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


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



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.



Gasping for the Glory of God

Hi friends,

For this week’s second look I turn to one of my mentors in life: AW Tozer.  In this short devotional thought he takes what we discussed in church this last Sunday, to the next level.  Be careful though – this is a very challenging little article.  you may not be the same once you’ve read this…  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Have a great week!

Gasping for the Glory of God

True spirituality manifests itself in certain dominant desires. These are ever-present, deep-settled wants sufficiently powerful to motivate and control the life. For convenience let me number them, though I make no effort to decide the order of their importance. 1. First is the desire to be holy rather than happy. The yearning after happiness found so widely among Christians professing a superior degree of sanctity is sufficient proof that such sanctity is not indeed present. The truly spiritual man knows that God will give abundance of joy after we have become able to receive it without injury to our souls, but he does not demand it at once. John Wesley said of the members of one of the earliest Methodist societies that he doubted that they had been made perfect in love because they came to church to enjoy religion instead of to learn how they could become holy. 2. A man may be considered spiritual when he wants to see the honor of God advanced through his life even if it means that he himself must suffer temporary dishonor or loss. Such a man prays “Hallowed be Thy name,” and silently adds, “at any cost to me, Lord.” He lives for God's honor by a kind of spiritual reflex. Every choice involving the glory of God is for him already made before it presents itself. He does not need to debate the matter with his own heart; there is nothing to debate. The glory of God is necessary to him; he gasps for it as a suffocating man gasps for air.



Experiencing God

Pastor Ryan refers to this book as

“one of the top five most influential books I’ve ever read”

Experiencing God



Lent Days 27-32

  • We are 1/2 way into the Lent season. For those of you who gave something up, how has it been? Has the longing for the object/activity you gave up drawn you towards Christ and prayer? I have to say honestly that some days for me, yes-yes it has. And other days, no, I’ve just sort of gone on with my day. I gave up nighttime television. I have found that at times I’ve replaced it with working on the computer. However, the grace of the Lord has moved me towards Him as I’ve been on the computer. Just a little nudge to say, “remember why you gave up TV?” It’s not that I’ve needed to be in solitude and prayer every night once the kiddos go down for bed. But, even in light of the sermon this past Sunday on Spiritual Warfare, I am very reminded of how even the little things like pinterest (yikes, that’s addicting!) can replace what I’ve given up to move towards the Lord in prayer.

     

    What better way to re-introduce prayer to our life than entering into the Lord’s prayer. This week read in the morning and in the evening the Lord’s prayer. Read it once. Then take a moment-30 seconds…a minute… and re-read it again. Allow the words of Christ to slowly take over the space in your mind that is occupied by lists, homework, groceries, laundry (can you tell what’s on my list?!?). Don’t rush the re-reading time. Especially if you have time, you can slowly enter into the prayer and really soak it up. Let the words and the pace guide your time. Re-read it about three times. As you read it each time think about a word or phrase of the prayer that comes to mind or stand out to you. Don’t over think that word or phrase. Even write it down in your journal or on a note next to you. Then, return to the prayer.

     

    Once you have read it a few times, go back to the word or phrase that stood out to you. Read and re-read that phrase. Don’t over think that either. Just repeat that word or phrase. Spend about a minute or so here. If you have a lot of time, you can spend a while in each step. This time isn’t to examine why that particular word or phrase came up-it’s just to sit quietly with the Lord and allow his Word to occupy the space in your mind that is usually occupied by the things of your day. This meditation of Scripture is to slow your pace down and to practice just being with the Lord.

     

    Now that you have your word or phrase sufficiently repeated and occupying your mind, now you can go to the Lord and ask gently, “why was it that this particular word or phrase stood out? What would You like me to learn from this? Or what would You like to say to me through Your prayer, word or phrase of the prayer?” Just journal, sit and dialogue with the Lord. Perhaps the word or phrase that came up is something you already know you needed to talk to Him about-or perhaps is a new conversation with Him-where ever it leads, go to the Lord with it.

     

    Lastly-pray that the Lord would throughout your day today, remind you of that word or phrase that came up. In the moments that you are drawn to the thing you gave up for Lent, ask Him to use this word or phrase in that moment to recall to your mind the conversations and prayers you had together about this very thing. Conclude your time by praying the prayer again.

     

    As each day goes on, a new word or phrase may come up. Repeat this practice of praying through Scripture each day and see what the Lord brings up for you. Read the prayer in a different version (you can go to biblegateway.com for all different versions of scripture).

     

    May the Lord bring grace and peace to you as you meditate on his Word.

     

    The Lord’s Prayer. NIV Version.

     

    9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

    “‘Our Father in heaven,

    hallowed be your name,

    10 your kingdom come,

    your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

    11 Give us today our daily bread.

    12 And forgive us our debts,

    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

    13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]

    but deliver us from the evil one.[b]'



Lent Days 23-26

Good morning.

The next few days as we move towards the cross, this reading from “Letters to Marc about Jesus” from Henri Houwen and the passages we were reading this week really have ministered to me as well as this song, which is always amazing. I pray it ministers to you and brings you a longing towards moving forward to the always forgiving, inexhaustible love of Christ that was given to us on the cross.

 

 

Jesus challenges us to move in a totally new direction. He asks for conversion-that is to say, a complete interior turn-around, a transformation…Everything within us seems set against this way. And yet-every time we take a few steps along it, we become aware that something new is happening within us and experience a desire to try yet another step forward. And so, step by step, we come closer to the heart of God, which is the heart of an undiscriminating, always-forgiving, inexhaustible love.

 

How can you take steps forward towards Christ-away from your manner of life-your way of doing things-and towards His path for you?

 

What keeps you from moving forward? Have you talked to him about this? Go to God with these concerns…

 

Ask the Lord for grace as you move towards him if there is resistance.

 

If there isn’t resistance, ask him for the grace to see what needs to be surrendered in order to continue the steps towards his Love.

 

Lead me to the Cross – Brooke Fraser

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StW6ZKHRCFo&safety_mode=true&persist_safety_mode=1&safe=active