Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Living a Legacy

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John Wycliffe’s life marked the beginning of an era. It was through the efforts of this dedicated Christian scholar, preacher and Bible translator that the Reformation got its start. That’s why he’s often called, “The Morningstar of the Reformation.”

Wycliffe’s life’s work was translating both the Old and New Testaments into the English language—a project so unpopular it led to his martyrdom at the hands of the Catholic Church. Until Wycliffe’s heroic work, the Scriptures were chained to ornate pulpits and written in Latin (a language than only the clergy could read). While threats were being hurled against him for his defiance, Wycliffe persevered. However, the stalwart saint was killed in 1384 before the translation was complete. Fortunately, his friend John Purvey finished what Wycliffe began. Purvey is considered responsible for the version of the “Wycliffe” Bible we have today.

John Wycliffe left quite an impression on the Church: 43 years after his death, officials dug up his body, burned his remains, and threw the ashes into the River Swift. Still, they couldn’t get rid of him. Wycliffe's teachings, though suppressed, continued to spread. As a later chronicler observed, “Thus the brook hath conveyed his ashes into Avon; Avon into Severn; Severn into the narrow seas; and they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wycliffe are the emblem of his doctrine which now is dispersed the world over.”[1]

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The influence of Wycliffe doesn’t end there. Sometime after his death, one of his Bibles was discovered and on the flyleaf were scribbled these words in his handwriting: “This Bible is translated and shall make possible a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”[2]

Little did Wycliffe realize that almost 500 years later his words would be lifted from his Bible and immortalized by President Abraham Lincoln in his famous “Gettysburg Address.”

Wycliffe and so many other giants of the faith made an impact because they understood the importance of living a legacy. You don’t need a platform like John Wycliffe to make your mark on this world. Everyone one of us is living the legacy that we will leave behind. The legacy that you leave tomorrow is determined in by the life you live today.

In 1 Chronicles 22 we find that as King David neared the end of his life, there was still one dream that remained unfulfilled. Most of all, David wanted to build a house for God befitting of His glory. Of course, David knew that God would not permit him to do this. Rather than giving up, David determined that if he couldn’t build a temple for God then He would do everything in his power to help someone else do it. David spent his last years collecting the supplies to build the Temple, so that when his son, Solomon, took the reins of power he could begin building immediately.   

“11 Now, my son, the Lord be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the Lord your God, as he has spoken concerning you. 12 Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God. 13 Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the Lord commanded Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Fear not; do not be dismayed. 14 With great pains I have provided for the house of the Lord 100,000 talents of gold, a million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond weighing, for there is so much of it; timber and stone, too, I have provided. To these you must add. 15 You have an abundance of workmen: stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and all kinds of craftsmen without number, skilled in working 16 gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Arise and work! The Lord be with you!”   (1 Chron. 22:11-16)

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Notice the hopeful tone in David’s charge to Solomon. It wasn’t God’s will for David to build the Temple. Instead of becoming bitter and disillusioned, David looked ahead and saw that God wanted to do more through his son. David didn’t sulk and pout over what God wouldn’t let Him do, but he took the opportunity to be a blessing and lay the groundwork for the future work that God would do.
Every believer should dream beyond the span of his/her life. What is it that you’d like to see done for the glory of God?  Like Wycliffe or David, you may not live to see it, but you can determine to help the next generation achieve what you could not. How do we do this? We give sacrificially.  We pour our lives into younger people through discipleship. We communicate the vision God has given us to others and include them in it. -DM

[1] Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, eds. 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2000), 211-213.  
[2] Charles R. Swindoll, David: A Man of Passion & Destiny (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 257.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Encouragement Goes A Long Way

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In one of his books, Rich DeVos told a story about a staying in a vacation cottage during the summer. During his retreat, DeVos noticed the garbage collector making his rounds. This man showed up precisely at 6:30 AM once a week, moving from cottage to cottage carefully so as not to awaken people. The man was graceful in how he stashed the garbage in his vehicle, and he kept the neighborhood tidy. One morning, DeVos went out and told him, “You’re doing a great job. I came out to tell you that I really appreciate your dedication.” Devos said that the garbage man teared up and replied that in twelve years of hauling garbage, no one had ever said a kind word to him, including his boss.[1]

Who would have thought one kind word could have had such an impact? We live in a cruel world where people are more apt to criticize or complain than compliment. Encouragement is like oxygen for the human spirit and you might be carrying someone’s next breath. Maybe that’s why Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”

The other day I discovered that the biblical word for encouragement is parakalein, which comes from two Greek terms: para, meaning “alongside of” and kaleo, meaning “to call.” Encouragement carries the thought of someone coming along side of us when we are down and defeated and calling them to get back up again. If you study encouragement in the Bible, you’ll soon discover the theme runs from one end to the other.

The Angel of the Lord comforted Hagar in the wilderness (Gen. 21:17-19). Joshua’s spine was stiffened to be the leader of God’s people after Moses’ death (Josh. 1:7). When David’s popularity had plummeted, it is said that he “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Sam. 30:6). In the crucible of Gethsemane, Jesus was encouraged by an angel to proceed to the Cross (Luke 22:43). Paul’s missionary journeys would have been much more difficult were it not for the constant encouragement of Barnabas (Acts 11:22-26). Moreover, all believers are called to the ministry of encouragement, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11).

Encouragement is like a pebble thrown into a pond. While there is always an immediate impact, the ripples keep going indefinitely. Paul alluded to this in 1 Cor. 1:3-4, “God comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (MSG)

When you have been encouraged, your first impulse is to encourage someone else, because encouragement is infectious. The person you encourage will remember it and likewise pass it on to someone else. So, do you know of someone in need of financial encouragement? Send them a little gift. Maybe you know someone who is sick or grieving, why not call them now! Can you think of someone who does a thankless job? Seek them out and lift them up! Are you on social media? Then use it as a way to build people up with Scripture, prayers and positivity. 

John Maxwell says, “God’s love for us gives us the reason to encourage others. God’s love in us gives us the ability to encourage others and God’s love through us gives us the way to encourage others.”[2]  -DM

[1] Rich DeVos, Hope from My Heart (Nashville, TN: J Countryman, 2000), 58-59.
[2] John Maxwell, Encouragement Changes Everything (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008), 11. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Angels Come to Carry Me Home

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In his book on Angels, Billy Graham wrote about when his maternal grandmother passed away. “Just before she died, grandmother sat up in bed and almost laughingly said, ‘I see Jesus. He has His arms outstretched toward me. I see Ben (her husband who had died some years earlier) and I see the angels.’ She then slumped over, absent from the body, but present with the Lord.”[1]

Pastor Paul Enns wrote about what his brother said on his deathbed, “’Who are all those people?’ Only my sister, his doctor and myself were present in the room, but he kept commenting that he saw the room filled with unseen figures. I realized the reality: Angels had come to escort him home.”[2]

Finally, Robert Morgan reported that he was once called to the hospital room of a 95-year-old church member, Ms. Agnes Frazier, who was taking her last breaths. “When I entered the room, she was almost too weak to look up at me. Her words were indistinct at times, but soon it became clear what she was trying to tell me. She explained, ‘These two men dressed in white are standing at the foot of bed. What should I say them?’ I could not see anyone, but I told her, ‘Tell them you belong to Jesus.’ That seemed to satisfy her. Shortly after, she fell asleep in Christ and those two angels, I believe ushered her to heaven.”[3]   

Among the duties of the angels is the happy privilege of ferrying us to heaven when we die. In Jesus’ account of the rich man and Lazarus He remarked, “the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side” (Luke 16:22). By the way, the term “Abraham’s bosom” or “Abraham’s side” was a Jewish expression which was synonymous with heaven.  

When our souls go to be with the Lord at the moment of death, the angels pass through an incredible stretch of atmosphere between heaven and earth. Angels escort believers into the presence of God, so we won’t have to make the journey alone. Notice also in the passage from Luke 16:22 that angels is plural. Certainly, one angel could do the job, but the Lord sent at least two, which carries the idea that saints are taken home with honor!

Larry Libby in Somewhere Angels added, “God does not want us to fear death, nor does he want us to fear going to a new place all alone. God says to us, ‘Just as soon as its time for you to leave the Earth, I will send someone to guide you to your heavenly home. You won’t be alone. You won’t be afraid. You won’t have to find your own way. The angel I will send knows the way home very well.’ God wants you home so much He’ll send His own angelic escort to meet you, and don’t be surprised if that angel is wearing a big smile.”[4]


[1] Billy Graham, Angels (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1975), 152.
[2] Paul P. Enns, Heaven Revealed (Chicago: Moody, 2011), 41.
[3] Robert J. Morgan, The Angel Answer Book (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015), 127-128.
[4] Larry Libby, Somewhere Angels (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1994), 21.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Saved from the Bell

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During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound. The soldier’s fiancĂ©e had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell’s heart was moved and he said, “Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!”[1]

That story gives us a picture of a biblical concept related to salvation known as reconciliation. In essence, reconciliation has to do with the removal of hostility between two warring parties. Reconciliation is the process of going from enmity to peace, or to borrow an architectural analogy: a reconciler seeks to build a bridge between estranged parties rather than a wall.

In the Gospel message, Christ is the mediator of reconciliation between holy God and sinful man. According to Isaiah 59:2 it is our sin which disrupts our relationship with God, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” However, God took the initiative to reach out to sinners through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ. Christ removes the hostility between God and man by receiving the judgment due to man on the Cross. From God’s standpoint, the chasm which separates sinful man from Him has been bridged by the Cross of Christ.

Consider just a few scriptures which teach this doctrine:

Romans 5:10 says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

2 Cor. 5:19 adds, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

When we respond to the Gospel by repenting of our sin and trusting in Christ, the broken relationship with God is healed. C.S. Lewis described it this way, “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who need improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms and stop fighting against God.”[2]     
According to the Bible, reconciliation is not just something we receive, but it is something we do. After we’ve made peace with God, we have the duty and delight of being God’s ambassadors and participating in what Paul calls, “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:20). An ambassador is someone who represents a king, president or government to a foreign country. Warren Wiersbe says, “As ambassadors of Christ, we represent God’s kingdom to our world which is at war with Him. It is our task to spread the Good News—that God has handed the world an olive branch, a peace treaty, in the person of Jesus Christ. We are to inform people they don’t have to be at war with God, because He has turned His face towards us.”[3]

That’s why Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9) and why Paul told us to put on “the Gospel shoes of peace” (Eph. 6:15). As Christ’s ambassadors we declare God’s message of peace to a hostile world. -DM

[1] Lou Nichols, Hebrews: Patterns for Living (2004), 41.
[2] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: Harper One, 1952), 56.
[3] Warren Wiersbe, Key Words for the Christian Life (Lincoln, NE: Back to the Bible, 1982), 80.