Thursday, December 28, 2006

Moving day is here... Bryan and Tara's new blog is now online!

Check it out at

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Apologies in advance for any inconveniences you may experience reading this blog over the next day or so. I'm in the process of migrating this blog to wordpress for Bryan and Tara.

The new URL will be available soon.

John Stickley

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!!!

I am at my parents in Prairie Grove, Arkansas where I can actually get a computer to work to allow me to blog. Our super internet blocker has been blocking blogger ever since they made the new changes. The picture above is from a Christmas past, probably 4 or 5 years ago, at the Riley household. Dad always loves Christmas and is extravagant in giving. In fact, although he has never been a church goer he has taught me more about being generous than anyone else I know.

My son, Tanner, now 8, enjoyed the fruits of the Christmas shown above and below.

What thrills my heart is that Tanner has that generous heart passed on from my dad. This year Tanner took on the role of teaching us all what giving is about. We arrived back from the University of the Nations to quite a bit of work. We often found ourselves still up at midnight working on the house, unpacking, Christmas, etc. As a result we ended up with only one afternoon to shop for everyone for Christmas and we simply didn't have time to take any of the kids to let them shop for their brother and sister. Tanner, without either Tara or I knowing, made or found presents for everyone in the family, wrapped them himself secretly, and hid them under the tree. So, this morning when we were all passing out the presents we were all surprised by incredible gifts from our little giver.

I hope to be able to blog from home soon. I have often thought of a "postable" note, but have been unable to share them (perhaps it's been a blessing in disguise to you). I just wanted to write this while i had five minutes (even though my family keeps asking where I am and wanting me to join them). If things don't work out with blogger, please be on the lookout for a post that says I've switched to some new site.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

This season of serving at the University of the Nations is coming to a close. We board our plane from Kona to Fayetteville, Arkansas tonight at 11:59 p.m. Hawaiian time (3:59 a.m. CST). We have been so blessed not just by great sunsets while here, but also by incredible relationships with people like Chong Ho and Kris Won, Nick and Jen Greener, Ben and Angie Wicks, Holger and Jillie Schein, Loren Cunningham, John and Sonja Randerson, Paul and Lynette Randerson, Josh Harmsworth, Tyler Johnson, Andy Huddleston and so many others. Our children have been discipled through our time together and by excellent schools, dedicated to teaching them to follow Jesus. We have worked on a number of projects and hope that our time here hasn't just been a blessing to us, but that we have blessed the University of the Nations. Most of all, God has renewed our faith and restored in us the joy of our salvation. We pray it becomes more and more manifest in our daily lives.

We know not yet where we will be come Spring of 2007, but we are praying about that earnestly and fervently. We have always wondered if God would release us to do our training in our home state, and that is still possible, but there are other opportunities of which we are becoming aware.

YWAM has an incredible mission and ministry. In our time here we have seen people truly seeking God's direction for their lives. The teaching is sound and the desire to see people hear and know the gospel of Jesus Christ is strong. Pray for YWAM. Pray for the gospel to be carried throughout the world. And please pray that we will not forget the lessons God has taught us here as we prepare to carry out our ministry.

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. "

Colossians 1:27-28

I'm not sure how many times I've read over these verses in Colossians and focused only on the very first part: conducting myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. That alone is an interesting discussion and I'd love to hear what people believe is such conduct. However, God really bolded the part above that I have bolded as I read these words: standing firm in one spirit and contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.

Wow! Does that describe today's church? It should convict us through and through. And, whereas we all can be convicted by the fact that people will know we are Christians by our love and that people will know that the Father sent Jesus by our unity, I'm not sure we often think about the fact that our unity also is a sign to those who don't believe of their impending destruction lest they receive by faith the gospel as well.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Here are a couple of oft quoted and beloved scripture passages:

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24;

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Romans 12:1-2

Both of these passages instruct us in the life of Jesus. It isn't so much that things things are magical or are requirements of salvation; instead, they are what Jesus did and now that we have His mind and have declared ourselves to be followers of Jesus these are things that should naturally follow through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Out of the love He has placed in our hearts for Him rejoicing, praying, and being thankful in all things should be the natural way of our life. Out of our love for Him we should desire to worship Him always, and that worship involves offering ourselves every moment as living sacrifices, set apart and pleasing to Him. We shouldn't conform to the world; in fact, as Christ's followers we cannot! If we are conforming to the world then we aren't really living as we proclaim to be.

Now, here are some questions that God has asked me about these verse as His Spirit has worked His comfort and conviction in my heart: Do I really seek Him daily? For example, when I was practicing law was I offering myself daily as a living sacrifice asking Him if He wanted me to continue practicing law or if He had a new course set for me? When was the last time you asked God whether you should continue to preach at your church, work at your job, be a member of whatever club, etc.? Have you even considered that He may have a different course for you and desire that you offer that up on the altar of your life?

Should we not pray daily that God will show us where He is leading us? I'm not trying to paralyze us with indecision or a lack of commitment; however, what are we really committed to? Following God or following the path we are currently on? And, how difficult is it to ask Him daily to fill us with His Spirit, to confirm the path that we are on, to enable our lifesong to be completely dedicated to Him?

With those thoughts, I ask you, my friends and fellow workers in the faith, to pray for the Rileys as we consider where God is leading us next. Where are we to GO in 2007? We feel compelled to do some further training in preparation for more missions work, but we don't know where and when that should begin. Thank you for your prayers, your faith, and your encouragement. And, if you have any ideas, words or visions from the Lord, don't hesitate to share them with me at bwriley4[at]yahoo[dot]com or by commenting here.

Furthermore, if you feel that the Rileys might have something worthwhile to share at your church to a Sunday School class or otherwise, let us know. We'd love to meet you if we haven't and definitely are burning to tell the story of what He has been doing in our lives. We are willing servants.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I am a week late in posting this, but last weekend, on December 2nd and 3rd, we celebrated Tanner Gracen Riley's 8th Birthday. He was born December 3, 1998, after almost 20 hours of loving labor, our first child. We packed up our family, as did the Schein's, and spent the weekend at the Volcano National Park on the Big Island . We had volcano cake and as you can see breathed volcanic fumes (a lot of stinky sulfur). You can see behind us boys the fumes arising from the mouth of Kilauea, the one volcano on the island that is currently active and spilling forth lava from an open vent. The crater itself is simply releasing gases and hasn't had lava in it for a few years, but there is lava flowing from the same system via a vent in the mountain down to the ocean. We actually went and viewed the lava flowing into the sea after dark. We weren't able to hike, with our littlest ones, as close as you can go, but we looked through a telescope like device from a couple of miles away and saw the actual orange flow disappearing into a roiling sea, complete with lots of steam!

We are very proud of our son, Tanner. Wherever we go on campus we hear big and little voices saying "Hi, Tanner!" It would seem that there isn't a soul on campus that doesn't know his name. He seems to be able to talk to anyone and it seems that almost anyone enjoys talking with him. Please pray for our son, Tanner, that God will continue to grow Him in strength and wisdom and in favor with God and man.

The Scheins are an amazing YWAM family who have been serving as missionaries for some time. Hoger, from Hamburg, Germany, and Jillie, from New Zealand, met in the mission field and have had all three of their boys along the way, serving in places like South Africa, England, and Germany. Pray that God will continue to multiply their ministry as they return to New Zealand for the holidays and then to South Africa.
Lord, thank you for Your Word. May you speak to our hearts always, bringing about repentance and lives surrendered to you.

Our sermon this morning included references to 1 Corinthians 2, and as we pondered those words I noticed these in the next chapter, and I couldn't help but think they are so applicable to the Church today.

1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?

What do you think? Are the divisions and the strife in the SBC and between denominations simply evidences of our carnality? Why do we have denominations anyway? Are they helpful to the Body of Christ? To the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Here's a blog always worth a serious read (and where you can grow in wisdom): and here's a couple of well done posts on another blog (check out the December 5th and 9th entries):
"Well, Doctor, I just can't take it anymore. I keep trying and trying to tell that one voice in my head to shut up because it keeps making fun of me like I am a child. It keeps calling me names and telling me I am throwing 'temper tantrums.' Life just isn't about playing by his rules."

"No, Doctor, you don't understand, I have this nice, neat, and orderly world. Everything makes perfect sense and everything will be just fine as long as everyone plays by these rules. The rules are critical and he just doesn't undestand. If any of the rules aren't followed then anarchy will result. I mean, if you don't believe everything just like the rules say, then the next thing you know everyone will be wondering whether or not Jesus really was the Son of God."

"You see, Doctor? He thinks that life is solved so long as everyone follows his set of rules and beliefs. Pharisee!"

"See there, Doctor? He wants to water down the beliefs. He's a liberal! I think we should kick him out of here."

In unison, "Sometimes I just wish I could silence that other voice!!!"

The Doctor: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."

The Doctor: "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.... LOVE!"

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Oh Father, give us more who would stand and show us what it means to truly live like Jesus, walking every step by faith in your promises and commands. We need modern day examples of the Christ life desperately.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

God called me to Him when I was 9. I felt alone. I was hurting. From my childlike perspective, I had lost more than I could bear. My family had moved twice in a little over a year, each time to help care for one of my parents' dads. My mom's dad, Grandpa Sharp, became my best friend, and then died of prostate cancer and then we moved 1000 miles away to a tiny duplex with nothing because of financial problems. My mom went to work for the first time. My dad worked all the time. At the age of 8 I was in a new place and was given a key to our home because when I was finished with school no one else would be home. It frankly shaped much of the rest of my life, but, praise be to God, it also was part of what helped me see that I needed Him desperately.

For whatever reason, the churches I ended up at were Southern Baptist. My parents didn't take me or make me go to church, but once God called me to Him, I desired to go. So, to this day, I have been a member of a Southern Baptist Church. I'm glad for the denomination. It teaches sound doctrine and tries to teach people how to study God's word. But I really have no particular affinity for it.

I really am just a Christian, better yet a Jesus follower. Am I showing disrespect to the SBC because I say this? No, not at all. I just don't think any creation of man exceeds the creation of God. God didn't create the SBC; God created the church. And, God has a purpose for the church and our hearts should be united with Him in seeing the church's purpose fulfilled. I desire greatly for healing and power in the SBC, and most imporantly, in all the Body of Christ.

God built his church on the rock of Christ and the church is called to submit to Christ. Christ calls us to surrender completely. We must die to ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him with all our hearts, soul and strength.

I am praying for the SBC. I am praying for the gathering of SBC pastors in Dallas tomorrow, December 5, 2006. I wish I could attend, but I am still here serving at the University of the Nations. I pray you will pray for them, too, whether you are a member of, or ever have been a member of, an SBC church or not. You see, we are called to pray for one another. And, we are urged, in view of God's mercy, to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. It is our spiritual act of worship. (So, even if we have been wounded by someone who was southern baptist, or have particular concerns about some SBCers attitudes, we must pray for them and lay down those selfish concerns because it is not consistent with God's love or plan that we should hold any grudge against anyone in the Body of Christ.) We must not conform any longer to the patter nof this world, but must be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we will be able to test and approve what God's will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will. Moreover, we are not to think more highly of ourselves that we ought, but rather we must think of ourselves with sober judgment, in accordance wi th the measure of faith God has given us. AND HERE'S THE KICKER: Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:1-5.

Did you catch that? We belong to one another. We are commanded to submit to one another in love. We are to be like Jesus. Why aren't we????? What spirit is winning the war against the Body of Christ to keep its members warring against one another rather than taking the battle against Satan and the powers of this world to see the message of Jesus and His love proclaimed from every rooftop?

I believe that most of those gathering in Dallas tomorrow are fully desirous of unity among their Christian brothers and sisters. How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity! Psalm 133:1. And they also desire that the gospel of Jesus be proclaimed to all the earth. So, here is my prayer for them, for all who send them, and for all in the Body of Christ:

Lord, forgive me of my infatuation with myself. Rather than submitting to others in love, I all too often seek my own way. Rather than living the life of love, I boast, I am unkind, I am hopeless, I am angry, I am self-seeking, I am unloving. Lord, fill me with Your spirit. Give me a faith immeasurable. Let every word I speak be straight from your Spirit and consistent with your heart and perfect will.

I pray that the SBC pastors meeting tomorrow will be there living a life worthy of the calling they have received; that they will be completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love. I pray they will make every effort to kep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. I pray that they will be filled with the Spirit and that there spiritual gifts will guide them, to prepare them for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up and that they may be leaders who will help the body reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, becoming mature and attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

I pray they will be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, and all who cannot attend, just as in Christ God forgave each of us. May they be imitators of You, living a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. If there are any who are struggling with immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, I pray that you will either prevent that one from attending or, even more graciously, enable them to repent of it publicly while gathered with those there, that they may lovingly pray for that one and help restore them to a true walk of faith, filled with the Spirit and overflowing with His gifts. Let nothing be present that will quench Your Holy Spirit from filling each of them and the place in which they gather. Shake them to their cores with Your purpose, call, and love.

Oh God, please fulfill Christ's holy prayer that we would be unified together in You. Let the world have no choice but to see Your love in us, Your power in us, Your truth in us. Let gatherings like the one that is taking place tomorrow be just the start, the spark, of repentance and revival that will flood throughout America and the world, by your Holy Spirit, so that many will come to know You in Christ. Give us a heart to reach people all over the world with the message of Christ. Give us lives that make it impossible not to share with others the joy and power found in Christ. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for saving us. May we hold back nothing from You. May we, and they, be changed through your amazing grace. In the name of Jesus, the One who Saves, I pray, AMEN!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sometimes I am amazed at the rancor that takes place among Christian men and women about the "right" reading of scripture, doctrine, the "right" way to govern a church, etc. and so forth ad nauseum. And, I am not talking about having such discussions over things like whether Christ is divine, whether salvations is secure, whether salvation is by grace alone or requires some works, or whether Christ is the only way to the Father. I am talking about great angst and argument over things like whether there are such things as "private prayer languages," whether women can serve in certain roles in ministry, whether worship is too charismatic or not, whether anyone can conduct baptism or whether certain people can participate in the Lord's supper.

I appreciated Dorcas Hawker's recent post on choosing optimism in the midst of this atmosphere. And, it doesn't even require people of different religions or denominations within faiths to develop such rancor. In fact, often the most heated discussions take place within single denominations. And, while in the midst of all the stormy dialogue accusations arise, attacks are made, battle lines are drawn, and all of it is done in the name of defending the faith.

I don't want to stop just at choosing optimism, however, I want to choose faith in the One True Living God! Let me explain.

I frankly don't understand the rancor among Christians. To be Christians means to be like Christ. And, being like Christ and showing that we love Jesus means to obey Jesus. Jesus is the Word and obeying Him means obeying His word. Moreover, it would seem that walking by faith clearly would be to obey the Word regardless of whether it makes sense or not.

So, what does the Word teach us about our conduct and attitudes toward brothers and sisters in Christ? First, we know that Jesus' last recorded lengthy prayer included a prayer for us that we would be one and brought to complete unity to let the world know that the Father sent the Son and have loved them even as the Father loved the Son. John 17:20-23. (But unity isn't a primary doctrine, and what is unity really??? It can't mean that we don't argue over things, does it??) We know that blessed are the peacemakers, who will be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9. We are commanded not to judge. Matthew 7:1. We are taught that God is in control and that we shouldn't worry about anything as though we might some how change something with all our worry; instead, we should seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. Matthew 6:25-34.

We are taught to owe no man anything except love and to love them as we love ourselves. Romans 13:8-10. We are told to bless those who persecute us, to bles and not curse; to live in harmony with one another; not to be proud; not to repay anyone evil for evil and to be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. We are even told to do all that is possible within our own power to live at peace with everyone! (But God, didn't you hear what he said about me? I mean, how can I just walk away from those comments?) We are told not to take revenge and leave room for God's wrath and to overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21.

More? How about accepting him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. Romans 14:1. (But God, how can I do that, I have to disciple him, don't I??? What if he spreads that opinion??? Surely I can be the guardian of "the truth" (as I see it).)

People ask, "What is wrong with the church today?" "Why is it not having the impact on culture that it should, given the power of Jesus?" Or, even in our own lives we ask, "Why do I seem to be so powerless to battle this sin within me?" "Why does it seem I fail in my Christian walk?"

Could it be as simple as the fact that we aren't living by the words of the One true Living God? I think of God's words to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6, when he tells them to keep His words upon their hearts, to impress them on their children, to talk about them when they sit at home and when they walk along the road, when they lie down and when they get up. (How often do we do that??) He tells them that if they do these things that all will go well. God tells us plainly that people will know that we are Christians by our love. The church loses its saltiness to the world when it doesn't live by faith upon the loving words of the Word, Jesus, and people have no reason to follow us because we don't appear to be following Christ.

I believe the only way we will truly reach this dark world for Christ is to repent of our lack of faith and of the many idols we worship. Just as it talked about in 2 Chronicles 7:14, God's people must humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn/repent from their wicked ways. If there are any who believe they don't have wicked ways or that they are following all the commands, then please continue to do so; otherwise, we need to join together in humility and beg the forgiveness of our gracious and loving God for our pettiness, doubt, and lack of love.

I know there will be many Southern Baptist leaders gathering soon to discuss matters significant to that denomination. I pray they will choose complete surrender to the Spirit's leading and the Father's call upon their lives, wholly choosing to follow the principles God has spelled out for all of us. I pray that I, and all of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, will do so as well.
My last post was about God working me over as I struggled with sleep. Well, that was just the beginning. I have spent the last four days with fevers as high as 103, which, for an adult, or at least for this adult, means loss of all strength and will to live. Even with medication my fever would only get down to about 100. It finally broke today. I'm exhausted, achy, and generally having a hard time recuperating. I am so tired of trying to find an elusive comfortable position in bed, but that was about the best goal I could have during these last few days.

I don't really have anything profound to say about it, nor did I have some vision while full of fever. For the most part I spent four days on my back, occasionally reading books. I will say that I realized that the only thing I really could do while in such a weakened state besides read was pray. And, with that thought I realized that that is the attitude God always calls us to. All too often I "believe" I can handle something so I just do it without praying and without depending upon God for direction and strength. So, one thing I prayed during that time of utmost weakness was that God would help me to remember that no matter how "strong" I seem I always need to pray and depend upon him.

I hope to publish some pictures of my kids and from around the island soon. My computer has had some issues of late, too, so I hope that I will be able to do so.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

You just never know when God's going to speak to you or what little thing He may use to help you hear His voice. Last night I was reading a book my wife had just finished and she wanted me to read it. It wasn't a book I would have ever picked up and read through without her encouragement as it is somewhat of a "Christian chick" novel with a female author and female main character.

In the story, the main character is experiencing terrible upheaval in her life as her husband becomes consumed by work (in part because she wasn't listening to his needs) and at the same time she is reading a journal of an ancestor of hers that she found in her mother's attic. In what I was reading last night the second storyline was set on a rural corn farm, and the young journal writer was about 14 years old. Her heart had just been trampled upon by a young man who had become her first crush, and she wrote that "my mama said that idols always have feet of clay."
Well, God was working me over last night. That is why it is only 5 a.m. here and I am finally at the computer writing this. I haven't slept much at all. Many would say it was just physical because one of the "idols" God reminded me of last night was my belly. Like the Cretans. Here we have for the most part been able to let go of good ol' fashioned food worship in some ways, simply because we cannot afford to eat out much and the food that is served is more often sufficient as opposed to decadent or succulent. But, at the same time, what that can facilitate is a certain desire driven "need" to go get some "real food."

Now, you will laugh at this paragraph because of the place where I ended up with my family getting such food. Whereas I used to be somewhat of a regular diner at places like the Palm steakhouse, great italian eateries, a number of great restaurants in Philly, DC, and other metropolitan areas, last night my whole family was literally abuzz with energy because we ended up in a Denny's. The kids were literally bouncing on the booths and excitedly reading their menus to find all the perfect pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. I ordered a fabulous scrambler that had ham and jalapeno in it, but of course it comes with a huge helping of hash browns, and three gigantic pancakes. Heavy sigh.

Meanwhile, yesterday, we all went over to some friends' house here in Kona to watch our college alma mater play football. Yes, we are Arkansas Razorbacks fans. Woooooo Pig Soooie.... only, well, we lost. And, of course, while God was working me over about my food he also was reminding me of how much that game affected my my kids would never sit for 3-4 hours to watch a football game and, as they ran around and made noise, how quickly I was snapping at them to quiet down (all so I could watch a silly football game), which only got worse as our quarterback made one bad pass after another.
I literally felt like I was going to throw up last night. My belly was very upset with me for over filling it with greasy spoon (but very yummy) food, and God's still small voice was reminding me how quickly I could delight more in something sensual rather than spiritual. And, as He also tied that into my attitude around the football game, I heard that little 14 year old girl recording what her mother said, which was developed from God's word, that "idols always have feet of clay." Another heavy sigh..

For me, when I struggle through these types of conversations with God and my heart, I keep wanting to say, but, Lord, surely it is okay to watch football or enjoy a good meal. I mean, how weird do I have to become? Do I just end up holed up some where and only read the bible and pray all the time or what? Praise God He is so patient with us. He's heard that cry so many times from me. He reminds me that I am free in Christ, but that He alone is worthy of worship. If I let things of this world get between my worship and Him, I have erected yet another idol in my heart and am headed down that path of doublemindedness. Whether it is the god of sex, the god of food, the god of pride, the god of work, the god of family, the god of recreation, the god of laziness, all gods will fail me, be unfaithful, and have feet of clay. He alone is worthy of worship and He alone will do all things in accordance with His nature and character, which is defined by love. The heaviest sigh yet.

Lord, please help me keep my eyes on You so that I won't sink into the waves. Please help me seek first Your kingdom and allow you to be my delight. Tear down the high places in my heart and mind and give me the grace to offer myself as a living sacrifice to You every moment of my life.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Colossians 3:17

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I know this may be true in many places in the more southern parts of the United States, but being here in the southernmost place of the United States, in the middle of the Pacific, focusing on missions (which means thinking more globally than I ever have before), holidays have a way of sneaking up on you. It is strange not to have seen any leaves changing colors or falling to the ground, to keep having 85 degree days, and to be in a place far away from family and realize that Thanksgiving and Christmas are knocking on the door. We have not heard one single Christmas song, seen one Christmas display, seen one Christmas season TV commercial, or felt Jack Frost nipping at our noses.

I don't think there necessarily is a connection here, but, what is amazing is that, in spite of all of that, our family this year is more thankful and prepared for Thanksgiving than we have ever been before. We are thankful that our family is together, much more now than ever before. We are thankful that we are seeking Him daily in His word, learning more about it, and hearing His voice more clearly than we used to hear it. We are thankful that His grace covers all our sins and that we can serve Him in spite of our battles with the flesh. We are thankful for tears, laughter, heart to heart communication, learning how to accept our hearts, seeing our children learn bible verses with joy, watching our kids learn new responsibilities and play well together, really beginning to believe that God truly loves us.

Thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement. And, with that, I pray:

Father, please bless each reader of these simple words. May each individual truly begin to understand what it means to be content in You and You alone. May each person trust in You and learn how that trust enables and empowers them to rejoice evermore, to pray without ceasing, to give thanks in everything, and to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you, Lord, for the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, which provides the way for me to approach your throne of grace and present these requests. Amen.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

This picture, by looking at Regan, must be from June of 2005, and was taken when we celebrated Keaton's 4th birthday (he is now 5). My dad, Billy Wayne Riley, was born on this day (November 18th) in 1938 as the youngest of 7 children. He was only one of four that survived infancy.

Now, 68 years later, he is still going strong, giving great fatherly advice, loving on his grandkids, and traveling in an RV quite frequently with my mom. (They're actually in Florida right now visiting relatives.) It's a lot of fun to see how much joy they receive from our children. They've been married for 48 years.

Happy Birthday, Dad. May you get to see many more and watch your grandchildren continue to grow in wisdom, grace and truth. "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7.

Friday, November 17, 2006

One of the things my wife and I have really failed at over the last few years of "busy-ness" with jobs and three children has been real conversation. And, to say it in a very vernacular way, that is some serious scary. Imagine, this is my marriage, the person with whom God has created a spiritual union. The person I've pledged to love and encourage over all others. But, the reality of life, as I was ordering it, put that person way down the list of communication, time, and effort.

I see it throughout our society, too. Not only is there a high divorce rate, including among Christian couples, but in marriages that have stayed together, most people don't know how to communicate. Have you ever watched a couple at dinner in a restaurant? They have little to nothing to say. More communication goes on at their table when the server is present than at any other time during the entire "ordeal." And, this is supposed to be fun? What about how many couples just let their children's lives absorb their own? Again, they don't communicate about their own feelings, jobs or lives; instead, their communication is either to or through their kids or about their kids.

This is way more scary than Halloween!!!

Here is something Tara and I have recently implemented in our daily lives. It's a simple "sharing exercise." And, the first time we did it we were scared to death that we simply couldn't do it. In fact, we thought the times prescribed sounded like days rather than minutes. Here's the gist, and I challenge you to try it with your spouse or, if single, with your best friend.

1. One person is the sharer and one is the listener.
2. When listening you are not to let your mind wander or think about how you might respond. Listen with your eyes and ears.
3. Your goal is not to agree - rather it is simply to communicate your own thoughts, feelings, attitudes and opinions.
4. Do not criticize, respond, defend, or apologize. Listen only to understand. Do not look for flaws. Simply try to understand.
5. Listen and limit responses to the sharer's message to either "I understand" or "I don't understand," and perhaps a question to ask what the sharer means by his or her words.
6. Use "I" sentences and not "you" sentences.
7. the MINIMUM amount of time for such sharing is 20 minutes! Find a place where you won't be interrupted and turn off phones.

We have, with practice, begun to see that 20 minutes flies by and quickly becomes 30, 45 and even 60 minutes. We also have realized that if our priorities make such times impossible to have that we need to reorder our priorities. God tells us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and that then all the rest will be added unto us, but all too often we just chase after the rest and forget His priorities. We are going to endeavor never to do that again.