He Has Done It!

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It is finished

I have been reading Psalm 22 the past four days. David wrote this Psalm, but Jesus lived it. Jesus used these words as he endured his execution (Matthew 27:46).

The beginning of the Psalm gives vocabulary to the pain Jesus experienced (“My God, why have you forsaken me?” v1). The end of the Psalm provides vocabulary for what that pain would produce – the end result.

“All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!” (vv27-31)

David’s declaration that “He has done it!” became Jesus’ closing cry “It is finished!” (John 19:30) It is important to remember Jesus has completed the mission. Our mission is to proclaim that he has finished his mission.

We have yet to see the results of his completed mission. But he has done it! Every knee will bow (Philippians 2:10). People from all nations will turn to the Lord (Revelation 7:9). He does rule over the nations (Psalm 22:28).

This Psalm is such a good reminder of the way I need to communicate to the next generation (Psalm 22:30-31). I can slip into a mode that emphasizes what needs to be done. “We need to reach more! We need to give more! We need to send more!” The message of missions is not what we need to do, but what he has done.

“He has done it!”

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Clasping Pain

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Discomfort is not only to be expected, but embraced.

I have been going through Peter’s letters recently. What stands out is the degree to which suffering—discomfort—is to be expected. Beyond expecting it, discomfort is to be welcomed as a way of enhancing our current experience and the one that awaits. Discomfort is the way to glory. We should expect discomfort and embrace it.

How does one get to a point of embracing discomfort? I see a clue from Peter in the initial description he gives to those he is writing. He says they are elect exiles (1 Peter 1:2). They are chosen and rejected. They are mutually exclusive. These shouldn’t go together.

These were not philosophical concepts to Peter, though. He witnessed chosen-ness and rejection together. He saw it embodied in Jesus. I would submit Peter saw this as the secret of his ability to embrace discomfort. Jesus could endure suffering on the basis of his identity as the ultimate elect of God. “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35) His place was with the Father.

Equally so, he was the ultimate exile. He was rejected by his own (John 1:11), he was abandoned in the end by his disciples (Matthew 26:56), and forsaken by God (Mathew 27:46). Being in this world would cause Jesus to endure the rejection of God. Knowing the ultimate suffering endured by Jesus, should be the ultimate inspiration for whatever degree of suffering we face.

The Scorecard

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There are two scorecards we can use to tally our success.

There are two scorecards we can use to tally our success.

How do you gauge how you are doing? Everyone has a scorecard. It is probably not a physical scorecard, where personal or professional progress is tracked. Most of us keep a tally of certain things that end up measuring whether we feel we are succeeding or not. We get a feeling of satisfaction or discontent from those metrics.

There are outer scorecards. Calculations are made using pedigree, place, profit, or professing principles (just professing them is sometimes enough, without keeping them.) I am not discounting what can be known about someone by some of these visible metrics. However, the exterior life can be deceiving. Not only can it be used to trick others, it is easy to trick ourselves.

The best corrective to the potential deception of an outer scorecard is an inner scorecard. An inner scorecard is the satisfaction we feel with who we are. To be clear, the inner scorecard is not about reputation. It has nothing to do with who others think we are. There is ultimately no satisfaction in the false rewards of reputation.

I see Paul outlining an outer and inner scorecard in Philippians 3:4-9. He defines an outer scorecard as “confidence in the flesh” (v.4). These were things like ethnicity (Israelite, Benjamite, Hebrew), title (Pharisee), action (persecutor), morality (by the book). At some point though, he says he crumpled up that scorecard (v.7). The new, inner scorecard he started using was simply “to be found in him” (v.9). Paul was motivated to be true to the one opinion that counts.

The inner scorecard always trumps the outer scorecard. No matter the background, how impressive the title, what we have built, or even the standards we have managed to maintain; if we don’t feel on the inside that we are lining up with the way things really are on the outside, we will never be satisfied and never receive approval from the One opinion that ultimately matters.

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Weight

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Transfer of Power

I had the Presidential Inauguration playing in the background. There is always a lot of talk about the transfer of power during the period between Election Day and Inauguration Day. Although the transfer of administrations in America is a wonderful testament to our form of government, my thoughts were not occupied with the transfer of power that was taking place.

Transfer of Responsibility

I was struck with the transfer of responsibility that occurred. As President Obama and the First Lady sat through the ceremony and then boarded the helicopter to resume life as public citizens once more, I wondered if they felt relieved by the transfer of responsibility from themselves to President Trump and his wife.

Feeling the Weight

I put myself in President Trump’s position. The Office of the Presidency of the United States has an enormous weight of responsibility. I feel for the level of scrutiny the President must endure. I feel for the great weight of obligation and duty a President is tasked. Decisions must be made that literally have life or death consequences.

Capability and Responsibility

A weight of responsibility is calculated by the aptitude of the person in the given position. I remember in the 5th grade playing at a friend’s house and seeing his high school age sister doing homework at their kitchen table. I looked at her textbook and wondered how I would ever be able to do the work she was required to do. Thankfully I was not being asked as a 5th-grader to the work of a high-schooler. Also thankfully, my aptitude grew as I faced the responsibilities of high school.

Bearing the Weight

As I look at the “textbook” a President is assigned, I feel the same way as I did looking at my friend’s sister doing her homework. My aptitude does not match the weight of responsibility of the Presidency. I am not interested in delving into whether President Trump has the capability to bear the weight of responsibility that is required. He has far greater experience and knowledge than I do. I am grateful for anyone willing to step under that weight.

An Unknown Weight

The weight of responsibility is always an unknown quantity until the situation calls for it. The circumstances and events to be faced are yet future, so it is yet to be calculated the exact weight of responsibility. Wouldn’t it be great to know that ability would always match the responsibility of every circumstance? For yourself, wouldn’t it be nice to know your capacity could match whatever you had to face? 

A Known Capability

What if there was someone with boundless aptitude? What if there was someone who possessed all strength, energy, knowledge, and foresight? That person could face any situation with total confidence. That person could be fully trusted with any responsibility. There would be no question as to whether that person could bear the weight of responsibility. 

Infinite Capability

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isaiah 40:28)

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Meeting Without Mission

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If the church had no mission, would it still meet?

If the church had no mission, would it still meet?

On July 22, 2012, David Goeser went missing. He was a 22-year-old UCLA student. His car was found in Pacific Palsades, near Los Angeles. Within 48 hours search efforts included the entire western coast.

David’s dad, Mark Goeser, said in the midst of the search, “One of the things that I’ve observed since my son has been lost is how these groups that search for the lost (like Search and Rescue teams) have nothing in common except for the commitment to the mission: to find the lost. Without that mission they’d never be drawn together. Yet with this mission to find the lost they have a deep sense of community. They all share a common experience of tremendous loss — or the joy of finding someone! And yet it seems that in many churches today, if you took away their mission to find the lost, they would keep on meeting together for the sake of community.”

The effort to find Mark’s son had brought together hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people. That is the power of a mission. Unfortunately the team’s efforts did not end the way they had hoped. Two months later, on September 22, David’s body was found.

When you read the rebuke of the leaders of Israel in Ezekiel 34, the rebuke was not because they failed to foster community. Ezekiel 34:6 says, “My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.” The leaders were called to task for failing to seek the lost, in the way a shepherd would his sheep.

Jesus said his mission was search and rescue. He said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus had a mission and formed a community around that mission.

With a mission to seek the lost, a deep sense of community will be found. With a mission to seek community, a commitment to seek the lost is rarely found.

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Sharing Keys

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The prevailing power of the church is based upon sharing access with others.

The prevailing power of the church is based upon sharing access with others.

Have you ever had a neighbor you’ve shared a key with?

We used to have neighbors who would come over to our house when we were gone for the holidays and get our cat and take the cat to their house, because they said they didn’t want her to be alone on the holidays.

We have neighbors on either side of us now, who have our key and we have theirs. We’ve taken care of each other’s dogs when out of town.

When keys are exchanged there is a relationship. There is trust. There is authority and access.

In Matthew 16:19 Jesus tells his followers, “I will give you keys. These keys have the power and authority of heaven” [my translation].

Keys allow you to access the purpose of the object they are applied. The purpose of a house is for living in it. A key can open the door to enter or close it shut. If it is a car, a key can start it or shut it off. If it is a post office box, a key can unlock or lock it. Keys are all about accessing the intended purpose.

Jesus’ keys are for the purpose of entering the realm of the King. Jesus’ kingdom keys allow access to the space where God rules and reigns. This is where things are as they should be and whatever is brought into God’s realm is made right.

I love Eugene Peterson’s take on Jesus’ words in Matthew, “You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”

Most of us here can tell a story of how someone used their key to give us access to the kingdom. The prevailing power of the church is based upon sharing access with others. What will you open, close, start, stop, unlock, or lock with the keys you’ve been given?

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Christmas Engages Our Senses

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Joining our humanity

Christmas reminds us that God’s intention is not to separate us from our humanity – our real lives, in real bodies – but to join us in our humanity. Christianity doesn’t remove us from the human experience, into a separate spiritual experience. Christmas is the simple reminder that God joined us in the flesh. We can no longer doubt he lives we live in the flesh matter to him.

The first heresy

The body is often depicted as the battle ground of our experience, not holy ground. The first heresy the church faced – gnosticism, in which matter is evil and therefore doesn’t matter (see what I did there) – has never gone away. Our Bibles start with God’s good word over every ounce of matter made. God joining himself to that same matter. The story ends with his people seeing his face, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12 (not light or some sort of spirit-gas). But it is still thought that our bodies are not important in the way we relate to God and each other.

A sensate story

Christianity deals with physical realities. This isn’t God in the abstract. The incarnation is God coming into this world of touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. It is a very sensate story. The Bible is a sensate book. I don’t think you can read a page of it without the mention of a character’s senses being involved or the writer depending on one of the senses for what is being conveyed.

Right where we are

The Christmas story involves the full spectrum of our senses – the pleasures and the pains. That is why it can be “good tidings of great joy to all people.” God has come to us right where we are – in the flesh. Barbara Brown Taylor says, “The body makes theologians of us all: Why me? Why like this? Why here? Why this long?” We may not have good answers for all of those, but we can rest assured that it’s important and has meaning, because God is with us in it.

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