Today’s Thoughts

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I read a pretty good allegory the other day. If you aren’t sure what one is, here is the definition: “a story in which the characters and events are symbols that stand for ideas about human life or for a political or historical situation.” (Merriam Webster) I happen to love them. I have even written a few. Today as my little one was sleeping, I had a mountain of dishes to do (yes left over from the day before) and while suds-ing and rinsing those stuck on pots and pans I couldn’t help thinking of how God has cleansed me of all unrighteousness. I wasn’t a “just ate a bowl of soup and washed right away dish” no, I was a baked on caked on lasagna dish that was sitting on the counter for years” kind of a dish. In fact, I didn’t think I was cleanable.

Thankfully God has a pre-wash cycle. His Holy Spirit! He woos us and courts us with His great love. Only love can soften a heart.

That made me think of all the fairy tales I have read over the years. I still enjoy them, (In fact I just read a retelling of Pinocchio that was very good- “Strings” by David Estes.) Aren’t fairy tales realy just allegories after all? The ugly duckling who finds out he is really a swan, the sleeping beauty who needs true loves kiss, how about the cinder wench who is mistreated only to marry the handsome prince? They are all allegories that show us that this life isn’t all there is. I love the opening song of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”, “There must be more than this provincial life!” Are you that ugly duckling, you just don’t fit? That’s because you are really a beautiful swan. Are you longing for…MORE.

Well, stop singing, “Some day my prince will come,” because He already has. True love’s kiss has already been smacked you right on the lips!

If that doesn’t make you happy, then go back and read some fairy tales again.

 

Less of Me

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John 3:30 (NIV), “He must become greater; I must become less.”

We pray, “I just want more of You,” and we sing songs that say, “More of you Jesus.” Why do we do that? It sounds so spiritual and maybe it makes us feel like we are really trying. Possibly we mean we want to experience more of Him in our lives, or most likely we just don’t understand that He already gave ALL of Himself to us. He has already given us everything. How much more could He give?

Romans 8:32 (NIV), “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Emphasis mine)

How much is all? Does all include all of Jesus? All of God? All of Heaven? You bet it does. Let’s look at this parable that Jesus told us.

Matthew 13:45-46 (DRB), “Again the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls. Who when he had found one pearl of great price, went his way, and sold all that he had, and bought it.”

Who is the merchant? God is. Who is the pearl (one pearl) of great value or great price? I am, ok, you are. We are, but still it says “one” so He did it for each one of us individually. This is important because the Liar will try to tell you that “lots of people would sacrifice their lives in exchange for dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of people. Nothing personal for you in Christ’s death.” But, get this, He died for you. Just you. Me, just me. If anyone of us would have been the only one, He still would have willingly given His life in exchange for us. He paid the ultimate price, Matthew says he “sold ALL He had” to purchase us. How much is all?

So we can’t get more of Him. There is nothing more to give, He already did. We can’t get more of His love, presence, grace, mercy, or any other gift you want to name here. He gave it all! On the cross, before time began, before Adam was created, before you were born, He gave it all. Out of time, outside of our Calendar, not just 2000 years ago. He paid it all.

So what do we really mean when we say “More of you?” We should be saying what John the Baptist said, and I am trying to practice what I preach, “Less of me.” We can’t get more of His presence, but we can spend more time in it. We can’t get more of His love, but we can accept more, allow more of it to rule and reign in our hearts. We can’t get more forgiveness, but we repent more often and ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts. We can experience more of Him by putting Him first in our lives and putting ourselves second. Less of our wants, less of our plans, less of our whining and complaining, less of our stubbornness, and less of our self-righteousness. We can experience the “Fullness of God.” It isn’t impossible. How does that happen?

Ephesians 3:19 (AMP), “and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].” 

When we practically, through personal experience, know, really know, His love. This knowing is not head knowledge. It is the difference between recognizing the love of your life as someone you read about or heard about, and becoming one flesh with them. Knowing. Intimate. When we know that, then, we get the richest experience of God’s presence in our lives. “Completely filled and flooded with God Himself”. I love that. I want that.

Don’t you?

What is your prayer?

“Less of me.” Amen.

Rest

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Matthew 11:28-29 (NLT), “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

My spirit is confident in the finished work of Jesus. Yet, I still find myself feeling overwhelmed at times. Have you ever had one of those days when you feel like a hamster on a exercise wheel going round and round and not getting anywhere? Or maybe you thought you had finished your “to do” list only to find a million other things that need to be added? Maybe you are burdened with a big mortgage and not sure how you can make the payments. Sometimes it feel like you are a beast of burden that has an iron yoke around your neck. Possibly you are weary of work, any work, all work, work, work, work…

There is rest.

We aren’t under the Law any more, but there still remains a “Sabbath” rest for God’s people. The good news is that it isn’t a one day a week rest, it’s a full time, all the time rest.

Hebrews 4:9-11 (AMP), “So there remains a [full and complete] Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has once entered His rest has also rested from [the weariness and pain of] his [human] labors, just as God rested from [those labors uniquely] His own. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves], so that no one will fall by following the same example of disobedience [as those who died in the wilderness].”

More good news, the work that we do is to enter into His rest.

What? I know it doesn’t make sense, but seriously a lot of what God asks us or tells us to do doesn’t. Work to rest? A paradox. Just like a Lion is a Lamb, the Sinless One became sin, God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How about this one, we surrender to get victory. We give up to get it all. I could keep going but you get the picture. Our minds are limited to our five senses. What we can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. Our body is bound by time, and laws of nature. That’s why we can’t use our minds to figure God out. We walk in and by Faith.

When we understand, a heart understanding, who God is, who we are, and what our place is in His plans, we can be confident that no matter how bad things look, how bad we mess up, how many bad choices we make, His plan doesn’t change. It takes off all of the pressure. We do go to work. We apply ourselves at our jobs, but they aren’t our source, God is, heaven is. It’s not us that has to change the world. We just do what God says, and He changes hearts. The pressure isn’t on our great witnessing, or lack of it. It all hinges on just getting in a right relationship with the Father and letting Him use us however He sees fit.

Just like peace isn’t the absence of war, rest isn’t the absence of work!

Both are conditions of the heart.

We can be at peace and rest in confidence that He loves us.

So, on those days that I feel harassed or overworked it’s because I forgot the most important “work”, fellowship with Him. Not lip service, not fast-food ordering up blessings, not praying for my four and no more, but taking time to share and to listen.

Honestly, starting your day with acknowledging Him as Lord and master, telling Him how much you love Him, and allowing Him to reciprocate, will make your day go so much smoother. Not perfect or stress free, just 99.9 percent better.

Try it.

Rest… In Daddy’s arms.

Stony Heart?

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Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV), “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 11:19 (NIV), “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”

Everyone born on this planet is born with a heart defect. It’s called a “hard heart”. It might not totally manifest until our pre-teens, but it is there nonetheless. A hard heart makes us selfish, calloused, and stubborn. It causes us to be stiff necked and self righteous. Praise God when we surrender those hearts, freely giving them to Jesus, He gives us a brand new one.

Unfortunately we still live in this fallen world and our human nature keeps trying to resurrect itself and exert itself over our new nature. When that happens we begin to ignore the Holy Spirit and tune Him out. This causes our hearts to begin to solidify again. Our new pliable, teachable hearts may be a gift from God, but we have to work at keeping our hearts soft. Or maybe our hearts aren’t exactly hard, but we try to divide them between God and something or someone else. David had that issue and he ended up sinning against God by committing adultery with a married woman. When confronted by the prophet Samuel, he repents and prays this prayer, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 (NASB)

Usually we don’t notice the hardening of our hearts until they are rock hard. But, it’s never too late with our Father!

Jeremiah 23:29 (NLT), ““Does not My word burn like fire?” says the Lord. “Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces?””

God’s word softens our hearts. Isn’t that what Jesus did? He softened the hearts of the people toward God. John says that Jesus was the Word and that He became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus, the living Word brought hope to everyone who had these heart issues.

David said that he hid God’s word in his heart. Why?

Psalm 119:11 (KJB), “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

It’s not some hocus-pocus magic. It’s so much simpler than that. When we know God’s word, when we truly make ourselves a student of His word, we begin to see God as our Father, the way Jesus portrayed Him. We know, without a shadow of doubt, that He loves us lavishly and scandalously. Even more amazing, we find out who we really are. We begin to see ourselves and others through the eyes of God, through the eyes of Love. A whole paradigm shift takes place then. Suddenly we aren’t doing those sinful things anymore. Sin has no more pull on our heartstrings. Our hearts stay pliable. When that happens, we don’t miss what the Holy Spirit is speaking into our hearts near as often, and we don’t see serving God as an obligation but as a privilege, a joy!

How do I know if my heart is hard? Are you easily irritated? Are you judgmental of yourself and others? Is reading your bible a chore, is almost anything else more attractive than going to church? Do you find your mind wandering during the services you do attend? Have you stopped tithing or giving to missions? Are you feeling numb to anything spiritual, dry as a mouth full of crackers?

Don’t despair. It’s only ever one step back to God.

Joel 2:12-13 (NASB), “”Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness And relenting of evil.”

Father, give me an undivided heart. I choose to allow Your word to be engrafted into my heart, to let it light my path and illuminate Your feelings for me. My heart belongs to You, the Lover of my soul. Only You are trustworthy enough to give it to.

Designed For His Glory

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Psalm 125:1 (NIV), “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.”

All of us who follow Christ and have surrendered our lives to Him are now the spiritual Mount Zion. We cannot be shaken, we endure forever. We are God’s house, His home. Our job is to shine. Our destiny is to carry His glory, to be like Moses who had to veil his face because the people couldn’t handle his glow. We are predestined, chosen before we were born, and designed for his glory.

Romans 8:28-29 (NIV), “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Emphasis mine)

Think about that. The One who made us designed us to hold His glory.

We are being conformed into His image. The closer we get to looking just like Him, the more of His glory will be revealed in us and on us. We are vessels that have to go through the process of firing so that we are strong enough to hold His glory. The Father’s intention is to present us as a bride to Christ. A bride that is without spot or wrinkle, one that is holy and blameless, a glorified Church.

Ephesians 5:25b-27 (NASB), “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Emphasis mine)

II Thessalonians 1:10-12 (KJB), “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Emphasis mine)

 

Each designer has a purpose in mind when they design something; sometimes it is just to look good. However, if you have ever purchased a pair of shoes that looked great, but were so uncomfortable you had to give your feet a pep talk before they would agree to wear them, you know that looks aren’t everything. God didn’t design us to shine just so we would look good! He wants us to lead people to Him. A light house shining in the darkest storm, the flood lights that light up that stage, the soft glow of a candle that brings hope and light in the darkest night. That’s us. Or it should be.

Ephesians 2:10 (TLB), “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Accepting His love for us is the beginning, then once we are truly motivated by a real love, not just a mindset to love, but genuine passion for Him, then we can do good works that stand. Those works won’t be worthless, sounding brass, or a banging cymbal (I Cor 13:1). What does a light house look like to those in darkness? A place where they can come in and be judged? A place where they feel threatened and forced to conform to a set of behaviors and standards? How about a place that is just like the darkness they want out of? No! A light house is a place of safety, a safe haven in the midst of the storm. The church is a family, one that is so full of love they just can’t contain it! It is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit and just flows out of them, especially to those who are hurting and lost.

We aren’t sent to condemn or judge. We are not called to follow the law, we are called to love, we are sent out to Shine!

I challenge you to search out scriptures about Mount Zion. Then meditate on them. Stir them around in your heart and keep in mind that us believers are spiritual Zion. Good things come from there, people meet God there!

Isaiah 60:1-7 (ESV), “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you; the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall come up with acceptance on my altar, and I will beautify my beautiful house.”

Sleeping Beauty

 

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(Sleeping Beauty, Thomas Spence)

Ephesians 5:14 (NIV), “This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

In 2003 I read a book titled, “Access Granted” by Joshua Fowler. For me this was the beginning of changing the way I thought about Christianity. Now it was only a beginning and a very small one at that, but the bible tells us not to despise small beginnings. Since that time I have gone through some stuff that challenged my new beliefs, However, God is so good that no matter what came my way, no matter what I read, or what I heard from the pulpit, He was confirming a whole paradigm shift. This continued to change the way I saw God, how I saw myself and how my life as His daughter ought to be, and it is changing the way I see others and the world. Now, thirteen years later, the Holy Spirit continues to bring me deeper in this revelation of who I am in Christ.

Recently, as a congregation, we have been covering “Who We Are In Christ,” “Our Rights and Responsibilities as Sons of God,” and “Discipleship.” Our Senior Pastor, Dr. William Hohman has written several small books on some of these revelations. Then a few weeks ago, I had a pastor, Mel Wild, ask me to review his book, “Sonshift”. I follow his blog on the internet and I knew that he was experiencing this new wave of God, so I agreed. Through this book, I have an even greater understanding of what our life should look like as Christians.

I am thrilled that God is moving in His Church. He always does and His timing is perfect. This is the generation that will change the world. This is the generation that will bring Heaven to earth.

Here is a quote from the preface of “Access Granted”: “I am encountering people who are hungry for more of God and His blessings…They are determined to press beyond the norm into the supernatural character, power, and order of God. And they are willing to step over the Jordan and pay the price for their promised land…I am concerned because I am also encountering those who think they know it all they’ve been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. Instead of using their wisdom and experience as a platform for new revelation and exploits, they are stuck in a rut. They don’t realize that they are old wineskins… Why should you allow God to shake up your world, change your thinking, and lead you into your promised land? Because He wants you to obtain your inheritance in theis earth, so you can carry His name to a lost and dying wolrd. Your harvest is ripe!…It is time for you to open your heart to the new wine and reap your harvest. My prophetic word to you in this hour, “Become anew wineskin for the Lord.”

Joshua Fowler is referencing the parable in Luke 5:36-38. Let’s take a look at that.

(NASB), “And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”

God is doing something NEW. Maybe not new to Him, but it is certainly new to us. Sure there may be a few who got this years ago. God always has a remnant, those who just seem to be able to surrender to His love in such a way that they get revelation on seemingly a daily basis. Good for them! Now it’s our turn, Amen. We can’t keep being the old us, doing the same old thing, and thinking in the same old way. That’s the old wineskin. That is brittle, inflexible, and other than holding the old wine, it is useless. But I want new wine, how about you? There needs to be a shifting. My friend Mel calls it a “Sonshift”.

Malachi 4:5-6 (HCSB), Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

Luke 1:17 (NIV), “He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

This scripture was about John the Baptist, but it is being fulfilled in a greater way to us right now. The time is ripe.

“I believe we are seeing today a unique day in the body of Christ. I believe we’re living in a day unprecedented since the days of the apostles. We’re living in a day where God is revealing Himself to us as Father. And because the Father is love, His love is becoming available to us like it hasn’t been for 2,000 years. And as that love is coming, it’s turning our Bibles upside down, inside-out, back to front. It is turning our Christianity, up upside down, inside-out, back to front. It is, for the first time, putting us in the place where we can enjoy our life more than sinners.” –James Jordan, Fatherheart Ministries

This is the generation.

The Spirit said, ‘I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity on earth in one generation.’”- Mike Bickle, Founder of International House of Prayer

In “Sonshift,” Mel Wild uses the parable of the Prodigal Son, to show us that it wasn’t just about one son, it was about two sons who both were a type of “orphans by choice”. Their father wanted the best for them, one rebelled and wanted to do things his own way, while the other had a slave mentality and was working away with an attitude, just waiting for his dad to die so he could get his inheritance. How many of us, who have accepted Jesus as our Savior still live as if we were orphans? Mel calls those “spiritual orphans.”

Here is an excerpt from the book: “The truth is, Jesus came into our orphaned world and introduced His Father to us in order to show us how to live in His Father’s house. He did this so we could be reunited with Him, right now and forever, no longer orphans but sons and daughters. He told us He would do this by sending the Holy Spirit so that we could live just like He did when He walked the earth- abiding in our Father’s house and “proving” to this orphan world that our Papa’s purpose for them is good and acceptable and perfect. Beloved of God, this world has no mental grid for the Father’s love, and the only way they’re going to know it is to see it through our lives.”

Jesus came to show us the Father. Up until this point people just didn’t understand who He really was. He had been relating to them in a way that they could understand, as a parent to a toddler. You can’t really reason with them, you just have to set some boundaries and then enforce them. Praise God for Jesus’ shed blood. For now God can relate to us as mature sons and daughters. We can see His true identity and purpose as well as our own.

Why is this so important? Well, first off wouldn’t you like all those promises of God, that are supposed to be “yes and amen” evident in your life? Me too! And secondly, we want the orphans of this world to find their true Father, the one who loves them more than they can understand, but who long for him anyway. They might not even understand what is missing from their lives, but when they see it they will know it. It’s just like us when we have a food craving. Frequently I don’t even know what I want, so I go to the fridge and take a look. When my eyes light on that one thing, I know it. If it is a true craving and not just “feeding my emotions”, after partaking I can say, “That hit the spot.” What I mean is it satisfied that craving, that empty spot was filled. That’s the way it will be with the world. On the other hand if I go to the fridge and it is empty… I am going to go look somewhere else. Our fridge needs to be full.

Let’s allow God to change us! Only God can really change us from the inside out, true, but we have to allow it. He never forces us, ever. Let the Potter mold His clay. The outcome will be such a beautiful vessel, such a blessed life, that others will want the same. The harvest is ripe, time is quickly running short. Now is the time. No more delay, no more excuses, and no more procrastination. God’s work is finished, now it is our turn.

We are the true “Sleeping Beauty” but God’s word to us today is “Awake, awake, oh sleeper!”

Isaiah 60:1 (KJB), “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee!”

Just Call Me Barabbas

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“I was sentenced to die for insurrection and murder. I was a vengeful rebel who refused to obey. While confined to a cell, waiting for a gruesome death by the hands of the Romans, suddenly I was removed from my cell and set free! When I asked in confusion, ‘Why have I been liberated?’ The reply was, ‘Someone else has taken your place. Now my name will be remembered forever.”

Most of us are pretty familiar with this story. If I asked you who this person is, you’d answer, “Barabbas” and you’d be correct. I have read the story of the day leading up to the Crucifixion of Jesus too many times to number, in several different versions, but for some reason this week when I read it again in Luke’s account something new hit me like a ton of bricks.

Take a walk through this account with me.

Jesus has been betrayed by one of His friends, one of the twelve, and has been on a whirlwind tour of Jerusalem. First to the Sanhedrin, then to the Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate, next to Harod, Tetrarch of Galilee, mocked and beaten at each stop, now we pick our story back up at the Praetorium with Pilate. This juggling act was due to the fact that neither leader could find any blame in Jesus. No reason to put Him to death. Neither one wanted to anger the people and cause a riot. In fact the bible tells us that they became friends that day. So in the end, despite his wife’s warning, Pilate does as the religious leaders demanded and he released Barabbas and crucified Jesus.

In the past whenever I read this passage I have had a plethora of emotions. Sometimes I am just saddened by the horrible treatment of Jesus, other times I am so angry at the religious Jews for their self righteous vindictiveness, or I am greatly irritated with Pilate for not listening to his wife and for caving in to the demands of the crowd. Usually when I get to the point of Barabbas I think to myself, “Wow that wasn’t fair,” or “What ever happened to him?” But this week when I read it again, I got to the part where Barabbas is released and it dawned on me… I am Barabbas!

Luke 23:18-25 (NIV), “But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.”

History doesn’t tell us what happened to Barabbas, I checked. I can’t help wondering what did he do with his life once he got this second chance, this unexpected pardon? Did he change his life or did he go back to the same old- same old?

You dear friend are also Barabbas. What will you do now that you have been set free?