Leaving a Legacy

January 08, 2019 Psalm 39:6, Ecclesiastes 2:17-21, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15  Who is the most memorable person in your life, or, who has had the most impact on you, and why? What impact have you had on others? What inheritance have you received, and what legacy will you leave or do you want to leave? What do we Mean by Leaving a Legacy? – Sometimes, we think leaving a legacy means being remembered, and sometimes, we think it means making some lasting change or contribution. Leaving a legacy may involve these, but it means leaving something to those who follow in some way. “Inheritance” in Scripture – Some Scripture deals with leaving possessions to heirs, but most references to inheritance deal with God’s gift to His people (Promised Land in the Old Testament and Kingdom blessings in the New Testament) or God’s people being God’s inheritance. Motives for Wanting to Leave a Legacy – It seems wanting to leave a legacy may be hard-wired into us, and some want to leave material legacies, while others want to leave intangible legacies. Some seem motivated by benevolence, while others seek their own glory. It also seems values shape the legacy we want to leave and the legacy we actually do leave. Biblical Concepts That Guide our Thinking – As we think about legacy, we need to recall the Bible tells us to prioritize Kingdom and spiritual things over the material; tells us to be good stewards; teaches us about investing, cultivating, and the law of the harvest; calls us to teach, train, and guide our children; and calls us to bear fruit in righteousness and make disciples. What About Bad or Inadequate Legacies? – Sometimes, we inherit a bad legacy because of things like not being trained in Godliness, abuse, abandonment, being de-valued or never good enough. Sometimes, we are leaving a bad or inadequate legacy through the things we are doing or failing to do.



The Claim, Comfort, and Call of God’s Presence

January 01, 2019

Psalm 139  As I thought about what we need in this new year, I ended up at Psalm 139. It is, in part, a reflection on God’s presence and awareness, and we can find encouragement in that.

God’s Great Knowledge (vv. 1-6) – The Psalmist claimed every part of His inner and outward life was open to God’s knowledge, and he was amazed at that. We can find comfort in God’s awareness of all that we are, think, do, and say, as well as all we face. What would it look like to walk into the coming year in the contemplation of God’s transcendent greatness, immanent presence, and complete knowledge of you and your ways?

God’s Great Presence and Work (vv. 7-18) – The Psalmist confesses that, even if he wanted to, there is no getting away from God, and He knew every fiber of the writer’s being and his life story. Where do you find yourself? Is the place pleasant or troubling…light and clear or dark and unclear…rewarding or challenging? God is there. There is a call in these thoughts to be open with God, to contemplate what His knowledge of you means, and to ask Him to use your strengths and fill in your weaknesses for His purpose.

God’s Invited Involvement (vv. 19-24) – I hear the Psalmist basically say, “Of the two sides to take, let there be no question where I stand,” and, “Lord, I am walking uprightly, but I am not perfect…You have searched me, search me more. Work in me to show me what is not right and to help me walk in your way.” We are called to invite His scrutiny and cooperate with the results.

What does it do to our perspective to think of God’s great presence, knowledge, and work? What do we need to be open with Him about, and what do we need Him to deal with?



The Songs and Sayings of Christmas

December 18, 2018

Luke 1-2  As you think about Christmas, what words come to mind? For me, one word is “wonder.” Let’s look at the sayings and pronouncements surrounding Jesus’ birth and find the wonder of Christmas.

 

  • Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) – Here, we find praise to God for His faithfulness, mindfulness, and mercy, as well as rejoicing in His powerful work of a great reversal received by mercy in Jesus.

 

  • Zechariah’s Prophecy (Luke 1:67-79) – We find praise to God for making good on His promises of redemption and His work of showing the light to those in death’s shadow and offering us forgiveness of sin, leading us to peace and granting us the ability to serve God in holiness and righteousness.

 

  • The Angels’ Announcement (Luke 2:9-14) – Here we find good news of great joy that breaks into our ordinary lives and announces God’s gift of a saving King in Jesus.

 

  • Simon’s Praise and Anna’s Testimony (Luke 2:25-38) – We hear words of hope, revelation, and redemption. We expect Jesus will challenge our worldly existence and call for decisions that will lead either to rising or falling.

 

Finding Wonder – It stirs wonder and worship when we think that God Himself would compress down into a writhing bundle of baby,   not simply to be a baby but to step into our shoes, show us God and God-intended humanity, teach us God’s truth, embody God’s way, die in our place, rise to offer victory, establish His church and empower it with His Spirit, and promise to come again and wrap it all up. There is so much going on at Christmas. Let us ponder Jesus and find the wonder and worship He deserves.

 



Themes From Revelation: The Person, Place, and Work of Jesus

December 11, 2018

Colossians 1:3-23  What are your mental pictures of Jesus? A final theme in the Revelation concerns the person, place, and work of Jesus.

The Person of Jesus – Looking at the Revelation and the broader New Testament, we find Jesus is God and the fulfillment of Old Testament pictures of God and His Messiah; the Lamb who was slain and opens the scroll of God’s plan; the coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords; God in the flesh; the active self-expression of God; creator; source of light, life, knowledge of God, and grace from God; the exact likeness of God in human form; the source and end of creation; the sustainer of all creation; the Head of the church; heir of all things; and the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation His being.

The Place of Jesus – From the Revelation and the rest of the New Testament, we discover Jesus is in the midst of His churches, at the helm of God’s redeeming purpose and plan for its culmination, at the center of heaven’s praise and the praise of all creation, at the head of heaven’s armies, present with His people and filling the New Jerusalem, and on the throne of God in the place of rulership and authority. He is in the place of Lordship; Headship; and at the center of our worship, message, and life. He is in covenant with His people and deserving of absolute loyalty, faithfulness, allegiance, and obedience.

The Work of Jesus – It is the work of Jesus to examine, confront, correct, and encourage His churches; purchase the lost through redemption; unleash the judgment of God; judge and make war in righteousness; be involved in deposing and damning the Dragon and the Beast; reign in power; reveal God and God-intended humanity; atone and redeem; mediate and reconcile; create, give righteousness; refine us; and enable us to bear fruit.

 

 



Themes From Revelation: God’s People in a Fallen World

December 04, 2018
 
John 3:16-21 & Revelation 22:12-16  What do you think about the world around us, and what does God think about the world around us? Another theme in the Revelation concerns God’s people in a fallen world.

The Fallen World – In the Revelation, I find the world portrayed as depraved, steeped in sin and opposed to God and His people, within the sovereignty of God but under the sway of Satan. In the broader New  Testament, we find the world system as corrupt and corrupting but the world’s inhabitants as the objects of God’s love and redemptive work but mostly blind to God’s goodness and often opposed to His people.

God’s People in the World – In the Revelation, we see God’s people redeemed and called to be distinct from the world, persecuted for loyalty to Jesus, and faced with pressure to choose the world’s way but    offered great reward in overcoming. In the broader New Testament, we find the same themes and more. We are called to remain unpolluted by the world to remain faithful to Jesus, not to love the world or befriend the world but also called to make disciples.

Drawing Some Conclusions

· There are people and ways that are acceptable to God and those that are not.

· We have God’s offer of grace and (in Revelation) closing out the age of grace.

· We have God’s love extending redemption and God’s judgment upon those who stay  outside that redemption.

· We have God’s love for the lost and wrath against the world values, Satan who furthers and uses those values, and those who refuse Christ and follow the world’s ways.

· We are those who were part of the world but now are redeemed and called to be different and live differently even at great cost.

· We are called share God’s redemptive purpose while remaining upright.

 



Themes From Revelation – Living Now Toward the Not Yet (Part 2)

November 27, 2018

2 Peter 3:8-18  A couple of weeks ago, we made some observations from Revelation concerning living now toward the not yet. Now, let’s pull in some other Scriptures that group into the following themes:

 

Priorities and Pursuits (See Luke 12:16-21, Colossians 3:1-4, & 1 John 2:15-17)

  • What do you find out about our priorities and pursuits in these verses, and how does that compare with the world’s priorities and pursuits?
  • The new identity in Christ calls for a new mindset and focus.
  • Things of this world may be tangible or intangible, but they are still temporary.
  • Prioritize and attend to spiritual matters as the guide for everything else.

 

Devotion and Loyalties (See Matthew 10:37-39, Matthew 16:24-27, & James 4:4-5)

  • What or whom are you most devoted to or most loyal to?
  • How is loyalty to Christ demonstrated, and how are you tempted to compromise?
  • Loyalty and devotion are tested when other loyalties and loves conflict with God’s Word and will and when family, friends, or job wants us to participate in or support un-Godliness.
  • Are we more concerned about pleasing Jesus or people?

 

Responsibility, Watchfulness, and Readiness (See Matthew 24:42–25:30, Luke 12:35-48, Philippians 1:9-11,
& 1 John 2:28)
  • What do you hear in these verses?
  • There will be accountability for whether or not our knowledge of Jesus and His Word produced fruit in our lives.
  • There is a call to live in a way that brings glory to Him.
  • To what extent are you ready for His coming?

 

Perspective and Motivation (See 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Titus 2:11-14, Hebrews 6:11-12, Hebrews 10:35-39,
Hebrews 12:28-29, Hebrews 13:14, & 1 John 3:2-3)
  • We are called to gratitude and worship for what we are receiving.
  • We are to cooperate in our own sanctification because of His goal for us.
  • We are called to ongoing faith and faithfulness.
  • We are to set our eyes on the right things.
  • As hard as things seem now, there is greater and better coming.
  • The difficulty of now is nothing compared to the difficulty of forever without God and the goodness of forever with God.
  • The now seems so real and big, but it is small and temporary.
  • There may be sadness now, but gladness is coming.

 



Themes From Revelation – Living Now Toward the Not Yet

November 13, 2018

2 Peter 3:8-18  Another theme from the Revelation is living now toward the not yet. One practical example of this sort of thing is investing for retirement, and another is training for Olympic competition. What is coming guides what is done now. Let’s see some aspects of this from Revelation.

 

What Now and Not Yet are Like

  • The ultimate not yet is unimaginably glorious for Jesus’ people and unimaginably bad for those not in Christ.
  • The in-between not yet will involve struggle, suffering, pressure, opposition, and temptation.
  • Not yet will become now, and we want to be ready.

 

The Perspective of Revelation

  • The pictures and promises of Revelation help us know how to see God’s work, Jesus, ourselves and situation, evil and suffering, the world and its values.
  • The pictures and promises of Revelation function as motivation.
  • Whether in times of crisis or not, there always are forces and influences opposed to God’s heart and purpose, as well as to His people and our faithfulness.
  • How we live in the now is vitally important, and the not yet is more important because this existence is temporary and the not yet is eternal.

 

The Call on Us Now – The call of Revelation is to be faithful, obedient over comers who share God’s values, perspective, and purpose. We are to be different and live different. We do this partly because of how God sees the right now and what He is doing toward the not yet. In contrast, here are some ways professing Christians live in the now that are not helpful:

  • Disengage from the now because the not yet is coming.
  • Become defensive instead of discerning when we face opposition, misunderstanding, or censure.
  • Become hardened toward the lost
  • Try to discover timetables and interpretations that not ours to have.

 

When we do well at living now toward the not yet:

  • We live in need grace, but hopefully, less and less of it.
  • We live by the Spirit and hopefully more and more so.
  • We display who Jesus is so a lost world can make informed choice about Him.
  • It is easier to ramp up our living toward the not yet in hard times if we already do it regularly.

 



Themes From Revelation – Justification, Sanctification, and Faithfulness

November 06, 2018
 
Titus 2:11-14 & Hebrews 10:19-24  Last week, we looked at the broad theme of suffering among Jesus’ people, and this week, we find another theme of the Revelation concerns what God expects of people, specifically Christians.

 

The Need for Justification (Be Made Right With God) – To me, justification is not stated as clearly in Revelation as other Scriptures, but it is implied more clearly in chapters 5 & 12. Elsewhere in the New Testament, we see it in the cross and hear it on the lips of Jesus, see it in Colossians 2:11-15, find it explained in Romans and Galatians, and see it quite clearly in Romans 5:1-2 & 6-9. Revelation presents a choice between being a condemned part of the world order or being a Kingdom citizen in Jesus. Of all the ways people might try to be right with God, it happens through Jesus.

 

The Expectation of Sanctification (Be Different and Live Different) – Revelation clearly presents Jesus’ expectation that Christians differently than the world. We see this in the seven letters, as well as the condemnation of the world’s wickedness and contrast of Christians with that lifestyle. Other New Testament Scriptures calling for sanctification in Christians include 1 Peter 1:13-21, 1 Peter 2:11, 2 Timothy 2:19, 1 John 3:6 & 9, and more. We may face pressure and temptation to live in un-Godly ways, but the call of the Bible is to reflect Christ in our lives.

 

The Call to Faithfulness (Remain in Jesus by Faith) – In the Revelation, the call to faithfulness is expressed as the call to not deny Christ and not worship the Beast or receive his mark. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the call to faithfulness is found in verses like Matthew 10:32-33, 2 Timothy 2:12, 1 Corinthians 15:2, and Colossians 1:22-23 among others. Even today, Christians face pressure to turn their backs on Jesus, deny Him, and recant their faith. They may face things that   diminish their faith in Him and loyalty to Him. This calls for a deep and true relationship with Jesus Christ in ongoing covenant faith and faithfulness.

 



Themes From Revelation – Suffering for Christ

October 30, 2018
 
2 Timothy 3:12 & Romans 12:14  Before we move on from the Revelation, I want to look at some broad themes found there. One of those themes is suffering for Christ. We are called to have our lives, thoughts, and values shaped by the character of Jesus, the Word of God, and the priority of the Kingdom, which will bring us into conflict with those who do not. Types of suffering include grief, disappointment, anguish of heart and mind, various types of loss, tragedy, victimization, and suffering related to following Jesus. Reasons for suffering include living in a fallen world, our own choices and others’ choices, God’s discipline and refining, and opposition and persecution for following Christ. The scope or intensity of suffering for Christ can vary. It can look like inconvenience as we can no longer do things we did before coming to Christ or cannot allow our children or grandchildren to participate in un-Godly things. It can look like sanction and loss of relationships as we miss opportunities or suffer distance from friends or family because we cannot participate in sin or  condone it. Suffering can look like outright opposition or persecution in verbal, physical, or other forms.

 

So, how does suffering relate to God’s nature and purpose? In ways, following God’s instructions prevents suffering, and in other ways, following those instructions may lead to suffering handed to us by others because they do not like how we live. Additionally, we know that God can use suffering in positive ways, and we know that, even for those who persecute us, God wants them to come to Jesus in faith. Let’s go further and make some observations about suffering for Christ from the Revelation:

  • Suffering for Christ and because of Him can be the product of Satan’s instigating work
  • Suffering for Christ fits within the redemptive plan and purpose of God
  • The world may oppose and persecute us to punish non-conformity or to try to force conformity to its ways.
  • We are called to face suffering for Christ well and walk through it faithfully.
  • Suffering opposition and persecution for Christ is part of allegiance to Him and citizenship in the Kingdom.
  • We can find encouragement and perspective in the person of Jesus and unfolding and future culmination of God’s plan.

 



Jesus Lord of All – And Coming Again

October 23, 2018
 
Revelation 22  How much of your thinking about God, church, Christian life, and this present existence is influenced by the idea of Jesus coming back? What might it mean for us that He is coming back, and what should it mean for us? We are…
 
Encouraged in Hope Because He is Coming Again (1-5) – In part, the content of our hope includes the healing, nourishment, refreshing of God’s life abundantly given; belonging to God and bearing His character; the full fellowship of God; and serving Him and reigning with Him. This comes from our holy and loving God in the work of our Savior and King, Jesus. So, as great as this existence can seem, it pales in comparison to what is coming. And, as much pressure and temptation as this world can apply to us, there is reason to overcome in Christ.  
 
Called to Readiness Because He is Coming Again (6-15) – The call throughout the Revelation is for us to be faithful, obedient overcomers, and the book provides us guidance to obey in being faithful to Jesus.  So, we are called to be ready in obedience, ready in Jesus’ cleansing, and ready in the company of the righteous. Notice, there is a distinction and there is reward involved.
 
Invited to Expectant Anticipation Because He is Coming Again (16-21) – We find a word of welcome to those who would share in the hope of Jesus and a word of welcoming Jesus back. Is our desire for His return? We find a word of warning, and we find a word of witness of Jesus promised return, desire for His return, and the grace of God as we wait.   Are you living in the hope, the readiness, and the anticipation of  Jesus’ return? Jesus’ lordship and return give us perspective on the world and its ways, on how to live here, and the call to be ready for His return.