I AMs in John’s Gospel

As we’ve been studying together in the Book of John during our I AM series, we’ve noticed a lot about the structure of John’s Gospel and the way he captures these statements in the story of Jesus. We’ve also been reading in the Gospel of John for our ReadTogether plan, and today we want to take a look at the second half of John’s Gospel and get the context for the statements of Jesus we’ve been exploring. Check out the brilliant video from the guys at the Bible Project:

Don’t miss out on the second half of John’s Gospel. We invite you to continue to dive into the Word with us! As John concludes in his writings, we believe that the Word of God will bring us to new life in His Name!

Diving Deep With John

If you’ve been reading along with us, or maybe you’ve felt left behind, take heart! The time is now! As we are studying the Gospel of John in our I Am Series we just so happen to be diving into the Gospel of John in our Read Together plan.

Let’s get you started with a look at what the Gospel of John is going to explore!

We believe that the Bible was written to be explored together, and to be discussed regularly, so in our tribe, we’re choosing to Read Together, and digest the Word of God together including our Sunday Morning Tribe Talks. Join us as we explore the incredible story of God together as a tribe.

Faith and Action: Hezekiah

I’ve often wondered why less people know the story of Hezekiah, King of Judah. His father was a terrible king, and his son Manasseh was maybe the worst king ever, but Hezekiah was a man of faith and action. During his reign as king, some of the most incredible things happened that are recorded in the entirety of the Old Testament. I know that the books of I and II Chronicles can feel like a complete re-hashing of stories we’ve already seen, but I love that we are closing the Old Testament portion of our Read Together plan by remembering the tales of King Hezekiah.

Reality is, this isn’t the second time we’ve come across Hezekiah’s story… it’s actually the third! He was so intricately connected to the Prophet Isaiah that his story is told in the Book of the Kings, The Book of Isaiah and The Book of Chronicles. During a time of the Old Testament when the Kings had gone awry and the focus was clearly on the work of the prophets, Hezekiah is a King that the Lord trusted, honored and prospered.

The first thing we read about this amazing king is significant…

In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them. 2 Chronicles 29:3 NIV

The First Month… of the First Year. Basically, this guys wastes no time. He started day one by pursuing God’s will, God’s ways and God’s agenda for his people. This challenges me. I probably procrastinate more than I like to admit, and sometimes when life gets tough it is easy to shirk off responsibilities, but I want to be more like Hezekiah. As we read on through chapters 29 and 30, we actually see a few things happen immediately and he continues to push for all God has for his people. in verse 10, we see Hezekiah make his intentions quite clear, “I intend to make a covenant with the Lord.” By verse 20 we see that he doesn’t wait for the sun to come up, he starts early the next morning with the work of purifying the temple, paving the way for God’s presence. They worship, they celebrate, the rededicate themselves to God, and even when some people show up late to the party and unprepared, Hezekiah prays that the Lord would accept them according to the desire of the hearts for God, and 30:20 tells us “The Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.” Wow.

I would encourage you to continue reading the story from 2 Chronicles 29-32. It’s an amazing display of the Lord’s faithfulness as Hezekiah lived in a way that honored God. God honored prayer after prayer from this great man. Hezekiah was ill to the point of death, and the Lord heard his cry and added 15 years to his life. The king of Assyria came and threatened the people, and when Hezekiah prayed the Lord sent an angel that wiped out the whole Assyrian army in one night – 185,000 of them at once.

More than anything though, I want to be known as Hezekiah was known. He saw God do mighty things, but 2 Chronicles 31:21 takes the cake for me…

In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.

I pray that the Lord would give us the tenacity and intentionality of Hezekiah, to see His name made famous and his power displayed among us.

– Pastor Ryan

God’s Perfect Timing

When I was reading in Ezra a strange question came into my mind, “when was the last time you exclaimed ‘Finally!’ about the work of God”? I can say I never have, although I am tempted to put in a joke here about waiting for my wife before going to church. What I find interesting about this concept is that when God’s plan is executed it is always right on time. Whether I have stressed out about it, whined and cried, when God moves I always look back and see how His timing was perfect.

At the beginning of Ezra it seems like the work of rebuilding the temple is going well, the foundation is laid and people are pretty excited.

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. 11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:
“He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.”

And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.

However, something changed and the work stalls. I am tempted to look at this situation and claim that some bad apples spoiled the bunch. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. Ezra 3:10-12

Reading in a commentary, the older members of the congregation wept because they remember the glory of the original temple and are disappointed at the small beginnings of the work. My thoughts jump to blaming them for the delay in the temple completion soon to manifest in the story.

In the past, I have looked at what I thought was the work of the Lord being stalled and tried to identify it as someone involved causing the problem, maybe looking back thinking it was my judging of others that was the cause. What a way to claim to have power over God’s glory, do I really believe that my failings will cause the work of my Father to be delayed in any way? That’s a rhetorical question, of course, I know that my actions do not hinder the work of God. Why would I judge someone else in that ability?

Truth be told, what I think of as a gap, or even a complete closure in the work of the Lord, is part of the miracle of His perfect timing. God’s timing is beyond the understanding of us to know, but that is why faith in our God is so important. I recently heard a story of a missionary from the turn of the 19th century with an inspired quote.

“Christ never was in a hurry. There was no rushing forward, no anticipating, no fretting over what might be. Each day’s duties were done as each day brought them, and the rest was left with God.” – Mary Slessor

What a liberating knowledge to know we do not control God’s timetable, we can be comfortable with the knowledge and the faith that He is going to make everything happen at the perfect moment.

– Jeff Gilbert

A Grand Display of Glory

As we’ve been reading in our Read Together plan, we’re currently studying the Book of Jeremiah (check out the video) and we’ve just come across Psalm 19 in our Summer in the Psalms portion. One of the things that is clear all throughout scripture, including these passages we’re studying, is that God is constantly at work and his plans are greater than we can imagine. Yesterday we looked at how God likens himself to a masterful potter as he shapes our lives like pots of clay, brilliantly working through the imperfections and the knocks we pick up in life to create in us something truly beautiful.

David was constantly impressed with the Lord – a great posture for growth if you ask me! Over and over David writes in the Psalms how magnificent the Lord is and how all of creation exists to make him known. In a world where we like to pursue knowledge and wisdom, and indeed are exhorted to by scripture, David is telling us to continue to have a high view of God’s sovereignty and marvel at his deeds. Psalm 19 is effectively split into two halves: A focus on creation as God speaks to us through what he has made, and a declaration of love for the Law of God which was given to regenerate us in our thinking as we focus on Him. In particular, I love the opening statements:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4 NIV

David saw that everything God produced was good, and that considering the entirety of creation was a way to know the Creator. How often we take for granted the brilliance of a sunset or the intricacy of a flower. I’ve been walking though our Garlic Garden at the church lately and am so intrigued by the process God ordained to bring new life and sustain us. He hasn’t forgotten a single detail. His Creation screams about His intention without making a sound. I want to be more mindful of the goodness of God in the simple things and take time to notice the beauty of His Creation. Alongside his Word, we see His Grace at work in each new day we get to look up and see the sun. Like David, I hope to be continually impressed by my Creator and never lose the wonder of considering what He has done.

As you drive to work today, or settle in for dinner this evening, take a moment to consider Creation around you. What does it tell us about the intention of the Creator? Listen for what it is saying without words with me today.

– Pastor Ryan

Can I not?

Trying to wrap your head around the dynamic of a God who holds the universe in place but still knows my name is a challenge, to say the least. It blows my mind that we serve a God that loves me despite my shortcomings and my often short attention span! Such is the mystery of His Grace – although I am prone to want things my way, although I struggle, He gently and lovingly, and with all patience, works to recapture my heart and reshape my thinking.

As I have seen the Hand of God at work time and time again in this way, it’s hard for me to find any better explanation in scripture than Jeremiah 18 where the Lord instructs Jeremiah to visit the house of the Potter. When Jeremiah arrives, he sees a potter hard at work, using his trusted wheel – that trusted instrument keeping the pot moving, cycle after cycle refining and informing the work of his hands. Jeremiah immediately remarks that the pot being worked on is marred, spoiled, disfigured, imperfect… kind of like me. This ball of potential and energy and life can sometimes get off track or knocked down by life. But catch what the Lord speaks to Jeremiah’s heart in this moment…

“Can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” Jeremiah 18:5-6 ESV

As a person who loves to know more about the workings of the world and marvels at the complexity of creation, I kind of hate the fact that there are questions I have I may never know the answer to, particularly when it comes to my own life. It’s so important to remember that I am the clay, not the potter, and that is absolutely the best thing for me. I know I will have my share of marred spots and imperfections, but the potter has capable, steady hands to continually refine and reshape my life. I want to always remain pliable in those gracious hands. Meditate on this with me today. In what ways has God been shaping your life lately? Do you trust him to smooth over the rough patches? As the wheel continues to spin and each season of life brings change, are you allowing his gracious hands to shape you, or are you like a clay pot telling the potter how things should be?

– Pastor Ryan

In God’s Thoughts

As we continue our reading plan, and are inviting everyone to read at least a Psalm each day with us, we’ve come across a theme of David in Psalm 8. David had a way of putting things in perspective for us, and he asks the question of God – “What is man that you are mindful of him?”

David’s High View of God

David’s view of God was so vast… he revered God and understood that in light of eternity and the immense nature of our Creator, it is unfathomable that God should want to care for us. Be encouraged today – your Creator cares deeply for you, and at His Word the world was created. What an amazing thought to meditate on today.

Pastor Ryan

When I was in high school we were asked to submit quotes from famous people for a flip-book that would be handed out at graduation. The previous summer I had been blessed to go on a short term mission to Mexico and I had been hungrily reading my Bible for the last year. When this request came up I had little hesitation in knowing I wanted to quote something from the Bible. I chose one of most famous verses in Proverbs that has continued to inspire me for the many years since then.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

I would guess that everyone has a book of the bible that really resonates with their personality. Some identify with the lovingly poetic crafting of the Psalms, others the book of John and its beautiful message of love. While I adore both of those books as I do all the books of the Word of God, the one book that I have connected most with my entire life as a Christian has been the book of Proverbs. I know that I need the book of Proverbs as a reminder of how easy it is to fall into folly. Being easily distracted I must regularly return to this wonderful book, read the same passages over again and enjoy the conviction or inspiration that once again align my path with the origin of all wisdom.

Like a bell ringing that vibrates my whole being, the words of wisdom found in Proverbs show me a message from the Father who is concerned that I have understanding, that I continue to grow in knowledge or Him and His ways. Trouble will come, we all know that, but the book of Proverbs asks the question “do we want to make more trouble for ourselves by falling into folly or do we seek out wisdom from above to help us avoid those mistakes of our own hand”. Already I am excited about this next couple of weeks as we dive into my favorite book and get a chance to read together and to trust our God to show us wisdom as we submit to His plans for our lives.

– Jeff Gilbert

Rebellious Jonah

So we’ve been reading through a bunch of little books that are usually referred to as the minor prophets. In reality, if we understand the context of these books, their impact in our lives can be anything but minor. In particular, I love the book of Jonah. It’s a unique piece of scripture that is about a minor prophet, rather than written by a minor prophet about the situation – very different. Rather than write it all out, I wanted to simply share the Tribe talk I did on this little book, as well as the brilliant video that the guys at The Bible Project did on it. Enjoy!
– Pastor Ryan

If you don’t know the story of Jonah… the real story… I’d encourage you to go back and have a look. It’s only 4 chapters and is very rich in its application for us today. Don’t miss out on the beautiful explanation found from the bible project here…