Monday, May 30, 2011

 

Memorial Day by Edgar Guest

I love the poetry of Edgar Guest, and this poem in honor of Memorial Day seems rather appropriate today. Let me know what you think!

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day,
Is not a rose wreath, white and red,
In memory of the blood they shed;
It is to stand beside each mound,
Each couch of consecrated ground,
And pledge ourselves as warriors true
Unto the work they died to do.

Into God's valleys where they lie
At rest, beneath the open sky,
Triumphant now o'er every foe,
As living tributes let us go.
No wreath of rose or immortelles
Or spoken word or tolling bells
Will do to-day, unless we give
Our pledge that liberty shall live.

Our hearts must be the roses red
We place above our hero dead;
To-day beside their graves we must
Renew allegiance to their trust;
Must bare our heads and humbly say
We hold the Flag as dear as they,
And stand, as once they stood, to die
To keep the Stars and Stripes on high.

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day
Is not of speech or roses red,
But living, throbbing hearts instead,
That shall renew the pledge they sealed
With death upon the battlefield:
That freedom's flag shall bear no stain
And free men wear no tyrant's chain.

Thanks for reading! And thanks to all military who served or currently serve to protect our freedoms! May God bless you and your families.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

 

About Legacies: In honor of Dr. Jerry Falwell

I wrote the piece below in August 2009. That summer had been a summer of introspection and thought about life. By that time, two great influences in my life had gone to be with the Lord: My dad in August 2004, and Jerry Falwell in May 2007. These men formed and fashioned me in many ways, but this post is not all about them. In fact, this post is simply in their honor. You see, four years ago Dr. Falwell passed into eternity. I only had about 3 years to serve with him, but the things he taught me (many before I ever set foot on Liberty Mountain) still influence my life today. He was a man full of big dreams and a big love. As far as he was concerned, no one was beyond the reach of God's great gift of love and grace, no one was beyond Jesus. My dad was very similar. My dad loved on folks other people turned away. I didn't realize how much alike these two men were until I met Dr. Falwell at Liberty. At any rate, this weekend marks 4 years since Dr. Falwell left us, and I wanted to reprint this old note to remind us all of the importance of legacies. Thanks, Doc, for caring for us and leaving such a legacy! I hope we live up to it!

A little over a year ago, I wrote the post below after attending several key events in the lives of some important folks in my life. I want to reprint the article today for a very special reason. Today, August 11, would have been the 77th birthday of Dr. Jerry Falwell. He was a man of great influence and even greater dreams. His life and ministry cut a large path across this country and had an amazing effect on thousands (no, make that millions) of people. I used to listen to the Old Time Gospel Hour on the radio shortly after I became a Christian. I was even a Faith Partner in his ministry. I wanted to play football at Liberty, and although that never happened, I still felt as though Jerry Falwell was in some ways my pastor and teacher. I read his sermons, I joined his first Moral Majority, and I genuinely appreciated his life and influence on me as a young man trying to figure out what God wanted me to do.

I watched Jerry Falwell's ministry from afar until August 2004. That month two very important things happened in my life: My father passed away, and I moved to Lynchburg, VA to begin a great adventure teaching at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Falwell became a larger than life part of my adventure. I only had the privilege to meet the man face-to-face a few times, but each time he remembered me and details of my life. He revealed such a genuine concern for me and my family that I began to think of him (to some degree, at least) as my second father. I remember once as he walked through the seminary offices, I could hear his booming voice as he talked to folks. As he passed my office, I heard him say, "Wait, I need to stop by and say hello to Leo." He not only remembered my name, he wanted to come into my office to check on me. His leadership and his kindness still inspire me. Oh that every pastor or leader could be a little bit like Jerry Falwell!

I hope that I live up to his legacy and expectations. I miss him, and I wish he had remained with us. At any rate, here are my thoughts on legacy, presented on this day in honor of a man who profoundly influenced my life: Dr. Jerry Falwell.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth.

Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.

Recently I have experienced several occasions that caused me to think seriously about the idea of legacy. On May 9, 2009 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, 2009, I paused to remember the life of Dr. Jerry Falwell who passed away two years ago. May 17, 2009 saw the retirement of Dr. A. Ray Newcomb from 33 years of being a pastor at First Baptist Church, Millington, TN. Then May 21, 2009 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 recently have begun their legacy. Many of them left homes 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 have 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 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 Billy Graham, 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 recently, 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), 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 to all of the men and women who left their footprints in our hearts and lives!

Thank you, dear reader, for reading!

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

 

A Love Louder than Fear, 1 John 4:16b-21, Theology Matters Series

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline for our meetings on May 1-8, 2011. A while back we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson looks at 1 John 4:16b-21 and discusses the idea that Christians need to live in and live out the love of God, a love that is louder than fear. This love manifests itself in three aspects: it is confident, it is mature, and it is honest. As we grow in and learn to live out of this love, Christians will find themselves loving God and others in the way that Jesus did. In fact, they will find that their relationships may be less characterized by fear and more characterized by the presence and love of God. When we love others, we give a living example of the love Jesus showed in the cross. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

A Love Louder than Fear
1 John 4:16b-21
Theology Matters Series

Introduction
When I was a kid, I had a few fears
I was afraid of the dark
I was afraid of death
I was even afraid of not being perfect

People all across this city are afraid
They struggle with fear of acceptance
Fear of strangers
Fear of being rejected
Fear of being alone

Many of you probably suffer from similar fears

Recently, the singer Pink made a comment: “Love is louder than fear”
She was speaking of the fear that some in the homosexual community feel
She was speaking out against the actions of bullies

In our passage today, John offers a continuation of his message about God’s love for us
He describes for us a love that will cast out fear, a love that will outgrow and work through fear and find itself in a place of peace

John describes a love that is louder than fear, and that love exhibits three characteristics. It is:
Mature
Confident
Honest

Love that is louder than fear is found only in Jesus Christ

1. This Love is Mature


1 John 4:16b-17a—John reminds his readers that God is love; abiding in that love is abiding in God; and this abiding is revealed in a process of growth

“Abiding” means to take up residence, to camp, to dwell in—it means to take up habitat and to live there—it is a process and an ongoing action

As we stated regarding 1 John 4:8, the statement that “God is love” is a reference to God’s character

God’s character is revealed in God’s acts
God loved us (and the world) by giving Jesus as our atoning sacrifice
God’s love is expressed in what he gives

The idea is that a Christ follower is changed by the love of God and begins to live a life defined by that love (cf. Gal. 2:20)—Love grows and matures

If God’s love and God’s Spirit dwell in us, then how we live our lives should exhibit their presence

God’s love changes things, and that is the love that John wants to see “perfected” in us

The word “perfected” in verse 17 carries the idea of “mature” or “complete”
John is not necessarily referring to the idea of “flawlessness”
Certainly God’s love is flawless/perfect
But the love that God works in and through us progresses and grows

John indicates here that love must grow in us
As we abide in God and his love, his love works in and through us
As we grow in our relationship with God, our ability to love should grow as well

This kind of growth and maturity takes dedication (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Peter 3:11, 17-18)
Think of a musician or an athlete
Practice makes perfect—the more we do something, the more we grow in our ability to do it

We must practice love if we hope to be mature in love
This means we must spend time with the objects of our love
We must spend time loving God
We must spend time loving others
What does this look like?

Love that is louder than fear is mature—it takes time to grow
It matures/grows in us as we practice it
It matures/grows us as we live in it

2. This Love is Confident

1 John 4:17b-19—speaks of the confidence that we can have in our relationship with Jesus Christ and the assurance that we are children of God (3:1) as we experience change in our hearts and lives through God abiding and living within us (4:16). (Ray Bentley)

In this passage John introduces two new words—fear and punishment/torment
Remember, these words are written to believers
John is trying to convey some message to those of us who are Christ followers

The idea of “fear” and “torment” here speaks of an eschatological event—the day of judgment—but the words have specific meanings
Matthew 25:46 mentions this torment, punishment, or correction as the state of unbelievers eternally
The words used here are typically related to slaves and servants—these are people who live in fear of torment or punishment
Sons and daughters do not relate to their Father in that way—they have reverence or respect for their parents, and they experience discipline but not torment
John is saying that as children of God we have no reason to fear as slaves fear
Because of God’s love we can have confidence

“Confidence” here means “boldness” or “freedom of speech”

When we live in fear, we are not mature in love and we lose confidence

Many Christians live in fear of being known or of being exposed
a. We fear being transparent or vulnerable because we think that no one can accept us as we “really” are
b. Some folks live in fear because of something in their past that haunts them, or something in their present that upsets them, or something in their future by which they feel threatened (Warren Wiersbe)
c. When we live in that fear, we are not walking in God’s love—we are not maturing in love

As we grow/mature in love, we should find fear losing ground
Think of the mother of a sick child—she is not afraid of the sickness, her love simply drives her to one end—the care and cure of her child

As we grow in God’s love, we quickly realize that this love is secure and safe
If God loved us when we were his enemies (Romans 5:6-10), then how more will he love us now that we are his children?
God loves us as we are and accepts us—that is the source of our confidence
Romans 8:36-39—Nothing separates us from God’s love

As we are connected to the Light of Life, that Life drives out our fear

The story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer from the movie on his life (Bruce Goettsche)

Bonhoeffer tries to pray for a fellow inmate who claims that he does not believe in God. Bonhoeffer encourages him to place his hands on the cell wall as he is doing, and then Bonhoeffer prays, ""Lord, it's dark in me; in you is day. I am alone, but you will stay. I am afraid; you never cease. I am at war; in you is peace." The man in the other cell slowly places his hands on the wall. Bonhoeffer's confidence flowed from God's light of love in his horrible situation, and that confidence produced a sense of peace in his fellow inmate. This is the love to which we are called! Does our love create confidence and peace in others?

John 3:16-21

God loves us more than we can imagine
He loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us
He loves as he loves Jesus
That love is the love he wants in us

In his Gospel account (John 3:16-21), John reminds us that God loves even those who reject him—in these verses he reminds us that judgment comes by rejecting God’s Light/Love

When we choose to hide our works, we are living in the darkness
When we hide our deeds for fear of exposure, we are not walking in the light. When we bring our deeds to the light, Satan is disarmed.

When we bring our deeds to the light, we are learning to bask in God’s love, and that requires effort on our part

It requires transparency and honesty
"There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are." Brennan Manning
“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable.” Mother Teresa

Love that is louder than fear is confident before God and others

A Quote from Warren Wiersbe

“The perfecting of God’s love in our lives is usually a matter of several stages. When we were lost, we lived in fear and knew nothing of God’s love. After we trusted Christ, we found a perplexing mixture of both fear and love in our hearts. But as we grew in fellowship with the Father, gradually the fear vanished and our hearts were controlled by his love alone. . . . A growing confidence in the presence of God is one of the first evidences that our love for God is maturing.” Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 522

3. This Love is Honest

1 John 4:20-21—Here John reminds his readers that God’s love for us is reflected through our love for others. As we grow in love, our confidence leads us to live God’s love towards others, but to do that requires us to be honest

“If someone says”—John uses this phrase some seven times in his letter to warn his readers against the danger of pretending to be something that they are not

Fear and pretense often go together
Think of Adam and Eve
No sooner had they sinned than they hid
They refused to even take responsibility for their own acts

A Christian who lacks confidence before God will lack confidence with God’s people (W. Wiersbe)

When our hearts are confident before God, we do not need to pretend

When we lack that confidence we tend to worry—”What will they think if they knew?”

God’s love produces the confidence to be honest and transparent
We do not need to pretend at spirituality
We know that God accepts us and his children should too
We can be ourselves, warts and all, because of God’s love

When we pretend to be what we aren’t, we become liars
Who is the father of lies?
Satan

Remember Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5)

Spiritual honesty can bring peace and power to the one who practices it
Because he lives in open honesty with the Father, he can live honestly with other people

But this transparency and honesty comes at a risk, doesn’t it?

We risk exposure, we risk being vulnerable, we risk rejection by those who don’t “get us”

But truth and love go together—you really can’t have one without the other

If we are going to be the people of God, then we must love others (John says so)
And loving others means both accepting them and being honest with them
We must tell the truth in love (Ephesians 4:14-16)

As Christians, we cannot grow up or mature in Christ if we do not love each other
And we cannot truly love each other if we do not speak honestly

Many of us avoid love because we are afraid
Look at the example of Christ--he loved others and was rejected, mistreated, falsely accused, and even killed for it--Yet Jesus loved anyway

Our goal is to be like Christ in this world (1 John 4:17)
We must love each other as he loved

Love that is louder than fear is honest

Conclusion

As “children of God” we are being transformed into his image (the image of Christ), becoming more like him in our thoughts, actions, and love for other people, especially other believers

Love sums up Christ’s teaching. The standard of love to which we are called is literally not of this world. The love that comes from God is sacrificial and manifests itself in action on behalf of others. It meets the needs of others in a variety of ways. As Christians genuinely exhibit this level of love, they in some ways incarnate the very character of God and reveal him to the world

This sacrificial love requires us to be honest before God and others, and it requires us to find ways to get rid of fear

We must sacrifice our desire to be respected or to be exalted and be willing to humble ourselves to serve

This humility will also result in transparency and honesty

How do we do this?

Some ideas for this week:

1. Be honest about your fears—be honest to yourself and to God. If possible, be honest and accountable with another Christian. What is hindering you from growing in confidence in God’s love? What will you do to rid yourself of it?
Consider fear a spiritual problem—develop your walk with God with an eye toward growing in confidence with what he has accomplished. Pray and spend time with him until fear begins to abate

2. Memorize verses that deal with fear and that deal with love: Psalm 23, Isaiah 43:5, John 3, 1 John 4. Take time this week to commit some verses to memory that deal with your area of need. Spend 10 minutes a day hiding God’s Word in your heart

3. Find ways to practice love so that love may grow in you. Make some time to show sacrificial love this week—remember that sometimes the people who cause the most fear in you are also afraid. Love them. Show forgiveness to those who have wronged you. Love those who hate you. Encourage someone who is discouraged. Listen with love when a brother or sister shares honestly and transparently with you. Accept them and pray with and for them.

Love that is louder than fear is only found in Jesus Christ and should be found in his followers

Will we risk it?


Thanks for reading!

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