Facebook reminded me today that 5 years ago on this day I was at the Wailing Wall in Israel. It honestly feels like it was just last year I was there. I still vividly remember the excitement I felt leading up to the trip. At the time I was 19 years old. As a 24 year old, I can look back and say that I was very lost and empty. But, at the time I honestly felt like such a know it all, things were going well for me, I was happy in college, I had good relationships. (Isn't it interesting that when we think we know the most is actually when we know the least? True wisdom and understanding can come when we realize the lack of both we truly have).
God has many roles, He wears many hats. When I went to Israel- Jesus was my savior and my friend but, He was not my king nor was He my Lord. And if you would have asked me at the time if He was all those things to me- I would have said yes. But, now having understood the fullness and depth a relationship with Christ can and should entail that could not have been true. I realize I treated God more like a 47/53 partner- in my favor. I consulted in Him but, often times I would do what was pleasing to me in the moment or what "felt right" rather than actually looking for what it was God wanted me to do. Psalms 127:1 says "Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." And let me tell y'all ! God wrote that verse for 19 year old me. I was doing a lot of labor in vain and I was staying awake a lot in vain. Many people say Jesus means a lot to them- but; if He truly did, the way they would behave would be different. The way they would live their life would be different, the way they would react to adversity would be different, there would be complete transformation. "..For the tree is known by it's fruit" Matthew 12:33. I truly thought that I knew God to completion because I compared my relationship with Him to those around me. "Oh God, I don't steal, I love my neighbor, I pay my tithes, I don't wish evil on anyone, I listen to my parents". I thought that that was what it meant to be a good Christian. I thought that that was what relationship with God looked like. God doesn't call us to measure ourselves to the Christians around us- we are not supposed to look like them. Rather, we are supposed to look like Jesus. God sent Jesus to be our example. Though I was definitely a know-it-all when I went to Israel, I did feel an emptiness within myself and I wasn't sure where it was coming from. I was having a lot of dreams I didn't understand. I was feeling very emotional. I was experiencing a lot of new things and I was secluding myself. I didn't tell anyone what was going on with me; but, I just believed that when my foot touched the Promised Land everything would just change! (Spoiler alert- it did not.)
I think the coolest thing about visiting Israel is I had a moment of "Wow this actually happened". I mean duh yes of course it actually happened and I did and do believe it did. But, actually seeing it with your own eyes- like wow Jesus walked these streets, wow people actually yelled at Him and someone probably cut Him in line before and this is the sea He walked upon, and this is where He was crucified. Like this was real life. My Savior lived a real life. Like can you imagine Jesus walking past you on the street? Let me tell you something! SURELY, I too would have had my mom lowering me through the roof of wherever He was- I too would have been trying to just grab the corner of His garment- I too would have been yelling and dancing like a fool every time He walked past. Like what? I was ready to kiss the ground when I landed lol!
Israel is truly an amazing place and I believe every believer should go there once in their lifetime, if they have the chance. But, truly I tell you that I saw Jesus's tomb (spoiler alert it was empty!!), I rode across the red sea, I was even baptized by a man of God named John- yet, I went back home (feeling changed) but, truly and honestly the same person.
On this day 5 years ago, I had the honor of going to the Wailing Wall. Apparently, some people believe that this is where God will return to and many believe that God's presence is heavily there. So, each year millions of people go there from all around the world with a written list of things they want God to do on their behalf. Literally, every crevice of that wall is stuffed with a prayer request. If you ever feel alone in your problems please go to this wall- seeing thousands of people crying and begging is really cathartic and makes you realize this life is hard for everyone.
Now to break this down even further, remember in the Jewish religion they do not believe Christ was the messiah. Now if you don't believe Christ is the messiah, you do not believe your sins have been forgiven by His blood (thus there is still a price on us to be paid) and you do not believe that we have access to God any and everywhere and that as believers He lives within all of us (thus you go to temples, leaders and even the Wailing Wall to find Him). As a Christian who believes according to the bible in Acts 7:48 "“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands." , in Proverbs 15:3 "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good." and in Psalms 139:7-12 "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." had I read the bible I would have known that God's spirit is everywhere and it is no moreso at a wall in Israel than it was in my closet in my dorm room at school. Nevertheless, I did indeed believe God was at that wall- which He was (He's everywhere!) and I brought my long list and I sat there for hours and earnestly prayed for a lot of things that I do not remember. I would love to see the list 19 year old me submitted. I do remember a few things though- I wanted God to bless me with a job as an RA the following semester (check!), I wanted clarity on a relationship I was in (check!) and I wanted to have a better relationship with Christ (check!). Now the better relationship came years later only upon my submission and surrender; but, the other two things happened immediately. When I returned back to school- my relationship I was in swiftly fell apart (and even though I had prayed earnestly for God to remove it if it wasn't for me, I spent the remainder of the semester in what I can only term as an emotional quarantine *coughcoughdepressedcoughcough* (but that's a story for another day and guess what God was with me then too!)) and then the next semester I got a job as an RA (I already have a post on that). So, I thought okay God you heard and answered my prayers and I kept living in the same way and it wasn't until recently that I had my Saul to Paul moment. You know- its when God basically says girl what are you doing, this is not what I have for you, I need you to get it together - go read Acts 9! Anyways, so y'all can refer to me as Phantel from now on- haha.
So, my dear friend and beloved reader, let me share with you a lesson that took me a long time to learn. Wherever you go, you are taking yourself with you. What does that mean? It means that whether you go to church, Israel or even to the gates of heaven- you bring your spirit with you. There is no relationship, no new job, no new city that can change the person that you are. The only way for there to be true transformation and fulfillment is for you to believe in and accept Jesus Christ. When I went to Israel- I wanted God to have an encounter with me! I wasn't looking for an encounter with Christ. What does this mean? Many people (including myself) try to bring themselves into their relationship with Jesus. I accept you Lord but, I still cuss! I still will fight those around me if they treat me wrong! I still am going to listen to my heart and do what feels right! I still want to go out and engage in the typical life of this world. My friend, this is not relationship- that is you living your life and slapping a Jesus sticker on top of it. You going to church does not make you a Christian anymore than me standing in my garage makes me a car. We must not expect God to transform and find a way to fit into our lives- we have to be the ones to transform and fit into His will!
Romans 6:1 to 11 says "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. "
So, I'm sorry but your old ways can not come! No old wine in new wine skins remember? And it took me a while to realize a majority of the "Christian" relationships I was seeing (including my own) were not what God had ordained or what Jesus had modeled them to be. When I was Mrs. Know-it-all, and read about the Israelites I used to think oh my goodness these fools! I would never do that, we're going to the promise land y'all get with the program! Are they worshipping someone else again ?!? But, we are the same way- if we do not make a conscious effort to keep our eyes fixed on Christ we too will get swayed and be fools to the ways of this world. I think if someone was to read our story they would think oh my goodness these fools! Are they stalking people on social media again? I know he is not looking at a horoscope right now. Are they looking for fulfillment in relationships instead of in God AGAIN? Why are they always "chasing a bag" instead of "chasing what God has for them". Oh no, is she saying she wants to retire and be on a beach at 22 when God still has so much work for her to do- don't they know earth is not a vacation! Reading about the Israelites was when I felt the most like David- lol. David was someone who could recognize fault when the situation did not involve him. Often times God would give him a parable or story that did not involve him- David would judge it correctly and then God would be like sike! this was actually about you all along David. An example of this is seen in 2 Samuel 12. God sends Nathan to David after the Bathsheba incident. I'll give you verse 5-7 "David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan: “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 Because he has done this thing and has shown no pity, he must pay for the lamb four times over.”7Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! " I actually laughed when I read "You are that man!" like jeez David, I bet you're rethinking that deserving death thing, huh? Often when we read the bible (or even hear the situations of others) we can be a bit holier than thou- when in all actuality we are them! We have also sinned and we ALL have fallen short- ALL! It is easy to notice the shortcomings in others but, I pray the holy spirit will open all of our eyes to see and know our own faults and sins. Which is why I believe God tells us to forgive- in part- because I think we have a tendency to be harsh with others yet, we turn a blind eye and want mercy when it comes to ourselves (once again though that's a post for another day).
I would say the real promised land for us- the land flowing with milk and honey- is not a place on earth but a relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And it is not a long journey my friend; but, it is a continuous one. What does that mean? It means that you can enter into it now but, the faith, the work, the dying to yourself and carrying of your cross is continuous- it is a daily task. One of my favorite scriptures speaks of Christ dwelling with you- this is not a visit- He is going to live with you forever. This is a committed, lifelong thing- do not take this lightly. Just like the Israelites, God has ordained this land for us and secured it with the blood of His Son. But, if you are chasing other gods, not surrendering and having no faith, just like them you will find yourself wandering in the desert for a long time. But, as surely as God lives I believe that you will not die in your sin as they did, and you will indeed have everlasting life, within the benefits and fullness our Savior has secured for us all! And can I share some more good news with you? You don't have to go to the wailing wall or fly to Israel or be in the most beautiful temple to know the Savior. For He is with you as you are reading this word and He wants a relationship with you and always has. The blood of Jesus is non-discriminatory- it is for us all and let me tell you- there is no better love nor joy I have known or found that could ever compare to knowing my Father, my Lord and my King,
Can we pray together?
Holy and mighty King and Savior, we believe in who You are. We come before You humbly and unashamed Lord. We desire relationship with you Father and I believe you are meeting everyone right where they are in this moment Lord. Father God your word says in Luke 14:27 "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." So, Lord today we bear our crosses, we bear our shame and we bear our sin and we come to you boldly Lord and confess our love and desire for relationship with You Holy Father. Father God we believe according to Your word that if we confess and renounce our sins we will be forgiven Lord- so, we humbly confess and renounce all of them into Your holy presence. We receive our forgiveness Lord and we also forgive those who have sinned against us Lord. We believe in the death and resurrection of Your Son Jesus Christ our personal savior. Jesus Christ, You are my personal savior. I thank you that by Your sacrifice I can have access to the kingdom and that You are indeed with me wherever I am. We invite and accept you wholeheartedly into our lives and submit ourselves into Your will and plans oh Lord. We invite the Holy Spirit in our lives and accept His renewal, companionship and transformation. We pray that we can be a good example of Your word and of Your love and glory Jesus. We love you Father, Amen.