Be still. Take a breath. Slowly – in and out.

Picture God stepping off the highest throne, reaching out to you, and drawing you close.

Feel the deep embrace of God and hear God saying, “You are loved.”

You are loved.

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One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:39-43

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Even the criminals hanging next to Jesus expected him to save himself from the cross. They knew what was coming, and one even remarked that he knew and accepted why he was there. But this criminal also knew that Jesus wasn’t supposed to be there – that he had done nothing wrong. He knew that, while the sign above Jesus said “king of the Jews,” Jesus’s kingdom was coming after his death. On the cross, he asked Jesus to remember him when that time came.

And Jesus, with the kind of grace that only he can offer, said that this criminal would join him in paradise that day.

That is powerful stuff.

Even when we have made decisions that make our life difficult, Jesus hears us and offers us assurance that we will join him in his kingdom – a kingdom not in this world, but so much better than anything we have ever known.

Can you hear Jesus offering you these same reassuring words today?

“You will be with me in paradise.”

Melissa Kessler

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Forgiving God, thank you for the assurance we hear in Jesus’s words today. Help me to remember that you hear me when I confess, and to know that one day I will be in paradise with you, too. Amen.

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God’s kingdom is nothing like we would expect, and Jesus acts nothing like the king that everyone was waiting for.

Because of that, we are able to live our lives in a way that the world least expects – forgiving, praying, serving, and loving those around us.

Go and live differently. Live the life to which God calls you.

Melissa Kessler

Rev. Melissa Kessler is Associate Pastor at Grandin Court Baptist Church in Roanoke, VA. She loves working with children and youth and helping everyone find their gifts to serve God. She has lived all over the world and really wants to go to every continent – and yes, that includes Antarctica!

24 Preludes, Op. 28: No 20 In C Minor

Garry Bailey

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