JKBcircleFor months, the large church had interviewed me and every indication was I would be their next pastor. I was young and eager to take the reigns of leadership of the well known congregation in a rapidly growing city. Then, after all those meetings and all those months, the chairman awkwardly and nervously dropped the bomb. They had decided to go with an older, more experienced pastor instead. His assurances that the committee had struggled with the decision did little to relieve my disappointment. In my heart I was “already there.” But that door closed suddenly, and that dream died painfully. Almost 25 years have passed since then, but I still remember how deflated I felt when I hung up the phone.

Where should we turn when dreams die? Where can we go when disappointment is heavier than gravity? I headed to South Georgia. In a small back bed room of their impressive country home, decorated with Victorian antiques, handmade Southern quilts, well worn leather bibles, and beautiful, heartwarming Christian books and artwork, a wealthy, godly, retired couple left me alone with my thoughts and prayers. I took nothing with me but a book on prayer, a prayer journal, and my bible. I barely left the back wing of their home for 3 days while I re-calibrated my spiritual life, and refocused on the Lord. It was an oasis!

What have you done when life has leveled you with the frosty chill of a dying dream? We can’t always retreat for days when we face discouragement and disappointment, but when the pain is deep, the recovery better be more than equal to the wound! When relationships you built your hopes around are ending, when love you thought was made in Heaven crashes to the earth, when the career path you spent a lifetime training for becomes an unexpected dead end, when the hospital bed of a loved one is the last visual memory you will ever have of them, what can you do? Where will you turn? And how much more complex is our grief if in some cases we realize what we lost was never God’s plan for us in the first place? In the Christian life, God often closes doors that cannot be reopened!

King David was a big dreamer and a blessed man! He intended to build God a magnificent Temple in Jerusalem. He dreamed about that building project night and day. He imagined the architecture and planned to gather the building materials . It was the great passion of his life. Even his spiritual advisor recommended David build the great house of prayer. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Then God said “No!” (1 Samuel 7:4-12). David’s dream of building the House of Prayer was rejected by God Himself. What David did next should provide a blueprint for our own lives when God answers “No.”

“Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, ‘Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?’ “ (2 Samuel 7:18 ESV) David, confronted with the fact that God had other plans, went privately into the place of prayer and sat in the presence of the Lord! Can you see him there alone in the dim light with his head bowed and his hands lifted lightly in worship? He’s humble and quiet as he sits praying and praising God.

That’s the only place your hope can be renewed when your dreams die. When God says “no” to our ambitions, when the feelings of loss are almost overwhelming, a prayer room in the presence of God is the only place I know where hope can come alive again. BmcZKqtCQAAchZm

Even if God says “no” to our dreams, we can still say “yes” to God! And when we do, the presence of God becomes far more important to us than anything we thought we lost.




JKBcircleA recent conference where I was asked to speak dealt with a Christian view of human sexuality. It was a 3 day conference drenched in information on the topic. My portion was brief, dealing with practical, pastoral concerns, so I learned more than I contributed.

One consensus at the conference is that pornography is pervasive in our culture and the damage it causes in personal lives and families, including those in our churches, presents a looming question for our generation, as ministries consider how to deal with the aftermath of porn addiction. How can a Christian man or woman be free of the allure of this easily accessible but spiritually poisonous material?

Here are 3 practical, pastoral suggestions.

1) Sexual temptation is a spiritual battle and the enemy will offer substitutes in place of God’s plan for everything including sexual satisfaction. Therefore, to be forewarned is to be forearmed! You have to beat the devil before you meet the devil!

Every believer must cultivate a daily walk with God through the spiritual disciplines because through them we connect with God and gain spiritual strength to resist every kind of temptation. Bible reading and prayer should be daily exercises and the earlier in the day the better in order to be more spiritually prepared for the Satanic onslaughts, in every area of life, that are certain to occur.

In addition to these daily devotions, Christians, who are serious about spiritual growth, should develop the personal discipline of fasting. Fasting hinders the power of the flesh! There are numerous resources available on this subject and most Christian leaders will be happy to point believers toward those books, websites, or sermons. Ask your pastor for more information on the practical aspects and spiritual benefits of fasting.

Then, we must remember that our ultimate weapon in spiritual warfare is the power of the Holy Spirit! When I was coming into ministry in the late 1970’s scores of young people were flooding into the Body of Christ from the drug culture. I have known of examples far too numerous to mention of men and women instantly delivered from drug habits by the power of the Holy Spirit. Sexual temptation and porn addiction is no different in this sense- God is greater than all temptation! If we are spiritually bullied by the enemy into surrendering our confidence in God’s ability to deliver us by the Spirit’s power, we have laid down our most effective weapon during the heat of the battle! God can deliver us from every temptation and we must not lose sight of this biblical truth!

2) Coupled with spiritual disciplines are the excellent resources developed by pastor’s and Christian counselors. There are answers if we want to find them and most pastors can quickly point you to the books, websites, church classes, and teaching tools you need to be more informed and strengthened.

3) Christian counseling is always a good option for those who have started to feel overwhelmed and helpless in this battle. Beyond individual and secret battles, the damaging wounds of pornography affect families too. A confidential setting, where individuals and couples can discuss their battles with a professional Christian counselor, can be a powerful tool on the road to victory.Boy_sitting_in_the_1782511a

Remember, no one has to lose this or any other spiritual battle. God has provided for your victory!

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
(1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV)




JKBcircleAustyn Riley, now in his early 20’s and starting his career, has grown up at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas where I have been pastor for 17 years. I have known Austyn since he was in the 2nd grade. In the last few years, since graduating from college, Austyn has grown much more committed to Christ and the calling of God upon his life. I have asked him to write a “guest Blog” on anything he cared to choose. He chose to write this convicting and direct challenge to a one sided view of God which leads to a kind of idolatry. He calls his Blog entry, “The Supremacy of God.”

                          THE SUPREMACY OF GOD

What do you think is the biggest problem in our churches today? Greed? Lust? Pornography? Pride?  Alcohol or drug addiction?  All of the above?  Personally, I think the real problem with Christians today is the sin of idolatry.

But wait… idolatry is defined as “the worship of a physical object as a god.”  How can that be the biggest problem in the church?  We don’t worship physical objects anymore.  Sure, back in the day, when Abraham, Solomon, and Daniel roamed the earth, this was a big problem.  But now, we’re much more civilized than that, right?  I don’t think so.

Idolatry has also been defined as “immoderate attachment or devotion to something.”  Now that sounds more like us.  Greed is not our main problem, but if we idolize greed and the things we desire, those things becomes more important to us than God is.  And that makes greed a big problem.  Lust is not the problem either, but if we care more about sex or finding a spouse than we do about serving God, it becomes the problem.  Every sin can be traced back to some kind of idolatry.  By letting our priorities get out of sync and putting something else where God deserves to be, we commit a sin of idolatry and relegate God to a place He does not deserve to be.

So why do we do this?  Why do we constantly push God further down our list of priorities?  Why do we worship things that He has created instead of God himself?  I think it’s because we have a grave misunderstanding of who God is.  Growing up in church and a private Christian school, I was always taught about the merciful, loving God who saved me from hell. But I don’t ever remember hearing anything about God ordering the death of all the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15), regretting that He ever created mankind (Genesis 6), or killing Ananias and Sapphira for their sin (Acts 5).

Both the loving forgiveness and the perfect righteousness of God are equally beautiful and equally important traits that we desperately need to understand.  By only focusing on His loving side and ignoring His perfection, we have essentially created a “hippie Jesus” who just wants to love everybody and see us all be happy.  This is not Jesus.  This is not biblical.  Likewise, if we just focus on God’s perfection and wrath, we totally remove love from the equation.  That’s not Jesus, either.  And it’s not the gospel.

Jesus Christ is the currently reigning King of the universe who loves us more than we could ever imagine and hates our sin just as much. Because of that love, He took on the wrath of God that we deserved and absolutely everything we do should be in service and adoration of Him.  By misunderstanding who God actually is and what He has done for us, we miss the point of the gospel and we think it’s all about us.  It’s not about us, it’s about Him. Everything is about Him. Once we realize that, we can stop idolizing ourselves and we are able to put God where He deserves to be, at the center of everything.  God is the supreme ruler of the universe and we should treat Him as such.the-cross

This supremacy of God is by far the most impactful thing I have learned in my spiritual life in the past year.  I hope that all of you who read this will take a serious look at your own heart and contemplate whether you are serving God or just using Him.  If He truly is the Lord of your life and everything you do is for Him, awesome!  Keep on serving and chasing after Him.  If not though, I hope you will bow before Him today and sincerely ask: what can I do for you, King Jesus?  Not the other way around.

~ Austyn Riley






    WHY EASTER ON THE GREEN? (Taking Jesus to the People)

We are presenting Easter On the Green (www.easteronthegreen.com), an outdoor festival event, for one primary reason: We want to reach people for Jesus Christ! The bands, the food trucks, the volleyball games, bounce-houses, the big outdoor stage, the free gifts, and all of the money and effort that have gone into this event are secondary. Reaching people for Christ is central.

319178_2420068988110_169755757_nLarge, outdoor spiritual gatherings are as old as the Bible! Moses, David, Solomon, and Ezra, to name a few, excelled in hosting outdoor spiritual gatherings, bathed in the presence of God and deep spiritual conviction. No one, however, did it like Jesus! On one occasion He fed 5000 men plus their families. On another occasion He fed 4000. Did all of them stick with Him after the feeding of the 5000? No. John’s Gospel reminds us thousands of them rejected Him after lunch (John 6:66)! Was it worth it? Absolutely! It was His greatest miracle- the only miracle recorded in all four gospels!

Outdoor worship events are biblical. What about evangelistic events when lost people are present? Are they biblical? Yes, they can be. Do you remember that the Church of Jesus Christ was born at an outdoor event called Pentecost (Acts 2)? The crowds were drawn by curious sounds (the sound of hurricane force winds) and spectacles (the miraculous gift of international languages given to the disciples). Once the crowd was present many of them scoffed at the Apostles and ridiculed the entire event, insisting the Christians were all drunk! But the Apostle Peter seized the opportunity in order to preach the first sermon of the church, and that day 3000 people were saved and baptized! It was worth it!

I am not suggesting live bands, bounce-houses, and Texas barbecue are equivalent to Pentecost, but I am praying the results will be similar! (In a city like Austin, with it’s massive unchurched population, and unusual city motto: “Keep Austin weird,” an outdoor Easter event with frisbee competitions and iPad Mini’s given as prizes might be exactly what it takes to attract some so we can share the Good News about the cross and resurrection of Jesus.) section-img_details

Please join us in prayer for a spiritual awakening Sunday April 20. It may be one of the most memorable days in the life of The Quarries Church, a turning point in the evangelistic commitment of Hyde Park Baptist Church, and more importantly, the day many hear the gospel and believe for the first time! -jkb



                         FORGET OR REMEMBER?

JKBcircleI am sure you’ve heard about the guy who sowed his wild oats and then prayed for crop failure! In a similar way, too many of us have lived with little or no spiritual accountability, and then at some point tried to easily forget what we did. Memories, as the old song goes, become “too painful to remember, so we simply choose to forget.” But at what cost do we live in a world of deliberate amnesia about our own past? Of course, many at this point will quote one of my favorite passages of Scripture. “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV) To that great advise I can only say “amen!” It seems, however, at first glance to easily excuse a generation that wants to disavow any memory of people or places that remind us of our past mistakes.  But, is “forgetting” the only advise Paul gives regarding our pre-Christian past? Hardly!

In Ephesians 2:11-12 Paul insists we remember what we were when we were not saved! “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” He told the Corinthians something similar: “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.”(1 Corinthians 1:26 NLT) And, in a personal example, Paul shared his testimony all of his life and said toward the end of his life, “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Earlier he had observed, “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9) Clearly Paul never forgot who he was or what he did before he came to Christ! 

So which is it? Forget or remember? It is both. The Bible does not allow for spiritual amnesia- but neither should we spend our lives dwelling on past mistakes, losses, sins, and pains we cannot undo. The Bible mentions memory over 200 times and in one sense it is a great tool. For one thing, we can remember NOT to do some things again, precisely because those actions were so costly the first time!

The experiences in the past that immobilize us with pain must be surrendered to God who forgets our sin when we repent of it. “…I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) The sins you can’t forget are the same sins God can’t remember! The word “forget” in the famous Philippians passage about “forgetting the things which are behind” isn’t even the greek word usually used to describe memory. Paul wasn’t saying he had no recollection of his past, was he? Of course not. Rather, he refused to give his pre-Christian past much consideration. He left painful events behind him, and refused to encourage them. The word translated “forgetting” actually means he “neglected” the past rather than merely losing his memory of the events.

When we come to Christ we don’t wake up one day with a memory edited by the Holy Spirit like an accidentally deleted computer file. We are not left wondering where we’ve been for the last 25 years!  We will always be people with memories not easily forgotten, and we can learn from our memories- even the painful ones- and hopefully even use them as examples for others who might avoid our same mistakes!