Joy And Shame, Cross And Throne 

“who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the righthand of God’s throne.”  Hebrews 12:2

The Christian life is to be a life of joy. Yet the living of this life brings circumstances that are less than joyful and many times are downright depressing. How do we find joy in this turmoil? And how do we maintain it? Looking to Jesus and learning from our great cloud of witnesses should help us.

who for the joy that lay before Him

Jesus had a mission to bring glory to the Father by dying on the cross for us. His mission entailed leaving the glories of heaven for the cruel, crude realities of earth. He was misunderstood and misrepresented, and eventually mocked, beaten, whipped, and crucified. Yet these circumstances contained joy. How?

Jesus’ joy came from bringing glory to the Heavenly Father not in circumstantial comfort or advancement. Jesus’ joy was rooted in the eternal not the temporal. Jesus’ joy focused on spiritual realities not fleshy remedies. Jesus’ joy was about His relationship with the Heavenly Father and the opportunity to bring us into that.

Joy is what we delight in or take pleasure in. Sadly, most of us only know joy in worldly things. When life goes right, feels good, and works out for us then we feel joy; but we miss the greater joy and the bigger picture 

The bigger picture is God’s glory. We have reduced God to an impersonal force or some superhuman being who is at our beck and call or an irrelevant religious object, but God is not to be treated like that. God has created us and the universe we live in. God has loved us with a deep and sacrificial love. God desires our friendship, so much, that He has communicated His ways and provided a way to Him. God is far beyond our comprehension yet He has revealed Himself in ways we can understand. 

God is what our life is all about. Knowing God should bring us joy and knowing that He has a plan to make us more like Him so that we can live with Him should make us ecstatic. This life is where God is doing this, making us more like Him through our experiences. 

endured a cross

Jesus went to the cross with all of its pain and terror. He did this with the joy of what would come from it. He did it to reconcile us to Him. Like a mother struggles through the pain of labor for the joy of holding her baby, we can struggle through the “crosses” of this life for the joy of being nearer to God.

despised the shame

Jesus thought less of the curse, other’s opinions, or cultural taboo than the glory of our salvation. Galatians 3:13 speaks of the curse of hanging on a tree… Jesus did that. Why? Jesus “despised” or “thought less of” what shame he would experience in comparison to glorifying His Heavenly Father. Many times we highly value the shame or taboo over obedience to God and in doing so, we despise God and His love.
Think of the “shames” or ridicule that we put greater value on than obedience and boldness for the gospel…

Jesus faced greater shame than we will ever know but always kept God’s glory greater than that shame. 

has sat down at the righthand of God’s throne

This should bring to mind the word RESTORATION. Jesus was restored to:

His rightful place in heaven

His relationship with the Father 

His completed work to restore us to God 
Jesus did what He did to do a specific work…

1.  He pleased the Heavenly Father 

2. He worked out the way for our salvation 

3. He brought restoration 

We must first receive and believe this then we can follow His example…

1. Live in joy by living to please the Heavenly Father 

2. Live in joy by sharing the gospel message with others

3. Live in joy by hoping in our day of complete restoration or glorification 

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”    Romans 8:18-23


God Likes Big “BUTs” and Cannot Lie…

Read: Psalm 22


Trouble will come! It may seem that if something bad can happen then it most likely will. Life is filled with pitfalls of pain- loss of health, loss of jobs, loss of love, loss of control, loss of hope, loss of direction, and loss of passion. The pressures of life will push us down and cause us to wonder, where is God and what is He up to?

David felt these pressures of life and cried out to God. He asked God

Why have you forsaken me? (1)

Why are you so far from my deliverance…? (1)

Why do you not answer? (2)

David charged God of forsaking him, being far away, and not answering him. David cried out and was restless because what he sought from God seemed lost, hidden, and silent. David did not stop there BUT pressed on to find God beyond all the confusion and quiet. What we see in this psalm is an example of the “waw adversative,” where the psalmist shifts gears from pity and pain to hope and help. The “waw” is used as the Hebrew word for “but” and contrasts the previous thoughts to the following thoughts.
Look through Psalm 22 and point out all the “buts.” (or “yet”)

As you look at all the “buts” what thoughts are contrasted?

How does David see God? (3-5, 9, 19-21)

How does David see himself? (6-8, 12-18)

When we realize these things about the LORD, how should we respond? (23-31)

Jesus experienced and cried out these things as well. Much of Psalm 22 is prophesying what will happen to Jesus at his crucifixion. Jesus entered our pain and frustration.


Psalm 22:1 Matthew 27:46; Galatians 3:13

Psalm 22:7-8 Matthew 27:39-44

Psalm 22:15 John 19:28

Psalm 22:16 Crucifixion

Psalm 22:17 John 19:36

Psalm 22:18 John 19:24

Jesus endured awful circumstances for the greater good of our salvation. In the moment, the pain seems more real than God’s love and the loneliness seems stronger than God’s presence. The Heavenly Father seems to have abandon us and shut us out from all the blessing, comfort, and peace we desire. So we cry out! Jesus was able to see past the momentary affliction to the glorious end (Hebrews 12:2) and Paul exhorts us to see these afflictions producing “incomparable weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). God desires that we cry out to Him and also see His eternal perspective when we are at the end of our own. This why we can say life is (insert bad things) BUT God is (insert God’s character or promises).
Thankfully, we can have “buts!”

Although life is crazy- God is in control.

Although life is lonely- God is there.

Although life is sad- God cares.

Although life is painful- God brings healing.

We all need big buts in our thinking.


When life is difficult and God seems far away or life is out of your control, remember your “buts.”

Look at Psalm 22:24, 26. How do these verses give you hope?

Think of ways you can remind yourself of God’s promises of His love, healing, restoration, and presence.

Cry out to God all of your hurts, fears, pain, and resentment. Then look back over this psalm and remind yourself of God’s promises and His heart. Just because you are in the thick of pain right now, it does not mean you will be there forever.

Consider why God may be allowing you to experience the things you are going through. What is God developing in you through all this pain? Just as a good (painful) workout develops strong muscles, life’s struggles can develop spiritual strength and increase one’s faith.


Write out some of the “buts” in Psalm 22 on note cards and look over them to remind yourself of who God is and what He desires for you.

Write Your Own Psalm

They told me when I was younger that as I grew older I would love reading the Psalms more and more. They were right! The Psalms capture the heart, emotions, struggles, frustrations, and realities of the life of a follower of God. God doesn’t work as we would like Him to most times. Therefore we need to voice and vent our feelings of frustration and aggravation.

God desires to hear from us! He desires that we relate to Him even if we are miffed. He is God and He can handle it. In conversation with God, hopefully our eyes will be opened to His great love for us and a better appreciation of His holiness. His ways are not only different and higher than our ways but far better than we can imagine. Like the Psalmists of old, we can write psalms too. Although we will not be writing Scripture, we will be recalling and living out the Scriptures. We can express our hurts and hopes, frustrations and failures, questions and quibbles, passions and praises to our God.

The main thing is, no matter what you are going through, that you go to God. Many times we shy away from God because of how we feel, thinking that God doesn’t care or understand or that He will condemn us. What we must remember is that God came to us in Jesus, so that should prove that He does care, does understand, and does not want to condemn us.

So find that journal or back of a napkin or whatever electronic devices that you use to write… slow down, go to God, and invite Him into your situation.

1. Begin by being honest about where you are at in life and how you feel about it. 
Write it down…
I hate my job and I want to quit!

My friends have turned on me and I want them to feel the hurt that I feel.

I wish I wasn’t a screw up.

Or for those living the good life…
I am so happy that I met this wonderful person!

I love my new job and new house!

2. Share your questions, hurts, frustrations to God.
This is where you release all that is within you to God. Read some Psalms to see how the Psalmists did this. God wants to hear your heart so that He can bring the healing, truth, and change that you need. You need to be honest so that this can happen.

3. Now throw in some imagery to make it come alive… (Imagery- word pictures of what it is like)

Working each day is like drowning deeper and deeper in a cesspool of depression.

My friends are ravenous wolves they tear me apart.

I’m as useless as a roll of soggy toilet paper.

This step is important because it helps us think through what we are really feeling. We have so many emotions and reactions that may be difficult to put into words but they may be captured in images. This helps us to see where we are and to be honest and energizing in how we communicate it. What we are experiencing in life is real and intense and God wants to meet us there.

4. Remember God’s character and promises.

After expressing what is on your heart, this is the most important part because we invite God into the situation. We invite God into our lives to be God. He may not be or do what we would like. He may not change the situation or circumstances but we allow Him to be who He is and do what He do. We allow Him to rule and reign as our living and loving God and Heavenly Father.

The Psalmists did this as they wrote by remembering the promises and character of God revealed in the Law.

Exodus 34:6-7
Isaiah 40:28-31; 55:8-9

As you read the Scriptures write down verses that describe what God is like. These truths you need to remember and add to your daily psalming.

5. Ask God to show up and work in this.

This is where we seek God in our circumstances. This is where we wait and trust. These are our prayers based on the truth, promises, and character of God. This is where God turns our hurts to hope and healing. This is where our minds and hearts begin to see God’s perspective on our lives.

God is working and moving in your life.
When you write it out…
You slow down
You face up to reality
You invite God into your situation

Sustenance or Suppliment?

​keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith,

Hebrews 12:2

We run and quickly run out of gas because we are not filled with the right fuel.
“Keeping our eyes on Jesus” means that He is our source or what causes us to do anything. He is the source or author of our faith. It is because of Jesus that we believe and have new life. If we try to life this life on any other fuel or source then we will go kaput!

We run and run in the wrong direction because our focus is on the wrong thing. “Keeping our eyes on Jesus” means that we run toward Him as our goal. He matures us and grows us as we are conformed to His image or life and ways. When we run toward or focus on other things, they let us down and confuse us. God knows what is best for us and that is knowing Him and being like Him. All the other pursuits and obsessions end in disappointment and frustration because they cannot ultimately satisfy and give us meaning. God is the ultimate and most awesome, therefore, He is the only true fulfillment or goal.

We run and run into trouble because we run for the wrong reason. If we live the Christian life for selfish or worldly desires then we will be sorely frustrated. God’s work in us is not for worldly advancement or profit. When we seek to be Christians to get more of this world or puff ourselves up or to enhance our own comfort then we find that Christianity is lacking. God is making us like Him and causing us to grow in greater affections for Him, therefore, our comfort and pride are often distroyed.

When we run the Christian race and feel inadequate, that is an opportunity to readjust our gaze. What are you focused on? What is your goal? When you align your gaze on Jesus then He becomes your adequacy. 

When we run the Christian race and feel we have lost control, that is an opportunity to readjust our gaze. What is it you want to control? Why do you want control over this? Why do you feel God doesn’t have this? When you align your gaze on Jesus then He is in control. He has the power, authority, and means to get done what needs to get done.

The real issue is whether God is the source or just some suppliment to life. Is Jesus what it is all about or just an addition? If He is the source then He demands our constant attention, affection, and aquiescence. 

Run Christian Run!

Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us,

Hebrews 12:1

The Bible lets us know that life is not easy. The Christian life can be and will be even more difficult. So if you are in the middle of a trial or testing then do not be surprised. Life is rough and it is like a long, arduous race.

This phrase in Hebrews 12:1 shows us that:

1. The Christian life is like a marathon and takes endurance 

2. The Christian life has a route which God is leading us

We are running a marathon and not a quick sprint. 

Following Jesus is a long, difficult journey. Think of the good, sweet things in life… a good reputation, a good relationship, a good character….  Those things take time… lots of time to develop. They need to be tested, strengthened, and developed by difficult circumstances. Good, sweet, eternal qualities are the things that God is developing and strengthening in us. Therefore, it is a long distance or long term project. 

Those things that come easy are typically the things that we take for granted and are not of eternal value. The trials and tears or pains and problems typically produce what is most meaningful and eternal. God wants to work in you His likeness and that is not some cheap, easy, quick project. Your life’s difficult circumstances are to train you, make you, craft you, and develop you, by God, to be more like Him.

Knowing this Christian life will take time and endurance should help us to not be surprised by the difficulties that come but where does this endurance come from? Endurance comes from God. He is our strength. Life’s circumstances strip us of the notion that we can do it on our own and reveal that we need… we need God! 
God has a route planned for you. We know it will take time and endurance but where is it going? 

The goal is eternal and is about us becoming more like God so the paths, hurdles, and track are all leading that direction. What does that look like in our living it?  God uses physical, relational, and circumstantial hurdles to direct us toward Him. When bad health, trying marriages, or job loss are a part of our life that is the track God is using to develop and strengthen His character and presence in us.

We can say that we believe all the glories and blessings of the Bible or Gospel all we want but our belief only SHOWS when it is tested. Do you believe God loves you even when your health is failing or you lose a loved one? Do you believe that God is your rock and salvation when your marriage is falling apart or you get fired from your job? Do you believe that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords when you have struggles with your child’s behavior or a friend betrays you? 

Life’s circumstances display what our faith is really made of… but they can also help us develop and grow in faith and holiness as well. Any of those horrible circumstances could knock us on our rear and disorient our devotion but it is how we respond to the failure that matters. 

In order to keep running and develop that endurance…

Keep coming to God! Psalm 13 and 88 show very distraught individuals but they keep coming even though they are sad, confused, mad, rejected, and hurting. This demonstrates your faith, in that, even though you don’t see it or feel it, you still believe God may show up.

Keep reminding yourself of that large cloud of witnesses!  You are not the only one who has gone through this. We have example after example of those who have gone before us and wrestled through. We see their good and bad but always God’s faithfulness. 

Train and prepare! Every good athlete practices and conditions their body for the sport they are in. How does a Christian do this? 

  • Read, meditate, study, and memorize the Word of God- this is how you know God’s promises and presence.
  • Walk with Godly people- much like trainers, godly believers can help point out weaknesses, help us develop godly practices, and always cheer us on.
  • Eliminate the distractions- evaluate your entertainment and hobbies… do they cause you to put on the worldly weight or do they help you run faster and longer?

Take It Off!

​let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.                             Hebrews 12:1

Think On It…

We have a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, but even closer, we have weight and ensnaring sins surrounding us. The word picture here is of running a race, a marathon, an arduous competition probably much like in those ancient Olympics. This race takes discipline, determination, and training as well as the encouragement and support of the “great cloud of witnesses” but also it takes unrestraint.

The runner MUST be free of anything that will hold down or hold back. Back then, some even ran naked and today they wear the skimpiest clothing and even shave body hair. They do what it takes to free themselves from any hindrances so that they can help their speed and endurance. Their race is trivial and insignificant compared to the “race” of the Christian life; so how much more should we lay aside any encumbrances?

Make It Happen…

Every Weight

What are the weights in our lives that weigh us down? These may not be bad things but good things that hold us down and hold us back in the race.

Working– Activity, achievement, programs, and planning are all good things but they can also distract us from God’s work in us and through us in this race. Our work can be just that, OUR WORK not God’s work. If we are so busy doing, then we can miss out on being. 
God is making us into His likeness. 
This means that whatever work we are doing should have Christ likeness as its function. We are growing in love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. Work is not the goal but the goal shouuld be becoming like Jesus. Therefore, our activities should draw us to God  and display God’s glory, not distract us.

Watching– There are many avenues of watching and enjoying in this world that are good but these may also impede us in the race. We watch TV, movies, sports, art, and other entertainments. Sometimes these use up our time, influence us toward sinful thinking, or distract us from what is best.

Wallowing– Experiencing pain or pleasure is natural and necessary in life. When we lose a friend or loved one, we must grieve. When we are hurt by gossip, slander, or betrayal, we must process this pain. When we are blessed with the good things in life, we must enjoy and appreciate them. But these moments of interaction with the experiences of life can turn into distraction and opposition in the race. 

Relationships can swallow us up.  Our response to people can be a huge weight. From infatuation to infuriation, bonding to bitterness, and codependency to conniption, people can exhaust us and deplete our devotion so that we stop running the race. The affect people have on us must be evaluated. Are we wallowing in relationships to the point of standstill? 

How do we lay aside this weights?

Consider whether your activities, enjoyments, pains, pleasures, and people keep you from hearing God, loving others, and growing in Christ likeness? Is so, it’s time to move from these by the disciplines of meditation on God’s word, prayer, and waiting.
Meditation on God’s word means that we study it, memorize it, and consider how it applies to our situations. It is listening to God’s voice and sifting out the other competing voices. Prayer is talking to God and realizing that He is always with you. Prayer is looking at life together with God by expressing your questions, hurts, requests, and responses honestly and openly. Waiting is that space between the promise and fulfillment. God works on us most in periods of waiting. Waiting is silence when we want to speak, resting when we want to react, and trusting when we want to take over. 

Sin that so easily ensnares 

Then there are the bad things that hold us down and hold us back… temptations, addictions, and habits that are just wrong. These things are so close to us, wrapped around us, and intertwined in us that it is difficult to be released from them. We could list the many sins that are close to our hearts and perhaps there are some that we are oblivious to but the truth is that EVERYONE has ensnaring sins. 
Again, the way to get free of these is meditation on God’s word, prayer, and waiting. This is a heart issue and not something that we can beat on our own strength and devices. We must draw near to God and allow Him to set us free of these intimate shackles.

I Don’t Have To Be Jesus

A coworker mentioned in the midst of frustration and busyness that she was “trying to be Jesus” to those around her. As I thought about it, I thought that “being Jesus” was quite a tall order. No wonder we could get so busy, frustrated, and overwhelmed if we are trying to be Jesus. So I messaged her this:

“You got me thinking about that phrase ‘being Jesus to people’ and like you I’ve heard and used it a lot. But I got thinking that maybe a better way to think of it is being ourselves and pointing people to Jesus. Only Jesus can be Jesus, and we have a long way to go and a heavy burden trying to fill that order (at least I do). I think we can demonstrate the amazing work that Jesus had done in our lives and point them to Jesus. Jesus can be Jeus to them and not let them down like we might… or at least I will. Maybe it’s better to take the pressure of being a perfect and holy God off ourselves and give that back to Jesus. Perhaps we are better at displaying His amazing work in our transformed lives. Maybe I’m just weird but it’s just a thought… ”

I’ve heard the phrase several times since and still think that we overburden ourselves with trying to be Jesus to others. Although the sentiment is to share Jesus’ love, kindness, and goodness to others, it is still a daunting task. All Jesus asks us to be are His followers. We submit to Him and He makes us, sends us, speaks through us, heals us, saves us, changes us… the list could go on and on but the point is that HE DOES IT. We just need to come and allow God to do what He do in and through us. Many times it is in our frailty, weakness, inability, hardship, struggle, and imperfections that God shows Himself. 

So perhaps a better way to say it and approach it is; I’m going to be me and hopefully showcase how wonderful and awesome Jesus is in me. It really comes down to surrender rather than performance. Jesus is the show and we are His stage. So it’s not so much “trying” but “surrendering” to God and watching Him do what He do in us and through us.

For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Brothers, consider your calling: Not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world — what is viewed as nothing — to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one can boast in His presence.
1 Corinthians 1:21‭, ‬24‭-‬29