Thursday, February 13, 2020

Mark 9:2-13 Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions ||| A Life Changing Experience ||| Mark 9:2-13

As Mark continues to document the life and ministry of Jesus we experience a phenomenal event in time; the day Jesus was transformed. Many authors call it “The Transfiguration of Jesus” and rightly so. Jesus brings three of the disciples up a high mountain where He is transfigured right before their eyes. There is debate on what mountain this took place on, but the location is not a high priority. The priority is what happened on that mountain and what the men saw. This story gives us a glimpse into what Heaven will be like: saints who’ve passed away, those who love Jesus, and God will be present. Open your Bible to Mark 9:2 and study this amazing passage.

1) Share a time when you were transformed by the mighty power of God. What changed in your life because of that experience with God? As you look back on that event, how has the course of your life been altered?

2) The transformation of Jesus in Mark 9:2-8. is also found in Matthew 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36. Read all three accounts and talk about similarities and any differences that are provided. What sticks out most to you about the different accounts?

3) Neal mentioned that on the mount of transfiguration we get a glimpse into heaven. When you think about heaven, what has shaped your knowledge of it most? Have we allowed media or Scripture to shape our understanding of heaven? Turn to those passages in Scripture and talk about the greatness of Heaven.

4) Read Mark 9:7, Exodus 19:9 and 40:34. In both accounts we read that God came in a cloud. In Exodus God used the cloud to guide, protect, and speak to Israel. What is the significance of God speaking from the cloud in this passage?

5) On the mountain top Jesus was transformed in the presence of the disciples. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome and Corinth about the transforming work of God. Read 2 Corinthians 3:18 and Romans 12:1-2, then talk about the transforming work of Jesus that you see currently happening.

6) What are some areas that you would like to see the Gospel transform your life? Are they areas of relationship, goals, health, or spiritual transformation?

7) Near the end of our passage we read about a connection between Elijah and John the Baptist. Read 1 Kings 19:1-5 and Mark 6:21-25. Discuss the similarities.

Close your time in prayer and ask God to transform your life for Him in 2020.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Mark 8:22-9:1 Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| Who do you say Jesus is? ||| Mark 8:22-9:1

Mark 8 continues with a miraculous healing of a blind man. This is one of the seven recorded healings of a blind man in the Gospel accounts. From the Northern Shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus brings the Disciples to the base of Mount Hermon. The mountain region are where revolutions are formed. Jesus asks the disciples who the people say He is. Peter responds with a succinct answer about the Messiah. At this Jesus reveals that His ultimate plan is to give up His life so that humanity can find freedom. If Jesus will die, that also means the disciples will share a death for being His followings. Study Mark 8:22-9:1 to see how we can live for Jesus today.

1) The Gospels share about seven blind men who were healed. Study these three miraculous healings (read: Matthew 9:27-31, Mark 8:22-26, and Luke 18:35-43). What are the similarities and differences in these healings?

2) Jesus brought the disciples to a place where idol worship was prominent. What are some common idols of our day/century? How does this relate to the Old Testament Commandment not to have any gods before God? (see Exodus 20:3)

3) Mark tells us that the people in Israel related Jesus to some of the most famous Israelites (read Mark 8:27-30). Why do you think the people thought that Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah (Matthew 16:14).

4) The disciples knew who the crowd said Jesus was. Then Jesus turned and asked them a bold question (read Mark 8:29-30). Who you say Jesus is? In light of trusting Jesus, how has that changed the way you live your life?

5) Jesus began to teach the disciples that He must suffer and die. Suffering is a common theme for those who follow Jesus. Read Acts 9:15-16, Romans 5:3-5, and 1 Peter 4:16). How do you feeling about suffering for Jesus?

6) If a neighbor or close friend asked you to explain why Jesus had to suffer and die, what would your response be? Substitutionary atonement is the theological truth that Jesus atoned for our sins when we couldn’t (Read Hebrews 10:1-10, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, and 2 Corinthians 5:21)

7) Jesus taught the crowd that if they lost their life for the Gospel they would find it (read Mark 8:34-38). What holds people back from finding life in Jesus?

Close your time in prayer

Monday, February 10, 2020

Church Rebuilding

Rebuilding a church is not for the faint of heart.

As my family began exploring the idea of coming to serve at Coastline we knew the church had been through a difficult season. I actually connected with a pastor in town and talked with him about the church. He told me the pain. Shared the division. I think he even said: "I wouldn't wish that church on my best friend." I know his best friend! But to me it sounded like a challenge that God was inviting us to take part in. The funny thing is he even said something to the effect of: "Now that I've said that, I'm sure you think it's a challenge."

Rebuilding a church has been one of the greatest challenges and greatest blessings in ministry. The people at Coastline have loved and embraced my family in such unique, special, and meaningful ways. The church walked with us through the loss of my dad, the loss of my stepdad, and the trails with my mom.

But rebuilding a church is not for the faint of heart.

In May of 2018 we had to try something new. The room we hold our worship services in can seat 350+ and we had been running around 200. We were testing a pilot version of two identical worship gatherings and needed something to get people sitting closer together. My ideas was to use ropes to require people to sit closer to the front of the room. It would help eliminate large gaps between people.

The decision wasn't rash. Our staff had talked through multiple ideas.
Our Elders processed the idea.
Our staff and elders helped me put up the ropes and try different versions of the idea.

Then we got this note in the offering


I will be the first to say that it was discouraging. But it was also encouraging.
Rub your eyes and read that line again, you heard me right.

How I read the note is this: "I hate your ropes. I'll be leaving the ch...."
It seems the person was so mad that they couldn't even finish the sentence. I knew we were doing something right though. We needed to not just physically move at Coastline, but we needed to spiritually move. Hate is not a fruit of the Spirit (please read Galatians 5). God was, and still is, doing a new thing at Coastline. He used the ropes to push us in different ways.

If God has called you to rebuild a church, keep rebuilding. Keep moving forward with the vision He has given you. It is your responsibility to follow that vision.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Mark 8:1-21 Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 Day Jesus Was Upset ||| Mark 8:1-21

As we reach the half way point in the Gospel of Mark we are going to see a miracle of provision. The feeding of the 4000 takes place in the region of the Decapolis. The area is a collection of ten cities that are just over the Golan Heights (to the east of the Sea of Galilee). The location is important for this feeding because it continues to show Jesus’ love for Gentile people and His desire for them to know God. In Mark 8 we see Jesus and disciples move from location to location. The feeding leads into a healthy lesson on understanding the truth of God and rejecting the false teaching of the Pharisees.

1) Read Mark 6:30-44 and 8:1-10. Discuss what are the main differences in the miraculous provision of Jesus in these accounts. Pastor Neal said that the first feeding was primarily to the Jews and the second primality to the Gentiles what is the significance in knowing that?

2) Read Mark 8:6. Why did Jesus look up to heaven when He gave thanks for the loaves of bread? Read John 6:35 and talk about Jesus’ bold statement about Him being the bread of life.

3) Pastor Neal asked us to choose one thing to focus on growing in this week. Did you choose: Compassion, removing harsh language, or having a thankful heart? How is it going working on growing in this area of your life?

4) The relationship between Jesus and Pharisees has been heating up. What made it so hard for them to understand that Jesus is the Messiah? Do you think the Pharisees neglected God’s heart for the Gentiles to be saved (read Isaiah 49:6)?

5) The Bible uses leaven as a picture of false doctrine (Galatians 5:1-9), unjudged sin in the church (1 Corinthians 5), and hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). Jesus warned the disciples about the teaching of the Pharisees. How can we avoid these things?

6) The Psalmist spoke about hiding God’s word in his heart (read Psalm 119:11). Where are you currently reading in your Bible and what is God teaching you?

7) Jesus made it a point to redeem down time for teaching time. He instructed the disciples while they traveled. Is there an area in your life where you can redeem some time and use it to build into the Kingdom of God?

Close your time in prayer

Monday, January 27, 2020

Mark 7 Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 || |An Inside Out Healing ||| Mark 7

In Mark 7 we see a beautifully crafted narrative of the work of Jesus. First, the Pharisees send a delegation to visit Jesus. The last time this occurred was back in Mark 2. They present a problem to Jesus that is all about tradition but cloaked in Scripture. Mark has created the tension between human tradition and God’s word. The very next account shows this lived out; Jesus interacts with a Gentile woman with a demon possessed daughter. We see the boldness of a parent and power of God in their interaction. Mark concludes the chapter by emphasizing how Jesus came to reach everyone. Open your small group in prayer and talk about the word of Jesus! 

1) The Pharisees brought a human tradition problem to Jesus presented as a Scriptural issue (read Mark 7:1-13). What are the positive and negative effects of longtime tradition? What are the benefits of Scripture over tradition? 

2) Jesus gives a short parable to explain His teaching (read Mark 7:14-19). Jesus addressed the internal condition of a person and freedom from the Law. Quickly look at Acts 10-11 and talk about how these stories emphasize Gentile inclusion in the Kingdom of God. 

3) Look at the list from Jesus in Mark 7:20-23 and look at what Paul wrote to the early church in Galatians 5:19-23. How come there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit? Ezekiel tells us that a person can experience the renovation of his/her through the power of God (Ezekiel 36:26). 

4) Read what Jesus said to the Greek woman in Mark 6:24-30. Jesus knew His role was to prepare Israel to spread the Gospel (Matthew 15:24). Read what Paul wrote in Romans 15:8-9. What is our role in spreading the message of Jesus? 

5) God’s plan is for people to become children of God. Study Romans 8:14-17 and talk about what are the benefits of being a child or God, what is required of being a child of God, and how does one become a child of God?

6) In the last part of Mark 7 we read about a man who was deaf and mute (read Mark 7:31-36). Read what Isaiah the prophet said about the miracles the Messiah would accomplish (Isaiah 35:5-6). Have you ever seen some miraculously healed?  

7) As we near the holiday season take some time to plan a date for your small group to get our and serve our community, help a friend of a friend, a single-parent, or someone who is need this season. 

Close your time in prayer 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Mark 6:30-56 Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| Don’t turn a blind eye ||| Mark 6:30-56

The Gospel of Mark has been an action packed story of the life of Jesus. In the first half of Mark 6 we read about three unique stories that Jesus experienced. In the middle of the chapter, Jesus sent the disciples out to preach the Gospel. The disciples return to give Jesus a report but are unable to do so because of a large crowd. Jesus multiples fish and loaves to feed 5000 men. This is a miracle of provision like has never been seen before. Then Jesus walks on water to meet the disciples in the middle of a storm. We learn about how Jesus loves people and has power over creation.

1) The overzealous crowd was unwilling to leave Jesus alone to heard the report from the disciples (read Mark 6:30-34). Compare and contrast how Jesus saw the crowd versus how the disciples saw the crowd.

2) The word used for “compassion” in Mark 6:34 is the same word used in Luke 10:33. What are some ways that Jesus calls Christians to live a life of compassion? Come up with a list of 10-20 ways your group can show compassion this week.

3) Jesus wanted to feed the crowd by instructing the disciples to give them something to eat (Mark 6:37). Make a list of what Jesus taught people about the nature of God by doing this. Where is Jesus asking you to give people spiritual food that will help them know the wild love of God?

4) Jesus had a practice of spending time with God on a regular basis (read Mark 1:35, 6:46, Luke 4:42). What can you eliminate from your life to spend more with God?

5) Think about the disciples rowing the boat against the wind in the middle of the lake. What is a storm you are are currently battling and you need Jesus to help you get through it? What does Mark teach us about the love of Jesus that He would walk through a storm to meet the disciples in their anguish?

6) When Jesus got into the boat the wind died down (read Mark 6:51). Think about other religions and the need to appease gods. What does this story teach us about the nature of Jesus and His power over creation (if you have time read Psalm 89:9, 107:25-30, and Matthew 21:18-22).

7) Mark gives us two examples of Jesus power over creation. What do these examples teach us about the love of God?

Close your time in prayer.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Mark 6:1-29 Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions ||| A Snapshot of Ministry ||| Mark 6:1-29

The Gospel of Mark has been an action packed story of the life of Jesus. Mark chose to focus more on what Jesus did than what Jesus said. In the first half of Mark 6, we study three stories of Jesus encountering people. First, Jesus is rejected in His home. Second, Jesus sends out the disciples. Third, Jesus hears the news about John the Baptist being beheaded. These words in Scripture show us the compassion of Jesus, the leadership of Jesus, and the compassion of Jesus to help more people find the wild love of God. Study these questions together to grow in your faith.

1) What dynamics of a “hometown” would have made it difficult for Jesus to be  fully accepted in Nazareth (read Mark 6:1-6a)? What struggles do we encounter in our hometown that can make it tough to share the love of Jesus?

2) The people in Nazareth almost killed Jesus on His last visit (Luke 4:14-30). Mark tells us that Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith. What causes people to have such a lack of faith?

3) In Mark 3 Jesus called the Apostles. Then in Mark 5, Jesus modeled what they are to do. Now in Mark 6:6a-13 we read that Jesus sent them out. What would have been the most difficult part about being an Apostle?

4) Mark makes a note about the obedience of the Apostles. Pastor Neal told us that many people are “educated beyond their obedience.” Have you found that you know more about the love of Jesus than you put into practice or share with others?

5) One model of leadership has a five step process of teaching people how to do a job, task, or ministry. Is there an area of ministry you are currently serving in that you could find a person to come alongside you and raise them up to serve in that area?

6) The story of Herod and John the Baptist is a tragic account of a saint loosing his life. Share about the life of a saint, who has gone to be with Jesus, that radically impacted your life for the gospel.

7) Read Mark 6:14-29. Talk about the obvious sin and lack of leadership involved expressed in this story. What lessons do you learn (good or bad) that can help us as we seek to follow Jesus in our daily life?

Close your time in prayer. Be bold in asking for Jesus to restore you or others.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Mark 5 Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| No Ordinary Man ||| Mark 5

In Mark 5 we see three stories of life change. First Jesus battles a storm to meet with a man who is suffering from demon-possession. Locationally, the land where the story takes place, is questioned. Is this the territory of the Israelites or Syria? It must not be Jewish land because they are raising pigs. But the people don’t want Jesus there so He kindly leaves. Jesus travels to the other side of the lake to restore two ladies to wholeness. In this entire chapter see the compassion of Jesus to free people from their earthly suffering so they can know Jesus as their Savior. Mark teaches us that Jesus has restorative power over demon possession, disease, and death.   

1) At the end of Mark 4, Jesus battled a raging storm to get to the other side of the lake to reach this demon-possessed man. How have you seen Jesus enter the mess of your life, or others lives, to bring them the healing and freedom they need? 

2) Society had chained the demon-possessed man (with a physical chain) and satan had kept him bound spiritually but Jesus brought freedom. What chains have you see Jesus break in your life to give you freedom? 

3) Some people think that satan and his demons have access to our thoughts. Read Job 1:6-12 and discuss how Satan only knows what God reveals to him. Read 1 John 2:14 and discuss how God lives in us and we have power in His name. 

4) On the other side of the lake we read that Jairus fell on his knees in the presence of Jesus. In fact all three people in Mark 5 fall on their knees. What does falling on your knees represent? When the last time you got on your knees in front of Jesus? 

5) In the Old Testament we get a glimpse into the issue of bleeding the woman was experiencing (Read Leviticus 15:19-27). We also learn about Levitical Laws for a Priest in regards to the dead (read Leviticus 21:1-4). How come Jesus ignored the old covenant and healed both of these women? 

6) Think of the courage and bravery it took for this woman to approach Jesus. Read Hebrews 11:1 and Joshua 1:9. Where is God asking you to be bold & courageous? 

7) In Mark 5:40-43 we see that Jesus has restorative power over death. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and John 11:1-44. Talk about the resurrection of the dead and what a believe in Jesus can expect at the end of his/her life. 

8) Close your time in prayer. Be bold in asking for Jesus to restore you or others. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Mark 4:35-41 Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| Remember ||| Mark 4:35-41

After Jesus taught the people with parables, He invited the disciples to travel to the other side of the lake. Most of Jesus’ miracles were driving out demons, healing the sick, or inviting the lame to walk. In this account we see that Jesus has power over all of creation. Jesus has the power to tell the weather and nature how to act. It seemed the the disciples were surprised that He had control over this aspect of life also. In fact, the disciples left the entire situation being terrified by what they had just experienced.  

1) How can you explain the fact that the disciples had seen Jesus heal the sick, teach with the power, & do miracles but they were surprised that He could calm the storm? 

2) Read Mark 4:38. What emotions do you think were expressed on the boat that evening in the Sea of Galilee? Share a time when you felt very close to Jesus but something happened in your life that caused you to doubt His presence.  

3) Fear is a very real emotion. At times our fear can drown our faith and render us seemingly useless for the Kingdom of God. Read 1 John 4:18 and talk about the perfect love of Jesus drives out fear in our lives and in the story with the disciples. 

4) Jesus answered the disciples question with action by calming the storm (read Mark 5:39-41). The account pictures Jesus as doing only what was possible for God to accomplish in the Old Testament (read Psalm 107:29–30). Talk about how Jesus has power over all creation (see Genesis 1:1-3 and John 1:1-14). 

5) The words translated “rebuked” and “be still” were used in Mark 1:25 with reference to an exorcism. This consideration may imply a demonic element in the storm. How come there would be a possible demonic element to the storm? 

6) Jesus put the disciples faith into question. Jesus didn’t ask the question because He wanted an answer, Jesus wanted them to think about their irrational fear and faith. Read Hebrews 11 and talk about the men and women of faith who have proceeded us. What encourages you most about this hall of faith list?  

7) Mark taught us to remember that storms come and go, but God’s love and presence are consistent. Some people think God is mad at them or has negative thoughts to them, but that isn’t true (read Jeremiah 29:11 and 1 Peter 2:9). Talk about how these good thoughts impact how we live our lives. 

Close your time in prayer. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Mark 4 Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| Growing the Kingdom of God ||| Mark 4

Jesus has been on the move and is once again teaching near the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd has come to hear Him. Mark presents a series of teachings from Jesus called “parables.” The word can also be translated as, story, proverb, lesson or illustration. Parables are a way to teach eternal truths through stories of everyday life that appeal to everyone. The first one is a secret but the more Jesus teaches, we begin to see the truth come to light in His teaching.

1) Think about the first time you heard the Gospel message. What was your response? Did you trust in Jesus or did it take a while for you to fully trust Christ? Think through how the love of Jesus was shared with you and how it impacted your life.

2) The parable of the soils (read Mark 4:3-9) illustrates, first, God’s lavish offer of salvation to all who believe and, second, the mixed reception of that offer. How is your life producing a harvest for the Kingdom of God?

3) In Mark 4:10-12 we read that the disciples and others stayed around to hear an explanation of the short sermon. What makes some want to hear more about Jesus while others are content to leave and keep living their lives? Do you ever find yourself getting bored with the message of Jesus?

4) In Mark 4:21-25 Jesus speaks about the hidden things we say and how they will be revealed one day. Read Luke 6:45. How does this impact the way you live your life? What measure are you coming to Jesus with to get filled up?

5) Jesus was beginning His public ministry and it had sprouted in Galilee, but the message of Jesus would eventually go global (Matthew 28:18-20). Talk about how Mark 4:26-29 is a hidden message about the power of the Gospel that would transform many.

6) Jesus used one final parable about the Kingdom of God (Mark 4:30-34). Although it seemed that what Jesus was doing was on such a small scale, one day it would be a great comfort for many. Who can you share the truth of Jesus with this week?

7) Mark tells us that Jesus explained everything to the disciples. How have you structured your life to be a learning disciple under the teaching of Jesus? What do you do to find alone time with Jesus?

Close your time in prayer.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Mark 3:7-35 Small Group Questions


Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. 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 ||| On Matters of Rest ||| Mark 3:7-35

The miracles Jesus did drew a crowd and the people loved Him. But at the same time the religious leaders didn’t know how to categorize Jesus. In Mark 3:7-25 we see that Jesus intentionally left the spotlight to be with God. But it didn’t work so well, the crowds followed. Jesus called twelve disciples to follow Him as an act of a holy revolution. Jesus was putting a stop to religious legalism and showing people the true hope of Jesus. That didn’t sit well for the religious leaders as they had no clue how to explain the great things God was doing; they couldn’t see it was the Holy Spirit at work!

1) As the people began to be more enamored with Jesus He choose to get away and avoid the crowd (read Mark 3:7-12). The crowd was interested in the spectacular and Jesus was interested in the Spiritual. How can we be distracted with the spectacular and miss out on the spiritual lessons God wants to teach us?

2) Mark does a great job at keeping the hope of Heaven in front of us by taking about the impure spirits declaring that Jesus is the Son of God. Read Acts 16:16-18 and 19:13-18. Talk about the power of the name of Jesus in these three accounts.

3) Jesus called seemingly ordinary men as Apostles. Read Matthew 10:1-4 and Luke 6:12-16. What do you these passages teach us about the disciples and some of the nicknames the men were given? Talk about the ‘sons of thunder’ and ‘zealot’.

4) Why do you think Jesus sent the disciples out in groups of two? We currently live in one of the loneliest generations of all time. Talk about practical ways that the church can come alongside lonely people and invite them into Biblical community.

5) Jesus sent the disciples out with the instructions to preach the ‘good news.’ Take some time to read Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 49:6, Acts 10:44-48, Galatians 3:28 and discuss how God’s plan has always been for all people to trust Jesus.

6) Jesus told the religious leaders that the only unforgivable sin is blaspheme of the Holy Spirit (see Mark 3:28-29). How can we encourage more people to find their name written in the Lamb’s book of life? (Revelation 21:27).

7) Jesus’ family was convinced that He was crazy and they needed to come rescue Him. What does your family think about your relationship with the Lord? has it been an aid in sharing the truth with them or a point of contention?

Close your time in prayer.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

4 thoughts on four decades


Last year I turned 40…
Sounds kind of crazy to say that because I never thought I would make it to 18. The last twenty years have been a wild ride for me. Giving my life to Jesus, getting married, having children, finishing a graduate degree, and more are some of the highlights. 

We’ve lived in six different homes since we got married and three different states. We’ve served in three churches and want Coastline to be a long-term ministry call (Ventura is a great city!). 

For the last couple weeks I’ve thought about this new decade in my life. I’ve thought about the former decades and what I’ve learned. I didn’t want to write a list of 40 things I’ve done or 40 ways to eat chicken (that sounds good though). I figured I’d give one thing from each decade. Some I’ve excelled in and others I’m growing in. 

Family is important 
This is a big one for me. Growing up my family was broken and mended. I shared a bedroom with my grandma when all we could afford was to live with her. As I grew I became a bratty teenager. I shunned my family and looked for independence. I found a great group of friends but we made some bad decisions. I got in a big fight with my dad and we didn’t talk for 2 years. I upset my mom. I hurt my sister. I ignored my grandma on her deathbed because I didn’t know how to deal with emotions and anger and frustration and bitterness. 

Then I gave my life to Jesus and realized that God is a healing God. I learned about reconciliation and restoration. I lived with my sister for many years while in college. My mom and established a healthy relationship. I met my wife and we had kids. I also did a graduate degree and saw that I spent a lot of time away from my family and that was tough on them. 

When I look at the last decade and the coming decade, I know that family is important but more of my decisions will be based on that. I want to spend more time with my kids. I want to make dating my wife intentional. I want more vacations where my phone is left in a car, backpack, or pocket. I want more memories and less “likes” on social media. That is what I’m aiming for. 

Have fun 
This has never really been a problem for me. I love an adventure, a hike, riding dirt bikes, jumping cars, and surfing. But I’m learning that fun doesn’t have to be an adrenaline rush (although it’s not bad). Fun can be jumping on the trampoline with my kids, walking on the beach with my wife, or taking my mom to a coffee. I’ve had a ton of fun watching my kids grow and learn. Fun is laughing at Chick-fil-A or riding bikes around the block. 

I played dolls the other day with my daughter and we had so much fun. I’m actually laughing while writing this. We smiled and played creatively. I want to focus on continuing to have fun in life. I’m going to be looking for more ways to have fun. If you’re planning something fun, invite me! 

Life is a lesson, learn from it 
When I was 17 I was in a confused place in life. I was raking pine needles with a close family friend (my mom’s best friend from high school). We would work hard and then talk while working. I shared some of the dumb stuff I was doing and she said something I have never forgotten. She said: “Neal, you need to know three things about life. First, life is a lesson learn from it. Second, life is a lesson learn from it. Third, life is a lesson learn from it.” 

Life is a lesson. We are not going to be perfect. I strive for perfection and fail regularly. But when I think back to my conversation with Lil, I am reminded of all I’ve learned. I’ve learned how to flip a truck over after you roll it, how to tie a knot, how to braid my daughters hair, how to grow a backyard garden, and more. Life is a lesson. Keep learning. This decade I’m committing to being a long-long learner. 

Take God serious 
When I was a little kid my mom took me to church. I didn’t apply much of what I learned. I retained the info, but didn’t allow God to transform my life. When I was twenty I really trusted Jesus with all I had. A couple years later I learned about taking God serious. Not that God is always serious, I think God likes to have fun too (read about the time a donkey talked to a man). 

What I mean here is, be obedient to God. Spend time in prayer. Listen to God. Serve others. Give generously. I’m not talking about religious legalism, but radical obedience. I want to end my life knowing that I took God serious. I want to live my life knowing that I took God serious. I want to have serious fun while doing that! 

Here’s to the next decade! 

Thursday, January 02, 2020

The Prayer of a Broken Man



Jesus was an amazing story teller, He loved to tell stories! This story is a parable, a parable is a made up story used to teach a specific point (read Luke 18:9-13). What you have to know is the Pharisees are the bad guys and the tax collectors are the good guys. The Pharisees were a group of people who took their religion very seriously, but who were hostile towards Jesus. We imagine this Pharisee running on and on about his own superior spirituality but he’s really rotten to the core. All of his religious activity is just an act; he doesn’t really care about God. His life is a sham.

Now many times we are in the habit of viewing the tax collector as kind of the humble, downtrodden type. We know the tax collectors were hated by their fellow Jews because they collected taxes for the Romans and were considered traitors. Sometimes we see them as the victim in the story but really they are corrupt people. They were scumbags! We imagine that deep down this guy really wants to know God, he just doesn’t know how.

First, we see the prayer of the Pharisee. Notice his actions. He stood. Most likely, he had his eyes lifted up as this was the proper way to pray back then. He knew how to pray properly. Notice also he stood off by himself.  He starts with thanksgiving. When you pray, that’s a good place to start.

We’re called to express our gratitude to God. His thanks to God is rooted in the fact that he’s not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers. Then he finds someone near him there in the temple who fits that description. He knew tax collectors were scoundrels. How thankful he was God had allowed him to be different.By the time he’s done praying, he’ll have used the first person singular pronoun “I” four times, making himself the main subject of his prayer.

Unlike the tax collector who ripped people off, the Pharisee was generous with what he had. His wasn’t a religion of convenience; he put his money where his mouth was. He was disciplined in both his prayer life and his tithing.

The tax collector is quite different. The Bible says he “stood at a distance.” He doesn’t feel worthy to stand at the altar with God’s people. Then he beats his breast. The remarkable thing about this is that it was more customary for women to do this than it was for men. This wasn’t the proper way for a man to pray! But he’s so desperate that he doesn’t seem to care.

Then notice what he says, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” His prayer is so short. He doesn’t offer thanks. Instead, he issues a desperate request. He asks for mercy based on the fact that he’s such a sinner. It appears he saw himself in a class by himself in this. He calls himself, “the sinner.” He feels no one else could have done as much wrong as he. He doesn’t go on and on about it; all he can do is beg God to cover his sin, he casts himself entirely on the mercy of God.

The two men walk out and that’s the end of the story. But then Jesus delivers his shocking verdict (Luke 18:14). He says, “This man (the tax collector) rather than the other (the Pharisee) went home justified before God.

This man is now in right relation to God rather than the other! In other words, he’s going to heaven and the other is not. The Pharisee, though he thought he was righteous, was unrighteous, while the tax collector, though he thought he broke all the records for sin, was righteous.

The line between the good guys and the bad guys wasn’t drawn where we thought.

This Pharisee thought the distinctions that mattered among men mattered with God.

But the tax collector wasn’t thinking about others. In desperation, he just cried out for mercy.

The heart of true prayer is this humble cry of desperation.