Monday, January 22, 2018

Coastline Core Values



Yesterday at our vision meeting we shared the core values of Coastline. Coastline has a rich history of being a light in Ventura. A few months ago our elders decided that we would gather with our staff and restate our core values. These core values are the best version of our church.

After months of prayer, drafts and a great team meeting here is what we feel God has given us:

We put God first
Our church is committed to the God of the Bible. He is our ultimate authority. He is the object of our worship. We believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and live our lives in obedience to its truth.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Matthew 6:33, Matthew 22:34-39, 2 Timothy 3:16

We build people up
We are a fun, welcoming, loving and encouraging church community. We want to help everyone take the next spiritual step to grow in their faith journey. We invest ourselves in the lives of others because we think that developing servant leaders matters.
Deuteronomy 34:9, John 13:34-45, Ephesians 4:11-12, and 2 Timothy 2:2

We do life together
We believe that God did not create anyone to be alone so we do life together. We think life change happens best in circles rather than in rows. Jesus established the church so that we may help, encourage and love each other as we follow Him.
Genesis 2:18, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:46, Hebrews 10:24-25

We are outreach focused
Our church does not expect people to seek us, therefore we intentionally pursue people who are far from God. We are committed to doing anything, short of sin, to help people find Jesus.
Matthew 9:9-13, Mark 5, Luke 15, Acts 2:47

We pray bold prayers
We know that God is awesome and capable, so we make “the big ask” of God in our prayer life. We come to God with a bold list of prayers and take time to actively listen to Him on a regular basis.
1 Samuel 3, Mark 1:35, Acts 12:5, James 5:16

We are multigenerational
The church is meant to be multigenerational. We think the best way to keep the love of God fresh in our hearts is to place a high value on kids, students and families. We intentionally invest in the next generation.
Joshua 24:15, Proverbs 22:6, Mark 10:13-16, 1 Timothy 4:12

Grace happens here
We understand that we do not deserve the grace of God but God’s grace is experienced and extended to one another here. This is a safe place to meet with God and learn about the great things He has done for each of us.
John 8:1-11, Romans 3:24, Ephesians 2:8, 2 Timothy 1:9

We will not use lip service and say we value these values; we will truly value them. We will put the best of our efforts into these areas and do them with excellence. (Please note that this list is not in order or importance, we just had to start somewhere).

Friday, January 19, 2018

Coastline Vision Meeting


Almost a year ago to the date, Charity and I hopped in our car and drove south from the San Francisco Peninsula. We arrived in Ventura on a Saturday and had lunch with the pastoral search team at a local pizza place. That night we had time to pray and process what God might be calling us to next. The next morning we attended our first service at Coastline Bible Church. We immediately felt a connection to what God was doing here. We loved the community, the worship and how friendly everyone was to us.

As I look back on that first visit, it amazes me that this coming Sunday we will be sharing the next steps we feel God is calling us to as a church. Over the last several months I've been in prayer and constant conversation with God about the vision for Coastline. (The mission explains why a church exists; the vision clarifies where the church is going in the future.) Last month I presented a God-sized goal to our elders. After much discussion, we unanimously voted to move forward with this vision. For the last several weeks our staff has been working on the strategy for this and preparing to share the vision with you.

This Sunday, January 21, we are going to communicate that vision in a special meeting right after our worship service. We want to get this vision out to you as soon as possible so we can all be united on where God is calling our church. I wish that I could write it out in this email, but you will hear it soon enough.  Please mark your calendar and make it a high priority to join us this Sunday at our vision meeting.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Leadership Transition












During my time in ministry I've seen some great leadership transitions and some train wrecks. The first transition I saw is one I will never forget. I was serving at a church and we were looking to hire a new Junior High Pastor. We interviewed a great candidate and it seemed like things were heading in the right direction. I was told we hired the guy and then quickly informed that we hired him as the Student Ministry Pastor and not the Junior High Pastor. I was a bit confused and learned that my beloved boss was being demoted and would eventually leave the church. Shortly after an opportunity came my way and I also transitioned away from the church.

I've also seen some great transitions. When I was called to serve at SHCC in Henderson, NV I served with a dynamic team of leaders. About nine months into my tenure there my good friend Rob Hall asked me to step up and lead our entire Student Ministry. I was thrilled for the expanded role. Rob and I had a long handoff where we co-led the ministry for a few months, shared preaching, did summer camp together and casted vision to our leaders. I led that ministry for six more years and saw God do great things!

These are just two examples from my life.

I've talked with friends who have been on both sides of the coin in leadership transition. I've talked to guys who came to a church and the last guy did them no favors in the transitions. I've also talked with friends who had great handoffs with Godly leaders. I've consoled friends who have lost dear friends when leadership made quick moves and talked with other friends who were frustrated at how slowly their church responded to a needed change.

A few months ago Willow Creek Community Church announced a leadership transition. Twitter was full of positive and negative comments. Friends in ministry talked about the announcement. Influential writers shared their opinion about the transition. Friends texted me to asked my thoughts about what Bill had announced.

For a while I've held my thoughts to myself and the few people I've spoken with. I thought they weren't entirely important but continued to dwell on them. Have you experienced something like this before? I topic came up and you need some time to figure it out? You wanted to process, internally, what you were thinking?

When I think of my experience with transitions in leadership here are my thoughts:

1) Internal leadership transitions seem to be better than external

For how big of a platform that Willow Creek has, I think their decision for an internal transition was a great call. I highly respect Bill Hybles and his leadership. He talks about hiring people with Godly character, who are competent in their role, and find chemistry with those you work with. After talking about this for years he added something new. He talked about putting people in the right climate. By them choosing an internal transition they knew their team already loved the area!

When serving in the Bay Area I worked at an amazing church. We had some internal transitions from young people who were interns coming onto full-time staff. By having an internal pipeline of leadership we knew what we were getting. This was a big take-a-way from my time in the Bay Area. I really enjoyed working with our team and seeing us promote people from within.

2) In the future I think we are going to see more churches led by a plurality of Godly leaders

As I think about church transitions, and now I want to talk primarily about the lead role, I think we are going to see more churches moving to a plurality of leaders.

Think about North Coast church in Carlsbad. North Coast has led the way in a plurality of leadership. From what I know, they have four lead pastors. I don't know any of these men personally but have learned from two of them. From what I gather, two are the primary communicators but I'm not sure what the other two men do (I'm sure it's great work like executive pastoring).

When I think about my generation there is a shift. We enjoy working in teams. This morning I was walking my daughters to school when my oldest said: "Dad we're doing a project on the Native Americans but I don't like it. At my last school we worked more in teams, here I have to do it on my own." She gets it! Working in a team is more fun, more collaboration and more ideas.

Read this information from the Barna Group on the average age of a Senior Pastor:
When George Barna published his 1992 findings in Today’s Pastors, the median age of Protestant clergy was 44 years old. One in three pastors was under the age of 40, and one in four was over 55. Just 6 percent were 65 or older. Twenty-five years later, the average age is 54. Only one in seven pastors is under 40, and half are over 55. The percentage of church leaders 65 and older has nearly tripled, meaning there are now more pastors in the oldest age bracket than there are leaders younger than 40.
I'm not opposed to leaders in their fifties leading churches, please don't hear that. I do think that we are going to see a shift and I pray it involves people of all stages of life. The church is longing for fresh vision and fresh leadership.

3) A long hand off helps prepare the people


When I think back to one of the most successful transitions I was a part of, I think the length of the handoff helped. Now I could see a handoff taking too long. If you are curious to know more about this, I encourage you to read Transition Plan by Bob Russell. I call this book a "plane ride read." You can read it quickly and talk with others about it. In the book, Bob talks about his transition with Dave Stone. I appreciate the time they worked together, the commitment they have to the local church and the openness in the handoff.

When the leadership of a church are open about the plan it allows the people to think more about the plan. When their is more time to discuss, there is more time to prepare, process and pray. I like to think about raising up young leaders today to lead churches tomorrow. One of my life goals is to invest into young leaders and raise you strong followers of Christ.

When you think about transition in a church, what would you add to the conversation.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

The 7 best things from 2017

2017 is officially in the books. This year held some great memories and also was a year of many tears shed. For this post I want to focus on the best seven things from this year. When I look back on 2017 it was a year of growth for me. It was a year of God stretching me, inviting me to grow and inviting me to fully trust Him.

Early in 2017 I was reading Genesis. I read the story of where Jacob wrestled with God. When I think about the story I image that Jacob inflicted no pain to God in that wrestling match. I imagine him more like a child clinging to a father. This was a year of clinging to God and not letting go!

These are in particular order but hold great memories for me!

1) Family Trip to Maui

For our kids spring break we hoped on a plan and went to Maui! This is the third Hawaiian Island Ive visited and the second time we've taken our kids to Hawaii. The main reason for this trip was to celebrate my mom's 70th birthday. We had a great time with mom. We traveled all around the island, visited beaches, ate great food and took just enough pictures.

One of my goals for 2017 was to take four family vacations. This was the main vacation we took. For this trip I shut off my email, rarely answered texts and I'm pretty sure I avoided social media. To make the trip even better was that I got to see my old friend Brian Theis. I'm so thankful for that week with my family!

2) Study Trip to Israel

Near the middle of 2016 our Lead Pastor at CPC told me about a trip to Israel. I honestly never thought I'd be able to make that trip happen but in February 2017 I found myself sitting on a plane heading for the Middle East. Someone once said, "Going to Israel is like the fifth gospel." That person was right.

I blogged almost every day of that trip. I took great notes, laughed a ton, hung out with people I love and my wife even joined on the trip! There have been so many times this year that I've thought fondly of those memories. There are times I've read the Bible and thought, "I've been there!" This year I want to encourage you to make Israel a priority to visit in the next three years.

3) Snowboarding with my kids 

This was a big snowboarding year with my kids. I think that they each got over seven days on the mountain. We started our year with a five day trip to Heavenly Valley. This was another one of my family vacations where I avoided emailed and played with the kids. On our trip in January we received about six feet of snow. This meant more than snowboarding but also snow play!

Some milestones of snowboarding with kids remind me of how important it is to spend time with them. There are so many hours we logged in the car having silly conversations. We listened to music on the drive, sung loud, ate treats, smiled on the hills and overcame our struggles. Sophie rode her first Black Diamond and Leah rode her first Blue Square. It was a huge year for my little girls!

4) Moving to Ventura 

Moving to Ventura falls in the great category, but also can fall into the tough category. We love living in our new city but also miss our dear friends in the Bay Area. Ever since I can remember we've longed to move back to So Cal. Near the end of 2016 I felt this strong desire to get back to our home area. My mom had some health issues and then at the end of 2016 my dad became sick.

Not only did we get to move back home, but we also got a great city! We live on a wonderful street, met some great people and love this city. After a few weeks of living here Charity said, "I feel like this is the first city we've lived where we both fit."

5) Being called to lead a church

When God called me to Vegas I always had this thought in the back of my mind that He would one day ask me to lead a church. When we moved to San Mateo in 2012 I knew this reality was coming closer but I didn't think I was ready. About a year ago I began talking with my pastor, Mark Mitchell, about this more. It was a great talk but super tough... Leading a church meant that one day God would call us to leave the Peninsula.

Being just over six months into this new role I don't have it all figured out but am loving the calling. I enjoy the role God has given me and feel like I've functioning well in my gift mix. Coastline is such a loving church. Our leaders are so caring, the church is the most welcoming I've seen and the potential is endless. I feel so blessed to be a part of what God is doing here.

6) Disneyland trips with my family

This might seem like one that doesn't fit but it totally does. I love spending time with my family. I love riding rides and laughing with them. It's nice to live just a few hours from Disneyland and be able to take day trips to the park.

7) Seeing our families more

With moving back to So Cal, we've seen our family more this year than we have in the last five years. We've driven to Big Bear about 9-10 times. We've seen Mema and Papa in Santa Maria about the same amount of times.  Part of our desire to move was to be closer to family. I'm thrilled that our kids are getting to see their grandparents more. It's a joy to see them interact with each other!

When you look back on 2017 what are some of your favorite memories?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

My Thomas Fire Story

(Thank you to my neighbor Duke for letting me use this picture)

Monday night Charity went out to do some Christmas shopping and put the kids to bed. I was at home watching some TV and the lights kept flickering; they would go on and off. Finally the power died around 10pm. I knew the Thomas Fire was out in Santa Paula but had no clue how close the wind had pushed it in such a short period of time. The winds were hitting gusts of 60mph and were blowing extremely hard all night long.

Around 10pm I texted Charity and told her I was going to bed. See at this point I hadn't been out front of the house, only out back to take Roxie potty. I got ready for bed, in the dark, and laid down to close my eyes hoping my wife would be home soon. When Charity got home about 30 mins later she told me to start packing the house, that we need to leave because the fire was rapidly approaching. She could see the huge glow as she drove home and the fire was spreading rapidly.

I got out of bed and to my surprise the night sky was light up with a glowing red. We began packing what we considered “irreplaceable.” We stayed as calm as possible and thought about what our next moves would be.

That night was filled with many trips outside, conversations with neighbors and watching the fire slowly creep over the hills north of our home. It was sobering to see massive flames take over the hill and head towards homes just to the north of us.

It was a sleepless night where a handful of times I planned to wake up the kids and leave our home.
It was an anxious night with many text messages and little battery life.
It was a worrisome night as we thought about the food we might loose with the power outage.
(Thomas Fire on Tuesday AM from Ventura College)

We weren’t the only ones going through a variety of emotions. Neighbors were climbing on their roofs to see the spreading blaze. People were forced to leave their home on a moments notice. People in our church lost their homes. The fire hopscotched through Ventura on Tuesday, burning hillside homes, reaching into subdivisions and also consuming a hospital and a large apartment building. The fire swept through blocks, taking some homes and sparing others.
(A downed palm tree at our church)

Thankfully the only damage we know of at Coastline was a downed Palm Tree. God spared our church and our home but not everyone was as lucky. The Thomas Fire continues to spread. The work to restore what was lost will take years. Hundreds of people are displaced for their homes. Some will never see their possessions again.

As I write this, school is still closed for our children. The air quality is nothing like you'd want to breathe on a daily basis and our city smells like a campfire. It's been a hectic time. But, the church has gathered to pray and help. Leaders in our community are continuing to lead well.

Many of you have texted, called and messaged me to see how we are doing. We are safe and thinking about what is next. We are not first responders, in a situation like this, but the church is mobilizing to help. Please keep Ventura in your prayers!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

6 questions with Bret Johnson

Bret Johnson is a Christ follower, husband, father, entrepreneur and pastor. Bret grew up in sunny Southern California and currently lives in Henderson, NV. Bret is marries to Sallie Johnson and they have three wonderful adult children. Bret leads The Hastening, preaches, teaches and encourages young leaders. Bret has a deep desire to see people who are far from God draw near to the Lord.

Bret and I met late in 2004 when I was applying for a role at South Hills Church Community in Henderson, NV. Bret took a risk on hiring me and invested in my life for about five years while we were on staff together (my mom still talks about what a great communicator Bret is). Bret has the gift of hospitality and loves to welcome people into his home. When I first moved to Vegas, Bret invited my mom and fiancé over for Christmas dinner. Bret also has a passion for missions; he and I went to Mexico to scout out a location where we could introduce students to their first missions experience.

1.  You’ve just started a new ministry called “The Hastening.” Tell us about this ministry.

 The term “hastening” comes from Peter’s second letter in the New Testament. Here’s what he said:

“ But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.   Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,  waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!  But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:10-12

I formed The Hastening as a ministry this year to do several important things:   encourage renewal, revival and prayer in the body of Christ; equip the church (especially in Las Vegas) to understand and have a passion for Jesus' fame among all nations (which is the ultimate goal of all of history); network with Pastors and ministries in the Las Vegas Valley and encourage unity among churches and ministries.   John PIper has said, "You're either a zealous goer or a zealous sender (in relation to Christian missions) or you're nothing."  The Hastening is really meant to help Christ-followers understand their important role in finishing the great commission.

2. Doing ministry in Las Vegas is radically different from pretty much everywhere. What do you find most exciting about this call?

Las Vegas IS the mission field.  It's in the United States but it is a mission station for sure.  5% of the 2.1 million people who live in Las Vegas are evangelical Christians.  There are as many Mormons in Las Vegas as evangelicals. Many metro areas in the US have up to 40% of the population who are evangelicals-- places like Dallas, Atlanta, Memphis, etc.  There's a ton of opportunities to reach people.  People are not "cultural Christians" here.  They are lost or found....plain and simple.  People have come here from EVERYWHERE also.  A person reached for Christ here can have an impact in many parts of the world.

3. You’re an entrepreneur and a church planter. What do you think is the toughest part about church planting?

Far and away the toughest part of church planting is having it supported well.  The typical church plant contains a passionate Pastor and his wife and a lot of promises of support by people and churches- and honestly, just promises.    We were fortunate in coming to Las Vegas.  The Christian & MIssionary Alliance got behind us and committed $250,000 to us.  In addition, our home church paid the salary of our #2 guy for two whole years.  Another church in our sending city took a quarterly congregational offering for two years!  Each offering averaged $10,000!  That wasn't our home church!  What did they get for that financial commitment?  A church that grew to over 1,000 people in eight years.  And the most dynamic student ministry in the city in just a few years.

4. You’re a dad to three amazing adult children, what are some things you and Sallie did early in their lives to help your kids become the people they are today?

One of the things that attracted me to Sallie was that she was from a Christian family.  Not just her folks but her grandparents on both sides, aunts & uncles, truly committed people.  That was in sharp contrast to my family who I love dearly but it's just the truth.  I had a sense that when we had kids her influence and her family would really be a blessing to our kids and they would benefit from that legacy.  In addition, I think we created a healthy home-- not a perfect home-- just a healthy home.  Sallie and I worked hard both in church and at our jobs but one of us was almost always with the kids OR the grandparents watched them.  So our kids got lots of attention and care.  Kids will generally thrive if you give them a healthy environment.

5. There are many men who don’t have a life outside their work and family. What is one hobby you enjoy doing and that fills you up?

Sallie and I love to travel.  We take several short trips a year and try to see and do some different things.  We are not rich but we are smart travelers.  We were also blessed by some friends who gave us a timeshare to use so that gets us to some different places.  Our kids now live in three different states and we have family in Portland.  So, just keeping up with family means traveling some.

6. If you could give your 20 year old self one piece of advice what would it be?

That's easy.  Find a good counselor!  Deal with your junk, your family history and your sinfulness.  Find someone you trust and can be honest with.  My generation did not do soul work very well.  Millennials today are more open to this than we were (thank God!).  I have come to the conclusion that almost all of us would benefit from going to a counselor as often as we go to a medical doctor!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Jerry Wood- Celebration of Life


Jerry was born on November 26, 1935 in Long Beach, CA. Jerry was a music major in college and then drafted in the army where he played in the West Point band. While stationed in Germany, Jerry drove the bus and played in the band. His favorite memory might be returning home with a tomato red VW Bug! Jerry loved playing music. He played numerous symphonic bands but loved playing the tuba in the Octoberfest most of all.

Jerry was married to Lila, his high school sweetheart, for forty-six years. They had one daughter, Karen. Jerry moved his family to Bear Bear Lake where he worked as the BVUSD mechanic and bus driver. Jerry also worked on VW’s out of his home.

Jerry married Irene Benson eleven years ago. They enjoyed being retired, camping, playing games and spoiling their grandchildren. Jerry is survived by his wife; Irene, daughter; Karen, brother; Dick (and wife Pricilla), nieces; Becky, Beth and Belinda, stepdaughter; Beth (and husband Kevin), and stepson; Neal (and wife Charity). He is also survived by his five grandchildren; Blaze, Sophie, Leah, Phoenix, and Isaiah.

Jerry lost his fight with esophageal cancer on November 28, 2017. He will be deeply missed by all who came in contact with him as Jerry never met a stranger. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Bear Valley Community Church or Big Bear Hospice.

A memorial service will be held at Community Church Big Bear on Saturday December 9, 2017 at 10:30am.

Monday, November 27, 2017

How to bring hope this Christmas season

Yesterday we started a new, five-week, sermon series at Coastline. We're taking five Sunday's to talk through each of the candles of Advent.

The first candle in Advent is traditionally called the hope or prophecy candle. To fully grasp advent we have to look at prophecy and understand its role in announcing the Messiah. Many of us know about prophecy but we can be confused by its full meaning. The dictionary calls prophecy, “A prediction of things to come.” Before Christ was born, it was predicted that He would come. The Bible records 330 such predictions about Jesus. All of these prophecies about Jesus came from men who were called prophets. You can read what each of these prophets wrote in the Old Testament. Throughout their writings they talked about the hope coming in the Messiah. They longed to see His arrival.

Not only did the prophets talk about the coming of Jesus, they played four major roles in the Old Testament.

1) Anoint and Reject the king

The joy of anointing the king would have been a great blessing but with that blessing comes the pain of having to reject the king in times of unfaithfulness. The main time we see Isaiah reject a king is found in 7:10-25.  Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign and Ahaz refused because of that we see the wrath of the Lord getting ready to be poured out.  God says that He will bring a time on the house of Judah unlike any time they have ever seen, that He will bring the king of Assyria to dominate them (which ends up happening). God begins pronouncing judgment on the king and sharing with Ahaz the plagues that He will bring on the land. Isaiah was called to deliver that message. 

2) Circumscribe, Authorize, and Direct Warfare

Throughout the first third of Isaiah (Chap13:1-23:18) we see the prophecies about war and the commands and woes that God is pronouncing on the nations. A specific command about war is found in Isaiah Chapter 8. Just after God rejects Ahaz for his unfaithfulness Isaiah prophecies about the coming wrath of Assyria. Although this may not be the way we naturally think to direct warfare (an initial thought on directing warfare is that God would be guiding His people into a winning battle similar to what we see in Exodus 17:11 with Moses winning the battle when his arms remained raised) this is still a command that God used for war to happen and Isaiah was commanded to speak.  

3) Interpret the Law of Moses

An example of interpreting the Law of Moses in Isaiah is found in Chapter 59. Isaiah shares the sins of the Israelites with them in very blunt terms. Isaiah shares with them the commands of God that they have broken, and therefore sinned against God. The Israelites broke the sixth commandment (Duet 5:17) and committed murder. Isaiah let Israel know that “For your hands are stained with blood” (59:3). Murder is one of the saddest sins because the person committing the act has tried to take the place of God and determined who will live and who will die.

4) Intercede on Behalf of the People

The book of Isaiah highlights a few situations where Isaiah is interceding for the people. The best example that we see of Isaiah interceding for the people is found in 37:6 “ Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard…” This is a vivid picture of Isaiah coming to the Lord on behalf of a king and for the hope is a nation in turmoil. A threat has been made and Isaiah gets the chance to bring this message to God and get the truth. Intercession for the people would have been a great role to fulfill. It sounds very similar to the role of the pastor that we have now. Isaiah received the chance to come to the throne of God and bring Him requests and petitions on behalf of His chosen people. 

Looking at these four roles helps us understand more of the collective responsibility of the prophet. Knowing this brings clarity to why the prophecy candle is associated with hope. The prophets brought hope to God’s people. Sometimes that meant a rebuke, but correction was to get them back on the path of the Lord. The prophets longed to see Jesus; they announced His coming! This Christmas season, what will you glean from the prophet by sharing the word of the Lord with people around you? You don’t have to achieve a seminary degree to let someone know they are loved by God. We all have people who need to hear about Jesus and His arrival on earth. We can explain this truth to them!  

You can even pull a page from the role of the prophet and pray for those you want to share the love of Christ with. You might just start praying for them or you have been praying for a person for the last decade, don’t stop. Pray bold prayers. Ask God to give you an opportunity to share His love with that person. Think about all the people you come into contact with each week. Think about how many of them need to hear the hope of Jesus. Pray for God to give you opportunities to share His love. Then step out in confidence and invite that person to know His love. Share your personal story and how God has changed you!

This Christmas season, I think that everyone of us is looking for hope. Single moms are looking for hope so that they can support their families. Parents are hoping their kids will stop using drugs and come home. Working people are hoping for a Christmas bonus to make ends meet this year. Some students are just looking for a reason to live this Christmas season. Kids are hoping their parents will stop fighting and just get along for a week. These are just a few examples. But the greatest hope comes in the arrival of Jesus Christ. Let’s share this hope with everyone this Christmas season. Let’s look for ways to share the hope of Jesus with those around us. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Explain | Reason | Prove

At the conclusion of Acts 16 Paul and Silas left Philippi to continue preaching the Gospel throughout Greece (Acts 17:1-4). Paul and Silas traveled 100 miles south, on foot, from Philippi down to Thessalonica. Thessalonica was a business center in Macedonia. Going from Philippi to Thessalonica was a wise move for Paul. It was Paul’s custom was to find a larger city where he could share the Gospel. From the larger city he would strategically reach the surrounding area with the Gospel. It’s a brilliant plan to help the Gospel reach as many people as possible.

Luke gives us a snapshot of the ministry in Thessalonica. When we read the letters that Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica it appears that he spent months with them. But in Acts, Luke only accounts for about three weeks in the city. And much of the ministry is dedicated to reaching the Jewish people. Throughout the book of Acts we’ve seen that it was Paul’s custom to first go to the Jewish synagogue to preach the Gospel of Jesus. Paul was warmly welcomed into synagogues and was regularly invited to preach. This gave him the ability to share the good new of Jesus with his fellow Jews.

In Thessalonica Paul spent three Sabbaths sharing about Jesus the Messiah. We read that this ministry in Thessalonica was fruitful! Some of the Jews believed and they joined the brothers in their ministry. Note the words associated with Paul’s ministry there: reasoned, explained and proved. Let’s look at each of these words briefly.

To reason with a person is to have a logical conclusion to a matter. In this case Paul would use the Old Testament Scripture in hopes the Jewish people would come to a logical conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah.

After he reasoned with them he would explain that Jesus had to suffer. Some Jews expected Jesus to come as a conquering king. They knew the Messiah would come from the linage of David and therefore expected Him to be a king like David. They expected the Messiah to break the Roman oppression and free them again. Their thinking was too small. Jesus didn’t come to simply change the government but to give us freedom. Jesus wasn’t focused on an earthly kingdom but on an eternal kingdom! The Jews wanted a conquering king, not a humble servant. Therefore Paul needed to explain the Scriptures to them.

Finally he would take the time to prove all of this. He would most likely turn to the Old Testament Scriptures, the passages they were familiar with. He would go to the Psalms, Isaiah and Deuteronomy. It would also make sense for Paul to explain the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ. This would complete the picture Paul was painting for the Jews to understand the truth of Christ. He wasn’t cramming this down their throat but proving it from God’s word. I imagine he was also praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal it to them.

If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, could you reason from the Scriptures to those who are far from the Lord? Do you know how to explain what Jesus came to accomplish? Are you familiar with the Gospel and able to prove it to others?

If you’re not, it’s ok. Continue to study God’s word every week so you can reason, explain and prove that Jesus is the Messiah. At our church we open God’s word and go through it so we are all more prepared to reason, explain and prove that Jesus is the Messiah. But you can also study it more on your own.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Unstuck Church | Book Review

Title- The Unstuck Church: Equipping Churches to Experience Sustained Health

Author- Tony Morgan

Publisher- Thomas Nelson

Pages- 205

Quotable- "For the church to return to sustained health, a growing core of people needs to come to the realization that church isn't about me."
( I could have written 20 quotes from this book but only choose one)

A few months ago called me and my family on the greatest adventure/step of faith in our life. About two months into my call to lead Coastline Bible Church I was talking with my mentor about where our church is at. He is familiar with the church and cares deeply for both of us. He recommended that I read a new book by Tony Morgan. I immediately got it on Amazon and started reading it.

I've followed Tony Morgan on social media for a while and read many of his posts. He a well respected leader, pastor and helper of churches. Tony essentially breaks down the seven stages that each church will experience:
1) The Launch stage
2) Momentum growth
3) Strategic growth
4) Sustained health
5) Maintenance
6) Preservation
7) Life support
(Carey Nieuwhof explains these more on his website)

From the first chapter to the last word each chapter has been helpful in the role God has called me to in leading. Tony combines his experience, with practical application and stories from churches in the different stages that every church goes through. He writes about churches who are shaping the mission and vision of their church. He talks about helping a growth church move from leader driven to a strategy for sustained health.

Now there is also the downside, the side no church wants to find itself on (this is the beginning of the maintenance mode). Tony provides practical steps for churches that are dying to become healthy again. He speaks clearly about reaching out, investing in the community and having strategic focus. He encourages churches in these stages to make drastic changes so they can be a vital part of their community again.

One part that really stuck out to me was Tony's emphasis on prayer. He knows that no matter how much strategy, information and great ideas a pastors has it requires a movement of God to help the church become healthy. He emphasizes the need for pastors to be praying for God to reach their community. Tony also talks about staff teams and the importance of having a unified team. Team leadership is one of my favorite subjects!

This book has been fantastic in aiding me in leading the church. If you're a leader, elder, director, staff member or pastor at a church I highly encourage you to pick up this book. You might see something that could help your church move to strategic growth once again.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Mere Christianity

Title- Mere Christianity

Author- C.S. Lewis

Publisher-Harper San Fransisco
Zondervan Publishing House

Pages- Audio Book

Quotable- “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

In my life Mere Christianity is the one book I've started reading the most times and never finished. I have in fact read it two times but started it many more times. This time I decided to listen to the book and it was a great way! It's been a few weeks since I finished the book but it was one of those books I longed to listen to more.

When I think about my history with this book I'm reminded that it was one of the first books I purchased as a new believer but was so confused that I put it down. I wanted to read Lewis and other authors but I just wasn't there. Now looking back I can see/understand the topics he discusses. I can see that Lewis had a great understanding of the faith. He would speak so profoundly on a topic and then relate it to the life of a person so simply and clearly.

C.S. Lewis covers a variety of topics in this book. He talks about faith, eternity, living for Christ and many other areas. In fact the book is a compilation of a number of short radio talks Lewis did. He then took those talks and created the book. The chapter on money was very impacting to me and made me long to increase my generosity.  I really appreciate how humble Lewis is. Lewis is aware of topics he has the knowledge to discuss and topics he needs to stay away from. Turning the radio talks into the book helped him to expound just a bit more on some subjects.

Lewis talks about the need to trust in Christ. He uses such simple illustrations that it made me question why I put the book down so many times. When you're reading it you have to keep in mind that Lewis is from Europe. There are some words/phrases he uses that are tall-tell signs of his descent.

If you're looking for a book that will challenge you, encourage you and have you longing to know Christ more then grab this book!

Monday, October 30, 2017

4 reasons to take your kids camping

Since I was a little boy, I can remember loving being outside. I remember going camping with my dad on the weekend or during our summer break. He would take us on these great adventures to all these different places. Camping did it only happened with my dad. Coming from a divorced home my mom would also take us camping. It was a little less rugged but still great adventures. She would take me fishing and to Yosemite.

Now that I'm a dad I've longed to take my children, to help them experience some of the same great things that I experienced when I was younger. To be honest I kind of avoided camping with them for years. I struggled with how to get all the gear, when to make the time and even questioned if I could really do it. It was a small voice in the back of my mind, it kept telling me: "you'll never accomplish this with them. They're going to hate it! "

A couple months ago I told that small voice to "shut up!" We went to REI bought a tent, started gathering up some other gear on craigslist. After nights of looking at locations I finally made our first reservation for a camping trip.

I'm actually writing that sitting on the beach watching my kids play in the water. As I've been thinking for the last couple days here for reasons that I would encourage you to take your kids on a camping trip soon

1. Being in nature is good for your thinking in your mind

There has been significant research done on how important it is for people to be outside. The outdoor stimulate your thinking. It makes you become more creative. It get you out of the monotony of your daily life. There's research also that shows being by running water is even more helpful in this process. It spurs your creative thinking. There is nothing I enjoy more than being outdoors!

2. You can explore new areas

Once we set up our tent we went right down to the beach. The sun was gone but the pink/purple on the horizon was amazing. The girls ran down to the beach and started looking at the edge of the ocean. The tide pools were still submerged but the edges began to show. I had to pull them away from exploring that night, they would have stayed until the batteries in their headlamps died!

The next day we did more exploring! We climbed on rocks, explored the sea line, played in the waves and stared at stars in the night. We enjoyed God’s creation. We watched waves crash up against the rocks of Malibu. We looked for hidden sea caves and even saw different animals scurry around the camp.

3. It might bring back some memories from your childhood

Camping brought back some great memories for me. It reminded me of my dad. My passed away just over four months ago now. I thought about all the camping trips we went on together. I thought of some of the bad memories but for the most part they were good. I thought about my old sleeping bag and wondered what the tent looked like. Being outside created some room for me to search my mind for lost memories that I want to never loose.


4. You have the space to have great conversations

Our campsite had no cell service. Some people might consider this a curse while I look at it as a blessing. The lack of cell service meant the increase in time with my kids. Brian Berry once said "quality time happens in quantity time."
My kids asked some great questions. We talked about God, homeless people, fish, plants, creation and how far away the stars really are. If we had stayed home I can’t image those conversations taking place. If I had better cell service I might have been interrupted during dinner or another time and missed out on it.


As I look back at this first camping trip I’m hoping for many more. Might I encourage you to take your kids camping and create a list of your own?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Stranger in the Woods- Book Review

Title- The Stranger in the Woods
The extraordinary story of the last true hermit

Author- Michael Finkel

Publisher- Alfred A. Knopf

Pages- Audio Book

About 3 years ago I started listening to book on Audible. I tried to listen to one but struggled making it through. I like to hold the book, read the words and underline. I like to go back to have things to quote from and be able to re-read at a moments notice. I deleted the app and went back to paper.

The other day I was listening to the Craig Groeschel leadership podcast and heard Craig talking about listening to more leadership books. I figured I'd give it another try. My friend in the Bay Area had told me about Overdrive and being able to check out audiobooks from the local library. I logged in and started away.

The Stranger in the Woods is the first book I listened to the entire way. I would mainly listen while working out at the gym or walking. I couldn't stop listening in fact. Micheal does a great job at telling this true story of a man, Christopher Knight, who lived in the woods of Maine for 27 years alone. He had human contact twice and only spoke one word... Let that sit in.

The story goes through his life, how he lived, what he did and how he was captured. The story is fascinating. We start out by hearing of his arrest. Christopher would burglarize the cabins near North Pond and do his best to be unknown. He would only steal very little from a cabin in an attempt to make a person think they simply misplaced their batteries or left that steak at the grocery store on their departure.

Michael shares about how he lived in the Maine winters in just a tent. You can search Google to see his location and how he lived. Christopher was quite a meticulous man and very intentional in all he did. There is a line that goes something like this; "He is quite like us. In my conversation with Christopher he would talk about his plans to upgrade his tent and improve his life." I guess I didn't think that a person living in the woods would constantly be thinking about upgrading his tent.

Michael does a great job at learning from Christopher by visiting him in jail. I suppose he also did a great deal of research to help tell the entire story. I love the information he provides about hermits and others who have lived in solidarity. I was captivated by the book and have spoken with many others about it. I highly encourage you to listen to this book!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Listening to the Holy Spirit


Our church is currently studying the book of Acts. We've been in the first missionary journey of Barnabas and Paul. While I was preaching on the end of Chapter 12 and beginning of Chapter 13 I thought about how these men listened to the Holy Spirit as they were sent out to reach the entire world!

Listening to the Holy Spirit is a tough thing. We live in such a fast paced world with so many distractions that it doesn’t matter if you’re a brand new believer or a seasoned believer, it can be tough to hear to the Holy Spirit. Even if you've never been to church did you know the Holy Spirit wants to speak to you?

The church in Antioch gives us some encouragement about listening to the Lord. If we could talk with them, I think they would encourage us not to rush when the Spirit speaks. They might tell us how they were patient and stayed the course until the Holy Spirit spoke. The Antioch church would  also tell us to make sure there is unity when the Spirit speaks. There is no hint of division here in Acts 13; it is clear the leaders were unanimous because they all laid hands on the leaders to send them on the mission God called them to fulfill:
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:1-3
The church would also probably encourage us to live lives that are marked by worship, prayer and fasting. Worship is not simply singing songs but a lifestyle of praising God, and prayer is something we can partake in all the time. Fasting is also a discipline for those who follow Christ. When all these factors become a lifestyle, then we hear the voice of the Lord more clearly.

We often think that we need more training if we are going to tell others about Christ. But we don’t need more training, we need to spend more time worshipping our Lord. We need to deny our own inclinations and listen to what the Holy Spirit says to us. We need to reject distractions and increase our listening ears. We need to be surrounded with amazing people who encourage us to follow our Lord wholeheartedly. And we need people who will pray for us to take bold steps of faith.

You don’t have to go to seminary to tell someone that Jesus loves them. You don’t have to have a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Ministry to tell someone that God created them. All you have to do is have a willingness to listen to the Holy Spirit just like the men in the Antioch church did. It takes faithfulness in worship and a commitment to Christ for this to happen.

There is something special about Saul and Barnabas that we will see later in the book of Acts and let me tell you what that is: these men loved people in an extraordinary way. These men cared for people the way that Jesus cares for people. Ken Baugh once said: “One of the primary reasons that the early church took off is that Barnabas and Paul loved people the way that Jesus loved them, unconditionally and sacrificially.” These men knew lost people matter to God.

How have you slowed down to listen to the Holy Spirit lately?
How can you slow down this week to listen to the Lord?

Monday, October 09, 2017

7 Questions with Rob Hall


Rob Hall is a Christ follower, husband, father and pastor. Rob grew up in Hayward, CA (the East Bay) and currently lives in San Fransisco. Rob is married to Missy and they have three wonderful children who I've been able to know for almost their whole lives. Rob is the Lead Pastor at New North Church. Rob has a passion to see people who are far from God draw near to God by forming a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Rob and I met back in 2003 and started serving together in Henderson, NV in November 2004. Rob is one of the founding pastors of South Hills Church Community and actually hired me to be the Junior High Pastor there in 2004 (you should ask him about the picture I sent in with my resume). In 2012 I joined the staff of Central Peninsula Church where both served as Campus Pastors. Rob is one of my best friends in life. We've served the Lord together, laughed together, encouraged each other and traveled internationally together and through all that we still love each other! I'm so thankful that Rob took the time to answer these questions and I hope they help you in life and personal growth!

1. You’ve just started a new church in a city desperately in need of God. What do you find most exciting about this call from God?

The Bay Area is a crazy but wonderful place. As the center of the tech world, this is the place for innovation. In fact, every major company in the world has an office here. It's arguably the most strategic place in the world to do ministry. For me, I love being able to influence influencers. It’s also the least churched metro area in the country. For those reasons, God has us here.

2. Doing ministry in California is far from life in the Bible Belt. What do you find most inspiring about being a pastor in the Bay Area?

Everyday I am inspired by the beauty of the place and the beauty of the people I get to serve. The place-ocean, cities, trails, fishing, close to Napa and Tahoe, food, etc. This is home to world class everything. The people-diverse, smart, driven, successful, broken and lost. Love it all.

3. Headlines seem to be full with pastors who’s marriages are falling apart. What is one thing you do to keep your marriage strong and fresh? 

My wife and I have been married for 15 wonderful years. We’ve had lots of ups and downs, but we’ve been committed to several things: dates, counseling, and transparency. We love to date each other. We have both together and separate, seen Christian counselors. We are committed to living our lives as authentic and transparent as we can. Our church and our small group knows we are two imperfect people, trying our best to love God and love people.

4. About five years ago you decided to adopt your youngest son. When a couple comes to you asking advice about adoption what is one thing you would tell them?

Count ALL the costs. It is wonderful, but will take an emotional toll on you, your marriage and your family. Go in, eyes wide open. However, we believe God calls us to do HARD THINGS all the time and adoption is a calling. Not all Christians are called to adopt, but we are all called to play a part in the process (pray, give, support, etc.).

5. There are many men who don’t have a life outside their work and family. What is one hobby you enjoy doing and that fills you up?

I love, love, love, riding my motorcycle. It brings me great joy! But, I dropped it in an accident recently! Yikes. Thankfully I am ok but the bike is not. So, back to fishing I go!

6. How would you describe your current sports teams and your excitement or lack of excitement for them?  

What do I need to say? Championship rings speak for themselves! Giants-3, Warriors-2, and Niners-5! Boom!

7. If you could give your 20 year old self one piece of advice what would if be?

Learn how to pray earlier and actually pray lots more.

Make sure to follow Rob on Twitter, Instagram and go check out New North next time you're in the Bay Area!

Thursday, October 05, 2017

A pastors thought's on Las Vegas


November 2004 I put San Diego in my rear view mirror and headed for Las Vegas. I was an engaged young man who would be married in six weeks to the love of my life. We bought our first home in Vegas. God gave us two children while we served in Las Vegas. I was ordained into ministry at South Hills Church Community and cut my teeth as a young pastor. After eight years of ministry God called us back to California but my heart stayed with so many people who touched my life.

October 1, 2017 I woke up to see what I never expected. My wife said: "Did you hear there was a shooting in Vegas?" I grabbed my phone and already had text messages. One message said: "Drew Bodillo’s sister, Karessa has been shot at Vegas event. Per Ric Royce. I’ll keep you updated."

I was shocked...

I jumped on Facebook to make sure our friends were ok. I read stories of people who had been at the concert and their account. There initial comments of hearing gun fire and seeing what they've seen rocked me. I started texting friends making sure they were ok. I barely read my Bible but more prayed and scrolled and texted that morning.

As I've talked with friends and pastors who are still in Vegas I am still in shock at what occurred. I can't imagine what the scene must have been like. My intention here is not to discuss that scene but to share about the Vegas I know, the Vegas that is gathering around the community to love their neighbor. The Vegas that is seeking God during a tough time. The Vegas that is strong, caring and loves everyone!

If you look on Instagram or Facebook you will see that Vegas is united. People are praying together, people are giving, kids are writing thank you cards to first responders, churches are opening their doors, college students are buying blankets for people, lines are wrapped around buildings to give blood and Vegas is united.

I know there are dozens of ways you can help during this tough time. As you think about Vegas will you do one of the three things:
1) Give blood to help out
2) Donate to someone's "GoFund Me" account (this link directly helps Vegas)
3) Pray for Vegas

This weekend I'm praying that Vegas churches will be packed this weekend. I'm praying for believers to be ready to share their faith. I'm praying for families to find hope in a confusing time. I'm praying for pastors to be strong in this difficult time. I'm praying for the Holy Spirit to use what one man intended for evil to turn into good for the Kingdom of God. Will you join me in that prayer?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

5 thoughts about our recent move


Three months ago our family took the biggest step of faith we’ve ever taken—let that sink in real quick—and we moved to Ventura.
We packed our home.
Left our community where we were known and loved.
We loaded a moving truck and followed a call from God.

The first three months have been a wild ride. When you take in a job change, a new city, a new school for the girls and some of the loss our family experienced. A long-time friend said to me that in our move we experienced three of the most stressful events could go through. And they all happened about a week apart.

As I've been thinking about our move here are 5 thoughts that keep surfacing:

1. Our church is extremely caring and gracious 

Our church has embraced us with open arms. They've been extremely kind and caring to us in the move. My first day in the office was cut short due to health complications with my dad. I was encouraged to go see him. At my first elders meeting I found out that my dad 24-48 hours to live, they told me to leave right away and see him. It seemed like the first month I simply preached on Sunday because of loosing my father and needed to be with him and plan the funeral.

Three weeks in to our move our church had a potluck. At this potluck they threw us a "pounding". It's an old Midwest thing I hear. Everyone would bring a pound of this or a pond of that to help a new family to the area. Our cupboards were packed after the pounding!
The list goes on about their kindness.

2. Everything didn’t work out how I thought it would

On the day of our move the moving truck showed up four hours late. To this day I still think the driver was drunk but have no proof. The following day I arrived in Ventura to meet them at 9am like they said, they didn’t arrive until 5pm… The moving truck part of the story is actually trivial in all things. They had our personal belongings and things are things.

The part that didn’t work out how I wanted it to is the family aspect. My hope was to see my dad more and be closer to him. I had dreams of visiting him once a month and BBQing with him. I had ideas of him being at my kids birthday’s. I longed to have my dad visit our church and listen to the word of the Lord. God had a different plan. My dad died eight days after our move. It’s been a tough loss to grasp and my heart still is wounded.

3. The pastoral community here is wonderful 

I’ve reached out to multiple pastors and experienced nothing but arms wide open
I literally didn’t pay for a lunch with anyone the first three months (now it’s my turn to pay). Every pastor who I’ve connected with has said things like: “I’m in your corner” or “We’re rooting for you” or “I’m praying for you as you get landed here.”

The community amongst the pastors I’ve connected with has been awesome! I’m thankful for men like: Chris, Mike, Dan, Derrick, Larry, Bert, Don, Scott and many more that I’m grabbing lunch with the next couple weeks.

4. Being closer to family has been a blessing 

We’ve seen our family more in the last three months than I can remember. I can’t count how many times our kids have seen their grandparents. Charity’s parents are 1.5 hours away. My mom and Jerry are 3 hours away. I saw my dad five times in the last week of his life.

Being closer is a blessing. We were able to spend John’s 60th birthday with him. The kids love seeing Mema and Papa more. We’ve been to Big Bear as a family a few times to see my mom and Jerry. Two weeks before our move Jerry was diagnosed with stage-four cancer. It was a tough diagnosis to handle but we trust in the care of our Lord. We thrilled to be closer to my mom in this tough season.

5. Leading a church has increased my faith and prayer life

One of the greatest challenges has been leading a church. I’ve lead in pastoral ministry for almost fourteen years. My mentor, Doug Meye, once said: “Neal when you’re business says ‘Senior Pastor’ you’re going to feel a new weight of responsibility. He was right! This role has increased my prayer life, my listening to the Lord and my patience in making decisions.

I’m loving the regular preaching load and working with the staff here. We have a great church community filled with people who love the Lord. We’re seeing God add people to our community each week and praying to reach more. I’ve been praying for God to add 100 new people/families to our church by Easter. We’re longing to reach those who are far from the Lord, those who haven’t attended church in a while and those who are moving to the community. We want to see more conversion growth and stay away from transfer growth.

Let me sum up our move with a short story. Charity and I walking in downtown Ventura last month on a date. During our walk Charity said: “This is the first city we’ve lived in as a married couple that I feel like we both fit.” She is right. Ventura is a great fit for our family. Please pray for us to reach and lead in this city for decades to come!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Kayak Fishing on Santa Cruz Island


Last week I hopped on a boat from Island Packers and went West to the Santa Cruz Islands. It was an early boat but nothing earlier than other fishing trips I've been on. The boat ride was about an hour and we saw all kinds of marine life on the drive over. We saw dolphins, birds and seals. As the boat slowed to a stop we unloaded at Scorpion Bay. The next step was to pack our gear to our campsite. We wandered up the trail looking for "campsite 9."

With our tents set up we ventured back down to shore to get in the kayaks. Now kayak fishing took much more preparation than I expected. We set sail (if that is what you call it) and began paddling. The ocean in that place is a marine reserve so no fishing allowed. After paddling about 15 mins we were fishing. We basically allowed the swell to slowly push us while we fished the cliffs. I caught four calico bass but none were large enough to keep.

It was getting later in the afternoon and time to head it. We had to paddle, into the wind and waves, for the next 60-90 mins. Just to be clear, this was my first time kayaking and I was not stoked on this part! I used to time to marvel at creation and think of the Native Americans who would have done fishing like this before me. I also thought about the Hawaiians who crossed much worse. I realized I was a wuss at this point.

We made it back to shore and boy was I happy! That night it was back to camp and in bed early. The next morning we were up and off again. This time we would adventure through caves, over kelp and travel to Potato Harbor. The sights were breath-taking. The prayer time was good. And the caves... well the caves scared me. I don't like tight spaces where the ocean is swelling and it can be dark. I'm probably overly exaggerating some of this but as marvelous as they were I was reminded of how small I am.



Through caves and into other caves we traveled down the coast. We landed at Potato Harbor for lunch and it was good to stretch our legs on land I threw some lures in the harbor and caught a small sand dap (he was a feisty one). The ocean was getting bigger and I was getting more fearful. I learned something about myself that trip. I had to press through some fears of sharks, drowning and irrational fears from my childhood. It was good that I did.

One of the guys wanted to move down the coast and fish more. Now I love fishing but honestly I was scared of the ocean waves (they look much bigger from a kayak). I had to speak up and decide it was time to head back. I wasn't looking for a fight against the wind again. As we paddled back it was increasing easier than the day before. The wind was at our back and ocean was pushing us. We ventured through another cave or two and I had to pray out loud in some of them.

Looking back it was an amazing trip that really stretched my faith, invited some fun in a time where my life is full of transition and reminded me how much I missed my family.

Thanks to my GoPro I have this video to share with you

Monday, September 18, 2017

7 Questions with Danny Bowers


Danny Bowers is a Christ follower, husband, father and pastor. Danny is originally from Colorado but is a Californian in my opinion. Danny is married to Kim and they have two amazing sons. Danny is the Student & Family Pastor at Peninsula Covenant Church. Danny is a contributor to DYM, one of the top sites that resources and equips Student Ministry leaders and pastors. He has been serving students, families and training leaders for over 17 years.

It's been over a decade since I first met Danny Bowers. We were both a part of a wonderful group of Student Ministry Pastors who gathered once a year for encouragement, idea sharing and learning from great leaders. Danny had been in Student Ministries longer than me and I really looked up to all he was doing; Danny has taught me a ton about ministry and life! I was stoked when we became friends and our friendship has continued. Danny is one of the men in my life who I call for encouragement and to bounce ideas off.

I recently asked Danny 7 questions and here are his answers:

1. You’ve just started a new role at a church in a city desperately in need of God. What do you find most exciting about this call from God?

I do not have just one thing that I am MOST exciting about but there are several factors that excite me daily.
* Being in an environment that is really a PRE-CHRISTIAN thinking environment. Having the ability to see the Gospel bring LIGHT quickly into dark spaces is super encouraging.
* Families are desperate for help and many of the conversations that we’ve already had have been well received along with the love of the resources we are offering
* It’s a challenge.  There is no easy way to say it.  It’s an environment where 3% of the entire peninsula population is of a evangelical faith background…as a Christian you are an outsider and I LOVE IT

2. Doing ministry in California is far from life in the Midwest. What have been some of the differences you’ve noticed in your first month in the Bay Area? (Danny has lived in CA for 14 years and was in the Midwest for 3 years before returning)

After Spending 3 years in a MidWest/Bible Belt setting I have several take aways;
Apathy & Legalism is way more destructive than being unfamiliar with Christianity. I saw first hand how destructive apathy & legalism is in the lives of people who claim to follow Jesus and yet nowhere in their life are there clear biblical life callings of disciples.

Racism is strong & prevalent. I was appalled several times at statements people made about various races but living in a county that was 98% white racism was strong and prevalent.

There is a strong & fundamental value system that is deeply rooted in many regions of the US. I met some of the hardest working people in my life while living in the midwest for 3 years and I also saw how people who are from a very strong perspective on life live with a conviction from a political & cultural way of life view a variety of circumstances.

3. You’ve been in student ministries for over 17 years now, what are three pieces of advice you would give to a young person taking their first role in student ministries?

Be sure you have clearly communicated expectations in writing to the job you are hired to do.
Find a Mentor who is a safe voice for you and willing to challenge you but also encourage you.
Be ok being young & inexperienced.  Allow yourself to be a learner from those that have gone before you. The comparison game in ministry can be destructive.
Be a parent advocate DAY 1, even if you are not a parent.  Find parents who are a safe soundboard to give you a perspective that you won’t have naturally.

4. Headlines seem to be full with pastors who’s marriages are falling apart. I know that you and Kim have a great marriage. What is one thing you do to keep your marriage strong and fresh?

Daily Hellos. Find moments to touch base authentically daily.
Weekly Calendar Syncing. We take 2hrs a week to sync up personal calendars, kids calendars & ministry calendar to try to share the load of what the needs on our time are.
Regular Dates to enjoy life together. Sometimes it is to do grocery shopping & other times it is something romantic but weekly time together is critical.

5. There are many men who don’t have a life outside their work and family. What is one hobby you enjoy doing and that fills you up?

Coaching Football. I coached Varsity football programs as well as Middle School programs and this is a love of mine.
Camping/Hiking. Being alone in the woods with my family is a huge refreshment for me.
Writing a couple books is a new one. I am currently writing two books and it’s a leadership challenge for me.

6. Your sons are some of the most respectable young men I’ve ever met. What have you and Kim done to help raise your sons into men people want to be around?

We've have an end goal in mind. We’ve never wanted to raise “good kids”. We’ve wanted to raise Young Men, Who Love Jesus & Are a Blessing to Society…game changer in how we’ve parented
We have encouraged our sons and stood with them to embrace their life transitions with joy and never sorrow.
We meet Weekly with our sons to have conversations with them to be able to intentional challenge them and to help them grow and develop towards the end game.

7. If you could give your 20 year old self one piece of advice what would if be?

Go harder after what you know are your convictions and passions. It’ll help yourself quit trying to please people that are never please-able and lead better. That is not a license to just do what you want, but pursue hard what is worth pursuing.

A huge "Thank you" to Danny for answering these 7 questions. Go find Danny at these places to connect with him
Instagram- @dannybowers
Twitter- @dannybowers

Monday, September 11, 2017

My 9-11 Memory

It seems that you can ask any American where they were when they found out about 9-11 and they can tell you some definite details. Here is my 9-11 story:

I was living in San Diego. I was living off El Cajon and 63rd in an apartment with my sister. I was attending Mesa Community College and working nights for Dupont. I had learned how to cleaned carpets while living in Truckee and was able to get hired in San Diego doing the same thing. The only difference was for Dupont I worked nights. We would start at anytime between 4pm and 11pm on weeknights. I might get off at work at 11pm or 6am. I would find myself driving home when others were heading to work. 

I'd go home, pull the blanket over my head and fall asleep. On September 11th the phone rang. I hadn't worked too late the night before but it was a longtime friend on the other line. I recognized her voice as she said: "The world is ending..." There was a long pause. I looked out the window and didn't see Jesus in the sky so I figured I was safe... for now.

My friend began telling me about the plane crash and what happened. I remember going downstairs and being glued to the TV. I watched and consumed all the information. Since I was working nights my first class started later in the day. I slowly gathered my stuff for school and drove there. It was an eerie feeling on the freeway. Then when I got to school it was less populated than normal. Classes had recently started so campus should have been bustling, but it wasn't. 

When I think back to this day in history I will always remember where I was when I first learned about the horrible events. I still see the faces of people who lost their loved ones if I can think hard enough. I can vaguely remember the stories. I can see people falling from the Twin Towers to their death. 

Although we should never remember we still need to pray for millions in our country who are affected by this impacting day. 

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Under the Overpass- Book Review

Book Title- Under the Overpass

Author- Mike Yankoski

Publisher- Multnomah

Pages- 223

Quotable- The words "Jesus loves you" take on a whole different meaning when you're down and out. You hear them differently. You need them more. Just saying them to the next desperate person you meet could change his day. Wrap those words in a friendship, a home-cooked meal, bus fare, and you could change his life.

About 8 years ago someone gave me this book. I was smack in the middle of seminary and rebelled against reading anything that I didn't have to. In fact I rebelled longer and this book sat on my shelf. One day I felt compelled to read it. You can call it destiny, God or what you like. It might have been that I kept seeing homeless people and needed something to think about with them.

I pulled the book off the shelf knowing it would break the monotony of the reading I had been doing. It would provide a time to read about homelessness as Ventura has a much higher population than where we were in San Mateo. Having met Mike a few years back I felt like I was traveling with him. He made a conscious decision to leave a great Christian school to become homeless for about five months. Let that sink in...

This book tracks his journey of homeless from the Streets of D.C. to the beach of San Diego and all in between. The sights they saw, the violence, the drug use, and the generosity. The streets are a rough place and if you prefer to not sleep with cockroaches and rats it might prompt you to do something to help out. Mike talks about eating food out of a trash can and his faithful companion Sam. The book is riveting and was tough for me to put down at night.

Mike shares his experiences with Christians who are rude, vocal and disrespectful. In one church they attended he notes that no one sat within 30 feet of them. He does acknowledge that they smelled horrible and looked bad (sleeping in the streets will do that). It confronted me and how I would act if that happened in our church on a Sunday morning.

The book has prompted me to reach out of my comfort zone (something I did more frequently before kids) and engage with the least of these. Homelessness is a problem and someone needs to engage with people to tell them that Jesus loves them. This book has given me the confidence to connect with others I once might have turned my back to. I hope you'll read it and do the same.