Surrender

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I see you battling addiction. It causes great hurt to you, and heartache to those around you. You hope that it will just go away but it won’t. Some days are great you don’t need help. Others are awful and have you crying for help. The rest, well you got through them didn’t you?

There isn’t a program or sponsor out there that will ever do for you what you need done. You don’t need a quick fix. You cannot rely on the very things that have failed you to this point. What may those be you ask? Humanity. Programs are made by men. Sponsors are men themselves. They can be helpful, and often times are. But they fall victim to the same things you do, sin.

Sin isn’t something we “fix”. Sin isn’t something that will eventually just go away. We cannot simply ask for it to leave and more often than not, the harder we try, the more in festers. So what is left you ask? Ask for God, and God alone.

This isn’t the God you have seen in church. It isn’t the God you have read about in that Bible you have at home. This is the God that has had His hand reaching out for you since the day you were born. Before you experienced your first sinful act, or hurtful circumstance, He was calling for you. God is deeply personal, and will stop at nothing to make you feel him, and need him, and cry out for him.

God has allowed your addiction to hurt you, because He needs you to see that is what YOU are capable of. But God won’t leave you there. He has an out. It may take steps, and may involve a sponsor, but ultimately it means fully surrendering your life to him. You don’t even know what that means right now and that’s okay.

It’s time you wave the white flag. Turn your back on everything that has put you in that place of hurt, and allow God, and His people, to bring you to a place where addiction will one day be no more. You deserve more. You deserve better. And until you realize that, you’ll stay right where you are at….or worse.

“But God shows his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13


Going Back to Haiti

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As many of you know, I am a pastor at For His Glory Community Church and have been a part of the awesome work God is doing there. This summer, God has opened the door for a small team to head to Port au Prince, Haiti. There, we will be teaming up with Maranatha Children’s Ministry (www.mcmhaiti.org) to serve during a 6 week English Camp (think vacation Bible school). We will be teaching, cooking, cleaning, and most importantly loving on these children in hopes of not only meeting their physical and emotional needs, but more importantly their spiritual needs.

When presented with the opportunity to lead this team back to a country so very dear to my heart (I was there in August of 2011), I jumped at it. What brings about even more excitement is the fact that I get to bring my 12 year old daughter Alexis with me. I cannot wait to see the ways God will move her heart, how her heart will bless the children in Haiti that we will be ministering to, and how our relationship will grow during this trip. Awesome right?  While I love Haiti and am excited, this is a lot of responsibility and I pray I serve God and the team well!

Would you personally consider supporting us on this trip? I understand that for many, finances are tough and if that is you, I covet your prayers just the same. But if you are able, any financial contribution would be great. Alexis and I need to raise $1500 each ($3000 total) and need to do so very soon. The trip is scheduled for July 19 – July 26 and we have airline tickets, immunizations and other expenses already coming due.

If you feel led to pray, please be praying in the following areas:

  • For open hearts among the people of Haiti and opportunities to share the Gospel with them
  • For boldness and confidence, that I may be an effective witness
  • That I will be open to the Lord’s teaching and be a humble servant
  • For health and safety and the financial supply I need for the trip

If you would like to be updated on my progress and prayer needs, please send me an email at ryan.miller@forhisglorycc.org.

If you would like to support me financially, you may do so in the following ways:

  • Mail a check:
    • Payable to – For His Glory Community Church, P.O. Box 4196, Fullerton, CA 92834-4196
      • Include Haiti/My Name in the memo section
  • Online:

All donations are tax deductible. If you have any questions, please contact me right away.

Thank you so much for your consideration!

Ryan


Celebrating Sin

Celebrating-Sin

This blog was originally written for and can be found at www.forhisglorycc.org.

Recently, a Girl Scout in San Francisco made the news for selling her cookies in front of a local marijuana dispensary. Many news media outlets are reporting on this girl’s “crafty and savvy” thought to display outside of the dispensary. Even big organizations, like Entrepreneur Magazine, are celebrating the fact that this girl made a wise business decision to set up shop in front of a place where people are known to eat a lot of snacks (see cancer.gov research here). What is amazing to me is that in the midst of noticing this girl’s “crafty” idea, society has completely overlooked the fact that this young, impressionable, 13-year-old girl (supposedly selling cookies for a good cause) is utilizing sin to succeed. My assumption here is that this is probably not the message that the Girl Scouts of America wants to portray. But with all of the positive media coverage building up her intelligence and her success, why wouldn’t every other Girl Scout or find their local dispensary and do the same thing? Now, I know that there are practical medical uses for marijuana, which wouldn’t be sinful in and of themselves, but the “munchies crowd” probably isn’t looking to cure a sickness when they step into that dispensary.

The Bible has a lot to say when it comes to celebrating the practice of sinful behavior, as well as using sin to succeed.

“It [speaking of love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth.” – 1 Cor 13:6

The Apostle Paul is encouraging the church at Corinth to use love as a way to build one another up, which ultimately brings glory to God. Unfortunately, what he saw were the people of God celebrating the sin of another, which further damages the person in sin, leads to destruction or division in the church, and worst of all, defames the name of Jesus. Truly loving another means pointing out the wrong they are practicing before it’s too late, and they do damage that is irreversible.

Another word against the practice of celebrating sin, as well as gaining from it, comes from Jesus himself. In Matthew 21, the Bible recounts a well-known event where Jesus cleansed the temple.

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”” – Matt 21:12–13

Within the temple, there was a market where business-like activity enabled local citizens to set up shop in order to serve the city and travelers passing through. This would be similar to our present day swap meet or street vendors in popular cities (like San Francisco). They would exchange currency and buy and sell goods. Unfortunately, many were doing it for sinful gain, and Jesus knew it. Instead of fairly exchanging foreign money for the temple currency so the travelers passing through could buy goods for themselves and purchase animals for sacrifice, these money changers were charging an unfair premium to exchange the money, and in turn, would pay off those that had appointed them to the position in the first place (think money laundering and embezzlement). Jesus labeled them a “den of robbers” to compare to well-known thieves and criminals of the day that practiced similar behavior.

While I am not ready to label this young Girl Scout one of a “den of robbers”, I am pointing out that our culture is perpetuating the (potential) sinful behavior associated with marijuana use and celebrating the financial gain that comes from it. To me, that sounds all too familiar to what Jesus reproached in Matthew’s account above. So how do we handle these situations when we face them?

  • Never diminish the potential that sin has to rear its ugly head in all circumstances.Some may look at this Girl Scout as a cute, young girl looking to sell a whole bunch of cookies for a great cause. But we cannot look past the fact that sin is too closely tied to her gain.
  • Examine areas of our lives where sin is profiting from our decisions. I understand that sin is all around us and almost every product we buy nowadays can be linked to some sort of greed or deceit, so don’t go crazy digging, but definitely be wise. Stay away from movies that purposefully distort the Word of God. Don’t watch TV shows that glorify sinful behavior. There are much better companies and causes that can use our money, and much more valuable things that can use our time.
  • Point people to Jesus when they get caught up in these practices. It’s easy for me to speak out against the Girl Scout for doing wrong, and the media for that matter, but it’s hard for me to show them why Jesus is the better answer. I find it challenging at times to explain in a loving and caring way that the wages of sin is death, though it is, and that only by accepting Jesus Christ will they ever find true joy and fulfillment in their efforts, but I must. We must be willing to take the time to lead conversations towards Jesus, who is ultimately the only one who can solve the sin issues in which this world is so deeply consumed.

Love God, love others, and stay as far away from the practice of sin as possible, because Jesus still cleanses and I don’t think we want to be collateral damage when it happens!

 


True Love

This blog was originally written for and can be found at www.forhisglorycc.org

Valentine’s Day is upon us. With it comes much history, loads of myth, and a whole bunch of confusion. I thought it would be great to take the opportunity to dissect it a bit and share why I think Valentine’s Day has perverted God’s most beautiful attribute….LOVE.

HISTORY

St. Valentine’s Day began as a church celebration for of a couple of early Christian saints named Valentinus, who gave their lives for the name of Christ. Two of the men recognized for their life and death were Valentine of Terni (martyred around AD 197) and Valentine of Rome (imprisoned, persecuted, and finally martyred in AD 496). It is also believed that two other saints may have contributed to the eventual celebration in the early church.

MYTH

Legend states that St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by the Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. This led to his execution. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer. The jailer’s daughter and his forty-four member household (family members and servants) came to believe in Jesus and were baptized. This demonstration of sacrificial love strongly supported the early church’s celebration, thus a reason many people believed the myth to be true.

LOVE CONNECTION

The first known connection of love with Valentine’s Day as we know it is recorded in a 14th century poem by Geoffrey Caucher. In “Parlament of Foules”, he wrote “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” The poem was written to honor the first anniversary of the marriage of King Richard II of England. This theme of birds mating was used by a few other writers during this time period to symbolize love.

In 1797, paper valentines began being produced to fill a need for people who couldn’t find the right words for their mates. Over the last 217 years, 190 million printed valentines have been exchanged while another 15 million have been sent online to express affection.

LOVE MISUNDERSTOOD

St. Valentine’s Day began as a time to celebrate sacrificial, God-glorifying love. But somehow, man began to replace this recognition of his sacrificial love for God with his romantic love for another. Commercialization has now made Valentine’s Day about candy, gifts, flowers, and crafty words (lacking in these things can create quite a bit of havoc in a household). But this isn’t a picture of true love at all.

The type of love that would inspire sacrifice for another, the foremost being God, is the Greek word agape. The closest English translation would be “unconditional love.” C.S. Lewis believed that agape love is specifically a virtue of the Christian, as it is something given by God to His people alone and inexpressible outside of that environment.

The type of love seen in Valentine’s celebrations today would be described by the Greek word eros. Eros is a romantic love and, while not distorted at the root, it can easily birth perversion when used as the driving force in a relationship or as a motivator for decision-making (sometimes described as the “heat of passion”).

TRUE LOVE

True love is foundational – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus was the foundation of God’s eternal, loving plan. And Jesus made sure that his love never swayed. He was sent to love his people, and he makes sure that he sees it to the end (see John 6:39). We must make Christ the foundation for our acts of love. Because of his love for us, we are given the ability to love him, and his people too.

True love is sacrificial – “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). The ultimate act of love was portrayed in an eternal, sacrificial plan. Jesus wasn’t worried about what others thought, and we shouldn’t be either when it comes to demonstrating our love for what really matters. And what matters, you may ask? To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others, as Christ himself commanded us to do.

True love is unconditional – “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39). The gift of love which was given to us by Christ has no strings. He loved us because of his grace and not because of our works. This means that if we commit to loving God or loving another, we need to cut the strings.

“…God is love.” 1 John 4:8

The only way we will ever understand love, experience love, demonstrate love, and desire to sacrifice for love is by being fully engulfed in Jesus. Here are some practical ways in which we can engulf ourselves in Jesus.

  • Pray

    We must be in constant communication with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Every day should begin in prayer and end in prayer. Every decision we make should be led by prayer. Every thought should be reasoned with prayer. And most importantly, we should recognize that when we pray, we are talking directly to God so it is not as if we need to speak some special language. We just need to be ourselves.
  • Study
    Bible reading is essential to learning about Jesus and growing closer to Jesus. Pick a book of the Bible and read it as best as you can. If that isn’t comfortable, find a great daily devotional and start there (a few good ones here). Highlight, underline, and take notes. Then, go find a friend or a pastor and ask as many questions as come up when you read.
  • Community
    We are only as good as the company we keep. We were created by a communal God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), and we were created to live in community with other Christians (1 Peter 2:9). Make sure you surround yourself with solid Christians who love Jesus (more than they love you). They will be there to love you, support you and correct you at all times, not just when you think you need help.

While there are many additional ways that help us to love like Jesus, the above are timeless and impossible to exhaust.

 


Why Should I?

22128704_sIn a few short minutes of discussion with a fellow pastor this morning, I realized that I regularly ask myself “Why should I?” when it comes to praying. I may not verbalize that phrase to myself but I definitely say it. I say it when I have a headache and first grab a pill. I say it when I am short on finances and immediately send out an email blast to my prospects. I say it when my kids won’t obey and I quickly punish them with something I know will hurt them. With the exception of a few specific environments, I typically don’t address needs with prayer first. Instead I think of what I can to do to fix or provide. 

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:1-3

In the verses above, James is basically saying that my problems fester because I am not asking the right questions, to the right Person. “Why should I” is easily answered with “because God wants me to” and “because God knows what’s best”. God wants me to be fully dependant on Him, not myself. God may direct me to the headache medicine, a new client, or grace instead of wrath. Or God may say no. And even if God says no, I can rest in that because God saying no means that he has something better for me down the line or knows this won’t be good for me in the moment.

I wonder how much hurt, heartache, and frustration I could have avoided over the years but not saying “Why should I”? Prayer is so powerful and yet it is the most under-utilized tool in my life. I am committing to more prayer and I encourage you to do the same.


Overlooked

Overlooked

Have you ever been frantically looking for something, when later you realize that it was right under your nose? It happens to the very best of us (ok, some more than others). Maybe it’s our keys, maybe it’s a screw for something we are assembling, or worse…maybe it’s the sunglasses sitting on top of our head!

Other times, we overlook the good things going on in our lives because of one bad thing, or a series of bad things. For me, I venture to say that describes the better part of my last couple of weeks. And it wasn’t until this morning that I realized what I was doing. Each morning I wake up, journal some thoughts about life, read a section of scripture, and then journal about that text before getting my day in gear. It has been very helpful on so many levels. Well, for the better part of 3 months I have been slowly reading through the Gospel of John and God has opened my eyes to so much. This morning was no different. While reading from John 20:11-18, I read this:

“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” John 20:15

Jesus had died on the cross and was buried in a tomb. A few days pass and his friend Mary Magdalene goes to visit his tomb. But to her dismay, the stone used to close up the tomb is rolled away exposing the interior and inside she finds nothing but a few garments. Understandably her emotions turned from grief to all out panic. Who took his body? Where did they take it? How will she get it back? These are all the same type of questions (maybe not the body one) that we ask ourselves when we are looking for something and can’t find it. And like Mary, we panic and lose clarity of sight and mind.

When I read the passage this morning, I got the context but it didn’t hit me until afterwards when I read John Calvin’s commentary. He said this about verse 15; “We see that Mary has no view of this matter but what is earthly. She desires only to obtain the dead body of Christ, that she may keep it hidden in the sepulchre; but she leaves out the most important matter, the elevation of her mind to the divine power of his resurrection. We need not wonder, therefore, if such grovelling views place a veil before her eyes.”

Whoa! Did her grovelling veil her eyes? Does my grovelling veil my eyes? What have I been missing these last couple of weeks? And maybe my whole Christian life?

This season of life has been tough. Finances have been hard, business has been a roller coaster, some relationships have been tested, possessions have been lost, and a piece of me has gone missing. I know I am not the only one. What has been burdening your life? What is it that is causing you to go mad and potentially veil your own eyes from the blessing right in front of you?

Hebrews 12 says that “For the joy set before him (Jesus), he endured the cross…” Maybe our trials themselves are the blessing if we just look at them from the right perspective.

or

James 1:12 says “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” Maybe the blessing is coming at the end of the trial.

or

Like Mary Magdalene in John 20:15, maybe the blessing is right in front of us regardless of the (apparent) trial.

Am I missing out on something so amazing that God has placed right before me because I’m too busy whining about the things I don’t like? Are you missing out on something so special because the struggle seems like to much to bear? For some, it could be as simple and shifting your eyes from one thing to another. For others, it could be completely changing your life’s perspective. I am not completely sure but I encourage you to take a look.

There is one thing I am sure of and it is this; Jesus is the answer. If you don’t have your life rooted in Jesus Christ, that must happen before anything else can make sense. If you are a follower of Christ, fix your eyes on him, our author and our perfecter, and accept the blessings he has waiting for you.

Mary would eventually realize that it was Jesus talking to her and she would find great joy in her discovery. My prayer is you would do the same.

 


Victory is Yours

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It was a crucial point in the ministry of Jesus. The man of ultimate betrayal, Judas, was about to be outed. But he isn’t the only one who has committed such sin. We too, every time we commit sin, are betraying God. 

After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” John 13:21

Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” John 13:26-27

Every person in this world is tempted with sin from Satan. For some of us, the temptation is great and the sins we commit are publicly destructive. These can be things such as sexual immorality, abuse, or drunkenness. For others, they are much more slight. These can be things such as lying, cheating on taxes (or a test), or watching pornography. Sins come in many shapes and sizes but in all them, we are betraying the God that loves us so much he sent his own Son down to this earth to die in our place.

“Sins come in many shapes and sizes…”

So how are we to overcome such things? Is it actually even possible to overcome these things? The answer to both of those questions is yes; for some people some of the time and some people all of the time. Let me explain:

Judas was tempted to betray Jesus with just a small amount of money. But that was the temptation, not the sin. The sin was not committed until later when he actual turned Jesus over to the men seeking to arrest him. Now you can argue (which I would probably agree with) that once Judas’ plot to turn Jesus in became his intent, that was probably a sin. But, the real turning point was in John 13: 27 above. At the point Satan entered Judas, there was no turning back.

What about us?

We are presented with temptation all day, every day. This comes as imagery, past desire, other people that are bad influencers, and so much more. If you are not a Christian, ultimately you have no power to deny Satan (and the sin) because he is the ruler of this world (see 2 Cor 4:4). That doesn’t mean you can’t and won’t deny sin, it just means that Satan has ultimate control and his desire is to see you sin against God and others.

If you are a Christian, you are faced with the same types of temptations as everyone else. You may try to avoid them by taking yourself out of specific environments or remove them from your life because that’s the “Christian thing to do” but those things are man-powered and as you saw in the paragraph above, man-powered only lasts so often and so long. But! BUT! You have the ability to deny Satan and deny the temptation before you sin, not because of who you are but because of what Jesus has done and what he has made you to be. This is a massive, and often times overlooked part of the victory Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. The cross just wasn’t for the forgiveness of sins (though that alone would have been amazing), but the power to overcome them and deny them before they even happen.

Because of Jesus’ victory on the cross, victory is yours too!

So what am I saying? Here are a few takeaways that I would love you to read through and pray over:

If you are not a Christian

  • Now is the time for you to make that decision. Maybe God led you to read this post so he could open your eyes to the fact that he has done it all for you and is asking you to accept him as your Savior. And if you do make that decision, or think you would like to, contact me and I would love to talk it through with you.

If you are a Christian

  • Is there any temptation in your life that you have been trying to deal with on your own?
  • Have you been open and honest with another Christian brother or sister about your struggles?
  • Are the Christians you have shared with trying to give you worldly advice or God’s word? (advice may help, God’s word is guaranteed to)
  • What sins have you determined as “just part of who you are”? (you never have to accept that)
  • Pray, pray, pray and ask God to take it away
  • Look ahead and see sins coming. Ask God to help you avoid them and then obey his guidance.

I didn’t intend to write this blog today but as I was reading Scripture and praying through it in my own life, I think it just had to be said. I have some great friends struggling in some of these areas and it hurts me so bad to see them like this. And if you are reading this post and struggling, it hurts me to know it too.

If there is anything I can do, please let me know whether you share it here or contact me directly through the contact page above.

God bless you!