Monday, March 30, 2015

The Cup


[Drawing of Jesus praying in the Garden]

“This is what your Sovereign Lord says,
your God, who defends his people:
See, I have taken out of your hand
the cup that made you stagger;
from that cup the goblet of my
wrath, you will never drink again.”
—Isaiah 51:22

Often in our culture, we lift the cup in celebration. That use of the cup signifies light-hearted camaraderie. Not so the cup in Scripture. Here, most often, the cup represents suffering arising from the wrath of God.

In Matthew 20:20-22, the mother of Zebedee’s sons, James and John, came to Jesus asking if He would grant her the honor of having her sons sit on either side of Him in His kingdom. His response:

“You don’t know what you are asking.” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, we read in Matthew 26:39:

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

The cup indicates the retribution for sin that God needed to “pour out” on Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. He, the perfect Lamb, obeyed God’s plan and drank that cup for us.

In our Christian tradition, we pass the cup to one another during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. We are part of the Body of Christ and need each other in the suffering of discipleship.

From Seek Treasures in Small Fields by Joan Puls, 1 I read the following:

Draining the cup of suffering is the final test of our sincerity in claiming discipleship. We can expect no right or left hand seats of honor, no prerogatives of power or monopoly on truth, no thrones, no outsiders. But we can have the privilege of holding one another, broken and bruised, in the embrace of our circle, of keeping watch with the dying or keeping vigil with the condemned, of walking alongside the exiled and the weary, of standing at the foot of the cross, not in despair or in bitterness, but open to the miracle of the pending resurrection.

Because Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for us, in the presence of our community of faith, we can drink our own cup of suffering that relates us to Him.

This Lenten season, when you take the cup as part of the Lord’s Supper, feast upon His obedience for our sake, and commit yourself to accept the cup He has for you as part of the fellowship of His sufferings.

May we be able to say with Paul, as he wrote in Philippians 3:10:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.


1 Quoted in Shawchuck, Norman and Rueben P. Job. A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God. Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books, 2003.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Through Christ our Lord… 1


[Photo of Jesus giving a man a new robe]

“Almighty God, to whom all hearts be open,
all desires known, and from whom no secrets
are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by
the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may
perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy
holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

—Book of Common Prayer 1662 (translation)

What does it mean when we acknowledge all of the above requests we make in prayer to God by using the phrase “through Christ our Lord?” And, what impact does this acknowledgement have on our daily walk of obedience with Him?

Jesus told his disciples in John 14:6:

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

In these few words, the Lord Jesus Christ declares Himself the sole means by which we connect with God. The use of the definite article, “the,” leaves room for no other way to God. Jesus is the way!

As bold as this declaration may seem, and as disappointing as it may appear to followers of all other religions, the Son of God declares Himself the definitive point of contact. In the reality of our daily lives, this confirms that—as we strive to obediently follow the pathway God has laid out for us—everything we do, everything we say, everything we accomplish, in fact, everthing we are comes through Jesus. He becomes the enabling pathway.

In John 14:26, Jesus declares:

26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

So, God gives believers in Jesus the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to become an internal counselor who will strive with us as we seek to enter into all things through the Lord Jesus Christ.

No matter what kind of trial or difficulty we may have to face, our sustaining encouragement and our exit strategy comes through Jesus. He is the One who enables us to draw sustenance from Him to face the time of trial. He is the One who directs our pathway along the road of obedience to His will and His Word. He is the One who will protect us from the onslaught of our enemies and confirm for us the support of our friends.

And, part of the beauty of His Abiding Presence is the reality that He fulfills, moment-by-moment, His promise from John 15:5-8:

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

We must remain in Him. We must move through Him. We must experience through Him. We must enjoy through Him. We must love through Him. We must obey through Him.

God accomplishes His will and purpose in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Likewise, we accomplish God's perfect will for us in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. All that we have and all the we are comes as a precious gift from God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

To walk the pathway of obedience, we must follow the writer of Hebrews' instruction in Hebrews 12:1-3:

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Join me, won’t you, in living this day in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Allow the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to carry you along the pathway of true obedience that God has laid out before you. Release every obstacle that arises into the protective arms of Jesus. And, experience the joy of His peace.


1 adapted from Wilson, Dean K. Blog: “Suppressing-the-Fire” dated April 11, 2011. Copyright ©2011. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.



Monday, March 16, 2015

Consider My Sighing 1


[Photo of a sad woman]

“Give ear to my words, O Lord,
consider my sighing.
Listen to my cry for help, my King
and my God, for to you I pray.
In the morning, O Lord, you hear
my voice; in the morning I lay my
requests before you and wait in expectation.”
—Psalm 5:1-3

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting, and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is based on the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, as recorded in Luke 4:1-14. When faced with repentance, one of the more common emotional expressions is the sigh. Do you find yourself sighing during Lent?

The sigh is one of the most effective and most annoying forms of non-verbal communications. The very nature of the vocal mechanics that produce a sigh virtually guarantees that the sigh will call attention to itself.

“What’s the matter?”

“What? Why?”

“You sighed—a big one. What’s wrong?”

Sound familiar? Especially between married couples, or close friends, or workplace colleagues, the sigh holds a potency that almost defies measurement.

Throughout the course of our daily lives, we sigh many times. Sometimes the sigh comes from frustration. Sometimes it comes from annoyance. Sometimes it comes from heartache or despair. Sometimes the sigh represents failure, depression, or even grief.

Whatever purpose any particular sigh may have in your life, or in mine, a sigh certainly had a place of honor in the life of King David.

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, David prays earnestly and fervently to God. He asks God to make His ears available to hear the words David intends to speak. He asks God to “consider my sighing…” and to “…listen to my cry for help…” David knew that God willingly offered to bend His ear so that He could hear the soft whisper of that potent non-verbal sigh.

How do you suppose you would react when you sighed if, in the inner voice of your mind and heart, you heard God respond, “Yes, my dearly loved child. I hear your sigh”?

I imagine His answer would startle you. But I also suspect that when you thought about it for a while, the very fact that God answered your sighing would give you comfort and even joy.

The God who created us—the One who chose us before the foundation of the earth to belong to Him—does indeed “consider our sighing.” He watches over us with even greater attention than the very best loving and caring guardian. He longs to receive our communications. And, He remains eager to speak to us, to have a conversation with us.

That’s why it is so important to set aside a specific period of time each day to read God’s Word and pray. Making room in our daily schedule to build on the foundation of our relationship with the God who loves us is always time well spent.

No matter what trial, temptation, discouragement, or concern you may face today, please remember you do not have to greet that trouble alone. God is with you. If you belong to Him, the Holy Spirit dwells within you. God waits patiently so that He may “consider your sighing.”


1 adapted from Wilson, Dean K. Blog: "Suppressing-the-Fire" dated March 26, 2012. Copyright ©2012. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.



Monday, March 9, 2015



[Photo of a roaring lion]

“Be self-controlled and alert.
Your enemy the devil prowls
around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.”
—1 Peter 5:8-

The naive join our churches and even sit on our boards. Often these people have grown up in Christian families—or at least church-attending families—and stay within the bounds of like-minded friendships throughout their lives. They know sin is “out there” but think very little about it.

Oh, they certainly would have to leave the world we live in not to know that rapes and murders and robberies and evil dictators exist, but they haven’t yet comprehended the closeness of very real evil to their personal existence. They certainly don’t often consider the sin that may have found its way into their own lives.

Asleep Christians don’t recognize the Tempter when he shows his subtle wares. Most times, the “small” sins that tempt them go unnoticed until they develop into full-blown scandalous desires and actions. Scripture warns us to “be alert.”

Revelation 12:10 names Satan as the “Accuser of the Brothers.” He beguiles us into sin and then stands back and accuses us when we fall, making us feel as though God could never forgive us.

Satan also trips up Christians in their naivety by planting seeds of deadly poison in church congregations. These sinful plots will lead to the destruction of Christian discipleship, fellowship, and even whole churches.

While we shouldn’t seek to find Satan under every pew and look skeptically at all with whom we worship, we must realize that Christ wants mature and discerning followers who recognize sin before it has a chance to grow and flourish in our churches. Scripture warns us to be “alert.”

In Matthew 10:16 Jesus Himself warned his disciples to be “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.” We do have an enemy who desires to destroy us. Therefore, we pray with Christ, “Deliver us from the Evil One.”

As my friend, Dr. David Mains, once preached: “Satan’s desire is to destroy. God’s desire is to equip. And, our opportunity is to overcome.” If we stay alert to sin, and alert to God’s ability to equip us with His grace and insight, we can overcome the temptations that come into our own hearts and minds. Furthermore, we can also serve Him within our churches by watching and working against destructive forces.

Rejoice in the overcoming nature of God’s Holy Spirit and be grateful for the weapons He provides against our deadly foe!



Monday, March 2, 2015



[Photo of a child clinging to a parent]

“Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.”
—Psalm 63:7-8

It has always been my theory that those who stay close to God, who maintain open lines of communication with Him, who do everything possible to avoid missing church services, these ones will live in the place of blessing. I think Scripture teaches this, too.

In John 15:7 (KJV), we read:

“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”

Abiding means, sticking around, remaining with Christ at all times, continually clinging to His every word.

Here’s what Charles Spurgeon says about this verse:

All true believers abide in Christ in a sense; but there is a higher meaning, and this we must know before we can gain unlimited power at the throne. “Ask what ye will” is for Enochs who walk with God, for Johns who lie in the Lord’s bosom, for those whose union with Christ leads to constant communion. 1

Like a child who can’t leave his mother’s side, who clings whenever he thinks she will leave him, we should stick close to Christ. The place of answered prayer, blessed communion, even miracles of God’s grace all belong to these people.

When Lazarus died, as is recorded in John 11:32, Mary was rightly upset because Jesus had not come and prevented his death. When Jesus finally did come, and Mary met Him:

“…she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’”

In this situation, it seemed to her that she had tried to cling to Him, but He had left these friends alone in their hour a need.

Yet, the very fact that Jesus came, called for Mary, wept with her and ultimately brought back her brother Lazarus back to life, speaks of her reward for “abiding” or “clinging” to Him.

I like what 18th century commentator, Matthew Henry, wrote about this verse:

“Those that in a day of peace place themselves at Christ’s feet, [as Mary did in Luke 10:39] to receive instructions from him, may with comfort and confidence in a day of trouble cast themselves at his feet with hope to find favor with him.” 2

Thus we see that true friends of Christ stay close to Him in good times as well as bad. Those He knows best, and who know Him best, live in the path of rich blessings, magnificent fellowship, and answered prayer.

May we all draw near to Him in faith and enjoy His peace!


1 Spurgeon, Charles H. Faith’s Checkbook. Chicago: Moody Press, (no copyright date available).
2 Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary. London: MacDonald Publishing Co., (no copyright date available). Vol. V. Pg. 1053