Wednesday, October 19, 2016

3 books every youth pastor needs to read

We recently called a new Junior High Director to serve on our staff team. Its been such a joy having her on the team. Basically ever since my call to ministry I've had a passion to see students find and follow Jesus. At first I was hands on in this, then I began training more leaders and now I'm in a spot where I get to empower younger leaders to lead.

In the transition it reminded me of being a new youth pastor. It reminded me of how much I didn't know when I started in ministry and how much I still have to learn (leaders are learners). As I thought about what I wish I would have known it clicked, there were three books that I had to recommend to Michelle!

Here are three books that I think every new youth pastor needs to read

1) Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry
I had been in full-time student ministries for a whole 5 weeks when my pastor Chad Blood brought to the PDYM (Purpose Driven Youth Ministry) Conference. At this conference I heard about youth ministry in a whole new way. I listened to great speakers, talked with other leaders and bought this book.

Doug has a passion to to help youth pastors be successful in ministry. This book is a hands down survival tool for thriving in your first few years of ministry. Doug covers important issues such as: dealing with discouragement, ministering to parents and families, leading leaders, working with volunteers, resolving conflict and much more.

The added bonus for me, on this book, was going through it with a fellow intern. After the PDYM conference Charity Fairfield and I meet on a weekly basis to talk about this book. Who would have guessed that less than two years later we would be married. Thanks Doug for writing this book and giving me the tools I needed as a young youth pastor. Thanks Chad for having Charity and I read the book together, I may owe you both for setting us up!

2) Criticism Bites
Every youth pastor (and leader) that I know has experienced criticism at some point in their life. Brian Berry does a great job at sharing how he has handled criticism. When the book first came out my whole staff team went through it. Read what the back of the book says:

Maybe you've asked that question because you're tired of the relentless, nagging voice in your head saying you should quit, or you're inadequate, or your shortcomings are what people will remember most about you. Perhaps you're simply discouraged, frustrated, burned out, or isolated because of the criticism you've endured.
This book is for you.

After nearly 20 years as a pastor, Brian Berry has come to the conclusion that we cannot escape the critics, but we can learn how to think through and respond to them in healthy ways. Put another way: Criticism isn't something you solve. It's something you manage.

Drawing from his own experiences, Brian will guide you through the painful but necessary journey we face in life. He'll examine why criticism hurts so bad, and he'll discuss specific methods and strategies for handling it--including those times when critical words reveal insight and truth from God. When you face criticism, the best response isn't to hide, run away, or quit. The answer is to search your soul, pick yourself back up, and determine how you can deal with, respond to, and learn from the critics.

3) What Matters Most; When NO is Better Than YES
This quick read is a must for anyone in ministry. This book is not confined to the realm of youth ministry. Doug taps on his decades of pastoral leadership to help give leaders the confidence to give the best response. When I read this book I found myself struggling with people pleasing and saying "yes" to every request. I thought it was my job to be super-pastor.

If you can't remember the last time you said "no" to someone then you're on the road to death. It is impossible to say "yes" to every request, wedding, speaking engagement, small group, missions request, family crisis and other requests. I found myself struggling with feeling like I had to say "yes" to every request because that is what Jesus would do... I was so wrong!

This book gave me the freedom and power to say "no" more. It was tough at first but in the long run it has been so healthy for me, my family, the ministry I lead and my spiritual growth. In this read Doug gives you permission to say "no" more and helps set up youth pastors to have a thriving ministry!

What books would you add to this list?

Sunday, October 16, 2016


This weekend it rained most of the weekend here on the San Francisco Peninsula. When that happens you have two choices: stay inside and watch movies or go outside and stomp in puddles. Our kids did a little bit of both!

Puddle Jumping
On Saturday I was officiating a wedding for a great couple and Charity sent me this picture of Isaiah. It was his first rain (that he knows of). All weekend long he kept saying, "wawa". It was so cute! He loves water and you can see it in his face in this picture. When I think back to my childhood it reminds me of the blissful joy on splashing in puddles. There is something innocent about running around in the rain and splashing in puddles.

I also love his Batman jacket. He is so cute in it! He has his first pair of rain boots and like any little boy he never wants to take them off his feet. Today, he asked me three times to put them on. When I say asked me, he brought them over to me and said "shoes shoes".

Good Morning
This morning (Sunday) Isaiah woke up at 4:30am. Just read that sentence one more time because it's true. Charity went in to check on him and he had a hard time getting back to sleep. Obviously we also had a hard time getting back to sleep. Finally Charity said to me, "Let's pray for him together." It was a wise decision from my wife. We were both begging God, separately, for our little guy to fall back asleep.

After we prayed together he ended up falling back asleep. He kept sleeping and sleeping and sleeping. He finally woke up just after 6:40am. Normally I get to see him more on Sunday morning but this Sunday it was going to be quick so I went in to wake him up. He had the biggest smile on his face and was just stoked to see me.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Back from my Social Media

Last month I took a break from social media and... it was exactly what I needed.

If you missed the post where I explained what I was doing you can find it here.

My goal in taking the month off was to accomplish three things:
1) Re-center my life on Christ
2) Engage fully with my family
3) Redeem my time spent on social media

As I look back on the time off I can defiantly say I was able to accomplish my goals. I feel like my focus is more fully in Christ than it's been in years. I used some of the time where I may normally be scrolling through a newsfeed to be praying. Instead of being so concerned with sharing pictures I was more focused on sharing Christ. Instead of caring about what was happening in others lives I cared more about what was happening in my kids lives.

One struggle I noticed this summer was I would pull out my phone instead of engaging with my family. I'd come home from work and instead of hanging out with my kids I'd plop on the couch and pull out my phone. Instead of putting my phone in the room and leaving it there to charge, I would check emails and answer text messages.

When I look back on my break I can honestly say this was a great month for me with my kids. Part of the benefit is I didn't have any work related travel so I was able to travel and focus on them. Instead of being concerned about getting the best shot for Instagram I was concerned with being the best dad for my kids. Instead of being focused on getting the right date planned for my wife and sharing the picture on Facebook, I was intentional about being with my life. I feel more engaged with my family then ever!

The final goal really would be the "proof in the pudding". It took a few weeks (almost two to be exact) to think less and less about social media. But once the thoughts had stopped consuming me it became easier to take control of the time God has given me. I didn't have any desire to log-on to social media because I wanted to be present in my current situation.

As I think about re engaging on social media now I have done very little. I posted once on Instagram and twice on Facebook. Twitter is actually my favorite platform but I haven't been on much (I have used tweetdeck to slot posts). I'm sure I will slowly re-engage more and post more often, but right now I'm happy with the balance in my life and where my focus is. I'd prefer to keep it this way because I think I've chosen what is best.

This was by far the best distancing from social media I've done and I think it's because of the plan I started with.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Preparing for Victory

Last month our church started a new teaching series through the book of Joshua called Ventures in Faith. The book of Joshua is a fantastic book that details the Israelites transition from a group of wandering nomads to occupying the Promised Land.

On September 18 I preached on how the Israelites prepared for victory. Watch the sermon and my guess is you will be as shocked as I was on how God's people prepare for victory!

9/18/2016 - Neal Benson | Preparing for Victory from Central Peninsula Church on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Work is a blessing, not a curse

In our Young Adults ministry we just started a new series called "Work Matters". In this series we're looking at how important our work is. Work should be a blessing but far too many people consider it a curse. In fact, most Christians think that work is a result of the fall but look at Genesis 1

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
In the very beginning God created mankind in His image and tasked them with ruling over what He had created. The crown of God’s creation is you! Humans are created in God’s image and tasked with ruling over what God created. The Hebrew word for rule is וְיִרְדּוּ֩ (yir-dū) meaning to rule or tread or have dominion over. After the whole created order is almost finished God creates human beings, He creates them in His image and then passes the responsibility of caring for all the animals over to them. What a privilege! God has spent almost six full days of creating and then passes the responsibility over to us; how He trusts us.

The the Bible moves into what is almost Hebraic poetry in verse 27. There is a repetition of verse 26 here about God creating man but no repetition of the need for men and women to take care of the created order. We move into verse 28 and get to the first blessing in the Bible. The first blessing is to procreate, subdue the earth and rule over it. We see the Hebrew word for rule again in this verse but there is another word. This time we’re commanded to subdue the earth. The word subdue is the Hebrew word וְכִבְשֻׁ֑הָ (kib-su) meaning to subdue or bring into bondage. But when you study the word it’s not a command to rule/subdue with a heavy fist.

When we look at what the original language shares we find that the work of ruling and subduing the earth should be one of a blessing and done with a caring demeanor. It’s a role to care for what God has created and to tend to the created order. Essentially our work should be a blessing not a curse. How come its far too often the other way around? How come the work you do seems to be a curse in your life and not a blessing?

Did you know that over half the people in America aren’t satisfied with their work? In an article Susan Adams wrote for Forbes about two years ago she lays out some stats on job dissatisfaction. 52.3% of Americans are not satisfied with their job. This percentage has been slowly increasing ever since 1987.
The main factors are that contribute to job satisfaction are: experience, including job security, wages, promotion policy, vacation policy, sick leave, health plan and retirement plan. She also lays out that those who make over $125K are more satisfied than those make $50-75K (I feel like I could have told her that). One final stat she laid out that is interesting is that men are more satisfied in their job than women. She doesn’t provide much detail in to that stat, making it tough for us to analyze more.

When I think back to my first job I can totally remember it being a curse. Many of you know I grew up in the mountains of Big Bear Lake down in So Cal. When I was about 14 or 15 I would do odd jobs for people to help make money. I would go to people who had second homes, or vacation homes, and help them out in the summer months and winter months. In the summer I would do yard work; planting flowers, raking pine needles, or trimming bushes. It was hard work. I would come home sore, sweaty and bruised from the labor. Then in the winter I go around after snow storms and shovel people’s driveways. It was hard labor and I felt like I never was paid enough for how hard the work was.

What as your first job like? Was it a blessing or a curse? Did you enjoy the labor or was it detestable to you. How about your current job? Do you enjoy the work you preform? Is it tough but you find it enjoyable? It might be hard work but when you really think about it, the work is enjoyable. Maybe you enjoy your job for the work but the people you work with make it even better! You’re on a great team and you look forward to being with them. Maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe you love your work but not so much the people who you work with. You could find a colleague to be a challenge to be around or a lazy person!

No matter what your feelings are to work, the work you do matters! Another way to say it is, the work I do matters; make it personal. The job you preform matters to God. It’s your Biblical mandate. It’s a command in Scripture that you are to work and it’s also a blessing to God. You might have thought that work is a curse but it was never meant to be a curse. Hopefully studying these first couple verses helps you understand the plan God has for your life and the 1/3 of your life that is spent on work.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Work Matters- Young Adults Teaching Series

On Thursday September 8 we're kicking off a new, six-week, teaching series in our Young Adults Ministry. From your job, errands and keeping your apartment/house clean there is always some work to be done. In fact about 1/3 of your life involves work. Knowing that, we want to look at what the Bible says about work and how a Christ follower should approach work.

There is a great verse in the book of Colossians that goes like this:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters... Colossians 3:23
This will be our guiding verse for the entire series. We will use this as the theme verse to lead our time through this series.

Let me give you the six-week series overview:
September 8- The blessing of work
Main focus: our worship should be a blessing not a curse
Main verse: Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 2:2, 3, 5, 15.

September 15- guest speaker John Brandon
John spent his entire career in the technology business, retiring this past October after spending almost 15 years as the Vice President in charge of all of Apple’s international business. Before Apple, he was a CEO of a venture-backed start up and also spent ten years helping build Adobe System’s application software business. He started his career as a salesman with Texas Instruments. John and his wife, Nancy, have three grown children and have attended CPC for almost 38 years.

September 22- Rest from work (Sabbath)
Main focus: we can't always work. We need to rest. God modeled rest for us.
Main verse: Exodus 20:8-11

September 29- Attitude at work
Main focus: how should I act while at work, even when my job is tough?
Main verse: Genesis 39

October 6- Influence at work
Main focus: how can I live out my faith at work and have a positive influence as a Christ-follower
Main verse: Daniel 1&2

October 13- Panel discussion
We're going to close this series out with a panel discussion and hear from others on how they've lived for Christ in their workplace, family and career decisions.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Social Media Break

Starting August 31 I'm going to be taking a break from social media.
It will be a break from all forms of social media.
In other words, "I'm going dark."

Now in our world a person may ask something like this, "Neal why would you do that and what value would it bring?"  It's a great question and I appreciate it. This isn't a flippant decision to go dark. This is something I've thought about for the last couple months. It's something I've been wanting to do since June but didn't feel the timing was right. It's also something I've done in the past almost as a reset button. It's something to help me reset how I spend my time and what I focus on.

As I've thought about my decision this time it centers around three main reasons:

Recenter my life on Christ 
My desire is for Christ to be the center of my life. Please don't hear me to be saying that Christ is not the center of my life right now. Christ is very much the center of my life but I need to make sure He gets to reign properly. When I spend time on social media it can detract from my time with Christ. It cane take away my focus and I want to get reentered.

This summer has been a busy one. We've been on lots of adventures, had speaking engagements, pre-marital counseling, weddings, family trips, staff hires and I've had my own fair share of challenges. When life gets crazy a person can choose to do one of two things: they can run to Christ or slowly drift away from Christ. I've found to stay close to Christ and I feel this decision is going to help strengthen my walk with my Savior.

Recapture my time
Someone once told me that people spend up to 8 hours a day on social media. My conservative guess, for my life, is that I spend about 1 hour and 15 mins a day on social media. I do find myself checking it more often on some days than others. When I think about the time I spend on social media in a day and add it up, it becomes about 9 hours a week. To put it in perspective: that is a work day for most people.

My hope is to recapture my time and invest it in areas that I long to invest in. This could mean spending my time to read the stack of books on my desk (or the ones I keep carrying in my backpack and never read). It might mean calling more friends and seeing how they are doing or texting an old friend to catch up. I may take some time to watch more movies with my wife (once the kids are in bed, of course). Maybe it means a new hike with the family this weekend.

What I'm getting at here is that I want to be in control of my time and I find that social media beckons me to scroll and I miss out on what is front of me.

Fully engage with my family
The last couple nights I've been conscious of my social media tendencies. I find that around 7:15pm I hit a wall with my energy and "check out" on my family. Its a bad pattern. Its a horrible thing to admit. In fact, tonight, Sophie said; "Daddy, put that away!" It was a reality check.

I want to engage with my kids more. Sophie is only going to be 8 for a year. Leah is on the second half of 6. Isaiah is learning new things every day. And I want to be fully engaged in these moments. I want to spend as much time with my family as possible. I don't want to be checking social media when I'm on a date with my wife; I want to be fully engaged.

I invite you to join along with me or to allow my thoughts to help you shape a time when you could take a break from social media. Also, please share your thoughts in the comments section so others can hear from you.

*there are a couple of times where I will need to get on Facebook for a brief moment to help promote/invite you to great things happening at Central Peninsula Church.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Higher Power Retreat 2016

Last weekend (August 19-21) I was invited to teach at our Higher Power Retreat. Higher Power is a ministry that supports the recovery community and it was so much fun! We headed over to Loma Mar and stayed a great little conference center called Redwood Glen. Redwood Glen is tucked in the woods and has a great facility. The theme of the weekend was Through The Woods and we looked at the second half of Romans 8.

Everything we talked about through the weekend pointed us to the fact that nothing can separate us from God's love: 
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
Now many of you know that I'm in recovery. I've been sober for 16 years now. The great thing about recovery is people know they are broken. There is something special about spending the weekend with a broken group of people (of which I am one), who know they are broken and are drawing closer to Christ. It was awesome being able to spend the weekend together.

Here are three highlights of the weekend for me:
Hike on Saturday
Saturday afternoon we took a 5 mile hike through the woods. It was great because we were talking about going through the woods. We talked about how our shame can't keep us from God. We talked about how our suffering, lame decisions and weakness couldn't keep us from God. A hike allows people to talk for hours and enjoy God's creation. It also served as a visual reminder of going through the woods and accomplishing something together. 

Baptism Celebration
After the hike we hopped in the pool and baptized three people. It was fun being able to talk about the meaning of baptism, how baptism doesn't save you and that Jesus was also baptized. Two of the people we baptized are people who I've know for a while. It was also great getting to baptize these people alongside Ricky Wade, who leads Higher Power. 

Sharing God's Word
I love preaching the good news of Jesus. Ever since I surrendered my life to Christ I've felt a strong call to share God's word. This group was great because I could share some stories that I normally don't share and share them without feeling judged. I still struggle with people pleasing and this group fully accepts each other. They loved hearing God's word and we had great conversations about what God was doing in their lives! 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Happy 8th Birthday Sophie

Eight years ago our lives completely changed when Sophie Marie Benson made her arrival. The first week of her life was a roller coaster but we are so thankful for what a blessing she is to our lives.
Children are a gift from the Lord;
  they are a reward from him.
  Psalm 127:3 (NLT)
Today we celebrated her life with a great group of her friends. We invited Rey (from Star Wars) to come over and hang out with us. She read to the kids, played some games, did face paint and the sung happy birthday to Sophie. I love that my daughter enjoys Star Wars so much. Its great that Star Wars has a strong female leader to be a role model for our girls.

Instead of talking about Sophie's birthday party I want to share 8 different lessons I've learned since having children. Each lesson will be very quick and most likely a helpful reminder.

1) Having kids is tough
When Sophie was born she went straight to NICU. She didn't pass GO, and we didn't collect $200. It was the toughest time we had ever experienced in our marriage but she will never remember it. 

2) Having kids is a joy
Let's make sure to laugh with our kids and enjoy life with them. They are such a joy and as parents we have a great opportunity to cultivate joy in the life of our children. 

3) Each child must be parented differently 
No two kids are the same. What works with one may, or may not, work with the other. Let's make sure to understand the unique nature of our children and parent them in a meaningful way. 

4) There is no formula for a great child
We can read tons of books, pray all the time and still struggle with our kid. There is no formula for a great child but each child holds their own unique personality and is created in the image of God. 

5) Get outside
Each time I get outside with my kids it gives them an opportunity to fall in love with creation. It usually sparks a conversation that allows us to talk with them about God as creator. 

6) Listen to what they have to say
If we would simply listen to our children we can learn a lot. There is no need to always talk as a parent. 

7) Pray with them and invite them to pray
Don't always be the one to pray. Invite them to pray. Teach them to pray. Let's pray with our kids and for our kids.

8) Children are smart
Your kid is smart. Try to ask them more questions and let them make decisions. The great thing is, if they screw up you are there to help them talk it through. We can give them freedom to fail today and help them succeed tomorrow. 

I am so thankful for all that Sophie (and Leah and Isaiah) have taught us about life! 

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Driving, swearing and flipping off

When I was 24 I took my first pastoral role at church in San Diego. One day I was driving home from work and preparing to merge onto the freeway. My onramp was one of those large onramps with two lanes that merged into one before merging onto the freeway; it was super confusing. This day there was a car next to me and we were pretty even entering the freeway when out of nowhere he cut me off in the merge. It's not that I was driving a fast truck, it was just that he was behind me and almost hit my truck. The next thing I knew my left hand flew out of my truck window with my middle finger extended as far as it possibly could. Next thing I knew, I told this person I thought they were number one in my book.

I was shocked, I was embarrassed and ashamed all at the same time.

Where did this behavior come from?
Where did this burst of rage come from?

I wanted to quit being a pastor. I wanted to go home and hide under the bed I was so embarrassed. I wanted to run as far away from everyone as possible. But through that outburst God still loved me. His love never changed for me. God never gave up on me. I actually learned a valuable lesson that afternoon on that San Diego freeway. The lesson is: nothing can separate me from the love of God.

Now I’m happy to admit to you that I haven’t stuck my middle finger up like that since.

Each of us will sin. Each person will do things that we are embarrassed of, find shame in and regret. The bigger question is how do we respond to our actions and sinful behavior. We can run from God, thinking He is mad at us. Or we can run to God, knowing He loves us.

I'm thankful for the words Paul writes to the church in Rome:
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
This is the same for you. Nothing can separate you from God's love. Nothing was able to separate the young, 24 year old, pastor from God's love. Live in this hope and truth today!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Prayer removes worry

As I’ve been spending time with individuals from our church this year I’ve had an increased sense that we need to be praying more, and more effectively. Paul gives three solutions to our worries: prayer, petition and thanksgiving. Three words are used to describe a prayer life that actively fights worry. Watch this short video to hear more:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mount Hermon Summer 2016- Day One

(Family packed and ready to drive)
It's Tuesday morning and we're loving our time here at Mount Hermon. The kids are doing well. Isaiah is napping right now and Charity is really enjoying it up here. Our morning's are starting early and the nights are long but it's so rad being here!

I'm going to do my best to give a recap of the day before. This post will actually cover Sunday night and Monday since we arrived later Sunday. Upon arrival we got landed in our housing then headed up to Ponderosa. I immediately connected with Matt who had been awesome! It's been really fun to see how much our kids are enjoying this experience!

(The girls)
The theme this summer is Through the Woods and we're studying Romans 8. Each night I'll be preaching on a handful of verses from Romans 8 and at the end of the week we will have covered the entire chapter. I really love how Mount Hermon is tackling some tough passages in Scripture and helping to shape this generation of believers! Sunday night we had forum and it was an introduction for me. I shared my life story in 4 minutes and then we opened it up for some Q&A time. I was super surprised at some of the questions:

  • What do your tattoos say?
  • What is your greatest regret in life?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • What is your favorite sports team?
  • What is your most embarrassing moment?
After forum I kept the girls around to hang out. We've met some great counselors who are really loving our kids this week! 

Monday morning came early after a late night but we had a good time as a family at breakfast. The girls checked in to their first morning of day camp and we kept Isaiah with us. Most of the afternoon was spent around the pool. Sophie passed the swim test but decided not to jump off the diving board. I was hoping she would but a three foot board is scary when it's just a little smaller than you!

Monday night we had a great forum. I started out with Romans 8:1-13 and talked about how our sin, flesh and the law can't separate us from God's love. I talked about the Prodigal Son to help illustrate this point and even used a blow up crocodile to help show how we don't have to be afraid of sin (not that we need to participate in sin, we just don't have to fear it). Overall it was a great first day! 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

City Impact Conference- 2016

This morning we rushed out of the door, loaded up the kids and headed to one of the most dangerous parts of the city. As we drove the Tenderloin we talked with our kids about what was about to happen. We shared that we might see people who are far from God. We talked about watching where you walk and how to talk to others. I'm not sure they had any clue what they were about to experience.

You can tell someone about the Tenderloin but until you've experienced it for yourself it's hard to realize. The smell of urine and feces on the sidewalk can be horrid. The sights of men and women sleeping on the sidewalk can be hard to handle. Watching people use drugs, at 10 am, is quite the experience. But there are also some great people. Many smiles. Lots of dogs. And wonderful people serving the area in Jesus name. People who are there to intervene in Jesus name.

We parked the car and began heading to the conference. No more than two blocks into the walk (we only parked three blocks away) I witnessed my first drug deal. It was two young men looking to score a bag. The first man they approached didn't have what they were looking for. As I heard them ask to score, I wish I would have stopped them and told them where this lifestyle would lead them.

Just a few short steps away we made it to the conference. I was able to hear John Ortberg speak and he is amazing; it was very inspiring! Worship was next and followed by an interview. Afterwards we went to our service site. It was a quick introduction and then right off to serving. Our girls went out to find a place to serve while I got Isaiah situated (Charity was already working registration). Sophie and Leah found the Tattoo table and were working alongside a young lady name Kiley (I think) who was so amazing to them.

Now these girls didn't just sit there and beg to partake in the carnival. These girls served other kids their age. They prepped the tattoos. They helped to put the tattoos on. They picked up the trash when it fell on the ground. They asked kids their names and gave out hundreds of tattoos. They sat in the hot sun and served their Savior by loving on other kids. It was so precious to see. At one point, as I thought about serving with my family, I almost shed a tear because it was so precious.

The time to serve came to an end and we decided to head home early so we could prep for my speaking engagement next week. As we talked about the time serving it was great to hear the girls thoughts. It was fantastic to see my wife so fully of joy. Charity said, "We should do this every weekend!"

When we got in the car looked at me and said, "Daddy, next year can we come here again and do the same thing?" She got it! My kid got it! It reminded me of the words of Christ:
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
When you think about your life, is there room to serve? Many people are serving already but maybe you could find a time to serve with your family and find the joy our family did.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Charity's Birthday Celebration 2016

I've been super blessed to celebrate Charity's birthday with her since 2003. The first time we celebrated we weren't even dating, we were "just friends". (Although I did try to hold her hand that night at the San Diego Zoo). 

Fast forward to 2016 and times are different. We've been married for over 11 years, have three kids and we hold hands now. This year our daughters started the celebration by making Charity presents and cards. They decorated the table and we hung our happy birthday sign over the window. I went out the night before and got Charity flowers (orange of course). 

During the day Charity enjoyed hanging out with her friends, getting lunch with some great friends and then heading to the beach. While at the beach she called me, during staff meeting, to invite me out. My staff was so kind that they wanted to sing happy birthday to her. It was super cool! 

When I got home we packed up quickly and took Charity out to dinner. With having kids we couldn't go out to a nice dinner. We went to our favorite burger joint, The Counter. It was a great evening and our kids did super good! 

As I look at these pictures and think about the day. I think a few things:
1) My wife is awesome 
2) My kids love their mom
3) I am so blessed 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Young adults and Spiritual Growth

A few months ago in our Young Adult ministry we were preaching through the book of Colossians. During one of my sermons, I can't tell you which one, I made a comment about spiritual growth. It was actually more than just a comment. It was something to the effect that most of the young adults in the room had a five year plan in their career or personal goals but no plan to grow spiritually. It was one of those times in preaching when you see you struck a nerve. Faces looked down. Wheels began to spin in people's minds and I could see the Spirit working in lives. It was awesome!

It got better! After the night was over two different people came up to me and asked if I would teach them how to create a plan for spiritual growth. My first thought was, "This will wear off, they will forget." I said I would look at my calendar and get back to them. Well it didn't wear off, it actually gained momentum.

My team helped out and we put a date on the calendar. I thought we'd have maybe 5-8 people show up. We created a Facebook Event for the night and to help it be a success we decided to make it a BBQ at my home (if you feed them, they will come). As the date approached I kept hearing an increased interest. The number was growing and it was super encouraging!

Sunday night came around and we had over 20 young people show up at my house looking for ways to grow spiritually. I was able to pull out a bunch of my old seminary papers, shorten them, tweak them and share what I've learned in the last six to seven years since I began making spiritual formations a huge part of my life. We had a wonderful conversation as we talked about being healthy adults, spiritually growing people and connected in community.

I shared several books that impacted my life. It was great seeing the conversation as others talked about their spiritual life. The questions were fun as you could see people who were longing to grow but felt stuck in life. It was great to talk about the whole things not becoming legalistic but flowing out of a healthy relationship.

It leaves the question, how are you growing spiritually? What is your plan to have a healthy walk with Christ and not jut a five year plan for your employment?

We left the night with a decision to meet back up in three months and talk more. I encouraged the group to come up with their own personal plan. I shared some spiritual growth plans from other people and shared my own. It was good for me to see how badly mine needs to be edited. Once it's done I'll share it on here and talk more about how you can create a plan to grow.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Happy Fourth of July

Yesterday we celebrated the Fourth of July. Like many Americans we enjoyed the holiday. We relaxed more, spent more time outside and were around more people in our community. As a family we've started some traditions that we really enjoy.

The first family tradition we've been doing for the last four years is the annual Village parade. Our neighborhood has a great parade where many people gather to walk down the street and end up at our neighborhood park. It starts at 11am. 

By 10:40 the street is filling up with families, kids, grandparents and more. This war Charity said, "it's like a small town. You get to see everyone you know and don't have to worry about your kids." It's true. Our kids go and find their friends. We talk with people from school or church. Everyone is enjoying themselves and then we all walk TJ the park. 

One at the park many people BBQ. The local police and firefighters are there and let the kids ride their vehicles.
One we enjoy the fun we head out for lunch for our next tradition. 

For lunch we head to In and Out Burger. Charity and I have been doing this for years. It's feels great to be American and eat a burger before we BBQ. 

In the evening we enjoy having some neighbors over to BBQ and laugh. It's a great time to get to know others and share stories of the year and what is coming up next. 

Happy Fourth of July! I hope you had a great one. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Great quotes on Money

Earlier this month I taught a message on Money. During my research I found some great quotes that made sense to share here.

As long as you want anything very much, especially more than you want God, it is an idol.
-A.B. Simpson

The thieves don't always poke a pistol in your ribs. Most of our assets are not taken with a pistol but with a pencil—just like that. Clarence Jordan

A person is no fool to give up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.
-Jim Elliot

I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer. -Jim Carey

Never put your security in something that can be taken from you. -Rick Warren

Greed is not a financial issue. It's a heart issue. - Andy Stanley

Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants. - Benjamin Franklin

Money cannot buy peace of mind. It cannot heal ruptured relationships, or build meaning into a life that has none. - Richard M. DeVos

I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess. -Corrie Ten Boom

If your heart’s crammed tight with material things and a thirst for wealth there’s no space left for God. -Ian Morgan Cron

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Reading Idea

Summer is usually a time when our normal schedule is thrown out the window. Think about this with me.

Students- you are on summer break. Whether a junior high, high school or college aged person you are on break. That means: no reading, no going to classes, no homework and no opening your locker on campus.

Adults- you are loving the warmer weather. People are traveling more and you are seeing places you've never seen on your Instagram feed. You're roommates may be out of town or you might have an old college friend visiting you this summer.

Parents- you are still waking up early because your kids don't know how to sleep in. You're trying to figure out what to do with your kids. You're creating awesome adventures with your kids or dreading some days when you have no plans.

Grandparents- you might have the grandkids for a week or two this summer so that your children (who are adults now) can get a break. You are loving the change of pace and the new routine of having the little ones around.

No matter what stage of life you find yourself in we can all agree that summer brings about change. With this change that means we may find it tough to have a Bible reading plan. What if this summer you made a commitment to read two Gospel accounts in the Bible? What if you said, "I'm going to read Matthew and Mark"? You may not read every day but you can sure try your hardest.

The Gospel of Matthew is 28 chapters long and Mark is 16 chapters. That means 44 days of straight Bible reading. You might miss a day or two here and there but you could finish both of these books by the middle of August with no problem. It would require about 5 mins of reading a day. Did you hear that? Five minutes of reading is all it would take to read one chapter a day! Make it even better and use the YouVersion Bible App to help you out.

Take a summer reading challenge and start reading God's word today!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The way we handle our finances affect every part of our life

A couple Sunday's ago I started out our summer series at Central Peninsula Church Foster City Campus. We looked at the topic of money and how that impacts our life. To talk about money I wanted to look at what Jesus had to say. We went to the Sermon on the Mount.

As Jesus continues teaching, He wants to reveal how we handle our finances affect every part of our life. He does something He has done before. He says the same thing in a different way, inviting His hearers to slow down and ponder what He had just said.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6:22-23
Jesus started the conversation by grabbing their attention with a familiar topic and is now moving it to a deeper level. Jesus wants to make the point that a person’s use of money reveals the intentions of that person’s heart.

If a person’s treasure is found within their heart, then their eye will be focused on that treasure. The eye is the lamp of the body, letting light into the body and focusing on where the body will go. When the eye is focused on Heaven and Kingdom aspects, it will bring light and health to the rest of the body because that is what humans were made for. But, if the eye is focused on wealth accumulation, then the whole body is going to be dark and the actions of the person will be focused on dark things. Another way to say it is, what you look at is what you think about. What attracts your eyes is what captures your heart. Where your eyes are focused reveals the desires of the heart.

Jesus tells a parable in the New Testament about a man who thought that all he had was his. He was a rich man who had just had an abundant harvest. He was overjoyed with all the grain he just harvested. It’s like when “WhatsApp” was bought by Facebook. One day they didn’t have much, and then the next day they have everything. This man in the parable decides the best thing to do is to build a bigger barn to store all his grain. His rationale is that this extra grain will equal security. But that night he dies in his sleep and everything he thought was his, is no longer his.

The story is so popular because it reveals the inner human condition many people struggle with, but no one wants to admit. It’s no secret that the love of money has consumed the heart of many. This story reveals the inner working of the human heart. The story exposes that many people trust more in money and feel more secure with money than they do with God. God gives us money to steward and share in order to build His Kingdom not to hoard or amass for ourselves.

In this parable, Jesus is talking about grain and not money, but as in all parables there is a deeper truth. We can use what we have to bless others or we can be selfish. It’s not bad to own a car or a home or to have an iPad. There are great Christians who have been blessed with financial resources and who have not allowed money to own them. God still owns their heart and they have learned how to be fantastic stewards who build His Kingdom.

The point is that we need to evaluate what has more of our heart. Andy Stanley once said, “Greed is not a financial issue. It's a heart issue.” Jesus is essentially saying, “The way you handle your finances affect every part of your life; either for the good or the bad.”

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Fabulous Family Friday's /// 2016

For the last few summers our family has done what we call Fabulous Family Friday's. The name pretty much describes it all.

What we do is fabulous (and fun)

We do it as a family

It happens on a Friday (it's my day off)

This summer we came up with a list of what we want to do this summer. Most of the fun we have planned is something we have never done as a family. I say most because when we sat down to come up with this list, as a family, Sophie and Leah both immediately asked to go to the waterpark again. The waterpark has been on the list every summer. The first summer it was our first time going. The next summer they had to go again, so we go again this summer. To be honest, I love the waterpark with my kids. I wish they would ride more waterslides but just chilling in the lazy river with them all day isn't a bad way to spend your Friday.

I was hesitant to share our list with you. Not that I think you will text me and try to join in on the fun, I think you will respect this is a family building memories in the summer together. I feel like this is a personal part that I wasn't sure if it would help to share.

Then it hit me, "Why wouldn't I share the list?" I bet there are tons of families out there that need to have some more fun together this summer. The family fun isn't just because we have kids. The family fun is for building our marriage also. I want my kids to see how much I love their mom. I want my kids to see Charity and I laughing together. I want our kids to see us kiss and smile. I also want to have a rad time with my kids. I want to laugh with them, buy them treats and take silly pictures.

So let the Fabulous Family Friday's begin. I can't wait for tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Trending Now- Money

On Sunday I kicked off a new summer series at our church. This summer we're going to tackle tough topics that are taking center stage in our culture. I started out the series by talking about money. Some people wanted to know what the controversy with money is. The question made me think. There is so much controversy around money that we have bought into that lie that there is no controversy about money. Our money use shows the intentions of our heart.

Here is the entire sermon I preached: