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I wonder…what was in that cup?

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Of all the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, there is one that leaps out at me more than all the others. Perhaps it is because of the sheer magnitude of what is about to happen to him. Maybe it’s the fact that the humanity of Jesus is front and center.

Whatever the reason, there in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus uttered a statement that for over two thousand years has been studied, preached about, and been the source of countless debates.

As the hour of His death approaches, Jesus does what he has always done for the past three and a half years. When he feels he needs encouragement and strengthening, he withdraws from his disciples and begins to pray to His Father.

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.   Luke 22:41-43 emphasis mine

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me” is the anguished cry from Jesus. We understand, of course, that the cup that Jesus was referring to was the impending scourging of His Body and eventual crucifixion.

While I am not a scholar or a theologian, I believe that there was far more to this cup then we may suspect. So, with that in mind I ask that you allow me, an ordinary, simple man that loves God, to share with you what I believe was in that cup.

Fear…yes, there was fear in that cup. Jesus had no doubt seen many crucifixions. After all, it was a preferred method of execution by the Romans, one reserved for slaves and the worst of the worst criminals. So common was crucifixion in those days that it hardly drew the attention of the masses. [1]

Rejection…Jesus had already experienced the rejection of His disciples. As gallant as they may have tried to appear on the surface, when it came down to a choice of whether to identify with Christ, and thus risk death, or  flee to safety, all of them chose the latter. Add to this the weight of scripture that refers to him as a man despised and rejected, a man acquainted with grief, and you can begin to get a sense of the magnitude of rejection he felt. [2]

Humiliation…There were many ways the Romans could have chosen to kill Jesus, yet the scriptures foretold that He would be crucified. Crucifixion was a humiliating way to die. Unlike the popular paintings we are all familiar with, the ones that for modesty’s sake depict Christ partially clothed, the fact is that Jesus hung on that cross completely naked. Beaten, bleeding, forsaken, and now humiliated before his family and a multitude of mockers. [3]

Suffering…The Romans chose crucifixion as a means of inflicting the most amount of pain and punishment possible on a human being. Crucifixion was a slow, agonizing, and tortuous method of execution typically reserved for the most violent of criminals. Though modern medical science has attempted to describe in accurate detail what happens to a person who is crucified, our minds struggle to grasp the horror of such barbarity. [4]

Darkness

The gospel of Mark tells us that it was the “third hour” when Jesus was crucified. A day began at six o’clock, so it would have been nine o’clock in the morning when this took place. [5]

For three long, tortuous hours Jesus endured the agony of the cross. The taunts and jeers of the crowd, the insults, the mocking. He endured it all for three hours. Then, something happened that had never happened before.

From the sixth hour [noon] until the ninth hour [3:00 PM], darkness came over all the land. (Matthew 27:45)

This wasn’t a solar eclipse, as some have tried to explain. No solar eclipse lasts for three hours! It was if God Himself suddenly cast the world into darkness.

Separation…Darkness had settled over the earth. Many believe that this is the moment when God looked away from His Son. Because Jesus became sin for all of mankind, their thinking is that because God is Holy, He cannot look upon sin and therefore was forced to look away.

While I understand this train of thought, I think there’s was another reason.

Eons before God ever created man and placed him in the garden, sin was present in the form of rebellion against God. The angel Lucifer had permitted pride to enter his heart, and he decided that he would be as God. [6]

From that moment in time God has had to look upon sin, and there has never been a moment since that He hasn’t been looking upon sin. From the fall of man in the garden to the sins you and I committed today, God has looked upon sin.

If He were not able to look upon sin, as the common thought is, why then did God not turn away from you and I while we were still sinners? How is it that He looked to us instead of away from us, if it is true that He cannot look upon sin?

The answer is obvious, isn’t it? The fact is that God can and does look upon sin. He never looks away from us because of our sins, just as He never looked away from Jesus because he had become sin for all of mankind.

Why then, did God look away from Jesus while he was on the cross? It is because Jesus had to die completely alone. With no support from his disciples or family members, and especially not from his Heavenly Father.

As impossible as that sounds and as hard as it is to believe, Jesus was alone on that cross. He had to be, there was no other way for Him to bear our sins except that He did it all alone. Being made the scapegoat meant going it alone.

It is important to remind ourselves that God never stopped loving his Son. On the contrary, Jesus said “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. (John 10:17). How could his Father cease to love him while he was willingly laying down his life? How could any father do such a thing?

No, the Father did not stop loving the Son during those three long hours of darkness. But for Jesus to bear the sins of the whole world alone, He had to be separated from this love.

Think of this: Jesus is now in a place where he has never been: the love that the Father and Son have enjoyed for all eternity, is now for the very first time beyond his grasp.

And on that cross, the sinless Son of God comes face to face with the sheer terror of this separation. This causes him to cry out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”? Matthew 27:46

You see…God had to look away from his only Son, because had he not done so, He would have had to intervene. God did not look away because He couldn’t look upon sin. He looked away because if he hadn’t, He would have taken his Son off that cross in order to stop his suffering.

Just as any loving father would do.

And you and I, indeed all of mankind, would have been lost for eternity. God looked away from his suffering Son so that you and I could escape the punishment our sins demanded. He looked away from his only son and looked to you and me!

Which brings me to the final thing found in the Cup of Gethsemane. You must look hard to see it. You must look past the fear, the humiliation, the darkness and the separation to find it.

It’s cloudy at first, but the more you look at it begins to come into focus. Finally, you realize that what you are staring at is your own image. There, in the bottom of that cup lies a portrait of you.

When it was all said and done, it was your image that Jesus saw in that awful cup. And when He saw you, nothing could stop him from fulfilling His destiny to die for you on that Cross. When He saw you there in that cup, there was no turning back.

I am so thankful that Jesus Christ would die in my place on that cross. The Hell I deserved He himself willingly endured on the cross.

Good Friday and Easter mean redemption has been made possible through the blood of the spotless, sinless Lamb of God. My prayer is that all of us will take some time to reflect upon the enormity of such a sacrifice.

God bless you all,

Ron

 

[1] The history and pathology of crucifixion:   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14750495

[2] Matthew 26:56   But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.

Isaiah 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefand we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

[3] Psalm 22:7,8   All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,  He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

[3] Psalm 22:16   For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

[4]The history and pathology of crucifixion:   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14750495

[5] Mark 15:25 And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

[6] Isaiah 14:12-15….How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Gift

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Reblogged this from Bill Sweeny’s “Unshakable Hope” blog. Please visit his site and discover for yourself how God can sustain us in the most trying of circumstances.

Unshakable Hope

Mary and our daughters, Lauren and Leah, have told me for years that I am “the most difficult person to buy Christmas gifts for.” The reason for this is because, in a sense, I am like the man who has everything – I need very little, materially, anyways.

Twenty-two years ago, before ALS invaded my body, I was easy to buy gifts for. If Mary and the girls couldn’t think of anything else, anything creative, that is, they’d just get me a necktie, golf balls, or maybe a some of my favorite snacks. But now that ALS has taken away my ability to work, golf and eat, the old default gifts are no longer an option.

Even before ALS changed our lives, and our finances, Mary and I never spent a lot of money buying each other Christmas gifts. She found a 50% off sale on men’s clothing earlier this…

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The Glory of the Lord has departed

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Ichabod

What a strange word, and an even stranger name for a child.

Yet that is what a dying mother named her child upon hearing the tragic news that both her husband and father-in-law were dead, and that the Ark of God had been taken from Israel. 

While you can read all about this heart wrenching episode in Israel’s history in the 4th chapter of 1st Samuel, here is an excerpt that tells how it came to be that a distraught mother named her child Ichabod.

19 Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, due to be delivered; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and gave birth, for her labor pains came upon her.

20 And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not fear, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer, nor did she regard it.

21 Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband.

22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”

This Ark of God is the very same Ark of the Covenant that went before Israel as they sojourned in the wilderness. Inside of it were the two stone tablets that contained God’s handwritten Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod that budded, and a pot of manna.

To Israel, this Ark represented the very presence of God in their midst, and it was a most Holy possession to them. To have lost the ark was to them the same thing as losing God, hence the reference to “the Glory has departed from Israel”.

As if losing the priest and both his sons in one day weren’t enough, the loss of the Ark had a profound impact upon the nation of Israel. When it was captured by the Philistines, along with it went Israel’s hope, strength, and courage. In short, the departure of the Ark negatively affected an entire nation.

From where I sit, I see an amazing parallel emerging right before our eyes. The world at large today, and in particular America, is suffering the same effects as Israel because in our world “the Glory of the Lord has departed”.

Or perhaps the sincerer assessment would be to acknowledge that the world has departed from God, believing it has found life without Him to be “our best life now”.

Whether through the crushing methodologies of oppressive regimes, or willful, deliberate acts of spiritual abandonment committed by the masses, it is a fair statement to say that the majority of people neither want or know God any longer.

To be sure, we have fabricated an image of God in our minds, one that we have created to serve us at our whim, to pour money into our accounts, to be at our beck and call when trouble arises, only to be shelved until the next crisis.

By and large however, we have abandoned our spiritual birthright and heritage because it is not the God of the Bible that we desire.

In our churches we no longer expect or want God to show up in our midst. For Him to do so would require us to humble ourselves and repent of our transgressions, and that does not compute with a people who only want God on their terms.

Deliberate or not, and I believe it is, we have effectively “engineered” God out of the church. Disguised as the ritualistic order of worship, we carefully plan our church services down to the most minute of details, thus ensuring that even if the Almighty should desire to come down and deal with our hearts, there has been no time allotted for Him to do so.

For many, there is no expectation of going to the house of God in order to meet with Him there. Instead, we go out of a sense of duty, or because we’ve been taught that it’s the “right thing to do”.

Instead of meeting with Him there, we are sadly content to sit and listen to a nice, ‘easy on the ears and conscious’ story about Him! In short, we have no intention of having an encounter with the living God!

This is the result of “the Glory of the lord has departed”.

The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?   Jer. 5:31   emphasis mine

Your experiences are probably different than mine, however I have observed a peculiar phenomenon over these past four decades of my walk with God. That is that when man demonstrates a lack of zeal for God, his word, or his presence, God will not force himself upon them.

His Glory departs, leaving them to go about their religion without Him. In His absence is a cold, indifferent, faithless man-centered organization comprised of dead men’s bones. Good for nothing, entrapping men in its clutches, enslaving them in the bondage of religiosity.

Herein is the real tragedy of all of this: it was never intended to be this way!

Jesus taught that “whom the Son sets free is free indeed”, yet by our own actions we have established that we are not content to be free. Instead of freedom, we long to be chained to the same mistakes of those who long ago learned that “without Me, you can do nothing”. John 8:36, 15:5

As I look around this nation, am I the only one who mourns over what was, and what might have been? My soul is grieved over what we have done to the God who loved us enough to sacrifice His only Son for our sins!

For all of this however, I am convinced that all hope is not lost.

Nations will fall, as they always have when they have abandoned the God of heaven. Nevertheless, as He did in days long gone, I believe God has reserved to himself a remnant that are committed to Him no matter how difficult life becomes.

“Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”  1st Kings 19:18

My hope is in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone will I place my trust. I look to no party or person to give me hope for a better future. That ship has sailed, I am sad to say.

Only God can provide real hope for His children, and I intend to cling to His glorious  hope for the rest of my days.

My prayer is that His Glory never departs from you.

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

What would you do…

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My wife recently told me about a question that she had either heard or read someplace:

What would you do if tomorrow you woke up to realize that the only possessions you still had were those that you had given thanks for today?

Thoughts?

 

He Thought of Us

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We had a wonderful service this morning, and I just had to share the song my wife sang right before we served communion.

While I do not know the writer of this song, whoever wrote it was most certainly inspired to do so. The lyrics are piercing and paint a picture of the final hours of Jesus on earth in a very personal manner.

I pray it touches your heart as much as it did mine. I am admittedly biased, but I thought my wife delivered this song in a way that touched a lot of people. For sure, I wasn’t the only one in the service who had to wipe away a few tears.

Her song starts at around the 11:20 mark if you wish to FF to it.

Ron

You Thought of Us

 

Why people can’t fix people

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The recent slaughter of innocent concert goers in Las Vegas has the nation clamoring, once again, for some type of gun control in an attempt to eliminate these horrific mass murders once and for all.

And once again, we choose to ignore the fact that people are making the choice to kill and injure defenseless people for reasons that any rational person could not begin to understand.

But we know that guns must be the problem, or so we are told. We evidently have a behavioral problem when it comes to guns, therefore in order to change this behavior we must control guns.

Controlling guns = elimination of the problem. Or so we are told.

For the record, I am convinced that guns are not the problem in America.

I am convinced that people who reject the counsel of God are the problem in America.

Rather than humble our hearts before the Almighty, humanity has chosen to go another way. God and His rule has been supplanted by His very creation, who has deemed God as no longer relevant in a cultured society.

To understand what is happening in America and the rest of the world does not require the IQ of a rocket scientist. It is actually 100% predictable, and should cause us to drop to our knees in prayer because the Bible declares that evil men will only become more evil (Matt. 24:12).

If that doesn’t cause concern to rise within you, please check your pulse.

We have blinders on, and we are terrified of the Godless monster, aka our “utopian society” that we have created. This monster is out of control, and he has an insatiable appetite for destruction.

The terrifying truth is that we are part of a society that is on the verge of collapse.

Have we not noticed that after every mass shooting or similar act of terror, celebrities and politicians come out of the woodwork calling for more laws, more restraints, more rules?

More control. More failed attempts at people fixing people.

Anything that is, except for a return to God.

The founding father’s understood that if our society abandoned the God of the Bible, that we would in effect seal our own destiny.

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. – John Adams

This is, in essence, why so many believe that America must rewrite it’s Constitution. It’s much easier to create new laws based upon man’s ideology than to have to humble ourselves before God.

As I’ve said before, America has a God problem. As in “how do we make Him go away”?

Americans are angry, and angry people are irrational. Instead of looking to guns as a scapegoat, perhaps we should call for a national day of repentance instead. I have to believe that an honest, inward search of our hearts would reveal much that we need to repent of. And guns would likely not make anyone’s top ten list!

Imagine what this nation would be like if it once again respected God and His word.

Now, there’s a utopian society for you…

If people could fix people, there would have been no need for Jesus to come and offer Himself as the ultimate sacrifice required to redeem man.

But He did come, and He is still calling people to come to Him.

He remains the one and only fix for broken people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could You Use a Little Good News Today?

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I’ve been thinking of something the Apostle Paul said to the church at Corinth,and how best to apply it to our lives today.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:31,35,38-39
Someone needs to hear that whatever you are going through,whatever has happened to you, no matter how hopeless the situation seems, nothing is so terrible that it can separate you from the love of God.
He is right there with you, in the midst of it all, a very present help in the time of trouble.
Be strengthened this day, in Jesus name.

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