Leaving a Lasting Legacy

lasting legacy

Psalm 78:5 (NIV)

He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,

 

As we read in Pslam 78:5, we see that parents are commanded to teach God’s law to their children.  One of the reasons for this is to build a legacy of following God.  We can’t hope for, dream about, or take casually the subject of legacy.  It requires people to be intentional and demonstrate to their family what character and faith are all about.

Someday we will be the center attraction at a church, chapel, or funeral home.  Our legacy-building days will be over, and our legacy will be carved in the hearts and minds of those that we leave behind.  Will our legacy be one of being disconnected and more concerned with career-building than family-building?  Or will it be an enduring, lasting legacy that points others to Christ?  We get to choose.  Even if your parents left an unhealthy legacy, you can break the cycle and build your own legacy that will speak positively to future generations.

Billy Graham once said, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”  When someone dies, they don’t talk about how much money they had or how many things they accumulated during their life.  Instead, the focus is on the type of person they were.

As parents, our desire should be to build an enduring legacy through our children.  Even if you are not a parent, we should desire to build an enduring legacy through the next generation.  This requires us to concentrate on the who, what, where, when, and why of legacy-building.  Are we using what God has given us to build His kingdom, or are we focused more on our own desires?  Do we reflect Christ in our homes, churches, workplaces, and communities?  Legacy-building should be each of our callings.  Our loved ones should see consistency in our character in all facets of our lives.  Our motivation should be to please God and equip those who follow us with an example of godly character and faith.

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Finding Real Satisfaction in God

God satisfaction

Psalm 73 (NIV)

Surely God is good to Israel,
    to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
    I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggles;
    their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
    they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
    their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
    with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
    and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
    and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How would God know?
    Does the Most High know anything?”

12 This is what the wicked are like—
    always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
    and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
    and every morning brings new punishments.

15 If I had spoken out like that,
    I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
    it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
    then I understood their final destiny.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
    you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
    completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
    when you arise, Lord,
    you will despise them as fantasies.

21 When my heart was grieved
    and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
    you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
    I will tell of all your deeds.

 

In Psalm 73, the psalmist (Asaph) was feeling bitter.  He looked around him and saw bad guys getting ahead while he faithfully labored away in obscurity, barely eking out a living.  He lamented his situation by saying, “Did I purify my heart and wash my hands in innocence for nothing?  For I am afflicted all day long and punished every morning” (vv. 13-14).

Accepting your current lot in life doesn’t mean you necessarily like how everything has gone or that you shouldn’t try to change what needs changing.  It means you can’t let regret, fear or bitterness prevent you from making the best of the situation.  You’ll continue to trust God and worship Him, regardless of your circumstances.

Reinhold Niebuhr has a great quote regarding this very idea.  It is one of my favorite quotes of all-time.  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Life is primarily about what happens on the inside, not the outside.  Asaph needed a little perspective, and he got it when he entered God’s sanctuary for worship.  It was then that he understood that God judges the arrogant and godless.  And he could see that his labors were not in vain.  Joy returned and bitterness fled his heart.

God reminds us of this in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Asaph saw, perhaps for the first time in a while, that God is supremely valuable and satisfying.  What a remarkable transformation!  While things in this life don’t always seem fair, God will make everything right in the end.  Look to Him to find true and lasting satisfaction.

Are there any ways you have not accepted the way your life has unfolded?  If so, maybe it is time to step back and focus on the big picture.  Know that God will make all wrongs right in the end.  God is supremely just so know that these wrongs are just temporary and will seem like a distant memory once you reach the other side.

Lord, help us to accept with joy the good and perfect plan You have for our lives.  Forgive us when we grumble, and teach us to view life with an eternal perspective.  Above all, help us to love and worship You.

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Go Where I Send Thee

jonah

Jonah 1 (NIV)

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

 

The Lord’s commands are clear.  He tells believers when to act, where to go, and what to do.  Most of the time we can’t hear Him because we are not listening like we should be.  God does not scream at us.  He tells us softly and if we are not asking or listening to Him, we miss what He is saying all together.  Sometimes we are so busy doing what we want to do, that we don’t even realize that God might have something else in mind for us and our lives.

Not only does God give us clear directions, He also provides the means for following His directions.  The prophet Jonah was told to leave immediately for a certain city and cry out this warning: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).  Instead, Jonah did something foolish (and altogether human).  He ran

Because Jonah was a prophet, we can assume that Jonah had studied the Scriptures and had a close and intimate relationship with God.  Even so, displeasure over his assignment clouded his judgement, and he became convinced he could flee the Lord’s presence.  Jonah was wrong.  God sent a great storm and isolated him for three days inside the belly of a great fish.  In other words, the Lord didn’t relent until the prophet agreed to comply with His wishes.

Jonah learned that running away from the Lord doesn’t release us from His commands.  Whether we refuse outright or quietly choose to pursue our own agenda, we simply can’t silence His call in our lives.  Our Father will neither forget a directive nor change his mind about it, and so the Holy Spirit continues prompting us until we do as God has instructed us to do.

People who run from God’s divine direction may attempt to silence the Spirit’s reminders by filling their lives with distractions.  They know what God wants from them, but are too proud, stubborn, or scared to comply.  What we must understand is that God will pursue us, stripping away diversions and crutches, to get our attention.  If we are wise believers, we will choose to obey Him promptly rather than waste time, talent, and energy by running.  Running only delays the inevitable.

God has a plan for us that is better than any plan we could ever hope to create for ourselves.  The sooner we embrace and follow that plan, the sooner we can enjoy it.

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Accepting Conflict

conflict 2

2 Corinthians 4:5-10 (NIV)

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

Contrary to popular but poor theological teaching, salvation does not guarantee an easy life.  It is tempting to present Christianity as a safe haven from which to watch the world swirl past.  Then we could open the door to allow in joy and blessing, but hardship could not squeeze through.  That brand of religion might sell well in the world marketplace, but it isn’t real.

The truth is, Christians cannot escape conflict or ridicule.  The biblical principles we hold dear often seem like foolishness to non believers.  What’s more, defending our faith and sharing the gospel will frequently draw criticism or anger from listeners.  But Scripture counsels against keeping quiet and blending in.  In fact, as we ready here in Matthew, we are to welcome disagreement as a way to grow in our faith.

Matthew 5:14-15 (NIV)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

Take a moment to consider this: Our belief system is named for a man who so thoroughly challenged the status quo that religious leaders called for His death.  Jesus Christ was at the center of controversy during His entire ministry here on earth.  That’s why the biblical record so often shows Him slipping away for time alone with God.  He was seeking direction and receiving strength from Him.  We need to model this same behavior.  I mean if Jesus needed strength from God, we certainly do as well.  While Jesus was fully God, He was also fully human.  He knew the sting of rejection and the taste of fear, just as we do.  Jesus received every kind of temptation, yet he was able to keep from sinning.  He should be our role model in how we live our lives.

Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

As believers, we are called to be peacemakers, but that doesn’t mean isolating ourselves from all who oppose the church.  We need to accept conflict as inevitable and reach out to others anyway.  You can have a powerful impact simply by being the person God called you to be; His child.  And that is a very cool thing to be!

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Real Success Comes From Dependence

dependence

Job 6:13 (NIV)

13 Do I have any power to help myself,
    now that success has been driven from me?

 Job 42:1-6 (NIV)

42 Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

 

Job was winning at life.  He had it all- wealth and riches, family and friends, health and happiness.  He was living the dream.  Then he wasn’t.  Virtually overnight, nearly everything he had was ripped away from him and he was left to wallow in the ashes, a broken, angry, lonely, miserable, pain-stricken man.

Seemingly without hope, Job said, “What strength do I have that I should continue to hope? …Since I cannot help myself, the hope of success has been banished from me.”

Job had nothing left, including strength, and it looked like God had abandoned him too.  But it wasn’t all over for him.  The One who had given him success (and allowed it to be taken away) would restore Job’s fortunes, actually giving him double what he had before disaster struck.  You can read the rest of the story here:

Job 42:10-17 (NIV)

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silverand a gold ring.

12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters.14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.

A.W. Tozer once said, “God may allow His servant to succeed when He has disciplined him to a point where he does not need to succeed to be happy.  The man who is elated by success and is cast down by failure is still a carnal man.  At best his fruit will have a worm in it.”

Have you ever lived through a season when things seemed hopeless?  When I feel that way, it’s often because I feel helpless.  In my own strength, I can’t do it.  I can’t get through it.  I’m simply not enough.  And while that’s true, it fails to take God into account.  Through God, I can do anything.  We all can.

While Job wavered, he kept trusting God.  We see this is Job 13:15.

Job 13:15 (NIV)

15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
    I will surely defend my ways to his face.

Success depends on God’s grace.  The challenge for us is to keep depending on Him, no matter what season we find ourselves in.

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Happy Easter, I Mean…Merry Christmas

baby-jesus

Luke 2:8-15 (NIV)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

 

You really can’t get a full picture of the whole meaning of Christmas without considering Easter as well.  We really need to appreciate seeing the manger and the cross side by side.  I believe, that’s the way God intended us to view Jesus’ birth and death.

When angels appeared to those shepherds in the Judean countryside on the first Christmas, one of them said, “This will be the sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  Have you ever considered what an odd thing that is to say?  The angel had already announced that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem.  Why did the shepherds also need a sign?  And what did the sign mean?

It’s all wrapped up in that feeding trough-literally.  It’s a strange thing for a baby to be swaddled and placed in a manger, for what’s normally placed in a manger is food for sheep.  That odd sight was the sign.

Many years later, Jesus would break bread and say, “This is my Body given for you.”

Luke 22:19 (NIV)

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

On the cross, Jesus’ body was broken to become life-giving food for His sheep, and the first hint of this priceless sacrifice was given to the shepherds on that night He was born.

Without Christmas, there would have been no Easter, but without Easter, there would be little to celebrate at Christmas.

John Huss, an early church reformer said, “Rejoice that the immortal God is born, so that mortal man may live in eternity.  It goes to show how much we really should rejoice at the fact that Jesus was actually born.  God had no obligation to do this on our behalf.

As we near the day of Christmas this year, please consider these two questions:

What difference does it make to see Christmas in light of Easter?

How could you make Easter a part of your holiday celebration this Christmas?

There really is no point in trying to separate Christmas and Easter.  They are completely dependent on each other so maybe we need to celebrate the entire scope of what Jesus did for us.  When we can picture Jesus on the cross, it makes that baby in the manger look much more remarkable.

I wish you all a very Happy Easter, I mean…Merry Christmas!

 

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In His Hands

potter

Jeremiah 18:1-6 (NIV)

18 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.

 

In this passage, God is teaching us about His relationship with His children.  He says that He will deal with us the way a potter works with clay and that we, like the clay, are in His hands.

God deals with believers in two ways.  First, He is molding every one of us into the image of His Son, Jesus.  Second, He is shaping us for a specific purpose, one that is individually designed so we will help build His kingdom.

Our part as the clay is to submit ourselves to His purpose.  As the Potter, He may subtract something from our lives similar to removing lumps from clay.  Another possibility is that He may speed up the pace until we feel as if we’re spinning.  Or, desiring a new shape for His “vessels,” He might dramatically rework our pattern of living in order to start us in a new direction.

If you are anything like me, you might not like change very well.  We get comfortable in our lifestyle and existence and any major changes to that are scary and can be really uncomfortable.  What we have to keep in mind is that God wants what is best for us and He is taking us to a much better place, even though we may not see that at the time.  The short-term can be difficult to endure, but once we come out on the other side, the place that we should have been all along, we see how much better it is and soon forget about our old life from before.

Our responsibility is to accept any changes from the Master Potter.  We can do this confidently because we are in God’s hands.  Scripture describes God’s hands as:

  • Creative hands whose skillful work is displayed in nature.
  • Hands filled with righteousness.
  • Hands that give life and take it away.
  • Mighty and powerful hands that rescued Israel from Egypt and us from slavery to sin.
  • Hands that protect us.
  • Hands that were pierced so we might be made new.

When we think about being clay in the Potter’s hands and the ways God deals with us, we can relax.  “In His hands” is exactly the place that we want to be.

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