February 2024

Dear Pinedale Family,

A new year means a new opportunity. As you read these words, 2024 is just one month old — a blank canvas waiting to be filled. Instead of putting your head down and following the same, old routine you have followed in the past, this is a perfect opportunity to ask God what new things He wants to do in you and through you this year.

In Isaiah 43:19, God says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” That was a promise made to the Israelites, but in a similar way, I believe that God is doing something new right now! I believe that prayer is being answered before our eyes. The turmoil of the past few years has created brand-new opportunities to share the Gospel. Many people who have been discipled by social media are craving connection. Many people who have been discipled by the media are craving truth. Many people who have been discipled by the voice of a rapidly changing culture are craving to understand their true identity. And here we are, the Church of Jesus Christ, shining light in the darkness.

In light of this powerful opportunity, it is imperative that God’s people draw ever closer to Him. My constant prayer for this Church is that God will give us spiritual wisdom and understanding and a knowledge of His will; for the grace to live in such a way that our lives honor and please Him and produce every kind of good fruit. That’s the kind of life that lights up our culture like a neon sign pointing to our Heavenly Father!

This study is all about drawing nearer to Jesus. It’s a reminder of who and what the Church is called to be. We will spend the entire 40 days reading John 13-17, which is a careful recording of what Jesus taught His Disciples in the hours before His arrest and crucifixion. Time was short. The Disciples’ lives were about to change drastically. Jesus had spent three years teaching these guys and preparing them, but during these last precious hours, He poured Himself into them one final time. We are blessed to be able to share in this teaching, because it is meant for us, too.

I believe you will be blessed by this study, if you go “all in.” For the next 40 days, devote yourself to daily prayer, devotion and reflection. Each day, commit to spending 15-20 minutes with this book, reading the daily devotion and the Scripture that goes with it, and praying about what you have learned. As usual, along the way, we will gather regularly to encourage one another and support one another, so commit, also, to being present with your group each week night. We pray that by Day 40, we will all be prepared to move forward with a new perspective of God and new energy for doing His work.

You are holding in your hands a powerful opportunity. Seize it! Allow God to speak to you during the next 40 days, and you can bet you will be different when you reach the last page.

How important are the hours leading up to a great game? Open the door to a locker room and a coach’s den: athletes focusing, trainers taping, equipment managers checking every detail, and coaches reviewing final tapes, tweaking plays and nervously reviewing their game plans for the final time. Tens of thousands of hours of hard work, sweat and determination have come down to a final game. A palpable tension fills every crevice of the team’s ready room. The stadium is starting to fill. The time is near. Success or failure hangs in the balance.

Step back 80 years to another situation room in an underground bunker in England. It is D-Day minus one. Eisenhower and two dozen generals and strategists are packed into a smoke-filled room with a huge board-map in the center, representing all of Europe and the surrounding waters. Information is pouring in from weather experts, reconnaissance teams, resistance spies and radio relays. Nervous clerks scurry in and out of the Allied war-room carrying last-minute reports. Lieutenants with long push poles make slight adjustments to model ships, subs and other icons representing the current positions of both Axis and Allied assets. Scenarios are re-discussed, and contingency plans are presented. Every person in the room realizes that the lives of tens of thousands of men are hanging in the balance of their decisions. Coffee, cigarette smoke and the sweat of sleepless men belay an unbearable nervousness. The time has come. The liberation of Europe and the future of the modern world hangs in the balance.

The hours leading up to these great moments are like liquid resources under high pressure being forced through a very small nozzle. The pressure and liquid are so strong they can cut flesh or metal in an instant. Every person realizes the gravity of the task at hand. It is as if every bit of human thought and will is being combined and co-mingled together to direct a laser-focused response that will win the day. Both grand and small, as humans we have all seen or experienced these existential finales: school finals, board or bar exams, that final interview, the lead-up to a huge sale. Hundreds of hours of time and resources compressed into a final event in which EVERYTHING seems to hang in the balance.

Jesus of Nazareth, God come in the flesh, also experienced a night like these. The eternal fate of the world hung in the balance. This was the final night where a plan that had been decided before the world began was about to reach its climax. One could easily argue that on a cosmic spiritual level, this was the most important night in the history of earth. You say, a night that began with a foot washing and ended with a prayer was the most important in human history? How could 12 ragtag Galileans celebrating a common Jewish holiday on the fringes of the Roman Empire be the tip of the spear that would transform the fate of planet Earth? Yet this is exactly our claim! We dare you to come on a 40-day journey to see why this one night is, in fact, the most glorious night in all of earth’s history.

The glory that was intended for humans was somehow lost by our first parents at the First Tree. We have somehow “fallen short of the glory of God.” Paul would later confess in 2 Corinthians 4, “that our minds have been blinded so that we cannot see the light of gospel of the glory of Christ.” We humans, though born physically able to see, are spiritually blind and soulfully disconnected to all the relational attributes of God, leaving us terribly broken and incapable of fulfilling God’s intended plan for inhabiting the whole earth as His image-bearers.

And then one night, in the fields of Bethlehem, thousands of Angels announced,glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will to all mankind.” Somehow, all those glorious attributes that made up the Godhead were somehow going to be restored to fallen man. The Disciple John wrote Jesus’s introduction this way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” We have 40 days to gaze at the plan. forty days to see how the glory of God was to be restored to mankind, beginning with 11 Disciples, and eventually to us all. 40 days to ponder what Jesus meant when He prayed in His most intimate prayer, “Father, the time has come. Glorify the Son, that the Son may glorify You … [and praying for us, He said] I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” John 17:1, 22.