As we live out our days most of us want to be remembered for something. We want to leave a legacy. For some they will write books, others might build impressive buildings or give a major financial gift to an organization. Many believe they will leave a legacy through their children, perhaps something of us will live on through our kids.
How do we leave a lasting legacy? Is there any guarantee that we will be remembered?
Books written today will soon be out of date, buildings will eventually be demolished to make way for bigger and better ones and we soon realize how transient success is. A few years ago Bob Buford a very successful businessman wrote the book “Half Time: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance.” Married at 22 he spent the next 10-15 years consumed by work and by his early 40’s he decided to make a shift. Work was beginning to lose its grip on his life and he made the shift from ‘success to significance’. He realized success was no longer his goal in life but significance was the new focal point.
Jesus asked “What good is it for a person to gain the whole world and forfeit their soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul?” (Mk.8: 36-37) when you shift the focus of your life from “what can I get out of life” to “what can I give” you move from success to significance. People who simply live for themselves have a very small world. Jesus went on to say “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it but whoever loses their life for me and the gospel will save it.” (Mk.8:35) As you give your life away you will discover significance and there is no greater cause in the world than doing what God put you on earth to do. Jesus defined this as simply ‘following him’. As you follow him day by day you are doing what you were shaped to do. And when that happens it will be evident that not only is your life significant but the legacy you leave will touch the lives of succeeding generations in way that Jesus did not only in his generation but in the generations to come..
It is a great way to live.
It is estimated people spend about 40% of their life at work .Some love their work, some hate their work and some do not feel very fulfilled at work. Take a moment and think about your work. If you could do something else would you? If you did not have to work would you? Do you see your work as part of God’s plan to accomplish a number of goals in your life?
The apostle Paul wrote “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord not for people.” (Col. 3:23) If you think about work it is not always easy, because there are pressures to get the work done and unexpectantly a problem develops, or you discover that some of your co -workers are difficult to work with and you are frustrated.
When problems arise at work, and they will, remember that God can use these circumstances to develop your character. Paul wrote “When we run into problems and trials they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character and helps us trust God more each time.” (Rm.5:3-4) So when you encounter problems at work don’t ask “why is this happening to me?” rather ask “God, what do you want me to learn from this?” It is all part of God’s character formation process..
At work there will be people who are difficult, irritating and annoying. Possibly you do not even like them. However God is using these people to help you grow spiritually. Think about the different types of difficult people; they can be demanding, dishonest, disagreeable, defensive and even demeaning. How will you deal with these folks? Paul writes “If it is possible as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Rm.12:18) The more you respond to these people in the manner that Christ would respond, the more you will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. This is the goal of our life.
Is this easy? No! So surrender each day and each task into the hands of God asking him to work in and through you. When you do you will discover that work takes on a different perspective.
It is common for all of us to continually define the relationships we are in. Jesus repeatedly asked people to make a decision about their relationship with him. He very simply said “Come and follow me.”
One day while visiting the home of Mary and Martha, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus while he was teaching. It was more than a reference to her physical posture. In that culture to ‘sit at someone’s feet’ was a statement that you chose to be a disciple of a Rabbi. To make someone your Rabbi was a choice to be with him and you wanted to learn as much as possible from him.
The late Dallas Willard professor of philosophy at USC stated there was a Rabbinic expression “May you be covered by the dust of your Rabbi.” In other words you followed this person so closely their dust would cover you.
Jesus desires that we follow him so closely we are ‘covered by his dust’. Mary made that choice; she wanted to be with Jesus no matter what else was going on around her.
What choice have you made? Each of us need to need to respond to Jesus invitation to “come and follow him.” Are you following so closely that you are ‘covered by the dust of the Rabbi’?
On warm summer evenings it is wonderful to sit outside late at night, stare into the evening sky and look at all the stars that twinkle against the dark backdrop of night. The Psalmist wrote “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speck and night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-20)
As I think about this I am aware that God desires to be with us and to make his presence known to us in so many different ways.
I read a story about a man on a flight who opened his lap top and the screen saver revealed a picture of his little boy. The person sitting next to him asked who the child was and for the next few minutes he talked constantly about his son. Then he said “I could look at this picture 100 times a day.” The other passenger inquired how long he had been away from home and his little boy. The man responded “Since yesterday.” He simply wanted to be with his son.
That is the desire of God. He wants to be with us. Look at the biblical record. In Genesis we are told that God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Enoch was described as a man who walked with God. When the nation of Israel was on a 40 year trek to the Promised Land they had a cloud to follow by day and a pillar of fire at night to remind them of God’s presence. When God came to earth in the person of Jesus he was called Immanuel (God with Us).
Though we have heard all of this many times, there may be a gap between the intellectual awareness of God’s presence and the actual experience of God’s presence. The late Dallas Willard tells the story that when his mother died when he was a young boy, there were nights when he felt very sad and lonely. He would climb into his father’s bed, but he was restless and would ask his father “Is you face turned toward me?” His father would answer “Yes, you are not alone, I am with you.” Only then could he go to sleep.
Do you know that God is with you? His face is turned toward you. Today as you enter various situations keep in mind you are not alone, God is present.
Each year in the United States there is a special holiday called Martin Luther King Day, which commemorates the work of this man who fought for the rights of every person in spite of great odds. Perhaps he is best remembered for his speech “I have a dream.”
Do you ever dream about the ways God could use your life? The story of Joshua, chosen by God to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land following the death of Moses, reveals important principles that will enable us to dream about the various ways God can use us.
The first thing Joshua had to do was to let go of doubt. Doubt can be one of the greatest struggles we face as we seek to understand how God can use us. Joshua wondered how he could lead such a group of people. It was an incredible challenge. God spoke to Joshua “Be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) If God has called you to a task, He will equip you with all the resources you will need.
The second thing Joshua had to do was to continually lean on the Lord. To lean on the Lord means that he would learn to depend upon God in all situations. God told him “No one will be able to defeat you all your life. Just as I was with Moses so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forget you.” (Joshua 1:5) As long as Joshua depended on God he was able to accomplish what seemed to be the impossible.
The third thing Joshua had to do was to step out in faith. It is not enough to articulate our faith we need to act on it. Nikki’s logo “Just Do It” resonates with the life of faith.
What is God calling you to do? Fight the fear, recognize His presence with you and then just do it!
A good text to focus on this week is Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge he and he will direct your paths.”
In the book of Wisdom the author, often referred to as “The Teacher” or The Philosopher” has much to say about trying to make a name for oneself. His words written thousands of years ago still ring true in today’s culture. Many people are trying to make their mark or make a name for themselves by what they do or by what they have accomplished.
“The Philosopher” writing from the perspective of one who looks at life in terms of what is temporal, states “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired: I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labour. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had achieved, everything was meaning less, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun… So I hated life, because the work that is done is grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2: 10-11) When you read these words it leaves you feeling depressed.
Yet for many people this is an exact statement of their life. They work hard, put in long hours and are rewarded for all they do. However it will not last forever. This “Philosopher” tried everything. He tried to find meaning in pleasure and denied himself nothing. When this was not satisfying he tried to find meaning in his work and all of his accomplishments but in the end this did not bring the satisfaction he was seeking. In fact he states that when it comes time to die all you have accumulated will be given to someone else.
Jesus said don’t invest in that which is temporal but in that which is eternal. He summarized this by saying “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you.” In other words seek the reign and rule of God in your life above everything else and then you will have the right perspective and know how to invest your life wisely.
Take some time today to examine your life. Ask yourself “What is really important in life?” “Am I investing my life in that which will last forever or in that which is temporal?” Make sure you are not chasing the wind.
A delivery truck had the company slogan “You can always count on us” emblazoned on the side panel. However a sceptical grafitti artist sprayed over the slogan the words “Oh Really?”
There are times when we question the dependability and reliability of others. We know commitment can be low and we wonder what has happened to dependability. When we think of friendship we believe that a true friend is someone who knows all about us, who loves us as we are and that we can depend on their faithfulness regardless of our ups or downs, our successes or failures. However such loyalty takes commitment that will last.
A woman who will be remembered as one of the most loyal people in history is Ruth. The story begins with the family of Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons living in Judah where there was a severe famine. Conditions worsened to the point that they packed up everything they had and moved to the country of Moab to start a new life. While living there, the two sons married women from Moab and life seemed to be much better for everyone.
Then disaster struck. Elimeleck and his two sons died and Naomi was left with no means of support. She decided to return to her homeland where conditions had improved and where she would receive some help. Her daughters in law wanted to return with her but she was adamant they remain with their families and try to rebuild their lives with the hope they would one day remarry. One daughter in law Orpah agreed but the other daughter in law Ruth refused to leave Naomi and said to her “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Where you die I will die and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me ever so severely if anything but death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1: 16-17)
What powerful words! Naomi realized Ruth was committed and stopped urging her to return to Moab. As the two women returned to Judah, God blessed their lives and to this day Ruth is recognized as a woman who can be counted on.
Take some time to think about your relationships. Are you a person that others can count on? Can God count on you? When you make a promised do you follow through? Words are not enough we need to be people who are committed to doing what we said we would do.
The recent floods in western Canada have left many people without their homes and the possibility of starting up again can seem to be very daunting. I read of one man in the United States who survived a hurricane and flood but had to spend two sleepless nights in the attic of his house before he was rescued. O yes I forgot to mention there were snakes in the attic who were also seeking refuge from the storm. That would take courage!
In the book of Daniel we read of three young men who had courage to stand up to the edict of the king that declared when the trumpet blew everyone was to bow down and pay homage the idol that had been erected. It was a sign of obedience and recognition that the king was the supreme being who demands the total obedience and allegiance of his subjects. If people refused to bow down they would be thrown into a fiery furnace. That tends to be a great motivator!
These three men refused to do so and told the king “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know O King that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of god you have set up.” (Daniel 3: 17-18)
These men had the assurance of God’s presence with them and they trusted their lives into his care. God would either rescue them or give them grace to endure the furnace. Paul wrote “If we live we live unto the Lord and if we die we die unto the Lord. Therefore whether we live of die we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8) Knowing that you belong to God gives you great courage to face whatever the day may bring. Whatever the challenges you might be facing, trust God…regardless! He is there for you.
I have a vivid memory of a kindergarten class trip that I attended with my son. There were about 25 small children (3-4 year olds), 1 teacher, 2 parent helpers and we were visiting a farm. After touring the farm, looking at pumpkins and picking apples, we stopped at a corn field. The stalks of corn were fully grown, adult head-height at least. The children were then told to go into the rows and pick a few cobs. As the wide-eyed children disappeared into the corn rows, I had a few moments of panic as their little heads disappeared entirely into the field. Anyone who has had a kindergarten-aged child knows how easily they become distracted, disoriented and scared. Some of them have barely ever been away from their mom’s side.
The image of a shepherd and his sheep is an illustration that is used many times in the Bible. It is a representation of the relationship between God and his people. There really doesn’t seem to be any job, in North American society that would have been the same as being a shepherd; a very common profession in Jesus day. The memory of the kindergarten teacher calling out to her students in the corn field came to mind as I was trying today to think of a modern-day equivalent of a shepherd. Sheep have poor depth perception, don’t like the dark, and congregate close together. They have a tendency to follow a leader, but the leader may become so simply by being the first sheep in the flock to move. Sheep become stressed when separated from their flock members.
Their behaviour reminds me of the kindergarten class; small, innocent children running around in the corn field and getting nervous alone amongst the stalks. The image that God gives of himself is that of the leader, the teacher, who cares for each child and is concerned for each one. God refers to himself as Jehovah – Rohi, which means Jehovah my shepherd. It is the name of God that comes from Psalm 23, one of the most comforting passages in the Bible. The scriptures repeatedly speak of God as the shepherd of his people. Isaiah the prophet writes:
“See, the sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him.
See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
He gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11)
In Ezekial, he says:
“I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Lord.
I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.
I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…I will shepherd the flock with justice.” (Exekiel 34:10-16)
Today…Read through Psalm 23. Think of the love and concern you feel for a small, lost child. Pray for those who are far from God that they may realize that the “Good Shepherd” is looking for them.
There are lots of days when I think I am doing a pretty good job at living the Christian life. These are the days where I help people, where I am active in my church, where I don’t lose my temper, and where I feel that I am doing a decent job of following God’s laws and living in relationship with Him each day. Then I read a passage like the one in Romans 3: 9-20. Wow…what a passage to make you feel defeated!
The gist of the passage is that we all fail God. We cannot keep up to his standards. Here is a paraphrase from The Message;
“Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it:
There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
I can’t find a single one.
Their throats are gaping graves,
their tongues slick as mudslides.
Every word they speak is tinged with poison.
They open their mouths and pollute the air.
They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year,
litter the land with heartbreak and ruin,
Don’t know the first thing about living with others.
They never give God the time of day.”
When I read this I feel a little disgruntled…a little annoyed, because I like to think that I am doing a good job of things. And yet, then I remember, that it is not ME who is doing the good acts all on my own, it is God who is living IN me. I, on my own, am a human: full of sin and selfish desires.
I am thankful that God does not keep a record of our “bad deeds”, because the list would be long!
The scripture in Romans 3, however, does not leave us feeling discouraged. The later part of the passage reminds us that God sets things right through Jesus. The Message, says:
“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right.”
Phew…what a relief that it’s not all up to me to work my way to God. I don’t need to try to “be” righteous. God has already set things right.
One of God’s names – Jehovah Tsidkenu – means God our Righteousness. Meditate on Romans 3:23 and how we have fallen short of God’s expectations.
What does it mean to be “clothed in the righteousness of Christ”? How does this affect your daily living?