Monday, January 27, 2020

Mark 7 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 || |An Inside Out Healing ||| Mark 7

In Mark 7 we see a beautifully crafted narrative of the work of Jesus. First, the Pharisees send a delegation to visit Jesus. The last time this occurred was back in Mark 2. They present a problem to Jesus that is all about tradition but cloaked in Scripture. Mark has created the tension between human tradition and God’s word. The very next account shows this lived out; Jesus interacts with a Gentile woman with a demon possessed daughter. We see the boldness of a parent and power of God in their interaction. Mark concludes the chapter by emphasizing how Jesus came to reach everyone. Open your small group in prayer and talk about the word of Jesus! 

1) The Pharisees brought a human tradition problem to Jesus presented as a Scriptural issue (read Mark 7:1-13). What are the positive and negative effects of longtime tradition? What are the benefits of Scripture over tradition? 

2) Jesus gives a short parable to explain His teaching (read Mark 7:14-19). Jesus addressed the internal condition of a person and freedom from the Law. Quickly look at Acts 10-11 and talk about how these stories emphasize Gentile inclusion in the Kingdom of God. 

3) Look at the list from Jesus in Mark 7:20-23 and look at what Paul wrote to the early church in Galatians 5:19-23. How come there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit? Ezekiel tells us that a person can experience the renovation of his/her through the power of God (Ezekiel 36:26). 

4) Read what Jesus said to the Greek woman in Mark 6:24-30. Jesus knew His role was to prepare Israel to spread the Gospel (Matthew 15:24). Read what Paul wrote in Romans 15:8-9. What is our role in spreading the message of Jesus? 

5) God’s plan is for people to become children of God. Study Romans 8:14-17 and talk about what are the benefits of being a child or God, what is required of being a child of God, and how does one become a child of God?

6) In the last part of Mark 7 we read about a man who was deaf and mute (read Mark 7:31-36). Read what Isaiah the prophet said about the miracles the Messiah would accomplish (Isaiah 35:5-6). Have you ever seen some miraculously healed?  

7) As we near the holiday season take some time to plan a date for your small group to get our and serve our community, help a friend of a friend, a single-parent, or someone who is need this season. 

Close your time in prayer 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Mark 6:30-56 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| Don’t turn a blind eye ||| Mark 6:30-56

The Gospel of Mark has been an action packed story of the life of Jesus. In the first half of Mark 6 we read about three unique stories that Jesus experienced. In the middle of the chapter, Jesus sent the disciples out to preach the Gospel. The disciples return to give Jesus a report but are unable to do so because of a large crowd. Jesus multiples fish and loaves to feed 5000 men. This is a miracle of provision like has never been seen before. Then Jesus walks on water to meet the disciples in the middle of a storm. We learn about how Jesus loves people and has power over creation.

1) The overzealous crowd was unwilling to leave Jesus alone to heard the report from the disciples (read Mark 6:30-34). Compare and contrast how Jesus saw the crowd versus how the disciples saw the crowd.

2) The word used for “compassion” in Mark 6:34 is the same word used in Luke 10:33. What are some ways that Jesus calls Christians to live a life of compassion? Come up with a list of 10-20 ways your group can show compassion this week.

3) Jesus wanted to feed the crowd by instructing the disciples to give them something to eat (Mark 6:37). Make a list of what Jesus taught people about the nature of God by doing this. Where is Jesus asking you to give people spiritual food that will help them know the wild love of God?

4) Jesus had a practice of spending time with God on a regular basis (read Mark 1:35, 6:46, Luke 4:42). What can you eliminate from your life to spend more with God?

5) Think about the disciples rowing the boat against the wind in the middle of the lake. What is a storm you are are currently battling and you need Jesus to help you get through it? What does Mark teach us about the love of Jesus that He would walk through a storm to meet the disciples in their anguish?

6) When Jesus got into the boat the wind died down (read Mark 6:51). Think about other religions and the need to appease gods. What does this story teach us about the nature of Jesus and His power over creation (if you have time read Psalm 89:9, 107:25-30, and Matthew 21:18-22).

7) Mark gives us two examples of Jesus power over creation. What do these examples teach us about the love of God?

Close your time in prayer.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Mark 6:1-29 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 Snapshot of Ministry ||| Mark 6:1-29

The Gospel of Mark has been an action packed story of the life of Jesus. Mark chose to focus more on what Jesus did than what Jesus said. In the first half of Mark 6, we study three stories of Jesus encountering people. First, Jesus is rejected in His home. Second, Jesus sends out the disciples. Third, Jesus hears the news about John the Baptist being beheaded. These words in Scripture show us the compassion of Jesus, the leadership of Jesus, and the compassion of Jesus to help more people find the wild love of God. Study these questions together to grow in your faith.

1) What dynamics of a “hometown” would have made it difficult for Jesus to be  fully accepted in Nazareth (read Mark 6:1-6a)? What struggles do we encounter in our hometown that can make it tough to share the love of Jesus?

2) The people in Nazareth almost killed Jesus on His last visit (Luke 4:14-30). Mark tells us that Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith. What causes people to have such a lack of faith?

3) In Mark 3 Jesus called the Apostles. Then in Mark 5, Jesus modeled what they are to do. Now in Mark 6:6a-13 we read that Jesus sent them out. What would have been the most difficult part about being an Apostle?

4) Mark makes a note about the obedience of the Apostles. Pastor Neal told us that many people are “educated beyond their obedience.” Have you found that you know more about the love of Jesus than you put into practice or share with others?

5) One model of leadership has a five step process of teaching people how to do a job, task, or ministry. Is there an area of ministry you are currently serving in that you could find a person to come alongside you and raise them up to serve in that area?

6) The story of Herod and John the Baptist is a tragic account of a saint loosing his life. Share about the life of a saint, who has gone to be with Jesus, that radically impacted your life for the gospel.

7) Read Mark 6:14-29. Talk about the obvious sin and lack of leadership involved expressed in this story. What lessons do you learn (good or bad) that can help us as we seek to follow Jesus in our daily life?

Close your time in prayer. Be bold in asking for Jesus to restore you or others.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Mark 5 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| No Ordinary Man ||| Mark 5

In Mark 5 we see three stories of life change. First Jesus battles a storm to meet with a man who is suffering from demon-possession. Locationally, the land where the story takes place, is questioned. Is this the territory of the Israelites or Syria? It must not be Jewish land because they are raising pigs. But the people don’t want Jesus there so He kindly leaves. Jesus travels to the other side of the lake to restore two ladies to wholeness. In this entire chapter see the compassion of Jesus to free people from their earthly suffering so they can know Jesus as their Savior. Mark teaches us that Jesus has restorative power over demon possession, disease, and death.   

1) At the end of Mark 4, Jesus battled a raging storm to get to the other side of the lake to reach this demon-possessed man. How have you seen Jesus enter the mess of your life, or others lives, to bring them the healing and freedom they need? 

2) Society had chained the demon-possessed man (with a physical chain) and satan had kept him bound spiritually but Jesus brought freedom. What chains have you see Jesus break in your life to give you freedom? 

3) Some people think that satan and his demons have access to our thoughts. Read Job 1:6-12 and discuss how Satan only knows what God reveals to him. Read 1 John 2:14 and discuss how God lives in us and we have power in His name. 

4) On the other side of the lake we read that Jairus fell on his knees in the presence of Jesus. In fact all three people in Mark 5 fall on their knees. What does falling on your knees represent? When the last time you got on your knees in front of Jesus? 

5) In the Old Testament we get a glimpse into the issue of bleeding the woman was experiencing (Read Leviticus 15:19-27). We also learn about Levitical Laws for a Priest in regards to the dead (read Leviticus 21:1-4). How come Jesus ignored the old covenant and healed both of these women? 

6) Think of the courage and bravery it took for this woman to approach Jesus. Read Hebrews 11:1 and Joshua 1:9. Where is God asking you to be bold & courageous? 

7) In Mark 5:40-43 we see that Jesus has restorative power over death. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and John 11:1-44. Talk about the resurrection of the dead and what a believe in Jesus can expect at the end of his/her life. 

8) Close your time in prayer. Be bold in asking for Jesus to restore you or others. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Mark 4:35-41 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| Remember ||| Mark 4:35-41

After Jesus taught the people with parables, He invited the disciples to travel to the other side of the lake. Most of Jesus’ miracles were driving out demons, healing the sick, or inviting the lame to walk. In this account we see that Jesus has power over all of creation. Jesus has the power to tell the weather and nature how to act. It seemed the the disciples were surprised that He had control over this aspect of life also. In fact, the disciples left the entire situation being terrified by what they had just experienced.  

1) How can you explain the fact that the disciples had seen Jesus heal the sick, teach with the power, & do miracles but they were surprised that He could calm the storm? 

2) Read Mark 4:38. What emotions do you think were expressed on the boat that evening in the Sea of Galilee? Share a time when you felt very close to Jesus but something happened in your life that caused you to doubt His presence.  

3) Fear is a very real emotion. At times our fear can drown our faith and render us seemingly useless for the Kingdom of God. Read 1 John 4:18 and talk about the perfect love of Jesus drives out fear in our lives and in the story with the disciples. 

4) Jesus answered the disciples question with action by calming the storm (read Mark 5:39-41). The account pictures Jesus as doing only what was possible for God to accomplish in the Old Testament (read Psalm 107:29–30). Talk about how Jesus has power over all creation (see Genesis 1:1-3 and John 1:1-14). 

5) The words translated “rebuked” and “be still” were used in Mark 1:25 with reference to an exorcism. This consideration may imply a demonic element in the storm. How come there would be a possible demonic element to the storm? 

6) Jesus put the disciples faith into question. Jesus didn’t ask the question because He wanted an answer, Jesus wanted them to think about their irrational fear and faith. Read Hebrews 11 and talk about the men and women of faith who have proceeded us. What encourages you most about this hall of faith list?  

7) Mark taught us to remember that storms come and go, but God’s love and presence are consistent. Some people think God is mad at them or has negative thoughts to them, but that isn’t true (read Jeremiah 29:11 and 1 Peter 2:9). Talk about how these good thoughts impact how we live our lives. 

Close your time in prayer. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Mark 4 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| Growing the Kingdom of God ||| Mark 4

Jesus has been on the move and is once again teaching near the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd has come to hear Him. Mark presents a series of teachings from Jesus called “parables.” The word can also be translated as, story, proverb, lesson or illustration. Parables are a way to teach eternal truths through stories of everyday life that appeal to everyone. The first one is a secret but the more Jesus teaches, we begin to see the truth come to light in His teaching.

1) Think about the first time you heard the Gospel message. What was your response? Did you trust in Jesus or did it take a while for you to fully trust Christ? Think through how the love of Jesus was shared with you and how it impacted your life.

2) The parable of the soils (read Mark 4:3-9) illustrates, first, God’s lavish offer of salvation to all who believe and, second, the mixed reception of that offer. How is your life producing a harvest for the Kingdom of God?

3) In Mark 4:10-12 we read that the disciples and others stayed around to hear an explanation of the short sermon. What makes some want to hear more about Jesus while others are content to leave and keep living their lives? Do you ever find yourself getting bored with the message of Jesus?

4) In Mark 4:21-25 Jesus speaks about the hidden things we say and how they will be revealed one day. Read Luke 6:45. How does this impact the way you live your life? What measure are you coming to Jesus with to get filled up?

5) Jesus was beginning His public ministry and it had sprouted in Galilee, but the message of Jesus would eventually go global (Matthew 28:18-20). Talk about how Mark 4:26-29 is a hidden message about the power of the Gospel that would transform many.

6) Jesus used one final parable about the Kingdom of God (Mark 4:30-34). Although it seemed that what Jesus was doing was on such a small scale, one day it would be a great comfort for many. Who can you share the truth of Jesus with this week?

7) Mark tells us that Jesus explained everything to the disciples. How have you structured your life to be a learning disciple under the teaching of Jesus? What do you do to find alone time with Jesus?

Close your time in prayer.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Mark 3:7-35 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| On Matters of Rest ||| Mark 3:7-35

The miracles Jesus did drew a crowd and the people loved Him. But at the same time the religious leaders didn’t know how to categorize Jesus. In Mark 3:7-25 we see that Jesus intentionally left the spotlight to be with God. But it didn’t work so well, the crowds followed. Jesus called twelve disciples to follow Him as an act of a holy revolution. Jesus was putting a stop to religious legalism and showing people the true hope of Jesus. That didn’t sit well for the religious leaders as they had no clue how to explain the great things God was doing; they couldn’t see it was the Holy Spirit at work!

1) As the people began to be more enamored with Jesus He choose to get away and avoid the crowd (read Mark 3:7-12). The crowd was interested in the spectacular and Jesus was interested in the Spiritual. How can we be distracted with the spectacular and miss out on the spiritual lessons God wants to teach us?

2) Mark does a great job at keeping the hope of Heaven in front of us by taking about the impure spirits declaring that Jesus is the Son of God. Read Acts 16:16-18 and 19:13-18. Talk about the power of the name of Jesus in these three accounts.

3) Jesus called seemingly ordinary men as Apostles. Read Matthew 10:1-4 and Luke 6:12-16. What do you these passages teach us about the disciples and some of the nicknames the men were given? Talk about the ‘sons of thunder’ and ‘zealot’.

4) Why do you think Jesus sent the disciples out in groups of two? We currently live in one of the loneliest generations of all time. Talk about practical ways that the church can come alongside lonely people and invite them into Biblical community.

5) Jesus sent the disciples out with the instructions to preach the ‘good news.’ Take some time to read Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 49:6, Acts 10:44-48, Galatians 3:28 and discuss how God’s plan has always been for all people to trust Jesus.

6) Jesus told the religious leaders that the only unforgivable sin is blaspheme of the Holy Spirit (see Mark 3:28-29). How can we encourage more people to find their name written in the Lamb’s book of life? (Revelation 21:27).

7) Jesus’ family was convinced that He was crazy and they needed to come rescue Him. What does your family think about your relationship with the Lord? has it been an aid in sharing the truth with them or a point of contention?

Close your time in prayer.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

4 thoughts on four decades

Last year I turned 40…
Sounds kind of crazy to say that because I never thought I would make it to 18. The last twenty years have been a wild ride for me. Giving my life to Jesus, getting married, having children, finishing a graduate degree, and more are some of the highlights. 

We’ve lived in six different homes since we got married and three different states. We’ve served in three churches and want Coastline to be a long-term ministry call (Ventura is a great city!). 

For the last couple weeks I’ve thought about this new decade in my life. I’ve thought about the former decades and what I’ve learned. I didn’t want to write a list of 40 things I’ve done or 40 ways to eat chicken (that sounds good though). I figured I’d give one thing from each decade. Some I’ve excelled in and others I’m growing in. 

Family is important 
This is a big one for me. Growing up my family was broken and mended. I shared a bedroom with my grandma when all we could afford was to live with her. As I grew I became a bratty teenager. I shunned my family and looked for independence. I found a great group of friends but we made some bad decisions. I got in a big fight with my dad and we didn’t talk for 2 years. I upset my mom. I hurt my sister. I ignored my grandma on her deathbed because I didn’t know how to deal with emotions and anger and frustration and bitterness. 

Then I gave my life to Jesus and realized that God is a healing God. I learned about reconciliation and restoration. I lived with my sister for many years while in college. My mom and established a healthy relationship. I met my wife and we had kids. I also did a graduate degree and saw that I spent a lot of time away from my family and that was tough on them. 

When I look at the last decade and the coming decade, I know that family is important but more of my decisions will be based on that. I want to spend more time with my kids. I want to make dating my wife intentional. I want more vacations where my phone is left in a car, backpack, or pocket. I want more memories and less “likes” on social media. That is what I’m aiming for. 

Have fun 
This has never really been a problem for me. I love an adventure, a hike, riding dirt bikes, jumping cars, and surfing. But I’m learning that fun doesn’t have to be an adrenaline rush (although it’s not bad). Fun can be jumping on the trampoline with my kids, walking on the beach with my wife, or taking my mom to a coffee. I’ve had a ton of fun watching my kids grow and learn. Fun is laughing at Chick-fil-A or riding bikes around the block. 

I played dolls the other day with my daughter and we had so much fun. I’m actually laughing while writing this. We smiled and played creatively. I want to focus on continuing to have fun in life. I’m going to be looking for more ways to have fun. If you’re planning something fun, invite me! 

Life is a lesson, learn from it 
When I was 17 I was in a confused place in life. I was raking pine needles with a close family friend (my mom’s best friend from high school). We would work hard and then talk while working. I shared some of the dumb stuff I was doing and she said something I have never forgotten. She said: “Neal, you need to know three things about life. First, life is a lesson learn from it. Second, life is a lesson learn from it. Third, life is a lesson learn from it.” 

Life is a lesson. We are not going to be perfect. I strive for perfection and fail regularly. But when I think back to my conversation with Lil, I am reminded of all I’ve learned. I’ve learned how to flip a truck over after you roll it, how to tie a knot, how to braid my daughters hair, how to grow a backyard garden, and more. Life is a lesson. Keep learning. This decade I’m committing to being a long-long learner. 

Take God serious 
When I was a little kid my mom took me to church. I didn’t apply much of what I learned. I retained the info, but didn’t allow God to transform my life. When I was twenty I really trusted Jesus with all I had. A couple years later I learned about taking God serious. Not that God is always serious, I think God likes to have fun too (read about the time a donkey talked to a man). 

What I mean here is, be obedient to God. Spend time in prayer. Listen to God. Serve others. Give generously. I’m not talking about religious legalism, but radical obedience. I want to end my life knowing that I took God serious. I want to live my life knowing that I took God serious. I want to have serious fun while doing that! 

Here’s to the next decade! 

Thursday, January 02, 2020

The Prayer of a Broken Man

Jesus was an amazing story teller, He loved to tell stories! This story is a parable, a parable is a made up story used to teach a specific point (read Luke 18:9-13). What you have to know is the Pharisees are the bad guys and the tax collectors are the good guys. The Pharisees were a group of people who took their religion very seriously, but who were hostile towards Jesus. We imagine this Pharisee running on and on about his own superior spirituality but he’s really rotten to the core. All of his religious activity is just an act; he doesn’t really care about God. His life is a sham.

Now many times we are in the habit of viewing the tax collector as kind of the humble, downtrodden type. We know the tax collectors were hated by their fellow Jews because they collected taxes for the Romans and were considered traitors. Sometimes we see them as the victim in the story but really they are corrupt people. They were scumbags! We imagine that deep down this guy really wants to know God, he just doesn’t know how.

First, we see the prayer of the Pharisee. Notice his actions. He stood. Most likely, he had his eyes lifted up as this was the proper way to pray back then. He knew how to pray properly. Notice also he stood off by himself.  He starts with thanksgiving. When you pray, that’s a good place to start.

We’re called to express our gratitude to God. His thanks to God is rooted in the fact that he’s not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers. Then he finds someone near him there in the temple who fits that description. He knew tax collectors were scoundrels. How thankful he was God had allowed him to be different.By the time he’s done praying, he’ll have used the first person singular pronoun “I” four times, making himself the main subject of his prayer.

Unlike the tax collector who ripped people off, the Pharisee was generous with what he had. His wasn’t a religion of convenience; he put his money where his mouth was. He was disciplined in both his prayer life and his tithing.

The tax collector is quite different. The Bible says he “stood at a distance.” He doesn’t feel worthy to stand at the altar with God’s people. Then he beats his breast. The remarkable thing about this is that it was more customary for women to do this than it was for men. This wasn’t the proper way for a man to pray! But he’s so desperate that he doesn’t seem to care.

Then notice what he says, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” His prayer is so short. He doesn’t offer thanks. Instead, he issues a desperate request. He asks for mercy based on the fact that he’s such a sinner. It appears he saw himself in a class by himself in this. He calls himself, “the sinner.” He feels no one else could have done as much wrong as he. He doesn’t go on and on about it; all he can do is beg God to cover his sin, he casts himself entirely on the mercy of God.

The two men walk out and that’s the end of the story. But then Jesus delivers his shocking verdict (Luke 18:14). He says, “This man (the tax collector) rather than the other (the Pharisee) went home justified before God.

This man is now in right relation to God rather than the other! In other words, he’s going to heaven and the other is not. The Pharisee, though he thought he was righteous, was unrighteous, while the tax collector, though he thought he broke all the records for sin, was righteous.

The line between the good guys and the bad guys wasn’t drawn where we thought.

This Pharisee thought the distinctions that mattered among men mattered with God.

But the tax collector wasn’t thinking about others. In desperation, he just cried out for mercy.

The heart of true prayer is this humble cry of desperation.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

7 Ways to Make Successful Resolutions

We are moving to a time of year where many people will make a resolution. In the past I have preached on these resolutions so I can almost quote what many of them are. You probably know them too. We've all made some or heard a friend talk about their coming goals for the New Year.

Most people will make a resolution that involves one of these:
- Loose Weight
- Get our of debt
- Go to the gym
- Get a better job
- Clean the garage
- Read the Bible/go to church
- Stop drinking alcohol

In recent years, studies have found that about 12% of people actually accomplish their goals. Wipe your eyes, clean your glasses, and read that again. Only 12% of people will actually accomplish their New Years Resolutions.

How come there is such a horrible fail rate?
Why can't we seem to find success in this area?
What is causing me/others to fail?

These are all questions that we need to answer. One part is that we are naturally lazy. One author wrote that is the job of the brain to conserve energy. Going to the gym takes energy. Think about that for a minute!

Another reason we fail is that we are not disciplined. That is hard to read. Say it out loud and it sounds worse! We lack the disciple it takes to create new, healthy, habits in our lives.

Now, I am one who loves goals and how found seven ways to help make your goals a reality:

1) Get Creative

Instead of saying that you will go to the gym every day for the next 52 weeks, what if you made a different goal? The truth simple; you haven't been to the gym for the last 4 years so what is going to be so special about this year?
I'm not trying to be rude, but honest. I have a standing goal of being in the gym 3-4 times a week. I know my schedule and what it takes to get to the gym. The gym is close to my work, less than a half-mile away. But it is still hard for me to get there.

Also, we need to change our language. I listened a book this year and the author made a comment like this about goals: "Stop saying you will try to go to the gym." Saying "try" gives you the excuse. Replace it with saying: "I will go to the gym." It changes our ambition in the later statement.

2) Think Marathon and not Sprint

If we keep on the gym topic, we need to think marathon and not sprint. I know that some people say a marathon is just 26 miles sprinted together. I've never ran a marathon. In fact, this was a goal of mine like 12 years ago. Then I started running and puked. I realized I wasn't built for running so I needed to shift my goal.

The marathon concept is tied to a length in our goals. If your goal is to do blah blah blah (fill in the blank), figure out how long it will take. Then figure out what you need to do each week to make it happen.

3) Create Achievable Goals 

One of my goals last year was to hike Half Dome in Yosemite. I had looked at that rock since I was 6 years old and wanted to sit on the top. I had been applying for a permit for a couple years. I needed to get creative. I put a false deadline on it. I told myself that I had to climb it before I was 40 years old. I could have climbed it at 41, but I  need a push.

To make it more achievable I started walking more. I made it a goal to walk 3-5 miles a day. Then I would take a longer hike each month. I love being outside so this was a no brainer.

4) Insert Fun 

See my hike to Half Dome was a fun goal. So many of the goals that I have created in the past were boring. I am going to be honest, the gym is fun for me but the gym is not fun. For me it's a way to exercise and continue tot be an athlete. I go to the gym because I view myself as an athlete. I want to be able to hike Half Dome, snowboard, fish, surf, and ride bikes with my kids. Going to the gym helps me stay fit so I can accomplish some greater goals I have in life.

Think about something fun you've been wanting to do. Go to Hawaii, travel the States, save up for new car. Make this fun! Create a game out of it. When I would hike, I would put my son on my back to help strengthen my legs. I made it a game and accomplished the hike.

5) Share Them

Last year I was reading a book by Mark Batterson. In the book he said that you need to write down your goals and share them. I began sharing one of my goals with a few friends. Guess what? I didn't hike Half Dome alone. When I shared my goal I found support from others. I had guys talking about the gear they had, how they are prepping, and more. It was epic to summit the dome together.

One of my goals for the last two years has been to start writing a book. Guess what? I haven't done it. Do you know why? Because I don't have anyone asking me how I'm doing on making progress. I really want to write a book... but I keep putting it off.

6) No Lone Rangers

This ties right into the last goal. We were never meant to do life alone. Find some people to support you in your goals. I have a friend who went on a journey to loose weight. He lost like a 100 pounds (that is like me loosing two of my kids). He didn't hide his weight loss. He was super open about his failure to care for his body, and how eating was an addiction. He was super honest and got so much support!

Do you know why CrossFit works? Because you have others who are supporting you. I did CrossFit once and it kicked my butt. Then I left and said: "I want to do this more." We were made to life in community. Find some trusted to friends to share your goals with. Ask them to walk along with you.

7) Keep them Visible 

I typically write my goals and keep them in my phone. I look at them like 6 times a year. This year I'm going to change that. I'm going to write them on a piece of a paper and put it near my bed and then make a copy that goes to my office. I want to see them. I want to know what I'm working towards.

You can do the same. Write them with a pen, studies show we are more likely to remember them if they are hand-written. Tape them in your car, your office, or get them tattooed on your arm. Actually, don't get a tattoo, that is a bad idea.

What am I missing from this list? I need to keep excelling in goals.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Mark 2:23-3:6 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| On Matters of Rest ||| Mark 2:23-3:6

The Nation of Israel is coming alive as the impact of Jesus slowly spreads throughout. As Jesus continued to move through the Nation of Israel it became evident that He was intentionally associating Himself with the outcasts of Jewish culture. On two Sabbath occasions Jesus did what the Pharisees thought was unlawful. The Pharisees were a self-imposed group who the people respected. Jesus needed the Pharisees and the people to see the rest that He came to bring us. Not only rest but a focus on worshipping the Lord and showing mercy to others.

1) How do you honor the Sabbath? Do you struggle with writing/answering emails, constantly taking calls from work, or disconnecting from life to be with Jesus?

2) Read Exodus 20:8-11. What does God teach us about what to do on the Sabbath and taking a day of rest? How do you make the Sabbath holy?

3) Jesus made a parallelism between Himself and King David (read 1 Samuel 21:1-16 and Mark 2:23-27). Pastor Neal taught us that David was the anointed king but not yet sitting on the throne and Jesus was the anointed King. How does this impact how you live your life for the anointed king?

4) Jesus broke Jewish traditions such as not working on the Sabbath. Why do you think He felt the freedom to do that in both of these passages in Scripture?

5) Read Mark 3:1-6. Another time Jesus teaches us about matters of rest by showing Mercy in the Synagogue. In some ways Jesus is leading a rebellion against Jewish tradition. Does it seem like Jesus is leading a rebellion and how was it needed?

6) In the Synagogue that day Jesus showed a greater example of mercy. Read Proverbs 3:27 and Hosea 6:6. Talk about how we can show goodness and mercy to those who are in our presence.

7) What do you struggle with most with in showing mercy to others? Do you find yourself leaning more to legalism (like the Pharisees) or leaning to showing mercy (like Jesus did)? How can you show more mercy to others?

Close your time in prayer. Take some time to pray for Coastline and our ability to reach people by showing mercy.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Mark 2:13-22 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| Two Questions ||| Mark 2:13-22

The Nation of Israel is coming alive as the impact of Jesus slowly spreads throughout. In the middle part of Mark 2 we read about two questions that we’re asked to Jesus. Jesus has completely flipped the script. He is calling toll collectors to follow Him, eating with sinners, and not fasting when everyone else seems to be fasting. Jesus came not to just add some flavor to the food but to bring a whole new meal. Jesus tried to help the people see that they cannot simply add a little Jesus to their desires; He is doing a whole new thing. This was difficult for some people to grasp and understand.

1) Share about how you deal with change. Do you enjoy it when certain things change? Are you averse to change or is it something you welcome?

2) Read Mark 2:13-14. Jesus offers a new way of life to Levi as he sits at the tax booth. If you read Matthew 9:9-13 you will see that he also changed his name. Levi wrote the Gospel of Matthew. Talk about the new life Jesus offered to you.

3) What would you do if someone came to your workplace and told you to follow him and leave the job. Would you get up and walk away or think the person is crazy? Now imagine if it was following Jesus, what are you willing to give up to follow Him?

4) It seems the very night that Jesus called Levi to “follow me”, Levi threw a party for all his friends. Jesus chose to befriend the unloveable. How can we practice this in our personal relationships?

5) Read Mark 2:18-22. Jesus offered three ways that Kingdom of God was a new thing and not something that was supplemental to add to our current way of life. Have you tried to force Jesus fit your current lifestyle and rejected a complete transformation?

6) Read Colossians 3:9-10. Paul instructs us to put off the old self and be renewed in the image of Jesus. Talk about how Jesus has renewed your life during the time you’ve followed Him. Where is He currently renewing you?

7) What are some of the challenges of remembering that Jesus came to save sinners and not to please those who are already righteous?

Close your time in prayer. Take some time to intentionally pray for each other to grasp the new way of life Jesus offers.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Mark 2:1-12 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| Do the Impossible ||| Mark 2:1-12

The gospel of Mark was written by John Mark who was a helper of Peter and Paul. History tells us this was the first written account of Jesus of Nazareth. The gospel is fast-paced. We read that Jesus moved from here, went there, healed, preached, and taught. In Mark 2 we find Jesus back in Capernaum. His fame and notoriety has spread to the people so much that the home He is teaching in is packed full. In a full miracle Jesus heals a paralyzed man. But the physical healing can overshadow the spiritual healing the man received for the forgiveness of sins.

1) Share a story about a person who know who is in desperate need of a miraculous healing just like the man in Mark 2:1-12. Talk about how his/her life would be different if that healing came.

2) Read Mark 2:1-2. Imagine hearing a great person with the power to heal. Imagine carrying a friend to see him the house being packed. Describe what you would do; would you turn around and leave or would you press on?

3) The friends chose to push forward. Read Mark 2:3-5. What does it mean when Mark writes that: “Jesus saw their faith?” Look at Romans 10:17 and talk about how to get faith

4) Share what your currently reading in the Bible and how that is increasing your faith. The author of Romans tells us that the word strengthens our faith. Read John 1:1,14 and discuss how Jesus is the Word of God.

5) Mark writes that the Pharisee’s were thinking things about Jesus (Mark 2:6-7). Jesus is able to respond to their internal questions. This is a Theological term known as the Omniscience of God. Read Psalm 139:1-6 and 147:5 to learn more about this.

6) Jesus offers a complete forgiveness of sins to this man. This was only something that a Levitical Priest can offer. Read Hebrews 4:14-16 to see how Jesus is the High Priest and able to offer this. Jesus is also the Son of God and can offer this (Mark 1:1)

7) At the end of the account we read that all the people were amazed. Do you think the religious leaders were amazed or bitter at Jesus? How come they couldn’t rejoice?  

8) We learn from this passage our responsibility to bring people to Jesus. Pray for each other to have the faith to bring your friends Jesus in the near future.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Thanksgiving Table

The following is an email I sent to Coastline last week as an encouragement to seek the Lord as we approach Thanksgiving.

Hi Coastline,
As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to share with you a conversation that happened the other night at our dinner table. During our meal we began talking with our children about who we could invite over for Thanksgiving. We asked our kids to think of people in our church who might need a place to have a meal, eat some pie, and watch football with our family. One of our kids shared a person, my wife came up with an idea, and then I thought of another family. We asked our family to pray about who God might have us to reach out to. After prayer, we asked those we had thought of to join us for Thanksgiving. One of the couples said maybe, and we found out the other family had a place to go.

For many years our family has invited people to join us for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’ve also been on the receiving end of that invitation and have been invited to people’s homes to spend the holidays with them. There are people in our church body, community, and city who will be spending Thanksgiving alone (let that set in). Some are connected to Coastline, some live near us, and others we’ve known for a long time. Each person has a different reason. Some can’t afford a plane ticket to visit to their family. Some don’t have a healthy relationship with their family. Others are new to town and looking for community.

This week will you begin praying for God to speak to you to see if He is asking you to reach out to someone? This is a personal act of seeking God. The church office will not be organizing Thanksgiving for people (before you think the tone here sounds harsh, keep reading). We want to see God’s people seek God’s voice in order to know God’s will. This might seem totally out of your comfort zone, and I understand that. But just maybe God will use your invitation to a person in your community group, some friends from your neighborhood, or a person you meet on Sunday at Coastline to do something God-sized in your life and in theirs.

Thanks for doing life together.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Mark 1:16-45 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. A big "Thank you!" to RJ McCauley from Magnolia Church in Riverside for preaching this week and writing these questions for us. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions ::: The Cross Before Me, The Cross Behind Me ::: Mark 1:16-45

The Gospel of Mark is fast paced and full of action. It was written by John-Mark who witnessed all of the action in the book of Acts and through his cousin Barnabas, the Apostle Paul, and his close friend Peter. He writes his gospel in such a way that it calls true followers to radical discipleship. This gospel narrative hinges on the key passage in the middle of the book (see Mark 8:34-38). It’s all moving towards the cross. It’s all focused on the cross. It’s all about the cross. Too many go to the cross, but only a few get on the cross. As Christians, we are called to deny yourself, pick up the cross, and follow Christ. True followers of Jesus are actively sharing their faith and serving the people. In fact, it’s no surprise why Jesus performed these great works in Mark 1:16-45. He had a vision and lived it out. The cross was before him, and it motivated him to accomplish his purpose. After he accomplished it, the cross was behind him and it was finished.

1) Take a moment and read through Mark 1:16-45 to see the work of God that was being done through Jesus. Are you actively engaging in the work of God in your city?

2) If you are a Christian, you are called to be a fisher of men (Mark 1:16-20). This means you should be catching people with the good news. Therefore, have you been sharing your faith and leading people to salvation? If you have not been fishing, where should you begin?

3) Jesus demonstrates how he has authority over darkness and evil (Mark 1:21-34). Where do you need to take the gospel where the light of Jesus does not shine in Ventura?

4) The strength of Jesus’ ministry was based on the depth of his prayer time (Mark 1:35-39). When was the last time you got away from the busy world to just pray for several hours in a deserted place like Jesus did?

5) Take a moment and pray like Jesus did in a quiet place (Mark 1:35). Jesus most likely prayed for his mission, his followers, and himself. First, pray for God’s mission to be fulfilled in your life. Second, pray for those who need Christ. Third, pray for your personal walk with God. Do the same and in that order (see an example in Matthew 6:9-15).

6) There are many healings done by Jesus throughout the Gospel of Mark. The healings proved that he was the Son of God and the Son of Man from the Old Testament. When he did these healings, it was always to fulfill the Scriptures (see Leviticus 13-14; Luke 17:11-19). Why is it significant that Jesus healed a leper (Mark 1:40-45)?

7) After Jesus called his disciples, they followed him. After Jesus healed and delivered people from darkness and evil, they followed him. After Jesus prayed, they followed him. After Jesus restored a leper to full health, they followed him. Jesus lived with action. The cross was before him and behind him. His life was all about the cross. How can you keep the cross at the center of everything you do so people will follow him?

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Mark 1:1-15 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 Beginning ::: Mark 1:1-15

The gospel of Mark was written by John Mark who was a helper of Peter and Paul. History tells us this was the first written account of Jesus of Nazareth. We think the account was written between 65-75 AD. The gospel account is fast-paced and quick moving. As we study this book keep your eyes open for all the descriptive words (Jesus went, Jesus moved, healed, preached, and prayed). Mark originally wrote this account for a Roman audience. Take some time to look further into the introduction of the good news of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. 

1) Read Mark 1:1. The gospel account opens with a theologically rich statement about the person of Jesus Christ. We read that this is the “Good News” of Jesus. Why do you think so many people argue about Jesus instead of sharing the good news? 

2) Mark quotes two of the prophetical statements about John preparing the way for the Lord. John’s role was a messenger to announce the coming of the king. How did John go about making this announcement?  

3) John was the son of a Priest (Luke 1:5) and played the role of a prophet. The prophet typically didn’t wear the kind of clothes John wore and stayed closer to the city where the people would be. How can we fall into judging the way people look without getting to know them before hand? 

4) John understood the holiness of Jesus by stating that he was unable to untie his sandals (read Mark 1:7). In what ways do you revere the holiness of God and in what ways have you neglected the holiness of God in your life? 

5) In the Bible the desert represents not only a physical place but a place where God meets with His people. Read Exodus 3 and 1 Kings 19:1-18. What are some similarities in these stories that we learn about the love of God?

6) At the baptism of Jesus, God the Father offers a great affirmation. Share one way you have found success in affirming your children. (If you don’t have children, how would you like to work on this?)

7) Read Mark 1:15 and talk about the message Jesus preached

8) Share with your small group about who you are praying for on your “You Belong Here” card. Close your time in prayer 

Monday, September 16, 2019

How to Hike Half Dome

For years I've wanted to hike Half Dome. I remember being a young boy staying at housekeeping and looking up at the massive rock. I always wondered what was up there. For years I was too young to climb it. Then for years I was too selfish and caught up in my downward spiral. For years the dream was forgotten. But in the last couple years it came to life again. I would talk with people who accomplished the hike and wanted to know more.

I began researching it and wanted to compile all I learned to help others. This is not an extensive list; I'm sure if you are looking at this you have done some other research for the hike.

Applying for permits

When I was a kid you didn't need a permit, now you must have a permit. There is a ranger sitting at the base of the sub-dome checking your permit. You can apply for a permit here. A couple times I applied and got denied so just beware that you might not get it the first year you apply. I had friends who applied, got them, and then there was too much snow for them to make the trip.

For our trip I chose fall and in the middle of the week. My hope was for less people in the valley floor and hopefully less on the trail. Our group of six applied for permits for three different days (18 options) and three guys got them. If you are doing this is a group make sure to decide on the days and have everyone apply. The max you can have per group is 6 people.


Once you have your permit you have to decide where to stay. It is HARD to get a camping site on the valley floor. It is not impossible. Once we got our permits for the hike I found a site at Crane Flat. But I never gave up on finding a spot in the valley floor. I literally checked for months and we finally got one at Upper Pines. This was a huge blessing. Our site was a five minute walk to the start of the trailhead.

Keep checking on for a site. If you don't want to camp, you can look into the tents at Curry Village or find a great place at housekeeping. Both of these locations are close to the trailhead. Keep in mind that the shuttle in the Valley floor doesn't start running till about 7pm so you are walking to the trailhead in addition to the hike.

Getting on the trail

There are a few options for the trail you can take to the top. We chose the Mist Trail- we went passed Vernal and Nevada Falls. I've never seen the falls in the early hours of the morning and they are simply beautiful. We got on the trail at 5:20am. Our goal was to be on the trail at 5:00am but missed that goal a little. Don't worry about being a little late. The hike took us a total of twelve hours. We strolled back into camp at 5:20pm.

The trail is well marked, we had no issues staying on the trail. I also need to warn you; the trail is busy. You will be passing people on a regular basis. Many hikers are aiming to get on the trail around the five o'clock hour also.

We met some people on the cables coming down who were staying in the same area we stayed. They ended up taking a different route to the bottom at the Nevada Falls area. This trail adds 1.5 miles to the hike. I've heard it is switchbacks versus the stairs you encounter on the falls trail.

I'm sharing this so you can know the options you have for the trail.

Most of the trail is an incline hike. You need to be in shape for this hike. When you get to the top of Nevada Falls you are not even a quarter of the way complete. Once you leave Little Yosemite Valley you are about a quarter of the way complete. This means you still have a long way to go. Make sure you are ready for this hike.

After you complete the sub-dome you will see the cables. This is an intimidating view. At this point in the hike we saw a few parties turnaround. I know it sounds crazy but hear me out. Less than a week ago (from when we hiked) a woman fell from the cables and died. I don't know her story so I'm not going to try to share it.

I would suggest that you bring a climbing harness for this part of the trial. You can clip in and give yourself the added security of safety. Remember the goal is not to see the top of Half Dome, the goal is to live to tell others about it.

What I forget to bring

For this hike I did most of my packing the night before. Not the night before I left my house, but the night before we left the campsite. Let me explain. We arrived at camp, set up tents, ate dinner, and then I packed my daypack for the hike. I made my sandwich, packed my snacks, and filled my water bladder. I did forget to pack the powdered Gatorade I brought and this was a big miss on my part. I love drinking water but with all the energy you exert on this trail it is smart to bring something that will replenish your body.

One of the guys in our group brought a small bag/squeeze water filtration system. It worked, don't get me wrong. I would bring a better water filter. I know that MSR has some good travel ones that will make filtering water easier. You really want to have a minimum of 4 liters on this hike. I had a little more than that and could have even had more.

I would also bring something to snack on that is sugar. There were a few times I wanted a bag of Skittles or a Snickers bar. I think the sugar would have helped give me a boost.

Stop for a swim

Once we came down the sub-dome our group stopped for a quick circle up. I had the idea to stop in the Merced River for a swim. There is a great spot where the trail Y's that you can find a place to swim. Once we left the sub-dome we didn't take a break until we arrived at the river. Some of the group beat me there and had already seen a snake.

The water is COLD at the elevation. There was still a small amount of snow on the mountains. Once I jumped in I was freezing cold. The water took my breath away and it was a touch hard to swim, but so refreshing on the other hand. When you've been hiking all day long this swim was well worth it. Keep in mind, at this point in the return of the hike you are 3/4 of the way complete.

Have a crew

At all means possible, don't do this hike alone! You can do it alone, but life is meant to be done in community. I am so thankful for the men who allowed me to hike with them. We had a great time! We laughed together, pushed each other, and sat when a guy needed a rest. As we left the Little Yosemite Valley I wanted to take a break and rest. I was hiking with Levi and asked if he wanted a break. He said: "Let's hike another twenty minutes." I needed that. I needed him to push me on at 7,000 feel elevation. We kept hiking and I got another wind.

Once we arrived at the top, the view was well worth it! In all honesty, I began to get emotional and almost cried. This was a bucked list for me. This was an experience of a lifetime!

Have a great time on the trail and hope this helps!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

8 Weeks in Proverbs

This Summer I choose a preaching series through the Proverbs for Coastline Bible Church. One reason is that during the summer I like a series that builds on itself but it's ok if you miss a week or two. In the summer people are traveling, camping, have company or more. When I think of a summer preaching series I like something that has continuity but is ok if have to step out for a minute.

The longer I'm leading the more I lean to something that causes us to act. Let me explain that. The Proverbs are all about wisdom. I need wisdom. You need wisdom. We all have something going on in our life that requires us to have wisdom. The Proverbs offer us that wisdom but require us to act and put it on practice.

If you're interested in preaching the Proverbs here is our outline for the 8 weeks:

Proverbs 1:1-7
Sermon Title: How to gain wisdom
Big Idea: Wisdom is found by those who seek it out

Proverbs 2
Sermon Title: The Benefits of Wisdom
Big Idea: Wisdom protects us

Proverbs 3:1-12
Sermon Title: The Value of Wisdom

Proverbs 4
Sermon Title: The Urgency of Widsom
Big Idea: Wisdom is worth the cost

Proverbs 5
Sermon Title: How to ruin your marriage
Big Idea: Marriages thrive when couples are committed to being faithful, honest, and vulnerable

Proverbs 8
Sermon Title: The case for wisdom
Big Idea: Find wisdom and receive favor from the Lord

Proverbs 27
Sermon Title: Community > Isolation

Proverbs 12, 13, 22
Sermon Title: Nothing is off limits from wisdom
Big Idea: Use your money wisely

Monday, August 12, 2019

Wise Up- a summer in the Proverbs

This Summer I choose a preaching series through the Proverbs for Coastline Bible Church. The book opens by letting us know that Solomon had has hand in the book. Later in the book we see there are some other contributors to the Proverbs. We’re not exactly sure how many proverbs Solomon writes, but I think he is the major voice or the major contributor to the book. It makes sense since he is known as the wisest man to ever walk the earth. Solomon took the wisdom God gave him and passed it on.

I highly encourage you to read about the life of King Solomon in 1 Kings. He is the son of David. Learn about he came to be the king. Look at his first experience after being king and how he immediately applies the wisdom God gave Him (1 Kings 3). See the magnificent building projects he undertook and accomplished. As you keep going, you will see the organizational leadership he developed in leading Israel. You will read about how nobility and royalty came from a far to seek an audience with him. Even Queen Sheba came and brought Solomon amazing gifts.

Let me zoom out and briefly talk the book as a whole. Proverbs 1-9 are a longer discourse on wisdom and the benefits of wisdom. Proverbs 10-31 are more pithy little sayings for us to apply to our lives. The are short, impactful, and memorizable. In the first nine Proverbs wisdom is spoken of in great detail. Wisdom is referred to in the feminine form. Then in the later two-thirds of the book, the reader is encouraged to apply the wisdom she/he has learned in the first third of the book.

There are few reasons I choose to go through the Proverbs this summer.

A series that (kinda) builds on itself

First, during the summer I like to preach a sermon series that doesn't have to build on itself. The summer is a time when people travel. At Coastline we do our best to shape culture for the truth of God, but we know that people travel more in the summer. This trend can be a little different in a beach community, but there is still a good deal of travel. Grandparents want to go see the grandkids in Oregon. Young families travel to see their parents. It's a good time to take vacation at work.

We want to preach a sermon that a person can be at the first three weeks, miss a week or two and easily merge back into the sermon series. If we choose to preach the book of Daniel it might be more difficult for a person to jump back into the story because it builds on itself. The Proverbs build but you can miss a week and be fine.

In addition to that, we have more and more people who are staying current on the preaching series by listening online at Coastline Bible and via Podcast.

We're a new church

Our church just relaunched. In March our church just relaunched and went through the book of Colossians. After that we talked about living a life of Compassion. Then we looked at the book of Ruth. After that I preached a stand alone sermon for Father's Day. I'm sharing all of this because when we preach a sermon series we want to see what is before and what is after.

Our church preached a number of topical sermon series this year. That means we choose a topic to talk about. We talked about Biblical Literacy, Marriage/Sex/Dating, Compassion, and more. When I look at that I think that it's time to preach through a section of Scripture from the Bible.

As a new church, we want to hit topics that define who we are and who we want to be. We are an outreach focused church, but we want to be more outreach focused.

The Proverbs are great for gaining wisdom. As a new church we need God's wisdom. Since we are outreach focused, we are seeing more people coming to Jesus than before. We are seeing new people every week (one week we had almost 25 guests).

We all need wisdom

If you are honest with yourself, you want more wisdom. I'm thankful that in Proverbs 8 we read that wisdom is calling out.

Wisdom is not hiding from us. Wisdom is not some unfindable entity like BigFoot or the Lochness Monster. Wisdom is not confined to a certain region or a classroom. Wisdom is not hidden in the darkest cave or placed in the middle of the hottest dessert. Wisdom is calling out to any person that is willing to listen. Understanding is crying aloud to be found by every person. Solomon tells us that wisdom is calling out at the gate to the city. This is a place where everyone would pass. This is a central location where wisdom is available to all.

Wisdom is available to anyone who will stop to listen to her. We live in a time that is fast paced; where people can be extremely busy. We live in a time where we spend hours on the TV and screens; hours that would be invested in listening to wisdom. What we learn from Solomon is that means we have to be willing to allot our time in such a way to be able to listen to what wisdom wants to teach us. We need to schedule our life in such a way that we have time to sit where wisdom calls out so we can hear the truth of wisdom.

We live in a time where formal education is pushed. I am sick of hearing parents tells their children to go to college so they can get a degree and get a job. I’m not opposed to college. I'm opposed to students going to college, graduating with thousands of dollars of debt and sleeping on a couch. I would prefer for parents to help their kids see what they’re passionate about so they can go to school to get an education and help make the world a better place. Not everyone needs a college degree. We need more people to become union plumbers, electricians, and pipe-fitters. We need more people who want to join the armed services and help serve our country.

My stepdad enlisted in the Army after high school. He served our country by going to Germany. While he was overseas he fell in love with VW’s. He came home and began working at an auto shop. He eventually moved to Big Bear and opened his own shop in the back of his house. He was a genius with anything dealing with a VW engine. I’ve heard a story that VW was having an issue and they called my stepdad. I asked him about the story and he just laughed. Wisdom can learned in a classroom, mountain, basketball court, or garage.

Keep the fall preaching in mind 

Just as we looked back to what we preached earlier in the year, I also look to the Fall for what we're going to preach on. This fall we're kicking off a brand new sermon series on the Gospel of Mark. For years I've wanted to preach through Mark. I think it's going be a life changing sermon series for our church.

When you slot your summer preaching calendar, it's vital to keep the Fall in mind. Preaching through Proverbs and then transitioning to the Gospel of Mark will be shift for our people. For the summer we're not talking a ton about Jesus (every week we do talk about Jesus), but looking at Solomon's call to wisdom.

The Gospel of Mark is going to be an up close encounter with Jesus. The Gospel of Mark is going to help Coastline; look, smell, and live more like Jesus. We want have an in-depth look at the life of Jesus. I think we know about Jesus, but lots of us have things confused.

As you think about the next summer preaching schedule, keep this in mind. Now let's be honest, all of this can be applied to fall, winter, or spring teaching too.

Hope this helps!

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Summer Giving Update 2019

Dear Coastline Family,

I hope you are enjoying the first few weeks of summer! I can tell you that I’m grateful that June Gloom is over, and the sun is out again. As you know, we rarely talk about money here at Coastline and we don’t use pressure tactics to get people to give. However, we feel it is our responsibility to inform those who are part of our church family where we are at with our budget and what our financial needs are. With that in mind, I want to share that as we enter summer we are currently 10% behind our anticipated giving. Because of that our staff has adjusted their spending to keep within our received giving.

Coastline is currently on a growth trend. On Saturday our Elders met to discuss the future of Coastline. In that meeting one of our elders said, “If you look at our attendance, we are up by 24% from the previous year!” To put that into perspective, the average church grows about 6% a year. Our increase in attendance is a huge accomplishment for which we give God glory.

Here’s how we’ve recently seen God work in exciting ways at Coastline:

  • We are getting ready to take twenty students to camp next month. 
  • Our Seniors hosted a well attended game day at the church.
  • We just hosted a membership class with five people. 
  • We are seeing new faces join the Coastline family every week. 
  • Children’s ministry hosted a wonderful Kids Camp in the month of June. 
  • We hosted another successful “Women Are…” night. 

This summer we are laser focused on helping people find and follow Jesus, and we need your help to be able to continue reaching those who are far from God. Giving typically lags in the summer while people are on vacation. To help us with this, please consider financially participating with us in one of the following ways:

  • Catch up on any giving you have missed
  • Set up a reoccurring gift to Coastline through bill pay in your bank account
  • Set up regular giving online at
  • Set up regular giving via text message at (805) 200-3557

We prayerfully ask that you continue to support Coastline by staying on track with giving so we can fulfill the mission God has given us to help people find and follow Jesus. Thank you for joining in the work the Lord is doing here!

Neal Benson|Lead Pastor
Coastline Bible Church | (805) 642-3244
blogNealBenson.comtwitter: @nealbenson

Monday, July 01, 2019

Proverbs 2 Responsive Reading

Responsive Reading Proverbs 2

Leader: If you accept the words of the Lord and store up His commands within your heart, then you will find wisdom.

People: We will turn our ears to wisdom and apply the wisdom of the Lord to our heart.

Leader: If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, then you will find wisdom from the Lord.

People: We will look for wisdom as silver and search for it like a hidden treasure.

Leader: Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

People: For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Leader: He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless

People: For he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Leader: Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.

All: For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.