Boomerang Blessing!

Boomerangs

I think Australia is one of the coolest countries in the whole world!  No, I have never been, but I would love to go!  I remember studying Australia as a kid and I was fascinated by the outback, the animals, and the Aboriginal people.  I mean really, who doesn’t love a koala, right?  One very cool hunting tool the indigenous Aboriginal people of Australia used was the boomerang.  This will tie into the Bible, I promise.

There is a verse that makes me think of a boomerang every time I read it.  This verse was always very special to me.  So much so that I had it on a little picture verse card the size of a business card stuck to the dash of my truck.

One day in the long years of my suffering, I got very angry about the disease.  I took a drive in my truck to blow off steam and think.  I saw the verse on my dash and as I read it, I got more and more angry until I finally yelled out at God, “Yeah right!”, as I ripped the verse card off my dash and threw it out the window.

This was during my time when I was wrestling God regarding Celiac Disease and the anguish I was living through.  Here is that verse:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

I really hope somebody picked up that verse card and it was a blessing to them.  Time went on and I continued to suffer Celiac and wrestle God over many things regarding my new life with a chronic illness auto-immune disorder.  A few months later, we took the kids to a cool shop called the Parker Country Market just down the street from our house.  It is a novelty shop with all kinds of different things for sale.  Artwork, little and big statues, wind chimes, fountains, jewelry, sports memorabilia, trinkets, knives, old school posters–you name it, they might have it!  They even have a really nice Christian section with Bibles and all kinds of cool stuff.  It’s one of those places you can spend two hours in and not even realize that much time has passed.

Parker country market

 

We walked through the store and my wife and kids headed in one direction, and I headed for the Christian section in the back.  I looked at the cool artwork with verses, and the wall crosses for a few minutes, but I didn’t see anything that I wanted to buy.  As I turned around to leave the section something caught my eye though.

I like earth tones and leather for aesthetics, so I noticed a leather check book cover with nice designs and stitching on it.  It even had Scripture engraved into the leather.  I walked closer to get a better look and that is when the boomerang blessing came back around and landed right on my heart!

Here is that checkbook cover with a very familiar verse on it:

checkbook cover

It could have been any one of the many verses of the Bible, but it was that one!  I could practically here the swoosh of the boomerang as it came back around!  It is so awesome how God works!  Just when you think He has forgotten you and He doesn’t see you at all, He shows you that He is right by your side and He cares!

It hit me hard!  I had thrown out that verse card months ago and I was not even thinking about it anymore…and that was the problem.  What I had really done was thrown out God’s promise to me in my heart.  In that moment I understood that God was still with me, He loves me, and He was not going to let me forget that He still has good plans for me even in the midst of my worst suffering…and this time He made sure I couldn’t toss it out the window!  I grabbed it right away to buy it, and I quietly had a moment of awe as I thanked and worshiped God right there in that store.

I am still here today because of Jesus and His love and power inside of me!  I am here blogging to the world about Jesus with a future full of hope, and I am so honored and blessed to be a part of His work!  I came through my suffering with a deeper appreciation for life, and I know the Lord–who is The Almighty, King of kings and Lord of lords, I AM–most definitely knows the plans He has for me.  Plans to prosper me and not to harm me.  Plans to give me hope and a future!

He has those types of plans for all of His people!  Don’t toss God’s promises out the window.  Trust in Him today!  He might just surprise you with a “boomerang blessing!”

Grace and peace to you!

Jeremiah 29 v 13

 

 

 

 

Be Still

Psalm 46 verse 10

That is not easy for human beings to do.  Be still.  We would rather not, right?  Most of us cannot stop moving or thinking, or we get so bored we go nuts.  Nobody likes cabin fever!  This verse is not talking about movement though.  This verse is talking about our hearts and how we trust God.  It is about not letting your heart leave His rest.

This morning has been one half crazy and one half chill.  My kids over slept their alarms and it was a mad dash to get them to school on time.  After the whirlwind of making lunches, breakfast, and getting everybody out the door, I was able to collect myself.

There is a stillness in the air as everything wakes up.  There is no wind, and there is almost always wind here in Colorado.  The crisp air has come down from the Rockies and it is sweet and fresh with that classic chill to it.

I stepped out onto our back deck around 6:45, and I saw this little guy chillin’ on the window:

Leaf bug
Good ol’ Colorado leaf bug

This little leaf bug was just hanging out in the stillness of the morning.  He let me get right up to him with my cell phone and take a close up.  Look at the intricate design that God created to make him look like a leaf!  So cool!

I turned to look West at the Rockies and the morning moon was perfect hanging in the sky.  Most mornings we can see the moon because the sky is so clear and blue at higher elevation.  Except for a little low lying haze along the front range from the forest fires (hard to see the mountains again), it is a perfect blue sky day.

Morning moon 1

Morning moon 2

The whole scene made me pause.  Everything was so quiet and still it was like all of nature was just resting in God.  From the moon in the sky to a little bug on the ground, He holds it all in His hands.  In that chilly morning stillness I just closed my eyes, put my hands out with palms up towards Heaven, took a deep breath of that Rocky Mountain air, and exhaled slowly as I gave God glory and acknowledged that He is absolutely in control.  “I choose to serve you this day Lord Jesus,” I said.  “May your will be done.”

I will get busier as the day goes on, but wherever I go and whatever I am doing I pray that I take that stillness in my heart with me.  I pray you do too.  God is in control today.  He is in control every day.  From everlasting to everlasting He is God.

He holds the moon and cares for the little bug at the same time.  He is God.  He loves you and He knows everything about you–even how many hairs are on your head.  He is God.

Find time every day to rest in Him.  Be still and know that He is God inside your heart no matter what you do.  He is the God of all creation, and He’s got this!

Grace and peace to you all!

“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

Psalm 90:2

IMG_4131
Close up shot of Pike’s Peak from our home.

 

The Day I Baptized My Mother

Moms baptism 3baptism 3Moms baptism 1Moms baptism 2

Yes, on December 18, 2016, 20 years after she accepted Christ in 1996, I baptized my own mother at our church in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!  She had been baptized when she was 21, but she didn’t know why she did it and she had not received Jesus yet.  I am going to give the floor to my Mom on this one!  I have posted her written testimony below that she submitted to our church before she was baptized.  I pray it is an encouragement to you all!  I love you Mom!

Before I get to her testimony, I wanted to share something my Mom just posted the other day under my piece titled “Seeing and Believing”:

“Ryan, when you returned home from college as a believer in Jesus Christ, my prayers had been answered and I was so grateful to Him for surrounding you with Christian friends.  Then, another blessing was brought to us when you came home for break.  Now, with the authority of the Holy Spirit, you went room to room, casting out the demon in our home that had frightened us for four years, it was cast out forever!  I don’t know how to explain the feeling in words, but after you were done, their was a real feeling of lightness in the air, a peace that filled our home because we just knew it was over.  And, it was.  “Praise God!”  You, along with the Holy Spirit, conquered and wiped out that demon, and I will be forever grateful.  I’m truly sorry you went through so much fear while living there.  Sorry, for all of us, but there was a silver lining…we were all saved that year.  I am forever grateful for that, too.  God is good.
Love you, Mom”

My Mother’s Testimony:

“When I was a child, my Dad taught me The Lord’s Prayer and to say my prayers before bed.  I grew up believing in Jesus and I was taught that God created us, the animals, Heaven, and earth.  But, we never went to church as a family nor was the Bible ever read to us at home.  I didn’t grow up really knowing Jesus, I didn’t have a Bible, and never saw one at home.

When I was around 11 or 12 years old, I walked to church with my neighborhood girlfriend and I enjoyed going very much. I recently reconnected with my childhood girlfriend on Facebook, and I was very happy to see she is cheerfully spreading His word.  Looking back, it feels like I was always seeking Jesus, I wanted more, but I didn’t know how except to go to church, so I continued saying my prayers and went to church and Bible School when I could.

Then when I was a senior in high school, I began dating the man I would one day marry.  His family went to church every Sunday, and I loved going with him and his family.  I enjoyed singing the hymns. I enjoyed helping his Mom with the Sunday dinners that followed church, and the rambunctious, fun afternoons with his family. I always liked that his Dad said grace.  I was baptized when I was 21, just before we were married, in my husband’s childhood church.  What I remember about being baptized during that time was thinking, “now I can go to Heaven.”  I don’t remember needing to or wanting to repent.  I know I didn’t accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at that time.  After our son and daughter were each born, we had them baptized at the same church my husband was baptized as a baby.  I thought we were being good Christians.

My husband and I sadly quit going to church after we moved from our hometown, five years after we were married.  We went a few times trying to find a church, but it never happened.  Our two children grew up like I did when they were little, hearing of God, learning to say their prayers to Jesus, but not really having Jesus in their lives.  Not going to church and not sharing our faith in Jesus and praising God as a family, is a sad regret for me.  I never thought it would be like that for our children since my husband was raised in a family that went to church.  I wanted that for us too, and for our children.

Then my son, Ryan, went to college after high school, 3 states away.  He was feeling a little lonely at first, but then he was blessed with good friends, who were Christians.  They asked him to go to Campus Crusade with them, and he began going.  Ryan accepted Jesus Christ!  He was baptized, this time with Jesus in his heart.  Here was a young man, who before college, had begun to scoff and talk with anger about his aunt and uncle going to church, or anybody else that was.  I was afraid he was on the path of turning away from God.

Then one day, our son called us to say he was going to Campus Crusade with his Christian friends, and he had a wonderful mentor teaching him the Word of God.  Not only was he going to church, he was leading many in prayer, and it was all from God.  Ryan came home during break, and shared with me, his father, and sister how he was saved…that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, told us of repenting our sins, and only through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior are we are saved, and then we will be in Heaven for eternity with him.  For the very first time in my life, I heard and understood.

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at that moment, in the family car, going down highway 31, and so did my daughter and my husband.  It was such a blessing for our family.  I felt peace and gratitude, our family was saved.  There was such a great joy in Ryan’s heart when he came home, you could see it in his eyes and face, and hear it in his voice and his words. We had sent Ryan to college from Illinois to Colorado because he wanted to get back to the home he missed, but God had his own plan for taking him back home.  “Praise God.”

At that point in time of my accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, I wanted a relationship with Him that was a strong and personal one, and it is now.  That is what I was always seeking, Jesus was patient in waiting for me.  I wanted Jesus to know me, and I know he does.  In those 20 years since of accepting Jesus, I have grown in my relationship with him and my faith is stronger.  I follow, and want Jesus in my life because I love him for what he did for us on the cross, and for all that he gives us every day, the hope he gives us, his guidance, and our prayers he answers, and the strength he gives us.  He has blessed me with placing people in my life that I have been able to share God’s word with, and I feel that has given them comfort, and I know has strengthened my faith.  Because I am a sinner, I need him and give him control of my life, I know Jesus loves me and is with me.  I know he is the way, and will take us home.

I have been to Southeast many times as a guest with my son, Ryan, daughter-in-law, and both grandchildren.  I watch the services online from Illinois, and I am so grateful Southeast does that for those of us who can’t be there.  If I lived close-by I would be, Southeast has a wonderful, caring congregation and Pastor Phil is the best.  I’ve wanted to be baptized in your church for at least a year.  I feel it on my heart.  I am not the same person who was baptized at 21.  Now, since I have truly accepted Christ Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and I have repented my sins, I want this baptism so much more because I know what it means for me, and what a gift it is from God.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my testimony and share God’s word.  I also thank you for allowing my son, Ryan, to be involved with the immersion during my baptism, this is such a blessing.  My son had his mentor at Campus Crusade, but Ryan has been mine, and this means so much to me.  We have shared many passages, encouraging thoughts, and prayers together.  I feel our family is growing in our faith all the time and I am so thankful for that blessing.

God Bless you, Karen, and all the people at Southeast Christian Church.

Sincerely,

Rhonda Callahan

Baptism date:  Dec. 18, 2016, during the service at 11:00″

Glory to God and thank you Jesus is all I can say!  I love you Mom!  Tell Dad I love him too!

Grace and peace to you all!

1 John 3 verse 1

 

Do Not Fret

Beautiful picture

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.”

Psalm 37:8

That is a short verse that really packs a punch!  That is a very different way to look at worrying isn’t it?  Have you ever considered that in the midst of your worry you are headed towards evil?

Many people are familiar with Jesus’ teaching on worrying:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life.”

Jesus speaking in Matthew 6:25-27

That is hard to do for most people.  People tend to worry.  We like to think we are in control.  It makes us feel safer.  According to God’s Word, when we start to worry we begin to head towards evil.

Believe me, I know about worry.  When I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease on 1-6-12 my whole world was flipped upside down.  I lived through terrible suffering and I was in pain night and day for over four years!  I believed I was going to die and at one point I wrote a will for my wife and kids.  It has been over six years now, and you know what God has shown me through all of my suffering?  Well, many things, but two of the big ones are that He is in control and He wants us to love each other.  Sounds simple, but those are deep lessons that are not so simple for people to learn–myself included!  He spoke to me a lot about those two things during my time of anguish.  He also talked to me a lot about how much He loves me, which was very cool!  He loves you too!

I got to a point in my suffering where I felt as though I was laid out in the dust of the earth and I was nothing but dust.  I know what Hezekiah felt like and I understand Isaiah 38:9-20 because I lived it!  I was forced to cast aside worry and trust in God with all my heart through the most raw and painful anguish of my life, and the Lord led me through it in victory!  Worrying did nothing for me during that time.  When you think there is no way and it is all over, the Lord will surprise you!  Just keep trusting Him and do not fret!

Do you know what would happen when I would fret during that time of suffering?  Yep, you guessed it, it would lead to evil.  I would get angry.  Angry at myself, angry at God, angry at the world—and the Lord would have to gently lead me back to His loving arms and comfort me.  Read my post titled “Wrestling God” to learn more about that.  There was no use in worrying.  All I could do and all I can still do is trust God with this crazy disease they call Celiac.  One thing I know is that I don’t want any fretting leading me to any evil.  That’s for sure!

Be encouraged today because Jesus gives us a great way to fight worry!

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6:33-34

I’m telling you folks, when I was laid out prostrate on the floor many times over many years at 2 a.m. suffering from a severely damaged small intestine, seeking Him is all I could do!  He was right there with me and He never left my side!  I will never forget those dark nights of suffering, and I will also never forget how the Lord held me and comforted me during the worst pain and anguish of my life!

Cast your worry onto Jesus today.  Whatever it is, no matter how stressful, He is more than capable of carrying that burden for you!

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:6-7

I especially love the way Jesus tells us about the rest He offers us:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus speaking in Matthew 11:28-30

I can testify that Jesus is gentle and humble in heart and He will give you rest for your soul.  A perfect rest from so many worries!

Grace and peace to you all!

“Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.  In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.”

Isaiah 38:17

Psalm 36 v 5

 

Know Your Authority in Christ

Matthew 28 with map

If you believe in Jesus Christ and He is your Lord and Savior, then it is crucial that you understand the authority that has been given to you by Jesus.  This authority is transferred to us by the power of the Holy Spirit, which was given to us when we repented of our sinful nature and received Jesus as Lord!

In Matthew chapter ten, Jesus gathers His twelve disciples together and He gives them His authority over evil, death, and disease.  He also gives them instructions on how to preach and minister to people.

“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”

Matthew 10:1

“As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  Freely you have received, freely give.”

Jesus speaking in Matthew 10:7-8

Brother and Sisters in the Lord, we still have that same power inside of us today!  I have only had to do it once, but in the power of the Holy Spirit I cast out a demon that had been living in our house for four years!  I was only 18 and had only been a Christian for a couple months!  It was incredible!  I also stopped breathing in 2012, my wife prayed over my lifeless body, and I came back in the power of the Holy Spirit!  No, I’m not nuts, I am testifying!  It was not my time to go yet.  Jesus is The Resurrection and The Life, and He says when I go!

We have power over disease too.  Sometimes, like with the Apostle Paul, the Lord keeps the thorn in for His Own purposes.  However, God still used Paul to heal people through the laying on of hands in the power of the Holy Spirit!  The brothers in my Bible study in college and I once laid hands on our brother who had a damaged knee.  He was due to have surgery the next day.  There were over twenty guys in my study at one point.  We all prayed for his healing.  The next day when he went in for surgery, the surgeon said the new x-ray showed it was healed and he didn’t need surgery anymore!  We were all pumped when he came back to campus to tell everybody!  He ended up becoming a Pastor in Boulder.  I know God can heal me from Celiac Disease and restore me completely, but I also know I have to trust God with this thorn and rely fully on His grace.  It is sufficient, believe me!

Jesus left His disciples with one more very important command before He ascended into Heaven.  This is so crucial for Christians to understand!  You must understand the authority that has been given to you and accept it with an open heart.  It is called the Great Commission and it is the foundation of why we preach worldwide!

At the end of the Book of Matthew, Jesus gathers the remaining eleven disciples to a mountain in Galilee and He speaks three of the most famous lines in the entire Bible.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

That is the power and authority of God that has been given to you my brothers and sisters!  I will never forget the first time I baptized someone!  I was in college and a friend of ours had accepted Christ and she wanted to be baptized.  She asked me to baptize her because I was well known on campus from preaching almost every Friday night at Campus Crusade for Christ.  Those four years at the University of Northern Colorado were incredible!  What a time of growth in the Lord!  We witnessed so many of our fellow classmates come to Jesus!

I was honored that she would ask me to baptize her, and of course I accepted the offer with joy!  We set it up to do it that night at a pool.  Several of our friends came and it was so joyful and cool!  We bought her red roses and placed some of the pedals in the water.  It was beautiful!

Right as I was getting in the water, one of our friends who had grown up in a very legalistic fundamental church spoke up and said, “What are you doing?!  You can’t baptize her!  You are not a pastor!”

Now folks, I was trained in the Bible and evangelism by one of the best evangelists I have ever known.  He was the Director of Campus Crusade at UNC when I attended from 1996 to 2000, and he taught me the authority I had in Christ very well and I was in the game preaching the Gospel on campus every day.  Keep in mind, I had already cast out the demon in my parent’s house by the power of the Holy Spirit inside me!

I was angry at my friend for saying such an ignorant, sinful, and blasphemous statement against God’s Word and His command to us!  However, I stayed calm, looked right at her, and I rebuked her in the Name of Jesus for her lies and told her Jesus gave me the authority to do this, and I am going to baptize her.  She didn’t say another word after that, and our group of friends looked away from her and back at me.

My newly saved friend who I was gently holding in the water looked up at me and smiled.  I asked her to confirm her faith in Jesus, which she did, upon which confession I said, “I now baptize you in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” as I gently dunked her under the water and brought her back up!

All of the people gathered around the pool cheered and some were crying.  It was so beautiful I will never forget it!  That girl is still following Jesus to this day!  I have since baptized many people and I will continue to do so by the Lord’s command, and so should you.

I don’t know what kind of church you grew up in.  I did not grow up in church.  I came to Christ through supernatural experiences and He showed me just how powerful He is!  I came to know Jesus through straight up Holy Spirit power!  If you believe in Jesus, don’t you ever let anybody tell you that you can’t baptize or preach or heal or drive out demons because you are not a pastor or some other ordained title of human ego!  I rebuke those lies of legalism in the Name of Jesus!  Jesus never said you have to be an ordained pastor to have this authority.  Those are sinful human regulations put on God!  You have the authority to do it in Jesus, so obey your King and do it!  “Freely you have received, freely give,” as Jesus said.

We are Ambassadors for Jesus Christ on this earth.  All authority in heaven and on earth was given to Jesus, and He told us to go and make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  He will be with us to the very end of the age just as He said He would be, and His authority is all the authority you need!

Know your authority in the Lord brothers and sisters, be strong in it, and don’t ever let anybody tell you otherwise!

Grace and peace to you!

Matthew 28 with sunset

 

Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit 2

I like fruit, don’t you?  It is sweet and refreshing, and it is a blessing from God!  God gives us another kind of fruit when we receive His Holy Spirit after receiving Jesus!  It is not fruit that you eat.  These are fruits of the Spirit I am talking about!

If you want to have true power for living and overcome sin in your life, then you need the Holy Spirit.  It is through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that we overcome sin and death.  Listen to how Paul explains it to the believers in Galatia:

“So I say live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”

Galatians 5:16-18

So, the flesh and the Spirit are at war with each other.  They want different things.  The sinful nature wants sin.  The Spirit wants holiness.  They are in conflict, so that we don’t do what we want, which means sin.  That is so true too!  If we do exactly what we want all the time, we will most definitely end up sinning.  Let’s take a look at the fruit of the sinful nature and then I will show you the fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit.

The rotten fruit of the sinful nature

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Galatians 5:19-21

Man, that’s like a rotten brown banana in a pile of rotten bananas!  If we are honest with ourselves, and I hope you are, then many of those acts of the sinful nature are not foreign to any of us.  Those are all disgusting realities of the sinful nature found everywhere in the world.  That nasty fruit comes with a warning too: notice, you won’t go to Heaven if you live like this!  That rotted fruit needs to be thrown out!  How do we do that?  Only by the power of the Holy Spirit, that’s how!

The Beautiful Fruit of the Spirit!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23

Man, that is beautiful!  That is like a succulent perfectly ripe strawberry in the soft summer breeze!  That is the kind of fruit I want inside my soul!  How about you?  That is what God promises you when you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  He will fill you with His Holy Spirit and produce that exact fruit of the Spirit in you.  The perfect fruit of the Spirit will show up in your life and vanquish the old rotten fruit of the sinful nature!  You will be set free from sin, and death will no longer have any hold over you!

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:24-25

Paul leaves us with one more crucial warning about the sinful nature and the Spirit at the end of his letter to the Galatians:

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

Galatians 5:7-8

Choose wisely.

Grace and peace to you all!

Acts 1 verse 8

 

 

The Criminals Who Died With Jesus

Luke 23 v 42 43

There are many aspects of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that the church talks about.  The most important thing to remember is that Jesus died to forgive all of your sins and reconcile you to God (John 3:16, 1 John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9).  That is why Jesus is called the Lamb of God.  He was sacrificed for the sins of the whole world!  Salvation is a free gift from God and the only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  Remember the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Today, I want to focus on the criminals that were crucified next to Jesus–one on His right, the other on His left.

These men both spoke to Jesus, but each man made very different comments to Jesus and very different decisions about Jesus.  One man rejected Jesus and the other man received Jesus as Lord.  Let’s travel back in time to around 33 A.D. when Jesus was crucified by the Romans, and listen in on the conversation.

The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ

“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.  When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him.  They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

The soldiers also came up and mocked him.  They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him.  “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:32-43

I want to stop right there.  That is incredible!  What a conversation that Luke records!  First, Jesus forgives those crucifying Him as the soldiers and rulers are mocking Him, which is amazing and beautiful.  Then, as one criminal is mocking Jesus the other criminal rebukes the mocker!  These men had nails driven through their hands and feet and were hanging on crosses, but they were chatting away!

The criminal who repented did so by accepting his punishment as just and realizing that Jesus was innocent.  He gave glory to Jesus as his King, and he was saved right there on his cross!  He didn’t have time to live a righteous life, and he was being punished for a crime he committed, but he put his faith in Jesus, and that very day he was with Jesus in Heaven!  We are saved by faith in Jesus, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

He repented of his sin and put his faith in Jesus as he was dying on a cross and Jesus saved his soul that very day!  He was a criminal at the end of the line–time’s up!  But Jesus saved him because he put his faith in Him!  That is the power of God’s love and forgiveness!

Another important fact to mention is that he also did not have time to get baptized and that is very important because there are people out there who preach baptism for salvation.  Listen to me please, we are not saved by just getting dunked in water.  We are saved by putting our faith in Jesus Christ.  We get baptized as an act of obedience to the Lord’s command (Matthew 28:18-20) to show the world that we believe in Jesus Christ.  Baptism is a witness to unbelievers.  The repentant man next to Jesus did not have time to get baptized, but as Jesus said, he was with Him that day in paradise after they both died on their crosses.  The man was saved by grace through faith in Jesus.  Read the “My Beliefs” page on my blog to learn more about baptism into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I once heard our Pastor preach about the Roman method of crucifixion.  As you can imagine, it was the most brutal form of execution around and it was primarily reserved for criminals like murderers, and people who were enemies or traitors of Rome.  It is possible that the men hanging next to Jesus had killed someone.  Whatever it was, the repentant man believed he deserved to be there and Jesus did not.  That soft heart towards Jesus led him to a faith that saved him at the very last moments of his life!

The other man who hurled insults at Jesus and mocked him decided to take the full punishment for his own sins upon himself.  He could have cried out to Jesus too, and his sins would have been forgiven and he would have been in paradise that day as well.  Instead, he chose to reject Jesus and he died in his sins that day.

The stark contrast of that scene from the Bible blows me away!  Is that not like all of us today in our time?  Are we not all heading towards our end just like the men on the cross that day next to Jesus?  We all have a choice to make.  Time is running out.  We can accept God’s plan of salvation or we can reject it.  We can mock Jesus or we can receive Jesus and be saved!  It truly is up to us.  I made the choice to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior back in October of 1996, and I highly recommend it!  Don’t be the unrepentant guy on the cross mocking Jesus until your last breath.  Jesus loves you and He died for you too!

“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”  A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

John 19:28-30

When He died, Jesus was actually separated from God and He paid the full penalty of our sin for our salvation.  That is why He said, “It is finished.”  Did you know that after He died and before the resurrection Jesus actually went down into hell and preached to the disobedient people who had died back in Noah’s time?  Yeah, the Noah who built the ark!  Check it out:

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built…”

1 Peter 3:18-20

The “spirits in prison” is hell folks!  You see, He most definitely experienced death, but death had no hold on Him!  He paid the full penalty for our sin, which is death (separation from God), and He conquered it!  Satan could not touch him, the demons could not touch him, and death could not hold him down!  None of those things can hold you down either if you know Jesus!

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

That, my friends, is the question of our lifetime!  Grace and peace to you!

Acts 4 verse 12