2nd look

Are You Ready…

Hello everyone!  For today’s 2nd look I want to take some time to reflect on a very popular verse written by Peter. Here it is:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.                                        — 1 Peter 3:15-16

When it comes to being someone who can share the gospel – the question I often ask my self is: Am I prepared to give a defense for my faith? Am I prepared to explain what it is I truly believe and why I believe it? Can I share with others just what my story with Christ is? This is extremely important for us in the process of sharing the gospel. I think many of us avoid sharing the gospel because we are afraid of looking foolish – so we go to the other extreme; we determine that sharing the gospel is not for us, (someone else can do it), and we simply never prepare our minds and hearts for this. This is a problem because we see Peter encouraging us to be prepared to give an answer.
I’d like to ask you ponder several questions that will help you prepare yourself to give an answer:

1) Could you explain what the gospel is, in clear terms, if you are asked?
Here’s a quick explanation: Jesus is God; He died for you and He rose from the dead. Turn to Him, and you will be set free.
2) What are some of the most difficult questions you’ve heard critics of Christianity ask? Have you ever researched how to answer them in these questions? There are some very simple websites you can look up, and please keep in mind some great books. If you have questions you want to research, please contact me, I may have some books and websites that I can point you too. This kind of thing is a passion for me! I love to share this with others. And I cannot tell you how much it has helped me when I share the gospel – to have thought through these questions. It has also enriched my own worship of the Lord – and given me a great sense of peace when I wrestle with doubt. Yes I am human and I have moments of doubt. When those moments hit, I go back to the questions and answers I have studied, I remember God’s faithfulness in my life. This all helps!
3) Could you describe what knowing Jesus has meant to your life? Critics can attack the philosophy side of Christianity – they can attack the historicity and the ethics – but it’s very difficult for someone to deny your experience. Often times this will speak more loudly than all the philosophical arguments for Christianity.  When we share of our faith – it’s important to be able to give our testimony – do you think you could share it quickly and clearly?  Here are some things you could address – who you were before you knew Christ – how you came to know Him – and what your life is like now.
4) Are you bathed in prayer? The truth is nothing you say can change someone’s heart towards the Lord. This is entirely up to the work of God in their heart. When we leave the house are we bathed in prayer?

These are some powerful questions that will help you get prepared to give an answer for why you have placed your faith in Jesus. I pray God will bless you as you wrestle with them.
One last suggestion: practice. It may sound silly, but I will often have practice discussions with nobody when I’m driving somewhere. I’m just talking through my testimony – and how I would share my faith. I pretend there is someone who is genuinely interested to hear what I have to say and I have a dialogue with them. Sure it looks weird to the person sitting in the other car who sees me – but I’m getting practice in. Sometimes we just need the practice; and in the end please remember – God is going to speak through you and do whatever He wishes. This is bigger than your or my ability, and God is faithful. He has all the authority and He has not left you alone. Take courage my friend; we have a world to reach!

Have a blessed week!

Pastor Ryan



What’s The Deal With Church?

As a Christian, you are meant to be in close relationship with the church. When you became a Christian, one of the first things to happen was you were placed in the church. The church, in its original design, is meant to be a family, a lifeline, a place of healing, of challenge; and of growth for you. It is also a place for you to connect with God’s mission for your life.
With all these things in mind – how do we deepen our connection with the church? I want to give you two quick suggestions.

  1. Get Involved.

Sometimes we think that the bulk of our Christian growth will occur when we come to church on Sunday mornings. This is actually not true. Sure Sunday mornings are great and can help us grow – the reality is – much of our transformation with God happens Sunday afternoon to Saturday night. It happens in the context of relationships. Getting involved at church gives us opportunities to keep learning – to get to know other believers and let them in to our lives – and to use the gifts God has given us! So how do I get involved?

  • Small groups.  I highly suggest getting into a small group.  This is where the church is actually MOST powerful. You learn, you get known, you get challenged. Small groups are amazing. At the beginning of next year we are beginning a new small group approach called: “Next Step Groups.” I will tell you more about it in the weeks to come – but these groups have potential to be Very powerful!  Maybe you could be a part of a small group – or host one?
  • Volunteer. Did you know that church volunteerism is at an all time low all over the country? This is a shame for two reasons – 1) The church needs help and 2) If we don’t volunteer we don’t use our spiritual giftedness and we miss out on a huge blessed part of being a Christian. As a church we have many areas of need – children’s, youth, worship, maintenance, sound team, prayer warriors, visitation experts, and much more.  The question is this?

What interests and passions has God put upon my heart? 
How do I use these things to bless the church?

Those gifts, those passions weren’t placed there on accident. God has wired you this way for a specific purpose. Volunteer and see how He uses you to do eternal things!

  • Other events and outreaches…. Many times at church, we have events to build community – to do outreaches, or to simply help us grow as Christians. Consider coming to some of this stuff. It really helps you get to know people and can enrich your experience.

2. Get Open.
I think often times the church is simply not able to be THE CHURCH because it’s a closed space. We try to protect ourselves because we’ve been hurt – but in the end we protect ourselves from the very thing that heals us – others. In the church – we are experts at being together but alone. I want to suggest two questions that you can ask each other that can change the way we do life together… These are questions that are key to healing and transformation – and yet we rarely ask them. I think we as a church need to get these questions into our rotation. Are you ready?  Here they are:

  1. What is God showing you….? What is God doing in your life? Where is He leading you?
  2. ….And what are you going to do about it? What’s the next step. Now you see God doing some stuff in you, what are you going to do in response?

These two questions can literally change the way we relate to each other and they can ultimately be a source of deep community and healing for each other. This is real stuff here. These questions help open us up. But they are risky. We need to be willing to go deep. If we do open up – the church can become a place unlike anywhere else in the world. It can become…The Kingdom of God coming to life in our midst!
I’d like to invite you to consider these things with me this week. May you be blessed to see, be reminded, and experience God’s love and mercy freely given to you every moment of every day!

Pastor Ryan



What Do You Really Think About Prayer?

Hello everybody-

I want to ask a simple question this week.

What do you really think about prayer?

I’m a firm believer that we live in line with our true beliefs; our deep down, honest to God, ACTUAL beliefs. So the question I often wrestle with is: “What do I really believe about prayer?”

   Do I truly believe it is effective? Deep down – do I think it makes no difference at all whether I pray or not? Do I truly believe my prayers are heard? Does God really care about my prayers? 

    These are great questions that actually impact my prayer life. In the end, the way you answer this major question of what you really think about prayer – will impact if you pray or not. Once you come to grips with what you truly believe; the next questions are – “what does the Bible say about prayer?” and Do I know anybody whose experience with prayer verifies what I see the Bible teaching about it?” 

   These questions have meant a great deal to my prayer journey. I’d like to invite you this week to wrestle with this issue. To consider it. What does prayer mean to you? What does it truly, deep down mean… to.. you….

 

Have a blessed week everybody!

 

Pastor Ryan



What Is The Gospel?

whatdoesitmean2BChristian?

Hello everyone!

Last night Deron, Miriam and I went to do a visitation of someone from WOWJAM and we ended up seeing their entire family come to Christ!!! It just hit me again- how powerful the Gospel is and how powerfully our God is working behind the scenes to prepare peoples’ hearts for salvation: your neighbors, co-workers- friends- family members… God is working!!!!

 

This last Sunday we talked about what the Gospel is. Do you remember?

I’m going to say it like it is:

Jesus is God

He died for you

And He Rose from the dead

Turn to Him

And you will be set free.

 

Would you do something for me this week? Repeat this to yourself. learn it. If you want to go deeper- look up scriptures that tell us more about each point. But in the end- memorize this very simple picture of the Gospel, and then pray God would give you someone to share it with. The best way to learn the Gospel- is to share it with others. Have a great week everyone!

 

Pastor Ryan



Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

Does the Bible condone Slavery?

It doesn’t seem to say “No” to slavery – so it must be condoning it right? Slavery still exists in the world today – should Christian be people who crusade against slavery or should we just let it go?

These are great questions, and something I’d like to address in our 2nd Look today.

The difficulty with answering a question like this is that once again there seems to be a million miles between the ancient world and today. Slavery in the ancient world looked different than we understand it today. We need to be careful when we consider a question like this – to take their context into mind.

I’d like to share two website links with you that really addresses this question quite well. I have two reasons in doing this –
They address this issue very well and say it as well or better than I could.
I think very highly of these sites and believe they can be very helpful resources for you with a variety of questions.
Here are the links.

http://www.gotquestions.org/bible-slavery.html
http://compellingtruth.org/Bible-slavery.html

May the Lord enable you to experience His grace and peace this week!

Pastor Ryan



God Is Our Heavenly Father

God is our heavenly Father.
For some of us that is difficult to understand because our fathers made many mistakes and hurt us. We struggle to understand and see God as our heavenly father apart from how we view our earthly fathers. Make no mistake – God is our heavenly father and the reality is: He is unlike any earthly father we’ve known.
Did you know God is still parenting you? How? I’d like you to take some time this week to read this passage and consider that this is a description of how God loves and parents you….
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails…..

This is a beautiful picture of how I believe God parents us. He is patient. He is kind. He does not envy nor does He boast. He doesn’t dishonor us, isn’t self seeking…  You see what I mean?
Isn’t it wonderful to know that God is unlike our earthly fathers? That He loves us perfectly, and it is that love that makes it possible for us to love like He does?
May you experience the grace and peace of Christ today!

Pastor Ryan

 



We Love Because He First Loved Us

“We love because He first loved us…”
1 John 4:19.

This verse has been haunting me over the last few months especially with my Bell’s Palsy. From the very beginning of the onset of Bell’s, I heard very loudly from the doctors that I was likely overstressed and needed to rest while I worked through this illness… I had one doctor who told me that this was my body telling me it couldn’t keep doing the things it was; that something needed to change.

Following doctors orders I went to an acupuncturist when my family was visiting Mammoth. As I lay there on the table – this woman putting needles in my face, feet, hands and head; she asked me a very powerful question: “Ryan if stress is part of the issue – which I believe it is – what is causing you stress?”
I began to talk it through with her. It felt ironic to me; this woman was clearly a Buddhist; didn’t subscribe to my faith in Jesus but she had a deep peace about her and somehow God was going to use her to minister to me. At one point in the conversation she said: “Ryan, I just think that all this pressure you put on yourself; that maybe you carry for other people – is really never going to be lightened until you learn to let other people go and realize the person whom you are really trying to receive love from is yourself. In the end, the only person who can give you love – is you.”
Upon first glance that sounded fine and all. It had some inspiration to it, something in me related to it – but then I realized that even that was empty. It’s taken years for me to grow to a place where I even like myself. Why would I be looking for love from somebody who I don’t even like or respect? I’m not eternal, I’m not powerful – I’m just a small life living in a small town in a small area of the world. And then the reality is – if loving myself was the key – I would think I’d have figured it out by now. It seems so far away… Something was missing in this. If the key is me just looking in a mirror and saying I love myself and then believing it – that seems easy enough, until I don’t do it well – then can I love myself and accept myself when I cannot love and accept that I love and accept myself?????? It’ so confusing.
Unless, I was never the person I truly needed to receive affirmation and acceptance from. I found myself on that table – a human pin cushion – saying to this young acupuncturist lady – “In my worldview – I think it’s wonderful to love ourselves – but the truth is that ability to love ourselves flows from the reality that we are deeply, truly and perfectly loved by the God who made us. That even in those moments when we are truly human – we fail – we betray – we curse – we stray – that God’s love remains.” Then these words came out of my mouth and they struck home with me: “I guess so much of the weight I carry to please others – the weight I carry to be the best doggone preacher the world has ever seen – the pressure I put on myself to be a perfect father – the pressure I place on myself to say just the right thing to people who are struggling – the pressure I feel to be Jesus even when I can’t – that pressure comes when somehow I lose touch and awareness of the fact that I am loved already; loved perfectly; loved truly and deeply…”
Man that was a huge thought. We both sat there and she said: “That is beautiful – will God love you even when you lose awareness of the fact that He loves you?” I said “Yes”. Then she said – “So I guess to the level you can embrace that truth – is the level you can release some of this weight…”
Why do I say this following up a sermon on marriage? Because we need to be reminded of it every day: WE ARE LOVED! It is this love that inspires us; it frees us; it heals us; it empowers us to love others. To love our spouses.
I’d like to invite you to take some time this week to read 1 John chapter 4:17-21. God’s love for us is hand in hand with our love for others.

Please know that you are loved right now. As a matter of fact, you’ve never been more loved than you are right now. God’s love for you has been written in His mind throughout eternity. He can be nothing towards you but loving. I hope this gives you peace today and brings you freedom. All the stuff we DO must flow from who we ARE –

And YOU ARE LOVED!!!



Defeating Sin In Our Lives

Hello everybody, welcome to this week’s 2nd look!

If you were with us on Sunday you may recall that the sermon was pretty heavy. We were talking about destructive sins that we should seek to avoid and eradicate from our lives.

 

I want to repeat something very clearly. Defeating sin in our lives – especially the ones that are of the nature discussed in Ephesians 5:3-7; is never an overnight thing. It’s a journey. We will have strong moments and weak moments. We will make mistakes but all along the way God will be with us.
The big thing for us as a church is that we not be deceived.  These sins are a big deal and yes – we need to battle against them. So how do we do this? I want to share with you three things that strengthen us for the battle with these sins… These things don’t guarantee that you’ll always defeat the sin – but I do believe these things will put you in a position of strength to wage war and achieve victory and freedom. So what are these three things?

1)Honesty.

Truth has a way of setting us free. Jesus said “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” We must live in truth. In order to see victory in our lives we must be willing to be honest with ourselves, God and others. Sometimes we need to be willing to admit that we have a problem. Some of us need to admit that we ARE the problem. Some of us need to be willing to admit that the way we’ve been approaching things isn’t working and that we need help… Whatever it is – it seems to me the most important changes that lead to victory and growth always begin with honesty. Unfortunately, honesty is often the last thing we want to move towards, but if you want to see more and more strength freedom and victory in your life over these sins, it’s abundantly clear – you must be honest.

2)Strengthening relationships

We cannot get victory without strengthening relationships in our lives. There it is, plain and simple. But what is a strengthening relationship? Here’s some thoughts:
  • It is honest. Folks in these relationships are truly known – the good, the bad and the ugly. They are real with each other and therefore can support each other when they are weak.
  • It celebrates and pushes growth. A strengthening relationship is one where both parties seek to help the other be the very best version of themselves that God wants them to be. They will not settle for each other caving in.  They celebrate and push each other to grow.
  • It is simply there. Folks in a strengthening relationship are known and not alone. This is a relationship where they are doing life near each other. Their families know each other. They are journeying together.
  • It directs back to God. The chief aim in these relationships is for us to grow and deepen in our relationships with God. These friendships inspire this.
Strengthening relationships are absolutely key to finding strength, victory and freedom from the deadly sins in Ephesians 5:3-7. Without them you will fail. I’ve never seen someone succeed in this without these key relationships. The question to ask yourself is: Who fits the bill of what we described above? If you have no one currently fitting that bill – then who could fit that bill?

3)Seeking And Delighting In God.

Folks in recovery groups like to say they are putting their trust in a “higher power.” The greatest power we have is actually not our own. It is the power of God. One of the key components to victory over destructive sin in our life is actually to delight in and seek God; to have a daily relationship with Him that informs and transforms us. It involves reading the Scriptures, prayer and other spiritual disciplines. This can be very helpful for you and very healthy as well. If this is an area of weakness for you; or an area where you feel clueless and at a loss, let me invite you to seek help. There are folks in our church who have a wonderful relationship with the Lord and would be very helpful in getting you on a path with God. This relationship is something Debbi talked about on Sunday – discipleship or Jesus apprenticeship.  However you name it – the basic idea is that this is one person helping another in their relationship with God.  We all need it…

 

In a few months we will be discussing Ephesians 6 – the spiritual warfare section. The truest form of battle against sin and spiritual warfare – involves us putting on the armor of God. You may want to check it out. Read Ephesians 6: 10-18!

 

There is much more to say on this subject but these three things will put you squarely on a pathway that leads to strength victory and freedom. This week – in one of the commentaries I was reading to do research they writer said: “We don’t just fall into holiness.” That really stood out to me. We don’t just slip up; or just stumble along then all of the sudden – wham bam we’re holy! We don’t become an amazing musician because we just had a piano in our house for years and all the great intentions to learn it. At some point we need to be intentional to learn. We don’t just fall into holiness – it is a journey and it takes intention on our parts. We wage war against these sins in our lives by making intentional, even risky choices. It requires bravery but freedom requires nothing less.

Have a great week everybody
And may God strengthen you as you walk with Him and serve Him

Pastor Ryan



Watch Your Language

Hello everyone!
This year I’ve been reading a “One Year Bible.” I have loved being on this incredible journey through the Bible one day at a time. At this point in the year, I am finishing up reading the life and work of king Solomon. Just recently I had an opportunity to read The Proverbs. I’m not sure how familiar you are with the book but I marveled at how many proverbs had to do with the warnings and instruction on how we are to use our language. This was the subject of Sunday’s sermon and so I thought it would be apropos to share with you some of the Biblical proverbs. I’d like to invite you to join me this week in reading these. There is incredible wisdom and insight here – as well as truth. May God bless you this week. Here are the proverbs:
Proverbs (By chapter)
10:11; 10:13-14; 10:18-21; 10:31-32;
11:9-13;
12:17-19; 12:23;
13:1-3;
15:1-4; 15:7;
16:24; 16:27-28;
17:27-28;
18:6-8; 18:21;
19:1;19:5; 19:28;
20:19-20;
21:23;
24:15-16Have a great week everybody!
Pastor Ryan


All The Rage

Hello Everyone,
For the last couple weeks we’ve been talking about how we are to live life together as the body of Christ. How are we to treat each other? What things do we seek to avoid? What do we cling to?
This week we looked at the problem of anger. The direction we get from God in Ephesians 4:26 is that we are to not delay but deal and work through our anger. This isn’t always easy.
One thing I alluded to in the sermon was that our anger is often a spotlight on the things we really hold dear. If we look at the things we get angry about, often times we’ll see, underneath it all – that something we hold dear is threatened. It can be our comfort; a loved one; our safety; our desire to succeed. Sometimes things hurt and we get angry. Sometimes we are frightened and we don’t like to feel that way which induces anger in us.
Think back to the most recent time you’ve been angry. What was it that you were angry about? What happened?
Now think about this….. What did this situation threaten in you? Let me give you an example. My son and I recently had conflict. I got upset with him because he didn’t want to clean his room. Sounds pretty normal. What kid wants to clean their room? He was complaining and I got really upset. Let him have it. I needed to stop and think through what happened. My inner conversation went something like this:

– “Well Ryan, that wasn’t the best response. Why are you so mad?”
– He should be willing to clean his room without making this some big dramatic event! I’m sick of it. It’s not like we are asking him to do something unfair, or unheard of!
– Do you like cleaning your room? Or cleaning anything for that matter?
– No.
– Then why should you think he would love it? After all – he’s just like you.
– I know, I just, don’t want to deal with this right now…
– Why?
– It’s inconvenient, it’s Saturday morning, I just want it to get done so we could go to the orthodontist and then get on with the rest of our very full day.
– So you’re mad because William is acting in a way that is inconvenient to you?
– Are you suggesting that his behavior should be allowed?
– No. But I’m suggesting there may be a more constructive way to help him see that he needs to choose a different behavior. Because you yelling at him isn’t going to get it done – but if you choose a more constructive method – it means you’ll need to be inconvenienced. We both know yelling at William doesn’t get through to him the way sitting with him, asking him questions and reasoning through this does… And we both know that in the end, It usually takes him two to three times as long to get done what you want him to when you are yelling.
– sigh.. you’re right again… thank you inner Ryan
– you’re welcome outer Ryan. 🙂

That’s just a quick example of how our inner conversation can look – it doesn’t have to look that way for you – but there are several things going on in that conversation:
Admitting what really made me angry – (I’m frustrated with Will’s resistance to cleaning willingly)
Admitting what was threatened (My desire for comfort and efficiency)
Admitting William is a child and has every right to hate cleaning as much as I do (Which is trying to see things through his eyes)
Looking at alternatives for my behavior to constructively work through my anger with my son. (Calmly choosing how to direct my anger)
This can all happen in a very short time, or it may take some time to sit down and think this through. I know when my wife and I have conflict that sometimes we need to take a moment to move away from each other – to pray and think through these 4 things I listed above, then we can come back together and work through our conflict. It’s not always easy! Incidentally – I went to William and apologized for the way I expressed my anger then sat down and calmly tried to express what frustrated me. I also asked him this question:

“Will – do you think I enjoy cleaning?”
He said: “I don’t know..”
I said – “I don’t… I hate cleaning. I’d rather do anything in the world than clean. Do you feel the same way?”
“Yes”
“William can you see that if I hate cleaning as much as you do – how it would be frustrating for me to clean up your stuff? I don’t like even cleaning my own stuff!”
“Yea.”

We began to build a connection here and we had a very productive conversation. I wish every conversation went that way! 🙂

My point in all of this is to give you a picture of how I’ve been wrestling with this concept and to maybe give some of you who wrestle with anger – a picture that might be helpful.

Anger has big time destructive potential but it can also be a powerful catalyst for change and good. I pray that it might move us into deeper self understanding; and stronger community – rather than hurt and division.

This week my invitation to you is to consider if you are carrying anger. Maybe you’ve held anger for years. It might be time to consider what was threatened when you were angered and what has kept you holding it for all this time. This may need to be something you discuss with a counselor – or with some good friends whom you know you can trust. I am also happy to meet with you if you need a listening ear to think through some of these things. I’m not a licensed therapist – but I am listening ear, and am here for you.
The truth is, we need to be a community that roots out anger and doesn’t allow it to direct us. I pray for the Lord’s blessing on you this week!

Pastor Ryan