Wednesday, May 17, 2017

3 ways to help us in this season

As many of you know our family is moving. It’s been a bittersweet process as we’ve talked with co-workers, neighbors and friends. Make sure to read the previous post on here to learn more about the move and God's call on our life. We've accepted a call to serve at Coastline Bible Church in Ventura. As we prepare for the move many people have asked: "How can I help?" At this point there are three ways you can help us, they all involve prayer:

Pray for CPC

For the last (almost) five years I’ve had the joy of serving as the Foster City Campus Pastor at Central Peninsula Church. For the last week I’ve had many conversations with people whom I love dearly. Pray for our church in this move. Pray for the relationships we have. Pray for the people we’ve invested our lives in to. Pray for the amazing staff team I’ve been able to serve alongside here.

A few times I’ve thought about this move like a tree being uprooted from it’s place in the ground. There is a process of getting that tree out of the ground and preparing to move it. When you move a tree it leaves a hole. It also leaves some of its root system where it was planted because you can’t get every piece of it. We hope that we leave enough of us here that people will remember who we are but keep more of us to spread to others.

Pray for Coastline 

As difficult as a move is, we know God is leading us on this journey. Coastline has prayed for our family’s arrival. They have prayed for God to call us there and to serve alongside them. They have had a wonderful interim pastor for the last thirteen months and they will miss him. He’s led them well through this time. Pray for Coastline (and the city of Ventura) to receive us with open arms. Pray for us to get connected in our next church family. Pray for the staff, Elders and members of Coastline to be blessed by our arrival.

Pray for our family

Our family has gone through a wide variety of emotions in this process. We’ve laughed well, shed some tears and had great conversations. We’ve also had tough conversations about leaving friends. There is some anxiety about moving in our home. We are venturing into a new season and need prayer. Pray for God to unite our family during this time. Pray for God to open the best home for us. Pray for our new community and that we can be a blessing there.

Monday, May 15, 2017

New Call: New City, New Church

Seventeen years ago I made a commitment to God. While sitting in a jail cell late at night I said: "God if you're real get me out of here and I'll do whatever you want." It was a Hail Mary, a last chance effort. Never did I imagine that commitment would involve being a pastor!

For the last almost 5 years I've had the privilege of serving at Central Peninsula Church. In 2012 we moved our family to the Bay Area to follow the call of Christ. It's been a great learning experience that added to the decade of pastoral experience I came here with.

When we moved here I was 32 and had mainly served with students. It was a big step for our family to move here. God has given me the joy of leading a team of leaders to impact our region. CPC has entrusted me to lead a staff team of people. Our Elders have worked with me to hone my preaching style and grow in communicating to adults. For a few years I was able lead the charge for the Global Leadership Summit here. There was a season of serving as our children's champion and helping create consistency on all three of our campuses. Mark invited me to travel with him to Rwanda and Cambodia. In addition to that, I've had the awesome opportunity to lead our Young Adults ministry.

When we moved here our kids had never been to school. Sophie was three and Leah was two. They both had their first day of preschool while living here. They both started Elementary school here. They both learned to ride bikes here. We also added Isaiah to our family. They all started snowboarding in Tahoe while living here. What a gift it's been to live here.

About six months ago my mentor called me and said: "Neal, I know a church in Ventura that would be a great fit for you. They're going to be looking for a new pastor soon." He knew I had been open to a new call on my life. So I began processing with my pastor and elders. I sought wisdom from my mentor and a close group of friends.

After a few interviews with the search team in Ventura they unanimously recommended me to the elders at this church. I met with the elders and they unanimously recommended me to the church. After a weekend visit I was offered the role when the church voted to call me as the Senior Pastor with a 98% affirmation!

A few weeks ago I enthusiastically accepted the call to serve at Coastline Bible Church in Ventura. This is a bittersweet decision. Charity and I are going to miss our Bay Area friends who have become family. But we're thrilled to follow God on this new adventure.

Our heart has always been for God to move us closer to family. In recent months my parents have had some health issues so this is great timing. This move puts us much closer to family and brings us back to our So Cal roots. The role is a Senior Pastor. I've always had a sense that one day God would call me to lead a church (I can share more on this one day). I'm stoked for this opportunity to lead Coastline in this next season.

My role will wrap up here at CPC on June 11. I invite you to come hear my last sermon. Later that day our church is throwing a party to celebrate what God has done here. Our daughters will finish school up here and then we'll move to Ventura.

Keep your eyes out as the next post here I will share three ways you can pray for CPC, the Benson family and Coastline in the upcoming weeks.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Purisma Creek Hike

Over the weekend we took the family on a hike. We love to get outdoors and help the kids have a love for nature. With all the rain we knew this trail would be gorgeous. We didn't know that with all the rain we would see so many banana slugs and fallen trees. We drove over to Purisma Creek and started the hike from Half Moon Bay. I've done the hike from Skyline Drive but found it better to start in Half Moon Bay with the kids.

We don't really hike for that long. We let the kids run around, throw rocks in the water and see how far they can make it. It's great because you see other families, talk with other hikers and get to enjoy all of God's creation. It's also a time for us to enjoy each other. We had lots of laughter (and some tears) on this hike. Watch the video we made to see a glimpse.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Suffering and God’s Judgment

The New Testament is filled with many different subjects. For the last couple months our church has been going through the book of 1 Peter. It seems that each time I preach I get the opportunity to preach on suffering. Peter hits on this subject a few times in the letter.

Peter continues writing about suffering and switches to talking about God’s final judgment (read 1 Peter 4:17-18). The “For” in verse 17 reaches back to the idea of Christians suffering in verse 16. Peter wants to keep the same train of thought but share more on the subject. Some Christians have a problem  with the idea that judgment will begin with God’s household. Peter could have written about those who have rejected the message of Christ, but he chose to begin with those who have accepted the truth of Jesus.

This line of writing is similar to what the prophets wrote in the Old Testament. Ezekiel, Zechariah, Amos and Malachi all have similar statements in their prophetic books. And Jeremiah, Zechariah and Malachi each write about the fiery ordeal and God’s judgment beginning with His people. Peter seems to have this perspective in mind as he attempts to encourage the believers in Asia Minor.

When we look at what the Old Testament prophets wrote and what Peter has written, we see that the grammar is the same but the theology is different. Let me explain. In the Old Testament, the judgment talked about was an annihilation of God’s unfaithful people. The people in the Old Testament were living lives of sin and God’s judgment was to come because of that. But what Peter is writing about is a purification of God’s people, a purification that will prepare them for the final judgment. The difficulties that God’s people encounter are designed to purify and refine believers so they will be ready to receive their final reward.

Then Peter quotes directly from Proverbs 3:34. He uses this to restate what he has just written. What does it mean when Peter writes: “It is hard for the righteous to be saved?” It is not hard for God to save people; that is not what he is writing. You can also translate hard to mean difficult. This is a continuation on the thought of suffering. The believer will endure suffering in this life. That suffering will be difficult. The suffering may be difficult now, but it will be worthwhile when Christ returns. I love what C.S. Lewis writes on the topic of suffering: “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.” There will be suffering but suffering, for a believer refines you.

These verses can also prompt a person to think more about personal evangelism. Have you thought about that question before? What will happen to the ungodly? Let that question bother you this week. Allow this question to take up space in your life as you encounter others this week. When you see people at work, the store, the coffee shop, your lunch spot or in your neighborhood think about what will happen to them in the end. Instead of only being concerned with yourself, think about those around you and their final outcome.

Peter never gives an answer to his question in verses 17 and 18. But the Bible tells us elsewhere what the outcome of the ungodly and the sinner will be. Their outcome will be eternal separation from Christ (Matthew 25:41). The Bible tells us that those who reject Christ as their Savior will experience weeping and gnashing of their teeth (Matthew 25:30). Allow these words from Peter to prompt you to share the love of Christ with others. If you’ve placed your trust in Christ, don’t keep that to yourself. Others need to hear the truth. You have people in your life who need the joy of Jesus. We can conclude from these verses that it’s better to suffer a little now for Christ than to be separated from Him for the rest of our lives.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Suffering for following Christ

For the last several months our church has been preaching through the New Testament book of 1 Peter. We've called this series Exiles because Peter refers to his original audience as Exiles in a foreign world.

You can listen to the latest message in this series right here!

4/30/2017 - Neal Benson | Suffering for following Christ from Central Peninsula Church on Vimeo.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Christians are the most persecuted group in 2016

Earlier this year I read an article in my newsfeed on my phone. The heading of the article stated that in 2016 a Christian was killed for their faith every six minutes. This means nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016, equivalent to one every six minutes. The research was completed by the Italy based Center for Studies on New Religions. The annual study is set to release next month with full details.

You might find it interesting to know that the number of Christ followers who were martyred in 2016 is less than those who lost their lives in 2015. In 2015 105,000 Christ followers were martyred. The group commented that “It still makes Christians the most persecuted religious group in the world.” Most of the persecution took place in Africa in tribal conflicts. Many people who give their lives to Christ refuse to take up a weapon and fight with their tribe and therefore lose their lives.

The annual study also indicated that between 500 and 600 million Christians were prevented from freely practicing their faith. Right now Christians are being harassed in 110 countries around the world. While we freely gather here, there are other Christ followers who are forced to worship in private locations. But these followers of Jesus are worshipping Him, they aren’t allowing the persecution to stop them. They are worshipping God right now for His goodness in their lives.

Although you may not share a similar experience to other Christ followers around the world, have you noticed how suffering is a tool that God uses to shape your faith?

Have you found that some of the most difficult times are when your faith flourished the most?

Even if you’re not yet a Christ follower, have you found that times of suffering grow your character most?