2nd look

How to worship God

Hello everyone,
We have pressed our way through the first three commandments. These are really all about how we approach God – what priority does He have in our life – how we are to worship Him and revere Him. One of the big emphases I’ve been trying to make is just how God’s commandments, to them, were truly unique in that day and age. The cultures around them did not worship God and did not worship the way He was calling the Israelites to. The Israelites were to be a light shining in the world – to show people the beauty of knowing the one true God – and that is why it was so important not to misuse His name.

Nowadays – we believe that we, as the Christian church, are God’s people. We are a light unto the world. Last Sunday I highlighted Hebrews 12:1 that says:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”

The question with the ten commandments isn’t how do we make God pleased enough with us to let us into heaven; but rather it is – how do we run the race of life with God and not get ensnared; entangled and hindered? The ten commandments paints a picture of a life set apart with God – a life where we don’t get entangled.

As you proceed through this week – this is a question I’d like to invite you to take before the Lord. God, what is entangling me? Is there a god in my life I have worshipped? Is there an idol in my life, something created that I have come to worship instead of You? Is there something hindering me? My invitation to you is – if there is something; use this opportunity to bring this before the Lord and to help you move beyond this – and then get someone who’s involved at the church – someone you trust – get them involved; so they can pray for you and walk with you through this.

To be honest; this can be an extremely painful thing – it may involve us letting go of some things that feel sacred to us and yet these things have entangled us. The question is – how far are you willing to go to be free?

One last thing . . . I’ve attached (below) the lyrics to, perhaps, my favorite song of all time and a link to this song (click here). Whenever we talk about these issues – it’s important to be reminded of just how much God loves us and that even though we find that we truly are beggars at the foot of God’s door – we have found grace there. I pray these things will be at the forefront of your mind this week. Blessings!

Pastor Ryan

We Are the Beggars at the Foot of God’s Door

We are gathered in cathedrals on a Sunday

We are shrouded in our pride and lust’s despair

We have heard that You said to go to where your hearts once were

Trusting we’d arrive to find You there

We have known the empty senses of a funeral

We are haunted by the promises of death

We have asked to see Your face and noticed nothing

But a well-timed honest smile from a friend

Oh we of little faith

Oh You of stubborn grace

We are the beggars at the foot of God’s door

We have grown cold to the kisses of our lovers

We have rolled the windows up and driven though

the forests of the autumn

The innocence of snow

The metaphor of Jesus in the dew

We have known the heated passion of the cold night

We have sold ourselves to everything we hate

We’re hypocrites and politicians running from a fight

We’ve cheated on a very jealous mate

Oh we of little faith

Oh You of stubborn grace

We are the beggars at the foot of God’s door

 We have known the pain of loving in a dying world
And our lies have made us angry at the truth
But Cinderella’s slipper fits us perfectly
And somehow we’re made royalty with You

Oh we of little faith

Oh You of stubborn grace

We are the beggars at the foot of God’s door

 

And You welcome us in



Freedom in the Law

Hello SNC family,

In Psalm 119:45 the psalmist writes:
” I will walk about in Freedom; for I have sought out your precepts.”
Later he says that he loves the law of God.
     I have to admit – for much of my life I have looked at the law with an eye of suspicion.  Not because I felt it was a lie – but because I knew it was impossible to entirely keep and yet there was a part of me that felt it was necessary to keep this impossible law in order to please God and gain His blessing.  I thought God gave us the law to tell us all we couldn’t do – to erase our freedom and tie us down – to be a cosmic killjoy.  But Psalm 145 – in its entirety paints a completely different picture of the law.  It is the longest Psalm, all broken into stanzas that begin with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  It is a grand treatise on what the law can mean to us.
    And in verse 45; the psalmist says this incredibly puzzling statement – He says he walks in freedom because he has sought out God’s precepts (His law).  Is he actually saying here what it sounds like – that the law- enacted into every day life – actually brings freedom????  To be sure – we’re not free to just do whatever we want – but when we walk in God’s law we experience a different kind of freedom – spiritual freedom – emotional freedom – freedom of conscience.
      After I began to enter a phase of aggressively seeking to find recovery in my addiction – I began to become confronted with a question.  Why doesn’t God want me to do this behavior?   You can put any sin in there.  Why doesn’t God want me to lie – why doesn’t he want me to dishonor my parents – or to sleep with my neighbors wife – WHY?  Why doesn’t God want me to get drunk; or use drugs?  I remember a conversation I had with a guy who told me he didn’t want to  follow God – or go to church because he didn’t want to stop drinking alcohol or smoking cigarrettes.  Which prompted me to ask him: “Why do you think God wants you to stop drinking and smoking?” He said: “Because those are bad things.” I said: “alcohol use is not prohibited by scripture; being drunk is.  I think we know enough to know that smoking is a destructive behavior physically but so is eating pounds of sugar a day.  There’s a Scripture where the apostle Paul says:  ‘All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial; all things are permissible but I will not be a slave of anything.’ The biggest issue for God is if you become a slave of something – like alcohol or smoking because that is not beneficial.  Jesus drank alcohol but He wasn’t a slave to it.”
    The man told me he hadn’t thought of it that way. The point I was trying to make was similar to what we see in Psalm 145 – and I think what we find as we build our lives on the ten commandments and the teachings of God  – we find real life; freedom. When we look at God’s teachings we see a deep wisdom given to us for how life is meant to be lived – and that’s what makes the law so powerful. It’s blueprint for healthy living that starts with God’s grace offered to us freely in Jesus Christ.
Let me invite you to take some time this week to read Psalm 145.  This man who writes this doesn’t see the law as a big colossal bummer – but rather as a life-giving solid path to follow the God who has freely given him love and blessing.  Let me warn you though – this Psalm is a marathon – it’s quite long so give yourself some time to sit with it and chew on it.  Be blessed this week!
Pastor Ryan


Isaiah’s Commission

Isaiah 6:1-8

Isaiah’s Commission

1) In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2) Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3) And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4) At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5) “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” 6) Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7) With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” 8) Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Hello everyone, I truly hope you are having a great start to your week.  I can’t speak for everyone – but I know for myself – this last Sunday was a powerful reminder of how awesome and great our God is.  If you are anything like me – then you have been someone who has tried to fit God in a tiny box – reducing Him to bite size level so that you can understand, manipulate, or just feel comfortable with Him.  On Sunday I asked you to imagine you had wallet size photos and one of them was a picture of God.  The question was – what does this picture look like?  Many of us in the evangelical church have grown to really grasp a hold of God as loving; kind; patient and gracious – and to be sure; He is.  But we often lose sight of this other side of God – powerful, mighty, majestic, just; a warrior.  We can’t have one picture of God without the other or we run the risk of making Him an idol in our lives: a manmade god we worship.  We need to have a picture of God that is as accurate as  possible for our understanding, otherwise we begin to get in trouble.


Read more...

2nd Look – The Practice Of The Presence of God

Hello friends! Preparing for this week’s Second Look – I was reminded of a book I read in college that continues to challenge me to this day. It was written by Brother Lawrence and titled: “The Practice Of The Presence of God.” I would love for each of you to pick this book up and read it but I understand that may not be realistic, so how about I give you some quotes from this extremely thought provoking book. Perhaps this week you can sit with these quotes and ask yourself the questions and take time before the Lord in prayer:

  • How often am I aware of God’s nearness to me?
  • In what ways do I live that reflects or shows that I am aware He is near to me?
  • In what ways do I live that is more me counting on myself rather than on God?
  • What are some things in my life that may blind me – or distract me from God’s presence?

Six quotes from “The Practice Of The Presence Of God” by Brother Lawrence

“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”

“We should fix ourselves firmly in the presence of God by conversing all the time with Him . . . we should feed our soul with a lofty conception of God and from that derive great joy in being His. We should put life in our faith. We should give ourselves utterly to God in pure abandonment, in temporal and spiritual matters alike, and find contentment in the doing of His will, whether He takes us through sufferings or consolations.”

“Let us think often that our only business in this life is to please God. Perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity.”

“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us that we think.”

“Think often on God, by day, by night, in your business and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone.”

“I regard myself as the most wretched of all men, stinking and covered with sores, and as one who has committed all sorts of crimes against his King. Overcome by remorse, I confess all my wickedness to Him, ask His pardon and abandon myself entirely to Him to do with as He will. But this King, filled with goodness and mercy, far from chastising me, lovingly embraces me, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the keys of His treasures and treats me as His favorite. He talks with me and is delighted with me in a thousand and one ways; He forgives me and relieves me of my principle bad habits without talking about them; I beg Him to make me according to His heart and always the more weak and despicable I see myself to be, the more beloved I am of God.”

It blows me away to think of the potential – to have this moment by moment relationship with our Lord. How powerful and wonderful this can be! I pray this inspires you this week – that we have a great opportunity presented to us every moment. To meet with our Savior! May you experience His love, mercy and nearness to you this week!

 



2nd Look – Thinking Like Jesus

Hi everyone-
Welcome to 2nd look.  This last week we talked about thinking like Jesus; how we are meant to think more and more the way He does.  You may have noticed, this is a very intentional process.  We don’t really stumble upon it.  Certainly the Holy Spirit does a great deal of work in us to get us ready for this process of Christlike thinking; and then to help us throughout.  We may stumble upon truths because He leads us to them, but in the end, I truly believe our growth in our thought life has a great deal to do with our openness to it.  In my research last week I stumbled upon this short article in Charisma magazine about having the “Mind of Christ”.  I thought the author has some very insightful things to say and some great questions.  Let me invite you to read the article and sit with the questions she asks during your times with the Lord this week.

Have a great week everybody and may God’s will be done in our lives

Pastor Ryan



2nd Look 6.7.13

Hi everyone . . .
This 2nd look is special because it will also go to our PROJECT BLESSING people. The reason? Because this week we spoke about how Jesus lived a lifestyle of blessing and that as Christians who are on a journey to become more and more like Him – we will inevitably be called towards this lifestyle as well. Jesus blessed others – He did it naturally; daily; repeatedly; pretty much wherever He went. It blows me away to think we can do this too. Think of all the lives we can impact with this kind of lifestyle! Yes it involves sacrifice. It involves times where we are way out beyond our comfort zone – inconvenienced; but I can only imagine what kind of legacy we leave behind. Recently my mother announced her retirement after working in education for nearly 40 years! We had a huge party for her. There were close to 150 people there. My mother is someone who lives a lifestyle of blessing; not just with her family but with those she works with – her friends; people at church, etc.
It was so awesome to hear many of her co-workers get up and share how my mother has blessed them. We laughed, we cried; we rememberd. As the big retirement party progressed, I couldn’t help but be in awe of how God has used my mother to bless so many and in that process – has created a huge legacy through my mom. She has touched so many lives; all from this lifestyle of blessing she lives.
What does it look like to have a huge group of people devoted to living a lifestyle of blessing? What would the outcome be if those people not only blessed others but helped others catch the vision for this lifestyle as well? You could have a movement of blessing! God empowering peoples’ lives to bless others wherever they went.
One question you might have is: “Doesn’t this seem a bit far fetched; to build a lifestyle on blessing others?” Maybe. Or maybe the truth is that we all build a lifestyle on something. We all have things we choose to value – to pursue in life. These values are reflected in our day to day decisions, priorities and behaviors. I think the real question is not – “can I do this; or can I live this lifestyle of blessing;” but rather – “do I choose to pursue this and trust God will meet me and empower me to do this?”
A series like this; ChristLike In A Post Christ World – really gets at the heart of the question – What does it mean to be like Jesus – to live the way He did? Each sermon is looking at something He prioritized and lived. It can feel a bit overwhelming to walk away from every sermon with the question of if we are doing these things that we see Jesus doing. It may be easier to look at each of these sermons as movements in our lives that God is developing at different speeds in different ways. In other words – you may be at different places with each movement. For example – you may have no problem being around different people and blessing them – but prayer may be an issue for you; one that God is really working on. These sermons; these different aspects of Jesus life that it seems we are called to live; will all happen in their own way and own timing. One example from my life: I began to learn the value of blessing others in college and bought into it right away – but in my heart of hearts I didn’t really buy in to the fact that everyone was a candidate to receive blessing – not just a select few that I believed “deserved” it. I didn’t grasp or approve of the fact that Jesus blessed the Different; Dirty and Debauched of His society; and I am called to as well. It’s taken me years to come to grips with that and to become obedient to it (and to be honest; God is still working on my with this).
So every week in this series we are looking at Jesus and exploring how God is developing His ways in my life. I would invite you to join me in this movement of blessing! That’s why it’s not too lat for you with PROJECT BLESSING. Yes we are well into it – but if you haven’t started this – or if you’ve lost track with it – jump back in! The PROJECT operates with seveal guidelines in place:
1. Bless someone in your close family or friends network once a week.
2. Bless your church once a month (this is in addition to tithing).
3. Bless your community once every three months.
To bless someone means to meet a need – spiritual, emotional or physical.
Let’s see what God will do through us as we seek to bless others. I think you might be surprised to see what happens.

Have a wonderful week everybody!
Pastor Ryan



Second Look at the Lord’s Prayer

Hello SNC brothers and sisters!
Last week we looked at how Jesus is a man of prayer and how He taught us to pray. We looked at Matthew chapter 6 verses 9-13 and examined the prayer in depth. Let me remind you of the different elements Jesus mentions below:

Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be your name
The first element is to celebrate God’s greatness – to revere His name.

Your kingdom come; Your will be done
The 2nd element is a prayer and desire to see God’s will realized – to pray for what God wants to actually take place.

Give us this day our daily bread
This part of the prayer recognizes our need for Him every day; that He provides for us; and we place our trust in Him to take care of our needs.

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
We recognize the fact that we need His forgiveness and that we have received it; and then we seek His help to forgive others. That His forgiveness of us – frees us up to forgive others…

Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from the evil one
This is a prayer of strengthening in our trials to keep us from falling into temptation or to even going where temptation is likely to strike us.
This is also a prayer asking for deliverance from the Evil one. It recognizes we are in a spiritual battle against a very real enemy.

I finished with the question – how are you praying lately?  As I was thinking of this short article I thought how cool it would be to actually take a day to focus in my prayers on one element at a time.  Or to take a week and really take extra time during my prayers to focus on one element. I’m a big fan of trying new things with prayer. I look at it kind of like going out on a date with my spouse. I don’t always want to go to the same place or do the same things – want some variety, some adventure, some sizzle!  Maybe focusing on each element and approaching it from different ways might give you a renewed experience in prayer. And for those of you who are just starting out – this is a great format to use to help you get started.

Have a great week everyone!
Pastor Ryan



2nd Look 5.28.13

     When I was a college student – I had a professor named Mary Anne Lind.  She used to say something that haunts me to this day: ” Take what your most afraid of doing for the kingdom of God and go do it!”  I don’t know why this stuck with me.  Perhaps it was the sheer inspirational nature of the idea.  But nevertheless – here I am many years later still being reminded of this.
     As a Resident Director at Biola, I lived and worked with many different types of students; different ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds, ways of thinking, so forth.  This made for some really interesting experiences through the years.  There was one student in particular who I’m reminded of as I write this.  His name is Josh.  I remember when I first met him.  We were having an “all hall” event and amidst the chaos of 125 college students running around playing games – I saw Josh sitting with his arms folded along the wall – a frown on his face; looking to be having a horrible time.  Each arm was covered in tattoos; as was what I could see of his chest.  He was wearing a thin white tank top.  In addition to this he had a shaved head and thick glasses.  My first thought of him was that he looked like a skin head.
     To say Josh intimidated me was an understatement.  He looked mean; nasty and angry.  I figured, I would just keep an eye on him from afar; after all I was running an event – there was much that needed to be done.  But I couldn’t shake Josh from my mind.  Around that time- Mary Anne Lind’s voice reached out to me in my mind- “take what you’re most scared of doing for the kingdom of God and go do it”.
     So I took a deep breath and crossed the room.  He spotted me walking towards when I was about 15 feet away. His initial response was a frown in my direction and then looked away; obviously his way of saying I was not welcome.  I ignored this and kept going; sat down next to him and said: “Hey how you doing?  I’m Ryan the RD.”  He didn’t look at me and mumbled his name – “Josh”.
     I tried to make small talk but he didn’t seem interested. He told me he lived in my hall – was a freshmen and not much else.  So I said: “Well Josh, I gotta go cuz I’m leading this event.  You’re welcome to join us – or keep sitting here, it’s up to you. But let me ask you this – do you like eating?”  He looked at me with this quizzical expression and said:  “I have eaten from time to time”.
     “Great!” I replied, “Cuz I’d like to take you out to lunch.  for some reason I feel like I’d like to hear your story.  So if you’re interested let me know ok?”
     Then I walked away, wondering how many run ins I would have with Josh, certain he would never take me up on my offer.  The next morning I walked outside to find Josh had written a note on my board – it read:  “Lunch.. Tuesday.. noon- Josh.”
     So I responded with my own note: “Let me check and see if that time works for me I’ll write more later – Ryan”  Hey I wasn’t going to let this guy order me around!   Later on I confirmed that this would work.  We met on Tuesday and I asked him where he wanted to eat. He said he had a place in mind. So we got in his truck. He turned on the engine and his stereo began to blast scream-o heavy metal music; not my preference. I began to ask him about the music and appreciated the guitar virtuosity of the musicians. He began to explain his love of scream-o- showed me different songs – explained the lyrics; which were all Christian.
     We got to the restaurant and he began to transition from music into telling me his story. He came from a broken home; used to be a white supremacist skin head.  A few years before he came to Biola he got into a violent conflict with someone of a different ethnicity and it began to awaken some things in him. His life was going down a dark path and he began to explore religions. He stopped with Christianity and was now at Biola. You could tell – after speaking with Josh – that he was a very bright young man – with lots of edge to him. Very sarcastic; in your face humor; but underneath it all was this real softness towards God.
     We began to become friends that day and I got to watch as God continued to train him and lead him through Biola. Josh married a sweet and beautiful young woman of latino ethnicity named Justine.  He went on to law school. I’m sure he has gotten more tattoos and has a beautiful little baby girl. To this day – Josh wants to get me a tattoo that covers my entire chest and has promised to be right by my side on the night of Emily’s first prom – with a bat in his hand to let the young punk who comes to take my daughter on a date know that he is being watched.  🙂
     So why do I tell you this story? God taught me a huge lesson with Josh. Anyone can be reached and nobody is beyond the love and the saving work of Jesus Christ. I began to realize that I’m the kind of person who makes judgments of people merely based on how they appear to me and yet my time with Josh told me everyone has a story and they are loved by God.
     One of the big questions I left you with this Sunday was – who are “Those people” to you? The people who feel unlovable – unworthy of your time; hopeless; different; dirty? How do you treat them? We were challenged on Sunday that Jesus didn’t have “Those people”- to Him they are all just people; loved by God. This challenges me greatly but Josh is someone who has taught me more about this than most people I’ve met.
     This week, I invite you to continue considering with me this question of who “Those people” are in your life and ask God how he would like you to see them; to care for them.  My hope and prayer is that we become a church that powerfully loves and reaches out to our community.  It won’t happen without us seeing those in our community like Jesus sees them.  Be blessed this week!
-Ryan


Christlike 2nd Look

Hello everyone,

How do I become more like Jesus?  If this world needs Jesus – and God’s plan is to use us to bring Jesus to the world by making us more like Him while sending us out; then this question becomes even more relevant. It takes on new life for us; new significance. This is always a difficult issue to give personal examples about because you may sound like you’re bragging. “This past year, I’ve become like Jesus. Check me out!  Here’s what I do and I’m sooooo like Jesus now!!!!”.  Blech! Yuck!

So at risk of  sounding like I’m tooting my own horn – here is one thing I’ll say – as a Christian these last 25 years – I’ve found this journey of pursuing Christ and seeking to live life the way He does – to know Him – to have my character slowly transformed by Him to become more like His – has been the best thing in my life!   It hasn’t been easy – as a matter of fact; the process of becoming more and more like Christ – involves parts of me having to die to be changed. That’s not easy; but it’s worth it.  Seeking to love my wife like Christ loves His church has impacted my marriage in huge ways that have helped contribute to making it more of a safe; loving and passionate environment. Yes, we have our problems – and have experienced significant moments of struggle in our relationship but through it – I’ve seen God powerfully show up to help me love her – to own my destructive choices, attitudes and other things that hurt us. Becoming more and more like Christ has changed my marriage.

This is one example; and please know I am nowhere near believing that I have arrived; that I am completely like Christ.  if there were a “like Christ”- O – Meter; a scale of 1-10; 1 being – “not like Christ”; 10 being – “like Christ”; I’d consider myself a 3 or a 4. I still have a long way to go.

But here’s a question – is it even possible? I came across an article written by a dearly departed friend. I call him dear because the things he has written have impacted my deeply. I call him departed because he has recently gone home to be with the Lord Jesus. I call him a friend, not because  we were friends personally – but because God has used him in such powerful ways in my life. My dearly departed friend is Dallas Willard; and his article is all about looking like Jesus. Now let me warn you – this guy packs a punch – he can be a bit wordy – but there is a great deal of insight.  So let me invite you to sit down with this article this week, break it into chunks and think about what he’s saying. there’s some powerful stuff here.

Finally, let me remind you. The best first step for becoming like Christ:  get to know Him.  Sometimes I’ve found in my journey with Jesus that I need to take time to get reacquainted with Him.  This usually drives me back to the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.  I truly hope your week is power-packed: filled by the Holy Spirit and that God uses you in wonderful ways to bring glory to His name.  Hope you enjoy the article – click here for the link.



How Post-Christian is U.S. Society? – The Barna Group

Check out the link below for a taste of what we will be talking about in the coming weeks.

The Barna Group – How Post-Christian is U.S. Society?.