Christianity 201

June 28, 2016

A Godly Legacy

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:36 pm
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We frequently break our “six month rule” to share content from Stephen & Brooksyne Weber at Daily Encouragement. This is the devotional with which I start the day; I try to make it the first thing my computer goes to each morning. Click the title below to read in full, this version had some edits.

Spiritual LegacyBuilding A Godly Legacy

“For You have heard my vows, O God; You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name” (Psalm 61:5). “And the things You have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).

These days we hear a lot about people’s aspiration for fame. In fact a quote attributed to Andy Warhol speaks of one’s “15 minutes of fame” and in the last several years there have been some rather bizarre incidents of people seeking their 15 minutes. Now a goal for many is creating a post or video that will go “viral”, a term meaning many will pass it on and it will be immensely popular. We’ve see a number of foolish stunts that have turned out to be attention-seeking hoaxes.

Rather than 15 minutes, or however long, fame is always fleeting. God’s people are called to leave a godly legacy, not a self-aggrandized list of their own accomplishments. Note: As I muse this concept it seems we leave a legacy but receive a heritage.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name

We consider those who left behind a godly legacy whom we personally know. Most were not famous and their sphere of godly influence was relatively small leaving an impact on their family, church and community. A godly legacy is developed over a lifetime as we choose day after day to live for Christ.

Although we usually use the phrase “leaving a godly legacy” when we consider someone who is older or has passed away, today let us consider “building a godly legacy.” It’s not something you just decide to do toward the end of your life but rather something you have been doing consciously or unconsciously all your life…

…David wrote in our first daily text, “You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name.” Let us consider our own spiritual heritage. That will vary for each of us. It is a great privilege to be brought up by parents and grandparents who revere our God, who live according to Biblical instruction, whereby we are introduced to faith in Christ. We must first possess that which we desire to pass on.

As a result we who fear His Name are in the process of transmitting this godly legacy. In the past the Bible writers did so by writing down the Scriptures which is our authority for life. However God has also used those contemporaneous with us who have called on the name of the Lord; those who fear His name. They have sought to pass on the same spiritual legacy to us. Our parents and grandparents, our Pastor, Sunday school teachers, a bold witness at work, and many, many others. And now we are all building that same heritage to pass on to others.

The second daily text is such a pattern for ministry and a key to leaving a godly legacy: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2).

That’s been the pattern for two thousand years and continues to this day and will most certainly continue until the trumpet sounds. One generation passing on the faith to the next. You’re reading this today and hopefully your faith is centered on Christ. Someone has passed it down to you. Are you now passing it on? Are you building a godly legacy to those who come along behind you? That’s our call.

Be encouraged today.

Daily prayer: Father, You have called on us, Your children, to be reliable in giving a solid witness of our faith in You. We are to live godly lives so that we faithfully model that which we also teach to our children and all whom we are privileged to influence. We realize that there is no neutral position; we either live for You or we live for the world. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus as we journey below so that we fulfill the calling to be faithful and influence others for the kingdom of God. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

May 21, 2015

Remember Who?

Forgotten Apostles

by Clarke Dixon

I grew up watching wrestling, specifically the show “Maple Leaf Wrestling.” Part of what I remember is how predictable most of the matches were. The first contender would be be announced, usually a man no heavier than myself, nor taller, nor more muscular. Then they would announce the “big name,” someone like Big John Stud or Andre the Giant who would go on to decimate them. The outcome was always predictable. I’m not sure why the small guys even bothered to get into the ring, except of course that they were being paid to lose. And don’t ask me their names for they were forgettable as wrestlers next to the giants.

Perhaps we may feel that our performance as Christians is meagre, even forgettable. We may feel that it makes no sense to step into the ring for there are spiritual giants who do the Christian thing so much better than we do. We can think of the call to witness to a seeker, the call to righteousness, the call to investing our lives in the lives of others, the call to getting over ourselves, the call to love, the call to forgiveness, and the call to prayer. We can think of people who do these Christian things so much better than we can, they are spiritual giants. Let them enter the ring since they have so much more to offer. We may choose therefore to make Christianity a spectator sport and never get into the ring ourselves.

If you feel your Christian service is forgettable, you are in good company. Consider Matthias who was chosen to replace Judas in the earliest days of the Christian Church. Matthias was chosen for an extremely important role and he had the right qualifications:

So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us– one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” Acts 1:21-22 NRSV

Since Matthias fits this description we know he was well versed in the teaching and life of Jesus. He could attest personally to the death and resurrection of Jesus. He also had the Lord’s blessing on his choice as Judas’ successor:

Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1:24-26 24 NRSV

The interesting thing about Matthias is that he just disappears from the pages of the Bible. Despite amazing credentials and the Lord’s blessing we never hear about him again. His work for the Lord, his response to God’s every call has, apart from a few mentions outside the Bible, been forgotten by history. He was not a “spiritual giant” like Paul, or Peter, or John. In fact, the service to the Lord of most of the disciples in New Testament times has been forgotten. And down through the centuries, though there has been a rich tradition of spiritual giants like Spurgeon, Carey, C.S. Lewis, and others, the vast majority of the Lord’s servants have been forgotten.

If you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, consider the men and women God has used to reach you. You have heard the Gospel from someone who has heard it from someone who has heard it from someone, and so on down through a long line of mostly forgotten servants of Christ. For the most part, the Lord has not used spiritual giants to reach you with the Gospel, but forgotten servants. Or perhaps you did come to faith in Jesus through the ministry of a spiritual giant, through a Billy Graham crusade for example. Yet even in the “spiritual ancestry” of Billy Graham are a lot of unknown and forgotten Christians. Or maybe you came to faith through reading the Bible, with no one to help you at all. Yet how many forgotten and unknown scribes can we thank for preserving the Word of God for us. God has used hundreds, if not thousands, of unknown servants to make the Gospel known to you. We can be grateful to God that they did not stay out of the ring just because they were not spiritual giants.

We may be less like Paul and more like Matthias, likely to head into obscurity in just a few generations. But there are two things to note:

  1. God’s impact through you may grow long after you are forgotten. Because you have responded to God’s call on your life, people may be influenced by people who have been influenced by people who have been influenced by someone you have influenced. God may reach people for many generations to come because you got into the ring.
  2. You may be forgotten by history, but you will not be forgotten by God. You may not make it into the history books, but as a follower of Christ you will have your name in the God’s “Book of Life.

Most of God’s servants throughout history have been forgotten. But God has accomplished amazing things through forgotten people. You may feel that your contribution and participation in God’s Kingdom work is meager, even forgettable, but don’t stay out of the ring just because you are not a spiritual giant. Get into the ring with your words. Get into the ring with your actions. Get into the ring with your presence. Get into the ring with your time, talents, and treasures. Get into the ring with your prayers. The Lord is already there waiting for you.


September 12, 2012

Life is Short, Some Lives are Shorter

Psalm 90: 12 Teach us to realize how short our lives are.
    Then our hearts will become wise.  (NIrV)

The NIrV is a simplified NIV for children and people for whom English is a second language.

Luke 12:16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? (NIV)

ooo

Psalm 139:6b    … all the days ordained for me were written in your book  before one of them came to be.  (NIV)

About six weeks ago we attended a backyard party that was hosted by a woman whose life was greatly changed by the ongoing influence of a group of people who took the time to enter her world — at the time a dilapidated motel in a factory district — and offer her encouragement and friendship. She wanted to say thank you to the people who had helped steer her life in a better direction, and that included my wife, who with two other women co-founded what has now become a community organization that provides all manner of support to people living on the margins. It was so encouraging to see the upward movement in this woman’s life, and to know the efforts of so many of us combined together to make a difference.

Then, today, we attended her memorial service.

She had no idea when she hosted that party that she wouldn’t be around weeks later, and neither did we. Her health took a very sudden turn, and suddenly we no longer have her smile to look at. For my wife, it was a shock that is still hard to fathom.

This particular memorial was more inter-faith than Christian and did not contain prayers or hymns, though there was a reading of Psalm 23 from The Message. However, the presence of people I know to be true Christ-followers in the audience today was a reminder of how much God’s people have been involved in the birth of various social service initiatives and agencies, and how much God’s people are involved on a continuing basis in giving compassion and concern.

But you never properly attend a funeral or memorial unless you use it as an opportunity to look in the mirror, to look at your own life. Am I making each day count? Am I moving closer to the cross? Is my life bearing fruit? Am I becoming more of a person who reflects the grace of the gospel? How would my life be remembered?

I had an English teacher in my senior year of high school who never specified the length of written assignments.  We would ask, “How long does it need to be?” and he would answer, “As long as a piece of string.” 

Life is like that. It’s as long as a piece of string. Your life. My life.

Later, I would learn the expression, “We should not talk in terms of long lives and short lives, but we should speak of small lives and big lives.” For kingdom people, for Christ-indwelt people, for Holy Spirit-led people, we should aim to live overflowing lives. Because life is short, and sometimes even shorter than that.

Eph 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people),

16 Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. (Amplified Bible)

(same passage)  Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. (J. B. Phillips translation)

~PW

October 14, 2011

I Don’t Want To Spend My Whole Life Asking, “What If I Had Given Everything?”

First, here’s a piece I wrote in October, 2009 at Thinking out Loud:

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

Matthew West Something To SayI’ve been aware of this song for some time now, but it really hit home a few weeks ago when I attended the installation service for a local pastor and he asked his worship team to perform “The Motions” by Matthew West from the album Something To Say; also on the album WoW! Hits 2010. In an industry where songs come and go, it’s a song that’s gaining momentum week by week.

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

The song has haunted me since that morning. If that pastor means what that song says — he wants God’s all-consuming passion inside him — there is nothing that he and his church can’t accomplish in the years to come.

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

What’s true for that pastor is true for all of us. What might we feel at the end of the ride called life if and when we realize there’s so much more we could have done? So much time that could have been better spent? So many resources that could have been put to better use?

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

Matthew West invited fans to comment on his website as to how the song has impacted them. So far, over 2,870 comments! On the HearItFirst.com website, you can select a video where Matthew tells the story of 18-year old Ryan from Oklahoma, a young man who posted the lyrics on his Facebook page and asked his friends to hold him accountable to that song; just before he was killed — the same day — in a car accident. The song became the central theme for his funeral.

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

Here are the lyrics:

Matthew WestThis might hurt, it’s not safe
But I know that I’ve gotta make a change
I don’t care if I break,
At least I’ll be feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?”

No regrets, not this time
I’m gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I’m finally feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

‘Cause I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?”

Take me all the way (take me all the way)
Take me all the way (’cause I don’t wanna go through the motions)
Take me all the way (I know I’m finally feeling something real)
Take me all the way

Here’s the song on YouTube including clips from Matthew’s (ouch!) vocal surgery:

The Motions (Matthew West) video

Why did I write this post today? Because…

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

Here are two versions of the song, both of which document a fairly rough period in Matthew West’s Life…


“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

July 2, 2011

How Vexed Are You?

This is a long weekend on both sides of the border, and as such, it will be an excuse for many types of “excess” in terms of eating and drinking and general partying. 

This morning I began the day with a Promise Keeper’s Canada devotional that was given out at my son’s church on Father’s Day.  It was a six-day study on the life of Abraham and the day’s reading was based in Genesis 24:3

…Abraham knew Isaac needed a wife.  Remember, Abraham is very rich, he could have chosen the prettiest, richest daughter from the heathens…

He would have nothing to do with the worldly ways around him.  He knew he was different and his legacy was to be different.  He ordered his servant to go to his father’s house for the bride of his legacy.

We all have to make decisions on how worldly we are going to be.  Most of don’t take the time to think how these decisions impact our generations.  Abraham did, and demanded that his son had a fighting chance at being a God follower.

As men, we have to decide how much of the world’s ideas we are going to watch and remember…

And then, suddenly in the middle of this devotional another scripture reference appeared; a reference to II Peter 2:7, which in the translation they used says that “Lot was vexed by hearing and seeing unrighteousness.”

This verse was the one that really got to me.

But God also rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him.

(NLT)

…a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless …

(NIV)

…Lot, driven nearly out of his mind by the sexual filth and perversity, was rescued. Surrounded by moral rot day after day after day, that righteous man was in constant torment…

(The Message)

I think it’s interesting that Lot lived in the middle of a decadent society that was in many ways different from ours but in many ways the same.  Peterson translates it that he was nearly driven out of his mind by it and was in constant torment.

How “vexed” am I by the society around me?  I can define myself by my non-participation in sinful things, but am I really all that concerned about what others are doing? 

The devotional ends with this passage from Ezekiel 14

 1-5Some of the leaders of Israel approached me and sat down with me. God’s Message came to me: “Son of Man, these people have installed idols in their hearts. They have embraced the wickedness that will ruin them. Why should I even bother with their prayers? Therefore tell them, ‘The Message of God, the Master: All in Israel who install idols in their hearts and embrace the wickedness that will ruin them and still have the gall to come to a prophet, be on notice: I, God, will step in and personally answer them as they come dragging along their mob of idols. I am ready to go to work on the hearts of the house of Israel, all of whom have left me for their idols.’

 6-8 “Therefore, say to the house of Israel: ‘God, the Master, says, Repent! Turn your backs on your no-god idols. Turn your backs on all your outrageous obscenities. To every last person from the house of Israel, including any of the resident aliens who live in Israel—all who turn their backs on me and embrace idols, who install the wickedness that will ruin them at the center of their lives and then have the gall to go to the prophet to ask me questions—I, God, will step in and give the answer myself. I’ll oppose those people to their faces, make an example of them—a warning lesson—and get rid of them so you will realize that I am God.

 9-11 “‘If a prophet is deceived and tells these idolaters the lies they want to hear, I, God, get blamed for those lies. He won’t get by with it. I’ll grab him by the scruff of the neck and get him out of there. They’ll be equally guilty, the prophet and the one who goes to the prophet, so that the house of Israel will never again wander off my paths and make themselves filthy in their rebellions, but will rather be my people, just as I am their God. Decree of God, the Master.'”

(The Message)

June 21, 2010

Recognizing My True Priorities

I thought about these questions as I’ve been reading Radical by David Platt, and figured I’d have to dig deep in my other blog to find this; only to discover I’d posted it less than 90 days ago.   It really belongs here as well.

…Occasionally I am asked to do the Sunday morning sermon in a variety of churches. One of these was the kind of church where they like to have the congregation follow along with a fill-in-the-blanks outline page.

While going through a drawer a few weeks ago I discovered a stack of outline blanks for one particular message, and decided to see if I could guess what the missing words were.

It wasn’t rocket science. But there at the end of the outline was my message conclusion; it said “Three Questions.”

  1. .
  2. .
  3. .


Hmmm. What were those three questions?  I started to think back to a different stage in my spiritual pilgrimage and the things that would have been uppermost in my mind at that time. What are the three questions I would have my audience of that day — or my Christianity 201 readers today — ask themselves?

  1. What’s the first thing you think about when you get up in the morning? — I got this from Pat Robertson’s original autobiography, Shout it from the Housetops. He was a local church pastor, but one of his church board members was trying to make the point that Robertson was more obsessed with starting a Christian television network than he was with leading a church congregation. (He joking added, “The first thing I think about is wishing you [the church board member] would get saved…”) Still, regardless of what you think of Pat Robertson — and I won’t post comments on that subject — it’s still a good question to address.  What are the “first fruits” of our thoughts?
  2. What do you talk about when it’s your chance to control the conversation? — I owe a debt to a Christian & Missionary Alliance young adults pastor for this one. Analyze yourself and others to see to what people turn their attention when the conversation reaches a “redirect” point. “Out of the abundance of the heart… ” “Whatever is in your heart determines what you say…” (NLT version of Matthew 12:34) “It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words.” (Same vs., The Message)  You are basically, “that guy [/girl] who always talks about __________.”
  3. What do you want your life to be remembered for? — Years ago I wrote a song a year earlier with the same theme. (It had seven — count ’em, seven verses! You think some of my blog posts are long?) Everyone of us is writing a story, leaving a legacy. If you could get a page with a few paragraphs in Wikipedia after you’re gone, how would those sentences read?

I think it’s good stuff to consider.

June 7, 2010

Will You Be Remembered?

Christian music was very influencial in my spiritual formation.   Some of those early “Jesus Music” recordings were the gateway through which I learned many elements of doctrine and theology, and it was significant in my appreciation of reading Christian literature.

The last few days have brought the passing of two veterans of that music, Dana Key (of DeGarmo & Key) and Kevin Thomson (of Sweet Comfort Band) so this devotional from Daily Encouragement — originally written for the U.S. Memorial Day — seemed most appropriate:

“A righteous man will be remembered forever” (Psalm 112:6).

Memorial Day was initially set aside to remember those who died at war but it has been extended as a time to remember all deceased loved ones. Many visit the graves of family members as an expression of lasting remembrance as they visibly show their honor and affection.

Yet for many, perhaps most, there will be little remembrance, but merely another long weekend and the unofficial start of summer. Plenty of picnics, swimming, partying, drinking and driving! So many live their lives only for the present, giving little thought to the past or their future.

We need to hear what the Apostle James says, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Nearly 2,000 years have passed since Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Our life will only comprise a small fraction of that period of time (about 4% of it). That’s pretty humbling isn’t it? And if you go all the way back to creation it’s an even smaller percentage.

But Psalm 112 gives a broader and more lasting perspective of this fleeting life. It extols the blessings of the man who “fears the Lord and finds great delight in His commands” (verse 1). Oh, that our hearts would yearn for the lasting value that comes from implementing God’s commands more than seeking after the temporal value of worldly goods or the glitz of fame, power or glamour. The Psalmist also wrote, “I love Your commands more than gold, more than pure gold…Your statutes are wonderful, therefore I will obey them” (Psalm 119:127,129).

Our text today is, “A righteous man will be remembered forever.” Read that again slowly. How do we become righteous? Certainly it is not attainable within ourselves, for we know all too well our natural inclination to sin. But following our salvation experience we choose to follow God’s commands.  It is then that we see the effectiveness and fruitful outflow of His principles and guidance in our lives and it develops a righteous heart within us. It is Jesus’ righteousness imputed in us that makes the difference. We no longer feel that we “have to” follow His commands but we “want to”. Our heart’s desires align our will with His and we seek to be like Jesus.

The vast majority of human beings who lived in 1850 are long forgotten. But there are various reasons people are remembered long after their death such as:

• Evil lives
• Significant inventions
• Literary works
• National leadership

But the highest form of remembrance that all of us can have is our devotion to God and our service for Him. Even though only a small portion of Christ’s followers are remembered on this side, generations will follow their example and leave similar legacies of righteous living.

Today we challenge you to be remembered for:
• The spiritual, Christ focused impact you are making presently.
• The godly, eternal legacy you will leave behind.

I want to be remembered today for what matters most. I want to follow Jesus Christ and seek to live as a righteous man according to His plan. “A righteous man will be remembered forever.” This is a promise I want to live by!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber