After two weeks in the Middle East, I returned to Toronto

Dear Friend,

After two weeks in the Middle East, I returned to Toronto on Monday, and within hours a murderous van attack took place shockingly near to my Church. As I ponder the trip, the mayhem, and the mystery of God’s will, my thoughts go to an olive press in Judea, which a teacher explained to my travel group in a saving way.

The teacher, a former classmate named George De Jong, showed us an olive press, which consists of an upper millstone and a lower stone called the “yam,” which is the Hebrew word for “sea.” As the two stones crush olives, an olive oil emerges, which brings nourishment, healing, anointing, and countless other joys. George also reminded us that the Hebrew words “gat” [place for pressing] and “shemanim” [oils, as in olive oils], come to us as “Gethsemane,” the place near an olive press where Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want but what you want.” (Mark 14:36)

As we all know, although Jesus was heard, he was not spared from the cup of suffering. Instead, he drank it to the dregs as he experienced the crushing desolation of Gethsemane and the bloody agony of the cross. According to Hebrews, through his obedient suffering, Jesus was made perfect and “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:9)

Today, we can obey Jesus by trusting him in the crucible experiences of our own lives. As we cry “Abba, Father,” we can receive the Holy Spirit in a way that empowers us to share in Jesus’ suffering love so that we can share also in his glory. (Romans 8:15-17) Having been crushed on the olive press of the cross, Jesus has crushed our iniquities beneath his feet and cast our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19) Therefore, we need not fear because Jesus stays near us in the depths, and Jesus raises us to share his life. Even now, Jesus prays for us to turn to him so that we can share his saving strength with those around us. (Luke 22:32)

Love,
Joel

P.S. multiple travels plus the worship services in Holy Week prevented me from sending Emmaus letters for a few weeks. If you would prefer not to receive these letters, please let me know.