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Daily Steps - Philippians - Easter Week 8

Posted by CF Community Team on

Welcome to Daily Steps

Please visit the Sermon Series Resource page for additional instruction and/or guidance on how to use Daily Steps. 

John 20:1,14-18 (NLT) — “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought He was the gardener.
“Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
“Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them His message.

Come to the Garden, My Beloved

One of the most loved traditional hymns of all time is In The Garden. Ranked as the fourth most popular Christian hymn ever penned, sitting just behind Amazing Grace, Just As I Am, and It Is Well With My Soul, the wistful melody and imagination-stirring lyric of In The Garden has inspired generations of believers to start every day with a walk with their Savior. There is perhaps no other song ever written which so beautifully expresses what it’s like to converse with the risen King and become saturated in His presence. 

The story behind this incredible hymn is just as compelling as the song itself because it was inspired by Mary Magdalene’s Easter morning walk to visit the garden tomb where Jesus had been laid after the crucifixion. The hymn’s writer, C. Austin Miles, was a gospel singer and music publisher by trade, but one of his greatest passions was photography. One day in March 1912, he was in his basement darkroom waiting on some of his images to develop, and he decided to pass the time by reading the Gospel of John. When he came to chapter 20, he began to let himself vividly imagine what it must have been like to be with Mary when she came to the garden the morning of Jesus’ resurrection. As he imagined what his own words might be to the Savior, he was overcome with such emotion that he later said his hands and arms were trembling as he gripped his Bible. Words of worship flowed easily after his encounter, and right there, in a cold, dark basement with not even a window, he penned the lyric for In the Garden. Miles once said of the beloved hymn, “This is not an experience limited to a happening almost 2,000 years ago. It is the daily companionship with the Lord that makes up the Christian’s life.”

Humankind was originally created to exist in a garden — literally walking with God side by side in unbroken fellowship. Because of Jesus’ death and glorious resurrection, we will be restored to complete fellowship with Him in heaven — the most spectacular garden of all. Although the literal Garden of Eden is long gone from the earth and our heavenly destiny seems so far away, humanity’s need for time in the Garden is interwoven into our being. Like an ancient imprint left on our souls from the dawn of creation which is reignited when we come to know the resurrected Savior, deep inside of us is a longing for the Garden. It’s a kind of “knowing” that we don’t fully belong in our current existence, but rather that we should be dwelling in a deep, abiding fellowship with our Creator. The problem is that most of us have either forgotten how to get to the Garden, are afraid of allowing ourselves to go there, or simply don’t make it a priority. We often choose instead to search for a counterfeit garden in our current surroundings, always wandering from valley to mountaintop and back again, only to find ourselves worn out, disappointed, and wondering why we cannot secure real peace, lasting happiness, or authentic contentment. We have yet to realize that only in the true Garden can we experience the wonder of being simultaneously on the mountaintop while walking through the valleys of life.

Philippians 2:7-8 tells us that Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death on a criminal’s cross. He wrapped Himself in human form, taking our place… taking on our sin, so that every day of our earthly lives could include a Garden experience and our eternities could be spent walking streets of gold with Him. Every day that we show up to spend time with Him here in this life, not only changes things now, it somehow, mysteriously, also shapes our eternities. When you take daily steps with the risen King, He gradually transforms you to be more like Him. You become more willing to humble yourself the way He did, and amazingly, you find inexplicable, overwhelming joy and peace in doing so.

Jesus is calling you to the Garden. Today. Every day. Whether you’re sheltering in place in a tiny apartment or blessed to have a backyard escape, you can reach the Garden. You can experience the real presence of your Savior. It’s not complicated. It’s not about saying fancy words. And there is no formula. Your hungry heart and your God-given imagination are there to help you. Just as C. Austin Miles did, close your eyes and envision yourself in Mary’s place on Easter morning. Hear Jesus tenderly say your name as you turn and look at Him full in the face. When you enter the Garden with open hands and a receptive heart, there’s no telling where Jesus will lead you along the path of prayer, the walk of worship, and the journey into His Word. In the Garden anything is possible. In the Garden, you will be changed.

Bible Readings with Prayer Prompts

As you contemplate these passages throughout the week, make time to pray before you read them and then again afterward. In each reading, ask God to show you what the verses mean specifically for you. God’s Word is alive, so even if you’re familiar with these Scriptures, approach them with an expectant heart and an open mind. God wants to converse with you.

Monday — Read Psalm 23 and notice how much it sounds like a garden experience filled with an intimate conversation between the writer and God. Then, close your eyes as you listen to the timeless hymn In the Garden. Spend some time imagining yourself walking and talking with Jesus without agenda or expectations. Write down anything you sense Him telling you. The invitation from Jesus goes way beyond envisioning yourself in the Garden, it beckons you to find yourself in Him. Everything about yourself — what you’re made of, your dreams, your identity, and your very life — all found in Jesus.

Tuesday - Read Isaiah 58:11. When we enter the Garden, Jesus longs to refresh our spirits and wants us to be willing to lay down anything we shouldn’t be carrying around in our lives. The burdens of sin, distractions, and worries block us from fully hearing His voice and receiving His peace. What are some things you sense that He might be asking you to surrender to Him at the Garden gate?

Wednesday - Read Psalm 16:5-11. Humans are simply wired to hope. We were created in the image of God and there’s something inside of us that appears to subconsciously remember the splendor for which we were intended. That’s why anticipation can change everything… our perspective, moods, and even our endurance levels. Spend time meditating on this scripture and ask God to help you find pleasure in Him right now.  

Thursday - Read 2 Corinthians 4:17 and spend time asking God to both comfort you, and remind you, of how valuable you are to Him. Then ask Him to help you praise and thank Him in a way that produces overwhelming joy in His presence knowing that nothing that happens here will be wasted. 

Friday - Read Philippians 2:9-11 and then listen to your favorite hymn or worship song. Allow it to take you to a place of adoration, imagining yourself as Mary in the garden on Easter morning. Give yourself permission to sit in stillness thinking of what it would be like to see the whole world bowing at the feet of Jesus and praising His name.  

Additional Resources

The Intersection of Faith and Anxiety — If you are struggling with anxiety especially during this season of captivity, you may find this three-part essay especially helpful. It was written by someone who is prone to anxiety herself, our own Community Team Study Guide Writer, Sara Goetz.

READ PART 2 OF THE ESSAY

 

Invite God's Presence

Select one or two of these spiritual practices to try this week. For ideas on how to practice these and why they are beneficial, watch the brief video series about Daily Steps at the bottom of this resource page.  

  • Worship by singing along with your favorite praise tunes. Here is a playlist you might like. 
  • Meditate on a verse from this week’s readings
  • Be still and listen for at least 5 minutes
  • Spend time outdoors in solitude (i.e. a walk in nature)
  • Journal about the ways you see God moving
  • Create (paint, sculpt, draw, write poetry or music, etc.)
  • Fast from something that allows you to spend more time with God
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