Friday, May 22, 2009
Some Thoughts on Legacy
Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.
In the past two weeks I have experienced several occasions that caused me to think seriously about the idea of legacy. On May 9 I attended Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary's graduation, in which I watched several students and good friends walk across the stage to receive their degrees and launch into their ministries. Then, on May 15, I paused to remember the life of Dr. Jerry Falwell who passed away two years ago. May 17 saw the retirement of Dr. A. Ray Newcomb from 33 years of being a pastor at First Baptist Church, Millington, TN. Then May 21 witnessed the graduation of my nephew, Ethan Percer. All of these events reminded me of beginnings and endings, but more importantly they reminded me of the impact a legacy can have on people. In the next few paragraphs I'll try to explain.
I'm not sure how much we think of the impact of our lives. As I watched the high school students graduate with Ethan and the seminary students walk the stage in VA, I couldn't help but think about what I may hear about these people in the future. Some of them have already made an impact, some of them have a future impact to make. Most of them have no idea what the end of their lives will be, they only have dreams and hopes and (perhaps) plans. I remember holding my nephew shortly after he was born. Ethan seemed so tiny to be the first grandchild born to my parents, and as I held him in my arms, I prayed that God would grow him into a warrior, a man of God who is willing to help others and serve God no matter the risk. I had forgotten that prayer, to be honest, until one day I heard a story about my nephew tutoring other students in school and going out of his way to help others when it wasn't necessarily a popular thing to do. He has laid a foundation for a legacy that will not fade. I received an e-mail from his principal that said, "I would be proud if all of my students were like Ethan." Ethan is building a legacy.
Some of the seminary students who walked across the stage two weeks ago have begun their legacy. Many of them left home and nice jobs to pursue a degree at the seminary. They said no to "success" as the world measures it so that they would have the opportunity to labor for God. Some will labor in obscurity, some will never have "the largest Sunday School in America," some will never make the "big money," or write the most impressive "how to" book for other pastors. I know their lives, their hearts, and I know that their legacy will be greater than any can imagine. Does anyone remember "James the Less"? He was one of the twelve chosen by Jesus, but even church history and tradition has trouble determining who he was. Yet, he was one of the twelve, one of the original disciples, one of the eyewitnesses to Jesus' life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Not as famous as James the son of Zebedee, this James nonetheless left enough of an imprint on history to be regarded as one of those individuals who "turned the world upside down" with his life and preaching. We no doubt graduated a lot of these individuals, folks we may have a hard time identifying who will nonetheless make a great impression on many they will bring to Christ or love in God's name. "Less" may describe the knowledge of them, but it will not define their impact on those to whom they minister. I bet there were people in the first century who didn't think of James as "the Less" because of what God did through him. Nonetheless, James built a legacy, and like him, many of these graduating seminary students are building a legacy.
That brings me to two pastors--one gone and another freshly retired. Dr. Jerry Falwell and Dr. Ray Newcomb may have taken decidedly different paths to ministry, but they have something in common--their lives and ministries encouraged and affected many who now try to follow in their footsteps. Both men gave multiple decades to one congregation (Dr. Falwell served at Thomas Road for over 50 years, Dr. Newcomb at First Baptist for over 30 years), and the dreams and plans they received from God have inspired many to pursue the purposes of God for the love of Christ. Both men played a role in helping me grow as a new Christian, in helping me understand the concept of "call," and in helping me define the ministry to which God appointed me. I do not know where I would be without the legacies of these two men. On Sunday, we had a celebration of the ministry of Bro. Ray. During the singing of "Thank You," the minister of music asked all of us who had become Christ followers under Bro. Ray's ministry to come forward and stand by the stage. It seemed like over half of the crowd came forward to testify that God used this man's life and ministry to bring them to Jesus! There were doctors, lawyers, postal employees, politicians, teachers, and even one seminary professor. I was fine until then, but that scene brought tears to my eyes. Bro. Ray was getting to see his impact in a very visible form. Here were dozens, even hundreds of people whose lives will never be the same simply because he obeyed God to serve at First Baptist Millington. That number doesn't even count the lives that have been touched by those individuals as they went out to emulate their pastor. Bro. Ray and Dr. Falwell built great legacies.
Well, I've rambled a bit. I want to close with one more legacy to bring this full circle. As I watched my nephew graduate and as I participated in the celebration of my pastor's life and ministry, I couldn't help but think of one person who would have been so proud of both of them--my father. My dad, Bobbie Percer, passed away in August 2004. I have no doubt he would have loved this week--watching people honor his pastor and his grandson--oh, how proud he would have been. But my father's legacy is bigger than his joy at the accomplishments of others. You see, my dad left quite an impression. When my father passed away, my family and I drove to Millington from Waco, TX for the funeral. On Friday night before the funeral on Saturday, we had the traditional "viewing" when people would come to give their condolences to the family. I stood there in the line, greeting people in a line that stretched so far outside of the funeral home that the people were literally standing in the parking lot. I met folks I did not know, and they told me things I had not heard. One fellow told me how he came to Christ because my dad gave him shoes and a ride to church. This fellow's family was embarrassed to go to church because they did not have proper clothing. My dad not only clothed them, he gave them a ride to church. Another young man told me that he never would have graduated college if my father hadn't helped pay for his education. A young woman (with several children) told me of how my dad had helped her family and been instrumental in leading her husband and several children to the Lord. A line of nearly 1000 people marched through that funeral home and praised the life of this man, my father, in ways I could not even imagine. My dad was a great man. No, you'll never hear his name mentioned with luminaries like Jerry Falwell or Jack Kemp, but man what a large footprint this one man left in a small town in west Tennessee. Lives were changed (including those in his family), and eternities were determined. He did not even recognize all that he had accomplished, but he continued to love and to serve others because he loved a great God. His legacy is intact because he followed the example of his Lord. Bobbie Percer was a hero to many, and he is a hero to me. If I can have half the influence on others that my father had, I'll be a happy man. Bobbie Percer left a legacy and a good name.
I watched all of these scenarios open before me in the last two weeks, and it made me a bit introspective. What kind of legacy am I leaving? Where will my footprints lead others if they follow me? Who would attend a celebration of my life and what would they say? Would my love for Christ be obvious? Would my love for others be mentioned? God has blessed me to walk with giants (and some giants in training too), and I have to admit that I am often overwhelmed by their collective witness. I am reminded of a conversation I had with Dr. William L. Lane. I admitted to him that I didn't think I could live up to his example of a godly life and scholarship, and he said to me, "Never covet another person's gift, and never despise your own." He went on to remind me that God had not called me to be identical to Dr. Lane or to anyone else. God had called me to use my unique gifts and abilities for his glory. I do not have to live up to the stories of these giants, I simply need to live the legacy God has given me. No matter how obscure or unrecognized or inconsequential a life may seem, if it is lived for God it will have a legacy. What kind of legacy are we leaving the next generation?
Thanks for reading!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Others May, You Cannot
"If God has called you to be really like Jesus he will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways he will seem to let other people do things he will not let you do.
"Other Christians and ministers, who seem very religious and useful, may push themselves, pull wires and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it, and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.
"Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence of Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.
"The Lord may let others be honored and put forward and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants to produce some choice fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get all the credit for it, but make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious he may let others get credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.
"The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings or for wasting time, which other Christians never feel distressed over. So make up your mind that God is sovereign and can do what He likes with His own. He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in his dealing with you, but if you absolutely sell out to be His servant, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow on you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.
"Settle it forever, then, that you deal directly with the Holy Spirit and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hands, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to do with others. Now, when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven."
Thanks for reading!
Sunday, May 03, 2009
A Repeat: "You Will Go Free" by Tonio K
For those of you who don't know Tonio K, all I can really offer is the following. I was an assistant manager at a Christian bookstore in Louisville, KY when I discovered this interesting and slightly different artist. He recorded two albums (that I know of) on the What? record label (distributed by Word music) and then he disappeared as mysteriously as he had appeared. For more on Tonio K. visit this site--
"You Will Go Free"
by Tonio K.
You've been a prisoner
Been a prisoner all your life
Held captive in an alien world
Where they hold your need for love to your throat like a knife
And they make you jump
Yeah, they make you do tricks
They take what started off such an innocent heart
And they break it and break it and break it
Until it almost can't be fixed
Well I don't know when
And I don't know how
I don't know how long it's gonna take
I don't know how hard it will be
But I know
You will go free
You can call it the devil
Call it the big lie
Call it a fallen world
Whatever it is, it ruins almost everything we try
It's the sins of the fathes
It's the choices we make
It's people screaming without making a sound
From prison cells in paradise
Where we're chained to our mistakes
And I don't know when
And I don't know how
I don't know how much it's gonna cost you
But I know
You will go free
You can't see your jailer
You can't see the bars
You can't turn your head around fast enough
But it's everywhere you are
It's all around you
And everywhere you walk this prison yard surrounds you
But in the midst of all this darkness
Yeah in the middle of this night
I see truth cut through the curtain like a laser
Like a pure and holy light
And I know I can't touch you now
And I don't want to speak too soon
But when we get sprung
From out of these cages, baby
God knows what we might do
But I don't know when
And I don't know how
I don't know if you'll be leaving alone
Or if you'll be leaving with me
But I know
You will go free
Copyright 1986 N.Y.M. ASCAP/Bibo Music ASCAP
Thanks for reading!