What do you think?

Brace yourself.

For the first time in a while, I’m making some time to write something somewhat meaningful here.

It’s strange. Although these past couple of weeks have had me busier than ever (lots of driving back and forth between Greensboro and Creedmoor and working really hard to get up to speed at work, plus focussing a little bit more on church stuff), I seem to be experiencing more clarity than I have in a while.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just ’cause of the John Mayer song. Actually, I hope not. (Isn’t the point of that song that as soon as you realize that you’re having a moment of clarity it’s too late, because that realization will take away the clarity?)

But I digress…

To be honest, it’s not nearly that complicated. I think the bottom line is that I’ve had at least 2 1/2 hours a day to sit in a car and think and listen to some fantastic teaching from guys like Mark Driscoll and Francis Chan. And at least equally importantly, God has been doing some amazing things in Stephanie’s life too. She might not even realize it, but she’s more beautiful than ever — in every way. I feel more encouraged and supported than ever, and that makes more difference than any woman will ever understand.

So, all that rambling because I want to ask for some feedback. I had a rare moment this week when a Bible story became completely new to me — the meaning and value for my life right now came through in a way it never has before.

In our ‘Spiritual Gifts’ Bible study that our men’s group is studying through at work, the author makes a point using the life of Moses, and he focusses specifically on the story from early in Moses’ life where he kills the Egyptian. The author challenged me to consider the question: “Why did Moses kill the Egyptian?”

It seems like a simple enough question, but the answer is powerful for me: I think Moses killed him because he was beginning to get a grip on God’s calling for his life. God put in Moses’ heart a burden for His people. Moses felt God’s compassion and righteous anger towards the conditions of the Israelites.

And before he probably realized that God had put this in his heart, and certainly before he consulted God about it, he did something rash and chalked it up to passion.

The result: a man died, and Moses spent 40 years hiding out in the wilderness.

And I got to thinking: Did it really have to be that way? If Moses had realized that his passion came from God, and asked God for direction on how to act, and then waited, could it have played out better? What if God was ready and willing to lead the people out in 1 year? What if those 40 extra years of toil and death that God’s people experienced weren’t necessary?

But then again, God is sovereign. Someone in our discussion put it this way: What if God planned for everything to happen just the way it did? What if He wanted Moses to go out to the wilderness so that He could mold him into the redeemer of His people that He wanted him to be?

This definitely seems reasonable. Think about all the people who spent time in the wilderness before God really fulfilled His calling in their lives. There’s Moses, David, Paul, John the Baptist… even Jesus it seems to some extent.

So all that leaves me in a funny place because I have such an overwhelming passion for God’s church. I seriously feel the Gospel like fire in my bones and everything in me screams to give my whole life to see the world changed by the Gospel. I want to spend my life being poured out for the Bride of Christ in America until She is a true reflection of Him, and truly cares about His bride around the world. And I try to wrap my head around the story about Moses, and how God seems to send His servants into long seasons of waiting where He prepares them, and I try to think about how that applies to me, and I just don’t know what to take away.

In the sermon I listened to this morning from Francis Chan, he said that in Uganda alone (I think — that part wasn’t clear), 43,000 children are orphaned every day, and 29,000 orphans die every day.

Every day.

Part of me fights God about that.

“What can You teach me in 5 or 10 years that is worth so many wasted lives?”

I know. It’s an audacious question to ask the Creator. I ask it respectfully. I know that I have so much to learn that I don’t even know how much I have to learn.

But what’s the balance in the meantime? How do I stir up the passions God has put in me and take full advantage of what’s available for me to do in THIS season, while simultaneously resting in God’s sovereignty and just waiting for His leadership?

I guess I already know what I would tell someone if they asked me those questions… but all the same, what do you think?

Who Was I?

I spent some time looking at the Scripture this morning for the first time in several days. It’s so easy to let that piece of my day get away when I get busy. Somehow the logic goes, “I have to work 10 hours today so I need my extra sleep so that I can have a good attitude and be a good witness to the people I’ll work with.”

And there’s some wisdom in that. But not when it’s the usual case. My soul can’t survive long without meditating on God. No one’s can, I believe.

This morning, I decided to wait until I got to work to get into the Word, so that the drive in could wake me up a little bit. When I got here, I realized that I don’t have my Bible, so I used BibleGateway instead. I haven’t used that site for much in a while, but they have really made it useful!

So this morning, I was read Acts 11, and a line really jumped off the page. The context is that Peter is getting a bunch of crap from the religious people because he spent time with, and ate with non-Jews. Basically, these were the bloggers/watchdogs/jealous wannabe ministry guys who chose to criticize Peter for what God did through him because they were jealous that He didn’t use them instead. (The amount of time that is spent each week writing blog posts criticizing Mark Driscoll really comes to mind here)

In verse 17, Peter is in the middle of giving his defense, and he asks, “Who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

Let that question sink in for a minute.

Let me tell you what it means to me.

Continue reading

This Week…


So, you might have noticed that you didn’t see much shaking on ZackRiesland.com this week…

There’s a reason for that. The short explanation is that I worked about 10 hours of overtime. If you’re interesting in what’s been going on in my head this week, or if you’re a fan of dilbert, or if you’re just bored, then please, read on… Continue reading

Hipper-than-thou pastor

So, if you know me personally, or if you even read this blog very regularly, you know that I have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Rob Bell.

And right off the bat, let me tell you that I hate that, because self-righteous ‘christians’ who think it’s their goal in life to tear down everything their brothers build in the name of ‘constructive criticism’ drive me insane.

And to be totally honest, I’m somewhat of a hypocrite when it comes to this matter…

About a year ago, I read “Velvit Elvis”, and I like it so much that I read it again and then bought the audio from iTunes so I could make Stephanie listen to it :0)

(I wrote this about a year ago when I was thinking through the book)

The whole concept of interpreting what Jesus said through the grid of first century Judaism was amazing to me. And Rob really shed some light on some passages of scripture that never quite made sense.

I started listening to the Mars Hill Bible Church podcast. And for my birthday, I asked for the book ‘Sex God’, which I got and eagerly read…

Continue reading

Thoughts about the mall shooting

If you didn’t catch any news since yesterday afternoon, a guy who was depressed, on antidepressants, recently fired, recently dumped, and recently kicked out of his parents house went into a mall in Omaha, Nebraska and shot about 40 rounds with a Russion rifle before he took his own life.

You can read about it here.

In April, something similar happened on the campus of Virginia Tech, and I wrote the following over at TheRieslands.com


33 people killed. What really makes me chew on what happened at V.T. is that I wouldn’t be surprised if I know a half-dozen people who are two steps away from doing the same thing… and the only thing that stands between them and another tragedy is a false hope that they’ll get better.

Continue reading

Rumors, Gossip, and Keeping Your Mouth Shut

Sometimes I agree with Steven Furtick, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m probably just jealous of him… the dude is 2 years older than me and he’s leading a congregation of close to 3,000 these days.

I will give him credit for updating his blog every single weekday though. And two days ago, his post was right on point.

He writes about spreading rumors, and how damaging it can be. He says he keeps a personal policy of never passing on news about someone else if it’s negative. That’s hard core.

Here’s an excerpt:

Ever since I gave my life to Christ as a 16 year old, I tried to remain devoutly committed to the sacred practice of keeping my mouth shut when presented with the opportunity to say something negative about someone God is using.
Even when the criticism is valid (because even the most anointed people stumble and fall), I see no value in spreading the criticism like gangrene.

This is particularly significant to me lately, because in the last year, I’ve really seen the power of rumors to tear down men of God.

A few weeks ago, we had lunch with some folks from the church we used to serve at, and they told us that a leader of the church announced in a service that we had to step back because we were on the verge of divorce.

Ummm…. no. Not a chance. If you wanted to separate me from my wife, you’d have to kill me. I mean it…

Two days ago I heard a rumor about a leader from that same church. I didn’t even blink. Whether it’s true or not, and it probably isn’t, it’s none of my business…

Interesting post about the Church

I don’t know who Shawn Bashor is, but I found this really interesting and provoking post on his site (a link of a link of a link kind of thing).

I’ve been having many similar thoughts and questions, although my conclusions are basically the exact opposite of his.

When I get a ton of free time some day, I’d like to write about it.

A previous post that I wrote about a Caedmon’s Call song called ‘Expectations’ is related as well…