Drinking The Cup Of The Lord

I went to bed last night and woke up this morning thinking about “drinking the cup of the Lord”. I read the story in Mark when James and John asked Jesus for a place at His right hand in heaven. After some mediation on this subject, I felt that God impressed two truths about drinking from His cup.

 It is a cup of suffering, weakness and sacrifice

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise. And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you. And he said to them, What do you want me to do for you? And they said to him, Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory. Jesus said to them, You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? And they said to him, We are able. And Jesus said to them, The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (mark 10:32-45)

When a person desires to be great in the kingdom of God, Jesus calls them to drink of His cup. This means self-denial in the fullest way. It is a call to suffer, labor and sacrifice for the Kingdom and other believers, even to the point of death. Even if they do not literally die, there is a death to self that must happen. Twice Paul expressed it another way by saying that he was “being poured out as a drink offering” and yet he rejoiced in his sacrifice. He saw his laboring for the kingdom and others to not be in vain.

In the midst of suffering — it is a cup of joy, salvation and satisfaction

 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, You are my Lord;I have no good apart from you. As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;their drink offerings of blood I will not pour outor take their names on my lips. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;in the night also my heart instructs me. (Psalm 16)

The psalmist in this chapter is crying out from a place of weakness and suffering (hence the declaration of “refuge”), yet he realizes that the Lord is his portion and He will satisfy him. He understands that even in the midst of hardship, he is found to be in pleasant places. Imagine that! In the midst of suffering, the psalmist declares it to be like a beautiful vacation. The psalmist declares the goodness of God to give the righteous ones a “beautiful inheritance”, even in the midst of suffering. This is possibly what David was saying in Psalm 23 when he said:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:5-6)

There is something about the power of God lifting us up and satisfying us when we are in the place of weakness (“poor in spirit” via Matthew 5:3,6). I want to drink from this cup in both ways. I desire what Paul talked about:

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8b-11)

I will say that meditating on these things makes taking communion seem totally different and new.

Desiring Mercy To Become My First Reaction

I have been desiring to be merciful and compassionate to people in a greater way recently than I ever have before. I have realized that the Lord desires mercy more than the things we give or “do” for Him. In Matthew 12:7, Jesus speaks to the pharisees and says:

And if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”, you would not have condemned the guiltless.

I am realizing that many times I think I have a right to judge or condemn, in reality, those who are guiltless. I compare my life to others and selfishly and arrogantly look down on them with contempt and pride. I judge their motives and lives thinking that I am somehow better than they are. Although I do none of this on purpose, it is my first and natural reaction.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. – Matthew 5:7

Last christmas, our youth pastor and his wife took all the youth leaders on our annual christmas trip where we ate, had a scavenger hunt (stories to tell on that one) and opened presents. The presents were small things they had bought at a dollar store and wrapped up. The presents weren’t labeled so they told us each to pick a random present, open it and tell everyone what they thought it meant. The presents were to symbolize what God would be focusing on in our lives during that next year. We’ve done this for years and, strange as it sounds, it has a remarkable track record for being true and deeply spiritual. Anyways, when I opened my present, I saw that i had gotten (what the package called) “Lip Leash Lip Gloss”. It was a travel lip gloss container with a mirror on the back. After opening it I harbored a guess what it meant (“I think God’s telling me to watch my words”) but I didn’t know the fullness of the meaning until a few nights ago.

The present represented that God wanted me to “stop judging and start giving mercy to others (deserving or not) in view of my need for mercy”. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus starts out with the Beautitudes (Matthew 5:3-11) and the very first one is:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3

Being “poor in spirit” is simply to realize where you’d be without the mercy and grace of God. It is a realization that you cannot save yourself and you are forever doomed without God intervening into your life. The next step is to mourn that you are living for far less than what God wants for your life (Matthew 5:4). After that happens, when you realize who you are apart from God and you mourn consistently for all the things you do apart from God…true meekness and humility set in (Matthew 5:5). Something comes over you that you realize that there is no judgment or consequence you don’t deserve. That causes a hungering and thirsting for God to start in your life (note: the true realization of weakness always draws us closer to the Sufficient One) and you start desiring God above all else (Matthew 5:6, 6:33) and then because of the hunger and because of the true humility…you are compassionate towards people. You feel for them. You desire mercy for those in the struggle and you pray and long for mercy for those who don’t want to struggle anymore.

In my life recently, I have been more acutely aware of my frailness. It’s not an overexageration of “how terrible I am” but a honest glimpse of who I am in my flesh and without God. This realization (through the Sermon on the Mount process) is now starting to stir up in me compassion and mercy for people. I see other people’s weaknesses, failures, strongholds and issues and I am reminded of my own. This pushes me to pray for them, in the same way as I would cry out for help for myself.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. – Matthew 7:1-2

The beauty of have mercy on others is that you are promised mercy back. If i refain from judging, I will not be judged and if I give mercy to others, Jesus promises mercy and grace for my needs in return. Ever since that night, it seems my world has gotten a lot more frustrating. It seems people are doing all they can to get me to judge them or critize them and I have to admit, my first thoughts and sometimes my first words are harsh and judgmental but then God reminds me of my need for change and mercy and I am overwhelmed with compassion.

Yet that is not enough for me. I am fighting to become a man where my first reaction to offense, frustration and things/people that would try to get me bitter is to give mercy and compassion. I desire that before I ever understand the issue, before an apology comes, before the Lord stops me and reminds me of my weakness…I want to give mercy. That’s what I want God to know me for…that “he desired mercy like I (Jesus) desired mercy”. It’s a fight and a struggle that not fun to the flesh (cause sometimes you really want to lash out) but in the end, it will make me a peacemaker (Matthew 5:8), someone God can trust and entrust power to, to make wrong things right in this world. So until the end of my life and even in the age to come, I desire to be a person of true humility, passion and mercy…cause I know that is what Jesus wants from my life.

Preaching From The Well

during these last few weeks, i have striven and determined to live a life with a  steady morning devotional life filled with studying God’s Word and prayer. ever since i have started, my life has gone fantastically better and one of the main things i have realized is the authority and weight of my words recently. i can feel power and effectiveness when i speak or talk about the things of God. it’s like arrows of fire and passion being shot out of my mouth.

for a long time, the only time i would seriously get in the Word of God was when i had to preach at youth or something. those times were alright but seriously fell short of what God wanted. my devotion life was like drinking a glass of water once a month or so. now, since the change, it’s like i’m speaking, living, preaching, praying and even worshipping from a well. there’s a depth of revelation and authority that i feel myself reaching into whenever i pray or think and speak of God.

it’s good to know that when life gets hard and dry, that i have a source of refreshing and revelation that will sustain me and now that i’m finally tasting this true “living water” in abundance…i don’t ever want to go back to a life with a “glass”-like devotional life.

Mercy: The Beginning Of True Change

“blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied. blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” (matthew 5:3-7)

i’m watching The Call DC 2 with my friend mark today and during the opening lou engle declared that “we don’t need change, we need mercy”. that phrase has really gripped me for a few hours now and i started pondering that statement. it was then that i realized that Jesus said in the sermon of the mount that the first requirement of a true believer is that they understand their spiritual condition without God and mercy; that they are eternally broke without God giving them mercy and that they would mourn and cry out (hunger and thirst) for righteousness because of this fact.

it has been an election year here in america and we have heard about the “need for change” more this year than in any previous election that i’m aware of. there is a massive debate between candidates on how is the better “agent of change” for america, who has the better and newer ideas to turn the nation around.

the problem lies in that we think we can save ourselves. God addressed this issue with me this past week when i was thinking that i should go to certain church members’ houses and give them a “word” of harsh warning of the times and seasons we are entering into. God asked me:

“do you really think you can do more in your flesh than you can do in the place of prayer asking Me to intervene in this situation?”

likewise, we must come to an understanding that there is only one man who can change america…and that man is Jesus Christ. no matter how good our “solution” to fix our problem may be…it will only end in our destruction, like when israel wanted to have a king instead of God. let’s pray that God hears the prayers of His holy church and breaks in to this nation.

we need mercy from the One who can truly bring change.