Monday, April 18, 2011

The Fourth Cup

Luke 20:14-20 "When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.' After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, 'Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.' And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."

After his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus began to have some confrontations with the religious leaders during which, they began to plot his death. He also experienced some teachable moments with the disciples as he neared the end of his life and ministry on earth. As time grew short, they came together to celebrate what would be their last earthly Passover.

During a traditional Passover feast, four cups of wine are drunk and each cup represents one of the four "I Will" statements God made to the Israelites in Exodus 6:6-7:
  • I will take you out of Egypt
  • I will deliver you from bondage
  • I will redeem you
  • I will take you as my own people
The first two cups were drunk prior to the meal, so in verse 20 when Jesus says after the meal, "THIS cup...", he was telling them that the third cup of redemption was the cup of the new covenant that was made in his blood. In both the Luke account and the Mathew 26 account, Jesus declines to drink again. He says he will never drink of the vine again until he comes into his kingdom. He does not drink the fourth cup of the Passover - the cup of ingathering.

One day there will be a wedding...and in the tradition of all good Jewish weddings, it will have three parts. First, the contract. The cup of redemption signified the New Covenant or Contract sealed with the blood of Christ. Secondly, the groom will come to collect his bride. What a day when Christ returns for his bride - the church - US! Lastly, there is a feast. In Revelation 19, John describes a scene of celebrants gathering for a wedding, the bride preparing herself, and the invitation is issued. In Revelation 19:17 an angel stands before the multitudes and beckons, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God."

Perhaps Jesus is waiting to drink that last cup of wine - the cup of ingathering - when he gathers his bride to his home. Perhaps, he is waiting to drink it with us...

"Dear Jesus, As we meditate on the sacrifice you made for us during this holiest of weeks, may we also remember that this week was only a beginning. Help us always to await your return with anticipation. May we always be ready."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Grace Greater Than Sin

Ephesians 2:4-5 "But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved."

Today was Palm Sunday - the day when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowds around him. In just a few short hours, the scene would change dramatically and by the end of the week, He would be dead. As we move through the holy week prior to Easter, we need to look introspectively at why Jesus did what He did. I think we know all the pat answers, but do we really realize what put Him on that cross?

Did you know that your sin nailed Jesus to the cross just as surely as that of Hitler, or Nero, or Osama bin Laden? There are no degrees of sin with God and Romans tells us clearly that all have sinned and come short of His glory.

As we have been reading the Bible through since January, most of us have finished Leviticus and Numbers and are plowing through Deuteronomy. Although reading the law is tedious, it serves the purpose of showing us how completely inadequate we are to meet God's requirements on our own. Hebrews 12: 18-21 gives a frightening account of Moses on Mt Sinai receiving the law. He came down "trembling with fear".

In verse 22 of that chapter, though, the writer tells us that we come to approach a different mountain. We come to Mount Zion where angels are in "joyful assembly". Why the difference? Because the cross stands in between. God's grace in the death of Jesus Christ enables us to "boldly approach the throne".

The thing is - I think we take that privilege for granted. I believe we have made God into our friend and we have forgotten His absolute holiness. Until we truly understand the enormity of our sin, we will never really get the magnitude of God's grace. My Sunday School material this week, encouraged us to spend time meditating on exactly that. So I will encourage you - Spend time meditating on our sin, what it caused and His grace and what it has accomplished then thank and worship Him for that which we will celebrate this Easter season.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Lord Has Helped Us

I Samuel 7:12 "Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far has the Lord helped us'."

The activity in this verse took place after a couple of significant events in the life of Israel. First, the Ark of the Covenant had been captured for a time by the Philistines and it had been returned to them. Then, about 20 years later, the Philistines were gathering to attack the Israelites. I love that in verse 10 it says that the Lord thundered loudly before the Philistines and scared them so badly that the Israelites defeated them without incident. God helped them.

Has something been taken from you? Doesn't have to be a material possession. Maybe its your self confidence, maybe its a relationship that needs to be restored, maybe you have lost something materially. God will help you. Do you feel that the enemy is attacking? Are you so scared of something that you can't move? God will help you.

God has already helped us. During the Passover season, Jewish celebrants have a special word. "Dayenu" - Hebrew for 'it would have been enough'. As they recount each time God delivered the nation from a plague or from Egypt, they say 'Dayenu' - it would have been enough. Even if God had delivered them from only one plague or one attack and never did another thing for them, it was enough. Do you know what God has done for you?

This is one of those scriptures that makes me sad that we don't sing a lot of traditional hymns anymore. Below are the words to the second verse of  "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing":

'Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither by thy help I've come;
And, I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.' (Robert Robertson)

The songwriter says, "I am where I am because God helped me and if God helps me some more I'll get home. I was lost out there in sin, but Jesus rescued me from the danger of hell by shedding his precious blood." Yes, God has helped us - and if He never did another thing but make the way of our salvation - it is enough.

The Ebenezer was a stone of remembrance. May we never for get what Christ has done for us.

"Dear Jesus, Thank you for helping us - out of our sin and out of eternity in hell. Thank you that if you never did another thing for us it would be enough, but you want to do so much more. Help us to never forget all that you have given to us."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Fragrance Are You?

2 Corinthians 2:14 "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him."

Do you have a favorite fragrance that you like to wear? Perhaps you have a "signature scent" - one that friends and family recognize without even seeing you. Maybe you have a memory that is tied to a particular fragrance..the smell of a loved one who rocked you as a child, the smell of a favorite dish cooking that reminds you of family gatherings, or maybe even the scent of a certain flower that tells you spring has arrived.

In ancient Rome, when a rival was defeated, the kings would display their spoils of war to the public along with the burning of much incense.To those who were in the "triumphal procession" the incense represented  the smell of victory.

What kind of "signature scent" are you wearing for Christ? Paul says that the aroma of Christ should be spreading to the world through us. Only when we allow Christ to have victory over the sin in our lives and allow Him to live through us do we begin to "smell" like Him. Can others smell the sweet incense of victory in your life? When people see you coming can they "smell Jesus on you" before you even reach them?

"Dear Jesus, Please take free reign in my life so that I may participate in Your triumphal procession. Help me to be so close to you that others can "smell me coming". Thank You that we can have victory in You."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Revelation Song

Today, I have little of my own to say. Over the past week, there has been a song that I can't get out of my head. Mainly, because three little girls kept singing it! It seems my daughter in law has a CD with "Revelation Song" on it and my granddaughters have decided it is one of their favorite songs - so they sang it this past week over and over...and over...and over. Tonight, as I thought about the scripture the song was derived from I realized, that is exactly what the angels aroung the throne were doing - singing His praise over and over again. The words to the song are from the book of Revelation. The title alone implies that God was revealing something about Himself to us. I'm just not sure we really get it...His holiness...His majesty...His glory. The rest of today's entry will be song lyrics and scripture. I would encourage you to meditate on the characteristics of God revealed in them and worship Him for who He is.

"Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come.
With all creation I sing praise to the King of Kings
You are my everything - and I will adore You."     Revelation Song

"Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up you ancient doors,
that the King of Glory may come in.
Who is this King of Glory?
The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
Lift them up, you ancient doors,
That the King of Glory may come in.
Who is He this King of Glory - the Lord Almighty
                      He is the King of Glory"       Psalm 24:7-10

"Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come." Rev. 4:8

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being." Rev. 4:11

"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Rev. 5:12

"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever!" Rev. 4:13

"The four living creatures said, 'Amen' and the elders fell down and worshipped." Rev. 4::14

Dear Lord - Give us such a revelation of Yourself today that there is nothing left for us to say but "Amen" and all we can do is fall down and worship. Thank You, Jesus.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Childlike Faith

Luke 10:21 "At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said 'I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed it to little children. Yes, Father, this was for Your good pleasure.'"

How often does God reveal Himself to us and we just think it seems too simple? We think there must be some hidden message, a deeper meaning. Sometimes, we make our faith too complicated. We think we are being "wise and learned" when we over analyze every detail, but Jesus said more than once that we needed to come to Him as children.

This past week, while we were vacationing together, my daughter in law asked my 4 year old granddaughter if she knew what sin was. "Yes", she replied, "It's when you do something bad. It's what the devil wants you to do because he wants to steal your prize."

This was the 4 year old version of John 10:10a: "The thief comes to STEAL, and to kill and to destroy..." Jesus finished this statement on a positive note by telling us that He came so that we could "have life and have it more abundantly."

How do we get so cynical? Why can't we come to Him in childlike faith? Why are we so afraid that by completely surrendering to Him, we are missing out on something? Jesus came to gave us a full and abundant life - starting now not just when we die. Every time we resist Him, every time we are disobedient, every time we sin, we let Satan steal our prize. We either let him steal our eternity with Christ or, if he can't have that, we let him steal our abundant life on earth.

Jesus has already done more than He had to by dying for our sin. Even so, He wants to give us "exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or imagine" (Eph 3:20). Why don't we just let Him?

"Dear Jesus, Help us come to You with complete trust - that simple, childlike faith that believes You only want our very best. Forgive us for holding back - something You never did. Thank You for the gift of abundant life."