By Steve Scurich
AND JUST AS THEY WERE TELLING ABOUT IT, JESUS HIMSELF WAS SUDDENLY STANDING THERE AMONG THEM. “PEACE BE WITH YOU,” HE SAID. [LUKE 24:36]
Have you ever lost somebody close to you and thought, “I wish I had more time with him/her to show how much I appreciate who they are?” Can you imagine the joy you would have if suddenly, while you were thinking about that person, they appeared to you? Not as a ghost, but as a real human being, healthy and full of life, and able to sit down to a meal and conversation. I know it would be hard. It would be emotional, and you’d never want the moment to end, but I’m sure you would cherish every second with that person. I know I would.
Every time we pray to God, we are able to experience that kind of joy. Jesus is right there; He is holding our hand and talking with us as real as any moment with someone close to you. When we pray, we are standing in the throne room of God, worthy to be there and He wants to hear all about our day. He already knows every thought and detail that has run through our mind, but He never gets tired of listening to us.
For those of you that have children, how do you feel when your son/daughter shows love to you at a time when you are completely and intently focused on them? While you revel in the beauty of their creation as a unique person, set into life by the breath of God, they open up and tell you everything about their day. How does it feel when they tell you how much they love you (not your stuff, just you); or how much they want to be with you, and respect who you are as their guide and counselor? What joy! It all comes from God and when we feel joy, we reflect His love toward us. If you gave your child money, and they use it to buy you a gift, would you not feel completely filled with joy? Although they gave to you what came from you, it has a very special meaning. Now, imagine how much God delights in getting joy back from the love He gives you?
I wish I had more time here on earth with my Father-in-Law. I only knew him for a few short months, but he made a big impact on my life. Ed died of cancer shortly after I married my wife and I can recall each of our moments together with such clarity. The time I sat at his bedside to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage, his boisterous response, “her Mother and I do!” when asked by our Pastor, “who gives this daughter to this man in marriage?”, and the many hospital visits made easy by his smile as we walked in the door. I would be filled with joy if Ed was suddenly standing beside me, but I know I will get to spend eternity with him in heaven and we’ll have lots to talk about. Every time I pray, I know he is right there; standing next to my Lord and Savior who gave me not only love and joy, but also peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
QUESTION TO CONSIDER
Do you feel death is strictly God’s punishment for our sins, or have you ever considered that it is our final gift back to Him?
Father I want to always live my life filled with your joy. Give me wisdom to know what your will is for me, so I can experience the depth, meaning, and purpose you have created me for. Teach me to always see life here on earth as my opportunity to joyfully give you gifts of appreciation for sending your one and only Son to die on the cross for my sins. Thank you for all your wonderful blessings. Amen.
By Allen Abendschein
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]
The “Great Commission” is one of those foundational verses in the bible. The word commission is interesting, it means to convey authority; it is the condition of being placed under special authoritative responsibility or charge. As a Christian this verse is speaking directly to me. This is what I am to do, go out in the world and make disciples of all nations. So if you have ever been at a loss from knowing what God wants for you, in your life, this is it.
It would be wise for us to periodically ask ourselves “how is it going?” What exactly should I be doing to fulfill this commission, and how can I tell if I am successful? Don’t be too hard on yourself, many people struggle to find their stride, myself included. The important thing to remember is that God has uniquely gifted you, so whatever you do to build the kingdom, and however you get this work done will be unique to you.
One way to find-out if you are hitting-the-mark is to ask yourself “is this pleasing to God?” Another way to check-in is to ask your self “am I having fun, by using my talents, the ones that God has given to me?” If you can say yes to these questions chances are you are in a very sweet spot. Doing God’s work should never be a burden, it should be something that gets you excited, makes you feel good, and gives you a great deal of satisfaction.
One of my favorite clichés is this: You cannot steer a ship that is not moving. What this means for you and me is faith should result in action; it causes movement, the movement of the Holy Spirit within us. To fulfill Christ’s commission for us means we have to get going, get busy, and get off the sidelines and into the game. Our church has many opportunities for you to get plugged-in and to make a difference for Christ in people’s lives. But the first step belongs to you, and every journey starts with that first step, but remember to have fun with it!
QUESTION TO CONSIDER
Where can I be used in service to the Lord?
Dear God give me a heart for reaching-out to people, and the confidence to speak the truth of your word.
By Steve Scurich
“FOR GOD LOVED THE WORLD SO MUCH THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, SO THAT EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT PARISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE” [JOHN 3:16]
Most Christians (and even many non-Christians I’m sure) hear “John 3:16” and they know immediately how to recite the verse. It sums up the reason for Jesus’ sacrificial life. I fear this verse has lost its punch, its meaning, and its impact on how we live. John 3:16 was not written in the Bible simply to be displayed at football games, but to impact someone’s entire life!
Imagine a time in your life when someone really upset you. Not just any moment, but one so impactful it comes right to the surface when that question is asked. Now, imagine specifically how you felt - the hurt, the rejection, the suffering, the anger, and the tears of frustration. Put yourself in that moment and then imagine taking the one thing that means the most to you and sacrificing it for the person who just hurt you. Imagine sacrificing yourself for them? We can’t even come close to knowing the kind of love God has given us through the gift of His Son. This verse should at least spark enough curiosity to consider looking into the life of Jesus. It speaks of love, of the world, of sacrifice, of a free gift beyond worth, and of eternal life!
I became a Christian at 7 years old. I asked Jesus to come into my heart (whatever that meant?) and forgive my sins (whatever that meant?), and be my Lord and Savior (whatever that meant?). For many years, God was the guy that kept me out of trouble growing up. He was like Santa Claus and if I was good all year, I’d get heaven (whatever that looked like?). I knew this verse by heart shortly afterwards, but I can honestly say that it didn’t deliver its impact on my life until many years (and rejections of God) later, when I recommitted my life to Jesus’ and was baptized. Once I got it, I got it! God poured a flood of love and forgiveness down on me. It seemed like I cried for days. My heart, which had become so hard and emotionless, had instantly softened to a point where I could clearly see how much God had always loved me and that he gave his one and only Son for me. Me? You? Our family, our friends, our enemies, evil people, righteous people? Yes, the world.
I now know what heaven is. I can’t describe it to you in words, but I know by opening the letter that God delivered specifically to me. He has one for you too, and it can only be opened by you, the addressee. When you find and open it, write the verse John 3:16 on the envelope. Then, read and cherish it everyday. I can’t wait to spend eternity with the One who loved me beyond words!
QUESTION TO CONSIDER
Do you truly believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Are you informed enough? The bible tells us in words, but do your prayers to God really let Him in to show you His overwhelming love?
Jesus, I am a sinner and I have rejected your ways in my life. Please forgive me and come into my heart. Be my Lord and Savior. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, so that I will always believe in you and have eternal life. Amen.
By Steve Scurich
THEN JESUS SHOUTED, “FATHER, I ENTRUST MY SPIRIT INTO YOUR HANDS!” AND WITH THOSE WORDS HE BREATHED HIS LAST. [LUKE 23:46]
Have you ever trusted someone so much that you knew, without a doubt, they had your back no matter what? I believe I did as a child, but as I’ve gotten older I have been through many experiences where trust has been broken. We are bombarded with advertisements for products that promise to do this or that. We tend to experience ‘over-promise and under-deliver’ from many of the businesses we put our trust in. Elected politicians, celebrities, and divorce statistics seem to make ‘breaking trust’ the norm.
God is the only one we can completely rely on and be confident He will over-deliver. This is exactly why He should be our number one priority. Everything in our lives should come from our obedience to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. Imagine the trust and security you would have if this were truly the case in everything you did and thought? Every piece of our lives would fall into the right place – creating an abundance of joy, meaning and purpose!
As a Christian, I believe one of the most important things I can do is to be considered trustworthy. If we are to live a life modeled after Jesus, and we are to bring others into the welcoming hands of God, we must be seen as loving, kind and trustworthy people. The best way to build up a habit of consistently doing what is right is to pray, and make sure our integrity is strong. Integrity is what you do when nobody else is watching. When Tony Dungy (Superbowl winning coach of the Indianapolis Colts) was asked about integrity, his response was this:
“From a leadership standpoint, I want to display integrity with my players. They have to be able to count on me to be the same, no matter what. If I tell them something about my personal life and I don’t follow through on it, how can they believe anything I try to teach them on the field? To have that trust and have them follow me as a leader, they have to believe in me. Integrity goes hand-in-hand with trust. You can’t have a good player-coach relationship or a good staff relationship without trust.”
God has hard-wired us to do the right thing, always. When we don’t do it, we reject Him and think we are in control. We know what is right, but many times we choose another path – which I have found, usually leads to more difficulties than trusting God and taking His path to begin with. Everyday, we should wake up and remember Jesus’ words just before he took his last breath, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” He knew when it was His time to depart this world and be with God. We don’t know when our time will come to depart this world and so we need to always be prepared. We need to always trust God, and share His trust with everyone through our own lives.
QUESTION TO CONSIDER
What do you do when nobody else is watching? When you are honest with yourself, and truly search your heart, do you fully trust God, or are you rejecting Him by thinking you’re in control?
Lord, I try to control so many things around me everyday. Help me to listen intently to your desires for my life in everything I do. Let the Holy Spirit be my guide, for I know that everything good in life comes from you. Work in me to trust you completely, and to show that trust to others through my actions. Amen.
By Steve Scurich
JESUS SAID, “FATHER, FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING.” AND THE SOLDIERS GAMBLED FOR HIS CLOTHES BY THROWING DICE. [LUKE 23:34]
This is a verse I have read many times and yet it never seems to lose its impact! I think about the movie Passion of The Christ (which does a great job of displaying the brutal torture and mockery Jesus endured for us). He was able to look at all those rejecting Him at a moment when most (if not all) of us would want to seek revenge, and ask for God’s forgiveness of them. If God can forgive their behavior, He can forgive anything!
Since I have grow to be stronger in my faith as a Christian, I have come to understand what His forgiveness means. I feel like a new person compared to my life before baptism. I look back at the things I have done, all the times I have rejected God, and the shortsightedness I had on life, and I realize that I did not completely know what I was doing. Evil had its tight grip on me. I let it in, I let it control me, and I let it soil my lens to God’s glory and grace.
So what does a dirty lens have to do with anything? The dirtier our lives become in sin, the dirtier our looking-lens to God becomes. I believe this is why, many times, we need to experience a true hardship in our lives in order to finally get right with Jesus. Despite how dirty we make our lens, God keeps trying to shine His light into us. Think of a magnifying glass. The tighter you focus light through it, the more power the light has to burn something. Similarly, the smaller we make the area of our lens for God to shine through, the more it can pierce our soul at a very specific point. Ultimately, we either stop rejecting Him and clean ourselves up to see His glory all around us, or we die like an ant being burned by a magnifying glass. The choice is ours, but here is the good news, the lens is always set to point toward God. Always has been and always will be. We just need to step up, look through it, and accept what we see as truth. No matter how many times we go back for another view, God is the same; He loves sharing His glory to our watchful eyes, and He will forgive us NO MATTER WHAT. We just shouldn’t wait too long…
QUESTION TO CONSIDER
Do you truly believe that God has the power and authority to forgive your sins no matter what? Before you answer, ask yourself if you believe He is the creator of all things in heaven and on earth. If so, how can He not have that authority?
God, I am a sinner. You know my every thought, from before I was born and you made me to live for you as my Lord and King. Please forgive my rejection of you, and wash my sins clean. Help me to always remember how Jesus forgave us at a time that was most difficult. Show me how to forgive those that do harm to me. I need your strength. Amen.
By Steve Scurich
AT ABOUT THREE O’CLOCK, JESUS CALLED OUT WITH A LOUD VOICE, “ELI, ELI, LEMA SABACHTHANI?” WHICH MEANS “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU ABANDONED ME?” [MATTHEW 27:46]
How many times in your life have you been sure about something, only to find out that you were totally mistaken? As Jesus is hanging on the cross he shouts out before his death, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” As we read this scripture the words and emotions of Jesus are confusing. God abandoned Him? What does that mean? Jesus is God, how can God abandon Him? Two thoughts come to my mind when I read this and think about the confusion.
One, I need to listen more. We are taught to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry (James 1:19). Although I can keep anger down most of the time, I am not slow to speak. Over and over again in my life I have jumped to conclusions before listening to the whole story. I can recall many times that I have watched a television game show and blurted out the answer to a question before it was fully asked, only to be wrong. Life is not a game show. We must listen intently, we must ask for clarification and we must think before we speak. God wants us to hear the whole story. Not our story, His story. Let Him in. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide and slow down to be sure you understand the big picture.
Second, God had to abandon Jesus. God chose to come down from his throne in Heaven and live among us as man. He overcame hell and died an earthly death so that He would be raised again. Through his death and resurrection all people have been given the opportunity to believe and experience His forgiveness from sin. So what does that have to do with God abandoning His Son at the time of His greatest need? God can’t die. Jesus the man was also God. The only way Jesus could die as man was for God to abandon him. Jesus lived a perfect, sin free life and the penalty for sin is death. He didn’t deserve to die; He never sinned! Can you imagine the dark abandonment He had to endure on the cross? What about the strength of God to let His one and only son be sacrificed for us? I tear up every time I think about it.
QUESTION TO CONSIDER
When you bow your head in prayer, are you slowing down enough to hear specifically what God has in store for you? Are you listening to the Holy Spirit and remembering the unbelievable sacrifice He made for you?
Father, please quiet my thoughts so that I can focus entirely on you. Help me to always remember the sacrifice you made to connect me with God the Father. Fill my heart and my head with your will in everything I do.
By Jeremy Pond
THEY SPIT ON HIM, AND TOOK THE STAFF AND STRUCK HIM ON THE HEAD AGAIN AND AGAIN. [MATTHEW 27:30]
I think some of the most difficult passage of scripture about Jesus is the detailed accounts of people mocking Him. Jesus was placed in an area allowing the entire company to be able to mock Him with words and physical abuse. Possibly one of the most humiliating actions is the men peering into the eyes of Jesus and spitting in His face. In order to spit into the face of Jesus they would have to get close and personal. It is something that you can’t do by moving with the crowd or mob. As they spit on Jesus they would look at Him and forcefully spew anger and hatred. To be in such a brutalized condition ands then to endure such humiliation must have broke His heart.
The details around this verse show the extreme humiliation Jesus endured, but the message speaks of Jesus’ incredible grace; one of His greatest messages. Jesus could see the emotions of each person that was causing him harm, yet he still gave each one the opportunity to be in heaven. He could have used his power as the King of the Jews to remove himself or others from this situation, but he endured the punishment.
QUESTION TO CONSIDER
Remember the seventeen words from this scripture the next time you feel that you have been humiliated. Is it really that bad? Could there be more troubles for the person(s) who have humiliated you than it appears? Choose to pray for those who persecute you and remember that Jesus is preparing to spend eternity with you.
Lord, give me the strength to channel any humiliation coming my way into your grace and forgiveness.
By Keith King
THE CENTURION, SEEING WHAT HAD HAPPENED, PRAISED GOD AND SAID, “SURELY THIS WAS A RIGHTEOUS MAN.” [LUKE 23:47]
It is amazing to me that the one man who oversees the crucifixion of Jesus Christ comes to realize that Jesus is who He said He was. Imagine the moment as Jesus dies on the cross. Jesus breathes his last and the earth begins to shake. The sky changes in an instant and temple curtains tear in half. This is unlike any other crucifixion the Romans had performed. Usually, they just die on the cross and justice is served. However, in this circumstance the death of Jesus is so outstanding that even the Roman official bows and recognizes Jesus as a righteous man.
By praising God and recognizing Jesus’ righteousness, the centurion seems to understand that Jesus is not who he thought Him to be. There is no way this man was just another common criminal being punished by Rome.
In our lives, we also participate in and witness events every day that have significance and meaning that are beyond our initial understanding. We need to remember that the Lord is always present and we should seek His guidance and direction in our daily lives.
QUESTION TO CONSIDER
Do I take time to think about what God’s message is for me in my day-to-day activities?
Jesus, help me to see and understand your message in my daily life.
By Darrin Stafford
THEN HE SAID, “JESUS, REMEMBER ME WHEN YOU COME INTO YOUR KINGDOM.” [LUKE 23:42]
This passage in Luke is referencing one of the two criminals who were hanging on crosses next to Jesus, asking Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. This verse shows the extent to which Jesus is willing to forgive ALL of us, if only we are willing to humble ourselves, ask for His forgiveness and accept Him into our lives.
But there is so much more to this scene, especially the verses before it and after it. Reading verses 39-43 you find that there are two criminals on crosses next to Jesus. To me, each criminal represents the two vastly different examples of this world in which we live. The first criminal mocks Jesus. And tells Him that if he truly is who He claims to be, why doesn’t He save himself and the others with Him? The other criminal realizes that he is getting just punishment for his crimes and accepts his demise. He also believes that Jesus is who He claims to be and feels that Jesus is not deserving of being crucified. He humbly asks Jesus to remember him in heaven. Jesus tells him that He will and that they will be together in heaven.
As I mentioned earlier, I think this illustration represents what we see in the world today. Many people are like the first criminal with hardened hearts, close-minds, and unrepentant of their sins. They go out of their way to dismiss the bible and its teachings, looking for satisfaction in life through material things. The second criminal represents those that truly seek Jesus and His gift of grace and forgiveness. They are people that understand they are not perfect and that they are sinners. It also illustrates that no matter the crime or situation, everyone is able to receive forgiveness and the opportunity to spend eternity with Jesus in heaven.
What Luke 23:42 really boils down to is the unconditional love, grace and forgiveness that can be given to anyone who will humble themselves. Understanding, that we are all sinners and that we can only receive forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. It also shows that even in the final moments of one’s life that a truly repentant person can be forgiven and saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
QUESTION TO CONSIDER
Have you really grasped the magnitude of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross? Which criminal are you? Have you humbled yourself and accepted the grace and forgiveness that Jesus offers to all of us?
Jesus, I pray that I never lose sight of your sacrifice and the grace that you so freely give to all those who come to you. May I never forget that you paid the ultimate sacrifice for all.
By Pete Schweider
TWO OTHERS, BOTH CRIMINALS, WERE LED OUT TO BE EXECUTED WITH HIM. [LUKE 23:32]
Jesus was crucified between two criminals. The two thieves shared a common title and yet are portrayed as vastly different. One of the men had a hardened heart of unbelief, whereas, the other man’s heart softened as he hung next to Jesus. The man with the softened heart sought refuge and forgiveness from Jesus. He turned to Jesus on the cross as asked to be remembered in the life to come. The other man laughed at his hope destroyed by a wicked heart. No troubles of themselves will change a wicked heart. Though Christ was in great struggle and agony, his heart was soft and open to the repentant criminal. Jesus promised the softhearted man a place in eternity! By this act of grace we are to understand that Jesus Christ died to open the kingdom of heaven to all who place their trust in Him. It is often said: “that in general men die as they live”.
What if two Christians were crucified alongside Jesus? What if one was suffering from a hardened heart? He had talked the talk, he knew all the right things to say, but his actions never matched his talk. He lived his whole life but never opened his heart to the promptings and direction of the Holy Spirit. Maybe for each believer we must continue to evaluate our hearts. Have we grown hardened? Are we pretending to follow Jesus and yet a deeper evaluation proves no real commitment? May your heart be softened by the incredible grace of Jesus that is offered to all those who will accept Him and then walk in obedience with Him.
QUESTION TO CONSIDER
What place in the Kingdom (if any) may be held for that Christian with a hardened heart?
Lord, help me to always seek a desire for continuous strength, through You. Make my heart soft, so that I rely on You for everything that comes my way.