12.22.16 - Where Jesus was born tells us even more about the Savior God sent
Did baby Jesus arrive just in the nick of time? And was he born in a stable? In this excerpt from The Radical Book for Kids, Champ Thornton briefly addresses these questions. The real answers helps us more widely appreciate our Savior this Christmas. (Click Here to Continue...)
9.29.16 - A church for those who waste life - theirs and maybe yours too...
Jesus tells a story in Luke 15 about a father and two sons. It's a story I had the pleasure of getting to recount and explain this past Sunday. The youngest son is often described as prodigal, which means recklessly wasteful. This young man tells his father to his face he wishes he (the father) could die so he (the son) could finally live. The son then promptly wastes what the father gives him in the name of freedom and self-indulgence. In the most happy and surprising turn in the story, this recklessly wasteful son is welcomed home and even celebrated by his father (whom the son earlier wished dead!). The older son, who stuck around serving the father, is furious at the celebration...
As are many of us toward people in churches just like yours and mine. (Click here to Continue...)
8.16.16 - Our Oceans Declare the Glory of God
His waters display His character (Click Here to Continue...)
6.1.16 - New Lancet Findings on Abortion and what it means for Cayman
A couple weeks ago the well-respected U.K. medical journal, Lancet, published massive, worldwide, multi-year findings with regard to the practice of abortions. The results had a a surprise or two and some specific implications for Grand Cayman. The journal article itself will cost you $31.50. I was unwilling to shell out that kind of coin and so settled for this very helpful summary by Aaron Hanbury from the Christian magazine Relevant. It is worth reading.
Here are 5 conclusions I've come to through reflecting on the article itself, and over time (Click Here to Continue...)
4.13.16 - Out of the Overflow of the Heart the Man Posts - Social Media Etiquette
During Sunday's worship Service we applied some Proverbs to the use of etiquette toward strangers and acquaintances.
I'm going to share something that you might not think a big deal but I remember it and am still slightly embarrassed by it. It was a Facebook comment I made about four years ago. A couple was posting love-grams back and forth on their Facebook walls. I didn't quite say, "Get a room" (after all it was later in the evening, they were sitting next to each other and so did, in fact, "have a room"), but instead typed out: "Isn't he sitting right next to you? Post-it-Note instead?" (Click Here to Continue...)
1.20.16 - "It's okay, God will forgive me tomorrow."
It was a rare moment of vulnerability under less than ideal circumstances. My friend's behavior and ongoing consumption were troubling and not a little awkward to observe. I had not intended to run into him that night. Now I felt I couldn't leave, could I? Not at least until he gets home safely. He then said something that was refreshingly raw and honest if not surprising because, hey, I'm his pastor and I'd be preaching again in a couple days:
"It's okay, God will forgive me tomorrow."
He's right by the way. (Click Here to Continue.. )
11.30.15 - Advent Help for Families and Adults
11.19.15 - This Gives My Life Meaning (Sun Follow-up)
Idols cannot save you, they can neither satisfy nor fulfill you - they take the place of the living God and so cause you to stumble instead of walk with him, which we were designed to do (Click Here to Continue...)
10.19.15 - Pray for our Honduras Missions Team
10.7.15 - God made our brains to change: Repentance & Neuroscience (Sun Follow-up)
This past Sunday I preached about a non-Christian, a Christian, and a group of Christians all of whom radically changed their minds when God spoke to them (Acts, ch 9). Such a change of mind, we learned, is called repentance. The New Testament word translated as "repentance" is metanoeo (meta - "to change condition" and noeo "exercise the mind or think"). The more habitually one changes their mind toward God's truth, the more increasingly the mind itself begins to change such that actions/habits begin to naturally follow (cf. Acts 26:20).
A recent surge of research has emerged regarding the neuroplasticity of our brains - that is, our brains are adaptable, not static, and therefore have the ability to re-wire themselves in a way that shapes our behavior. In other words, God so wants us to be people of continual repentance He has built within our minds flexibility for change. The physical make-up of our brains testify: You can change! (Click To Continue...).
10.1.15 - When you don't do well, well
(**Disclaimer: What I'm about to describe is unusual. 80-90% of my life is lived on the more familiar highway that connects my frequent guilt to God's amazing grace).
This one starts like a success story, but don't worry, it doesn't last long. Welcoming into our home for the weekend a child whose mother has a terminal disease, praying with and for church members who are struggling, opening up our home to bless and pray for missionaries, encouraging others with God's truth. "Yes, this is the Christian life I want to live. It's been a pretty good weekend." Can you see it coming? I don't always do well, well. Subtly (in fact, only looking back can I see the thought process) I think to myself: "Yeah, God's pretty satisfied with me." And He is, but not with my so-called good performance. (Click here to Continue...)
9.8.15 - Summer Reading & Slideshow
Yesterday was U.S. Labor Day, which marks the unofficial end to summer - at least in my country of origin. With Summer unofficially over (officially: it's 90 degrees out!), I thought I'd share a few books and pictures of our summer.
I felt in order to make this worth your while I had to find an different way to talk about reading (as it is "let's talk about what I read" can come off a bit egotistical). Thus, I'm going to organize the five books I used to ignore other people during the month of July like a basketball team. I'll link the book if you are interested.
8.20.15 - Your Work & What God says about the contribution you are making
7.1.15 - Pray for our Mission Team going to Honduras (July 3-10)
5.26.15 - Jesus speaks a better word (Sunday follow-up)
Wherever you open your Bible, you'll turn to some aspect of the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. It won't necessarily be 4 points followed a closing prayer to trust your life to Jesus as Lord and Savior - but it might Moses' willingness to accept blame for sin he didn't commit (which in turn foreshadows us of Jesus' willingness to bear the blame for sin he didn't commit - Exodus 32:32; Isaiah 53:4, II Corinthians 5:21) or it might be an example of sin/idolatry for which Christ died (see also Exodus 32 - the golden calf).
God's prophets were called to speak his word rightly. But each, including Moses, was sinful and none spoke His word fully. Jesus is God's perfect prophet - speaking the words of eternal life (John 6:68-69). Whenever we read the Old Testament prophets, we ought to ask: Where does Jesus speak a similar but better word? (Click Here to Contiue...)
5.25.15 - Moses points to Jesus (Sunday follow-up)
Yesterday I had opportunity to present the ultimate life-purpose of one of the great men in Jewish and Christian history - the prophet Moses. This man's ultimate life-purpose was to point people up-the-road to a better prophet who would speak to us a better word - the prophet Jesus.
I couldn't yesterday share all or even most of the Christ-pointing references to Moses - and only shared a couple of Jesus' own references to Moses. My aim here is to simply present the Scriptures that display Moses clearly pointing people to Jesus as a prophetic mediator - one who gets in-between to speak the people's words to God, and God's words to people. Jesus does this even better and forever.
5.13.15 - I deserve anything...
When I ponder the grace of God, I often do so in terms of: "I deserve nothing...yet I've been given every good gift" (cf. Romans 8:32). This is the passive reception of grace. There is another side of grace, which Tim Keller calls, the threat of grace. It says: "I deserve anything that is asked of me." (Click Here to Continue...)
4.23.15 - He Giveth More Grace
I love my local church. The family members for Sunrise Community Church are very dear to me as I hope those on your local branch of God's family tree are dear to you. Sunrise, I want to share something that moved me on your behalf this week. (Click Here to Continue)
2.19.15 - Should my Giving be Secret?
2.18.15 - Giving up stuff makes me loathe lent (*alternate plan & purpose included)
Giving up sweets, throwing away all chocolate, hiding the remote control, heading to bed earlier, putting away beer/wine, a fast from Facebook. This was the Lent of my childhood - except for Facebook (illegitimate for an 80s child) and beer (illegal for any child). Now fasting from these may prove a valuable discipline. I think it was Thomas Merton who once said: We should periodically abstain from any habit or indulgence to make sure we are not, in fact, enslaved to it. It's often when we intentionally remove an indulgence, habit, or possession that we realize it has owned us - not the other way around.
True fasting is feasting. The 'part of us' we kind of miss lends us opportunity to further feast on Jesus for true life (John 6:57). Thus, the lenten season affords us a deliberate season of time to further experience the generosity of Jesus through taking that initial step of generously giving of yourself. The feast is the goal - not the fast! (Click Here to Continue)
1.7.15 - Jesus' Journals - Finishing the Psalms so we can pray & sing them
12.19.14 - Why I've fallen back in love with y'all
When Katie, Mason & myself moved in 2005 from the frozen tundras of Chicago, Illinois to the pollenated southern United States (Tallahassee, Florida), I made a conscious decision that I would not give in to the use of y'all - be it in conversation or correspondence. I've always taken a little extra pride in employing correct grammar (it's the English Lit major in me - we have very little practical application of our studies!). I felt grammatically free of y'all after moving to the multicultural Cayman Islands. (Click Here to Continue)
10.28.14 - When you can't pinpoint the day/hour of your salvation: Baptism
For those of you who can't pinpoint the exact moment of your salvation, but wish you could: Consider the benefit of water baptism through your local church. (Click Here to Continue...)
10.20.14 - Your Christianity Shouldn't Work - Meditation from Middle of 1st John
10.15.14 - What can you do for Persecuted Christians?
The 2nd & Final Return of Jesus to this earth is especially good news to those whose lives are filled with bad news. He will one day return with finality to restore everything to its rightful place. Those with us on Sunday saw that Jesus' teaching in Mark 13:31-37 (echoed later in the Garden of Gethsemane - Mt. 26:38-45) leads us to stand with those who long for that Day. Applying Jesus' repeated (x3) admonition to "stay awake" encourages those of us whose lives are not characterized by bad news to "stay awake" and "keep watch" as alert intercessors with saints who do suffer to the point where Jesus' return is truly their "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13).
Those who suffer most for the gospel are persecuted Christians. They suffer precisely because they place their hope, their treasure their very lives in neither false gods nor empty philosophies - but in a God-man who lived the perfect life they could not and then died the death they deserved, so that he might offer to us a free gift of reconciliation to God. How might we "stay awake" and "keep watch" with those who suffer because of this message - the glorious gospel? (Click Here to Continue...)
9.24.14 - Creative Activity to Engage Kids in Prayer
Over at the Verge Network, Karen Hardin has relayed to us a fantastic, creative, and get-off-your-behind way to engage your child(ren) in prayer. Namely, as she puts it, you can use your child's tendency to see differences to foster gratitude and a habit of prayer. Who doesn't want to do that and who doesn't have a child who has complained "Brother, sister, Bobby, Sally has more/better ______ than me" ?! (Click Here to Continue)
9.18.14 - Church-branding Overwhlems the Cross
Jesus' object lesson in Mark 11:15-19 about the ineffectiveness of religious ritual continues to stir in me because I recognize that church attendance, just like temple worship in Jesus' day, can provide "a den" (a refuge, a hideout) for people to take cover under the banner of: "Me & God are good...because I'm a pretty good person who goes to church." Worse yet, those of us who are pastors, elders, or lay leaders are prone to propagate this twisted idea - even if unconsciously. Thus, the irony: We hurt the church we love by spending ourselves to promote the church we love. We ought not be about "our church" preservation and "our church" promotion - but Jesus-preservation (preserving his teaching) and Jesus-promotion (promoting His name).
JR Kerr provides a "gut-check" to every church, including ours, in this little article: "Church-Branding Overwhelms the Cross." (Click Here to Continue...)
9.11.14 - Kids & you Fathers who help raise them
9.10.14 - Effective name-calling: The power of imputation
My ultimate goal in this post is to empower you to participate with God in fruitful change in those whom you care about. You watch them flail, flounder, fret, and frustrate themselves. But your attempts to be of any help to them have proved in vain and, in addition, have left you feeling equally stuck and equally frustrated. God has been nudging me personally towards a different tack through something known as imputation. (Click Here to Continue...)
8.11.14 - An Unlikely Match: Fearing and Loving God at the same time (Part 2)
8.7.14 - An Unlikely Match: Fearing and Loving God at the same time (Part 1)
A tarantula that sits on your knee but never does bite you.
A viper that has slithered up your shirt sleeve but never strikes.
Saying something conspicuously embarrassing in front of group of people but they never turn to gawk nor give the slightest laugh at your expense.
Standing on the edge of a cliff, now walking, now dancing, but never teetering nor toppling over the edge.
$1 in your savings account but despite your spending, that dollar never runs out.
That's where we will end up. Such paradoxical illustrations will reappear at the finish line as I seek to unwind what is an explicitly biblical mystery of how a true Christian both simultaneously fears and loves God. And how it changes them... (Click Here to Continue...)
8.4.14 - Fear Not: A Series of Blog Posts
Howdy friends. Hope you are having a fantacular summer. I just got back from our annual holiday-polooza across the Southeastern part of the United States (including a trip to its capital Washington, D.C. -- admittedly, to visit with close friends but with the excuse that our little American citizens should learn some American history).
Worshipping Sunday with my local family of faith & diving together into His Word was a breath of fresh air. I've just started a 3-week series entitled Fear Not which aims to lay out 3 anchoring truths designed to move people from fear to faith.
Sooo...the Sunday messages are intended to be more prescriptive than diagnostic in nature (ie. spending less time on WebMD figuring out how fear works & its symptoms and more time going to the Physician for truth prescriptions). Nevertheless, taking time to look at some of the inner workings of fear can help ready us to fight against it.
Each week of the series I'll write a blog post, during which time I'll take a poke at the following on Fear (Click Here to Continue...)
5.28.14 - Matthew 5: Jesus says, Jesus does
Most Community Groups in SCC are following up outreach through the Christianity Explored course & dinners by imparting a very simple and memorable discipleship strategy to new/young believers. We are engaging with the major events and teachings of God's Word (from Genesis to Revelation) while learning together how to feed ourselves with God's Word and how to teach others to do likewise.
Last week the five guys within our larger group were working through sharing a 'lightbulb' moment that God gave each of us as we read Matthew 5. As we did so, God opened my eyes to something I had never before seen.
Jesus, in the wisdom that typified his every parable and pericope, is teaching at 2 levels here and we'd do well to pay attention to both. Jesus speaks to his disciples many high ethical standards for them to live out or embody - but (lightbulb!) he speaks of himself doing just one thing. (Click Here to Continue...)
5.12.14 - A Wonderful & Free Marriage Tune-Up with Tim & Kathy Keller
My wife Katie and I were blessed both before and during the early years of our marriage with some wonderful marriage mentors. And frankly: We needed all the help we could get!!
Increasingly couples are getting hitched with neither the benefit of mentoring or counseling. You might be one of those people and even if you are not: I am linking below a wonderful marriage overview and refresher in 1 1/4 hours.
Here you can access a brilliant 2005 talk from Pastor Tim & Kathy Keller on Cultivating a Healthy Marriage. You will need to create a user name and PW but otherwise it's free. The couple rotates back and forth speaking candidly, biblically and practically on six major marital hot-spots (again SIX in just an hour and some change!!): (1) Purpose & Roles; (2) Communication; (3) Love Languages; (4) Sex (pre & post childbirth); (5) Conflict; (6) Spiritual Life together. (Click Here to Continue...)
5.2.14 - FREE AUDIOBOOK for May: Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God
There is an argument against evangelism goes like this:
"If God knows all things, is in charge of all things, and has planned all things, my friend, neighbor or co-worker will trust Jesus no matter how much or how little I pray, prepare, or share with them."
In what is probably the New Testament's paramount passage on evangelism, the bottom-line, takeaway action verb is "persuade others" (II Corinthians 5:11). It is interesting, however: The Apostle Paul makes clear that neither the persuading nor the converting ought motivate us. Indeed, you can imagine how our persuasive performance (or lack thereof) might lead to disappointment about ourselves, bitterness toward God, and even frustration toward the slow of heart we are trying to persuade. (Click Here to Continue...)
4.23.14 - Rearranging Homes for the Gospel
The Holy Spirit piqued my heart this morning to give thanks for a particular people...(Warning: This is not a Pro-"House Church Movement" post). Namely, those who permanently modify or regularly rearrange their homes for gospel ministry. (Click Here to Continue...)
4.15.14 - Another Reason Christ Had to Die: His Example of Endurance
Sunday Morning presented a glorious opportunity for me to preach Christ Crucified from Mark 8:31-38. At the beginning of my message I mentioned seven reasons (!) as to why Jesus necessarily had to die. Toward the end of the message I reasoned as to why embracing the cross is worth it. Actually it was Jesus' own reasons for why embracing His cross (and our own) is worth it. "There is a me at the end of every cross." With every cross we are called to take up, there we find at its end the greatest treasure of all - Jesus. And when you look a little more closely at the hardest statements of John 8:31-38, you'll begin to notice the many "me's" at the end of them (rising after three days, follow me , the built-in eternal potential to know me forever - called "a soul", the Son of Man who will return for us in the glory of His Father).
Here's one more reason why Jesus had to go to the cross and why His cross is worth embracing: The Example of Endurance using the Joy set Before us (Click Here to Continue...)
2.27.14 - Providence or Parasite?
Tired, having given all you can give, people - perhaps some of them the same people you just ministered to - are U-turning back your way to ask for more. Is such a person part of God's providence - His gracious plan for every thought, action, and member of His creation - OR parasite - someone who has begun to look to you and depend on you for what only Jesus can provide them? Providence or Parasite? (Click to Continue...)
2.5.14 - 8 reasons why enjoying God with others is better than you & Yahewh just "doing your own thing."
This past Sunday I had opportunity to teach from Psalm 40 and try to explain why this prayer-song was a kind of pattern for David's spiritual life - and ebb and flow from worship in private prayer closet (in his case - fields and caves) and public worship with God's people (whether it be dancing before an Ark in his underoos or in the sanctuary). My emphasis for Sunday was upon how running back each day to the private prayer closet - alone with God - serves to re-fuel and sustain every effort of corporate worship.
However, I did make a brief comment: Public, corporate worship - hearing from God's Word together and singing it to one another and to God - protects and enlargens the prayer closet. This is the other side of the coin in developing intimacy with God. The impetus behind that brief comment largely stemmed from a sermon I read last week by David Clarkson. (Click to Continue...)
1.31.13 - We need Sunday because all is not yet Sunday
I've been thinking and reading a lot this week about worship as I prepare to preach on this final avenue of how our church's leadership envisions carrying out our God-assigned mission to introduce people to Jesus and help them grow by his grace.
I am looking forward Zac Hicks leading us in praise and worship when myself and one of our elders attend the Liberate Conference in Ft Lauderdale, FL next month. He wrote a very thoughtful blog post entitled "Why the Tension between Public and Private Worship?" as to why we need to diligently drive ourselves to corporate worship every Sunday. (Click here to Continue...)
1.9.13 - Talking Trinity with a J's Witness (and anyone else...)
This past Saturday was our last non-youth-sports Saturday in January so we were pleasantly enjoying the morning sun and the nonsensical notion of me building a tree fort (which, miracle!, happened much to the chagrin of two fingers on my left hand), r when I heard folks knocking at my office door. The gentleman and his wife were friendly, intelligent, and determined to ask me about whether I would want their literature. I admired their conviction and boldness knowing I can learn something from them about both. After saying, "I'll take it but my interest is mild in the literature itself but I'm interested in how it affects you," we soon approached a fork in the road when I admitted: "I think we share differences in what we believe about Jesus and the Trinity." (Click Here to Continue...)
12.19.13 - Danger of Christian Karma during the Charitable Christmas Season
Many of you - as we have recently done at SCC - have just recently completed filling bags for the hungry to receive a Christmas meal, purchased a Christmas gift for a child who has an incarcerated parent, or even assembled your family to collectively "give back" during this holiday season.
Speaking from a wealth of charitable experience, Peter Greer, President/CEO of Hope International gives us in this brief interview a prophetic warning and opens up about his own "buying-in" to Christian Karma (ie. if I do good, God has no choice but to bless me). (Click Here to Continue...)
12.9.13 - Sun Am Follow-up: How to dish out samples of God's unusual goodness
Yesterday we had opportunity to corporately examine four straight rapid-fire parables about God's Kingdom given by Jesus in Mark 4:21-34 - to which, having heard, some came to Jesus privately and asked for further explanation and understanding. I made the claim: Jesus uses parables like these to offer a sampler of unusual goodness so that those who taste might inquire within.
As rich as our time in the Word was, I regret not having enough time to get to how those who have already tasted, seen, & taken refuge in King Jesus (Psalm 34:8) might likewise dish out little samplings of God's unusual goodness. (Click Here to Continue...)
12.1.13 - Advent Guides for Families & Adults
Advent comes from the Latin adventus and simply means, "coming." It has served the church through the centuries as an intentional way for Christians to try to sense what it was like to anticipate the coming of the world's Savior - as predicted as far back as the Book of Genesis - and to anticipate the time when He will come again to restore all things. Advent begins today and culminates on Christmas Day.
Here are a couple ways to intentionally celebrate the Savior with your kids during the Advent season and one way to go solo (Click Here to Continue...)
11.28.13 - Relating to my church when I don't have kids
Katie and I recently returned from an amazing vacation during which, for the first time in seven years, we were able to leave our kids behind. One of the nights we were away a single friend in our church body, who is very precious to us, was gracious enough to watch our children. In some ways, it might have been easier to have our boys stay "with a friend" that night - a typical nuclear family. But three factors opened the door: (a) Intentionally broadening our horizons (and conversations and things in common) to befriend our brothers and sisters free of children; (b) That person intentionally broadening their horizons to befriend a family with children. Katie, myself, and our boys were immensely blessed by our friend taking two nights (one to orient herself with their schools and their routines) to serve our family; (c) Jesus Himself, through whom such possibilities of unlikely friendships become possible (see Ephesians 2:11-22). And so we reached out and asked a favor which she could meet and did. (Click Here to Continue...)
10.30.13 - A Proverb Worth Memorizing: 13:12
How do you know what to do next? How to respond? Whether or not this seemingly good thing headed your way is from God or from the Evil One? Is this God speaking or my heart -- what I want -- deceiving me (Jer. 17:9)? There is no substitute for memorizing verses in Scripture to know to respond to what life throws at you, to discern if a good thing is also a God thing, and to know if God is speaking to you or trying to get your attention (after all, He's given us His written Word - won't his spoken, mysterious, by-the-Spirit words look remarkably similar if not identical to pages you can leaf through everyday?). To be honest, some verses I've memorized come to mind in real-life situations more often than others - one of these is Proverbs 13:12. I'd like to share with you why might also find it helpful to memorize and even pass along to others. (Click Here to Continue...)
10.3.13 - R.I.P. Chuck Smith (June 25, 1927-October 3, 2013)
Chuck Smith is best known as the first pastor and founder of Calvary Chapel.
He died today after a long battle with lung cancer. My best summary of Smith: He had a simple but oh so zealous desire to take the love of God expressed in the Scriptures and communicate that across cultural lines to many whom church had given up on (starting with, yes, "those darn hippies...").
9.19.13 - Stages of Grief, Suffering, & Mental Illness: Rick & Kay Warren's Interview with Piers Morgan
Two of the larger pastoral concerns I have over the next 20 years relate to premarital cohabitation and mental illness - the former for its pervasiveness and 'acceptability' and the latter because of its complexity and silent devastation. Caring for someone with mental illness in any degree requires a remarkable amount of prayer, love, patience, and discernment.
Earlier this year, Rick Warren, lead pastor of Saddleback Church in California, and his wife Kay lost their adult son Matthew to suicide after a long bout with mental illness and depression, as well as exhaustive attempts at treatment.
In their first interview since Matthew's death, Rick and Kay lay out some courageous truths in how they are wrestling with God in the arena of faith and hope. (Click Here to Continue...)
9.18.13 - Why do we say: "God told me?"
8.19.13 - Sun Follow-up - Ben Edwards: A Financial World Example of Work that Lasts & Lasting at Work
Yesterday we explored how Christ's final three words "It is finished" can help us both do work that lasts & last at our work.
At Sunrise we are blessed with a number of amazingly hard workers in the financial sector. One man's story that might encourage you is Ben Edwards, former CEO of the former securities brokerage company, A.G. Edwards, which was based out of St. Louis and bought out by Wachovia in 2009.
I've read up a bit on this bloke. He felt free to take calculated risks in the securities sector because of His security in Christ. (Click Here to Continue...)
8.13.13 - Sunday Follow-up: The Lingering ? about Abundance
Sunday we looked at a 2nd Paradox of Christian Living Abundance through Monogamy. Most people try to add to their life by seeking out and accumulating individual additions - be they pleasures/comforts, things, friends, security, power. One at a time so that they might eventually have a life of "abundance." Jesus flips this notion on its head - monogamy (a commitment to ONE above all others and for a lifetime) leads to abundance. (Click Here to Continue...)
8.8.13 - Freedom run Wild + Abundant Pleasures...mmm...YES, PLEASE!
On Sunday mornings under the Big Top we have been examining the Paradoxes of the Christian Life. God wants to give us all manner of graces but the way we access such grace is the opposite of what we'd expect (or want !!). Last Sunday's Paradox: Freedom through Slavery and this Sunday's will be Abundance through Monogamy.
I ran across some of G.K. Chesterton's writings on the subject in his classic work Orthodoxy. Chesterton, like C.S. Lewis after him, had a wonderful way of putting things, especially big biblical truths. He beautifully summarizes both how total sold-out-ness (slavery) to the rule and order of a good God leads to freedom and how monogamy leads to the most abundant of pleasures. (Click Here to Continue...)
7.3.13 - Keeping a Look-Out this year
Having finished up First John and packing my bags for a three week holiday in the States, I reflected on what God taught me most from that letter at the very back of the Bible - namely, that God is growing me less from understanding and analyzing myself and far more from looking outward to Jesus. For every look at my sin, five more times at my Savior; for every analytical moment, two more looks outward to His atonement; for every inward shame, a re-focus on Him who bore my blame. Okay...that counts as hopelessly cheesy use of rhyme but you are far more likely to remember cheesiness so ... WORTH IT! (Click Here to Continue...)
6.25.13 - The Curse of Passivity
Last night my boys and I were reading in bed about God's selection of David to succeed Saul as King of Israel. As the moral of the selection story is that God looks not at outward appearance but the content of one's heart (1 Samuel 16:7), we prayed that God would give us a heart for God like David...when my oldest son Mason interrupted my prayer himself praying: "Except for his later heart when he has that guy killed in battle." We laughed and then prayed that. Mason was right though. While David was forgiven and restored by God, his heart was never quite the same after adultery with Bathsheba, killing her husband Uriah, and subsequently losing a child. He grew passive. (Click to Continue...)
6.12.13 - Praise God for cheerleading & truth-telling Spouses
As a man, I tend to bottle frustration, anxiety, doubt, and concern within and, if it wasn't for the elders in our church, the only person who would ever see those things exposed is my lovely wife, Katie. (Click Here to Continue...)
5.29.13 - Learning to Speak Cayman (Letter B)
As mentioned in the first post (Learning to Speak Cayman - Letter A), my hope once a week or so is to share with you a little Caymanian vocabulary. Many of my readers are no doubt ex-pats who reside here in the Beloved Isle Cayman - and while each of us are required to speak English when you arrive on island, there is no such requirement to learn words & phrases unique to Cayman...now that the pressure's off, there is no better time like the present. (Click Here to Continue...)
5.15.13 - Something we can learn from Channel 21
There was something I had planned to bring up during Sunday's sermon and our examination of 1 John 2:12-14...but...ran...out...of...time. What I wanted to say was that this passage serves as a reminder is something beneficial we can learn from the bulk of the teaching found on Weststar's Channel 21 (a Christian broadcasting network). Let's get God's Word out there before we go any further. (Click Here to Continue...)
5.7.13 - Learning to Speak Cayman (Letter A)
Since moving to Cayman almost 3.5 years ago, I've assiduously read histories and asked old-timers countless questions about this great island. And because, especially early on (this has certainly changed some), SCC consisted almost entirely of ex-pats, I thought it would be a good idea to write about some interesting Cay-History stories, movements & characters. The goal being to familiarize more people with the culture and nation where they make their home. I received some positive feedback about folks enjoying those. So back by popular demand (and by popular demand I mean any amount more than three, one of whom can be my Mom), I bring you "Learning to Speak Cayman."
While you may be required to learn to speak English to move here from off-island, Immigration does not require you to learn vocabulary unique to Cayman. So I thought I'd post some of my favorites courtesy of the Cayman Islands Dictionary. Let's learn together! (Click Here to Continue...)
4.15.13. R.I.P. Brennan Manning (1934-2013)
I found out a couple nights ago that Brennan Manning died over the weekend. My response consisted of a few tears and a simple, "Thank you, Abba, for Brennan Manning." (Click Here to Continue...)
3.28.13 - Hope: When do I keep fighting and when do I rest content?
3.11.13 - Forgiveness: You heard the Sermon, Now Sing the Song.
Yesterday receiving the Word & responding in Worshipping under the big top, I had the privilege to teach on Step 4 in making relational peace between two persons. Step 4: Go & Be Reconciled (Matthew 5:23-24). My sermon in a nutshell was this: Don't miss your moment to cap-off the peacemaking process by verbally extending forgiveness.
I was searching all week for the perfect song that might complement the message and help us respond in praise and obedience to God's Word. Doh! Found it a day late. Chalk it up to God's will. Thanks to Susan Vivas who posted this song on her Facebook Page. It highlights nearly every point I wanted to make, did so through song, and did so in under 4 1/2 minutes (I know, I know: "If only Pastor Ryan had found this earlier vs. 35 minutes plus spilling Harquail pond water on the stage"). (Click Here to Continue & Listen...)
3.7.13 - YOU can help someone who is hurting
While Grand Cayman is both remarkably diverse in the six different continents with a strongly represented presence and assuredly contemporary in its features and amenities as compared with other Caribbean islands, we are still but a small-town population of only 55,000 persons...give or take (which is why I like to describe Cayman as an urban nation with a rural population).
So when tragedy hits our small community, it often hits hard. A young man, just 15 years old, took his own life just a few days ago. And, as if that fact wasn't tragic enough, it seems that bullying directly precipitated this tragedy, as footage of the bullying act was posted and went viral. (Click Here to Continue...)
2.20.13 - Free Audiobook for February: Jesus-lovin' Indiana Jones
I have two sons - 8 and 6 years of age. The youngest celebrated his most recent birthday with a Spy Party (which included mostly parents jumping behind cardboard boxes shooting Nerf Gun Darts at one another...so, yes, the party was awesome!!). Boys, including this one in his mid-30s, gravitate toward adventure & risk. And there is plenty of that in the story of Brother Andrew.
God's Smuggler is a true story that begins with a boy who dreamed of one day being a spy and spent his childhood acting like one (Click Here to Continue and Access Free Audiobook...)
2.1.13 - How do we know if God is disciplining us?
A former professor of mine at Trinity adroitly addresses a question that I have asked and still often do ask when things go sour in my life: Are these things happening because God is disciplining me for some offense or pattern of rebellion? How can I tell? (Click Here to Continue...)
1.7.13 - SCC in 2013: A Year for Found People to Find People
With everything that is in me I want to share that personal evangelism is what the Holy Spirit continues to impress on my heart for 2013 - namely, for us to grow as a church body to the next level in both breadth and depth it will be primarily through brave and faithful persons such as yourself not only building relationships with pre-Christians (most of you excel at that!) but to take the courageous next step across that bridge you've built with friends, neighbors, & co-workers to share a message of good/freakin' awesome news - a.k.a the gospel. (Click Here to Continue...)
12.19.12 - Christmas Myths
I am a ridiculously nostalgic person in general but especially when it comes to Christmas. My Christmas Playlist remains defiantly entrenched on my iPod all year round - even though it takes up far too much space (but what do you take off? Elvis' "Blue Christmas"? or "Mele Kalikimaka - Hawaiian Christmas"?! I don't think so!!). But I do like my Christmas traditions truthful. With the help of a couple books & the interwebs (snopes.com in particular), I found out some interesting and, sadly, disturbing revelations about Christmas. (Click Here to Continue)
12.11.12 - Word & Spirit: Why can't we have both?
"Why was the United States invented?" asked our 6-year old son, Gage, at the dinner table last week. "Yeah, dad, you said it was a newer country. What caused people to move there?" chimed in our 8-year-old Mason. Okay, Oelschlager, think. Well there are a myriad of issues but I decided to go for the 1st amendment, which also happens to be in my wheelhouse as a pastor. "Religious freedom." (Come on, Ryan, simplify). "People wanted to worship Jesus in slightly different ways. For instance, some people who loved Jesus wanted to study what God says in the Bible without the government or anyone else telling them how they should understand the Bible (see the Puritans). Their focus was understanding and putting down deep roots in Jesus. But others wanted to celebrate, sing, and worship the Jesus of the Bible without outside interference (see Quakers and guidance by the Spirit or "inner light"). So while the other group focused mostly on the Bible, their focus was on celebration, worship, and the mysterious bigness of God."
"But Dad," said Gage, "Why can't they do BOTH?" (Click Here to Continue)
11.13.12 - Mailing it in
Urbandictionary.com defines Mailing it in as: slang for doing the least amount of work possible to produce a adequately finished product.
I want to be honest with those whom I am privileged to serve as their pastor - I mailed it in this past Sunday. And I want to help you consider how you might prevent such a mail-it-in moment. (Click Here to Continue...)
10.22.12 - Political Debates: Some things we'd like to hear
I no longer live in the United States and now consider Cayman home. Nevertheless, while I do not always wish to engage in the political process, I am still a U.S. citizen and do feel I have a responsibility to stay informed and ultimately vote. I am also admittedly further motivated by the fact that my vote counts toward the State of Florida - a historically closely-contested State where votes really 'matter.' So, yeah, I have been watching these U.S. Presidential debates. And I know even some of you non-Americans have as well (in part because 95% of our media here in Cayman is American-based).
After the first couple debates (including all the gross exaggerations, unrealistic promises, and run-of-the-mill venom therein), I started jotting down some things I wished to hear in a debate. (Click Here to Continue...)
10.3.12 - "Should Christians Participate in Halloween?"
Every year I've managed to dodge this question fairly successfully - preferring to respond: "But the real question is: Should Christians participate in Valentine's Day? The origin of love according to Hallmark and the Peanuts card that Ramsey Rives gave me in 3rd grade is a Greek mythological figure who shoots arrows -- not Yahweh. Well, that's heresy right there (see 1 John 4). Okay, I'll wait for that. This is a legitimate and serious question and I've been asked by a host of persons about it this year. Katie and I have actually given it quite a bit of prayerful and biblical consideration over the years so here we go... (Click Here to Continue)
9.11.12 - Living Together Before Marriage - Two Articles and a Question we should all be Asking
Confronting cohabitation before marriage, I'm convinced, needs to be at the forefront of any strategy for healthy marriages over the next 20 years - in every church and for every every pastor, Christian counselor, and indeed every Christian. Whether you tend to be for it or against it, it is happening at an alarming rate and isn't going away. No less here in Cayman. This scenario is all too common among ex-pats in particular: A young single professional moves here and is looking for a roommate. He/she meets another young single professional of the opposite gender - maybe they even start dating or at least engage in a 'good-natured' flirtatious friendship - WA- LA!! "Why don't we be roommates?!" Problem solved. (Click Here to Continue...)
Other Past Archived Blog Posts can be Found on Pastor O's Blog and are organized by Subject.