Tetelestai Indeed

The Savior’s final words from the cross were a prayer of faith:

“Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.”

Only moments earlier, the witnesses gathered around the dying Prince heard Him shout something else. A single word. The Word-Made-Flesh yells a Greek accounting term . . .

tetelestai!

Our English Bible translations of John’s gospel render that term in a way that tends to drain it of the legal and financial connotations it carried for hearers of Jesus’ day. The best we can come up with is the bland and colorless, “It is finished.”

Charles Spurgeon called this declaration, “Christ’s dying word to the Church. Yet tetelestai does not mean merely that a thing has concluded. It does not simply indicate that the curtain has come down and the show is over. “The End.”

No, to declare a thing tetelestai is to decree all has been accomplished. Everything formerly lacking has now been supplied. The wound has been healed. The obligation met. The debt satisfied to the uttermost.

But Jesus’ tetelestai declaration carries yet more dimensions of meaning.

It also means that all the types, shadows, and symbols of the Old Testament have now been fully realized (in Him). All to which the Law, the Prophets, and the prophetic narrative pointed has been fulfilled.

Three years prior to this royal proclamation John the Baptist had asked, “Are you the One or should we look for another. Jesus’ answer at that time was suggestive but indirect. Now, in his final minutes, He speaks plainly.

His tetelestai! declares:

“You can stop looking! The promised one has come and accomplished the prophesied task. I, the Second Adam, have rectified, remedied and restored what the First Adam forfeited. Dominion of planet earth has been restored to its rightful steward.”

Furthermore, in that one-word cry of consummation, Jesus declared an end to Man’s Babel-ish, religious striving to build a ladder back to God. God Himself has come down and done what no fallen man could do. That is, satisfy Mankind’s staggering legal-spiritual obligation.

”In an 1861 sermon titled “It is Finished!,” Spurgeon said of that cry of tetelestai:

“The Savior meant that the satisfaction which He rendered to the justice of God was finished. The debt was now, to the last farthing, all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once for all, and forever, by the one offering made in Jesus’ body on the tree.

There was the cup; hell was in it; the Savior drank it—not a sip, and then a pause; not a draught, and then a ceasing; but He drained it till there is not a dreg left for any of His people!

The great ten-thronged whip of the law was worn out upon His back; there is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died! The great bombardment of God’s justice has exhausted all its ammunition; there is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God! Sheathed is your sword, O justice! Silenced is your thunder, O law!

There remains nothing now of all the griefs, and pains, and agonies which redeemed sinners ought to have suffered for their sins, for Christ has endured all for His own beloved, and “It is finished.”

Yes, “Finished!” we hear Him cry.  Then He slowly bows that thorn-pierced head. Of course, he bows. His monumental work of redemption is complete, and there is nothing left to do but to say a benediction.

“Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” 

 

It’s 1981 in America Again

Watching the news and social media over the last week or so produced a strange, non-specific sense of deja vu in me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I saw some teeth gnashing and garment rending on Twitter about President Trump stabbing Big Bird in the heart with rusty scissors.

That’s when I realized I’d seen this movie before . . . back in 1981 in the opening months of Ronald Reagan’s first term.

Reagan ran on rebuilding our national defense and cutting the size and reach of the national government. He’d even promised to eliminate the recently created Department of Education—established by Jimmy Carter to help the teacher’s unions strengthen their grip on the nation’s education policy.

As History shows, Reagan proved unable to keep that or most of his other promises related to shrinking the ever-expanding super-state. In fact, with Democrats in charge of both houses of Congress throughout most of his two terms, the best Reagan could manage was to slow the rate of growth.

But that didn’t keep the liberal media and political opposition from depicting him as a heartless fiend who delighted in oppressing widows, orphans, the poor, and the homeless.

To hear the wailing and caterwauling, one would have been forgiven for believing Reagan was personally running from hospital to hospital unplugging preemie infant incubators and cackling hysterically, twirling a long black moustache, as he shoved widows out of the second story windows of their homes.

Those “Reagan budget cuts” became a one-size-fits-all phrase for attributing to Reagan every individual hardship or hard luck story anywhere in the world. Each evening’s newscast featured the most pitiful story the reporters could dig up.

Every item about a layoff, flu epidemic, tornado, and pothole became an opportunity for some man on the street to condemn “them damned Reagan budget cuts.”

Which brings us to this week, wherein I made the mistake of taking a peek at Twitter. In a few short minutes I found literally scores of things like this:

Now, Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan. My reservations about Mr. Trump are well documented in previous posts.  Nevertheless, 36 years later, this is a pure repeat of 1981.

Of course, this is a propaganda war, and facts don’t really matter. Even so, the facts about Sesame Street are:

  • Mr. Trump’s proposed budget—which has to be approved by the House and Senate—cuts funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • The NEA, on the whole, is an appalling boondoggle-y waste of taxpayer money.
  • Yes, the NEA used to help fund creation of new Sesame Street episodes. But that’s done by HBO now. PBS only runs old episodes of SS.
  • So NEA cuts will likely have no effect on production of Sesame Street. But even if they did, corporate America or the billionaire liberal funders of our weekly protests could easily fund it out of spare pocket change.
  • The licensing for Sesame Street characters is essentially a money printing machine.

Pause to consider the irony of the outpouring of liberal outrage here. The folks at Sesame Street allowed themselves to be acquired by a premium cable channel that the poorest Americans cannot see. But it’s Mr. Trump who is evil-personified for cutting the budget of the ridiculous NEA.

As I said, what we’re witnessing is a propaganda war against Mr. Trump’s efforts to restore some fiscal sanity and boundaries to national government spending; and restore our neglected defensive capabilities in an increasingly dangerous and volatile world.

Celebrities are doing their part. Here’s the spectacularly wealthy author Stephen King taunting the elderly people ands shut-ins who voted for Trump concerning (grossly misleading false) reports of cuts to the federal “Meals on Wheels” program:

 

This is despicable. Sadly, it would probably never occur to a Progressive like Mr. King that some patriotic older Americans might not vote based purely on what most benefits them personally. Or that some of the few surviving members of the “Greatest Generation”—who grew up during the Great Depression and weathered the rigors of World War II—might just care more about their nation’s future than their own comfort.

Or that they might understand what few liberals seem to grasp—that it’s better when local charity is funded at the local level, where there is more accountability and less opportunity for waste and graft.

Unfortunately, King’s mockery isn’t the worst of it. Here’s Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof, yesterday:

Dear God in heaven. If there is a more reprehensible form of political argumentation than the above, I don’t know what it is. There has been an ongoing human tragedy unfolding in Yemen for a couple of years now, but until yesterday, the only people who seemed to care were a handful of conservative groups.

It’s not wrong to care about tiny Udai above. On the contrary, it’s essential. What’s wrong is  choosing to care only when you can use him as prop to score points against your political “enemy.”

Several people I follow noted that within a few days of Mr. Trump’s election, we suddenly started seeing hand-wring-y news reports about America’s “homelessness crisis” after an eight-year disappearance. It astonishing how we had our homelessness problem solved for eight years but that it’s suddenly back with a vengeance.

Journalists have also just discovered that presidential vacations cost a lot of money, after eight years of utter obliviousness to that reality.

Again, all of this  represents a repeat of 1981 (Reagan’s election) and in some respects 2001 (George W.’s).  As I point out from time to time on this site . . . “We’ve seen this before.”

H   H   H   H   H

There is a complementary pair of assumptions underlying this hysterical resistance to cutting federal spending. One, that is pretty much an article of faith for most people today. It is:

  • If a thing is good, the national government must fund it, or even better, mandate it.
  • If a thing is bad, the national government should ban it.

At it’s heart, this brand of thinking is a form of idolatry. It assumes a powerful, centralized government can and should be:

  • the bestower of all blessings.
  • the judge of all vice,
  • the coercer of all virtue,
  • the insulator from all negative consequences from bad choices,
  • the picker of all winners and losers.

It’s messianic and utopian. The problem for the Christian is that we already know Who the Messiah is, and it ain’t Uncle Sam. Yet Government is a jealous god. (See this great essay for more on that.)

It’s 1981 again. But this time around I don’t have a full head of hair or a soon-to-be-obsolete collection of eight-track tapes.

Some Words of Gratitude for the Gospel on International Women’s Day

Permit me to point something out that isn’t widely understood or acknowledged in our Postmodern, Bizarro-World times.

Whereever the gospel of Jesus Christ has spread and taken root, the lot of women has radically improved. Conversely, the places where Christianity is least historically present and welcome . . . these are the most hellish places on our planet to have the misfortune of being born a girl.

For the whole of human history, the default setting in our fallen world has been to treat women as property or sex slaves. Paganism is the original “rape culture.”

Jesus shocked the sensibilities of the dominant culture in His day by welcoming women into His inner circle–accepting their worship and follower-ship. And wherever the movement He launched has spread—relentelssly, progressively, although imperfectly—women’s lives have improved and their status has risen.

This, in part, because redemption produces more civilized, responsible, peaceful, compassionate men.

Western Civilization is, in essence, a manifestion of Christian civilization, a.k.a., the Kingdom of God. The Gospel is the greatest force for human equality ever unleashed. The seeds of the end of slavery in Europe were scattered from Britain’s Protestant pulpits. It took longer, but the same was true in North America.

 The Gospel is the greatest force for human equality ever unleashed.

The Abololitionist movement was born and fueled by churches. Just as most of the concern, energy, and money for fighting modern slavery (in the form of human trafficking and sex slavery) is coming from Christian people in Christian ( and formerly Christian) nations.

Perversely, a majority of the self-identifying feminists of our day view Christianity as Enemy Number One, while being inexplicably willing to accommodate Islamic Culture and actively embrace Hindu Culture in the form of Eastern Mysticism.

A few facts for your consideration on this International Women’s Day:

I am a husband to an extraordinary  woman, and father to three more of the same. A few weeks from now, twin girls will be added to our clan. How grateful I am they were born in a Gospel-infused, Gospel-informed culture.

It is a privilege I seek and pray for every little girl in every corner of the world.

 

Restoration!

As longtime readers of this humble internet outpost may recall, several years ago I lost more than five years of blogging output that I had poured out on the old “Blather. Wince. Repeat.” site after a server hacking incident.

The database holding everything I’d written between March of 2007 and July of 2012 became corrupted and seemingly irrepairable.

Frankly it was nearly-heartbreaking to think all of that writing might be lost forever. In that span of time I’d not only written about current events, the culture, and theology, I’d mused about and processed a lot of big life milestones—including my father’s battle with Alzheimers disease and his passing, as well as watching daughters growing up, moving them off to college, and walking them down an aisle.

After more than a year of blogging silence I gave up and launched this new blog in March of 2014. Even so, I never completely abandoned hope of finding a way to repair and restore all that writing.

Today, that hope became a reality. Scoll down on the home page and look in the right column, you’ll see that all those lost months have now been indexed. The prodigal posts have come home.

Now, where did I stash that fatted calf?

 

A Quick Comment on the Oscars

Skipped the telecast but heard there was much earnest fist-shaking at the current president.

Younger viewers may be excused for assuming this is some sort of new phenomenon. For those of us with longer memories, there’s a weary familiarity:

  • These same characters said the same things about George W. Bush with the same levels of righteous ferocity. This, even though W. wasn’t all that conservative and was, by all available evidence, a profoundly decent human being.
  • And the usual suspects said similar things about W’s father—who was even more moderate and temperate than his son.
  • Of course, a previous generation of Hollywood elites mocked, derided and denounced Ronald Reagan as a war-mongering, simple-minded nutjob as well.

No, this isn’t new. Things are simply back to normal for when a Republican sits in the Oval Office. Mr. Trump may or may not be a monster (although he has filled his cabinet with competent, decent, admirable people.)

Thus, the fist shaking in Hollywood tells us nothing—other than that after an eight-year break—our nation’s actors  get to play the most coveted, most romantic role of all: That of the courageous artist “speaking truth to power.”

The Circle of Life

Our oldest had a birthday a few days ago but we’re finally getting a chance to celebrate it tonight. This was her 28 years ago this week, just a few hours old:

This was the last time I had more hair than she did.

Roughly six months ago we learned that she and our wonderful son-in-law were expecting their first baby—more importantly our first grandchild! A few weeks after that wonderful revelation, we learned that we actually have not one, but two on the way. Girls. (of course!)

I should be pointing with two fingers.

She’s going to be an awesome mom. She’s had the very best of mentors and models.

To be honest, the 28-year space between the moments these two photos were captured is a dizzy blur. That space is filled with countless good days. Really, really good days. But there are few days as monumentally life changing as the one in which you welcome your first child into this extraordinary world.

On one side of that day, everything in your life is one way—essentially the way it has always been. Twenty-four hours later everything has changed. Everything. Your routines. Your priorities. Your thoughts. Your view of the world and the dangers it holds. Your hopes.

All of this and more shifts seismically with the breaking of some water and the crossing of a simple line on a calendar.

Mrs. H has been making preparations to help with the new arrivals. She’s prepping with a zeal and logistical ferocity that would have shamed General Eisenhower with his comparitively lackadaisacal approach to the D-day invasion of Normandy.

As for me . . . I never really knew either of my grandfathers. I was too young when they passed to carry any directly imparted wisdom or influence from them. Anything I have from them came secondhand.  So I am profoundly grateful and more excited than I can express to play some role in the lives of these little girls and all the siblings and cousins that come after them.

And the earth continues to spin and wobble around the sun like a blue top, with no time outs and no “pause” button to hit. The circle closes and the tracing of another one begins.

An Informal Little Bible Study

Attention DFW readers,

I’m launching a short new Bible study series in our home next week.

Beginning next Wednesday night, February 1, and continuing for the next four Wedneday nights, I’ll be teaching a series I’m calling:

“Honeycomb Lying on the Ground: The Sweet Reality of Living in Kingdom Grace.”

Open to all. 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

Silicon Valley Gazillionaires are Prepping Like Crazy

Found this fascinating:

Doomsday Prep for the Super Rich

Snippet:

How did a preoccupation with the apocalypse come to flourish in Silicon Valley, a place known, to the point of cliché, for unstinting confidence in its ability to change the world for the better?

Those impulses are not as contradictory as they seem. Technology rewards the ability to imagine wildly different futures . . .

Bonus:

Many of Asia’s billionaires have been buying private hidey-holes in New Zealand for the last few years:

Lost in Time

Ah, yes. Now I remember. That’s what a night sky is supposed to look like. So many stars . . . scores of familiar constellations . . . sparkling against a black velvet backdrop. There you are Milky Way, hung across the sky like a sash. There you are, Seven Sisters. It’s been a long time, ladies.

I know I’m far away from the city when I can see the Pleiades.

I’m back at the ancestral estate—the rural Oklahoma hill country acreage where I grew up. Like a salmon, I fought my way upstream from Dallas-Fort Worth on asphalt rivers called U.S. 75 and U.S. 69 to the place of my childhood. But I’m not here to spawn and die. I’m here to sort and cry.

It’s not just the night sky that’s different here. As I stand in the field in front of the house I grew up in, I’m aware of a strange sensation in my ears. Oh, right. It’s the quiet. I’ve grown so accustomed to the thrummy, low-frequency drone of freeway traffic in the distance and jets in the sky that I don’t even notice the noise until it’s missing.

Sound travels a long way out here. I’m actively listening. (Is this what the modern hippies call mindfulness?) From more than a mile away I hear a bull bellowing mightily, sounding like a Hebrew shofar calling the Israelites to battle against the Philistines. From a quarter-mile down the road I hear a woodpecker rapping on a tree.

And there’s bird song. So much bird song. It’s the next morning and I’m on the front porch trying to count how many distinct species of bird I can hear. I get to eighteen. What else can I hear? The breeze picks up and in a barely audible way, the tops of the pine trees begin whispering secrets to one another.

We have a history, those pines and I. My brother and I “helped” our father plant them when we first built the house and moved out here. Is it possible that our afternoon of tree planting will have been fifty years ago, next year? When we put them in the ground they were about a foot tall and no bigger around than my pinkie finger. They looked like sad little Charlie Brown Christmas trees. They survived.

Here they are today . . .

My Pines

Mom and Dad built this place about twenty years ago . . . about 100 paces from the two-story house they built in ’68. I was eight when the first house was finished, my brother six, and two sisters had not yet arrived. We all grew up in the that house over yonder. But this one was their empty nest—one story only, in anticipation of the feebler legs that eventually showed up.

Both homes sit on the same five-acre slice of rural southeastern Oklahoma I roamed freely as a boy—nestled in a valley where the Sans Bois and Kiamichi mountains serve as the front gate to the Ouachita Mountains and the Ouachita National Forest.

All these names are French. Or to be more accurate, French transliterations of Indian names. The first white people to explore this area were French trappers and traders. I’m reminded of that every time I drive out here. Right before you get to the old family place I cross a familiar old bridge over a creek named Fourche Maline—French for “treacherous fork.”

I’ve crossed that bridge thousands of times in my life and never witnessed any treachery along the creek. But then my crossings have all come about three hundred years after Bernard De La Harpe and friends first paddled their way into this neighborhood by heading upstream from the Mississippi River, the Red River, and so forth. Who am I to say that that the old stream wasn’t a little more malevolent back then.

After Dad passed away several years ago, Mom lived here alone as long as she possibly could. But it eventually became clear to all of us, her included, that living alone out here in the sticks no longer made sense. So she moved out of the house a couple of months ago with the help of my sisters. She is now safely and happily ensconced in a little efficiency apartment in a great retirement village in Oklahoma City.

However, only a small portion of her things could make the trip to the new place. A big part of the accumulation of a lifetime was left behind for us to sort through.

The contents will fall into four categories.

First, things one of us kids or grandkids wants to keep. Many of these items are keepsakes, mementos and sentimental treasures.  Some are practical items that the numerous grandchildren now setting up housekeeping for the first time will find useful.

From what remains, things to sell. What doesn’t sell will be donated or given. What absolutely no one will take, will be disposed of in some way.

So, I’ve been digging and sorting. It’s a bit like archeology. The deeper I go, the more ancient the finds. I’m uncovering things I didn’t know existed. Like a bulging, rubberband-wrapped envelope with a Missoula, Montana postmark dated the Summer of 1963. Inside was a stack of handwritten letters from my Dad to my Mom.

I dimly recall that when I was about four years old my Dad spent a couple of months away from us one summer, working on his Masters degree at the University of Montana. What I didn’t know was that he’d written her while he was away. As I noted the date on each letter in the stack, I saw that, in fact, he had written her every three or four days for his entire absence.

This in itself was a stunning revelation. My Dad was kind and sweet, but he was no romantic. At least that I could tell. I’d never perceived him to be the guy who thoughtfully and dutifully wrote his wife every other day while away from his young family. But he was that guy. We just didn’t know it.

Then I thought about the fact that she’d kept them—tucked away with a small cache of other precious mementos. And here I was, 54 years later, learning of their existence for the very first time.

I’ll share a few more of my finds in the days ahead. For now, just know that I’ve spent a weekend lost in time.

And trying to get my arms and mind and heart around the task of curating the remnants of two lives well lived.