Tag Archives: cross

The Push for Paradise

One of my favorite stories in the Bible that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention happened on mount Calvary. As Jesus was being executed on a cross, there were two other men who had committed crimes worthy of being crucified beside Him. As people came by to look at the crucifixion of Jesus, they yelled at Him and insulted Him. They called Him names. Even the two men who were being crucified with Him began to taunt Him.

As the day went on, one of them noticed that Jesus was different. After a while he went from scoffer to protector. He yelled back at the other criminal, “Don’t you fear God even when you’ve been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” He knew he had lived a life that was worthy of dying on a cross. He wasn’t denying that he deserved to be there.

Instead of using his pain to lash out at Jesus and take the spotlight off of himself, he took another road. Facing death, and in earshot of the people who were mocking Jesus, he decided to reach out for forgiveness for his sins. He looked over at Jesus and said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus looked over at the man who had earlier mocked Him and said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

I’m sitting in front of a hospital right now. I have a friend inside who sent me a text last night. She has surgery this morning and told me last night she wasn’t sure she’d survive it. She told me she knows she hadn’t been a good person. That’s ok. God doesn’t let “good” people into Paradise. He lets those who call on His name and believe in their heart that He died for their sins in. If “good” was a requirement, we’d all fail the test.

Jesus isn’t looking for good people to save. He’s looking for anyone who will believe. He doesn’t care if you’re a child or if you’re about to die. What He cares about is if you believed in Him and asked for forgiveness of your sins. I knew someone once that said, “That’s not fair. Why should someone who lived a terrible life be allowed to convert before they die and go to heaven when I’ve lived right my whole life?” I replied, “How is it fair that Jesus had to pay for your sins?”

In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, Jesus told of a man who hired workers early in the morning to work all day. He told them what he’d pay them at the end of the day. All through the day he continued to hire workers offering them the same pay as the early ones. Even at an hour before quitting time, he hired more for the same price. The early ones were mad when they got paid. They felt they deserved more, but He reminded them that they agreed to the price and that it was his money to do with what he wanted.

Whether you accepted Christ early in life or late in life, the reward is the same. You get to go to Paradise. God doesn’t want anyone to die without accepting His son. He allows us to accept Him no matter how bad we’ve been or at how late in our lives it is. His offer to you is salvation even if you’ve mocked Him or other Christians. You may not feel like you can forgive yourself for things you’ve done, but you aren’t the one holding the keys to Paradise, He is. He’ll forgive you no matter what. I’m walking into the hospital this morning with Him to give a final push for Paradise for my friend.

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Driven by Love

I watched several episodes of “The Bible” on the History channel. I know they took some dramatic liberty in some areas and they admitted it. As I watched the final episode on Easter, one of the things that stood out to me was when Simon dropped the cross on Golgotha and they forced him away, they beat Jesus as he crawled to the cross. That’s one of those things that I don’t know if it happened that way, but I’m glad they portrayed it like that.

Think for a second if you were innocent and about to be killed for something you didn’t do. Would you willingly get on the cross? No. You’d be kicking and screaming and they’d have to get an army of people to drag you onto it and then to hold you down while they nailed you to it. You’d be acting like a crazy person even if you were guilty I think. That’s why I loved what they did.

Jesus left Heaven willingly to come here. His sole purpose was to die for your sins. He knew what He was going to endure and did it anyway. I loved that they had Him crawl willingly on the cross. Against what you or I would do, He was driven by love to endure the beating, the shame and the nails for you. In John 10:18, Jesus said, “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily.” We often think that it was the religious leaders or Pilate who had Jesus killed, but that’s not the case.

He not only voluntarily laid His life down, He even called out to God on behalf of those who killed Him. Jesus cried out from the cross in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” He was willing to forgive them while He was still in pain. While He was still hanging on the cross. To their faces. I don’t know about you, but I know I couldn’t have done that. Most of the time we don’t forgive others who have betrayed us at all or we wait years until the bulk of the pain is gone.

Jesus wasn’t like that. His desire was that not one person would perish, but that all would have everlasting life. Even those who killed Him. None of us deserve it really. Each of us have done something, or in my case, many things to offend God. We are not perfect, nor can we be. That’s why God’s love and grace are so amazing. He knows we can’t do it on our own so He shed His own blood to cover our sins. All we have to do is accept that act of love to cover our sins. The lyrics to “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” say it all: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”


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Seeing Isn’t Believing

Yesterday we celebrated Easter. To me it’s the most important day in Christianity. If Jesus had not died and resurrected, His birth would have been pointless. Even His death was not enough. His resurrection not only showed He had paid for our sins, it proved He had power to do so. It was in the resurrection that victory was won. We don’t have to live defeated lives. We have a victorious savior who fights for us.

I can imagine that Sunday morning in Jerusalem. Since Friday evening at sunset, they had not been able to do anything about Jesus’ death. They had all day Saturday to sit and wonder about what just happened. They were in shock. A week before, Jesus had triumphantly entered Jerusalem. Surely He was about to set up His earthly kingdom and overthrow Rome. His death was a pill they couldn’t swallow.

They had barely enough time to get Him into the tomb on Friday before the Sabbath began. They needed to embalm Him better and find a more long term solution for His grave. This tomb was simply borrowed in order to house Him until other arrangements could be made. So Mary Magdalene and some others went as dawn was breaking in order to get an early start. They were unprepared for what they found.

The stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. She ran back, woke the others up and told them. They ran to the tomb expectantly. When they saw the empty tomb, they remembered what they had read in the scriptures and what Jesus had told them. They went away believing, but Mary stuck around. She was distraught. With tears coming down her face, she looked in the tomb again.

Two angels were sitting where Jesus had been laid. They asked her why she was crying and she told them. She then turned around and walked out of the tomb into the garden. She saw someone else who asked her why she was crying. She said, “Sir, if you have taken Him away, please tell me where you have put Him and I will go and get Him.” Then she heard, “Mary!” It was Jesus who was talking to her. She then recognized Him, grabbed Him and hugged him tightly.

I started thinking, “How many times does God show up in our lives and we don’t recognize Him? How often are we seeking Him or His will when He is right there in front of us?” We search for Him and think we know what we’re going to find, but we aren’t really looking. Mary had allowed her mind to cloud her vision. She couldn’t see the Savior standing there in front of her because her mind wasn’t open to it. The disciples didn’t see Him when they went looking, but they believed anyway. They found their answer in the empty tomb.

What are you looking for? What are you believing God to do? Are you allowing your mind to control what your faith sees? Or are you like the disciples who didn’t see what they were looking for, but believed anyway? Jesus said it best in John 20:29. He said, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” We don’t have to have that face to face meeting like Mary did in order to believe. The truth is that many of us have had that experience and didn’t recognize Him. Trust God today to bring you the victory even when you can’t see Him.

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The Passover Meal

If you know me, you know I love to eat. I always say, “If I’m not eating, I’m thinking about eating.” So it should come as no surprise that I have a particular interest in the Last Supper. It was Thursday night as Jesus and the disciples sat around a table sharing what would be their last meal together. If you’ve been in church any amount of time, you’ve no doubt experienced a service where this meal was celebrated.

The Bible tells us in Matthew 26:26-28 that Jesus broke the unleavened bread and blessed it. He gave it to the disciples and said, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” Then he took the cup of wine and gave thanks for it. He then gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and His people.”

The traditional meal at Passover has several parts to it, but Jesus called out these two particular parts on purpose. The unleavened bread was to remind the people how quickly they fled Egypt. They made bread, but didn’t have time to add yeast (leaven) to make the dough rise. It was a symbol that they had been released from bondage. Let’s think about that for a second.

Jesus just said that the bread was His body. His body was broken so that you and I could be set free from our bondage. Sin is something that binds each of us and makes us a slave to it. We are born into that bondage. Jesus is telling us that we don’t have to be bound to it any more. Because of His death on the cross we can be released from that bondage and set free. When we accept His death on the cross as payment for our sins, we cease to be slaves and become sons and daughters of the King. Heirs to all that is His.

After eating the unleavened bread, Jesus took a glass of wine, blessed it and passed it around. Again, wine was traditional for this meal. In fact, there were four glasses of wine used at this meal. They represented the four promises (covenants) of God given to Moses regarding His people. The four promises found in Exodus 6:6-7 are: I will bring you out of Egypt (sin), I will free you (from its bondage), I will redeem you (pay for your sins) and I will take you as my own people (make you a child of the King).

What I found interesting was in Luke 20:22. It says, “After supper He took another cup of wine and said, “This cup (fifth) is the new covenant (promise) between God and His people – an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. (NLT)” Jesus fulfilled each of the four promises given to Moses and now He, as God, was making a new covenant with His people. He was sacrificing Himself once and for all for our sins and to tear down the wall that existed between God and man.

God was not content to leave us bound in our sin and separated from Him. He loves us too much to do that. He was willing to sacrifice what was most precious to Him in order that you and I could be made right with Him. He not only wanted to bring us out of sin, free us from its bondage, pay for our sins and make us His children; He wanted to enter into a new relationship where we didn’t need a mediator anymore. He wanted to talk with each one of us without having to go through someone else. He wanted a relationship with you and still does.

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