Monday, February 12, 2024

Remain  | John 15:1–17


The Gospel of John is a unique and powerful account of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Written by John, one of Jesus' closest disciples, this gospel presents a deep and thoughtful perspective on the person and work of Jesus. Unlike the other three gospels, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels and focus on Jesus' actions and teachings, John's gospel emphasizes the spiritual and theological significance of Jesus' life and ministry. For this series I will write some of 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 | Remain  | John 15:1–17

Last week we finished John 14 and talked about evidence of our love for God. This week we remain in the Upper Room discourse from Jesus to His disciples. Our entire teaching is from Jesus. In our passage Jesus gives us another “I am” statement. Jesus says, “I am the true vine…” Most of us don't think of Jesus as a vine but the illustration is that we need to be connected to the vine. In a culture who thought with an agriculture mindset this was normal to them. For many of us we can relate to this because of all the agriculture around us. In our passage we will talk about remaining in Jesus and what pruning in our lives looks like. 

1) The 30-day minimalism game was invented by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn. They developed this game as a great way to jump-start the decluttering journey. Do you have parts of your house or life you’d like to declutter? 

2) In John 15:1 we read another “I am” statement from Jesus. This is the last “I am” statement Jesus makes. Read John 6:35, 8:12, 10:7, 11:25, and 14:6. What do you learn about the character and nature of Jesus from these different statements? 

3) Jesus says that God prunes away the parts of our life that do not bear fruit so we can be more fruitful for the Kingdom (read John 15:1-4). What are some areas of your life where you’d like Jesus to prune away so you can be more fruitful? 

4) Read John 15:5-8. The passage is repetitive about remaining in Jesus. Our culture isn’t great at being patient and sticking things through. Sometimes we just want to give up or quit. What have you learned about the value of not quitting but remaining? 

5) Jesus says that we can ask for whatever we want and it will be done for us (see John 15:7-8). Is Jesus giving us permission to ask for anything or is His statement a truth for those who are genuinely seeking to build the Kingdom? Could this statement be more about ministry than personal gain?  

6) Jesus teaches us that an outcome of remaining in Him is that we bear fruit. What does it look like for a Christian to bear fruit? Can you think of places in your life where you’re bearing fruit and places in your life that are fruitless? 

7) In John 13-15 we’ve seen a repetition on love (read John 13:34-35, 14:15, 23-24, and 15:13-17. Take some time as a group to read these verses and discuss what it looks like to a be a community of people who love others well. 

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength to invite a friend to meet Jesus. 





Monday, January 29, 2024

Evidence of our love  | John 14:15-31


The Gospel of John is a unique and powerful account of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Written by John, one of Jesus' closest disciples, this gospel presents a deep and thoughtful perspective on the person and work of Jesus. Unlike the other three gospels, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels and focus on Jesus' actions and teachings, John's gospel emphasizes the spiritual and theological significance of Jesus' life and ministry. For this series I will write some of 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 | Evidence of our love  | John 14:15-31

In John 13-17 we see Jesus take time to intentionally teach the disciples about His upcoming departure. In our passage today Jesus starts out with a conditional statement about their love for Jesus. Jesus says that we show our love for Him by obeying His commandments. Throughout our text we’re going to read that lesson taught time and time again. Jesus knows that the cross awaits and it seems like no matter how many times Jesus teaches that lesson to the disciples they can’t grasp it. Our text also has one of the greatest promises from Jesus; the Holy Spirit. In the next couple of chapters we will learn more about the work of the Holy Spirit from Jesus. 

1) Neal shared a story about speeding on his drive to seminary. Instead of lying to the officer he told the truth. Share a time when you broke the law and got caught. What was the crime and what was the punishment? 

2) Read John 14:15, 21, 23-24. Jesus says that if we love Him we will obey His commands. As you think about the commands of Jesus, what are some of the most difficult for you to obey? (see Matthew 6:34, 7:12, 22:39, 28:19-20)

3) Read John 14:18-20. Jesus promises to leave the Holy Spirit and that even though Jesus is gone, He will remain with us. Share about a time in your life when you felt lonely but realized that Jesus was still with you and He comforted you. 

4) In John 14:16 Jesus tells the disciples that He will send the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came for an event, reason, or purpose (read Judges 6:34, 15:14, 1 Samuel 16:14, and 2 Chronicles 24:20). What is the difference of the momentary experiences in the Old Testament and promise Jesus makes here?

5) Jesus says that our love for Him will be evident in our obedience to His commands (read John 14:15, 21, 23-24). Think about how you show love to those who are closest to you, share some of those examples with your group. Why do you do this? 

6) The Bible gives us several examples of people who loved God and expressed that through obedience (read Daniel 10:11, James 2:23, Acts 13:22, and John 13:23). Why is Jesus so repetitive in us loving Him?

7) Read John 14:26. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things and remind us of everything Jesus said. Share a time when you found yourself in a situation where the Holy Spirit reminded you of the truth of God. 

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength to invite a friend to meet Jesus. 



Saturday, January 20, 2024

Flip Fuel 20% off coupon

Several times last year I saw info on the flip fuel or other similar devices. Last month I finally got my hands on one and I think this is going to be a game changer for backpacking. No more half empty cans. No more debating what can to bring on your next trip. Less waste!

If you want a Flip Fuel at 20% off use my code: NEAL20 



Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Three Choices  | John 13:18-38


The Gospel of John is a unique and powerful account of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Written by John, one of Jesus' closest disciples, this gospel presents a deep and thoughtful perspective on the person and work of Jesus. Unlike the other three gospels, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels and focus on Jesus' actions and teachings, John's gospel emphasizes the spiritual and theological significance of Jesus' life and ministry. For this series I will write some of 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 | Three Choices  | John 13:18-38

Today we’re moving back into the Gospel of John. In John 1 we’re introduced to Jesus as the Son of God. These are some of the most elevated statements about Jesus in the entire New Testament. Next, in John 2-10 the primary focus is on the miracles, signs, teaching, and controversies surrounding Jesus. We see Jesus turn water into wine, feed the masses, and teach like no one has ever taught. Next, in John 11-12 we read that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus puts Himself in harms way to heal His friends. It’s a selfless act of love. All of this leads us to John 13 where we start the upper room discourse where Jesus gives the disciples a new command to love. 

1) When you heard the story of the elementary boy who made his own T-shirt for the college color day at his school what did you think? Did the story bring up any emotion or thoughts for you about loving others and how to do that better? 

2) In John 13 Jesus gives the disciples a new command to love each other (Read John 13:34-35). This command was given to those who follow Jesus. What makes it easy to love some people and what makes it challenging to love others? 

3) As we think about loving others what are some lessons you’ve learned that have helped you love others? Read these passages and use them as prompt to help you love others (1 Corinthians 13:4, Romans 13:8, Philippians 2:3, and Mathew 5:43-48)  

4) The opposite of love is to betray a person. Judas had already struck a deal with the religious leaders to hand Jesus over (read John 13:18-30). What do you think are the small choices that Judas made to come to this big decision to betray Jesus? 

5) Being betrayed might be one of the most heart wrenching things that can happen to us in life. If you’re willing to share about a time you were betrayed and how you dealt with that. When betrayal happens, how can you turn to Jesus who also knows what it’s like to be betrayed? 

6) Near the end of our passage Jesus predicts Peter’s upcoming denial (read John 13:36-38). Peter is a man who is zealous for Jesus and can’t fathom this happening. What happens in our life that lead to us slowly walking away from Jesus? 

7) When you think about the entirety of this passage what stands out most to you? Do you think you’re in a spot where you would betray Jesus, are you considering denying Jesus? Where can you grow in your love for others this week?  

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength to invite a friend to meet Jesus. 



Monday, November 13, 2023

Prepare for the King | John 12:1-19

The Gospel of John is a unique and powerful account of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Written by John, one of Jesus' closest disciples, this gospel presents a deep and thoughtful perspective on the person and work of Jesus. Unlike the other three gospels, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels and focus on Jesus' actions and teachings, John's gospel emphasizes the spiritual and theological significance of Jesus' life and ministry. For this series I will write some of 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 | Prepare for the King | John 12:1-19

John 1-11 focus on the life, ministry, and miracles of Jesus. John does a great job at showing us the powerful work of Jesus in Israel. In those chapters we’ve seen: Jesus call the disciples, Jesus feed thousands of people, the blind are healed, the dead have been raised, and the Jewish leaders are not happy. John 12 serves as a transitional chapter from the miracles of Jesus to the final week of Jesus’ life on earth. John focuses our attention on the coming King. We see Jesus anointed by Mary and praised by the crowd. It’s evident that the good news of Jesus is spreading far and wide. Study these questions to see how your understanding of Jesus drives your worship of Jesus. 

1) The Westminster Shorter Catechism says: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” When you think about worshipping God what is your go to? In other words, what is your favorite way to worship God? 

2) Read John 12:1-3. Our passage begins with a story of Mary anointing Jesus. Many scholars think this was in preparation for His upcoming burial. Thinking of her actions, what worldly possession would it be hard for you to give up for Jesus? 

3) Read John 12:4-6. Take some time, as a group, to look at the difference in Mary’s action and Judas desires. Compare the way both people responded to Jesus and what they teach us about worshipping Jesus. 

4) In the Gospel of John we often find Mary at the feet of Jesus (see John 11:32). Her understanding of Jesus drove her worship of Jesus. Neal taught us that the modern equivalent is reading our Bible. Where are you currently reading your Bible and how is that growing your walk with Jesus? 

5) The crowd had an understanding of Jesus that surpassed their expectations, hence they chose to worship Jesus (read John 12:12-16). What would it take for you to be interrupted, change your plans, and focus all your attention on worshipping Jesus? 

6) Read John 12:9-11. We read that many of the Jews began to believe in Jesus because of the miracles that Jesus was accomplishing. Where have you seen Jesus show up and do a miracle in your life? How did that strengthen your faith? 

7) Read John 12:17-19. The crowd continued sharing the good news of Jesus with those around them. Studies show that over half of Christians have never shared their faith. What holds you back from sharing your faith? 

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength to invite a friend to meet Jesus. 



Monday, October 30, 2023

When Dead Men Walk | John 11:1-44


The Gospel of John is a unique and powerful account of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Written by John, one of Jesus' closest disciples, this gospel presents a deep and thoughtful perspective on the person and work of Jesus. Unlike the other three gospels, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels and focus on Jesus' actions and teachings, John's gospel emphasizes the spiritual and theological significance of Jesus' life and ministry. For this series I will write some of 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 | When Dead Men Walk | John 11:1-44

In John 11 we read the account of Lazarus’ being raised from the dead. There are several aspects taking place in this story. First, we see the bravery of Jesus to go back to the region where He was almost stoned to death. Second, we see the great love and compassion of Jesus in this account. Jesus cares so much for people that He is willing to enter their broken situations. Jesus not only enters our brokenness but weeps with us. Finally, in Jewish culture there was a belief that the spirit was “locked out” of the body after four days. For Jesus to bring Lazarus back from the dead was a true act of God. Study these questions to apply new life to your life! 

1) In John 11 we read about Jesus raising a dead man back to life. When you think about this, in natural terms, do you struggle to think that Jesus can bring people who are dead back to life? How does this passage stretch your thinking on miracles? 

2) In our passage we see a hesitation from the disciples to go back Judea (read John 11:4-10, 16). Put yourself in the shoes of the disciples; would you be fearful to go back to this region where they recently tried to kill Jesus? Why or why not? 

3) Read John 11:21 & 32. Martha and Mary basically say the same thing to Jesus. Both sisters wish things had turned out differently with their brother. It also seems like they might be blaming Jesus. Have you ever blamed Jesus before the story was finished? Share what you learned with your group. 

4) Part of growing in our walk with Jesus is maturing in our faith. A mature faith is able to recognize that God doesn’t answer all our prayers how we want Him to answer them. Share about a time where you matured in your faith through trials. 

5) Read John 11:23-27. Jesus gives us another “I am” statement here in the Gospel of John. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Share with your group how Jesus has given you new life in the time you’ve been following Him. 

6) This passage highlights the humanity and deity of Jesus (read John 11:35, 44). If someone were to ask you about the humanity and deity of Jesus would you be able to explain that your friend? What verses would you use? 


7) The conclusion of the story is that Lazarus is raised from the dead (read John 11:38-44). Are there places in your spiritual life that feel dead right now and need new life? Share with your group what these places are and ask for prayer. 

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength to invite a friend to meet Jesus. 



Monday, October 23, 2023

The Good Shepherd | John 10:1-21

The Gospel of John is a unique and powerful account of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Written by John, one of Jesus' closest disciples, this gospel presents a deep and thoughtful perspective on the person and work of Jesus. Unlike the other three gospels, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels and focus on Jesus' actions and teachings, John's gospel emphasizes the spiritual and theological significance of Jesus' life and ministry. For this series I will write some of 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 Good Shepherd | John 10:1-21

In John 10 Jesus likens Himself to a Good Shepherd. Living in California we tend to be at a disadvantage to this imaginary. We might have pet a sheep at the zoo or seen one at a petting zoo but we lack the understanding of what a shepherd really does. Palestinian shepherds don’t drive their sheep with dogs but they lead them. Most of their sheep aren’t raised for slaughter but for wool. The shepherd would have a ten to twelve year relationship with the sheep. It was common for shepherds to name their sheep, sheep were extremely valuable to them. Listen in as Pastor Neal Benson teaches on how Abundant life is found under the protection of Jesus. 

1) Statistics show that that average American adult will live to be 77 years old. The average age decrease for those with a drug or alcohol addiction and increases for those in blue zones. What does it look like to live a full life and not an average life? 

2) Read John 10:1-6. Jesus teaches about the protective role of ancient shepherds. How did this message help you better understand the role of Jesus as a shepherd in your life? Can you think of one way that Jesus has shepherded you? 

3) Jesus taught us that the shepherd knows the sheep and the sheep know the shepherd (see John 10:14). Do you have a habit of listening to the voice of Jesus in your life? Take some time to read and discuss 1 Samuel 3:10. 

4) Jesus describes Himself as the gate for the sheep pen (read John 10:7-10). There is a stark contrast between a gate and a thief. Where do we currently see Jesus protecting us and where do we see the thief trying to destroy us? 

5) Jesus also described Himself as the Good Shepherd (read John 10:11-13). Jesus described several ways that He is the good shepherd in our life. Look over these ways and share where you’ve seen Jesus as the Good Shepherd in your life. 

6) We read that Jesus has a desire for all people to know Him (see John 10:16). Coastline is a church who believes the Gospel is for everyone. Read Genesis 12:1-3, Joel 2:32, and Matthew 28:19-20. How can we be actively involved in growing God’s Kingdom and sharing the love of Jesus? 

7) The conclusion of the story is continued division over who Jesus is (read John 10:19-21). The Pharisees can’t see to agree on who Jesus is. Why do you think they had such a tough time understanding Jesus? 

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength to invite a friend to meet Jesus. 



Monday, October 16, 2023

Spiritual Blindness | John 9


The Gospel of John is a unique and powerful account of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Written by John, one of Jesus' closest disciples, this gospel presents a deep and thoughtful perspective on the person and work of Jesus. Unlike the other three gospels, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels and focus on Jesus' actions and teachings, John's gospel emphasizes the spiritual and theological significance of Jesus' life and ministry. For this series I will write some of 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 | Spiritual Blindness | John 9

Last week Jesus gave another “I am” statement. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Today we’ll see that language continued in the Gospel of John. Today we’re looking at a story of a man who was born blind but healed by Jesus. It’s a story that should be encapsulated in joy. The man was blind and can now see! But the man is confronted by the religious leaders after his healing. He is interrogated instead of welcomed into the family of God. Finally the man gets to meet Jesus and learn about having spiritual eyes to see the truth around him. Today we’re going to see how Jesus can heal our eyesight but how Jesus makes blind men see.

1) We all have a story and Jesus came to earth to rewrite our brokenness into hope. Share with your group about when you met Jesus. Briefly talk about how you were once spiritually blind. What happened for your eyes to be opened to Jesus? 

2) The disciples asked Jesus a question about the man born blind (read John 9:1-5). So often we look for an easy to difficult problems. Can you think of a time where bad theology lead to you asking the wrong question? 

3) The healing of this man required obedience on his part (read John 9:6-7). In the Old Testament there is a story about Naaman who needed to act in obedience (read 2 Kings 5:13-15). Where is God asking you to act in obedience? 

4) We know how to act in obedience. We obey traffic patterns, follow the laws of the land, and listen to the instruction of our boss at work. Thinking about acting in obedience, what makes it so difficult to obey God in all areas of our lives? 

5) The Pharisees interrogated this man’s parents about his blindness (read John 9:18-23). His parents were afraid to answer this man because it would affect their status in the synagogue. Is there anyone you’re afraid to talk about Jesus with? 

6) The conclusion is that this man finds sight in Jesus and ultimately meets the one who healed him (read John 35-41). How first response is to worship Jesus. Where is a place where you’ve been withholding worship from Jesus? 

7) We talked about sharing our faith story with those around us by using the model in John 9 and Ephesians 4:22-24. Have you taken the time to write out your faith story? How do you feel about sharing your faith? What are some emotions that are invoked when you think about telling others about what Jesus has done in your life? 

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength to invite a friend to meet Jesus. 



Sunday, October 01, 2023

My backpacking gear list

Growing up in the mountains I started hiking as a little kid. I remember hiking with my mom on some amazing trails. One of my favorite was called Castle Rock. It was a hike where you ended up climbing this huge rock (huge to a 6 year old) and having a view of Big Bear Lake. As a seventeen year old I remember picking up PCT hitchhikers who needed a ride to town. I always dreamed of hiking that trail and maybe one day I will. 

When I was in my twenties I started backpacking. I went to Costa Rica on a trip to build suspending rope bridges for the locals could cross the rivers in the rain forest. It was an amazing trip. Ask me about it one day! Then I did a week in Death Valley and loved it. Sleeping under the stars. Cowboy camping and connecting with God. It was what my soul needed. 

I didn't backpack for a while but have gotten back into it in the last couple of years. I've taken both my daughters to the top of Half Dome and gone backpacking with my son. Sometimes, in my YouTube videos, people ask about my gear.

Here is some of my current gear load out: 

Shadowlight 60L- https://bit.ly/3vZ7Izz  

Nemo Tensor- https://amzn.to/3Pmk9jA 

Fortuis 1p Tent- https://bit.ly/3LxK3xD 

Stormloft Down Topquilt- https://bit.ly/3lJwBun 

MSR PocketRocket- https://amzn.to/44DQUNA 

Toaks 750ml Pot- https://amzn.to/3EkliCa 

Hiking Shirt- https://www.rei.com/product/185196/rei-co-op-sahara-shade-hoodie-mens 

Bear Vault- https://amzn.to/3Pj6Pwt 

Insulated Backpacking Meal Cozy- https://www.etsy.com/shop/FindingTrail?ref=l2-about-shopname 

Nitecore NU25- https://amzn.to/3Enoqgx 

Outdoor Vitals Sleeping Bag Liner- https://bit.ly/44zaOJS

Katedyn Filter- https://amzn.to/45RNzf0 

Peak Refuel Meals- https://amzn.to/3R1CmV5 

Powerbank- https://amzn.to/3P0hnPN 

Tiny Pump- https://amzn.to/3EnZgyg 

Hydrapak- https://amzn.to/483DLR9 

Trekking Poles- https://www.rei.com/product/184761/rei-co-op-flash-carbon-trekking-poles-pair 

Shot on GoPro Hero 8- https://amzn.to/45D376E  

Quick heads up: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase. Thanks for supporting my channel! 

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Dropping Stones: Embracing the Compassion of Jesus

Last Sunday I preached on John 8:1-11. I thought it would be fun to take my entire manuscript and ask Chat GPT to summarize it for you! Let me know what you think

Life is full of moments that bring joy and happiness, like weddings where two people come together in love. But life also presents us with challenges and poor choices, especially in our relationships. We've all been there – maybe it was a middle school crush, a high school romance that didn't last, or even a college relationship that took an unexpected turn. The truth is, we've all made mistakes in our relationships, and the real challenge lies in learning and growing from those experiences.

Today, we're continuing our journey through the Gospel of John, exploring a story that revolves around a woman who made a poor choice in her life. We don't know all the details, but her actions led her to a place she never expected. In John 8, we encounter a woman caught in the act of adultery, standing before Jesus in Jerusalem after the Festival of Tabernacles.

A Difficult Situation in Jerusalem (vv. 1-2)
Before diving into the heart of the story, it's important to acknowledge that some ancient manuscripts don't include these verses. However, their historical significance and their relevance to our journey compel us to explore them. Jesus was known for teaching and spending time with people, and this passage aligns with his pattern of engaging with those around him.

Standing Naked Before Jesus (vv. 3-6)
The scene is set with a woman caught in the act of adultery, potentially standing naked before Jesus. This situation is a trap set by the Pharisees to catch Jesus. They're using this woman's sin to try to entangle him in a theological dilemma. According to the Law of Moses, both parties involved in adultery were to be stoned, yet they only bring the woman before Jesus. It's a setup, plain and simple.

But as we contemplate this scene, we must also reflect on our own lives. Have you ever been caught in a moment of wrongdoing? We've all made mistakes, and religion often sets traps to expose our faults and condemn us. In this story, we see the religious leaders using this woman's sin as bait to trap Jesus.

Instead of responding with words, Jesus stoops down and starts writing in the sand. We can only speculate about what he wrote, but one thing is clear: Jesus protects the dignity of this woman in her most humiliating moment. He shifts the focus away from her and onto himself, offering her a chance to escape public condemnation.

The Written Word of God (vv. 7-11)
The Pharisees persist in their attempts to trap Jesus. They seek a legal ruling from him, but Jesus responds with a profound statement: "Let the one who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." He then resumes writing in the sand. Slowly, the accusers, starting with the older ones, depart, leaving Jesus alone with the woman.

What they've missed, and what we can't overlook, is that Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, has just written in the sand. The last time the finger of God wrote was when the Ten Commandments were inscribed on stone tablets. But now, Jesus writes in the sand, symbolizing a new way, one rooted in mercy, not condemnation.

The older ones in the crowd depart first, perhaps recognizing the trap's futility and their own fallibility. The truth is, we are all sinners, and this crowd's actions remind us to drop our stones of judgment.

Conclusion
In conclusion, this story teaches us that the compassion of Jesus invites us to drop our stones. While Jesus doesn't condone the woman's sin, he offers her a chance at redemption, a chance to leave her life of sin behind. Similarly, we must let go of our judgment, both of others and ourselves, and embrace the grace and forgiveness that Jesus offers.

Coastline is a church that values grace, understanding that it's the flip side of the coin that bears the weight of the cross, paying for our sins. If you've been quick to cast stones of judgment, take a moment to apologize and seek reconciliation. Remember, there's always a path to redemption, and Jesus is there to guide us.

Let's strive to be a community that drops our stones, embracing the compassion of Jesus and extending it to others. As we leave behind our lives of sin and judgment, may we live in the freedom and grace that Christ offers us.

Thank you for joining us today, and may you walk in the compassion and grace of Jesus as you continue your journey of faith.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Dropping Stones | John 8:1-11


The Gospel of John is a unique and powerful account of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Written by John, one of Jesus' closest disciples, this gospel presents a deep and thoughtful perspective on the person and work of Jesus. Unlike the other three gospels, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels and focus on Jesus' actions and teachings, John's gospel emphasizes the spiritual and theological significance of Jesus' life and ministry. For this series I will write some of 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 | Dropping Stones | John 8:1-11

Relationships can be difficult and challenging. Sometimes they have the ‘happily ever after’ ending and other times they end like a train wreck. Today we’re going to see a story of a woman who made a bad choice. She might have made this choice once, several times, or for several years, we don’t know all the details of the story. Her bad choice puts her in a place that she never imagined she would be. Our story involves the religious leaders treating an adulterous woman with no compassion. In John 8 we read about a woman who was caught making a bad choice and finds herself standing next to Jesus. Study these questions to learn more about the mercy of Jesus. 

1) Relationships can be amazing, challenging, fulfilling, and difficult. When we add romantic feelings things can get complicated at times. Share about a time when you had to navigate a unique situation in any type of relationship you’re involved in. 

2) Read John 8:1-2. Jesus was in the habit of teaching the people about the truth of God in a way they understand (Matthew 4:23, Mark 6:6, and Luke 13:10). What have you learned from the teaching of Jesus and how has it changed you? 

3) One of the things the Pharisees tried to do in this situation was to trap Jesus with this question (read John 8:3-6). The Law required that two or three people witness a sin like this. What would motivate the Pharisees to treat a woman in such a manner? 

4) If Jesus condemns the woman He is not viewed as compassionate. If Jesus frees the woman, He negates the Law. Is there a way for us, in our current culture, to keep a balance between compassion and following the commands of God? 

5) It appears that Jesus gives the crowd the freedom to throw stones as long as they know they are also condemned in their sin (read John 8:7-8). Read Matthew 7:1-6 and talk about how to be better at removing sin from your own life. 

6) As people saw the words of Jesus written in the sand, they began to leave (read John 8:9-11). Romans 3:23 says that we have all sinned. Following the Law of Moses, Jesus didn’t condemn this woman but invited her to leave her life of sin. Share with you group when you trusted Jesus and how that changed your life. 

7) For Jesus to offer the mercy that He offered to this woman it meant He would have to climb on the cross to pay for our sins (see Luke 23:26-49). How can we share this great love of Jesus with people in our lives who are in need of mercy?  

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength to invite a friend to meet Jesus. 


Monday, September 18, 2023

When Confusion Abounds | John 7:25-53


The Gospel of John is a unique and powerful account of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Written by John, one of Jesus' closest disciples, this gospel presents a deep and thoughtful perspective on the person and work of Jesus. Unlike the other three gospels, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels and focus on Jesus' actions and teachings, John's gospel emphasizes the spiritual and theological significance of Jesus' life and ministry. For this series I will write some of 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 | When Confusion Abounds | John 7:25-53

Earlier in John 7 we saw that three different groups of people were confused on who Jesus is. As we continue in John 7 we’re going to see that confusion about Jesus remains. His teaching in the first half of the chapter didn’t clear up the confusion. In our passage today we read that Jesus interacts with three groups of people. Keep your eyes open for the crowd, the guards, and the Pharisees. We’re going to see how each of these groups interact with Jesus and how their confusion actually creates more confusion. In the midst of their confusion there is hope because we find that through Jesus teaching many come to believe in Him as the Messiah. 

1) “It’s all Greek to me!” is a common phrase when we don’t understand something. Share about at time in your life when you had a hard time comprehending something you needed to learn. How did this situation play out? 

2) Read John 7:25-31. The crowd asks three different questions concerning Jesus. The questions show us the crowd has a desire to learn about Jesus. What one of these questions do you most resonate with? 

3) In John 7:31 we read a great result of Jesus’ teaching. There are several times in Scripture when many believe (read Acts 2:41 and 9:31). What would it look like to see those you’ve been praying for come to Jesus this week? 

4) The Pharisees were intent on arresting Jesus (read John 7:32-36). Jesus came to tilt our chins towards heaven and keep us focused on spiritual matters. Share a time in your life where you got fixated on the physical world and missed the spiritual.    

5) Read John 7:37-39. During the Festival of Tabernacles water was an important part. For Jesus to say that He would offer rivers of living water would be massive! Where have you been drinking of the world and need to drink from the rivers of Jesus? 

6) Jesus promised an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the Spirit would come on people for a time, event, or occasion. But Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to us (read John 14:16, 26, 15:26-27, and 16:7). What do these passages teach us about the Holy Spirit? 

7) Near the end of the chapter we see Nicodemus is a voice of reason (read John 7:50-51). Who is a voice of reason in your life? A person who constantly keeps you focused on the truth of God in a confusing world? 

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength to invite a friend to meet Jesus. 


Monday, August 07, 2023

Worshiping When God Feels Distant: Lessons from Psalm 13


Today, I want to share a powerful message from Psalm 13, exploring how we can worship even when we don't feel like it. Life can throw us into challenging situations, and it's during these times that our faith is truly tested. Join me as we delve into the wisdom of the Psalms and learn to turn our distress into worship.

When It Feels Like God Has Hidden His Face (vv. 1-2)
Psalm 13 is a Psalm of Lament, where the psalmist, David, pours out his heart to God. He doesn't hold back his feelings of confusion and abandonment. In the midst of our darkest moments, it's natural to wonder where God is. The beauty of the Psalms lies in their honesty, allowing us to express our emotions to God freely. We don't need to hide our pain from Him; He already knows our hearts.

At times, we struggle to articulate our feelings to God, resorting to various distractions or coping mechanisms. However, the Psalms teach us that God wants us to bring all our emotions before Him. David, a man after God's own heart, doesn't shy away from questioning and pleading with God. We, too, can find solace and connection with God in our darkest times through the Psalms.

Sometimes We Need to Ask God to Look on Us (vv. 3-4)
In our distress, it's okay to cry out to God and ask Him to look on us. David, with a deep personal relationship with God, implores Him to intervene in his situation. This Psalm encourages us to approach God in all areas of our lives, not just when things are going well. Our faith might waver, but God remains steadfast.

Life can be unpredictable, and we may face situations that seem beyond our comprehension. Just like David, we can ask God for help and seek comfort in His presence. Our faith may be tested, but our relationship with God endures.

No Matter the Situation, We Can Trust in God (vv. 5-6)
David's trust in God shines through as he proclaims, "But I trust in your unfailing love." Even in the darkest times, we can find hope in God's faithfulness. Though our circumstances may be uncertain, our trust in God remains unwavering.

It's crucial to remember that worship is not dependent on our feelings. David makes a promise to God that he will praise Him, no matter the outcome. We were made to worship, and this act of worship should be our response to God's love and goodness, regardless of our emotions.

Conclusion
Life can throw us into unexpected and painful situations, just as I experienced the loss of my father and stepfather within a short period. During those times, I questioned God's plan, but I also chose to worship Him. Worshiping God, even when we don't feel like it, is an essential aspect of our faith journey.

Let us be like David and pour out our hearts to God in the midst of our troubles. Though our emotions may fluctuate, we can trust in God's unwavering love and faithfulness. So, let us worship our Lord and focus on His greatness, for we were made to worship Him in all circumstances.

I hope this message has encouraged you to turn to God in times of distress and find solace in worship. If you've been through tough times, remember that God is there, and He cares for you deeply. Let's take a moment to praise Him for His goodness and love.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

When I’m not feeling it | Psalm 13





This summer our church is taking nine weeks to focus our heart, soul, and mind on worship. For the summer we’re going to focus our attention on worshipping God. We’re going to submit ourselves to the creator of the universe and see what Scripture teaches us about worship. For this series we’ll look at a variety of passages that teach us about worship. For this series I will write some of 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 | When I’m not feeling it | Psalm 13

It’s hard to worship when we’re not feeling God in our daily life. The Bible teaches us how to deal with distressing situations in our life and turn them into worship. The struggle in our lives happen when we want to praise God but we just can’t. We can be grateful for the honesty of the Psalmists who experienced difficult times and wrote about them. We’re going to look at how to worship God when it seems like God has hidden His face from us. We’ll figure out how to ask God to look on us and how to respond in praise. There are times in our lives when it feels like God has hidden Himself from us. 

1) Neal shared a story about losing his dad, his stepdad, and his mom having a traumatic brain injury in the span of seven months. Can you think of a time in your life when it seemed like your world was falling apart?  

2) Read Psalm 13:1-2. You can see David’s struggle in the fact he writes, “How long…” four different times. Read Numbers 6:22-27, Psalm 11:7, Psalm 17:15 and Psalm 27:4. Describe what it feels like for God to hide His face from our daily life. 

3) In our dark moments we tend to wrestle with the thoughts in our mind. One struggle we have can be listening to God’s word but not applying it (read James 1:22-25). How do you manage your emotions during dark times? 

4) Read Psalm 13:3-4. David asks God to look on him and answer. There is a powerful aspect of our human life when people actually see us (read Genesis 16:13, Psalm 80:14, and Matthew 8:5-13). Talk about the power of God seeing us. 

5) David’s fear was that his enemies would gain the victory if he were to pass away. This is not a selfish request but a request for the mighty power of God to be known. Think of ways that God can be, and is, glorified when He acts on our behalf. 

6) No matter the situation, David will trust in God. David has known God’s faithfulness for generations. Read Psalm 13:5-6. Share about how you’ve seen God's faithfulness in your life and how you can trust Him moving forward. 

7) The final invitation, or application, of this Psalm is to praise God. What is your favorite worship song? How does that song invoke a lifestyle of praise for you? Where would you like to praise Jesus more in your life? 

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength to invite a friend to meet Jesus. 



Tuesday, July 04, 2023

When a Lion is on the Prowl: Staying Alert in a Fierce World


As a child, visiting the zoo was an exciting adventure. The majestic lions, lying lazily in the sun, seemed so harmless and cuddly. But as we grow older and gain knowledge about the wild, we understand the true nature of lions – powerful, muscular, and fierce hunters. Similarly, the Bible compares the devil to a roaring lion, seeking to devour God's people. In this blog post, we will explore 1 Peter's teachings on staying alert and vigilant when the enemy is on the prowl, and how embracing God's grace can empower us to stand firm in our faith.

The Lion on the Prowl:
In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter warns the early Christians of the devil's tactics, likening him to a ferocious lion seeking to destroy believers. As Christian leaders today, we must remain alert to the actions of the enemy, knowing that he is always looking for an opportunity to strike. Lions have powerful teeth and razor-sharp claws, reminding us of the strength and cunningness the devil possesses in his schemes against us.

Staying Vigilant Against the Terror of the Enemy:
The scattered church in the first century faced intense persecution and hardships. Similarly, we may find ourselves in challenging situations, where the devil seeks to capitalize on our weaknesses. To resist the devil, we must stand firm in our faith, knowing that we are not alone in this struggle. Throughout history, countless believers have faced the enemy's pressure and emerged victorious, and their stories of faith can encourage us to do the same.

Grace in the Midst of Suffering:
Facing the roaring lion is not something we can do in our own strength. The grace of God sustains us through periods of suffering, restoring us and making us stronger in the process. Our past experiences of God's grace, even in the most trying times, can equip us to confront the enemy's attacks with confidence.

Staying Alert: Practical Applications:
To remain vigilant in a world with a prowling enemy, we must actively engage in practices that strengthen our faith. Hiding God's word in our hearts enables us to combat the enemy's lies with truth. We resist the lion's temptation when we choose not to engage in sinful behaviors, such as harmful conversations or gossip. Instead, we strive to speak kindly, seek truth, and stand firm against the devil's tactics.

Worship in the Midst of Adversity:
Amidst the trials and challenges, we must remember that the ultimate response to God's grace is worship. When we worship, we draw closer to God, allowing His strength to fill us. Focusing on worship keeps our minds fixed on the Almighty, reminding us that while the lion prowls, we serve a God who is greater and more powerful.

In a world where the enemy lurks like a lion, seeking to cause havoc, the Church must stay alert and vigilant. Just like a lion on the prowl commands our attention, so should our awareness of the spiritual battle we face. But with God's grace and strength, we can stand firm, resisting the enemy's attacks, and remaining steadfast in our faith. Let us remember to worship God in the midst of adversity, acknowledging that He is the ultimate victor over any prowling lion in our lives. As we embrace God's grace, we can walk with confidence, knowing that when the lion is on the prowl, the Church stands united, strong, and unwavering.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Who We Worship | Deuteronomy 6


This summer our church is taking nine weeks to focus our heart, soul, and mind on worship. For the summer we’re going to focus our attention on worshipping God. We’re going to submit ourselves to the creator of the universe and see what Scripture teaches us about worship. For this series we’ll look at a variety of passages that teach us about worship. For this series I will write some of 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 We Worship | Deuteronomy 6

This summer we’re taking nine-weeks to focus our hearts on worship. The word, worship, describes the acts of the mind, heart and will where we joyfully acknowledge the worth of God. In the 1600’s a group of English and Scottish Theologians gathered, with layman, to bring the church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland. From this gathering emerged the Westminster Shorter Catechism which states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” In other words, we were made to worship! Take some time to work through these questions on your own or with a group to grow your heart to worship God with everything you have. 

1) The act of worship is an all-encompassing act in our lives. When you think about worship what do you primarily think about? Anticipating there will be several answers in your group, take some time to share on each response.   

2) Read Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This passage is an instruction from Moses for Israel to worship God. Jesus shared the same commandment at the Temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 22:37 & Mark 12:29-30). What does it look like to worship God with every fiber of our being? How would that be lived out in your life? 

3) Often we view love as coming from the heart so this might be the easiest way to love God. How can we actively demonstrate our love for God by engaging our hearts fully? (see Joshua 22:5, Proverbs 4:23, and 1 John 4:19) 

4) Sometimes we neglect our soul because we don’t know how to connect with God on a regular basis and love Him with our soul. In what areas of our lives do we truly love God with all our souls? (see Psalm 19:7, 23:3, 42:2, 62:1).  

5) Our church is passionate about people loving God with their entire mind. What does it look like in your life to think theologically and love God with your entire mind? 

6) Throughout our passage Moses taught the Israelites to pass these commands to their children (read Deuteronomy 61-3, 7-9, 20-25). No matter what stage you’re at in your parenting, what does it look like to live this out? 

7) Here at Coastline we have a core value of; Putting God First. One of the ways we do that is through a lifestyle of worship. When you think about worshipping God with every fiber of your being, where do you need to grow? 

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength to invite a friend to meet Jesus. 



Monday, June 19, 2023

The Unforgettable Wedding | John 2:1-12


On April 30th, 2023 I preached a first person narrative sermon on John 2:1-12. I preached it from the perspective of the Father of the Bride. If you've ever wanted to preach that type of sermon, here is my manuscript that I wrote for the morning. I did not bring any notes on stage with me. 

The Gospel of John
The Unforgettable Wedding 
 
Big Idea: Jesus filled my life with joy


Welcome! My name is Neal Benson and I’m the lead pastor here at Coastline. I want to say a special welcome to those who are gathering with us online. One of my passions in life is preaching. I love preaching God’s word. Ever since I gave my life to Jesus sharing His word has been my passion. This morning we’re going to continue in our sermon series through the Gospel of John but we’re going to approach our text in a new way. I’m going to preach from John 2:1-12 as a first-person narrative sermon. That means I will be a character from the story and share with you what I saw that day when Jesus turned water into wine. 
This year I’m taking a preaching class for my doctoral studies and I’ve been reading more about first-person narrative sermons. Some people have never seen a first-person narrative sermon. Some people have seen it done well. And others have seen it done poorly. I’ve only preached a first-person narrative sermon the life of Gideon before, so this is something newer to me also. It’s a practice that I want to learn as a way for our church to hear God’s word in a different way. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the passage, the region where our story took place, and what it must have been like at that wedding when the wine ran out. 
To prepare us for the sermon I’m going to read the passage in John 2. Then I’ll move my Bible aside, take a couple of steps back, and reappear as the father of the bride at that wedding feast in Cana. Read John 2:1-12. 

Jesus invited to the wedding (vv. 1-2)
Let me introduce myself to you. My name is Baruch ברוך. My name means Blessed. For most of my life I felt like a blessed man. I grew up in Israel and worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I lived in Northern Israel in the city of Cana, it's near the Sea of Galilee. It’s a beautiful region (map). It’s the only place I ever lived and the only place I ever wanted to live. My family lived in Cana forever. My father grew up here, his father grew up here, and his father grew up here. Our city was never famous until the stories of Jesus began to spread. It was in Cana where Jesus preformed His first miracle. It was at my daughter’s wedding. Jesus’ first miracle took place at my house! 
In Jewish culture we are great story tellers. I want to tell you a story that I’ve shared thousands of times. I want to tell you the story of when Jesus came to my daughter’s wedding, saved my family from shame, and filled me with a new joy. I was a shop owner in my town. I had more money the rest of the people in our town because business was good. As my oldest daughter was preparing for marriage her mother and I had picked a husband for her. As we began talking about who we would pick she overheard us. She quietly walked into the kitchen as quiet as a mouse and told us that she was in fact in love with this man and would like to marry him. I was so happy for my little girl! She will always be my little girl. 
We began the preparations for the wedding. I will never forget all the hours our family put into that wedding… and neither will my pocket book! It was common in my culture for me, the father of the bride, to pay for the wedding. What you might not know is that our weddings would last for at least a week! Think of the joy for me; Baruch would be hosting his daughters wedding at his home. I was so excited for her wedding date. My village would come and celebrate with us. Our family would join as our daughter became a bride. The wedding was scheduled for a Wednesday. This was the typical day of the week when virgins would get married. My people would close their shops to come celebrate this joyful moment with us. 
The day of the wedding feast arrived and our friends began to arrive. People from our community showed up and began to celebrate. We even had guests travel from a far. One of those guests was my old friend Mary. I don’t have time to tell you about how we met and our years of friendship, that isn’t why I’m here. I will tell you that I asked for Mary to have a special seat near me during the wedding feast. When Mary showed up she brought her son with her but I wasn’t prepared for extra guests. I want to tell you more about Mary’s son in a minute. He also brought some of His friends but they called themselves His disciples. I thought He was following Joseph as a carpenter but I had a lot to catch up on with Mary. 

A problem occurred at the wedding (vv. 3-7)
The wedding was going great! We had been celebrating for a couple of days. The music was beautiful. My daughter was so happy. I loved seeing her dance with her husband. I loved the way he looked at her. I watched her talking with her friends and a great smile on her face. The wedding was going better than I had imagined it would. But then something bad happened; there was a big problem. Just like Mary brought her Son and His disciples, some of my other guests invited their family with them. When we planned the wedding I hadn’t planned for this many people to actually come to our home. We found homes for them to sleep in the village. Let me get to the main point; we didn’t have enough wine. 
It was a couple of days in to the feast when one of the servants came to tell me that we had run out of wine. I’m a very calm business man but inside I was troubled. It was my job to provide for all the guests during the wedding feast. It wasn’t like we could get in a car and run to Costco to get more wine. We had many people at our home and it was well into the evening. I wasn’t sure where I would find any wine at this hour. Even if I went to all my neighbors to ask for wine it would never be enough for the evening or the rest of the celebration. 
In addition to this, if my guests found out that I ran out of wine it would be an embarrassment. In my culture it was shameful to run out of wine at a wedding feast. If the guests found out we were out of wine I could bring shame on my family. I began thinking of all these horrible options in my mind. Our friends could bring shame on my family. My daughter’s husband could leave her. If he does stay with her, this could bring shame on their marriage. For the rest of their lives people would talk about how the blessed man wasn’t able to provide for the guests. This wasn’t just a case where the wine ran out, there are sociological layers at play in this wedding feast that could cause harm to my family. 
More than that, I wondered if I had embarrassed God. Throughout the holy Scriptures there was a connection with joy and wine. My people knew the Psalms. As I sat at my table I kept thinking about Psalm 4:7 and the connection between wine and joy. The wine had run out at my daughter’s wedding, would the joy run out of her marriage? Would the joy run out of my family? I had so many questions and I think Mary could tell that I was troubled. She leaned over to me and asked about my situation. She must have seen the servant come and whisper in my ear about this dire situation. Mary said she would talk with Jesus. I wasn’t sure what He could do but I will tell you this; that man was filled with Joy. I had never seen so much joy in a person. 
Most of the religious leaders in my region would have never attended a wedding. They would avoid a party like this, but not Jesus. Jesus was right there in the party. He was with the people and caring for them. I watched as Mary pulled Jesus aside and brought Him to our table. I was able to over hear every single word they said. She simply told Him: “They have no more wine.” Jesus was silent for a minute. I heard him respond to her: “Woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.” He wasn’t disrespectful to His mother. To call her: “Woman” was the most respectful name He could call her. I heard that while Jesus hung on the cross, later in His life, that He also called her: “Woman” during that time. The point of the story isn’t Mary, I’m sorry if I’ve made it seem that way. The point of the story is what happened next. 
Jesus walked to the back room where the wine was stored. We had a special place in our home where we stored our food, water, supplies, and wine. Jesus went back there and began to look at all we had. I followed Jesus because I wanted to see what He would do. I also wanted to be there in case He needed anything from me, as a business owner I’m very resourceful. I showed him the back room. He stood there and looked at the stone jars that we had back there. I had six of them that I inherited from my family. I don’t see many Jews in this room so let me explain the significance of the stone jars. Stone jars are not like pottery jars, they are considered ceremonially clean under Levitical Law. That was important for the religious part of my life. They were large stone jars that would each hold about two to three firkins of water. I knew you wouldn’t know that word. They would each hold 20-30 gallons of water for my family. 
Jesus stood in this back room and began to think. The servants stood at the doorway watching His every move. I could hear my heart racing. It was dark and I didn’t know what we would do. Jesus calmly asked the servants to fill the jars. He spoke to them with such a gentle voice. I was emotionally distraught and He was calm. Our servants were used to taking instruction but the way they listened to this man Jesus impressed me. Jesus spoke to them like He was one of them. It was like He knew what it was like to be a servant. The servants obeyed what Jesus asked. They went out and fetched water for the jars. We didn’t have what you call: running water. I’ve seen this running water from heaven and boy is it nice! 
Our servants began to fill the jars with water. It took a little time as they did it without alarming anyone. They just acted like nothing was wrong; they had such a great personal disposition. I’ve thought about how Jesus treated these people. Every time I tell my story I get distracted by this point. Jesus was so loving to them. Sometimes I would get upset or angry and yell at the servants. I didn’t want to be like that but it just came out. It normally happened when I had a bad day at the store. Maybe something would break and I would loose money. A shipment could have been delayed and I would loose money. I didn’t have an anger problem like King Saul; that guy would throw spears at David! In this moment I would have yelled at the servants to hurry but Jesus was so calm and loving. Ever since the wedding I couldn’t stop thinking about this. (Take a minute to think). I’m sorry for getting distracted, Jesus’ love for people really impacted me.

The best wine ever (vv. 8-10)
Where was I? Yes, the servants filled the jars with water all the way to the top. They put in twenty to thirty gallons of water in each jar. We had around 150 gallons of water in there. But we still had no wine. No wine. The problem that I shared with you still existed. We needed wine and we had no wine! Jesus asked everyone to leave the back room. I stayed because it was my home, my daughter’s wedding, and my reputation on the line. Once everyone left the room I stood by His side. He looked at me and gently asked me to leave also. I was hesitant but I could see this great compassion in His eyes. 
I left but I stood right outside the door and listened. My mind went back to the heroes of my childhood. I imagined Jesus crying out to God like King David in so many of his Psalms. I wondered if Jesus would pray like Elijah did on Mount Carmel when he battled the prophets of Baal. As a boy that was my favorite story. I wondered what Jesus would do. I sat outside the room for what felt like hours but it probably only four to five minutes. I listened carefully and it sounded like Jesus had a simple conversation with God… but He called Him Father. 
After a couple minutes Jesus slowly opened the door and invited the servants back in. He said these words to them: “Now draw some to and taking to the master of the banquet.” I was outside of the door when He walked out. Jesus gave me this look that said: “Everything will be fine.” But He said no words to me. He simply walked past me and went back to talking with the wedding guests. I was so surprised to hear the servants shout for joy. I knew my problem was solved. Jesus solved all the things I had been worrying about. I never went in that room to look at the jars. I just knew that Jesus had taken my shame and filled me with joy. 
Every time I tell this story the person or group thinks that I’m done here, but I’m not done. The servants brought the wine to the master of the banquet. I was sitting with my wife again by now and she could see my relief. The master of the banquet was a friend of mine that we hired. He had lead hundreds of weddings in our region. It was customary to hire my friend so that I could focus on my family and he could keep the wedding ceremonies moving. He was the one person in our region who held this role. I watched him drink the water. My eyes stayed on his every move. He began to smile. 
When he pulled his lips away from the cup he shouted for the music to stop. This was not how this was supposed to go. He shouted again and again for the music to stop. The joy of the evening was interrupted. I had never seen this happen at a wedding before. He began talking: “Normally the best wine was served first at the wedding feast. Then after a couple of days the families will switch the wine out for the poorer wine, wine of less quality. You know, the cheap stuff?” This might be like a box of wine for your culture. Then he went on to share: “Most people do this because after you’ve had a couple of glasses of wine no one really cares what it tastes like. But my friend Baruch has saved the best wine until the end of the wedding feast.” He looked at me and my wife Sarah and said: “My friend, this is the best wine I’ve ever tasted.” My wife and I were in utter amazement. 
My friend went on to bless my family, my daughter, and the day of this wedding. What should have brought shame on my family brought fame. We were the family who saved the best wine until the end. But it wasn’t me. I didn’t save the wedding. It was Jesus who saved the wedding. Jesus saved the wedding. I should have been filled with shame but I was filled with joy. I realized that day that Jesus filled my life with joy. That night I lay in my bed thinking about this whole story. I couldn’t fall asleep. My family almost fell into shame but Jesus saved my family. I went on to become a follower of Jesus. I couldn’t leave my family like Peter, James, John, and the others did but I was a believer. 

Apply the text for the people (vv. 11-12)
Jesus was so filled with joy. I wanted to invite Him to my other daughters wedding; who knows what could have happened! I’m an old man now. I lived a full life. I saw my children married. My grandchildren were placed on my lap. My life was filled with joy. From this point I can see that Jesus was the Lamb of God who came to save the world. At my daughter’s wedding I was so empty and Jesus filled me with true joy. 
Every time I tell this story I like to ask the people two questions. My first question is: Do you have joy in your life that only comes from Jesus? In my culture, joy was a defining marker of those who followed God. Joy was something that separated them from the rest of the people in the world. Sure we had people who said they followed God but you could tell if they had joy. I learned a lesson that day. I thought I had joy but when the wine ran out so did my joy. My joy was based on what I had not on what I was filled with. From that day on I made sure to be filled with the joy of God. 
If you are not filled with the joy of God, let me ask my second question: What are you filled with? Some people in my city were filled with a desire for money. Some were filled with too much wine. Some were filled with hate. Some wanted to shame others. It was tough because there are so many layers as to why that happens in the life of a person. Maybe you lost something special to you and you lost your joy. Maybe you have never trusted Jesus and today you can see that you need the joy of Jesus to transform you. Will you allow Jesus to fill you with His joy today? 

Conclusion 
I don’t have the time to tell you about all the stories of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. I know you can read them in the books written about His life. He changed my life at my daughter’s wedding and I think He wants to change your life too. This is my story of how Jesus showed up at my daughter’s wedding, took away my shame, and saved the day. Fill the jars with prayers 
Closing Prayer. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Follow Me | John 1:35-51


Today, I want to share a shortened version of a sermon I recently preached on John 1:35-51. In this passage from the Gospel of John, we see Jesus inviting us to follow Him on a life-changing journey.

Let me start by sharing a personal story. Last December, my wife and I traveled to Costa Rica to officiate a wedding for a former high school student and long-time friend. Excited but tired from our journey, we embarked on a road trip in a small rental car. Unfortunately, we ended up following incorrect directions and found ourselves stuck by a river with a flat tire. In that moment, I realized the importance of following the right path and the consequences of straying from it. Have you ever felt like you're on the wrong path in life? Today, we'll explore how Jesus invites us to follow Him and embark on a life-changing journey.

Our passage begins with the transition from John the Baptist to Jesus as the Messiah. John, a humble leader focused on building the Kingdom of God, points his disciples to Jesus, calling Him "The Lamb of God." This title connects Jesus to His purpose of atoning for our sins through His work on the cross. John exemplifies a selfless leader, passing his disciples to Jesus without bitterness or loss. In a world focused on personal following and influence, John shows us the importance of building God's Kingdom.

To understand the significance of following Jesus, let's explore the concept of discipleship in the ancient world. In those times, disciples would spend extensive time with their mentors, modeling their lives after them. Similarly, the first disciples of Jesus spent about three years with Him, learning and growing in their relationship. In our modern culture, we often limit discipleship to weekly meetings, but we can aspire to a deeper level of discipleship based on this passage. Following Jesus means incorporating His teachings and actions into our daily lives, treating others as He did and loving them with His love.

The passage reveals what disciples do. Andrew, one of the first disciples, immediately finds his brother, Simon Peter, and tells him about Jesus. When we encounter good news, we naturally want to share it with others. Andrew goes beyond sharing; he brings his brother to meet Jesus. Similarly, we are called to bring people to Jesus, spending more time following Jesus than we do our favorite bands or TV shows. By following in Jesus' footsteps, we develop a new perspective and serve others, sharing the incredible love of Jesus.

In the latter part of the passage, Jesus approaches Philip near the Sea of Galilee and simply commands him, "Follow me." There is no elaborate speech or promise of an easier life, just a direct command. Philip, who may have longed for a greater purpose, immediately follows Jesus. This invitation resonates with those who have felt rejected or overlooked. It reminds us of the importance of choosing whom we follow in life. Just as following incorrect directions can lead us astray, following the wrong advice or influence can have negative consequences. Jesus invites us to follow Him and experience a life-changing journey.

In the conversation between Philip and Nathaniel, we see Nathaniel's initial skepticism when he learns Jesus is from Nazareth. In Jewish culture, people expected the Messiah to come from Bethlehem, not Nazareth. However, Philip invites Nathaniel to "come and see" for himself. This invitation allows room for personal experience and revelation. Jesus, knowing Nathaniel intimately, surprises him with His knowledge

Thursday, June 08, 2023

The Voice of Reason | John 1:19-34



A couple months ago I preached on John 1:19-34. Today I took that sermon and asked Chat GPT to turn my sermon into a blog post. Here is what was generated. 

Introduction:
Welcome to my personal blog! I'm Neal Benson, the lead pastor at Coastline, and I want to share an inspiring sermon with you today. In this sermon, we'll delve into the Gospel of John, focusing on the passage in John 1:19-34. The overarching message is that the Lamb of God came to remove our sin and end our separation from God. Let's dive in!

The Catalyst for Transformation
Sometimes, a single question can change the trajectory of our lives. I vividly remember the day I was asked a life-altering question. I was attending a court-mandated DUI class, feeling lost and broken. After a personal interview, the class leader told me, "If you don't stop doing what you're doing, you'll be dead in five years." Shortly after that encounter, a fellow classmate invited me to church, and that question sparked a profound transformation in my life.

Questions that Transform
Throughout our lives, we encounter questions that shape our destinies. From deciding to pursue higher education to accepting a marriage proposal, certain questions carry immense weight. However, the question that surpasses all others in its life-altering impact is, "Do you want to follow Jesus?" This question has the power to transform lives more than anything else in this world.

Exploring the Gospel of John
The Gospel of John is a unique account of Jesus' life, distinct from the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Believed to be written in Ephesus around 90 CE, it presents a deeper theological perspective. Today, we'll focus on how John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus.

John the Baptist Faces Interrogation
Our passage takes us to the Jordan River, where John the Baptist catches the attention of religious leaders from Jerusalem. These leaders approach John with a series of questions, seeking to understand his identity and purpose. They inquire if he is the Messiah, Elijah, or the prophet Moses foretold. John clarifies that he is not the Messiah, nor Elijah, but instead a humble servant of God with a unique mission.

Discovering Our Role in God's Kingdom
John's response to the religious leaders serves as a reminder for us to discover our own roles in God's Kingdom. Like John, who pointed people back to the Lord, we too can find purpose and fulfillment in aligning our lives with God's calling. Let the story of John inspire you to seek your role in God's Kingdom.

The Significance of Baptism
John's baptism plays a crucial role in the narrative. Although the specific mode of baptism is not the main focus, John's act of baptizing symbolizes a significant spiritual journey. Before individuals enter the waters of baptism, they first hear the Gospel, respond to it, and grow in their faith. John's baptism signifies a transformative process leading to a public declaration of faith. If you have yet to be baptized, consider taking this step in your own spiritual journey.

Drawing Parallels to the Ethiopian Man in Acts
The story of the Ethiopian man in Acts provides a parallel to the transformative power of baptism. Philip, one of the disciples, explains the Scriptures to the Ethiopian man, who then eagerly chooses to be baptized on the side of the road. This account demonstrates the immediacy and joy that can accompany baptism. If you feel prompted by God to be baptized, I encourage you to connect with me or one of our staff members after the service.

John's Profound Revelation of Jesus
Moving forward in the passage, John the Baptist unveils a profound understanding of Jesus' identity. He proclaims Jesus as the Lamb of God—a title not used by any other Gospel writer. This designation evokes the imagery

Monday, June 05, 2023

John 4:31-54 | Small Group Questions



The Gospel of John is a unique and powerful account of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Written by John, one of Jesus' closest disciples, this gospel presents a deep and thoughtful perspective on the person and work of Jesus. Unlike the other three gospels, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels and focus on Jesus' actions and teachings, John's gospel emphasizes the spiritual and theological significance of Jesus' life and ministry. For this series I will write some of 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 | When Many Believe | John 4:31-54

Throughout the Gospel of John, we see Jesus engage with a wide range of people, from the wealthy and powerful to the marginalized and oppressed. He performs miraculous signs, teaches profound truths, and ultimately offers Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. In John 4 we read about Jesus spending time with different people in different places. The groups are different but the results are the same: many believed. As Jesus makes Himself available to people of all races and gender we see a powerful of movement of God happening. Study these questions and use this time of study to grow in your faith in the Son of God. 

1) Neal shared a story about revival in the introduction to his sermon. Think about a time in your life when you heard about, saw, or were involved in a time of revival. What were some key events that stand out to you?   

2) Read John 4:6, 31-38. John teaches us that Jesus ministered out of His thirst, hunger, and tiredness. Jesus chose to do the work of God. When you think about these things, what keeps you from ministering in all situations?  

3) It seems that Jesus adjusted His plans and stayed in Samaria (read John 4:39-42). Jesus had margin in His schedule to do the work of God (Luke 7:11-17, 19:1-10). Do you feel like you have margin in your schedule to minister to others?  

4) John makes a note that Jesus had previously encountered opposition in Galilee (read John 4:43-47). Jesus could have simply avoided this area and ministered anywhere. Is there a place God is calling you to minister to others? 

5) This father comes to Jesus with one BIG request. Many people came to Jesus with a  great need (Matthew 9:18-22 & Mark 10:46-52) What is the one thing you need Jesus to help with? Not a huge list but one thing. Why is this important? 

6) Read John 4:48-50. It seems like this man had a weak faith that needed Jesus to come with him. Compare this man to the man in Matthew 8:5-13. What do these passages teach us about living a life of faith? 

7) The conclusion of Samaria and Cana is that many believed in the name of Jesus. Jesus came to seek the lost and hurting (Matthew 9:12 & Luke 19:10). What would it look like to see a revival in our community, county, state, or country? 

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength to invite a friend to meet Jesus.