Monday, March 25, 2019

Colossians Small Group Questions- Week 4

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

Small Group Questions
Alive in Christ
Colossians 2:6-23

Paul wrote this letter to the church in Colossae because they were dealing with false teaching. The theological threat was a major concern to the Christian faith. The believers in Colossae were being bombarded with the worship of angels and Jewish legalism. They knew the truth but were in desperate need of encouragement to follow Jesus. The theological threat concerned two major tenets of the Christian faith. In this section Paul addressed the theological foundation of sanctification and the person and work of Christ primarily related to His work on the cross.

1) Read Colossians 2:6-8. Paul begins this section by encouraging the church to continue living their lives in Jesus. He uses three words: strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness. Where do you see this evidence in your life?

2) Thinking about Colossians 2:8, what are some hallow and deceptive teachings that draw you away from following the Lord?

3) Paul wanted the church in Colossae to be clear about the Deity of Christ (read Colossians 2:9-2). Read John 1:1-14 to see what the Apostle John wrote about Jesus. What similarities to you see in these passages?

4) Neal talked about circumcision of the flesh and the heart. In Jewish Law it was required for a boy to be circumcised on the 8th day (Leviticus 12:3). But the Prophets spoke about God changing hearts (Ezekiel 36:23-29). How do you think this truth impacted Israel?

5) Paul talked about being dead in sin and alive in Christ. In Colossians 2:15, we read that Christ disarmed the powers and authorities. What does Paul mean by this? (Matthew 27:51, Genesis 3:14-15, Revelation 19:11-21, 1 Peter 5:8-9)

6) Why is legalism so popular among Christ followers today? Share an experience you’ve had with legalism in your life or impressed on you.

7) Read Colossians 2:16-19. Paul gave two warnings to the church. One was to avoid asceticism and the second was to avoid to angel worship. Which of these false teachings is most difficult for you to avoid? Why?

Close your time in prayer

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A church revitalized by prayer

As many of you know, about eighteen months ago our family moved to Ventura to be a part of Coastline Bible Church. Coastline has been in the community of Ventura for almost nintey-seven years now.

Our church had a rich history of being a lighthouse in this community for Jesus.
Our church has a rich history of planting churches, sending missionaries, baptizing and leading people to a relationship with Jesus.
Our church had a rich history of investing in kids, students, and families.

When we arrived we realized that God was getting ready to do something new here. We had a vision of what that would be, but needed more clarity.

One thing we did was restate our Core Values. For months I crafted what I felt like God was leading us to. I worked with staff and elders to make sure we were heading in the right direction. To finalize them we had a big gathering of staff and elders to make sure the language was correct. I love how one of our elders put it. He said something like, "We just put them in modern language." It was the perfect statement.

One of our Core values is:
We Pray Bold Prayers
We know that God is awesome and capable, so we make “the big ask” of God in our prayer life. We come to God with a bold list of prayers and take time to actively listen to Him on a regular basis.
1 Samuel 3, Mark 1:35, Acts 12:5, James 5:16

You might be wondering where I'm going with this, but stay with me.
About a year ago we created a new gift to give our guests.
We wanted something they would use and not throw away.
We wanted something that wasn't cheap.
We wanted something that would be valuable to them.
We landed on Coastline mugs (because who doesn't love coffee).

After the mug was created I began taking them with me to speaking engagements, conferences, small gatherings, vacation, and more. I began giving them to all our friends who were praying for us and supporting us. I gave them to friends in different cities, counties, and states.
The one similarity was that I would ask them to pray for Coastline every time they used the mug.

Some friends would send texts, others would send pictures. They were always encouraging.
In the last three weeks these came in. Some had text messages and others I just knew what the pic meant.

Praying! This mug is the best gift you’ve ever given me...I think I pray for you more than anyone else....

Prayed for you and the grand re-opening this morning. Love you guys.

Been drinking coffee out of my Coastline mug last couple mornings and praying for you guys.

All of this got me thinking about how God longs to converse with us in prayer. Then I got to thinking, "What would it look like to invite more people into your life to pray for you and what God is doing?"

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Colossians Small Group Questions- Week 3

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

Small Group Questions
The Mystery of Christ
Colossians 1:24-2:5

Paul wrote the letter to the church in Colossae to combat false teaching that was sneaking into the church. So far, Paul has done a brilliant job at encouraging the church to live for Jesus, praying for the church, and explaining the greatness of Jesus. Paul has been so busy talking about the greatness of Jesus he’s barely said anything about himself. In this next section of Scripture that is all about to change. Paul addresses himself in multiple ways based on how he seems himself through the eyes of Jesus.

1) Paul begins this section by sharing about his sufferings for Jesus. Read about some of those sufferings here: Acts 21:30-32, 23:1-2, 27:39-41, and 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. Share about a time you suffered for Jesus and the gospel.

2) Paul regularly refers to himself as a servant of Jesus (read Colossians 1:25). Think about the duties and requirements of a servant. What is the goal of a servant to accomplish and how does one do so joyfully?

3) Paul longed to share the love of Jesus with the Gentiles (read Colossians 1:27). God has always longed for His Kingdom to be multiethnic (read Psalm 22:27 and Acts 11:18). In what ways can we continue to help Coastline be a multiethnic body of people following the truth of Jesus?

4) In Colossians 1:29 Paul talks about strenuously contending for the Gospel to advance. Neal reminded us that to strenuously contend is hard work. How are you strenuously contending for those in your circle of influence to grow in the love, truth, hope, and grace of Jesus?

5) Paul wants the church in Colossae to be united in the love of Jesus (read Colossians 2:2). In addition he wants them to have the full riches of the mystery of Jesus. Why is it so important for them to be united in Christ?

6) Thinking about the importance of unity, where do you see Coastline united for the Gospel? How can you, personally and corporately, help to strengthen this unity to reach our city for Jesus?

7) Paul didn’t want them to be deceived, how does deception sneak in a church?

Close your time in prayer

Monday, March 18, 2019

Rejoice in suffering

Have you ever been around someone who seemed to be in tough, desperate, or even hard times… but they had the joy of the Lord exuding from their life?

About eight years ago I was in a situation that caught me off guard. I was preparing to bring a team to Mexico to help build a church. I wanted to take a pre-trip to see the site, learn the land, and meet the pastor we'd be serving. I don't fully remember his story but recall that this pastor had faithfully prayed for a piece of land for years.

We went to see this piece of land and it wasn't what I thought.
The site had been empty and the neighborhood turned it into a local garbage dump.
I was shocked to see the condition of the land but this pastor was thrilled at what GOD was doing in his community.

The pastor talked about the site with our team.
He shared his vision to reach the community.
He shared about the spiritual climate of the area.
He told us how thrilled he was that the dump site would one day be a church that praised our Lord.

I hoped in the truck and headed back to Vegas. We were told that over the next month the land would be cleared and a foundation laid.

Our leadership team returned home and got a team of twenty-five people ready to come and help. Now I have to be honest, I was leery that the site would be ready for us, but when we arrived what was once a dump was ready for a GOD to build a church. Our first morning in Mexico we held a worship gathering on the land. I love that the pastor had the foresight to begin the time with praise. I might have just started working.

That week we erected walls, painted, and roofed the new location.

We invited the community and had a huge party.

What once was a dump was now a house of worship.

Sometimes things aren’t always the way we see them.

The pastor in Mexico taught me about seeing things the way God sees them and not the way I see them. He rejoiced when I thought it was time to suffer.

Now let me share one last thought. All of this wasn't possible with one person. This took a group of people, vision, determination, smarts, knowledge and more. It would be a miss to not share the team pic from Las Vegas that played a role in working alongside the team in Mexico to help make this a possibility. I'm so thankful that each of these people allowed me to serve alongside them a decade ago!

Monday, March 11, 2019

The supremacy of Jesus

We live in such a time where we want to hear what we want to hear when we want to hear it. We live in a time where we don't want to think about God being supreme because that means our personal agenda will be impacted. This same thing was happening in the city of Colossae.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
Colossians 1:15-18
Paul moves into some of the most theologically robust passages in all of Scripture.

You can see that Paul longed for the church in Colossae to know the fullness of Jesus. Paul begins in verse 15 with two key assertions about Jesus from Nazareth:
1) Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God
2) Jesus is the firstborn over all creation

Let’s talk about Jesus being the visible image of the invisible God. 

Jesus is the visible representation of God. Think with me about what you know about Jesus. He loved people, He fed the hungry, He welcomed the unloveable, and Jesus was a great teacher.

Is this is image you have of God in your mind? As a pastor, I’ve found that many people have this skewed view of God. People have this view that God is out to get them, that God is looking for reasons to kill them. This is the image that I have of Jesus, I see Jesus as a loving Savior.

Some other people also wrote about Jesus being the visible image of God. The author of the letter of Hebrews wrote:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:3 
Jesus is the exact representation of God and the radiance of His glory. This is huge for the Jewish community because they believed that a person could not look at God. But in Jesus they see the nature and character of God.

But that’s not all, the Apostle John shared this:
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1:18
Jesus spent time with God the Father and came to earth to display the love of God to us. Jesus came as the visible image of the invisible God.

The second statement Paul made was that Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. 

Paul wants us to know that Jesus holds a special place in all creation. For some reason there are special privileges given to the firstborn child. You get to stay up later than the other kids, change diapers for your siblings, wash the car first, and more! But for reals, in Jewish culture there were certain privileges and birthrights given to the firstborn son. There were possessions and privileges that only the firstborn son was able to receive.

If we look back to Colossians 1:16, we read that all things were created through Jesus. This is a powerful statement for Paul to make. This means that Jesus created the sand, ocean, hills, and grass that grows on those hills. It means Jesus created the air we breath and the breathe we breath out that trees inhale. It means that Jesus created the stars we see and the ones we can’t. It also means that Jesus created us. It means we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). For some of you that might be hard to comprehend. For your whole life you’ve been taught the theory of evolution, but the Bible tells us that we are created in the image of God. For many of you this is a comforting truth. The theory of evolution didn’t sit well in your heart and this is healing balm to your soul.

Now we need to expand our thinking on this statement of the greatness of Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus holds everything together. Have you ever just thought about what that means?

The expanse of our creation is staggering! I think I heard Louie Giglio share this. If that doesn’t give you an idea of how majestic God is then you probably haven’t really considered it much. Think about this: scientists estimate that  Earth weighs about 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. If we took a hallow ball the size of our sun it would hold 1.2 million planets the size our our earth with room for 4.3 million globes the size of our moon! The nearest star to us is called Alpha Centauri and its five times larger than the sun. That is not even the biggest star out there.  There is a star named Betelgeuse that is one of the stars visible in the constellation Orion that is 248 times larger than our sun. It gets better! There is another star that scientists have named Arcturus that is more than ten times larger than that!

You already know this but just for fun a ray of light travels at 186,000 miles per second. A ray of light from here will reach the moon in a second and a half.  Imagine if you could travel that fast. You could reach Mercury in four-and-a-half-minutes. Traveling to Jupiter would take you a mere thirty-five minutes; that is shorter than some of your morning commutes. If you wanted to go visit Saturn its going to take you an hour. To get to the closest star to planet earth will take four years and four months to get there. If you wanted to reach the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy you are looking at 100,000 years to get there. You may want to take a few Aspirin trying to wrap your head around that!

We can allow ourselves to become so consumed with the mundane that we fail to consider the greatness of God. I’m not sharing these stats to sound smart, I want to point our thinking heavenward. When Neil Armstrong spoke of the first time he saw the earth from space he said: “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

Is is possible for us to summarize the greatness of God?

I don’t think we can. But we can remember what Paul said: we were created in Him, through Him, and for Him. Paul longed for the church in Colossae to understand the greatness of God. Paul longed for them to understand the nature of Jesus. See, I think we tend to minimize the greatness of God (God in a box). We forget that Jesus holds all things together. We stress on the mediocre and miss the magnificent. We long for great things but get bogged down with the boring. You and I were created by the God of the universe. We were created to be in relationship with Him.

Part of that relationship is being in relationship with others. Paul reminds us in verse 18 that Jesus is the head of the body, the church. For Jesus to be the head of the body means that the church isn’t some organization but an organism. This might be a new way to think about the church. The church was never meant to be a building, but an organism that helped others.

When I was a little kid we attended a church. One of the things I loved about that church was the donuts, but that’s a different sermon. While attending that church someone taught me this little song, and you might know it too. You take your hands and put them together like this and sing: “This is the church, this is the steeple, open the doors and the see all the people.” I wish it went something like this; “This is the church, this is the community, watch us reach all the people.” I know it doesn’t rhyme all perfect, but you get the point.

I was taught at early age that the church was a building. I don’t have the title of senior pastor because I believe that is reserved for Jesus; Jesus is the head of the church. We follow His leadership. Jesus told us to go and help people who need His love.

Colossians Small Group Questions- Week 2

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

Small Group Questions
Hope for God’s enemies
Colossians 1:15-23

From what we know a man named Epaphras had met Paul in Ephesus while he was preaching there. Epaphras shared the sad truth about believers in Colossae falling away from the Gospel and that prompted Paul to write this letter. False teachers had snuck and pulled the hearts of the believers away from Christ. They had begun worshipping angels and the false teachers began putting special rules in place; hindering them from following Christ. In Colossians 1:15-23 we find some of the most theologically robust passages about Jesus. 

1) A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” What comes to your mind when you think about God? Do you think you and God have a good relationship? 

2) Read Colossians 1:15-17. Paul makes two key assertions about Jesus: First, Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. Second, Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. Read Hebrews 1:3 and Exodus 33:20. In the past God veiled Himself but now has made Himself known. 

3) When we focus on the greatness of God it can be overwhelming. Neal talked about putting God in a box. Share about where you’ve been minimizing the power of God and putting Him in a box. 

4) Thinking about Colossians 1:18, we read that Jesus is the head of the church. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about the roles in the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). What way has God uniquely shaped you to serve in the church? If you don’t know, take time this week to figure it out and start serving!

5) In verse 21 Paul talks about the church being alienated from God. In what ways do you think they were estranged from Jesus? 

6) Reconciliation means to restore a relationship to right standing. How did Jesus reconcile us back to God? How can we take this message to others?

7) Throughout Scripture Paul describes himself as a servant of the gospel message. What keeps you from viewing yourself as a servant of Jesus?

Close your time in prayer 

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Colossians Small Group Questions- Week 1

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

Small Group Questions
How do you want to be remembered?
Colossians 1:1-14

The book of Colossians was written by the Apostle Paul and Timothy. Most scholars agree that Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Paul had most likely never visited Colossae but had heard about their faith in Jesus. The city of Colossae was in a location that allowed it to be influenced by all kinds of false teachings. Paul caught wind that this was happening in Colossae and he didn’t want the Christians to be confused with this false teaching. So instead of being apathetic, Paul engaged them with the truth of Jesus that had radically changed his life.

1) In the introduction of the sermon Neal shared about time where he almost died surfing. That experience made his consider his life. He asked us how we want to be remembered at the end of our lives. How do you want to be remembered at the end of your life?

2) The church is Colossae was struggling with Eastern mysticism, gnosticism, and other false teachings. What do you think are some of the greatest threats to the church in Ventura? (John 14:6 can be helpful here)

3) Thinking about Colossians 1:2, Paul speaks grace and peace over the church. These are two characteristics the world needs a little more of. How can you express grace and peace to others week. Come up with 2-5 tangible ways and find a way to keep each other accountable.

4) Paul had never met the church in Colossae but had heard of their faith. What do people say about your life?

5) Paul said that the Gospel is bearing fruit throughout the entire world. How can your small group be a part of the spread of the Gospel?

6) Read Colossians 1:9-12. Paul’s prayer seems to be all over the place. What most resonates with you? What can you take from Paul’s prayer and begin implementing into your prayer life this week?

7) In Colossians 1:13-14 Paul talks about Jesus rescuing us from the dominion of darkness and bringing us in the the light of Jesus. How does the light change lives?

Close your time in prayer