Easter Offers A New Beginning

Life has been a flurry of different activity here, with things happening faster than I can think to write them down or blog about them. Such are the dynamics of modern 21st-century life in the big city. Work has picked up, with school demands increasing as the semester rolls on. Working on a Master’s degree requires a lot of reading and an immense amount of writing. It’s hard to find a niche of time for non-academic writing, but I continue to try.

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Holy Week 2017 is well underway. I have had the opportunity to reflect on what has been an active ministry year thus far. It seems to be a season heavily focused on healing, particularly praying over people as they experience the hardships so often accompanying our lives. No doubt, there is a lot of hurt in our world. I’m not sure if it is more or less than at other times, but I am certainly more aware of it these days. Holy Week serves as a good reminder that God knows our pain. Jesus knows our hurts. The Holy Spirit prays on our behalf with groans and moans.  We live in a complex world. There are things we see and things we don’t. Things we understand, and things beyond our human comprehension.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 6:10–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Pain hits harder when it arrives close to home. We wish we could make it go away. But it’s there. Our pain draws us closer to God or in some cases, pushes us away.  Before his work on Earth was done, Jesus experienced great suffering. His death was a horrific one, as we imagine death nailed to a cross would be. But his story did not end with his pain, nor his death. Rather, his story continued past the hurt of this world to the glories of Heaven. In Scripture, suffering almost always precedes glory.

Whatever your hurt is today, know that I am praying for you. Maybe you’re suffering from the loss of a loved one or the ache of a broken heart. If the Tin Man knew how much a heart can hurt, perhaps he’d reconsider his desire to get one. I pray your pain, whatever it is, draws you closer to the Lord and that through your pain, you recognize your dependence on Him. For without God, I could not go on. But God has showered me with His abundant love and mercy, extending me the favor of His grace. On this Easter, I am thankful that God so loved the World that He sent His only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Through Scripture, we know that Jesus is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.

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What If You See Judas In Heaven?

Like many of you, my wife, Terri, and I spent Sunday evening watching “The Passion Live” on TV. The live show, hosted and narrated by Tyler Perry, told the 2000-year-old story of what the last hours of Jesus Christ’s life on earth were like, with a modern twist. The live show told the story of Jesus Christ presiding over the Last Supper and being betrayed, convicted, crucified and resurrected in the nearly 300-year-old streets of New Orleans, featuring some of the city’s well-known iconic locations. The program culminated with a procession of hundreds of people carrying an illuminated cross, 20-foot long, from the Superdome to Woldenberg Park near the banks of the Mississippi River.

The show featured an excellent cast of celebrity talents playing the key characters taking part in the final moments of Jesus’ life. Singer Seal played Pontius Pilate; Trisha Yearwood portrayed Mary, mother of Jesus; Jencarlos Canela took on the role of Jesus, and Chris Daughtry acted as the Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus. The program also featured music by various cast members, including Michael W. Smith, Trisha Yearwood, and Chris Daughtry and also featured musical guest, Yolanda Adams.

After the program, I was struck by how things turned out for Judas. Here he was, a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, spending time in the presence of Christ every day and seeing the miracles and listening to the teachings of Christ first-hand. There weren’t too many people on the face of the Earth with a better seat to witness the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ than Judas. He turned his back on him for what in today’s currency equates to about one thousand large. I found myself asking: “Is it possible that through God’s abundant grace and mercy that Judas will be in Heaven or is his soul mortally damned?”

Our initial human response is likely to be one of revulsion. After all, how could Judas possibly be in Heaven after what he did to God? His actions were such a betrayal of the Lord and utterly offensive to God. Of course not! There is no way that Judas gets into Heaven. Right?

Truth be told, none of us deserve to be saved. None of us are worthy of God’s love. None of us deserve God’s forgiveness. We offend God all the time. Apart from Christ, we fall prey to our sin nature giving into our lusts, our pride, and our selfish desires. Many of us have turned our back on God time and time again. God, through the blood sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ, chose to deliver us from damnation. Through Christ, God overcame our flaws and failures.

While we were yet unfaithful, God proved faithful.

Jesus was not caught by surprise when Judas betrayed him. No indeed, Jesus foretold of Judas’ unthinkable actions. God was not caught off guard. He predicted it, right down to the price of Judas’ betrayal to the cost of seeing his Son, Jesus, nailed to the Cross.

There are lots of reasons that we may not encounter Judas in Heaven. For example, you could make the argument that he did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. It is possible that Judas did not put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ—something which we must all do if we are to experience Heaven. We know from Scripture that things did not end well for Judas. He died the vilest, horrific death.

Let me be clear, I don’t know if Judas found forgiveness for his utter betrayal of humanity’s Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Son of God. Frankly, Judas is not one of the people I expect to see in Heaven. But then, many could say the same about me. And that’s how immeasurable God’s grace is.

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My point in sharing this with you is this—-God’s grace is great and fully able to cover any of our sins. And God is abundantly merciful and capable of forgiving even the likes of Judas. The sacrifice Christ made is good news for all of us. Because of the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, we can all know forgiveness. Including you. Yes, you too can be redeemed and returned to a right relationship with your Creator. All you have to do is ask, and He will be faithful in showering you with His love and forgiveness.

For nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)