Do you know the story of the thief on the cross?

By: TYLER SHIPLEY on | Comments: 3
The scene takes place in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus has just been before Pontius Pilate and has been sentenced to one of the most humiliating ways to die. And now, His hands and His feet have been nailed to the cross. Here now we see the Messiah, hanging and slowly dying. Look at what happens: 

“Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:322-43) 

Maybe read that passage again. Did you notice the difference between the two criminals? One of the criminals mocked Jesus. This man not only challenged Jesus to save them and Himself but challenged His authority. While he challenged, notice what the other man did. He rebuked the challenger and said, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (23:40-41) 

The second criminal rebuked the first! Can you imagine what everyone else was thinking when he spoke out like this? This man truly has the boldness that even the disciples did not have. Think about that for a minute. The eleven had fled the scene because they were scared; scared to the point that they denied knowing Christ. This criminal, with more boldness than the disciples, rebuked the other man. And following his rebuke, he then turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

What follows is indescribable! Jesus looked at the criminal, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (23:43) Jesus allowed this man into heaven. He did not say a prayer, he did not understand any doctrine or theology. He simply asked that Jesus remember him as Jesus returned to His heavenly sanctuary. 

Many people say that I did this and this to get to heaven. I repeated the prayer that my pastor, youth pastor, camp counselor, etc. said and now I am good. I did some pretty good works while I lived: “I was nice to others.” “I helped this person.” “I showed love when it mattered the most.” 

The list goes on and on! 

Are you one of those people? Are you relying on your deeds to get you to heaven? Well, guess what. Your deeds do not grant you access to heaven. Pastor Alistair Begg preached this text and said that we always talk about Christ in the first person. (Refer to what I said above) We should talk in the third person! It’s not what WE did, but what HE has done! 

We are allowed into heaven, not by our deeds or by anything that we have done, but because Jesus paid the debt of sin. Remember and reflect on the death of Christ today and always. You get to heaven not by yourself, but as Alistair Begg said, we get to heaven because “The man on the middle cross said I could come.” 

“The man on the middle cross said I could come.”
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Go to Sleep, You?re Worshiping Your Father in Heaven

By: ALEX SHIPLEY on | Comments: 3
I am constantly amazed, and always slightly annoyed, at how quickly and easily my husband can fall asleep. It’s definitely a skill - and one I desperately wish I had most nights. 

I’ve always struggled with the ability to fall asleep. When I was younger I used to fight sleep as much as possible, because I didn’t want to miss a moment of life. I would wake up and sneak around the house because I felt there was so much life to experience and sleep was just a waste of time. This behavior isn’t abnormal for children, but they typically grow out of it as they get older. While technically, yes, I stopped fighting sleep simply because I didn’t want life to pass me by, my struggle of falling asleep continued into my teenage and eventually my adult years. 

Ever since highschool, I’ve suffered from insomnia. The reasons why I’ve had insomnia have varied from year to year, but no matter the cause, the problem is still frustrating. And the frustration typically only adds to the lack of sleep I get - see the vicious cycle here? 

A few summers ago, in-between my sophomore and junior year of college, I developed terrible insomnia matched with restlessness, hallucinations, heart palpitations, anxiety, and even depression. However, through that struggle, and the counsel of many individuals who were much wiser than I was at the time, I came to realize that even sleeping was an act of obedience to God. By not finding ways to improve my rest and actually developing bad sleeping habits because of it, I was choosing my own way of solving my sleeping problems rather than submitting my restlessness to God. By wallowing and writhing in my pity late at night instead of turning to Him to heal my anxiety and exhaustion, I was actually sinning. 

Arriving at that truth wasn’t easy, nor was it simple common sense. Sleep seems like such an odd and silly thing to give to God, especially when it appears to be such an easy fix for us to take care of. But even God cares about how you choose to rest and He promises to help you in your struggles to find it. He said in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” While this passage is specifically talking about turning to God in times of sorrow and pain, the same principle applies - God is our comforter and our rest. Without Him, we are hopeless. 

Sometimes sleep is disrupted by more than just worry or bad sleep habits. Mental and physical illness play a role in taking away one’s sleep too, but no matter the reason why, again, Jesus is there to bring healing, comfort, and rest when we need it. 

Here’s how I know that.

Jesus Slept in Submission to His Father

Why do we know, biblically, that sleep and rest matter to God and that they’re acts of worship to Him. We'll take this Bible story for example. 

Most of us are familiar with the story in Mark 4:37-41 which says, “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Jesus and his disciples are out on a boat on the sea of Galilee. This sea isn’t very large and storms like the one mentioned in Mark would have been rather unexpected. The wind was picking up, causing the waves to come crashing into the boat, filling it with water. I imagine we too would act just like the disciples, panicked and afraid at the possibility of drowning out at sea. They wake up Jesus, who is peacefully sleeping in the boat amidst the storm. When he wakes, Jesus says, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Most of us would think, “Wow, Jesus. Isn’t that a bit harsh?” But that goes to show the ignorance we have as fragile human beings who tightly hold onto our mortality and often hold it higher than God.

Jesus slept because he trusted his Father would protect him even when reality posed a threat that would say otherwise. Although in the moment all seemed lost to the disciples, Jesus rebuked them for their lack of trust and faith in God. It seems like a trivial thing to us, but Jesus took that faith seriously. He expected them to submit their fears to God who had ultimate control of the situation already and when they didn’t they made fools out of themselves, because Jesus (God made flesh) was right there to quiet the waters. How they acted in that moment displayed what they actually believed about God. Had they rested, just as Jesus rested, knowing God would take care of them, they would have ended up just as safe as they did even after they made a big hoopla out of their situation. There was no need to worry. They only needed to trust and submit their bodies in rest to the Lord. 

We see more examples of this obedience and trust through sleep in the Old Testament as well. David remarks in Psalm 3:5, “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” This perfectly parallels the same attitude Jesus had on the boat, meaning we’re all capable of this same kind of rest with the help of God. Even when our anxieties, depression, or even physical causes are preventing us from finding rest in Him, Psalm 56:3 says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

D.A. Carson once said, “Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep—not pray all night, but sleep. I’m certainly not denying that there may be a place for praying all night; I’m merely insisting that in the normal course of things, spiritual discipline obligates you get the sleep your body needs.”

So, with all this said, go get some quality sleep and trust in your Father who gives you rest.
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We Were Made for a Another World

By: ALEX SHIPLEY on | Comments: 0
The longer I live and the more life I have to enjoy and wrestle with, the more my heart pangs with an aching desire for another place. One writer, Rhoison Harris, who wrote on this very topic, described the feeling of gazing upon a “radiant sunset”. He said, “It is in those moments that my soul is altogether satisfied and yet strangely lacking.” 

As a Christian, not only do these moments remind us of how omnipotent our Creator is, but the enjoyment of these blessings cause us to long for a place in which these moments are never ending - where true and everlasting satisfaction exists. When we have tasted a morsel of God’s goodness we can only hunger for more and feel empty when we cannot satisfy that feeling on our own. 

This is because we live in a world we were never made for - a world made perfect but then stained with sin. We are aliens, foreigners, and sojourners in this world waiting for that Kingdom to arrive and take us home. 

C.S. Lewis said in his book Mere Christianity:

“The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists...If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world...Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”

I am convinced these beautiful moments and blessings we experience on earth, as a result of our Father’s grace and goodness, act as a shadow (or as a movie trailer, if you will) of what is to come. This “other world” or “true country” as Lewis describes has been called “the place of rest” by Saint Augustine and “the Celestial City” by John Bunyan. They’re all wonderful descriptions of what we have to look forward to and yet they won’t even come close to measuring up to what it will truly be like when we arrive.

John describes it in Revelation 21:1-4 like this:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

What a beautiful promise and picture of our coming home! 

Harris also shared in his article a reflection on these verses in Revelation by Dr. Phillip Ryken, “I love how Ryken describes these verses: What we find in these final few chapters (of Revelation) is a sanctuary for the heart of every lonely pilgrim who is longing for home…Amen, and amen!”

It’s easy to want to quench this thirst for satisfaction with things of this world, but the more we drink of the emptiness this world has to offer, the thirstier we will become. So set your eyes on Jesus and live like we believe and hope in this coming “true country”. Just from reading this passage in Revelation, we, if you are a Christian, can see the home that He has promised to us. If you are not a Christian, this is an encouragement and a warning. There is a better and satisfying world waiting for you if you submit your life to Jesus - a place with no death, no tears, full of joy, and where we are no longer separated from God Himself! 

1 Peter 1:3-9 describes this promise as an inheritance stored up in heaven for us: 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

If you don’t know Him, you aren’t promised this Kingdom and you don’t have that inheritance stored up in heaven for you. So, I urge you to come before your Father in Heaven and give your life to Him, so that you may enjoy Him fully and have a hope that will never perish! 

I’ll end with the lyrics to a song by the Gray Havens called “Far Kingdom” that reminds me of this “other world” we’re promised our hearts so desperately long for. 

“There is a far Kingdom
A ways from here
Beyond the storm and the sea
There will be no need of darkness
And none for tears
When that far Kingdom I see
There's a river we will know
Ever clear and ever full
From the fount that overflows
In the light of the King
And when we drink it, we will find
That this joy, ever full, will ever rise
And it'll rise on, in the Kingdom
In the Kingdom
There is a far Kingdom
On the other side of the glass
And by a faint light we see
Still there is more gladness
Longing for the sights
Than to behold or be filled, by anything
There is a far, far Kingdom
There at the end of the sea
Where they know my name
And until that far, far Kingdom
Calls me home
Oh, my soul, I will wait
There's a river we will know
Ever clear and ever full
From the fount that overflows
In the light of the King
And when we drink it we will find
That this joy, ever full, will ever rise
And it'll rise on, in the Kingdom
In the Kingdom
And when we drink it we will find
That this joy, ever full, will ever rise
And it'll rise on, in the Kingdom
In the Kingdom
And it'll rise on, in the Kingdom
In the Kingdom” 
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