The Best for Last

Weddings are a joyous time in almost any time and culture. There’s always the air of hope and wonder in the formation of a new family, it just overflows with all the possibilities of life.

This Sunday as we continue our series on the Gospel of John, we’ll be reading about a wedding in ch 1:1-12. We’ll be examining the first sign that Jesus did in John’s account, turning water into wine.

For some Christians, this miracle is an embarrassment – it would be a lot easier to explain if Jesus had just invented grape juice (which does not exist in nature, it must be processed) – but that’s not the Jesus we get in this Gospel. (A person may struggle with substance abuse and I don’t mean to be flippant about that – I support all efforts to remain sober and sane in life. That being said, not all people have that struggle, and we don’t want to miss the meaning of this sign in the process of that support)

As you read through this story, in v11, what reason does John give for including this account? What does this sign reveal to you about God’s glory, his nature and power? How does it compare with the way the church represents the kingdom of God – is there a difference?

The water jars were used for ritual purification. Jesus looks at those reminders of human uncleanness and re-purposes them completely. What lesson does this sign teach us about the nature of what God is up to in our lives?

Have there been times in your life when the wine ran out (metaphorically, of course)? How about now? What does this sign encourage you to do about it?

We’ll explore these topics and a few more – hope to see you on Sunday!

Following Jesus

What does it mean to follow someone? It really depends on the context, I suppose. If you follow someone on Instagram it simply means you have an interest in keeping up with what content a person posts. If you follow a football team, it basically means you’re a fan – you cheer for them and wear their team logo on your person.

To be a follower of Jesus implies much, much more. Jesus’ first disciples will be the topic of our study in the gospel of John this Sunday.  We’ll be reading John 1:35-51.

As you read this account of Rabbi Jesus gathering his first Talmidim (disciples, followers) – what do you observe about following Jesus; what did it meant to them? Did they have questions, and what were they? What was their first order of business after they met Jesus? What significant thing happens with Simon – and what might it imply for him?

As the disciples tell their friends about Jesus – what is the invitation they give?

What would you invite others to “come and see” about Jesus? How has he significantly impacted your identity?

This will be a challenging study, I hope you can join us this Sunday!

Knowing Jesus

“Who do you think you are?”

We’ve all heard that question asked at one time or another. It’s not a casual inquiry about our identity – it’s a challenge that is asking what right we think we possess to say or do a particular thing.

In our study in the gospel of John this week, John the Baptist will be asked that type of question. We’ll be reading ch 1:19-34 in our study.

When leaders come to investigate John the Baptist’s ministry, they are not trying to get to know him and understand him; it is an interrogation from the start.

They go down a list of possible people God could be sending, asking if he’s Elijah (Malachi 4:5) or “the Prophet” (Deut 18:18-19) – but John Baptist bluntly rejects every suggestion. I think there could have been a temptation to get all cryptic with these guys, maybe drop some hints that suggest a deeper importance to his work. John the Baptist doesn’t do that. If John the Baptist is a witness to who Jesus is, what do we learn about Jesus from the way John Baptist carried himself?

John the Baptist does answer their query – and what does he use to identify himself to them? How might we use Scripture as a basis for our own identities?

The next section, v29-34 has John the Baptist elaborating on his testimony. He describes something he saw happen with Jesus at his baptism, and then he described him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. How does John’s description of Jesus help us to know Jesus better? What do those titles and events tell us about the ministry Jesus as Messiah will undertake? What are the ramifications for us, who believe and accept him – how will it help us in our new lives as children of God (v12-13)?

I’ll tell you, there’s something about this book. I sensed that this was an important study we are undertaking, and that has only grown since we’ve started it. I hope you can join us as we get to know Jesus through John’s gospel!

The Heart of God Revealed

We live in what has been dubbed the “information age”. It is an unparalleled time where almost any information we want is accessible on the screens of our phones. Some have also noted that having access to information has not necessarily made us any wiser. With all the information there also comes a plethora of voices telling us what to think and do and what the highest good may be.

It’s a challenge to cut through the noise and figure out what’s really important in life.

We’ve started a new series in the Gospel of John which we’ll continue this week, reading John 1:6-18. John wants to make a compelling declaration that of all the voices at work in the world, there is one voice…one Word that can reveal the important matters of life.

John the Baptist is introduced as a “witness” to the Light, who is Jesus. John the Baptist (JB to his friends) was pretty important in the Biblical narrative. Why do you think John the author wanted to make sure we understood his proper place in this account?

V 10-13 actually gives us an overview of the whole story that will unfold. Jesus is rejected by the world and not recognized by his own people, all of which will unfold in chapters 2-12. But for those who do believe in him, what happens? V12 tells us what God’s intent, his heart is. What does he want us to know about ourselves?

V 14 and following are so profound, and maybe the most important words said in Scripture. We’ll get into what is so scandalous about v14 for both Greek and Jewish thinkers in that time and context. There are several hyper-links in this section, pointing back to Moses on Mount Sinai, asking to see God’s glory and being partly refused. The glory now gets revealed, but in Whom?

V 18 tells us that Jesus reveals the Father’s heart to us – the middle of V14 tells us what it is. The one thing humanity needs to know…the most important thing…is what God is like and what He wants. Jesus reveals it, and man….is it ever Good News!

I hope you can join us this Sunday as we dive into this amazing section of Scripture. Let’s pray for a fresh awakening to the power of God’s grace at work in our world!

The Word, The Life, The Light

Have you seen the “He Gets Us” ads?  I really like them, personally. At first I was skeptical, as I tend to be about these sort of things – but looking into it a bit, it’s really grown on me. I poked around their website ( ) and deeply appreciated what I read.

One quote that really resonated with me was this: “Throughout our shared history, Jesus has represented the ultimate good that humankind is capable of aspiring to. And though some no longer believe in God, most are still compelled by the idea of a person capable of unconditional love for others despite their differences. But many of us simply cannot reconcile the idea of that person with the way our culture experiences religion today. Whether it’s hypocrisy and discrimination in the church, or scandals both real and perceived among religious leaders, or the polarization of our politics, many have relegated Jesus from the world’s greatest love story to just another tactic used to intensify our deep cultural divisions. “

I think it touched me so because it highlights what I perceive as a deep deficiency in the American Church. We need more immersion in Jesus. We are followers of Christ – His words, actions, priorities and values should dominate our thinking on any current issue we face.

That’s why I’ve committed to God that while I still have breath and a place to preach, I’m going to keep coming back to the story of Jesus.

All that to say…we’re going to start a new series this Sunday, going chapter by chapter through the Gospel of John, and I’m beside myself with excitement!

It is vital that we not approach the Gospel of John like a textbook or a documentary. John’s gospel isn’t intended to educate us as it is to introduce us to….well, to God.

John will, in essence, be saying through his account – “If you want to know who God is, or what He is like, take a long look at Jesus.”

That’s what we will set out to do. Through John’s selected vignettes, we will get a different view of Jesus, and a deeper appreciation for what the Gospel is all about.

This Sunday we’ll be reading John 1:1-5, the prologue. Instead of a genealogy or a jump into the action as the other gospels do, John begins with a poem. And what a poem.

What other famous passage of Scripture starts with “In the beginning…”? What significance might that have for John’s account of Jesus?

John begins by talking about the Word – eternal, creator, light and life. He will later identify the Word as Jesus. The Greek word for…well, word, is Logos – and we’ll get into how both the Jewish people and the Greek world understood what logos meant – it’s pretty interesting!

In just the first few verses of this amazing book, we’ll discover hope and wisdom and strength for life…if we look for it in JESUS! I really hope you can join us for this study – any time we take time to look deeply at Jesus, it will be life-changing!

People of the Overlap

Last Sunday we finished studying the book of Ephesians. Paul was masterful in the way he was able to take the teachings of Jesus and help the church in Ephesus apply those values and beliefs to their everyday lives. What is even more amazing, is that some 2,000 years later, we are still studying his words and applying those truths in our small church halfway across the world.

Even though we typically follow an expository style of teaching, this week we are going to discuss the Kingdom of Heaven and work to discover what it really means. Next week, on February 12, we will start a new book of the Bible that will follow our normal line by line, verse by verse, format.

The Kingdom of Heaven is a subject that Jesus seemed to emphasize a great deal. With all four gospels combined, Jesus references the subject over seventy times. He describes it through parables, he explains it to the crowds, and Jesus even shares about it with the Pharisees who question Him.

Yet, even though the Kingdom of Heaven is mentioned a lot in the gospels and more by Paul later on, it is something many of us still have questions about. What exactly does it mean? What does it have to do with us? Is it describing heaven or paradise? Is it happening now or later? If it’s supposed to be now, then why are so many terrible things still happening? Why do Chrstians still suffer?

These are legitimate questions when it comes to the Kingdom of Heaven, and hopefully ones we can address this Sunday. Join us at 10:00AM for an honest search for truth regarding the Kingdom of Heaven. Let’s learn what it really means, how it applies to us today, and how it can impact our future.

The Armor of God

This Sunday we’ll be finishing up our study in the book of Ephesians. We’ll be reading ch 6:10-24.

Paul will once again dazzle us with some intriguing imagery by challenging us to put on the full armor of God. It’s a familiar passage to many people, and I’m sure we all have a variety of ways in which we apply this encouragement to our own life of following Jesus.

One thing I want to consider this Sunday is the community nature of Paul’s challenge. What does it mean for the church, corporately, to put on the whole armor of God? Furthermore, what did Paul consider the be the threat for which the church should armor up? If we re-read chapters 2 and 3, we get a clearer view of what Paul likely had in mind.

As you read chapter 6, who does Paul identify as a threat? Who does he clearly state that our battle is not with? In what ways can we become more cognizant of the activity of transcendent evil? How do you imagine each part of the armor Paul describes being applied in real life?

Those are some of the things we’ll be considering this Sunday – I hope you can join us!

Spirit Guided Relationships (again)

“What is that out there?” I stood on the beach with other people looking far out to the horizon, trying to make out a strange shape we caught glimpses of at a great distance.

“Doesn’t quite look like a boat, but it’s way out there.” Offered one bystander. It was just a non-descript object that kept flashing in the sunlight. It was just too far away to identify with any certainty.

That’s how I feel sometimes when I’m reading Bible passages that are difficult to understand. I realize that the original authors are so far removed from me, representing cultural ideas that are so foreign to me, it’s easy to get exasperated in trying to figure them out.

That’s part of what’s happening in the section we are studying in Ephesians – and why it’s taken me three weeks to try and lay out how I interpret Paul’s writings concerning the household code of ancient Rome.

We’re returning to the same passage we read last week, because we never really did get into examining the specific instructions Paul was giving to wives, husbands, and children. We did the groundwork to explain that the passage may not be as straight-forward as many have assumed. This Sunday, as we read ch 5:21-6:4 we’ll take a close look at his instructions and see how it can apply to our relationships today.

Janelle is going to join me as we have a conversation about this sometimes-misunderstood passage from the New Testament – and hopefully we’ll all be challenged by Paul’s epic subversion of any culture’s broken dynamics. Paul not only meddles in our lives, he scrambles so many of our concepts of honor and authority, bringing all things into the glorious light of the cross of Jesus Christ!

It should be challenging, informative and hopefully enlightening. I hope you can join us!

Spirit Guided Relationships

This Sunday we’ll continue our study in Ephesians, covering a section that has become rather controversial in our contemporary culture. We’ll be reading chs 5:21-6:9, a section where Paul appears to discuss the structure of a familial household.

I’m not going to get into this subject too much in this post – but I will say that I consider it really, really important to approach this text without a lot of preconceived ideas of what he’s talking about – at least as much as we’re able. I’ve said before that we have a bad tendency in the Church to impose modern worldviews over these ancient texts and doing so has led us to some strange and unfortunate places.

This section of scripture has been weaponized by some, demonized by others and dismissed more often than not. Our goal in this study will be to get as deep into this text as possible, and to do our best to read it with its historic and cultural context in view. I have been truly surprised in my own study of this passage to find that Paul isn’t always saying what I and many others have assumed he’s saying.

I’ll leave it to you to ponder that implication – but as you read this section, pay attention to how it makes you feel. What words or commands stand out to you? What, if anything, do you find difficult to see replicated in your own relationships? Are there elements you find offensive, and if so, what and why?

I would dare to suggest that all of us should be puzzled and offended by the last part of the section in ch 6. What do we make of the New Testament’s words about slavery? How can we reconcile the larger revelations of the Gospel with the words we read here?

Those will be some of our talking points on Sunday. I hope you can join us for what I hope will be a serious look at a complicated passage of Scripture.

An Identity in the Light

Back in my wilder youth there were a few nightclubs and rock venues I would frequent. Once, I had reason to be inside one of those clubs during the daylight hours. To my horror, what had been obfuscated in the darkness was now on full display in daytime brightness. The place was beyond grody. Not only did I not want to touch anything, I didn’t even want to breath the air in that disgusting environment. It was such a stunning image I couldn’t get myself to go back, even when it all was hidden once again in the shadows.

That’s sort of the line of reasoning Paul is going to be using in the passage we’ll be reading this Sunday as we study Ephesians – we’ll be reading Eph 5:3-14.

Paul sets up another contrast similar to what he did at the close of chapter 4 where he described our move from death to life. In chapter 5 he contrasts darkness with light.

We’re going to take some time to get a grasp of what Paul is talking about when waring about God’s wrath in v6 – but his point is, there was one way we used to live before Christ, and there is another which is the product of our transformation in God’s light. He describes various sins (not an exhaustive list, just what appears to come to mind): sexual sins and greed as well as conversational sin. Why do you think Paul might have lumped these particular behaviors together? He makes it clear: this is who you were, but you are different now. Paul wasn’t setting standards for a new moralism, he was highlighting markers of identity.

How we understand our identity in Christ was of crucial importance to Paul. His plea is for us to pay attention and not just thoughtlessly follow along with cultural moors and ethics. Are there areas you find it challenging to resist cultural expectations that diverge from God’s intent? Based on Paul’s exhortation, how can we be more thoughtful about the behavior and language we engage in?

God’s wrath and inheritance in God’s kingdom are two important topics in this text which we’re going to dig into on Sunday to try and discover what he means when he uses those phrases.

It’s going to be a challenging study, but well worth any discomfort it may bring. I hope you can join us this Sunday!