CAN YOU DRINK THIS CUP?

CAN YOU DRINK THIS CUP? Jesus has just finished speaking to his disciples of his impending suffering, crucifixion and resurrection as they make their final approach to Jerusalem for the Passover. They pause at the side of the road, grappling with the implications of the Teacher’s words, when James and John blurt it out.

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus replies.

“Let one of us sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.”

They weren’t called the Sons of Thunder for nothing! ‘Go big or go home’ was their motto.

Yet, straddling the threshold between the triumphal entry and the Cross, their presumption hangs in the air like the stench of a rotten egg. The other disciples stand in slack-jawed amazement, exchanging incredulous glances, indignant. There they go again, thinking they are better than the rest of us.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus answers.
“Can you drink the cup I drink?”

Like James and John, we have no idea what we are asking much of the time. And we have little understanding of the cup of suffering in which we must partake in order to follow Christ. Often, the inclinations of our own hearts have little to do with the purposes of heaven. We think narrow and now and mine. We think glory and not sacrifice.

“We can,” the brothers answer.

Jesus promises to do whatever we ask in his name. But when we ask amiss or with wrong motive, when our prayers stray from the plumb line of God’s will and purpose, it seems to us as if our prayers go unanswered. We wonder if our prayers fall on deaf ears. Is God not listening?

The message of suffering is not easy to swallow – it is definitely NOT the answer we are looking for. Yet suffering and sacrifice are precisely the necessary path God uses for making disciples, for transforming dust, hay and stubble into something that bears the likeness of Christ! We must share in his sufferings so that we may also share in his glory.

Who among us can bear the cup of suffering? Yet Jesus’ life demonstrates that the model of Kingdom leadership is the path of the servant, not the served. The work of sacrifice rather than success. Less a bed of roses than a crown of thorns.

We cannot go to glory by any other way
than through the Cross.

But Jesus has taken the cup for us, the wretched brew of sin and shame and death. His cup was not only a cup of suffering but a cup of wrath – the wrath of the Father against the sins of the world.

The cup of suffering we share is a cup of fellowship with Christ. There is no wrath or judgment in it. Jesus took that cup for us so that we can say, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

As you approach Easter, are you identifying more with Christ’s sufferings or with his glory?

How might you prepare your heart to walk more closely with Jesus through this journey to the Cross?

DO YOU NOT KNOW? HAVE YOU NOT HEARD?

In Love, the Father —
Has blessed you in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Chose you as His own before the creation of the world.
Made you holy and blameless in His sight!
Selected you to be His own adopted son or daughter through Jesus Christ!

In Love, the Son—
Has forgiven your every sin.
Purchased your redemption through His blood shed for you.
Chose you before the foundations of the world to the praise of His glory.

In Love, the Spirit —
Is the eternal expression of the nearness of God.
Provides comfort and counsel to you, the Chosen of the Lord.
Guarantees your inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s prized possession – to the praise of His glory!

Because of this, you are for All Time and Eternity—

Beloved & Belonging!
Set free!
Gifted for His purpose!

God chose you to be in relationship with Him before He laid out plans for this world.
He chose you to live a holy life—characterized by love, free from sin, and blameless before Him. (Eph. 1:4)

As His heir, you are predestined to have a key role in His unfolding purpose that is energizing everything to conform to His will. (Eph. 1:11)

Imagine – You are God’s heir, chosen to play a key role in everything that is happening right now!

So, don’t be afraid!
Remember – God has blessed you in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

All that lies ahead is purposed by the Father, covered by the blood of the Son, and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit! You receive your spiritual blessings in God’s Throne Room! This is why it’s so important for you in this season to be Presence-based, spending time in the courts of heaven receiving:

Your identity – Heir. Elected. Chosen.
Your purpose – The essential role God has given you to the praise of his glory!
Your gifting – for all that is coming!

How do you hear God’s invitation to spend more time in His Throne Room?

And what about your key role? How is God speaking to you about that?

WHEN CRISIS BECOMES YOUR MIRACLE

Yesterday I woke my husband up by wishing him a happy birthday. He was a bit confused since his birthday was actually a little more than two weeks ago. When he asked why I was wishing him a happy birthday, I reminded him . . .

One year ago was the day that might have been his last on earth.

It was before 7 a.m. on a Wednesday. Our three teenage children were still asleep–one of the perks of online school. Bob and I were getting out of bed to start our day with the routine morning chores. He was grumbling about not being able to wake up. As he followed me down the hallway, he said, “I can’t wake up. . . I don’t feel so great.”

I suggested he go relax while I put the dogs outside and started the coffee. So he flopped onto the sofa. But when I came back into the house, he was staggering towards me saying, “Everything is leaning to one side,” and he was leaning to one side. So I grabbed my iPad, pulled up WebMD and put in his symptoms. Hmmm…flu. I can handle that. Vertigo. I can handle that. Stroke. “Honey, do you think you might be having a stroke?” “Maybe”, he said. SCREECH!!!

I flew down the hallway to change out of pajamas. “Boys,” I called. “Daddy doesn’t feel good and I need to take him to the hospital. Help him into the car.” By then my husband could barely walk. Luckily my sons were strong enough to get him into the car.

As we travelled the winding road towards town, I had one hand on the steering wheel and the other on my husband. “Lord, Jesus. We need you right now. Come quickly, Lord. We are calling you into Bob’s body right now. Enter this situation and heal whatever needs healing right now.”

By the time we arrived at the ER, my husband was barely able to support himself. The ER nurse took him beyond the doors for examination, out of my sight. I sat in the waiting area wondering if this was really happening. Then, over the PA system I heard the chilling announcement—“Code Stroke. Code Stroke”—and a nurse approached me.

“I am going to ask you to turn off your phone so I can take you back with your husband. He is having a stroke and it is a bit chaotic around him. I need you to be strong when I escort you back there.”

I could not wrap my head around what she just said. It was not possible. Yet at no time was I nervous or frightened. I followed the nurse.

It was pandemonium in that triage area. Equipment and people moving very quickly.

As soon as I saw my husband’s face, it was as though everything fell silent.

I walked directly over, took his head in my hands and placed my mouth on his temple above his right ear. “Father God, In the name of Jesus we say No to this stroke,” I felt surprisingly bold in my declaration. I looked my husband in the eye. “Bob, do you agree with me right now? You agree that you say NO to this stroke right now in the name of Jesus?” He slurred what I knew was agreement. “You hear that? We agree that in Jesus’ name we say NO to this stroke. We bind it and it will not be so. Stroke, you have no place in Bob’s body. Thank you, Lord.” Then I took a seat and let the professionals do their job.

A couple hours went by before the neurologist approached with news, “The MRI shows your husband’s body was having a stroke. But it didn’t quite take hold.”

“For we are God’s co-workers.” 1 Corinthians 3:9

I leaped to my feet and raised my hands to heaven…”YES!” I yelled.

“Thank you, Jesus! You hear that? We prayed it away! In the name of Jesus!”

My husband is fully recuperated. He has celebrated another birthday, and we witnessed Heaven touch Earth that morning.

“We have overcome by the blood of the Lamb
and the word of our testimony.” Revelation 12:11

What is your first response in crisis?
Are you confident to ask God for miracles in times of need?
What is your testimony as an overcomer in Christ?

BIG ANSWERS TO SMALL PRAYERS

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Mt. 7:7

We spotted a whale in the distance as we approached the California coastline from Catalina. My cousin Danny veered off course to get a closer look. After watching several beautiful whales frolic and spout for a while, my cousin decided it was time to head back to port.

Not quite ready to abandon this wondrous sight, I suggested we pray for God to bring the whales over to our boat so that we could see them up close. Uproarious laughter ensued!

“It wasn’t good enough to see them from afar!” my cousin teased. “Sure…God has nothing better to do than bring the whales closer to us.” “Hey God,” my dad joked, “while you’re at it, we’d like two whales, one on the right side and one on the left.” More laughter.

“It isn’t about the whales,” I said, “but God wants to bless us by showing His faithfulness in our asking.” More laughter.

I went below decks to pray. I know how much the Lord delights in showing us His love, in big ways and small. I had no doubt, none at all that He would answer. I bowed with my head in my hands and asked, “Lord, please show my family how much you love us and how you really do hear our prayers.”

Suddenly I heard screaming on deck!

As I came topside, I saw two whales coming straight towards us! Two massive 100-foot blue whales, traveling side by side. They split at the bow of our boat—one swimming to the right, the other to the left—their heaving greatness so close they nearly touched either side of our vessel! Their spines rose above the water, displaying their enormous size as they passed by–as big as the 100 foot yacht we were sailing. Magnificent doesn’t begin to describe it!

Our joy knew no bounds. Even the skeptics and jokers stood in awe of the moment, our thrilling close encounter with these creatures of the deep, either of which could have tossed our boat like a tinker toy to the watery depths. But did not.

My entire family saw that God really does hear our prayers. And in His lavish love and generosity, He answered by sending not one but two of the largest mammals on earth, close enough to astound us, but not close enough to cause harm. Two spectacular blue whales, a few hundred tons of glory passing on either side – because we asked!

There was no chance in this experience, so powerful it prompted a three-hour family dinner conversation about our faith. For the next several hours there was jubilation and indescribable joy as we repeatedly watched the video of the magnificent blue whales, and listened to the sounds of our unfettered joy!

Our collective faith was enlarged that day, not because of the whales or the prayers, but because God showed us the measure of His great love.

He showed us His unfathomable love because we asked.

Do you hesitate to ask God for seemingly silly or small things?

Are you willing to seem foolish to others in order for them to see the glory of God?

Where would you like to ask Him to astound you today?

THE POOL OF HIS PRESENCE

“Do you want to get well?”

It’s an odd question, right? It must have given the man pause as he lay under the colonnade beside the Pool of Bethesda, where a great many disabled and disenfranchised gathered daily. Of course he wanted to get well. Who wouldn’t want healing? Why else would they keep coming back, waiting for their chance to be first to the poolside when the angel of the Lord stirred the waters?

From time to time, the angel came, and there was a mad rush to hobble or crawl or drag yourself to the pool anyway you could. Yet the man’s response to Jesus’ question—those questions that always pierce the heart of the matter—was almost as curious as the question itself. In fact, it was hardly an answer at all. “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. Someone else always gets there first.”

Jesus met the man’s despair with a word of healing. “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once he did, cured in an instant by his encounter with the compassionate Presence of the One who heals. The One eager to meet the hunger for wholeness in the heart of the “forgotten.”

The Pool of Bethesda was shallow hope for the broken; they competed for benefits the pool seemed to offer only to a lucky few. Futility and disappointment must have lingered for those left behind when the lucky one danced away, leaving them to wonder when their turn might come.

“Do you want to get well?”

The question invites us to anticipate the reality of Jesus’ Presence with us – the Presence that changes everything – even broken hearts and bodies. In many ways, the Pool of Bethesda was a foreshadowing of the greater gift: the Presence of God in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We miss the goodness of God and the manifestation of his Presence if we do not give place to His promise.

“I will send you another helper, the Spirit of truth who will remain constantly with you. You know the Spirit because He lives with you, and He will dwell in you,” Jesus promises in John 14. “I will never abandon you like orphans: I will return to be with you. You will know that I am in the Father, you are in me, and I am in you. I will love you and reveal My heart, will and nature to you.”

What about you? Do you want to get well?

Have you made room to experience the reality of God’s Presence in your life?

How do you respond his invitation to come, to abide, to rest in Him?

GREEN MARBLES

I have been waiting a long time for the Lord to answer a BIG prayer request–one of those prayers that you carry close to your heart every minute of every day. In my waiting I had cried out to God that I believed in Him but did not trust Him because my prayer was not answered swiftly or in keeping with my plan.

However, as I thought about it, I realized the problem was not that I didn’t trust God; it was that I didn’t trust THE PROCESS God was using because the path to my answer was so long and unfamiliar! In God’s grace and desire for me to know He’d heard my prayer, He gave me green marbles! Real marbles started showing up in the most unlikely places.

It started with my walking partner and friend. We walked every week, rain or shine, wrestling with the raw material of our lives, our families, kids, frustrations and dashed expectations. This was a ritual of ours, like prayer walking, pouring out our hearts to God and one another. One day she stopped in her tracks and looked me in the eye, “Do you think you’re the only one who has problems?” She stomped her foot for emphasis. Just as her shoe hit the ground, there beneath her rubber soul was a glossy green marble, winking in the morning light! A perfect green marble out of the clear blue, like a token from heaven. It spoke to our hearts and said, “See? I know the plans I have for you. You can trust me to meet you here.” Our angst turned to awe and laughter as she tucked the green marble in her pocket.

Over the course of the next few years, we discovered many more marbles, unexpected gems that filled us with wonder as God continued to speak to us. White ones. Red ones. Cerulean blue ones—even a clear crystal heart –catching us by surprise along our route. It became a game, a treasure hunt. We never knew where the next marble might turn up. Right under foot? Under a leafy plant beside the road? But we did know that our Papa God was speaking to us, inviting us to delight in the magic of extraordinary things in ordinary places. Showering us with gifts and mementos of his love in our waiting.

It’s been a while now since I’ve found a green marble, or any colored marble for that matter. But God has placed in my heart the desire to see the green marbles of his love and provision in my every day life—a chance meeting with a friend, a devotional that speaks right to my need, a glorious sunset, a full moon glistening on the water. Markers in my waiting to measure the goodness of God in the Not-Quite-Yet.

This kind of waiting has deepened my faith, enriched my journey, and enlarged my love for God in ways that only waiting on Him and with Him can do. When I look at my dish of gleaming marbles sitting on my bedroom dresser, I count God faithful to help me stay the course until all my prayers are answered. And I count these “Green Marble Moments” along my journey to trusting God to meet my every hope and need – perhaps in unexpected ways

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Is. 45:3

When was your last “Green Marble Moment?”
How does looking for Green Marbles change you?
Does looking for Green Marbles change how you see God?

POSTURE OF THE HEART THAT WAITS

“I have been waiting for such a long time,” I said to my friend over lunch. “Yet I believe God has told me to wait and keep trusting Him. I’ve asked Him over and over again if I’m not hearing correctly and everything around me continues to point toward waiting. But I feel like I’m becoming an unruly child in this place!”

“What do you mean by an unruly child?” my friend asked.

“Well, how do I believe Him in difficult circumstances without becoming demanding?” I questioned. “Is there a way to wait in faith without coveting what He has promised and losing sight of the One who has promised it? How do I avoid bargaining with Him for my desired outcome or crossing the line into naming and claiming? And my situation is disintegrating day by day, so how do I know if I’m waiting in faith or simply in denial about my plight?”

How do I keep from crossing the line into ‘naming and claiming’ what I have been promised?

Nodding in sympathetic understanding, my friend offered no answers. As I continued to bombard her with probing questions, the light suddenly began to dawn!

It matters who you are in your waiting and it matters where you wait!

My thoughts turned to encounters with children in toy stores whose eyes are wide with longing for things they see on the shelves. Down one aisle is the child throwing a tantrum – I want that right now! You said I could have it! Another aisle holds the sobbing child clinging to a toy as her father says, – It’s not yours; you can’t take it home today! Next to her is the child bargaining with his father – You should let me have this because I’ve been doing all my homework and I stopped fighting with my brother!

Once in a while we encounter a serene child, standing beside his parent in patient expectation, shining eyes fixed in hope on the face he trusts. He knows beyond a shadow of doubt that he will receive what has been promised. He may wait without striving.

“Oh, Lord,” I exclaimed. “Now I get it! If I’m standing next to you as your beloved child, looking up at your face, I’m waiting in the right posture and place!”

When we wait for a very long time on a promise from God, it becomes difficult to stand in holy faith and trust without crossing lines into unruly, unholy behavior.

Understanding our place and identity helps us remain righteous and holy in our waiting.

If we stand here on earth next to the thing we want instead of beside our Father, then we wait in a posture of demanding expectation. Our eyes remain fixed on the object of our desire, rather than on Him. If we stand next to our desire for too long, it becomes our idol. We begin to insist on it, covet it, bargain for it, to name it and claim it.

But if we stand next to our Father, mindful of Who and Whose we are, we wait with Him from His heavenly Throne Room! We hold fast to our position and identity as His loved and chosen child. We wait in a posture of hopeful, holy expectation, certain of what we do not yet see because we trust our Father to give all that He has promised!

Now faith is the assurance of what is hoped for, the conviction of what is not yet seen. Hebrews 11:1

Is there something your heart is waiting for from God?

How do you see the posture of your waiting?

Where is God asking you to make adjustments in how you are waiting?

MADE IN HIS IMAGE

Genesis 1 makes real the astounding majesty of God’s Creation. . . And on the sixth day, after our Father Creator had birthed—with a word and a breath—all of the living creatures according to their kind, it was time for his Magnum Opus! All of heaven stood in awe. Nothing like it had ever manifested the glory of God with such a spectacular reflection of his own Person. All ears were trained upon His Word.

“And God saw that it was good!”

What could this mean? The angels watched, their wings aquiver with anticipation. What could outshine the glory of light, sky, life in the watery depths, vegetation on the soaring heights, the dazzling sun illuminating the day and the silver moon radiant in her inky expanse? And those innumerable stars scattered across the cradle of universe between heaven and earth – twinkling through eons of unfolding creation?

“And God saw that it was good.”

“Let us now make man in our image,” the Father declared to the Trinity. “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over all the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

And so it was.

In His image, in His very likeness, with holy congruency and unlikely resemblance to the Author of life who imagined us before the world began, we were made. Each and all. Black and white. Those saved and those yet to know the glorious impartation of salvation through the Son Redeemer. Each and every one, made in the image of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

Who could imagine such a thing? What likeness has dust to glory?

“O, but let me tell you,” says the Father “It is good!”

And that is why, the Father declares. Yes that is why, says the Son. Indeed, that is why, agrees the Spirit,Those who do not yet believe still bear the markings and imprint of God upon their souls, and so are far better than their wrong beliefs should make them.

And those who do believe, says the Son, those who have received the gift of salvation through my sacrifice, often behave in ways that are far worse than their right beliefs should make them.

And so, together we pursue the progressive likeness—the imperfect congruency between Spirit and flesh, between the Saved and the Unsaved, between the Now and the Yet-to-Come.

And God saw that it was good!

How do you see the image of God in yourself?

How might the realization that each and every person is created in the image of God change the way you respond to them?

Who in your life do you need to see through the lens of God’s likeness?

THE GARDEN OF MY BECOMING

Arise my love, my beautiful one and come away with me!

There are times when it’s really hard to go to the garden – so many things vie for my attention. And then there are seasons when I cannot pull myself away. Where the sweetness of His Presence is so exquisite and the language of His heart so intimate, that nothing on this earth seems so essential as being here with the Lover of my soul.

“I am my lover’s and my lover is mine.”

This is the place I meet with God.
This is the garden of my becoming.
This is where I open the Word and the Word opens me.

“Let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.”

Once upon a time, the garden did not call to me. In our little patch of yard out back, my husband was the one who did the magic, uprooting and planting, digging and pruning, tying tender shoots and wrestling with gnarled limbs.

But then came the day when the Lord invited me into His garden with a promise that wherever I was, whatever circumstance I might encounter, we would always have “our garden.” It would never be taken from me.

“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.”

Though I forego its pleasures from time to time, it can never be for long. The leaves of my heart begin to wither and grow brittle around the edges. Unripe fruit falls to the ground. My spirit keens to return to the place that is home to my heart.

And do it quickly! Do not tarry.

The Lord is awaiting you in your own private garden. Longing for an hour with the one He loves, the one He created for His own pleasure and purpose. Whether we return with a smile or a tear, He is there to hold us close to His own heart.

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
Many waters cannot quench love.

Have you seen the one my heart loves?

How are you tending to your sacred garden with the Lord?

What keeps you from spending more time in the special place He has prepared for you?

“CONFIDENCE GOES BEFORE YOU!”

Understand today that the Lord your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire.” Dt 9:3

God told the Israelites to cross over the Jordan and seize the land He was giving them from the Anakites. However, the spies they sent ahead discovered that the Anakites were a great and tall people, looking like giants compared to the Israelites.

When God tells us to do something, it can feel like we are taking on a giant.

Fear causes us to retreat just as the Israelites did, and to shy away from new territory that God wants to give us.

I knew the Lord’s desire was for me to cross the Jordan—figuratively speaking— and share what He was teaching me about prayer with a new prayer group at church. This was my giant and I was backing away – dragging my feet.

STEPPING OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE

Then one Sunday morning, our pastor spoke about Peter stepping out of the boat to follow Jesus onto the water. This familiar story suddenly became a life-changing message for me: God was calling me to intentionally step out of my comfort zone in obedience.

I took that step.

Fear and doubt evaporated as I stepped into my Jordan. The longing of my heart was well received by the team leader. The following Sunday, I began to share what God was so graciously teaching me about prayer.

A verse rang out and touched my heart that week—“He who goes over before you . . .” from Deuteronomy 9:3.

“CONFIDENCE GOES BEFORE YOU!”

It was as though God was speaking directly to me. I needed Jesus – my Confidence – to go before me, to make a way. And He did! My joy was indescribable!

CONSIDER
Where is God calling you to step into new territory?

What are the “giants” you are facing?

Are you confident that Jesus, your Confidence, goes before you?