Updated: Nov 17
Do you feel like the world is on fire? I have been waiting for normal to return, accepting that there might be a new normal. I did not imagine this new normal: anger, polarizing politics, high prices, supply issues, and a religion that has forgotten who Jesus was in his humanity.
So yes, I feel like the world is on fire. I also feel that too much of Christianity is searching for an identity outside God's Word.
A post on Instagram last week said, "If you vote blue, you are not a child of God." It literally brought me to tears. We are all children of God, made very good in his image.
I have many friends in the Methodist denomination, and they are all struggling with the internal challenges this church faces. People on both sides of the issue have powerful feelings, and both feel like they are right.
I found this hashtag recently. #exworshipleader . As an ex-worship leader, I wondered why we had a hashtag, so I checked it out. Apparently, there are many ex-worship leaders that are distressed by their time leading worship, some to the point of having PTSD when they hear certain chords.
I'm not surprised by a world so divided, but how did the church get so divided? Don't we all have the same purpose and goal? To use the talents and passions God gave us to fulfill our purpose of glorifying Him? Are we over-complicating it?
Let's look at the men on the cross with Jesus the day He died. (Luke 23:39-43) One is getting his energy from the crowd, mocking Jesus, and looking for a way out of his poor choices.
Are we over-complicating it?
But the man on the other cross has a whole other take on their circumstances. Both men were on the cross for armed robbery and murder, one hurls abuse, and the other finds the Messiah.
Of course, we don't know this man's history, but I think it's safe to say his life was challenging. Here's the thing, though, it all changes in a few minutes. Let's look at what he does on the cross, next to Jesus.
He owns his crimes. He confesses his own sin, condemning the things he had done. (verse 41)
He is appalled at the other man's callousness toward Jesus, therefore, God. (verse 40)
He finds hope in Jesus. (verse 42)
He sees the truth of Jesus' claim as the Messiah. (verse 40)
Friends, that man was in paradise with Jesus that very day, invited by the Messiah to join Him. Can you imagine the joy he felt after a probable life of struggle and pain as he found the comfort and peace of eternity with his Father?
My human mind imagines what it's like when he gets to heaven. I see a conversation going something like this:
Greeted in heaven, the man was asked, "What denomination are you?" And he answered, "None."
"Oh, well, what church did you attend?" "None."
"What did you do to get here, then?" "The guy on the middle cross invited me."
"The guy on the middle cross invited me."
It is a comfort to know that Jesus can invite us to paradise regardless of where we are in life. Can you imagine the joy we will have when we get to heaven, knowing Jesus wants us there with him? These verses show us that hope for eternity with Jesus is always there until our last breath. Who can you share this hope with today?
If you want to dive a bit deeper into the man on the cross beside Jesus, head over to my podcast and listen in!