Ryan Stoops   -  

After reading the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the idea of looking back can be a bit scary. But let’s clear things up, the reason that Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt was because God told them not to look back. The point is this, it’s not always bad to look back, but it’s always bad to not obey God! Now that we’ve cleared that up, I want to encourage you to take a moment to look over your shoulder for this past year. Some great questions we can ask ourselves as we look back and reflect are: 1) What things can I thank God for as He showed up in my life during 2022? 2) What lessons can I learn from 2022 to apply greater wisdom to my life as I move forward? 3) Did I personally grow (spiritually, emotionally, physically, etc.) this past year?

As I reflect upon these questions and what God did in my life, I can’t help but think about the numerous people who chose to follow Jesus for the first time in 2022 and the many who went on to choose to follow Jesus all the way to the waters of baptism as a public statement of their faith. Maybe it’s because I’m a pastor, but these life changing decisions excite me more than words can express. Additionally, I give God all the praise for how He has brought each and every one of you to be a part of the Deer Flat family. The reality is, Deer Flat is special because of the people who have committed to make it their church home. Every Sunday we gather without apology to lift high the name of Jesus and bring some heaven to earth. So, if heaven is better, my mind is blown!!

While I could go on and on about the wonderful things God has done this past year, I also want to look back and identify the places where I can be stronger as we move forward. Without hesitation, 2022 has continued to teach me that a healthy team is always better than a phenomenal individual. No matter how great one may be, the strong team around us will always take us farther. The limitation of just 2 eyes, 2 hands and 2 feet will always be less than as compared to the multiplication effects of shared vision, purpose, and life. The next observation for me was the reminder to learn the art of asking questions. A slow to speak and quick to listen approach leads to stronger decisions. Seek to understand and then seek again…

As we draw 2022 to a close, I find myself standing against the wall and there is God standing over me with pencil in hand marking my growth. Together we celebrate, we celebrate the growth of our walk together as looking back reveals how I love Him more today than I did a year ago. Seeing the progress, it’s clear that despite not achieving perfection, I have grown. I’m not the same man I was nearly 365 days ago. With God’s help, I’ve grown as a child of God, I’ve grown as a husband & father, and I’ve grown as a leader. It’s true, with God all things are possible!

Let me encourage you to take a moment in the coming days to look back over your year. Life goes by so quickly; it would be a shame to miss out on what’s happened thus far. On behalf of myself and the entire amazing Deer Flat leadership team, we want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! I look forward to worshipping with you this weekend and I especially look forward to what we have planned with an amazing kick-off to 2023 on January 1st at 10am.

See you soon,
Pastor Ryan