Monday, March 25, 2013

Garden of Gethsemane

Sorry about my absence.  I don’t have internet service at my new house yet.  For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, we are now officially moved into our new house.  God is good and He provides exactly what we need and when we need it.  We would not have chosen the timeline that we experienced but we are convinced that He chose that timeline for a reason.

Here are my notes from my Junior Church Lesson on the Garden of Gethsemane.

Timeline of events

  • Passover
  • Gethsemane
  • Jesus is arrested
  • Jesus goes before the high priest
  • Peter denies Christ

Each of the gospel writers tell details about these events that the others don’t. By putting them all together we get a more complete picture of what happened.

Review - Passover

The Passover marked the Jewish New Year. It was the time of beginnings for the nation of Israel. The annual feast marked the historic event from when they were in captivity in Egypt. Great plagues had ruined the land of Egypt in Moses’ day. But these failed to get the Pharaoh to release the Israelites. God instructed the Hebrew people to select a lamb. The lamb was to be kept in their home for four days. On the 4th day the lamb was to be killed and its blood sprinkled on the doorposts of each Jewish home. The lamb itself was to be roasted and eaten. The night this happened, God’s death angel swept through the land of Egypt. Each home unprotected by the blood of the lamb suffered the loss of its firstborn son. But the homes marked with blood were safe as the angel of death “passed over” their home. This event caused Pharaoh to release the Jews. God then commanded them to remember this event and celebrate it each year. Each generation was to be taught that freedom only comes through the shedding of the blood of the lamb.

This specific Passover that Jesus and the disciples were celebrating not only looked back to the Exodus out of Egypt but also looked forward to the cross. (Remember John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. - John 1:29)

Read Matthew 26:31 - 35

On the way out of Jerusalem, Jesus told the disciples that they would all flee and leave him to face his fate alone.

How did Peter react?

Peter said no way. He said he’d die with him before he would desert Jesus. All the disciples agreed with Peter.

Read Matthew 26: 36 – 46

What was the name of the garden?

Arrived at a garden called Gethsemane

What did Jesus ask His disciples to do?

Jesus asked His disciples to wait as He went aside to pray

He took three disciples with him a little farther – who were they?

He took Peter, James, and John part way with him.

What did he tell these three disciples?

He told them that he was overwhelmed and sad and asked them to keep watch with him.

Then what happened?

Jesus walked a bit further by himself

What did Jesus pray for?

He prayed for God’s will to be done.

It says He fell with his face to the ground. This is interesting because the typical Jewish prayer was said from a standing position. Here Jesus kneels perhaps to reflect his urgency and humility. Most pictures of Jesus show him with his hands folded or fingers entwined. This is probably not accurate. There was no such Jewish tradition.

Jesus was under a lot of pressure at this point. He knew what was about to happen.

What did Jesus ask His Father for?

Jesus is asking if the Father can create a way for Jesus to avoid the cross. Jesus’ desire was for the Father’s will to be done. He was saying only if my prayer can be answered within the scope of your plan do I want it answered. Only if the Father desires to do it. Jesus takes time to listen for an answer. He prays the same prayer three times. It was a long night in Gethsemane.

When we pray, we tend to toss God out our ideas of what should happen and ask Him to just approve our plans. Just tell me yes, God, and I won’t bother you anymore. We often times don’t seek God’s will.

Our prayers should not be for what God will permit to happen but for what God desires to happen.

The greatest temptation Jesus faced was to turn his back on the cross. As the cross drew nearer, the prospect of the spiritual death that he would suffer filled Jesus with terror. Luke talks about His sweating great drops of blood and His need for angelic assistance. (Luke 22:43-44)

There were two times that the Scripture talks about the Father dispatching angels to attend to Jesus’ needs.

What was the other time?

When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness.

What does he mean when He says “take this cup from me”

The word cup in often associated with the infliction of punishment associated with the wrath of God.

He ends His prayer with not my will but yours.

Jesus is telling God that His will comes first. Jesus is voluntarily surrendering to God. Jesus stated what he wanted – the cup to be taken away . He was honest before God but then he surrendered to what God’s will would be.

It is important when we pray to state what our own will is and then surrender that will to God. Then choose to be OK with whatever outcome God chooses.

When he finished praying he returned to the disciples. What were they doing?

They were sleeping

How did Jesus feel?

alone, sad, frustrated

Then Jesus spoke to one specific disciple? Who was that and what did Jesus say?

He told Peter to watch and pray that he wouldn’t fall into temptation. Notice that he doesn’t say to pray that they won’t be tempted but to pray that they won’t give into temptation. Temptation is part of life and you can’t escape it. You resist temptation through prayer.

Jesus was warning them of what was to come. They are about to undergo a crisis and they don’t even know it. They are about to see Jesus arrested. They are about to see him spat upon, tried, convicted, sentenced, crucified, dead, and buried. And most of them do not avoid the temptation that awaited them.

Then Jesus went away a second time to pray and when He came back what did He find?

The disciples were sleeping again.

Then Jesus left them a third time and went and prayed some more. What did He find when he returned the last time?

Are you still sleeping again?

Why did Jesus keep coming back to the disciples?

Perhaps he was seeking their companionship and encouragement. He was fully human and he could have just been seeking comfort. He didn’t even find that in his closest friends.

I’m about to get betrayed. Look here comes the man who is going to do it.

Read Matthew 26:47-56

Judas finally arrives with the arresting force. Using a signal, he identifies Jesus.

What was the signal?


How would you have felt if you knew one of your closest friends was betraying you? Judas had been one of the 12 disciples. Those disciples were with Jesus round the clock for the past three years. Judas had seen the miracles and heard all the teachings. Think about how Jesus must have felt. He knew all along that Judas was going to do this.

Then the Bible says that one of Jesus’ companions draws his sword to fight. (John identifies him as Peter.)

What does Peter do?

Cuts off the ear of the high priest.

How does Jesus react to Peter’s actions?

Jesus rebukes Peter and tells him to put his sword away. Luke 22:51 says that Jesus then healed the man’s ear.

Would you have done the same? I think I would have cheered Peter on. I know what the people are there for. Not Jesus, he willingly surrendered.

Jesus had preached that we were to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. He was now living out what he had said.

He tells them that if he wanted to be saved from this, he could call on the angels to save him. But Jesus knows that he must surrender in order for the Scriptures to be fulfilled.

What did the disciples do next?

They fled. They were afraid they would be arrested, too. So, Jesus was left alone with the men who had come to get him.

Peter was the only one who stuck around at all. He followed at a distance because he was afraid. He wanted to see what would happen to Jesus. (Luke 22: 54)

Read Matthew 26: 57 – 68

They took Jesus to Caiaphas, the high priest. The high priest was in charge of making a lot of decisions. They tried him at night which was an illegal act according to Jewish law. False witnesses were brought forward to accuse him but not even all their lies were enough for a death sentence.

Finally the high priest asked Jesus a question. What did he ask him? (verse 63)

“Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

How did Jesus answer?

“Yes, it is as you say.”

The high priest then recognized that Jesus had just equated himself with God.

He tore his clothes as a sign that he didn’t believe what Jesus was saying and said Jesus had spoken blasphemy. Blasphemy is a crime in the Old Testament and the punishment was death. Jesus knew that when he admitted to being God’s son. So, when the liars couldn’t get him, Jesus willingly gave the testimony that sealed his fate. They immediately started treating him like a convicted criminal. They slapped him, spit on him, and mocked him.

Read Matthew 26:69-75

So Peter took off after he heard what happened.

What happens with Peter next?

Three times people ask him if he was with Jesus and all three times he denies knowing Jesus.

Then the rooster crows and Peter remembers that Jesus had prophesied that this would happen. Peter starts to cry. How could he have done this to Jesus?

Principles from this lesson for us to consider:

  • Jesus was strengthened by prayer.
  • The way to the cross was far more costly for Jesus than we can possibly imagine.
  • We are to do things God’s way and not our own way. We need to ask what God wants us to do and then do it.
  • When betrayed by a friend, we need to love them and pray for them. We are not to strike back.
  • We must learn to watch and pray so that we may resist temptation.
  • We must stand for Jesus and not deny knowing him. That is harder to do than it is to say. Peter never planned on denying Christ but when the tough situation arose, he didn’t have the strength to tell the truth.

Choose your friends wisely.

  • Do your friends have a relationship with God so that when you are in need of prayer, they can and will pray for you? Would they stay up all night praying for you if you needed it?
  • Have you chosen good friends? Can you count on them when you are in a crisis? Do they help you grow in your relationship with Jesus?

Are you a dependable friend?

  • Would you have fallen asleep when Jesus was counting on you?
  • Do you spend time praying for the needs of others?
  • Can you be counted on when your friends are having a difficult time?

Friday, March 8, 2013

What are you looking for in a church?

When my husband and I moved to PA last summer, we began our search for a new church. This lead me to think about what I wanted in a church.  If you don’t know what you are looking for, how will you know if you found it?  Here’s some of what I thought through …

I have no preference on pews - with pads or without. Don’t even care if they have pews. Chairs are also fine.  This has no effect on my worship experience.

I have no preference on the design of the building. Cathedral or store front doesn’t matter – you can meet with God anywhere.

I have no preference on the attire for Sunday morning. Although, I prefer not to wear skirts.

I don’t care if the pastor is young or old, white, black, or other, ordained or not, wearing a suit or jeans. None of that matters.  What is his heart like – that is what matters.

I prefer not to have too much ritual in the service. You know – sing three hymns and listen to a 10 minute three point sermon and get out in exactly 60 minutes.  I would like the service to be whatever God leads it to be. We don’t have to watch the clock. No one has ever died from being 5 minutes late leaving church.

I have no desire for religious pep talks. You know – the feel good stuff but no real meat in it.

Please – no loud music. I don’t like leaving church with a headache. I like contemporary Christian music, choruses, and hymns. I really prefer a mixture of them all. I don’t want to forget the great hymns of the faith.

I want to hear someone open the Bible to a passage of Scripture that he has been praying over, meditating on, and learning from. I want to hear what he has learned and not just an academic lecture but what God has revealed to him. I want to know how this passage is supposed to impact the church and specifically me. I want to know how this passage fits in context with the whole Bible. I want to know the circumstances around how and why it was written. Please no sermons that are 15 minutes of fluff with one Bible verse tossed in for good measure. I want to sit with my Bible in my hand, and look into the Word, and listen for that voice inside me to speak to me.

I treasure that voice. It comes as a quiet whisper. I want to meet with people who also desire to hear that voice. I want to look around me and see people who are longing for God to do something in their lives and in the life of the church. I want to be with people who have studied the Word for so long that their Bibles are falling apart.  I also want to be with new Christians.  You know – the ones who haven’t lost the joy and excitement that salvation brings.

I want an encounter with God. I want a pastor who unashamedly and unapologetically preaches the Word. I don’t want him to hold back but I want him to preach what God gives him with incredible boldness.

I want a worship leader who prepares my heart to meet with the living God. I want time to repent. I want time to be renewed. I need time to reflect on what I have heard. I want the kind of worship leader who knows how and when to change it up. I want him to be so in tune with the moving of the Spirit of God that he senses the need to alter the order of the service and even what music we are about to sing. Worship is about turning people’s faces to see the face of God. It is giving God worship and praise.

I hunger for a community of believers that know God and seek His face. I want them to be prayer warriors. After all, I just might need someone to pray with me and for me. I want to be able to feel free to say, I need prayer without feeling like they think I am weird.

I want to be involved in lives of other people to the point that praying for each other is how we share our lives together. I love it when someone prays for me without my even asking. It reminds me of what it really means to be one body, one church, all in a relationship with a living and loving heavenly Father.

So… I want to hear the Word of God preached by someone who has studied it intensely and sought God’s revelation. I want to worship in response to that revelation. I want to pray with and for other God seeking, God fearing, God hearing people…. who are making every attempt to live out an authentic Christian faith. I want to hear from God and gather with people who also hunger for His Word. I want to be with people who crave to know the heart of God. I want to be with a community of believers who take their faith seriously.

What about you? What do you want?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

For me, to live is …

A comment our Pastor made at Bible Study last night caused me to think about Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Today on my drive to work I was thinking about what that really means. Do I really believe that? Do I live my life like I believe that?

Do I really believe that hell is a horrible place and that it is real and that people who haven’t trusted Christ are really condemned to an eternity there?

Do I really believe that heaven is this incredible place where God lives? Do I really believe that it is far better than any place I can imagine? Do I really look forward to going there?

There are things I am looking forward to here on earth. I am looking forward to living in my new house.  (should happen soon)   I am looking forward to seeing my daughter graduate from college. (We’ve got just over three years left)  I am looking forward to the day she meets someone special and gets married. (please let that be at least 4 years into the future)  I am looking forward to someday (not soon) being a grandmother. Is it bad to look forward to these things?

If asked to complete this statement, “For me, to live is ______________, and to die is ______________,” how would you complete it?

Would you say something like?

  • For me, to live is money
  • For me, to live is pleasure.
  • For me, to live is education.
  • For me, to live is my career.
  • For me, to live is my family.
  • For me, to live is just to make it through another day.

What is it that drives you? What consumes your time and energy? What do you spend your resources on? How would others who know you, describe you? What motivates you? What gives your life meaning?

Paul had a single focus. His passion was Christ. He lived for Christ.

He desired to see people come to faith in Christ and have their lives transformed. Living for Paul meant loving and serving Jesus.

Paul never had a family or a career. His success was when people accepted Christ. His life, his passion, his only desire and purpose was to preach the gospel.

Erwin Lutzer said, “By all standards, death is the most dreaded event. Our society will pay any price to prolong life. Just one more month, or even another day. Perhaps our desire to postpone death reflects our dissatisfaction with God's ultimate purpose. Remember, His work isn't finished until we are glorified. Most of us would like to see God's work remain half finished. We're glad we are called and justified, but we're not too excited about being glorified.”

Paul didn’t dread death. He looked forward to being with Christ.

“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”   2 Corinthians 5:6 – 8

Paul was an amazing man and was used by God in a mighty way and yet what he really wanted was to be with Jesus. As a Christian, our desire should be for the Lord but that doesn’t mean we are to sit back and do nothing while we are here on earth. We are meant to have an intimate relationship with Christ and to live out that life for others to see.

Does that mean you shouldn’t have a family or a job or hobbies? No, but it does mean that those things should never become so important to you that they interfere with your relationship with Jesus. If you begin to desire the things of this earth to the point that your relationship with Christ suffers then you need to rethink your priorities.

As long as you are alive and here on earth, you need to passionately pursue God and serve Him because every other area of your life is impacted by your relationship with God.

Do not hold on to the things here on earth so tightly that you wouldn’t want to depart and meet the Lord in heaven. We must be eager for the day to come so that we can be with the one who loved us so much he willingly died on a cross for us.

So, coming back to Philippians 1:21, can you really say what Paul said? “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”


* Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer is an evangelical Christian pastor, teacher and author. He is currently the senior pastor of Moody Church, in Chicago, Illinois.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Lesson Learned From Dogs

clip_image002A friend and I took our dogs for a walk. Here’s her little dog, Red.






Here’s my much bigger dog, Lucky.

These two dogs are very loved. (not spoiled, no not them ….)

They get along well with each other, as long as food isn’t involved. Smile 

Lucky has been living in Red’s backyard for nine months.  He is waiting, like we are, for our new home to be completed.

Lucky loves me and always greets me enthusiastically when I go to visit him. I don’t think he understands why he has to sleep outside in the cold. (PA is a big environment change for a dog born and raised in GA)

Back to the story about our walk …. We walked across the road and over to my new house. (Which isn’t quite finished yet!)  Since it was cold, we took the dogs into the basement. Then we took their leashes off and let them loose. I was talking to my friend and I sat down on the stairs. Red came over to see me and I petted him. Then, Lucky saw me. He took off in a run across the basement and pushed his way in to me because some other dog (friend or not – doesn’t matter) was getting attention from me. I was his master and I should have been petting him.

I saw the jealousy at once and I laughed out loud at him. I told him I had plenty of love to share. He didn’t care, he wanted all of my attention.

Jealousy has been around since the beginning of time. Remember the story of Cain and Able. Jealousy over God’s favor led Cain to kill his own brother.  

Joseph’s brothers were jealous when they sold him into slavery.

Saul became jealous because of the favor of God in David’s life. That jealousy moved him to try to kill David.

Jesus was put to death by those who were envious of His life and ministry (Matt. 27:18; Mark 15:10).

I’m human and so if I am honest, I will admit that I sometimes deal with jealousy. Sometimes I wonder why others seem to be so blessed. I wonder how they got that promotion, that attention from the boss, that privilege, etc…

It is not up to me to decide who gets what blessing. It is not up to me to make sure that someone who is unkind or lazy doesn’t get the promotion. I am not in charge. God is sovereign. God is in control. God is completely trustworthy. God works all things together for my good.

I am to do my best, to treat others fairly, to act kindly, to promote unity, to help others, to give to those in need, to live a life that would please God in every way.  If I am busy doing what I am supposed to do, I won’t have time to worry about anyone else.

Jealousy is rooted in a false view of God. 

  • It says, “I want what God has chosen to give to others.”
  • It says, “Doesn’t God know that I deserve better.“
  • When I am jealous, I am complaining to God that I know what I need in my life better than he does.

It is like saying I don’t believe Psalm 84:11 is true; "no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless."

In order to defeat jealousy, we need to change our thinking.

  • We need to take captive every thought. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
  • We need to renew our minds. (Romans 12:2)
  • We need to pray to have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:2-4)

There is another side of jealousy. While it is a bad thing in our lives, the Bible says that God is a jealous God. He is jealous concerning me and my affections. He doesn’t want me filling his place in my heart and life with other things. He demands first place.

The lyrics in the song below are:

“He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are, And how great Your affections are for me.
And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all”



Remember that Jesus set the example for how we are to love others.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Man After God’s Own Heart

When you think of David, what comes to your mind?

  • Is it that David sinned with Bathsheba and had Uriah murdered to cover it up?
  • Is it the battle where David kills Goliath?
  • Is it the friendship between David and Jonathan?
  • Is it that David that wrote about half of the Psalms and poured out his heart to God?

The Bible doesn’t shield us from the truth. We get to read about both sides of David.

The Bible allows us to see David’s sin so that we can also see that David had a heart that could be touched with the truth. He wasn’t afraid to admit his sin. He wasn’t afraid to confess and ask for forgiveness. (Psalm 51)

Perhaps when you think of David, you think of the phrase “a man after God’s own heart.”

“After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” Acts 13:22

What does it mean to be a man after God’s heart?

Perhaps a look at some of the character qualities of David will help.

David knew who he trusted in.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

David wasn’t afraid to tell others about God.

“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders.” Psalm 9:1

David desired to be obedient.

“Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.” Psalm 119:34

David loved God.

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.” Psalm 18:1

David was thankful.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Psalm 100:4

David was brave and he trusted God to take care of him.

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.””
1 Samuel 17: 45 – 47

David was humble. David understood that the only good thing about him was God. He is an example of how a leader needs to put his own ego aside and humble himself before a holy and almighty God.

“I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”” Psalms 16:2

David loved God’s Word.

“Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart— they do no wrong but follow his ways.” Psalm 119:2-3

“for I delight in your commands because I love them. I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees.” Psalm 119:47-48

David love to praise God.

“David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
“Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.
Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.””
1 Chronicles 29:10-13

Like David, may we seek to be men and woman after God’s own heart and may we long to have the Lord create in us clean hearts.