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)

Worship and Surrender

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Worship and Surrender

1 Peter 2:11-171

Live as Servants of God

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.

For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Freedom is in. Surrender is out. We want direct connection with God, Whom we struggle to obey when we receive that direction, and if we are going to struggle obeying God, we are really going to struggle following human leaders. Is it any wonder why we preach and sing about freedom, forgiveness, and grace instead of surrender and submission to God’s will. Even, the songs about following God’s will for our lives put the emphasis on it being our decision. We want God to be in control, but we really would prefer God to control things according to our desires – and that comes awfully close to idolatry.

God, in His wisdom, has put others in charge of us though, and He works through them, in them, and sometimes around and in spite of them. Whether it is because He knows we need a reminder of His authority that wears skin every once in awhile so we do not doubt or forget Him, or because the interconnectedness and hierarchy we find ourselves in is a vital part of creation, I do not know. God probably does it for a reason I may never understand. But it is undebateable: God has put human authorities in our lives, and scripture specifically tells us it is our Christian duty to submit to it. Yes, even when I did not vote for them.

It is hard to swallow sometimes. It can be hard to see God working in them as well. If I’m honest though, I personally do not struggle with this the most in the political realm. Politics have more of an indirect affect on me personally, and I have seen enough of the system to know it is complex and difficult to really pin problems down as the decisions of individual people. The chains of compromise are far too long. Instead, I often struggle with it professionally – in church, and specifically in worship.

If you ask me what I think about worship or what kind of worship I like, do not expect a single statement as an answer, expect a five page thesis. I have many strong opinions based on education and experience, both good and bad. When I plan worship services, I think about them as they spread out over weeks and months, not just the 60 minutes we have together on a given day. I try to look at it from multiple angles, and, while I usually can let it all go with gratitude to God when it is all finished, I rarely am completely satisfied with my work. I always find something new to learn, to change, or remind myself not to try next time.

My struggle with authority comes in the few times a year that I visit other churches or worship in settings I am not responsible for leading. Within the first five minutes of walking into the door, my mind starts picking apart every detail of the service and those balcony critics in my head begin to go to town. It gets even worse when the sermon starts. There are times, I’ll be honest, when the critics are far louder to me than the preacher speaking into the microphone. Those moments, I am not submitting to the authority that God has put before me for that time (and if we really think about it, every human authority is temporary), and it keeps me from really worshipping – really experiencing and returning to God what He is due.

We all have problems with the failing, fragile human leaders God has put in our lives. But the challenges of our worship are not controlled by them. The surrender that we are able to give is a vessel of grace that sometimes needs to flow out of us, up into our leaders, instead of us always expecting them to give grace to us. When the flow of grace is stopped up, worship ends, and we all end up stuck in the mess, looking for God again.

What makes it difficult for you to worship?

How do you allow God’s grace to flow from you into those who help lead you in worship?


  1. (Cp Rom 13:1–5)

Gifts from Heaven

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Gifts from Heaven

Exodus 16:9-21

“Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’ ” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’ ” The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. ”

Love the giver, not the gifts. Love is not jealous . Love doesn’t get greedy.

Easier said than done.

How about, just follow the directions… hahaha.

Welcome to existence. It is not overly complicated. It is not impossible to live a life that blesses others and leaves the world better than you found it. However, it does require you to surrender your desires to control, to know everything, and to be humble enough to receive the help God has sent your way.

God provided the means for the Hebrew people to survive in the wilderness. He sent them food from Heaven every day but the Sabbath and Moses gave them specific instructions on how to use that gift. “But they did not listen to Moses…”

Too often I want to blame my problems on some kind of inability to do right, but God gives me everything I need. It is not everything I want, but it is everything I need to follow Him. It is easier to claim that I do not have the secret knowledge I need to really follow God, or to act as though I am powerless to choose otherwise. If you do not believe you have any choices, simply ask yourself, “Can I think of a worse person than myself?” Most of us can probably think about someone who has done something worse than our many misdeeds. I could have followed their example, but instead I chose a better path. Even if it was not the best option, I made a conscious choice to be better.

The trick is, taking that same motivation and trusting God to give us the direction instead of making something up ourselves – following directions instead of making our own way.

The Apostle Paul wrote this about battling our desires:

Romans 8:4-11

“ For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. ”

God does not just provide for our bodies, He provides for our souls as well. God has made sure that we have the choice to follow Him if we are willing to receive His help and follow His direction.

What directions do you struggle following?

What directions has God given you today?

 

Why did Jesus get baptized?

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Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:13-17 (NRSV)

Last week I came across a blog that listed out dozens of controversies regarding the truth of the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). It was written by a non-believer pointing out anything and everything he did not understand. As usual, the questions he posed were often very legitimate but the conclusions he came up with often not well thought out. For example, his question about why Jesus was baptized is a very legitmate one. Unfortunately, he discounted the reason provided in the text itself simply because he did not understand it, and then tried to use that as some kind of evidence against believing in the existence of Jesus.

So, instead of dismissing the reason Jesus gives in Matthew’s account, let’s look try to see what we can glean from it.

“Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”

The purpose, as Jesus states it, is to fulfill all righteousness. What does this mean?

N.T. Wright explains:

Ulrich Luz, disagrees and chooses to focus just on this verse itself. He writes:

To Luz, this baptism is a teaching by example, a teaching, which has far less to do with how much water was used or how it was applied and far more to do with the humility with which Jesus received it. It is Jesus showing us that He started His ministry with humble obedience and we should as well.

What do I think? I think it could be both. Matthew gives us this as the first words of Jesus in his gospel, not the last words. But they do reflect his last words when He commands the disciples to go and baptize, teaching everything that He had taught them. Both scholars, and I suspect the majority of them out there see this act of humble obedience as central to any interpretation we take from this passage. Is our baptism going to be the same as the one that Jesus experienced? Probably not, but we have been given the same Spirit from Him and we should walk in that same Spirit, not just in our baptism experience, but in our daily lives.

  • Have you humbled yourself enough to follow God in obedience, whether you think you need it or not… whether you fully understand it or not?
  • Are you teaching others, by your example, to follow God in obedience?