Monday, July 31, 2006


Here is Keaton, our 5-year old, resting peacefully in my lap. He isn't the one to jump ecstatically for joy, but his subtle expressions demonstrate oh so well his heart. Seeing the faint traces of punch on his lips, the calmness in his eyes (and thus his soul), and the joy in the upward curves of his lips brings this daddy great joy and indescribable, and incomprehensible, peace.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 4:6-7

Tanner is so filled with joy after his great catch of a gecko (they are really fast!). "Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow." Jeremiah 31:13.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


We think she misses her trampoline...She seems to enjoy using Bryan's, Tanner's and Keaton's bellies, and, of course, our apartment's couch...
Blessed be God— he heard me praying. He proved he's on my side; I've thrown my lot in with him. Now I'm jumping for joy, and shouting and singing my thanks to him. Psalm 28:6 (MSG).

Friday, July 28, 2006


Here is an interesting survey that tests what denominational bent with which you best fit. Some of the questions are a little oversimplified and you may have a hard time selecting an answer, but I found it fun to think through. (At some point I need to learn how to put cool graphics in these posts!)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Isn't it great how God's purpose is woven through the entire bible? And, isn't it great that we get to participate in that purpose and be made whole through doing so? God reveals to us in Matthew 24 that things will be brought to completion when the gospel is preached to all the world. And, Jesus prayed for us in John 17, asking that we may all be as one, just as Jesus and the Father are as one. All too often we stop at the oneness Christ prayed for and forget why Jesus prayed that for us. The reason was so that the world would believe that Jesus was truly sent by God, the Father. So, I don't think it is too much of a leap to say that if we really want to fulfill the Great Commission and see the gospel brought to the entire world, all Christians, not just any one denomination, must work together to see it through. God will be greatly glorified when men and women who are a part of the body of Christ from a diversity of denominational backgrounds come together with a single purpose, to proclaim the good news to the Nations. I wish we would lay down our fine sounding arguments and carry the message of Christ together to all the world. Does anyone out there have some ideas about how we can make this happen???

Monday, July 24, 2006

Our day out began at the Living Stones Church in Kona, Hawaii. The old stump upon which my family is standing sits behind the church looking out on the Pacific. The cross is right behind the one room church. The church is covered with the volcanic rock covering most of the Big Island.

Our day out ended with the sun setting over the Pacific. We enjoyed a picnic dinner with a number of families from the YWAM base in Kona at the Place of Refuge. The Hawaiians had a place of refuge similar to the places of refuge ancient Jews set up in accordance with God's law. Hawaiian law punished infractions by death, but provided a place for refuge and forgiveness. This is where we were in the two pictures below, one of Regan our two-year-old, and one of my wife, holding the setting sun in her hand.

God is amazing!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (plus a little at no charge)
6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (NIV)
And the special gift of ministry you received when I laid hands on you and prayed—keep that ablaze! God doesn't want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible. (MSG)
6For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (NASB)
6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (NKJV)
To stir up, kindle afresh, fan into flame, keep ablaze the gift of God, the charisma of God, the passion we have... Paul reminds Timothy to do this right at the beginning of this great letter. It isn't without import that he reminds him to do this while reminding him of his spiritual heritage. It is similar to what the author of Hebrews does in chapters 11 and 12. After detailing the rich history of giants in the faith, and sharing how they didn't look back, but looked ahead to an eternal inheritance, the author then writes that we should throw off all that hinders and fix our eyes on Jesus!!
What are you passionate about? What are your gifts? What makes your burn with a fire that can't be quenched but to do it with all your heart unto God?? Perhaps you are in a period of your life where you don't feel very passionate about God or your life. Look back for a moment and remember a time when your faith was alive and real, true and sincere, passionate and compelling. If it was real then, it is just as real now, but something may be hindering you, entangling you, choking you. Throw that aside and cling to what was real. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. He alone is real and in Him all things are held together. Hold on to that. Believe it. Cling to it. As though your life depends on it... because it does.
Then and only then can you lose that spirit that binds.. .that spirit of fear and timidity and dread and find your spirit of zeal and fire. Then you can live that spirit of power (dunamis....dynamite! no, not napoleon), agape love (when you seem to only care about yourself and yet feel so empty in that find out why you are so powerless, what is entangling you, what is choking out your passions), and have a sound mind.
I will never forget a sunday school lesson (in part because my wife will remind me from time to time) when I taught on King Nebuchadnezzar, when he grew so proud that God struck him mad and he ended up with dreadlocks in the wild eating bugs. I looked up from the Word and said, with all sincerity, that I was "this close to being like Nebuchadnezzar." Why was that? Because I was bound in a spirit of pride and independence, thinking that I was godly enough in myself to be an exception to God's principles. I was saved, seeking Him (generally), and often experienced His love, power, and grace. But, I was putting other idols before Him. The result? I was losing His power, love and my mind. With that I was losing that godly virtue of moderation and self-control. Philippians 4:4-6. As we lose that we become like the city without walls mentioned in Proverbs. We are defenseless to the enemy. Proverbs 25:28. Satan has us right where he wants us.
But, praise God, he calls us to remember our salvation, His victories in our lives, our spiritual heritage. He brings to mind the hog calls that lead to divine appointments, the all night prayer sessions with a friend, the times sharing Jesus, the day in the orphanage or the prison or the visit to a hospital bed, the vision of two paths and which one we must follow. Those memories can give us hope. Why did God constantly tell the Israelites to remember how they left Egypt? Psalm 105-106. He tells us the same today! And Praise Him he promises us peace, soundness of mind, joy, gratitude, love... Philippians 4:4-8, Jeremiah 17:5-15, Psalm 1, 2 Peter 1:3-10.
Look back on how God worked in your life to save you from failure. Don't dwell on the failures or on things you thought were bad or evil; instead, fix your eyes on Jesus. Remember who Jesus was and is and will be and what He did in your life. Fix your eyes on Jesus and His call for your life: to live passionately for God and compassionately for others. Matthew 22:36-40. Make sure of your call! 2 Peter 1:3-10. Through His grace and power alone, I love you, but, more importantly, God loves you. Let Him. Let go. I AM NOT. HE IS. I AM HIS.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Please pray that our family would know where God is leading us to conduct our training. In YWAM lingo, that training is DTS (Discipleship Training School), and there are a number of locations that can accommodate families where we could attend DTS. For a description of DTS's, go to We want to continue down the path God is lighting with the lamp of His word and follow Him wherever He leads. We believe God is leading us to be catalysts for a ministry that empowers families to reach families, advancing and igniting passion for God and compassion for people by teaching and training in His Word, with our hearts revealed to others and tender and broken before Him. Thank you for your prayers, encouragement and love. (fyi...the picture is from earlier this summer in Branson, Missouri)

Sunday, July 16, 2006


We had the most amazing blessing today and it was in answer to a prayer that Tara, my wife, prayed this morning during church. For the two Sundays we have been here in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, we have attended the Living Stones church about two miles away.

At the beginning of the service and during the worship, she was praying silently. She asked that God would help us make some tremendous relationships at the service. I had no idea she was praying for that. Well, after the service, (we almost didn't make it to church because time flew by this morning, but we are so glad we did), God led me to make a beeline to the pastor. As it turned out, he was an attorney for 12 years in Florida (an FSU Seminole fan) before surrendering to God's call to become a pastor.

His name is Bill Barley and he leads a fantastic church that sits right on the ocean. They do two services and both are overflowing with people. His sermon this morning was out of Ephesians 1:15-23 and was about believing God's promises and living them. Of particular note to both Tara and me, separately, was Hebrews 11:13-16, which say:

13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

I told the pastor where I was from (Fayetteville, Arkansas), and that his sermon, if for no one else in the room, was God's word for my family that day. His being an attorney before going into the ministry and the sermon he preached alone was cool, but God had even more in store. I walked outside to get some of the fresh coffee and snacks they had prepared. I never got there, though, because...

Unbeknownst to me, the next guy who talked to the pastor told him he was from Magnolia, Arkansas. Well, I had just told the pastor I was from Fayetteville, Arkansas, so the pastor asked him... Are you here with Bryan?

This second gentleman said, no, of course, but was intrigued that some other guy was here in the middle of no where, Big Island, Hawaii, attending church. So, the next thing I know I'm just starting to get some coffee outside and i hear "Wooooooo, pig!" And, then I hear it again, and it registers that someone is hog calling toward me. I know I haven't seen anyone I know there...I turn and there's this guy, whom I then meet, named David Price. He just is beaming, with this big smile, friendly face, and warm heart.

Then, guess what?! He is an attorney, a solo practitioner, from Magnolia, Arkansas. He and his wife, Wendy, and their two kids, Jacob and Nick, are there on vacation. They had just arrived on Thursday. The night before they decided they wanted to go to church and were looking for a Baptist church. As they glanced through the paper, David saw the advertisement for the Living Stones (a nondenominational church) and that the pastor was preaching on living God's promises. It compelled him to go there.

David and I end up talking for the next hour, pray together, he blesses us with a gift, he teaches a sunday school class and can't wait to share with them about us and wants them to adopt us. Then, when we start sharing where Tara and I grew up (I grew up in Prairie Grove, Arkansas), he is blown away and shares with us that his brother-in-law is the pastor of my home town church where I attended for several years.

We exchanged all our contact information and I felt like we were life long friends all in an hour. This is how one hog call led to a clear divine appointment. It was amazing!!!!!!!! It is one of about 20 things to add to my list of how God has been moving in the past month in so many ways. It is humbling because I know God is moving like this all the time, but all too often I let the world choke out my ability to see it.

Just like the pastor spoke this morning, do we believe Philippians 4:19 and Romans 8 or not? Will he supply all our needs according to his riches in glory? Of course He will! It isn't name it claim it, which is just self-interested and trying to turn God into Santa Claus or a genie (and ourselves into God), but it is "believe it and receive it" and then act out in gratitude, knowing that God has already finished everything we need. 2 Peter 1:3! And, Ephesians 1:3: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Finally, make this (and look at all of the surrounding verses) your prayer for your own relationship and for my family's relationship with God today: I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.

May God give you the grace to see Him more clearly every moment of your life.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Do you ever feel at a complete loss in your life--feeling like no matter what you do it just simply never results in fulfillment? Jesus told us clearly in John 10:10 that he came to give us an abundant life--a fulfilled life. So, what keeps us from it?? Examine your ways anytime you feel unfulfilled.

Just as the way of folly in Proverbs 9 is seeking your own way, Jeremiah 17:5-10 spells it out for us. If we trust in man (which would include ourselves) we are cursed. In fact, any time we are trusting in our own strength we are "turn[ed] away from the Lord." Jeremiah 17:5.

I don't think we think of it that way, but we should. If we aren't with Him, then we are against Him. Matthew 12:30, Luke 11:23. If we are seeking our own interests first, then we are turned away from Him and we are committing idolatry. There is no middle ground.

In contrast, if we are trusting in the Lord, we are blessed and will experience the same satisfaction that a tree planted by fresh water does. Jeremiah 17:7-8; see also Psalm 1. We will thrive no matter the circumstances, because we always have that fresh flow of life-giving water, just as Christ promised the woman at the well. John 4.

My constant self-seeking is overwhelming. I know I must die daily and follow HIm moment by moment, but I fail at nearly every turn. It is amazing He loves me so much that He sent His son to die for me. And that He keeps showing me grace after grace, tenderly comforting me after my self-inflicted wounds. Praise be to the God of Jonah, of Moses, of David, and of so many others who needed second (and more) chances! I know whom I must serve, because to serve any other yields a life of poverty, slavery, thirst, hunger, and anguish. But, serving and trusting the God who is I AM will result in real life, a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. WOW!!!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Proverbs 9 shows the incredible difference between the way of God and the ways of the world as it provides a word picture of wisdom and folly calling out to us, both at the highest places of the city. Wisdom has a house, with seven pillars, and has a complete dinner, with meat, wine, fully prepared, and free to eat for any who will humble himself and enter. Wisdom is there to sustain us. Folly, in contrast, calls out to us to enter in and, rather than providing sustenance tells us to find our own way. The way of God is dependence on Him. And what is truly amazing about that is that God is fully self-sustaining and needs nothing, not even me (think Job 38-42). He overflows with love and provision and is ready to draw near to any who would draw near to them and bless them to bring glory to His name (James 4:8; Psalm 115). Folly, the way of the world, the way of Satan, calls out to us to serve ourselves, to be our own "god" just as Lucifer tempted Eve and Adam in the garden (Genesis 3:5). So, are you living in dependence on God or in dependence on yourself? Ask yourselves this, because in the answer you can see if your way is one clothed in Wisdom or in folly. Don't just ask once; instead, continually examine your path and your motivations to see if you are following Christ or following self-interest (2 Corinthians 13:5, Lamentations 3:37-41). We must die daily to ourselves and live for Christ (Luke 9:23, 1 Corinthians 15).

God is so good. We are in Kona, Hawaii at the University of the Nations, a ministry of Youth With a Mission. We have been studying the ministry of missions work and are seeking His will for our family in this. As we begin this journey we are, for the first time, graced with the time and desire to spend time as a family in devotion, prayer, and simply serving one another in a way we hadn't before. It is truly wonderful. Thank you for your prayers for us.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

WOW! I don’t even know what to say. That in and of itself, if you know me at all, is a miracle. For some time God has been moving in our hearts, trying to gain our attention. For at least that same amount of time we weren't really letting myself have His attention. We had lots of things “to do.” We had one, then two, then three incredible kids. And, even before them, we had our marriage, our jobs, a dog, a house, and friends, and, well, “life.” But over the course of the last several years, God has been reawakening us to the fact that we had to let go of all the things we were claiming for ourselves and find our pleasure solely in Him. (For a great read and explanation of how God fulfills us, see John Piper's book Desiring God.)

Through good, bad, and ugly, God finally said, “enough.” I have better plans for you than any you could make up. So, it is with great fear, hopefully wisdom, I know folly, joy, tears, smiles, and love, that we are writing to you that we are leaping to a new life. I've left my job as an attorney for Tyson Foods, Inc. to prepare our family to serve as missionaries. Call it an early mid-life crisis if you want (i'm 35); I pray it is obedience.

I don’t think it is any accident that this happens in the middle of a year and right at the time we Americans begin celebrating our freedom. For the first time in years we suddenly feel more free than we have in a very long time. God has shown us how to line up our God-given passions with his purpose and plan for our lives.

We will begin training to serve as missionaries with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) on July 8th. Please check them out at, whether you know anything about them or not. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world--from Albania to Zimbabwe, Australia to the US, and Mexico to Madasgascar. This is our calling and desire and, at this time, we don’t know where all we will be taken, but we are ready to go. Friends who have been or are a part of YWAM have served in such places as Arkansas, Cameroon, Mexico, Albania, Hawaii, Columbia, Kazakhstan, and the list goes on. We will be, over the next month, seeking God's will for our first "mission" while participating in a month-long training at the feet of John and Jane Ray, long-time friends of ours who have been with YWAM for 18 and 22 years, respectively.

We know it sounds crazy. We know that because it sounds crazy to us. Here is a biblical word picture of where we are. There was this guy named Jonah. He had a happy life. One day God told him to go to Ninevah. That was just plain craziness to Jonah. Instead of obeying he got on a boat to Spain. There’s nothing wrong with a nice trip to Spain. Many people did it. Meanwhile, many people around Jonah stayed right where they were and did their normal things like growing olives, raising kids, buying and selling, studying the Torah, etc. And, the others on that boat to Spain were just doing their normal thing - sailing, trading, fishing, whatever. None of those things that everyone else was doing was wrong and, by all appearances, were exactly the things they should have been doing. The only person who was doing anything wrong (at least based on what we see in Jonah's book) in all this was Jonah. He wasn’t obeying what God told him to do. So, he had to do something utterly insane. He had to jump off a perfectly good ship into the middle of a raging ocean during a horrific storm, and I imagine there was no land in sight. Similarly, now, God is telling our family that we need to go in a different direction. We came to a point where we just had to JUMP! And, although it looks like folly to quit/leave/lose/abandon a great job with a Fortune 100 company with three young children (see pictures in one of my previous posts cuz they are beautiful!), a big house, and so on while having no other job except a dream of becoming a missionary, when God tells you to jump, well, jumping is a good thing to do no matter what it looks like around you or what makes you do so. And, now, just as God saved Jonah from that tempestuous sea and delivered him to being one of the greatest prophets of all time, we have to believe that if we are trusting Him with our entire lives, he will provide a way for us.

In the mean time we have begun making the shift from being “for profit” to being not for profit and will need your support. We aren't asking anyone to send any money just yet, but will send out more information soon once we learn where God specifically is calling us. I never thought I would put myself in a place where I had to ask other people for money. It isn’t easy and, frankly, from where we’ve been it seems awfully embarrassing. But, when I think about how God is already changing us to make this possible by making me realize that every penny I have has been entrusted to me to further His kingdom and to spread the good news of Jesus Christ we get excited. That truth alone (one we should have already been living but weren't and couldn’t until now) has made all of this worth it.

Most of all we need your prayer and your encouragement desperately. We can feel totally safe and fulfilled in God’s hands one moment and then feel like we are starting to sink into the ocean of despair the next. Your love, encouragement, and prayerful support mean more than it ever has before. And, that, again, is yet another thing that makes all of this worth it.

If you’ve seen “The End of the Spear” you may be familiar with the name Jim Elliot, who was one of the men who lost their lives on a mission to the Waodani in Ecuador. One of his quotes has given us great comfort: “He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” We also are reminded of that great scripture that so many hold close to their hearts, Proverbs 3:5-6, and cling to the truth that God will make our paths straight and level when we trust in Him with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding.

May God be glorified through our lives,

The Riley family

Bryan, Tara, Tanner, Keaton and Regan