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.

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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Remembering

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Remembering

Remembering Well

Remembering well is important. It is important for how we live in the present. It is important for how we imagine the future. Not remembering leaves a person prisoner to the present. Misremembering is, perhaps, worse. Misremembering leaves a person prisoner to a lie.

Priceless Data

The Bible is a book of remembrance. It is a witness from the past about what has happened—good and bad. That kind of data is priceless. It sets the captive (to the present) free. Before writing the law, God talked to Moses about writing memorials in a book (Ex. 17:14). The title of Psalm 38 is “A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance.” God even has a book of remembrance where he jots down people’s conversations about him (Mal. 3:16). Peter apologizes for repeating himself, but says it is right to “refresh your memory” (2 Pet. 1:13).

Not Remembering

At the beginning of the year I read through my old journals. I was shocked I couldn’t remember some of what I had written. For example, 15-20 years ago I was at the hospital. I was waiting for an elevator. A woman was waiting, too. A door opened up and I stepped in, but the woman didn’t. As I’m in the elevator, looking at the woman still outside, she asks, “What floor are you going to?” I told her and then she stepped in. She then told me how deathly afraid she was and wanted to make sure I was going to a higher floor, so she wouldn’t be in the elevator alone.

Having Record

I have no memory of that. I know it happened though. The story was in my journal, in my handwriting. I wrote in my journal how I was struck that a total stranger (me) could alleviate such a strong fear she had about elevators. Being with another person gave her strength. I would have never remembered that, if I hadn’t recorded it in my journal.

Power of Remembering

How’s your memory? If you feel like a prisoner to the present, it could be you aren’t utilizing the power of remembering. What are you misremembering? When we aren’t remembering correctly, it is hard to see things the way they really are. Our current reality is being informed by lies from the past.

Signals

I think this is why Thanksgiving is one of the most important holidays of the year. Gratitude is remembering. Gratitude is important because it brings us back to our Source. George Washington, in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789, spoke of remembering the “signal favors of Almighty God”. I love that idea of signals. Signals are signs or cues. They always convey vital information for what we should do about where we are and what we should do next.

May your remembering be the cues you need that take you into the future favors of God.

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Making It Real

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Hearing Forgiveness

There is something to envy in Catholic, Orthodox, and “high church” tradition with absolution. If it could be separated from the whole penance thing, I think I could go along with it. I have been part of services where the pastor has pronounced a declaration of absolution. It is a powerful moment to hear the words of forgiveness spoken in the present tense.

Speaking Forgiveness

I don’t know if there is a greater facet to pastoral vocation than to say to another person “Your sins are forgiven.” Especially the first time a person, by faith, receives God’s forgiveness. We sometimes forget how hopeless and overwhelming the weight of sin is to a person. Having all the guilt and shame lifting from one’s life is beyond words to describe.

Jesus’ Mission

After the resurrection, when Jesus met the disciples behind locked doors, he joined them to his mission with the words, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (Jn 20:21) Following that statement he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Along with that act and statement he said, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (Jn 21:23) Dealing with and declaring forgiveness was the one thing Jesus connected to his mission in that statement.

Our Mission

How did the Father send Jesus? When the angel came to Joseph before Jesus’ birth, he said he was to call his name Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21) I don’t think there’s any argument that dealing with sin was the reason the Father sent Jesus. Is this our mission?

Certainty of Forgiveness

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book on Christian community, Life Together, wrote of the benefits of the act of hearing God’s forgiveness through the spoken words of another Christian. The context is self-deception. He asks how it is that we know we aren’t “confessing our sins to ourselves and granting ourselves absolution.” The reality of another Christian is like a manifestation of God. Bonhoeffer asked, “Who can give us the certainty that, in the confession and the forgiveness of our sins, we are not dealing with ourselves but with the living God? God gives us this certainty through our brother.”

Diluting Mission

We can’t get busy about a lot of things in Christian community. We can’t deny or dilute our main mission though. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the energy and activity we give to promoting music, food, fellowship, education, and all that. Jesus’ mission was dealing sin, though. Helping people face their sin and happily declaring forgiveness, is our mission.
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The Process of Time

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I had the grill fired up and a house-full of friends. The weather had finally turned since moving in that February. I was excited to have people over for a cook-out for the first-time at our first house. My excitement quickly faded when my brother-in-law came back over to the grill and split open his raw hamburger. Rushing to feed a crowd, I didn’t make sure the burgers were fully-cooked.

Time = Process

I’m sure you can think of an example of not giving something the time needed. God has designed a certain process of time into everything. Food needs so long to cook. A day is a process of twenty-four hours and a baby is a process of nine months. Life is made up of various necessary and expected processes of time.

 Working Within the Process

A farmer is a great example of someone who learns to work within the process of time. I’ve never heard of a farmer planting in the spring and praying for a harvest in 30 days. Similarly, I’ve never heard of a farmer that takes seed and dips it in dirt once a week. Farmers realize the seed must be embedded in a process of time.

Too Much Time

I see examples in the church of the process of time not being factored properly. It can be too much time being allowed. There is a reason the desks in kindergarten are so small. Teenagers are not supposed to fit in them. The writer in Hebrews said, “by this time you ought to be teachers” (Heb. 5:12). Enough time has passed! They should have been further along in the process of time.

Not Enough Time

It can also be that not enough time is allowed. A person may have lived a rotten life for 20 years, should we expect our six-week Bible study to clean it all up? I think Paul was wise to require patience in leaders. He said, “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient” (2 Tim 2:24). I think an understanding of the process of time has application to many facets of congregational life—from how God provides financially to how transformation happens in a person’s life.

Question

Are you frustrated with what is happening because you haven’t been properly factoring the process of time? Is your frustration because you’ve allowed too much time to pass or not factored in enough time?

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Hand Them Some Lighter Fluid

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My kids need constant encouragement with school. They lose motivation to do homework, they procrastinate on tests and projects, and they forget why studying is important (namely, so I won¹t have to feed and clothe them the rest of their life).

 

We need the same encouragement as disciples, students of Jesus. Foundational to following Jesus is being close to his story. Being in the Bible is one of the basics. But sometimes we forget why it is so important and lose motivation.

I offer 3 ways that could really ignite a passion for engaging with Scripture:

1. Read the Bible with someone else. 

There is something dynamic about reading the Bible out loud with another person. This isn’t about doing a “study” together. No one needs to prepare a lesson. See what happens by simply reading together.

David Helm wrote a book titled One-To-One about doing this.

2. See the Bible in a different way. 

I love those news stories where they explain everything with icons and graphics. Sites like Visual.lyhave made this form of visual content pretty popular. I know you can’t always believe every infographic you see. Well, did you know there are infographics for Scripture? Visual Unit has created a ton of Biblical diagrams, illustrations, and info graphics that will spark a new view of any passage.

The Quickview Bible is embedded with over 360 inforgraphics.

3. Make a big challenge. 

The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian. -A.W. Tozer

Plans for reading the Bible in a year have become a Christian standard. And it’s not that hard to do. For the average reader, it’s usually 10 minutes a day. What about daring to read bigger chunks of the Bible for bigger chunks of time? Not that quantity should be the gauge, but especially for those of us given stewardship for watching over other’s souls (Hebrews 13:17), should there be anyone in the congregation in the Bible more? What if we read the Bible over the next 90 days? What about the next 30 days? This week?

The Bible in 90 Days is a challenge our church undertook a couple of years ago.

 

You could come up with dozens of creative accelerants like this that ignite a passion for engaging with the written word, to help in following the Living Word.

 

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