Sunday, April 24, 2011

It Is Finished

Like many writers, I have lots of incomplete articles that have been started on scraps of paper or filed on my computer. Those unfinished pieces won’t bless anyone unless I make the effort to get them published. Not completing a writing project or not sending it out is similar to addressing a birthday card for someone and not mailing it. Or, telling a hurting friend, “Let’s do lunch sometime,” and not following through. All good intentions, but if we don’t stick a stamp on the card or set a date on our calendar, that’s all it will be – a good intention. Unless carried out, our intentions won’t bless a soul. The words and actions that God wants us to say and do to minister to others won’t happen if we don’t make the effort.

After years of working on my first book (over 30 inspirational stories that at one time were only half-finished pieces), I distinctly recall the moment when it was finally completed, edits and all. I remember saying out loud with a huge sense of relief and accomplishment, “It is finished.” I was acknowledging that after years of accumulating story ideas, and months of writing, my efforts had finally culminated into a finished work.

Two thousand years ago Jesus spoke those same words as He hung on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Those three words, spoken right before He died, acknowledged that the law had been fulfilled and grace was being ushered in. Jesus was making a statement that He had accomplished what He had set out to do, what had been prophesied that He would do, and what the Father wanted Him to do, since the beginning of time. His work on earth was completed and the scriptures had been fulfilled, up to this point. (The plan of redemption, however, was not complete until three days after His death on the cross, when Jesus was raised from the dead.)

In speaking those words, Jesus was stating that He had finished the task at hand. During His short life on earth, He had suffered a lot; however, He chose to endure it all, including the cross, not for Himself, but for us.

I can’t help but wonder; what if Jesus had chosen not to finish the work of the cross? What if He had chosen to settle for the easy way out; or for just “good intentions”?

This Easter season, let the finished work of the cross spur you on to finish what you have started for the Kingdom. Spend some time alone with the Lord and ask Him to set your priorities. He will nudge you to do what is eternally important. “Finishing” is all about obedience. Whatever it is, don’t delay in doing your part to fulfill the great commission.

Jesus kept us in mind when He finished the work on the cross. We need to keep Him in mind as we finish our work for Him.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

In Him,

Friday, April 1, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

Four years ago, after living in an old farmhouse for almost a decade, we were finally building a ranch home. We stopped by the new house one morning to talk with our electrician, who was finishing the wiring. He greeted us with three scary words: “You’ve been robbed!” He went on to say that someone had stripped all the copper wiring that he had installed.

My emotions went from relief that it could have been worse, to anger, especially after being informed by the Sheriff that there wasn’t much he could do. He would record the incident, but added, “This type of crime happens far too often. Most of the time it’s for drug money – they get desperate.”

The insurance company wasn’t encouraging either. We were basically out the money with no recourse.

All afternoon I struggled with my emotions. I felt violated and angry. How could someone stoop so low as to steal from others? What goes through a person’s mind to think it was okay to take something that didn’t belong to them?

When we finally returned home to the farmhouse there was a message from Pat, another volunteer from the jail ministry I was involved in. She said a female inmate, “Marla”, was having a tough time adapting…could I come and visit her and offer her some hope and encouragement?

Still frustrated about the robbery, I called Pat back and lamented about it until I finally remembered Marla. I couldn’t visit her right away, but I would soon because, “My plate’s pretty full right now.”

“That’s okay,” Pat responded understandingly. “I’ll visit her tonight; no problem.”
“But Pat, you’re going through a lot now, too.”

“Well,” Pat continued, her voice calm and peaceful, “You know how it is. When you reach out to others who are suffering, it helps keep your own problems in the right perspective. Marla’s hooked on drugs. She’s in there for stealing. She’s devastated over what she has done and wants to stop, but the addiction is so strong. I’ll visit her tonight and …”

“Wait,” I interrupted, my eyes suddenly filling with tears. “I think I need to visit her.”

I slowly hung up the phone, humbled by the plight of this woman. The anger over what a stranger had done to us, all probably due to a drug addiction, was giving way to compassion and pity.

Our jails and prisons are overcrowded with people who are battling substance abuse. Oftentimes these offenders were previously upright citizens who never intended to get hooked. Their addictions led them to commit crimes that they would never have considered before. Sadly, many programs that offered assistance to addicts have been cancelled, and the waiting list for inmates to enter half-way houses is usually way too long. Add to that the lack of jobs and poor economy, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Now, more than ever, Christians are needed to come alongside prisoners of despair and offer them hope. Many offenders have never heard of the life-saving truth of the gospel. They often don’t know that Jesus can offer them a new start in life, that He loves them and will forgive them.

That visit to Marla four years ago culminated into one of the biggest blessings of my life, as we are still good friends. She has stayed clean since getting out, restored her relationship with her family, and knows without a doubt, that God loves her.

…I was in prison, and you came to visit me (Mathew 25:26).
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