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Don’t Run

My son once asked me, “If you had been with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, what would you have done?” I know what he was after and what he was thinking, so I answered, “I would have ran like the rest of them.” He replied, “I would have stayed.” I then explained that it was a nice sentiment, but he would have ran too. I told him that you can’t take today’s knowledge and apply it to what you would have done yesterday. However, I also explained that he can take today’s knowledge and pre-apply it to what he will do tomorrow. There will be plenty of times in his life, and ours, where things look bad, and the opposite of what we hoped would happen will come true. There will be times where we’re tempted to blame God and deny Him, but if we decide now how we will handle it, we improve our chances of staying with Him.

Job is a tough book to read. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to lose everything in a day, including your children. It’s hard to imagine how we might respond when insult is added to injury when we then become too sick to do anything about it. I love that this book pulls back the curtains of what is often happening. Job 1:10-11 has Satan going to God against Job saying, “You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” (NLT) Satan accuses us by saying we will run from God when bad things happen, but God knows that like Job, if you will predetermine how you will respond, you can endure anything and still worship Him.

Ephesians 6:13 says, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (ESV). We know that troubles don’t come from God, but He allows them and uses them to test us and grow us. Job had to endure a long time with no response from God as to why everything happened. God grew his endurance and his faith in the end because he didn’t run when bad things happened. He stood firm. We must remain in Him and stand firm during the most difficult times. He is our protection, our source of strength and our hope when all is else is lost. The more difficult your situation is, the more your endurance has the ability to grow. Don’t allow today’s circumstances cause you to run. God had a plan and was working things out behind the scenes for Jesus, the disciples and Job. He’s doing the same for you even though you can’t see it. Don’t run.

Photo by Nicholas Barbaros on Unsplash

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Wake Up

On my most recent trip to Israel, we walked from the top of the Mount of Olives to its base. As we arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane, I looked at the grove of olive trees. I began to wonder where Jesus prayed and where the disciples slept. I went into the church that was built there to commemorate the event. I walked down to the altar area and began reading the story on the plaques they have. When I came to the part where Jesus walked up on the disciples asleep, it read that Jesus said, “Wake up!” Those words reverberated in my spirit and I kept reading it over and over. Jesus wasn’t just telling the disciples to wake up, He was talking to us as well.

We need to pray that God will wake us up too. We cant afford to be sleeping spiritually in this day and age. We need to understand the moment we are in in history. God has placed us specifically at this time and place for a reason. If we’re sleeping, we’ll miss the moment. We. Just wake up to see what God is doing and wants to do. We must be about our Father’s business, but we can’t do it if we are asleep. The disciples slept in their final hours with Jesus despite His directive to watch and pray. We can’t let that happen to us in the final days before He returns.

Here are some Bible verses to remind us to wake up.

1. He said to them, “Why are you asleep? Wake up and pray that you won’t be tested.”

Luke 22:46 CEV

2. Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light! So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!

Ephesians 5:15-16 MSG

3. To live like this is all the more urgent, for time is running out and you know it is a strategic hour in human history. It is time for us to wake up! For our full salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

Romans 13:11 TPT

4. So wake up, and strengthen what you still have before it dies completely. For I find that what you have done is not yet perfect in the sight of my God.

Revelation 3:2 GNT

5. Be sober-minded [be sensible, wake up from your spiritual stupor] as you ought, and stop sinning; for some [of you] have no knowledge of God [you are disgracefully ignorant of Him, and ignore His truths]. I say this to your shame.

1 Corinthians 15:34 AMP


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The Way Of Suffering

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit the room where the Last Supper took place, walk through the Garden of Gethsemane, visit Caiaphas’ house and then walk down the Via Dolorosa. To walk in the final footsteps of Jesus before His crucifixion can be a moving experience if you can block out all the chaos around you. As I went to each place, I tried to imagine the emotions of Jesus in each place and to feel the tension He must have felt knowing He was leaving the Passover meal a free man to cross the Kidron Valley, but would return a prisoner. It’s a very sobering journey.

As I entered the Church of All Nations at the foot of the Mount of Olives where the Garden of Gethsemane is, I walked around the outskirts of the sanctuary instead of down the middle. The purple glass in the shape of a cross makes sure that the room is lit, but remains dim. I went to the front where there is a rock protruding out of the foundation of the church. I stood outside the barrier as I watched people lay on it and weep. On the barrier were pieces of paper in different languages. I walked around until i found one in English. It had a portion of the Gospel of Luke that ended in Luke 22:46. It said, “Jesus went to the disciples who were sleeping and said, ‘Why are you asleep? Wake up and pray that you won’t be tested.’”

Are you and I like the disciples? Are we awakened to the things God is asking us to do or are we asleep? Do we realize that the moment God has us in right now is in preparation for greater things? God’s plan for you is always good. It may involve some suffering and times of emotional stress. There are times we will walk in darkness so we can share God’s light. The only way to achieve God’s desired outcome in our lives is to pray like Jesus prayed in the darkest time of His life. Luke 22:44 says, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup [of divine wrath] from Me; yet not My will, but [always] Yours be done” (AMP). Submitting to God’s will, even in suffering and pain always yields the greatest outcome.

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Victory In The Valley

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

When reading the story of David and Goliath recently, I noticed something I had read over. I Samuel 17:3 says, “So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them” (NLT). I had never picked up that there was a valley between the two sides. Then verse 40 says, “He (David) picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.” David had to go into the valley to win the victory.

You won’t win victory standing where you are. You are going to have to make the first move. For 40 days, the Israelites were paralyzed by fear. Each day Goliath invited them to fight him, but they stayed put. When David heard Goliath’s taunts, he didn’t get fearful, he got a righteous anger. He knew that this was a spiritual battle that had to be handled in the physical as well. To win the spiritual battle, he’d have to enter the valley and trust God.

Fast forward 14 generations, Jesus was fighting a spiritual battle that required Him to enter a valley as well. John 18:1 says, “After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees.” The battle He was fighting was to have the courage to do what God wanted while facing the fear of dying a torturous death on a cross. He could have stayed where He was, but He entered the valley to pray that God’s will be done.

Both David and Jesus recognized that the battle was the Lord’s. They both knew who was fighting on their behalf. That gave them the courage to walk into what seemed like certain death in order to obtain the victory. You and I have to have the same tenacity in prayer and desire to go into the valley if we are going to win our spiritual battles. We are going to have to let go of fear and embrace what God wants to do, enter the valley in front of us, and fight on our knees for victory.

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What God Wants

I’m doing a 40 day prayer challenge with a friend as we lead up to Easter. We both made visual lists of the things we want to pray over daily. As we were discussing them, he mentioned that he wants to pray God’s will into his life. I thought it was a great idea, and I added a blank page to my visual. I pray over the things that are near and dear to my heart, but then I pray, “God, these are the things I desire for my life. What do you desire to do in me? What do you want to write into my life? I give you permission to do what you want.”

I’ll be honest, that’s a dangerous prayer, but I believe it’s a necessary one. We all have our own ideas about what’s important to us, and we have things we pray over. At the same time, there are things God is trying to do, and we need to submit to His will. I feel that many times the things we pray for are more our will than His. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus taught us how to pray in these instances. In Matthew 26:39 Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want” (GNT).

We can ask God for the things we want, but I believe it’s import to turn around and give God permission to do what He wants. It’s not so much about giving Him permission as it is that we are submitting to His will. God answers the prayers we pray that are in accordance with His will. He also has great plans for your life, but we have to learn to submit to them instead of insisting we get help accomplishing our own. Prayer shouldn’t be just about what we want. It needs to be about what God wants too.

Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash


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The Olive Press

Nazareth Village is in the town of Nazareth and recreates what life was like for Jesus here He grew up. We watched them make yarn from the sheep they were raising and learned how they would color it. We watched a man crush wheat on a threshing floor and saw the tools used to separate the wheat from the chaff. We also saw an olive oil press that was very similar to what would have been used in that time.

The guide showed us how they would put the olives in the press, roll the millstone to crush them, take baskets woven from wool to scoop up the olives, set them on top of each other, and let the oil drain. He said this was the purest oil and would have been offered to God. The color was the clearest and would have tasted the best. We would refer to this as virgin olive oil in our world. It’s what comes naturally from crushing the olives.

Next, he showed how they would use a leaver to lift heavy stones and a pole to crush the olives more. This heavy stone pressed the olives harder than the millstone and squeezed out oil. This oil was what was sold and used in every day cooking or for perfume. After that, they would move the baskets a little further in the press where they could exert even greater pressure. The oil that came from this pressing was typically dirty and what was used to put in oil lamps to light houses.

After he showed us this, he reminded us that Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane (translated the olive press) to pray the night He would be handed over to the authorities. In Luke 26:38 Jesus said, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me” (GNT). He was like an olive being crushed in that place. The pressure became so great that by the third time (the hardest press) He went to pray, Luke 22:44 says, “In great anguish he prayed even more fervently; his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

Isaiah 53:5 described what was going on in the Garden of the Olive Press. It says, “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (NLT). Jesus withstood excruciating pain for our sins. The oil (blood) that came out was holy and offered to God for our sins. It was pure and very costly. A price and suffering He willingly endured in order to pay for our sins. A sacrifice so great demands our heart, our soul, and our life.

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Fighting Temptation

At work, part of what I do is role play with people. I take a real life scenario, give it to them and then have them walk me through how they handle it. I will often do something unexpected in it to see what their response is. As we go through it, I offer input and shape their responses. Most people don’t like to role play so they give the excuses of it’s weird, it’s uncomfortable, or it’s not real. What role plays are intended to do are to show me what you do now, but they’re also used to condition your mind to behave a certain way in a given circumstance. I once heard someone say, “If you don’t know ahead of time how you’ll handle different temptations, you’ll probably fail.”

Since hearing that phrase, I’ve tried to think of different temptations that could come up and think through what my response should be. I’m not saying I haven’t failed at any of the ones I’ve rehearsed for, but I can say that my success rate is higher on those than others. Each one of us face different temptations. Each one of us will fail from time to time because none of us are perfect. Does that mean that we should give in to the temptation and not worry? No! We are to be on our guard against temptation and ready to beat it any time.

In John 12:27-28, Jesus knew He was going to face the temptation to back out of the crucifixion. He said, “Right now I am storm-tossed (deeply troubled). And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.‘ (MSG)” Jesus was already thinking about how He would face the temptation to quit when faced with dying. He had two choices. He could say, “You know what, Father? These people have treated me badly. I change my mind. Get me out of here.” Or He could say, “I told you I would do this and I’m going to. I love each one of them as much as you do. Here I am. Do what you want.”

In Luke 22, we read what happened in the moment Jesus was preparing for. In verse 42 He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. (NLT)”  A couple of verses later, it says that Jesus was in such agony of spirit over what he was facing, that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. He was facing the greatest temptation of His life. He had a choice in the matter just as you and I do in our temptations. He had prepared ahead of time and was able to choose the right path.

You and I have the same ability to resist temptation. I Corinthians 10:13 says, “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you come through it. (MSG)”  Paul used the words “always” and “never”. That means that each and every temptation you face, you can count on God to help you. You may not be able to beat temptation every time, but you can count on God to be there to help you every time. He is your ever ever present help in time of need.

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Holy Week: Day 5

John 13 – 18 tells us what all happened on Thursday during Jesus’ final week before the crucifixion. It starts at the Last Supper. I think we forget sometimes that this was the Passover Meal. Many Christians don’t understand what all this meal entails because we don’t celebrate it like a Jew would. It is a meal that is eaten in order telling a story taking you from slavery to freedom. I find that interesting since that is what Jesus was doing for us during that particular Passover. He was taking us, who were slaves to sin, to a life of freedom in Him. Because of what He was about to endure, you and I could be set free spiritually.

Jesus also washed His disciple’s feet that evening. If you’ve ever been to a foot washing service, you know how humbling this is. Peter wouldn’t let a Him do it. He pushed back, but Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Peter then popped back, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!” We act like Peter a lot when Jesus tries to do something truly great for us. We resist Him. We resist the work He’s trying to do in our life. We resist when He tries to cleanse us of a sin. We resist when He tries to put us in position to do ministry. Jesus is patient with us though our resistance.

Jesus then instituted the Lord’s Supper, communion or the sacraments depending on how you refer to it. Matthew 26:26-28 tells us that He took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to His disciples. He said, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body which is given for you.” Then He took a cup of wine and gave thanks for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and His people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” Each time you and I partake in this, we are to remember what He did for us on the cross. The price He paid for our freedom was His life. You are worth more than you can imagine.

They then went to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to pray and reflect on the evening. Jesus went to pray by Himself. He asked God if it there was another way to do this. He said, “If it’s possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet, I want your will to be done not mine.” Jesus struggled with the thought of being beaten, being whipped, being hung on a cross, bearing the sins of the world and being separated from the Father. His human nature was trying to walk away from the cross, but He submitted to the Father’s will. He understood that to follow God’s will means we’ll have to give up our will. Through prayer, we can overcome the doubt and thoughts that try to stop us from fulfilling our calling.

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