Gethsemane

In February of 2016 we made our first trip to Israel.

From the Sea of Galilee to Bethlehem, it was consistently overwhelming and inspiring. Some of it went further though; some of it got into my soul and came home with me.

Right around the midway point of our trip, we headed up to the Mount of Olives to overlook Jerusalem. From there, walking down a narrow path, we approached the Garden of Gethsemane, taking a similar route the soldiers would have trekked the night they arrested Jesus. 

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand."
- Matthew 26:36-46

I read this here, picturing Jesus looking up at the temple and the city walls, realizing that while he was there praying for the cup to be taken away from him and seeing the Brooke Kidron run red with blood from the Passover sacrifices and knowing that the next day, the blood running through that valley would be his own. That night, the anguish and weight that he felt is something I will never understand.

But when I feel lost, when I feel scared or anxious or the stress gets a little to much, I can look to Gethsemane. Like it says in Hebrews, 4:15, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." 

Jesus took his closest circle with him, those who had been with him for years and should have provided the support and strength he needed. These men had seen miracles and healings, demons cast out, just overwhelming evidence for the deity and power of Jesus, and he asked them to watch with him just one more night.

But, they fell asleep.

Three times they fell asleep, not even able to wait with Jesus one night while he prayed. The connection to the next few days cannot be missed here.

Peter fell asleep three times, and the next day denied Jesus three times.

Jesus remained strong and in communication with his Father, and the next day defeated sin and darkness, withstanding the whole wrath of God poured out to stand in our place. He went through a death so brutal that I can't comprehend it.

The lesson I learned that day in Gethsemane is that the battle is won or lost long before the actual fight. Our preparation, our prayer lives, our communion with the Father... this gives us the ability to stand when the storms come. And even if we are taken by surprise, we have a Savior who understands.

Recently, I turned 30 (gasp). To mark the occasion, my husband surprised me with a Tiffany & Co. Olive Branch Ring, which I have been hinting at since this trip. The sterling silver is on my finger to remind me to pray, to spend time with my Father, to fuel up at the source.

And to not fall asleep.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
— Ephesians 6:10
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Limitless

Romans 12:1-2

Achieving limitless faith, worship, and prayer are only the first steps in the journey that you're on. The end of that journey would see you become a movement of God in your community. It would see a birth of the limitless version of yourself that God intended you to be. Jesus says in John 14:12that you have the potential to do greater works than He could do. One of those potential works is being a move of God here and now for everyone around you. Jesus left His work to you, and only by believing that you are limitless in your capabilities can you answer the call. Being limitless in faith, worship, and prayer is the only way to be transformed into the powerful move of God that this world needs. 

Romans 12:1-2 is a call to leave behind all of the worldly restraints that would hold you down. God made you with the capacity for an incredible transformation, so that you might be the light in the world now that Jesus has ascended to His place at the right hand of the Father. Give yourself to Him fully, let the Holy Spirit fill everything you do, and experience the transformation that will create the limitless you. Jesus gave everything for us, and all He asks in return is for you to throw out the garbage in your life so that you can become limitless. It's funny to think that you have to give up so much to follow Jesus? All He asks of you is to lay down the things that would hurt you, break you, and destroy you. All He asks is that you would willingly become the limitless, powerful, world-changing you that He intended you to be. Who would say no to that? 

Not you, because you know that the God of the universe loves you, created you, and wants you to be a beacon in a dying world. You say you're only human, but the God of Universe says otherwise. He says you're limitless. 

By Faith

Hebrews 11; Matthew 15:21-28

What does it mean to have faith? Faith, simply put, is believing in things not seen. Having faith means you're willing to say, "I didn't see it happen, but I still believe that it did." It means knowing that God has done work even when you can't see or understand it. It means coming to grips with the possibility that you may never see everything that God has promised, but walking the path he has put before you anyway. When you think about it in those terms, you're acknowledging the full scope of God's plan for your life: to live without any limits. 

Faith in its very nature is something that can't be limited without destruction. In faith, God gifted each and every one of you with an incredible ability, a conduit that allows you to channel the power of God into your life. Embracing faith means opening that conduit and allowing God's power to fill you, your worship, and your prayers. Limiting your faith destroys that conduit, and, unfortunately, your relationship with God. Revelation 3:15-16 says, "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." In other words, your faith can be unlimited or limited, but not both. A single limit on your faith closes the connection to the power and glory of God. Unlimited faith will bring you closer to God and his power than you have ever been. 

Don't renounce a part of your inheritance as a child of God. You were created to be powerful in your faith. Live it out, with everything, like the many mentioned in Hebrews 11. Live it out like so many did when they encountered Jesus. Who better to remind us that our faith is powerful than Jesus himself when he said, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire" (Matt. 15:28)

 
O woman, great is your faith!
Be it done for you as you desire.
— Matthew 15:28
 

Netflix and the Bible

Recently I decided to take on the gargantuan task of writing the Bible. All of it. By hand. I was inspired by the Journible collection and Deuteronomy 17:18 with instructions for Israel's kings: "And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law." It is going to take forever (well, I'm hoping to finish in a year... maybe) but I look forward to engaging with the scripture in a much more intense and focused way.

As of right now, I am twenty chapters in with 1,169 to go. I fully expect some of it to be challenging, but I am already seeing the rewards. I am going to use this space to check in regularly and share what I have learned throughout this project.

I have a big problem with silence. At work, while in my studio, while studying, I at least have music playing, and oftentimes a little Netflix in the background. I never finished The Bible series when it came out, so I have been catching up. This is how I found myself watching The Passion, while transcribing The Fall. 

We all know the story. God created everything there is (with his words, something our church has been focused on this year, but that is a story for another time). It was beautiful and perfect...

..and then sin. As Eve ate the fruit and shared it with Adam, something entered the world that was broken. It was devastating. Sometimes it is hard to imagine just how terrible this was as we have no concept of life before it; we have only experienced the fallen world and the consequences.

And then this passage, from Genesis 3:21:

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Honestly, this is a verse I may have glazed over in my reading before, but having to think about every letter and having the time to consider the context of the verse, I was blindsided by an obvious question.

Where did the skins come from?

Death. Something had to die, immediately, for their sin. God did this, though it was a mar on his perfect creation, because he loved them and was already beginning the work of restoration. I was floored. We think Abel was the first to die in the bible. He was the first man, yes, but death was already necessary. 

I looked up, and on my screen was Christ on the cross. My Pastor likes to say that everything in the bible "fits perfectly together," and I have never seen it so clearly. Thousands of years after God made Adam and Eve garments of skin, the full force of sin was paid for in the flesh of Christ. 

God's Word is not bound by time or limitation, and just as it worked thousands of years after creation, it is working now. The scandalous miracle is that despite all the years of sin, of man pulling away from God, is that God still pursues us, is still working for us. 

So yes, I grew closer to God last night while watching Netflix, and I am quite alright with that.

 

For Freedom

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

For freedom. It is so easy to reduce the miracle of salvation down to "I believe in God, and he will save me from hell." Yes, true, but there is so much in our salvation that can be applied NOW. We are free from hell, free from the bondage of sin, but even more: we are also free from empty religion, legalism, and fear-based behavioral modification.

I who live in Christ am no longer trapped into a cycle where my salvation, my future, my hope, my eternity, depends on me. Because guess what? I am sort of terrible. I struggle, I am short-minded, easily frustrated, easily stressed, and I quickly fall into a cycle where I feel like if I'm not being a good "Christian" that God does not love me in that moment.

This is what we are free from. Our salvation was accomplished by Jesus on the cross, and to live in that we only have to accept it and love Him. He has done all of the work and there is nothing we can add. This verse calls us to stand firm in that truth, and even further, not submit again to yoke of slavery.

In the scriptures, Paul was writing to the churches in Galatia who were struggling with the gospel message and beginning to revert it back to something it was never meant to be. One of the big perversions of the gospel Paul was trying to correct was that we must complete some sort of spiritual discipline or follow the law to be saved. Paul is so well-spoken on this topic since he lived it; he admits himself that before he knew Christ he was so zealous to defend the law that he actual broke it!  

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made. (Galatians 3:19a)

The law, the sacrificial system that required so much of man in an effort to reach God, is gone. Once faith is put into Jesus Christ and his righteousness, the weight of the law has no hold over us! Our right standing with God will not change or flicker based on our current state or failures to be "good enough." 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

I let this verse comfort me whenever I fall back into the cycle of "I'm not good enough." No, I am not "good" enough, and by nature I never can be. However, Jesus is good enough. He has gone through everything I could ever face, and did it sinlessly so his righteousness could be imparted to me. This is where the freedom comes; it's a freedom that leads to rest in His goodness, His strength, His perfect nature shared with us who were so undeserving. 

For freedom, we have been set free. 

Like a Child

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:2-4)

Think of a child: hopelessly dependent, unable to survive on their own, fully looking up to parents or guardians for every need. Children also approach the world with a sense of wonder we lose as we grow, a gleefulness that we crowd out with responsibilities and burdens. When we approach God with this same attitude, we will see Him as the provider of everything and simply delight in his care for us. He is our good Father, loving us in spite of ourselves. When we run to him like a child, happy and carefree and fully trusting, our relationship and faith will grow in the humility and awe Jesus calls us to. 

Daily Bread

Two things I ask of you:
deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and said "Who is the Lord?"
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
(Proverbs 30:7-9)

I know personally, when everything is going my way, when I am just killing it at work and my home life is stellar and my worship is rocking and we are not worried by a bill (or even, treating ourselves because I stayed on budget), it can feel like "I did this, because I was so good." We need to be mindful of pride when things are good, because it is very easy to fall into believing we are responsible for our own successes and can do everything on our own. At the other end of the spectrum, we also pray to not have too little, to not fall into the trap of self-pity or despair that comes with both actual and spiritual poverty, thus not trusting God in our low points. The writer of Proverbs spoke to this balance, as well as Jesus when he was teaching the disciples to pray with "Give us this day our daily bread." Looking at this, I have tried in my own prayers to stop asking for everything I want, but begging for just enough to continue serving Him and praising Him, while never forgetting that every blessing I have is through Him and not my own strength. 

Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)

Work / Heart

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col. 3:23-24)

In Colossians 3:23-24, Paul has a very clear mandate for how we should conduct ourselves while at work. We are to approach our daily tasks as if we were working directly for the Lord, but this does not mean we should constantly feel the pressure of such a lofty calling! Working for the Lord frees us from trying to constantly please others, while shifting our focus back to a standard of excellence that will permeate everything we do. Whatever our job, task, ministry, hobby, relationship... we are called to give it our best, and the rewards are eternal. Serve Him joyfully, and watch even your most dreaded and bothersome tasks (laundry, anyone?) gather meaning as you show your love for the Lord simply by giving it your all. 

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.