Tuesday, April 23, 2013 | By: Jake

On My Way to Walk

After the Old Church, we headed back to the airport terminal in Amsterdam, where we had some "dinner" (not really sure on what meal it technically was due to the constant time changes) and coffee. We just kind of took some time to talk to each other, get to know each other, and most importantly, reflect on our day in Amsterdam. For me, it was my first exposure to an international culture, and without a doubt, this was a lot different than the Midwestern culture I'm used to. However, there were a lot of things about it that I liked...as well as a lot of things about it that I didn't like. 

We got on the plane, and this time, I was ecstatic to find out that I was given a window seat! It was sad that it was pretty dark out, but I was able to see a lot with the lights on the ground thankfully, as well as get a lot of sleep, due to me being able to use the window for head support.

I woke up mid-flight as we were travelling over a small village. I regret not waking up Trevor and Amanda (two fellow pilgrims), who I didn't really know all that well at the time, to grab my camera and get a picture. It was amazing how clearly you could see the outline of the village just by seeing the lights. Then, as the flight continued, I started seeing fewer and fewer lights...

And that's when it really hit me...that's when I realized where I was. I was in a completely different country, completely different culture, completely different environment, thousands of miles away from home (much to the dismay of my mother and grandmother). But most importantly, I was about to embark on a pilgrimage, not just some vacation, not just a trip...I was going to the place where Christ walked.

I snapped this picture of Zachary, my brother (on the right with the blue covering), at his Christmas program this past December. Four shepherds walking up towards the birthplace of Christ...four kids with completely different reactions. One serious, one excited, one terrified, and then there's Zachary...looking like he knows what he's doing. I can't say that I didn't felt the same way while on the plane...like I was ready for this journey.

I was on my way to walk in the same places where I literally believe Yahweh walked in the flesh

I'm not sure why we so easily glance over that statement. We hear "in the flesh" so often, but have we ever taken a second to realize what that means?

Personally, I think I used to view Jesus as someone like George Washington, or Abraham Lincoln, or Christopher Columbus...I wholeheartedly believed that these people were alive in the flesh. I had no doubts within me that Lincoln never existed or anything like that, and I fully agreed that by calling my home state the Land of Lincoln, that we actually rest assured in the fact that he did live there for a while.

But Jesus is a bit different...

Because Jesus is God, Jesus is Yahweh, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Almighty. Yeshua. The Indescribable Creator.

The Redeemer. The Savior.

My Redeemer. My Savior.

Can you honestly fathom living in the apostles' shoes? I'm not so sure that I can. I mean, this is huge. This is God.

If you look at that picture of Zachary closely, you can see a little bit of fear in his eyes...appearing to have it all together, appearing to fit the part, but deep down, I know his heart's beating fast, his mind is jumping from thought to thought, he's full of anxiety and excitement and fear all at the same time.

And as we landed in Tel Aviv, Israel, as I sat on the plane waiting to get off, I realized that deep down I was the same way....just like my little brother.
Sunday, April 21, 2013 | By: Jake

Attracted to the Brokenness

We finally walked around the Old Church to the main entrance, walking inside the remains of what once was the largest church, the church of Amsterdam. During the Reformation, the Church was greatly destroyed, and nothing remains but large, empty spaces, broken windows, cracked ground...

A continual remembrance of what once was...

But even remembering what once was, I was still greatly troubled. The large organ loomed above, intimidating all who walked below it.

Clearly full of beauty...architecture...I'm not saying that place didn't look impressive. It just felt empty. For once in my life, I think I understood what juxtaposition meant, and I'm hoping that my 11 AP English Teacher would be proud. Once again, how do we become an active church that actually goes out and seeks social justice?

I'm not sure why we have the idea that being welcoming means that we also have to be completely tolerant.

Although I'm sure a service at the Old Church would have been very spiritual, holy, and powerful, how welcoming would it have been? Would it have been something that people did because they felt that they had to? Or was it a church that people wanted to go? Furthermore, are our churches today places that people want to go to?

The remains of extravagant stained glass, attempting to display the glory of God...I try to think of what it would have looked like back then

Is it wrong to say that I think it looks more beautiful now? Am I wrong to say that I'm attracted to the "brokenness"? This imperfection?

Back in October when I went on a fall retreat with Iron Sharpens Iron, we had some time of worship and were singing "Like a Lion". When we came to the bridge, the worship team forgot how it went and started singing a bit too early. For a good 15 seconds, the song was a complete mess...everyone was struggling.

But we were struggling together...sure, the song was a mess, but we were all fighting to get through it. I have always been made aware of the power of grace when there is a mistake in worship music. It helps us realize that we are broken, that we do need God, that we couldn't get through this alone.

And I wonder if this church ever showed that brokenness until now. I wonder what the priests looked like, what everyone was wearing. Did they seek to show their brokenness?

I'm going through St. Augustine's Confessions for my class with Fr. Dunne, and in the first few pages, he presents this idea that all glory should be considered shameful...

Talk about conviction...

This idea that we shouldn't be putting on a show, that we shouldn't be hiding our true selves, that we should be open with our struggles, vulnerable in our conversations, humble in our confessions...

Otherwise, it'll just be fake...it'll just be empty. We don't need an empty church...we need a broken church.

Because we are broken.

I walk across the stone floor and see the name by which I'm called, by which I'm identified with...

And I connect with the Jacob within the Old Church...realize that I could have been born in that time, that I could have been one of the people in this church...

It's hard to not be pious, and possibly even harder to "market" the Gospel. I always think, "Who would want to join a broken community?"

But then I think deeply about it, and when I really start thinking about it, I think a broken community is exactly what we need.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 | By: Jake

We Just Need to Let Go

Back in February, one of the other leaders of Iron Sharpens Iron (our interdenominational Christian ministry) posted a blog post regarding the "Dangers of Faking It" in ministry.

I'm sad to say that it was one of the most convicting posts that I've ever read. We sometimes forget how broken we are, how much we actually need God, and we act like perfect Christians. It leads to manipulation, putting on a show, being someone you're not...I can't think of a better form of pride.

If we're not feeling spiritually called to seek after an opportunity, we shouldn't take it, even if it seems like it's a good thing. When we're planning on giving a talk but don't feel close to God, we probably should not give that talk.


Why do we put on this show? Why do we pretend that we're not going through anything? That we don't have any of our own lamentations?

This life is not easy...no one ever said it was going to be. And following Christ? It's even harder. It's difficult to seek after a life where you are going to be persecuted, hated, suffering.

We all have this anguish.

I mentioned the difficulty in accepting the cross. When we start following Christ, we have to give up "us". It's not easy to give up our desires, our possessions, our relationships....it's not easy to hand those things over to God.

But I've determined over the past two weeks that it's not even that easy...

Following Christ is more than giving up all of the good things...it's also giving up all of the bad things.

Sounds pretty easy, but it's not.

This anguish is real anguish, and I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that at times, I love latching onto that...the depression, the struggles, the hard times, the lamentations. Why would we not want to hand this over to God?

But there are many times that I don't want to, and I can't bring myself to...

We need to "let go"...let go of all of it. Not just the desires, not just the material possessions, but the frustration, the anger, the loneliness, the lack of confidence...

And as Paul says in 1 Philippians 4, this "letting go", this "turning over of everything to God" will lead to the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.

It's available. It's there. We just need to let go.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 | By: Jake

"Need Not"...Not "Should Not"

Something that I think we need to realize more and more:
“[The] Law says, ‘You should…’ – You should not sleep with your boyfriend; You should read your Bible every day; You should not get drunk; You should witness to your friends; You should not lose your temper… That is not good news… It’s condemnation.What the gospel says is this: ‘You need not…’ – You need not get drunk, because Jesus offers you a better refuge; You need not lose your temper, because God is in control of the situation. That is good news! Sin makes promises. The gospel exposes those promises as false promises and points to a God who is bigger and better than anything sin offers” (page 75). (from Tim Chester and Steve Timmis' Everyday Church)
Especially in our own lives...
Friday, April 12, 2013 | By: Jake

Going to Nicaragua!

I am happy and excited to say that I have made the decision to volunteer at New Hope Children Foundation's orphanage this summer in El Crucero, Nicaragua! I greatly appreciate your prayers and support for my upcoming summer mission trip. To donate, you can visit gofundme.com/jakebebar. More to come! :D

Monday, April 8, 2013 | By: Jake

I Couldn't Stop Looking

We headed out of the museum, and we walked towards the Old Church...

I had thought I had seen the Red Light District...but my heart was not prepared for what I was about to see.

We walked through different alleys, and the signs started appearing again...


Sex Shop...

Gay Movies...


But then it got worse. The signs didn't get worse. It was just that other things started appearing.

We walked down a road: the back of the Old Church on one side, on the other...

Store windows...

Just like any other store...people walked by window shopping...but this was a different type, for there weren't toys on the other side, no musical instruments, no works of art...but there was lingerie.

And it wasn't displayed on mannequins.

It was displayed on women...real women.

Most people looked the other way, focusing on the Old Church, but I couldn't resist. I wasn't drawn to their attraction, their looks...lust was not a focus of the mind.

I was drawn to the brokenness. I looked one of the women in the eye, and she motioned for me to come closer. Motioned to me, a teenager...it was so explicit, so present, so there, and I couldn't stop looking into her eyes...

I saw Christ.

This isn't something to be taken lightly, but we act like it is...we tell jokes about the Red Light District, we joke about rape culture, we joke about all of this...but this is real.

I couldn't focus on anything else I saw...I just remember those eyes...

I saw right through hers, and she saw right through mine.

My heart continually breaks over the stories of the Red Light District. The women of that district are always in my prayers. The place is broken, but don't be deceived into thinking "that place needs Christ". That place has Christ. It just needs us.

We shouldn't be questioning where God is in all of this. We should be questioning where the People of God are in all of this. We should be questioning where we are in all of this.

For more information on human trafficking, particularly the Red Light District and sex slavery, visit enditmovement.com and join the movement.
Saturday, April 6, 2013 | By: Jake

Jumping Off of a Cliff

Have mercy on me, O God...
according to your steadfast Love,
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
                              ~Psalm 51:1, 12~

Two years ago, when talking with my youth pastor back home, he mentioned this phrase of "remembering the joy of our salvation"...He kept talking, but I wasn't really listening. I couldn't get over this phrase...

Return to me the joy of my salvation.

It's a simple phrase...and looking deeper into it, it takes away all ideas of entitlement. This constant remembering...a good friend of mine in Campus Ministry uses the word anamnesis, this bringing back to memory...remembering what once was and living it out today, bringing it back into existence. How powerful testimonies become when we look at their effects...we need to constantly, remind ourselves, remember, reenact.

The Lord, full of steadfast Love and abundant mercy, has the power to give a willing spirit. 

The Mount of Olives
This is a picture I took of the Mount of Olives while in Jerusalem...one side full of rocks, the other full of trees...one side a Jewish cemetery, the other a Christian cemetery...one side the image of death, the other an image of new life. Why do we so easily convince ourselves that there is life on both sides? Why do we not understand that refusing to give up our desires will lead to death...that we need to take the leap over to the other side...

But it's more than just a hop over a wall...

The past five days, I have felt like I was on the edge of a cliff...knowing that deep down, jumping was the right thing to do, knowing that giving my all, surrendering my life, giving up my earthly desires...that this would cause the most happiness in the long-run...why wouldn't you jump?

Because it's still a cliff.

It's not some simple task...even knowing that God has you covered. It's still jumping off of a cliff, and it's not an easy decision. I mean, it's your life. It's you. It's willingly giving up you.

And you can't jump.

It's impossible...

...well, impossible without God.

But God can give you that willing spirit. God can help you jump...

So I jumped...

and I'm not saying that I won't find myself on the edge of a cliff again, but next time, I'll remember jumping off of this cliff. 

And by remembering,

I can jump off of that one.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 | By: Jake

Appreciative of the Past

As the afternoon approached, we walked over to The Museum of Our Lord in the Attic. Basically, when Catholicism was made illegal shortly after the Reformation, a group of faithful Catholics completely renovated the inside of three apartments and made a church. I was pretty amazed with the place...how elegant they made it look, and even more amazing, how they managed to pull it off. This wasn't just a room in an attic...in fact, it looked absolutely nothing like an attic. From the inside, it appeared to be a church, but from the outside, you would have no idea...

Although the church is no longer active, the museum gave you a lot of information about how the church used to function. It was a pretty interesting tour...you walked around with these little speakers, and then it would give you a two-minute spiel...it was funny because we just all looked like we were talking on the phone:
Talking on our "phones"

I was realy impressed by the church...just the idea of a group of people acting solely on faith, choosing to stand up for what they believe in and go against the laws of the country. I just wish that the church was still active...it's great looking upon the Church that once was, but what about the Church today. If all we have left are museums of churches that are just seen as tourist spots, how are we evangelizing to the people of Amsterdam?

Inside of Our Lord in the Attic

Looking upon the idea of an active faith that once was makes me appreciative of the past, but I want to be hopeful for the future.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 | By: Jake

Why is This Place So Empty?

After getting some food, we began heading over to the other side of Amsterdam over to the Basilica of St. Nicholas. However, on the way, we passed by a part of the Red Light District. Having recently become a part of the End It Movement, and having recently read Rob Bell's Sex God, the Red Light District seemed all too familiar.

X-Rated Films...Sex Shop...Gay Movie Watch...XXX...

The signs were everywhere, and I'm not really sure why I thought that the Red Light District would be "clean", but I assure you...it's not the case...shabby warehouses, broken off paint, cracked paths, scratched windows, torn-off doors...

But alas, we arrived at the Basilica of St. Nicholas, a fairly large church and also fairly close to to the Red Light District. I used to see churches like that as having somewhat of a "morbid holiness"...this kind of darkness to it that helped me connect with Christ and my spirituality...the candles, the deeply moving hymns...much like what the Tenebrae Service was.

But when I walked into the Basilica, what once would have came off as that "morbid holiness" seemed more like a dead faith. Huge pillars made the place seem mysterious, but not in a spiritual sense. The large and fear-provoking organ cast down a shadow. This dark gloom loomed over the church...the deep marble, having no choir to bring it alive, only added to this feeling of intimidation.

I was upset, frustrated, confused. How can we call this the Church? This doesn't seem warm and inviting, but dark and foreboding. And if I, a believer of Christ, even feel intimidated, how then shall the non-believers feel? How can the sinners not feel ashamed, not feel guilty, not feel worthy to walk in...no wonder we have this expression of getting "struck by lightning" if we walk into a Church as a sinner.

How would the prostitutes feel? Shouldn't this church have rehabilitation programs? Classes to bring people closer to Christ, not large and dark architecture to keep them away. It's time such as these when I want nothing more than to shout out, "God, where are You in all of this?...Why is this place so empty?" But I can't speak falsely...I know He's there.

God isn't missing...the people of God are missing...we are missing, for is not a Church with no believers just a building? God needs His believers, the people that fight for justice, the people that will fight for Him. Hearing of the "sanctity" of the place made me bitter and distressed. I wasn't sure what to think...

All I could do was pray.

Monday, April 1, 2013 | By: Jake

Meant to Be Cherished

We arrived in Amsterdam for a 12-hour layover, and for the most part, the world felt pretty surreal. We went through customs and I got my first passport stamp!

First passport!
Afterwards, we went into the terminal where I got my first euros :D

First Euros!
Amsterdam's airport looked really futuristic and clean to me...it was just really different than what I thought it would be. However, Amsterdam itself, was more of what I was expecting...beautiful walkways alongside rivers. 
A beautiful view of Amsterdam
Unfortunately, it was a bit rainy...but it really wasn't all that bad. Our first stop was the Anne Frank House...I got a really deep look into something that I wasn't expecting to get into. The deep feelings of Anne, seen through her diary entries forced me into a world that I knew little about...ignorance truly is bliss. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed, but I will always remember the things that I saw...what it must have been to live in such a small place for such a long period of time....I can't even imagine.

After the Anne Frank House, we walked through the wet and rainy streets until we found The Pancake Bakery, a delicious and home-cooked, local-style restaurant. Huge pancakes were served...what looked like almost 14" in diameter! I got an omelette that was roughly the same size...let's just say that I am a big fan of Amsterdam's serving sizes :)

My huge omelette
In addition to this, I am a big fan of European coffee in general. You get the weirdest look when you ask for your coffee to-go. It's like it's meant to be cherished, like it's meant to be sipped along with a deep, spiritual conversation...not to mention that it tasted so good! We definitely had fun eating together somewhere local...not like an airport or on the airplane, and it definitely helped us get to know each other better. I'm liking Amsterdam more and more...

A very delicious coffee