Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Serving with your children

Serving your your children can be a tricky thing to do. You have to ask yourself things like, "Am I willing to take my kids to the inner city to serve Jesus?" or, "Do I want to take my kids on a plane to serve in a foreign country?"

This Sunday I preached on Nehemiah chapter 3. There is a great verse tucked in here that really caught my attention:
Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters. Nehemiah 3:12
Here is a guy who is out working hard with his kids. Since I’m a dad with young daughters, I imagine Nehemiah going around encouraging the workers, and then he sees one man serving with his little girls out in the hot sun. We don’t know their ages, so any guess is speculation on my part, but I imagine the girls helping to clean up the rubble. They are moving the stones they can and laughing and giggling the whole time. They are helping their dad plaster and get the stones in just the right place so the wall will be as strong as possible. Their laughter and joy encourages those around them and motivates them to continue working hard.

Now this father probably could have completed the work faster without his daughters there. If you’ve ever served with your children it can actually take longer to work with them. But as the Church we are called to train up those who are younger and this is a great example of a father who did this!

I want to be like Shallum. I want to follow his example of serving alongside my kids, right in my hometown. That is why I am going to take part in our upcoming backpack drive at CPC this summer.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Father's Day Prayer

Today at church I prayed a special prayer for Father's. Now normally I don't write out my prayers like  I did for this one, but since it was a special day and tried it out. I didn't stick to my notes completely and used it more as a guide than a manuscript. Hope you enjoy!

God in Heaven, thank you for being our example of how a Father acts. Thank you for showing us your love for people by sending your Son to earth. Thank you for teaching us the importance of encouraging our children when you affirmed Jesus in His baptism. Thank you for caring about our eternal existence and desiring us to be with you.

God we confess that being a father has it’s share of difficulties and we pray you would wash us clean of our sin.

We pray you would meet our daily needs while we parent our children.
We pray you would teach us how to lead our families closer to you.
We pray for fathers who have lost children to be comforted today.
We pray for new fathers to get sleep, you know how tired they are.
We pray for elderly fathers to be supported by their adult children.
We pray for estranged fathers to be re-united with their children.
We pray for awesome fathers to continue to model their behavior.
We pray for those who long to be fathers to have their desires met.
We pray for each and every father here to love your truth and ways.

God we choose to trust you today as our perfect example of a Father. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

HALT

There is an old acronym: HALT.

It stands for; Hungry, Anxious, Lonely or Tired. I learned about this acronym when I was pastoring at my first church. It goes like this.

If you ever find yourself being hungry, anxious, lonely or tired it’s a good sign that you need rest. When we experience these symptoms in our life, we are more susceptible to being harsh with our children for not getting the grade we think they should have in school. There is a higher probability of be short with our waiter for not getting our order right at dinner. It might even get so bad we begin cursing at random people while we’re stuck in traffic. Now I know you’ve never done any of these things, but I’m just making some examples of what other people do.

Raymond Brown says: “Physically exhausted people are not likely to achieve as much as they desire.”

Monday, June 08, 2015

Confessions of a Dad: I love my phone too much

"Hey dad, wanna play?"
Looking down at his phone, "Give me one minute, I'm almost done."

Dear Dad,

Look up from your phone for just one minute, I'd like to tell you something. Your kid is only going to be this age once. Tomorrow she will be older. Today she wants to play: Legos, hide and seek, soccer or Go Fish. So why not play with her?

Do you know there is going to be a day that she isn't going to want to play with you. Sure, you'll still have your phone. In fact, it will be an upgraded model with more "cool" stuff. There will be more apps and games for you to play. But she will always be your kid, there is no trading up here.

Let me ask you: "Is what you're doing on there really that important?" I mean, can it wait? Do you really need to check your email every five minutes? Will the posts on Facebook still be there when she is in bed? Is it more important to check Craigslist right now?

Let me give you an example to help you. Walk to your room. While you're walking turn your phone to silent. Look at your dresser, there is tons of room there. Set your phone down, try facedown. Now walk out, leave it there.

I'll stop telling you how to live your life, I can see you're either frustrated with me or get the point. I know being a dad is tough for you but fight for her. She wants to play with you. Remember how big she smiles. Remember how much she laughs. She loves you!

Put your phone down, it can't really be more important than her.

Signed,
Me

This is a letter I wrote to myself and I'm sending to myself. It's not for you, though it may speak to your situation. The letter is for me. I'm sick of stuffing my face in the phone, so it's a reminder I need to focus on my family and what really matters most.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Inviting Your Kids to Pray

When was the last time you prayed with a child?

For me its on a daily basis. We pray with our kids a handful of times a day on a regular basis and then a few more times at random times. Let me tell you some of the regular times and share some of the fun things they pray for with child-like faith.

When We Read the Bible
One of the first things we do in the morning is read the Bible together. I used to just open up the Bible and read it but lately I've been modeling the need to pray before we read their Bible and after we read it. This has been a great way for us to teach our kids about some of the heroes in the Bible. The other day Leah moved the bookmark and said "Daddy, this is my favorite story. Please read it." Its great to teach your kids how to pray before reading God's word.

Breakfast
The next regular time we pray in our home is pretty quickly after we read the Bible. Our morning prayer is generally quick for the food and then we pray for our Compassion kids. I love hearing our kids grab what we've prayed. They pray for their kids to have food, to know Jesus, to be safe and to be healthy. I don't have to worry about my kids having food or being abducted but for our sponsor kids its a real issue and I believe God hears the prayers my 6 and 5 year old pray.

Walking to School
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses encouraged the people to pray with their kids when they are walking. When we leave the house and get to the sidewalk I grab Sophie's hand and we pray. We pray for her day, for her to have wisdom, for her friend, her teacher and her principle. This is a time when I do the majority of the praying.

Dinner
After I drop Sophie off I normally don't see her until I come home. When we all sit at the table as a family we pray. Our girls have started praying for each item on our plate. Its great to hear them thank God for: macaroni, beans, water, forks, chicken, potatoes and bread. They make me smile when they pray for each item on the table.

Before Bed
The last time we pray together is right before bed. I used to pray or Charity would but lately I've invited the girls to start out our prayer time. Leah might pray for her brother to eat good to sleep well and its precious. Sophie has been generally praying for a cat. I wrap up our prayer time and then we kiss before bed.

These aren't the only times we pray.
We pray for fire trucks when we see them.
We pray when a tummy hurts.
We pray when someone gets a cut.

I'm convinced that my kids are going to learn about prayer from how I pray. We pray big prayers. We don't only just pray for food but we pray for God to move in big ways for others and I'm thankful to be able to do that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Munchery

With recently having a baby we have been overwhelmed with how many people have brought us food! Many times people have texted to see if they can bring lunch, our church set us up on the meal ministry and others have brought over a warm cup of coffee in the morning.

Something a little different was an email I received from some friends. It was a gift card to "Munchery". To be honest I didn't know what Munchery was before getting the email but it sounded like had to do with food so I was in!

One afternoon Charity and I were ready to use the gift card so we jumped on munchery.com to see what was on the menu for the day. After registering for an account we started grazing and salivating over the dinner options. There was a problem; we were too late! We had to order by 2pm and it was 3pm. We had a few more days of the meal ministry taking care of us so we decided to wait until later.

While waiting I received an email letting me know that my first meal would be free! You heard me right, free! I thought maybe and entree and salad. Earlier this week we jumped online, at lunchtime, to order dinner. We both chose and entree, added a salad, got some sushi and dessert. When I went to check out the entire order was free. I was shocked! Even delivery was free. We checked out and waited for dinner to arrive.

When it arrived I have to confess that it was good! The food arrived promptly when it was scheduled to. It was great to heat up the oven and pop the meals in while eating some sushi and salad. The portions were just the right size for us (we don't eat a huge dinner).

The part that won me over was the special touch. In our bag was a handwritten note to our family along with an extra cookie. It was a small thought that made a huge impact. I began thinking about how we've lost the touch of  a handwritten card.

Overall I would recommend Munchery and we will be ordering from them soon!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Spending Time with My Kids; Gardening

When I was kid I used to help my dad with the backyard garden. I'm sure I wasn't really a huge help but enjoyed the time we spent together outside. In fact, I just love being outside and have since I was a little kid!

When we moved in to our house, last year, one of my dreams was to have a raised planter bed. I hadn't done outdoor gardening in decades and was a super rookie. I was able to take some of my skills from what I learned, and with the help of watching youtube, we started a pretty cool little garden.

Our first year we bought most of what we planted. We purchased: zucchini, watermelon and green bell peppers from Home Depot. We also had beets and carrot seed we planted. The zucchini went crazy, the squirrels ate the watermelon, the carrots tasted... interesting and the beets were awesome!

We took what we learned and started earlier this year to get our garden ready.
(Planter Bed) 
(Sophie Planing) 
(Our germinated seeds) 
(Add Water)
After starting: beets, radish and zucchini we have added: tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and today watermelon!

(Zucchini going great)
(The bed has sprouted)
(Baby Persian cucumbers sprouting)
(Tomato plant)
(Leah watering)
I share all the pictures to give you a glimpse of the progress we're having. 

It is so much fun to teach my girls about germinating, planting and caring for our garden. Its fun to see seeds crack open and then turn into plants! We have great conversations outside and sometimes we just act silly, but the best part is I'm spending time with my kids and making memories! 

15 Years of being sober

April 20, 2015 was a big day for me. It was a day I never imagined would happen.

Today marks 15 years of being sober in my life.

Just over 15 years ago I walked out of a jail cell for the last time. I really thought that I would stay. I was on probation and had violated probation, I thought I was going to serve a year for that violation. When I got to jail that night I looked around and noticed the homeless drunks sitting in their stupor. I thought: "I'm not one of these guys..." but I was. Then it hit me: "I don't want to be like them when I grow up."

When I was a boy I wanted to be a fireman so I could save people but as a 20 year old I couldn't even get my life in order to help my self. I needed a change. That night I cried out to Jesus in the wee hours of the morning. I prayed a simple prayer, if you can it that. I made a request of God: "God, if you get me out of here I will do anything you want." Little did I know how much that request would change my life.

I was released 5 hours after praying that prayer.

A few days later I found myself attending my court mandated DUI school where I met a man named Brett Wheeler. Brett reached out to me at the end of class and invited me to attend church with him. Brett invested into me. He shared with me what he knew about God and helped me to find a solid relationship with Christ.

There isn't enough time to write what has changed in the last 15 years but for me its obvious when I look in the mirror; I am not the same man. God has changed my life and its only because of His mercy I have been able to stay sober for the last 15 years.
"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit..." Ephesians 5:18

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Spending time with my kids: gas station trips

When I was a kid I used to love going to the corner store with my mom. I loved riding my bike there after we ate dinner. It seemed so big. It was like the biggest store in the whole world to the little six year old boy. The ceiling seemed like it was fifty feet high. I would meander up and down the candy isle looking for exactly the right bar to rot my teeth that night.

As our kids have grown we have taken more and more adventures with them. One of their favorites is heading to the local gas station for a treat. The store is a lot smaller to me now and the candy less appealing but the joy I see on my kids face is worth every cent of what I consider to be an overpriced candy bar.

As I think about the progression of these trips today was a big day for us. At first the trip was done with me pushing a double stroller. Charity and I would talk while the kids lounged in their toddler sized lazy boy chair on wheels. We would roll them up to the store where their grubby little hands would grab the treat of their choice.

After the stroller came the scooters. We would scooter to the store to find the hidden treats. Sometimes the ride home consisted of a kid on my shoulders and holding the scooter in my left hand.

Later our kids got balance bikes to help them prepare for bikes with no training wheels. They loved riding those bikes to the gas station. Generally I was walking, casually, behind them as the glided through the big world.

Today we all rode to the gas station…

Yep, we all jumped on our bikes and rode to the gas station. Leah is still rocking her balance bike and boy is she quick! She does need to keep both eyes on the road though! Sophie is pedaling away and she cruises down the street with her hair blowing in the wind. I’m not walking behind them anymore, today I was chasing them on my bike. We all rode to the gas station for a treat.

Now the point isn’t riding bikes, or wind blowing in your hair. The point is to spend time with my kids. The last thing my kids need is another five minutes on their iPad, or to watch another movie. They need to be outside and seeing the great big world. We are making memories as a family. We are preparing for a larger adventure that will take place one day (who knows what it will be, but its waiting for us). We are enjoying each other and smiling as a family. I hope they look back on these memories and enjoy them as much as I do.

Friday, May 01, 2015

One Week Later

I can't believe its been a week already...

I'm sitting here watching my son sleep and realized it was time to finally write about the last week.

Last Friday, April 24, was like any other Friday. I walked to Sophie to school. I dropped Leah off at school. Charity and I even went on a date. While we were on our date I realized she was carrying our baby low, I mean real low!

After the girls were back from school Charity went out with her sister to get a massage. Around 4pm she sent me a text message that said something to the effect of: "Grab my bag. Pack my toiletries in it. Pack your bag and let's meet at In-n-Out for dinner and then go to the hospital." I was obviously taken back by it but knew my wife knows her body.

We went to dinner at In-n-Out for dinner around 5:30pm and then headed across the street to the hospital where we were admitted relatively quickly. Charity was checked and dilated to a 3 and 90% effaced. We were staying and getting ready for our son. Around 10pm we met with our midwife and talked about our birth plan. At the end of our conversation she asked me: "Daddy, would you like to help deliver your son?" I was in good shock and immediately replied: "You bet! This is a dream come true."

At about 10:45pm it was time to start pushing, gently. Charity did a great job. I was gloved up and ready to help catch our son. His head came out and next his body. I reached in, grabbed him and gently lifted him up on Charity's chest. It was surreal. At 11:13pm we had our third child.

Isaiah Justus Benson was 8 pounds 10 ounces and 21 inches long.

(Charity holding Isaiah for the first time) 
(Me holding Isaiah for the first time)
(Our first family shot)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ten years of Marriage

This last week Charity and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary. As we’ve talked about this milestone I’ve joking said: “These have been the best 10 years of your life Charity!” The reality is, this has been the best 10 years of my life!

I don’t have a list of the top 5 things you need to have a healthy marriage. I’m not going to share my 7 failures in marriage. Nor have I done a hours of research on stats to tell you 25 things to stay married for 25 years. I just want to share a handful of things people have shared with me and I’ve tried to apply to our marriage.

Kiss Before Bed
I’m pretty sure it was on our wedding night, or maybe a few months before, an older man I respect said this to me: “Kiss her every night before bed.” Now I love kissing my wife. When you tell an engaged man to kiss his wife every night before bed its a great idea so we did this. As I began traveling for ministry and school there were nights we couldn’t kiss. We tried our best to talk on those nights but just with being apart we couldn’t kiss; we wanted to though!

The longer we stayed married, as you could imagine, there were times we didn’t want to kiss. There were nights when we argued or just weren’t talking before bed. We didn’t feel like kissing. Most of this was probably my fault, I’m stubborn and brought a ton of baggage to our marriage. It has forced us to talk. Sometimes the kisses were colder and some nights they were steamy, but we’ve made it a point to kiss every night before bed.

Fight Well
One of my earliest memories of my parents is seeing my dad physically harming my mom. I was young and don’t recall the entire situation but I know my mom was crying and my dad was inflicting the pain. This obviously had scared me. I can’t recall a time when I saw my parents fight well. They fought, but not well.

With my past and the education we’ve both received, we’ve learned to fight well (please note the word learned). Fighting well doesn’t mean you just bury the pain deep inside (think; Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights). Fighting well doesn’t mean you just say whatever is on your mind.

Fighting well means you implement better ways of communion. One could be to use “mirroring”. Mirroring is a technique where you repeat back to the person what they said to make sure you understand them. Another method is to just simply listen and not interupt. Another application is to pray for wisdom while your listening. Fighting well has been a success to a healthy marriage, we are going to fight so let’s do it well.

Laugh Often
One of my favorite things in life is to hear Charity laugh. Actually, when were dating, she had such a loud laugh it made me smile. Charity still laughs a whole bunch when we’re together. The more we laugh, the more we enjoy life. When we are laughing its a sign to me that we are enjoying the company of each other. It reminds me how much fun we have together. It reminds me of the joy of life we share.

Submit to Each Other 
This can be a tough one for couples. As humans we desire to be in control of our life and our situation. We want to take control and make our destiny. In a marriage it can be easy for one spouse to be domineering and demand to get their way. They can ignore their spouses feelings and selfishly care only about themselves.

The Bible talks about men and women submitting to each other out of reverence for Christ. This means that I don’t always get my way. This means that I need to listen, carefully, to my wife. I need to hear what she is saying when a decision must be made. I also need to listen carefully to God so my family makes the right decision. We believe in an equal voice in our marriage.

Have Sex
What would a good marriage post be without talking about sex! Someone once told me that if couples in their first year of marriage put a gum ball in a jar every time they had sex in the first year of marriage and then took one out every time they had sex the next five years there would still be gum balls in the jar. That is sad!

We have decided to maintain intimacy (obviously, we’re having our third kid). But it means meeting each others needs. It means sex isn’t just about getting what you want and rolling over. Its about growing as a couple and learning each other. Now you might be thinking: “This is weird reading this.” And it’s a little weird writing it, but if I don’t you might just keep thinking that what you see about sex in the movies is normal.

There is a trend in our culture to believe that you meet a person, take them to dinner and then have sex with them. We have such an over-saturation of porn that many people have no clue what sex in a marriage relationship looks like. I’m sure there are great books you can read to learn more. My point is the need to maintain sexual intimacy, mainly sex, in the marriage relationship. Have such a great marriage that you can’t imagine not having sex with that person!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Chasing God- Book Review

Title: Chasing God 

Author: Roger Huang

Publisher: David C. Cook

Pages: 244

Quotable: "The hunger for money and security was being replaced by a hunger to set people free."

Last year City Impact gave this book out at our church. I took a copy and it sat on my shelf for many months, just sitting collecting dust. Then for some reason I was looking for a book to read; something not too heavy but a light read. I grabbed it a week ago and couldn't put it down. This rarely happens to me.

The book starts out describing the pain Roger saw in the Tenderloin district in San Francisco. He quickly turns to the immense pain he dealt with as a child growing up in Taipei... but the story is far from over. Rodger grabs your attention and then shares openly and honestly about the pain and struggle of his life. He shares about beatings, meeting his wife, meeting his Savior and the radical call to go into the city.

Most people in San Francisco are looking to get away from the Tenderloin, God called Roger to the Tenderloin!

If you are looking for a book that is going to reveal the grace of God, the honesty of a Christ follower and seeing the radical work of God at play I encourage you to grab this book and open it. Once you open I have a feeling you will be like me and find it tough to put down.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Movie Review: Annie

Movie Title: Annie

Year: 2014

Director: Will Gluck

Stars: Quvenzhané Wallis, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx

The tune is catchy! My daughters saw Annie in the theater and pretty much came home singing "Its a hard knock life". Although I'm sure they had no clue what it meant; they were singing it.

Annie has the same plot line as the original. Its a modern version of the orphan kid who went to live with Daddy Warbucks. Well instead of a millionaire, now we have a billionaire! Mr. Stacks is a mobile tychoon who needs some help in his current mayoral race. What better way to get publicity and have the people love you than to let a foster kid from the wrong side of the tracks stay in your place. You will be captivated with the singing, storyline and humor in this modern version.

Honestly when I saw the trailer my first thought was: "This is lame, how can you redo Annie?" Well I like to admit that they have redone the classic and its a catch! We just bought it from Costco today and my family texted me to see if I could come home early so we could watch the movie. It made me laugh, smile, laugh, ponder and I might have had allergies also because I teared up.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Cambodia Food


Last month I had a very unique opportunity to travel to Cambodia. My hope in this blog post is to share an overview of the food I experienced in Phnom Penh. Not only the food, but the ability to eat at restaurants that helped others out.

Let me start out by saying, “I love Asian food!” Asian is one of my favorite cuisines. Eating Khmer food was a new experience but a great one! The first night in Phnom Penh we went to the best Vietnamese place I’ve ever been to; I’m still thinking about the egg rolls they served! We did end up eating there another night while in the country.

If you are in Phnom Penh here are two places I would recommend to eat at. All of these locations can be found in Lonely Planet (get the kindle version to save on weight).

This location, near the river, on the north side, was our favorite place to eat. We found it after our first full day in the country. It serves tapas (not my favorite) but the food was savory. They had wonderful salads, meet, rice and great shakes!

The food wasn’t even the best part! They had junior servers who would assit the regular server. The junior servers were young adults/teens who had once lived a risky life and are now receiving on the job training. After you eat, walk next door and find some great souvenirs to bring home to your family.

Located near the Russian Market, same street just a block south. This location was my favorite lunch place. They had some great options and the staff was very friendly. When we walked into the restaurant my first thought was “this is small and not what we’re looking for.” Then a staff member said, “we have more seating upstairs.”

The upstairs is the place to sit. Its like a mix between a comfy living room and a great coffee shop that serves killer food! I really enjoyed all we had to eat there and wish we would have eaten lunch here everyday. My absolute favorite part, ok two favorite parts, about this restaurant are their love for Jesus Christ and the great little shop they have. 

They have a page, in their menu, dedicated to their story and how Christ is their hope. The store was a great place to get cute little dresses for my daughters; my only regret is not buying two more.

So if you're in Cambodia check these places out, eat good food and help others!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

No Facebook February


We have catchy titles for all sorts of things in our culture like: "No Shave November" or "Februhairy". Well After returning from Cambodia I realized something, I cared too much about social media. I also found myself clicking more links and being sucked into a certain app on my phone. At that point I realized I need a Facebook break and quick.

The break was great for me! I was able to avoid the website for all 28 days of February and as I look back on what I've called No Facebook February I've very thankful for the decision. Here are some positives of this experience:

More time with family
I had more time with my family. I noticed that I wasn't automatically going to the app when there was 5 seconds of downtime.

Increased Focus
I felt like I was more focused on things. I was dedicated to what I was working on. I was present when I was on a date with my wife. I wasn't tempted to tune out of a group conversation and grab my phone.

Affirmation
I didn't find my affirmation in what I posted. I wasn't constantly checking my Facebook to see if people liked my picture or cared about my status update. To be honest, like gut level honest, I struggle with acceptance and No Facebook February really helped me find my acceptance in God.

Like anything there can be some downsides in a commitment like this. Here is what I noticed.

Less Connection
I felt less connected. I felt like people were talking about things that I had no clue about. I did see the picture. I didn't watch the video. I didn't know she got engaged. I didn't know he lost his job. The list goes on and on. There is a reality that Facebook keeps us up to date on information.

It's a ministry tool 
Facebook is a ministry tool for me. When I hesitantly logged back in on March 1 I had 7 messages. Some were the typical group message but some were people reaching out. This isn't the first time this has happened to me. Facebook is a great ministry tool that needs to be managed.

If you asked me to sum it all up it would sound something like this. Overall, I didn't miss being away. In all honesty I enjoyed it. I felt more present in my life. I wasn't distracted by the thought and I'm sure I'll do it again in the future.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to post this on Facebook so you can read it.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cambodia Transportation

Last month I had a very unique opportunity to travel to Cambodia. My hope in this blog post is to share an overview of what I experienced in transportation in another country. I’m not going to talk about air travel but I would recommend flying Eva airlines after my experience.

The first full day we spent in Cambodia I rode in a new type of transportation for me; Tuk Tuk. Say it just like it sounds; Tuk Tuk. Let me try to explain what a Tuk Tuk is. It’s basically a motorcycle with a trailer on the back. The Cambodian people are so intuitive to think of adding a tow hitch to the back of a moto and then creating a cart, with seating, where you can drive people around.

Now, I’m not going to say its the most comfortable form of transportation. Its almost like a small couch on wheels, there is a little give but you’re still aware that you’re not in a luxury car. While riding in a Tuk Tuk you have a great view of what’s going on around you. You get a full view of the whole city, streets, people, shops and what’s coming up. You can even choose to sit in a way where you get to see what’s behind you! Another positive is, this type of transportation is inexpensive.

The downside to riding in a Tuk Tuk is the fact that you get a little dusty. You’re in an open air cart so you’re not protected from the elements. Now, there is a roof so you avoid getting sunburnt while riding. When sitting in traffic you also have all the smog rising up around you from the other vehicles in your presence.

Even though I didn’t ride a motorcycle there are tons of them in Cambodia. They are really all over the place. I was shocked to see how many motorcycles there are in the country. I’m told it didn’t used to be that way, that people use to ride bikes throughout the country. I saw a few people riding bikes but not many. Also, there are cars but we only took those to and from the airport.

Check out this video to get a better look at transportation about Cambodia.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cambodia 2015 Overview

Last month I had a very unique opportunity to travel to Cambodia. My hope in this blog post is to share an overview of my experience and then I’m going to write separate posts to go into more detail on other parts of the trip.

Almost eight months ago my Lead Pastor invited me to go to Cambodia with him. He had already been to the country four times and this would be his fifth trip. The goal of the trip would be to teach the book of Revelation of 80-100 pastors. We partnered with Paul Nuth, one of our missions partners, who is originally from Cambodia.

(Left to Right: Neal, Paul and Mark)
This was my first trip to Asia and it was a great experience to see this beautiful country. In another blog post I’m going to talk about some of the sights we saw and what we learned about the post communist country.

It was a long flight! We spent over 17 hours in planes and almost 5 hours in airports just to get there. The transportation was a new experience for me upon arriving in the country. In another post I’ll go more in detail on Tuk Tuk’s and the thousands of moto’s driving around.

Obviously anytime you travel there is going to be good food and bad food. Thankfully I love Asian food and would consider myself to be a semi-adventurous eater. I really enjoyed some, ok most, of the food we had to eat. If you ever visit Phnom Penh I want to give you a few places you must try while there!

Finally the thing that makes a country isn’t the transportation, food or sights. The thing that makes a country so great, like Cambodia, is the people. I met some of the most caring people who had smiles on their faces despite all the loss they encountered under the communist reign of Pol Pot. I want to take more time to just share about some of the men and women who impacted my life on the trip.

Well, I know this is a short post to prep you for what’s coming on the Cambodia update front but now you know what you to look forward to!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bible in a Year

For the last almost decade I've read the Bible from cover to cover. I've read it in different versions and even done the chronological Bible (super cool). For those of you who are looking for a challenge this post is dedicated to you.

Reading the Bible in a year is not for the faint of heart; its a huge commitment.

Reading the Bible in a year takes about 20 mins of reading a day.

There are days you are going to be behind, keep reading: Don't Skip!

You are going to be tempted to skip, don't!

Here is the plan:



Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Benediction

On Sunday I knew I wanted to share a Christmas Benediction to close our service but I wasn't going to have time to write one so I searched for one. In my google search I found this one, but it seemed a little too long so I tweaked it to fit my style.

Here is what I came up with:
May you be filled with
the wonder of Mary,
the obedience of Joseph,
the joy of the angels,
and the peace of the Christ child.
May almighty God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Something you want, something you need. Something to wear, something to read.

With the countdown to Christmas at t-minus 17 days my guess is many people have their shopping done. Its weird to think this way but with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Amazon you can really get your Christmas shopping done quite early now. The days of rushing to the mall and standing in lines are (almost) over. The days of sitting on the couch and buying presents are in!

As we talk about Christmas at the Benson home, Charity said something that has really stuck out in my mind. It was this: “something you want, something you need. Something to wear, something to read.”

Now I thought about this statement for probably over a month before telling my wife she was a genius for thinking this up to which she replied, “I saw it on Pinterest.” Even though she didn’t make it up it sounded like such a good idea I wanted to share it with others. If you search this: want, need, wear, read on Pinterest they will give you tons of ideas!

This year our girls will be receiving gifts based on this idea.

Disclaimer: I feel the need to make the disclaimer that I tried to use Pinterest one night, while sitting next to my wife, but have since stopped. Pinterest has great ideas though as you can see!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

An Abstinent Engagement

"There's nothing more than I enjoy than an awkward conversation." - Said no one

One of the greatest roles I get to play is when I officiate a wedding ceremony for a couple. I say “one of the greatest roles” because for me its a culmination of everything we’ve worked on for the last number of months. Its a huge responsibility to sign a piece of a paper for a couple who is saying they want to spend the rest of their lives together.


See, when I was younger I foolishly officiated a handful of weddings for couples who I never spent adequate time with. I talked with them a handful of times but it was mainly about not leaving the sink dirty and where they squeeze the toothpaste. I didn’t have much marriage experience so I thought, “Well, they love each other so it will work out.” I wish it was the case.

Unfortunately I know a handful of weddings I’ve presided over have not worked out.
So how can we change that?
How can we help give couples the best foundation for a health marriage?

Let me share two things I’ve learned about setting couples up for a healthy marriage:

1) Ask them to abstain from sex
This is actually a requirement for me now. At our church we strongly encourage couples to remain sexually pure prior to marriage. For some people this is tough. I’ve actually talked with couples about this and some have opted to have someone else officiate their wedding. On the other hand some couples are embarrassed when I talk about this because they are already remaining sexually pure. There are also the couples who have gone too far sexually and they choose to commit to remain pure until their wedding day.

2) Mandate pre-marital counseling
This is where you talk about focus on the marriage and not the wedding date. Much of what an engaged couple is doing is talking about the wedding day. They want to make sure the time is right, the flowers are perfect, the cake is good and the list goes on. I want to talk about what happens the following day. I want to talk about waking up to that person for the next 50-70 years of your life and supporting them.

My pastor has been using A Handbook for Engaged Couples and I’m enjoying the book. In the past I’ve used books like: Sacred Marriage or Love and Respect to talk with the couple about marriage. These books, in my opinion, are more for a marriage couple. The handbook is great to bring up conversation related to practical advice of what they need.

I’m sure I will have more to offer on this subject the longer I’ve been married and the more couples sit at our kitchen table from 8pm-10pm as we talk about the greatest commitment, besides following Jesus, they will ever make.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Campus Pastor Qualities

Last month I had the privilege of attending Exponential West at Saddleback Church. This was my first time attending an Exponential Conference and I was through thankful for the opportunity to attend. I'm not solely thankful for the free ticket another church gave me to attend or for the teaching of the people who were there but also for the friends I was able to reunite with. The combination of all three of these made for a great 48 hour trip to So Cal.


As someone who is new to multi-site ministry and being a campus pastor I was very thankful for the breakout sessions I was able to attend. Its extremely difficult to find venues where guys are talking about multi-site ministry so to get anything was a treat.

In one of the sessions I attended they talked about what are the qualities you should look for in a campus pastor. Here is what I wrote down:
+ Be humble
+ Be teachable
+ Must be able to be a lead pastor but follow well
+ Know how to be under authority and also over it
+ Must be able to communicate the vision of the Church (not just the campus)
+ Empowered enough but enough room for themselves
+ Must believe in the model the Church is using
+ How to know how authority works
+ Work under authority and with authority (think what is best for: kingdom, church & community)
+ Strong emotional & relational  intelligence

What would you add to the list?