Thursday, August 31, 2017

Three ways we're like sheep

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

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

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

Sheep are delicate

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

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

Sheep are helpless

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

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

Sheep are dirty

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

A praying team

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

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

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

1) We need to take the time to prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) We may need to learn to pray

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

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

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Summer in the Psalms

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

Castle Rock Hike with Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Anthem Church

On Sunday night I pulled into the church parking lot. There was a kind guy, smiling at me, as he directed me where to park. I waved to him and went into the lot. I parked my car and began up the steps. See it's always a bit weird when a person first walks onto a church campus but there were friendly people everywhere... I mean everywhere!

There were kids running around
There were young adults in conversation
There were people laughing and smiling
There was a donut wall
There was a station for getting water
The courtyard was great for conversation
Overall, I knew this was a church full of joy and excitement

I saw some of the people I was looking for and began talking. It was a joyful night. It was the first church service for Anthem Church. It had been years in the making. I remember driving with Chase Feindel years ago in Vegas. We went to lunch together and were talking about our future. He told me his desire to lead a church one day and I knew it would happen. Chase is such a talented leader who loves the Lord with all his heart!

We walked into the worship room and the music was great! The atmosphere was even better. People were singing to the Lord. You could literally feel the joy in the room. I wanted to take more pictures but didn't want to miss this time with God, see I didn't drive three hours to take pictures. I was there to worship, pray for and encourage.

Instead of giving you a play by play of the service let me share some pictures I snapped and their importance

This first picture is of Lauren Feindel hosting for the night. When Chase and Lauren announced that God was calling them to start a church it was thrilling. Chase shared the video with me and I watched to hear the plan. The sucky news came to me days later when Chase texted me telling me Lauren had breast cancer. I was in shock... We prayed a TON for Lauren so when she walked on stage it was thrilling to see her up there. Lauren had such a loud applause that I'm not sure if it was for her or for the start of the church. I can tell Chase and Lauren are loved in this community!

This picture was tough for me to take. Not because of the content but because I wanted to worship. The worship team was engaging and passionate. The music was great, song selection was fun and I enjoyed having some time to worship. As a pastor there are times that I don't get to engage in worship. It's not all the time but just some of the times. So a night like this was good for my soul.

My next picture was when Chase started preaching. I remember the first sermon I saw Chase preach. Chase and I used to serve on the pastoral staff of South Hills Church in Henderson, NV. Chase and I used to share an office. Then we shared a wall and had offices next door. We shared a student ministry room. We shared a lot in our time in Vegas. When I heard Chase preach I was reminded of his passion, knowledge and love for God.
I love how he encouraged everyone to bring their Bible and get familiar with God's word. I had my brought my Bible but I left it in my car! So I was convicted and encouraged by Chase's message. Chase preached on John 4 and the woman at the well.

My final picture of the night was when Chase shared the mission of Anthem Church. I loved that he came right out of the shoot and talked about what the church will be about. There are too many Churches in America (maybe the world) with no intentional mission. Anthem has a mission statement. It's short, memorable and repeatable. The mission statement is poignant and will no doubt be remembered by many as they reach people who are far from God.

I left so excited about what God will do with this new church. Please be praying for Chase, Lauren and the Anthem team.

One more thing. My old pastor, Jason Graves, leads Daybreak Church (where Anthem is being launched from). I was able to see him and his wife Corrie while there. It was so good to be with them. I was reminded of how healthy a leader Jason is. Jason took a risk on me when I was a young pastor. I love seeing his passion for reaching people who are far from God!

Monday, August 07, 2017

Psalm 51- The Confession

Yesterday our church continued our series in the Psalms. We looked at Psalm 51 and we talked about being a church that confesses our sin. To start the sermon I shared about the way I've ranked sin in my life and how I'm sorry I've done this practice...

The longer I follow Christ the more I notice something disturbing about the way I view sin. Basically I’ve created a sin hierarchy. There are some sins that I consider to be lesser sins, while others would be greater or more heinous sins. Let me give you some examples. I would consider stealing and lying  to be “lesser sins”. As I move up the hierarchy, I would place viewing pornography, drunkenness, the use of drugs, adultery and murder as “worse sins”. Now I’ve thought about my reasoning for this, and what it comes down to is really the fact that I want to look good.

CNN did a study and asked Americans what they consider to be the worse sins a person can commit. Let me share the top five things American consider morally wrong:
  1. Adultery
  2. Cheating on your taxes
  3. Having an abortion 
  4. Homosexual behavior
  5. Viewing porn
The fifth worst sin is viewing porn. The next higher is homosexual behavior. Number three on the list is having an abortion. Number two really shocked me, and it’s cheating on your taxes. And the worse sin of all? The number one worst sin in the study is adultery. This list shocked me to see some of the results from the poll.

Do you have a list in mind of what sins you consider to be worse than others? Have you acted like me and created a sin hierarchy in your mind to help yourself feel better about your actions? We want to think there are “big” sins and “little” sins, but the reality is that they are all sins. The difficulty is with more people not believing we have a hard time talking about sin. The best definition of sin that I’ve heard is: “anything a person does that is contrary to the commands of God.”

Now that can be a lot of things.  The Old Testament gives us 613 commands, or ways to obey God’s word. If sin is anything contrary to God’s commands than it seems like we have a lot of ways to break God’s commands! Now add to the fact that each of us are a different place spiritually. Some of you are here at church for the first time and others you’ve been coming to church for your whole life. Some of you think sin is an outlandish way of thinking while others of you might actually beat yourself up too much on sin.

Psalm 51 gives us a great example of a man who fell into sin but turned to God. You can listen to the entire sermon right here because there is hope!