God is smart!

20 02 2009

Note to the faithful readers: Ryan pulled a Jeremiah Johnson on me, so I guess I’m temporarily in charge…

My dad, Bob, just got back recently from Cameroon and I wanted to share a very exciting aspect of his trip. Dad works with ITEM to train African pastors how to better shepherd their flocks in a biblical manner. Many of the local church leaders suffer from limited resources and bad training. Because of this, there are many issues of concern for the African church such as the wealth and prosperity doctrine and syncretism.africa

Dad has been to different parts of Africa many times, but there was an exciting new wrinkle in his last trip that just goes to prove who is really running the show. Prior to Dad’s trip a friend of the family who is a deacon at my church felt led to accompany him to Cameroon. Bob typically travels to French-speaking areas because of his fluency, so Tim was thinking he would go along as a source of encouragement and support.

As the departure date came closer, the details crystallized and Dad let Tim know that they would actually be going to one of the few English-speaking areas in Cameroon. While this was all well and good for Tim, what didn’t sit as well was when Dad told him that he could now teach some of the sessions! Read the rest of this entry »


Never (a poem)

4 10 2008

Why is it I am worried,
and how can I forget,
that the Son of Man who calms all storms
has never failed me yet.

Do I doubt that he is able
or that he doesn’t know?
These doubts inside, they blind my eyes
to the faithfulness He’s shown.

For never has he failed me
His promises are true
Never will he fail me
And he’ll never fail you.

(Read Lamentations 3:21-23)

The Day I’m Longing For…

18 09 2008

This morning I was reminded of the wonderful proclamation of Habakkuk 2:14: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

Lately, life has been filled with a lot of trials and difficulties.  All around us, people we love and care for have been hurting.  Some have brought the pain upon themselves, others have had it brought upon them by those close to them.  In all cases, it has grieved my heart and burdened my spirit.  But there is coming a day when all of this ugliness will be gone and the earth will be filled with truth and righteousness and joy and peace, all of it centered in the person of our Lord.

In that day, the knowledge of the Lord’s glory will be as extensive as the “waters” that “cover the sea.”  Note that it is not “as the waters cover the earth” (which would be pretty extensive), but “as the waters cover the sea.”  That is total.  That is universal.  And that is beautiful.

In that day, it won’t be about me and my ego or you and your’s.  It will only be about Christ.  Seeing, beholding, enjoying, delighting in who He is and what He has done.  It won’t be about how your spouse has wronged you, how people are slandering you, how life has mislead you, or how hurt you are; it will all be about Him. How I long for that day.

But, as I thought about that day, I had to ask myself if I could bring some of that day to this day.  I think we can.  Actually, it is what we’ve been called to do.  1 Corinthians 10:31 commands us: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  From day one, it is all supposed to be about Him.  So, how can we live today that way?  How can we manifest Habakkuk 2:14 in our life?  How can we see that the knowledge of His glory fills our life as the waters cover the sea?

I think it begins by making sure that what we are passionate for and that for which we fight and battle is not our own way or our own defense, but the proclamation of Christ and his Gospel.  It looks like us entrusting ourselves to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:21-23) and then faithfully seeking His revealed will for us.  For some, that will mean being a living example of 1 Peter 3:1.  For others, it will be embracing Hebrews 13:17.  For many it includes a renewed commitment to faithfully obey 1 Peter 5:6-7.  For me, Habakkuk 2 has led me back to the pastoral epistles.  I’ve gone there again to be reminded of God’s will for me as a man in ministry. I’ve seen my call to “fight the good fight,” to have love as the goal of my instruction, to pursue godliness through discipline, and to endure persecution and suffering for the sake of my Lord and His glorious Gospel.

And my belief is that the more faithful I am to these truths, the more I will be manifesting “the day I’m longing for” today.

My Gospel “Dream”

5 09 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I had the most amazing experience in my life at a workplace, from a spiritual perspective.  Here’s what led up to it…

My manager is in a leadership development class and is reading a book called “The Dream Manager”.  The summary of the book is that the best managers are the ones that strive to make their employee’s dreams come true, whether it be career dreams, personal dreams, community dreams… whatever kind of dream.  My manager has become very excited about this concept and brought it to our team.

She approached me and let me know that we were going to have a team meeting coming up in which the plan was for everyone to share a dream of theirs with the group.  Participation was voluntary, but if we would go along with it, the team would brainstorm ideas for how we all could help each other reach our dreams.  I was initially reluctant, but I told her I would give it some thought.

I considered what it was I would really like to do or see happen; visit Europe, raise my kids the right way, get a new car.  Then it hit me that the most important thing I could dream for was much more selfless than anything else I could think of.  I would like all my coworkers come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!

The thought of sharing that at an official meeting of 10-15 colleagues and my supervisor sounded exciting and scary.  I consulted with my “Christianity in the workplace” guru, Chris, who thought it was a cool idea, but suggested that I be “less specific” in describing my dream.  His thought was that if I was a bit more vague, it would encourage more questions and be less likely to throw up a dialogue-stifling wall.  I admit I didn’t agree with the idea, but since Chris is an elder at my church (and has generally proven himself to be smarter than me in most aspects), I decided to take his advice.  This turned out to probably be the best advice I’ve gotten from someone in recent history.

The day of the meeting came and I wrote down on a post-it note “My dream is for my coworkers to have the same relationship I have with the one true God”.  The butterflies started buzzing around my stomach.  I keep a copy of Evantell’s very effective “May I Ask You A Question?” tract in my jacket and started reading it over and over.  I was pretty nervous. Read the rest of this entry »

Talking to Your Tears

2 09 2008

The last few months, with the loss of the baby and my mom’s diagnosis of cancer, have brought about some difficult moments.  However, God is good and has proven his faithfulness in helping us and encouraging us through all of this.  One of the ways he has encouraged my heart is through godly men and their exposition and application of the Word to my life.

The week I went back to work after the news about our unborn child, I came across the following devotional from John Piper.  I read it again last week, when the Saturday before I was to preach I found out my mom’s tumor was an aggressive cancer.  The devotional was such an encouragement to me, I wanted to share it with others, praying it might bless you as it has me.  It comes from Piper’s book A Godward Life.

“May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy! He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” (RSV)

There is nothing sad about sowing seed.  It takes no more work than reaping.  The days can be beautiful.  There can be great hope of harvest.  Yet Psalm 126 speaks of “sowing in tears.”  It says someone “goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing.” Why is he weeping?

I think the reason is not that sowing is sad or that sowing is hard.  I think the reason has nothing to do with sowing.  Sowing is simply the work that has to be done, even when there are things in life that make us cry.  The crops won’t wait while we finish our grief or solve all our problems.  If we are going to eat next winter, we must get out in the field and sow the seed whether we are crying or not.

This psalm teaches the tough truth that there is work to be done whether I am emotionally up for it or not, and it is good for me to do it.  Suppose you are in a season of heartache and discouragement, and it is time to sow seed.  Do you say, “I can’t sow the field this spring, because I am brokenhearted and discouraged?”  If you do that, you will not eat in the winter.  Suppose you say instead, “I am heartsick and discouraged.  I cry if the milk spills at breakfast.  I cry if the phone and doorbell ring a the same time.  I cry for no reason at all, but the field needs to be sowed.  That is the way life is.  I do not feel like it, but I will take my bag of seeds and go out in the fields and do my crying while I do my duty. I will sow in tears.”

If you do that, the promise of this psalm is that you will “reap with shouts of joy.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Week that Was…

25 08 2008

Sorry I haven’t posted for over a week, but the last 7 days have been…um… taxing, to say the least.

A few months ago my mom’s blood sugar started going crazy (she was at work one day with a blood sugar level over 500).  As the doctors began trying to figure out what was going on, they discovered a tumor in her pancreas.  Last Monday, my two sister and I accompanied my mom to the University of Washington medical center where she underwent a 10 hour surgery to remove the tumor.

Halfway through the surgery, the doctors came out to talk with the three of us and explained that the tumor ran through the entire length of pancreas.  Since they couldn’t wake my mom up and ask her, they were asking our permission to take out her whole pancreas.  As we learned, you can live without your pancreas.  No pancreas just means welcome to diabetes… and insulin dependence.  The doctor explained that he believed the tumor was a carcinoma and, if it was left in, we would be leaving in a “ticking time bomb.”  When faced with the decision of diabetes vs. pancreatic cancer, the decision wasn’t too difficult.

By the time the surgery was completed, not only had they taken the entire pancreas, but they also removed her spleen, part of her stomach, and part of her small intestine.  Like I said, the entire process took over 10 hours.  My sisters and I outlasted everyone else in the waiting room and were still there when the janitors arrived.  That was last Monday.

Tuesday through Friday was spent in three worlds.

First, I wanted to be there for my mom (who spent two days following the surgery in the ICU) and my sisters.  This meant daily trips to Seattle and the UW.  It is a drive I feel I have now mastered and understand that much of it will be spent sitting and waiting on the freeway.  This world was a new one, but God gave me gracious blessings in it- being able to spend time with my mom and sisters and have some wonderful conversations about our life together and our life with the Lord.

The second world I walked through this last week was one that I’m much more familiar with and, thankfully, was portable.  Our Senior Pastor is away on vacation, so I have the responsibilities of our church ministries to care for.  With the invention of the cell phone and the laptop, I was able to have a portable office and work on my sermon, on email, and help people work through ministry issues.  Honestly, it wasn’t easy to get my brain into this world, but (again) God was gracious and so the church is still standing and a sermon was preached last Sunday.

The third world is that of my wife and daughters.  This was the world that I gave little to this week, but in return it gave so much to me.  My wife was so supportive and such an encouragement.  During a week like this, you really see and understand why God said “It is not good for man to be alone.”  The blessing of a gracious and support spouse is one I was praising God for over and over again this week.  In addition to Amy’s love, it was such a blessing to come home after a long day in worlds one and two, and see two smiling little girls and hold them in my arms.  It is amazing how hugging your children can make so many of life’s cares and concerns melt away.

Then came Saturday… Read the rest of this entry »

The Gospel and Broken Cars

12 08 2008

One Friday a month I travel about 30 minutes from our church to preach at a senior center.  However, this last Friday I began to wonder, as I drove down the road hearing various “odd” noises coming from the car, if the group of seniors would be sans preacher.  By the grace of God I made it there, and as I sat in the parking lot I went to prayer to prepare (and settle) my heart.

However, the thoughts of my vehicle situation kept invading.

The car I was driving is old (over 177,000 miles), but new to me.  I was recently given it when our second car, a Saturn we have owned for years, died.  As I sat there in the parking lot wondering what I should do about my car dilemma, I began to talk with the Lord about it.

I wasn’t very long into the conversation asking God for help, when my conscience jumped in and quickly pointed me to my failings as a car owner.  Honestly, I’m not very good with cars.  I personally wouldn’t want to be a car I own. You see,  I don’t take very good care of them.  I don’t have them serviced often enough (if ever), I don’t give them regular check-ups, or even keep them very clean.  I use them and abuse them.  Nothing I’m proud of, I’m just sharing the truth.

Well, all of this truth (the “You know, its your own fault you’re in this mess!”) stopped my prayer for help dead in its tracks.  My conscience was right- it was my fault.  My brain started reviewing all of the things I should have done better and why I really didn’t deserve God’s help.  With each accusation, I had to agree.

But then something else cut into my depressing meditations- God’s grace.  God’s Spirit brought to my mind that I haven’t deserved any of the blessings God has given me!  Over and over again, I have “messed things up,” and yet He is still merciful and kind and hears my prayers.  God stopped my conscience with the Gospel.  It was as if He was saying, “Ryan, you made a mess of your life and you certainly didn’t deserve your salvation, yet I gave you that.  So, what if I choose to answer your prayer for help with your car even though you don’t deserve it- isn’t that my way?”

Now, don’t misunderstand me- I didn’t hear a voice or anything.  God just reminded me that His answering my prayer is always about His grace and never about my deserving.  The sad truth is that I (and I don’t think I’m alone here) often forget this… at least I act like I do.  I fall into the “blessings through works” trap and forget about how grace enters into the equation.  But, in the parking lot last Friday God reminded me of His grace and His prerogative in blessing (the “prerogative” part also means He might not help me with the car the way I asked or in a way I might like!).  In that moment my mind went from anxiety about my car situation and conviction over my failures to rejoicing in the God who so graciously saved me in spite of my many failures.  I thanked Him for giving someone as undeserving as me blessings above and beyond what I could ever have dreamed.

Needless to say, the time of prayer was effective even though it followed a different course than I anticipated.  I went from those moments of prayer in a broken car into that senior center, excited about preaching and eager to share the message about a God full of grace.