Thursday, December 26, 2019

7 Ways to Make Successful Resolutions

We are moving to a time of year where many people will make a resolution. In the past I have preached on these resolutions so I can almost quote what many of them are. You probably know them too. We've all made some or heard a friend talk about their coming goals for the New Year.

Most people will make a resolution that involves one of these:
- Loose Weight
- Get our of debt
- Go to the gym
- Get a better job
- Clean the garage
- Read the Bible/go to church
- Stop drinking alcohol

In recent years, studies have found that about 12% of people actually accomplish their goals. Wipe your eyes, clean your glasses, and read that again. Only 12% of people will actually accomplish their New Years Resolutions.

How come there is such a horrible fail rate?
Why can't we seem to find success in this area?
What is causing me/others to fail?

These are all questions that we need to answer. One part is that we are naturally lazy. One author wrote that is the job of the brain to conserve energy. Going to the gym takes energy. Think about that for a minute!

Another reason we fail is that we are not disciplined. That is hard to read. Say it out loud and it sounds worse! We lack the disciple it takes to create new, healthy, habits in our lives.

Now, I am one who loves goals and how found seven ways to help make your goals a reality:

1) Get Creative

Instead of saying that you will go to the gym every day for the next 52 weeks, what if you made a different goal? The truth simple; you haven't been to the gym for the last 4 years so what is going to be so special about this year?
I'm not trying to be rude, but honest. I have a standing goal of being in the gym 3-4 times a week. I know my schedule and what it takes to get to the gym. The gym is close to my work, less than a half-mile away. But it is still hard for me to get there.

Also, we need to change our language. I listened a book this year and the author made a comment like this about goals: "Stop saying you will try to go to the gym." Saying "try" gives you the excuse. Replace it with saying: "I will go to the gym." It changes our ambition in the later statement.

2) Think Marathon and not Sprint

If we keep on the gym topic, we need to think marathon and not sprint. I know that some people say a marathon is just 26 miles sprinted together. I've never ran a marathon. In fact, this was a goal of mine like 12 years ago. Then I started running and puked. I realized I wasn't built for running so I needed to shift my goal.

The marathon concept is tied to a length in our goals. If your goal is to do blah blah blah (fill in the blank), figure out how long it will take. Then figure out what you need to do each week to make it happen.

3) Create Achievable Goals 

One of my goals last year was to hike Half Dome in Yosemite. I had looked at that rock since I was 6 years old and wanted to sit on the top. I had been applying for a permit for a couple years. I needed to get creative. I put a false deadline on it. I told myself that I had to climb it before I was 40 years old. I could have climbed it at 41, but I  need a push.

To make it more achievable I started walking more. I made it a goal to walk 3-5 miles a day. Then I would take a longer hike each month. I love being outside so this was a no brainer.

4) Insert Fun 

See my hike to Half Dome was a fun goal. So many of the goals that I have created in the past were boring. I am going to be honest, the gym is fun for me but the gym is not fun. For me it's a way to exercise and continue tot be an athlete. I go to the gym because I view myself as an athlete. I want to be able to hike Half Dome, snowboard, fish, surf, and ride bikes with my kids. Going to the gym helps me stay fit so I can accomplish some greater goals I have in life.

Think about something fun you've been wanting to do. Go to Hawaii, travel the States, save up for new car. Make this fun! Create a game out of it. When I would hike, I would put my son on my back to help strengthen my legs. I made it a game and accomplished the hike.

5) Share Them

Last year I was reading a book by Mark Batterson. In the book he said that you need to write down your goals and share them. I began sharing one of my goals with a few friends. Guess what? I didn't hike Half Dome alone. When I shared my goal I found support from others. I had guys talking about the gear they had, how they are prepping, and more. It was epic to summit the dome together.

One of my goals for the last two years has been to start writing a book. Guess what? I haven't done it. Do you know why? Because I don't have anyone asking me how I'm doing on making progress. I really want to write a book... but I keep putting it off.

6) No Lone Rangers

This ties right into the last goal. We were never meant to do life alone. Find some people to support you in your goals. I have a friend who went on a journey to loose weight. He lost like a 100 pounds (that is like me loosing two of my kids). He didn't hide his weight loss. He was super open about his failure to care for his body, and how eating was an addiction. He was super honest and got so much support!

Do you know why CrossFit works? Because you have others who are supporting you. I did CrossFit once and it kicked my butt. Then I left and said: "I want to do this more." We were made to life in community. Find some trusted to friends to share your goals with. Ask them to walk along with you.

7) Keep them Visible 

I typically write my goals and keep them in my phone. I look at them like 6 times a year. This year I'm going to change that. I'm going to write them on a piece of a paper and put it near my bed and then make a copy that goes to my office. I want to see them. I want to know what I'm working towards.

You can do the same. Write them with a pen, studies show we are more likely to remember them if they are hand-written. Tape them in your car, your office, or get them tattooed on your arm. Actually, don't get a tattoo, that is a bad idea.

What am I missing from this list? I need to keep excelling in goals.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Mark 2:23-3:6 Small Group Questions

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

Small Group Questions ||| On Matters of Rest ||| Mark 2:23-3:6

The Nation of Israel is coming alive as the impact of Jesus slowly spreads throughout. As Jesus continued to move through the Nation of Israel it became evident that He was intentionally associating Himself with the outcasts of Jewish culture. On two Sabbath occasions Jesus did what the Pharisees thought was unlawful. The Pharisees were a self-imposed group who the people respected. Jesus needed the Pharisees and the people to see the rest that He came to bring us. Not only rest but a focus on worshipping the Lord and showing mercy to others.

1) How do you honor the Sabbath? Do you struggle with writing/answering emails, constantly taking calls from work, or disconnecting from life to be with Jesus?

2) Read Exodus 20:8-11. What does God teach us about what to do on the Sabbath and taking a day of rest? How do you make the Sabbath holy?

3) Jesus made a parallelism between Himself and King David (read 1 Samuel 21:1-16 and Mark 2:23-27). Pastor Neal taught us that David was the anointed king but not yet sitting on the throne and Jesus was the anointed King. How does this impact how you live your life for the anointed king?

4) Jesus broke Jewish traditions such as not working on the Sabbath. Why do you think He felt the freedom to do that in both of these passages in Scripture?

5) Read Mark 3:1-6. Another time Jesus teaches us about matters of rest by showing Mercy in the Synagogue. In some ways Jesus is leading a rebellion against Jewish tradition. Does it seem like Jesus is leading a rebellion and how was it needed?

6) In the Synagogue that day Jesus showed a greater example of mercy. Read Proverbs 3:27 and Hosea 6:6. Talk about how we can show goodness and mercy to those who are in our presence.

7) What do you struggle with most with in showing mercy to others? Do you find yourself leaning more to legalism (like the Pharisees) or leaning to showing mercy (like Jesus did)? How can you show more mercy to others?

Close your time in prayer. Take some time to pray for Coastline and our ability to reach people by showing mercy.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Mark 2:13-22 Small Group Questions

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

Small Group Questions ||| Two Questions ||| Mark 2:13-22

The Nation of Israel is coming alive as the impact of Jesus slowly spreads throughout. In the middle part of Mark 2 we read about two questions that we’re asked to Jesus. Jesus has completely flipped the script. He is calling toll collectors to follow Him, eating with sinners, and not fasting when everyone else seems to be fasting. Jesus came not to just add some flavor to the food but to bring a whole new meal. Jesus tried to help the people see that they cannot simply add a little Jesus to their desires; He is doing a whole new thing. This was difficult for some people to grasp and understand.

1) Share about how you deal with change. Do you enjoy it when certain things change? Are you averse to change or is it something you welcome?

2) Read Mark 2:13-14. Jesus offers a new way of life to Levi as he sits at the tax booth. If you read Matthew 9:9-13 you will see that he also changed his name. Levi wrote the Gospel of Matthew. Talk about the new life Jesus offered to you.

3) What would you do if someone came to your workplace and told you to follow him and leave the job. Would you get up and walk away or think the person is crazy? Now imagine if it was following Jesus, what are you willing to give up to follow Him?

4) It seems the very night that Jesus called Levi to “follow me”, Levi threw a party for all his friends. Jesus chose to befriend the unloveable. How can we practice this in our personal relationships?

5) Read Mark 2:18-22. Jesus offered three ways that Kingdom of God was a new thing and not something that was supplemental to add to our current way of life. Have you tried to force Jesus fit your current lifestyle and rejected a complete transformation?

6) Read Colossians 3:9-10. Paul instructs us to put off the old self and be renewed in the image of Jesus. Talk about how Jesus has renewed your life during the time you’ve followed Him. Where is He currently renewing you?

7) What are some of the challenges of remembering that Jesus came to save sinners and not to please those who are already righteous?

Close your time in prayer. Take some time to intentionally pray for each other to grasp the new way of life Jesus offers.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Mark 2:1-12 Small Group Questions

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

Small Group Questions ||| Do the Impossible ||| Mark 2:1-12

The gospel of Mark was written by John Mark who was a helper of Peter and Paul. History tells us this was the first written account of Jesus of Nazareth. The gospel is fast-paced. We read that Jesus moved from here, went there, healed, preached, and taught. In Mark 2 we find Jesus back in Capernaum. His fame and notoriety has spread to the people so much that the home He is teaching in is packed full. In a full miracle Jesus heals a paralyzed man. But the physical healing can overshadow the spiritual healing the man received for the forgiveness of sins.

1) Share a story about a person who know who is in desperate need of a miraculous healing just like the man in Mark 2:1-12. Talk about how his/her life would be different if that healing came.

2) Read Mark 2:1-2. Imagine hearing a great person with the power to heal. Imagine carrying a friend to see him the house being packed. Describe what you would do; would you turn around and leave or would you press on?

3) The friends chose to push forward. Read Mark 2:3-5. What does it mean when Mark writes that: “Jesus saw their faith?” Look at Romans 10:17 and talk about how to get faith

4) Share what your currently reading in the Bible and how that is increasing your faith. The author of Romans tells us that the word strengthens our faith. Read John 1:1,14 and discuss how Jesus is the Word of God.

5) Mark writes that the Pharisee’s were thinking things about Jesus (Mark 2:6-7). Jesus is able to respond to their internal questions. This is a Theological term known as the Omniscience of God. Read Psalm 139:1-6 and 147:5 to learn more about this.

6) Jesus offers a complete forgiveness of sins to this man. This was only something that a Levitical Priest can offer. Read Hebrews 4:14-16 to see how Jesus is the High Priest and able to offer this. Jesus is also the Son of God and can offer this (Mark 1:1)

7) At the end of the account we read that all the people were amazed. Do you think the religious leaders were amazed or bitter at Jesus? How come they couldn’t rejoice?  

8) We learn from this passage our responsibility to bring people to Jesus. Pray for each other to have the faith to bring your friends Jesus in the near future.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Thanksgiving Table

The following is an email I sent to Coastline last week as an encouragement to seek the Lord as we approach Thanksgiving.

Hi Coastline,
As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to share with you a conversation that happened the other night at our dinner table. During our meal we began talking with our children about who we could invite over for Thanksgiving. We asked our kids to think of people in our church who might need a place to have a meal, eat some pie, and watch football with our family. One of our kids shared a person, my wife came up with an idea, and then I thought of another family. We asked our family to pray about who God might have us to reach out to. After prayer, we asked those we had thought of to join us for Thanksgiving. One of the couples said maybe, and we found out the other family had a place to go.

For many years our family has invited people to join us for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’ve also been on the receiving end of that invitation and have been invited to people’s homes to spend the holidays with them. There are people in our church body, community, and city who will be spending Thanksgiving alone (let that set in). Some are connected to Coastline, some live near us, and others we’ve known for a long time. Each person has a different reason. Some can’t afford a plane ticket to visit to their family. Some don’t have a healthy relationship with their family. Others are new to town and looking for community.

This week will you begin praying for God to speak to you to see if He is asking you to reach out to someone? This is a personal act of seeking God. The church office will not be organizing Thanksgiving for people (before you think the tone here sounds harsh, keep reading). We want to see God’s people seek God’s voice in order to know God’s will. This might seem totally out of your comfort zone, and I understand that. But just maybe God will use your invitation to a person in your community group, some friends from your neighborhood, or a person you meet on Sunday at Coastline to do something God-sized in your life and in theirs.

Thanks for doing life together.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Mark 1:16-45 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Mark. For twenty-eight weeks we're walking through the book and talking about the action-packed story of Jesus. Mark was more concerned with what Jesus did than what Jesus said. A big "Thank you!" to RJ McCauley from Magnolia Church in Riverside for preaching this week and writing these questions for us. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions ::: The Cross Before Me, The Cross Behind Me ::: Mark 1:16-45

The Gospel of Mark is fast paced and full of action. It was written by John-Mark who witnessed all of the action in the book of Acts and through his cousin Barnabas, the Apostle Paul, and his close friend Peter. He writes his gospel in such a way that it calls true followers to radical discipleship. This gospel narrative hinges on the key passage in the middle of the book (see Mark 8:34-38). It’s all moving towards the cross. It’s all focused on the cross. It’s all about the cross. Too many go to the cross, but only a few get on the cross. As Christians, we are called to deny yourself, pick up the cross, and follow Christ. True followers of Jesus are actively sharing their faith and serving the people. In fact, it’s no surprise why Jesus performed these great works in Mark 1:16-45. He had a vision and lived it out. The cross was before him, and it motivated him to accomplish his purpose. After he accomplished it, the cross was behind him and it was finished.

1) Take a moment and read through Mark 1:16-45 to see the work of God that was being done through Jesus. Are you actively engaging in the work of God in your city?

2) If you are a Christian, you are called to be a fisher of men (Mark 1:16-20). This means you should be catching people with the good news. Therefore, have you been sharing your faith and leading people to salvation? If you have not been fishing, where should you begin?

3) Jesus demonstrates how he has authority over darkness and evil (Mark 1:21-34). Where do you need to take the gospel where the light of Jesus does not shine in Ventura?

4) The strength of Jesus’ ministry was based on the depth of his prayer time (Mark 1:35-39). When was the last time you got away from the busy world to just pray for several hours in a deserted place like Jesus did?

5) Take a moment and pray like Jesus did in a quiet place (Mark 1:35). Jesus most likely prayed for his mission, his followers, and himself. First, pray for God’s mission to be fulfilled in your life. Second, pray for those who need Christ. Third, pray for your personal walk with God. Do the same and in that order (see an example in Matthew 6:9-15).

6) There are many healings done by Jesus throughout the Gospel of Mark. The healings proved that he was the Son of God and the Son of Man from the Old Testament. When he did these healings, it was always to fulfill the Scriptures (see Leviticus 13-14; Luke 17:11-19). Why is it significant that Jesus healed a leper (Mark 1:40-45)?

7) After Jesus called his disciples, they followed him. After Jesus healed and delivered people from darkness and evil, they followed him. After Jesus prayed, they followed him. After Jesus restored a leper to full health, they followed him. Jesus lived with action. The cross was before him and behind him. His life was all about the cross. How can you keep the cross at the center of everything you do so people will follow him?

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Mark 1:1-15 Small Group Questions

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

Small Group Questions ::: The Beginning ::: Mark 1:1-15

The gospel of Mark was written by John Mark who was a helper of Peter and Paul. History tells us this was the first written account of Jesus of Nazareth. We think the account was written between 65-75 AD. The gospel account is fast-paced and quick moving. As we study this book keep your eyes open for all the descriptive words (Jesus went, Jesus moved, healed, preached, and prayed). Mark originally wrote this account for a Roman audience. Take some time to look further into the introduction of the good news of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. 

1) Read Mark 1:1. The gospel account opens with a theologically rich statement about the person of Jesus Christ. We read that this is the “Good News” of Jesus. Why do you think so many people argue about Jesus instead of sharing the good news? 

2) Mark quotes two of the prophetical statements about John preparing the way for the Lord. John’s role was a messenger to announce the coming of the king. How did John go about making this announcement?  

3) John was the son of a Priest (Luke 1:5) and played the role of a prophet. The prophet typically didn’t wear the kind of clothes John wore and stayed closer to the city where the people would be. How can we fall into judging the way people look without getting to know them before hand? 

4) John understood the holiness of Jesus by stating that he was unable to untie his sandals (read Mark 1:7). In what ways do you revere the holiness of God and in what ways have you neglected the holiness of God in your life? 

5) In the Bible the desert represents not only a physical place but a place where God meets with His people. Read Exodus 3 and 1 Kings 19:1-18. What are some similarities in these stories that we learn about the love of God?

6) At the baptism of Jesus, God the Father offers a great affirmation. Share one way you have found success in affirming your children. (If you don’t have children, how would you like to work on this?)

7) Read Mark 1:15 and talk about the message Jesus preached

8) Share with your small group about who you are praying for on your “You Belong Here” card. Close your time in prayer 

Monday, September 16, 2019

How to Hike Half Dome

For years I've wanted to hike Half Dome. I remember being a young boy staying at housekeeping and looking up at the massive rock. I always wondered what was up there. For years I was too young to climb it. Then for years I was too selfish and caught up in my downward spiral. For years the dream was forgotten. But in the last couple years it came to life again. I would talk with people who accomplished the hike and wanted to know more.

I began researching it and wanted to compile all I learned to help others. This is not an extensive list; I'm sure if you are looking at this you have done some other research for the hike.

Applying for permits

When I was a kid you didn't need a permit, now you must have a permit. There is a ranger sitting at the base of the sub-dome checking your permit. You can apply for a permit here. A couple times I applied and got denied so just beware that you might not get it the first year you apply. I had friends who applied, got them, and then there was too much snow for them to make the trip.

For our trip I chose fall and in the middle of the week. My hope was for less people in the valley floor and hopefully less on the trail. Our group of six applied for permits for three different days (18 options) and three guys got them. If you are doing this is a group make sure to decide on the days and have everyone apply. The max you can have per group is 6 people.


Once you have your permit you have to decide where to stay. It is HARD to get a camping site on the valley floor. It is not impossible. Once we got our permits for the hike I found a site at Crane Flat. But I never gave up on finding a spot in the valley floor. I literally checked for months and we finally got one at Upper Pines. This was a huge blessing. Our site was a five minute walk to the start of the trailhead.

Keep checking on for a site. If you don't want to camp, you can look into the tents at Curry Village or find a great place at housekeeping. Both of these locations are close to the trailhead. Keep in mind that the shuttle in the Valley floor doesn't start running till about 7pm so you are walking to the trailhead in addition to the hike.

Getting on the trail

There are a few options for the trail you can take to the top. We chose the Mist Trail- we went passed Vernal and Nevada Falls. I've never seen the falls in the early hours of the morning and they are simply beautiful. We got on the trail at 5:20am. Our goal was to be on the trail at 5:00am but missed that goal a little. Don't worry about being a little late. The hike took us a total of twelve hours. We strolled back into camp at 5:20pm.

The trail is well marked, we had no issues staying on the trail. I also need to warn you; the trail is busy. You will be passing people on a regular basis. Many hikers are aiming to get on the trail around the five o'clock hour also.

We met some people on the cables coming down who were staying in the same area we stayed. They ended up taking a different route to the bottom at the Nevada Falls area. This trail adds 1.5 miles to the hike. I've heard it is switchbacks versus the stairs you encounter on the falls trail.

I'm sharing this so you can know the options you have for the trail.

Most of the trail is an incline hike. You need to be in shape for this hike. When you get to the top of Nevada Falls you are not even a quarter of the way complete. Once you leave Little Yosemite Valley you are about a quarter of the way complete. This means you still have a long way to go. Make sure you are ready for this hike.

After you complete the sub-dome you will see the cables. This is an intimidating view. At this point in the hike we saw a few parties turnaround. I know it sounds crazy but hear me out. Less than a week ago (from when we hiked) a woman fell from the cables and died. I don't know her story so I'm not going to try to share it.

I would suggest that you bring a climbing harness for this part of the trial. You can clip in and give yourself the added security of safety. Remember the goal is not to see the top of Half Dome, the goal is to live to tell others about it.

What I forget to bring

For this hike I did most of my packing the night before. Not the night before I left my house, but the night before we left the campsite. Let me explain. We arrived at camp, set up tents, ate dinner, and then I packed my daypack for the hike. I made my sandwich, packed my snacks, and filled my water bladder. I did forget to pack the powdered Gatorade I brought and this was a big miss on my part. I love drinking water but with all the energy you exert on this trail it is smart to bring something that will replenish your body.

One of the guys in our group brought a small bag/squeeze water filtration system. It worked, don't get me wrong. I would bring a better water filter. I know that MSR has some good travel ones that will make filtering water easier. You really want to have a minimum of 4 liters on this hike. I had a little more than that and could have even had more.

I would also bring something to snack on that is sugar. There were a few times I wanted a bag of Skittles or a Snickers bar. I think the sugar would have helped give me a boost.

Stop for a swim

Once we came down the sub-dome our group stopped for a quick circle up. I had the idea to stop in the Merced River for a swim. There is a great spot where the trail Y's that you can find a place to swim. Once we left the sub-dome we didn't take a break until we arrived at the river. Some of the group beat me there and had already seen a snake.

The water is COLD at the elevation. There was still a small amount of snow on the mountains. Once I jumped in I was freezing cold. The water took my breath away and it was a touch hard to swim, but so refreshing on the other hand. When you've been hiking all day long this swim was well worth it. Keep in mind, at this point in the return of the hike you are 3/4 of the way complete.

Have a crew

At all means possible, don't do this hike alone! You can do it alone, but life is meant to be done in community. I am so thankful for the men who allowed me to hike with them. We had a great time! We laughed together, pushed each other, and sat when a guy needed a rest. As we left the Little Yosemite Valley I wanted to take a break and rest. I was hiking with Levi and asked if he wanted a break. He said: "Let's hike another twenty minutes." I needed that. I needed him to push me on at 7,000 feel elevation. We kept hiking and I got another wind.

Once we arrived at the top, the view was well worth it! In all honesty, I began to get emotional and almost cried. This was a bucked list for me. This was an experience of a lifetime!

Have a great time on the trail and hope this helps!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

8 Weeks in Proverbs

This Summer I choose a preaching series through the Proverbs for Coastline Bible Church. One reason is that during the summer I like a series that builds on itself but it's ok if you miss a week or two. In the summer people are traveling, camping, have company or more. When I think of a summer preaching series I like something that has continuity but is ok if have to step out for a minute.

The longer I'm leading the more I lean to something that causes us to act. Let me explain that. The Proverbs are all about wisdom. I need wisdom. You need wisdom. We all have something going on in our life that requires us to have wisdom. The Proverbs offer us that wisdom but require us to act and put it on practice.

If you're interested in preaching the Proverbs here is our outline for the 8 weeks:

Proverbs 1:1-7
Sermon Title: How to gain wisdom
Big Idea: Wisdom is found by those who seek it out

Proverbs 2
Sermon Title: The Benefits of Wisdom
Big Idea: Wisdom protects us

Proverbs 3:1-12
Sermon Title: The Value of Wisdom

Proverbs 4
Sermon Title: The Urgency of Widsom
Big Idea: Wisdom is worth the cost

Proverbs 5
Sermon Title: How to ruin your marriage
Big Idea: Marriages thrive when couples are committed to being faithful, honest, and vulnerable

Proverbs 8
Sermon Title: The case for wisdom
Big Idea: Find wisdom and receive favor from the Lord

Proverbs 27
Sermon Title: Community > Isolation

Proverbs 12, 13, 22
Sermon Title: Nothing is off limits from wisdom
Big Idea: Use your money wisely

Monday, August 12, 2019

Wise Up- a summer in the Proverbs

This Summer I choose a preaching series through the Proverbs for Coastline Bible Church. The book opens by letting us know that Solomon had has hand in the book. Later in the book we see there are some other contributors to the Proverbs. We’re not exactly sure how many proverbs Solomon writes, but I think he is the major voice or the major contributor to the book. It makes sense since he is known as the wisest man to ever walk the earth. Solomon took the wisdom God gave him and passed it on.

I highly encourage you to read about the life of King Solomon in 1 Kings. He is the son of David. Learn about he came to be the king. Look at his first experience after being king and how he immediately applies the wisdom God gave Him (1 Kings 3). See the magnificent building projects he undertook and accomplished. As you keep going, you will see the organizational leadership he developed in leading Israel. You will read about how nobility and royalty came from a far to seek an audience with him. Even Queen Sheba came and brought Solomon amazing gifts.

Let me zoom out and briefly talk the book as a whole. Proverbs 1-9 are a longer discourse on wisdom and the benefits of wisdom. Proverbs 10-31 are more pithy little sayings for us to apply to our lives. The are short, impactful, and memorizable. In the first nine Proverbs wisdom is spoken of in great detail. Wisdom is referred to in the feminine form. Then in the later two-thirds of the book, the reader is encouraged to apply the wisdom she/he has learned in the first third of the book.

There are few reasons I choose to go through the Proverbs this summer.

A series that (kinda) builds on itself

First, during the summer I like to preach a sermon series that doesn't have to build on itself. The summer is a time when people travel. At Coastline we do our best to shape culture for the truth of God, but we know that people travel more in the summer. This trend can be a little different in a beach community, but there is still a good deal of travel. Grandparents want to go see the grandkids in Oregon. Young families travel to see their parents. It's a good time to take vacation at work.

We want to preach a sermon that a person can be at the first three weeks, miss a week or two and easily merge back into the sermon series. If we choose to preach the book of Daniel it might be more difficult for a person to jump back into the story because it builds on itself. The Proverbs build but you can miss a week and be fine.

In addition to that, we have more and more people who are staying current on the preaching series by listening online at Coastline Bible and via Podcast.

We're a new church

Our church just relaunched. In March our church just relaunched and went through the book of Colossians. After that we talked about living a life of Compassion. Then we looked at the book of Ruth. After that I preached a stand alone sermon for Father's Day. I'm sharing all of this because when we preach a sermon series we want to see what is before and what is after.

Our church preached a number of topical sermon series this year. That means we choose a topic to talk about. We talked about Biblical Literacy, Marriage/Sex/Dating, Compassion, and more. When I look at that I think that it's time to preach through a section of Scripture from the Bible.

As a new church, we want to hit topics that define who we are and who we want to be. We are an outreach focused church, but we want to be more outreach focused.

The Proverbs are great for gaining wisdom. As a new church we need God's wisdom. Since we are outreach focused, we are seeing more people coming to Jesus than before. We are seeing new people every week (one week we had almost 25 guests).

We all need wisdom

If you are honest with yourself, you want more wisdom. I'm thankful that in Proverbs 8 we read that wisdom is calling out.

Wisdom is not hiding from us. Wisdom is not some unfindable entity like BigFoot or the Lochness Monster. Wisdom is not confined to a certain region or a classroom. Wisdom is not hidden in the darkest cave or placed in the middle of the hottest dessert. Wisdom is calling out to any person that is willing to listen. Understanding is crying aloud to be found by every person. Solomon tells us that wisdom is calling out at the gate to the city. This is a place where everyone would pass. This is a central location where wisdom is available to all.

Wisdom is available to anyone who will stop to listen to her. We live in a time that is fast paced; where people can be extremely busy. We live in a time where we spend hours on the TV and screens; hours that would be invested in listening to wisdom. What we learn from Solomon is that means we have to be willing to allot our time in such a way to be able to listen to what wisdom wants to teach us. We need to schedule our life in such a way that we have time to sit where wisdom calls out so we can hear the truth of wisdom.

We live in a time where formal education is pushed. I am sick of hearing parents tells their children to go to college so they can get a degree and get a job. I’m not opposed to college. I'm opposed to students going to college, graduating with thousands of dollars of debt and sleeping on a couch. I would prefer for parents to help their kids see what they’re passionate about so they can go to school to get an education and help make the world a better place. Not everyone needs a college degree. We need more people to become union plumbers, electricians, and pipe-fitters. We need more people who want to join the armed services and help serve our country.

My stepdad enlisted in the Army after high school. He served our country by going to Germany. While he was overseas he fell in love with VW’s. He came home and began working at an auto shop. He eventually moved to Big Bear and opened his own shop in the back of his house. He was a genius with anything dealing with a VW engine. I’ve heard a story that VW was having an issue and they called my stepdad. I asked him about the story and he just laughed. Wisdom can learned in a classroom, mountain, basketball court, or garage.

Keep the fall preaching in mind 

Just as we looked back to what we preached earlier in the year, I also look to the Fall for what we're going to preach on. This fall we're kicking off a brand new sermon series on the Gospel of Mark. For years I've wanted to preach through Mark. I think it's going be a life changing sermon series for our church.

When you slot your summer preaching calendar, it's vital to keep the Fall in mind. Preaching through Proverbs and then transitioning to the Gospel of Mark will be shift for our people. For the summer we're not talking a ton about Jesus (every week we do talk about Jesus), but looking at Solomon's call to wisdom.

The Gospel of Mark is going to be an up close encounter with Jesus. The Gospel of Mark is going to help Coastline; look, smell, and live more like Jesus. We want have an in-depth look at the life of Jesus. I think we know about Jesus, but lots of us have things confused.

As you think about the next summer preaching schedule, keep this in mind. Now let's be honest, all of this can be applied to fall, winter, or spring teaching too.

Hope this helps!

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Summer Giving Update 2019

Dear Coastline Family,

I hope you are enjoying the first few weeks of summer! I can tell you that I’m grateful that June Gloom is over, and the sun is out again. As you know, we rarely talk about money here at Coastline and we don’t use pressure tactics to get people to give. However, we feel it is our responsibility to inform those who are part of our church family where we are at with our budget and what our financial needs are. With that in mind, I want to share that as we enter summer we are currently 10% behind our anticipated giving. Because of that our staff has adjusted their spending to keep within our received giving.

Coastline is currently on a growth trend. On Saturday our Elders met to discuss the future of Coastline. In that meeting one of our elders said, “If you look at our attendance, we are up by 24% from the previous year!” To put that into perspective, the average church grows about 6% a year. Our increase in attendance is a huge accomplishment for which we give God glory.

Here’s how we’ve recently seen God work in exciting ways at Coastline:

  • We are getting ready to take twenty students to camp next month. 
  • Our Seniors hosted a well attended game day at the church.
  • We just hosted a membership class with five people. 
  • We are seeing new faces join the Coastline family every week. 
  • Children’s ministry hosted a wonderful Kids Camp in the month of June. 
  • We hosted another successful “Women Are…” night. 

This summer we are laser focused on helping people find and follow Jesus, and we need your help to be able to continue reaching those who are far from God. Giving typically lags in the summer while people are on vacation. To help us with this, please consider financially participating with us in one of the following ways:

  • Catch up on any giving you have missed
  • Set up a reoccurring gift to Coastline through bill pay in your bank account
  • Set up regular giving online at
  • Set up regular giving via text message at (805) 200-3557

We prayerfully ask that you continue to support Coastline by staying on track with giving so we can fulfill the mission God has given us to help people find and follow Jesus. Thank you for joining in the work the Lord is doing here!

Neal Benson|Lead Pastor
Coastline Bible Church | (805) 642-3244
blogNealBenson.comtwitter: @nealbenson

Monday, July 01, 2019

Proverbs 2 Responsive Reading

Responsive Reading Proverbs 2

Leader: If you accept the words of the Lord and store up His commands within your heart, then you will find wisdom.

People: We will turn our ears to wisdom and apply the wisdom of the Lord to our heart.

Leader: If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, then you will find wisdom from the Lord.

People: We will look for wisdom as silver and search for it like a hidden treasure.

Leader: Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

People: For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Leader: He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless

People: For he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Leader: Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.

All: For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Ruth 4- Small Group Questions

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


Ruth 4 opens with the connecting word, “meanwhile…” While Ruth and Naomi are eating breakfast Boaz gets to work on what he promised to do. What one thing do you need to get done this week that God is asking you to do?

Joel taught us about the public conversation Boaz had about redeeming Ruth and Naomi. Read Ruth 4:10 and talk about the celebration that would have taken place. What do you need to celebrate that God is doing in your life.

The entire crowd blessed/prayed for Boaz after he redeemed Ruth. They speak words of encouragement, hope, and blessing on him. Do you speak more blessing or curses in your daily life? Who do you need speak words of affirmation to this week?

Throughout the book of Ruth we’ve read about the purity, character, and integrity of Ruth and Boaz. In Ruth 4:13 we read that after their marriage they made love and had a child. Why do you think more people don’t wait to have sex till marriage?

The story of Ruth teaches us about God’s heart to reach all people. The Kingdom of heaven was always meant to be multiethnic. Read Acts Acts 15:10-11, Acts 17:1-4, and Ephesians 2:19-22. Talk about why some people are still racist and how we can help people see that the Gospel is for everyone.

Read Ruth 4:18-22 and Matthew 1:1-17. What sticks out to you in the lineage? What do you see that enhances the deep love of God for all people?

As we close the page on the Old Testament book of Ruth share what has been the most meaningful part of the sermon series, Bible study, or what God has taught you through these last four weeks about His wild love.

Close your time in prayer

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Grandson of an Immigrant

In the 1900’s my grandmother immigrated from Germany to Los Angeles. She came over to take care of her aunt. She was only a teenager but her parents knew a better life waited here for her. She lived in a small German community in Los Angeles. In this community Maria Kraus met Julius Hettler. They were married and had two children: Irene Bertha and Rosemary.

When their children were little they moved to Big Bear Lake, CA. One day Julius and Rosemary were driving up the hill to their home. A drunk man, who had been skiing at Snow Valley, pulled out and t-boned their car. Rosemary didn’t survive the accident and the parents experienced a period of depression. Their second daughter, the younger one, was left to pay the bills and keep the family going.

Irene later went to college, her parents grieved the loss of their daughter but pressed on in life. While in college, Irene met Don. They eventually got married and had two children: Beth Marie and Neal Charles Benson. The marriage lasted around ten years but divorce was in the future.

My grandmother was an immigrant.
My mom spoke German in the home.
She traveled to Germany to visit her relatives.
When I was in first grade I flew with my family to Germany to visit my relatives.

With all the fighting about immigration I am reminded that I am the grandson of an immigrant. My grandmother left her home country. She traveled to a new land of opportunity. This land brought her freedom to express her faith. This land is where she met my grandpa. This land is where she raised her kids. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave. My grandma exemplifies that.

I am also reminded that God’s word tells me I am foreigner traveling in this land. This land is not my final home. This life is but a vapor compared to eternity. Abraham was an immigrant and God gave him some land.

Before any of us start judging immigrants I think we need to look to our roots.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Ruth 3- Small Group Questions

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

Small Group Questions…Trust and Obey…Ruth 3

The book of Ruth is a pearl in a dark time in the history of Israel. Ruth and Naomi arrived back in Bethlehem with their heads down and hearts empty. As the story continued we read that God blessed them through Boaz. Boaz showed unending kindness to the women who were in need of food and family. As we approach chapter 3 we see that Naomi is ready for this relationship between Ruth and Boaz change from scavenger and landowner to something more. Ruth acts in obedience to all that Naomi instructs her to do and Boaz responds in character and integrity. The entire story in Ruth 3 takes place in the nighttime hours but God continues to shine His light in the darkness.  

1) The sermon began with the story of Naaman and his initial hesitation to obey what Elisha asked of him (You can read the story in 2 Kings 5). Share of a time when you obeyed what God asked you to do and how it turned out. 

2) Neal taught us that God blesses our obedience. Ruth was obedient to all that Naomi instructed her to do (read Ruth 3:5). What is something God is asking you to be obedient in your life right now? Explain the emotions involved in this choice.   

3) Knowing this was a dark time in Israel’s history, it was typical for women to prostitute themselves to men at the threshing floor. Talk about the character and integrity of Ruth and Boaz and the importance of remaining sexually pure before marriage. (Ruth 3:11, Ruth 2:1, Hebrews 13:4, Colossians 3:5, and 1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

4) Boaz was a man of action. He woke up early to follow through on what he committed to do in his relationship with Ruth. Do you find yourself being more motivated or more of a procrastinator? How can you improve on getting things done in a timely basis? (These verses might help Matthew 5:33-37 and Ecclesiastes 5:4) 

5) Read Ruth 3:1 and 18. It’s evident that Naomi has a strong love for Ruth. How is your relationship with your parents or children and what can you do to improve that?   

6) In Ruth 3:15 Boaz measured a large amount of grain out for Ruth. Why do you think Ruth said it was meant as a gift for Naomi? 

7) The relationship between Ruth and Naomi is not your typical family relationship. When you think about the family of God, who are you investing your life in and who is investing in your life to help you be obedient to God? 

Close your time in prayer 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Ruth 2- Small Group Questions

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

Small Group Questions…Head down, hands full…Ruth 2

The book of Ruth is a pearl in a dark time in the history of Israel. During the time of the Judges the Nation of Israel had a rollercoaster relationship with following the Lord. Ruth models a great commitment by leaving the gods of Moab to follow Naomi. God has restocked the house of bread and Ruth arrives just before the barely harvest begins. Once in Israel she finds herself on the lowest rung of the social ladder. God’s plan was always for the Kingdom of heaven to be multiethnic. In this chapter we see Boaz model radically generosity to a widow in desperate need of someone to show her kindness. Go through these questions to help you understand this story more fully.

1) Pastor Neal started out the sermon by sharing a story of a time in Africa when he surprised some kids (and scared a few). In Ruth 2 we see how surprised Ruth was by the generosity of Boaz. When has God surprised you in a good way?

2) Read Ruth 2:1 and Judges 6:12. In the Hebrew language the phrase used to describe these men is similar. But when we read about the men they are different. How is Boaz different from other men of that time and men in Israel’s history?

3) When Ruth asked Naomi to let her go to the fields and gather grain for the two of them see was hoping to find favor in the eyes of someone (Ruth 2:2). Discuss what it would have been like to be a foreigner in Israel looking for food and the desperate situation Ruth and Naomi found themselves with no family to care for them.

4) The author makes is seem like chance that Ruth arrived in the field of Boaz, but upon further study we see God’s hand of guiding from Ruth’s desire to find a place where she could provide for their needs. Read Luke 18:1-8 and Matthew 7:7-8. How do these verses connect with Ruth 2:6-7 and God’s provision?

5) Ruth 2:8-9 talk about the generosity of Boaz and the protection he provided for Ruth (a widow) who was in desperate need of help.  The New Testament instructs us to help widows (read James 1:27). Who can you help this week?

6) Read Ruth 2:10-14. Now talk about how Exodus 22:22, Proverbs 19:17, and Deuteronomy 23:16 are all related. What one thing will you commit to doing, this week, to help out someone in need?

7) As the chapter ends (read Ruth 2:19-22) we see Naomi bless Boaz. Who can you bless this week? Write a letter, send a text, or call this person and bless them.

Close your time in prayer

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ruth 1- Small Group Questions

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

Small Group Questions
Head down, heart empty
Ruth 1

The book of Ruth is one of two books in the entire Bible that are named after women. Ruth is the only book in the Old Testament named after a non-Jew (She was from Moab). This speaks to the impact that Ruth had on the people of God. The book offers us no hint to who authored it, but the time frame puts it in the time of the Judges. Ruth takes place during the time of the Judges and likely early in that era, as Boaz is the son of Rahab, who helped the Israelites very soon after they entered the Promised Land. The book contains a great deal of dialogue. The three main characters are: Boaz, Naomi, and Ruth. Of the three, Ruth is the one who speaks the least in the book.

1) The book of Ruth is a true love story. It contains heartbreak, loss, tragedy, romance, and drama. When you think about your favorite love story, what is most appealing about it? What is most memorable?

2) Read Ruth 1:1. There was a famine in the land but the author doesn’t explain its origins. In Deuteronomy 28:15-68, Moses tells the Israelites what will be the consequences for their disobedience. Look over these verses and discuss.

3) Elimelek’s name means- God is my King. His departure from Bethlehem could be an example of his loss of faith. When have you wanted to walk away from God? What kept you from walking away from the Lord? What drew you back?

4) Read Genesis 19:30-37 to see the start of the Nation of Moab. Read Numbers 25 to see how the Moabites lead Israel astray. Talk about the history of Moab.

5) Read Ruth 1:8-15. Naomi is insistent on sending Ruth and Orpah back to Moab. She uses tough love, encourages them to return, and blesses them. Why do you think Naomi didn’t want them to return with her? Why does Naomi bless them, but see herself as being at enmity with the Lord?

6) In Ruth 1:16-17, Ruth makes a bold statement about following Naomi. What are some key elements of her commitment? What was she giving up and what did she gain by following the Lord?

7) Read Ruth 1:19-21. Naomi saw herself as an enemy of God. When have you been in bitter distress and in need of a Godly friend? How did that change things?

Close your time in prayer

Monday, May 13, 2019

My Introduction to Compassion International

When I met my wife she introduced me to a ministry called Compassion International. I had never heard of them before and knew nothing about it, except that when Charity talked about Compassion her eyes lit up and her smiled widened. Charity began to tell me that as a seventeen year old she began sponsoring a child in another country. I was shocked; what seventeen year old gives their own money to help another kid in a another country. I didn’t have any context for this in my mind.

The more we spent time together the more our relationship began to heads to marriage. One day Charity said something like, “The only way I’ll marry you is if you sponsor a child with Compassion too.” I was taken back but later that week I realized how important this was to her but more importantly to God. I began searching the Scripture to see God’s heart for the children who were oppressed, marginalized, and forgotten. It was at that point I became a sponsor with Compassion.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself in Africa working on churches that would soon be centers for Compassion to meet. One day we had the opportunity to visit a Compassion Center that met at a local church.

While visiting this center, one of the directors told us about the impact of Compassion. Students, families, or individuals will sponsor a child for $38 a month. That provides the child with access to: clean water, education, Bible lessons, and nutritious meals that the family can’t provide. They have a day that they call Compassion day when all the kids come to the church. On this particular day a young boy didn’t show. The Compassion staff walked to his home and found him lying in a ditch. They brought him to the church and gave him medicine that cost about $2 and his life was saved. I asked what would have happen if he wasn’t a part of Compassion and they told me he would have died.

That day I made a promise that I will help in any way I can. I don’t think that kids should die because they can’t afford $2 in medicine.

If you're curious about how you can help, check out Compassion International.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

One win and one loss

How many of you have ever needed someone to help you out? It might be emotional support during a breakup, a ride to the hospital for a surgery, or financial assistance.

A couple years ago I was getting a tattoo. It was late and the streets of Vegas began to quiet down. My artist had walked outside for a smoke. The shop was silent until a woman slowly peaked her head in. She was looking to get a tattoo and began sharing her story with us.

She couldn’t stand still as she began telling me about how she wanted to get a tattoo for her son. I was surprised because I was in the middle of getting my son’s handprint on my inner arm. I showed her the progress and when she saw my tattoo she began crying. I didn’t know what was taking place but knew a story was coming. Through her tears she began to tell me how her son was killed just a few months earlier.

She didn’t go into details but her face told the pain of the story. Her son was just a few months older than my son at the time of his death. The most painful part was our son’s shared the same name. She tried to leave and I asked if I could pray for her but she rejected it. I have no clue what happened to that woman after she left. But I believe God has kept a close watch on her life.

In the Gospel of Luke chapter 10 we read one of the most familiar stories in the entire Bible. It’s called “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.” For most of my time as a pastor I haven’t taught this passage. My logic is that many have heard the parable and I didn’t feel I had much to offer. But as our church has looked at how the compassion of Jesus changes us, it seemed right to look at the words of Jesus in this familiar story.

Asking the wrong question

Luke provides no specific time frame for this story (read Luke 10:25-29). The man came to Jesus with a hostile question. He is defined as expert in the law. He is not a teacher of the law or a student of the law, but an expert. He presents a question to Jesus in an attempt to be sure he can enter heaven. He knows that eternal life can’t be bought or earn, but inherited. Salvation is a free gift for those who place their faith and trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. He’s studied the Scriptures and has a great handle on them.

In fact, the Apostle Paul made sure the church in Rome knew that salvation isn’t something that can be earned (read Romans 8:3). The law was powerless to DO. Salvation is not spelled “do” but spelt “done.” The work of salvation was done for us by Jesus on the cross. Jesus conquered sin and death so we could enjoy eternity with Him in heaven. When we turn back to the story we read that Jesus answers the question with a question. Jesus responds to the hostility with grace of the God.

The Bible points us to the grace of God. The man was able to summarize the truth of God. His answer is correct (read Deuteronomy 6:4-5). He essentially quotes what a devout Jewish person would recite twice a day. It’s called the Shema. The condensed version is a command to love God and love others. His answer pleased Jesus. If you were standing around looking at the crowd you might have seen people give a small golf clap. Onlookers would have whispered to each other. Older Jewish woman would have wished their daughter had married this man.

Through the quiet accolades, the expert in the law broke the silence; he wanted to justify himself. He may have wanted public praise or inner clarity. He furthers his lawyer type response asking Jesus to clarify who his neighbor would be. The man asks the wrong question. Instead of asking who is his neighbor, he needed to ask; “Am I a neighbor?” He didn’t think about who he could bless, or care for, or be kind to, but longed for justification for his actions.

So many times we ask the wrong question. The problem is we are self-centered by nature. We have a tendency to overlook situations that we feel are out of our control. We marginalize people based on our preconceived notions and actions. We’ve been raised in a certain environment and therefore can miss what is happening the rest of our county, state, and country. We think about what we can gain from a situation instead of what we can add. So often we have things backwards and Jesus wants to change our perspective. I’m not condemning us, but pointing on what we need to be aware of in our personal life.

Interrupted travel plans 

Jesus seems unshaken by the question and shares a brief story (read Luke 10:30). The road has been called the road of blood—it’s an extremely dangerous road. Jerusalem sits on a mountain 2500 feet above sea level, you always go down from Jerusalem no matter which direction you take. Jericho was seventeen miles east of Jerusalem and approximately eight hundred feet below sea level.

The man was dehumanized. He is beaten and left half dead in the middle of the road. Given the desert landscape, robbers would hide around corners and in caves to attack unsuspecting people. He didn’t intend to get jumped. Another version of the Bible says, “he fell into the hands of robbers.” This happens so often. Talk to an ex-drunk and they will tell you they never intended to allow their life to spiral out of control. Prostitutes tell the same story, they fell into the lifestyle. I just finished a book called Ghettoside based on the gang lifestyle in Los Angeles. Many of these young men fell into the gang life in their teens to protect themselves; it’s horrible.

We have the scene set and it looks like a crime scene waiting for the police to arrive. Then Jesus says these words (read Luke 10:31). Yes! A priest is coming this way, this guy has to be superman in the story. Surely the priest will be the hero who arrives before the police. But he passes the man by.

Many of you are wondering what just happened. This isn’t how a priest would treat this man. The priest may have just finished his Temple service. He was anxious to arrive home. Levitical law stated he was only allowed to defile himself for a close relative. Only if a close family member passes away can he be near. He doesn’t want to take the risk of this man dying and making him unclean. He crossed to the far side of the road. He did all he could to avoid this man. He throws his hands up, stops quickly, and walks the edge of the road. We must keep in mind he is only a fictional character, but either way his actions are painful for us to read.

Jesus continues (read Luke 10:32). Next a levite comes by. Levites were helpers in the Temple Service. He would have been an assistant to the Priest. Of course this man of God will help this beaten human. Both of these men had to know the Shema and the command to love God and love others. But this man also dances to the side of the road. He turns his head from the desperate situation. He does his best to convince himself it’s someone else’s problem. He justifies his actions in his mind so he can walk on with a clean conscious. A man lies in the road, hanging on to life by a thread, and two men of God have just passed by without offering any help.

It’s tempting to get some righteous anger. We wish we were sitting close enough to interrupt Jesus and make a statement. We want to know why these men passed with doing nothing. In the spring of 2012 I graduated from seminary. Afterwards our family went to lunch. Then we got on the road to head to the hotel. I had my family of four loaded in the car and accelerated on the freeway onramp. Halfway up the onramp was what appeared to be a transient couple. As we drove nearer I could see the woman on the ground clawing to get away from the man. He had fist drawn in the air and was yelling at her. Guess what I did? I did nothing. I continued on the gas and left. God had sent help. I just graduated seminary but for some reason I froze and was useless.

Maybe something like this happened in your life. You had the means to help and didn’t. Maybe you froze like I did. Maybe you didn’t know how to help. Maybe the sight of the blood was too much for you and you went the other way. Maybe you thought the small amount in your pocket wasn’t enough to give away. We’re great at making excuses to keep us safe. We’re great at creating narratives that help us remain arms distance from the place God wants us to engage.

Just like our story, this story isn’t complete (read Luke 10:33-35). Next a Samaritan comes by. This is an emphatic statement in the text. For whatever reason, Jesus intentionally choose a race that Jews hated. The Jews and Samaritans hated each other equally. But in this story, we read that the Samaritan had pity on the man. Another translation might read compassion. In the Greek language it’s to be moved deeply in your bowels. The man had such a deep, inner, sympathy for this man who was hurt. His reaction is a stark contrast to the first two men. If everyone had been holding their breath, it has been let out.

Hope comes when one person shows compassion. That’s all it takes for everyone leaning forward in their chair to relax. The oil would have soothed the pain of his wounds. The wine would disinfect it. This man has been brutalized so bad that he can’t even walk to help himself; he is placed on the donkey and taken from the horror zone. He is brought to an inn where the Samaritan pays for his ongoing care. The amount given would cover about twenty-four nights of lodging and he offers to pay more if the costs increase.

The Samaritan gave his personal resources to help out. He invested his time to help out, he gave his resources to care for the man, and gave his money. All of this he did for a man he never met. What compels a person to act in such a way. He appears reckless in caring for this man.

My friend Gary Gaddini once said, “The greatest things done in Jesus name always surpass reason.” What this Samaritan did is unheard of. The hate between these two groups of people and that one would care for the other. The Samaritan allowed his travel plans to be highjacked to help out a person he never met and may never meet again.

To bring a conclusion to the story, Jesus asks the final question of the encounter (read Luke 10:36-37). I imagine Jesus asking the question in a very humble tone. He is direct and fixes His gaze on the other man. With his head down he gives is answer.

There are some literary clues we need to point out to grasp the weight of this. First the expert in the law couldn’t say that it was the Samaritan who was the hero in the story. Second he never addressed the compassion aspect. He uses a different word. He called him “man” and said “mercy.” His use of mercy suggests the man almost deserved what he got. Jesus tells him to go and likewise. If you want to inherit heaven, have compassion on others. Surrender your life to Jesus and live to help others.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Ghettoside- Book Review

Title- Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

Author- Jill Leovy

Publisher- Spiegel & Grau

Pages- Audio Book (paperback is 384 pages)

Quotable- Since I listened to this book I don't have an exact quote to share

A couple weeks ago I began listening to Ghettoside. I have to admit that it was heartbreaking to hear the horrible stories that are taking place less than two hours away from where I live.

There is an area in South Central Los Angeles where gang violence is extremely high.
It's a place where cops don't want to live.
It's an area with one of the highest murder rates in America
It's an area where young men join gangs to survive

Growing up in Big Bear Lake I've heard about the gang violence in Los Angeles. I lived just a few hours away, saw the pain on TV, but never experienced the type of violence explained in this book. The stark contrast of my home life and the lifestyle explained here is on opposite ends of the spectrum. I grew up in a community that felt 95% white... that is not Los Angeles.

Jill Levoy does a fantastic job at explaining the history, context, and pain of gang life. She gives a background on some of the most known gangs, talks about turf wars, and the cops hoping to bring peace to a war-torn community. She also explains some of the factors that go into the gang violence for young black men. Levoy brings out stats about gang-violence, and how tough it is for a young man to escape this world.

I'd guess about half way through the book she introduced the true story of a cops son who was shot down in broad daylight by a young gangster on drugs. Bryant Tennelle was shot in the head and died shortly after. The young man had no gang ties and was hoping to graduate high school. His death is a tragic loss of life that doesn't need to happen.

The case was going cold when Detective John Skaggs was assigned to it. I'm not going to go into the details of the case, but highly encourage you to read this book. Then we need to ask ourselves, "Has God put me in a place to help someone?" Skaggs shook every tree, complied stories, and took the case to trial.

If you've read the book, what are your thoughts?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Colossians Small Group Questions- Week 7

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

Small Group Questions
The Credits
Colossians 4:2-18

As Paul concludes the letter to the church in Colossae he packs in more instructions on living for Jesus. Paul has a unique way of sharing a deep amount of spiritual truth in a few short sentences. Paul begins by addressing a thriving prayer life and moves to encouraging the church to make the most of every relationship they have. He transitions to introducing the men who are serving alongside him in the ministry of the gospel. In his words you can see his care and compassion for each man. You can see how much he cares about investing in others and not doing life in solitude.  

1. Neal began his sermon by sharing about the unique opportunities that were presented to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. What unique opportunities have come along your path that brought you were you are?  

2. In Colossians 4:2, Paul writes about having a devoted, watchful, and thankful prayer life. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, Philippians 4:6, and Luke 18:1-8. What do these passages teach us about these characteristics of our prayer life?   

3. Paul longed for the church in Colossae to have an impact on their community (read Colossians 4:5-6). He spoke about their actions and words. Read James 1:22-26 and Ephesians 4:29. What impact do your words and actions have on the people who are closest to you? 

4. How can we walk in wisdom towards people who don’t know Jesus? 

5. Read Colossians 4:7-15. Identify each person in this list that Paul mentions and take some time to talk about each man. What characteristics of these men do you want to be known for in your life and what do you need to do to make that happen?  

6. Epaphras was the one who started the church in Colossae (Colossians 1:7). Now at the end of the letter we learn more about his life and ministry. How can looking at his prayer life help you grow in the ministry of prayer? 

7. Paul closes the letter by offering grace to the church. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. Where else in Scripture have you read about grace and how can you be gracious to others?  

Close your time in prayer 

Monday, April 08, 2019

Colossians Small Group Questions- Week 6

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

Small Group Questions
The ___________ Centered Person 
Colossians 3:18-4:1

In Colossians 3:18-4:1, Paul wrote about reshaping the Roman household. In these verses Paul is going to be really practical  and shows the Colossians what this new humanity can look like in their homes. The Roman household was a highly authoritarian household. That means the father would lead with an iron first. He held power over all who lived under his roof and would do as he pleased with those people. Paul is going to show us that the home led by Christ is much different than what they grew up in and have experienced to this point in life. What Paul writes here was so counter-culture to the Roman world that most of them would have had a tough time understanding this.

1. Neal shared about the Stanford Prison Experiment from 1971 and what happens when you put good people in an evil place. When have you seen group evil take place or someone allow power to go to head so their actions hurt others? 

2. In Colossians 3:19, Paul commanded husbands to love their wives. Read Ephesians 5:22-33 to get a greater understanding of what Paul was encouraging husbands to do in their home. How can husbands fulfill the responsibility Paul lays out here? Who are some Biblical examples of a husband that men can emulate?  

3. As Paul continued to reshape the Roman household he instructed fathers on how to treat their children (read Colossians 3:21). Read 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 and Romans 8:14-17. How can we apply the God treats us as children to our children?    

4. Some women have a husband that is easy to submit to and others might be more difficult. Read Colossians 3:18 and discuss how a wives submission to her husband is in direct relationship to her love for the Lord. What Biblical examples submission can you think of?  

5. Paul directed children to obey their parents (Colossians 3:20), it seems like a direct quote from Exodus 20:12. Why do you think this is the only commandment, of the Ten Commandments, with a promise attached? 

6. How can parents encourage their kids and not embitter them? 

7. Pauls peaks of relationships between slaves and masters. How can you serve those in authority over you with the end goal of helping them know Jesus? 

Close your time in prayer