Thursday, July 27, 2017

Preaching that brings hope

One of the goals in preaching is to inspire.
There are people we encounter, every day, who are hopeless.
There are people who feel like life doesn't matter.
People who feel unloved.
People who are isolated or in broken relationships.

One of the joys of being a pastor is to share the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many fantastic pastors out there. There are men and women who share the truth of Christ in compelling ways. Just this weekend I had a lady in our church had me this note. I was stoked to see what she wrote on the front of the envelope.



Helping people find hope isn't always easy. When I preach I aim to impact people in three areas:

Head

One area I want to impact when preaching is the mind. People are smart! Kids are smart, students are smart, people of all ages are smart. I recently spoke at Mount Hermon for a summer camp. During one of my sermons I told students that I think they are smart. Too ofter their friends are telling them they are dumb. They have a sibling who is saying: "you don't understand this." They may even have a parent who insults their intelligence. When we tell people they are smart they start to believe they are smart.

When preaching never talk down to people but call them to something greater. Speak in a way they understand and a way that engages their mind. Know your audience and use words that will appropriately challenge their thinking and engage their mind.  I've found that sometimes we expect people to check their brain at the door of the church and only use their heart; this is a practice that needs to change. We want people to think critically about the truth of God.

Our minds need to be stimulated. Preach in such a way to engage the mind. Make people think! Preach to their intellect and show them the truth of God. The next time you're writing a sermon think of ways to challenge people's thinking. I don't mean challenge in a defensive way, but in a way that requires them to think critically about God's word. It could be what you say, but it could also be how you say something. There are times I've intentionally said something in a confusing way to make sure people are listening.

Heart

In addition to preaching to the head it's important to grab the heart. When you're communicating you want to grab the hearts of the people. There are times I've done this by sharing a story that evokes emotion. It's a story that calls on the compassionate side each person has. For example, there was a sermon I preached from the Old Testament about caring for orphans. Most people agree that we need to care for orphans. But to grab the heart I shared a clip from the Blind Side.


Show a clip like this to appeal to someone's heart. I'm not saying show a clip like this to abuse a person's emotion. A clip like this can impact a person in a unique way. You can also tell a story about a time you experienced an emotional time. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable in your stories and share about times where you feel like you've failed. People can relate to that.

Knowing we are multifaceted people means we need to preach multifaceted sermons. It's good to engage the heart in addition to the head. Engage both in creative ways that are meaningful to your audience and appropriate to their age and stage of life.

Hands

The final part of a person a great sermon will engage is the hands. The hands are when the sermon calls us to action. You might have a sermon that talks about helping the poor but if you never give people a chance to help the poor that is a miss. You may preach a sermon about missions but not everyone can go on a mission trip so how will engage the hands?

One of the most impactful ways I've seen this done is in the context of sharing the truth of Christ with a person in your life. I've met many of people who have been invited to church by a friend. When the text your preaching has a clear call to reach people who are far from God (Think of Luke 15) you can think of ways to engage the hands of people. Talk about inviting your neighbor, co-worker or friend to church with you. Your church might even want to have a special service in the following weeks where everyone is encouraged to invite a friend.

But it's not only with evangelism, missions or serving the poor. A call to action could come from a sermon on giving. The last I heard was that the average America spends 127% of their income. Let that figure sit in for a minute. To help a person be a generous giver means a lot of work needs to be done. Some people need to put their hands to work in changing their budget. Some fathers need to become more engaged with their families. Some single people need to keep their hands to themselves and put them on the Bible more!

When we think about sermons that bring hope we can know it will include these three areas. Sermons that bring engage the head, heart and hands.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Man’s littleness & God’s greatness

This summer our church is going through some of the Psalms. We've been looking at the Psalms to help us define who our church will be in the community of Ventura. Yesterday I preached on Psalm 8. In verses 2-4 we read about man's littleness and the greatness of God.


David moves from the entirety of the cosmos to the cries of tiny infants silencing the strongholds of our enemy:
      Through the praise of children and infants
         you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
         to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalm 8:2

Honestly it seems like a huge leap to jump from the heavens to infants but thats what David’s getting at here; the majesty of God is seen in both! If you’re a parent you have probably marveled at the glory of God in your tiny infant. Think about holding your child when she was young. Think about counting her little toes or admiring her little nose. Think about how soft and delicate the skin of an infant is. God created all the heavens and that tiny baby you once held.

You might remember Jesus actually quoted this Psalm to the Pharisees. We are told children were praising Jesus in the Temple courts; shouting Hosanna and the Pharisees became angry He would accept such praise (Matthew 21:16). At this point Jesus reminds them of Psalm 8:2. Of course this would have been quite a rebuke to the Pharisees because they would have been the enemies of God who are being silenced by the praise of mere infants, or children in this case. It was the children praising Jesus, not the religious leaders. It was further reason to put a stop to what Jesus was doing.

Go back to the Psalm. Now let’s look as David describes more reasons for us to praise God:
      3 When I consider your heavens,
         the work of your fingers,
         the moon and the stars,
         which you have set in place,
      4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
         human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8:3-4

As we study these next couple verses I need to put some context here. Most scholars think David wrote this Psalm later in his life, but imagine David gathering the material for this Psalm as a young boy. Imagine David roaming the desert all day with his flock of sheep. David would have spent many hot days in the Israeli desert tending to his flock. As night approaches he fights his sleepy eyes from closing because he knows the show is about to start.
 
Laying in the middle of the desert, all alone, in the crisp spring air as the black sky begins to sparkle with tiny white stars far above. This night David can see the small sliver of the crescent moon off in the night sky. As David lies there he is filled with emotion. He is exhausted from tending sheep all day, but thrilled with the glory of creation. He knows he should go to sleep but he examines the stars as they wander through the night sky and watches as the planets slowly become visible. The majesty of God keeps David awake long into the night as he thinks about how God placed every star in place. David looked forward to those uneventful nights where he lay under the stars contemplating the work of God.

Have you experienced a time like this? A time where you were outside at night and looking at the majesty of God? Maybe it was on a camping trip when you were younger or maybe you grew up in a place far from the city where the stars seemed to jump out in the night sky. It must have been different for David because now we have all the light pollution. With the increase of population and electric lights we miss the full beauty of the night sky. Even though we might not see every star, the Bible tell us that God has given each star it’s own name (Psalm 147:4).

This Psalm has been called the overview of creation. As we continue going through it you’re going to see that more. God spent six days taking what was formless and void, turning it into the spectacular world around us. God took dirt, air, space and matter turning a hostile living environment into a place perfect to sustain life. After finishing His handiwork God looked around and noticed something was missing. It seemed God was finished but in reality, after six days of work, He was just getting started. In all the beauty of creation God knew it wasn’t complete; man was a special order in creation; the only thing made in the very image of the creator (Genesis 1:27).

David continues the Psalm by asking God one question in two parts. The littleness and greatness of man are set before us here in powerful contrast. Psalm 8:4 gives us the earthly side of human life and the divine side. The earthly side is that our lives are like a speck. Our life is but a vapor on this earth. Compare the life of a human with the life of a giant redwood tree. We are frail and subject to the harsh conditions of this world. This about this life. We spend about one-third of it in sleep. We spend time shopping and finding food to eat. Then think about our knowledge. We understand a small percent of what is out there. We may study the sciences but know little about mathematics. One might study economics but little about construction. When the library of Congress was founded in 1800 it began with 6,487 books. Today it has accumulated more than 16 million books.

The second part reminds us that God is mindful of us, that God cares for us. Some people think that God doesn’t care for them, that they are all alone here on earth. There are thousands of lonely people living right in our community who are wondering if God is mindful of them, if God cares for them. One very tangible way we can see how God cares for us is that He didn’t leave us alone. As Jesus was preparing for His death and resurrection He told his disciples that He would leave us the Holy Spirit to teach us and remind us. The Holy Spirit will be our comforter in times of need. What a great reminder that God cares for us. Now there are times it can feel like God doesn’t care for us but let’s avoid pessimism. It might feel like God doesn’t care for us, but that is not the truth. The truth is God deeply cares for each of us! Let’s trust in God’s caring nature for His children.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Mount Hermon Q&A 2017

Last week I had the joy of being at Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon is a wonderful camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The location is beautiful, the staff is awesome and it’s a place where God is at work.

For the week I was speaking at Pondy we taught on Luke 15. The theme was awesome and you can see some of it here. While at Mount Hermon there are two days where students can sign up for different activities. Some of these include: jazzercise, laser tag, high ropes, pool time or Q&A with the speaker. In the past I’ve been a part of this but had only a handful of students show up. This year I had close to forty students involved in both days (Tuesday had a higher attendance than Thursday).

After the session I wrote down some of the questions I was asked and wanted to share them here:

What is the meaning of your tattoos
This question came up in both sessions. I took the time to talk through each of my tattoos and the meaning. I pointed out the handprint tattoos for my kids. I showed the heart tattoo for my wife. I talked about the significance of having Isaiah 52:7 on my feet and more.

Who is your favorite character in the Bible
I love Peter. I love how Peter follows Jesus that day on the shore. I love the questions he asks. I also love how he denies Jesus, is restored on the same shore where he was called and then becomes of the main leaders of the early church. I can relate to Peter and his passion. I can relate to coming to Christ at an early age and following Him.

What is your favorite story in the Bible; Old Testament and New Testament?
My favorite Old Testament story: I went with two. I love the story of Joseph. There is so much redemption and forgiveness in there. I also love the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo. I love how these guys stand for God in the face of death.

In the New Testament I love the story of Peter walking on the water. He is freaked out when he sees Jesus walking on the water, in the storm, and then asks Jesus to call him out on the water. Peter is walking on water until he sees the wind. I shared how things in our life go great until we take our eyes off the Lord.

Top three favorite worship songs
What a Beautiful Name- Hillsong Worship


No Longer Slaves- Bethel Music


Your Great Name- The Eagle and Child


Who are your favorite bands
Hillsong Worship
The Eagle and Child
For All Seasons

What is the best thing that happened in your life? 
Next to meeting Jesus, the best thing to happen to me was meeting my wife. Charity is such an encouragement in my life. She laughs with me, supports me and prays so much for me. (A follow up to this was to tell the story of our engagement)

What is your favorite Bible verse?
Romans 8:31
This was the first Bible verse I memorized after fully surrendering my life to Christ. It reminds me that no matter what is happening that God is for me!

If you could be stuck in a movie what movie would it be?
I went with Frozen. I wanted to go with Talledaga Nights but figured there was no chance I could snowboard in that movie.

How did you choose your children’s names?
We went with Sophie because it means wisdom.
Leah means “delicate eyes”.
Isaiah is Charity’s favorite male name. She always wanted to name her son this.
All of the names are Biblical. Sophie is in the Greek Bible while Leah and Isaiah are both Old Testament names.

This is just a sample of what came my way. Overall it was a great success and time with the students. Obviously some students had more questions than others but I think it helped them to get to know me more.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Words from my Dad's funeral

Let me preface this post with this statement:
I hope you never have to share at your dad's funeral

Just over a week ago we had a memorial service for my dad. My sister and I arrived early. We walked in around 9am to greet my dad's wife. The three of us entered the room first. As we turned the corner there was his casket. It was open. He was smiling. I want to forget the image because I like to remember him living and not laying down. Many times that day I wished I would see him take a breath. That never happened.

As the morning moved to afternoon we moved to the memorial service. It was a Catholic Mass. Although I'm not sure my dad ever went to a Catholic Mass, this was the service that was chosen. I declined to officiate the service knowing I needed to grieve the loss.

But I did request to say some words at the service. I knew I would be the only one who would speak as a person who knew my father. I knew him for 37 years and 6 months. To be more precise it was 13,710 days that my dad knew me. I was his only son, the one that will carry on his name.

Here are the words that I wrote to say at his funeral. I added some to them but am deciding to only post what I had written down.

Dad's Funeral 

Hi, my name is Neal Benson and I'm Don's son. Thank you for all support. I'm going to do my best to keep it together up here. Please forgive me if I forget to say something.

You're never prepared for what to say at your dad's funeral. I have three areas that came to mind that I'd like to share.

Hard Working

First, my dad was a hard worker. He had a full-time job and keeping up his property would have been enough. But he worked hard. He woke up early and finished the tasks.
When my sister and I would visit his house he would always have a list of chores for us. We thought it was crazy that we had chores at a home we lived at for 48 hours every two weeks but he did. As I look back I see what my dad was teaching me. He modeled hard work to me and I'm going to miss that.

Friends 

My dad has amazing friends! They would play basketball together, go on trips together, they even worked together. Sometimes they might even have a beer together.

Family 

My dad did the best he could with family. When we were young we would constantly see our family. He took us to Tahoe to see his brother Jim. We would go to Oregon and see our grandparents. We'd meet with my uncle, aunt and cousins in Big Bear. We spent time in Palm Springs.
As I grew into an adult, family remained important. He would come see Beth and I in San Diego. He always would visit my family in Vegas and the Bay Area. He frequently went to see Beth. During all this he loved Marilynn. He always spoke so fondly of her. He was always so happy he had found her. The time they spent in the Philippines

Near the end he asked for my family to come visit. He spoke such love to my family. He laughed with my kids, made faces, smiled and told them he loved them.

My dad taught me about hard work, friends and family. I'm blessed he was my dad.

Next time you're wearing a trucker hat, working hard, playing ball or drinking a beer; think of my dad and what a wonderful man he was!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thoughts about my dad


I Miss My Dad

It's been few days since my dad passed away. I've been flooded with emotions. It’s not like me to be super emotional but this is a big loss, the loss of a parent. I've thought about what he taught me, what he showed me and how I was able to support him. The purpose of this post is for me to share my memories with my dad. I want to jot my mind of all the good things we did together.

Lessons from dad

Some of the earliest memories with my dad are of us fishing together. He loved to fish. Some of these fishing lessons included: not touching the poison oak while walking through the woods, not falling in the stream when fishing on the bank and keeping my line on the reel. The reality is that I failed at all of these! I can’t tell you how many times our fishing trips ended with me in the bath and getting calamine lotion on. I’m going to say that every fishing trip I fell in the water. I had a unique ability to fall in the water pretty much every time. In addition to that, I would frequently get my line tangled. In all of these lessons my dad still helped me through them.

Last summer I was going salmon fishing. My dad loved it when I would send him pictures from my salmon fishing trips. I called him ahead of time and asked if he wanted to join me. He responded with an enthusiastic “yes” and drove up on a Thursday night. Friday morning we woke up early and headed out fishing. I wish I could say we caught limits of salmon but we didn’t. We both got skunked. But we got father and son time. Looking back, I wish I had more trips like this to think about with my dad.

As I grew up he then taught me how to shoot a gun. I can remember many times sitting in the backyard and shooting targets with him. Not only did my dad teach me to shoot a gun, he also taught me gun safety. He taught me this lesson at a early age and it has given me a great respect for the power of guns and the need to be safe with them. In fact, he didn’t call them guns. He would call them “weapons” so I knew the power they held.

Last year, when my dad first got sick, Sophie and I went to visit him. Knowing we were staying at his house and he was healing, I brought my Rugger .22 to plink around with. It was great teaching Sophie to shoot a gun in the same backyard I learned to shoot in.

When I was at the age I could drive my dad would help me work on the car. He would always make sure that I read the manual on how to do what I needed to do. He made sure that I would read it because he knew I was prone to skip something. He was insistent on getting out the right tools ahead of time. He would check my work and teach me things about cars I had no understanding of in my teens. Those lessons have proved vital in my adult years.

My dad was a frugal man. I say that with a respect for him now. He taught me the value of money on many occasions. With my parents being divorced, it was normal for me to see him every other weekend. Each weekend I had a set of chores to complete. Once they were done he would give me an allowance. In the moment I thought he was a cheapskate. As I reflect back on the lesson he was teaching me, I can see that he was showing me the value of hard work. I think that I am a hard worker because of my dad. His value for money has taught me to save for things and get the best value I can.

Times I could help my dad

As my dad aged, and the tech industry boomed, I became more of a tech native. Almost every time my dad would visit me, in my adult years, he would have a project for me to look at or help him with. I wish I could count how many things I taught him on the computer. I wish I could count how many times I showed him the same thing at each trip. On multiple occasions I would help him pair his phone with his car. Those moments in the car with him are something I wish I could have right now.

Phone Conversations

In my teenage years my dad and I got in a huge fight. I had hurt my knee snowboarding and needed to see a doctor. Something happened with my insurance due to his job and I was unable to see the doctor. I was extremely upset. We got in a huge fight on the phone. We swore at each other, said hateful words and didn’t talk for two years. I didn’t take to my dad from the age of seventeen to nineteen.

Over the last couple years I wanted to work on our relationship. It wasn’t bad, it was just that there was a distance between us with me living in the Bay Area and he being in LA County. My pastor, Mark Mitchell, gave me the advice to call him once a week on my drive home. I would regularly call him after leaving the gym on Tuesdays. It was our time to talk. I would also call him when I was leaving Tahoe after a snowboard trip with my kids. As I’m writing this, it’s Tuesday. The reality has set in that this Tuesday I won’t be able to call my dad.

The value of a parent

If your parent(s) are still alive I hope you cherish the time you have with them. Yesterday I went through my pictures to find photos for the slide show at his funeral. Your relationship may not be perfect but take the time to enjoy your parent. Think about what you can learn from them. Ask them questions now that you can’t ask them in 10 years. If you have kids, let them spend time with you parent (if they are safe to be around). I love looking at some of the pictures of my dad with my kids.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Don Benson- Celebration of Life


On behalf of my family we would like to invite you to come and celebrate the life of my dad with us on Saturday July 1, 2017.

We will begin with a viewing at 9:00am. From there we will have a Rosary service at 10:00am followed by a Mass that begins at 12:45pm. The location for these events is:
Mission Hills Catholic Mortuary
11160 Stranwood Ave
Mission Hills CA 91345

Following the funeral service we invite you all to join us for a meal beginning at 2:00pm:
VFW Post 6885
16208 Sierra Hwy
Santa Clarita, California, CA 91390


Donald Lee Benson was born on October 1, 1944 and passed into eternity on June 23, 2017. He was born in Redlands, CA and raised in Medford, OR. Don was preceded in death by his parents and leaves behind two brothers; Jim Benson and Bob Gilligan. Don also leaves behind his wife of 16 years, Marilynn Benson and his two children, Beth Diehl and Neal Benson. He has five grandchildren who will miss him dearly.
Don served our country for five years and was honorably discharged from  the Army. He graduated from Cal State Northridge with his bachelors degree.  Most of his teaching career was spent at Arroyo Seco Junior High School. Don enjoyed fishing, camping, visiting his family and spending time at the VFW. He had a great group of friends who miss him dearly. Don lived in Santa Clarita and was well loved by those who knew him.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Our Ever Present God

For the last almost five years I've served at Central Peninsula Church. My family arrived here just days after we went from two to three campuses. We've met so many different people, in different stages of life, in different areas of the Peninsula. It's been a wonderful learning experience serving at a large multisite church.

My great friend Rob Hall leads our North Campus. On May 28 I preached my last sermon up there (until they invite me back in a few years). I had a blast with the team up there. For my last sermon I had a stand alone. A stand alone sermon is one that isn't based in a series. I was able to connect with God and see what would be best for them. What came to mind was Psalm 20:7. My aim was to only preach on that verse but it would have been unwise to not preach the Psalm as a whole.

The sermon is timely for my life also with our transition. June 11 will be my last day on staff at CPC. It's been a great five years. I've served with some great people, learned a ton and grown a whole bunch. It's going to take an entire post on it's own to express my gratitude to CPC for the time I've been able to learn here. Until that post is ready, you can catch the entire message here on Vimeo

05/28/2017 - Neal Benson | An ever present God from Central Peninsula Church on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Foster City Campus Fun

Babe Ruth once said: "The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime."

I serve with one of the best teams in the world. We've played well together. We've won battles and fought the spiritual battle as a whole. I will miss this team. See I've been a big team proponent because I know the value of a team and how we can accomplish something together. I also know that every team needs to take a break from the daily grind and get out and have fun!
Last week our team practiced this. We had a staff retreat slotted in the month of June but with my transition our team decided we needed to have a fun day to celebrate all God has done here in the last five years. Different ideas were thrown out but what stuck was indoor skydiving. Now I had been indoor skydiving before but the rest of the team hadn't been. With the short notice not everyone was able to participate. In fact, one got sick the day before and one wasn't able to due to a previous injury.

We had a blast! We each took three flights and enjoyed [almost] every minute of it. Now the reason I share this is because some of you need to lead up and encourage others to have fun with your staff team or volunteer team. My team led up. They encouraged us to make this happen. They thought of the idea, helped plan the day and then we all laughed. Investing in team time is very important. Although this will be my last fun day with my team, we will all remember this for the rest of our lives!

Here is a video from one of my flights. Pretty stoked I started to get the hang of it and the instructor let me fly solo

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

3 ways to help us in this season

As many of you know our family is moving. It’s been a bittersweet process as we’ve talked with co-workers, neighbors and friends. Make sure to read the previous post on here to learn more about the move and God's call on our life. We've accepted a call to serve at Coastline Bible Church in Ventura. As we prepare for the move many people have asked: "How can I help?" At this point there are three ways you can help us, they all involve prayer:

Pray for CPC

For the last (almost) five years I’ve had the joy of serving as the Foster City Campus Pastor at Central Peninsula Church. For the last week I’ve had many conversations with people whom I love dearly. Pray for our church in this move. Pray for the relationships we have. Pray for the people we’ve invested our lives in to. Pray for the amazing staff team I’ve been able to serve alongside here.

A few times I’ve thought about this move like a tree being uprooted from it’s place in the ground. There is a process of getting that tree out of the ground and preparing to move it. When you move a tree it leaves a hole. It also leaves some of its root system where it was planted because you can’t get every piece of it. We hope that we leave enough of us here that people will remember who we are but keep more of us to spread to others.

Pray for Coastline 

As difficult as a move is, we know God is leading us on this journey. Coastline has prayed for our family’s arrival. They have prayed for God to call us there and to serve alongside them. They have had a wonderful interim pastor for the last thirteen months and they will miss him. He’s led them well through this time. Pray for Coastline (and the city of Ventura) to receive us with open arms. Pray for us to get connected in our next church family. Pray for the staff, Elders and members of Coastline to be blessed by our arrival.

Pray for our family

Our family has gone through a wide variety of emotions in this process. We’ve laughed well, shed some tears and had great conversations. We’ve also had tough conversations about leaving friends. There is some anxiety about moving in our home. We are venturing into a new season and need prayer. Pray for God to unite our family during this time. Pray for God to open the best home for us. Pray for our new community and that we can be a blessing there.




Monday, May 15, 2017

New Call: New City, New Church

Seventeen years ago I made a commitment to God. While sitting in a jail cell late at night I said: "God if you're real get me out of here and I'll do whatever you want." It was a Hail Mary, a last chance effort. Never did I imagine that commitment would involve being a pastor!

For the last almost 5 years I've had the privilege of serving at Central Peninsula Church. In 2012 we moved our family to the Bay Area to follow the call of Christ. It's been a great learning experience that added to the decade of pastoral experience I came here with.

When we moved here I was 32 and had mainly served with students. It was a big step for our family to move here. God has given me the joy of leading a team of leaders to impact our region. CPC has entrusted me to lead a staff team of people. Our Elders have worked with me to hone my preaching style and grow in communicating to adults. For a few years I was able lead the charge for the Global Leadership Summit here. There was a season of serving as our children's champion and helping create consistency on all three of our campuses. Mark invited me to travel with him to Rwanda and Cambodia. In addition to that, I've had the awesome opportunity to lead our Young Adults ministry.

When we moved here our kids had never been to school. Sophie was three and Leah was two. They both had their first day of preschool while living here. They both started Elementary school here. They both learned to ride bikes here. We also added Isaiah to our family. They all started snowboarding in Tahoe while living here. What a gift it's been to live here.

About six months ago my mentor called me and said: "Neal, I know a church in Ventura that would be a great fit for you. They're going to be looking for a new pastor soon." He knew I had been open to a new call on my life. So I began processing with my pastor and elders. I sought wisdom from my mentor and a close group of friends.

After a few interviews with the search team in Ventura they unanimously recommended me to the elders at this church. I met with the elders and they unanimously recommended me to the church. After a weekend visit I was offered the role when the church voted to call me as the Senior Pastor with a 98% affirmation!

A few weeks ago I enthusiastically accepted the call to serve at Coastline Bible Church in Ventura. This is a bittersweet decision. Charity and I are going to miss our Bay Area friends who have become family. But we're thrilled to follow God on this new adventure.


Our heart has always been for God to move us closer to family. In recent months my parents have had some health issues so this is great timing. This move puts us much closer to family and brings us back to our So Cal roots. The role is a Senior Pastor. I've always had a sense that one day God would call me to lead a church (I can share more on this one day). I'm stoked for this opportunity to lead Coastline in this next season.

My role will wrap up here at CPC on June 11. I invite you to come hear my last sermon. Later that day our church is throwing a party to celebrate what God has done here. Our daughters will finish school up here and then we'll move to Ventura.

Keep your eyes out as the next post here I will share three ways you can pray for CPC, the Benson family and Coastline in the upcoming weeks.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Purisma Creek Hike

Over the weekend we took the family on a hike. We love to get outdoors and help the kids have a love for nature. With all the rain we knew this trail would be gorgeous. We didn't know that with all the rain we would see so many banana slugs and fallen trees. We drove over to Purisma Creek and started the hike from Half Moon Bay. I've done the hike from Skyline Drive but found it better to start in Half Moon Bay with the kids.

We don't really hike for that long. We let the kids run around, throw rocks in the water and see how far they can make it. It's great because you see other families, talk with other hikers and get to enjoy all of God's creation. It's also a time for us to enjoy each other. We had lots of laughter (and some tears) on this hike. Watch the video we made to see a glimpse.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Suffering and God’s Judgment

The New Testament is filled with many different subjects. For the last couple months our church has been going through the book of 1 Peter. It seems that each time I preach I get the opportunity to preach on suffering. Peter hits on this subject a few times in the letter.

Peter continues writing about suffering and switches to talking about God’s final judgment (read 1 Peter 4:17-18). The “For” in verse 17 reaches back to the idea of Christians suffering in verse 16. Peter wants to keep the same train of thought but share more on the subject. Some Christians have a problem  with the idea that judgment will begin with God’s household. Peter could have written about those who have rejected the message of Christ, but he chose to begin with those who have accepted the truth of Jesus.

This line of writing is similar to what the prophets wrote in the Old Testament. Ezekiel, Zechariah, Amos and Malachi all have similar statements in their prophetic books. And Jeremiah, Zechariah and Malachi each write about the fiery ordeal and God’s judgment beginning with His people. Peter seems to have this perspective in mind as he attempts to encourage the believers in Asia Minor.

When we look at what the Old Testament prophets wrote and what Peter has written, we see that the grammar is the same but the theology is different. Let me explain. In the Old Testament, the judgment talked about was an annihilation of God’s unfaithful people. The people in the Old Testament were living lives of sin and God’s judgment was to come because of that. But what Peter is writing about is a purification of God’s people, a purification that will prepare them for the final judgment. The difficulties that God’s people encounter are designed to purify and refine believers so they will be ready to receive their final reward.

Then Peter quotes directly from Proverbs 3:34. He uses this to restate what he has just written. What does it mean when Peter writes: “It is hard for the righteous to be saved?” It is not hard for God to save people; that is not what he is writing. You can also translate hard to mean difficult. This is a continuation on the thought of suffering. The believer will endure suffering in this life. That suffering will be difficult. The suffering may be difficult now, but it will be worthwhile when Christ returns. I love what C.S. Lewis writes on the topic of suffering: “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.” There will be suffering but suffering, for a believer refines you.

These verses can also prompt a person to think more about personal evangelism. Have you thought about that question before? What will happen to the ungodly? Let that question bother you this week. Allow this question to take up space in your life as you encounter others this week. When you see people at work, the store, the coffee shop, your lunch spot or in your neighborhood think about what will happen to them in the end. Instead of only being concerned with yourself, think about those around you and their final outcome.

Peter never gives an answer to his question in verses 17 and 18. But the Bible tells us elsewhere what the outcome of the ungodly and the sinner will be. Their outcome will be eternal separation from Christ (Matthew 25:41). The Bible tells us that those who reject Christ as their Savior will experience weeping and gnashing of their teeth (Matthew 25:30). Allow these words from Peter to prompt you to share the love of Christ with others. If you’ve placed your trust in Christ, don’t keep that to yourself. Others need to hear the truth. You have people in your life who need the joy of Jesus. We can conclude from these verses that it’s better to suffer a little now for Christ than to be separated from Him for the rest of our lives.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Suffering for following Christ

For the last several months our church has been preaching through the New Testament book of 1 Peter. We've called this series Exiles because Peter refers to his original audience as Exiles in a foreign world.

You can listen to the latest message in this series right here!

4/30/2017 - Neal Benson | Suffering for following Christ from Central Peninsula Church on Vimeo.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Christians are the most persecuted group in 2016

Earlier this year I read an article in my newsfeed on my phone. The heading of the article stated that in 2016 a Christian was killed for their faith every six minutes. This means nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016, equivalent to one every six minutes. The research was completed by the Italy based Center for Studies on New Religions. The annual study is set to release next month with full details.

You might find it interesting to know that the number of Christ followers who were martyred in 2016 is less than those who lost their lives in 2015. In 2015 105,000 Christ followers were martyred. The group commented that “It still makes Christians the most persecuted religious group in the world.” Most of the persecution took place in Africa in tribal conflicts. Many people who give their lives to Christ refuse to take up a weapon and fight with their tribe and therefore lose their lives.

The annual study also indicated that between 500 and 600 million Christians were prevented from freely practicing their faith. Right now Christians are being harassed in 110 countries around the world. While we freely gather here, there are other Christ followers who are forced to worship in private locations. But these followers of Jesus are worshipping Him, they aren’t allowing the persecution to stop them. They are worshipping God right now for His goodness in their lives.

Although you may not share a similar experience to other Christ followers around the world, have you noticed how suffering is a tool that God uses to shape your faith?

Have you found that some of the most difficult times are when your faith flourished the most?

Even if you’re not yet a Christ follower, have you found that times of suffering grow your character most?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

When too busy and your kid calls you out

Last month was busy for me.

It’s not all busy with work.
It was winter, which means I’ve was traveling more to Tahoe to snowboard (mostly with the kids).
I’ve been working out more and trying to stay fit.
It was Leah’s 7th birthday.
I also had a great opportunity to preach at Camp Pondo in So Cal.
These are just some of what comes to mind.

At the end of the month, on Friday night, Sophie said: “Daddy, are you staying home tonight?”

The question was hard for me to hear.
She didn't ask it in a sour tone. She didn't start whining or crying in the conversation.
She asked it very meekly and with a heart that conveyed how she has missed me that week.

I've written before about being an engaged parent. This was a reminder to me that I wasn't being the type of parent I've been before. It wasn't a drastic shift but my daughter noticed that I hadn't been as involved as in years past. Sophie knew that I was breaking my own rules and had worked five nights in a row (my goal is to be home more nights than I am out).

I'm thankful for her simple question. I'm thankful how she asked it. Some kids are asking the same thing but in a different tone or with different actions. If you read your kids actions and words what are they saying to you? My kid really just wanted more time with me and I'm thankful I was able to be around to give it to her.

I'm thankful for the time I get to spend with my kids!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

5 Places to Stop on The Road to Hana

On our first trip to Maui we heard about the road to Hana. In all honesty I had no desire to drive for 6+ hours to get to a small town on the other side of the island. As we talked with more people the trip kept coming up. Finally, once on the island, we heard a few more people say it's a must do.

With that, I started researching the road and found the best piece of advice on the internet. It said something like: "go as far as you can handle and turn around...". That was what we were looking for!

With that we started planning the drive that would carry us on the road to Hana. The car was packed with three kids, my wife and mom. We took off early. Here are the five stops we made and it was well worth the drive!

Honolulu Coffee in Paia 

This is a great little coffee shop at what I would call the last town you can stop in. The staff is super friendly and great to talk with. We stopped here both ways to get coffee. Charity ordered their most famous drink (just ask what it's called) and she loved it. I grabbed a decaf and it was super good.

Twin Falls

This is a great little walk/hike to take with your family. It's right off the road at Mile Marker 2. The mile markers start and then restart so keep your eyes out early. If you arrive early there is a good parking lot. If you park further away there are warning signs for theirs.

As for the hike, we actually walked a little further than needed. When you park, walk past the school bus on the large trail (you can't miss it). When you see the bamboo on your right make a left. This trail will take this straight to the water fall. You can walk further on the trail and see the top of the falls.

For us, the water fall was only on one side due to lack of rain. Either way it's still beautiful!

Garden of Eden 

We heard about this spot online initially. On the elevator I was talking with some guys and they mentioned it. After looking it up on Yelp I decided we needed to check it out.

Some tips: if you're in a group of five or more there is a discount. We also were able to get all three kids in for free since they are in car seats (booster seats count). Get some quarters at the entrance to feed the peacocks. Watch out for the ducks, they are persistent in wanting food.

Get out of the car and walk around here. There are some super cool trees you can see! Leah liked the Rainbow Eucalyptus tree. I wanted to see the old mango tree. You can also walk to see a waterfall overlook. The views up here were breathtaking!

Small pool to swim in 

We found a small pool to swim in about 3 miles before our last stop. We actually passed it and then came back. I don't know how to explain where it's at. If I said: "It's by the bridge after the corner" it wouldn't help you at all!

We pulled over on the side of the road, parked the car and headed down. It was a small path down to the pool. When we got there there was a few other people. They soon departed and it was just the Benson family. The water was cold (seriously cold), but I jumped in and started swimming. Isaiah wanted to come with and we swam to the other side. Being the great dad I am I encouraged the kids to come in and make some memories!

At the end I bribed them all with chocolate to get this great picture. In reality we had such a good time!

Halfway to Hana 

This is our journey on the road to Hana concluded. While doing some research it made sense to end here. We stopped for a shave ice and to stretch our legs. We ended up connecting with some locals and taking about pig hunting. Once the shave ice was done it was back on the road.

As I think back to our adventure I'm reminded of the creative nature of God. The road to Hana is full of twists and turns. There is beauty in the beach, plants and water. The lush, and untouched, beauty is something g to marvel at. If you take this adventure keep this in the front of your mind. Think about how awesome God is when you stop at these spots, hear the sounds and smell this wonderful place!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Kind Police Officer

One day our family was walking to dinner. When we do this walk we pass the police station near our house. I don't think ever seen any police vehicles pulling in or out of this station before. My thought always was we just missed the shift change. But on this walk it was different.

This day a police officer was pulling into the station on his bike. It was a time in our Nation where police officers were catching a bad rap. There was a wave of violence occurring in our Nation and the media was not giving law enforcement the best name.

As we neared the officer he took notice of our kids. He didn't have to do that. He got off his bike. He didn't have to do that either. He invited our kids to him, and gave them stickers. He also let the girls jump on the bike and posed for a picture.

This seems to be more of my normal experience with the police. Yes, I've had my share of negative experiences but in those instances I was breaking the law and gave the office reason to question me. As I've been an adult, with children, all of my interactions with the police have been positive.

I'm writing this about six months after it happened. I wish I would have done so earlier. I wish I could have helped provide a better image to those who serve my city when our country was highly emotional. But that didn't happen.

Maybe, just maybe, you'll read this post today and be reminded of the positive impact law enforcement has on our communities. I know I'm thankful!


Monday, April 10, 2017

An invitation at DUI school

A young man walked into his DUI, court mandated, class that Friday morning with a bruised face and stitches above his eye. Another night of drinking landed him in jail earlier that week. As he walked out of the small classroom, with hard plastic chairs, an older guy turned to him and said: “If you don't quit drinking you'll be dead in five years." The words hit the young man like a ton of bricks. He knew it was true but was at a loss for words at how to respond.

What he heard next wasn't what he imagined: "Do you want to go to church with me this weekend?" The young man almost froze. He wanted to say: "yes" but was so scared. He had heard this guy talk about church and was interested but also scared. After staring at this man he finally said what he was thinking: "yes, I'll go."

That Sunday Brett came to pick me up for church and began investing in my broken life. He taught me Scripture, bought me lunch and prayed for me. That invitation completely changed my life. My life was barreling down the freeway in a horrible direction. Over the next year Brett played a huge role in my early development as a young Christ follower. He taught me about reading God's word. Encouraged me to leave a life of sin and showed me grace like I've never seen before!

As Easter is approaching who might God place in your path to invite to church? You might be prompted by the Spirit to reach out to someone who is completely different from you. They may be a person at your work who you've started a relationship with and this is the perfect time to extend an invitation. God might nudge you to have a conversation that is out of your comfort zone. Now you don’t have to get a DUI to invite someone to church, but a simple invitation can change a life!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Our Opprotunity & Christ’s Victory

This week I had the opportunity to preach at our North Campus. We continued our series through the book of 1 Peter. We've been in this series for the last couple months. This weekend I preached on 1 Peter 3:13-22.

You can watch the entire sermon here and see what your opportunity is!

03/26/2017 - Neal Benson | Our Opprotunity & Christ's Victory from Central Peninsula Church on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sprinkles and Sabbath

On Saturday we try to Sabbath around our house. For me, this typically look like not being on my computer, not checking email and allowing work calls/text messages to wait a day. For Charity it usually means no doing dishes, not cooking and having a break from her normal routine.

Someone might wonder, “Why do you take a break from these things?” or “What is a Sabbath?” We take a break from these things to allow our family to rest and refresh together. We do it in obedience to a command God gave His people thousands of years ago:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11
Some Saturday’s we’re successful at this and other Saturday’s we’re, well…not so much. This Saturday was one of those days where things were going great (kinda). I took the kids to donuts in the morning and then Charity and I went to a morning wedding. While we were at the wedding the kids made cupcakes with our neighbor who was babysitting them. After lunch we took a bike ride to the park and came home to let the kids frost the cupcakes.

In all honesty, I’m not sure how it happened but Isaiah got the sprinkles in his hand. He decided to see how many sprinkles it would take the cover the floor. It was a minor disappointment but thanks to the trusty vacuum I was able to clean it up. When I look back to the Sabbath I think that we had a good day. It was nice spending time with the kids and a little sprinkles on the floor isn’t going to ruin our day of rest.

Next time you’re trying to rest and something distracts you, don’t allow it to derail you. There is a difference between being derailed and being distracted. The sprinkles were a distraction and we recovered. Yesterday was a great day of rest for me! I hope you can enjoy that for yourself.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sophie's First Diamond

This weekend Sophie got her first diamond. You might be thinking: "You gave your 8 year old daughter a diamond?" It wasn't set in a ring. It wasn't affixed to a post that would sit in her ear. Her first diamond wasn't white.

Sophie's first diamond was black. It was found at Northstar after taking the chair to the top. One of the first things she said she wanted to do that day was to take the chair to top and ride a Black Diamond. She wanted to ride a black diamond and she did awesome!

As I think about Sophie and riding her first black diamond with her I have four thoughts that come to mind:

This didn't happen overnight 

Sophie isn’t a professional snowboarder. She started riding last season. I’ve been working with her on balance and agility for years hoping that she would love snowboarding as much as me! She used to take gymnastics and that really helps with her balance. It took us many rides on the bunny chair, lots of Skittles and other motivation tools to get here.

It took lots of work 

Sophie woke up early in the morning for this last trip. She’s spent many hours in the back of the car to get to Tahoe. She’s gone on some fun days of riding with me. We’ve had days where the weather is so nice that you can ride in a long-sleeve shirt! She’s also gone riding on Days were it’s been 5 degrees when we left the house. She’s braved the cold and rode in storms that will make grown men leave the hill. She’s fallen her fair share of times and put in the work to make it happen.

It took courage 

I’ve talked with a few people about her accomplishment and they’ve said: “She did what?” Or someone said: “I don’t have the guts to do that.” It didn’t dawn on me at first but her first black diamond took a bunch of courage. I can’t image how big that hill looks to her. She is half the size of almost everyone else on the hill. She had the courage her point her board in that direction when she could have chosen a different one.

It was a little scary 

When we stood on the top of the hill I could see it in her face. She looked over the side and it was scary. Her eyes grew wide. I’m sure her heart rate increased. It’s a gnarly feeling when you can see the top but you can’t see the hill you’re going to slide down; I’ve been there. But she conquered her fears. She didn’t let fear win that day.

As I think of four thoughts I can’t help but think about how many so many people never get the thrill of riding a black diamond. I started thinking about how Sophie riding a black diamond can be used to describe the Christian life that many people miss out on.

Some people think that Spiritual Growth happens over night and it doesn’t. It takes many days of sitting with God. There are times when it feels like God is no where to be found and times when it feels like God is sitting right next to you. Growing as a Christ follower takes time and an investment. It calls someone to step out in faith, to leave what they know to be comfortable and follow Jesus. Sometimes this call brings a person to places they’ve never been or locations they are afraid of.

Being a Christ follower takes courage. It requires leaving the comforts you once knew and embracing the truth of Christ. Some people are ridiculed, disowned or rejected by those they love. But as I look at those who are truly following Christ they know the benefits. They are experiencing the thrill of riding a black diamond!