Category » Hope
It was a hot day in the Uruguayan countryside. Gerhald Acosta wasn’t allowed to enter the factory that day because his I.D. card had expired. Now he was hitchhiking home, watching car after car pass by him without stopping.
Finally an SUV stopped, together with a car that was traveling behind it. A man from the second car asked where Acosta was going, told him they could take him part of the way, and invited him to get into the SUV. When Acosta got into the truck, he discovered that his benefactors were none other than Uruguayan president Jose Mujica and his wife Lucia!
Acosta says they only took him a short distance, as far as the next town, but that the famous couple was extremely friendly. Had Acosta not taken pictures during the ride, no one would have believed his tale.
We don’t often think of powerful people serving others; we expect them to want to be served. That’s how it was in Jesus’ day as well. That’s why he was such a surprising figure.
Rather than coming into this world in the nursery of a palace, Jesus was born in the stable of an inn. He had no castle to live in; he once said he didn’t even have a place to lay his head. Instead of receiving manicures and visiting spas, Jesus took up a towel and washed the feet of his disciples. Where others would ride in chariots or mount chargers, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey’s foal.
He told his followers: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
When the Creator of everything came to this world, he came as a servant. And he came to die on a cross so that we could have life.
It’s great to be given a ride by a president. It’s much, much greater to be given life by the King, Jesus Christ.
This is a question I have often been asked by people thinking about becoming a Christian. I am never sure why they ask it. Is it because they do not want to be locked in to weekly commitment? Have they had negative experiences in their past that make them not want to go ever again? Maybe they want to be sure they are still in charge of their life and time. Perhaps they like to play golf on Sunday, or spend the day in their pajamas. Or maybe it is a careful way to ask just how much is expected of them if they decide to follow Jesus.
But sometimes Christians have not been fair in answering the question. They may say it is something to discuss after you become a Christian. Or they may try to avoid having to give a straight answer. They may even feel guilty because they have issues with going to church themselves. Maybe it is just that they do not want to give an answer that may cause someone to say no to Jesus.
So if you are wondering if you have to go church when you become a Christian, let me answer the question clearly. Yes. Of course you do. For one thing, when you become a Christian you are added to the church. But you are expected to meet together with other Christians. We do this so we can share a meal called the Lord’s Supper and proclaim to the world our unity and our belief that Jesus died, rose from the dead, and will return for us someday. We do it so we can be inspired and motivated to love God, to love our neighbor, and to do good in this world. We meet because we need each other. We go to church because if we do not, it becomes much easier for Satan to pick us off while separated from each other.
Following Jesus is not just a series of things to do, it is a lifestyle. One that includes going to church.
It’s easy today to feel like humans are pretty powerful. Given enough money and enough time, and it seems like we can do just about anything. We can build that bridge. We can cure that disease. We can invent that machine.
Then some snow falls, and we realize that there are forces much stronger than we are. Or a hurricane blows through. Or a volcano erupts. Suddenly we don’t seem as powerful as we did before.
When Jesus lived on this earth, he did a lot of signs and miracles. One of the most amazing was witnessed by only a small group of Jesus’ followers. Jesus was in the region of Galilee, near the large freshwater lake called Kinneret, the one sometimes called “the Sea of Galilee.”
He and his disciples decided to cross the lake. As they were doing so, a terrible storm developed. The gospel of Mark tells the story:
“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”” (Mark 4:37–41)
Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him? It would become obvious to them later on: this was Jesus, the Messiah. This was God made flesh.
Here’s a suggestion: the next time you see a wonder of nature, don’t just wonder at nature. Wonder at the One who created it all. The One with the powerful to stop wind and waves with just a word.
For he is the same One with the power to change your life. He is the One with the power to give you endless life.
The numbers are so high I really cannot comprehend them. Free agency in baseball is that time when certain players have the right to sign a contract with any team they desire. It becomes a bidding war among teams desperate to be more competitive. But it also one of the few times – maybe the only time – a ballplayer can secure his financial future. And not just his future, but his children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren can be financially secure. They can be set for life. You hear the same kind of language when businesses are sold. Setting your family up for the next two or three generations.
Are you even able to imagine those kinds of financial resources? Imagine the financial security your heirs would enjoy. What if you could do that in other areas? Take a vaccination that would prevent disease in your family for three generations into the future. What if you could shield them from emotional pain? Or how about setting them with a guaranteed academic degree? Or a guaranteed job for everyone in your family for the next four generations?
Of course, it does not work that way. Most of these are not possible. Even the financial security can be lost in one generation. But I do think there is one aspect of my family’s future that is possible to set up. I want my children, their children, and the generations to follow to be able to live forever. What an incredible legacy to set up their spiritual future, and to know that it is possible for us all to live together with God someday. And here is the best part of this desire. I can start a spiritual heritage in my family right now. In fact, I have set my family up spiritually. You can too.
It starts with your decision to become a follower of Jesus. God sent Jesus to live among us and to die for our sins. Believe that and you have started your spiritual legacy for your descendants. Then teach your children. Read God’s Word with them, pray with them, worship together. Tell them of your conversion. Help them to make the decision to follow Jesus. Then they can do the same with their children, who will do the same with theirs. And on and on and on it goes. A spiritual heritage that lasts for generations.
Subject line of the email simply read, “Mini Brant Reunion”. I received that note a few days after visiting my cousin and his wife on Long Island, a cousin I hadn’t seen in 45 years. The gist of that brief email was that we should have a family reunion. The next email’s subject said “Brant Reunion” and the next one’s expectation grew with “Big Brant Reunion”. As I visited with my family in Texas, I was surprised that they all wanted to go and visit with a great aunt, cousins X times removed and hear the stories about our family.
So this June, Brants from Texas, New Jersey, Ohio and other locations will gather in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York, for a reunion that has been almost 50 years in the making.
It struck me as I imagined my grandchildren meeting my cousin’s grandchildren wanting to hear how their grandfathers grew up, that I wondered if that’s what Heaven will be like. I believe that we will recognize our family members who get to Heaven before us. While we will have a different body, a name God gives us on our forehead, and be in a place where there is no night or time, I think we will have a reunion with those we know and those family members we will be meeting for the first time. And then the sweetest part of the reunion will be when we gather in front of the throne and see our God’s face! And in my mind, that’s when he’ll say to each of us “Welcome Home my child.” The reunion in heaven is written about in the first five verses of the 22nd chapter of the book of Revelation.
The Brant reunion in June excites me and it will be marvelous, but it will be nothing compared to the one we’ll have in Heaven.
When you get to Heaven who do you want to see? Who will be there for your Reunion?
New email subject line says: “Gigantic Brant Reunion Bash.”
While on vacation in New York, a French tourist named Karine Valnais Gombeau was deeply moved by the number of homeless people she saw. When she noticed a disheveled-looking man searching through the trash near Grand Central Station, she quickly offered him a bag of leftover pizza she was carrying.
When the surprised man asked what was in the bag, Gombeau replied, “Je suis désolée [I am sorry], but the pizza is cold.” The man thanked her, and she went on her way.
It was two days later that Gombeau learned she had given pizza to actor Richard Gere, who was filming a movie on location in New York City.
The story reminds me of a story that Jesus told in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus described what it will be like when people stand before the throne to answer for what they have done. To the righteous, he will say,
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35–36)
When they protest that they have never seen him in those conditions, Jesus will tell them,
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
In the same way, he will speak of being neglected by others and will tell them:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45)
You will probably never get the chance to give pizza to a famous actor. But you can reach out and help Jesus today. You can serve the hungry, the thirsty, the lonely, the naked, or the prisoner. You can help “the least of these” and really be doing it for Jesus.
To those who show compassion to the people around them, Jesus will one day say:
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)
Those are words I want to hear. I want you to hear them too.
I am an avid reader. Always have been for as long as I can remember. Right now I am looking at a stack of fifteen books I want to read. That does not count the dozen or so I want to pick up and add to the stack. I have shelves of books. Many of them are so good I ought to read them again. That must make forty or fifty I want to read right now. So if I read two or three a week I can be done in few months. But that is not realistic, so how about one a week? Then I am done in a year. Unless I add any more to my list. And of course, I have not even considered the new books that will come out in the next year. There will be books from my favorite authors, books from new authors, old books that are new to me.
I want to read so many books, but there is one book I must read. It is the bestseller of all time. It is the book God wrote: the Bible. It is the story of God’s relationship with man. It is the story of God’s love. It is a story that you can read for yourself. It is a story of God… and you.
God knows you have lots of books out there. He even said in the Bible that there is no end to the making of books. He even recognizes that trying to read and study them all can be exhausting. But God also knows that he has a message for you. The Bible. Read it. It will literally change your life.
It was May 1982. Five of us were driving from Texas to Long Beach, California, to spend the summer working with a church there. We decided to drive “the northern route” (Interstate 40) so that we could stop by and see the Grand Canyon.
We did exactly that. We drove out to the canyon, spent about half an hour there, then continued our trip to California.
I was there. I have pictures to prove it. But I hardly remember anything about the visit.
A few years ago, some friends of mine went to the Grand Canyon. They hiked down one side, then hiked back up the other side. It took them several days to make the hike.
I have to ask myself: which of us has really seen the Grand Canyon?
It seems to me that some people interact with Jesus in the same way. They take a moment out of their busy lives and give it to him. Just a moment. He is a stop on the way, an interruption to a more important routine. And they never really see him.
Others make knowing Jesus their destination. Their focus is to take the time to find him, to learn about him, and to know him. They are the ones that come to see Jesus as he is.
Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
Take time out of your journey through this world to stop and look for Jesus. Make knowing him your goal; not just knowing about him, but coming to see him as your Savior.
If you feel like you don’t know Jesus well, let me encourage you to take some time and go through the 5-lesson study Discovering Jesus. By learning about Jesus, you’ll learn about his Father as well.
Maybe Christians have confused the issue. Or maybe non-believers do not hear it clearly. But there is often a huge misunderstanding about what Christians want non-believers to do. Sometimes there is a belief that Christians want everyone to follow a certain moral code. Or that want Christians want is for everyone to go to church. Sometimes it is even said by us that we want everyone to become a Christian. And even that can be confusing. What exactly does “become a Christian” even mean?
So what do we Christians want others to do? There is one thing above all else. In fact, it is not something we just want or desire for you. It is not something we want to ask you to do. It is the one thing we are begging you to do.
Get back together with God.
God made you, God loves you, and God wants to be in relationship with you forever. But our sin has separated us from God. So God is in the business of bringing us back together. He uses his Son, Jesus Christ, to do that. If you are in Christ, God does not count your sins against you.
So I am begging you…
Get back together with God.
Getting a call from God was unusual but not unheard of as one reads the Bible. However, if you were the recipient of such an interaction, life changed.
Almost all of the calls from the Almighty included: bright illumination, a voice that was hard to describe except that it was overpowering, some type of physical reaction by the mortal to whom the call was directed (falling down was a regular response) and then an acknowledgement that it was God who initiated the contact.
The Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel is a case in point. He describes his encounter with God in the first three chapters of the book in the Bible that bears his name.
He sees God in the appearance of fire with brightness all around and he falls on his face (1:27-28). Then God speaks to him (Chapters 2 & 3). The Spirit lifts him up and he hears the proclamation: Blessed is the glory of the Lord from His place.
This call to Ezekiel precedes receiving his commission or mission because God had directed him to do something specific.
There are amazing similarities when others who received their calls from God. It is interesting to compare all of these to each other.
Moses: Exodus 3:1-7
Isaiah: Isaiah 6:1-8
Zechariah: Zechariah 1:7-2-13
Saul/Paul: Acts 9:3-18
John: Rev. 1:9-17
God’s calls today may be different in the way He sends them, but I believe there is still: illumination of understanding, hearing God’s voice through scripture and thoughts, a physical reaction of doing what he says do or stop doing things you know are evil and there must be an acknowledgement that He is God.
Ezekiel and others had very dramatic calls from God; our somewhat less spectacular receptions do not minimize how essential is His direction in your life.
Has God called you? If He has not, why not?