Friday, March 6, 2020

The Cup

Do you have your special coffee cup? I have one at the hospital where I work and at home. My wife makes sure my local cup is cleaned, which doesn’t usually cross my mind. I don’t seem to mind a brown scummy cup until I go to a meeting with it and don’t want others to see my cup.  So I clean it out.

If this unveiling then you may find what Jesus has to say about cups. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matthew 23:25-26).  This is hard teaching from the Lord. What a clear metaphor of life. Our insides are the soul and spirit. It is also our body into which we might be pouring more than coffee, but also body destroying liquids in excess. Ouch, now God is really getting into our stuff. Yes, cleaning up our insides, body, mind and spirit are essential if we choose to be more like Him. Self-indulgence is a sadly human habit that looks like a dirty coffee cup if we care to look at it. In fact, the more we ask the Holy Spirit for help the dirtier our cup becomes. Now I don’t mean here to get over conscious about cleaning the outside of the cup, but be ever-conscious about asking God to help the Holy Spirit for inner cup cleaning. God does say to be self-disciplined and to purify our hearts, but we need the Spirit within us to actually do it. Do not “grieve” the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). 

So how are you doing on cleaning your cup?  Are you asking for free products or easy step processes to get there?  I think that we all do this at times. It is a human tendency to want the easy way to get there. God would call this tendency “slough.” Ouch, yes lazy is another word for it. Change is hard and even painful; it costs a lot. This brings up a biblical story from Matthew 20 about a petition to Jesus from the mother of the son’s of Zebedee.  She and her sons John and James are close friends and Disciples of Christ, even the inner circle. So asking Jesus if the kids can sit on thrones on the right and left of the Lord in heaven may sound like a reasonable request. But Jesus is perhaps amused. He asks, “You don’t know what you are asking. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’” (Matthew 20:22).  He tells her of the cup of bitter sin and death on the cross without telling her the details. He says that they all will drink from it. Yes, all believers will drink from the cup of suffering.  You may say, no not I. Well then perhaps you are not a true believer. But we will all suffer and be persecuted. Jesus said so many times, are you listening and reading the truth about life in the end times?

I love to read Psalm 23, “The Shepherd’s Psalm.”  The encouragement of walking through the valley of the shadow of death with no fear and God’s protective hand is always an uplifting one. Shadows can’t hurt us, even death. So look up church for your redemption draws near.

While you wait as the world continues to spin downward into oblivion in its immorality, let’s take communion. The “Cup of Blessing” is he oft referenced Christians phrase for the cup of Jesus’s blood. I find that ironical. I see many take this cup with joy and assurance. That is good, but is it realistic. You see, the cup is really the cup of wrath that Jesus took on the cross. The sponge of bitter wine vinegar and myrrh was offered twice to help dull the pain. But He did not take it. Today on communion Sundays around the globe we take the bread and the cup, the body and the blood. Different denominations receive it with different meanings from transubstantiation and consubstantiation to symbolism. You may be familiar with these religious words or not. They tell us that Roman Catholics receive the elements are Jesus’s actual flesh and blood. “Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’” (John 6:53).  Perhaps it is this stark reference that causes them to hold to this teaching. It is hard to grasp for many.  For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me”’  (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).  This sacrament or ordinance of the church done “in remembrance of Me” is sacred and very profound. It is at the center of the Catholic Mass, and vital to all Christian worship. But are we truly getting the significance of the bread and wine taken by our Savior at “The Last Supper?” 

Can you drink the cup? Can you submit and obey God’s commandments to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength? In the Gospel of John, Jesus washes the disciples feet, demonstrating the servant heart we must each have for Him. In serving we must be willing to drink the cup or service even unto death. That is what He is saying. Serving one another is easy as long as I get mine you might say. Or you might have just reacted to this thought saying that you can handle it. No, “You can’t handle it,” as Jack Nicholson, said to Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. No we can’t without God’s help. I hear so often that “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” You know that this paraphrasing of 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation (trial) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).   This is a wonderful verse, but it also requires us to be looking to Jesus’s escape or solution first in our trials or temptation. I for one usually find myself not immediately seeking the Lord in these difficult times. I might be afraid or angry or overwhelmed. What better time to go to God? Well, I bet most of you would say it takes you a while to start praying for help? It is just the way most humans react in trial.  Yes, God will be there, but we often miss him. Have you ever been in a tough situation and forgotten to ask the Lord? Have you ever just kept you seat when someone said, “How about another round?” or told a dirty joke, or undressed a woman with their eyes and told you about it?  For me, the answer is sometimes I even enjoy it. But God does not and He is trying to give you and me a way through or out so you can stand up under it. Get it? Don’t just stand there; go for Jesus and His counsel and escape.

The cup will be very bitter and we cannot drink it without the power of the Holy Spirit of God leading us through the “valley.” May He be our “Valley Guide.”

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts.