The two thieves on the crosses are perfect examples of Christian and non-Christian people. Both were thieves, both were sinners but one chose to follow Jesus in the end. Like the two thieves we are all sinners and we all fall so short of the kingdom of God it’s hard for many to believe that they can go to Heaven. Jesus died as a criminal without committing any crime so that even the theif hanging next to Him could join Him in Heaven. Just the same, we all have a place with Jesus in Heaven if we choose to accept it by accepting Him. All people are people, there is no biological difference that separates those who are Christians and those who aren’t. The difference is Jesus. The difference is the Holy Spirit moving in us making us act…. Christian, we are just two sides of the same coin. All non-Christians can come to Christ there is absolutely nothing making it so that they can’t; not only that but Jesus welcomes them, us, everyone! Jesus wants the whole world to see Him and to not feel they are unwelcome in His home and at His table. Listen and you will hear His gentle voice calling you home. Today I want to end by saying this; anyone who feels cast out from the church because they are struggling to find their place in God’s kingdom, don’t feel like you’re alone, remember that the church cast Jesus out too. There are many churches out there and in truth sometimes you have to look a little before you can find a pastor and a congregation that suits you, but when you do you’ll feel like you’re home. Jesus wants YOU even if you don’t feel wanted and HE Loves you no matter how unlovable you feel. So choose Jesus because He has already chosen you.
Pray with me please
Jesus I know I am a sinner, I know I fall short of your glory but I also know you love me and you want me; please come into my life and fill me with you. Please forgive my sins and draw me to you and closer to you. Help me find you and to not feel discouraged. In your name I pray. Amen.
Today I was looking out over the lake in front of my grandfather’s cabin, and watching the gentle, grey waves roll in as multi coloured leaves escaped from their branches and settled on the stirring water. My mind flitted back to the ocean. The ocean is so much like God in many ways (and maybe God intended that) but today I thought of how the ocean is the world’s great contradiction. The sea is wild and untamed and sometimes quite harsh, yet it’s also gentle and nurturing. If you are out on the waves during a winter storm it’s a miracle if you make it back to shore! The wind howling, the water in turmoil, ice pellets driving into you like shrapnel; suddenly you realize this is not a place meant to be tamed or conquered and you are very much out of your depths thinking you could control such an controllable force! What you don’t see from the surface of those wild, teasing waves putting you back in your place is the security and comfort of the lives down below. When a big, cold winter storm attacks the animals under the surface swim deeper under the water until they are not affected by the storm. The ocean holds an array of extremely beautiful and delicate creatures who are unafraid and unharmed by the raging storm above. Where they are is quiet and safe and they know they are protected by the water. The ocean is so much like God in this way. To those who do not know God this world can be wild and harsh and untameable. They are like a little boat bobbing around in a wild winter storm, out on a great ocean and if they come out unscathed it’s a blessing. For those who know God and have accepted Jesus, it is like being a sea creature. We are safe in Jesus and comforted by His presence. When the storms of life hit we swim deeper into Him until we are enveloped by Him and are safe. Jesus does sometimes make us ride out some tough storms, but He always gets us through. Even if we don’t see Him protecting us right now He is there and He is keeping us safe. The ocean that crushes rock walls into sand is the same ocean that gently hydrates and feeds the ever so delicate anemone. The same God that conquers armies and parts the seas is the same God that gives dew to the flower and sends honey bees to scatter it’s pollen. What a perfect and powerful, loving and gentle God we serve and love; we are so very blessed to be called His children.
When you light a candle and sit basking in its glow you will always find that the closer you are to it the warmer you are, but the further you get from it the colder you get. It’s common knowledge. God is like that candle. At first we are lit on fire by the Holy Spirit; we seek and long for God, we search out ways to draw closer to Him and our hope grows and our Faith grows and we feel powerful because of Him! But as time goes on most people start to find that they don’t have the time to put into seeking God, or they just don’t feel like seeking God anymore. He’s always there right? Why should I seek after Him it’s not like He’s going anywhere! And these people find themselves growing farther away from God, farther away from the warmth and are now out in the cold. Has God left them out in the cold? Has He abandoned us in these times? NO! Our frigid existence is our own doing. God gave us free will and we want to be able to make our own choices, so why do we blame God when those choices draw us away from Him and we find Him hard to find? If you blow out the flame the warmth leaves with it.
What do you do when God seems hard to find? I heard a Church planter once say “God always hides in obvious places.” God is in your devotional reading, your worship time, your prayer time, your Bible reading, your Church attendance. God is always easy to find if you look for Him because He wants to be found. The more you seek Him the closer to the flame you get and the warmer you feel until all chill of the outside world washes away. All fear, sorrow, doubt is gone and you have the peace of Jesus and the comfort of the Hold Spirit and the always guiding hand of God, now you are safe and warm.
Remember that famous scene from Aladdin when he takes Jasmine for the magic carpet ride? Do you recall how that scene began? It began with a simple question. Do you trust me?
How often does Jesus reach out His hand and ask, “do you trust me?” Do we trust Him? Are we confident that the carpet can hold us? Are we asking Him “is it safe?” And then realizing that God is never safe and finding that that scares us. Just like the Beavers said about Aslan, “of course He isn’t safe, but He is good”. Of course the ride isn’t going to be safe but God is good, all the time. We may not see it always, but God is always doing good for us. The tips of the updrafts and the smack of the wind may not always feel comfortable, but Jesus takes us out of our comfort zones so that we can find a ‘whole new world’. If we don’t ever step off the balcony we will never find the magic of the adventure.
Next point, remember how the Genie said (in humor) “always keep your hands and arms inside the carpet”? We must remember to always keep ourselves within the Holy Spirit. We can wander too far to the edge and fall away from Him. Yes He will catch you if you call on Him, but the fall is a horrible thing that is better to avoid. Within the carpet you Are safe, trying to walk on air by yourself is impossible.
There are a lot of carpets out there, but the only magic one that will take you on an amazing journey is the one with the savior holding out His hand, asking if you trust Him enough to let go of the edge and fly.
It happens often in movies and in novels, where the hero is backed against an impossible wall and there is no way to escape. Suddenly the hero cries out for help and out of nowhere appears an all powerful friend who turns the entire situation around, and now the hero and her/his pal are beating back the enemy until they are victorious! That’s us with Jesus. So often we find ourselves backed against a wall and realize there is no way we can save ourselves so we cry out to Jesus, “Help Me Lord! I am trapped! Deliver me!” and like the friend in all the movies Jesus comes to us and changes our whole situation until we can see a new horizon and an escape from our enemy. Unlike the fictional movie friend, Jesus is already there waiting for us to call on Him. He’s not far away and has to come running, it’s not that He’s just showed up at the right time, it’s that He is with us already, we just needed to come to Him for help. Now notice also how in the movies the friend and the “hero” have to still battle their way out? that can also be the case for us. Jesus comes to our aid but we still have to fight through our problems with constant prayer. We will be delivered it just sometimes takes time; the defeating blow to our enemy is that we are no longer fighting alone, the minuet Jesus is fighting with us the tables turn and we have the winning hand. Another thing I want to point out, have you ever noticed how the “hero’s” friend is often the true hero of the story? For example: Sam from Lord of the Rings, Toto from Wizard of Oz, Little Creek from Spirit, and so many others, always remember that we are not the hero of our story, Jesus is. He’s that friend who drives out the darkness and brings us hope. Our friend is there to help us because He loves us, and heroes always come to save those in need. Isn’t it nice that we have a real and alive hero who came to save us and is there to help us? A hero who goes by the name Jehovah.
Do you ever feel panicked? Not necessarily from something bad, but just from general life? The, ‘this deadline is coming up’, or ‘that paper is due’, or the famous ‘I can’t believe I have not gotten that done yet’ panic. Our world’s not falling apart it just feels like we are. It may be a panic caused by good things that you don’t know how to fit in your schedule, or something you’re excited for but you don’t know how other people will react. All kinds of things can cause us to panic. Then we see the amazing happen, the things we are panicked about start falling into place as if they were always meant to be there. We meet our deadline and it’s the best work we’ve ever done, our paper gets on the prof’s desk just as the bell rings and we can breathe, our schedule suddenly has room, our exciting new life experience is the making of an amazing new future, We find that thing we needed to get done goes by really fast. So on and so on. Guess what friends, that’s Jesus. When our panic turns into prayer we see it turn around into purpose. My grandfather preached once that to see miracles we first have to see problems. I know that’s not a new concept but it’s still true. Until we have the privilege of saying, “okay God, I give this to you,” we haven’t yet seen Him work. Jesus gives us what is best for us and sometimes that’s hard to see. Philippians 4:6-7 says (say it with me) worry about nothing, pray about EVERYTHING. Jesus longs to prove Himself to us, He desires to hear our prayers about everything. Nothing is too personal, too hard, too dirty, too scary for Jesus to hear us say. He knows already, so feel free in unburdening yourself to Him. Only Jesus can give us peace and only He can make perfection out of our panic.
In our lives we will undoubtedly come across mountains we have to climb; there’s no way past them but up. We stand there at the base of the mountain looking at the thick, prickly trees and the 80 degree uphill grade, the top of the mountain is so high it has it’s own, personal cloud and we think to ourselves, ‘there has to be another way.’ So we begin looking for an easier route.We walk for miles as far as we can go around the base of the mountain in one direction and then in the other. We then find ourselves standing in our original spot, 10 times more tired and 10 times more discouraged as we realize we just wasted all that time and energy looking for a way around a solid rock foundation and could have been at least a third of the way to the top by now if we had just hitched up our socks and started climbing. Does this sound familiar? Well I bet it did for Moses too, he waited 40 years in the desert 100% relying on God for EVERYTHING because his people didn’t want to go through the hardship that they would face in entering the promise land. In the end God showed them that the view from the top of the mountain is well worth the climb, but it took a while to get them up there. God gets it. He’s patient with us and waits as we weigh our options but in the end we have to climb. We may get dirty and bloody and sore climbing to the top but once we sit down on the summit and look at the rushing waterfall beneath us and the crisp, cloudy air around us cools and soothes our aching bones we realize that without the climb we would never have gotten to look down upon a rainbow. God pushes us for a reason. No matter what we go through He uses it to draw us into His presence and to show us His power. He is building us into who we were meant to be and even though other people might not understand the climb and might try to persuade you to stay in the valley you taking that first, second, third, final step is putting you in God’s will; what else could we possibly wish for?