2nd look

What Does Jesus Want For Christmas?

Hello everyone-

The question we left open this week is – “What Does Jesus Want For Christmas?”

We focused on 2 things
To treat others justly and with kindness and compassion. To help others – to meet needs – to love – to go beyond just mere words – but let our gratitude for Jesus overflow in acts of love to others.
Maybe what Jesus would love is simply to have more of us this holiday season. Maybe it could be as simple as 5 minutes a day of pure – undistracted time with God. I would be willing to bet you that if you did this – that over time you might want more. You might move to 10 or even 15 minutes! It’s amazing how much this can become some of the sweetest time of our day. Why? Because deep down in ways we don’t completely understand – we need it. Maybe this isn’t just a great gift to give Him – but to us as well..

This week, I’d like to invite you to keep considering this question – to take time if you have kids, to sit down and discuss this with them. If you are a grandparent – ask your grandkids or invite them to do something with you. If you are a kid, or a single person; maybe consider doing something with your friends.

This could literally be the most meaningful thing of your entire holiday season!

But please don’t forget this. Sometimes the greatest gifts aren’t big extravagant things – but they come in moments where we are at the grocery store; or walking down the street and God gives us a chance to really listen to someone; or to meet a need. All it takes sometimes is for us to be looking for the opportunities the Lord brings to us.

I pray you have a wonderful week! I am so grateful for you guys. May God bless you!

Pastor Ryan

Every Interruption Is An Opportunity

This Christmas season; we can become weighed down with all we have to do. It’s no coincidence that the holidays are listed by many people as one of the most stressful times of year. Inevitably – what happens is we get interrupted. Things go wrong – issues arise; something fails to work the way we want; and even more stress can be created. But the thing I really hoped people walked away from Sunday with was this idea that every interruption can be an opportunity – to return to God. To accept that He is not surprised; to re-affirm that we are His servants; and to look for His will in the midst of the interruption.

My true hope is that you will encounter God in the midst of your holiday season and that maybe in those moments when things aren’t going right – you might be reminded He is here; He’s in control; and He may have something for you.

This week, I’d like to give you an invitation. Interrupt yourself. Maybe set a timer on your phone – and when the alarm goes off – find a quiet place and listen to some quiet Christmas music – or just get alone and take some time to pray. Interrupt yourself – give it shot. You might find it is the most sacred part of your day – and holiday season!

Have a wonderful week my friends!

Pastor Ryan

Sacrifice the Good for the Better

Hello SNC friends and family:
I once took a class in seminary on preaching. My professor used to say: “Your sermon is only as good as the stuff you left on the chopping floor.” What he meant was – you can tell how good your sermon is by judging the stuff you left out of it. If the stuff you left out of the sermon is good – then the stuff you put in, must be even better! There are two premises in this thought.
You need to leave stuff out of your sermon. You cannot put everything in there. Some stuff must be left out…
You can’t only leave the garbage – for the sermon to be great – you will also likely need to leave some good stuff out too!

This is really hard for me! This may actually be one of my greatest challenge as a preacher. I want to include everything – even the stuff that isn’t that great. But sometimes you gotta just say no!

This may be one of the biggest issues we face with the holidays. For some reason – it’s just harder to say “no” at this time of year. No to buying gifts we can’t afford; “no” to taking an extra slice of chocolate Santa Claus cake; “No” to that party – “No” to the shopping malls. And yet it can often be our inability to say “No” that robs us of joy this Christmas season.

In our move to return our gaze to the baby; there is often going to be a decision that needs to be made; something we inevitably will have to say: “No” to, and it may not even be a bad thing. The hardest stuff to say “no” to tend to be good things; but sometimes we need to sacrifice good things in order to focus on the great.

So here are some questions:
What are some practical and simple ways for me to return my gaze to Jesus this holiday season; to really enjoy the Christmas story?
What things might I need to say “No” to; that might even be good things, but they rob me of the Great?

Please keep in mind – this isn’t about making you a slave at Christmas to some new way of living… If you don’t want to make changes; don’t. But if you are like me and somewhere along the way you’ve found it’s so easy to lose the joy of Christmas; maybe it’s time to reexamine your approach to the whole thing. Or maybe you are looking to change some things up. Sometimes change can be healthy, fun and refreshing. For me, I often find I need to say no to good things – in order to be able to pursue the great.

May the Lord bless you this week

Pastor Ryan

Barrier Busters

Overcoming The Barriers
This last weekend we looked at the 4 barriers that often stand in the way between us and accepting/following Jesus. Here they are:
1) Inflexibility
2) Misunderstanding
3) Arrogance
4) Defensiveness or other emotional reasons.

These are not easy barriers to overcome and the reality is – we do a great disservice to simply tell someone: “Get over it.” Each one of these issues has no easy fix. Let me expand this a little bit. In the issue of “inflexibility”: We not only have to realize we are being inflexible (which takes a long time for me… đŸ™‚ ), but we also then need to become willing to flex; and then understand how to flex; and then actually choose to flex… There are alot of steps to overcoming inflexibility and this is not just unique to this barrier. Each of them have challenges. So how do we overcome barriers?
I’m going to give you three crucial barrier busters… This doesn’t guarantee breaking barriers will be easy – but I’ve seen these be very effective in doing so… Here they are:

3 Barrier Busters
— Prayer:
David prays: “Search me oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts; see if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in your way everlasting.” I recently read an article about prayer where the author gave a super helpful metaphor. They wrote that often times we view prayer like a boat a hundred yards off shore. The boat is lashed to shore by a rope tied to a tree on land. Prayer; the way we often view it; is like us being in the boat, pulling on the rope forcing the land to come to us. But of course that is silly and incorrect. When we pray we don’t force the land to us but rather the pull the rope and the boat comes closer to shore. Prayer doesn’t bring God closer to our heart and desires; rather it brings us closer to God’s heart and desires.
There is a temptation to view prayer as a game, or some kind of optional thing in the Christian life – when in reality it is absolutely essential to us as Christians. The barriers in our hearts are often unremovable without prayer. The broken things are unfixable. It may all begin with David’s prayer. “Oh Lord search me for those barriers and lead me in your way everlasting!!!”

— Look For The Next Step:
Sometimes when we think of our journey with God – we think of a huge treasure map. God leads us to different destinations and each turn in the road leads us to who we ultimately become. This is true… BUT… God rarely if ever gives us the map. He only tends to give us the next step to take. When we come across a barrier in our life with God – we need only look to the next step. We don’t have all the answers or resurces to defeat this thing right now – we only have the next step to take. Maybe the next step is simply to admit we don’t have things all figured out – or to admit we need help – or to admit that this behavior is destructive. Maybe the next step is a specific behavior – or a course direction change in our life… God rarely gives us the whole game plan. He usually only gives us the next step.

— Get Grounded, In God’s…..
The biggest challenge for me, when it comes to following God beyond my barriers – has been repeatedly; I mistrust Him. Deep down, I don’t think He actually knows or wants what is best for me. I still trust myself more than Him. For some of us we need to get grounded in God’s wisdom; or His love for us; or His power. We need to be reminded that no matter what happens, His way is best for us. That requires that we are grounded in what the Word of God has told us about Him. When I feel uncomfortable in life; like God has abandoned me; I need to be reminded of Jesus’ words to His disciples that say: “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age…” When I am feeling shame; I need to be reminded of God’s great love for me. When it seems that God is calling me to humble myself; I need to be reminded of 1 Peter 5:5-6 that says:
“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Sometimes the greatest barriers in our life – can be overcome simply by being strengthened by the promises and truth of God in our lives…

As we, as Christians, journey with God; we will encounter barriers; hindrances; walls that push us away from Him and His leading in our lives. I pray God will bless you this week and if you encounter one of these barriers; I pray these three barrier busters will help you mightily.

May God bless you all.
Pastor Ryan

The Gospel says it All

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.” – 1 Corinthians 15:1
Something happens to me quite often. I forget. I lose sight of the gospel. There’s a danger to this. Without the good news of Jesus Christ, Christianity becomes another religion. We create rules and try to please God on our own efforts. And we’re never really sure if things are ok between us and God. There is no security . . .

When a church loses the gospel it runs the risk of becoming the temple all over again. A leafy fig tree that advertises to everybody that we have what the world needs – But when you get close you find there is no fruit. We appear to be thriving but we are fruitless . . .

We must build this church upon the gospel. At the end of this week’s service, I shared a song that beautifully teaches the gospel. Click here if you would like to hear it again.

Have a wonderful week everybody!
Pastor Ryan

Fear & Ambiguity

Hello SNC friends!
What is holding us back?
That’s the question we ended the sermon with on Sunday. I’d like to share with you the two reasons that hold me back from joining Jesus in the mission…

1) Fear
2) Ambiguity.

1- Fear… In the past for me – this has been the biggest issue. For some reason I was afraid. I was afraid of being ridiculed or persecuted. I was afraid of being belittled. I was afraid of being stumped by somebody’s question. Often times – I have fears that are centered around a belief that exists for me deep within my heart – that in reality, if I go out and share the gospel – I’ll be doing it alone. I’ll be doing this with my own wits – my own charm – my own ability to persuade; and yet what was clear to the early disciples was that Christ was with them and that his authority and power were the most important things. Yet fear persists for me. It does help me to remember that I am not alone and that even when I say all the “right” things – the outcomes are still in God’s hands…

I can be afraid, but my prayer has been to be able to overcome my fear with boldness and compassion. I think this is a dangerous prayer. God will answer this – and you can bet the answer will be – “Yes… you bet… you got it… So glad you asked.” But let me warn you – if you do pray this – there will certainly be a moment where you will have an opportunity to take a step beyond your fear.

No way – Ryan isn’t afraid! Is he really? Yea… all the time… I’m even afraid when I preach!!!! But God allows me to take steps of faith and the great part is to see Him use me in those moments. It builds my faith, not in myself – but in Him… You can’t be brave unless you’re afraid. I don’t always win in this – but I’m finding when I step beyond my fear – God does some cool stuff…

2- Ambiguity…. This one has been particularly nasty in how it messes with me. “Ambiguous” means “unclear, not exact.” For me, I’ve had a great deal of ambiguity towards the calling of Christ, especially in believing that this calling is truly better than anything else the world has to offer. I’ve read Jesus’ words: “I came that they might have life and they might have it to the full…”

During my life I haven’t always deep down believed those words are true. I’ve wrestled with the question: Is this really better than anything else? Is living life with God, out on the Dangerous Edge of Things – really better than the American dream? Is it better than living for pleasure or comfort?

It’s taken me years to “Buy in,” I’ve spent a great deal of time ambiguous, or ambivalent about the calling of God. I’ve often been confronted with this attitude in my heart. Sometimes I actually think the kingdom of God is not as good as anything this world has to offer!!!! This has kept me on the sidelines. Thank God for His patience and continued wooing to me – to call me away from this ambiguity and to show me how wonderful it is to live this adventure with Him!

So what is holding you back? You know that God loves you right? He hasn’t given up on you. The things that are holding us back won’t just evaporate over night. It will take a while – but He loves you! Let me invite you to pray about this and offer whatever comes to mind, to God. Ask Him to take these things that hinder you and lead you in His way everlasting. Receive His love for you. Then look for opportunities to step beyond the things that hold you back. Take a baby step and see what God will do. You might be surprised! đŸ™‚
I can’t wait to see what God will do with us!

Have a great week everybody!
Pastor Ryan

Fish anyone?

Hello Everyone,
For this week’s 2nd Look I want to show you an excerpt from a film that has literally been used by God to lead thousands to Christ. This week we look at the scene where Peter is led by Jesus to go fishing.
Whenever I read this scene in the Bible – I am so struck by the emotion of Peter. He encounters the miraculous – he comes face to face with God and he realized he is not worthy to be near this man, Jesus. So he tells Jesus to leave him. But God’s grace is so powerful. Do you notice – Jesus doesn’t say” “You’re right – you are a dirt bag.” He doesn’t deny that Peter has sinned either. So in Jesus’ silence there is admission that Peter is accurate He has sinned – but at the same time – there isn’t condemnation. He doesn’t say anything about Peter’s past. Rather He redefines Peter completely: “come with Me and I will make you a fisher of men…”
When we encounter the grace of God; it’s not just a moment that says: “You’re ok – it’s going to be alright” … a grace encounter does more than this – it REDEFINES us!!! Peter’s life would never be the same after that. His destiny would be forever altered. His character would be slowly transformed. That is what God wants to do with each one of us. He is not just saying: “It’s ok – don’t be afraid – You’s you’ve sinned but I love you …” He is also saying: “I’m redefining who you are … you look at yourself as a nobody but I say you are my beloved; my co-heir; a warrior for my kingdom… You say you are a sinner – and I say you are clean; spotless; holy and set apart for a purpose…” Everyday – we wake up to God’s grace that defines us. In many ways – we are all like Peter – kneeling before Him asking Him to leave – and Jesus looks at us and says: “Follow me – and I’ll make you fishers of men!” Amen, hallelujah. Thank you Jesus!!!

Pastor Ryan

Breaking Barriers

Hello SNC Folks!

For this week’s 2nd look, I’m going to share something that didn’t make the sermon. Have you ever heard of musicians making an album? Often times they need to pick 10 – 12 songs to put on the album but this means there are some songs that have to get left off for one reason or another. Then years later they release an album of unreleased material. What I’m about to share with you is like that unreleased material. I love what I’m about to share with you – but because of time I just couldn’t put this in… So here is the unreleased material from last week’s sermon!!!

God’s kingdom knows no boundaries – no barriers! As we watch Jesus live the kingdom we see He lives a life that breaks these barriers and I believe if we want to be used by Him we have to go with Him and do the things He does. Which invites the question: “How does He do it?” I’m glad you asked…:)
Jesus technique is breaking barriers:
1. Plants Himself in enemy territory – Jesus constantly goes beyond the barriers. He goes where people say He cannot go. He will march into the middle of enemy territory and begin building the kingdom. This statement is true: If we want to join Jesus and build the kingdom – it will often be “Out there.” I like to call it “Life on the dangerous edge of things.” When following Christ in kingdom building – it is most often outside our four walls. It’s going into the world and setting up shop where the people are…
2. Shows His Power – Jesus shows who He is through His teaching and His power. In the story of the Samaritan woman – He shows His power through sharing with her knowledge He couldn’t possibly know. I have been coming to believe and be convinced that this world needs Christians not to be “all talk.” At some point action and power need to be seen. As Christians we are told that each of us has been gifted by the Holy Spirit to build up the church. Are you aware of the ways God has gifted you for service? As a church are we content with being powerful in words but powerless in every other way? Jesus met real needs. He was good news before and while He shared good news. I believe we are called to be as well…
3. Speaks the beautiful truth – Jesus teaches the beautiful good news. He doesn’t make excuses, nor water it down. He’ll make bombastic claims He’ll say offensive things sometimes. But His teachings also bring freedom and hope to many who hear it. With the Samaritan woman – Jesus makes bombastic claims and He teaches some offensive truths – but in the end – what He teaches will bring salvation to this woman! Are we truly proud of the gospel? Are we willing to share it? When we do – we often experience the power of God. If we refuse – we don’t.
John Wimber often taught his congregation that Faith is spelled R-I-S-K? Ultimately it comes down to this. Are we willing to follow Jesus beyond the barriers? Are we willing to R-I-S-K? Have a great week everybody.

Pastor Ryan

Resist Temptation…sure…but how?

Hello Everyone,
On Sunday I mentioned I would share with you all Jesus’ way of resisting temptation. From the Showdown story in Matthew chapter 4 – we see Jesus doing three things and in many ways – we can do the same to resist temptation when it comes to us:

Jesus shows us how to resist temptation:
1) Cling to Power and Presence of God’s Spirit
One of the most crucial weapons in our battle against temptation – is to cling to God’s power and presence. We live like He is there. We make decisions based on this fact. Some of us love to sing as we drive in the car. We have our music bumping and thumping – screaming out worship music and darnit; if we don’t sound good I don’t know what does!!! I don’t know about you – but I may be singing when suddenly someone pulls up next to me in their car and my natural inclination is to stop singing, or sing quietly. Why? Maybe it’s the idea that someone can see or hear me now – I’m not alone, I’m being watched… And then what do I do when they pull away??? Go back to singing!!! I think sometimes we live as if God isn’t really interested or present when in reality it is quite the opposite. Maybe knowing He’s there might slow us down or keep us from sinning; like knowing others are present makes me stop singing… Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert – His responses to Satan were very God centered. He was living like God was present! We also live in God’s power and presence through prayer. This is perhaps one of the most powerful weapons to battle temptation. Prayer invites God’s power and focuses us on God’s presence. When tempted – stop, drop and pray! First thing we do is cling to God’s power and presence.
In 1 Corinthians 6:13 the apostle Paul says: Be careful or you may fall for no temptation has seized you except that which is common to man – but God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear – but WHEN you are tempted he will provide you a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Do you see the presence of God in this verse? When I encounter temptation one of the biggest questions for me is: “what is my exit? Look for it… God where is the exit you have provided for me?” God is faithful – there is always an exit. Usually that exit is to run first to Him then to your brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. To confess your temptation to them and ask for their help and prayers that you would make the decision God is calling you to make. This is where the body of Christ is really powerful – but unfortunately – many of us live completely ostracized from this. We don’t know the healing power of being part of the body of Christ because we never really let it do its job!!!!! Yet this is so often one of the exits God powerfully and faithfully provides. Look for the exit He provides and live like He’s there – because He is….

2) Cling to God’s Word and Will
Jesus’ response to all the temptations was directly from the Scriptures… He used the law to refute the false teaching and temptations of Satan. Why do so many Christians fall to temptation? Often times somewhere along the way – they begin to rationalize… Is that really that important to God? Really? I know the Bible might say that – but did it really mean me? Or they may simply not know God’s will for them on the subject. They’ve listened more to the culture than to the Scriptures. This can have devastating effects. Satan wants to tell lies and twist logic. He will take Scriptures and use them to help you rationalize sin. Just like he did in the temptation story. We must be dedicated to knowing the Scriptures and living upon them. Without this – we are doomed.. Truly…. doomed…
3) Resist the Devil.
James says: Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7 Jesus first submitted himself to God and then resisted the Devil. Often times we look at the second half of this verse – resist the devil and he will flee. It is very true – but not if we aren’t submitted to God. Let’s be honest friends – there is nothing you bring to the table that the devil fears. He doesn’t fear you. He fears God alive in you – empowering you to resist him and do damage for the kingdom of God!!!! The first step to resisting the devil is submitting to God’s grace, His leading, His call, His purposes. Your life is His now! The promise then is that we can resist the devil and he will flee!!!

I hope these three powerful behaviors will serve to help you resist temptation as they have for me. We can pretty much expect for the battle to come to us. Satan doesn’t want you to follow Jesus – to be fully alive and empowered – set loose to build the kingdom. He wants you hobbled and critically wounded. He’s going to tempt you – are you ready??

Pastor Ryan

Are You Gonna Go My Way?

Hello SNC friends!
This past week was our final stop in the Sermon On The Mount. We saw Jesus ask us this question: “Are you gonna go my way?” We spoke about the difference between the wide gate-wide road and the small gate-narrow road. Recently, my children and i have been listening to this song by a man named Lecrae. It’s a song where he calls out to young artists like himself who have bought into the “wide road” mentality and they don’t see the damage it causes. We are called by Jesus to follow Him – but it means we often will be walking a different road than the rest of the world.

So I’m going to do something a little different today. I’m going to share this song with you all. That’s not different; I’ve done this before. What’s different is that type of music I’m sharing with you. This is a rap song. Lecrae, in my opinion; is one of the best rappers in the business today and what’s even more awesome? He’s a Christian making Christian raps that are uplifting and wholesome. My kids absolutely love him. Now I know some of you do not enjoy rap music. I’d like to ask you to consider Lecrae as a modern day poet – and he is incredibly talented.

As you listen to the song – you may notice Lecrae is speaking out against the rap industry selling lies to the kids growing up in the city. They are selling the “wide road.” What is the “wide road” life you have been enticed with? Is there a path in life that Jesus is calling you to follow Him but it’s difficult???

I know this song may not be your cup of tea. But there is a very powerful message in this song – see if you can find it!
Have a great week everybody,
Pastor Ryan