sacrifice Posts

Questions to ask at the beginning of a new year:

Are you in a rut? Are you slow to think about resolutions because you’ve made them (and tossed them) before? If you’re not intentional, momentary ruts can cost you greatly and you’ll end up squandering days, months, even years of this one and only life you’ve been given. The following diagnostic questions will help you dream again and, with God’s help, allow you to be all you can be in 2013.

  • What is your dream for your life?
  • What do you see as the vision/calling- or God-given picture- of your life?
  • If you had unlimited resources (of time, money, energy, people) what would you want to accomplish with the rest of your life?
  • What do you love to do more than anything else?  What makes you feel fully alive?  Why?
  • What do hate the most?  What makes you angry?  Why?
  • What do you do best?  What are your best gifts?  These are things you’ve heard others (not just mom) say mark you as being unique.
  • What is God’s unique mission for your life?
  • How will you fulfill this mission, starting TODAY?

You can begin by setting S.M.A.R.T. goals now. It’s critical that you write them down.

S pecific- Be as detailed as you can be about the goals you are stating. A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. I heard years ago that, “If you shoot at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions: Who will be involved? What do I want to accomplish? Where will it happen? When will it happen? Which requirements and constraints will place on me? Why will I do this? (What will be the specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing this goal.

M easurable- Every goal must be measured. How will you know you’ve accomplished it? What will be success? At what point will you know you’ve achieved that goal?

A ttainable- An attainable goal will stretch you to achieve it, but it will not be extreme. Attainable goals will challenge your attitudes and abilities and help you develop skills you may not have in order to reach them. Attainable goals will help you identify previously overlooked opportunities and bring you closer to the achievement of goals you once thought impossible.

R ealisitic- A realistic goal represents something that you are both willing and able to work toward. A goal can be both very challenging (perhaps seemingly beyond your reach to start) and realistic.  You are the only one who can decide just how challenging your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents major progress. Challenging goals are more often reached than lower, easier ones because a low goal exerts a much lower motivational force.

T imely- Your goals must have target dates. If you don’t set a timeline you will not be motivated and you will not reach your goals. A deadline too far in the future is too easily put off and a goal that’s set too close is unrealistic and then discouraging. Place times/dates on a calendar that will mark where you should (will!) be when you get to that date.

PRAY, DREAM again and then set S.M.A.R.T. goals in order to accomplish your dreams. Remember: If your dreams are not God’s dreams for your life you will fail, or even worse, you will succeed at the wrong things and squander your life. Go for it!

Happy 2013!

A Tribute to Dr. Brian Newman

I can’t stop thinking about him. I’m shocked, I’m sad, I’m confused, I’m challenged… I’m envious. Paul’s words from Philippians 1:21 come to mind. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” All of us who have been impacted by Brian have experienced an unbearable loss. Those who never knew him have missed out on an unspeakable blessing. I’m one of the blessed ones. I have lost a dear friend, brother, and partner in ministry. I will miss Brian in a million ways. A friend of mine says, “Grief is the price we pay for love” and I am certain, the greater the love, the greater the grief. This is why we are all grieving so much.

I’m often asked at a time like this, “How do people who do not know the Lord make it through something like this?” My answer is always the same: “They don’t.” Oh, they may live on; they may make it to the next day somehow. They may press on in some way and “make it through”. But God has not called us to just make it through life. Following Jesus means that we experience His abundant life in us through all things. The NIV says, we are “more than conquerors” through Him (Romans 8:37). The NLT says it this way: “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us”. Those of us who cling to the grace of Jesus and seek to live in step with the Spirit, live above and beyond whatever may come our way. We know that we are fully alive as we grieve with hope and weep through breaking loss. The Gospel is not that we receive Jesus and all of life will go well for us, or we’ll never get sick, or never walk through tragedy. The Gospel is this: Whatever we face in life (or death) we get Jesus and He is more than enough for us. We are called to live life to the full in Him. His love that defines us comes without condition, never changes, and will never fail us. The extraordinary life that Jesus envisions for us is one of reckless abandon and unrestrained joy because we have Him. We are defined by His love and that is enough for us.

I know Jesus better because I encountered Him in Brian. He lived like Jesus – for others. He has forever impacted my life for the better. In Galatians 5:22, Paul, this painter with words, presents a portrait he calls the “fruit of the Spirit”. Here is Paul’s list of qualities that are present in a life that is being transformed by His Spirit. You tell me (if you knew Brian), do these words not describe him? “Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control..” This is the Brian I know and love. This is a portrait of Jesus.

Thank you God for the great gift you have been to me through Brian. I look forward to seeing him soon. By the time I do (and it could be today), he will have met every person in heaven and will be ready to joyfully introduce me to each one. I look forward to that. Until then, for me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

What is the Gospel?

When Paul wrote his letter to the churches in Galatia, it was in response to one stark reality: the Gospel was in danger. Church leaders need to take a cue from Paul. He was frustrated and furious with anyone who would try to add to or take away from the Gospel of free grace. This Gospel is in danger again in our day. For most people in America, Christianity has become a form of “moralistic therapeutic Deism”. It’s “moralistic”, in that Christianity provides an avenue for moral living. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not the Gospel. It’s “therapeutic”, in that it feels good to live a moral life, in adherence to biblical principles. Again, this is not a bad thing, it’s just not the Gospel. And it’s clearly a form of “Deism”, in that God is certainly in the mix, though not the central focus much of the time. More often, the focus is on our works for God, not His work for us, and on our preferences as oppose to His. The Gospel that Paul defended is in danger and Christ (His heart, His mission, His Person) has been lost in a religion that bears His name.
We must join Paul and confront any altering of the Gospel in any way. He distinguishes between the Law and the Gospel. The Law tells us what God expects from us, the Gospel tells us what God has done for us. The Law is about what we do, the Gospel is about what Christ has done. The Law provides the diagnosis, the Gospel provides the cure. In order to defend the Gospel, we must be clear about what the Gospel is. Herein lies our problem. So, what is the Gospel?

The Absolute Gospel:

1. Christ lived the perfect life, fulfilling the requirements of the law. Just as central to our salvation is Christ’s death on the cross is the fact that He lived the perfect life. This is significant for two reasons: First, He could not have provided the perfect, “once and for all” sacrifice if He had not lived a sinless life. Secondly, He has done for us what we could not do ourselves. We cannot and now- need not- live the perfect life. The Gospel is one-way, descending love. We bring nothing to the Gospel expect our sin that makes it necessary. James reminds us how desperate we are. “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10). Jesus did not come to “abolish” the Law but to fulfill the righteous demands of the Law and in so doing, we are set free from the demands of the Law placed on us.

2. He died for us on the cross, paying the price for our sins. We are justified before our Holy God because Christ, who lived the perfect life for us, took our sin upon the cross. The due penalty of our unrighteousness was placed upon Him and we have been set free from the judgment that comes upon sin. Through the Law God makes the demands for holiness and in Christ He fulfills them. Then miraculously, Christ takes on our sin and completely forgives us, “so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). His perfect life was imputed to us and therefore, God’s wrath was taken away from us. Only God acting on our part brings salvation.

3. He rose again, conquering death and hell. By overcoming death, Christ leads all of creation into a triumphant procession into eternity. And all people who receive His amazing grace through faith, join Him in this victorious life. This life begins in the here and now and continues in eternity.

4. He is coming again, to restore all things. The work of Christ and the purposes of God are bigger than our salvation. God does not make mistakes and nothing surprises Him. His purposes do not fail; He always wins. Though all of creation has been effected by the sin of mankind, all things will be restored to God’s original intent. God’s restorative agenda is in effect and will be completed as He comes again to make all things right. Ultimately, He will “make all things new” and a redeemed people will worship God on a redeemed “New Earth” for eternity.

It’s important to remember that the Gospel of the early church, of Paul, of the evangelists, was this: All of the promises of the Jewish Scriptures has come true in the Resurrection of Jesus. And this is the Gospel that we preach, teach, defend, and live out in our day. This is the Gospel.

1:8 Day – serving as a lifestyle

It is finished.

The cry, “It is finished” is actually ONE word in the Greek: tetelestai. Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th Century preacher said that this one word, “would need all the other words that were ever spoken, or ever can be spoken, to explain it… it is altogether immeasurable. It is high; I cannot attain it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it.” Fathom it, we cannot. But try, we must.

“Tetelestai” means, “to bring to an end, to complete, to accomplish”. It signifies the end of a particular course of action. Let’s break it down:
“it”- the whole scope of our redemption That little word, “it” embodies
the whole scope of our redemption. “IT” is the restoration of all things in Christ.
“is”- now and forever The word is in the perfect tense- describes an
action that was fully completed and yet, the effects are felt in the present. “IS” means NOW, it IS, it continues to be, and it will be.
“finished”- accomplished, once and for all
When God spoke the Word, “Jesus”, nothing more needed to be said. And here on the cross: tetelestai- ONE word announces the completed work of God: It is finished. Luke tells us, “in a loud voice”, Mark says, “with a loud cry”. This is not a declaration of defeat. These are not words of surrender. This is the triumphant cry of a Warrior who has won the battle, a runner who had finished the race. But Jesus does not simply mean that His earthly life was over. He doesn’t say HE is finished.. IT is finished.

What did Jesus finish? What is “IT”?
1. He finished the perfect life.
Christ’s life is just as central to our rescue as His death. He lived the life we couldn’t live & He died the death we should’ve died. He finished both. He did not abolish the Law of God but fulfilled it, so we would be set free from it.
In a memorable little poem, John Bunyan writes:
“Run John, run”, the Law demands, but gives me neither feet nor hands. Better news the Gospel brings. It bids me fly and gives me wings.” The Law could not save us. Only Jesus could save us.

2. He finished the payment for our sin.
We’ve been justified. Christianity is the ONLY faith system in which God makes the demands and then meets them.

3. He finished the punishment for our sin. We’ve been set free from condemnation. And IF there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” then self-condemnation needs to end and a judgmental spirit towards others ends as well- or there’s a complete disconnect. And now, the only person who can hurt me, is me. Christ’s sacrifice has taken away my punishment.

4. He finished the need for religion.
Religion is man’s attempt to get to God- but in Christianity it is God coming to man in the Person of Jesus. It is finished! We’ve said, religion is spelled D-O, it’s what we must DO for God. Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. It’s what Christ HAS done- it is finished. Religion will never offer forgiveness. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jesus said), No one comes to the Father but through me.” God’s grace is a descending, ONE WAY love. The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Behavior modification cannot change the human heart. The church is not good people trying to tell other good people how to be better people. It’s actually bad people telling other bad people how the Gospel of free grace is our only hope for real and eternal life. Because He finished it all, there is nothing you can add to it. The New Math of Grace is this: Jesus plus nothing equals everything!

5. He finished the pathway to eternal life.
The Gospel rescues us from our past, but also for our future. “It is finished” is the life and work of Christ complete and perfect. “It is finished”, means God wins. His restorative agenda- to bring hope and healing to all the world- has come to pass. What will be is already set in motion. You could say, “What is to come has already come in Him.” It’s why Paul says,

“Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 5:5
At the “cross point” – your sin was paid for by the Perfect Lamb of God. And as the Jesuit priest and poet, Girard Manly Hopkins wrote, “In a flash, at a trumpet crash, I am at once what Christ is, since He was what I am.” In Him, the end has appeared ahead of time and we now see the glory of our great King and His finished work for us. But consider this..

What remains unfinished?
“It is finished”, yet time goes on. It is finished, but it’s not over. One thing is not finished.. His glorious work in you. The Great Exchange has taken place upon the cross (our sin for His righteousness) but now, it must take place in you. And because it is finished, you can hold on with hope. The pain and often agonizing despair of this life.. it is finished. The hope of seeing loved ones who have died in Christ- “It is finished”. Guaranteed. The passionate and desperate prayers for healing that have not yet come in this life- it is finished. The restoration of families broken by sin’s destructive power- it is finished. The longsuffering and agonizing rescue from the shackles of disease- it is finished.
The cry of loneliness and the longing for communion, for companionship to come- it is finished. The human project had failed to do what the One man, Jesus , was able to accomplish. “It is finished!” is a triumphant cry. This is the end of the beginning. Jesus will die a REAL death. And buy the way: NO ONE anticipated the Resurrection- it was a quantum & unforeseen leap in resurrection theology within the Jewish thread.
He will be buried and He will rise from the tomb on Sunday morning- conquering death and hell. He IS the Risen, victorious King. “It is finished” means that it is settled, decided, certain, and incontestable. Nothing can happen now to undo it. It is finished means that nothing and no one else has the last word. Easter means that LOVE has the last word. Jesus has the final word in your life. He says, “take heart, for I have overcome the world.” He WILL overcome the world because He HAS overcome the world. It’s finished. All that is left is:
Full devotion to our Risen King.
What do you need to devote to Jesus? Give Him your life. What do you need to surrender to Him? Your anxiety? Your need for approval? Your tired idols? Your fear? Your passive, self-focused life? Your relationships? Your past? Your private sin?
Through all the tears and all the pain, the rage and despair of all that has gone wrong and is unfinished, we bow before the One who will redeem all things and will restore all that is divided, lost, and all that has been separated. Everything will be made right and everyone will know that He is Lord- but NOT all will receive Him. “It is finished” but it is not over until “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!” The tomb is empty; our Savior is Risen. And our declaration together with him, is this:
IT. IS. FINISHED.