Thursday, December 14, 2017

My Thomas Fire Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

6 questions with Bret Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Jerry Wood- Celebration of Life

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

How to bring hope this Christmas season

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

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

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

1) Anoint and Reject the king

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

2) Circumscribe, Authorize, and Direct Warfare

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

3) Interpret the Law of Moses

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

4) Intercede on Behalf of the People

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Explain | Reason | Prove

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Unstuck Church | Book Review

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

Author- Tony Morgan

Publisher- Thomas Nelson

Pages- 205

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 06, 2017

Mere Christianity

Title- Mere Christianity

Author- C.S. Lewis

Publisher-Harper San Fransisco
Zondervan Publishing House

Pages- Audio Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

4 reasons to take your kids camping

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. You can explore new areas

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

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

3. It might bring back some memories from your childhood

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

4. You have the space to have great conversations

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

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Stranger in the Woods- Book Review

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

Author- Michael Finkel

Publisher- Alfred A. Knopf

Pages- Audio Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Listening to the Holy Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 09, 2017

7 Questions with Rob Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn how to pray earlier and actually pray lots more.

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

Thursday, October 05, 2017

A pastors thought's on Las Vegas

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

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

I was shocked...

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

5 thoughts about our recent move

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

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

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

1. Our church is extremely caring and gracious 

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

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

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

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

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

3. The pastoral community here is wonderful 

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

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

4. Being closer to family has been a blessing 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Kayak Fishing on Santa Cruz Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

7 Questions with Danny Bowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

My 9-11 Memory

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Under the Overpass- Book Review

Book Title- Under the Overpass

Author- Mike Yankoski

Publisher- Multnomah

Pages- 223

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Guest Post- 7 Questions with Chase Feindel

Chase Feindel is a husband, father, friend and follower of Christ. He is a talented pastor who just launch Anthem Church. Chase is originally from North County San Diego and currently lives and ministers in that area. Chase is married to Lauren and they have three children. He is a sought after speaker who regularly encourages people to follow Christ and move forward in their walk with the Lord.

Chase and I met while serving at South Hills Church Community in Las Vegas. We served shoulder to shoulder in Student Ministries. Chase taught me some great lessons in ministry that I will never forget. He is such a talented young man who loves the Lord deeply. Chase is a driven leader and passionate about investing in the local church. I will never forget when we were in our 20's and Chase shared with me about his desire to lead a church. I was super impressed that he had such a confidence in the Lord that that was his calling. I asked Chase these 7 questions about life and ministry:

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

The most exciting part of the journey we are on is the energy of the people that have said yes to the mission. There is a 150 people who have said yes to leaving a healthy well-established church with ministry for their every need to be apart of developing something from the ground up. Their faith that God is going to reach people that are far from him, and their willingness to sacrifice their own luxouries, has encouraged and inspired me. The mission of our church is for people to meet Christ and experience life to the full. What is more exciting than seeing that come to fruition one life at a time?

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

C.T. Studd said "“Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell.” I've always been drawn to people who don't know the Christian lingo and don't know the rules of church. What I love about Southern California is the opportunity to redeem people's perception of Jesus. It's going to take a hands on approach but a younger generation of non-believing millenials are as missional as any generation, it's our job to point out that it's Jesus who gave them that heart when he made them out of his own image.

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

We have been through the fire. If it wasn't for Jesus and friends who have pushed us towards him and one another, I don't know where we'd be. Marriage is the best and hardest relationship i've ever experienced, because it forces you to confront the selfish and unhealthy parts of your soul. We both grew up in dynsfunction and on top of battling the inherently selfish parts of us, we are battling how a broken model has shaped our expectations of marriage. There are three key principles that have been vital to our marriage 1. Inviting friends to speak hard truth into our lives 2. Prioritize your marriage on your calendar, in your heart and in your words 3. Forgive often.

4. You’re family just went through one of the most difficult times with Lauren having cancer. How has this strengthened your faith in God?

In the end it strengthed our marriage but we had to do some "why wrestling" first. Why would Lauren be diagnosed at 31!? Why did this have to happen five days after we announce we are launching your church!? Why did this happen when we have three little kids!!? And at the end of every honest question we asked, we found a faithful and present God. He showed us what the church looks like by how they loved and cared for our family (meals, childcare, laundry, house cleaning and financial support). God showed us the purest form of dependence. God enriched each of our hearts towards people who are hurting. God knew what we needed and though he did not author our pain, he promised he wouldn't waste it.

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

I am a fantasy football junkie! It's bad. A group of my closest friends have started a "dynasty league" which takes it to another level! My other favorite thing to do is play sports and right now basketball is what I spend my lunches doing to keep this dad bod in shape.

6. How do you feel about the San Diego Chargers moving to Los Angeles? 

As a San Diego native they have moved out of my heart and into enemy territory. My new favorite team is whoever is playing the LA Chargers. It is safe to say that my football fanship does not reflect the gracious heart of Jesus.

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

Don't believe the hype around you. Don't believe the critics of you. Pursue God's best, it'll be worth it in the long run, because he knows what you need, who you are and ultimately what you are called to.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Three ways we're like sheep

My family went to the fair this summer and we had a great time! Now I’ve been to many fairs, but I think this fair had the most food I’ve ever seen. I was impressed with how many different hot dog stands one could visit. I also saw options for fried food that I had never thought about battering up and deep frying.

We didn’t only eat food. We also rode some of the rides. We rode the ferris wheel as a family and it was so beautiful. It’s amazing to have a ride like that on the beach; it left me breathless. We also played the games. We walked through displays, saw the pig race, and had a blast.

But as I look back on the fair, there was an area that is a magnet for my kids. It’s the animals. We looked at chickens, rabbits, turkeys, goats and cows. There are more types of chicken than I ever knew about. (My favorite kind of chicken is chicken strips). As we continued looking at the animals, we made it to the back of the barn. There were less people back there and we found the sheep. I knew I’d be preaching on Psalm 23 so I began looking at the sheep. And after looking at the sheep, I made some observations.

Sheep are delicate

Sheep need to be handled with care. If you look at their legs and their wool, you can see how delicate they are. Sheep also scare easily. I read about a story of a shepherd who experienced a great loss when his sheep were scared. All it takes is one sheep running and the rest will follow. One day he had a sheep run and it ran off a cliff. All the other sheep followed because of herd mentality. This shepherd experienced a great loss.

Sheep are also prone to getting parasites and worms. If sheep are not cared for in the right manner, they may look good on the outside but they will have issues going on inside. An unclean water source can give a sheep get worms, parasites or other micro bacteria that are in the water. Because sheep are so delicate, it is extremely important they are cared for and looked after closely.

Sheep are helpless

The next thing I noticed at the fair is that sheep are helpless. They have no sharp teeth (pic). In fact, they only have a bottom row of teeth! They have no claws. Sheep have no defense mechanism. They have no way to defend themselves, which renders them helpless in an attack. Now we have a puppy and she has sharp teeth. She can also bark to scare people away who might enter our backyard. I don’t think the baaaa of a sheep is going to scare a fierce predator. Sheep also get what is called “cast” easily. It’s when they fall over and can’t get up (picture). If this happens, and no one helps, they will die.

Sheep need constant protection because they are helpless. They need a shepherd to watch over them. There can also be internal problems in the herd. Sheep will fight against each other. They will establish an order where sheep will head butt other sheep. But once the good shepherd comes around, the head butting stops. They are anxious without someone to lead them. They also need to be lead to food and water. Theydon’t excel at providing for themselves.

Sheep are dirty

The last thing I noticed at the fair is that sheep are dirty. They can’t clean themselves like a cat. How many cat people do we have here? Cats are always licking themselves; sheep, not so much. They literally were laying in their own poop at the fair. It was gross. They have this thick coat of wool that we love to wear but the reality is, they are dirty (pic). They live in harsh environments where they can lay in dirt all day long. They don’t take showers. When it rains they don't have umbrellas. When I talked about them being delicate, we talked about parasites. Sheep are also prone to getting ticks. The ticks will get in their ears, near their eyes, under the hoof and in their wooly coat. Because they are helpless, sheep, have defense against them. The sheep must rely on the shepherd to care for their needs.

In all of this, we must remember that sheep are valuable to the shepherd. It could be easy to dismiss sheep as worthless but that is far from the truth. One sheep can produce two to thirty pounds of wool each year. In 2013, the average price paid for wool sold in the United States was a total value of $39.2 million. A ewe lamb, as a baby, costs around two to three hundred dollars. But then you can sell the wool each year and later sell or eat the sheep. When I told you about the sheep that walked off the cliff, that shepherd lost approximately $100k.

When I look at these three ways I realize that people are delicate. Some people need a "handle with caution" sign on them at times in their life. In fact, we all need this sign at times in our life. I'm delicate right now with the loss of my dad. People are helpless. I am helpless without the saving power of Jesus in my life. We are all helpless to get to Heaven on our accord. Finally people are dirty. We have bad habits, make unwise choices and there are times that we just plain smell.

Even with all of these things it's wonderful to know that God is our strength when we are delicate, that God protects us when we are helpless and that Jesus has cleansed us with His blood that was shed on the cross.

Monday, August 28, 2017

A praying team

One of my roles at Coastline Bible Church is to lead our staff. There are a handful of ways to effectively do that. One of the ways I aim to lead our team is through our weekly staff meeting. Being a strategic thinker I want to have a plan and purpose for our weekly gathering.

Another way of saying this is: "Don't waste your teams time when you gather." I wish I could tell you how many precious hours have been wasted in pointless meetings. There are people who are going to sit in a meeting you're leading this week and will be bored. A young, talented leader, will zone out and think about Instagram because of meeting failure. In fact, I heard that at Google if you're in a meeting and it doesn't pertain to you, you can freely leave the meeting at any time!

One of the things our team has been working on is to be a team that prays effectively. Not just a team that prays randomly, but a team that prays will purpose.
Last month I lead our team through a short devotion on prayer before we took time to pray for our church.

1) We need to take the time to prayer

When I first gave my life to Christ I couldn't wait to spend time in prayer. I would go to small group and pray with others. I would sit with others in prayer. I would pray in my car all the time. I would wake up before the sun came up just so I could spend time in prayer. As I became involved in full-time ministry and attended seminary there was a decrease in my prayer life.

After having children it seemed like much of my prayer life revolved around sleep and children napping. I wish I could put a finger on what made that shift but I can't Even just this morning I read an article from a pastor who confessed a similar experience in seminary. If you look the Gospel of Mark you will find that Jesus work up very early to pray. Jesus didn't have to get up early. In fact, He had a busy night!

The night before Jesus was healing all kinds of people. He would have been justified to sleep in and get some rest. But Jesus knew what was most important therefore look at what He did:
"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." Mark 1:35
We need to take the time to pray. Our relationship with God is a relationship. That relationship requires time to foster a healthy connection. Our team wants to be a team that prays and spends time with God in prayer!

2) We need to view prayer as a lifestyle and not an event

The next thing I shared with our staff is that we need to view prayer as a lifestyle and not an event. It seems like many of us are great at segmenting our lives. I've talked with people who live a completely different life in different circles. Some people have their church circle, their bike riding circle, their book club circle, or their discipleship circle. Fill in the blank for the different circles you have.

These circles then play into the person we are in those circles. We segment our life and therefore pray is not a lifestyle but an event that takes place at our parents house before we eat dinner. Prayer becomes something we do with our kids before they go to bed because our spouse insists on it.

Imagine what could change in your life if prayer wasn't an event that you participated in but simply your lifestyle. Imagine if you had simple text message conversations with God throughout the day. Imagine if you set aside different times in your day to reconnect with God. See prayer is not simply talking to God, prayer also involves active listening.

3) We may need to learn to pray

I've never met a person who instinctively knew how to pray. I have met many people who have felt insecure in their prayer life. I've met plenty of people who feared praying in front of others. I met people who would rather die than pray out in public.

We all need to learn to pray. Do you know what the one thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was? It wasn't how to write a sermon. It wasn't how to share their faith with their neighbor. It wasn't how to write a tithe check. The one thing the disciples asked for instruction on was prayer:
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1
We all need Jesus to teach us to pray. The best way to learn to pray is to simply pray. You need to start somewhere. Ask someone to teach you to pray. Find a person, who you look up to, and ask them to teach you how to pray effectively. Find a book about prayer that fires you up to spend time with God and punch the devil in the nose. Instead of staying up watching TV, get on your knees and call out to the God of Heaven. Now stop reading this and start doing it.

After talking through these three points our team took some time to pray for our community, our church, our leaders and our staff.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Summer in the Psalms

This Summer our church took a break from the book of Acts. We spent some time encouraging fathers on Father's Day and then jumped in to the Psalms.

The Psalms have been called the heart of the New Testament. For centuries the people of God have turned to them to find comfort, hope and direction. The Psalms have been called God’s Prayer Book. They are a guide or help for those of us who have struggled with words and in their absence we’ve used the Psalms to express our communication with God. The Psalms have been a place where our church community has traveled this summer. The Psalms have been a balm to hurting souls. The Psalms have been an encouragement to saints who are finding the truth in God’s word. The Psalms have been a bridge that led our people to Christ. The Psalms have increased our prayer life and expanded our hearts!

When we started this series the goal was to have some application from each Psalm. There was personal application but also a corporate application; something we could take away as a church body. As a reminder of where we’re traveled be reminded of the kind of church we want to be here in Ventura:
Psalm 1- a church that seeks God
Psalm 3- a church that prays
Psalm 100- a church that worships God
Psalm 8- a church that cares
Psalm 142- a church that does life in community
Psalm 51- a church that confesses our sin
Psalm 20- a church that trusts God
Psalm 23- a church where God is our shepherd

Just because our church has finished this series it doesn’t mean you can’t spend time in the Psalms. If you’re experiencing a tough season in life turn to the Psalms and find healing for your soul. You could read a Psalm a day and meditate on God’s word. You could also choose to read five Psalms a day and finish the entire Psalter in a month. Whatever you decide to do will you please pray for the future of Coastline and that we would be a a church that reflects what we studied in God’s word.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Castle Rock Hike with Kids

So you're thinking about hiking Castle Rock in beautiful Big Bear Lake? Then I would say: "YES! Do it!" Castle Rock is a fairly moderate hike. It does have an increase in elevation but the trail is clearly marked and it leads to a beautiful view of the valley (If you scramble to the top).

Castle Rock is located on the Southwest side of the lake. If you're coming up from the San Bernardino area you will cross over the dam and look for the hike on the right side of the road. There is some parking on the opposite side of the highway about 200-300 feet from the start of the hike. Judging on how many cars are parked will give you a glimpse into how busy the trail will be.

On my last family visit to Big Bear I took my daughters on this hike. We did the hike in the middle of the day, which can be not the ideal time, but it was great! You have to keep in mind that you're hiking at 6000 feet elevation! We had to pose for a picture in front of the sign to make sure we let everyone know we did the hike! You can see the trail marked behind us.

As we began the ascent Leah took off like a rabbit. She was loving the first part while Sophie was tired and dragging. Doing this hike with kids you need to be ready for anything. Since I could tell the altitude was getting to them we had to take our time. I think it took us about an hour to make it to the top. This included many water breaks and much bribery, I mean encouragement, on my part.

The trail is beautiful. I shared stories with my kids of hiking this same trail at their age. We had some glimpses of the lake and then you circle around the backside of Castle Rock. We made it to the base and had lunch on a rock. The girls enjoyed the view but I wanted to get on top. My guess is that it had been at least 20 years since I had hiked to the top. It some maneuvering but I made it. When they saw me up there it was game on!

For the next 15 mins or so I helped both of the girls make the final ascent. It's not the easiest part and some families might choose to not make it to the top. But the view from the top is breath-taking! We sat up top and ate a snack. There are chipmunks that will even come up to you!

After enjoying the view we took the time to walk back down. As with each hike the descent is typically quicker than the ascent. We laughed, smiled and talked the whole way down. It was a great afternoon with the girls (while Isaiah napped at home). After we made it back to the cabin we treated ourselves to a Slurpee!

Next time you're in Big Bear consider making this a memory you have with your family or friends!