Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jonah, The "Whale," and Science - IOW Tuesday

As you probably know, I participate in a weekly writing activity called "Fiction Friday." I've recently discovered another such activity called, "In Other Words." Bloggers are given a prompt on Thursday, and are asked to write about it and post it on the following Tuesday. I don't know if I'll participate every week, but this one caught my eye.

This week's "In Other Words" is being hosted by Deborah at Chocolate & Coffee. Head over there after reading my entry to find links to all the other participants' entries.

This week's quote:

Tozer opened a can of worms with that one!

First of all, God didn't say a whale swallowed Jonah. That was a translator's take on it. The original Hebrew said, "a great fish." So the measurement of whale gullets is irrelevant. But the questions raised here are important ones anyway, especially considering the intellectual snobbery of atheism today.

"Christians are afraid of science! If you become a Christian, you have to check your brains at the door. Only Atheism is intellectually satisfying." That sneering sentiment is taught from college lecterns and speakers' podiums every day. But it is based on a number of faulty premises:

Faulty premise #1. Science is foolproof and can be trusted. Scientists are often wonderfully blind to the fact that theories which once seemed rock solid are constantly being revised or discarded altogether. Theories truly are a dime a dozen, and since evolutionary science is based almost entirely on untestable, unprovable ideas, it lacks a great deal of validity. Thomas Kuhn (who did not write from a Christian point of view) wrote a wonderful book called "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." Amazon.com quotes scientist Steven Weinberg as saying that this book "has had a wider influence than any other book on the history of science." It provides wonderful insights into the way science really works, showing how new theories don't necessarily represent an advancement in understanding of the truth. Though it is far from "light reading," I highly recommend it.

Faulty premise #2. Christianity doesn't have any good science behind it. Christianity has plenty of good science behind it. But that science, along with those who teach it, is censored, censured, and persecuted into silence. Professors who espouse non-atheistic views simply aren't allowed to continue working. I haven't yet seen the movie, "Expelled," but I have heard that it does a good job of documenting the outrageous censorship and persecution of "outside the box" thinkers in academia today. I also recommend The Truth Project. I have seen only the first two installments, but am enjoying it tremendously. It is one of many proofs that there are great minds in Christendom. But I won't go to a lot of trouble to dig up more examples or arguments for this point. Why? Because of...

-The third and biggest false premise: that atheistic scientific inquiry is really about finding truth.

It's not.

Now there's a statement that's sure to raise hackles, but I firmly believe it. We humans search for and embrace anything that supports what we love. And at the deepest levels, we search for and embrace that which supports either our love for God, or our hatred of Him. There is nothing deeper motivating any of us. Jesus said, "This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). Why do I believe that this is the deepest motivation behind atheistic science? Because the fact is, if an ardent atheist can't counter an argument by a Christian, he will not change his mind. He will search desperately for a different argument. And when he finds one, how will he feel? Relieved! Why? Because he once again has a rationalization for the godlessness that he loves. It's a heart thing, not a head thing. His love for godlessness will not change (barring a miraculous work of the Spirit), so he would rather go without "the best argument" than accept one which supports the God whose existence he despises.
An agnostic once told me, "I would be disappointed if I found out that all of this was created. It would ruin everything for me." Why? She went on to explain that, in her view, mankind was the center of everything, and to her, that was beautiful. It's all about what she loves (mankind, and herself in particular). But to the lover of God, nothing is more beautiful than seeing His glorious handiwork.
And think about this. If an atheist firmly believed that a whale had swallowed a man in the distant past, he would create a theory about ancient whales (and the absence of fossil evidence wouldn't faze him). He would resort to an endless list of "could haves" and "would haves" to make it all look pretty, and before long his theories would be presented in school textbooks as likely facts. Don't believe me? Just listen to any nature show on The Discovery Channel. Count all of the "could haves," "would haves," and unsubstantiated, untestable claims. Compare that to the number of provable claims. You might be surprised.
And of course the same works in reverse. Just as the godless scientist loves godlessness, so the godly scientist loves God. And each type of scientist brings his or her own bias to the table every time. There's no such thing as unbiased inquiry into the untestable.
Still not convinced? Think about this fact. Atheistic evolutionists really couldn't care less which evolutionary models you embrace, regardless of how the various models may contradict each other. They only care that you DON'T embrace Creationism. By all means, disagree in any way BUT THAT! It's bias, pure and simple.
If anyone truly changes camps, it will be because of a change of heart, not just mind. That's why trying to convince the mind of an atheist is often not the best route. What he needs is a heart change, and only the Spirit can do that. Talk to the atheist about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment. Jesus said that those are things which the Holy Spirit specializes in impressing on hearts (John 16:8). You never know. God could use you as a tool when He does a miracle in someone's heart.

Tozer was onto something!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Fiction: Reversals of Fortune

Friday Fiction

This week's Friday Fiction is being hosted over at Joanne Sher's wonderful site, "An Open Book." Be sure to drop by there to see what other works of fiction have been posted this week.

This piece is something I just wrote last week, for the weekly FaithWriters Challenge. The given topic was "The Game of Life." It points out how easily we can fool ourselves with regard to who or what we really love...and who or what we don't. If you'd like to read more on this subject matter, when you're through here you'll want to check out "The World in My Hand?"


Reversals of Fortune

A toddling child, a loving wife
He could have dreamed suburban dreams
And gathered 'round him all that seems
To satisfy, like worldly wealth,
And lived for comfort, ease and health.
But no, he threw it all away
"I'll be no fool," he used to say.
"I'll give up what I cannot keep..."
Soon wife and child in heartache weep.
His blood is spilled, dreams unfulfilled
His idealistic young heart stilled.
Slain by the ones he'd hoped to save
Laid in an obscure jungle grave.
He took a chance, he threw the dice,
Lost everything in sacrifice,
Called "loser" in the Game of Life.

Another man with children, wife
Inspired himself with higher dreams
Of all that glitters, all that gleams.
Lead millions in the cult of self
His books lined every bookstore shelf.
"Jesus died to line your way
With roses and with gold," he'd say.
"Eternal life? It comes dirt cheap!
Get all you want, and pile it deep!
Get wealth, be thrilled, get all you've willed!
To pamper us our Lord was killed!"
The crowds adored him, how they raved!
His earthly streets with gold were paved.
He took a chance, he threw the dice,
And made his world comfy and nice,
Called "winner" in the Game of Life.

The Bridegroom calls his bride, his wife,
"Come here to Me, the Father deems
It's time to fulfill all our dreams!
Once poverty, now Heaven's wealth
Once illness, now eternal health."
Lovers of God, in bright array
Step into everlasting day.
On earth their hearts to Jesus thrilled
Desire for earthly gain had chilled.
They loved their Lord, from sin were saved
God's Spirit ruled how they behaved.
They took a chance, but with no dice
They followed Christ to Paradise.
All winners in the Game of Life.

The Judge now calls the sons of strife
"What's happened now to all your dreams?
To all your idol-making schemes?
Your hearts were welded to your wealth
Your greed consumed your souls by stealth.
Not with Christ, with gold you filled
Your hearts; rejecting Life you killed
Yourselves, to Christ you did not give
Your souls, in Him you would not live.
Feigned love for Me was just a way
To garner wealth in jars of clay.
You would not let my goodness woo you
Depart from me, I never knew you."

You who love this world, think twice!
Trust Christ, not Earth, for Paradise.

It really is no game, this life.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Mat 16:25)

"No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (
Luke 16:13)

(Photos from stock.xchng by brkic87 and hisks)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How Does The Holy Spirit Really Help Us?

Bernini's stained glass window in St. Peter's ...Image via WikipediaA big name in Christendom falls away, embraces a sinful lifestyle, and in some "Christian" circles is applauded.

How can this be?

We've been discussing the excuses people rely on when they decide to embrace sin, such as "I was born this way" and "I feel so much closer to God now that I don't hate myself." We also got some invaluable insights on the struggle with sin from Puritan John Owen. But now we need to take some time to look at the most important factor in our growth.

The Holy Spirit. The third Person of the Trinity.

How does He help us?

To many, the mention of the Holy Spirit brings to mind such things as speaking in tongues, prophesying about the future, and other dramatic manifestations.

May I suggest to you that all of those things can be (and often are) counterfeited? I'm not saying they always are. But charlatans have known for years how to create temporary, showy effects on stage. Many pagan religions regularly practice "ecstatic speech." Prophesying (especially when it's vague, or when the "prophet" isn't held accountable for his accuracy) is practiced by everyone from psychics to sun-worshipers. None of these things are proof of the presence or influence of the Holy Spirit. Those things which cannot be faked by humans can be easily counterfeited by unholy spirits.

But not all of them.

How does the Holy Spirit really help us?

I have a friend, a dear sister in Christ, who was recently saved out of a heavily occultic lifestyle and demonic possession. The presence and work of the Holy Spirit in her life is a delight to see.

He's putting her through the fire.

She made a complete break with her occult past when she came to Christ. (I have seen a photo of her baptismal service, in which she burned the last of her Tarot cards. Remind you of anyone? See Acts 19:19.) She had supported her family through a very successful career as a psychic, and by teaching others to achieve the demonic counterfeits mentioned above, but that's not an option for her anymore. And without that income, life has become very, very hard. God has brought other trials into her life at the same time, the sorts of things that can drive a person to the breaking point.

Everything would be so much easier if she would return to her occult practices, use the "Law of Attraction" to bring the money in like she used to, and in every other way feed her flesh through Satan's power as she once did.

She is struggling. She longs to have nice things (don't we all?) But she said to me today, with joy in her voice, "Being a Christian is so freeing! I don't miss [the occult] at all. Not the least little bit."

That, my friends, is the help of the Holy Spirit. He hasn't made everything easy. He hasn't created a bed of roses. He hasn't instantly taken away all of her desires for the pleasures this world can afford.

He has made Jesus (the true Jesus of the Bible, not a New Age caricature of Him) a greater joy to her than what she has lost. He has given her a hunger for God's Word that keeps her reading it. He has given her a heart to obey.

Satan can't counterfeit that.

She doesn't see her growth as clearly as I do. That's often true. As someone else recently said to me, "Sometimes seeing the growth can hinder the growth." My friend will probably be amazed to know that she blessed me so much in our recent talk. But it was a blessing to me.

Do you remember when Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist, and Mary came to visit her? The Holy Spirit caused Elizabeth's soul (and her baby) to leap for joy in recognition of the work that He was doing in Mary. That's how I felt, talking to my friend today. My soul leaped for joy at seeing His work in her.

I was also moved to repent of my own sinful, fleshly attitudes I'd been indulging today. Such repentance, too, is a gift of God, something He grants to us (2 Tim. 2:25), and it's a work of His Spirit in us. (See all entries on repentance)

At the beginning of this entry I asked how someone in Christian circles could fall away and be applauded by others who consider themselves Christians. I'm sure there are a multitude of reasons, but I would like to present one for very sober consideration.

Could it be that both the ones who fall, and the ones who applaud them, are deceived by a misunderstanding of the Spirit's work? Could they be basing their spiritual confidence on the presence of signs and wonders which Satan regularly counterfeits in their lives, while being completely unaware that they lack the Spirit's true working? I will never say that God can't or doesn't produce supernatural manifestations today. Of course He can, and of course He does. But so does Satan. And how do we know which is which?

I've already hinted at this, and I'll address it further in future entries, but now it's time for your comments. What spiritual activity can you see in your own life that you know is not a counterfeit, and on what do you base that confidence?

(Next post in this series: "A Genuine Work of the Spirit?")

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Thousand Gifts

I know that the next item in the blog should be "How Does the Holy Spirit Really Help Us?" It's the next (and probably last) posting in the series that began with "I Was Born This Way." It's in the works, but it's not ready yet. And in the meantime, I just feel I have to act on the wonderful idea I got from Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience.

To encourage believers to give the Lord the glory due His Name through gratitude, different bloggers are beginning to create what they call the "One Thousand Gift List." Periodically they will add to their lists and share them with readers. A thousand ordinary things to thank the Lord for. It sounds like a wonderful idea to me. So here's my "starter list."

I'm thankful to Almighty God for:

My precious, one-of-a-kind family

Snowcaps in the middle of Summer ...
A reminder that God provides refreshment
in every season of life.

And Fall colors ...
A reminder that, for believers, even death has lost its sting.
If He makes death beautiful for leaves,
how much more will He give beauty to those who,
through physical death,
join Him in eternal life?
(I guess writing about my Heaven-dwelling grandparents made me think of this one.)

So much to be thankful for!

Why not start your own "Thousand Gift List?" (All of my entries on this subject can be found here.)

(All photos except the family portrait were taken by Betsy Markman here in Colorado)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Fiction: Mary Ellen's Truest Love

Friday Fiction

This is "fiction" because it is slightly fictionalized, but the details stick very close to the true story of my maternal grandparents. I had originally written it for the FaithWriters "Grandparents" Writing Challenge, but through some mistaken keystrokes it ended up not being posted there.

This week's event is being hosted over at Patterings, so drop by there afterwards for links to more Friday Fiction postings.

Mary Ellen's Truest Love

He knew her before I did. He loved her before I did, too.

He saw her in her gorgeous silk wedding gown, and he knew that someday she would be his. He’d always known that. Always.

She married someone else in that gown. But that was ok. He could wait.

He waited through the parties where he wasn’t welcome, where his name was never spoken, except perhaps as a slur. He waited as she drank and smoked, even though he didn’t like what it did to her.

He waited through the birth of her daughter, and then her son. Sometimes he tried to get her to talk to him, especially when her marriage started to go bad, but she wanted nothing to do with him.

One day she took her children and moved hundreds of miles from the man she had promised “till death do us part.”

The husband stayed behind, but HE didn’t. He followed her as her train pushed state after state behind them all. She would never have believed it if anyone had told her, but it was true.

He watched her struggle to put food on the table for herself and her little ones. Sometimes he helped to make sure the food got there, but she never knew it and didn’t thank him.

He could have done more to help her. He was very rich, after all. But he knew what she would have done with excess money. He liked what her struggles did for her, more than what the party life did to her.

He waited.

Her daughter could be persuaded, he knew. But the little girl wasn’t ready to see him face-to-face, so he sent some others to talk to her about him.

She listened, and she recognized the truth of what they said. Sometimes children can see when adults are blind.

He watched as Mary Ellen’s daughter spoke to her about him, but Mary Ellen still had her doubts. That was ok, too. He could see her heart softening.

“Someday she’ll be mine. I’ve always known it.”

He began making secret contacts, working through people and circumstances to arrange to meet her himself. He even had the nerve to contact her estranged husband.

When he knew she was ready, he arranged to meet her at the home of a friend named Ruth. Mary Ellen already suspected that she would be meeting him there, and he wasn’t about to disappoint her.

And so their love was born. And what a love it was! He had a nobility that refused to give her anything less than what was best, even if it meant more waiting on his part.

He let Mary Ellen find out that her estranged husband was becoming friends with him too, and this new commonality brought husband and wife back together.

He felt delighted.

He loved them generously. He not only gave to the reunited couple, but he began to give to others through them. He cared for their children as they grew and married and had children of their own. He extended his influence to cover their lives, no matter how far they went. It didn’t even matter whether they cared or not. He stayed true to them all.

He had friends all over the globe, and whenever they came to Mary Ellen’s little corner of the world, he used her tiny house to lodge them, and her hospitality to feed them. He used her husband to serve others tirelessly on his behalf.

Those were glorious years, but even now, neither Mary Ellen nor the others had ever seen his face. For that, he still waited.

He waited as their hair turned to gray, and as their bodies grew weaker.

He waited by Mary Ellen’s bedside in the hospital. He waited so that her family could see her and speak to her and come to terms with what was happening. He waited until the day her first great-great-grandchild entered the world. He even worked on that baby who refused to breathe, so that his little life could go on even as hers faded.

Faded? Hardly. It looked that way to me, as I stood by her bed, but I knew better. I knew he was there. I watched her body struggle with its last breaths, and I saw the moment when he took my Nana home.

I know their wait was worth it.

Dedicated to the memory of Mary Ellen and Bryson English, and to the God we love. I long for the day when I can see Him as clearly as they do now!

Click here to see all of my "Friday Fiction" entries!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Perhaps the Most Important Entry I'll Ever Write

John OwenJohn Owen (Image via Wikipedia)
We have been looking at the sad fact that people who have spent years immersed in Christendom can completely fall away, often deceiving themselves that they're still "just fine," or even closer to God than they were before.

It's heartbreaking to see, and it's also heartbreaking to be in that position yourself. To want to be freed from the death-grip of sin, and to find yourself enslaved despite your prayers and pleadings and promises...there is little in life more painful than that. The soul rallies for a while, makes its vows, and exults in hope, only to plunge back into the mire like a wallowing hog. Failure makes a mockery of hope, and it accuses God Himself of failing to help. It's really no wonder that people give up on the God of the Bible and invent a different god in their minds.

Why does this happen?

One of the most valuable insights I've heard comes from the powerful writings of John Owen (1616-1683). His book, "On the Mortification of Sin in Believers" has aspects I'm not sure I endorse, but I give a hearty "Amen" to what he says on this particular subject. He writes, of course, in the old 17th-Century style of English, so I'll take the liberty of paraphrasing what he says. Please see the original work if you'd like to read it as it was written. You can read it online free of charge here. (I will put my paraphrase in italics so it will be obvious where it begins and ends.)

Without sincerely and diligently striving for universal obedience, no single perplexing lust can be overcome.

Suppose a man finds any lust to be powerful, strong, and upsetting. It leads him captive, exasperates him, disquiets him, and takes away his peace. He is not able to bear it, so he makes up his mind to fight it. He prays against it, groans under it, sighs to be delivered: but in the meantime, perhaps, in other duties, — in constant communion with God, — in reading, prayer, and meditation, — in other ways that are different from the lust that upsets him, — he is loose and negligent. Such a man cannot expect to have any victory over that one troubling sin.

This is not an unusual circumstance. The Israelites, under a sense of their sin, drew near to God with much diligence and earnestness, with fasting and prayer (See Isa. 58). In verse 2 it says “They seek me daily, and delight to know my ways; they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.” But God rejects all. Their fast is a remedy that will not heal them, and the reason is given in verses 5–7. It is because they were only focused on this one area of obedience. They attended diligently to that, but in others were negligent and careless.

Suppose someone has a “running sore” (which is one Scriptural metaphor for sin) upon him. It's a kind of sore that is caused by poor hygiene, or by other unhealthy activities. Now suppose that he tries every kind of ointment he can think of for that sore, but he doesn't improve his hygiene or the overall care of his body. His ointments will be applied in vain. It's the same for anyone who tries to stop a "bloody ooze" of sin and filth in his soul, and is not equally careful of his overall spiritual health.

One reason for this is that such attempts to conquer a single area of sin are based on a faulty principle, and on an insecure foundation, so failure is inevitable. What true and acceptable principles are needed?

Sin must be hated for its very sinfulness, not only for the discomfort that it causes us. Hatred of sin must be based on the love of Christ in the cross.

Now, clearly the kind of futile efforts described above are based on self-love, not on love for Christ. If you decide to fight sin in this way, why are you fighting it? Because it troubles you, it has taken away your peace, it fills your heart with sorrow, and trouble, and fear; you have no rest because of it. Yes; but, friend, haven't you been neglectful and careless regarding other sins that don't bother you in the same way? These are no less sins and evils than the ones that make you groan. Jesus Christ bled for them also. Why don't you fight them also?

If you hated sin as sin, and hated every evil way, you would care about everything that grieves and troubles the Spirit of God, just as much as you care about the sin that particularly grieves and troubles your own soul. Clearly you are fighting against sin merely because of the discomfort it causes you. If your conscience would settle down and be quiet about it, you wouldn't bother fighting that sin anymore. If it didn't trouble you, you wouldn't trouble it.

Now, can you really believe that God will support such hypocritical endeavors, — that his Spirit will approve of the treachery and falsehood of your spirit? Do you think he'll let you off the hook about the sins that bother you, if you'll only use that liberty to freely pursue other sins which don't bother you -- sins that grieve Him just as much as the other ones do? No! God says, “If this man were to get free from this sin that bothers him, I would never hear from him again; let him wrestle with this, or he will be lost.”
(Paraphrased, emphasis added.)

I hope you read that and really thought about it. If this is the condition of your own soul, please pray hard about it. Ask God to open your eyes to the evilness of sin as He sees it...all sins, not just the ones that particularly trouble your conscience. Ask Him to forgive your lack of love for Him, your love for the sins that don't bother you, and the self-centeredness of your religion. Pray that all of your sins would bother you, and that God would grant you repentance (in other words, that He would give you a new heart that values Christ more than it values anything else, including sin). Pray for a love for Christ that longs to be close to Him and hates the thought of offending Him. Pray to be cleansed not just from particular evils, but from the sinful direction of your soul that does not love Christ above all else.

For some of you this will be your first true prayer for salvation, regardless of what other prayers you may have prayed. Salvation is not mere mental assent to doctrines that every demon knows to be true. Salvation cannot be less than the reorienting of the soul to center on Christ. It may be other things along with that, but it cannot be less than that.

God loves prayers like that. He delights to answer them. He wants nothing more than to see His Son loved, cherished, and adored as He deserves to be. And to the soul who approaches him in this way, He will give forgiveness. He will give Himself. And in Him you will find far more than you have been searching for.

Love. Joy. Peace. Cleansing. Freedom. A home in Heaven awaiting all those who trust that the Son is their very Life.

I pray that you trust Him this way.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"I feel so much closer to God..."

"I feel so much closer to God, now that I don't hate myself."

That (or something along the same lines) has been the declaration of more than one person who has decided to surrender to a sinful lifestyle. It sounds so appealing on the surface, but I hope you will see before we're through that the one who chooses this path has chosen to walk away from the very love that he seeks.

What has been the response of those who have come face to face with the Holiness of God, according to the Bible?

"Now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job. 42:5b-6)

So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."
(Isa 6:5)

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"
(Luke 5:8)

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.
(Rev 1:17a)

These are only a few examples of what happens in the hearts of sinners when their eyes are opened to God's purity and holiness. It is a consistent theme throughout the Bible.

"But I don't like that kind of God," you may protest. "I prefer the gentle Jesus. He's in the Bible too, you know."

Yes, God shows His kindness throughout Scripture, but please think about this: We cannot fully appreciate the kindness and gentleness of God until we see ourselves rightly as "undone" before Him.

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God
(Rom. 11:22).

G. H. Morrison (1866-1928) wrote about this so beautifully:

"We feel the wonder of the gentleness of God when we remember it is conjoined with power. When infinite power lies at the back of it, gentleness is always very moving. There is a gentleness which springs from weakness. Cowardice lies hidden at its roots. It comes from the disinclination to offend and from the desire to be in good standing with everybody. But the marvel of the gentleness of God is that it is not the signature of an interior weakness, but rests upon the bosom of Omnipotence. In a woman we all look for gentleness; it is one of the lustrous diadems of womanhood. In a professional military man we scarcely expect it; it is not the denizen of tented fields. And the Lord is 'a mighty man of war,' subduing, irresistible, almighty, and yet He comes to Israel as the dew. The elder spoke to John of the lion of the tribe of Judah. But when John looked to see the lion, lo! in the midst of the throne there was a lamb. Power was tenderness—the lion was the lamb—-Omnipotence would not break the bruised reed. It is the wonder of the gentleness of God."

Those who would seek to feel close to God by excusing their own sin have tragically denied themselves the precious beauty of God's gentleness!

Oh, don't miss this! His marvelous kindness, goodness, and gentleness come to those who recognize their sin and, like Job, "repent in dust and ashes."

Listen to these sobering words from God, including the words of hope at the end:

When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son. These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes. Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver: whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.
(Psa 50:18-23)

No, God is not some sort of Schizoid man, prone to times of gentleness and then flying into a rage for no reason. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is very consistent. He is "slow to anger and abounding in mercy" (Ps. 103:8), but He is just and must not leave the guilty unpunished (Jer. 46:28). The fact is, God is perfect in all His ways. His anger is perfect, and so is His forgiveness. His justice is perfect, and so is His mercy. His love is perfect, and so is His hatred. For Him to be imperfect in any of these things would make him flawed, and He would not be worthy of our devotion. But this perfect God has made promises that He will keep perfectly, and among those promises are these:

For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
(Isa. 57:15)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1Jn 1:9)

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
(Isa. 1:18)

The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. (Jesus, in John 6:37)

Do not fear to humble yourself in repentance before Him, acknowledging sin and unworthiness. Fear not doing so. Humility is the only way to truly be close to Him, for:

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6)

(Please read about Self-Esteem Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if the thought of humility seems unpleasant to you.)

The true God, the God of the Bible, who is holy and perfect and just and loving and forgiving... THIS God is infinitely worth knowing. In His presence is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). Don't let pride, don't let anything hold you back from Him. It is worth anything and everything, not just to feel closer to Him, but to actually be closer to Him.

(Next: What about those who've prayed for help for years, even decades, before finally giving up and surrendering to sin?)

(Photo by Betsy Markman in Breckenridge, CO)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Was Born This Way

I just heard word of another big name in Christian circles who has "come out" and openly embraced a sinful lifestyle. It is sad to hear the rationalizations that accompany such decisions. We've all heard them, if not from this particular individual, then certainly from others.

"This is the way God made me, and if he made me this way, he won't hate me for it."

"I feel so much closer to God now that I don't hate myself."

How tragic.

I can relate to the pain of unrelenting temptation. I don't struggle with the same exact one that downed this particular man, but I have my own weaknesses and points of struggle. I spent far too much of my life living like "The Romans 7 Man." (In other words, like the man portrayed in Romans chapter 7, living with the desire to do right, but with no power to fight sin.) It's a miserable way to live.

I believe the Romans 7 man was not saved. That was the view of the early church, and it was widely held up until fairly recently in church history. It's beyond the scope of this blog to expound on that, but if you want to hear some excellent sermons on the subject, you'll find some here and here. They certainly convinced me. What's more, looking back on my own "Romans 7 years" is enough to convince me as well. I don't believe I was saved then. I knew a lot of good Biblical stuff, and I had a hunger that showed the Holy Spirit was working on me. I was under conviction, but not yet converted, not yet made new, not yet born again.

If I had embraced the rationalizations I mentioned above, I would still not be born again. They defeat the very purpose of conviction, quench the Holy Spirit, and lessen the holiness of God in our eyes. They are deadly. We need to be in prayer for anyone who is numbing himself with such things. We must feel compassion for them and pray "that they may come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2 Tim. 2:26)

Let's look at the first of these rationalizations in the light of Scripture.

"This is the way God made me, so he won't hate me for being this way." Another version of this excuse is, "I was just born this way, so I can't help it." But what does Scripture say?

First of all, Scripture agrees wholeheartedly with the second statement. You were born this way, and you can't help it. The same is true of every last one of us. We were all born in sin (Ps. 51:5). We are by our very nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). We are born spiritually dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1), and dead people can do nothing to change their condition. It is only God who can make us alive (Eph. 2:1). There is not a single sin in us that we did not inherit from Adam's line. There is nothing special about a certain type of sin that makes it somehow acceptable to God to be "born that way." We are all born liars (and we start proving it at a very early age), but that doesn't make God overlook lying (Rev. 21:8). God hates sin, and all sin is inborn.

"I was born that way and I can't help it" is no excuse. Why? Because God never intended for dead people to change themselves. He intended for the hopelessness of our situation to drive us to Him, our only hope. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing." (John 6:63)

No one will be condemned merely for having been born a sinner. People are condemned because they reject whatever light they are given. "This is the condemnation," Jesus said, "That the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). God's word says that even those who never hear the Gospel are still condemned, because they reject the light given them by their consciences, and reject whatever convicting work the Spirit may do (Rom. 1:18 and following).

Please, please, if anyone reading this is resting in rationalizations, I plead with you to stop. It is far better to feel the discomfort of conviction now, than to feel the wrath of God in eternity.

In future entries we'll discuss the following:
  • What does God's Word say about the other rationalization ("I feel so much closer to God now that I don't hate myself")?
  • What about people who have sought the Lord's help with their sin for years, even decades, before giving up?
  • What kind of help can a person reasonably expect from God?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Friday Fiction: A Monkey's An Uncle

Friday Fiction

I originally wrote this piece as an entry in the FaithWriters weekly challenge, under the topic of "Uncle." This week's Friday Fiction is being hosted over at The Surrendered Scribe, so head over there to read the other entries when you're through with mine.


A Monkey's An Uncle

Matoke finished his third somersault and came to rest in his favorite observation spot. He grabbed a palm branch and waved it a bit, but he didn’t really pay attention to its playful motion. He felt much more interested in The Vipara.

The Vipara came every day. At first they had frightened him, because they often bared their teeth when they looked at him, and sometimes they would jut their forelimbs right in his direction when they did so. It used to make him hide behind his mother, but he was older and braver now. Now he understood that the Transparent Hardness separated him from them. Sometimes he even dared to go right up close to the Transparent Hardness and put his hand on its cool surface, or even to rap on it. The Vipara always rapped back from their side.

Those hairless apes-that-weren’t-apes fascinated him, but Matoke couldn’t sit still for long. Life promised far more fun than he could ever find while plopped on his bottom in the dirt, so he grabbed a thick vine and swung on it. But he never really stopped watching them, even if only out of the corner of his eye. Perhaps he was crazy, but he couldn’t help thinking that THEY actually enjoyed watching HIM.

His preoccupation with them almost cost him, though. He didn’t see the ball of energy hurtling toward him until his arch rival was nearly on top of him.

Matoke leapt off of his vine with a scream. He slapped the ground hard a few times, then threw fistfuls of leaves up in the air.

Kuchekesha had claimed the vine as soon as Matoke abandoned it, and now he grimaced and wagged his head at Matoke’s tantrum.

Matoke screamed again, slapped harder, and threw even more leaves. “Come and get me, Kuchekesha!”

His rival could only take so many challenges. He flung himself down and charged Matoke, barreling into him with a force that sent them both tumbling. They wrestled for a few moments until a flea started to chew on Matoke’s back. He couldn’t reach it, so Kuchekesha found it and ate it for him.

On the other side of the Transparent Hardness, the Vipara made their funny throat sounds and bared their teeth and jutted their forelimbs.

“Why do you think they come and stare at us?” Kuchekesha asked.

“I think they need to learn from us,” Matoke replied. “Babu says they aren’t very smart.” Matoke spotted a flea on his friend’s shoulder and went after it. “What do you suppose happened to all their hair?”

“Why don’t you ask Babu?”

“Why don’t YOU ask Babu? How come you never talk to him?”

“I think he’s a little crazy, but don’t you dare ever tell him I said that!”

“You’re afraid of him!” Matoke taunted.

“Am not!”

“Oh yeah? Then let’s see who gets the closest to him.” Matoke took off running foot-and-knuckle across the ground toward the motionless patriarch in the corner. But despite his bravado, he couldn’t help slowing to a very tentative pace when he got close. Even though he’d talked to Babu before, he wasn’t about to presume upon his good graces.

Kuchekesha followed him, but stayed back a few paces.

Matoke offered his best submissive postures and faces, and finally offered to remove a tick from the old silverback. Babu didn’t reject him, so he dared to speak.

“Babu, I know you have studied the Vipara for all the many years of your life. What do you think happened to their hair?”

“I don’t know.”

Kuchekesha spoke up from behind. “Matoke says you don’t think the Vipara are very smart. Why not?

Babu actually seemed amused. “The others will tell you I’m crazy, but I swear that I have learned to understand much of what they say with their mouths.”

“You think they’re actually communicating?” Matoke asked, wide-eyed.

“Absolutely. And here’s how I know they’re not very smart.” Babu turned to look full at Matoke with a twinkle in his eye.

“They think we’re their uncles!”

Matoke and Kuchekesha howled and rolled with laughter before scampering off to play some tag.

“Do you think Babu’s right?” Kuchekesha asked.

“Well, if he’s wrong, then he’s crazy. If he’s right, then the Vipara are crazy!”

The two playmates charged across boughs and branches, laughing and shouting “Uncle, uncle!”

On the other side of the Transparent Hardness, the Vipara bared their teeth, jutted their forelimbs, and made those funny noises in their throats.

The names in the story were taken from a Swahili-English dictionary. "Matoke" means "Banana." "Kuchekesha" means "Funny." "Babu" means "Grandfather." And "Vipara" (the hairless humans) means "Bald!"

(Photo taken by Betsy Markman at the Denver Zoo, 2003. That's my son, Andrew, in the reflection.)

Click here to see all of my "Friday Fiction" entries!

Another Misunderstood Passage

I wrote a while back about my former misunderstanding of Heb. 12:1. But of course that's far from being the only verse that has ever caused confusion for me. And up until fairly recently I had a serious problem with Luke 17:7-10.

And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'? But will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' "

That was Jesus speaking, by the way.

Ooh, that verse used to make me mad! It felt like Jesus was promising to give me a good solid kick in the teeth the minute I passed through the Pearly Gates. I know there's no way I'll ever be able to stand before God and say, "I did all my duty," so I would be even worse off than the now-toothless servant mentioned above. So much for Heaven being a place to look forward to!

How can God be so patient with people like me? Thank and praise His Name, He is!

Of course such a reaction from God would be the antithesis of what we would expect, based on a biblical understanding of both His character and of Heaven. So then what do we do with this passage?

While I actually came to peace with that passage quite a while ago, a lovely new insight came on Friday by way of a message from a fellow FaithWriter. She had written to tell me of the impact that a certain story had had on her life. Now, when I had written that story, I had had no idea where the plot line had come from. I had felt that God had just given it to me, because it had come so easily and was so different from anything I'd ever thought about before. I had been glad to have something good to enter in the contest.

I thought I knew why I had chosen the character's name, but now I believe that I only knew part of the reason. You see, the main character of that story shared the same first name with the lady who wrote me, and she told me that she felt God had given me that story to write "just for her." She told me a synopsis of her life's story, and it seemed that what I had thought of as "my" story really was her story as well.

So, while I thought I was writing for a contest, and choosing insignificant details like character names out of my own preferences, God was really working behind it all, sculpting the story into a gift for another of His daughters whom I've never met.

As I sat there Friday morning, reading and re-reading that email, I could only feel gratitude washing over me. I hadn't done anything special and yet God had used it, even its seemingly insignificant details, in a wonderful way! And suddenly I was reminded of Luke 17:10 as I found myself thinking, "I'm an unworthy servant. I just did my duty...and look what the Lord made out of it!"

Ohhhh...that's so different, isn't it? There's no kick in the teeth here! And then my mind naturally went back to the Upper Room, where Jesus washed His disciples' feet. Peter protested, because he knew he wasn't worthy of such an honor. Wasn't he feeling the same thing that Jesus told us we would feel in Heaven? Only in Heaven our feelings won't be tainted by sin anymore. There will be no pride muddling anything, no misunderstanding of our Lord. We will behold his stunning, gracious, extravagant grace and will be astonished that it could come to anyone as unworthy as ourselves. And because of the lack of sinful pride, that astonishment will have no sting. It will be pure joy.

Imagine the joy that John the Baptist felt whenever he thought back to the day he baptized the Lord. Yet had he not protested similarly?

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?"
(Mat 3:13-14)

He felt his unworthiness to baptize the Son of God, and he was right to feel it. But the Lord graciously gave him that wonderful privilege anyway. I'm sure that John is still amazed and overjoyed by that fact today, and will continue to feel its joy throughout the ages to come.

Am I just pulling things out of context here? Is there really any Biblical warrant for connecting the "unprofitable servant" statement in Luke 17:10 to the Upper Room experience of Peter?

I'm glad you asked!

Dive into Luke 12:37 with me, and take a good, long soak in amazing grace. This is what first changed my whole view of that misunderstood passage.

Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.

If that doesn't knock your socks off, read it again. If it still doesn't, then check your pulse!

The demanding master of Luke 17 was the typical, expected kind of master. When Jesus presented him to the people for their consideration, they were not surprised to hear a master being portrayed thus. That's why he phrased his questions rhetorically, expecting the people to anticipate the answers for themselves. Of course the master would expect to be waited on first. Everyone knew that.

But what of The Master in Luke 12? Do you see Him there, girding himself with a towel as He did in the Upper Room, and coming to serve us? Do you hear our Lord telling us how outrageously He plans to bless us, far beyond anything we could ever deserve? Think about it...really think about it. If you're a child of God, you will be there, in person, at that Great Feast. And our Lord will come to you personally, look you right in the eye, and with his nail-pierced hands He will wait on you.

Can you imagine any other response than a joyfully astonished, "I am not worthy?"

And the Feast is just the beginning of all that He has planned for us! What a blessed eternity it will be, made all the richer and more beautiful by our souls' perfected humility gazing upon the Risen One and saying, "I am not worthy of all of this wonder, all this joy, all this beauty, all this grace, all this.......!"

Of course the greatest joy will come, not from focusing on our own unworthiness, but from enjoying His limitless worth.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!" And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!" (Rev 5:11-13)

I can't wait to join in that song!

(Photo from Stock.xchng by hhsara

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The World Says I Need Self-Esteem (Part 3)

(Part 3 of a Series)
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

I'm sorry it has taken me a while to get to this post. True, I've been busy, but it's been more than that. The timing just wasn't right, and I couldn't write this yet. I guess there was more of life I needed to experience first.

I needed the good cry that I had this morning.

It all started with sending my precious 10-year-old autistic son to camp this morning. It's not a "special needs" camp. All of the 5th and 6th graders are going. My husband is also going, just to help deal with some of the challenges that may arise for (or because of) our son. But I expect that Phillip will handle a lot on his own. He's fully mainstreamed with "Regular-Ed" kids, only receiving support services on the side.

So there went Phillip, climbing onto the bus with his luggage in tow. Away. Away for three days and two nights. Like all the other kids.

Like all the other kids!

I cried.

Mostly I cried for gratitude at first. Gratitude to God for making this momentous occasion possible. When Phillip first began his descent into Autism right after his second birthday, everything seemed lost. I thought he had died and been replaced by a screaming stranger. There seemed to be no hope for my Phillip. No hope.

Now he's going to camp! He's going to camp! Thank You, LORD!

"Thank You" isn't nearly adequate, but my Lord sees my heart and my tears. He knows.

But there have been other tears today, too. Tears because I can see so clearly how badly and how often I've failed my children, my husband, and my Lord. And yet these tears don't hurt. They feel freeing, cleansing.


Because I'm abandoning the search for self-esteem, and replacing it with the desire for an ever-growing God-esteem.

That's the key, isn't it? God-esteem.

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments. (Ps. 112:1)

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.
(Psa 5:11 )

And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. (Jesus, in John 14:21)

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." (John 14:23)

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God
(Rom 8:28)

whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1Peter 1:8)

The joy and peace that come from truly loving God runs far deeper than any pleasure self-esteem can give. Why? Because joy and peace are only as reliable as their sources. When God is my source, there is no limit to the joy and peace available to me. When I am my own source...well...need I say more?

There's also no risk of falling into self-deluding pride, if loving God becomes paramount. Tears of repentance over sin can flow freely, without any need to sugar-coat anything. I have no image to protect in His eyes. No false front to prop up. He sees all, He knows all. He loves anyway. And I can't help loving Him back.

And what of this God that I am learning to esteem? Is He not worthy? What does He do with this broken self that I present to Him? He accepts, He loves, He heals, He re-creates. He shows Himself more than enough not only for my needs, but also for the needs of the children and the husband whom I have so often failed. I can face the fact that I've failed them all, because I know that He never will.

The more I see of His perfections, the less I am discouraged by my imperfections.

But loving and esteeming God does not lead to a lackadaisical attitude about sin. It cannot!

You who love the LORD, hate evil!
(Ps. 97:10)

The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.
(Prov. 8:13)

Don't we want to be like the One we love? And don't we want to please Him? Love for God cannot wallow in sin. We flawed humans with our imperfect love can (and do) fall to temptation far too often. But it doesn't take long for the muck to start offending our senses. It doesn't take long to keenly feel the pain of separation from our Heavenly Father. We will arise and go back to Him, freely admitting to ourselves and to Him that we're covered in smelly goo, longing for His cleansing, and praying we won't fall again.

Self-esteem grabs a mirror and convinces itself that the goo isn't there. Or if the goo is there, self-esteem says, "I make it look good!" And it will get nasty and hateful toward anyone who doesn't agree with its flattering view of itself.

God-esteem protects us from wallowing. It brings us back, enables us to trust the One to whom we are returning, and gives us joy at being close to Him again. And it frees us to love others in the deepest way possible; the way that wants to share this beautiful God and His love with everyone, demanding no flattery from them in return.

God esteem is precious. Continuously cultivate it. Pray for it. Study the Word and yield to His Spirit until You can't help esteeming and loving Him more.

And pray for me that I will do the same. The Pride Monster has had his claws dug into me so deeply for so long that I know he won't give up without a fight. This morning's momentary, beautiful time of enjoying God will soon give way to soul-bloodying warfare that I can't win without His Spirit. I'll fall many times, but it will be so wonderful to go back to Him just as soon as possible.

God is all-satisfying!

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

(Photo from Stock.xchng by scol22)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Fiction: The Cup

Friday Fiction

This piece sort-of stretches the definition of "fiction." It's a fictionalized account of an actual event, which I originally wrote this past April. When you're through reading this one, drop by Patterings to see the other Friday Fiction entries.

The Cup

When he picked up the cup, it felt heavier than usual in his hands.

Jesus took a few moments just to look around him.

They were all there, all twelve of them. Eleven feeble friends and one viper.

Father, their eyes are still blinded, for so it seems good to you. They must walk some dark paths before they will be ready to see.

Peter, bless him, was tense and troubled. He does not understand what my hour is, but he is determined to keep me from it. Forgive him, Father, for he knows not what he does. Jesus shook his head just a little. In a few hours he’ll lop the ear off of poor Malchus. Thank you, Father, that you have given Malchus to me as well. I will heal his ear, and the day will come when I will heal his soul.

Matthew and Thaddeus talked quietly in between bites of roasted lamb. They reclined at the far end of the table, and they spoke too softly for their voices to reach Jesus’ ears. That, of course, didn’t matter. Jesus knew every word. He had heard the pre-echo of those whispers way back before the beginning, before he had ever spoken the command that flung the stars into space. They are so unwilling to believe what I told them about my death, and about my betrayer rising from their midst. Listen to them turning my words over and around and backwards to try and make them into some sort of parable. Oh Father, how I love them! I grieve for the pain they are about to feel, but I rejoice unspeakably because of what awaits them when they join me in glory.

He smiled just a little and turned his gaze once more.

Thomas sat brooding. Of course he brooded. That was his way. His dark mood had only increased when Jesus had spoken of the betrayal. I see your doubts, Thomas. When I gave you the bread and told you it was my body, broken for you, I saw how your spirit sank. I see your fear of being killed here in Jerusalem. Would you believe me if I told you that I thought of you back when I caused Adam to fall asleep? Adam trusted me completely, of course. But I still thought of you then, and how you would doubt my care for you, and would fear falling into the sleep of death. When Adam awoke, I gave him Eve. When you awake, I will give you Heaven. How little you can imagine what that means!

And there was Philip, helping Nathanael to clean up the mess from his overturned cup. That is so like you, Philip, thinking of others. The Father gave you great faith from the very beginning, and you have always sought to draw others to me. You will draw many more, my friend, many more. But first you will have to have your own time of running away from me. Don’t worry, I have forgiven you already for the desertion that is so soon coming. You will return. I will see to that.

Of course John was right beside Jesus. Thank you, Father, for him. Even now he seeks my heart, though I have had to keep him from perceiving what is coming.

John seemed to sense Jesus’ eyes on him, and he turned.

Jesus smiled at him. Dear John, thank you for taking care of mother. I know how well you will do it. I will see you again, even after my ascension. You, of all my disciples, will see me in my heavenly glory while still on this earth. I will bring Heaven to Patmos for you, and you will bless generations of people by writing down what I show you.

Jesus kept looking around him, studying the faces and hearts of those men he knew so well. James son of Zebedee, Bartholomew, James son of Alphaeus, Andrew, Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James...

And Judas Iscariot.

That cup started to feel just a little heavy again.

This is the one. This is the cup that I will share with my betrayer as the prophets foretold. He settled his gaze on Judas a little longer. I could wish that your heart were as clean as your feet. You allowed me to wash the one, but the other will keep its filth for all of eternity. How terrified you would be if you could see the hellish fiend that I see hovering beside you, just waiting for my nod so that he can enter you! It will be a fitting fate for you, and the time is coming when no mother will name her child Judas, ever again. It is inevitable that the offense will come, for it pleases the Father to bruise me. But woe to you...oh woe to you!

Jesus looked at the cup again.

My own time of woe is coming. There is another cup that I must drink.

And there is also a drink that I must refuse.

Jesus’ heart grew heavier.

Oh Father, give me the grace to refuse it! How I will long for it! How my soul and my flesh will crave its relief! When the women raise that sponge to my lips, and I discover the taste of the sedative on it, oh how hard it will be to turn my face away! But I must, I must. For if I accept its sedation, if I numb my pain, how could I ever relieve those who will follow me in suffering? How could I say that I was tempted just as they are, in every way? And how, if I am robbed of my senses, could I ever show to the world that I do this willingly? How, without the wits to talk, could I speak the blessed promise to the repentant thief, or command John to care for Mother, or fulfill the prophecies of what I would say on that dreadful day? I must let the world hear my agony as you forsake me, I must let them listen as I commend my Spirit into your hands. I must refuse that drink.

And I must accept this one, though I will not drink of it myself. I receive it from your hand to give it to my disciples, and to Judas, and as a memorial throughout all generations.

He raised the cup to call everyone’s attention to it. Upturned faces mirrored sincere but very flawed hearts, except for the one face that masked a shriveled soul about to sell itself to Satan for thirty pieces of silver.

Jesus turned his own face toward Heaven. “I thank you, Father, for this cup and all that it represents. I thank you for your love for me, and for your grace toward these men, though they have no idea what it is that you are giving them, or what is about to befall them. I thank you that your perfect will can never fail. I delight to do your will, oh God.”

He extended the cup toward them. “Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Judas Iscariot, ever the greedy one, reached to take it first.

Jesus let him take it, and drink from it, and pass it on. Then, with divinely joyful sorrow, he gave a slight nod to the Evil One hovering nearby.


This story was inspired in part by a devotional by G. H. Morrison entitled “The Great Refusal: The One Cup Jesus Refused to Drink” (Public Domain).
Scriptural quotes come from the New King James Version, Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Photo from Stock.xchng by mfb1982

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