2nd look

Pastor Ryan’s favorite books & articles on Defending the Faith

Lee Strobel: The Case For A Creator
Lee Strobel: The Case For Faith
Lee Strobel: The Case For Christ
Lee Strobel: The Case For The Real Jesus
Paul Copan: Is God a Moral Monster
Paul Copan: How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong
Paul Copan: When God Goes To Starbucks
John Lennox: Gunning For God- Why The New Atheists Are Missing The Mark
John Lennox: God And Stephen Hawking
John Lennox: God’s Undertaker- Has Science Buried God
Gary Habermas: The Case For The Resurrection Of Christ
Gregory Boyd: letter From A Skeptic
C. Stephen Layman: Letters To Doubting Thomas
William Lane Craig: Hard Questions Real Answers
Dr. Steve Kumar: Christianity For Skeptics
Tim Keller: The Reason For God
There are many, many more- I truly hope this can be helpful to you in the days ahead as we take a deeper look at the defense of Christianity!

Anchor – Song for Tough Questions Solid Answers Series

Anchor by Hillsong is the song that Pastor Ryan is using as the anthem for our Tough Questions Solid Answers series. Click here to listen to it.

Merry Christmas!

Hello everyone!!!

For this week’s 2nd look I want to share a song that has been haunting me this Christmas season. Below are the lyrics and the link for the song.
My truest hope for all of you is that this Christmas would not merely be a time of festivities – but also a time of reflection.  May God bless you and have a merry, MERRY Christmas!!!
What Kind of Child
By Evan wickham
In the stillness of this night
all my fears have got me frozen
In this darkness shine your light
I’m not seeing, where i’m going
Then your love broke through like an angel fire
And you burned this heart alive
And I heard your truth, I saw the sign
My hope is born tonight
What kind of child is this, what kind of child is this
even the angels praise him
What kind of child is this; what kind of child is this
In the desert I will rise
As you call me to follow the star
I’ll be looking to the skies
with your promise deep in my heart


What kind of child is this, what kind of child is this
even the Stars shine for him
What kind of child is this; what kind of child is this


Emmanuel, emmanuel
the night is done, the light is come
Now he is the prince of peace
He is conquering the darkness with His light
And He is the risen King
He is leading me from death and into the life
What kind of power is this, what kind of power is this
That even owns the grave
what kind of power is this, what kind of power is this
Emmanuel, emmanuel
emmanuel, emmanuel
The light is come, the night is done
you’ll need to scroll down the page to find the song…  merry christmas everyone!!!
Pastor Ryan

Jesus The Strength

If you were with us last Sunday you may remember we spoke about how Jesus is meant to be our strength; our vitality; our purpose; the change agent in our lives; and our ability to have self control. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. He calls us to remain in Him for apart from Him we can do nothing. This is a pretty large claim. After all – how many people have you known who would earnestly look at you and say: “Follow me for apart from me you can do nothing?” That is a claim of the most audacious order.
But is it true? I think this may be one of the biggest problems the church faces today.  We may sing songs about Jesus and all He has done but we often end up living our lives as if He doesn’t exist. Someone called this: “Practical atheism” not that we don’t believe in Jesus – we just live our day to day lives as if He doesn’t exist. In the 90s there was a band called: “Live.”  They wrote a song called: “Operation Spirit.” One of the lines from the song goes like this:
“Hear alot of talk about this Jesus
A man of love a man of strength
but what a man was 2000 years ago
means nothing at all to me today.
He could’ve been
telling me about my higher self
but he only lives inside my prayer
so what he was may have been beautiful
but the pain is right now and right here.”
What are they saying? Yea sure this Jesus was a neat guy but everything He was means nothing to me today. I’ve got my pain and my life and while this Jesus guy lived a beautiful life – it doesn’t help me in the here and now. Here’s the problem – that is simply not what Jesus claimed. Jesus claimed He was the answer to life’s problems and questions; that apart from Him we could do nothing.
I think “Live” points to an issue I’ve often had in my 39 years connected to the church. I hear a lot of talk and yet have seen few lives changed. I’ve even seen how my life has failed to change even though I’ve gone to church. I wrestled deeply with my journey with God. Is this whole thing real? Are we really different because we know Christ? Have we really found an answer here – or just another set of questions? I began to wrestle with this question: If Jesus is really here – what am I missing? This question hit me hard in college. I looked around me and in me; and saw prayerlessness; a lack of change and this fruit of the Spirit Paul talked about.
“God I don’t want to be here if you’re not.  I want more.  If there is more to have…”
This is when I began to come into contact with many writings and challenging experiences and God has been so good and faithful to begin to show me what it means to have a Christ centered life. He has repeatedly challenged my thinking through the years. Bringing me face to face with the destructive ways I think – and how my mind needs to be transformed – and that this is a slow process. God has repeatedly brought me back to my need for relationship with Him and with His church; And He has stoked a fire in me to Share the Gospel with others and to get out there and do the things Jesus did.  So as my mind and my relationships; and my life changes; it grows to look more and more like Christ. This is what it is meant to be. We are meant to look more and more like Christ. Let me remind you of this Scripture:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  Romans 8:29.
He knew you before time and His plan; that you would be conformed to the image of His Son – that you would look more and more like Jesus.
Isn’t this crazy!!!! Bring it back to Christmas. A baby lying in a manger; so many years ago; was there so you could be brought into a process of becoming more and more like Jesus! To have Jesus as the center and the strength of your life.  Amazing.
Have a great week everybody.  may you find your strength in our precious King Jesus!
Pastor Ryan

Jesus The Hope

That is the major question from last week’s service. We as humans place our hope in all kinds of things. It’s natural for us to do so. Scientists tell us that as organisms we are always trying to achieve a sense of balance and safety in life and that when things get out of whack we fight to get that balance back. They call it “homeostasis.” We often put our hope in things that help us feel balanced; safe or happy because we are constantly seeking homeostasis in the moment.  The interesting thing is just how God doesn’t always seem to be concerned about this. He doesn’t always care to make us feel balanced – safe – or happy. He is in the business of real everlasting hope and that is what Christmas is all about.

It seems so interesting or ironic to think about how real everlasting hope was once found in the form of a baby in the midst of filth and poverty; born in complete anonymity; hunted by ferocity; with every strike against Him – and yet here was the hope of mankind: Fragile; tiny; and lowly. A lot of the stuff we place our hope in tends to be big – advertised; glitzy, glamorous; complete with huge promises, or we have people singing songs about it on the radio. The irony of the Christmas story is how there is none of this here. Hey; even after all this time – the hope of the manger is still easily obscured to us by all the glitz and glamor of Christmas time – yet the eternal everlasting hope of the manger shines more brightly throughout history than any of the things we put our hope in. Ten thousand years from now we will look back not on the 70 or 80 Christmas’s we celebrated – or how successful our stock portfolio was – or how many friends we had on Facebook – or where our kids went to college – or how big our inheritance we that we left for our kids – or if our kids remembered us fondly after we died. No, ten thousand years from now we will look back at that moment in the manger as the moment hope broke into the world – almost unseen – almost unknown – with very little fanfare; but quiet; peaceful even.

This week, my hope is for you to be reminded of the hope of the manger.

Here’s a song for you this week:


Have a great week everybody

Pastor Ryan

Jesus The Humble Servant

Hi Everyone!

I want to thank Dennis for opening the Scriptures with us and taking time to explore a powerful truth about Jesus. He is a humble servant. As a matter of fact – it is often said that the Gospel of Mark is written with the intention to communicate this theme. John Mark wanted to communicate in his gospel that Jesus is a suffering servant and the Messiah. I appreciated Dennis’s point in bringing us back to Philippians. Let me remind you of what Paul says to us in this powerful letter:

Philippians 2:5-11

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.

7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,

8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As we examine just who Jesus is this Christmas – there are some powerful lessons for us to learn and for us to try to emulate. One of these years I’d like to do a series titled:  “How to survive the holidays – with our ______ intact.” This is a great point to emphasize in a series like that. How do we survive with our hearts; heads; souls intact? Make Christmas more about serving Christ and others and less about serving ourselves. Maybe this is a point of emphasis for us this week. How do we keep close to our hearts that Jesus becoming a baby in a manger – and then becoming the sacrificial lamb of God to save us – was an act of service? He served us even though we did nothing to deserve it! Maybe it starts for us – every time we see a manger – or a nativity scene – to be reminded that this is a picture of one of the greatest acts of service the world HAS and WILL ever see.

When we are reminded of the great act of Jesus to serve mankind – to serve us – it is not a far leap for us to be reminded of Paul’s call for us to serve each other. What might it look like for us to seek to serve others this holiday season? To do some specific things to love on others and meet needs.

Lately my children have been writing their christmas gift wish lists. I’m often reminded of how ironic it is – that this is Jesus’ birthday party and we are giving each other presents. Do we give Jesus presents on His birthday? Well – that’s an interesting question. I think Jesus may be one of the toughest people to shop for ever! How do you give a guy who has the whole world in His hands a present??? But then again – didn’t He make it clear what He would love for Christmas? Do we stop and ask ourselves or maybe even ask Him: “Lord Jesus – what would you like for Christmas this year?”

My family is beginning to ask this question. I think if you were to search the Scriptures looking for this – you’d find some pretty clear Christmas present ideas for Jesus: Serve and love the poor – the oppressed – the widows and orphans – and serve each other. I think He’d also love time with you this Christmas. You are His beloved. I think He’d love to spend time with you. So there are all kinds of ways to give Jesus presents but it seems serving each other would be a huge start.

I pray you might be blessed this Christmas as we follow the example of our great Savior and King; Jesus; the humble servant. I want to give you a couple links of websites that can help you give a really great gift to Jesus this Christmas:



Be blessed my friends!!!!

Pastor Ryan


Christians: Built to Build

Hi everyone –

As we begin this week’s 2nd Look I want to direct you to click here and watch a story of a young man who lived in my hall when I worked at Biola.

This is a perfect example of what I was talking about on Sunday. We have been given skills and talents and special gifts for the common good – the trick is figuring out how to use our gifts for the benefit of the kingdom! Zach lived in my hall when I supervised a dormitory at Biola. I remember him always being a quieter guy – very respectful and creative. It’s so awesome to see him using his talents to give Jesus glory.

On Sunday we looked at Bezalel and Oholiab – two guys who were appointed and empowered by God to build His tabernacle. This was a place that would become central to the nation of Israel’s life with God. It would be God’s house among His people. This was a big task – a huge job that most would find intimidating. It’s interesting how God allows us to join Him on even His biggest tasks out there.

The point I was making on Sunday was that God does this over and over again. He has a big task that needs to get done – He brings us along – empowers us and gets the task done! Each of us is wired to join God on some task He is undertaking. Each of us is specifically constructed to make a unique contribution to what God is doing here on earth. I have two great examples for you.

If you missed either of the things I’m about to talk about – you really missed out. But do not worry – we will do these things again:

1) The worship and prayer night: At the worship and prayer night we saw a group of people using their passion and talents for music and prayer to lift up God’s praise. As a congregation we joined together and praised Jesus! Such a powerful night and while God could just put a huge flaming cloud over our church and draw us there – then have a choir of Angels erupt the heavens in song – this is not what He did. He chose to use humans to do His work.

2) The prayer day – was another great example of people in our church using their God given creativity – passion – and effort to make a really cool innovative experience here at church. I was so proud of our prayer team for the fact that they would put something so simple and yet helpful together. What a great experience for me to pray. Next time I’m bringing my kids with me.

I see examples of people using their God given gifts to serve every day. One of the biggest challenges however is that there are still many who haven’t really discovered the ways God is calling them to make a difference. Let me give some thoughts that might help you if you’re someone trying to figure out how to get involved:

1) Passion – This is a great question to start with. When you think of working at the church, are there things you get excited about? Is there something out there that gets you mad – or motivates you to get going? This might be a great indicator of an area God stirs your heart to ministry, service and action. When I think of people and ministering to them – the thing I get most excited about is when I see people grow and lives changed. I have found I want to devote myself to helping others grow especially in their relationship with Jesus. If you want a good indicator of what some of your passions might be – look at your bookshelf. If you’re a reader – you may find your bookshelf tells the story of what you are passionate about. Or look at the things you are often drawn to learn more about; the things you get animated about when you talk about them – or the things you think often about. These are all indicators of passion that God has placed within you.

2) Natural fit –  Are there things that seem to come naturally to you? Certain jobs you excel in? Are there certain environments where you feel more at home than others? What would people tell someone in need to call you about? For example – if someone needed help fixing their car – people would not tell this person to call me. But if someone was having marital problems – I might be someone this person would be pointed to. Natural fit can often be an indicator of wiring. Certain people are a great fit for children’s ministry. They love kids – have a great disposition around them and a huge reservoir of patience. Others feel – from the minute a child walks in the room, that their energy and vitality is draining away. They feel uncomfortable. This is a good indicator that children’s ministry is not a good fit for them. Sometimes we think the things we do naturally or that we receive joy from doing are things God would not want us to do. After all – doesn’t He want us to suffer as His servants? Sometimes our path leads us down a road of suffering and trials even when we are where we are supposed to be – but that doesn’t mean we aren’t wired for it. Jeremiah – a prophet for God – suffered greatly in His service to God and yet there was no doubt he was passionate and wired to do what he was doing. I read the book of Jeremiah in the Bible and I cannot see him as a guy who would remain silent and uninvolved if he didn’t have this ministry calling. He was naturally wired to be a man with a voice.

These are two indicators of God’s wiring. There are many others we can look at if we had the space. My hope for you is that you find God’s wiring for you; or you take joy in how he has wired you and use this to serve the kingdom of God. There is no better thing to do because what you are doing has eternal significance. Think about it – if God is eternal and He is building a kingdom that is eternal; then it stands to reason that the contribution you make has eternal significance as well.  Is there any other endeavor we can be part of that has that kind of distinction to it?

Have a great week everybody!

Pastor Ryan


Epic Fail…then what?

Hello SNC brothers and sisters!

For this week’s second look I’d like to direct you to 1 Corinthians 10:12-13:

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (NLT)

This past week we looked at one of the darkest chapters in the book of Exodus. The Israelites fail; they fall and do so at a mind staggeringly quick pace. We talked about how anyone can fail in this life and not just the little “oopsie daisy” type of failures; but the huge monumental: “My life may never be the same” kind of failures. Then I shared with you  two lessons we can learn from the failure of the Israelites. The first lesson looked at how the Israelites’ failure began with absence. We looked at how the absence of Moses was deadly for them and how we also need a “Moses” in our life. Moses may be a literal person there to hold us accountable – or it may be certain guidelines we keep in place to protect us from failures. The reality is – we can all be tempted – we can all fall. This is what 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 tells us. Look at how Paul starts his exhortation. He says: “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.”  This is something that many of us forget. We think we are above temptation or just impervious to it. But we’re not. Temptation is common to man and Paul guarantees for us that we will be tempted – and that God will be faithful to provide a way out – an exit point.

I don’t know about you but I am a bit of a cautious person in enclosed spaces and I have a bit of an overactive imagination. One way this shows up is that when I walk in a room I’m aware of exit points. When I’m on a plane, I know where the exit doors are because if we somehow crash in a lake or the ocean, I want to know where I need to begin swimming to get out of the plane. When I’m in a theatre, I want to know where the exits are in case there is an earthquake. I once was on a boat going to Catalina; a little yacht that transported people from the mainland to the island in about two hours. Shortly after we pushed away from our dock my mind began to run and I began to look for places I can hide in case a band of robbers took over the ship (yes I’ve seen Die Hard one time too many). I could hide there then figure out a way to get a distress signal out. I know it’s crazy but hey – when this stuff happens, I’ll have a plan ready; and then who will the weirdo be???  🙂

My point is – the more helpful and accurate way to look at things is to have a plan ready – a structure in place for when temptation comes; because it will. You may have heard it said: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  I would add to that: “Failing in your plan – is planning to fail.” If we fail to plan, or if our plan is faulty then we are in trouble – we may be already defeated and we don’t even know it yet.

I don’t say this to make you overly paranoid – but there is a sobriety upon which we must place this issue.  We need “Moses” in our life to safeguard us – to be that wall between us and failure. For me one of the most powerful Moses’ I’ve had has been an uncompromising decision and effort to be known by others. I am someone who has decided it is better to be known than hidden. I’ve chosen to let people into my life – not everybody but a group of men whom I trust with the deep dirt in my soul. They have – in turn trusted me with their dirt.

I cannot tell you how much this has impacted my life not just in the fact that I have a group of Moses’s holding me accountable – but even in making my life more rich. I am known and am loved. This has deeply and profoundly impacted me. Just this one behavior of having a group of men in my life who know my junk – has blessed me beyond what I can measure. I have been blessed with wonderful friendships that are truly deep and fulfilling. I can honestly say I never had brothers when I grew up – but God has provided me brothers since my college days. These men know me and I know them. Our families are growing up together and I am so grateful to God that He used my addiction to push me towards this way of living. It requires boldness and wisdom to share your true self – but I have never regretted this – and nothing has impacted me more than this. This has been a powerful “Moses” in my life; and these men are now the escape that I believe Paul was talking about in our verses above. When I’m tempted – I call them – text them – get coffee with them. I admit failures to them and there is no compromise here.

I pray for you that you may find Moses’ in your life. Sometimes it will feel risky but it might make all the difference in the world for your road in the future. I know that days will come when I am tempted – but I also know I have my Moses’ there keep my eyes pointed towards God.

Have a great week everybody!

Pastor Ryan



Hello everyone-

We are closing our look at the Tabernacle this week. This leaves us with three weeks until we close the book of Exodus. What an amazing journey it has been through this amazing book! This last week we talked about a very important part of the tabernacle – the priests. We talked about how the priests model for us an amazing picture of service. Every day the priest would get dressed and serve to represent his people to God. His life was an act of service. It served as a powerful reminder to us of the important connection between our relationships with each other and our ability to worship God. Serving one another – seeking to reconcile when we have broken relationships and seek to love each other well impacts our worship as individuals and as a church. If we are self seeking – self centered – people who hold grudges or gossip – we are running the risk of hurting our ability to worship; and worship is meant to be a key movement of our life.

We were also reminded that Jesus is our great High Priest and because of Him we can approach the throne of grace with confidence that we will receive mercy and grace for us in our time of need. Are we confident that we belong with God; that we can stand in His presence and feel absolutely safe knowing Jesus has made it possible for us to be here? I want to invite you to sit with this verse this week:

Hebrews 4:14-16 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

First pray and ask God to lead your reading of His Word.

Take some time to read these verses and let me invite you to read them several times.  

The first time you read it – just pay attention to anything that catches your eye. Read it slowly and simply listen to the words. Don’t try to force anything

Then read it again – note if your attention is drawn back to any specific places in the reading. What does it say – what point is the writer making? Just pay attention to anything that stands out to you or thoughts you may have on reflection of the passage. Pay attention to any line or lines that you are particularly drawn to.

Then read it again – this time pray and ask the Lord why this part of the passage is standing out to you. Maybe take some time to write down why you think it is standing out to you. Share your feelings and thoughts with the Lord about what you are seeing here.

Read the passage a 4th time and this time let yourself sit in quiet with the passage and the verses God has highlighted for you. Be grateful for God’s guiding for He has met you today!

Well – may you enjoy this thought of having a great High Priest who stands for you.  Did you know what the writer of Hebrews talks about right before this passage? Rest. How restful is it to think we can approach God and be confident knowing we have found our home.


Makes me smile when I think about it. We all long for home. I know … Some homes are not so great – but it doesn’t change the fact we are all looking for a place we belong like in the old CHEERS song – where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. We are looking for home; and Jesus – our great High Priest has made it possible to come home to God.  We belong here – thank you Jesus!!!

Have a great week everybody!

Pastor Ryan



Hi everyone,
Welcome to this week’s “2nd Look”!  Do you remember what we talked about this past week: “expectancy”?

When we look at Exodus 25 and God’s instructions to Moses regarding how to build His tabernacle – His dwelling place – we see this underlying respect and expectation that God would actually be there. This was one of four major worship principles I see when I look at the Tabernacle. As Christians we have come to understand through the Scriptures that our bodies are temples – tabernacles for the Holy Spirit; and while the Israelites were called to have expectancy that God would dwell in the tabernacle He was having them build – we as Christians can have that same certainty that God would be present in our hearts – in our worship services – in our lives and homes. Do we live with this expectancy that He is present? It would and should inform, and maybe even change, the way we live. Here’s an example I thought about after I preached on Sunday: How likely am I to yell at my son if Jesus was sitting next to me? I might be there – at the kitchen table – getting ready to let my son have it for not getting his homework done – or because he spilled his milk after goofing off at the dinner table, and then I notice Jesus sitting there.  It could sound something like this:

“William – what’s wrong with you???  How many times have I told you that you need to……”

(Then I look at Jesus)

“Uh William…. buddy it’s really frustrating that you did this. I love you but we need to figure out how we can change what it is you are doing”

Here’s another example – how likely am I to look at that thing I shouldn’t be looking at on the computer if Jesus was sitting next to me? Probably not as likely. I might have the site opened up and then look at Jesus sitting next to me and quickly type in some Bible site.


I walk into church and find myself tempted to sit and be entertained until I notice Jesus next to me and suddenly I’m clued in to what is happening – I’m paying attention – even singing some of the songs knowing He can hear me.

One of the biggest influences of us as Christians is often just how deeply we truly believe and live like God is present. Do we expect Him to be there? Do we expect Him to move in our midst? Do we expect Him to provide the things we need, to do the things He has called us to do? We could only expect that – if we actually expected Him to be present. I once heard this quote: “Attempt great things for God expect great things from God.”  When I heard that I remember thinking: “Totally!!!  I’m a youth pastor – I should expect God is going to make my youth group grow to hundreds of kids and people will come to conferences to hear me speak and they’ll buy my books with my smiling face on the back and an endorsement from Billy graham on the inside cover; and everyone will want to be just like me. I’ll expect that because I’m attempting great things for God.” Never mind the fact that I’m actually attempting great things for me and my definition of greatness was purely based on what man in his limited wisdom deems is great. When the youth group didn’t grow – and the conferences didn’t happen – and the books were never written – I became disillusioned because “Darn it God – I was expecting great things from you and you didn’t come through.”

We can often have expectations on what it means for God to be present – or for Him to actually move in our midst and maybe we need to examine those. The best thing for us to do is simply to expect that He will do what He wants and we need to be open to follow Him whichever way He leads – because He is most definitely present and most certainly He knows the best way to go.

So here is the point:  what do we expect? Do we live our lives with an awareness that God is present? Most of us – I dare say – go through seasons where that truth is available to us – then other seasons where it is a million miles away; but I believe this is an earth-shattering truth that can impact our life of worship powerfully.

Have a wonderful week everybody – living in an ever increasing awareness that God is present.

I’ve also attached a link to a song we sang on Sunday called “Meet With Me.”  As I wrote the sermon this song kept coming to mind.  As you listen to it – listen to the lyrics – they are just dripping with expectancy.

May God bless you,

Pastor Ryan