Finished

“Preparatory Sketch for Christ in Calvary”, Nikolay Gay

“It is finished!”

Those were the words Jesus Christ uttered as he hung, dying, on the cross. “It is finished!” What could he have possibly meant?

Failure Words?
At first glance, one might wonder if these were words of despair – quitting words. “It is finished! It’s a hopeless cause! I’ve failed! I quit!”

It would certainly be understandable if that’s what Jesus meant. Just think: he suffered the greatest injustice in human history. He lived a spotless life, but was sentenced to a traitor’s death.

He came to love – but was hated.
He came to help – but was rejected.
He came to heal – but was broken
He came to forgive – but was despised.
He came to bless – but was cursed. .
He came to bring life – but was brought death

Stepping into darkness and bearing another’s burden is difficult enough. It becomes nearly impossible, however, when the person who needs the help rejects it.

You could hardly blame Jesus if he had meant “I’ve had enough and I give up” when he said “It is finished.”

BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HE MEANT!

No, he didn’t give up on humanity. He didn’t give up at all! Despite the wickedness, hatred and scorn – he “loved them to the last!” He ended up on the cross precisely because he was NOT willing to give up! He loved them enough to pay the ultimate price. There was no quitting! There was no turning back!

The good news from Good Friday is that Jesus has not given up on you! Regardless of where you’ve been or what you’ve done, the Savior loves you and is offering you his grace and forgiveness.

Fighting Words?

Another way you could interpret the phrase, “It is finished” is to say “I’m fed up! If this is the crummy way you’re going to treat me, then I am THROUGH with you!” Again, you could hardly blame Jesus if that’s what he meant.

People often say this when they’ve been hurt and pushed over the edge.

“I have tried and tried to save this marriage – but now it’s OVER! I’m through with you!”
“Son, I’ve waited up past midnight for you to come home one too many times. Pack you bags! I’m through with you!”
“You have messed up the accounts again. I can’t stand this kind of incompetence! Clear out your office. I’m through with you!”

They treated Jesus in the most horrible way you can imagine. The worst suffering and disgrace you’ve ever faced pales in comparison to what Jesus endured. It would only be normal to fight against it and say “I’m through with you!!”

BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HE MEANT!

No, Jesus wasn’t at war with them. When he spoke about those who were committing such atrocity against him he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

These were not fighting words They were reconciling words: words of peace and release.

Faith Words!

When Jesus said “It is Finished”, he was not saying failure words or fighting words. Instead he was speaking faith words! He had done the job he came to do! He had completed his purpose!

Just like a construction worker who completes a bridge and says, “It’s finished!” That’s what Jesus was saying!

I have opened up the Bridge – over the mighty gulf of sin and evil – to a right relationship with God. The work is finished!
I have opened up a Way – a road to eternal life for whoever has faith and believes! (John 3:16) It is finished!
I have opened up the Door – to life beyond death. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies!” It is finished!
I have opened up a New Life for you. You can live in freedom and forgiveness. It is finished!

In The Upper Room

There’s a place for all the weak and weary
A place where all may find real peace
In the upper room with Jesus
All our cares and heartaches cease.

There is cooling water for the weary
There’s a balm for ev’ry broken heart
There is rest for all the heavy laden
His peace to you He will impart.

In the upper room with Jesus
Sitting at his nail-scarred feet
Oh what rich and full communion
Fellowship divine and sweet.

— Bill Gaither

Be Still My Soul

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; your best, your heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; your God will undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and wind still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Be still, my soul; though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then you will better know his love, his heart,
Who comes to soothe your sorrows and your fears.
Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay
From his own fullness all he takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

— Catharina von Schlegal

A Word for Weary Pastors

“Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

As pastors, our calling is to be be with Jesus, as his beloved children, rather than slaving away as his hired servants. Our work for Christ must flow from his overwhelming love for us. Otherwise, we’re living in frantic illusion.

Souls require breathing space to be healthy.

Consider these words from veteran pastor, William C. Martin:

If you fill your calendar with important appointments
you will have no time for God.
If you fill your spare time with essential reading
you will starve your soul.
If you fill your mind with worry
about budgets and offerings,
the pains in your chest and the ache in your shoulders
will betray you.
If you try to conform to the expectations
of those around you
you will forever be their slave.

Work a modest day
then step back and rest.
This will keep you close to God.

The Worst Punishment Ever for Fidgeting in Church

 After a worship service at First Baptist Church in Newcastle, Kentucky, a mother with a fidgety seven-year-old boy told me how she finally got her son to sit still and be quiet.

About halfway through the sermon, she leaned over and whispered, “If you don’t be quiet, Pastor Charlton is going to lose his place and will have to start his sermon all over again!” It worked.

(Thanks to my good friend, Steve Gerich for sharing this with me!)

The Graceful Exit

I found these words from columnist, Ellen Goodman, tremendously helpful during my recent life transition.

There is a trick to the graceful exit. . . it begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over. . . and to let it go.

It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit is an entry, that we are moving on, rather than out.

The trick of exiting well may be the trick of living well. It’s hard to recognize that life isn’t a holding action, but a process. It’s hard to learn that we don’t leave the best parts of ourselves behind, we own what we learned back there. 

The experiences and the growth are grafted into our lives, and when we exit, we can take ourselves along quite gracefully.

A Great Definition of Revival

 

photo by Hannah Wilson

Revival is just the life of the Lord Jesus poured into human hearts.  

Jesus is always victorious.  In heaven they are praising him all the time for His victory.  Whatever may be our experience of failure and barrenness, He is never defeated.  His power is boundless.  And we, on our part, have only to get into a right relationship with Him, and we shall see His power being demonstrated in our hearts, lives and service and His victorious life will fill us and overflow through us to others.  And that is revival its essence.

—  Roy Hession in “Brokenness – “The Beginning of Revival” (Herald of His Coming, April 2016)
(Photo by Hannah Wilson)

My Final Newspaper Column

I launched it 26 years ago after being in Hayward only a couple of weeks.  Since I had written a column for teens in California called “Teen Talk”, I brought a few samples to the editor, Gary Pennington, to see he he would like something similar for the Record.

He enthusiastically gave me the invitation to write, and so my column, “Teen Talk” began.   The first week someone complained about it, but Gary shut them up and stood with me.  I’m so glad he did!

After a few years, I realized that besides a few English classes, teens weren’t reading it.  The only feedback I received from the column came from people at least five or six decades past adolescence.

We decided to make the column reflect reality:  but didn’t want to call it “Old Folks Talk”.  Therefore, I changed it to “Positively Speaking.”

That has been my goal with this column:  to be a source of encouragement and positive energy for people.  As far as I can remember, I only used the column once to rant — and regretted that one.

People deal with so many negative things in life, I felt that if I could just bring a little ray of sunshine, it would be helpful all the way around.

Positive juice beats negative juice any day.  People who run on negative juice don’t appreciate my column so much — but I’m not writing it for them anyway.  There’s plenty of other media to give them their fill of negativity.  Sources of positive juice are in short supply.

Though my focus on the positive has led a few naysayers to misinterpret and accuse me of being shallow, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  I’d rather be accused of being shallow than shrill — and in my book, depth is measured by love anyway. Depth, in my mind, is combining a singleness of intent with a wideness of spirit.

I deeply appreciate the editors of the Record who have stuck with me down through the years and allowed me the opportunity to bring this message of hope.

I’ve tried to keep the message wide enough for everyone.  This is why I didn’t use a lot of “churchy” language or Christian jargon.  The newspaper is a public domain, and I wanted to respect all my readers regardless of their views.  The column does not express the totality of who I am or what I represent — but,hopefully, it does reveal the attitude of my heart towards everyone.

“Positively Speaking” opened doors I never would have imagined!  For instance, Famous Dave became my dear friend as a direct result of the column.

John Beebe, National Sales Manager for WGN in Chicago, used “Positively Speaking” to inspire his sales force.  He invited me to bring my boys to be his guests for a game at Wrigley Field as a result.  I’ve met several other great business leaders through the column.

Quotes from “Positively Speaking” appeared in a couple of books, as well as newsletters and other publications across the nation.  I’m amazed at how wide the reach was — far beyond Sawyer County.

We’re still working on the idea of compiling some of the best articles into a book.

Thank you!  Thank you for taking the time to read my column.  From the depth of my heart, I want you to know how much I appreciate you and the relationship connection we have had.

And now a few final, parting words:  Love well!  Pray much!  Give thanks!  Stay sweet!  Serve others! Dream big!  Keep humble! Finish well!