Tuesday, March 24, 2009


So much is wrapped up in these final words of Jesus on the cross:

"It is finished."

The torment of a cruel execution. The weight of the world's sin. The strain of the most difficult mission ever undertaken. The grip of sin on the helpless souls of humanity. The burden of the Law on the backs of believers. Separation from His Father.

All of this, finished finally when Jesus breathed His last.

We have the benefit today of knowing the rest of the story, unlike all those witnesses who saw this happen, felt the earth shake beneath them, wondered at the darkened sky, and later encountered people long since dead. Jews who heard rumors of the temple veil being found ripped apart, stories of people claiming to have seen Jesus again, reports of miracles performed by His apostles.

It was a time of great events, events that required decisions on the part of everyone who heard of them. To believe, or not to believe?

But from Jesus' perspective, a phase was complete. Everything He had come to earth to do was done. For better or worse, it was done. Whether everyone believed, or no one believed, it was done. He was going back home to prepare for His next visit.

This attitude is evident in the written record of what Jesus did when He appeared to people after His resurrection. He appeared to the women who came to His tomb the third day. Walked and spoke with two travelers who initially didn't recognize Him. Grilled fish on the beach with His disciples. Appeared suddenly inside a locked room and comforted them. Offered his hands and side to Thomas, who decided he didn't need to touch them after all. Bestowed His Spirit upon them, issued the Great Commission, and ascended to Heaven.

It's interesting that there is no record of any confrontation with the Jewish leadership who wanted Him dead. No appearances to folks who had boldly disbelieved His claim to be the Son of God. No "How Do You Like Me Now?" moment with those who had dared Him to come down from the cross. No "Remember Me?" visit to Pilate. Apparently, no last look at the old wood shop, no contemplative visit to the garden to reflect on that last prayer. No retracing of the steps to Golgotha, no scanning of the ground for drops of blood spilled along the way. No search for the cross. No last cleansing of the temple. No last eradication of disease.

Every post-resurrection moment for Christ on earth was focused on the future, not the past. His appearances were spared for those who believed in Him, and dedicated to preparing them for the events recorded in Acts.

Everything that had gone before was, in a word, finished.

How could Jesus feel such a sense of completion regarding such dramatic and meaningful, even painful, events? How could He be at peace with all that had just happened? Did Jesus just not feel the emotions you and I feel? Of course He did, as we know from His tears over the death of Lazarus, even knowing full well he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.

In all our talk about asking what Jesus would do, has anyone asked how Jesus would approach life after trauma?

How many souls who live through tragedy and turmoil, for whatever reason, never see these events finished in their lifetime? How many of us relive, revisit, feel again, suffer anew, and possibly hurt others with our inability to finish? And how many of us who don't finish, ever really want to?

Is it God's will for His children to keep salt sprinkled on their wounds, or to pierce those wounds periodically and make them bleed again? While scars may be unavoidable, does He really want us never to heal? Never to be at peace again?

Consider a contrast: The Apostle Paul on one hand, and King David on the other.

Both of these men lived lives marked by dramatic events, even tragic events. Paul somehow considered finished his previous life as a persecutor of the church. While he acknowledged his past as evidence of his opinion that he was the chief of all sinners, he did not allow those deeds to impede his efforts to secure the church's future. He accepted that God's grace was sufficient for him, and that he didn't have to resolve it all. It was in God's hands, and Paul was at peace.

King David certainly gave the appearance of a soul at peace as he lay dying and about to turn over his kingdom to his son Solomon. But the appearance was deceiving. It turns out David's business on earth wasn't finished at all, as he saddled his son, the newly anointed king, with the burden of two vengeance killings to be carried out after David's death so he couldn't be blamed for them. As grievous as David felt these two men's offenses were, he had clearly given the appearance of having made peace with the facts and let the matters go. But this was not the case. In David's mind, it wouldn't be finished until two men were dead.

In a small Texas town live two families who each lost a small child to the same type of accident: backing over the child with a family vehicle. These two families are just as much a study in contrasts as Paul and David.

One family, while never ceasing to remember their lost son, has long since allowed God to carry this burden for them, and has carried on to contribute to their community, and even to have more children who will only meet their lost brother after this life. The ache in the heart will never completely go away, but the incident and its related trauma are finished for this family.

The other family was destroyed by the accident, with the husband and wife descending into alcoholism, infidelity, and neglect of their other children. The end of that fateful moment will never be seen by this family, as every trial they suffer from now on will be linked back to it in their minds. Unless they make a major change of course, they will never know peace. It will never be finished.

When we suffer, and after we have suffered, what is it we seek?

Answers? Reasons? Numbness? Escape? Rectification?

We do seek these things, but God does not promise them. What does God offer?

" the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

Peace. He offers peace. The knowledge of being secure in Him in spite of not having answers, reasons, numbness, escape, or rectification. His presence, as real as the pain we suffer, and many times stronger. The confidence that eternity with Him will dwarf even our best recollection of the worst pain we endured on earth. (Romans 8:18)

The fluke accident that claims a child's life.

The job lost to unfair circumstances.

The deceit that claims a chunk of your heart and years of your life.

The reputation falsely injured.

The cruel disease that cripples a body.

The loved one lost to war or murder.

Any of these disasters and countless others could enter a Christian's life and open a bleeding wound. Healing isn't easy or automatic, nor will it occur at the same pace for everyone. No one forgets a traumatic event. No one should. No one survives such a moment uninjured. And again, no one should.

But after the trauma? What then? Will we claim His peace, or search in vain for the things He never promised?

Will our moments of trauma be landmarks along the road behind us, significant but finished, or will they be wet clay in our hands for us to mold, re-mold, re-work, and make a mess with, never quite finding the shape they should take?

What would Jesus do?

What did He do?

What would Satan have you do?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Real Battleground

Our 2 year-old son Jonathan accompanied me to Subway this evening to pick up sandwiches for supper. It turned out to be a good thing he's still a little too young to understand everything around him.

Jon-Jon and I entered the sandwich shop and approached the counter. A very friendly employee began getting our bread ready when I overheard a bit of a conversation at the opposite end of the counter.

A dad was in line, probably in his late 40s, with his teenage daughter in tow. They looked normal enough; didn't appear to be members of a biker gang or anything like that. The dad could have been a guy you would do business with, and the girl could have been a cheerleader at school.

Girl and pop were engaged in some sort of playful "joking reprimand/yeah, right, Dad" kind of moment that any father and daughter might enjoy. I didn't hear what Dad actually said, but the girl responded between giggles with the kind of "Oh, gimme a break" response that would be appropriate to the situation. She did not appear to intend any disrespect to her father, and he certainly didn't take her response that way. He said what he said, she said what she said, he finished paying for their sandwiches, and they walked out together.

Nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, a pleasant picture of playful interaction between parent and child.

At least, you would think that, unless you had heard what the girl actually said to her dad.

Her "Yeah, right, gimme a break, Dad" comment was worded in a way I'd never heard it worded before in that context. Without any hesitation, spite, fanfare, or response from Dad whatsoever, the girl simply said, "Shut the f*** up."

No, you didn't read that wrong. That is exactly what she said. And she left with Dad still chuckling to himself.

Fairly certain my 2 year-old was oblivious, (too distracted by all the foods behind the glass), and thinking I had surely misunderstood, I discreetly asked the lady making our sandwiches if she had heard what I thought I had heard. She confirmed it, and we shared our opinions about the matter.

I couldn't help but think back on my post about the folly of writing off our youth.

I couldn't help but feel defensive about my school. Many of my students are unfairly judged by community members who don't know them, yet none of them I know would speak to a parent that way.

I couldn't help but consider what it takes to create this scenario: a teenager so accustomed to using profanity that it flows right off the tongue, not only in the presence of a parent, but directed at a parent.

And ultimately, my thoughts centered on the home. The only conclusion to reach from this scene is that Dear ol' Dad either led his daughter to this kind of speech, or somehow failed to prevent the influence of someone else, and has now made peace with it. What is Dad going to say when his daughter is busted at school for addressing a teacher this way?

More importantly, how will this girl ever respect God, when she holds her earthly father in such low esteem?

For all of our fretting over society, the government, the media, the popular culture, our neighborhoods, churches and schools, the heart of the war, with bayonets affixed, in the trenches, mano a mano, occurs behind your front door. What's at stake in this war is the soul of each person who lives behind that door. The evil one respects no relationship and calls no truce.

As unsettling as it is to hear a child tell a parent to shut up, it only serves to remind parents that Satan is telling you the same thing:

Just shut up.

If you do, he wins. That's what he's counting on.

Monday, March 9, 2009


"Just like the Good Book says, 'Spare the rod, and spoil the child'".

"You know that money is the root of all evil. It says so in the Bible."

Really? Is that what it says?

Does it drive you crazy to hear Scripture misquoted? If it doesn't, I think it should. No, I'm not saying Christians with an impressive recall of text are better than Christians who struggle to quote Scripture. And I'm not saying memory verses stamp one's passport to Heaven. Memorizers should not feel superior, and non-memorizers should not feel resentful.

And I am definitely not saying that someone who misquotes Scripture deserves to be assaulted for it.

What I am saying is that Christians should remind themselves on a regular basis how important it is to be familiar with the Word of God. Besides the two listed above, how many other near-quotes and mis-quotes of Scripture have made their way into common language? And even more important than wording, how many misrepresentations of Scriptural ideas make their way into common understanding, simply because so many believers lack their own personal foundation in Bible reading?

Yes, Christians differ in spiritual gifts. Some will have more of a knack for wording and memorization than others. But even a Christian who isn't talented in this area has great tools available to help, if the interest and commitment are there. Just take a look at Search God's Word.org and see how easy it is to search for a phrase and find the Scriptural reference. Even without this site, any search of Google or other search engines will yield the results a reader needs to be sure a Scriptural citation is correct.

The tools are at our fingertips. It's just a matter of whether we care enough to know what God's Word says, or whether we're satisfied with what we heard somebody say sometime.

Not sure what the errors were in the "scriptures" at the beginning of this post?

Check them out. You'll be amazed at how much the meaning is affected by the real wording in both places:

Proverbs 13:24

I Timothy 6:10

Do you have any other favorite Scriptural misquotations?