Remember the Thief

Pastor Tom Schrock

It feels cold today after enjoying a few warm days of snow melt and some sunshine. The weather changed very quickly last night, lighting and thunder then hail and then snow. Several inches of snow are on the ground this morning covering the blackness of the late spring thaw. These sudden weather changes remind me of the unexpected and sudden changes in our lives.

What I’m about to share is meant to encourage you but also remind you that “Jesus came to seek and save the lost.” It is sometimes easy to ignore the Holy Spirit’s voice speaking to us. There have been many times in my pastoring during the last 21 years when I have had the opportunity to share the Good news of the saving Grace of Jesus. We have had many people come to church seeking God. However, as the parable Jesus told sometimes the seed falls on shallow ground and sprouts up but has no root when the troubles of life happen. Often these same people will call me in their time of need. I will see them on the street or at a funeral service and they will refer to me as Pastor. At times I have to admit it grieves me to see their lives a mess, still caught in destructive habit patterns and what would seem far from God. They, for whatever their reason, reject God’s way and even ignore the fellowship of the believers. The story I am going to share with you seems much too familiar. I am not going to share the names but this a true story.

Sunday after church we normally go to a local restaurant for lunch. I find it a great way to connect with some of those I mentioned above. This was the case recently. I saw a lady that I had the honor to lead her in giving her life to Jesus, but after a while, like the parable says, fell away. As she was leaving the restaurant I said hello and she came around a few tables to greet us, but what she wanted to tell me was that a family member was sick and in the hospital. I know him and his family and they had come to church for a while but found it difficult to be committed, but was always someone who would call me his Pastor. She told he had been in the hospital and had been moved to another hospital because of a life threatening sickness. When she shared that with me the Holy Spirit spoke in His quiet but authoritative voice “go he is a Luke 23:30-43 man.” He is getting what he desires (life choices) but is crying out to the Lord, even in midst of others wanting to blame and be angry about his disease. He knew there was no way off the cross he was on and part of the reason he was there is of his own doing.  A few days later the Holy Spirit said today is the day so Jan and I drove to the hospital where he was; on the trip to the 5th floor I remembered a conversation with my dad. We were fishing and I was sharing how discouraged I was, sharing the gospel and how it seemed so many rejected it or might seem to receive it and never see them in church. This was early on in my ministry and my desire to build a church was a focus. It was as I grew in the Lord that the vision of church change to a Vision for His Kingdom which includes the church – Which He is Head. My dad in his wisdom said “Don’t forget the power of the cross is someone’s life. The thief on the cross called on the Lord and was saved, remember the thief! There are a lot of them out there.”

As we got to his room we stopped at the nurse’s desk and asked to go in for a visit. They said yes but he may be sleeping. I knew we needed to wake him up although my flesh said no but the Spirit said yes for today is the day of Salvation. When we went in he was asleep so I gently touch his foot to wake him. As he woke he smiled a big smile as if he knew why we were there, we talked for a bit and he told us his story and what was going on. Simply put he was dying from cancer and it had invaded his body and unless the Lord intervened he was going to die. The sudden unexpected change in his life has now nailed him to a cross in which there is no way off.

Luke 23:39-43
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? 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, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

I asked him if he wanted to make his peace with God and make sure that if this disease took his life he would be in paradise with Jesus, his eyes filled with tears and we prayed with him to give his life to Jesus and he accepted the free gift of salvation. We prayed for the Healing Love of Jesus to heal his body as Jesus had healed his heart. I am not sure if the Lord will heal him of this physical disease, but he is like the thief on the cross who said “remember me in paradise” will be in Paradise with Jesus.

The next time the Holy Spirit speaks to you about someone who may seem on the fringe, or suffering from their own choices read Luke 23:39-43 and it will remind you of why Jesus died for us. “While we were yet sinners Jesus died for us”

Luke 19:10  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

Acts 2:21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

I too was like the thief on the cross and Jesus saved me and now I am free no matter what happens in this life I will be in paradise with Jesus. We will at some time in our lives have to choose like the two men on the cross one rejected and one accepted one went to eternity separated from God and one went to eternity in Paradise with Jesus.    

Pastor Tom Schrock