Tag Archives: gospel

Want Freedom?

“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom.”

The above is a familiar quote to those who have watched Brave Heart, the depiction of the Scottish fight for independence led by William Wallace. In the movie, this line was part of a speech before the battle of Stirling Bridge by Mel Gibson, the actor who played Wallace. Though the quote is fictional, it portrays the kind of heart Wallace is believed to have had. The Scottish went on to win the battle, though outnumbered significantly by the English. Wallace ended up being hanged, drawn and quartered seven years after the battle, but his desire for freedom fueled his heart, giving him the courage to be brave.

Jesus speaks of  freedom when he states his purpose, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden.”[1]

Jesus was speaking of an eternal freedom beyond any physical constraint. He came to free us from the chains of religious self-effort and the bondage of self-indulgence.

Paul proclaims Christ’s desire for our freedom in Galatians 5:1, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free.” In Galatians, Paul identifies two great threats to our freedom in Christ.

Legalism (trying to earn righteousness) Twice Paul condemns those who teach that righteousness comes from our own efforts.[2] He says that seeking our own righteousness is akin to nullifying the death of Christ on the cross.[3] And for those who require the ritual of circumstances to earn favor with God, Paul calls for them to go ahead and complete the job by mutilating themselves.[4]

This is extremely spicy language but, believing we can add anything to what Christ has already accomplished by his death on the cross is ludicrous. Yet, in our success oriented society it seems natural to add religious activities to our other achievements.

In Galatians 2:20, which some call a summary of the Christian life, Paul brings to light the bondage of legalism. He reminds us of our spiritual death. We have nothing to add to Christ’s life in us. We are rather to live in moment by moment dependence upon Him our Indwelling Spirit of Christ. Anything else is bondage.

“do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”[5]

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision means anything, but faith working through love.”[6]

Bondage to the Flesh (delighting in anything more than Christ)  Though our life in Christ gives us tremendous freedoms to enjoy what He’s created, if we seek our satisfaction in these things, apart from Him, we’re on the path to bondage.

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.”[7]

The world is filled with individuals who sought to satisfy the void in their hearts with sex, drink, drugs, work, media, etc. But only Christ can fill the hole in our hearts.

God has created so many things for us to enjoy as we walk with Him. However, if these things supplant Him in our hearts, the things intended to bring us pleasure become idols and addictions.

Challenge: Take a moment and think about the two great threats to your freedom: legalism and bondage to your flesh.

Is there anything you are doing which you think will cause Jesus to love you more? If so, you’re freedom is bound. Your motives are wrong. Do this thing because He loves you, not to earn His love.

Is there anything you’re doing which crowds out God having full access to your heart, something you delight in more than Him? It doesn’t have to be something that seems grievous, it can be work, over eating or media. Ask God, to help you put this thing in its proper place, behind him. If possible, stop this thing, if only for a season.





[1] Luke 4:18a

[2] Galatians 1:8-9

[3] Galatians 2:21

[4] Galatians 5:12

[5] Galatians 5:1b

[6] Galatians 5:6

[7] Galatians 5:13a

Choosing Life Over Work

Of his mentor, missionary to China Margaret Barber, Watchmen Nee wrote, “She cared for nothing but life… [and to pay] more attention to life than work.”[1]

 I long for this mindset, but too often the opposite is true. Consider what occurred only a few days ago.

On my to-do list was to get the name of diabetic test strips which would be covered under our new health insurance plan. My pharmacy told me to call my provider. My provider told me to call my insurance company. My insurance company referred me to a third party which handled pharmacy issues.

After several tries, I finally found myself talking to a person. His name was John. His voice was slow and shaky. I had the phone on speaker and my wife and I could both tell he was elderly, probably in his 70s.

John didn’t seem to know the answer to my question and suggested I call my pharmacy. When I told him I'd tried that, he told me to call my insurance company. I told him my insurance company had referred me to him. I tried to keep my voice from sounding as frustrated as I was feeling. This "to-do" was taking much longer than I'd hoped.

That's the sad thing. At that moment I wasn't thinking about John at all, other than the fact that he was blocking  me from marking this nagging duty off my list.

When John realized I wasn't going to go away, he  put me on hold.

"I bet people laugh at the way he talks all the time," my wife offered, feeling compassion for him. This unsolicited comment began to shift my heart and my thoughts moved slightly towards John. I emphasize slightly, because my goal was still resolution, not encouragement. I hate to admit this, but it's true.

When John got back on the line, he had an answer for me. In fact, he seemed empowered now that he had information.

During our exchange, my wife caught my eye and mouthed, "Pray for him."

Not yet being fully focused on John, this hadn't even occurred to me and I was a bit reluctant. However, when  John was done giving me my answer, I asked, “Is there anything I can pray for you about?”

"Yes," John said without hesitation.

“What can I pray for you about,” I repeated.

“My salvation,” John cried out.

Wow. I wasn't expecting that at all, but it thrilled me that he would be so honest.

I went on to pray that John would recognize God's loves for him, that he would accept Christ's willingness to die on a cross for his sins.  I prayed that John would believe by faith the fact that Jesus' death was out of love for him and that by receiving Christ's finished work, it would secured the salvation of his soul.

John listened and when I was done we ended our call with the normal protocols. But before we hang up, we could hear John gasp loudly and sob softly. What if he really did surrender his life to Christ? We pray that he did.

When we value life over work, this changes everything.

I recently heard of a man who was an elder serving on a particular church committee for 45 years. He said the experience was totally empty, but that he considered it his duty to God. He said his life was a series of dutiful activities hoping to please God.

But two years ago he finally understood grace. Though he'd heard the word for years, the amazing truth of God's unmerited favor passed from head knowledge to his heart.

Since then, his life has been totally different.  Now, when he wakes up in the morning, he doesn't think about all he has to do. Two simple thoughts have replaced his thoughts of work:

  • Oh, how he loves me
  • I wonder who he will bring into my life today to love through me?

Prayer: Most gracious, heavenly Father. I’m sorry I so easily get caught up in the swirl of duties and work that life becomes secondary. You are life. I see you all around me in your creation and in the people you bring my way. Please help me trust you that the work you want to accomplish will get done. I’m asking you to change the paradigm of my day to care less about accomplishments and more about people, to pay more attention to life than work.

Thank you for loving me so much.  Please work this unsearchable truth more and more into the fabric of my heart.

Who do you want to bring into my life today so that you can love them through me?

1 Peter 3:15 (NASB)  but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

[1] Watchman Nee, Witness Lee

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

All Jacked Up

“We fear if people ever truly knew us, they would not love us, but the truth is if people really knew us, they could truly love us” Jon Acuff

One of our pastors likes to refer to all of us, including himself, as ‘all jacked up.’  I don’t embrace this truth very well, but it’s intensely accurate. During the times I haven’t messed up too badly, I feel pretty good about myself. But when an area of my life begins to stink, I tend to go into denial. It’s easier to slather on the cologne and avoid thinking about it than to come to terms with how far I’ve missed the mark.

The truth is I am all jacked up. And I bring my imperfections into every area of my life, including my family, my job, my friendships, my… It seems the longer I live the more I realize I’m not the man after God’s heart I hoped I was. I’m not alone in this. Toward the end of his live, Paul called himself the foremost of all sinners.[1]  But even among such great company, I struggle to fully embrace my sin.

The Lie of Lovability

Lately, God has revealed a virus running in the operating system of my heart: The more perfect I am, the more lovable I am. Though I know its a lie, the less perfect I realize I am, the more unlovable I feel. I read what Jesus says about the sinner who washed His feet with her tears, “her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little loves little.”  (Luke 7:47b) This verse is like anti-virus software targeting the specific lie which has caused havoc in my life. In Christ, God lavishes his grace upon me. What should keep me from opening up all the crevices of my heart to allow His loving grace and mercy to have full access?

Cheer up

“Cheer up! You’re a worse sinner than you ever dared imagine, and you’re more loved than you ever dared hope.” Jack Miller

Could it be that a fuller embrace of my sin will give me a deeper experience of His love?

God is eradicating this lie which causes me to shy away from a full embrace of my sin. His great love for me is washing away guilt and shame, showing me something I never expected.

Being brutally honest with who I really am, with all my imperfections and sin, in all areas,  has far reaching benefits for me and for others:

  • Greater sin, greater love -As with the sinful woman, the more I see my sin and embrace God’s forgiveness, the greater I understand His love
  • Eradicating Defensiveness – If I know I’m loved, no matter how much I’ve messed up, I can fully accept, without denial, when others tell me I have broccoli in my teeth
  • Requires dependence – As long as I think I’m doing okay, patterning my life after the historic Jesus I read about in the Bible, I’ll keep grinding it out in my own effort. However, when I see the essence of what Jesus is teaching us in the Sermon on the Mount, that I can’t be perfect and can’t live the Christian life without him, I’ll begin to yield to His abiding Spirit
  • Brings freedom – Jesus says “the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32b) When we give the Spirit full access to the crevices of our heart, we’ll experience the freedom to fully embrace our humanity with all its ugliness and fully rest in the love of Christ
  • Really Good News – Gospel means “good news” and when we truly understand that no sin is more powerful than the precious life blood of Jesus, this makes the gospel really good news.
  • My Grace Story Brings Hope to Others  When we share our junk and related victories, others can identify and hope is ignites in them. “If God can do that in his life and with his family, as jacked up as he is, He can surely help me.”


  • Think of the imperfect areas of your life. This shouldn’t be too hard. As humans, our sin is kneaded into all aspects.
  • Of these areas, pick one that’s particularly hard to accept. This is probably an area you find some worth in. Just one for now. You can repeat the process if needed.
  • Spend some being brutally honest with the Lord about your sin in this area. Perhaps you’ve been in denial about the extent. Then, with no hesitation, receive the cleansing power of the shed blood of Christ for forgiveness and cleansing.
  • Perhaps there’s a person in your life you need to talk to. Do it. Bring it all into the light of his healing grace.
  • Rinse and repeat the challenge for other areas. (This reference doesn’t work for me. I haven’t had enough hair to wash in years) (8^>

 Prayer: Most gracious, heavenly Father. I’m so sorry I hold my junk at arm’s length, not fully embracing my sin. Thank you for exposing the lie that tells me I’m unlovable when I’m not perfect. What a hideous message. I’m sorry for how my lack of brutal honesty with myself, has affected my freedom and perhaps even the freedom of others. Please keep me in absolute truth, exposing more and more of my junk, that you might use me to trumpet your lavishing love and unending grace to others.

“He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.Ephesians 1:5-8b 

[1] I Timothy 1:15

Dying of Thirst

 Desert Dryness

“How long did they say we should wait here?” Andy asked, glancing again at the crumpled wreck that had once been their plane, as the two brothers laid exhausted in the desert heat.

“Andy…  How many times can we talk about the same thing?” Peter returned in tired frustration. “They said to wait here with Jimmy until they could bring help. They didn’t specify how long…”

“How long has it been? I’m getting so thirsty…” Andy moaned.

“I’m thirsty too. We haven’t had a drop of water since Jimmy died and that’s been a couple  of days.” Peter replied. He was trying to shield himself from the desert sun by the twisted wing of their downed plane.

By this time the two brother’s lips were cracked and parched; their tongues stuck to the roofs of their mouths.

Later, after the sun went down, Andy propped himself up on his elbow and could see Peter’s gaunt face and white crusted lips.  “I’ve had enough of this.” Andy said. “I’m going to find water.”

Peter opened his eyes. “Where are you going?” He called after Andy, as he saw a shadowy vision of his brother ascending a sand dune into the bright moon light.

Peter struggled to his feet and followed Andy from a distance. Soon the vision of his brother blurred and he wiped his eyes to clear them. Then he felt a pressure on his shoulders and realized he was on the ground. He lay there exhausted, giving up hope of going on.

He was awakened by warmth on his eye lids. Opening his eyes to the east, the new sun was already baking him. It burned his exposed skin as he lay motionless in the sand.

After some time, Peter became aware in his semi-conscious state, that the sand itself was burning his skin. With all the strength he could muster, Peter crawled to a nearby cactus and curled up in its feeble shadow. This offered some relief, at least until the small shadow shifted again. He faded into unconsciousness.

I’ve Found Water

 “Peter! Peter!” Andy’s excited voice brought Peter back into awareness. The sun was almost down and Peter could see Andy waving his hands in excitement. “I’ve found water. Let’s go.”

As Andy’s words flowed into Peter’s conscience, he sat up, looking curiously at Andy.

“It’s a bit of a hike Peter, but it’s the freshest water I’ve ever drank. There’s a valley with a slow running river flowing through it. Peter! It’s surrounded by lush plants, even shade trees. The water is so cool and I think I saw fruit trees down stream on the other side. Let’s go.”

Peter just stared at Andy, not moving a muscle.

“Come on Peter, do you need help?”

After a few moments of silence, Peter replied in a weak voice, “Andy, I just don’t think there could be a river of water like you described, especially out here. You’ve seen a mirage.”

“Peter!” Andy replied in unbelief at the words he was hearing. “I didn’t just see the water, I drank some. I drank my fill of cool refreshing water. It softened my dry cracked lips and washed away all the dryness. It was wonderful! Come on.”

After Peter still didn’t move, Andy said, “You don’t look so good. I think I can carry you.”

Andy stooped and grabbed Peter under his arms to pull him up.

“Andy! Leave me here,” Peter groaned. “I’m not wasting my time on this. It doesn’t make any sense to me that water could be anywhere around here. I know you believe there’s water and that’s great for you. But, honestly, I think you’re being fooled. You want to have water so much that you’ve convinced yourself that it’s there.”

“Peter!” Andy replied, not believing his ears. “Trust me! Sometimes you have to just trust someone and not let your reasoning get in the way. I agree with you. It’s an unlikely spot for a fountain of water, but I drank from it. I know it’s not a mirage. It refreshed me through and through!”

“Andy, I do trust you. I trust that you think it was a real river, I just don’t believe it myself.”

“What do you mean Peter!” Andy screamed. He was starting to get really frustrated. “How can you say you trust me and still not believe there is water? That doesn’t make sense!”

Andy was now beside himself with disbelief that his brother would refuse water that would save his life.

“Andy, like I said. I do trust you. Keep on believing that there is water. Don’t let me stop you. I just don’t share your belief that there’s water out here.”

“UGH!” Andy groaned. He then turned and began walking quickly in the direction he had come from.

Finding Water on Our Own

Peter watched his brother disappear out of sight and fell again into unconsciousness.

After some time, Peter awoke to a burning fire in his throat. I’m dying of thirst, he thought. I have to find water, I can’t die like this. He frantically began to scratch at the sand with his finger nails. I’ll dig my own well. After all, the cactus has to be getting water from somewhere. His pitiful cistern barely dented the sand by the time he used his remaining strength. There was no water and he could not go on.

His mind faded into unconsciousness and beyond.

When Peter opened his eyes it was completely black, pitch black darkness enveloped him.  No light, no moon, no stars, nothing but darkness. He had never experienced such thick murky blackness. He reached down to touch his legs, but he could not feel them. His legs were gone, as were his arms and even his face. In desperate agony, he screamed, but he heard no sound. He continued to shout and wave with what he thought were his arms, but nothing could disrupt the thick gloomy darkness. He was in an abyss of nothingness.

Then he heard a voice “Peter! I’ve brought you some water.”

It was Andy’s voice, not coming from any one direction, but from all around his darkness.

Andy! Andy! I’m here!  Peter screamed with all his might, but there was no sound.

Andy! Help! Please help me! Andy!  Peter yelled as loud as he could, but nothing.

Then he heard Andy’s voice again. “Peter! Peter! Why wouldn’t you believe me? I brought you water, its right here!” But, there was nothing he could do, it was too late.

Back to Reality

Very faintly at first and then increasing in volume, Peter began to hear the sound of rushing water.  Then, suddenly the abrupt caw of a crow overhead awakened him.

“You about ready to go Peter?” called a voice that sounded like Andy’s from some distance behind.

Utterly stunned, Peter began to size up his surroundings. He was far from being in a desert. In fact, he found himself in a place quite the opposite. Instead of desert heat, his hands and face felt chilled. Yet, moments before, in an eerie desperate darkness, he was experiencing death.

Somehow, he was sitting, facing downstream, beside a winding brook of rapidly flowing water. Both in front and behind him there was the liquid cleansing sound of water freely flowing over rocks into gushing pools.

A brisk breeze whisked his dry, parched face as his eyes followed the stream forward to the horizon. He was in the mountains. He noticed the rolling hills towering above him on either side of the stream. And though the sun was pleasantly warming his face, patches of glistening white snow covered the land as far as he could see. In places the snow resembled brilliant diamonds as the sparkles of sun light reflected in every direction off the melting snow.

He was sitting in a lounge chair of sorts, made of stone, complete with arm and foot rests. In one way, it felt like he had been asleep for a very long time. Yet, what he had just experienced felt very real.

As he recalled his previous devastation, he became aware of great thirst. Like a bullet, he propelled himself forward to the cool liquid below his feet. With a splash, he literally buried his head in the rushing pool, violently lapping the ice cold water. He could feel the wetness moisten his leathery tongue and begin to dissolve some of the thick mucus in his mouth.

“Boy, you sure must be thirsty!” Andy’s voice startled Peter from behind, but it did not interrupt his water feast.

“I’ve never seen anyone guzzle water with quite as mush gusto!” chuckled Andy.

Peter didn’t even acknowledge Andy at first, continuing to gulp the cool mountain water. After awhile he lifted his face from the pool and turned toward him.

“What happened?” Peter demanded almost rudely. “What do you mean what happened?” Andy answered, astounded at the question. “You’ve been asleep for over an hour. I’ve been up stream a ways reading. Don’t you remember?”

“Sort of.” Peter nodded his head.

“You drug me up here to see the Mission Church at Valle Crusis because it’s on the historic register. Not that I mind.” Andy smiled. “These mountains are stunningly beautiful.”

“Yeah,” mumbled Peter.

“Hey!” Andy interrupted before Peter could answer. “What’s wrong with your lips? They’re shriveled and white.”

Was it a Dream?

Completely puzzled, Peter returned to the stone chair and stared at Andy. “Something weird is going on.” Peter exclaimed, as he shifted his intent stare to the pool he had just drank from. “I guess it was a dream, but it was so real. And what happened to my lips?” Peter rubbed his upper lip with the tip of his finger.

“In my dream, I died of thirst and you were trying to help me. You kept telling me about a fountain of water, but I refused to believe you. Then I died. But it was a very strange death. I knew I was dead, but I could still hear you trying to give me water, but it was too late! There was water after all, but I didn’t believe you.”

“Really?” Andy replied with great interest. “Tell me about it while we walk the rest of the way to the mission.”

As the brothers walked along the stream toward the mission, Peter relayed in great detail what had gone on in the desert. Andy listened intently.

“As you tell me about your dream, it reminds me of how sad I feel that you don’t believe me when I tell you that Jesus is more than just a man.” Andy replied, as they passed a horse farm along the road.

“I can relate very much to your dream and what I was trying to do. I saw the water and it saved my life. However, when I offered it to you, you didn’t believe me. And you don’t believe me about Jesus either.”

“I couldn’t see how there could have been a river like you described out there in that dry dusty desert,” Responded Peter.  “I figured you were just seeing a mirage and that you had convinced yourself that the mirage existed. I thought you were being deceived. I even tried to dig my own well near the cactus plant. I couldn’t just die of thirst.”

“But you did die of thirst Peter!” Andy answered sternly. “You’re my own brother and now you really are dying. We’e all dying. Nobody gets out of here alive. And I’ve found a fountain of life, life that could satisfy you now and always. Life that is even more incredible to the thirsty soul than that drink you just had. But you won’t believe me!” Tears watered in Andy’s eyes as he looked at his brother. “How will I be able to endure you dying of thirst when I know where the living water is to save you?”

All Peter could do was stare at his brother. He couldn’t  just make himself believe in something he doesn’t believe in. Where was the evidence?

Water for the Soul

“I do believe you Andy. I believe that you do see the water, but the water must be for you and not me, because I don’t see it.”

“I didn’t see either Peter!” Andy exclaimed. “When Lee told me about Jesus, back when I was in college, I figured it was just one of his crazy phases. I tolerated what he said because he was my oldest friend. I didn’t check out what he was telling me until I found myself burdened by all I had done wrong and feeling empty with no real purpose. Jesus is more than a man. I can tell you because he has become a friend of mine. Just like Lee introduced Jesus to me, I want to introduce Him to you.”

“I appreciate it and I’m interested in learning more about him because of what he means to you. That’s why I saw The Gospel of John and The Passion of the Christ movies with you.” Peter replied as they approached the entrance to the Valle Crusis Conference center.

They entered the facility and followed the sign up a rocky road covered with snow toward the old Mission church.

“I must admit.” Peter interrupted, the silence as they trudged up the road. “Something pretty extraordinary must have happened the day Jesus was crucified. With all the attention given to that point in history and what supposedly happened after that, I wish I could go back in time and figure out what really happened.”

“So, in your mental box, in your paradigm, what happened back then would have to fit inside of a man’s mind and be explained by man’s reasoning?” Andy questioned.

“I guess so.” Peter replied thoughtfully as they reached the summit of the road.

Valley of the Cross

They walked along a snowy path in silence for a few moments. There was a ravine to their left and Valle Crusis, the Valley of the Cross, unfolded before their eyes as they hiked.”

The sun was low in the sky and sunset colors of deep orange and yellow supplied the backdrop for the mission church they had come so far to see.

“Isn’t it picturesque, Andy?” Peter marveled “I read that a botanist from New York came through here and was struck by the remote beauty of this place. He then talked to the Bishop in Raleigh, who oversaw the Diocese of North Carolina. And he decided to create a mission here.”

The two brothers stood stunned at the beauty of the old church and its cross against the painted sky. They made their way down another rocky, snowy path to the church. Peter tried to open the over-sized, thick wooden doors and to their amazement they were unlocked. They went inside and sat down in a wooden pew near the front.

The church was simple, yet elegant in the details of the woodcarvings and trappings. The ceiling was high and supported by tremendous wooden beams. A rugged cross built in a circular stained class window behind the pulpit was awesomely beautiful, especially as the setting sun gleamed rainbow colors from the stained glass all around the cross, filling the church with colorful light. It seemed to Andy to be a foreshadowing of glory.

After awhile, Peter spoke, as he starred blankly at the cross. “I guess it would be comforting to know that you were created for a purpose and that you were not some random roll of the dice in the universe.”

Andy, staring intently at the cross, replied. “Peter, it makes all the difference in the world!”

Passion Foretold

After a couple of moments Andy spoke up again. “Peter, you said you think something amazing happened back when Christ was crucified and rose again. I agree with you and I’m going to show you something that is going to blow your mind, if you’ll let it.”

Peter looked over at Andy, but did not respond in words. Andy reached in front of him and pulled out a pew Bible and turned to Psalm 22.

“Peter, the passage I’m getting ready to read to you, from Psalm 22, was written by King David. David lived about a thousand years before Jesus was born. As I read it, think back to what we saw in the movie, The Passion of the Christ.

As Andy began to read, Peter returned his gaze to the cross.

“It starts with, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Then listen to this description later in the Psalm! ‘I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd: and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and You lay me in the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But You O Lord be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance.’”

Andy stopped reading and closed the Bible. “It goes on from there.” Andy said as he placed the Bible back in the pew rack in front of him.

Captives Set Free

“Are you sure that was written before Jesus was born?”  Peter questioned. “Is it in the Old Testament?”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Answered Andy. “The amazing thing, Peter, is the love that was demonstrated by the suffering of Jesus. Jesus is Lord; he could have kept the whole thing from happening. But, because of you and me, Jesus chose to endure all that suffering. In fact he did it for all people, for the Jewish High Priests that turned him over, for Pontius Pilate, even for those Roman soldiers who were so vicious in their attacks. Even though none of us deserved what he did for us, he chose to die in our place. He came and died to set the captives free.”

“What do you mean captives? Do you mean prisoners?” Peter asked.

“Not just literal prisoners, but any and every human being. We are all bound in our wrong doings. The most righteous person on the planet has done at least one wrong thing. God loves us and wants fellowship with us, but the nature of who He is, His purity, His holiness, demands that anyone who fellowships with him must be cleansed first.”

“Is that why the Israelites were always sacrificing lambs and doves?” asked Peter.

“Exactly!” Responded Andy, growing a bit animated. “And the lamb had to be a spotless lamb, free from blemish. God provided a way for the people of Israel to have fellowship with him. Their sins, their wrong doings were symbolically transferred to the perfect lamb and then the slaughter of that lamb satisfied God’s demand of purity or holiness.”

“I remember reading somewhere that the crucifixion happened during the Passover,” replied Peter. “Does that tie in?”

“You’ve got it!” Answered Andy. “The Passover celebration was when the families of Israel remembered the time when they were held captive as slaves in Egypt. Moses asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. However, he refused over and over again; even as God sent  different plagues, devastating  Egypt. The final plague involved the killing of all first born males throughout the whole country from humans to animals. However, he made a way for the Israelites to be saved. By spreading the blood of spotless lambs on the doorposts of their houses, an Israeli family would be spared. If a doorpost had this blood on it, the evil was forced to ‘pass over’ the house. So, it is tremendously significant that Jesus died during Passover. He ended the need for yearly sacrifices for wrong doings. He died as a perfect blood sacrifice, like a spotless lamb, so that anyone who receives what he did and follows him, will be set free, both now and forever.”


The two brothers sat in silence for a long while, staring ahead at the empty cross. Slowly the rays of colored lights dimmed. Dust particles could be seen floating in the slices of light that remained from the late afternoon setting sun.

Andy had closed his eyes and pondered the victory of the Christ that followed the tremendous pain and suffering of His passion. The miracle of Jesus’ resurrection seemed so much sweeter after learning so many of the details concerning how intensely Jesus had suffered to save him. He could not fight back tears. Tears of joy and tears of sadness that his brother refused to believe and follow Jesus. He didn’t have it all figured out in his mind when he made the choice to follow Jesus. It was a belief by faith, not a complete mental understanding; just a small faith at that. But it was not the amount of faith that had caused his relationship with Jesus to grow over the years. The reason his faith had grown was because of who his faith was in: Jesus Christ, the man who was God, who had died to set him free.

As Andy soaked in the sweetness of his family relationship with the Creator of the universe, he was aware that Peter was slipping past him and moving toward the exit at the back of the church.

Immediately, Andy began to pray intently for his brother. The tears increased as he longed for Peter to take the step of faith before he died.

Andy finished praying, wiped his eyes and turned in the pew to join Peter outside. However, when he looked down the rows of pews towards the back door, he discovered that Peter had not left after all. His face was buried in his hands on the wooden floor in front of the door. Both his knees and elbows were on the floor, his body in a posture of surrender.

Andy looked up, past Peter’s sobbing body and saw a golden metal plaque hammered to the large wooden door. On the plaque were the following words:

My people have committed two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns on their own, broken cisterns that hold no water.  Jeremiah 2:13