leaving the service thinking: "I can talk with my child about things of God because of that service."



About two years I had an idea (this is normal occurrence in my life). Not all my ideas are good, but this one seemed to catch traction. The idea was to have my six year old daughter co-host with me in the service. To make this happen well I knew it would take lots of practice and preparation. I didn't just show up on Sunday morning with my daughter. We talked about it at home, we practiced on Thursday on the stage with lights and microphones, and then we did the real thing on Sunday.

When it was all said and done it was a great time! We had a fantastic response from our body and my daughter loved it!

(Sophie stood on a stool to get us the same height)
I know many churches are thinking of creative ways to get kids and parents in the service together. If that is you, you might want to try something like we did!
(Full Room shot)
I want to say a special thanks to our Foster City team for dreaming always!
Thank you to Mike Sly for the pictures of this special time with my daughter.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

3 books every youth pastor needs to read

We recently called a new Junior High Director to serve on our staff team. Its been such a joy having her on the team. Basically ever since my call to ministry I've had a passion to see students find and follow Jesus. At first I was hands on in this, then I began training more leaders and now I'm in a spot where I get to empower younger leaders to lead.

In the transition it reminded me of being a new youth pastor. It reminded me of how much I didn't know when I started in ministry and how much I still have to learn (leaders are learners). As I thought about what I wish I would have known it clicked, there were three books that I had to recommend to Michelle!

Here are three books that I think every new youth pastor needs to read

1) Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry
I had been in full-time student ministries for a whole 5 weeks when my pastor Chad Blood brought to the PDYM (Purpose Driven Youth Ministry) Conference. At this conference I heard about youth ministry in a whole new way. I listened to great speakers, talked with other leaders and bought this book.

Doug has a passion to to help youth pastors be successful in ministry. This book is a hands down survival tool for thriving in your first few years of ministry. Doug covers important issues such as: dealing with discouragement, ministering to parents and families, leading leaders, working with volunteers, resolving conflict and much more.

The added bonus for me, on this book, was going through it with a fellow intern. After the PDYM conference Charity Fairfield and I meet on a weekly basis to talk about this book. Who would have guessed that less than two years later we would be married. Thanks Doug for writing this book and giving me the tools I needed as a young youth pastor. Thanks Chad for having Charity and I read the book together, I may owe you both for setting us up!


2) Criticism Bites
Every youth pastor (and leader) that I know has experienced criticism at some point in their life. Brian Berry does a great job at sharing how he has handled criticism. When the book first came out my whole staff team went through it. Read what the back of the book says:

Maybe you've asked that question because you're tired of the relentless, nagging voice in your head saying you should quit, or you're inadequate, or your shortcomings are what people will remember most about you. Perhaps you're simply discouraged, frustrated, burned out, or isolated because of the criticism you've endured.
This book is for you.

After nearly 20 years as a pastor, Brian Berry has come to the conclusion that we cannot escape the critics, but we can learn how to think through and respond to them in healthy ways. Put another way: Criticism isn't something you solve. It's something you manage.

Drawing from his own experiences, Brian will guide you through the painful but necessary journey we face in life. He'll examine why criticism hurts so bad, and he'll discuss specific methods and strategies for handling it--including those times when critical words reveal insight and truth from God. When you face criticism, the best response isn't to hide, run away, or quit. The answer is to search your soul, pick yourself back up, and determine how you can deal with, respond to, and learn from the critics.

3) What Matters Most; When NO is Better Than YES
This quick read is a must for anyone in ministry. This book is not confined to the realm of youth ministry. Doug taps on his decades of pastoral leadership to help give leaders the confidence to give the best response. When I read this book I found myself struggling with people pleasing and saying "yes" to every request. I thought it was my job to be super-pastor.

If you can't remember the last time you said "no" to someone then you're on the road to death. It is impossible to say "yes" to every request, wedding, speaking engagement, small group, missions request, family crisis and other requests. I found myself struggling with feeling like I had to say "yes" to every request because that is what Jesus would do... I was so wrong!

This book gave me the freedom and power to say "no" more. It was tough at first but in the long run it has been so healthy for me, my family, the ministry I lead and my spiritual growth. In this read Doug gives you permission to say "no" more and helps set up youth pastors to have a thriving ministry!

What books would you add to this list?



Sunday, October 16, 2016

MY 2 FAVORITE PICTURES FROM THE WEEKEND

This weekend it rained most of the weekend here on the San Francisco Peninsula. When that happens you have two choices: stay inside and watch movies or go outside and stomp in puddles. Our kids did a little bit of both!

Puddle Jumping
On Saturday I was officiating a wedding for a great couple and Charity sent me this picture of Isaiah. It was his first rain (that he knows of). All weekend long he kept saying, "wawa". It was so cute! He loves water and you can see it in his face in this picture. When I think back to my childhood it reminds me of the blissful joy on splashing in puddles. There is something innocent about running around in the rain and splashing in puddles.

I also love his Batman jacket. He is so cute in it! He has his first pair of rain boots and like any little boy he never wants to take them off his feet. Today, he asked me three times to put them on. When I say asked me, he brought them over to me and said "shoes shoes".

Good Morning
This morning (Sunday) Isaiah woke up at 4:30am. Just read that sentence one more time because it's true. Charity went in to check on him and he had a hard time getting back to sleep. Obviously we also had a hard time getting back to sleep. Finally Charity said to me, "Let's pray for him together." It was a wise decision from my wife. We were both begging God, separately, for our little guy to fall back asleep.

After we prayed together he ended up falling back asleep. He kept sleeping and sleeping and sleeping. He finally woke up just after 6:40am. Normally I get to see him more on Sunday morning but this Sunday it was going to be quick so I went in to wake him up. He had the biggest smile on his face and was just stoked to see me.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Back from my Social Media

Last month I took a break from social media and... it was exactly what I needed.

If you missed the post where I explained what I was doing you can find it here.

My goal in taking the month off was to accomplish three things:
1) Re-center my life on Christ
2) Engage fully with my family
3) Redeem my time spent on social media

As I look back on the time off I can defiantly say I was able to accomplish my goals. I feel like my focus is more fully in Christ than it's been in years. I used some of the time where I may normally be scrolling through a newsfeed to be praying. Instead of being so concerned with sharing pictures I was more focused on sharing Christ. Instead of caring about what was happening in others lives I cared more about what was happening in my kids lives.

One struggle I noticed this summer was I would pull out my phone instead of engaging with my family. I'd come home from work and instead of hanging out with my kids I'd plop on the couch and pull out my phone. Instead of putting my phone in the room and leaving it there to charge, I would check emails and answer text messages.

When I look back on my break I can honestly say this was a great month for me with my kids. Part of the benefit is I didn't have any work related travel so I was able to travel and focus on them. Instead of being concerned about getting the best shot for Instagram I was concerned with being the best dad for my kids. Instead of being focused on getting the right date planned for my wife and sharing the picture on Facebook, I was intentional about being with my life. I feel more engaged with my family then ever!

The final goal really would be the "proof in the pudding". It took a few weeks (almost two to be exact) to think less and less about social media. But once the thoughts had stopped consuming me it became easier to take control of the time God has given me. I didn't have any desire to log-on to social media because I wanted to be present in my current situation.

As I think about re engaging on social media now I have done very little. I posted once on Instagram and twice on Facebook. Twitter is actually my favorite platform but I haven't been on much (I have used tweetdeck to slot posts). I'm sure I will slowly re-engage more and post more often, but right now I'm happy with the balance in my life and where my focus is. I'd prefer to keep it this way because I think I've chosen what is best.

This was by far the best distancing from social media I've done and I think it's because of the plan I started with.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Preparing for Victory

Last month our church started a new teaching series through the book of Joshua called Ventures in Faith. The book of Joshua is a fantastic book that details the Israelites transition from a group of wandering nomads to occupying the Promised Land.

On September 18 I preached on how the Israelites prepared for victory. Watch the sermon and my guess is you will be as shocked as I was on how God's people prepare for victory!

9/18/2016 - Neal Benson | Preparing for Victory from Central Peninsula Church on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Work is a blessing, not a curse

In our Young Adults ministry we just started a new series called "Work Matters". In this series we're looking at how important our work is. Work should be a blessing but far too many people consider it a curse. In fact, most Christians think that work is a result of the fall but look at Genesis 1

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
In the very beginning God created mankind in His image and tasked them with ruling over what He had created. The crown of God’s creation is you! Humans are created in God’s image and tasked with ruling over what God created. The Hebrew word for rule is וְיִרְדּוּ֩ (yir-dū) meaning to rule or tread or have dominion over. After the whole created order is almost finished God creates human beings, He creates them in His image and then passes the responsibility of caring for all the animals over to them. What a privilege! God has spent almost six full days of creating and then passes the responsibility over to us; how He trusts us.

The the Bible moves into what is almost Hebraic poetry in verse 27. There is a repetition of verse 26 here about God creating man but no repetition of the need for men and women to take care of the created order. We move into verse 28 and get to the first blessing in the Bible. The first blessing is to procreate, subdue the earth and rule over it. We see the Hebrew word for rule again in this verse but there is another word. This time we’re commanded to subdue the earth. The word subdue is the Hebrew word וְכִבְשֻׁ֑הָ (kib-su) meaning to subdue or bring into bondage. But when you study the word it’s not a command to rule/subdue with a heavy fist.

When we look at what the original language shares we find that the work of ruling and subduing the earth should be one of a blessing and done with a caring demeanor. It’s a role to care for what God has created and to tend to the created order. Essentially our work should be a blessing not a curse. How come its far too often the other way around? How come the work you do seems to be a curse in your life and not a blessing?

Did you know that over half the people in America aren’t satisfied with their work? In an article Susan Adams wrote for Forbes about two years ago she lays out some stats on job dissatisfaction. 52.3% of Americans are not satisfied with their job. This percentage has been slowly increasing ever since 1987.
The main factors are that contribute to job satisfaction are: experience, including job security, wages, promotion policy, vacation policy, sick leave, health plan and retirement plan. She also lays out that those who make over $125K are more satisfied than those make $50-75K (I feel like I could have told her that). One final stat she laid out that is interesting is that men are more satisfied in their job than women. She doesn’t provide much detail in to that stat, making it tough for us to analyze more.

When I think back to my first job I can totally remember it being a curse. Many of you know I grew up in the mountains of Big Bear Lake down in So Cal. When I was about 14 or 15 I would do odd jobs for people to help make money. I would go to people who had second homes, or vacation homes, and help them out in the summer months and winter months. In the summer I would do yard work; planting flowers, raking pine needles, or trimming bushes. It was hard work. I would come home sore, sweaty and bruised from the labor. Then in the winter I go around after snow storms and shovel people’s driveways. It was hard labor and I felt like I never was paid enough for how hard the work was.

What as your first job like? Was it a blessing or a curse? Did you enjoy the labor or was it detestable to you. How about your current job? Do you enjoy the work you preform? Is it tough but you find it enjoyable? It might be hard work but when you really think about it, the work is enjoyable. Maybe you enjoy your job for the work but the people you work with make it even better! You’re on a great team and you look forward to being with them. Maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe you love your work but not so much the people who you work with. You could find a colleague to be a challenge to be around or a lazy person!

No matter what your feelings are to work, the work you do matters! Another way to say it is, the work I do matters; make it personal. The job you preform matters to God. It’s your Biblical mandate. It’s a command in Scripture that you are to work and it’s also a blessing to God. You might have thought that work is a curse but it was never meant to be a curse. Hopefully studying these first couple verses helps you understand the plan God has for your life and the 1/3 of your life that is spent on work.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Work Matters- Young Adults Teaching Series

On Thursday September 8 we're kicking off a new, six-week, teaching series in our Young Adults Ministry. From your job, errands and keeping your apartment/house clean there is always some work to be done. In fact about 1/3 of your life involves work. Knowing that, we want to look at what the Bible says about work and how a Christ follower should approach work.

There is a great verse in the book of Colossians that goes like this:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters... Colossians 3:23
This will be our guiding verse for the entire series. We will use this as the theme verse to lead our time through this series.

Let me give you the six-week series overview:
September 8- The blessing of work
Main focus: our worship should be a blessing not a curse
Main verse: Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 2:2, 3, 5, 15.

September 15- guest speaker John Brandon
John spent his entire career in the technology business, retiring this past October after spending almost 15 years as the Vice President in charge of all of Apple’s international business. Before Apple, he was a CEO of a venture-backed start up and also spent ten years helping build Adobe System’s application software business. He started his career as a salesman with Texas Instruments. John and his wife, Nancy, have three grown children and have attended CPC for almost 38 years.

September 22- Rest from work (Sabbath)
Main focus: we can't always work. We need to rest. God modeled rest for us.
Main verse: Exodus 20:8-11

September 29- Attitude at work
Main focus: how should I act while at work, even when my job is tough?
Main verse: Genesis 39

October 6- Influence at work
Main focus: how can I live out my faith at work and have a positive influence as a Christ-follower
Main verse: Daniel 1&2

October 13- Panel discussion
We're going to close this series out with a panel discussion and hear from others on how they've lived for Christ in their workplace, family and career decisions.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Social Media Break

Starting August 31 I'm going to be taking a break from social media.
It will be a break from all forms of social media.
In other words, "I'm going dark."

Now in our world a person may ask something like this, "Neal why would you do that and what value would it bring?"  It's a great question and I appreciate it. This isn't a flippant decision to go dark. This is something I've thought about for the last couple months. It's something I've been wanting to do since June but didn't feel the timing was right. It's also something I've done in the past almost as a reset button. It's something to help me reset how I spend my time and what I focus on.

As I've thought about my decision this time it centers around three main reasons:

Recenter my life on Christ 
My desire is for Christ to be the center of my life. Please don't hear me to be saying that Christ is not the center of my life right now. Christ is very much the center of my life but I need to make sure He gets to reign properly. When I spend time on social media it can detract from my time with Christ. It cane take away my focus and I want to get reentered.

This summer has been a busy one. We've been on lots of adventures, had speaking engagements, pre-marital counseling, weddings, family trips, staff hires and I've had my own fair share of challenges. When life gets crazy a person can choose to do one of two things: they can run to Christ or slowly drift away from Christ. I've found to stay close to Christ and I feel this decision is going to help strengthen my walk with my Savior.

Recapture my time
Someone once told me that people spend up to 8 hours a day on social media. My conservative guess, for my life, is that I spend about 1 hour and 15 mins a day on social media. I do find myself checking it more often on some days than others. When I think about the time I spend on social media in a day and add it up, it becomes about 9 hours a week. To put it in perspective: that is a work day for most people.

My hope is to recapture my time and invest it in areas that I long to invest in. This could mean spending my time to read the stack of books on my desk (or the ones I keep carrying in my backpack and never read). It might mean calling more friends and seeing how they are doing or texting an old friend to catch up. I may take some time to watch more movies with my wife (once the kids are in bed, of course). Maybe it means a new hike with the family this weekend.

What I'm getting at here is that I want to be in control of my time and I find that social media beckons me to scroll and I miss out on what is front of me.

Fully engage with my family
The last couple nights I've been conscious of my social media tendencies. I find that around 7:15pm I hit a wall with my energy and "check out" on my family. Its a bad pattern. Its a horrible thing to admit. In fact, tonight, Sophie said; "Daddy, put that away!" It was a reality check.

I want to engage with my kids more. Sophie is only going to be 8 for a year. Leah is on the second half of 6. Isaiah is learning new things every day. And I want to be fully engaged in these moments. I want to spend as much time with my family as possible. I don't want to be checking social media when I'm on a date with my wife; I want to be fully engaged.

I invite you to join along with me or to allow my thoughts to help you shape a time when you could take a break from social media. Also, please share your thoughts in the comments section so others can hear from you.

*there are a couple of times where I will need to get on Facebook for a brief moment to help promote/invite you to great things happening at Central Peninsula Church.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Higher Power Retreat 2016


Last weekend (August 19-21) I was invited to teach at our Higher Power Retreat. Higher Power is a ministry that supports the recovery community and it was so much fun! We headed over to Loma Mar and stayed a great little conference center called Redwood Glen. Redwood Glen is tucked in the woods and has a great facility. The theme of the weekend was Through The Woods and we looked at the second half of Romans 8.

Everything we talked about through the weekend pointed us to the fact that nothing can separate us from God's love: 
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
Now many of you know that I'm in recovery. I've been sober for 16 years now. The great thing about recovery is people know they are broken. There is something special about spending the weekend with a broken group of people (of which I am one), who know they are broken and are drawing closer to Christ. It was awesome being able to spend the weekend together.

Here are three highlights of the weekend for me:
Hike on Saturday
Saturday afternoon we took a 5 mile hike through the woods. It was great because we were talking about going through the woods. We talked about how our shame can't keep us from God. We talked about how our suffering, lame decisions and weakness couldn't keep us from God. A hike allows people to talk for hours and enjoy God's creation. It also served as a visual reminder of going through the woods and accomplishing something together. 

Baptism Celebration
After the hike we hopped in the pool and baptized three people. It was fun being able to talk about the meaning of baptism, how baptism doesn't save you and that Jesus was also baptized. Two of the people we baptized are people who I've know for a while. It was also great getting to baptize these people alongside Ricky Wade, who leads Higher Power. 

Sharing God's Word
I love preaching the good news of Jesus. Ever since I surrendered my life to Christ I've felt a strong call to share God's word. This group was great because I could share some stories that I normally don't share and share them without feeling judged. I still struggle with people pleasing and this group fully accepts each other. They loved hearing God's word and we had great conversations about what God was doing in their lives! 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Happy 8th Birthday Sophie

Eight years ago our lives completely changed when Sophie Marie Benson made her arrival. The first week of her life was a roller coaster but we are so thankful for what a blessing she is to our lives.
Children are a gift from the Lord;
  they are a reward from him.
  Psalm 127:3 (NLT)
Today we celebrated her life with a great group of her friends. We invited Rey (from Star Wars) to come over and hang out with us. She read to the kids, played some games, did face paint and the sung happy birthday to Sophie. I love that my daughter enjoys Star Wars so much. Its great that Star Wars has a strong female leader to be a role model for our girls.

Instead of talking about Sophie's birthday party I want to share 8 different lessons I've learned since having children. Each lesson will be very quick and most likely a helpful reminder.

1) Having kids is tough
When Sophie was born she went straight to NICU. She didn't pass GO, and we didn't collect $200. It was the toughest time we had ever experienced in our marriage but she will never remember it. 

2) Having kids is a joy
Let's make sure to laugh with our kids and enjoy life with them. They are such a joy and as parents we have a great opportunity to cultivate joy in the life of our children. 

3) Each child must be parented differently 
No two kids are the same. What works with one may, or may not, work with the other. Let's make sure to understand the unique nature of our children and parent them in a meaningful way. 

4) There is no formula for a great child
We can read tons of books, pray all the time and still struggle with our kid. There is no formula for a great child but each child holds their own unique personality and is created in the image of God. 

5) Get outside
Each time I get outside with my kids it gives them an opportunity to fall in love with creation. It usually sparks a conversation that allows us to talk with them about God as creator. 

6) Listen to what they have to say
If we would simply listen to our children we can learn a lot. There is no need to always talk as a parent. 

7) Pray with them and invite them to pray
Don't always be the one to pray. Invite them to pray. Teach them to pray. Let's pray with our kids and for our kids.

8) Children are smart
Your kid is smart. Try to ask them more questions and let them make decisions. The great thing is, if they screw up you are there to help them talk it through. We can give them freedom to fail today and help them succeed tomorrow. 

I am so thankful for all that Sophie (and Leah and Isaiah) have taught us about life! 

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Driving, swearing and flipping off

When I was 24 I took my first pastoral role at church in San Diego. One day I was driving home from work and preparing to merge onto the freeway. My onramp was one of those large onramps with two lanes that merged into one before merging onto the freeway; it was super confusing. This day there was a car next to me and we were pretty even entering the freeway when out of nowhere he cut me off in the merge. It's not that I was driving a fast truck, it was just that he was behind me and almost hit my truck. The next thing I knew my left hand flew out of my truck window with my middle finger extended as far as it possibly could. Next thing I knew, I told this person I thought they were number one in my book.

I was shocked, I was embarrassed and ashamed all at the same time.

Where did this behavior come from?
Where did this burst of rage come from?

I wanted to quit being a pastor. I wanted to go home and hide under the bed I was so embarrassed. I wanted to run as far away from everyone as possible. But through that outburst God still loved me. His love never changed for me. God never gave up on me. I actually learned a valuable lesson that afternoon on that San Diego freeway. The lesson is: nothing can separate me from the love of God.

Now I’m happy to admit to you that I haven’t stuck my middle finger up like that since.

Each of us will sin. Each person will do things that we are embarrassed of, find shame in and regret. The bigger question is how do we respond to our actions and sinful behavior. We can run from God, thinking He is mad at us. Or we can run to God, knowing He loves us.

I'm thankful for the words Paul writes to the church in Rome:
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
This is the same for you. Nothing can separate you from God's love. Nothing was able to separate the young, 24 year old, pastor from God's love. Live in this hope and truth today!


Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Prayer removes worry

As I’ve been spending time with individuals from our church this year I’ve had an increased sense that we need to be praying more, and more effectively. Paul gives three solutions to our worries: prayer, petition and thanksgiving. Three words are used to describe a prayer life that actively fights worry. Watch this short video to hear more: https://vimeo.com/172970136

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mount Hermon Summer 2016- Day One

(Family packed and ready to drive)
It's Tuesday morning and we're loving our time here at Mount Hermon. The kids are doing well. Isaiah is napping right now and Charity is really enjoying it up here. Our morning's are starting early and the nights are long but it's so rad being here!

I'm going to do my best to give a recap of the day before. This post will actually cover Sunday night and Monday since we arrived later Sunday. Upon arrival we got landed in our housing then headed up to Ponderosa. I immediately connected with Matt who had been awesome! It's been really fun to see how much our kids are enjoying this experience!

(The girls)
The theme this summer is Through the Woods and we're studying Romans 8. Each night I'll be preaching on a handful of verses from Romans 8 and at the end of the week we will have covered the entire chapter. I really love how Mount Hermon is tackling some tough passages in Scripture and helping to shape this generation of believers! Sunday night we had forum and it was an introduction for me. I shared my life story in 4 minutes and then we opened it up for some Q&A time. I was super surprised at some of the questions:

  • What do your tattoos say?
  • What is your greatest regret in life?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • What is your favorite sports team?
  • What is your most embarrassing moment?
After forum I kept the girls around to hang out. We've met some great counselors who are really loving our kids this week! 

Monday morning came early after a late night but we had a good time as a family at breakfast. The girls checked in to their first morning of day camp and we kept Isaiah with us. Most of the afternoon was spent around the pool. Sophie passed the swim test but decided not to jump off the diving board. I was hoping she would but a three foot board is scary when it's just a little smaller than you!

Monday night we had a great forum. I started out with Romans 8:1-13 and talked about how our sin, flesh and the law can't separate us from God's love. I talked about the Prodigal Son to help illustrate this point and even used a blow up crocodile to help show how we don't have to be afraid of sin (not that we need to participate in sin, we just don't have to fear it). Overall it was a great first day!