Heaven’s Family Album

Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20 KJV

This year we decided that the time had come to organize our vast collection of family photos. We put this off for years because in our cabinets lie thousands of snapshots of our own, as well as hundreds from our parents, and even grandparents. Slowly and methodically, we went through our collection, tossing out faded landscapes, faces of folks we do not recognize or wished we didn’t.

At first, this was simply tedious but as time went on and the images passed before me, the memories came rushing back. We laughed seeing images of our children (now in their forties) jumping on the couch, we wept to see faces of friends and family separated by death or broken relationships. Some of our memories are treasures, while others we simply wanted to throw away. As flipped through the pile of photographs, I saw my life in the faces and was reminded that God also has a family album of His own in Heaven.

From His vast collection, He has lovingly shared with us a few eternal snapshots, to teach us the most important lessons of life. From our children, we learned to be patient and to love them even when they failed. From parents and grandparents, He showed us how to face difficulties with faith and respect for those weaker than we are. But from those who hurt us He has given us the opportunity to learn the greatest lesson of all. With these Jesus brings us to the cross where He teaches us to treat thieves as companions, failed friends as family members and those who cause our deepest pain, as people in need of mercy. At the cross God shows us that in forgiving others, He has forgiven us in spite of our sins. Then by His grace He has added us one by one into His family album in Heaven where we will one day see His face forever!

The Best Gift is Free

Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7 ESV

It is not long until Christmas and some might be thinking about what kind of gifts to give. For the people closest to us we often focus on something personal. For those whom we do not know so well we may stockpile a few generic gifts. But what kind of gift do you suppose God would choose to give?

Well the Bible tells us that He gave us life and breath. The Apostle John goes further and says that God gave His only Son that if we believe in Him we could receive eternal life.  But if we look a little closer we see that when Jesus came, He didn’t just stick around long enough to do miracles and then return to heaven waiting to see if we would believe. He came with one very specific job to do. He came to give His life as a sacrifice for our sins.

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The difference between the Christian and the non believer is not whether we grew up in the right family, are members of the right church, or even give a lot of money to the poor. Our one essential characteristic is that we have come, one by one to the foot of the cross and received the gift of mercy that Jesus came to give. Now He asks us: “Will we be willing to give away the greatest gift that we have ever received?” Why can’t we give mercy to others this Christmas? And why not give it to more than just our loved ones and friends? Why not give it to neighbors, strangers and even enemies? Mercy is the greatest gift we could ever receive or give and best of all it is always free!

 

Doing good – In a world of Evil

Once again we are waking up with the morning news filled with a story of senseless violence. A hopeless and bitter sorrow comes like an unwelcome guest to our door and how we answer its knocking on will determine whether we become a part of the problem or part of the solution. The apostle Paul was an expert in violence. He had begun as a significant part of the problem. He actively led the charge in persecuting the early Christian church. Though he may not have cast a stone he was a member of the mob that stoned Steven. Later as Paul traveled towards Damascus to bring his violent anger to that place Jesus met him on the road and transformed his life. Paul went almost immediately from being the persecutor to being on the receiving end of that evil. He was regularly lied about, stoned, beaten and imprisoned but rather than becoming bitter and spiteful Paul had this to say.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 

We are angry because in the immediate rush of emotions it feels as if the good and innocent are on the losing side. It appears as though hate and violence is so much stronger and more powerful. We need to shake ourselves in that instant and remember that at His very weakest hour on the cross Jesus overcame death hell and the grave. He forgave His murderers, saved the thief, provided for His mother’s care, gave opportunity to Nicodemus and Joseph to stand up for their faith and awakened faith in the heart of the stunned Centurion.

Good will always be stronger than evil no matter the false impression of temporary victory that hatred may give. The violent confess by their very hurtful acts their own spiritual weakness. Brief gains on the temporary battlefield of this life mean nothing in the true war for hearts and souls. There is no greater force in Heaven or earth than the love of God.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord Romans 8:38-39

When the darkest night and the strongest storms are over, the sun will still rise at God’s command to give us hope for a new day!

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“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can”  attributed to John Wesley