Sharing Christ’s Cup

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me…”

Psalm 23:4

This summer, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Greg Harris and his wife, Betsy, while I was taking classes at The Master’s College in California. After speaking to them for only a few minutes, I was struck by how kind and gracious they each were. Only later would I learn about some of the amazing work God has done in the Harrises’ lives through times of great suffering and darkness. Dr. Harris has described some of their story in his book on suffering and the sovereignty of God entitled The Cup and The Glory.    

In the introduction of his book, Dr. Harris describes how a simple lesson he attempted to teach his young daughter, Lauren, would soon be used by God to teach him far more about trust and obedience than he would ever have imagined. When Lauren took some candy from his desk without asking, Dr. Harris required that she return it saying, “Place them both in my hands.” He continues the story:

Little did I realize what I was trying to teach our children would in just a few hours be thrust on Betsy and myself as our heavenly Father would call for the same obedience from us. Having informed those at the Wednesday service of the serious problems in Betsy’s pregnancy, problems discovered only on the previous day, and having been comforted by the love and support of these cherished friends, we moved in a dazed stupor as Betsy unexpectedly went into labor later that very night. As we rushed to the hospital about midnight, we knew the situation was quite grim for the identical twin girls she was carrying. As Lauren’s earlier, my response was quite reluctant. Even at the hospital when we first received the news the babies yet to be born would not live, I still expected deep inside if I gave the twins to God, then He would give them back to me. Until the nurses gently wrapped the first lifeless baby into blankets and carried her away from us, and then repeated the process with the second baby, I somehow believed there was still an outside hope for them. Only after the nurse walked down the hall with our second baby and turned the corner forever out of our sight this side of heaven, did I fully realize this was one of those times when God had closed His hand over what had been placed into it…

Hours earlier I had instructed Lauren how deeply we loved her, and how we desired the best for her. I told her whether or not I gave her the candy she wanted was no indication of our love for her. These words were said probably more for my own benefit than for that of a four-year-old. Once more the Lord brought my own teaching back to me. God’s love for His children is not only stated in Scripture but also ultimately demonstrated in the sacrificial death of His own Son, Jesus. Even more so, God knows firsthand what it was like to stand by and watch the death of His own child—and He could have intervened and stopped it at any moment. God has exhibited His love for us in not only making us His children, but in infinitely countless ways every day of our existence. His love for us—and for our twins—is not contingent on whether we bring the little girls into our home, or God brings them into His.

“Place them both into My hands.”

“We have, Lord, and thank You for taking such good care of them.”

[The Cup and the Glory, pp. 10-11]

Traveling through the valley of the shadow and then the wilderness for several years after that tragic event, Dr. Harris gained a great deal of wisdom which he has graciously shared in The Cup and the Glory. In the following video, Dr. Harris explains more about the purpose and message of this powerful book.

Photo: Konrad Mostert

Think

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Mark 12:30

This new book by John Piper sounds really good. There are many things that the church today is neglecting; teaching believers to think biblically is high on the list.

Piper urges us to think for the glory of God. He demonstrates from Scripture that glorifying God with our minds and hearts is not either-or, but both-and. Thinking carefully about God fuels passion and affections for God. Likewise, Christ-exalting emotion leads to disciplined thinking.

The Cleansing Power of Dirty Work

“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 10:43-45

When I was young, my sister and I loved to sing together. One of the songs we sang repeatedly was called “Make Me a Servant.” I remember singing these simple lyrics and meaning them with all of my little heart:

Make me a servant
Humble and meek
Lord let me lift up those who are weak
And may the prayers of my heart always be
Make me a servant
Make me a servant
Make me a servant today

As I thought about the topic of servanthood during a reading assignment today, I realized that I don’t pray and ask the Lord to make me a servant nearly so often as I once did. The following excerpt from the book, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp challenged me to once again make the humble spirit of servanthood the sincere prayer of my heart:  

If our relationships are going to produce Christlike character in us and if Christian community is going to flourish, it is going to take lots of people who relish being demoted in the eyes of the world. Imagine human beings who naturally want position, power, and recognition being transformed into people who gladly throw off self-glory and self-love to be servants in the image of Jesus. This is what will turn average relationships into something glorious. Serving others is a simple way of consolidating all the Bible’s “one another” passages under one big idea. When we serve one another, we carry one another’s burdens in practical ways. We get our hands dirty as we come alongside people and pay attention to the details of their lives. If our professed commitment to Jesus does not lead us to resemble him in our actions, then we are mocking him and not representing him accurately to the world.

When you think about your relationships, how many of them ultimately revolve around making sure your concerns are heard and your self-defined “needs” are met? Start with those you love the most. I am married and have four children, and most of the time I am committed to thinking about how they can make my life more fulfilling. I know this is true because of how easily I get irritated when I have to give up personal comfort to serve them. This is with people I say I love; I haven’t even begun to think about the difficult people. And let’s not even bring up our enemies! Do you see this in yourself? This is the first step to becoming a servant. You have to see how much of a servant you aren’t before you can start to become one. That is the abiding irony of the Christian life. Up is down, life is death, and power is expressed in serving.

[Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, p. 119]

Related Post: From Mess to Masterpiece

Illustration: Amy Burton

Seeing Clearly through the Darkness

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
   but now my eye sees you…”

Job 42:5

Released to the public less than two weeks ago, Mary Beth Chapman’s first book is already reaching a wide audience. Yesterday on Twitter, Mary Beth’s husband Steven Curtis Chapman said, “Amazing news received today…my bride’s book Choosing To See has the #16 spot on New York Times Best Seller list this week. Wow! Humbled.”

In the following excerpt from Choosing to See and the video below, Mary Beth talks openly about the life she never planned to live, the book she never planned to write, and the God at the center of it all:  

So here I am, putting down these words one by one, because God has surprised me over the long days since Maria went to heaven. I have come face to face with evil and what part it plays in our lives, past, present, and future. I am realizing, though, that God is God, and He is purposeful in destroying what evil intends for harm. He is surprising me in good ways beyond what can be measured on this earth! I am living what I once only read in Genesis 50:20-21, where Joseph tells his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children…”

…The truth is, I was born with a plan. I wanted life to be safe and predictable. My plan was to marry someone with a nice nine-to-five schedule and have a tidy, organized life—everything under control.

Absolutely none of that came true!

And if it had—if I had lived the life I thought I wanted—I know I wouldn’t have experienced the grace or the miracles of God in the way that I have. What I’ve found is that it’s in the most unlikely times and places of hurt and chaos that God gives us a profound sense of His presence and the real light of His hope in the dark places.

So this book isn’t as much about me and Steven, as broken and crazy as we are. It’s about God…and how He can comfort, carry, and change us on our journey, no matter how hard it is.

[Choosing to See, pp. 24-25]

Visit Mary Beth’s blog HERE.

Related Post: The Chapmans–Choosing to SEE

The Joys of Knowing & Being Known

“But you, O LORD, know me…”

Jeremiah 12:3

When I first began reading J.I. Packer’s classic, Knowing God, a few years ago, I quickly discovered I needed a notebook at my side to record the many profound thoughts that encouraged my heart while reading. The following excerpt is full of beautiful truths about God’s amazing love for us: 

What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it–the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort–the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates–in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.

There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that he sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow humans do not see (and am I glad!), and that he sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, he wants me as his friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given his Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose. We cannot work these thoughts out here, but merely to mention them is enough to show how much it means to know not merely that we know God, but that he knows us.

[Knowing God, pp. 41-42]

Photo: leovdworp