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

 



Home

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.

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

 



Expectations

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.

OR MAYBE

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
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMb3xBsGiZU



God Goes Before Us!

When I got home on Sunday, I began to kick myself for missing an illustration within the sermon. I was telling this to my wife and she says: “2nd look honey – just put it there.” She’s so smart!

So here it is.

You may remember from the sermon that I tried to build a case that like the Israelites – we have God going before us, and that our task is to follow.  I also pointed us to the fact that when God makes His calling upon us: the big life callings; and the small everyday decision kinds of callings – He is with us and goes before us.

Because I have come out of a background of addiction; this is often something close to my mind, but did you know there is a Scripture that talks about God going before us in relation to temptation? Here it is:

 

1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

 

This verse has been hugely powerful to me through the years. What does it say? Every man will be tempted; every one of us. It’s not a question of IF but a question of WHEN. For me as a recovering addict, I would look at this verse and say – “ok so this is natural to be tempted. It’s normal, it’s human and yet God calls me not to go down this road. So do I battle this temptation alone?” Look at the next part of the verse:

 

“But when you are tempted He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

 

God will provide a way out.  He has gone ahead to open the door for us. Soon my battle with addiction took on a new emphasis. It wasn’t just – how do I say no to my temptation – it was now – where’s the exit. Oh Lord give me the strength to choose this way out that you have provided, over the destructive addictive behavior I desperately want to choose!

 

Even in this verse we see a picture of God going with us and before us. I truly hope that you are reminded just How great our God is this week. He has an intention for you, and I truly believe He goes ahead of you to see this intention become true. Like I said at the end of the sermon: “We often wonder if God will show up – but the reality is: He’s already there – will we show up?!?”

 

May God bless you this week

Pastor Ryan



Fear God

“When we approach God – the only accurate and healthy option is fear.”
The neighborhood I grew up in was on a hill. My best friend, Chris, lived at the top, I lived on the bottom. I would often go to Chris’s house after school – we’d watch MTV – pretend to do homework – play video games and eat whatever was in sight. Hey Michelle, if you ever read this – I owe you dinner.

Anyway – it was very typical for me, when I went to Chris’s house, to take my skateboard with me and when I went home I’d ride. In those days all of us traveled by skateboard. The ride from Chris’s house to mine was about a quarter of a mile – most of it straight downhill. You could really get flying on the way by crouching real low on your board – thus decreasing your drag and rocket downhill – watching the asphalt rush by you like a river below your feet. The danger of falling was always very real but that is what made it exciting.

One day – we were at Chris’s house and we all decided to ride down the hill to my house – Chris was out of food. 🙂 So we all grabbed our boards and headed out. But before we left Chris told us that he had been thinking of doing an experiment. He was a math whiz – computer and science genius, but after this day I learned even though you may have a high IQ it doesn’t mean you’re smart. Chris had been calculating and planning. He believed he could ride down this hill balancing on his skateboard with his knees. He was going to ride the hill kneeling!

We told him we thought this was a stupid idea. We called him names and said it would never work. Chris calmly argued using his reason and calculations he had made. He truly believed by properly apportioning his weight he could make up for the increase of speed and bumpiness in the ride. He also told us he would employ a technique of holding his arms out to his side using them like a balancing pole. He had it all figured out. There would be no swaying him from his mission. So we let it go.

We set off down the hill. There was Jeff, Chris and I. Jeff used the “crouching tiger” technique and blasted downhill at hair raising speed. I used a very casual slow weave technique pretending I was surfing a lazy wave. Both Jeff and I got to the bottom of the hill before Chris. We stopped and looked uphill. He had gotten about a quarter of the way down. His arms were straight like arrows pointed horizontally, mimicking the balancing pole. He was in his kneeling position; facing forward on his board with his lower legs and feet splayed behind him; resting on the backside of the board. He was going straight down the hill at a slower pace. Everything seemed to be going well until he started to gain speed.

He couldn’t weave to make his board slow down – or kick his board’s nose up to make the tail drag. He couldn’t put a foot down because he was on his knees. All he could do was submit to the fact the board was speeding up and he could do nothing to stop it. He would later tell me he wasn’t afraid of this because he knew it would happen and he would make proper adjustments . . . But what Chris did not account for was something the speed would do to his balance. As he went faster – the board began to wobble and weave below his knees. Normally, when you are standing you can adjust to this by bending your knees and using your legs like shock absorbers, but since Chris was only using the legs above his knees – he began to sway in his hips – which knocked off his balance.

Jeff and I stood at the bottom of the hill and watched as my friend’s experiment went terribly wrong. In a brief instant his board slightly snagged on something in the road and because it was already bobbing and weaving the wheel’s edge caught too much and sent the board twirling sideways from beneath his knees. Chris kept going however; inertia kicked in and he was propelled forward; knees down into the hard asphalt. We watched my friend bounce on his knees; then fly up and crash down again on those knees before he would roll into the curb. As the good friends we were – we raced to his rescue, and I’d like to say I didn’t laugh but approached him with concern and sympathy, but that would be a lie. I laughed the whole way there. I laughed for weeks afterwards. I’m still smiling today.

What was Chris’s mistake? He didn’t respect the hill. He didn’t respect the speed and what it would do to his balance. He didn’t respect and he paid dearly for it. Chris would ride that hill again. For him to never ride it would be an improper fear. Chris rode that hill on his feet. He rode it with respect because he now knew what could happen if he didn’t. After that day – Chris found that the only option he had when approaching the hill with his board – was fear and respect. With God it is the same way. We saw how the Israelites were encountering God and there was no option for them but fear. There was either the improper fear which leads to mistrust and distance from God – or there was proper fear which led to them not sinning; them living in respect and obedience. The hard part for us is that we Christians often forget that there is no option for us when we approach God. We may play games with God – don’t take Him seriously; offer Him part of our lives but not the whole; play “Good Christian” when others are watching and yet behind the scenes live with compromised integrity. We treat God like that hill – playing games – trusting our own intuition all the while heading for a crash – destructive consequences. We can get sucked into this idea that the way we live doesn’t matter to God now that we have Jesus and yet it seems nothing can be further from the truth.

To be sure – we are loved and forgiven because of Jesus and nothing will really take that away – and yet we are saved for a purpose. We are called to become more and more like Jesus and this movement involves obedience; and submission to God. This movement involves respect – reverence – fear. Here’s the question I want to leave you with to ponder this week:

What does your fear of God look like? Is it an improper fear that mistrusts God – fears Him and even looks at Him as a harsh father who seeks to hurt His children? Or is your fear a proper fear? Is it more about reverence, respect; obedience; and submission? This is a proper fear; knowing you owe everything to Him and He is absolutely worthy of your praise and obedience. Or perhaps you fall in the third category – where you don’t fear at all. In many ways you live as if God has redeemed you then lost interest. So now you can live for whatever you wish to live for. This may be a category that is more fraught with peril than the other two because we really don’t take into account whom we are messing with. Please don’t misunderstand – I’m not saying God is going to strike you down with a heart attack if you sin and are disobedient to Him – but He can. He is that powerful and wise. I think we go against His counsel and design to our own peril and yet we choose this path quite often. What fear do you have of God: improper; proper; or absent? Let this be a matter of discussion for you and the Lord this week.

May you be blessed in the Grace of God!
Pastor Ryan



Law vs. Grace

Hello Everyone,
I’m sitting here very excited. The last 7 weeks have been a very challenging study of the “law” portion of Exodus. I’m very grateful to God for His guiding in this time because as I said when we started this – I was not looking forward to teaching the law. He has been very faithful. With this said – let me invite you to not let your study end there. There is always something to learn from God’s Word and I invite you to go deeper with this. There are great online resources and commentaries out there that can help you grow deeper in your study of any passage of Scripture. I truly hope you have been blessed and challenged in this study. To be honest, I’m still being challenged from the sermon on murder and adultery. The study for that sermon – preaching it and my own reflections have continued to speak to me and it has honestly been unsettling to me at times. (I referred to this earlier in one of my 2nd looks.) I hope that God has touched your life through our study as He has touched mine.
    Okay – so what is our second look this week?  Well – on Sunday we spoke about a lot of things – basically we spoke of lessons we can learn from the law.  As Christians, the Old Testament law has a different significance for us than it did the ancient Israelites.  There are many wonderful things we can learn from the law but it wasn’t necessarily written to us.  The law doesn’t save us – it’s not designed to.  Following the law doesn’t make God happy with us so that someday we’ll go to heaven.  If anything, the law can show us how guilty we truly are.  The law for us as Christians – is a beautiful portrait of a perfect and holy God – calling His people – who He redeemed – to follow Him. This is a powerful lesson to learn from the law: to see the holiness of God in its words and to see that Redemption leads to a calling. Let me repeat that – Redemption leads to a calling.  This has been something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time.  Like many of you; I’ve grown up in the church – grown up around Christianity.  For much of that time – I thought God was angry and displeased with me because I wasn’t following the “rules.” Then when I entered my late teens and early adulthood, I began to bristle against. this.  I was tired of feeling like a screw up – tired of feeling guilty.  I began to lean away from the law; to lean away from feeling obligated in my faith – to God. I didnt want to read books by anybody who made me feel bad about myself or my faith. In my early twenties I discovered “grace.” I became this big “grace” guy – God has given us grace and even if I screw up and don’t follow Him He will still love me…. So…. this means it doesn’t really matter what I do.
      But then addiction entered my life and there was this huge battle between grace that gives me permission to do whatever I want – and the law written in me that said I need to be perfect to please God. I couldn’t balance this. Is God mad at me for all the ways I stink and fail Him – or is He happy with me even though I hurt myself; Him and others?  Which is it???
      Now here I am in the last year of my thirties and beginning to see that my picture of grace can be destructive.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of my heroes writes in his book- “The Cost Of Discipleship”; that there are two kinds of grace: Cheap and Costly.  He says Cheap grace is actually at war against the church and it is an incredibly destructive force.  Cheap grace basically is the kind of grace that says:  “It doesn’t matter what I do – God will always love me anyway – so I don’t need to follow Him or submit to Him.” Costly grace; the right kind according to Bonhoeffer; basically says:  “We didn’t deserve Christ but in His grace God gave Him to us and as a result we are no longer our own but we belong to Him.  We don’t live any way we want because we have received God’s costly grace and are His now.  Our redemption leads to a calling“.
     This is something we need to think about and ponder as Christians. The Apostle Paul writes about this when he says: “You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The law reminds Israel and us that they were redeemed for a purpose.  Paul reminds us we have been redeemed for good works – to be God’s masterpiece. Think about it – when we don’t do these good works that God has set aside for us – we aren’t living the ” God’s workmanship” life that we were meant for. I can’t help but wonder the untold amount of good deeds left undone – all that has been lost.  Have you heard of the principle of compounding interest?  It basically says – if you invest a little bit of money in a savings account – or some kind of investment account; and you do this over a long time – the interest will grow and compound and you can become quite wealthy as a result. But if you don’t do this – it will be that much more difficult to raise money in the short time. You can likely lose thousands or millions of dollars in compounding interest! I can’t help but wonder how many good deeds have gone undone and have been lost – in my life; many of them small deeds that over time compound our impact for the kingdom – like compounding interest; and when we fail to do these small deeds – the impact is lost.  We are redeemed by Jesus for a purpose! The law teaches us that. What is your purpose? And what are the things that hinder you from pursuing that?
        Maybe this week is a great time to bring this question before God – Lord, what are the good works You prepared for me to do in advance? Is there anything hindering me in that process? Take this before God and let Him lead you in this; but be ready because this question usually results in action.  He’s got plans for you my friend.  Have a great week!
 
Pastor Ryan
 


Contentment

Hello everyone,
My day has begun with a very reflective note. Tim Deaver sent me a link to a video about a man who stands outside one of the most “busy” abortion clinics in the US. This man has devoted himself to standing there and preaching and handing out booklets – praying for young women – and giving himself; rain or shine; to the defense of those who have no voice: the unborn. In the video we see this man faithfully standing there – not abusing people but offering the love of Christ and begging them to reconsider their actions. I have attached the link here. It’s about 8 minutes long, but very thought provoking.
This last Sunday we closed the service talking about contentment. The thought I shared was that our contentment is impacted greatly by our view of this life. Do we truly believe and live like this life is all there is? Because if we do – then of course we would want a bigger house – more fun – more money – more influence – a replacement of our spouse – better health – etc – and we might grow disillusioned or discontent with our lives as they currently are. It’s at those moments we become more susceptible to coveting what belongs to others and more susceptible to stealing – or lying – or adultery – or dropping our sabbath – or worshipping things that are man-made or created. Things can go sideways for us and at the heart is this question – do I believe and live like this world is all there is?

Or . . .

Do I believe there is a greater reality that is outside this world? Is there a kingdom being built on this earth that is eternal? If there is – then maybe some of the things we often get discontented with are actually not as important as we think. I’m not saying we should forget our jobs – our families – ditch out on our mortgages and stop paying taxes then move to a mountain convent somewhere; because “hey – this life isn’t that important.” No I’m not saying this. It’s important to pay our mortgages – pay our taxes, love our families – take care of our bodies – work hard – these are all good things; but sometimes they become more important than the calling of God in our lives. Sometimes our priorities are out of whack. We may work hard at our jobs but NOT because we see our job as a place where we can worship God – serve Him and share the gospel with others. Rather we work hard to build our own kingdom on earth; to amass wealth and influence. When we do this – things can go sideways. The question is – “What am I living for: this world – or for eternity?” Is eternity what drives our values and actions.
The Apostle Paul says: “Set your minds on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” I’ve heard some people say: “That boy is so heavenly minded he’s no earthly good.” But unfortunately what happens is – that many are so earthly minded they are no heavenly good. Do we see this life as all there is?
Now back to this guy in front of the abortion clinic. I see a story like this and I’m reminded of this reality: what it could look like for a man to get excited about doing eternal things. According to this video – since the guy started his ministry he’s helped save over a thousand babies and ministered to many pregnant women. Here’s a guy who is so heavenly minded he’s doing a lot of earthly good. It challenges me. I dream of seeing people get motivated to do eternal things while here on earth. I dream of being used by God to help people find God’s heavenly calling in their lives.
Do you have questions about God’s calling for you? Let’s talk about it. Call me – email me – let’s set up on appointment to sit down and discuss this. Take time to pray on this and ask God what His calling is for you but be warned – if you start looking for this – if you really take God seriously here and are willing to follow – HE WILL ANSWER YOU! It will be a ride – an adventure.

May God bless you this week! 

Pastor Ryan


Murder? Adultery?

Hi SNC Fam,
Man this last Sunday felt heavy.  I don’t know if you felt it – but this was one of the most challenging sermons I feel I’ve preached in a very long time.  Not just because of the material itself but because of how God challenged me in preparing it.  Let me explain…
    As last week progressed, I was thinking about how I would preach this sermon – the content of what I was sharing with you all – when a thought began to come to mind about some people I know.  I don’t know them well – as a matter of fact, I do not know their name but one thing I’m certain of – they are drug users.  We call them “meth-heads.” I’ve run into them several time because they live on my street and God has directed me to pray for them. I rarely see them and usually when I do I’m heading out so it’s difficult to stop and talk with them…. But I’m practically certain they are drug users…
    God has placed a soft spot in my heart for them – has reminded me of them often and yet I have really not reached out to them. My thought process is –
” well I don’t really want to bother them – or they wouldn’t want to talk with me – seems like a waste of time.  I don’t want to throw my “Pearls before swine so to speak…”
    But if I was really honest – and God led me to this last week – I deep down believe that to talk with them would be a waste of time — because they are a waste of time. After all – they are “meth heads” – there is no way they could receive the gospel and there is no way they could really change and if they even wanted it – would I really be willing to help them????
    And then Jesus says- “if you call your brother a ‘Raca’ or a fool”- it’s like you murdered them.  It’s not that I call them names although that really can be quite debilitating and painful – it’s that I’ve come to label them in my mind.  I’ve come to believe this lie about them. I don’t see these people trapped in drug abuse as God’s creation – beloved by Him so much that He would send His Son to die for them.  I see them as a waste of time…
     Can you imagine how much this nailed me to the wall???  Here I am preaching about this and confronted with the deep dark truth of my own heart. Oh God have mercy on me – a murderer and adulterer – a sinner. Oh God what would You have me do?  Oh God – please change me – let me live by Your Word – believing that You are speaking to me through it.  Oh God through the power of your Spirit – let me not label people – or tear them down in my heart or with my words. Oh Lord that You might lead me in a mission to bring light to this dark world and to build Your kingdom. Oh God have mercy on me a sinner.
     I want to close this post with a song.  the starting stanze to the song says this:
Lord, I want to feel your heart
And see the world through your eyes
I want to be your hands and feet
I want to live a life that leads
     This is true of my heart for us all.  It’s hard to admit that our hearts can be dark places and yet we have found the truth – Jesus who loves us in spite of our brokenness..  May we see the world through His eyes.  And may you be blessed this week.  Enjoy the song!
Blessings
Pastor Ryan


What does it mean to “honor your father and mother?”

Hi everyone,
I truly hope you had a wonderful sabbath celebration. If you joined us last Sunday then you may remember we spoke about our relationships with our parents and the 5th Commandment which is: “Honor your father and mother.” As I said – for some of us; this is a heavy commandment; one that involves pain – bitterness – regret – and all kinds of other feelings; and yet this is an area that I believe – if it is observed – can lead to a great deal of freedom and healing in our lives. It can lead to us walking unentangled with Christ and seeing a great deal of fruit produced. But as with many good things in this world – it doesn’t come easily. In fact – it may even feel impossible. You may find that in your heart there is no desire to honor your parents. All you may have there is a desire to HAVE a desire.

If this is true of you – then the very first place to begin is prayer. The Bible tells us God has placed His Spirit in your heart to re-form you into the image of Christ. The goal: We look more and more like Jesus. Jesus honored His Father – and His earthly parents. It wasn’t always easy. But God places His Spirit in your heart to make you open to the things that He wants. Maybe the very first place to begin is with prayer.

The tragedy of the Ten Commandments is that they are impossible to observe and that we are doomed to fail them. The beautiful truth of the Ten Commandments is that we are doomed to fail them . . . And God knew that. This is why He sent Jesus and why He puts His Spirit in our lives to walk with us to guide us; and to work His fruit in us. So naturally, the first place to turn with this issue is to Him. I want to invite you to let this be your prayer if you are struggling with this commandment – or any of God’s other commandments:

Dear Father God,
I recognize you are the Almighty Living God of the universe and there is none who equals You. I trust Your wisdom and Your love for me. I trust that You would invite me to a journey with You where I walk with hope; meaning and freedom. Thank You for all You’ve done for me.

Lord I need to confess that some of what You have called me to is difficult – and sometimes it feels impossible. This is where God, I need You to lead me by Your Spirit. Oh Father help me to follow You – to obey You – because right now there is a part of me that doesn’t want to. Please change my heart in this. Please help me desire what You desire. Please help me trust You when my desire isn’t there. And please remind me of the grace You’ve given me in Jesus. I thank You Jesus for dying for me on the cross; and I praise You because Your sacrifice is enough! Oh Lord may Your will be done in and through me. Be honored my King, my Savior, my God. I love You because You first loved me.

There have been multiple moments in my life where I have confronted callousness; deadness; numbness; belligerence and anger even towards God. Where I’ve had to ask God to accept that this is simply true of me and that I desperately needed Him to do some surgery on my heart – to change me and help me. God has shown up in those moments to begin new movements in my life – but sometimes the biggest thing is to simply be honest about where you are at. My hope and prayer for you this week – is for you to be reminded of God’s great love for you and His great wisdom that He truly knows the best way for us to live – and that God would give you desire and strength to follow Him.

Be Blessed Everyone,
Pastor Ryan