Sunday, January 24, 2016

Isaiah is learning to wave!

Today Isaiah turned nine months old! I can't believe that just nine months ago we bought him home from the hospital. Having kids has made me realize how much time really does fly!

This year I'm committed to taking more pictures of my kids and documenting it. Here is a quick video of him waving...

Friday, January 22, 2016

Young Adults: State of the Union

Last Thursday, January 14, we started a new series in our Young Adults ministry. Its a seven week that I kicked off where we will go through the six core values of CPC. I started the message series off with what I called "The State of the Union" address.

The State of the Union is a rally cry for our Young Adults for the year, it is what we will focus on for this entire year. You can hear the entire message on our Young Adults site, but let me summarize what we're going to focus on.

The mission of CPC Young Adults is to make and mature more followers of Christ. 

This is the same mission statement for our entire church. We're not going to mess with that! Its a great focus for our church, especially with the location God has strategically placed us. We're going to have two main focuses for the year: to help more people find Christ and follow Christ.

Maturing Christ Followers
Our main goal for 2016, in the maturing followers of Christ part, is to double our small groups. We currently have 4 small groups meeting on a regular basis. The average size of each group is somewhere around 12 people. With the amount of people we have in our Young Adult ministry we need to double this this 8 groups so people can be in discipleship community.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
Making Christ Followers
We live in an area that is approximately 97% unchurched. That means there are a lot of people who we can tell about Jesus! We're going to do this by focusing on friendship evangelism. The goal is for each person to share Christ with one of their friends this year, in hopes that they will enter into a life changing relationship with Christ. When a person meets Christ is it normal for them to go and share that truth with others.
The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. John 1:41-42a
An Eternal Purpose
This ministry isn't about us, its about making the saving truth of Jesus Christ known. We're going to focus on reaching single and married people, on the Peninsula, ages 18-35. We're going to do this by meeting on a regular basis. If its Thursday, our Young Adult ministry will be meeting. We're going to do this because people are dying without the saving truth of Jesus.

Hope to see you on Thursday!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Belonging to Christ

On Sunday I preached a message on Romans 7:1-6. It was titled "Belonging to Christ" and I looked at the difference between being married to the law and belonging to Christ.

This was a great text for me to preach because I've never been able to keep the law. I have a long history of not being able to keep the law! I was fifteen years old the first time I was arrested. I was accused of doing a drive-by-shooting. I was pulled from the back of a car and had a shotgun firmly pressed against the back of my head while on my knees in the middle of the road. I didn’t do a drive-by-shooting, I know all criminals say they didn’t do it, but I was just a fifteen year old throwing fireworks out of the car.

Watch the entire sermon to hear the whole story and what's changed in my life...

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sophie's first time snowboarding

Growing up I loved snowboarding! I started the sport around the 5th grade. I had skied since I was 5 years old but once I saw a snowboard I couldn't get it out of my mind. I begged my mom to just rent me one for a day... and she did! She brought me to Snow Summit, put me on the chairlift and picked me up at 4:30 pm.

Sophie's experience was a little different than mine! See when I was a kid you couldn't just go get a snowboard lesson because they didn't have them.

I picked up Sophie from school and we jumped in the race car (Subaru Outback). We set our direction for Truckee, CA and we were off! We had a ton of fun talking in the car, making jokes and stopping for potty breaks.

The part of the (long) drive was when we got up to snow level. It was great seeing Sophie's face and hearing her excitement about our trip! We finally made it to Truckee and stopped by Tahoe Dave's to get Sophie her rental board.

After getting her rental we stopped by friend's house to stay the night. Peanut and Heather welcomed us with open arms and a warm meal on the table.

We stayed up late playing in the snow, making snowballs, sledding down the driveway and doing things every kid should have a chance to do with another kid their age.

I can't really say we woke up early in the morning, but it was pretty early when we woke up. We geared up and headed to Northstar for the day. The parking lot was packed by the time we arrived and we were ready for our day! Sophie did great with the cold weather and as you can see she is all geared up.

We went to Gondola first and then headed over a perfect spot for her to practice. Sophie did great at getting on her heel edge and learning to stop. She really is a natural at snowboarding. I used to teach lessons and I can see talent in kids; she has it.

After practicing for a little while we moved up to the magic carpet. The magic carpet it a great place for a kid to practice. It allowed Sophie to get a few chances to practice her J turns and work on her stopping.

Overall she did awesome! Take a look for yourself at this video I made for her from her first day!

Monday, January 11, 2016

11 Years of Marriage

On January 7, 2005 I married my best friend!

We met as interns at Eastlake Church in South San Diego
I asked her to marry me on the beach in Carlsbad
We got married in Encinitas
Two days later we immediately moved to Vegas to serve at South Hills
We had two kids
Moved to San Mateo to serve at CPC
Just had another kid
And celebrated 11 years of marriage!

When I look back on our lives there are too many thoughts to write down here but here are a few I'd like to share.

We've traveled
I was trying to do the math on how much we've been blessed to be able to travel together. Here is what I came up with so far:
We've visited 6 different countries (Mexico, Canada, Burkina Faso, Italy, Jamaica, The Bahamas)
Set foot on three continents together (North America, Europe and Africa)
Traveled to 12 states (California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Florida, New York, Atlanta, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Hawaii)

And this year we  celebrated our anniversary in beautiful Half Moon Bay, CA. We stayed at Oceano hotel and had dinner at Flavor. It was a great time to hang out, chat and enjoy our marriage. We took some time to look back on life and thank God for all we've been able to do together.

We've laughed
One of the things we've done most together is to laugh. Sure we have our times where we disagree on things but we'd rather laugh together. Sometimes we laugh at each other for silly things we've done. Sometimes we laugh at movies. Sometimes we laugh at the crazy things our kids say or the silly decisions we've made but we sure do laugh a lot and that has kept us in good spirits!

We've multiplied
We were reminded of this fact again this year because we brought our little Isaiah with us on the trip. For the most part he did really well and is the best third wheel ever. We have been very blessed to have children in our youth. We have friends who have struggled with pregnancy and experienced infertility. We are so thankful for the children God has given us!

Thanks for all the fun times Charity! Looking forward to many more.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Leah's first time snowboarding

January 1, 2016 was one of the best days of my life.

I didn't sleep in, in fact I woke up early
I didn't sit around watching football, I spent most of the day driving
I didn't have a fantastic dinner, I ate turkey jerky in the car

It was a great day because I was able to take my daughter snowboarding for the first time! I started snowboarding when I was about 12 years old and fell in love with the sport! When I dropped out of high school, at the age of 17, the first thing I did was head to the slopes to ride. When I thought about moving out of the house I head north to Truckee so I could snowboard more. Snowboarding is in my bones and taking my little Lead was so fun!

I woke her up at 6 am and gently brought her to the car, buckled her in and we hit the road. After two hours of driving she was pretty bored but she hung in there. We made it to Truckee and stopped by Tahoe Dave's to pick up her rental board. She was so excited that she wouldn't take the boots off in the shop but wore them to the car.

We headed to Northstar and got ready in the parking lot where we boarded the shuttle and made it to the mountain. There were light, I stress LIGHT, flurries as we walked to the gondola and Leah took it all in. She put her hands out and slowly walked just enjoying the beautiful 12 degree morning.

After getting up we spent most of the day snowboarding with some breaks to make snow angels, build snowmen and play polar bear family.

Thanks to my GoPro I was able to record some of the days events. The goal for the end of the day was to ride the chairlift and we made that goal! It was such a great day.

I'm so proud of my little girl for all her hard work. I knew the day was a huge success when we were driving home and I looked back to find this.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Bible Reading Plan that Works

As 2015 ends and 2016 is nearing you might be thinking what you will be reading in God's word this year. You also might have flashbacks to a Bible reading plan that you started and completely failed. Maybe you set out to read the entire Bible one year and it was a complete flop. Sure, you held fast in January but once you arrived at Leviticus you got lost and confused; your Bible time felt dry and you just quit. Maybe you last longer but once August hit and you were in the thick of the writings of the prophet Jeremiah you couldn't handle it anymore.

What makes a reading plan successful?

First, you have to make reading God's word a priority out of a love for Him. Don't make it guilt based. Any reading plan that is guilt based isn't going to bring about the fruitful growth in your walk with Christ that you're desiring.

Second, it has to be manageable. I have a friend who surfs. I have surfed in the past but not in almost a decade. When we talked about Bible reading plans I asked him, "If you took me surfing would you take me first to Mavericks?" Of course he responded with an emphatic, "NO!" If you've never had a daily reading time, don't set out to read the Bible in a year. Start with something more manageable, maybe that would be an investment of 5 minutes a morning.

Here are three ideas you could choose from for a Bible reading plan that works this year.

Read the book of John
The book of John is known as "the other Gospel". It's the last Gospel written and is found in the New Testament. This is a great place to start reading the Bible for a handful of reasons. First, it focuses on Jesus. The book is dedicated to the life of Christ and keeps our focus on Jesus. Second, it's 21 chapters long. Studies show it takes us 21 days to make something a habit. If you read one chapter of John each day for the next 21 days Bible reading will be a habit. Finally it will help you understand how God sent Christ so we would believe.
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31 
Read the Proverbs 
When I started reading the Bible this is where I began. I was leaving my men's small group one evening and a guy asked me, "Neal, where are you reading in God's word right now?" I was frustrated because I didn't know where to read! He took about five minutes to explain how reading the Proverbs was a great place to start. The book of Proverbs is broken into thirty-one chapters. We all know there are 31 days in the longest month. The plan with reading the Proverbs is to read the Proverb that correlates to the date of the month. For example, if today is December 29 then you would read Proverbs 29. If you miss a day, just skip ahead and read based on the date.

Read the Whole Bible
This reading plan is not for the faint of heart. If you haven't spent much time reading God's word I encourage you to build up to this. I was a Christian for about 2-3 years before I embarked on this journey. Now, its a brilliant journey and a fantastic one! This is the plan that I have used for about twelve years now. I've lead groups of people through the plan and unfortunately seen more people stop the reading plan than have completed it.

It takes a commitment of about 20 minutes a day, each day; every day of the year. You start in Genesis and read about 3-5 chapters a day. If you have been a Christ follower for years and are looking for a new invitation into God's word this is for you.

No matter what plan you choose to go with reading God's word on a daily basis is such a filling part of the life of a Christ follower. It sets you a part from the rest of the world. It gives you guidance and direction. It will shape you, challenge and require you to think about how you're living your life!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

My struggle with greed

I grew up in a middle-class, single income, family. It was a single income family because my mom and dad got divorced when I was about two years old and I lived with my mom. Even though we didn’t have much money we always had my grandma to fall back on when times got tough. When I was in second grade I was assigned a project to explain what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had many aspirations of what I’d do when I grew up, but on this particular project I wrote all about my desire to be on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

It was a dream of mine to have a yellow Lamborghini, a huge home and to have more money than I could image. Each time I watched the show my desire for the things the people had increased. When the show was over it was time to return back to the reality of living in a two-bedroom house and that my allowance would never buy me the things the people on the show had. It was the reality that there were things in this world I could never afford. The desire for monetary gain was planted early in my life, and established strong roots. After giving my life to Christ I had to begin fighting this strong desire in my heart.

Have there been times where you’ve struggled with loving money more than God?
Has this ever led to a lack of contentment with God?

If you’ve ever found yourself trying to find satisfaction with money and not God then this is for you. Let’s look at what God’s word says about finding satisfaction in Him, not material things.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?”
Hebrews 13:5-6

The writer starts our text out with an instruction for us to be free from the love of money (read Hebrews 13:5). The verse is not only an instruction but there is a reason for the instruction. Do you see the two parts? Then there is evidence, from the Old Testament, to back up the instruction. We’re instructed to keep our lives free from the love of money. Why would this instruction be given to God’s chosen people? Maybe a love for money was capturing their attention more than a love for God.

If you’re struggling with being content go back and read at what comes next (Hebrews 13:6). We find that contentment right here, right in God’s word! This really begins to get to the core issue in our lives, is your confidence in money or God? When you trust God, you can confidently say this. You can confidently know that God is your helper and there is nothing to fear. Now this doesn’t exempt us from suffering or encountering hard times in our lives. This doesn’t mean we won’t struggle financially. This means we make a commitment to find our confidence in God. We do this when we know God, when we know His word and His character.

Think about how often Christ meets all our physical needs. Think about all the times God has provided for you.

This passage really brings out two reminders for us.

The first is that money will never bring the fulfillment that only God can.

No matter how much you accumulate, no matter how many zeros you have in your bank account or 403b it will never bring you the fulfillment that only God can. This why you need to trust deeply in Scripture and cling to God’s promises found in Scripture. If you are trying to fulfillment in God, you might need to be like the woman in Africa was sacrificially gave and increased her need to trust in God.

The second reminder is: Money will never make you content, no matter how much you have.

Let me leave you with a great quote from Ian Morgan Cron: “If your heart’s crammed tight with material things and a thirst for wealth there’s no space left for God.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Preparing Your Heart for Worship

Before the worship service can begin the necessary preparations must occur
27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. 28 The musicians also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem—from the villages of the Netophathites, 29 from Beth Gilgal, and from the area of Geba and Azmaveth, for the musicians had built villages for themselves around Jerusalem. 30 When the priests and Levites had purified themselves ceremonially, they purified the people, the gates and the wall. Nehemiah 12:27-30
The text never tells us how long after the completion of the wall this dedication took place, but we can assume it was very soon. The worship for this service was extremely important, so important that Levites were sought out to celebrate. The Levites were the ones who performed all the various functions revolving around God’s Temple and its worship. Not only were the Levites sought out to participate in the worship service, so were the musicians. Musicians came with their instruments from surrounding towns to celebrate all God had done for Israel. This gathering of the people united the residents of Jerusalem with the Israelites residing in the countryside.

Look how they came in verse 27; joyfully. They were brought to joyfully celebrate but before they could celebrate there needed to be a purification (vs. 30). We don’t know exactly what this purification consisted of. It may have had something to do with ceremonial washing, fasting could have been involved, it could have involved abstaining from sexual relations and possibly sin offerings. The gates and the walls were purified also. The gates and walls may have been purified by sprinkling them with the blood of the sacrifices. All of these were part of the purification ceremony described in the Law of Moses. It would not have been uncommon to purify animate and inanimate objects.

Why would they start with all of this purification? Because joyful worship requires a pure heart. Have you ever tried to worship while harboring or hiding sin from the Lord? It makes it almost impossible. Some people come to church, put on a smile and try to worship the Lord all while hiding sin in their hearts. The book of Hebrews says,
“let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22). 
Before you walk into church do you ask God to cleanse your heart? Are you in the regular habit of confessing your sin before worship? If not, now is a great time to start purifying yourself before worship. The truth is, God cares more about the heart in worship than in the voice.

Let me explain this more. When I surrender my life to the Lord at the age of 20 I began attending a growing church that meet at San Diego State University. The worship was great. The sermons were convicting. The 7:15pm service was full of young people. And the girls were hot! I would arrive early, walk down to the very front of the church and pretend that I was looking for a friend. While scanning the crowd I would look for the hottest girl I could find with a seat open next to her. I did this a few times in an attempt to meet girls with little success. The reason; my heart was impure. After trying this a few times God convicted me of my actions. How could I walk into church and make picking up girls my main focus. I needed to purify my heart and focus on God. This is what the Israelites did. They purified their hearts and turned their focus on God.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Three Ways to Pray for our Young Adults Retreat

This weekend our Young Adult ministry is heading to Camp Hammer for a weekend retreat. Its been a few years since I've lead a retreat and I'm really excited because I know the impact it has. There is something special about getting away from the day-to-day and connecting with God in the trees.

For this weekend we're bringing in Christian Huang to teach us. Christian is super passionate and living on the front lines of ministry. He and I've hung out a few times and I'm really looking forward to hanging out more with him. We're also going to have Josiah James come and lead us in worship. Josiah is a great friend of CPC and pretty much leads at one of our campuses on a monthly basis. He is going to do a phenomenal job leading us into the presence of God.

I'm really excited for this weekend and praying for what God is going to do in the lives of our Young Adults. Will you join me in prayer for the weekend? Here are three ways you can pray for our weekend:

1) Pray for Christian and Josiah
These guys are going to be leading our chapel times and helping us draw closer to God. Will you please pray for God to use them?

2) Pray for new connections
For many people this will be their first time going away with our Young Adult ministry. Will you please pray for people to make new connections that will help the grow in their walk with Christ?

3) Pray for God to change hearts
When our hearts are changed, it changes the direction of our lives. Will you please pray for God to change all of our hearts while we're away this weekend?

Thanks for praying for our time away!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Confessions of a Pastor: I judge

We've currently been studying the book of Romans at my church and I preached a few weeks ago on Romans 2:1-16. At the beginning of chapter 2 Paul writes this:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1
As I studied for this sermon I stumbled upon a psychology term called projection. The people Paul is addressing were passing judgment on others to make themselves feel better. Paul uncovers a common human shortcoming, namely our tendency to be critical of everybody except ourselves. Think about it, we have a keen ability to point out in others the faults we see in ourselves in ourselves. We expose the shortcomings of others while concealing our own similar shortcomings. This tendency was made popular in 20th century psychology by Freud and is called “projection”, but we see that Paul described it centuries before.

It reminds me of an encounter that occurred between the king of Israel and the prophet Nathan in the Old Testament. Nathan came to King David and shared a short story about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had a huge farm and tons of livestock, but the poor man had only one little sheep and this sheep was like a member of the family to him. The rich man had a guest in town, but he didn’t want to turn any of his cows into hamburger so he went to the poor man and forcefully took his only sheep for his guest’s dinner. David burned with anger and instantly condemned the man. Then Nathan extended a pointed finger at David’s chest and revealed to him that he, David, was the rich man in the story. You see, David committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband to cover up his sin, but he was so very quick to judge the other man in the fictional story.

Bring it to our lives. I find that I am more likely to find fault with my children for things I struggle with myself than for issues I don’t tend to struggle with. Let me give you an example. One of my daughters is constantly saying, “I want.”  When she says this I get upset, but each time these words leave her mouth I get increasingly upset. As I’ve examined this I’ve realized the failure lies within me. My disgust with my daughter’s words is a direct reflection of my own selfishness. She hears me say, “I want a new iPhone,” “I want a new GoPro.” I am the hypocrite. I am condemning my daughter for my failure!

Its interesting that we are far quicker to judge others than we are to judge ourselves, and by doing so we condemn ourselves! So if I just leave it here basically it sounds like this, "We suck and there is nothing we can do."

But that's not it. The problem is a deep heart issue and we need to address it. The first part is to identify the issue so we can address it. This week will you take time to identify an area where you are critical of others but give yourself slack. Once you find that area take time to work on improving and being less judgmental.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:1-2

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The ACTS model of prayer

ACTS is an acronym that can help keep you on track when you’re praying. If you ever found yourself coming to God in prayer and just feel so disconnected. At one minute you’re repenting of you sins and the next sentence you’re praying for your friend at work who doesn’t know Christ. This style of prayer can keep you more focused and intentional in your prayer life.

A- Adoration
C- Confession
T- Thanksgiving
S- Supplication

Start out with “A”. Its where you take time to adore God. Start out by adoring Him for who He is, for what He’s done in your life. Take time to adore His creative ability and His character. This is where you get to adore God and remind yourself of who you are approaching. Tell God how powerful and awesome He is! Too many times when we are praying I think we neglect to really thank God for who He is and what He is doing, I am talking about myself also. It is very easy to just jump in and make prayer all about us.

Next we come to the “C” in ACTS. Lay all your sin on the table. Confess it all to God. Confess your thoughts, your actions, your words and everything. Don’t hold it back. God knows all about it. If there is any sin that can hold you back from praising Him now is the time to confess that. Some passages in the Scripture that I turn to at this point are: Psalms 51:5-6 or 1 John 1:9.  Maybe you feel like you are not worth anything or that you have sinned too much and God could never forgive you.  That’s not true. God is a forgiving God but we have to confess our sins.

After we’ve confessed our sin we move to Thanksgiving. We get to thank God for all He has given us, for His provision, for His endless love, for our health, for our family, for our friends and the list goes on. This is where the Psalms can come in very handy in helping to thank God for all He’s done. If you are having a hard time thanking God, this is a good sign that you need to thank God. This will begin to turn your mind to Him and His goodness. Look at what Psalm 118 says.

Notice, up until this point we have not made one request of God except to forgive our sins. Now we come to the Supplication time, this just means to ask for something. If you are anxious about work, ask God to lead you. If you are wondering about a relationship, ask God to help you. If you are stressing on a place to live, ask God to show you what to do. You can also pray for others, you don’t just have to pray for yourself. It will be easier to pray for yourself and I would encourage you to start out by praying for others. Pray for your family, your friends, pray for people who are far from God or people who are serving God in a different country. The more I pray for others, the more I find my requests begin to seem silly.

Monday, October 26, 2015

My Expanded Role

This fall I begun taking on more leadership at CPC. The change did not happen immediately but came about through many conversations and prayer. About 18 months ago I actually had a young man approach me and say, "I've been talking with some leaders and we all think you would be a great fit. Would you consider leading our Young Adult ministry?" Now I was thrilled he thought I would be a good fit, but the request wasn't coming from our elders and I wasn't ready to entertain a conversation like that.

Fast forward to early Spring 2015 and our Executive Team began the discussion. We talked about some internal changes in our responsibilities. These were great conversations that happened over a period of time. If this was going to be a reality it mean a few things for me. I would need to:
Training up an a capable, talented, and very gifted young leader to be our children's champion.

It also meant I wouldn't have the capacity to continue leading the Global Leadership Summit. This was a tough choice because I've enjoyed this part of my role, but I think this expanded role was going to be more important.

Now it was time to begin communicating. This is a place where many people mess things up. Our Executive Team drew out a plan and began to execute. During the summer we announced the plan to staff and key volunteer leaders. It was met with overwhelming enthusiasm. Starting September the change was in full effect and now I'm leading our Young Adults ministry.

People have asked me questions on this transition and I want to answer some of them here:

Why did you say yes to this role?
Well I didn't say "yes" out loud at first (although I did inside). It took some conversations and prayer to get me there. After having conversations with my wife, my friends, and my pastor I said yes. Let me make it clear, It wasn't a reluctant yes. I understand the impact leading a group of young adults can have in the world. I really wanted to make sure it was God opening the door for me and not just me thinking it was a cool idea.

Ultimately I said, "yes" because I think investing in young people is one of the best things I can do with my life (besides loving God and loving my family). I want to be investing my life into others. I also want to connect more with young adults at my church. There was much affirmation that I was the right guy to do this. And I want to grow close now in hopes that many of us will be leading, side-by-side, for many years on the Peninsula.

Are you no longer a campus pastor?
I am still a campus pastor. I love leading my campus. I am so thankful to work with my elders, lead pastor and campus staff. This is not a completely different role, this is an expansion of my current role.

Are you excited to lead in this role?
Very much! Most of my ministry has been working with people younger than me. I'm excited to pass on some of what I've learned and to learn from our young adults. The first few months have been a whirlwind of learning and leading, I'm excited to learn more so I can actively lead this group closer to God.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Much Needed Break

This September I made a choice to not participate in any, and all, social media. For some people this might sound as difficult as a junkie kicking heroin. What drives a person, like myself, to abstain from all social media for a month?

There were two main factors in my decision: God and my family.

Focusing on God
It seems like very now and then I need to purge myself of all the other voices in life. This September was a time where I needed to find more clarity and deeper connection with God. My goal in taking this time off was to connect more with God. As I reflect on the month of September I'm still not completely sure I accomplished what I originally set out to accomplish. I wish I could say with absolute resolve that I accomplished it, but I can't.

I can say that I accomplished my goal of not being on social media, but I wish I would have connected with God more in this time. I could probably take a similar break like this for the next ten years and never fully accomplish what I set out to do because I tend to set lofty goals.

Focusing on my Family

Although I may not have accomplished my goal of connecting with God to the extent I desired, I did connect more with my family.

There is a huge benefit of not being on social media. The benefit, for me, is feeling like I don't have to check on social media. Therefore I was able to focus more on my family. I didn't have this lingering thought; "What is going on now." There was a desire to scroll but I know I had made a commitment to not scroll.

Also, I didn't feel the pressure to take the perfect picture of my kids to post on Instagram. I didn't have to tweet every funny thing my kids said. Or keep up on the news on Facebook. It was freeing... seriously, it was freeing!

Well my month is over, and I took a little longer just because it felt so good. I plan on slowly engaging back in social media but on a small level than I used to. I'm not going to check Instagram everyday. I'm might miss your birthday on Facebook. You may never see me on periscope again. But you're welcome to call up and we could grab a coffee!

If you are thinking of doing something like this let me know. Or if you've done something similar share what you learned.

Monday, August 31, 2015

No Social Media September

Last year, during the month of September, Charity and I ate no added sugar. It was a great experience of self discipline and a time we used to seek God more. It was really hard but really good! As September approaches us (tomorrow) I'm going to do a new No Something this September.

This one will be No Social Media September

The thoughts racing through your mind right now:
"Are you serious?!"
"How can you do that?"
"Think of all you're going to miss out on!"

Let me answer all of those

Yes, I am Serious
This is not something new for me. I've done many stents away from social media. I think the first was about 3 years ago when I was on sabbatical. It was a freeing time in my life! I've found in my life that it becomes a very natural thing, when I'm bored or have down time, to simply grab my phone and scroll through social media. While I don't think this is a bad thing I do think it's become a habit in my life I want to break.

I am sick of seeing people walking around staring at their screen
I am sick of seeing parents ignore their children
I am sick of missing out of my life because of a screen in my hand
I am sick of being distracted by things that are useless to me
I am sick of feeling tied to "knowing" what is going on every where

With God's Help
This isn't going to be something easy, at first. For the first week, probably the first 3-5 days, its going to be the most difficult. This is basically a fast. I am going to do this with God's help because I am going to replace the time, or as my friend Shawn Bagley taught me, "I'm going to redeem the time."

Social media has become a natural part of our day. There is a show I enjoy watching and one of the characters in the show always has her phone in her hand; ALWAYS. This is going to take some time to break something that is so natural in my life but I'm really excited to do it!

Think of All I Gain 
Some might think of all I'm going to miss out on. Trust me, what I'm going to gain is more than I'm going to miss. I want my life to be more personal interactions with others. Interactions that are face to face or on a phone call. I want to not just "like" my friends pictures, I want to hear what is going on in your life.

Now this might be a lofty goal to accomplish seeing that we have three children and it seems like our lives are going at a rapid rate of movement. But I am going to gain so much. I'm going to gain because I'm not just giving something up to give it up. I'm giving this up to seek God more, to spend more time with my kids and to pray.

I've been convicted over the last couple months
I've had hard conversations this summer
I've been sleep deprived and I need to hear from God

I'm excited for what there is to gain from this! Who knows, maybe you will join me! Its not too late.
Give me a call this month and let's chat!

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Combination of Prayer & Hard Work

This summer my church studied the life of Nehemiah. Nehemiah lived roughly 450 years before Jesus. Nehemiah was an Israelite. He was most likely born in the city of Susa, the capital city of Persia during the exile. We know he served under King Artaxerxes and received heart-breaking news about what had happened in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah didn't ignore the news, he didn't share it on Facebook or create a cool picture to post on Instagram and then move on with his life.

A commitment to prayer
When Nehemiah learned about the condition of Jerusalem, it broke his heart. Nehemiah wept, fasted and prayed for the city of God (Nehemiah 1:4). From reading the Bible it doesn't appear that Nehemiah prayed for Jerusalem only once. It doesn't seem like he stopped praying after a week or a month either. Nehemiah had this intense commitment to prayer:
"Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” Nehemiah 1:11
Reading the first chapter of Nehemiah you get this sense of a deep commitment Nehemiah had to prayer.
Nehemiah doesn't complain to his friends.
Nehemiah doesn't turn to a bowl of ice cream to console him.
Nehemiah doesn't become apathetic and simply watch TV.
Nehemiah makes this huge commitment to prayer. But it doesn't stop there.

A commitment to hard work
After months of praying (about 4 months). Nehemiah takes a step of faith and asks the king for permission to return to Jerusalem and help rebuild the city. Take note, this is the same king who shut the project down years earlier and Persian kings weren't known for changing their mind. But because of his commitment to prayer, God moves in a huge way!

Nehemiah receives permission to return to Jerusalem. In ancient terms, we’re talking about a four month journey full of danger and potential for disaster. So this is no small deal to travel for four months on horseback. Nehemiah didn’t fly first-class because he worked for the king. After arriving in the city he inspects the wall (by night) to come up with a plan of how to rebuild the city.

Now comes the hard work. Nehemiah must inspire a group of un-inspired people to take part of a massive rebuilding project. After facing relentless opposition Nehemiah pressed on to rebuild the wall. Finally, with calloused hands and their faces covered in sweat the wall was completed!

The book doesn't end there though. There is a huge revival. The city is repopulated the God's people worship in an awesome way. If you've never studied the life of Nehemiah I highly recommend it.

Studying the life of Nehemiah has been impacting to me. I've been trying to figure this balance of hard work and prayer. In the last couple years I have had a sense that as I work harder I want to pray more. To be honest, I see myself working harder. I am more familiar with pastoral ministry but by no means am perfect.

What happens when you work more though is you can begin to think it all depends on you. This is the opposite of what I'm aiming for. My hope is the outcome of my efforts is a reflection of my prayer life. The question the life of Nehemiah has left in my mind is, "How can I have a strong commitment to hard work and prayer?"

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Guarding Your Life

This summer my church has been studying the book of Nehemiah. The life of Nehemiah has inspired me! Let me share some of his story. Nehemiah had received his brother’s report about Jerusalem while he was living in Susa. King Artaxerxes granted Nehemiah permission to travel to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. It only took fifty-two days to rebuild the wall. From the time he first heard about the problem when he was in Susa until the wall was completed was only nine months. Nehemiah’s job wasn’t to just rebuild the wall, but to establish the people of God as a mature community of people living within the walls of Jerusalem. Basically he was called to Urban Renewal.

After the wall is rebuilt Nehemiah is called to establish God's people in the city of Jerusalem. Now that Nehemiah has men, he can trust, in the leadership roles he gives them directions to keep the gates shut (read Nehemiah 7:3). I find it significant that he puts such an emphasis on keeping the gates shut and having men there to guard them. 

Its almost like Nehemiah has just established the first neighborhood watch program. His actions reveal that Nehemiah was still concerned about Jerusalem. There was still a possibility of invasion from the enemy who opposed the rebuilding of the wall. There was another invasion he is concerned about also, a more subtle invasion. This was the invasion of thoughts and ideas coming through the gates that could undermine the work of God.

Let me ask you a few questions. Are you guarding the gates around your own life? Do you have things you just won’t let in? Sure, you lock your doors to keep your home safe at night. You lock your car so no one steals it. But do you have gates on your phone to protect your walk with the Lord? Do you have gates on your conversations at work with people of the opposite gender to protect your marriage from adultery? Do you have gates to prevent yourself from falling into addiction? The reason we don’t put up gates is because its hard work!

Let me get personal on the need for gates in our lives. You might know that I have an addictive personality. I started drinking alcohol at the age of 13. I’ve been arrested multiple times for alcohol related instances, the first being when I was 17 years old. When I was 20 I surrendered my life to the Lord and made a commitment to follow Him. I knew that meant I needed to give up alcohol, I needed to put up a gate in my life to keep alcohol out because I am not the kind of person who can have just one drink. This has been a gate I’ve had to reinforce, lock shut and fight to keep in place. There have been many times that I wanted to have just one sip but I know, if I start drinking again, sooner or later I’m going to end up back in jail.

I’ve keep this gate up for 15 years now and have to fight daily to keep it in place because its still a struggle for me. I have other gates up too, gates to keep porn out, gates to stay away from gambling, gates to avoid overspending because I’ve seen how destructive these temptations have been for me. When talking about gates in our lives, I’m not saying we shut ourselves off from the world but we do guard ourselves from the impurity of the world.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I lost my joy

To be completely honest, this summer I’ve struggled with having joy in the Lord.
I’ve struggled to worship with a joyful heart.

This summer something horrible became obvious to me. It didn't happen immediately but more over time. I'm embarrassed to admit that I felt like I lost my joy. I felt like someone pulled the plug on my  joy and sat there passively watching it drain because I didn't know how to stop it.

It didn't happen immediately. It was through a series of events. There were so tough things that happened at work. I hurt my back. We had to cut our vacation short because our son wasn't sleeping. There were things going on with family. I think if it was one of these I would have been fine, but the combination of all of them, happening so close together, made it tough.

A few weeks ago I was preaching at a summer camp near Big Bear Lake and the worship overpowered me, as I began singing I felt my heart begin to change. At first I was singing because "it was the right thing to do." I felt like if the speaker wasn't singing it would look bad. As the week progressed something changed. The words changed from just singing to worship. There was a particular song, Eternal King that For All Seasons sang. The words overpowered me. It was exactly what I needed to hear!

I felt my joy returning the more I sang it. Before camp was done I knew I had to get their album and get this song in my bones. On my drive home from camp I found myself listening to Eternal King on repeat. It was exactly what I needed to worship The Lord with Joy. The book of Nehemiah says:
And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. Nehemiah 12:43
The people had great joy because God had given them great joy!

You might ask this, “Does joy come before worship or does joy come in worship?” I think the text is teaching us that God gives us joy when we worship. The Psalms are full of instruction on joyful worship. Psalm 33:1 says, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.”

You have the hope of eternity. You worship a living and active God who cares personally about each and every one of us. Sure, you might have struggles in the week but joy is found when we sing to the Lord.

Christianity itself is joyous. This is not difficult to apply. Nehemiah taught us that times of rejoicing are not a one time experience but are ongoing moments in the lives of those who have committed themselves to God. The account of Biblical celebration of worship is an invitation to us. We are invited to rejoice. We all battle our daily struggles which is why it is vitally important for us to purify ourselves before we worship God. We need to examine our hearts and do our best to prepare ourselves for worship. Its appropriate for us to arrive early and to sing with joy. In fact, we should be the most joyous group of people on the Peninsula right now. We celebrate the great acts of God on our behalf, particularly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When we do this others are going to notice our joy. People around us are going to start talking about us. They are going to start talking among themselves about the joy we exude. Then there will come a day when they will ask us about the joy we have. Others may have moments of happiness, but our joy will outlast that. The Jews rejoiced as they worshipped God. Their joy flooded the surrounding areas. It wasn’t their circumstances that had changed, it was their hearts. Your circumstances may not change, but you can still choose to worship God with joy. The reality is, we all worship something so let’s choose to worship God with a  joyful heart.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My Beepi Experience

I'm not sure how many of you enjoy buying a car, I do not. In fact, I extremely dislike the hours I have to spend online trying to find a car. Then you have to contact them and see if it's still available and then see it.

Our car buying experience lead us to a dealership. We had a hard time finding what we wanted from a private party. We went to the dealer and found a car we 90% wanted. We figured it was close enough to what we wanted so we made an offer. They gave us a good deal on our trade-in so we shook hands and moved ahead. After getting more of our information in, Drivers Licenses, and Insurance information in the computer the manager came over. The original deal had no sales tax included in the price, the cost went up almost $2500. Needless to say after two hours we walked out.

We were sick of the whole process and two weeks later I called a company called At first, I was skeptical. I actually asked a few questions and then got off the phone. I ended up calling them back about 15 minutes later and had a slew of questions answered.

Charity and I prayed about it overnight and we ended up purchasing a car we had never seen off a website we had never heard of. It sounds crazy right!

The whole online process was pretty easy. After making payment I was asked to enter our DL information and then submitted a picture of our insurance card.

My initial email told me the car would be in my driveway in 11 days. This was 2 days longer than they say on their website. I figured that was cool, just as long as it was there before we left on vacation. At this point Beepi would send me daily emails but no updates on shipping time for the car so I thought we were good to go until 2 days before it was supposed to arrive I got an email saying it wasn't going to make it.

At this point I called Beepi and was basically ready to cancel the car. They would have been totally cool with that and given me a full refund. We decided to wait. At this point Beepi offered us an Amazon gift card for our trouble (that I later had to email and ask about) But how it all played down, the day they wanted to deliver (3 days later) we were heading out on vacation!

Now when we finally got our car it had been 21 days since we ordered it. As I look back on the process I was a bit bummed but it was far better than having to search for a car online. We also didn't need to get the car immediately so it worked out fine for us.

The big day came and our car was finally delivered. It made it a little earlier, in the day, than our original delivery time. It came, parked in my driveway with a big white bow on the front! I took it for a spin around the block and was sold. The van drove great. The air worked. All the windows worked. The doors opened. It didn't smell like a dead raccoon. It was exactly as we had expected it to be.

We came inside and signed the paperwork and it really only took 15 minutes to complete. This was infinitely better than going to a dealership.

At this point you would think the whole thing was great! Well after putting the kids carseats in that night I realized the actuator on the drivers door was broken (not sure how Beepi missed that). We had to call Beepi and set up a time for them to come look at the van, take it to the Honda dealer, fix it and then return. This meant they needed to take it overnight. It wasn't the end of the world. And they even paid to fix it all up for us.

Today is our is our last day to return the car (did I mention Beepi lets you drive the car for 10 days and decide if you really like it?). As I write this post I know we're not going to return it. It fits our family, my wife loves it and its a smooth ride.

The question I think is, "Would I recommend Beepi to someone?"

Yes I would. We had some bumps along the road but Beepi was super helpful in the process. I have already recommended them to a few people and even saw another car with Beepi plates today as I drove home.

Thanks Beepi for making car buying way better than it has been before!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Summer Fishing

This summer we went to Donner Lake for a family vacation. It was a great time with the family, friends and fishing with my kids!

Sophie is quite an animal lover and Leah just loves to have fun. We went fishing the first night we were in town, it wasn't more than just 30 minutes after being in town. We started with powerbait and not a whole bunch of nothing! Ok, nothing but good times and fun memories! Sophie and Leah probably had more fun playing with each other than they did fishing.

After getting skunked a few times we broken down and bought some nightcrawlers (this was tough for Sophie). But once we bought them, we started catching fish.

It was fun seeing the difference between Sophie and Leah when they caught fish. Sophie was willing to get right in there and grab the fish. She wanted to hold it and make sure to get a picture with the fish.

When I look at these pictures I think of all the fun I've had fishing. I'm thankful to be able to make these memories with my kids and that they enjoy fishing as much as I did when I was their age.

About 25 minutes after Sophie caught her fish Leah landed one. Her response was completely opposite. She didn't want to touch the fish, she stayed away from it and her facial expression was much different. She still enjoyed it but not nearly as much as Sophie.

In the end, we released both fish. The following day we went back to the same spot and caught two crawfish. The girls thought the crawfish were creepy!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Donner Lake Train Track Hike/Walk

Last week we were up in Truckee and did the Donner Lake railroad track hike with our kids. As you read this, use the word hike loosely. 

The hike starts about 100 yards south of the bridge off old Highway 40. When you're driving look for this marker on the side of the road. 

Leah was super excited to hold Isaiah for the picture and to just make sure, Charity was right outside the picture ready to help in the need of an emergency. Sophie was actually really excited to do the hike (heavy sarcasm).

Take 3 minutes to read the plaque here and learn about the wall near the tracks. There is some great history here to learn and ponder as you hike.

Now, when you do finally hike, walk about 100 feet up the road and enter the trail from there. We made the mistake and barging into the forest and charging away. When you do this with you two little kids and pregnant wife, this is what you get. Our girls totally charged the way and it was awesome!

Once we made it to the top we took some time to walk down the old train tracks. The girls were a bit scared and you can see it on Sophie's face. If you head West on the tracks there are a few small tunnels. If you head East there is a longer tunnel. 

The tunnel isn't pitch black because there are slats where the light comes in. There is a ton of graffiti in the tunnels which was kind of a bummer to see. 

There are some broken down rolling doors that you can walk out of and see a great view of Donner Lake. Leah couldn't keep her eyes open in the sun but was stoked on the adventure!

When I look back on this, these are family memories I think the kids will remember. It wasn't a long hike, it wasn't too strenuous but man it was fun!