Legacy

14 10 2009

 

Legacy.

 You may look like a hard-working, unassuming cowboy. And that’s worth being proud of too. But what determines the measure of a man is his legacy.

 Some build skyscrapers and monuments for their legacy. You built the Church.

 Some raise themselves from obscurity to power. You raised your sons to be men of integrity who love and serve the Lord and their families.

 Some men passionately pursue their dream of success. You passionately pursued Christ’s dream of everyone experiencing His love through your life.

 Your legacy is your neighbors who know you not because of what you’ve done but because of who you are.

 Your legacy is your friends who know Christ because you know Him.

 Your legacy is little children who call you ‘uncle’ because you treated them as someone important.

 Your legacy is other men who are stronger, better men because you shared your strength.

 Your legacy is the precious smile of a baby boy who will grow up praising the Lord because you did.

 Your legacy is the child in the slums of India who may come to know the love of Christ because your grandson showed it to him.

 But ultimately, your legacy is one of a humble man of integrity, who spent his life walking in the dust of his beloved rabbi.

 Walk freely, now, to Him.





Learning

10 09 2009

Learning from the Lord shouldn’t be complicated.

Jesus indicates in Matthew 11:25 that the mysteries of the Truth have been hidden from the wise and learned and given through revelation to children [a theme repeated in Matthew 18:3 when Jesus calls a child to Him and proclaims that only those who are humble like a child will enter the kingdom of heaven].

He again mentions [Matt. 11:27] that knowledge of God is given by revelation to those chosen by the Son. In 1 Cor. 2:12 Paul wrote that “we have received…the Spirit whom is from God, that we may understand [spirit of revelation] what God has freely given us.” James 1:5 says, “If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him.”

Matt. 11: 28-30 says, “Come, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus invites everyone who is weary and burdened to find rest under his “yoke.” Several cultural wordplays appear in this passage. In Biblical times the yoke was used to join two animals together for labor purposes, typically fieldwork. So, the “burden” terminology makes sense. But “yoke” was also a term for the teachings and scriptural interpretation of a particular rabbi.

Those who wanted to become a “disciple” or “learner” of the rabbi were said to have “taken his yoke upon themselves”– adopting the rabbi’s teachings and interpretations. These “yokes” tended to be convoluted and extensive.

The implication of the passage seems to be, then, that the complicated teachings of the rabbis of Jesus’ day were a burden and that Jesus is inviting everyone to embrace the rest He offers through simple, yet profound, teachings.

Why is learning from God so difficult at times, when it’s supposed to be so simple? Yes, sometimes simple tasks can be difficult. But I think the issue runs deeper.

We need humility. Child-like acceptance. A willingness to sit and listen instead of pretending life is under our control.

Maybe we are the reason we can find learning so difficult. Maybe if we can forsake our self-righteous pride and accept the wisdom and understanding Christ freely offers, we would not find learning from Him so difficult after all.





Character

21 08 2009

How do we react when things don’t go as planned? When we are crushed and bitterly disappointed? With frustration, anger, rebellion, bitterness or illogical behavior? Or with calm, temperance, acceptance and sound judgment?

How a man responds reveals his character.

Though receiving small mention in the Bible, Joseph was a man of faith and quality character. The Bible calls him a “righteous man” for not denouncing Mary to public disgrace and perhaps death when she was found pregnant. Joseph, in faith, obeyed dreams and protected his family–which had caused him so much trouble–by taking them to another country in the middle of the night.

Probably a young man, Joseph endured many physical and social trials when his betrothed was found pregnant. “Was it Joseph?” I’m sure many asked, defiling his honor and reputation. What a crushing disappointment to have his perfect bride and respectable wedding spoiled; even more to deny himself the physical pleasures of marriage, while shouldering the extraordinary weight of the responsibility of caring for his new wife and her “miracle child.”

Even after the child is born, the evil king was searching to murder the boy. Joseph had to flee his homeland and live in a foreign land among foreign people. When he returned to Judea, he had to live in a town despised by the surrounding area. Not exactly what he signed up for when he signed the betrothal papers.

I would NOT be okay with that. I would NOT be okay with God completely and violently disrupting my life. But Joseph was, as far as we can tell from the text.

God said, “marry her,” and Joseph did.

God said, “leave for Egypt” and he immediately packed up and left.

God said, “return to Israel,” and he did.

God said to not go to Bethlehem, but to Nazareth. And Joseph did.

Joseph willingly shouldered the responsibility for caring for God’s son, despite the disappointment, danger, anxiety and hardships he faced.

Joseph was a man of strong faith and godly character. He may not have known what he was doing when he signed the betrothal papers, but God sure did.

God chose him because he was a good man for the job. Because he was a man of character.





Tiffany

1 08 2009

 

          It was one of those amazing God stories that leaves you skipping out the door and shaking your head with wonder at the way God works.

          I needed a haircut badly, but all the places around cost $40 or above. Definitely out of my price range. But a co-worker told me a new salon was opening and they were giving free haircuts. I called the next day—an hour before they closed—after I got off work.

         The receptionist said to come in, so I drove to the salon and got called back after a few minutes wait.

          The hairdresser’s name was Tiffany. She was young, tall and blonde, a pretty gal who was nicely dressed. I attempted small talk for a while and volunteered why I was in Panama City Beach for the summer—“I’m here with a group of college students for a Christian leadership and development program”—but her short, polite answers discouraged any further conversation.

         Well, I tried, I told God. If you want some sort of spiritual conversation, take it away. It’s all yours anyway.

          I waited in contented silence for a few minutes as she snipped away.

          “So, do you go to a church in the area?”

          Startled, I looked up at her. “Yes, actually, I do. The project assigned us to 1st Baptist Church in downtown Panama City.”

          To my surprise she explained that she’d been there once for a friend’s wedding and thought it was beautiful. She said she didn’t grow up going to church, but had always wanted to go and that was the church she would have chosen.

         “Why haven’t you?” I said, delighted.

          She worked Sundays a lot and had just been really busy…

          “Come with my friends and me this Sunday,” I said.

          We exchanged phone numbers and friendly farewells and I left, waving goodbye.

          I called her on Sunday to invite her again and offer a ride. She never called me back and the following Sundays I always forgot until it was too late.

 

Several weeks later…

          “Look, that’s where I got my free haircut.” I point to the sign as my friends and I pull into the Publix grocery store next door to the salon, in search of a veggie tray for our Sunday school barbecue that afternoon.

          I get out of the car and look over at the Supercuts sign again.

          “Can I go over and ask Tiffany to come to church with us tomorrow?” I glance over at my team leader.

          At her assent I walk toward the salon through the soggy Florida sunshine. My friend Sara goes with me.

          I push the door open to the upscale salon and glance around as I wait for the receptionist to finish with some customers. I don’t see Tiffany, but then I only saw her once. Maybe I just don’t recognize her.

          “Can I help you?

          I turn back to the counter with a smile. “I just came by to see if Tiffany was here.”

          She just looks at me a moment. “Tiffany passed away.”

          I stare at her, still trying to process the words; I vaguely hear her begin to explain.

          “There was a big car wreck a few weeks ago…maybe you saw it on the news…and she, she was killed.” The lady leaned forward. “I’m sorry, were you good friends?”

          “No, no…she just cut my hair once…and we had a good conversation.” I shake my head a little as I turn to go, still in shock, knowing she would never understand. “Thank-you for telling me.”

          I walk outside in a daze, my friend clutching my arm and saying something to me. She sits me down on the curb and I start to cry.

          She never called me back. She never heard the gospel.

          She was just too busy.

          If I had just called her again, just stopped by again and invited her…but no, those thoughts do no good now.

          I know God sent me to her—His last invitation, His final plea for His daughter to come to Him, for He knew what was coming. How humbling to be the one He sent.

          I was probably the last person to speak of Jesus to her.

          Don’t just go to the bank, the grocery store, the hair salon.

          Who is your Tiffany?

 

Author’s note: This story is true. I have recorded the events and conversation as closely as my memory can recall.





Corruption

1 08 2009

 

2 Timothy 3:

Though written over 2,000 years ago, these words ring true for my time and country as well.

There are eerie similarities: “People will be lovers of themselves [self-driven, selfish], lovers of money [materialistic, ‘stuff’—oriented], boastful, proud [I don’t think we can pretend Americans aren’t proud], abusive [staggering numbers of women and children are physically and emotionally abused in the U.S. every year], disobedient to their parents [observe almost every child], ungrateful [are we happy and content, with all our blessings?], unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous [just turn on the television or radio], without self-control [why are obesity and promiscuity such social problems?], brutal [look at the box offices], not lovers of the good, treacherous, conceited  [sports stars, actors, etc.] lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God [this one is so widespread as to hardly need comment]—having a form of godliness, but denying its power.  

Surveys show that around 70% of Americans identify themselves as Christian; considering the list above, what happened? How is there such a disparity?

They have a form of godliness—also known as “religion” or “spiritual beliefs”—but deny the Truth’s transformational power in their lives.





Spirit

1 08 2009

 

2 Timothy 1:

 Is it possible that we, by our own efforts (though, of course, ultimately from God) may increase the measure and influence of the Holy Sprit in our lives? It seems to be the case, for Paul instructs Timothy to “fan into flame”—implying effort—the “gift of God, which is in you [Timothy] by the laying on of my [Paul’s] hands.”

The imagery of fire or flames in reference to the spirit or presence of God is seen throughout the Scripture (ex. Moses’ burning bush, the pillar of fire during the Exodus, the descending tongues of flame at Pentacost). In the New Testament the Spirit is passed on to new believers by the laying of hands on converts, so I think it’s safe to assume the gift of God Paul refers to is the Holy Spirit. In addition, Paul goes on to speak of the “Spirit of power, love and self-discipline” that God gave to Timothy (vs.7).

So, if we are to also follow Paul’s instructions to “fan into flame” the gift of God—which is the Holy Spirit—what must we do?

It is important to understand the nature of the Spirit. Verse 7 says God’s Spirit is one of power, love and self-discipline. It is not for the purpose of empowering us to do supernatural things for our own gratification of sense of pride. Its purpose is the glorification of God, not us. In face, the Holy Spirit is the fullness of God.

The Spirit also seems to act when we do. I must choose to stretch the limits of my courage through my actions to make myself open to the Spirit’s work. A main concern of the Spirit is for the advancement of the gospel. Verse 8 continues the discussion of the Spirit, “so, do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord…but join with me in suffering for the gospel.”

In other words, since God gave Timothy the gift of the Holy Spirit—which is of power, love and self-discipline (not timidity)—he was to suffer for the gospel and not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.





Tragedy

1 08 2009

 

John 19:

How can one even dare to write something—some thought, tribute or knowledge gained, some vague supposition that seems to apply to one’s life—about the final hours of Jesus’ life (or so everyone thought).

It seems to cheapen this tragic turn of events that is so symbolic and so devastating.

Jesus, God, die?

If He cannot defeat the Romans and cruel death, what hope is there for the rest of us? Who is left to rescue us from cruel depravity? To the disciples—who had given up family, connections, basic comforts to follow Jesus Christ, the Savior and Messiah—it must have seemed like a cruel twist of fate, a horrible nightmare from which they would at any moment wake up.

In those shaded hours when the hope of the world stood calm, defiant even, before His enemies and drew His last agonized breaths, a few side characters stand out in faded relief.

Pilate. The harried, disillusioned governor who faced killing an innocent, good man and ultimately failed his test, caving to fear and sacrificing an innocent man for peace. In one of those rare moments that define our lives legacy, Pilate failed. None of his other deeds or accomplishments would matter.

John, who was given the honor of stepping into Jesus’ sandals as the son and caretaker of Mary, the mother of Jesus, because he was faithful to the last.

Nicodemus, the closet convert who finally found the courage to identify himself with Jesus, even providing for the proper burial of his leader’s body.

The mysterious sister of Mary, who is never even given a name, but is mentioned as a woman who braved the heat, crowds, ridicule and horror to lend her support in her family’s darkest hour.

Joseph of Arimathea, another secret believer who—along with Nicodemus—obtained the body from Pilate, wrapped it with spices according to the Jewish tradition and placed it in a nearby tomb.

Shadowy figures, some even nameless, finding their role and their courage in the tragic drama of Jesus’ final hours.