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…

The Tribe of the Redeemed

For a long time the words of Isaiah in chapter 43 have been among my favorite passages of scripture. I love not only the promise of protection from the rising tide of life and the fiery tests we often face, but also the promise of a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The Lord exclaims that he and he alone makes a way.

But that passage doesn’t stand alone – it is a major theme of Isaiah’s and I love the reading this week in Isaiah 35. Isaiah prophesied the exile of the Lord’s people and then the fact that the Lord himself would be the restorer they need, and bring them back from their great trial.

And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Isaiah 35:8-10

We continually revisit, in the writings of Paul, the promise that each of these passages can be claimed over our trials and troubles as well, because of Jesus. Just as he did with Israel, God longs to lead us on the Way of Holiness as he renews our blessing in him. This promise of gladness and joy is for you and me! I don’t know every situation our tribe faces, but I know this – we are destined to enter his gates with thanksgiving and praise as the precious rescued ones of God. When you feel the fires rising and the rivers raging, know that your redeemer lives, and will always be ready to come alongside with and eternal hope.

Let’s continue to celebrate with joy the redemption we have. We are the tribe of the redeemed, and there is no redemption like the redemption of our Lord! When he promises, who can stop it coming to pass? Who can reverse his judgments? Claim his promises this day over your situations and opportunities alike, and rest secure that no matter what challenges we face, his joy is guaranteed to us as we follow after him!

Pastor Ryan

What do you have?

2 Kings 4 provides a real and relevant challenge to us as believers that often feel like we don’t have enough – enough strength, enough time, enough resource, or even enough faith. The story of the widow’s oil is not only a miracle that the Lord performed through the prophet Elisha, it also raises a repeated theme in scripture of allowing God to work with us through times of need. Look at Elisha’s question to the widow.

The widow we encounter needed a miracle. Her family had been God-fearing people, but at this moment she was experiencing the hardest of times. It’s comforting to know that God hears our cries, but even more so that he wants to work with us when things get tough – that he cares and his desire is for us to keep trying.

When Elisha asks the widow what she has in her house, and begins to see God use what she has, it reminds me so much of the story of Gideon that we encountered in the book of Judges. He was scared and helpless just like this widow and the Lord showed up and tasked him with saving the people. When he protested and tried to explain as so many in scripture do, “God, you’ve got the wrong guy,” the angel of the Lord tells him to “Go in the strength that you have.” Just like the widow, we often look at what we lack and how much we don’t have, but God is a God who sees things a little differently. After all, he is God “who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.” (Romans 4:17 NASB)

Whether it was Gideon, Moses, David or Peter, so many times we see God come through when people simply trust God with what they do have. As the story of the widow closes, we see that as soon as she runs out of jars to fill, the oil stops flowing. My prayer is that we never run out of jars to fill. I know God longs to keep taking us to new heights, keep stretching our faith, keep meeting our needs, but let’s always be a people that trusts him with what we have, even if it feels like it will never be enough.

Go God or Go Home

There are some phrases that I just really enjoy, one phrase is “Go big or go home”, while there is little hard fact about the origins of the phrase most believe it is from either the Surfer or Ski community that was adopted in the 90’s for a motorcycle part advertisement. Regardless of the origin it means to commit to doing something completely or don’t bother to start. While that philosophy can be debated as wise or not, I find it funny to say, mostly because I tend to be more like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.

I have been listening to a lecture series on my drive to work on the Attributes of God. One of the striking things about the lecture series to how it allows me to consider the absolute immensity and infinity of God. The entire series of lectures contains 6 hours of condensed content solely on considering who God is. I have listened to this series now for the fourth time and still find new profound insight. As I spend the time driving and consider the miles I cover each day just to get to work and how small of a distance that is compared to fact that it takes about the same time for the light from Jupiter to arrive on Earth. Then to try and comprehend the astronomical distance to other stars, other galaxies, all that is finite, has distance, has a beginning and will someday have an end.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90: 1-2

The Psalms so often talk about the mountains, about the stars, about the sand, all to describe the uncountable or the immovable things that we see and to try and use them to understand God. When I consider that we can approximate the sand on the earth, mathematically consider the number of stars, and know that mountains do change over time, it just makes God so much more immeasurable. We find more, try to understand subatomic particles, gaze into a dark spot in the sky with a telescope and all the sudden more emerges. We try to use those temporal things we see to try to give boundaries to our reality, but there is always more, and outside of all that is our infinite God. A God who will always be. A God who “is” even before the mountains, mountains that have been there for every generation without moving. A God before the stars, before the foundations of this universe.

To consider God is like being swept away by a flooded river, as one truth allows me to take a breath I am suddenly swept on by another and another. What wonder it is to behold the immensity of our God, big just doesn’t have the gravitas, huge is puny in comparison, all I can say is God “is”. In view of how small I am, how little I can do, it draws me deeper into the commitment to praise my God, that whole hearted commitment is far beyond big. I think I need to start saying “Go God or go home” instead.

– Jeff Gilbert

All in

So we’ve been camped out in the book of 1 Samuel for a couple of days now, launching into one of the best known stories in all of scripture with King David, but I personally love how the book starts.

“Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.” 1 Samuel 3:1 NLT

I find this little inclusion to be fascinating. It is the introduction to a story about how God’s voice came to Samuel the prophet long before he was the respected prophet of the Lord. The setting of the book of Samuel, which is divided in two now as the video below shows, comes after the time of the judges. Israel is a divided group of tribes waiting to be unified into a nation. Before they clamor for a king, God gives Israel a leader that they didn’t know they needed in Samuel. In those days, the people’s hunger for unity and hope for the future was starting to rise, and although they thought human leadership was the answer, God broke his time of silence and began to speak.

Samuel was the first prophet that God used in this way, and over the coming months we will see how the prophets had the uneasy task of representing the Word of the Lord in a culture that knew they needed change but didn’t turn to the Lord. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? We also have the task of representing the word of the Lord in a culture that isn’t willing to accept it. I wonder if we might learn something from the story of Samuel… not the aged and wise prophet, but the young boy who “did not yet know the Lord.”

From his birth, Samuel was dedicated to the Lord. He had a radical purpose in God’s eyes that required him to follow after God in radical ways. Because of this dedication to God, Samuel had open ears and a heart that was all in. If we’re living in a culture that doesn’t know God, and we’re living in a time when the Word of the Lord is rare, or maybe choked by the abundance of distraction, we need to begin to posture our hearts to be all in like Samuel.

I’d encourage you to go back and read the story of when God calls to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3, but let’s skip to the end and see the Lord’s intention for calling Samuel.

Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel.” 1 Samuel 3:11 NLT

We know that God shook things up in a pretty severe way, getting the attention of the people and beginning to challenge them to draw near. The visions and messages from God may have been quiet for a while, but maybe he was just waiting for a heart that was dedicated to him.

It seems God was always ready to do a new thing among his people, and I would challenge you – are you ready for the new thing God wants to do? I know I have a long way to go spiritually to prepare my heart for God-size shake-ups or “shocking things.” I think if we’re honest that scares most of us. We’re more like, “Let’s do a comfortable and generous thing God… let’s leave shocking things somewhere else.” Let’s begin to look to God’s leading and not just for others to figure things out for us. Let’s be a tribe that’s ALL IN on what our eternal king desires and prepare our hearts for him to move.

– Pastor Ryan

Honoring the Loyal

Loyalty is a dying art. It’s just not human nature to lay down our concern for ourselves and care for others’ needs and our culture constantly feeds our self-centeredness. This is why I love the story of Ruth – this young foreigner whose husband passed away and seems to have a bleak future. In spite of this, Ruth chooses to be loyal to her mother-in-law Naomi in a radical, unpopular way.

In the opening scene of the book, Naomi realizes her life is going to be hard and tries to persuade her two daughters-in-law to seek a brighter future. The first one leaves, but Ruth doesn’t give in that easily. Naomi tries again to knock some sense into Ruth. Nevertheless, Ruth replies…

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16 NIV

That is a kind of loyalty that reflects the heart of God with each of us. Despite the hard roads we sometimes travel and the fact that we’re often pretty unlovable, God continue to love us in a radical way. The video from the guys at The Bible Project below captures exactly why this story is in the Bible, showcasing God’s heart of loyalty and honoring the loyalty of Ruth and Boaz.

The Apostle Paul’s statement in Romans 8 reminds me a lot of what Ruth had to say to Naomi…

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NIV

I find it so interesting that this kind of radical loyalty is also shown by the Lord Jesus, especially since Ruth was Jesus’ great grandmother from about 30 generations before! The reality is this… as followers of Christ we’re often called to set aside our personal feelings and choose to be loyal where God has called us. It may not be easy, but it will be blessed.

Who has been loyal to you? I’d encourage you to call them and thank them today for being a great friend. More importantly, who is God asking you to be loyal to? Let’s take up the mantle of our spiritual inheritance as the family of God and show an unshakeable loyalty like Ruth.

– Pastor Ryan