53 and counting….

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I turned 53 yesterday. That puts me two years away from a senior citizen’s discount. I’m trying to wrap my brain around the fact that in seven years. Lord willing, I’ll be sixty. Say what? After 50 birthdays start to become more and more important. (insert chuckle here)

It’s kinda weird to celebrate 53 years, partly because I still feel much younger than that. Even though it takes me longer to get up out of a chair, and I’m getting used to the fact that I can’t read anything without whipping out my reading glasses, I still feel pretty young. I still have lots of energy…most of the time, but I go to bed much earlier now than I did just a few years ago. But whatever delusions of immortality I had in my twenties are long gone. I know that one day this earthly life will come to an end, and statistically, that could happen in just a couple of decades, despite my hopes of living to be a hundred ( I think that would be very cool but only God knows about that.).

It’s kinda creepy to think about your life ending, but at my age I can’t help but at least tip my hat in acknowledgement to that weird guy with a sickle, standing in the shadows. I know one day he’s gonna come knocking and escort me to glory. Fortunately, because of Jesus the trip will be a short passage into life. I think if it weren’t for Jesus I would be in great fear of death. How sad it would be to think that my life was just an existence until death. But I have great hope that this short life is just  a warm up for eternity.

However, despite my great hope, I still feel some apprehension about the future. I’m done looking back with regret about the past. I’ve looked back and seen God’s hand on my life and for that I give thanks. God has blessed me beyond my expectations. But I can see also that I wasted a lot of my life being way too self concerned. God has graciously worked in and through this little clay pot of a life despite some basic mistakes. Here’s a short list of things I could get really depressed about if I tried.

  1. Too much talking. Too little listening.
  2. Too many hours spent on computer games. Too little on relationships.
  3. Too much time looking for affirmation. Too little time giving it.
  4. Too much self preservation. Too little self sacrifice.
  5. Too much concern for appearances. Too little concern for substance.
  6. Too much convenience. Too little perseverance.
  7. Too much fear. too little faith.
  8. Too much self. Too little others.
  9. Too much resentment. Too little forgiveness.
  10. Too much flesh. Too little Spirit.

I’ve spent enough time thinking about previous years and how I could have given more and loved better. I wept. I’ve confessed. I’ve mended fences…or at least tried, some refuse to mend. But as the Bible says, “There’s a time to weep and a time to laugh.” I’m done trying to fix yesterday. It’s time to move ahead into the life God has for me and my loved ones.

The great news of the Gospel is that God is always calling us forward to new life. I’m ready to move into the gift of life with a new zeal for God and His kingdom. In my short 53 years, despite all the ups and downs, one thing has remained. Jesus Christ, my wonderful savior has held my hand all the way. His love is greater than my regrets, stronger than my fears, and more powerful than my insecurities.

He has been unswervingly faithful and undeniably capable in all situations.My king has kept me in His nail scarred hands even in my worst moments. He has given me a wonderful family, amazing friends and tremendous opportunities. The great news is that no matter how long I live on this planet the best is always yet to come. Quite frankly, I have no intention of winding down at this point. My God has given me a great gospel to preach and a great life to live and I feel that I’m just now getting started. I want the second half to be greater than the first. I want my life to burst with God’s glory so brightly that you’ll have to wear sunglasses to my funeral!

If you have read this far, thank you for indulging me. I want to encourage you to live your life completely for Jesus Christ. He is the very ground of your existence. He is the reason for every breath you breathe. He alone can give meaning and lasting purpose to your life. In fact, He alone can give you your life. To Him be the glory now and forever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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Texts, Temples and Traditions ? Is that all God’s got?

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”   (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Every religion on earth says basically the same thing: “Here’s the textbook. Here’s the temple. Here are the traditions. See ya at the finish line…if you’re good. Good luck.”

You’re left with a text, a temple, and tradition. Every religion hands you the book of choice and leaves it up to you to make it through. But only the message of Jesus Christ says, “Yes we have rules, we have traditions and beliefs, but there’s more.” The good news of Jesus Christ is that God doesn’t just hand you a book and say, “Good luck, see ya at the finish line”…though many Christians live as if that’s exactly what God did. They’re missing the most crucial element. God offers you his very presence and power.

The good news is that God says, “You can’t make it on your own. If you try you will fail. So I have come to live inside of you and be with you along the way. It wont be you doing the work, but my Holy Spirit within you. Let me change you, and empower you to live the live I have called you to.” You see, when a person repents of their sin, and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, they are not only forgiven, they are indwelt by God himself.

Preaching the first Christian sermon ever, the Apostle Peter said it like this, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit who makes us truly Christian. He also makes us victorious over the sin and corruption of this world. In the passage at the beginning of this blog we see four powerful truths that help us live victoriously, the way God designed us to. Read it again then see below four life changing truths every believer ought to know.

1. God’s divine power has given us all we need to live godly lives in this present world. This means that we are not called to just be forgiven, then continue wallowing in sin, just consoling ourselves by saying, “God accepts me.” He does accept you but he also expects you to put away the old life and walk powerfully in the new one.  We are called to live godly lives as God’s children. You have all you need to do that if the Spirit of Christ is in you.

2. This power comes through knowing God personally. As you get to know him and rely on him, he imparts his power into your life. But you can’t have God’s power without a personal commitment to Christ. You can’t just believe God is out there somewhere. You have to develop a personal relationship with him. This relationship is with a person, not a system. The person’s name is Jesus Christ. He died on the cross and rose from the dead to open the way to eternal life, and to give us access to God’s very life on this earth.

3. We access the power of God by obeying his word and believing his promises. As a society we are great at analyzing the promises of God, but are slow to just believe them. You want to know why we don’t see as many miracles as they saw in the Bible? It’s not because God went on vacation. It’s because we have become so self reliant and cynical that we have trouble just trusting  a God who is way beyond us. But when we trust him, miracles happen. I’ve see high school students literally healed of sickness in my class room because they simply believed God.

4. God desires that we live as free people, not as slaves. We were not meant to just be forgiven. We were meant to be victorious. You can overcome that stubborn sin that keeps tangling you up. You can put away the porn addiction, the cutting, the gossip. You can live free of crippling anxiety and depression. You can walk away from the wreck of an immoral life. God’s power is real and available to all who turn from sin to Christ by faith.

Jesus Christ is offering you more than a text, and temple and a tradition. He offers himself to you. Will you trust him? Will you receive him?

Walking in God’s Favor.

“And the King granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” (Nehemiah 2:8)

Nehemiah was a bit too old to attempt a back flip, but today he almost tried one! He could not believe what just happened. He had spent the whole night before pleading with God for favor from the Persian King. Through trembling lips he nervously requested leave to go to Jerusalem and attempt a rebuilding project for his people. Not only did the King grant his request, he also granted supplies and protection for the whole project! How long the old man stood there with his mouth hanging open is unknown to us, but I would have loved to have seen it. Retiring to his room, Nehemiah sat on the edge of his bed in sheer awe. Then He looked up to heaven, with tears of golden joy dancing across his face and tried to find words to give to his God. But how do you adequately say thanks when your future, once thought lost forever, has just been handed to you on a silver tray of divine favor? In such rare moments all you can do is rest in the unexplainable goodness of God. Nehemiah experienced the favor of God. Can you and I walk in such favor? Or is this just the stuff of ancient stories? To me the Bible is more than a collection of ancient accounts. It is the playbook for those who would know God and experience him today and into eternity. When we read Nehemiah’s explanation of things in chapter 2, verse 8 we see how his assessment of things shaped his destiny. You see many of us miss the favor of God in our lives simply because of the way we choose to look at life. When he wrote of his experience with the King, he gave the reason for how things worked out. Let’s be honest, many of us, if we had been through such an experience, we would have said something like this: “And the King granted me what I asked because…

1. I caught him when he was in a good mood.

2. I know how to work people and get what I want.

3. He probably has ulterior motives, but at least we have a win – win situation.

4. I was the just lucky I guess.

Strangely enough, if it hadn’t worked out we would be tempted to bring God into it at that point…

1. God must be mad at me.

2. God doesn’t care.

3. God doesn’t exist.

Funny how we work that isn’t it? God only gets the credit for our disappointments. Or worse, his existence is determined by whether or not we get what we want. Then we wonder why this whole faith thing, “didn’t work for me”. It didn’t work, because you really haven’t tried it yet. What you tried was superstition, not faith. God doesn’t bless superstition. He blesses faith. Nehemiah shows us what walking in faith, and consequently divine favor, looks like. Nehemiah 2:8 shows us the mindset that we need.

“And the King granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” (2:8 E.S.V.)

 1. “The good hand…” – Nehemiah assumed the goodness of God. Even though his home town was in ruins, and the future looked uncertain, he understood that God’s nature is not determined by our present circumstances. For many, God is only good if I am happy at the moment. But all the saints of Biblical history affirmed, even in their worst moments that God himself is good. I have to accept, that as James put it, “God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one.” and that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:13,17) I must come to God with the assumption that God is good even when my situation isn’t.

2. “of my God…” – Nehemiah had a personal relationship with God based on faith. I cannot walk in God’s favor from a distance. From Genesis to revelation people who would experience God are called to a personal faith relationship with God. This came in Nehemiah’s time through obedience to the law, but now it comes through the one who fulfilled the law in himself, Jesus Christ. Friend you will never walk in God’s favor by simply believing there’s a God out there somewhere, and by trying to live by your own understanding of goodness. Jesus said, repeatedly, that we must come to God by personal faith and obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord and savior. Then I must daily walk in faith and growing obedience to him. Many claim to believe in Jesus, but have not yet begun a personal relationship with him. Read John 15 for description of how we are to live in a daily relationship with him.

3. “was upon me.” – Nehemiah trusted in the presence and power of God that was upon him. Whenever the Bible talks about the hand of God being upon someone, it refers to his power and presence. Nehemiah understood that the Persian King didn’t respond to Nehemiah’s clever words, but to the unseen power of God that was upon the servant of God. It reminds me of Jesus words at the beginning of his ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me…” (Luke 4:18) Jesus walked in divine power. This same power he promised to all who follow him, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses….” (Acts 1:8…) Paul demonstrated this same confidence in the power of God in his letter to the Corinthians,

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 E.S.V.)

So we see that we walk in divine favor, when we start with a shift in our perspective. We begin to experience God at work in us and through us when we assume:

1. That God is good, despite how things look at the moment.

2. That God desires a personal relationship with me.

3. That God wants me to walk in his power, not my own.

Finally, I have to say that Nehemiah wasn’t asking for favor so he could simply live a good life and do as he pleased. Nehemiah walked in God’s favor because he was committed to God’s kingdom and cause. The underlying theme to all this is that we must live for God’s glory and kingdom if we are to truly find the fulfillment and purpose and favor we were created to experience. Jesus said it this way, “Seek first (in priority) the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33)

The Divine Dance

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”

 

The dance began before the first sunrise. The spirit of God was hovering over the primordial waters of a world yet to be. Brooding, pondering, whispering within his triune self. He wasn’t alone, he wasn’t needy. He wasn’t looking for a friend. He had all that within himself.

He was Father, Son and Spirit. Spirit, meaning breath, is life giving, creative, everlasting, impossible to quantify or pin down. Try to get your brain around him and your sense of reason will pop like a rubber band stretched beyond its limits. The Spirit of God will not be confined to the narrow test tube of the finite mind.

At some immeasurable point in pre-creation the creator said, “I want to dance!” From that desire to spin around and dip and cha-cha, the world was created. Light and dark were invited along with sun, moon and stars. As the ballroom, decorated with fields and forests, mountain ranges and deserts, glaciers and oceans, filled with life, the trinity laughed gleefully at all the crazy looking guests who kept showing up. Four footed critters, scampering and stomping, slimy finned swimmers and feathered flyers, all so wonderfully dressed for the dance of life. What a party this turned out to be!

But then, fashionably late, as you might expect, came the guests of honor. They came dressed in Divine glory. As you and I stepped into the ballroom all the other guests, stopped for a moment to Oooh and ahh. The creator smiled as his protégé’s stepped out onto the floor, gliding together with divine grace. Then they fell. They tripped over their own delusions and fell, making a terrible mess of things. It seems they allowed themselves to be distracted by an unwelcome guest, who has nothing better to do than steal, kill, and destroy. Sometimes the best way to deal with an unwanted guest is to show them the door. But the creator had a different idea. To all our surprise he let the party crasher stay for just awhile, just long enough to show the rest of us the futility of his ways. For awhile it looked like the party was over but rather than lose his composure the creator decided it best to clean up the mess and turn on some new music. A new song to dance to, if you will. The dance went on.

In fact the creator, in a wonderful act of gracious hosting, dressed himself up like his fallen children and began to dance with them, at least those who would accept the invitation. Most were too embarrassed or proud to join the dance, but some jumped right in and took hold of the hand of the divine dance master. They were the ones who enjoyed the dance while the others brooded in the corner of life feeling left out. God has initiated a dance, and too many of us are missing it, because we’d rather sit in a corner with our tiny cup of intellect in hand and make fun of those who aren’t afraid to get out on the floor and dance with the creator.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” These are the words of the best dancer who ever lived. In fact he’s the only dancer to get all the moves right. He came out on the floor and gave himself entirely to the dance. He saved the party.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” He said, meaning, “I’ve joined the dance of all dances. Infinity and humanity twirling and jumping, spinning and stepping in perfect synch, to the sounds of divine grace. It’s a powerful dance between God and humanity.” For awhile we watched him bust a move unlike anyone in the whole party. He gave himself completely to the dance of the Spirit. Then, before he left the party he said, “now it’s your turn. The Spirit wants to dance with you.”

And now we’ve been invited to join in. Awkward we may be, and in this ballroom we’ll never get it quite right. But still we’re invited to join in the dance. The dance master invites us out onto the floor. He holds out his hand and promises to guide us through each move. He promises that, though we may do some low dips now and then, he will never drop us, or send us away. We’ll dance with the Spirit, learning all the moves of grace, until this party is over and we enter the grand ballroom of forever, and there we will dance.

Did he or didn’t he?

Mark 16:9-13

“and they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.” v. 13

“Enough!” Peter shouted. His eyes were weary with grief but still had enough fire in them to burn your skin right off. In three years the disciples had learned when to back off and just let the big fisherman alone.

“I expect such tales from that crazy Magdalene woman, but you should know better! He’s dead! Gone. And if I hear any more of these wishful stories you just might join him. Besides if he were alive do you think he’d ever trust us again?”

Peter stormed out and climbed up on the roof top to be alone.

The two who had claimed they had seen Yeshua sat on the floor and looked hopefully around the room to the others. The other eight men swam around in awkward silence trying to avoid eye contact. It was clear that no one in the room was ready to believe that Yeshua was actually alive. After a few moments the silence gave way to Levi’s words to the two men.

“Brothers, I know these have been terrible days for you..for all of us. There is not a man here who would not want to see Yeshua alive again….”

“Levi we talked with him!…He said…” Levi holds his hand up.

“I know you two met someone who reminded you of him, and you felt a fire burning in your heart. Maybe God sent someone along who reminded you of Yeshua to comfort you. It’s okay to feel this way, but He’s gone. You’re going to have to face that.”

The two looked hopelessly at one another. One started to speak, but the other said, “It’s no use. We shouldn’t have expected…”

Bartholomew tried to reason with them. “You know brothers, in a sense Yeshua is alive. In our hearts. Yes. In a spiritual way. We can believe he is alive, because he lives in our memory.”

The two didn’t respond, but the others seemed to take comfort in that. Then from the entrance of the room another voice cutting through the dusty air.

” Leave it to a group of men to miss the obvious!” Dumbfounded, the men turned to see Mary Magdalene glaring at them like a mother reprimanding her sons. Then she mockingly waved her hands and pranced around the room mimicking Bartholomew’s words in a deep man voice,

“Maybe he lives in our memory. Maybe in a Spiritual sense he is alive. Blah Blah Blah! Are you serious? Why did Yeshua call such thickheaded men!”

She stood there with both hands on her hips, and in a confrontive stance. One they had seen from her many times. Andrew looked at the stairway praying Peter didn’t come down. She just glared defiantly, “Where is that Simon Peter! Bring him down here. He doesn’t scare me!”

Nobody moved.

“Look at you little boys, sitting here feeling sorry for yourselves. Three of us have seen him in person, The other women went to the tomb and it’s empty….”

Thaddeus weakly suggested, “Maybe somebody stole him…”

“From under the noses of Roman soldiers, they moved a gigantic stone, and just walked away with a dead body? I suppose the whole squad just happened to fall asleep at the same time, and nobody heard the noise.” Mary placed both fingers on her temples and closed her eyes.

“Men”

The another said, “Um maybe Yeshua wasn’t really dead and when he came too he pushed the stone and escaped….”

Everyone laughed at the idea of that one. A man having endured such blood loss, suddenly finding the strength to move a half ton stone then sneak past a squad of soldiers,undetected, didn’t seem too likely.

Mary Magdalene looked out the window then at the two who had claimed to see him alive. Then she took a deep breath and spoke a final word. By this time Simon Peter was standing at the end of the staircase. Mary fired the next words right between his eyes.

“You men have a decision to make. You can sit here and rationalize and feel sorry for yourselves, coming up with theories you can feel comfortable with if you want to. You can all sneak back to your lives acting as if nothing happened, and forget all Yeshua has done. That will certainly be easier. Or you can put on your big boy clothes and take a chance that maybe Yeshua, as always, did what he said he would do. He said he would be killed and on the third day rise again. So did he or didn’t he? ”

Then she turned, threw up her hands and walked out, “Men! Can’t do anything with them.”

Night maneuvers at high noon.

Mark 15:33-41

“And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” v. 33

… It was as if the gods themselves had stopped running the universe in honor of Yeshua, as if he were one of their own. There we stood wrapped in darkness in the middle of the day! Still stunned by the day’s events, I tried to pull myself together and keep some semblance of order among the onlookers. We hadn’t exactly planned for a night watch at high noon, so there were no torches or firelight. There were just dark silhouettes, shadowy movements, and voices from all directions.

For three confusing hours we stood there standing guard blindfolded. The robe I had won still embraced me. This Yeshua’s death was somehow changing me, but I couldn’t understand why. All I knew was the whole world seemed to be in mourning. So I just stood there clutching the robe as if for dear life, and listened to the voices hidden in the darkness.

A group of women stood behind me trembling with deep sobs. Their pain tore through my armor into my own soul. They just may have been the only friends this man had.

But I had to keep it together, so I fumbled awkwardly away from them making my way closer to the cross of Yeshua. My effort to keep it together was destroyed as one voice rose into the obscure mid-day darkness. It’s sound was more than I could take.

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

“My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

The sound of this man’s heart falling into pieces pushed me over the edge and into the abyss of sorrow. I fell headlong into despair and grief. How could a man I had never really known, never spoken to, have such an impact on me?

I had beaten him in the courtyard, dragged him through the streets of Jerusalem, staked his body to a sadistic cross and stood in the dark listening to him die. Before today he had only been the subject of occasional gossip, or the butt of a joke in the barracks. So why, after thousands of crucifixions, was I the one being crucified? It seemed that way.

Why was I standing there, looking like a blubbering clown in a cruel comedy, dressed in armor and a bloody robe weeping for a man dying on a cross in the dark?

I tried again to shift my attention away from Yeshua.

I listened to some bystanders whispering something about a guy named Elijah, coming to take Yeshua down from the cross. So I tried to peer through the murkiness to be sure no one made such a crazy attempt. You never know what a fanatic may do in a situation like this.

I heard the centurion order a few soldiers to make their way to the temple. It seems there was some disturbance there. The massive veil that guarded their holy place had been torn down or something. I was ordered to stay in my position and try to keep order.

How could I keep order when I was struggling to keep myself together?

But I did the best I could. I stood by the cross, weary from this horrific day. I found myself leaning backward up against the cross. I sunk into it hoping to sneak in a little rest. I could hear the broken rhythm of Yeshua’s breathing. The cross vibrated with every thrust of his body, as he had to push himself up on his nailed feet long enough to suck in a mouthful of air then crash back down in pain.

Push up. Breathe. Crash down. The spikes tore into his flesh, exacting a toll for every breath.

Push up. Breathe. Crash down. The weary cross tottered with every movement.

Push up. Breathe. Crash down. Then it stopped.

Silence. Stillness. Darkness. He was gone.

I fell deeper into the splintery cross my sword falling helplessly into a stream of blood on the ground. I was thankful for the cover of darkness at that moment. No one would see this soldier who had been so strong and proud at sunrise, now totally disarmed by the end of the day.

I’ve defeated many a strong man in battle. I always expected to die in a sword fight at the hand of a warrior. But I never expected to be taken out by a dying man on a cross. He had slain me with a strange kind of grace. I was pierced by his wounds. I felt dead, but strangely alive at the same time. I didn’t understand this insanity. All I could do was lean into the cross, drop my weapons of war and rest in the unexplainable warmth of that bloody robe.

After a few moments I heard familiar footsteps. I was shaken at the approaching image of my commanding officer. If he saw me like this I was dead. But somehow it didn’t matter what happened to me. This moment with Yeshua was worth dying for. The centurion walked toward me, his footsteps stopping just ahead. I braced myself for a barrage of curses and threats. I felt his heavy hand on my shoulder with a gentleness I had never expected from him. He said, “Surely this man was the Son of a god.” Then he walked away shaking his head….

I won the shirt off his back!

Mark 15:21-32

“And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.” v. 24

I never was very successful at gambling, but today I lucked out. Usually, when we cast lots in the barracks I end up losing the shirt off my back. I just can’t seem to get those things to land in my favor. So after awhile I decided games of chance were best left to the older, more experienced soldiers. This afternoon, however, I was feeling lucky.

As I said yesterday I had cross duty after the “morning exercise” with that Nazarene. I was still pretty shaken by the whole thing, trying to figure out what this man had done to unleash the rage of two kingdoms. How could such a gentle character end up in so much trouble? He must have really angered the gods. Or maybe it was some kind of set up. Yeah that had to be it. He must have been taking the fall for somebody else. He had to be.

Anyway, I spent the afternoon trying to push my sensitivities to the back and focus on doing my job. We marched him through the streets, keeping our eyes open for sympathizers who may try to interfere. But it seemed like, aside from a few old women, this guy didn’t have a friend in the world. I watched him stumble through the streets with that cross beam on his back. Talk about carrying the world on your shoulders. This guy sure seemed to be. I had to get a bystander to carry it for him, and tried to ignore the man’s kids crying as he left them behind.

Finally, we arrived at the usual spot along the highway, affectionately named “The skull place”, or Golgotha, and began the messy part. This whole crucifixion thing is pretty gruesome work. It usually takes several of us to hold the prisoner down and shut him up while we fasten him to the cross. But Yeshua creeped me out. Even through the blood and torn flesh he seemed in control of himself, and to some extent, everyone else.

The other two screamed like pigs but this Yeshua character was as quiet as a lamb. Oh don’t get me wrong. He was in real pain. I’m surprised he made it this far. But when I saw how intentionally he laid his arms out and braced himself I was stunned.

The rest of the afternoon, I stood there trying to make sense of this whole thing. Here’s a guy taking in more hate and mockery than you can imagine. He just took it all in, as if he were guilty of every evil in the whole world. The two guys on each side had the usual looks of hostility and fear, as they drowned in their own body fluids. But Yeshua seemed more concerned with the people around him. I just about lost it when he looked me straight in the eye, then looked up to the sky and said something like, “Father, forgive them…” Who was he talking to ? I’ve heard some crazy things from prisoners on crosses, but never anything like that. Was he praying to the gods for me? I found myself feeling for the guy again, so I looked away. That’s when I decided to take a gamble.

A few of the soldiers were shooting lots for his clothes. The only thing worth gambling for was his robe. You could tell it was handmade. They laughed when I said I wanted in, but they were as always, happy to see what they could get from me. I threw in half expecting to lose my shirt, again, but for the first time in my life the lot fell in my direction! “I won!” I shouted to the utter amazement, and curses, of my competitors.  “The gods are with me today!” I kept telling myself.

“Well, rookie, put it on and see if it fits!” One of the older guys snarled half jokingly. So I thought, “Why not.” I was pleased to see how easily it slipped over my armor. For a moment I pranced around in my new prize while the soldiers enjoyed some comic relief from the gruesome duties of the day. Then I heard something that stopped me in my tracks.

From the cross on the left I heard, “Yeshua, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Then from Yeshua, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” I couldn’t move. Standing there dressed in the robe of Yeshua I witnessed more mercy and love than I knew was possible. The robe seemed to shrink as I felt strangely embraced in it. How could a man so completely rejected love a common thief so freely. How could such an object of wrath emanate such love?

Suddenly standing there in that robe, I felt as if I were wearing more than a garment. I knew that I had spent my life killing but today I felt as if I had murdered a god. I felt condemned and yet strangely loved at the same time. I felt so unworthy that I tried to take the robe off, but I couldn’t get it off. It had come on so easily, but now it was like it was holding me and would not let go. Then one of the soldiers came up from behind and said, with a chuckle,

“Hey rookie, that robe has a great big blood stain on the back! Looks like you won’t be wearing that anywhere. That blood stain will never come out. “ The he walked away from me laughing and shaking his head. “Looks like you won the shirt off his back! Ha ha ha!”

I just stood there dressed in Yeshua’s robe. The blood stain was strangely comforting to me. Then I noticed the sky begin to darken. It was as if the gods themselves had stopped running the universe in honor of Yeshua, as if he were one of their own….