Monday, November 05, 2018

Daniel 10-12 Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. For ten-weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a courageous life. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
The End Times
Daniel 10-12

As we continue our study in Daniel we see Daniel is visited by a heavenly being. The story in Daniel 10-12 is best read as a continuous event. Daniel 10 focuses on the visit of the heavenly being and Daniel’s response to him. As we move into Chapter 11, we read about things in the past and the Antichrist to come. Daniel 12 helps us keep our focus on living for the Lord and finding our inheritance in Him. The book of Daniel is a reminder to us to stay courageous in the Lord and live daily for Him.

1) Share about a time in your life when you prayed for something or someone for a long period of time. Has God answered that prayer? Did you give up? Or are you still praying?

2) In Daniel 10 we read about a heavenly encounter that Daniel has. Who do you think the heavenly being is that Daniel speaks with? Could this be the same person written about in Hebrews 7?

3) Throughout His public ministry, Jesus cast out numerous demons. Read Daniel 10:20. Do you think there are demons assigned to different regions of the world to torment, cause trouble, and keep people from following God?

4) Read Daniel 11:32. Throughout history there have been godly men and women who have stood for what is right. Who you know that is currently standing for the good things of God? Are you prepared to stand for the good things of God in an evil age?

5) The Antichrist is completely against God is all things. There will be a seven year time period where this person is allowed to rule. Daniel 11:36-12:4 speak of the Antichrist. When you think of the Antichrist, what comes to mind?

6) In Daniel 12:1 we read about a book with the names of people written in it. Do you think this is the same book mentioned in: Psalm 69:28, Philippians 4:3, and Revelation 20:15? What is the importance of having your name written in this book?

7) The book of Daniel ends with a promise that Daniel will receive his allotted inheritance. What inheritance do you think this is? Is this the same inheritance that Peter tells us about in 1 Peter 1:3-5?

Close your time in prayer.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Daniel Chapter 9- Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. For ten-weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a courageous life. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
Answered Prayer
Daniel 9

As we continue our study in Daniel we see that the prophecy in chapter 2 is fulfilled; King Cyrus now reigns on the throne and Babylon the great has been disposed. Daniel is reading Scripture and learns about the seventy years of exile. This drives Daniel to prayer and Gabriel comes to visit him with a prophetic revelation. Scholars agree that verses 24-27 are the most difficult verses to interpret and figure out (don’t worry if your group can’t completely understand them as they are a small portion of the entire text and Biblical scholars regularly discuss them).

1) Share about a time in your life where God answered your prayer. It might be something that just happened or a memorable time from the past.

2) Read Daniel 9:2. When times were difficult, Daniel turned to Scripture. What are some passages you regularly turn to when feeling down? What are some things, besides the Bible, you turn to when times are difficult?

3) Read Daniel 9:3-4. We read that Daniel had a vibrant prayer life and dedication to reading God’s word. What does your prayer life look like and how would you like to alter it based on Daniel 9?

4) Pastor Neal mentioned four other men who stepped in to intercede for God’s people. Moses (read Exodus 32:31-32). Elijah (Read 1 Kings 18:41-45). Jehoshaphat (read 2 Chronicles 20:3). Hezekiah (read 2 Kings 19:14-19). Who are others who interceded for God’s people?

5) Daniel prepared himself for prayer. What kind of ways do you prepare yourself for making your prayers effective, not only in getting answers, but also in changing your life and focus?

6) Read Daniel 9:21. God’s word said that Gabriel came in swift flight. it says nothing about him having wings. Bullets fly, arrows fly, and frisbees fly. What do you think angel travel looks like? Where else in Scripture does the Bible talk about angel travel?

7) Read Daniel 9:24-27. Pastor Neal explained the different ‘sevens’ that Gabriel spoke about. What do you think about these time periods?  

Close your time in prayer

Monday, October 29, 2018

Daniel Chapter 8- Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. For ten-weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a courageous life. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
Beyond Understanding
Daniel 8

Daniel now shares his second vision, and once more we read that animals are employed to symbolize empires. God’s people also needed to be warned of another crisis that would come in less than four hundred years after Daniel’s lifetime—the persecutions of a madman named Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–163 b.c.).  His reign would be one of the most horrible periods of time for those who trust God. Thankfully God knew that for that brief, but dark period, His people would need hope that things will get better.

1) Why do you think God spoke so often in visions in Daniel’s time but that it doesn’t seem to happen any more?

2) Read Daniel 8:1-2. Daniel says that he was taken to Susa in the vision. Pastor Neal said that Susa was the new capital city for the Medo-Persian empire. Why do you think Cyrus moved his kingdom 200 miles to the south?

3) Read 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 and Isaiah 45:13. Both of these passages explain that God put Cyrus in his role. Name some people in politics who God has used without them knowing it.

4) Read Daniel 8:14. Do you think reference of 2300 evenings and mornings means 2300 days or 1150 days? Does that time period make a significant difference on history?

5) In Daniel 8 there are a number of angelic beams represented. Read Hebrews 13:2 and talk about how we are constantly surrounded by angels. If we are surrounded by angels, does this mean there are demons lurking about too?

6) Read Daniel 8:15-18. Through this interaction we see how much God cares for His people. We read that when Daniel was terrified, God sent an angel to comfort him. In what practical way(s) do you need God to comfort you this week?

7) In the latter half of Daniel 8 we read about how Antiochus outlawed anything regarding the practices of Judaism. If that happened today, how would you take the message of Jesus underground and share your faith?  

Close your time in prayer

Monday, October 15, 2018

Don't Check Your Email First


For years I would walk into the office, sit at my desk, and check my email first thing.

For years I would walking into the office with a long list to accomplish and allow emails to distract me for the first thirty minutes (or more).

For years I would allow other people's priorities to trump my priorities.

It was my fault! I was the one who allowed it. I would even schedule the first thirty minutes of my day to checking email. I would make sure that my team was good. That things were planned and moving forward. I would even "unsubscribe" from a thing or two that I was sick of getting email from.

Over a year ago I stopped checking email first. It has radically changed the way I work. Here are three reasons you should stop checking your email first thing in the morning:

1) It derails your day

Have you ever walked into the office in a chipper mood only to check your email and find yourself shift to irate in a matter of seconds? The email you loathed to read came through. You had a sermon to write, a meeting to prep for, a paper to create and now you are derailed?

You're not the only person. I wish I could count how many times I've allowed my emotions to shift based on an email. There are times my emotions rise, but there are times I see the name of a person and the subject and I know what is going to happen.

When you work at a complex organization this might be more difficult to avoid, but you can set your priorities. Maybe you start small and wait for an hour to check your email. See if anyone notices. See if you get more accomplished. Do a pilot version of not checking your email first and see what happens in your day.

2) You allow others to create your priorities 

This is the second reason I stopped checking my email is that I found myself allowing others to create priories in my life. Someone would email asking for help on a project. I would need to check a letter that was going to be sent. I had to approve a graphic, but it required a 30 minute conversation and now my whole day was thrown off.

You need to know that I like check lists.
I love checking off boxes and accomplishing things. I have ten different "To Do" lists on my phone and all are categorized.

You might be an organized person or unorganized. Either way, email allows others to dictate your time and priorities. Setting a schedule and a time to check emails helps you regain control of your life.

I've begun checking email two to three times a day. I normally check it around 11:30am, just before I take my lunch break. I can see if there is anything I need to do right now. I can delete the eight junk mail things. I can see if people need prayer or my team needs my help. I look for the email I've been waiting for on the idea I'm stoked on.

After lunch I check it again. I do this because I'm already distracted from lunch and have used my most creative time of the day. I can follow up with something I didn't get to. Then I can shut down my email and check once more before the day is done.

3) You loose some of your best creative time 

I'm convinced that when you check your email first, you loose your best creative time. I'm listening to a book right now called Rest and it's helping me to create better rhythms in my life.

You can check email at any time of the day. You can call customers at any time of the day. You can invoice any time of the day. You can order supplies any time of the day. You can.... any time of the day.

Use the morning to do your creative work. Spend a solid three hours to focus on what only you can do. Then check your email in the afternoon.

In fact, I've deleted my work email from my phone completely. It happened on accident when my email required me to reset my password. I had trouble with the app and got upset. I didn't need to check my email that much so I just deleted the app. And guess what, I didn't get fired. I didn't become less productive. I think I'm more productive.

Email causes us to look distraction on other projects, people, family, and to be less involved in the now. Now I just check email on my Mac and sometimes on my iPad if I feel like I have to.

I've gained more creative time and I'm accomplishing more what of what I want (in fact, I'm writing this on Monday afternoon and my sermon for Sunday is already done. I've also written small group questions for next week!)

What would change if you stopped checking email first and less?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Daniel Chapter 7- Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. For ten-weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a courageous life. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
Reason to Celebrate
Daniel 7

It would be no exaggeration to say that Daniel 7 is one of the most important chapters in the Old Testament. In this chapter Daniel has a vision of things to come. If Daniel’s God was able to deliver him from the lions den, then He surely has the ability to show Daniel the future. God’s messages through his prophet were of the utmost value to Daniel and his people, for through them God assured the Jews that the nation of Israel would endure. Just as God had great plans for Israel, God also has great plans for Coastline!

1) When you think of a kingdom or nation, what are the images that come to mind. What is needed for a nation to thrive? What are some great aspects of a kingdom?

2) Read Daniel 7:2-8. Daniel shares about the four beasts he saw in his dream. Many scholars think these beasts represent the different metals in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. What do you think these beasts have to do with the past Nations and future nations? Discuss the connection in Daniel 2 and 7.

3) Read Daniel 7:21. When you think about the brutality of mankind, what is something that truly scares you or has impacted you in history? Is there a way God might ask you to bring hope to people who’ve seen such violence?

4) What kind of things do you see in our world that remind you that the kingdom of Satan is alive and well? How does this move you to compassion for people and how might God be stirring you to act?

5) Read Daniel 7:9-10. Talk about the character of God in this scene. Now read Exodus 3:1-4. Talk about God being associated with fire in both scenes. What aspect of God’s character to long to know more? How will you seek God out more?

6) Read Daniel 7:11-14 and Revelation 1:12-20. How do these descriptions of Jesus match? What do you long for most when Jesus returns?

7) There are over 100,000 people in Ventura who are far from God. These people need to find peace in their life through the message of Jesus. What are some creative ways you can reach those who are far from the Lord?

Close your time in prayer

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Daniel Chapter 6- Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. For ten-weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a courageous life. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
Big Dreams. Small Decisions.
Daniel 6

Daniel in the lions’ den is one of the most famous Bible Stories. People reference being in the lions den when they encounter a tough situation. Daniel 6 is a story of God’s faithfulness on the night the lions fasted. The events occurred as the new government was being formed and Daniel remained faithful to God. Thus they must have taken place soon after Babylon had fallen to the Persians, likely within the first or second year. History tells us that some Jewish captives had returned to Palestine under the leadership of Zerubbabel, and Daniel was over eighty years of age.

1) Studies show that people who have a daily routine are some of the happiest people in the world. They leave less to daily decision which allows them to follow their plan and not emotion. What is something you do every day?

2) Read Daniel 6:1-5. Talk about how Daniel was faithful in his duties, faultless in his character and fervent in his prayer life. Describe a time when you, or someone you know, experienced difficulty at work for loving Jesus.

3) Read Daniel 6:10. Daniel lived a life of prayer. If he started this practice at 15 (when he was taken into captivity) and was over 80, he would have prayed for 65 years three times a day. That equals 71,175 prayers offered to God. What can we learn from Daniel’s faithfulness in prayer?

4) Daniel’s enemies knew that he would break the newly instated law because he was so faithful. What are you so faithful to doing on a daily basis?

5) When you think about your prayer life, what has impacted your desire, commitment, and faithfulness in prayer? Are you satisfied with your prayer life? Where do you want to grow in your knowledge and application of prayer?

6) Read Daniel 6:11-15. We see the impact Daniel had on the new king. He was faithful the king tried to save his life. What impact do you have on those who are watching your life and how you live it? Would they want to help you?

7) Read Daniel 6:21-22. Daniel was found innocent in the sight of God and God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions. Talk about the miracle of God intervening for mankind to save us.

Close your time in prayer

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Standing Tall


Not everyone survives the fury of a tyrant. Paul Schneider stood in line with other prisoners at Buchenwald concentration camp. It was April 20, 198, Hitleers’ forty-ninth birthday. In tribute all prisoners were ordered to remover their berets and worship the Nazi flag. All at once men began to venerate the flag, except for Paul. Paul stood tall while the others bowed. Nazi soldiers grabbed Paul, and whipped his back twenty-five times with a leather ox hide whip. He was also punished for failure to worship.

It takes courage to stand up to an evil power. Think of a time in your life when you stood up to a person who was doing something you morally opposed. What was the outcome? I’ve counseled people who lost their jobs when they went to their bosses to talk about unethical business practices. I’ve sat with people who felt abandoned because they wanted to maintain a pure relationship before marriage. I’ve seen the struggle students experience living for Jesus in a world that doesn’t honor that decision. Things don’t always work out the way we think they will when we stand up for what is right.

Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel (it's a great read)! In Daniel 3 we learn about three men who refused to bow to a powerful king.

There were six men in the crowd who stood tall while everyone else bowed (Daniel 3:8-12). We don’t have all the details to accurately reconstruct the seating chart but it appears the astrologers had a line of sight on the six knees that didn’t bow, while the king didn’t. These astrologers might be mad that these three Jewish men took their jobs twenty years ago and they may have been waiting all these years to find something against them. Today is finally the day they will get their vengeance against these men who worship the Lord.

Let me be clear; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have bowed and saved themselves,  but they would have spoiled it for the rest of the followers of God. Their standing tall was out of respect for God. Let me show you how easy it would have been for these men to avoid this situation they currently find themselves in. The music plays, each man drops a coin, they bend down to pick it up, wait for the music to end, and they are fine. But these are men of character and integrity. These are the kind of men who stand to worship God. They are like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who refused to stand around while a tyrant led with fear.

As we all know, tyrants don’t take too well to disobedience (read Daniel 3:13-15). In this chapter we read again that Nebuchadnezzar made the image of gold. He was trying to set up a false god. We also read a third time about the blazing furnace. This is fear-based leadership. Fear-based leadership doesn’t care for others, but uplifts self. But the king recognizes these men. They serve in his royal court. Nebuchadnezzar has some compassion because he offers them a second chance to live.

He offers them another opportunity to bow down to the image. The whole crowd is watching this go down. How will these men respond?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have circled up to discuss the matter. They could have said, “Hey, the furnace looks really hot. Let’s just bow down.”

They could have bowed their knees but not their hearts.

They could have reasoned that everyone was doing it, so they should just do it.

They could have gone with self-preservation over living for God but they refused.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
They basically say, “Save your orchestra fee, we will stand for God.” This was a first commandment principle for them; they were dedicated to putting God first in all areas of life.

Their decision is resolute. They don’t waiver in their commitment to God. They also remain respectful to a king who is furious. Their desire, their longing in life, was to honor God and they couldn’t accomplish that by bowing to a massive gold statue. I think verses 17 and 18 are the crux of the entire story. They know that God has the power to save them from death. They also know that God may not choose to save them. God may allow them to be martyrs and they are comfortable standing for God rather than bowing to an image made by human hands.

Their heart’s desire was to obey God. This should be our heart’s desire too! Our heart’s desire should be to obey God but all too often it isn’t. All too often we bow a knee to the false gods of our day. This week on Facebook I asked people to tell me what distracts them from God. Within an hour I had over thirty responses. People sharing about how social media, their phone, their job, their kids, being busy, work around the house, culture, busyness, TV, confusion, pain, laziness, stress, and bad priorities are some of the things that keep us from God.

I think that many of us echo those distractions. It is easier to check our phone than listen to God. It is easier to watch TV than to read the Bible. It’s easier to sleep in than to wake up and spend time with God. But these three men removed distractions in their lives so they could live fully for God in the face of death. This morning, will you make a commitment to be like these men? Commit to: stand for God when no one else will. There are times it will seem easier to bow than to stand. There are times you might get distracted like the rest of us. But standing for God is infinitely better than bowing to a false God.

Their decision is in defiance to the king. The king asked, “What god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Their response is, the Lord our God.

You might know how the story ends, but listen again about the compassion of God (Daniel 3:24-25). The front facing opening of the furnace gave Nebuchadnezzar a front row seat to the greatness of God. There were four men walking around in the oven, unbound, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.

There is some question as to who the fourth man is. Maybe God sent an angel to protect these men. My heart wants to say, “This is Jesus Christ!” But I don’t have enough Scriptural evidence to say that with complete confidence this morning. We have to remember not to get our theology from king Nebuchadnezzar.

I wonder how many people went home that afternoon and examined their lives. The crowd had to leave thinking, “I want to know more about this God who saved these men.” This story is about a God who can save. Daniel three is about three courageous men who stood for God when everyone else bowed down to the tyrant. We see the care and compassion of God displayed in this story. We see the love, tenderness, and protection that God provides to those who stand for Him. Did you know God has a plan for your life and He wants you to stand for Him today. 

In 1906 Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Germany. He was one of eight children and in his teens decided to be a pastor. He trained in seminary, preached, and taught college courses. He eventually studied in America but when Hitler rose to power, Dietrich was compelled to speak against the Nazi party.

His defiance to Hitler made him a target of the Nazi regime and he was forced to keep his mouth shut. But he refused to be silenced, and he shared secret knowledge with the outside world in attempt after attempt to stop Hitler.

He signed up with the German secret service to serve as a double agent. While traveling to church conferences over Europe, he was supposed to be collecting information about these locations but instead he helped Jews escape from Germany. Bonhoeffer was a pacifist but knew that something had to be done about the unfair capture and torture of Jewish people. Because of this, he became a part of a plot to overthrow, and later to assassinate, Hitler. Bonhoeffer played a role in two failed attempts to assassinate Hitler.

The secret service began closing in on him and other double agents. Finally, he was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being accused of being associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was quickly tried, along with other accused plotters, and then executed by hanging on April 9, 1945, as the Nazi regime was collapsing. He was thirty-nine when he lost his life standing up for God. His body was never recovered as it was thrown into a pile with others who stood up against Hitler’s regime.

There are times it might go well, on this earth, and times it may not. But the goal of our life is to stand for God when no one else will.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Daniel Chapter 5- Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. For ten-weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a courageous life. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
A Bad Night in Babylon
Daniel 5

Nebuchadnezzar had passed from the scene; Belshazzar was now ruling Babylon. We have a history gap. We don’t read all the linage of the king but the author wants us to focus on the faithfulness of God. The events that play out in Daniel 5 are a fulfillment of the prophetic announcement that Daniel gave in response the King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2. Take your time to work through Daniel 5 paying close attention to the need to worship the Lord and his faithfulness.

1) Share about a time you had a bad night. What made the night and how did things improve or degrees in the morning?

2) Read Daniel 5:1-4 and 1 John 2:16. Talk about how the party in the Old Testament was an event that didn’t honor the Lord. What does the Apostle John have to say about such type of actions?

3)Read Daniel 5:5-6. In what types of situations do you hear people say, “The handwriting was on the wall?” Did they listen to the handwriting or fail to heed it and learn a lesson the hard way?

4) Throughout the book of Daniel we’ve seen the author communicate the futility of idol worship (read Daniel 2:5-6, 3:15, and 5:7-9). An idol is anything we place above the Lord our God. Discuss how we allow idols to distract us from seeking the Lord.

5) Pastor Neal said that we need to set ourselves on the side of God. What are you doing this week to intentionally set yourself on the side of God? What patterns have you established to help you do this and what personal patterns do you need to break (reading the paper, watching TV, checking your phone, etc)?

6) Read Daniel 5:18-24. Daniel gives the king a historical account of how his predecessors didn’t seek the Lord. What do you think the king was thinking while hearing Daniel give this prophetic denouncing?

7) Daniel 5:30 has an ominous ring to it. Read Luke 12:13-21. Both the rich fool and Belshazzar had focused more on selfish desires than helping others. What can we learn from these men about living our lives for the Lord?


Close your time in prayer

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Daniel Chapter 4- Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. For ten-weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a courageous life. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
Do what is right
Daniel 4

Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream and his third miraculous encounter with Israel’s God is recorded in chap. 4. Daniel did not date the dream and subsequent events described here, but clues in the text point to the close of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. For example, his building operations seem to have been concluded (4:30) and there was peace throughout the empire (4:4). The king’s illness began a year after the dream (cf. 4:29) and probably lasted seven years.

1) Describe a lesson that you or somebody you know learned the hard way? It could be a lesson from your childhood, college years, or any time in your life.

2) Nebuchadnezzar turned his life around and started out by praising God. What is something you can praise God for in your life right now? What time have you gone through that you can praise God for?

3) Read Daniel 4:17. Talk about the sovereignty of God. Think of some of the things stated in this text about God’s power exercised over all creation. Where do you see God sovereignly working in you?

4) Read Daniel 4:5-8, 19. Do you think the wise men had an inclination about the dream but didn’t say anything to the king so they could keep their own head? Think about the risk Daniel took in sharing the meaning of the dream with the king. Where is God asking you to take a risk?

5) Pastor Neal shared about the pride Nebuchadnezzar had in thinking he built Babylon. It was a sin he struggled with and needed to repent of. What sin are you currently struggling with that you need to repent of and leave?

6) Read Daniel 4:34, 36. Did you notice that twice Nebuchadnezzar says his sanity was restored to him? This is a small mercy from God. It’s not small in application but that we are small in comparison to God. Share a time when God has mercy on you.

7) Pastor Neal talked about being a person who expresses the grace of God, being a blessing to those around you, and making worship a lifestyle. What one of those are you working on this week and how is it going?

Close your time in prayer

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Daniel Chapter 3- Small Group Questions



Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. For ten-weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a courageous life. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
Trail by Fire
Daniel 3

No specific time is given for this incident, and some scholars maintain that it took place long after the events of chap. 2. The probability that the king received the idea for the image from the dream in chap. 2, and the likelihood that the image was constructed to test the loyalty of the king’s officials to his new administration. The king’s construction of a large statue and the demand that the Hebrews worship the monstrosity is the occasion for the trial. The refusal of Daniel’s friends to follow this mandate results in the wrath of the king and a great demonstration of the reality and power of Yahweh God.

1) Share a time that you stood for God when no one else was willing to. It can be a recent experience or something that took place decades ago. Think about how the examples of faith you just shared increase your faith.

2) King Nebuchadnezzar created a large idol. In the first three verses the author makes it clear that the king made the idol. What is so important about that?

3) The king used music while people fell down to the worship the idol. In what ways does music help build our allegiance to something or someone?

4)Read Daniel 3:13-19 and discuss the difference in demeanor between king Nebuchadnezzar and the three Hebrew men. Share about how you can respond kindly when people in your presence are furious.

5) There are times when people stand for God and loose their life. In Hebrews 11 we read about a list of people who loved God and lost their lives (read Hebrews 11:32-38). Share about people who are being persecuted for following God.

6) Obviously there were thousands of people who bowed to the idol. What do you think made the difference between the Jews who bowed and the three who didn’t? What are some idols in your life that you need to eradicate so you can worship the Lord?

7) Talk about how the impact of the three Jews who didn’t bow must have effected those who were in attendance? How does their power to stand strong for God impact you to stand for God this week?

Close your time in prayer

Monday, September 10, 2018

Daniel Chapter 2- Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. For ten-weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a courageous life. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Clarity in Chaos
Daniel 2


Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream, imparted to the monarch early in Daniel’s experience in Babylon, is recorded in this chapter. The dream is significant because it provides a history of the world through four successive Gentile empires. During the final phase of the fourth empire, all earthly dominions will be destroyed, and the kingdom of God that will endure forever will be established. Moreover we learn about the faith of Daniel and his three friends, their commitment to God, and desire to serve the Lord.

1) Did you know that studies show the average person has three to five dreams a night? About 95% of our dreams are forgotten. Share a fun dream you recently had and what made it so special.


2) King Nebuchadnezzar had a vivid dream but wouldn’t tell anyone about it. The Bible tells us about another leader who had a troubling dream (read Genesis 41:1-40). Discuss the similarities in the story of Jospeh and Daniel. How did God help these men in both cases?


3) When we think about Daniel 2:1-11, it helps show the futility of trusting in anything except for God. Share about how you’re currently trusting in God during a confusing situation or how you’ve trusted in God in the past.


4) In Daniel 2:18, we read that Daniel immediately went to his friends and they “pleaded for mercy from the God of heaven…” Who do you have in your life that goes to God in prayer for you?


5) Read Daniel 2:20-23. Take some time in your group to praise God. How can you make praising God a part of your daily life?


6) In Daniel 2:27-30, Daniel makes it clear that God gave the answer to the dream. How can we make sure to give God the glory in our daily lives? Share some practical ways to implement this on a weekly basis.


7) How do we become part of God’s effort in the world to help more people find and follow Jesus?


Close your time in prayer

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Daniel Chapter 1- Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. For ten-weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a courageous life. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Counter-Cultural Living
Daniel 1

The book of Daniel was written to be a testimony to the sovereign, enduring glory of God. Since our lives are to be that too, there is much here we should learn. Since Daniel and his friends were able to make that glory known in an entirely secular environment, there is also much we can emulate. The first chapter of Daniel serves primarily as an introduction; it sets the scene for the other stories that make up the rest of the book. History tells us Babylon besieged Israel in 605 B.C. Daniel was approximately fifteen years old when he went into training for Nebuchadnezzar.

1. In the introduction of the sermon Neal shared about Roger Huang and his experience of transitioning to a foreign culture. Share a time when you went to a foreign country, or location, and felt like you didn’t fit in.


2. The Babylonians captured the Israelites and took the articles of the temple of The Lord (Daniel 1:2). They put those articles in their temple in an attempt to show they conquered God. Read 1 Samuel 5:1-5 to see how that worked for other nations that attempted to the same thing.


3. Thinking about Daniel 1:3-5, why do you think king Nebuchadnezzar required all the young men to be trained this throughly before entering his service?


4. Daniel had the close friendship of three people, who do you have that stand for God with you as you walk through the daily struggles of life?


5. Daniel and his companions had to decide what parts of the Babylonian culture they would adopt and what parts they would reject (see Daniel 1:8-14). How do you make that same determination in the culture we live in?


6. The presence of God is clear in Daniel 1. Verse 2 tells us: “The Lord delivered Jehoiakim kit of Judah into his hand…” Verse 9 says, “Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel.” and Verse 17 tell us, “God gave…” What does the fact of God’s sovereignty mean to you in everyday life?


7. What do you think gave Daniel, and his friends, the resolve to stand for God?


8. Close your time in prayer

Friday, August 31, 2018

Leadership Quality-Humillity

Earlier this year I wrote on the four indispensable qualities of a leader.

When you look at good leaders you find they have three of these qualities. They are good communicators, are administrative and relational. But if you are looking for a great leader they are going to line up these qualities in such a way to have humility stuck right in the middle to hold their leadership together.

When I asked my friend Nick Takiyama to draw this diagram I had sketched on my white board for me I loved the end product. The area of overlap could have been much larger. The area representing humility could have covered more ground and allowed for more people to fit into the model.

But it doesn't. The number of leaders who hold all four of these qualities is quite small (please note: I'm not saying I hold all four).

There are a handful of people that I can think of that truly posses the quality of humility in leadership along with the other three. When you've met someone who possesses all four you don't forget them. Let me share how you might know you're talking with a person who has all four.

How you feel when you leave the conversation

When you leave the conversation with a humble person you feel better about yourself. In my experience, humble people ask provoking, thoughtful and meaningful questions. They want to truly understand what is occurring in your life. They care more about knowing what is happening in your life than talking about themselves.

This is another key factor. I've found that humble talk about themselves way less. They are not quick to tell you how amazing they are. They are not quick to talk about how big their church is. They are not quick to talk about all the things they've accomplished in the last five years. When you're sitting with them, you probably know the answers to some of these subjects but they are not likely to start the conversation in that direction.

About a year ago I met another man who possesses all these qualities. God has called us both to full-time, vocational, ministry. He has served at some great churches, done some great things for the Lord and is well known. When I met him he was so encouraging. He took me to breakfast and it was getting a shot of encouragement right in the arm. He shared ideas that I could considered, he asking thoughtful questions about the new church I was serving in. He gave me principles to implement that would help our church reach more people for Jesus. When I left that breakfast I felt so encouraged!

The focus is not on them

Part of the reason I think humble people make others feel encouraged is because they don't want the spot light on them. It's not that humble people don't think about themselves, it's just that they think about theirselves less. Humble think about themselves, they have just learned to think about themselves less. They don't think they are stupid or worthless. They know their value. They know they are created by God and have a purpose on this world. Their purpose is to help more people know what God created them for.

I'm reminded of the life of Moses as this stage in the conversation. Moses was born in Egypt. His parents are Jewish. Pharaoh made an edict that all Jewish, male, babies were to be killed.

God spared Moses life and he was raised in the home of Pharaoh (that is a turn of events!). Moses received a great training, had all this privilege but never forgot his roots. After killing a man, he lived in the desert for forty years. Then God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and to the promised land.

Moses spent time with God. Moses listened to God. Moses didn't make it about him. Moses longed for point the glory to God. God's word tells us that Moses was "Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth." (Numbers 12:3). I don't think Moses wrote that line.

Part of being a humble person means the focus is not on you. The concern is with helping others. The concern is with a greater cause, something that will leave a legacy for years to come.

Humble people build you up

When I share about the guy who took me to breakfast and Moses there is a common thread: Humble people build others up. Moses invested his life in many leaders but one in particular. Moses spent time with Joshua and built him up. There are countless leaders who've invested in my life in the last two decades. Brett drove 30-40 mins to pick me up so I could go to church with him. Doug spent time with me at lunch so I could improve my preaching. Bill taught me about time management and putting my family first. Rod spent time with me working on sermons. Mark cared about me as a father and leader. These are just some people who stick out to me while I'm writing this.

Who can you start building up? This is a question I constantly ask myself. I am getting older (some of you are laughing) but I want this to be a priority to my life now. For almost a decade I was blessed to work with students. Our goal was to always build them up. Now that I work primarily with adults I want to do the same. I want to build others. I want people to leave feeling care for.

This whole post started because of Silvio. Silvio took me to lunch and we wrote this on a napkin. Silvio falls into the category of humility. He leads a large company, serves faithfully in the local church, spends time with his family, and cared enough to help a young campus pastor.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Path to Maturity

It was July of 1961 and the 38 members of the Green Bay Packers football team were gathered together for the first day of training camp. The previous season had ended with a heartbreaking defeat, late in the 4th quarter, to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Green Bay players had been thinking about this brutal loss for the entire off-season. Now training camp had arrived and it was time to get to work.

The players were eager to advance their game to the next level and start working on the details that would help them win a championship. Their coach, Vince Lombardi, had a different idea. He began a tradition of starting from scratch, assuming that the players were blank slates who carried over no knowledge from the year before… He began with the most elemental statement of all. “Gentlemen,” he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand, “this is a football.”

Lombardi was coaching a group of three dozen professional athletes who, just months prior, had come within minutes of winning the biggest prize their sport could offer. And yet, he started from the very beginning. Lombardi's methodical coverage of the fundamentals continued throughout training camp. Each player reviewed how to block and tackle. They opened up the playbook and started from page one. His team would become the best in the league at the tasks everyone else took for granted. Six months later, the Green Bay Packers beat the New York Giants 37-0 to win the NFL Championship

There were players in that locker room who probably thought their coach was crazy. These players were some of the best in the world. Think about what Vince Lombardi did for the Packers. How would you respond if that was done for you spiritually?

In my opinion the church can loose it’s focus. For the last year, our church has been working hard at getting laser focused.

Very few people have experienced a clear pathway to spiritual maturity. In fact, the path to God is not always a straight line. Believers experience twists and turns, confusion and frustration, joy and fulfillment.

When people go to the gym they hire a trainer to help them accomplish their goals. People seek the advice of a financial planner to help them get to their desired location. The roadmap for Coastline is intended to do the same for each of us. It involves four steps that we will look at: gather, grow, serve, and send.

Gather

We gather because that is what the early church did
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:46, 47
The early church once met in the synagogue because following Jesus was a fulfillment of their Jewish heritage. They found the hope in the coming Messiah just like many of us have found. Men and women found the truth in God’s word and it gave them direction in following God. We gather just like the early church did. We gather in a different location than a synagogue but we still gather.

This gathering is an easy first step for many people who are curious about Jesus. This gathering is a safe place for broken people of all ages and stages of life to find Jesus. This gathering has an invisible sign outside that says, “everyone is welcome.” This gathering has an invisible sign outside that says, “come as you are.” This gathering has a warmth and comfort to it that people are longing to find. When we gather here we do so to learn from God’s word, to praise Him, to turn our attention to heavenly things and understand His goodness.

We long to be a church that unchurched people love to attend. Did you know it’s Biblical for people who meet Jesus to bring their friends to meet Jesus also?
 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 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 1:40-42
The first thing Andrew did was find his brother Simon and bring him to Jesus. Who can you bring to meet Jesus? It’s Biblical to help people find Jesus. We’re not looking to be the biggest church, we’re just trying to help more people find the hope, love, compassion, and salvation we’ve found in Jesus. There are people who are looking for the coming Messiah just like these men were.

We’re going to use the same message the early church used. The method might be different, but the message hasn’t changed.

Grow

After you’ve been to a gathering make a commitment to grow spiritually. One of the primary ways we see people growing in their faith is moving into a small group. This is a big spiritual growth step. Flip back to the book of Acts to see what a small group looks like
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42
The focal point of growing is doing life with other people. There is a devotion to the teaching of God’s word. There is a commitment to spending time with other believers and growing in prayer. These are some basic components of growing in Jesus.

We live in a time of increasing Biblical illiteracy and being involved in a small group is a way to combat this. Groups help you open your Bible on a regular basis. Groups give you a safe place to share prayer requests with trusted individuals. I believe, with my whole heart, that if you will commit to being in a group for ten weeks it will change your life forever. Your marriage will be stronger, you faith will be stronger, your passion for Jesus will grow, and your confidence in Scripture will increase because you are going to know God more!

People gain confidence in God and His truth by studying His word with others.

I’ve been following Jesus for over eighteen years now. The first group I was in was a men’s group who really shaped my faith as a young man. Those men taught me about prayer and Scripture memorization; they shaped my future for Jesus. When I got married, Charity and I attended a small group focused on marriage. It was refreshing learning from couples who had been married for ten, twenty and thirty years. I can still hear those couples saying, “You guys could be our kids.” And we needed to learn from them.

Serve (John 13)

After you gather to worship and start growing in your faith there is a natural progression to serving others. Quite often people think of serving in the negative sense. It can sound like something that is below a person. Let me remind you about Jesus
"Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28
Jesus spoke of His eternal Kingdom when a mother asked that her two sons sit on the right and left. It seems this happens frequently, we have half the information but what all the benefits. God had already determined who would sit at the right and left of Jesus, it wasn’t a debate. Jesus needed to remind His own disciples that He is a servant.

For you and I, serving is the next logical step in growing in our faith. When I was a young man and had been attending church for a few years I began serving. I began serving in a classroom full of four year olds. It was a joy! I had so much fun serving those kids. They gravitated to me and I learned about the love of God. Their kindness and acceptance began to transform a former drug dealer. Serving taught me more about the love of God than I think I taught anyone.

You might wonder why we want to see people serve. First, we think it’s Biblical. Second we are a non-profit. Third, we think you will find fulfillment in life when you serve others. Fourth, we think God created you to serve others.

Send (Acts 1:8)

The next part is not the final part. There is no end to our spiritual growth here on earth. The next part is an obedience to the words of Jesus
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Jesus gave the disciples a clear direction on what to do. After saying these words, Jesus ascended to heaven. Let’s talk about a realistic plan of action for those of you who are ready to be sent. I’m aware that not everyone will grow to this point in their spiritual growth, in fact, I recently heard that 90% of Christians will never share their faith. Ninety percent of people won’t share the hope that changed their life.

Let’s look more at what Jesus instructed. Jerusalem was the center for many of these men. Jesus was essentially saying, “Start right here. Start right where you are at.” I give you the same encouragement today. Start sharing the love of Jesus with those closest to you. Start in your neighborhood, your home, your work place or your school. You don’t have to be a trained evangelist to share your faith. But the hope is that since you’ve been gathering, God is working in you. Your small group has helped you grow in your faith. Through serving you’re looking more like Jesus. Now you can confidently be sent to tell others about Jesus.

Once you’ve shared the love of Jesus with those closest to you we want to see people start serving in our community.

From there we long to see people invest more into helping people find and follow Jesus. We have a handful of mission partners who are in the state of California.

After this, we’d love to see people go global. We’d love to see every person get on a plane once every five years to serve the world. This follows the progression Jesus gave us in Acts 1:8.

Finally, when we think about being sent, God might do something a little more. We want to be a church that plants churches. We are praying that in three to five years God will let us plant a church somewhere in Ventura County. We don’t have all the details. We don’t have a plan. But we have a vision and a passion.

We long to find more people with the Coastline DNA who can be sent to start healthy churches. We long to see Ventura County have more healthy churches who are focused on teaching God’s word.

Conclusion

When we think about a pathway to spiritual maturity, this is a life long commitment. Following Jesus will be the best commitment a person can make. Think back to the locker room talk Vince Lombardi had. He took professional players though the basics and they won. Let’s focus on the basics so we can grow in our faith. The path to growth is not like McDonalds.

The path to growth is a lifelong process. This is why I want you to commit to a life of spiritual growth. Commit to a life of looking and smelling more like Jesus. This might take a while. It might be slower or faster than you thought. It might be harder or easier at times. You might hit road blocks. But don’t quit.

“If Christians around the world were to suddenly renounce their personal agendas, their life goals and their aspirations, and begin responding in radical obedience to everything God showed them, the world would be turned upside down. How do we know? Because that's what first century Christians did, and the world is still talking about it." -Henry Blackaby

Monday, August 13, 2018

Does authority matter?

Two years ago Time Magazine published a story about an incredible mountaineer.

Ed Viesturs is widely regarded as this country’s foremost high-altitude mountaineer. Ed has summited Mount Everest seven times. He didn’t accomplish this feat until his third try in 1990. He had made it close before that but had to turn around, 300 feet from the summit, due to grueling weather conditions.

Many climbers would have pushed on, facing the possibility of death, but not Ed. He is known as a conservative climber who understands that climbing is a round trip.

Not only has Ed summited Mount Everest seven times, he is also the only American to summit the world’s fourteen highest peaks without supplemental oxygen. In his interview with Time Magazine Ed referred to the mountain as the final authority in a climb. Ed says: “We call it listening to the mountain. The mountain decides what you get to do.”

For Ed, the mountain is the final authority in his decision making process. Who is the final authority in your decision making process? What is the main authority in your life? Is your main authority local government; maybe the police or other law enforcement? Is your boss at work your final authority? Maybe you live with your parents and you look to them as your final authority.

We each have different authorities we listen to and focus on. In face there are some aspects of our life that each of us have allowed to control our actions at times.

Different Sources of Authority 

Let’s just look at five different authorities people turn to when making decisions in their life.

Emotion- The first source you allow to guide your decision making process is your emotions. God wants to speak to your heart. He loves your emotions, in fact it was He who created them. It is good to be in touch with your emotions. Think about a time in your life when you had a “good feeling about this” and it came out to be true. Your emotions were right in directing your heart.

On the other hand, your emotions can be misleading. People have come to speak with me before and said something like: “Neal, I don’t feel God in my life right now.” Good thing God isn’t a feeling. Just because you don’t feel God, that doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. God is an eternal being. Emotions can be misleading in your life and take you places you never wanted to go. Invite God to speak to you through your emotions but don’t let them be the final authority in your life.

Experience- The next source of authority is past experiences. The best way to describe experience is information that comes from a direct encounter, participation or observation you’ve made. If you’re a Christian, you should expect to encounter God in your life. God will use your experience to open doors and shut doors in your life. The longer you walk with Him, the more data points you will have on your experiences with Him.

But experience, like emotion, can be deceptive. Some people try to manipulate God based on their past experiences. It can easy to think that if God worked one way in your past that He will always work in that same way for your future. But you can encounter a situation where God doesn’t in the exact same way because He is teaching you something new. If your experiences are contrary to the word of God, then the Bible needs to win as the final authority.

Reason- God wants you to use the mind He’s given you. God has given you the ability to think critically, reason with others, solve problems and make wise decisions. Whether you’re a believer or not, He has endowed you with this ability. Your abilities in this area are by no means perfect, but God desires for you to be reasonable. As with emotion and experience, reason is not perfect. There are times when you misinterpret or misunderstand data. Think of a time you thought you had all the information to make a smart decision but you didn’t, and it turned out poorly. You can never have all the information, therefore you cannot allow reason to be the main authority in your life.

Google- Let’s move the fourth authority on our list. She always is right. She tells me how to get places. She never backtalks to me. You know who I’m talking about, right? I’m talking about Siri or the internet. The internet is the last source of authority we allow to direct us. When was the last time you were with someone and you ran into a problem where you didn’t know the answer? Maybe you were talking about a recent story and wanted to fact check it. One of you most likely went straight to Google to find the answer. The internet is a great source of information but we all know you can’t believe everything you read online.

The Bible- The final authority you need in your life is the Bible. You might be familiar with the Bible, but let me give you a crash course. The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books and its comprised of two main sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The oldest books in the Bible date to around 1500 years before Christ. The last book in the Bible dates to the end of the first century. You’ve probably heard the Bible referred to as “God’s Word.” This means that when the Bible speaks, God speaks. The Apostle Paul told his disciple Timothy that all Scripture is God breathed
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Bible needs to be the ultimate authority in your life.

When we look at these five different sources of authority, they are all good. God gave us emotion, experience and reason to help us process what comes at us in life and the internet is a helpful tool, but we can never allow these top four to be the final authority. If you’ve found yourself relying on any of these more than on God’s word, look at Psalm 119 and see why it might be time for a change.

Monday, August 06, 2018

5 Prayer Tips


This Summer our church decided to focus on prayer. Prayer is the unholy connecting with the Holy. It's a conversation with God where you can express your fears, desires, longings, and failures.

Prayer is conversation with God

Each week I preached in the summer series I offered our church a prayer tip. Here is a summary of the different prayer tips.

God is with us

The first week of the series we looked that what we so affectionately know as the Lord's Prayer. In these verses Jesus gives us a model of what to prayer. We don't have to pray it exactly, but we can use it as a guide in our prayer life. In this guide, Jesus never asks us to pray for God to be with us. God is already with us! Before Jesus departed to Heaven He clearly told the disciples that He would be with them always:
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
If you find yourself regularly asking God to be with you, you can stop. God is with you. Now, if you have yet to place your trust in Jesus, you can pray for Jesus to be the Lord of your life!

Show God your emotions 

In 1 Kings 17 there is a story of a young boy who dies. Elijah has been living with this family and the mother places her dead son in the arms of the prophet. Elijah takes the boy to his room where he then stretches himself out over the boy’s dead body three times and cried to the Lord: “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!
Does your prayer life ever include tears? Throughout Scripture we see people who cried out to God. When my mom was in the hospital, I cried more than I’m comfortable admitting. God, who knows our hearts, also knows our emotions. It is pointless for us to attempt to hide our emotions from God. If you need to cry out in prayer, go for it. In his book Moving Mountains, John Eldridge talks about what he so affectionately calls, “The Cry of the Heart.” We see this throughout Scripture and mostly in the Psalms (Psalm 77:1 and Psalm 61:1).
It’s okay to cry out to God. I’m not suggesting God hears these prayers any differently, but if you are so overwhelmed with emotion, let God know what is troubling you. Don’t try to hide your emotions from our Lord.

Remove Distractions 

We live in a time with so many distractions. There is so much vying for our attention today. Our phones are constantly making noise, the Dodgers are playing, football season starts soon, and the radio is probably still on in your car. Slowly remove these distractions while you’re learning to hear God’s voice. I’m not saying to never listen to the radio or watch TV again. I’m saying minimize the use while you learn to listen to God.
Take a page straight from 1 Samuel 3. Samuel sat down and listened to the voice of the Lord. Sit down and say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Then sit there.
It might feel weird at first. You might have all these thoughts running through your mind. You will have to learn to clear your mind of the distractions so you can discern God’s voice. I’m not saying this is going to be easy. This will take time. This might take months or years of practice. But nothing great I have in life has ever come easy. The best things I have have taken time, energy and deep thinking. Sit and listen. You might want to keep a journal near by for when God speaks so you can write it down.

Find a place to meet with God

Find a place to meet with God. In Matthew, Jesus told the listeners to meet with God in a closet. In the story of Elijah and the dead boy, Elijah took the boy to his room where he met with God. In 2 Kings 19, Hezekiah went into the temple of the Lord to meet with God.
This week, find a place to meet with God. Find a location in your home, the beach, or a secluded place where you can meet with God.
When tragedy was nearing, Hezekiah went straight to the Temple. He went straight to the place where Israel met with God. I’m not sure if this was a normal place for Hezekiah to meet with God or not, but this was His place to meet with God.
The place I met with God is at the foot of my bed. I sit or lay face down on the floor to meet with God. It’s important to have somewhere you can meet with God. Now you might think how busy you are and that you don’t have time for prayer. Listen to what Billy Graham once said: "You cannot afford to be too busy to pray. A prayerless Christian is a powerless Christian.”

Pray for others

Pray for others more than you pray for yourself. If you want a satisfying prayer life pray more for others. I’m not saying to never pray for your self, but to focus on praying for others more than you pray for what is happening in your life. Pray for your neighbors, pray for your kids, pray for the leaders of our Nation, pray for others church in our county, pray for the unity of the church, pray for us to stay united in mission, pray for your family, and pray for the people you are investing your life in. Jesus taught us in John 17 to Pray for others.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Pray in danger


For our ten year anniversary our family went on a Disney cruise to celebrate! We had never been on a cruise before and we had a wonderful time. Being on a cruse is great! Someone makes your bed for you. Someone cleans your room. You experience gorgeous destinations. You can eat six meals a day; and they’re all free. They even have an ice cream station open all day. There is no commuting, no cooking, no cleaning and tons of fun.

Too bad being on a cruise isn’t reality. Life’s not always a soft bed to sleep on with unlimited room service. Sometimes life is more of a crisis we’re trying to overcome. We’re all familiar with crisis aren’t we? An unexpected death in the family, a lost job, an unwanted divorce, or bad news from the doctor are just a few of the different things life can throw at us. I’m no expert on crisis in any way, but the question I want to look at this morning is: when a crisis hits, who or what do you depend on? The obvious answer to this question is “God”, but all too often we try to solve the problem on our own. We depend on ourself in the dark times.

In 2 Kings 18 and 19 we read about a good king in Israel. He was threatened by a bad king and responded in faith to the Lord.

Look how the good King responds
Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 2 Kings 19:14
Take notice of what Hezekiah did with the letter he had received. He brought it with him to the Temple. He spreads it out before the Lord to make certain God sees it. Its an interesting tactic. Its nothing we haven’t seen before.

Dads think about this. Its almost like when your child brings you a broken toy to fix. They want you to put the head back on or change the batteries or just fix the problem. They bring it to you so you can see it and fix it. Hezekiah brings his problem to the Lord.

Once in the Temple of the Lord, Hezekiah proceeds to pray. Hezekiah’s prayer follows a format typical of the most common Psalm. The prayer has three parts: First, Hezekiah recognizes the greatness of the Lord. Second he explains his problem to the Lord. Finally he asks God for assistance.

The first thing Hezekiah does is recognize the greatness of the Lord 

15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. 2 Kings 19:15-16
Hezekiah affirms there is no one like the Lord God. Hezekiah defines where God sits. God is not one of many gods. God is not “a” god in any temple. God is the only God, the one God. Hezekiah is confessing God is in a class all by Himself; there is no one greater than He. When he asks God to “see, hear and listen”, Hezekiah is confessing He is the living God. An idol cannot see or hear or listen because it is quite simply not living. But the Lord God, who Hezekiah is petitioning, He is living. Hezekiah also makes sure to mention the dominion God possess and His creative nature. God has not been created, but God is the creator God. God is one who deserves His greatness to be recognized.

This is a great example for us to start out our prayers. It’s easy to come to God rushed, with a list of what we want Him to do and usually there is a timeline attached of when we need to act by. The next time you approach the living God try following this approach. Come to God but before you ask for anything, before making a single request, no matter how simple it may sound, recognize God’s greatness. Take time to declare how amazing God is. Stand in awe of His creative ability and know He is the only God.

Once you’ve recognized God’s greatness you can move on to explain your problems to God 

17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands." 2 Kings 19:17-18

The problem Hezekiah encountered is; what Sennacherib wrote was true. The Assyrians had laid waste to the other nations. They had cut off their water supply. They had caused them to starve. He had killed their kings and burned their gods in the fire. There is a difference: their gods are made of wood and stone, really they aren’t gods at all but idols.

Let’s make this practical. After you’ve recognized the greatness of God take time to explain your problems. Freely tell God how your struggling as a parent. Tell God you don’t want to get a divorce but you know your spouse does and this is a problem for you. Remind God about your last semester of school and how you’re stressed. Remind God that you’re having a tough time paying your bills this month. No matter what the situation is, explain your problem to God. We all have problems, and its Biblical to explain those problems to God.

After Hezekiah explains his problem he asks God for assistance against the Assyrians 

"Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.” 2 Kings 19:19
If you’re in a dark time know you can ask God for assistance? Hezekiah was in a dark time and he knew the only one who could help him was God. Growing up on the bottom end of the middle-class, there were times we had to ask for help. My mom used to always say to me, “You never know unless you ask.”

Its true, you never know unless you ask. You never know if God will assist you unless you ask for assistance. If you take one thing from this message will you remember: When the future is uncertain, go to God. Hezekiah has modeled his dependance on God. He trusts God. He depends on God to carry him through the darkest time of his life.

My prayer tip this week is find a place to meet with God. In Matthew, Jesus told the listeners to meet with God in a closet. In the story of Elijah and the dead boy, Elijah took the boy to his room where he met with God. This week, find a place to meet with God. Find a location in your home, the beach, or a secluded place where you can meet with God.

Hezekiah went straight to the Temple. He went straight to the place where Israel met with God. I’m not sure if this was a normal place for him to meet with God or not, but this was His place to meet with God. I’ve share with you, that a place I met with God is at the foot of my bed. I sit or lay face down on the floor to meet with God. It’s important to have somewhere you can meet with God. Now you might think how busy you are and that you don’t have time for prayer.

Listen to what Billy Graham once said: "You cannot afford to be too busy to pray. A prayerless Christian is a powerless Christian.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Best of Bend- 2018

Last week our family spent a week in Bend on vacation. We've been to Bend twice as a family and I've been once on my own. The last time we went was when Sophie was almost a year old and Leah was just a few weeks in Charity's tummy.

Our family was blessed this summer to spend almost a full week in Bend. Our main hope was to rest and see our friends. Since this is not what I've been normally posting on this site lately, I want to talk about the value of family and doing fun things together.

In about a month our oldest daughter will turn ten. That means we only have eight more summers to plan rad family trips. We only have eight more summers to make memories! Our family is all about adventure. We love exploring, laughing, hiking, snowboarding, swimming, eating ice cream and much more. Here are a few of my highlights from Bend this summer.

Hanging out with friends

We saw some of our great friends!
































Floating the River




More River Fun!



Sophie Riding Horses

Sophie is such a brave girl! She rode horses almost every day on the trip!


Family Spelunking 

We've done some caving before kids and without the kids, but this was a first! We stopped at this Lava Tube just south of Bend and it was totally worth it!










Thursday, July 05, 2018

7 Questions with Michelle Rompel


Michelle Rompel is a Christ follower, sister, daughter and ministry leader. Michelle grew up in Napa, CA and  currently serves in Foster City, CA. Michelle is the Middle School Director at Central Peninsula Church. Michelle has a passion to see young people live their lives fully for Jesus. I've often called her a firecracker of energy and passion!

Michelle and I met in the summer of 2016 when she interviewed for our middle school director role. She had just finished her BA at William Jessup University near Sacramento. When I saw her resume and picture she sent it, I knew she was the one we needed to hire. We served on the same staff for about a year before God called us to Ventura. We have kept in close contact and I'm stoked to call her a friend and partner in ministry!

1. About two years ago you accepted your first role to serve as Middle School Ministry Director at a great church, what has been your biggest learning experience serving full-time in the local church?


Working in ministry is hard. Nobody really tells you that. I think this was something I needed to experience though, not just get told. We are people, and we are messy. Behind the scenes of the Sunday morning church experience is very different from what someone might see on stage. Along with that though, I’m learning that there is no other place I would rather be right now than working in ministry.

2. As a college graduate who is now working on a masters degree, how has higher education changed the way you view the world? 


Growing up in a town where everyone held a pretty similar mindset and view on life, it was refreshing to get to college and be challenged. I took a class in undergrad called “God’s Kingdom in the World” and it was a class all about missions. Each week we would study a different unreached people group and pray for them. This opened my eyes to so many different cultures and a longing to know people’s stories.

3. What is the best book you’ve read in the last year and how has it shaped your life? 


Probably Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. He writes with a lot of vulnerability and authenticity, something I wasn’t really shown growing up. Being able to understand emotions and the way that plays into all aspects of life has really helped me develop a way that I want to interact with people and with God. It was so relieving to understand that emotions are a part of who God created us to be, and a way for us to really connect with Him.

4. You are one of the most passionate people I’ve been around. Where does this passion for life and optimism come from?


As cheesy and christianese as it sounds, I have to say Jesus. Passion wasn’t apart of my vocabulary growing up, it wasn’t encouraged or really demonstrated. It wasn’t until college when I came to know Jesus and started really healing in places that I found passion for life and wanting to live it to the fullest. It also helps that I’m a 7 on the Enneagram and we are naturally more enthusiastic and optimistic in our healthiest state. I’m recognizing that passion can be both really good but also really challenging, passion and rebellion can often go hand in hand, so I have to make sure I have people keeping me accountable.

5. What is it like to be a young, single, woman working in a sector that seems to be primarily men?


It’s interesting. I think because I didn’t grow up in the church, I never really saw the differences in men and women leading. I went to a conference one time and out of the 100 people that were there, only 11 were female. That was when it really hit me that being a young women in ministry is still a bit taboo. Overall, I love what I get to do and know that this is where God has called me to be.

6. There are many people in ministry who don’t have a life outside their work. What is one hobby you enjoy and that fills you?


Something a lot of people don’t know about me is that I love arcades. Pinball machines, racing, basketball shooting, air hockey, skeeball, I love all of it! I love to travel as well, and when I go to different places I try and find old arcades that are still up and running. One of my dreams is to actually restore an old pinball machine for my house one day.

7. If you could give your 17 year old self one piece of advice what would if be?


It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to ask for help. As someone who struggled a ton with depression and anxiety in high school and currently, I wish someone would have told me that I didn’t have to have everything all together.

I really appreciate Michelle serving in the trenches of student ministries and helping more students know Jesus.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

How to pray


I think there are hundreds of thousands of people who want to pray... they are just not sure how. There are people who long to talk with God, but are concerned with the human talking with the holy. If we are all honest we would confess there is something about prayer that we are apprehensive in approaching.

Well, what if we were taught how to pray? What if there was a model that helped us learn how to pray?

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus gives us a great model for a thriving prayer life. We know it as the The Lord's Prayer. Many of you have probably memorized this prayer at some point in your life. This is one of the most famous prayers in all of history.

It is said at the end of every Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, it is recited in church services, and little kids are taught it at a young age. It’s a prayer that many people are familiar with but aren’t practicing what Jesus instructs on how to pray. The word we have to focus on here is “how.” This, then, is how you should pray.

The first half of the prayer focuses on God
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
   your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:9-10
The designation of Father implies an intimate relationship. It is a challenging word because we face the crisis and chaos of non-father fathers. We live in a world in which fathers don’t often act as fathers should act. Maybe your earthly father brings images of neglect, sorrow, and pain. Maybe you cringed a bit whenever someone describes God as “Father.” Maybe this is a hang-up in your prayer life and you've never made it further than that.

Jesus reminds us that God is in heaven and we are here on earth. This statement  requires us to think about the holiness of God and the position God holds. Recognize that God is in heaven and we are not. Jesus then talks about God’s name being hallowed. Hallowed comes from the Greek word- ἁγιάζω (hagiazō) meaning to sanctify or regard as holy. We live in a time where not much is holy any more. We’ve watered down marriage, we neglect commitments and we push God out of every sector we can. A thriving prayer life focuses on the holiness of God.

Jesus instructs us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come, but it seems too often we are more concerned with building our empires. We pray more for our will to be done than for God’s will to be done. God’s Kingdom is eternal and God’s will is perfect. Unfortunately we focus on a cheapened version of what God longs for us to have. We are a church who prays bold prayers. This prayer that Jesus models is a bold prayer. It’s uncommon and unconventional. It is a prayer that focuses on the holy nature of God before asking for a personal handout. We need to apply this part to our prayer lives; we need to focus more on God and less on ourselves.

The first part of Jesus’ instruction here focuses on God, while the second part focuses on the needs of a person:
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’
Matthew 6:11-13
Jesus begins by telling people to ask for their daily bread. I think one reason we don’t pray as much in America is because we have loaves of bread in our homes. My guess is that most of you have food in your fridge for the week. If you don’t have food in the fridge, you might have money to buy it. I can even remember using change to buy a burger at McDonald’s when they had 39 cent cheeseburgers! But the original audience didn’t have this luxury. Not everyone have been afflicted with wealth; people across the world are wondering their next meal will come from.

The forgiveness of debtors refers to forgiveness of sins and not a monetary debt. It’s interesting because Jesus talked briefly about this earlier in the Sermon on the Mount. He said (Matthew 5:23-24). Jesus is serious about being in right relationship with others. People have left churches because of un-forgiveness towards others. Wrong relationships don’t right our relationship with God. Wrong relationships mess with our relationship with God. We don’t always have to reconcile relationships but we do need to forgive others because God forgave us.

The last line of the prayer talks about being led away from temptation. This doesn’t mean we won’t be tempted. We are still going to face the temptations that every person faces. A literal translation of this verse would be, “don’t let us succumb to the temptation.”

Jesus was tempted! In Matthew 4, Jesus was fasting and praying for forty days in the wilderness. The devil came to tempt Him but He overcame that temptation. We too will be tempted, but we can overcome that temptation. We all succumb to periodic temptation, but we need to move on and move towards God. When we succumb to temptation, we can ask God to deliver us from the evil one and restore us back to His side.

Applying the Lord's Prayer

How do we take this model Jesus gave on prayer apply it to our prayer life? First, we know that God is looking for an unseen prayer life. Find a place where you can be alone with God and use the model Jesus gave. Give glory and honor to God. Praise God for the good things in your life. If you think you don’t have anything good going on, you need to think harder. Begin with praising God for your health. Thank God for the roof over your head. Thank God for the food you have in your fridge. Thank God for your church and what is happening there. Lift up the holiness of God because we live in a unholy time.

Pray for God’s Kingdom to come. If you don’t know what to pray, you can simply pray for God’s will to be done. When you pray for God’s will to be done, you begin to line up your heart with the heart of God. God will begin to speak His will to you. He will give you a deeper passion. Your prayer doesn’t have to be eloquent or pious; God is looking at your heart. When we start our prayer life focusing on God, it does something inside us. It centers us back on God. It helps our mind to think of all we have and not what we wish we had. It put us in a right place to move forward in our prayer life. If you start your prayer life focusing on God, it changes your heart and desires to those of God.

Praying for your needs

Let’s move on to the part about praying for ourselves. It is right for us to ask God to provide us our daily bread. Good fathers want to provide for their children. Fathers work hard to provide for their children. We all know that the fridge doesn’t fill itself; someone has to work for the food. I love that Jesus says to, “pray for daily bread.” Jesus doesn’t tell us to pray for a rack of ribs. Our prayer life needs to contain humility. Pray for God to meet your daily needs and I think that as your heart lines up with Him, you will also get what you want.

There is a practical part of our prayer life we can’t neglect here. We need to ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness. There are times we come to God asking for something while harboring bitterness in our hearts. Did you know that God forgives your sins? God will forgive you for all your sins if you just ask. Ask God to forgive you of the wrongs you’ve done. Jesus is going to talk more about forgiveness in a couple of verses so I’m going to spend less on it here.

Finally we need to pray against the temptation in our lives. The apostle Paul spent a lot of time in Corinth teaching people about the holy things of God. Listen to one thing he taught them
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13
God knows what we can handle in temptation. We won’t be tempted beyond what we can handle, but at times the temptation will stretch our prayer life. This doesn’t mean we won’t be tested, we will be tested
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4
Temptations and testing will strengthen our faith. This is what we long for, to be stronger in faith.

Conversations with God

God wants to hear your voice. God longs to converse with you, and that is what prayer is.
Think about your best friend. How did you develop such a strong relationship? You spent time together. You had long conversations. You stayed up late talking about every topic on your mind. You cried together, laughed together and went through hills and valleys together. This is also what grows our prayer life with God. We honestly come to Him and have long conversations. Your unseen prayer life grows your relationship with Jesus.

Your unseen prayer life grows your relationship with God. It strengthens your faith and walk with Jesus.

Let me ask you an honest question: If God answered all your prayers for last week, how would the world be better? Would your neighbors’ lives be changed? Would you kids know God more? Would world hunger be abolished?

Take an active role in prayer. Make it a priority. Use this model that Jesus gives us to have a thriving prayer life. I think one reason that people don’t pray is because they don’t know how to pray. Now you know how to pray and you know that your unseen prayer life grows your relationship with Jesus.

Listen to what Paul E. Miller said, “Learning to pray doesn’t offer you a less busy life; it offers you a less busy heart.”