Category » Hope
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?
Pray for everybody. That’s what the apostle Paul tells his friend Timothy in the second chapter of the book of the Bible we call 1 Timothy. He says to pray for kings and rulers so that “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
He then goes on to explain that a bit more:
“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3–4)
Paul says to pray for people everywhere so that they we may have peace to share the good news about God. And the good news is that God wants everyone to be saved.
When we think about God, that’s an important place to start. He wants everyone to be saved. He wants everyone to know the truth. He wants everyone to live.
Not just people in this country or that one. Not just people who look like me or don’t look like me. Not just the rich or the poor or the educated or the simple. God wants everyone to be saved.
That fits with what John wrote in his gospel:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16–18)
God wants everyone to be saved. Not everyone will be saved, at least not according to the Bible. But that’s not because God wants anyone to be lost. It’s just that some will refuse to believe.
So let me tell you these simple facts: God loves you. And he wants you to be saved.
Do you want the same?
“I cannot do anything to help anyone anymore. I am worthless.” You will hear some version of this complaint from old people. With failing health, limited mobility, and inability to do things that that they used to value highly.
“The things that happened to me have ruined me forever.” Abuse, financial or natural disaster, divorce, or any number of other things can lead to this attitude.
“But my past has ruined my future.” Broken relationships, addictions, and horrible choices all contribute to this feeling of hopelessness.
Living in the past, bound by the past, shackled by the past. Hopeless and helpless. But followers of Jesus do not have to live in the past. Here is why…
- Jesus has forgiven our past. Our guilt and shame has been taken away. God says our sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west. We have story after story of healed relationships, new lives, and healing. As a Christian, your future is not defined by your past.
- God is more powerful than anyone in your past. God gives new life through Jesus. Your identity is formed by Jesus and not by those who hurt you in the past.
- God has purposes and plans no matter what stage of life you are in now. You pray for others, and be a living witness to God’s goodness as you age. God gives value and purpose to his followers every day.
- The future will always look better than our past. Someday this world will cease to exist. Christians will be in the presence of God forever. Nothing in your past is better than that.
So Christmas has come and gone. Or has it? The 12 days of Christmas don’t end on December 25. They begin either on the 25th or 26th, depending on which region of the world you are in, and run right through Epiphany, on January 6.
My wife grew up in Argentina, where Epiphany is celebrated as the Day of the Magi Kings. Preparations are made the night before. Children leave out a pair of shoes, along with grass and water for the kings’ camels. They awaken the next day to find the grass and water scattered; in their place are presents which have been carefully left by each child’s shoes. This day was always much bigger than Christmas, though that has changed somewhat in recent years.
These traditions have their basis in the story of the wise men from the east, as told in the gospel of Matthew:
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”” (Matthew 2:1–2)
These men came to find the child, Jesus, who was living in a house there in Bethlehem. When they found him, they worshiped him and presented him with gifts:
“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:9–11)
Modern society has turned this event. Instead of giving gifts to Jesus, we give them to one another. Instead of looking for a king to worship, we focus our attention on one another.
This year, may I suggest that you follow the example of these men from the east? Rather than choosing one day out of the year to accumulate more presents, why don’t you dedicate all of 2015 to the Christ child? Like the wise men, you should:
- Seek him: Don’t let Jesus merely be part of ancient history; make him a part of your life.
- Learn about him: Study the Bible, especially the gospels, to learn about Jesus and what he did for you.
- Worship him: Recognize that Jesus isn’t just a great moral teacher; he is Lord and Savior.
- Give to him: Give him the one gift that only you can give — yourself!
That’s the best way to commemorate what was done all those years ago.
It is the time of year when people make New Year’s resolutions. Most of them concern ways to make next year better. Some resolve that this is the year to mend broken relationships. That they will forgive past hurts, or reach out to someone they used to be close to. How great would it be if the New Year could start with every bad decision of your past forgotten? No wondering if someone was holding a grudge. No stress over whether or not you could be forgiven. Not even a worry about whether old hurts would still be remembered.
Or how about the resolution to pay of your Christmas shopping in a timely manner? Or pay off last Christmas. Or save more this year. What if all of your old debts were just gone? Cancelled. Paid off by someone else.
Maybe you have made so many unfulfilled resolutions over the years that it really does not seem to matter anymore . What is the point if life is just going to be the same as it has always been? You feel worthless, useless, and without any value to anyone. The one resolution you wish you could fulfill would be to have value and purpose.
This year can be the best year of your life. Jesus offers the one real chance to start over, to be forgiven, and to find purpose.
If you worry about not having a relationship with God, know that God still loves you. He sent his son Jesus to earth to make a way for us to come back to Him. If you have been afraid the bad choices you have made can never be forgiven, there is good news. Jesus died for your sins so you could have a new life. God will never again hold those sins against you. Jesus was raised from the dead so you too could be raised with him. God values you that much. He has a purpose for you here and now. He invites you into a relationship with Him and then empowers you to follow his son in doing Kingdom work.
New life, relationship with God, forgiveness, purpose. That would be the best New Year ever.