April 2012

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! Proverbs 4:7 (NLT)

What is the best advice you have ever been given? Recently I heard an interview where that question was asked of a nationally known leader. It caught him off guard and gave him serious pause. After a long silence he said, “Gosh, that is a tough question…ah…I can…I can put maybe in the top five…in terms of something someone once told me that was like wow…ah…” Then he proceeded to mention the name of a person and tell a story about the outstanding advice he had been given.

It was such a great question that it got me thinking immediately about how I might answer it as I tuned out his answer. It was so intriguing that I grabbed a pad and pen and began to write my own top five list of the best advice I have ever been given. Over the course of the next quarter of an hour I ended up noodling an ever growing list of thirteen items. It was a very rewarding and revealing exercise. You might be similarly rewarded in seeing what would make your list.

Several things struck me about the process. It forced me to go to the file cabinet of my life and chronologically from a teenager on, thumb through all the file folders labeled with names of people who have greatly influenced me.

1. The best advice in our lives does not all come from sources we readily imagine. While some folders were much thicker than others because of the years I’ve known them and the sheer volume of our interactions I was surprised to find that not all of them were people with whom I had a close relationship. Some were people I did not even know personally. In fact I discovered that more than half of the great advice I was coming up with came from books I have read or messages I have heard, in person or by recording, from people I did not have a personal relationship at all or have never met. Most of their file folders were very thin, but in terms of impact, the few things I had filed in each of them warranted a red label and they were worn from being pulled so frequently.

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Leaving a Legacy

A legacy is a gift each of us has the opportunity to leave behind. It is typically thought of as anything of value that is handed down from one predecessor or ancestor to those who remain. There are many dimensions to a legacy both spiritual and natural.

The theme of legacy is interwoven throughout the Bible. The patriarchs were very conscious of the legacy that they would leave behind and sought to pass on the gift of God’s promises to their succeeding generations. Both Isaac and Jacob gathered their offspring to their side and prayed God’s blessing upon them, gave prophetic predictions and granted them their respective inheritances.

Jesus entire life and ministry was focused on leaving the greatest legacy ever granted, the gift of eternal life. The last supper, when He gathered His disciples the night before He died, is unquestionably the most poignant and powerful gifting of legacy every recorded.

Since legacy is meant to be something of enduring value, a spiritual legacy, which has the potential to be a blessing for all eternity, is of course the most valuable legacy anyone can leave behind. For followers of Jesus Christ, our spiritual legacy is salvation and resurrection life which we receive from Him, secured through His sinless life and death for all human kind.

Such a spiritual legacy is a very unique gift because it promises the continuation of our relationship with those we love beyond this life into eternity. It guarantees the blessed reunion in heaven with Christ one day of all who share that same life of faith in Him. What greater gift can anyone give than the assurance that they will be in heaven waiting for those they love? That their goodbye is not “goodbye forever” but simply a “goodbye until we meet again.”

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The biggest deterrent to sin

The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NIV)

The biggest deterrent to sin in the life of the believer is the love of God. Everyone sins – that is a fact of life. (1 John 1:8 & Romans 3:10-12, 23) And everyone has access to the forgiving grace of God through Jesus Christ His Son. (1 John 1:9) Unfortunately however, at times some who receive God’s forgiveness find it difficult to break free from sin’s grip upon their lives. Forced to continually go to God for mercy because of a besetting sin has them trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of guilt and shame. Having been caught in that downward spiral myself I can testify with so many others that only the love of God, His love for me and my love for Him, was powerful enough to break me free from the vortex of sin and keep me free from being pulled back in.
God’s merciful love for us is imbued with a transforming power to elicit from us a liberating love in return. There is a spiritual principle that the greater the debt of sin for which a person is forgiven the greater the potential to love God in return. Those who have been forgiven much, which really includes all of us, are like the grateful woman who crashed a dinner party to wash the feet of Jesus with her tears. Such gratitude for God’s love unleashes a reciprocal love for Him that triumphs over sin. (Luke 7:36-50)
John, often referred to as the apostle of love, wrote: “This is love not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 NIV) This verse reveals that it is the intention of God’s love to free us from sin. God is the creator and initiator of love. That is why John states emphatically that we can love God only because He first loved us. He goes on to say that our resultant love for Him is meant to naturally lead to us to saying no to sin because we want to please Him.
Obeying His commands and resisting sin is an indication that God’s love has truly found its place and been perfected within us. (1 John 2:3-5) That is why we are admonished elsewhere in the scriptures to “keep [ourselves] in the love of God.” (Jude 1:21) Doing so will also keep us from the deceitfulness of sin.
When an expert in Jewish law came to Jesus and asked Him “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus replied “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:35-38 NIV) Jesus was quoting here a well known Old Testament Scripture spoken by Moses to Israel. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) And He was also underscoring the preeminence of the very first of the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God . . . you shall have no other gods before Me.” (Deuteronomy 5:6-7)
True freedom from sin is ultimately rooted in wholeheartedly loving and worshipping the one true God. All sin and its bondage are ultimately rooted in forsaking the love and worship of the one true God in favor of loving and worshipping other gods. Those “other gods” typically are created things rather than the Creator. The other gods are essentially our self and our ideas, but also include other creatures and their ideas and every inanimate object on earth and in the heavens.
There are some very practical things we can do to unleash the love of God in our hearts that can enkindle our wholehearted love and worship of Him and break the bondages of sin in our lives. It begins by acknowledging that every sin we commit is idol worship and a breaking of the first and greatest commandment. Coming to grips with that reality, that every sin is an adulterous love affair with something or someone other than God, is both sobering and sorrowful. It is heartbreaking to realize that we have been spurning God’s gracious love by faithlessly lavishing our love on other gods. Asking God’s help in seeing it and then confessing our sin for what it really is, idol worship, enables us to cut off sin’s power over us at its root.
Here is a prayer you can use to transfer your affections from sinful idols to God.
Lord show me how I have put other things and people before you. . . how I have loved and worshiped creation rather than the creator. I confess that I have chosen sinful behavior and created things to worship rather than You. . . that I have bowed my heart, my eyes, my hands, my body, my mind and my very soul in worship of other gods. Please forgive me and turn my full attention and love toward the worship of You. Thank you for your amazing love and tender mercies. I choose to worship you as my Lord and have no other gods before me.”
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Who was Barabbas?

So Pilate, wanting to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them, but
he had Jesus whipped and handed over to be crucified. Mark 15:16

Who was Barabbas? All we know about him, with any historical accuracy, is the corroboration of all four Gospels in documenting his eleventh hour release from death row on the day Jesus was crucified. In piecing together the accounts we learn that Barabbas was a well known “notorious prisoner” who had been jailed for leading an insurrection against the Roman state and committing murder. That fateful day, while three crosses were being prepared as instruments of execution, he was sweating it out on death row with two other prisoners who happened to be condemned to death for thievery.

During the night, while Barabbas and the two thieves were tossing and turning, another prisoner had been arrested and in a rush to judgment was on trial in the early morning hours. No doubt, the commotion of a boisterous, gathering crowd, outside the prison, had already roused them from their fitful attempts at sleep and had become the focus of conjecture and rumor ridden conversation.

Who can imagine what went through Barabbas’s mind when he was shocked to hear the crowd begin shouting his name, “give us Barabbas.” And then moments later a ground swell of “crucify him, crucify him” was being chanted by the angry mob for the mystery prisoner. And just that quickly, Barabbas’ sentence was commuted by Governor Pilate, Jesus Christ was sentenced to death, and the cross prepared for Barabbas, became the cross of Christ.

In order to fully understand, Jesus’ crucifixion for the sins of the world, we must come to grips with the fact that the cross upon which he died was really meant for another. It was a cross prepared for a person who had been lawfully tried and found guilty of deeds deserving death.

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