It is finished

I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
(Luke 12:50)

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
(John 17:4)

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(John 19:28-30)

One of the last words Jesus spoke on the cross was a Greek word which means “it is finished or accomplished.” He used that word several times in His ministry, one of note is the passage above in Luke 12. Jesus was “distressed” until this work was accomplished. I just feel a sigh of relief coming from the soul of Jesus as He said that word on the cross. It is finished, I accomplished the work God gave Me to do. He could now go on to the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:2).

Even though we cannot come close to understanding the level of “distress” Jesus felt, we can understand that there are sacrifices we make and crosses we bear as Christians today. And what Jesus said there at the cross is what every Christian should be able to say at the end of his or her own life. Take the apostle Paul for example:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished (same word Jesus used) the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Jesus was “distressed,” Paul was “burdened beyond measure” at times, and the same is for the Christian today. But we also have joy in our hearts knowing that God is always with us through those trials, and we know that one day we will lay down that cross and receive a crown. We will then be able to say, “It is finished.”

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
(Revelation 14:12-13)

One Work

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:11-12)

As I was growing up, I was taught about the 3 works of the church: evangelism, edification, and benevolence. I’m not intending to talk against this, because those are the works the New Testament congregations were involved in doing. As you read about the local churches in the book of Acts and in the letters, you see the churches carrying out those works.

However, today’s thought is to help us remember not to compartmentalize things in our mind, always trying to keep these works in separate boxes. These works are all connected. When you help/visit a widow and minster to her needs, you are doing benevolence, of course. But are you edifying at the same time? Yes, she is edified, you are encouraged and built up by her faith and trust in Jesus, and maybe the person you took with you to visit that person is encouraged as well. Are you doing evangelism in this work, too? What about the widow’s neighbor who notices what you are doing? Is it possible that you are preaching Jesus by your labor of love for the widow? It’s not only possible, it is exactly what you are doing, according to Jesus.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:35)

As a congregation takes care of its own (benevolence), it displays the love of Christ to the world (evangelism), and builds up the brethren (edification).

As you look at the verse at the beginning of this post (Ephesians 4:11-12), you see that elders/shepherds, evangelists and teachers are given by God to “equip” the brethren to serve, so that the body of Christ can be built up.

It’s one work.

What are your boundaries?

Our daughter was having a conversation with someone the other day about worship, and the person in this discussion (with all good intentions) said that the veil has been taken away in our worship. His thought was that we have all kinds of freedom now in how we worship God.

Her response to him was a simple question, “What are your boundaries, then?” Great question! If we can decide how we worship God, and there is this freedom in Christ, are there any boundaries in how we worship Jesus? Does the freedom in Christ open the door to anything and everything?

We can look in the religious world, and see that the doors have been blown wide open as to what churches find acceptable. But again, what are the boundaries, and who determines them?

Jesus answered this for us. He says plainly that, “Yes, there are boundaries. I set them, and you must stay within them.” Look at the following words from Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:21-24)

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
(Luke 6:46-48)

Even in the New Testament churches as we live under the grace and liberty of Jesus, we have boundaries and they are set by Jesus Himself.

David’s Faithful Friends Who Wounded Him

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
(Proverbs 27:5-6)

Aren’t you thankful for that close friend who is willing to tell you what you need to hear even if it hurts?

I think of the life of David and how several people in his life told him what he needed to hear at the time. Nathan rebuked him for his sins of murder, adultery and the cover up (2 Samuel 12). Abigail pleaded with him to calm down and not take vengeance upon the house of Nabal (1 Samuel 25). Bathsheba stirred up the aging David to make sure Solomon, and not Adonijah, was put on the throne of Israel (1 Kings 1). Joab had to confront David after the death of Absalom to help David regain some perspective (2 Samuel 19). Gad was sent by God to correct and pronounce God’s punishment upon David and Israel because of the numbering of the people (1 Chronicles 21). There are others, I’m sure, but you can see that God sent many people to David to help him get his head straight about things.

Because those people were sent to advise, correct and rebuke David, he was either put back on the path of righteousness or was kept from straying from it. Some of those friends said some very encouraging things, others said some words that really stung. Regardless, David had people in his life who loved God and loved him enough to say what needed to be said.

Being told you are wonderful may be awesome, but it’s like a triple chocolate cake oozing with fudge. A few bites and you’re sick. You won’t be healthy for long if you eat that stuff.

I hope this helps. If you want to be a person like David, you have to surround yourself with friends like David had.

By the way, sorry for missing Wednesday’s article and being late on today’s. No excuses, just doing too much.

Doing the “Lord’s Work”

Today’s thought from Scripture is a reminder to be careful about compartmentalizing our work for God. There are times when we say we are doing the Lord’s work in connection to what we do with and for the congregation. Preaching, teaching, leading in other parts of the worship, etc. are called accurately the “Lord’s work.”

But what about my responsibilities at home? Is that not also doing the “Lord’s work”? Think about what Jesus told the Jewish leadership when He condemned them for their hypocrisy.

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”‘ (that is, given to God)– then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
(Mark 7:9-13)

Are we doing the Lord’s work by taking care of our parents? Or are the time and money we offer to the church the only part of our work that is “God’s work”? I believe Jesus answered that for us. Yes, we work for God when we donate our time, efforts and money to the congregation, and at the same time we are working for God when we take time, money and effort to help our family in times of need. We are to do both, but don’t ever minimize the importance of taking care of mom and dad.

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.
(1 Timothy 5:4)

The reason I say this is because it can get easy to feel guilty about not being able to do more for God because of the pressing obligations of taking care of aging parents or a special needs child. What did God say “pure religion” was anyway?

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
(James 1:26-27)

He Makes the Mute Speak

For our meditation today, let’s consider the following passages. Think about what God can do to your tongue and your mouth. If He made the mute to speak, and considering what God did through Moses, Jeremiah and Paul, what can He do for you and through you?

God can prepare your mouth and teach your tongue to be a mouthpiece for Him. Don’t focus on your ignorance, His word will give you knowledge and wisdom will come from His throne.  God can and will send His people to teach you and equip you. Please don’t regard your lack of eloquence, think of what God did through people like Paul. Don’t take a minute to think about your “youth” or “inexperience” – consider what God did through a number of “inexperienced youths” in Scripture. The point in all of this is that glory goes to the power of God, not to how well we speak or how amazingly persuasive we are! It’s not about how witty we are or how good we are on our feet to stand toe -to-toe in a debate, it’s about God’s wisdom working in us and through us to reach out and teach truth to those seeking for it. It’s about God, not about us.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
(Mark 7:31-37)

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
(Exodus 4:10-12)

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”
(2 Corinthians 10:10)

Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
(2 Corinthians 11:6)

Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
(Jeremiah 1:6-10)

Why trouble the Teacher any further?

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
(Mark 5:35)

Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, had a daughter who was dying. He rushed up to Jesus and put in a 911 call. The need was urgent, but everyone else in the crowd thought their need was urgent, too. They all pressed about Him to get access to Him. Jesus then stopped and began talking to a woman that He had just healed. I can only imagine the urgency in this man’s heart. “Come on, Jesus! Let’s go! My daughter is dying! We don’t have a lot of time!!”

And then the worst news possible comes to Jairus. Your daughter is dead. It’s too late. There’s no need to bother Jesus anymore.

Think about the question that they asked of Jairus, and what it means? “Why trouble the Teacher any further?” This is a lot like the family and friends of Lazarus who saw Jesus as the death-stopper and the great healer, but not as one who could raise a dead person to life (see John 11). That’s just impossible, right?

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
(Mark 5:36)

We need this reminder from Jesus today just as much as Jairus did on that day. Sometimes we make the same kinds of determinations, that Jesus can help me here, but cannot help me there. This situation we can pray about, but that issue we will have to deal with ourselves.

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
(Jeremiah 32:26-27)

Think about this and how it applies to our congregations. What can God do through a group of praying, faith-filled Christians?

  • Through our prayers, God’s spirit will fill us and we will go out and speak the word with boldness (Acts 4:31; Ephesians 6:18-20).
  • Through our prayers with each other, we who are caught up in sin can be healed of our soul-sickness and be restored (James 5:13-20).
  • Through the prayers of a few faithful people, a dead church can come back to life again (Revelation 3:1-6).
  • Through the prayers of God’s people, God can raise up and provide godly leaders for our congregations (Acts 13:1-3; 14:23).
  • Through the prayers of God’s people, attitudes can change, people can mature and a new mindset can be formed (Col. 4:12).

Don’t limit God. Let’s not have the attitude of the people in the crowd with Jairus, thinking we’ve troubled Jesus enough.

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
(2 Corinthians 1:11)

I Wish They Were Here to Hear That Lesson

And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.
(Acts 10:24)

So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
(Acts 10:33)

“I wish they were here to hear that lesson.” Sometimes a sermon is preached or a Bible class is taught, and our minds naturally go to some who really could have used that lesson, but were not there. Many times the reason those on our minds were not there was because they simply had other priorities. Just like Absent Thomas missed the first chance to see Jesus risen from the dead (John 20), others may miss a great opportunity to have their souls stirred up by some really good lessons. Here are some thoughts about that.

It may be that the lesson was designed for me, not for them. Spending time on wishing others were there can end up as time wasted if I fail to contemplate on what the lessons did for me and how those lessons can help me grow. I was there to be encouraged and maybe even rebuked, so the mirror was not placed in the face of those who were absent, but in my face as I heard the word preached. Remember how Peter was so concerned about John’s life, and Jesus said, “What is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21).

Those who were there were edified and stirred up, and maybe those who were stirred up will be a great influence on those who chose to miss the great opportunities to be with God’s people. The church at Sardis was a dead church, but it was not a church without hope or without help, because Jesus charged those who were still alive spiritually to strengthen what remains (Revelation 3). We need to remember this as teachers and preachers. We have to teach those who are there, not obsess over those who are not. Preach to those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, and be thankful for their hearts. They will be the catalyst for growth as God works through them. Preach to those like Cornelius and his household, who had gathered together eagerly to hear the word of God.

What if those you wished were there were actually there? Would it have had the effect you wished it would have? Please think about this, if someone’s heart isn’t right or isn’t ready for certain lessons, we can hog-tie them to the pew or guilt them into being there but the word isn’t going to have the effect we would like. There are times when those we are really trying to influence are actually there, and they hear some great lessons, but then we are disappointed because the change doesn’t happen that we are looking for.  By the way, who is that about? I think we are making that about us. Are we truly interested in nurturing someone’s spiritual growth, or are we trying to muscle someone into heaven? In our frustration, we have to remember that God is at work, this is His work, His Word is at work, and God works on His time. God’s word does not return to Him void, it accomplishes what He purposes (Isaiah 55). God gives people a lot of time to repent, to understand, and to “get it.” We have to have that same patience and perspective. Remember that Elijah was despondent and ready to give up because he thought his ministry was ineffective, he was all alone and nobody was listening. God showed him the truth on all those incorrect conclusions (1 Kings 19).

Thankfully, with the benefit of technology, a lot of those great lessons can be preserved, sent all over the world and reheard as much as needed. The opportunities are always there if a person is hungry enough.

Thank God for Michigan

Oh, before we start…May the 4th be with you.

The following excerpt is from the greatest and most reliable resource ever…Wikipedia. 🙂

At the beginning of the Civil War, regiments from Michigan were raised to answer Lincoln’s call for men. The first volunteers from Michigan were mustered into the Army as the 1st Michigan Infantry on May 1, 1861. On May 16, the regiment arrived in Washington; Lincoln was said to have exclaimed “Thank God for Michigan!” upon the troops’ arrival.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Thank God for Michigan!” Why did he do that? Because the nation was in a dire need and was about to face one of its greatest challenges. And here comes around 80,000 troops from Michigan saying, “We’re here to fight.” They were volunteers…another great observation to make.

It reminds me of the church in Philippi that rose to the occasion “once and again” to help support the apostle Paul. Paul was in need, and they mustered the troops and sent him what he needed.

Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Philippians 4:14-20)

How refreshed Paul was to see the help come from the Philippian brethren. How encouraged Abraham Lincoln must have been to see those troops who had traveled all the way from Michigan to help support the cause.