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Archive for March, 2010

I Want to Thank You

March 14th, 2010 No comments

“We appreciate what you’ve done in every way and in every place, and we want to thank you very much.” (Act 24:3, God’s Word Translation)

James Thank You

 

I personally want to thank each of you for your encouraging feedback during these past several days as I have posted brief excerpts from my new book, Released from the Prison My Father Built.

Many have written telling me of how the Lord has used the story to heal and restore them at the deepest levels. My heart rejoices together with you in this cause!

The book will officially be released this week and will be available in LifeWay bookstores, Family Life book stores, as well as Barnes & Nobles. It will also be available on Amazon. And, of course, we will continuie to offer it here on our website as well.
 
Please pray that the Lord will lift it up into the jetstream of His favor and carry its message of freedom and forgiveness, hope and empowerment far and wide into every place it is needed. Also, would you tell your friends about it as well? Invite them to read the past few postings from my blog to get their own “inside look” at the book. Thank you so much for doing this. Truly!
 
Beginning tomorrow I will resume my regular daily devotional postings. But today, I just wanted to pause and say “Thank You!”
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“Whose Son is He?”

March 12th, 2010 No comments

“Whose son is he?” (1 Samuel 17:55).

The story of David and Goliath is legendary. There’s no need for me to belabor it here. There is, however, one part of the story that is seldom ever mentioned; and in my opinion it is the key to the whole event.

The moment David stood in triumph over the corpse of the beheaded Goliath, with the Philistine army running off in seven directions and all Israel shouting to the heavens, a most curious thing occurred. King Saul turned to Abner, his chief aide, and asked a very interesting question about David.

David&Goliath“Whose son is he?

One would have thought that Saul might ask, “Who is that boy?” But that wasn’t his question. No, he didn’t want to know about David, as it were, but wanted to know about David’s father. His question, in so many words, was another way of saying, “I want to meet the father that produces that kind of a son!” Obviously, Saul had never met such a father as this; certainly not in his own home as a boy.

History does not tell us much about Saul’s family life. His dad raised wild donkeys and his uncle was somewhat of an overbearing busybody. We don’t know if it was a happy home or not, but we do know that Saul, as a grown man, was still an undeveloped child in many ways. While he had indeed been sired, he had not really been fathered.

He was an ambiguous man, appearing kind and humble on the one hand, and yet angry and vengeful on the other. One time he was so anointed by the Spirit of God that he actually prophesied. Yet he also sought counsel from a witch when he could no longer hear God’s voice.

Saul was also terribly insecure. In fact, he needed constant affirmation to prop up his temperamental soul. He was impetuous, self-willed, and pretentious. He would weep in repentant sorrow for a deed done wrong, then turn around and do it again without remorse.

Self-conscious about his gangly height, he preferred to not even be noticed at times. In fact, he actually hid among the baggage at the very moment when Samuel called him out to become the King of Israel.

We could do well at this point to ask, “Whose son is he?”

Solomon tells us in his Proverbs that a wise son makes a glad father; but a foolish son will cause him grief and calamity, and ultimately bring reproach to his name. I can imagine that Kish, Saul’s father, found little consolation from his friends as Saul’s reign deteriorated into a national embarrassment. And one cannot help but wonder how often Kish regretted not having been a better father to Saul.

You know – “Dear God, son, I built that prison.”

(Excerpt from Released from the Prison My Father Built, pg.82, James Ryle. Get Your Copy Today!

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You Matter That Much to God

March 11th, 2010 No comments

“You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20)

On one occasion Pastor Powell, a Baptist minister who lived on campus and preached each Sunday in the large church, issued a challenge from the pulpit. “We need to read the Bible more,” he said, “and so I challenge each of you to start in Genesis first thing Monday morning, and see how far you can get by next Sunday.”

So I did it. I took a Gideon Bible and started reading, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

joseph in egyptI was hooked! I kept reading and came to the serpent in the garden, and the guilty pair being expelled into the outlands. And I read about Methuselah, the oldest man who ever lived; and Noah’s Ark; and Father Abraham, and the Promised Land. Then I read about Joseph, a young dreamer who was placed in a pit and then sold into slavery by his brothers. I read about how he went through awful things until he was exalted by God to become a ruler in Egypt.

And then I read these words, spoken by Joseph to his erring kin, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Despite his awful ordeal, it had all worked out good in the end. Somehow my young heart identified with Joseph, and I dared to think that things would work out for me, too.

By Thursday of that week I had finished reading the book of Genesis, and I went to Miss Walker and told her with triumphant exuberance, “Miss Walker, I read the whole book of Genesis!” I was hoping she would be impressed with me and give me that proverbial pat on the head every boy longs to receive from anybody – but especially from his dad.

Instead she turned toward me with a fiery scowl on her face and snapped, “You little liar! You did no such thing. Nobody could read Genesis in one week.”

Right then I knew two things for sure. One, I did too read it. And, two, she did not. I also knew that I could never go to her again with anything that mattered. Over the following years I learned that very few of the adults working there could be counted on when it really mattered. I was lost in a crowd of unwanted kids, and I was alone.

Yet, the Lord was with me – even though I didn’t know it at the time. “When my father and my mother forsake me,” the Psalmist wrote, “then the LORD will take me up!” (Psalm 27:10). This scripture holds great promise for countless abandoned children in today’s disordered world. Perhaps you are one of them. God is the Father of the fatherless, and His name is on the line each time a child is forsaken by his or her parents.

The word forsake means, “to loosen and let go; to leave exposed and thereby permit anything to happen.” It is the ultimate act of parental irresponsibility. But the Lord does not stand by indifferently when parents drop the ball. He takes up the discarded kids, one and all. To “take up” means “to gather an individual into a company of others; to collect (as something of great value), and to harvest as something of great purpose.”

Did you know that you matter that much to God? He sees you as someone of great value, and views your life as one having great purpose. Perhaps right now you are unable to see that, or even believe it – but it is true.

(Excerpt from Released from the Prison My Father Built, pg.32, James Ryle) Get Your Copy Today!

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No Way to Spend Your Life

March 10th, 2010 No comments

“Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1).

solitary-confinementIn this vast penal complex of Separation, not only do bad people do bad things, but so do good people. Fear crouches at every turn. Guilt and shame lurk in every corner – guilt for what we have done to others, and shame for what has been done to us.

And let me tell you – behind these unyielding walls you will find sorrow that cannot be consoled, hatred that will not be appeased, and a certain emptiness that haunts the soul like the howling sounds of a high wind on a cold and lonely night.

Loneliness. That is the insidious condition which is most pervasive in this dark and dreadful place. It is perhaps the ultimate score of Separation’s dark power against our fallen souls. “It is not good that man be alone,” God said in the dawn of man’s new life, and you can be sure that from that moment forward Satan – always contrary to God – has sought to do whatever he can to make man a lonely and miserable creature.

Solitary confinement is Satan’s ultimate aim for each one of us.

“O how doth the heart in the midst of crowds feel frightfully alone!” wrote English essayist, Charles Lamb. The great Albert Einstein perhaps said it even better, “It is strange to be so universally known and yet be so lonely.”

It is a widely known fact that many of the most popular entertainers struggle with overwhelming depression and insecurity, brought on by profound loneliness. Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, whose lives ended prematurely and tragically, are two riveting examples. The devil wants to separate you, then isolate you, and finally terminate you. Loneliness is the first step into this path of destruction.

Surely, there was never anyone as lonely as the guilty Adam. Just moments after he ate the fateful apple we find him hiding from God in the cool of the day. Separation will do that to a man or woman; it will disconnect you from God and leave you in such confusion that you will actually believe He really cannot see you there, hiding behind the bush.

(Excerpt from Released From the Prison My Father Built, by James Ryle, pg. 65-66. Get Your Copy Today!

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Promise Keepers

March 9th, 2010 No comments

“Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days — you would not believe if you were told!” (Habakkuk 1:5, New American Standard)

“I want you to be chaplain for the University of Colorado Football Team,” Coach Bill McCartney said to me one day, in a way that let me know it really wasn’t open for discussion.  

Football coaches are like that. I once heard Tom Landry say, “A coach is a man who makes men do what they don’t want to do, so that they can become everything they always wanted to be.” That’s the way it was with Coach McCartney. He wanted me to be the team chaplain – and that was that.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked, “Motivate them?”

“Of course not,” he answered, “that’s my job.”

“Well, then what exactly do you want me to do?” I replied, not really sure what he was thinking.

“I want you to do what you do,” he said, “only quicker!”

So I was a long-winded preacher. One church member even told me, “Pastor, your sermons are like the grace of God – beyond understanding, and without end!”

And even my own son, David, when he was serving as Youth Pastor, went into the men’s bathroom and stuck a post-it note on the air-powered hand dryer. The note read, “Push here for a message from Pastor James.” Bless you, my son.

So Mac wanted me to do what I was good at doing, only quicker. And he had good reasons. When you are speaking to football players on Game Day, you really don’t have a lot of time to preach three-point sermons that end with poems. And, as I discovered my first day, jokes usually do not go over very well, for these guys are not in a laughing mood. They’ve been working up all week long to unleash the full force of their physical fury against their opponents – and you’re standing in front of them clowning around? I don’t think so.

In just a few short weeks I learned that being a stand-up guy and speaking truth straight to their hearts was the only thing these brutes would respect. So that was the approach I took. Evidently it was the right approach; I was a part of the CU football program for ten years.

But the Lord was up to something that neither I, nor Bill McCartney, would have ever imagined. The very fact that He even brought the two of us together was out of the ordinary.

Never were there two more unlikely friends than Bill and me. He was a hard-nosed football coach; a no nonsense disciplinarian; a dyed-in-the-wool, blue-collared Michigan Catholic. And me, I was an ex-con, ex-hippie, non-jock, Bible-toting charismatic, who wrote poetry and looked for animal formations in the clouds.

Folsom PK ArialHe a Spartan; me a Thespian. He a warrior; me an orator. He a man of action; me a dreamer. He a leader of men; me a self-conscious, insecure guy still sorting out what it was like growing up without a dad…or a mom.

And the Lord looked down upon the sons of men, and said, “Yes, I think I will use those two guys to do something unbelievable.”

(Excerpt from pg. 41, Released From the Prison My Father Built, by James Ryle. Get Your Copy Today!)

Note: The attached picture is an arial photo of the first Promise Keepers full stadium event at Folsom Field in Boulder Colorado; there were 54,000 men in attendance! It was only the beginning of the Lord doing extraordinary things.

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When Does One Become a Man?

March 8th, 2010 No comments

“When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

KnightEvery man and woman longs for significance. We want to live a good and meaningful life, to find love and fulfillment, and to have children who will do the same. God placed this desire in our hearts; He wanted these things for us before we did!

We also long for acceptance and affirmation from the two most significant people in our lives – mom and dad; but especially from our dads. For some reason his words mysteriously carry far greater weight than mom’s. But we live in a fallen world filled with broken relationships. Many of us go through life without ever being accepted or affirmed in any meaningful way.

However, we are not forsaken. God Himself steps in to provide us the acceptance and affirmation we need, often in surprising ways. And these experiences can become turning points in our lives; that moment when a mature self-awareness leads to decisive action that unleashes the potential of who we truly are. That is what Paul means in the two phrases, “When I was a child,” and “When I became a man.” A turning point has occurred. This is something God wants for each one of us to experience.

The phrase “when I became a man” could literally be translated “when I came into being a man.” Has that happened to you yet? Have you come into being a man, or are you – despite your age – still being a child? That question haunts men well into their senior years. 

“When did I become a man? I really want to know. Sometimes I wonder if I am. Can someone tell me so?

“Was it when I smoked a cigarette out behind the school? Was it when I joined the other guys and acted like a fool? Was it when I took a drink of booze and drove around the town? Was it when I made myself look big by putting others down?

“Was it when I scored the final play that gave our team the win? Was it when I finally got the “A” that made my parents grin? Was it when I had a hot date and we did it all the way? Was that when I became a man? Did it happen on that day?

“Was it when I pledged allegiance to the flag and fought a war? Was it when I came back home and wondered what the fight was for? Did it happen in the Chapel when I walked the wedding aisle? It seemed to for the moment – if we’re judging by my smile.

“Did it happen when my kids looked up one day and called me “Pop?” Or was it when I got the job, and made it to the top?

“So now I am a man; at least that’s what I’m told to say. But if I am, there’s just one thing that still gets in my way. If so, I have to ask it, and the question drives me wild – but, if I’ve become a man, then why do I still act like a child?”

(This post is a compilation excerpt taken from my new book, Released From the Prison My Father Built, ch.5, page 94, and 97)  Get Your Copy Today! 

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Lord of the Rings

March 7th, 2010 No comments

“They do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible” (1 Corinthians 9:25).

I have a championship ring. Actually, I have two. One is the Big Eight Conference Championship ring (now the Big Twelve). The other is the 1991 National Championship ring. In the collegiate world of football it’s a pretty big deal to win both. So you can imagine the excitement we all felt at Colorado when it happened. And although I was only the Chaplain, I was included when the rings were handed out. They even have my name on them. Wow.

But there’s just one problem. The rings do not fit. And I don’t understand why. I was measured before the rings were made, and was eager to put them on when they arrived. But, no, they were both too small. Dang!

Rings 2I stood there in my room trying to figure out a way to make them fit me, but nothing I did worked. After spitting on my finger I was able to force the ring over my knuckle. But then my finger swelled up like a hot dog. I was barely able to get the ring off before it was too late.

Do you know what a drag it is to have two Championship rings that you can’t wear? I remember muttering under my breath a half-hearted complaint to the Lord about this. “They’re too small,” I said. And then in one of those moments that you never forget the Lord spoke to my heart, “That’s right. They are too small. I have called you to something bigger than football games and championship rings.”

As a chaplain I watched a football team devote themselves with Spartan-like dedication to a cause that ultimately, on the Grand Stage of life, is short-lived and soon forgotten by all but those who paid the price to win it. My question is this: if these guys would pay so dearly for that which means so little, what in the world is holding us back from giving our all for Christ?

In the words of Paul, “They do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible” (1 Corinthians 9:25). Shouldn’t our dedication exceed theirs to the same degree that our prize excels theirs? Indeed, it should! (pg.45, Released From the Prison My Father Built, James Ryle, 2010).

I trust you are enjoying these excerpts from my new book. To get a copy, click HERE. Also, would you please help me get the word out by letting your friends know about it? Thank you so much!

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The Prayers of Children

March 6th, 2010 No comments

“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

About a year into my stay at the Orphanage, two boys ran away from our dormitory and the place was filled with alarm and anxiety. Old Battle-Ax and Barrel Butt Barnes paced about wringing their hands, fearing the worst. The State Troopers were called and a search was started to find those two little guys, who were no more than nine years old.

Norman Rockwell spanking 1It took three days to locate them walking along the Interstate, headed for parts unknown. The Troopers brought them safely back and delivered them into the waiting arms of Miss Walker, who drew them tightly into her big bosom and acted for a minute like a real mother. She thanked the Troopers and held the boys tightly as the officers drove away.

And then all hell broke loose. Those little guys got the living daylights beat out of them. Miss Walker laid into them with her paddle – a baseball bat sawn long ways into a flat board and wrapped with duct tape to insure it wouldn’t break. Then, holes were drilled through the board which caused blisters on the skin once the blow was landed.

To a dorm filled with terrified boys, it sounded like she hit fifty homeruns that night. The rage in her voice, the sound of that board striking those boys, and their screams echoed through our dorm – aided by the cement floors and plaster walls. I have never forgotten that night. It was on that night I prayed my first prayer ever to a God I did not know, but greatly feared.

By this time I had at least figured out that God ran the orphanage. At least that’s the impression given to us by the adults who would brandish the Bible like the old Southern landowners would use a whip. That night I wanted this God to know that from then on I was going to be a good little boy. “Dear God,” I said, pulling the bed covers up about my chin like a security blanket, “I promise I will never run away.” Remember, I was only seven years old at the time.

 Now, as an adult looking back all those years ago, I realize God was not behind all this nonsense. “When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Even then, though I could not hear His voice, God was saying, “Oh, child; this is not the way I am. And one day you will know Me, and we will walk as friends.”

(Excerpt, pg.34, Released From the Prison My Father Built, James Ryle 2010.) Get your copy today!

 

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A Monster Named Sally

March 5th, 2010 No comments

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.” (Psalm 27:10)

Nobody explained to me what was actually happening as we drove those five hours along Interstate 20 from Midland, Texas to Dallas – I just knew something was not right. There was nervous tension in the air, despite the occasional laughter sprinkled in between rounds of “I Spy” and other assorted road games that keeps kids from asking, “Are we there yet?”

We arrived at what they called The Receiving Home in the hot Texas summer of ’57. Mom and her sister-in-law, Aunt Tootie, somehow managed to keep their composure as they handed us over to Sally Polk, the director of the home; a large, middle-aged lady with a foul and intemperate disposition.

monster houseThe Receiving Home was the place kids went before being admitted onto the larger campus of Buckner Orphan’s Home. The idea was to inoculate us from any germs and contaminants we might be carrying. It was also a place of indoctrination into how we were expected to behave once there.

We watched from the window as the car drove away, following with our eyes until it faded out of sight. My brother Jere, almost two years older than me, and my sister Valerie, five years older, both knew what was going on. I did not.

Mom was leaving us there, and she would not be coming back. Valerie and Jere wept uncontrollably as they watched mom drive away. Just three months shy of seven years old, I was clueless and confused – a condition that would soon change. For old Sally Polk was a force to be reckoned with – a massive woman, weighing about 300 pounds. She had weird eyes that operated independent of each other, like that lizard you see on National Geographic; so you never knew exactly where Sally was looking.

And she didn’t walk, as much as she waddled. Shifting her enormous weight from one foot to the other and landing with such force that the floor would vibrate, and the water in your glass would ripple. You know, like T-Rex in Jurassic Park. It didn’t take long for us all to learn that when you heard that sound and saw those ripples, the Monster was on her way.” (Excerpt from pg.27,28, Released From the Prison My Father Built, James Ryle, 2010) Get Your Copy Today

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The Sins of the Fathers

March 4th, 2010 No comments

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

butterfly monarchThe sins of the fathers are indeed visited upon their children to the third and fourth generation; over and over again. And for the record, the rest of that oft quoted passage from the Old Testament goes on to say that, while the father’s sins impact three to four generations of those who hate God, He shows mercy unto thousands of them who love Him and keep His commandments (see Exodus 20:5,6).

You can stop the cycle of bondage in your family history, and unleash a powerful surge of blessings for generations to come! How? By answering the call God has upon your life. And I am writing to help you do just that.

Of the many grand declarations in scripture, few are more marvelous than this: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Co. 5:17).

It is true. God can change any life and alter the course of history by so doing. “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you,” God said to Jeremiah. “Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you.”(Jeremiah 1:5).

Do you suppose that God might have also known all about you before you were born? Of course He did! And in  the same way He had plans for Jeremiah, He also has plans for you.

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). This applies to you, your children, and to your children’s children – for a thousand generations!

Before I move on to discuss how we can be released from the prisons our fathers have built and step into the cycle of God’s blessings, there was one more thing that struck me about dad’s answer that night in his den.

It wasn’t just that I was in the very prison where he had welded the bars, but that while there I had been enrolled in the vocational program where they teach you a trade you can use once you are released. You want to take a guess at which class they put me in?

Yep, welding.

We’ll talk about this some more a little bit later on; but first, let me introduce you to a few monsters.

(Excerpt from pg.26, Released From the Prison My Father Built, James Ryle, 2010) Get Your Copy Today    

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