We Love Because He First Loved Us

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

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

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

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


Every Interruption Is An Opportunity

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

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

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

Have a wonderful week my friends!

Pastor Ryan

Sacrifice the Good for the Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

May the Lord bless you this week

Pastor Ryan