Monday, April 7, 2008



This week we began our 8 week study of Lifes Hurts, Habits, & Hang-ups, with a lesson #1: Conviction of my Sins.

Someone once said that the two greatest thoughts a person can have are:
1. There is a God
2. And, I’m not Him

John Baker was an alcoholic and a Baptist minister. He is the founder of “Celebrate Recovery”. In his book “Life’s Healing Choices”, he writes about today’s subject. Here are some of his insights.

1. We are born with and struggle all our lives with our “sin nature”.*

2. The desire to be God is humankind’s oldest and most prevalent problem.

a. we try to control what people think of us.
b. we try to control people’s actions.
c. we try to control our problems.
d. we try to control our pain.

This attempt to control is futile! We are not God. We can not control things. We certainly can not control people. God, in His wisdom, has chosen not to!

The consequences of the futile attempt at control are:

1. fear
2. frustration
3. fatigue
4. failure

What is the cure? The Bible teaches that in honestly admitting my sins and weaknesses, I actually find strength and that strength is God. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Say out loud the followings statements.

  • I admit that I am powerless to change my past.
  • I admit that I am powerless to control other people.
  • I admit that I am powerless to cope with my harmful habits and actions.
  • God, I need help!

Now, for my story:

Prior to Doug's sending me this weeks lesson, he was aware that I've been going through some "stress" in my life, & that I am in the process of healing from the things that life has thrown at me. What he was unaware of is that I'm where I am in life because of being brought to the point of having to give up trying to control these things, & allowing God to take over for me.

Doug sent me this:
The Holmes-Rahe Scale for Stress and Emotional Distress lists the top 10 as:
1) Death of a spouse or child
2) Divorce
3) Separation from spouse
4) Imprisonment
5) Illness
6) Loss of job
7) First year of marriage
8) Retirement
9) Pregnancy
10) Sexual struggles

I was amazed to see that I had not only experienced 7 of these 10 over the past few years, but that I had experienced 4 of the top 6, in a mere 3 months last spring! Surprisingly, after many month of misery, I'm now appreciative of these experiences because of how they've strengthened my relationship with the Lord, because of how well I'm doing because of this renewed relationship with Jesus, & because God has been able to use me in so many ways ever since.
I shared with the class this Sunday, where life's taken me & how God got me through it. 11 years ago I married my best friend of 3 years. What I was unaware of at that time, was that he was bringing quite a few secrets into the marriage. Many years later, he revealed to me that he'd struggled with these problems since he was a teenager, but that he had to hide them from me because I would have never married him if I'd know who he really was……. He was right. He also thought that getting married would fix his problems…….. He was wrong.
From the very start of our marriage, my husband was violent & unable to control his actions. In our 1st year of marriage he struck me. This was the only time he physically assaulted me, I made sure that I "controlled" that situation immediately. He continually damaged our property when he was in his rages, I "controlled" this too, by making him fix it when he'd calmed down. I even "controlled" it when he started physically assaulting our 8-year-old son, by immediately getting the whole family into counseling, so that we could get a handle on his violent behavior. I just knew that if I put forth the extra effort, I could fix everything. We could be the family that I had always dreamed of. I believed in him, & I believed that he felt the same.
As we began our family counseling, I stumbled upon his internet pornography addiction. I was crushed. Once again, I knew we could work through all of this so we added his addiction into the counseling, along with every available resource for overcoming & understanding sexual addictions, and even going to a psychiatrist. He was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder & given a plethora of medication. All of this, along with the counseling was sure to fix our problems……. It didn't.
Over the years, he continued to physically assault our son. He moved out of our bedroom & for years he slept in the guest room. He was prone to rages & then fits of crying over what he'd done. All the while, we continued the therapy, continued seeing the psychiatrist, and constantly tweaked his meds, in an effort to help him be the person I thought he wanted to be. In December 2005, the 1st time in over 2 years that I left him alone with our son, he physically assaulted him again. He was turned over to DHR, & I told him to move out.
For the next 18 months, I allowed him to visit, supervised, with the kids anytime he wanted. I still believed in him & I was using his mental illness as an excuse for all of his behaviors. We were together all the time, he just lived in a different house. At 1st we weren't looking at reconciliation, but eventually, we did start working towards it. He seemed to be doing much better. He even had the psychiatrist fooled. On May 26th of last year he moved back in & then out again that same day, for good.

Now we're to the part where I went through 4 of the top 6 stressors in just 3 months.

Because of the costs involved in living in 2 separate households, I decided to take a full-time teaching position at Hillcrest High School last Spring to help make ends meet. My husband was being very generous in his support of us, so I thought, but we still need more to pay the bills. I was also finishing up my masters degree that semester & was a full-time student, taking all of my classes at night. My husband couldn’t be alone with the kids, so every night I had class, they were in-tow (fighting with one another the whole time, & driving me batty). I've always heard that God will only give you what you can handle, & I was there.
Then, my daughter broke my hand. I had to have surgery on it. Supposedly a very minor surgery, "3 stitches & a band-aid" I was told. I woke up with an incredible amount of pain, my hand in a huge cast & sling. Ends up, they found a bone tumor while they were in there & they had to cut it out. By the way, cutting out a bone tumor hurts! The next week my doctor died. The bone tumor was benign, thank God.
The classes I taught at Hillcrest were challenging, to say the least. I was not yet prepared to handle the types of classes I was given. I loved working there so much, but it truly took the life out of me. By the end of the year I had finally gotten the hang of teaching & was looking forward to coming back the next year. Especially with my new found teaching experience. Although I was told in my hiring that this teaching position would be available the next year, the school had to do some "re-shuffling" in order to hire a new football coach. I was notified the last week of school that my position was being given to a coach…… I was crushed.
A week later, my husband moved back in. I only shared with one person what we were doing. I asked a good friend of mine to pray for us as we tried one last time to make our marriage work. She assured me that she would, and boy did He answer her prayers! Later, I asked my friend what she had prayed. She told me that all she prayed was that God would reveal anything that needed to be revealed……. He did.
In the process of the move we surprised my husband at his apartment. While we were there, we discovered that he had a side business that we never knew about. He was making a lot of money, a whole lot of money. None of this money had been claimed to the IRS & he wasn't carrying any liability insurance for the work he was doing. We could have lost everything. He had also purchased guns, DHR had said that we need not have guns in the house. I had asked him a week earlier if he had bought any guns & he told me no. The most upsetting discovery of all was that his sexual addiction was not under control as he had led me to believe. He had escalated from internet porn, to prostitutes. He wasn't getting better at all, he was just getting better at lying. He even fooled his psychiatrist.
This was it. This was more than I could handle. I could no longer control anything. I couldn't even control myself. For the 1st time in my life, & hopefully for the last time, I became depressed. I have had times in my life when I wasn't happy, times when I thought that life just stunk, but I've never experienced anything as debilitating as what I sank into immediately following all of this. For 2 months, all I could do was sleep & cry. Every second of the day I felt as though I didn't have the strength to even get out of bed. I would get up & take the kids to swimming, go home & sleep. Get up & take them to karate, go home & sleep. Get up & take them to church, go home & sleep for the night. My depression was robbing them of their mother.
During our marriage I became disconnected from God. I tried so hard to force Him back into my heart but I just couldn't do it. I prayed & prayed to feel His presence, but it never came. I knew God in my head, but not in my heart. I asked a friend about it, she said that there must be some sin in my life that was keeping me from experiencing God. I didn't like her saying that! I was doing everything right. I was the one keeping the family together. It wasn't me, it had to be him! Her words stayed with me though.
Finally, after 2 months of miserable sleep, I realized that I absolutely could not control anything that was happening in my life. I realized that I had not ever been able to control what was happening in my life. My life had been controlling me. At that moment I prayed to God for him to take control of everything & for Him to carry me through it. I prayed that He would help me to recover from my hurts and that He would take care of me & my kids. I even prayed for my husband, even though I was snarling as I did so.
I immediately began to feel God’s presence in my life again. I was still damaged, still am for that matter, but a bit better. He led me to Celebrate Recovery, where I received the love & support necessary to begin healing. I even went to a psychiatrist, for myself this time, & began treatment for depression. I'm not completely healed, I'm sure it will take a lot of time, but I am so much better. I am happy again.
I had let myself come to the point of not ever wanting to be around people, let alone speak to anyone. I mistrusted people so much that I was alienating myself from everyone. Now, I'm somewhat comfortable around people again, & I can talk about what I've gone through somewhat comfortably.
Life has not been perfect for me since my "Job semester", as I call it. At the end of the summer, as I was just beginning to heal, a deer wrecked my car. All I could do was laugh. My kids thought I was nuts, but all I could think of was "you've got to be kidding....what's next?" I am going through the divorce still, that continues to be a major stress in my life. I fell behind in my masters degree because of everything that happened, but I'm set to graduate next month! That too has brought me some stress. I even took on homeschooling my 8-year-old daughter this semester. If you know her, you'll understand, that's a stressor. But no matter how stressed I get I have to remember not to try to handle everything myself but to trust in God. To let Him be the controller in my life.

Life is good,

If you are at a time in your life where you're struggeling from lifes hurts, habits, or hang-ups, I encourage you to check out Celebrate Discovery. Without my support group from CR, who knows where I'd be right now. (probably still hiding & hoping that no one would notice me). CR is not just for recovering addicts, as I once thought, it's for anyone that has any hurt, habit, or hang-up.

For more information on Celebrate Discovery click on this link

or, you can contact Doug Wells at

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Class Info

: : : Next class starts this Sun, April 6! : : :
We'll begin an eight-week study on "8 BIBLE PRINCIPLES TO OVERCOME LIFE'S HURTS, HABITS, AND HANG-UPS." Each week we will study a Bible Principle and hear a personal story of struggle and "coming through".
This week Amy Ryan (that's me!) will share her story with us of illness and divorce and loss of job--all at the same time and how God's strength brought her through! Fellowship time starts at 9:30am and Class Presentation is at 9:45am..

: Small Group Blog : check out our Small Groups' BLOG at

Sunday, January 27, 2008

#2 In the Heart of Jesus, There is Love

Matthew 16:21-26 (NIV)
Jesus Predicts His Death
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
23Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
24Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

In the New Testament there are 4 Greek words for love, each with it own specific meaning for love.

  1. Eros - the love of intimacy, or desire
  2. Philos - the love of friendship, or brotherly love
  3. Storge - a natural love, affection, or family love
  4. Agape - a love that acts no matter the cost, & requires nothing back in return. This is the "love" God has for His children. It was manifested by Christ on the cross. It is the "love" that was mentioned in John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 13, as well as being seen in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak in the tongues (or languages) of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, (Some early manuscripts body that I may boast) but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.(footnotes added in parentheses, emphasis added in red, by Amy)

"faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." In this passage Paul is explaining that "love (agape) is the greatest" because it surpasses gifts & will outlast them all. These sought after gifts, (ie: prophesy, faith, tongues, knowledge, etc.) will one day be unnecessary. But, agape love, will remain forever as the central power behind all that God and His redeemed people are and do.

Now, let's link what we've learned about agape love to what we know about suffering. Jesus clearly looked at suffering in a different way than the world does. A good explanation for this is that of His agape love for God. He "loved" God & was willing to suffer at any cost, to glorify His father.

Luke 22:42 (NIV)
42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

John 9:1-3 (NIV)
Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3 "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

Matthew 5:45 (NIV)
45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Paul too, displayed a different outlook on suffering than the world does, when he wrote the following:

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)
7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Human weakness provides the ideal opportunity for the display of devine power.

Now, lets discuss some questions together. Some of these might be difficult to answer, they are for me, if answering anonomously makes you more comfortable, by all means do so.

  1. Would you be willing to endure suffering if it would bring glory to God and do His work?
  2. What is the cross you are presently carrying? How joyful are you about it?
  3. What was the last completely selfless (agape) thing you did?
  4. Is there any saying of Jesus that the world is more in complete disagreement and ridicule than this one? Watch the TV commercials this week and see how many are contrary to the life Jesus talks about.
  5. Knowing this, that 68% of all the hospitals in the world are built in Jesus' name, 80% of all colleges are built in His name, the Roman Catholic Church takes care of more orphans & feeds more hungry than any other government or religion combined, do you think Jesus made a difference in the world?

#1 Son of God, Son of Man

Can you think of anyone that has ever had such an impact on the world as Jesus did? Sure, there have been many, both before and after Christ, that have impacted the world. But has anyone truly impacted the world to the degree that Jesus has, enough that they actually "changed the world forever"?

Think about it, ALL of history, EVERYTHING that has EVER happened, is now defined as either happening before or after Christ. That's quite an impact!

In The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey wrote, "This Galilean, who in his lifetime spoke to fewer people than would fill just one of the many stadia Graham has filled, changed the world more than any other person. He introduced a new force field into history, and now holds the allegiance of a third of all the people on earth.
Today, people even use Jesus' name to curse by. How strange it would sound if, when a businessman missed a golf putt he screamed 'Thomas Jesserson!' or if a plumber screamed'Mahatma Gandhi!' when a pipe wrench smashed a finger. We cannot get away from this man Jesus.”

So,what was it about Jesus that made him so remarkable? Who was He? What sets Him apart?

Well, that brings us to the 1st Idea, the doctrine of Incarnation (embodied in flesh):
  • John 17:4-5 (NIV) 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
  • John 1:14 (NIV) 14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the gloryof the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Although the the idea of God being in human form was not exclusive to Christianity, what set Jesus apart was that He was 100% God, while at the same time being 100% human. Many people, even other religions, will agree that Jesus was a "great moral teacher", but could that be all there was to Him? Jesus claimed to be God, to be able to forgive sins, and to be the only way to heaven. The claims made by Jesus, can only be accepted 1 of 3 ways.

  1. that He is God, as He claims to be;
  2. that He is a liar claiming to be God, but isn't; or
  3. that He is a lunatic that thinks He's God, but isn't.

So, how can anyone say that He is not the Son of God, but that He is a "good moral teacher"? That statement in itself makes no sense. He either is God, which means that the Bible can be trusted in, or He's not, in which case He's either a liar or a lunatic and the Bible is not trustworthy.

Knowing all this, it's easy to see how Jesus changed the world. Now, how should we be changed by this idea? Well, believing, or not believing, in Jesus' claim of being God is the most monumental of all the decisions we will ever make. Our response to this idea determines our eternal destiny.

Before answering the following discussion questions, spend some time reviewing the lesson Doug presented today, as well as reading over the excerpt from C.S. Lewis' book, Mere Christianity. If you did not attend the small group today, no problem, we welcome your input regardless. If you'd like a copy of what we covered emailed to you just let me know.
Now, let’s discuss these questions—

  1. How does “Jesus, Son of God and Son of man”, make God available to us?
  2. If this is such a life-changing idea, why doesn’t everyone love Jesus and follow Jesus?
  3. How often does what you want and what Jesus taught and exampled come into conflict?
    What are some of those circumstances?
  4. What is the cost of the presence of Jesus in our lives?
  5. What are the rewards?

~Amy Ryan

January 20, 2008 8:50 PM

Anonymous said...
Looking forward to this study. One simple comment I heard in the past helped me understand how Jesus could be both God and Man was may be a father/mother, a son/daughter and a husband/father all at the same time. It depends on the relationship. So it is with God. He may be our Father, our Brother, our Savior, etc. Although this is over simplistic, it did help me understand a little better.
January 21, 2008 8:53 AM

Tom said...
1. How does “Jesus, Son of God and Son of man”, make God available to us?

At first glance the cost of following Jesus doesn't seem that great. "Just believe in Him and say this prayer...". It's a common way to "get saved". But this glosses over what Jesus did for us on the cross, and I'm as guilty of this as anyone. This whole approach makes becoming a Christian cheap (not of great value and easy to come by); say a few words and presto, your saved! But who can respect (or trust) such a gullible and wishy-washy god that only wants lip service from his followers? (lower case, not The true God)But if we look closely at what Jesus actually required of those that wanted to follow him, to be willing to leave everything of value, it's NOT such an easy and painless thing to do. Jesus bridges the gulf caused by our sin between God and us by paying our full penalty, death and the wrath of God.

2. If this is such a life-changing idea, why doesn’t everyone love Jesus and follow Jesus?

I think much of the unsaved actually see making a commitment to Jesus in a more correct way than we (Christians) often would lead them to believe. They realize that that if he is God, then to follow Him they WILL have to give up something. It may be the nightlife, it may be living for themselves, it may be a habit or addiction, but it WILL be something they don’t want to give up, and it WILL be costly. Quite often they don't want to give up control over their lives.

3. How often does what you want and what Jesus taught and exampled come into conflict? What are some of those circumstances?How often?

EVERY day! My natural inclination is to satisfy ME, to meet MY needs, to do what I want, to be lord and master of MY life. The only way I can live according to what Jesus taught is for The Spirit to be at work in my heart, breaking down my pride, even then I resist Him. I used to think an addiction I had was the biggest problem in my life. If God would only take it away, things would be great and I could serve God better. But then God showed me that the addiction was only a symptom, the true problem was how I viewed Him, and how I viewed myself as his child, and how I viewed the resources he had given me. I had given him permission to be my savior, but I had not given him permission to be my Lord. I used the term Lord quite loosely, I saw it, but I didn’t really think about what it really meant, the authority it says I give Him over all my life.

5. What are the rewards?

What are the rewards. That’s difficult. I could give the standard “Christian” answers without even thinking about it, but then, I wouldn’t even be thinking about it. To me, there are two distinctly different types of rewards: those we receive in the here and now, and those we will receive after this body dies. Even the rewards for the here and now that I have experienced are difficult to understand (at least for me). Peace, joy, salvation, fellowship with God etc. (definitely not a comprehensive list). I know what they feel like, I know when I have them and when they are lacking (because of my sin and distance from God), but it seems like I can’t find words to fully describe what I know and feel; maybe because I’m a man, maybe because I’m new at the “feelings” part of life. But I know there is no peace like that which comes from knowing the Creator of all the universe, cares for even the smallest aspect of my life. The joy in knowing He desires a loving relationship with me. That He is patiently waiting for me to run back to his waiting arms when I fall, knowing He is always ready to accept me. The fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ, knowing I can share my overwhelming joy, confess my darkest sin, weep unashamed when God convicts or encourages, knowing they will still accept me for who I am, a child of God. As for the rewards in store for us in Heaven, I don’t think our minds can even comprehend the magnitude of what God has for us, so He uses terms like “streets of gold”, “mansions”, “crowns” and “paradise”. I believe if we truly knew what God has in store for us now and in Heaven, we would be so much different, so much more concerned about sin in our lives, and so much more concerned with the souls of others.Sorry this went on so long, I wanted to edit it down, but simply ran out of time.Tom
January 21, 2008 11:21 PM

Amy said...
1. How does “Jesus, Son of God and Son of man”, make God available to us?

Prior to Jesus, man was seperated from God because of sin. By being both God & man, Jesus, who never sinned, took ALL of our sins with Him on the cross. He was a pure & holy sacrifice, something no other human could ever be. It was this act of incredible love that made God's Kingdom available to any who chose to accept it.

2. If this is such a life-changing idea, why doesn’t everyone love Jesus and follow Jesus?

Because it's "life-changing". Let's face it, sin is FUN! (at least for the moment).To love Jesus, is to allow Him to fill those voids in your life where sin has taken root. As long as sin has hold, you'll resist letting Him in because you're fooled by the sin. You also know that there may be sacrifices that you don't want to make, or that you're scared to make.

3. How often does what you want and what Jesus taught and exampled come into conflict?

Constantly. I have to make a constant and continual effort to live my life as Jesus wants me to.What are some of those circumstances? Just in answering this question I'm brought into one, pride. I don't want to share my weaknesses for fear of being judged by my peers. See, constant & continual.

4. What is the cost of the presence of Jesus in our lives?

I don't think of it as a cost as much as an no-risk investment. It's like giving a penny, having it immediately returned as a million dollars, & knowing without a doubt that would happen. I've had to give up my old life, but that life really stunk, so who cares. The life I live now is so...full.

5. What are the rewards?

Right now my reward is in knowing, & experiencing, a relationship with my heavenly Father. The one that knows me & loves me in ways that I can never comprehend, but feel.Later, my rewards will be an eternity in heaven. Eternity, wow, that's awesome!
January 26, 2008 10:10 PM