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Years ago, the "Star Wars" trilogy of movies exploded into our popular culture like, well, like Darth Vader's Death Star. Millions of people developed a fascination for the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and, of course, the infamous Darth Vader. Hero Luke Skywalker became a Jedi knight and he learned the power of what was called The Force. Darth Vader, who was the villain, had mastered the power of the "dark side" of The Force. And then, decades later, a new "Star Wars" trilogy began, telling the story of the events that preceded the original episodes. So there's not Luke or Han or Princess Leia for a while, but guess what is still there? The Force, of course. And what is the Force? Well, no one's really sure, but it seems to be this spiritual power that you can tap into to help you win your battles.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Star Wars - and Our Wars."
Spiritual power you can harness to help you win battles that you can't win with your own resources - that's actually a pretty interesting idea. Of course, our battles aren't about storm troopers or villains with light sabers.
We're trying to make a marriage work, to beat the monsters of anger and depression, addiction, selfishness, loneliness. We battle real challenges, not computer-animated fantasy foes. And as you face the battles raging around you right now - maybe even in you right now - you're having to admit that they are bigger than you are. Actually, there is inside us a deep desire for some power - some spiritual power really - beyond our own to enable us to be the man or woman we desperately want to be.
But we need something better than The Force. That's a fictional, impersonal spiritual energy that only the spiritually elite can tap into. Our biggest struggles are actually against the "dark side" that's inside us. In our word for today from the Word of God, one of the writers of the Bible spoke about our dark side when he said, "For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do ... I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out ... it is sin living in me that does it." And then he speaks for all of us who battle our dark side when he asks, "Who will rescue me?" (Romans 7:15, 20, 24)
Thankfully, the Bible doesn't leave us there. The answer follows. "Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" The "force" we need to conquer the dark side is actually a Person - Jesus Christ, the One who gave His life on a cross to pay the death penalty for all the sinning we've ever done. His act of deep love for you broke the power that sin has had over the human race since the first man and woman took their lives into their own hands.
We don't need some impersonal force that doesn't really exist. We need a living Savior! The power of Jesus is demonstrated, above all else, by His empty grave there on Easter morning. He walked out of His grave under His own power! If He can conquer death, the darkness that has stopped every other person who's ever lived, He can conquer the darkness inside you!
Jesus says to those who belong to Him, "All power is given to Me in heaven and earth ... and I am with you always" (Matthew 28:18, 20). He's the spiritual power you need to win your battles. He is the love you've been looking for all your life, and Jesus becomes your Savior from your sin when you tell Him you're putting your life into His nail-scarred hands.
If you want to begin this powerful relationship with the Son of God, tell Him that right where you are. And then I hope you'll visit our website where I've just put down a brief explanation of how to get started with Jesus Christ. You can listen to it there, or you can read it. The website is yoursforlife.net. I hope you'll go there today. Or if you'd like to receive Yours For Life in printed form, you can just call us and let us know you want it at 877-741-1200.
Your battles have probably left you pretty wounded and tired. The dark side has won long enough; it's hurt enough people. You don't ever have to fight those battles alone again. Jesus Christ - the Creator of every faraway galaxy - stands ready to fight for you from that moment that you open up to His amazing love.
If you're not sure you belong to Jesus, and you would like to make sure today, Ron would like to send to you a free copy of the booklet, "Yours for Life: How to Have Life's Most Important Relationship." To read it online, click here: http://www.yoursforlife.net/
OR, to request your free copy of "Yours for Life," click here: http://rhm.gospelcom.net/yours/yflorder.html
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To find out how you can begin a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, please visit YOURS FOR LIFE: HOW TO HAVE LIFE'S MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP at: http://www.yoursforlife.net Or, call 1-888-NEED HIM.
"A Word With You" by Ron Hutchcraft is a daily radio challenge, with slice-of-life illustrations and insights - providing practical help on the issues that matter most. If your local Christian radio station does not air "A Word With You," please let them know how much you value this program. Over six years of transcripts are available online, at http://rhm.gospelcom.net/awwy.php
Simon of Cyrene had every reason to be shocked. He was on his way in from the country, likely headed to Jerusalem for the Passover, when he was seized from the crowd and forced to join a procession heading toward Golgotha, the place of the Skull. They put a crossbeam on him, one to be used in the execution of a criminal, and made him carry it. The offense of this object and unchosen assignment would have been blatant to Simon and everyone around him. He had been recruited to play a role in a crucifixion, an extremely dishonorable form of judicial execution in the Roman Empire. Among Jews, anyone condemned to hang on a tree was thought accursed. Staggering in front of Simon, beaten and bloodied, was the man to whom this cross belonged.
In many ways, it was a day of shocking darkness. For Simon, thrust in the middle of angry men and wailing women, the day held a burden he did not deserve, a shame he did not seek to bear. He was on his way to celebrate the release of the Jews from the bondage of slavery--the central act of God in Israel's history--and he found himself carrying the cross of a man named Jesus.
The crowd pressed in behind them as they walked forward. Simon heard Jesus turn to the women who mourned and wailed for him and offer a curious response: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed! They will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Luke 23:28-31). Simon probably would have recognized these lines as words of the prophet Hosea, the prophet God used to show Israel his heart, to demonstrate a love that would not quit despite an adulterous bride.
When they made it to Golgotha, Simon's task was finished. The beam was taken from him and the man he followed to the place of the Skull--Jesus of Nazareth--was stripped of his garment and nailed to the cross. Nothing further is mentioned about Simon the Cyrene in any of the gospel accounts of the crucifixion. Still much is left to wonder. Did he stay after the burden had been lifted from his shoulders? Did he hear Jesus cry out, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" or watch him extend the invitation of paradise to the broken criminal on the cross beside him? What went through Simon's mind as he walked behind the weak and beaten Jesus, the events of Passover interrupted by the events of the cross? Did he look on as they mocked the King of the Jews who remained silent through the insults? Was he filled with thoughts of the Passover he was missing, the life he needed to resume, as they challenged Jesus to come down from the cross? Or perhaps Simon was as disturbed by the end of the journey as he was of its beginning.
Matthew reports the conclusion of the first Good Friday and the cross that would become a stumbling block for all history: "When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split... When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (27:50-54).
It is impossible to tell what became of Simon after he carried the burden of the Christ sentenced to die. Ironically, the memorial he had celebrated his entire life-the redemption of Israel from the yoke of slavery, the blood of the unblemished lamb, the Passover hope for the liberating Messiah-was emerging before him, the slaughter of the paschal lamb. Still one thing is clear; Simon of Cyrene was on his way somewhere else and the Cross was a shocking interruption. And so it remains.
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God designed humans to want to believe in something. That's the image of God that is in us. But as G. K. Chesterton famously put it, when we reject the God of the Bible, we don't believe in nothing; we believe in everything -- including Little Green Men.