Today you will be with Me in Paradise

Jesus had been tortured mercilessly and finally nailed on the cross. He was practically drained of all His blood and breathing His last few breaths. This was not enough torture. One of the criminals crucified with Him blasphemed Him and said, “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” (Luke 23:39) There is no record of a response from Jesus. He does not condemn the foolish criminal. That was pretty remarkable. However something rather surprising follows. The other criminal crucified with Jesus who also was witnessing the death of the Christ, and could plainly see that Jesus had done nothing to save Himself, displayed faith. He is not dissuaded by the bloody and dying Christ. He holds firmly to the belief that this Jesus, who appears helpless on the cross, is the son of God, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He believed that Jesus will be returning to His celestial Kingdom and made a plea before his dying King “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42). Did this criminal, two thousand years ago, understand the plan of salvation? Did he understand that the Messiah had come into the world to die so that all who believe in him could be forgiven of their sins and saved? Apparently he did.

However the criminal did not have time to change his life. He did not have time to pay for all he had done wrong. He did not have time to show the good fruit of the Spirit and produce many good works in the name of Christ. This was not a problem. Jesus saw to the heart of the man and had this to say “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:40) He was instantly saved. The criminal was saved because he believed. The criminal had recognized his sins when he said “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41) He recognized that he deserved to be crucified. This was no small deal. The Romans reserved the crucifixion for the worst criminals. This criminal was not some misunderstood misfit. He was truly a bad guy. However he recognized his sin and humbled himself before Jesus. He also believed in Jesus.

For some it is difficult to see Christ for who He is; like many who abandoned Christ when he hung on the cross. However, like this criminal, if we can see the true Christ. Then regardless of our state in life, salvation is always near. It does not matter what we have done. All we have to do is sincerely repent of our sins, recognize the sacrifice on the cross and accept Jesus as our Lord. In that moment we are instantly saved, nothing else is necessary.

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Father forgive them

If we were arrested unjustly, stripped, beaten, made fun of, whipped until our skin was ripped from our bodies, and had the strength to speak, what would we say? What if after losing a great deal of blood, we were made to climb up a hill, and nailed to a cross, what would we say? Perhaps we would cry for mercy. Another logical response is to exclaim our innocence. We might have enough energy or voice to condemn those who tortured. Now imagine if for some magical reason we all of a sudden had the power to escape. All the pain could end suddenly. All the wounds healed and we could reappear in paradise. What would we do? What if we had the power to get immediate revenge? We could zap to death all those responsible for our capture and pain.

Jesus went through everything mentioned above. He had the power to stop the pain anytime he wanted to. He had the power to destroy his enemies with just a simple word. The Mountains would have certainly obeyed and swallowed them all, the seas could have been commanded to come upon them or a legion of Angels would have defended him. But Jesus did none of these. He certainly could have condemned the soldiers responsible for his torture. But Jesus spoke no such words. Instead these were the first words he uttered on the cross “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

This is truly the loving God that did not come into the world to condemn it but to save it. (John 3:17) While going through all that pain and injustice all he thought of was mercy. Mercy was his mission and purpose. It is the reason why he gave his life. It was the price paid for our sins; that we might be saved from eternal condemnation. He is still saying “Father forgive them”. All can be forgiven, all we need to do is believe in Christ as our Savior and Lord, and repent of our sins.


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Humbly Pray

The Pharisee was a fine gentleman, who spoke well and had the respect of the entire community.  He was the sort of fellow we would all like to invite over for dinner. A man with a good testimony; he followed the law without fail and made sure to give a tenth of his income to the temple. There was one problem with the Pharisee, he was proud. He thought he was better than everyone else. (Luke 18:9-12)

There was also a tax collector and as expected he was not very popular. No one wanted to have him over for dinner. All tax collectors were suspected of cheating and cheating the poor of Israel.  They were seen as traitors since they collected taxes for Rome. Some considered tax collectors to be simply the worst. Well it’s not like tax collectors are any more popular today. (Luke 18:13-14)

They both came before God to pray. The Pharisee came before almighty and holy God and thanked Him for making him so wonderful. He was proud of how good he was. Perhaps he simply wanted to remind God. God was not impressed.

The tax collector understood his condition. He was completely aware of God’s holiness and how far sin had taken him from God’s presence. He approached God with all the reverence God deserved and all the humbleness his state required.  Jesus explains that he could not even lift his head and beat upon his chest on account of his guilt, shame and pain. God was pleased.

Jesus explained that the tax collector was forgiven or justified and the pharisee would not be. (Luke 18:14) We must be careful to come before God in reverence, and humility, understanding that we are sinners and He is holy. We are in need of forgiveness. This is the very reason why Jesus gave His life, that we may be forgiven, if we simply believe.

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Time for God

“Yeah! Grandpa is here.” Grandpa had traveled many miles to finally reach the home of his only grandchildren, Robby, Luis and Mary. He loved them greatly and was constantly calling to speak to them. But now he had actually come. He was in their home. What a magical day. They all gave grandpa a big hug and then grandpa just collapsed into the sofa. He was so tired from the trip. He began to tell wondrous stories of his journey, through valleys and up mountains. How could he have endured such a journey at his age? He was truly a remarkable man. Now Mary had found her way to the kitchen and was preparing some mighty fine sandwiches for all. While she worked diligently in the kitchen she could just barely hear the stories. She thought “this is not fair at all”. After a couple of minutes she could endure it no more. She stormed into the living room and demanded the boys to help out. For a moment there was silence. Then Grandpa spoke, “My dear why don’t you come here and sit right beside me. Don’t you know I miss you? Everything else can wait.”

Often even the most hardworking among us can get our priorities mixed up. Mary got caught up in her many responsibilities but forgot that this moment was special because grandpa had come.

In the life of Jesus we see similar events unfold when He visits the house of Mary and Martha. (Luke 10:38-42) Martha was busy in the kitchen preparing all that the guest would need. But Mary knew that a visit from Jesus was like nothing else and there would be time for work later. She listened intensely for every word from the Master, but Martha busied herself with other responsibilities. Martha soon was frustrated with her sister and asked Jesus to encourage her sister Mary to help her. Jesus did quite the opposite and defended Mary. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

In our lives we too can occupy ourselves with activities that at the time seem worthy of our attention; possibly work, school or some other responsibility, but the people in our lives should not be forgotten. The times we spend with loved ones are essential and are the memories that we want to make. It is the stuff that makes life worth living. The most important person in our life should be God himself.

Our relationship with him will take time. I am not suggesting we quit our jobs and move into a monastery, but we all need to reach a happy balance, where there is ample time for work, family, friends and most importantly God. Have we all taken some time to pray and read our bible today? Is a visit to our local church part of our schedule this week? The more we put into a relationship the more we will get out of it. Jesus reminds us of the power of our relationship with Him. He said in John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”


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Jesus gets the leftovers

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. Luke 2:7

When Jesus came into this world there was no room for Him in the Inn.  He was born where animals are kept. (Luke 2:7) He was given the leftovers. He had come down from heaven on a rescue mission, where the great idea was for Him to die. There was no escape clause. He was sentenced to die brutally and without mercy, for the love that God has for us. Yet he was given no priority. There He lay where unsightly and smelly animals are kept out of the way.

Jesus preached the good news, went from place to place healing, casting out demons, forgiving sin, counseling, and changing lives.  However he was never given a big church to pastor, a book contract or offered a big Pastoral home, Jesus actually referred to himself as homeless.(Matthew 8:20)

He fed thousands on more than one occasion, raised the dead, walked on water and stilled the storm with a word. But the big network deal for a spectacular show never came. It would have been amazing. It surely would have been a hit.

He was the creator and this world did not recognize him. (John 1:10) He was the promised Messiah to God’s chosen people. He made sure to reach out to them first. (John 1:11) But they rejected him and begged for Him to be crucified. (Luke 23:21)

Jesus is knocking on the door of countless lives. He is the solution for the pain and depression. He is the solution for the empty heart and the troubled mind. But so many still do not give Him a second thought.

Many others like me owe Him everything we have. Including all the hope and peace and joy in our lives. He has saved us! But we often leave him the leftovers. The shopping has been done. The calls have been made. Did we check our email? Good, we took care of that. Dinner is made, and everyone has their Christmas gift. Maybe now we can take some time for our Lord and Savior.  At least He is no longer with the smelly animals in the manger.

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Giving thanks is a priority

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights ….James 1:17

There were ten lepers living outside society. They were unwanted, hopeless and without anyone to care for them. There was no medical attention or solution. They were waiting for death. Then he came by, Jesus, the great prophet from Nazareth. Some called him a teacher; others said he was just the son of that carpenter. Still others said he was the anointed one, the son of God, the Messiah. In any case there were stories of great miracles. Raising the dead, calming the storms and casting out demons were among the list of incredible miracles. If these were true then this man could not be just an ordinary man.

Then it was heard, in desperation they shouted “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 19:13) This man spoke but a few words “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” (Luke 19:14) They turned in obedience to follow his directions and they were healed. This terrible disease that had been affecting them for some time now was completely gone.

Then only one came back to thank Jesus. They had all experienced a life changing miracle. It cost them nothing but a little faith. Yet they did not take out the time to say thanks. Did they lack an attitude of gratitude?

There are three priceless gifts, our lives, our salvation and our eternal hope. In addition to these three there are countless more we can each add to our list of gifts. To God we must be forever grateful. He is worthy of our constant praise for what he has given us. Let us not be like the nine that did not make time to thank their healer. Let us be like the one who made it his priority to first say thanks. No doubt there are many loved ones he could have shared this great news with first. He could have sought out the approval of the priest first. He could have gone out to celebrate. But all of these paled in importance to his first act, which was to simply say thanks.

Regardless of the holiday an attitude of gratitude should always be present. We should always be prepared to offer praise to our Lord and savior. Let us make a priority of saying thanks to all those who deserve to hear it, especially our God!

Lost, but Found

for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. Luke 15:24

He watched as his beloved son just walked away in the distance. The pain was too much to bear. What challenges would his son face? What dangers, especially carrying such a large amount of money. It was half of the estate. His son had just made a horrible demand. “I want my share of the inheritance now. Give it to me,” he shouted. The father reluctantly gave in and now his son was gone.

Every day he must have watched and hoped, trusting in God to care for his son. If only he would return. He would most certainly be forgiven.

A long time passed. No doubt that kind of money took a while to spend. But then on the most glorious, wonderful day it happened. He barely recognized his son. But surely it must be him. Beneath the rags, that thin young man was his beloved son. The father could not contain himself and quickly began to run. In no time he had reached his prodigal son and took him in his arms.

The boy was sorrowful and soon expressed his shame. He had wasted all of his inheritance and had betrayed his father. He recognized that he was no longer worthy of being called his son and hoped he could be a servant. He was truly repentant. The father, forgave him and not only welcomed him back as his son, but began one of the greatest celebrations the family had ever had.

If any of us were to turn from God this is how he would receive us back, with love and mercy. God presently waits for those who have gone astray and if any are willing to return He welcomes them with open arms and celebrates. The joy felt in heaven as on earth is indescribable, for each and every soul that is saved!