Joni Eareckson Tada, a paraplegic for about fifty years, observed the following: “There is nothing more intimate than finding Jesus in your garden of Gethsemane.” Joni has experienced everything from depression to physical pain for all of these years. She has written a book about those experiences. In A Spectacle of Glory: God’s Light Shining Through Me Every Day, she noted that God’s light shines the brightest when we are at our weakest. Joni has experienced her own Gethsemane. She continues to live for His glory, as she lives in her own brokenness and weakness. From A Spectacle of Glory: God’s Light Shining through Me Every Day (Zondervan, 2016).
Have you found Jesus in your Garden of Gethsemane? Can you share what that was like?
This is the first draft of the beginning of chapter one of my book. Thanks for reading and responding to the questions and statements that follow. Your responses will help as I continue to work on the first draft of this chapter that serves as background to Gethsemane. ----------------------------- Empty Promises Nothing significant happens without sacrifice. Be it the investment of time, resources or even self, sometimes the venture requires the commitment of everything one has to see it accomplished. There is no greater picture of that commitment than Jesus on the cross. As Scripture says, “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” To understand how Jesus arrived at the place where He willingly made that sacrifice, we look to the night before His death as He spent His final hours struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane. Prior to entering the Garden, Jesus observed the Passover with His disciples. During dinner, he informed His disciples that the time of His death was getting closer, although they may not have understood what He was saying. While they ate, Jesus told the disciples that one would betray Him. They became sad and each asked if it was him. Jesus also predicted that Peter would deny Him. Then Peter, along with others, declared the following: “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” Those words would be tested later in the Garden. The disciples words were empty promises. Empty promises are not kept, and they each promised in a vacuum. Their promises were given with little if any thought. In other words, they were spoken as if they would never be tested. Have you ever done that? Of course. We all have. We have all told friends that if they ever needed help to let us know. They did and we were caught off guard and had to keep our promises even though it cost us something. Has anyone ever made an empty promise to you? How did it feel when they didn’t keep it? It hurt, didn’t it? I believe that is how Jesus felt, especially after Peter’s denial. I think Jesus felt betrayed when that happened. In some small way, I find some comfort in knowing that Jesus also experienced betrayal. Many relationships suffer from empty promises. When someone close to you fails to keep their promise, it hurts you deeply and feelings of betrayal are hard to handle. -------------------------- Questions 1. Describe a time when you made an empty promise to someone. What happened? What was the result? What did it take for you to make it right? 2. Describe a time when you realized that someone made an empty promise to you. What happened? Were you able to forgive them? What did it take for you to be able to forgive? 3. Does it bring any comfort for you to realize that the disciples gave Jesus empty promises? Do you find any comfort in knowing that Jesus was also betrayed? If so, how does that bring comfort to you? 4. Respond to the following: Every day we make empty promises to God. Do you believe that to be true? Why or why not? 5. In contrast to our empty promises, what promises of God are especially meaningful to you? Why?
I was informed by a friend that the email subscription button on the blog was not working. I deleted it and added a new one. I invite you to subscribe to receive new posts directly in your inbox. Thanks for following the updates, either by receiving them in your inbox or by visiting the blog. A new post will be added Monday morning as I begin to research some of the background events that lay a foundation to understand what took place in the Garden of Gethsemane. I look forward to hearing from you and learning from you. Have a great weekend. ~ Jim
Jesus arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples. He would visit here often, so stopping on this occasion was not out of the ordinary for them. But this was no ordinary visit. It was the night before His crucifixion and Jesus was deeply troubled. Upon arriving He took three of his disciples, those closest to Him, and went farther in. The Gospel account informs us that Jesus was deeply sorrowful and troubled, and He told the disciples he felt like He was dying. Then he told them to stay awake with him. He went a little further and fell on his face and prayed. Jesus knew His crucifixion was near and his prayer reflected his struggle about what would happen the next day. He was torn by the knowledge of His Father’s will and all that it involved. Three of the Gospels recording the events in the Garden of Gethsemane provide further insights into His prayer. Two of the Gospels tell us He prayed three separate times. One Gospel tells us an Angel visited with and strengthened Him. One of the Gospels tells us he was in such agony that He sweat drops of blood. Books are filled with explanations of what took place that night, and we know that if Gethsemane had not taken place, there would not have been His crucifixion. Jesus’ struggle in the Garden was whether or not to accept His Father’s will for His life. His own words describe the depth of His struggle. “Yet not my will, but as you will.” “…your will be done.” (Matthew 26:39, 42 CSV) These glimpses into His struggle bring comfort to us. For sure, there may never have been as much agony and we don’t usually sweat drops of blood. We do, however, struggle with yielding our will to that of our Heavenly Father. This happens every day. Every single day people make significant decisions to yield their will to others and to do incredibly sacrificial things. Think for a moment on the split second decisions Law Enforcement Officers must make, putting their lives on the line to protect and defend others. The same is true of members of the military who leave family and friends behind. They enter the battlefield and often make the ultimate sacrifice, dying in service to their country. And then there are the just as real and just as agonizing struggles that the rest of us make every day, torn by a crisis of faith to yield our wills to that of our Heavenly Father. It is during moments like these that we can need to reflect upon the time Jesus spent in the Garden in agonizing prayer with His Father. There are moments in life when God brings you to a point of crisis, a moment in time so difficult and so painful that you are almost paralyzed. You don’t know what to do and you don’t know which way to turn. You have two choices before you. One leads to the death of something you love. The other leads to death to self. Choosing the latter, however, may ultimately lead to resurrection and something far better. -------------- Questions for Reflection: 1. Have you ever faced a moment of crisis similar to what is described above? If so, what that was like for you? 2. What helped you through that moment? What resources did you call upon to help with your decision? 3. Have you ever witnessed someone who faced a similar moment of crisis and chose the hard decision even though it may have cost them everything? 4. Did that decision lead to some type of resurrection and something far better? If so, please describe it. 5. Feel free to comment on anything else about these opening thoughts that you think may be helpful.
The theme of the book that is churning in my mind relates to the Biblical account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Matthew 26, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus endured a struggle with yielding His will to that of His Father. In the end, He chooses His Father's will over His own. The crucifixion would not have happened without what took place in the Garden of Gethsemane. I have decided that this will be the direction of my writing efforts this year. I will flesh out various parts of this Gospel account and also research what other writers have written about Gethsemane. I welcome any thoughts or suggestions you may have. Do you know of any writers who published works of value about the Garden of Gethsemane? If so, please share them with me. Have you shared a Bible study or sermon on Gethsemane that you would be willing to pass along to me? I promise to give credit where credit is due. Are you interested in following along as I post thoughts on a weekly basis about this study? Are you interested in interacting with these posts and sharing your thoughts? Will you let me know if a post has merit or is totally off the wall and should be deleted? By the way, the most effective way to share information with me is to add your comments to a post Thanks for joining in this journey from a blog to a book. Have a great weekend! Jim
It has been awhile since I posted on this blog. With the advent of other social media, this kinda fell by the wayside. Since I am the owner of this blog, I have decided to change the direction. I will begin to post entries related to a book that is currently residing inside my brain. I look forward to sharing these things with you who find your way here and I welcome your thoughts and insights. I believe iron sharpens iron and look forward to a collaboration that is mutually encouraging to all who participate. Jim
My brothers and
I learned a lot about hard work growing up on the farm in West Virginia. We
were also taught how to drive tractors and trucks on the farm long before we
earned a driver’s license. We thought this was awesome, but because we were
young we often broke things.
Since I was the
oldest, I usually drove the tractor with a wagon hooked to the back. I did ok
moving forward, but it became an adventure when I had to turn around and go in
the other direction. I broke many drawbars learning
to turn a wagon and quickly realized that turning is a tricky process. Turning
a wagon takes skill, and so it also is with churches.
This is why we
have chosen Turnaround Churches as the theme for this year’s Annual Meeting. We
invite you to join us as we provide some practical information to help you and
your church deal with issues related to turning around and becoming a more
healthy and effective ministry.