Pacific Crossroads Church South Bay

Russ Hightower

By God’s grace, we want to see Jesus transforming lives and renewing the South Bay.

But how?

All Episodes

Genesis 16:1-16 is full of drama, intrigue, betrayal, irresponsibility, and ultimately restoration. We will learn about a woman (Hagar) who is deeply broken and runs away and is considered insignificant, expendable, and a lost cause. But we will see the Gospel in action - and we thank God that while we were still sinners, Christ loved us and died for us (Romans 5:8).

Jul 18

38 min 21 sec

May 2018

43 min 21 sec

Sep 2018

36 min 30 sec

Jul 2018

36 min 54 sec

Jul 2018

42 min 23 sec

Jul 2018

33 min 37 sec

Guest preacher Russ Hightower teaches about parables in Matthew and the paradigm shift Christians must face to accept Christ's full joy.

Sep 2016

36 min 44 sec

Mar 2020

32 min 53 sec

Nov 2019

40 min 4 sec

Oct 2019

42 min 58 sec

Oct 2019

46 min 20 sec

Oct 2019

43 min 9 sec

Sep 2019

43 min 51 sec

Sep 2019

47 min 3 sec

Sep 2019

45 min 31 sec

Aug 2019

27 min 35 sec

Aug 2019

36 min 57 sec

Aug 2019

41 min 54 sec

Jul 2019

44 min 10 sec

Jul 2019

46 min 26 sec

Jun 2019

26 min 40 sec

Jun 2019

39 min 52 sec

John 11 is the famous account of the raising of Lazarus. In the midst of this incredible display of power is something very surprising: Jesus is angry. Why would he be angry at his friend's funeral - especially if he knows he's about to fix the situation? What was it that “Deeply Moved” Jesus, and what did he do with his anger? Discussion Questions Tell a quick story about when one of your parents got super-mad! Why were they so angry, and did they overreact? What gets you angry on a daily basis? Say something practical and down to earth (not lofty, like “injustice”), even if it’s petty and embarrassing to admit. Why do you think it makes you so mad? Anger is a diagnostic tool – it reveals what we love. What gets Jesus angry? What does that reveal he loves? How does God’s anger at death comfort you? God’s love means he is set on destroying anything that is destroying his children. So what sorts of things in your life are in his crosshairs – precisely because he loves you? Lazarus stinks; he’s four days dead. But Jesus comes near anyway. Why do we think God will not come near the rotten things in our lives? Why is it easier to think he cannot or will not bring something beautiful out of our worst messes? Verse 44 of our passage says that the dead man came out. Ephesians 2:1-10 describes our spiritual condition as “dead” then “made us alive” in Christ; and not because we earned it. What does new fruit in us look like after we’re made alive? What redeemed messes have become a significant part of your personal story? How might those redeemed messes become an easy way of sharing your faith? Try it now - share about a redeemed failure. God’s rage at death overpowered the stench. How does our community yearn for this? What is dead and smelly in the South Bay, and what can we do about it? How does this passage show you Jesus more clearly? How might that change your approach to this week?

Feb 2020

39 min 51 sec

May 2019

39 min 8 sec

May 2019

45 min 38 sec

May 2019

41 min 43 sec

Apr 2019

41 min 20 sec

Apr 2019

36 min 54 sec

We come to the fallout of that miracle: his rivals want Jesus dead. And they are openly plotting his demise. They accurately assess that Jesus is a threat, but not in the way they expect. In this passage, the high priest himself says it would be expedient that one man die for a nation, but he assumed that would end the threat of Jesus. He had no idea that Jesus dying in our place would be the power that would transform all of creation. How does that work? And what does it mean for those who follow Jesus? Discussion Questions: Describe a time when you felt threatened. Try to think of examples different from a physical threat. What did you stand to lose? Why is a miracle worker a threat? Why would healing people be threatening to the status quo? What do we stand to lose if all our best works are cast aside? What sorts of things are difficult for you to relinquish? What are you relying on for safety and security? Consider the prophetic irony of Caiaphas' statement (v.49-50). Read Joseph's famous statement in Genesis 50:20. When people intend evil yet we trust God reclaims it for good, does that make the injustice any easier to endure? Why or why not? The Hebrew word for "atone" means "to cover over." In our reading from Hebrews 10, the Scriptures say the blood of animals is not enough to cover us (v.4). How does Jesus' blood do what animal blood cannot? (Hebrews 10:14) Why does being 'covered' matter in our daily lives - or worse, to be 'uncovered' or exposed? Read these verses together: Psalm 103:12; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:13. What does the Bible say Jesus' blood does for us? If Jesus became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13), how might we become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)? The leaders also wanted Lazarus dead because of this miracle (John 12:10). How might Christ transforming people make them outcasts, or even perceived threats? Have you ever rejected someone’s life-changing faith? Why did you do that? Has anyone ever rejected or tested your own spiritual transformation? Memorize Galatians 2:20 (below). Given what you’re facing right now, how might internalizing this verse encourage you this week? “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 ESV)

Feb 2020

42 min 58 sec

Mar 2019

37 min 31 sec

Nov 2019

43 min 2 sec

For as rarely as most of us have interacted with sheep or shepherds, this is an incredibly popular image of Christ. Why does it resonate so deeply? And might we have missed the punch Jesus intended?

Jan 2020

50 min 3 sec

Jesus presses this image of shepherd even further and gives us one of the most encouraging promises in Scripture. He holds his sheep, and "no one will snatch them out of my hand." When we go through the dark, lonely, and fearful times of life, how does that give us the confidence to endure? Community Group (CG) Discussion Questions: Do you feel owned, loved, known, and led by Jesus? What does that look or sound like? Why does being 'named' matter to us? How might it change your approach to daily life? When has his call to persevere simultaneously challenged you to endure and remain faithful? Read John 10:28-29. Jesus was claiming to be the good shepherd that will not lose one of His sheep. Does that create apathy or enthusiasm for spiritual growth within you? Why do you think he gave us this promise? Read Psalm 37:23-33. What do verses 23 and 24 say in your own words? What does it mean that we might stumble, but we won’t fall? What’s going on in your life now that is strongly related to this week’s passage and sermon?

Jan 2020

40 min 59 sec

Jesus says that “Scripture cannot be broken.” He is giving us a glimpse of his inner thought world. And it stands in stark contrast not only to how most of LA thinks, but also in contrast to how most of us operate daily. So what’s the big risk? Why does this matter so much? If Jesus is the most joyful person to ever walk the planet, how am I missing out on life to the fullest (Jn.10:10)? Discussion Questions: What does Jesus mean: “Scripture cannot be broken?” Do you share his high view of the authority of the Scriptures? Why might our neighbors dismiss that? Which is more important to you for daily decisions: your past experiences or Scripture? Is that a false dichotomy? Do you live as though those are two separate things? Jesus memorized the Word, but he also internalized it. Share about a time when the truth of Scripture was so infused in you that it helped you in a powerful way. In contrast, share about a time when you blatantly ignored something you know Scripture teaches. What inner motivations were competing? David wrote: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” What is the difference between hiding the word in our heart and rote memorization? Share about some of your best practices for digging into God’s word or internalizing it. (Or maybe share ways that failed for you.) Don’t be boastful about this, try to be helpful to others who might benefit from what’s helped you. Have you read all the Gospels? The entire NT? Whole of scripture? Memorized verses? If not, how might you progress in that labor of love? If so, how do avoid knowledge becoming a matter of self-righteous pride instead of cultivating humility? How might the Word lead you to a spirit of thankfulness and joyful repentance - daily? What did you need to hear in the sermon? Is this Good News or just another burden placed upon your life? What sort of things are preventing his Word from permeating more of your life? How might it lead you to see Jesus more clearly?

Jan 2020

43 min

Jesus' friends call to him for help in a time of serious need - and he waits. He delays. He doesn't come right away. And it seems to cost his friend's life. Why would he do that? The answer he gives is even more aggravating: "I'm glad I wasn't there for your sake, so that you may believe." How do we deal with a God like that, especially when it feels like he fails to show up at the time of our greatest need? Discussion Questions: Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t just show up and do something about the situation you’re facing? How’d you come out of that moment; more critical or more confident in God? We hear that Jesus is always with us, ready to hold us and care for us, but sometimes we are left asking “Why doesn’t God do something about THAT?” Whatever that is - a situation at home or work, a broken relationship, someone’s health, salvation of a family member or friend, etc. Why doesn’t God just do something? Does his failure to act on our terms mean he is inactive? If not, why is that answer still so dissatisfying for us? Mary and Martha both say: "If you'd have been here, he wouldn't have died" (v.21, 32). The crowd even says "could not he who opened the eyes of the blind kept this man from dying?" (v.37) They clearly believe Jesus is capable of great things. But how is their belief somehow deficient or limited? Were they hoping too much or too little of Jesus? How do we do the same? Jesus says "for your sake I am glad I wasn't there, so that you might believe." But John told us the disciples already believed in him after the miracle at the wedding of Cana (John 2:11). The verb tense here actually means "come to believe" (as in, 'believe more deeply than before' or ‘come to a new level of belief’). How does the waiting cause them to believe more deeply than before? How might that be true for us? Does waiting without (immediate) explanation deepen your trust or break it? Some people are atheists because of this topic (i.e., There’s no way someone is out there who cares… It’s all chance… Clearly, nobody is in control!). How do you avoid the opposite extremes of gullible passivity (i.e., fatalism, "God is in control; I do nothing") or jaded cynicism (i.e., "God didn't show up when I needed him")? Get specific: Where does this theme of waiting on God have you losing faith and trust in him? What behavior, action, and steps do you need to reverse in terms of trusting God’s timing, power, and goodness more than you are now? What did you need to hear in the sermon or during this discussion?

Jan 2020

42 min 52 sec

This week we come to John 12. As the disciples gather with Jesus, Mary worships Jesus in such a lavish way that the disciples become shocked and even angry. We live in a culture of shock and outrage, so we may be numb to that reaction. But it is Jesus' counter-reaction that is so jarring. What they find shocking, he finds beautiful. What are these ardent followers of Jesus missing that is so important he comes to her defense? That's not just a matter of trying to 'be more like Mary.' What does she see so clearly about Jesus that they (and we) are so often missing? Why does she have joy where they have anger? Discussion Questions: Quickly share when you undervalued something, or when someone else undervalued a thing that obviously meant more to you than to them. Talk about a season in your life when you undervalued Jesus. Share about a time in your life when Jesus was most valuable to you, and it changed the way you lived. Mary was called out by Judas for taking her gratitude and worship too far, to the point of doing something wasteful and wrong. What does this look like today? Have you ever been Mary or Judas in this kind of scenario? Mary's worship is not conditioned by cost, self-determination, or self-preservation. Why is that so offensive to other Christians? How is that threatening? How could we ever begin (even just to want) to worship like this? Christ ardently defends the poor almost everywhere else. He knows the OT prioritizes care for the poor. If he's not being dismissive of poverty or callous about it, what are the boundaries he is drawing? How do we similarly prioritize him? Why does Jesus connect this perfume to his burial? Read Psalm 22:14. What does it mean that he is being 'poured out'? Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” How does God fill us in order that we might be poured out? Mary saw her brother raised from the dead, and it reminded her of God's provision for her. How do we remind ourselves of that daily? What has God done like that in your personal life? What did you need to hear in the sermon or in this discussion?

Feb 2020

41 min 14 sec

Today we see our political leaders attempt to cultivate their own image, and here Christ gives us this image of his leadership - God on a donkey. What do we do with that? Jesus is exposing the stark difference between the king we want and the king we need. How might he so change our hearts that the king we need becomes the king we joyfully serve? Let's look at the so-called 'triumphal entry' of Jesus into Jerusalem. Discussion Questions: What celebrities or leaders were your favorite when you were a teenager or as a young adult? Did you have any posters, bumper stickers or t-shirts that portrayed your vibe in some superficial way? Do you sneer at People Magazine or buy it? Be honest and have some fun with this one. Without diving into the politics, what sort of leaders do Americans seek? Why is that what we laud or pursue? What kind of leader are we looking for? Why are we so hard on our leaders? What does 'hosanna' mean? What are they looking for? What would bring them out to cheer for Jesus like this? What draws a parade like this in LA? What does that reveal about our city's desires? What events bring us this sort of hope and joy? Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Why would God choose an image like this? Riding a donkey was not considered unroyal, but it was reserved for peacetime. So what is Jesus conveying? Read Psalm 45:4-5 and Revelation 19:11-16. How different are these images and why does it matter? Read John 12:16. John does not hide that they didn't get it at first. How might that be a comfort to us? If these details seemed little at the time, but later became big, can you think of an example of God using things in your life that seemed little at the time, only to realize later how significant these events actually were? Read Luke 9:23-25. If Jesus purposefully moved toward us with such weakness, what does he call us to do toward LA? If that is admitting our weakness, which should encourage us, why does that seem harder? How does the cross ironically reveal Jesus' ferocious strength and love for his children? How can you lead in the same manner this week? What did you need to hear in the sermon or in this discussion?

Mar 2020

41 min 43 sec

Jesus calls his disciples to give their lives away for the cause, just as he is doing. If this is more than a figurative principle, how is this good news for the world or the disciples? Discussion Questions: Share about a sacrifice you made; it could be magnanimous or a small one you make every day. What did you trade or lose and what was gained? Throughout John, Jesus talks about “his hour” (his death). But repeatedly, he says "my hour has not yet come" (John 2:4, 7:28-30, 8:20). Suddenly, for the first time in the Gospel of John, Greeks (Gentiles) seek him out. And he immediately says, "my hour has come." What does that show us about his sense of mission? What does Jesus consider his cause worth dying for? Why was this the tipping point? Since most of us are Gentiles (non-Jews), why would that be comforting? Are you genuinely comforted? 'Glory' means 'weight' in Hebrew (kabod) - as in significance, honor, or gravitas - whereas, we say that things ‘matter’ (or not). What are some common phrases or ways we use that term ('matter') today that might echo the biblical idea of 'glory'? How will the Son of Man be made to ‘matter’ (v.23)? How will the Father make his Name ‘matter’ (v.28)? How do the challenges of verses 25 and 26 challenge our views of what ‘matters’ in our lives? In verse 27, Jesus says his soul is troubled. Yet we know he was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Is it possible to have inner conflict and yet be without sin? How might that be an encouraging thought in the midst of our struggles? Read Hebrews 2:18 and 4:16. Why might falsely requiring a stoic Christianity (e.g., "Keep a stiff upper lip!" and “Don’t break down!”) within our hearts and minds be dangerous for our mental and spiritual health? Because of this verse, JC Ryle said: "The believer may be known as much by his inward warfare as by his inward peace." What does he mean? (Consider Romans 7:15-8:1.) Look at verse 32. How does Jesus' death on a cross "draw all people"? As repulsive as the overt violence of the cross is, how could that same cross be attractive? Why are 'losers' drawn more readily to the cross than 'winners'? Look at verses 24-26. If the wheat does not die, it doesn't bear fruit. If one loves his life, he loses it. How are Jesus' statements here directly contrary to how our society operates? If anyone serves me, he must follow me. Is Jesus calling us to die? Literally? In what sense? Daily? (Luke 9:23) Why would that be threatening? What are the other causes people in the South Bay are already dying for every day? How did early Christians embody his teaching in the midst of plagues? How was that a contrast to the world? How might we - with great wisdom and creativity - begin to embody that same joy in our city today? What did you need to hear in the sermon or in this discussion?

Mar 2020

45 min

Discussion Questions Share some of the challenges that have surprised you during this period of "safer at home" and "social distancing.” What has God been teaching you through these new mandates? God's people repeatedly looked back on their slavery in Egypt as if it was better than their freedom in the desert (Exodus 14:12; Numbers 11:5;14:2-4). New adversity seemed to make them re-narrate their past slavery as if it was a good thing. How does "adversity reveal us"? We are told the midwives' names (v.15), yet we never learn the names of Moses' parents, Pharaoh, Pharaoh's daughter, or even Moses' Hebrew name. Read 1 Corinthians 1:27-31. What is God's agenda in using the 'foolish' (insignificant) to shame the 'wise'? How might that be encouraging to us in the midst of our current societal situation? Why is it so hard for us to see significance in many of our mundane, daily tasks? Moses' mother seemed like a resourceful planner. (Exodus 2:1-10) How can we use our creativity similarly to love our neighbors, while submitting to the governing authorities? Why did Pharaoh's daughter act directly against her father's wishes? (v.6) How does the compassion of Pharaoh's daughter wind up being more powerful than all of Pharaoh's might and rule? Notice the compassion of Jesus in Luke 7:13. When have you seen compassion rule the moment? Moses was a murderer (2:11-14). Why would he include his own failure in reminding his people of their story? The Bible is rather clear that murder is one of the worst things we can do. What does this say about God's willingness to redeem our worst failings? How can that be an encouragement to us while in the 'desert'? Big Themes: God uses the seemingly insignificant, creativity and compassion conquered the power of Pharaoh, and Moses humbly led with his failures. Why does God stress these themes across the Old Testament? How do they point forward to what Jesus called his "exodus" (Luke 9:31)?

Mar 2020

54 min 33 sec

God calls Moses, and Moses says "please send someone else." He starts complaining. He makes excuses. He is frustrated with God for calling him to a very difficult place. If you have a complaining heart like Moses, especially in times like these, how does God heal a complaining spirit? What hope does He offer? Discussion Questions Sermon-Based Discussion Questions “The Call” | Exodus 3:10-14; 4:1-3,10-1 Pastor Russ Hightower Sunday, April 5, 2020 Pacific Crossroads Church SOUTH BAY https://pccsouthbay.org/sermons Our society is going through a very long, very difficult time. Why is it so much harder to remember the joy of life in the midst of protracted difficulties? God calls Moses to go to Pharaoh. Considering he'd already twice 'run' for his life from two different Pharaohs, what does Moses understand this call to mean? What techniques does he use to get out from under this calling from God? When do you complain about God’s calling or will upon your life? Why do we struggle with spiritual courage? What are the limits of what we think it is reasonable for God to ask of us? Beyond a romanticized answer, what are some real limits for you? When does it appear that God is asking too much of others? This passage holds two of the most important questions in life: "Who am I?" and "Who is this God?" Moses attempts to use "Who am I?!" to dodge God's call. How does God's identity become an answer for Moses' plea that he's not significant enough for this call? What does God's patience with Moses say about who this God is? "We must learn to be afraid in the right way." (Soren Kierkegaard) Moses is clearly afraid of Pharaoh & death. How can an appropriate “fear of God” benefit us in the midst of a time of great fear, like now? Read Psalm 130:3-4. How does God's forgiveness lead us to fear? How could that give us confidence to face fears in the rest of life? Moses openly shared with his people that he too was a complainer like them (Numbers 14). Why does vulnerability help change hearts? How can we lead through vulnerability in the South Bay? Why is that so hard if someone is actively complaining against you (e.g., family, friends, neighbors)? How might seeing Christ's patience with us enable us to be more patient with others? "It is unbecoming for Christians to whine." (Ray Cortese) How might Christ's courage begin to transform us to have joy, even in exceptionally hard times? "God is a spiritual tornado. He never pulls you in without sending you out." (Tim Keller) How was that true for Moses? In a time like this, when most of us cannot leave our homes, what might being "sent" look like? What are some creative ways you have seen people love their neighbors while honoring the "stay at home" order? If this time continues for several months, how might your Community Group creatively love one another & those around you?

Apr 2020

37 min 34 sec

Discussion Questions JRR Tolkien coined the term "eucatastrophe" - meaning a "good catastrophe." Considering all the downward trajectory that a catastrophe normally entails for us (the difficulties, the suffering, etc.), what sort of event could be the positive equivalent? Aside from our faith, what events changed your life in that way? God warns Moses that going to Pharaoh will not be easy (Ex.4:21-23). Why was Moses stunned when his meeting with Pharaoh did not go well (Ex.5:2-5)? Have you ever been surprised that following God's call went poorly? “No one is more hated than a failed messiah." Can you think of a few modern leaders, of whom that would be true? How does that connect us to Good Friday - as a people and in terms of how we treat our leaders? As soon as the people turn on him, Moses turns on God (5:22-23). Why does he so quickly forget his own calling? Contrast the human frailty of our leaders with Christ's faithfulness in going to the cross (Luke 22:42; Philippians 2:8). Is spiritual courage unpredictable and random, or is it possible to live with consistency and integrity? What does Pharaoh think it accomplishes by keeping the people working (Ex.5:5,8-9,17)? How can constant work dehumanize us? (Consider the current physical and psychological toll on medical workers.) How might staying at home without work also dehumanize us? What is the difference between God's design for our work (Gen.1:28) and Pharaoh's enslavement of the people? Even after they entered the promised land, they were still seeking "rest" (Hebrews 4:8-10). What is the sort of "rest" that God is bringing to his people? How do we seek 'rest' and security? How might those very means and methods actually prevent us from finding real rest in Christ? The cross and resurrection are the “eucatastrophe” at the center of history. How could 'resting' in Christ relieve those struggling right now; laboring at risk in our service, struggling in isolation at home, or fighting for financial survival? If we quickly turn and curse our leaders when difficulties come, and seek rest in all the wrong places - what sort of leader do we need? What hope does the resurrection give us in the face of the worst that could ever happen to us?

Apr 2020

43 min 34 sec

We finally come to “the Plagues” from the book of Exodus. We're not saying that COVID-19 is a plague of judgment from God. But the story does make us think about who we are when we’re at a breaking point… and more importantly: who God always is, even when we've become hard-hearted. Discussion Questions In Exodus 5, Pharaoh asked, "who is God that I should obey him?" How might the plagues (Exodus 5-12) be a direct answer to that question? The plagues directly challenged the Egyptian gods. If God were to challenge the current American gods, what might that look like? If God were to challenge your gods, what might that look like? The plagues are a "descent back into chaos" – as a reversal of creation (Genesis 1-2). How do our sins bring about similar problems; revealing who God is and who we are? Pharaoh's magicians repeated the first few plagues, but the obvious need was to undo them. Eventually, they had to acknowledge that this is the "finger of God." But still Pharaoh "hardened his heart" (Exodus 8:15). Why is it so critical that we come to the end our own ability to see who God is? When has your end become God’s beginning? When did your limits and brokenness become a moment for God to pick you up and recreate you? Explore “hard-heartedness” in the Bible: Pharaoh & God (Romans 9:14), Israel's own pattern of hard-heartedness (Psalm 95:6-11), The NT Church (Hebrews 3:12-13), and Humanity as a whole (Jeremiah 17:9-10). In light of humanity's hard-heartedness, what is the hope offered in Ezekiel 36:24-28? How does the cross bring that about? What does the over-arching narrative of Scripture say about God's long-term resolve in pursuing hard-hearted people like us? Have you ever pursued someone who was hard toward you? How did you pay the cost for their hardness in order to see that relationship soften? How does that help you appreciate the depth of God’s love? Tim Keller said, "I cannot stay angry at someone unless I feel superior to them." Why then should the cross put an end to holding grudges? In what sense is this both good and bad news to you? To whom in your life does this apply? How do the particular events that we consider most injurious to us reveal a lot about what we value? Get specific about one or two areas in your life that God wants to soften and reign.

May 2020

44 min 5 sec