Words of Forgiveness from the Cross

A reading from the Gospel of Luke chapter 23

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.

Reflection on Jesus’ Words from the Cross

We see in our reading today Luke’s focus on the theme of forgiveness. In the midst of all the pain and desolation of the crucifixion, Jesus shows us His divine nature and calling in many ways but especially in his words: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. The need to be forgiven for sin is a universal one. Only Jesus was free from sin throughout his life (though genuinely tempted as we are). Only He could stand in our place as our substitute to pay for the sins of all people through all time. He was the least deserving of punishment (indeed entirely undeserving) yet the anger and vitriol unleashed on him was out of all proportion for even a common criminal.

Jesus saw that the actions of his own people as well as the Roman occupying forces were indeed a kind of madness. As Jesus said, “they don’t know what they’re doing.” This kind of madness can overtake us all in large and small ways.  In many ways, sin doesn’t actually make sense.  We often don’t recognize the harm we are doing to ourselves and others. Yet living in a fallen world and being sinners by nature we can fall into sin so easily in large and small ways. To know that Jesus understands this and has mercy on us is a great relief.

This is not to condone sin but to recognize that we all need continual cleansing by His precious blood shed on the cross for us. By trusting in what Jesus has done on our behalf on the cross, we can be free from the crushing burden of guilt (including unacknowledged or supressed guilt as it was for me when I first put my faith in Jesus). Then we can move forward on Jesus’ path of new and eternal life beginning from the moment we open our hearts to him.

This is what we see with one of the thieves on the cross. Although Jesus asks God His Father to forgive everyone, only one of the two thieves benefits from this. One of them joins the crowd in hurling insults at Jesus. This shows us how sin and the madness of it can multiply in such situations. We can see this kind of crowd insanity today especially through the internet. Though life is very different in some ways today than in the first century, we see the underlying similarity in the way that sin can take over and multiply. Yet because of God’s common grace as well as the leavening influence and prayers of believers, God mitigates the effects of sin.

In spite of the pull of the crowd, individuals like the other thief can choose, by God’s grace, to turn from sin and turn with faith to Jesus. This thief rebuked the first thief and said: “Don’t you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve but this man has done no wrong.”  He acknowledged his sins and recognized the just punishment for them. He also recognized the injustice of punishing an entirely innocent man who was the very One who could and did open the way to God’s kingdom. He said: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”.  And then he and we hear Jesus’ reassuring words: “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise”.

We in turn must turn away from a crowd mentality of skepticism, cynicism and hostility or of just indifference toward the reality of who Jesus is—the Messiah of Israel and the one and only Saviour for all people. Like the repentant thief we can recognize our need for God’s forgiveness through Jesus.

Today, we can know our sins are forgiven for His sake and that Jesus has opened to door to paradise for us. We can begin and continue on a journey to our true Homeland ruled over by the only perfectly righteous and just Ruler, Jesus Christ, God’s Son and our Lord.  Today is the day of God’s forgiveness. Today is the day of salvation.

Prayer to receive forgiveness and assurance of eternal life follows on video.

The Priceless Ransomer

This fictional story is based on a work by Walter Wangerin called The Ragman. I have taken the liberty of adapting the story. The fictional story is based on absolute Truth. The Truth is a person. His Name is Jesus. He said, “I have come so that you might have life, life in abundance.” He brings this life through His sacrificial death upon a cross, and He promises that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. This life begins now as we taste of the Lord’s goodness and extends into God’s forever Kingdom. I invite you to bring your jar to the Priceless Ransomer.

Bible study on the sea

Revelation 21:1 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.” The bible often portrays the sea as a metaphor for chaos.
What are we to do in times in crisis? This brief bible study tries to answer that question.

Bloom where you are planted


Wherever you are, God has planted you there for a reason and a season. In your family. In your neighbourhood. In your workplace. At your seniors’ centre. At school. In the hospital or clinic. Playing sports. On the internet. God has you where you are for a purpose.

The Scriptures use the things of the natural world to reveal spiritual truths. Plants and trees and vines are images of our lives because they grow and reproduce themselves through their blossoms and fruit. Once we are joined to Christ through our faith in Him, we are enabled to reproduce His likeness through our lives as we allow His resurrection life to flow through us. Our job is to let this happen.

There are people everywhere we go who need our prayers and our love and our trust in the Lord to help them to know that Jesus is there for them—to help them to experience the presence, comfort and strength that the Holy Spirit brings into anyone’s life who will believe in Jesus.

God has given us a powerful implement in prayer. Everywhere we are, we can pray for others. When you see a bad driver—instead of cursing them—pray that they will not hurt themselves or others. When you become aware of some tragic or difficult circumstance in someone’s life, don’t be oblivious or get overloaded, pray that the Lord will help them—especially that they will see that the Lord cares and that they will receive the gift of faith so that they can come to Jesus and believe in Him. We have something so precious to give and God will use us if we let Him.

Prayer is the most important part of this process. You don’t have to stop to pray. You can pray quietly as you go about your business. You can keep your eyes open as you drive and pray. Prayers can be short and to the point. Let the Holy Spirit give you the words.

The next thing that is needed is the willingness to speak and act. Sometimes you just have to mention something in passing. Just say “God bless” or mention something about God or church in a positive way. We don’t need to force anything on others. We just need to be ourselves. Are God and your church an important part of your life? Would you share good news if you found a good medical treatment or a good television program or a good brand of some product? If you’re going to talk about God or church, make sure it’s in a positive context and that you are genuinely friendly and engaging. People will start to make subconscious connections that overcome the stereotype of Christians as odd, judgmental, self-righteous, harsh or just plain cranky. And if there is something you get a nudge to do, do it!

Sometimes we are tempted to think that we can only bloom effectively for the Lord if we are ordained and up front on Sunday morning or at least have some certificate to show we’ve been trained for something or if we go overseas on a short or long-term mission. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You are His agent right where you are. Don’t miss the opportunities that God gives you every day!

You can make a difference in this world every day—in the lives of the people around you. Bloom where you are planted! Prayer makes a huge difference. Words and actions led by the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus have more of an impact than we realize.

Remember the words of Jesus: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit…” (John 15:5 New International Version, ©2011) May His Resurrection life flow through you today and always.

Don’t be afraid

Do not be afraid” said the angel Gabriel to Mary who was troubled by the angel’s previous words of greeting as he appeared to her (see Luke 1:26-38 ESV). So many times this is God’s message to individuals and to God’s people in general throughout the Bible. “Do not be afraid.” “Fear not.” The message comes through angels, visions, dreams, a voice from heaven, the Word of God Himself before His incarnation, Jesus during His time on earth, the Holy Spirit. And all these come to us as we reap the benefits of all these accounts written in God’s Word. These are written for us so that we will be released from the debilitating effects of fear.

There are many things that cause us to be afraid and fear comes in many forms. Sometimes fear is subconscious. We don’t always realize that hidden fear is what is driving us or troubling us. Sometimes fear is all too obvious and disrupts our waking hours and our sleep.

When God appears to people in various ways, their first response is usually fear when they realize it is God or a heavenly messenger of God. This happened to both Zechariah and Mary when angels suddenly appeared to announce miraculous births. But immediately the angels brought the reassuring words: “Do not be afraid.” Words from God create the very thing they speak forth. God created everything through His Word spoken. So when God says “Fear not”, He at the same time creates the ability in the hearer to be without fear. The hearer just has to allow himself or herself to believe and receive God’s creative Word.

Often we too are afraid to really come fully into the Lord’s Presence. This fear may be covered up with busyness and distractions. Will He really receive me with open arms in light of all my failings? What if He brings things to the surface that I am afraid to deal with? God’s love both accepts us as we are and changes us as we spend time in His presence. How awesome is God’s love! God the Father invites us to come in to His eternal throne room through the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from every sin, “known and unknown, done and left undone”. Here we can receive the love that alone casts out every fear (see 1 John 4:7-21 ESV especially verse 18).

Allow God to receive you just as you are with all your fears and other struggles and let His love flow in and over you as you rest in His presence. His love will deliver you from every fear.


Be Still

Ashbridges Sunset

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 ESV). This short passage of scripture is so easy to commit to memory and so hard to remember to apply in everyday life. It goes along with “trust in the Lord with all your heart” as a verse that God brings to my attention over and over. It happened again yesterday (from a small bookmark tucked unobtrusively in the corner of a mirror) and when it did, I knew I needed to write about this simple but profound truth today.

It is so easy to get caught up in fretting about large and small things. In Psalm 46, the context is major upheavals such as war. We too may become concerned about many things including large scale political, social and economic issues and their implications both for the fabric of society and for us personally and our offspring. Often, we are concerned about personal issues including relationships, work, school, how to cope with the challenges of our current stage of life, losses of various kinds, health, money and so on. These things can preoccupy us and cause a sense of unsettledness and anxiety.

Constantly being exposed to outside stimulation from modern media can distract us from the kind of quiet that we need to be still and know that the Lord is God. This verse reminds us that all our concerns need to be given to the Lord and our main job is to learn to rest in Him—that He is indeed God and He alone can bear the weight of the world and all our individual and corporate struggles. He alone knows how He will work all things together for good for those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose (see Romans 8:28). This does not mean we are to be passive about life and to adopt a lethargic, “whatever” sort of attitude. But it does mean we are to have a different inner attitude about things which is not marked by fussing and fuming.

How can we be free from these inner and outer stresses and distractions that we all experience? Take time to be still and know that He is God. The New American Standard version of the Bible translates this passage as “cease striving and know that I am God.” Yet in the book of Hebrews (4:11), it says “strive to enter His rest”. The question is where do we put our effort? Is it in trying to figure everything out and trying to be or feel in control of every area of life? Or is our greatest goal to rest in God’s presence—to be still and know that He is God. Jesus said of Mary of Bethany that in sitting at Jesus’ feet in His presence listening to Him, she had chosen the best part.

It is in these times of turning to Jesus and letting go of all our concerns and resting in Him that we can receive His love and grace which will guide us, sustain us, heal us and sanctify us. One of the ways I find I can be still in the Lord’s Presence and receive is in quiet and contemplative reading of His word and other Christian writings. So I offer this writing to you in the hope that this will help you even now to enter his Rest and receive from Him.

With love and prayers,


Listening to music that draws me into the Lord’s Presence and letting it wash over me also helps me to be still and receive. May the following selection be a blessing to you.