Legacy

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Legacy

Acts 7:1-16

Stephen’s Speech to the Council1

Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” And Stephen replied:

“Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’ Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living. He did not give him any of it as a heritage, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as his possession and to his descendants after him, even though he had no child. And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years. ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ Then he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.”

“The patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and enabled him to win favor and to show wisdom when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. Now there came a famine throughout Egypt and Canaan, and great suffering, and our ancestors could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there on their first visit. On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent and invited his father Jacob and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five in all; so Jacob went down to Egypt. He himself died there as well as our ancestors, and their bodies were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.”

What’s in a name?

Very few people can boast that their name is carried across the millennia. How many people can you name from 1000 years ago? 2000 years ago? 3000 years ago? The further back we go the fewer names we can recollect. Just because someone’s history is written does not necessarily mean it is well known, and just because a person’s history is well known does not mean that it is praised.

Abraham, a name which continues to be given to boys 4000 years later, maybe one of the oldest people whose name and story continues to be told and praised today. His legacy is so strong that we even know his failures and still continue to celebrate his name. In one of the first post-Easter sermons delivered by the disciples of Jesus, Stephen invokes the name of Abraham to set the foundation for his explanation of why the people of Israel needed a Savior and why Jesus of Nazareth was the one for whom they had been waiting. He could’ve started anywhere. He could’ve started with King David. He would have been just fine beginning with Moses, the giver of the law. The people to whom he was speaking were interpreters of the law and would have been very comfortable discussing Moses. But Stephen reached back into his memory and began with Abraham, a man who’s greatest claim to fame was not conquering any nation, nor giving any great teaching. In fact we have no record of anything he taught. Abraham is known for one thing and one thing only: his faithful obedience to God.

Out of the billions and billions of people who have lived and died faithfully following God, Abraham is the only one who is known and praised for that. For him that was enough. And today Jews and Christians all over the world claim his name and his legacy. If you follow his story in Genesis you will see that his greatest faithfulness, his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, his miracle child, did not happen until after he was blessed by God. Likewise most of his unfaithfulness occurred before he receive that blessing. The one faithful act that he did before the birth of Isaac was in response to God’s invitation – that Abraham would leave his family and homeland and follow God into the wilderness to seek out a new country. His life does not exemplify a good person being rewarded by God. Instead it demonstrates a lifetime of call and response, giving and receiving, initiation by God and (sometimes) faithful obedience by Abraham.

I believe the reason Abraham’s faithfulness to God changed was precisely because he became a father, and especially because he became a father when he was 100 years old. Being that old gives you no time to mess around in no time for mistakes. Isaac was set to inherit everything that Abraham had and all that God had promised him: a nation, a people, and the name that would carry on for the rest the time. Unlike parents with multiple children, Abraham had no choice but to get it right the first time. I bet that made him realize his legacy was influenced not just by his financial investments, business choices, lands bought, and houses built. His legacy was in who he was sleeping his son to be in the few years – remember he was 100 years old when Isaac was born – that he had to spend with him. Every. Single. Moment. Counted. 4000 years later, we are still reading about those moments.

What is your Legacy?

What are you doing to make sure it is both memorable and worth remembering?


  1. (Gen 12:1–50:26)

The Art and Science of God – Why is it so hard to get good employees?

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Why is it so hard to get decent employees?

Jonah 1

Jonah Tries to Run Away from God

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. The captain came and said to him, “What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.”

The sailors said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” “I am a Hebrew,” he replied. “I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.

Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.” Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah present us with an interpretive challenge. Part of me wants to believe that this may be another allegory, that this is just a fantastic tale like Aesop’s Fables – meant to teach us a lesson about faithfulness and rebellion. But there is a problem. This story is not just about some generic prophet, or even just some prophet named Jonah. It is clearly written about a particular man name Jonah, son of Amittai. This same Jonah is written about briefly in the history books of Israel (2 Kings 14:23-25). So at the very least, this is a fantastic story about a real person as opposed to a mythological person altogether. Jonah was real.

That brings us to another problem then. Was the great fish real as well? A giant fish does not seem so out of place with what all we have found in the depths of the ocean. Someone surviving inside a fish’s stomach for 3 days though? That is another story.

Taken as a whole, this story is either irrefutable evidence that God likes to mix things up sometimes and do crazy things in response to our faithfulness and rebellion, or it is an extreme example of God’s foreknowledge of us and how perfectly He orchestrates all of creation around our decisions to follow God’s will or not.

(Pause)

I think it is more popular today to go with the former assumption, that God does wild and crazy sometimes… but something in me still sees something familiar in the God who harmonizes everything. Is it perfect? No. If God’s will was always perfectly accomplished every day, there would be no sin, no need for a Savior, etc. Wild and crazy seems too much of an easy answer, but there has to be some flexibility – and that middle space is a bit terrifying.

That place between God’s sovereignty and our freedom to choose to follow Him or not, means that the whole world may be much more detailed and purposeful than we ever imagined. God knows how many hairs are on my head and how many grains are on the seashore, and if He is truly orchestrating this all together then that means He has purposes for every one of them. That would mean that people are immeasurably valuable. It would mean that the environment around me, the plants and animals I share this world with may exist for something more than just my pleasure. It means we live in a world of potential and God is letting us hold the reins. We cannot take them from Him, but we get to hold on and influence in our own small but powerful ways.

I suppose it is like becoming a new parent, being handed this tiny life that holds so much potential and is so intricately woven together. Fearfully and wonderfully made, as King David wrote. It is more than I can grasp.

It makes me wonder, what if I mess it up? What if I am not the good servant that God wants and that this world needs?

Well then, perhaps God has a great fish waiting for me as well…

History in the Making

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History in the making

1 We have heard with our ears, O God,
our ancestors have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:

2 you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;

3 for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm give them victory;
but your right hand, and your arm,
and the light of your countenance,
for you delighted in them.

-The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ps 44:1–3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

I wonder if this quote by a well known atheist, George Satayana was inspired by his recollection of the biblical stories. They repeat themselves over and over again. Just when you think everyone is safe and they have learned their lesson, somebody else decides they do not need God or that God won’t help them, and they fall right back into the cycle of fall – deliverance – repentance – blessing all over again.

The “history” the psalmist calls us all to remember is that the deliverance did not come from our own hand, but by God’s. This might be the most important historical lesson that we can learn or teach. When we look into the lives of our heroes, we often find flaws. When we study the history of great nations, we can usually identify marks of tragedy and failure. Yet somehow, both continue to persevere. Why? Because they do not succeed on their good merit, but only with God’s help.

There are losers in history as well… those whom God did not bless with victory. I think some of the most powerful testimony of God’s grace in the world is through the witness of history’s losers. Groups of people who should never have made it this far, with the nation of Israel being chief among them. How many nations can claim a history of being destroyed and scattered for 2000 years and still maintaining their own cultural identity? Not many, if any at all. History clearly shows it was not by their strength that they survive, but through God’s grace, often enacted through foreign nations, sometimes former enemies.

This Psalm ends with a question of where God is now in the psalmist’s time of suffering. If God was so good back then, where is he now? That is a question for every person in every generation, and I think finding the answer to that might make the difference between living a life that is aligned with God’s will and struggling to push our own desires over God. It is always hard to see that in the midst of suffering, often unfair, and perhaps even wrong at times. However, if we wind back the clock, we can often find a moment where we made a poor choice or gave a bad response to something that happened, that pushed us down the road we walk today.

How far do you have to go back to find God’s Blessing?
If the road you are walking today is one of suffering, are there any past choices you wish you could change?

The grace of God does not change our past, but it can give us a new future. I pray the path you walk today is one of blessing and joy.

Beautiful: The Ballad of the Battle of Gettysburg

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Beautiful cannot be caught

in single pain-specked pangs

flashed and gone without regard

for whispers between the bangs.

 

Patient perusal standing still

pays to perceive the scope

of panoramic persistence

born across this broken hope.

 

Caring eyes could comprehend

an ocean of emotion

tucked just beneath the cupping waves

the tides of deep devotion.

 

Optimistic overtones

lead on a bleak cabal

a body turned against itself

a suffered battle call.

 


 

Fighting not to save herself

but for the sake of others

those wayward souls engulfed in coals

her sisters and her brothers.

 

Scheming ways throughout the days

to soothe the scars beneath

the humble skin that shelters in

the gnashing of the teeth.

 

Praying for redemption

for purpose without fault

a means to light the darkened way

a means to become salt.

 

Loving past the limitations

rotten luck provides

if love is like a battlefield

herein love abides.

 


 

Surmounting now the stumbling blocks

in silent victory

that fate has thrown her rugged way

for all the world to see.

 

Breaking one link at a time

the chains that bind her here

a life lived full of fortitude

a life lived without fear.

 

Beautiful across the span

of tribulating fires

that spell a glory yet unsung

by heaven’s angel choirs.

 


 

 


 

A Russian Lullaby

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Old Molotov drinks

the fire to warm

his black hardened belly

and bottlenecked form.

 

He chokes on his ragged

torn twisted tongue

that flames with his rage

for the old and the young.

 

He spins hot and heavy

with Russian delight

as he flies through the air

as he lights up the night.

 

When the bottle breaks

his body will fall

and down will come everyone

flames for them all.

The Mason

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The morning mist rose up and over

from the banks of the yellow river,

and He who was a Mason,

brother to the Carpenter

moved under the low branch

to the Wall.

He knew not

what manner of stories

were uttered one time inside

what questions echoed; withdrew

on the other side of the wall.

The crack – traced in stone by some great hand;

spoke only a single word: ‘Eden’.

Why Time Matters… Part 2

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Before I begin again, I want to note that I have nothing against historians and very little against statisticians. Indeed, I suspect that studying these fields will make you better at whatever field you work in. I simply doubt they hold the answers that some of their more zealous members claim to have. Although the general idea is that if you can plot the lines that came before, you may be able to guess the shape of things to come, hindsight is not, as the prophet says, 20/20. Our perspectives on history are not objective or exhaustive. It is a unique perspective with varying degrees of accuracy.

Another option, if the past fails us, is to attempt to expand our vision of the present. While we cannot really implant extra eyes on our body (even if that would do any good), with enough resources, we can potentially network a group of people or mechanical sensors (ex. cameras) in such a way to effectively broaden our perspective. This is no new phenomenon. Conglomerations of individuals have been sharing communal perspective since the advent of community and it has perhaps been perfected in the stereotypical “small town” atmosphere where information travels faster than the wind and community membership is often equated with accuracy. The internet itself provides a similar form of communal information-sharing on an exponentially broader level, making our sensory possibilities inexhaustible. Our ability to process such information however, is not.

The more pieces of information we receive at a time, the less we are able to actually process each individual item. The frames blur together and we lose our ability to see the distinctive aspects of each individual picture when the movie is playing. There is no way around the fact that the dissemination of information takes time, and there is more to see in every moment than we have time to see. So we filter our present perceptions by necessity through aim, looking in the direction we expect to see what we expect. We are surprised by new information coming at us from the place we were not looking – like a surprise birthday party thrown four months early, rather than on the proper day. It’s a simple fact of life that we cannot watch everything, all the time, and thus are destined to miss out on some of the opportunities that come our way – especially those which run counter to our experience and expectations.