2nd look

Christmas Is A D-Day Invasion



Christmas Is A Longing In Devestation

“Epic Christmas 2019” Advent Guide

 

Hello everyone, and welcome to this year’s Advent Guide. In the weeks to come, we will be looking forward to the day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Simply put, Advent is a season of time, 4 weeks to be exact. It happens during the 4 weeks that lead up to Christmas. The word Advent is actually formed from a Latin word that means: “Coming” or “Arrival.”

 

There are many ways to approach Advent but what I want to do is give you a chance to reflect on some simple Scriptures and thoughts each week. Each Monday I will release a new Advent Reflection Guide for that particular week and it will go along with the theme from the previous Sunday’s sermon.

 

Some practical suggestions:

  • Find a quiet place where you will not be distracted.
  • Set aside technology if you can. I’d suggest using a literal bible rather than your phone, as this device can be quite a distraction.
  • Open your time with prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to open your heart and lead you as you study and pray.
  • Read the Advent Guide portion for the day. Each day will have a brief selection or activity for you.
  • Give yourself 10-20 minutes to reflect. If you want to go longer you can. If you miss a day, do not get down, Jesus still loves you! I don’t want this to be an exercise in shame. This is meant to be helpful- things happen and sometimes we forget or have to choose something else. This guide is here to help you reflect upon the Lord.

 

My hope is that this guide will help you take some time, maybe 10-20 minutes out of your day, to simply reflect upon the beauty and glory of Christmas.

 

An Intro to this Advent series: Epic Christmas

What is this series about? Many of us know the Christmas story, or at least we think we do. There is a part of the story that is not so well known, a perspective on how things went down that we don’t often recognize. When we see this perspective, Christmas begins to take on new meaning and purpose. It becomes a much more gripping tale of struggle, danger and dramatic suspense. In a word, it becomes EPIC! This Advent season, I want us to look at Christmas from a different vantage point, with the hope that we will see Christmas not merely as some silent peaceful night but rather as the beginning of the greatest love story. And the most daring rescue story the world has ever seen!

 

Join us Sunday mornings here at SNC for an Epic Christmas!

 

Epic Christmas Advent Guide Week #1

Christmas Is A Longing In Devastation

 

An invitation!

During the Advent season, it is powerful to fast something. This means we cease some sort of activity during Advent to communicate our love and devotion to God and to free us up to hear from Him. One thing that is really powerful is that every time you long for this thing that you have given up you let it be a reminder to you of the longing mankind once felt for the arrival of a savior, and our longing now for the return of Jesus.

Some things people give up:

  • Television
  • Social media
  • Video games
  • Soda
  • Sugar
  • Caffeine
  • A certain type of food

*Please know that if you decide to fast food entirely you should consult with your doctor and research the best ways to go about this.

 

The point of fasting is not to make God like you more. The point of fasting is to communicate your love to God and to put yourself in a place to be more likely to hear Him. If you do not do it, that’s fine, but consider giving it a shot. Fasting would start on Sunday, December 1st and end on Christmas Eve.

 

Monday: Opening Reflection

The world was once a bright and safe place, full of hope and promise. Death, sickness, rebellion, and brokenness were not even a reality. There was God and there was man, closest of friends, in a good and beautiful world. But this friendship would not be robotic. God would not allow this. He would have man’s love and devotion but only if man would freely choose it; otherwise these things wouldn’t be genuine. So God gave man a choice.   Will you obey? If you do, there is life and peace and wonderful prosperity, but if you don’t, death will enter the scene and along with it all manners of brokenness.

 

Man and woman chose to rebel and the entire world was broken, plunged headfirst into darkness. Sin entered the scene. Death was now a reality. Rebellion, shame, pride, discord, sickness, and suffering all became a part of our human existence that was never meant to be there.

 

All was lost.

But God made a promise. Someday he would restore all that has been lost. For much of the Bible, leading up to the story of Jesus in the gospels, we see a world waiting in the midst of this devastation, longing for God’s promise to be realized. Ever since the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the world has been waiting for His return to vanquish sin and death once and for all.

 

So long ago- that baby in a manger, was the answer to our longing in devastation. He is the realization of God’s great promise to restore all that has been taken. Today, for the remainder of this time of reflection consider this question:

How does Jesus answer my deepest longings in the midst of a world in devastation?

 

Tuesday: Genesis 3:13-15; Luke 19:10

Read these scriptures several times.

Even after the fall, after all had been destroyed and darkness had fallen, right there at the beginning of the dark night God was making a promise that He would send a Savior to crush the enemy’s head and to restore what had been lost.

What is jumping out to you from these verses?

 

Wednesday: Reflect upon a song

Here’s a YouTube link to a version of the song: “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZnuzNTxV9M

Take a listen to it.

Here’s a link to some lyrics:

https://genius.com/Christmas-songs-o-come-o-come-emmanuel-lyrics

Consider the words and ask the Lord to speak to your heart regarding what the lyrics are saying.

 

Thursday: Isaiah 9:1-7

Read this scripture a few times.

What caught your eye during your readings of the scriptures?

 

Friday: Longing Exercise

Have you ever taken time to imagine what it might be like when Jesus restores all things? Take time to consider this. What are you excited to see Jesus restore? Jesus said in Revelation 2:15: “Behold I am making all things new.” What are you excited about what He will do?



#9: Eyes To See

Hello everyone and welcome to the last 2nd Look of our Battle Ready series. I preached the final sermon of the series on Sunday and I have received a great deal of feedback from different people telling me what God has done with them during this series. Thank you!

I’m going to simplify things this week and invite you to consider these questions…

What did God show you during this series?
How did God encourage you or challenge you?
What might be your response to His work in your life?

Next week we begin our Advent series.   
All praise to Jesus!
Pastor Ryan



#8: Going On the Offensive with God

Hello everyone!

This week, let us reflect on the temptations of Christ. Matthew 4:1-11.
How does Jesus defeat the devil?
This is an interesting way to look at this passage.
Let’s consider this together.
Isn’t it amazing we have a king who has been tempted as we have been and yet remained sinless.  He is victorious!

May God grant you his glorious peace and joy as you reflect upon Him this week!

Pastor Ryan

 

 



#7: Footholds

Hello SNC!

Did you know that at the beginning of this year we had a goal in place? The goal was to get 80% of our people to either figure out what their rule of life is or to develop a rule of life.

Wait a minute Pastor Ryan… What’s a rule of life? I’m so glad you asked my brilliant and observant friend! A rule of life is a spiritual rhythm of living. If you read your bible ten minutes a day, that is part of your rule of life. If you set aside 5 minutes a day to pray, that’s part of your rule of life. It is an intentional structure you have in place to spend time with God and be nourished by Him.

Why is this important or helpful? Well, the truth is, many folks don’t even think about this. We just float through life. If we manage to get time with God it is likely a result of some accident than anything intentional, and yet we desperately need time with the Lord, because we are made for it.

My hope and dream for you, as we entered this past year, was to help you think about your life and journey with God. Everything we talked about this past year was oriented towards this! Do you remember how we began the year talking about “Sinking Deep with God: Helpful and Essential Practices of the Christian Faith”? This was geared towards you developing a rule of life.

Here we are, at the end of this year, and we are talking about spiritual warfare, being reminded yet again of the absolutely crucial need we have to be with God. It doesn’t happen unless we are intentional. As we get ready to begin the advent season, I invite you to consider developing your own rule of life for 2020. And I will be reminding you of this again.

Please remember we don’t do any of this to earn God’s love, we do this to grow closer with the God who loves us. We don’t do these things to save us, we do them to grow deeper with our Savior.

Would you consider developing a rule of life with me? I’ve attached a link here that can help you do just that!

May God bless you this week with his wonderful incomparable peace!

Pastor Ryan Low



Struggling with Doubt

Here are some resources if you or someone you know are struggling with doubt. Let me first say that while there are many answers and evidence for the truth of Christianity there is also a certain measure of faith we all need to have. I’m not talking blind faith, I’m talking about informed faith. I may not know everything for certain, but from the evidence I’ve seen, I’m choosing to trust that God is there.

After the sermon, one of you challenged me in regard to whether or not most atheists absolutely believe there is no God, beyond a shadow of a doubt. The person who challenged me said I painted atheists in an inaccurate light because most of them would admit that they don’t have full knowledge but from what they’ve seen they are choosing to believe there is no God. Fair enough. My point was not to create a straw man of all atheists but to point out that we simply cannot find ourselves at a place where we can never doubt our doubts, something I’ve found some atheists I’ve talked with unwilling to do. But that’s a faith step, right? I may not know everything but from what I do know, I’m choosing to believe _______. As Christians, we are making our own faith step based on the evidence we’ve seen.

What is this evidence? What are some resources that point me back to this? Let me give you a few:

Some apologetics books that answer many questions brought against Christianity

The Problem of God by Mark Clark

The Reason For God by Timothy Keller

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Gunning for God by John Lennox

When God Goes to Starbucks by Paul Copan

Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh Mcdowell

Some websites that are helpful:

– YouTube: Sean McDowell; William Lane Craig

– reasonablefaith.org

– gotquestions.org

– comereason.org

There are still many resources out there that I have not listed. Please know that if you have questions you can also email me and I will respond to you.

Thanks everyone!

Have a great day!

Pastor Ryan



#5: The Enemy’s Strategy, Part 2

This week I invite you to check out a few quotes from a book titled,
Lord Foulgrin’s Letters” by Randy Alcorn. The book is a compilation of letters written from Fourlgrin, a high ranking demon, to his apprentice, Squaltaint, a lower-ranking demon. Squaltaint has been tasked to destroy a man named Jordan Fletcher. The book is a way to look into the mind of the enemy, like reading the enemy’s mail.

This book is seemingly a very capable sequel to “Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis. Both books are worth a read. I am going to share a few quotes with you from Lord Foulgrin’s letters as they speak to what we looked at on Sunday.

The book begins like this:
“If Jordan Fletcher wasn’t happy, it was only because he needed something else- someone else or someplace else. All his life, happiness has been just one step around the corner. He’d spent his life chasing around that next corner… And the next and the next and the next. Jordan never realized that all the time he’d been hunting happiness, someone had been hunting him.”

Below are some excerpts:
(Before you read these, please keep in mind that these are quotes written by one demon to another. The Tyrant this demon mentions is God. When this demon mentions sludgebags he’s referring to humans.)

“…To get you started, here are Foulgrin’s rules of the Sting:
1. Never lose sight of your goal- Fletcher’s enslavement.
2. Find just the right bait, tailor-made for him. Be sure the hook is well hidden.
3. Use as many lures as you can. He may pass on 1 but bite on the next or spend his life moving from one to the other.
4. Make him promises and actually keep a few now and then, so he doesn’t catch on to the setup.
5. Tempt your prey with what he wants to have, but give him what you want him to have. Lure him, coddle him, reassure him. All will be well, even as he fatten him for the Lord Satan’s altar.”

High command has reiterated our commitment to making children our first priority. Kill them outright. Abandon them to the streets. Subject them to every form of abuse in Homes. Make them fatherless, but be careful to close their ears to the Tyrant’s seductive invitation to be their father. Drugs, prostitution, and pornography are ideal instruments to hurt the brats, indirectly and directly. And don’t forget one of the most effective forms of child abuse: Parents giving their children whatever they want.

“If you must be a Christian, make him a moderate one, the kind who makes sure he ‘doesn’t go overboard’ or ‘Get radical’ or ‘Go to extremes’. Let his Christianity be one more category of his life, alongside business, sports, and hobbies. If that’s all it is, it’ll do us little harm and enemy little good.”

If you must know the reason you did not read about my exploits is things didn’t go as planned. This Barbara, unexpectedly, was under protection. The Ghost indwelt her. A warrior defended her. While it’s true the enemy sometimes lets us have access to them, even when He does He often turns it around, twists it and draws them closer to Himself. We followed her in the shadows and every time it looked like an opportunity, a sludgebag came out of nowhere, one of them was an enemy warrior disguised as a street vendor… the woman was oblivious to it all… I couldn’t lay a finger on her. Humiliating.

“The Tyrant is aware of our schemes and desires the vermin to be aware of them. By declaring war on our schemes He admits how effective they are.  Your job is simple, Squaltaint, keep Fletcher from putting on this armor! The enemy gives them no armor to protect their back. As long as they face us with a raised shield and sword, we cannot defeat them. But when they put down their guard, we can move in for the kill.
 The best strategy is twofold. First, convincing them the kingdoms of light and darkness can maintain a detente, a peaceful coexistence. Second, minimize your frontal assaults, and use cunning and trickery. Subtlety. Deception. Disguise. That way you can keep him from recognizing the reality of the spiritual warfare going on about him.”

What jumps out at you from these quotes?

Have a great week everyone and may God’s power and peace be with you all!!!

Pastor Ryan



God is Great

Hello SNC brothers and sisters.
We just finished our series, “Let’s Talk About God: 5 Essential Things to Understand About God.” I truly hope The Lord blessed you as we reflected on truths about who HE is!

Now it is time for us to move ahead and begin our new series, “Battle Ready.” You may remember that we’ve been looking at the fact that in Christ we are all meant to be ministers. Each of us has a part to play in the massive movement of the Kingdom of God on planet earth!

One of the biggest issues for us is: We have an enemy who wants to destroy us and to destroy any part we might take in what God is doing.

There are 2 ideas this upcoming series is built upon:

1. We are born into and live in a war.

2. We are either ready for it or we are not.

I’ve been very excited about this series for some time but I must admit the battle within me has been fierce and severe, confirming to me that the enemy does not want us to talk about this. But we will!

PLEASE IN PRAYER FOR THIS SERIES. Please pray for me, as the battle has been very intense. Please pray for our worship band, our small groups, and for the Sunday morning worship services. That the name of Jesus will be lifted high and that the enemy will NOT be granted entry into our midst. Please pray that God would open our hearts and minds to whatever He would wish to show us.

This is going to be a very intense series but there is wonderful potential. We’re going to talking about healing things, freeing things, empowering things, and most importantly we are going to declare together the name and authority of Jesus Christ over our lives! I’m looking forward to our Sunday morning services. There are going to be some awesome things ahead!

-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

On October 6th I am going to be out of town. I have been given the wonderful privilege of going to a “Wild at Heart Boot Camp” in Colorado. This is a 5 day, intense, prayer, healing, warfare, masculinity, ooo-Ra retreat being led by Ransomed Heart Ministries!
What does this mean for SNC when I’m gone? I have invited a good friend of mine, who also happens to be my spiritual director, to come speak on the power of prayer in the midst of warfare. Cameron Hedges is a graduate from Biola and Talbot Theological Seminary in Biblical Studies and in Spiritual Direction and Soul Care. He is a former pastor, and a licensed spiritual director. Most importantly, he is a man who deeply loves Jesus and loves to help people in their own journey with Christ.
I’m very excited for my dear brother to be here to share with you all.
Get ready to be Battle Ready!

May God grant you His peace and power this week,

Ryan
 



God is Joyful

Hello everyone!
This week’s 2nd Look involves several simple questions to ponder.

What if the beautiful things, the pleasurable things, the joyous things of this world are all meant to point us back to a God who is joyful and wonderfully artistic in all He does?

What in my life that brings me joy didn’t have to be that way? It’s that way because God made it to be so.

How do I enjoy God as I enjoy these wonderful things?

Think and pray about these things. This week may God grant you wonder, and peace that are found only next to Him!

Pastor Ryan



God is Mysterious

Hello everyone!

On Sunday we discussed the mysteriousness of God. To continue with that thought I invite you to read and reflect on Isaiah 6:1-8.

What do you find in this passage that is mysterious?
Why does Isaiah react the way he does?
Why is he so terrified?  

Imagine what you are reading in this passage as if you were in the room. What might you feel?

Take some time this week to reflect on God’s mysterious existence, nature, holiness and love for us.

May God grant you his peace this week!
Pastor Ryan