Kicking Sharks

A few days ago, riding down the road, I turned on the radio. I missed the first part of an incident being reported, but what I understood was this: a man had somehow met with an accident and was treading water in the ocean. Whether this was a boating or small plane accident, I don’t know, but the report stated that the man had been treading water for several hours. The Coast Guard found him and thankfully rescued the man. When the Coast Guard came upon the scene, they discovered that several sharks had been circling the man who had been bleeding from a cut on his forehead. The man said that he had been frantically kicking the sharks for about three hours.

There is no doubt, that if not for the outside intervention of the Coast Guard, in time the man would surely have died and met a terrible end. The man had great resolve. He was highly motivated to do whatever he could in his own strength to save himself. Even so, he could only have kicked sharks for a limited amount of time. Without the arrival of the Coast Guard, no matter his efforts, the man would be lost forever.

I thought to myself that this is exactly what takes place in our spiritual world. When we think of eternity, dreaming of what heaven may be like, desiring to get there, it is absolutely useless to think for a moment that our own efforts, no matter how noble, will be our ticket to paradise.  Jesus plainly told His disciples in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” We may tell ourselves that our good works will earn us a place in heaven. We may tell ourselves that our generosity will secure our allocated spot. We may deceive ourselves into believing that enduring suffering with a joyful attitude will be just what’s needed to take us to heaven.

None of the above is true. We humans actually make it so very difficult in the things we tell ourselves, doing our best to convince our own selves that we are good enough. In speaking about human effort we are told clearly in Romans 3:10, “There is no one that is good enough; no, not one.”

Hoping for heaven doesn’t have to be uncertain. It doesn’t have to be hard.    Understanding the truth is the most beautiful life changing experience that brings peace to man on earth and certainty about eternity.  Take a look at God’s own words from Romans 3:23-26: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Jesus Christ when He freed us from the penalty of our sins. For God presented Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life, shedding His blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in past times, for He was looking ahead and including them in what He would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He makes sinners right in His sight when they believe in Jesus.”

No one has to tread the waters of uncertainty, depending on their own resolve and effort to save them from the deceiving sharks of this world.  The only necessary thing is to look to Jesus.  Like the Coast Guard who saved the day, only He can reserve a place for you in heaven, saving you from every sin, and covering you by His perfect grace.


The Plot

So there was Jesus doing what He always did — healing the sick, offering hope to the downtrodden, feeding the hungry, revealing truth that would change lives forever.  Yet, there were those who hated Him for everything He did.  Some tried to discredit Him.  Others actually wanted to kill Him.  So strong was their hatred that they began plotting a scheme to rid the world of Jesus.

Their strategy involved one of Jesus’ ardent followers.  They needed inside information.  Was there anyone among His disciples that could be purchased?  Yes.  His name was Judas.  For thirty pieces of silver Judas told them where they could find Jesus.  In fact, he would lead the way to Him.  The first part of the plan was completed.

Next, Jesus had to be arrested.  After all, there were many witnesses who had heard the claims of Jesus to be on an equal standing with God.  Blasphemous!  This had to end!  Forget the miracles Jesus had performed.  Forget the good works and His compassion.  Forget the fullfilment of Sripture.  Just get rid of Him!  That was their foolproof plan.

The scheme was unfolding perfectly.  Now, a trial without a jury.  There was no one to speak for Him.  Why, Jesus did not even speak for Himself.  How could He stand there, mute, like a lamb being led to slaughter?  If only they knew.

Oh, happy day for those haters of everything about Jesus!  He had been legally found guilty and sentenced to death!  Aha!  They had won!  This will be a most sobering lessen to His followers.  Ha!  Look at them standing beneath the cross.  See how they shed their tears, but see how others hide in the shadows, afraid now to show their faces.  This will show the world the truth about Jesus.  Yes, indeed, the truth will win.  

It was the third day.  Those who hated Jesus, the false religious leaders, still reveled in the victory that was theirs.  Jesus was dead!  No more of His do-gooder ways to gain attention.  No more of His doctrine to fool the people into false belief.  Now the people would once again follow their teachings and adhere to their religious requirements.   They were in for a huge surprise!

What’s this?  Who is that woman running through the streets?  Where is she going? What’s that she’s saying?  What!  Jesus is alive?  She has seen Him?  Good grief!  What nonsense!  The killers of Jesus  had seen Him take His last breath.  They had witnessed the deed to the end!  Oh, they knew of the false claims that Jesus would rise from the dead.  That’s why they had placed Roman Guards to thwart any attempt of Jesus’ followers to steal the body and make these outrageous claims!

On that same morning, the guards came trembling.  They gave their account in abject fear of what would happen to them for allowing the body of Jesus to be taken.  Instead of reporting to their own authorities, they went to the religious leaders.  They explained the earthquake and the angel that had descended, moving the rock that sealed the tomb.  The religious leaders were livid!  They could not allow this report to be given.  They agreed among themselves to offer the soldiers a large bribe to keep quiet about what they had seen.  They were instructed to say that somehow the disciples had come in the night, overthrown them, and managed to steal the body.  The guards accepted the bribe and told the story as they were commanded.  They had no idea that their lies could not hide the truth, and the truth would set men free for generations to come.

Jesus endured great shame and He experienced agonizing pain to pay the penalty for our sins.  His death on the cross was brutal but Jesus’ love for us outweighed His pain.  You see, He knew what the end held for Him and for us.  He chose to suffer because He knew the ultimate result —  total forgiveness of our sins,  an inheritance of eternal life in heaven, strength, peace, and joy for each day on earth.   Then, Jesus actually conquered  death that put Him in the grave.  Yes, He rose again!  Today, He sits at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf!  Those who hated Him didn’t see that coming!  

He’s alive and lives in the hearts of all who invite Him in!  He is still changing lives forever!  When Jesus is invited to sit on the throne of our lives, we are never quite the same again!

“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”  II Corinthians 5:21



Why Is It ‘Good’ Friday?

One wold be forgiven for wondering why today is called good; after all, it commemorates the day that Jesus died.  He was betrayed, flogged, thorns made into a crown were mockingly placed on His head, he was stripped of his clothing and nailed to a cross.  Mockers filed by shouting insults as He hung dying.  Why is this good?

It’s more than good; actually, it’s wonderful!  You see, to die was Jesus’ ultimate purpose.  He knew that the plan of His Father was to offer salvation to the entire world.  Jesus wanted to fulfill that plan.  It was love that compelled Him to die that terrible death.  Jesus knew all along what would happen to Him.  Did He have a choice?  Oh, yes.  He chose you and me.

You see, payment for sin required a perfect sacrifice.  Jesus was the only sacrifice that could be given for our sins.  Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was the only available perfect sacrifice.  He went willingly to the cross.  The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:22, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.”  However, it doesn’t end at the cross!  The cross was the door that opened the way to our salvation.  It was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that cemented the way for eternity.  Since Jesus rose from the dead, we too, will rise from the dead.

Where is Jesus now?  The Bible tells us that He is with His Father in heaven, and that He is right now, “preparing a place for us.”  John 14:2.  When His Father gives the word, Jesus will come again and gather us all unto Himself.  He will take us to heaven to live for eternity in that place that He Himself has prepared for us.  Isn’t that the most wonderful news?  Doesn’t it truly make today a very good Friday and it makes Sunday a glorious day of victory!

Because He conquered death, we conquer death!  Because He lives, we live!  Because He is victorious, we are victorious!  It all began on the cross.  He chose to die because of His immeasurable love.  Doesn’t that love compel us to gladly receive that gift of salvation?  To receive this gift, available to us all, one only has to truly ask forgiveness of their sins and to thank Jesus for dying on that cross.  At that moment, He will come to reside in one’s life, sealing them forever as one of His own.

Yes, this is a wonderful Friday, indeed!  Hallelujah, He died for us, rose from the dead for us, and will come again to take us to live with Him forever!

Dirty Dishes — Again!

A sink full of dirty dishes is a part of all our lives. Today, it seemed that every time I went into the kitchen, another dirty dish was hiding in the sink! I washed the breakfast dishes, but in a very little while, a few cups had made their way back to the sink! Then came the lunch plates. I washed the lunch dishes. By midday, several cups, a glass and a bowl, and a frying pan was waiting for me in the sink!

I could easily loathe that sink! But wait, the sink is the place where dirty dishes are made clean again. The sink makes it possible for clean dishes to be put to good use once more. I must not despise the kitchen sink, because without it my dirty dishes would clutter every surface possible!

You and I are like dirty dishes. We come to Jesus and He washes us and makes us clean but in no time at all, we get dirty again. So we come and ask Him to forgive us and to clean us up again. He does, but what happens? Oh, no! We go and get ourselves dirty, yet again! It happens over and over! Getting dirty can be so disheartening that we begin to despise the act of getting clean! We make excuses as to why we don’t go quickly to Jesus for His cleansing.

That’s as foolish as despising the sink! In the Old Testament, David understood the need and the beauty of going to God for cleansing. He wrote in Psalm 51:2, “Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.” To be made clean; to be purified of all sin, is nothing to run away from, but something to be practiced everyday. Just think, our perfect and holy God is willing and always waiting for us to come and be washed again, and again, and again. He never tires of our coming. In fact, the Bible tells us that He understands our weaknesses. He is always hoping that we will come to be washed in His forgiveness and love.

When that happens, like the dirty dish ready to be used at the next meal, you and I are made ready to be used as we walk along the paths of our lives. We can’t get away from dirty dishes, and until Jesus takes us all to heaven, we can’t get away from the dirt of this world sticking to us. Thank you Father, for your holy sink that washes away all my sin.

The Beauty Of The Cross

When we hear the words, “the beauty of the cross,” we may understandably think of a silver or gold cross dangling from a necklace.  Sadly, even among Christians, the cross has become nothing more than an Easter subject or a jewelry selection.  I write today to encourage us all, do not forget that without the cross, all humanity would be lost and without hope.

You see, if not for the cross, humans would attempt to fill the void in their lives with points of religion that entail rules and regulations.  Of course, no one can perfectly maintain rules and regulations.  We will slip up somewhere along the way.

Thank God the cross is not about religion, nor rules and regulations; the cross is about relationship.   The cross held upon it’s roughly hewn timbers the embodiment of love, because it stretched upon those timbers, the life of Jesus that spilled out the blood of forgiveness for all mankind’s sins — no matter what those sins may be. The cross is the key to freedom.  The cross is the way of hope.  The cross points to the way of forgiveness.  The cross is the revelation of the heart of God.

If Jesus had not died on the cross, life would be senseless.  However, since Jesus did take our place for the payment of sin, everyone has opportunity to receive, not only forgiveness of all sins, but also to receive a promise of eternal life in heaven, where there will be no more tears or sorrow.  Because of the cross, we have available to us, the power of God working in our lives, showing us the way to successful and joyful living.  How weak we would be if not for what happened on the cross.  Our own attempts at triumph in life would be futile and depressing.  Thank God, that through the love of Jesus on the cross, He conquered death, gaining victory on our behalf.

The way of the cross was cruel and painful, painted in blood, leading to death — enter Jesus — and the way of the cross becomes the most beautiful object because of the love that was nailed there.  When we understand the way of the cross, we can say with Paul as he said in Galations 6:14, “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Because of the cross, my interest in the world has been crucified, and the world’s interest to me has also died.”

Without the cross, our eyesight is limited; with the cross, our eyes are opened to the glory of heaven.  Therefore, how beautiful is the cross.