A Legacy of Commitment

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. Isaiah 6:8 KJV

In a continuation of our week of a legacy of prayer we come to the prayer of commitment and a man named Reggie White. During his amazing, Reggie played first in Philadelphia and then with the Green Packers where he made the game ending sack against Brett Favre to win Superbowl XXXI in 1993. In 1998 he retired from football and went on to become an ordained minister. My wife and I were blessed to be able hear Reggie speak in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania in 2001, and the one thing I remember Reggie saying was, “When my kids look back, I hope they don’t just think about me as a football player. I want them to remember that I was a man of God.” Ironically, just three years later Reggie passed away from sleep-apnea, at the age of 43.

Just like Reggie White, we never know if the life we are living now may become the legacy that we leave behind. Isaiah was much like Reggie White. He was successful and had already been established as a respected Prophet to the king. But God had something far more controversial for Isaiah to do. When the king died, Isaiah had a vision where he saw the throne of God with all the angels worshipping, and Isaiah fell on his face in fear. Then he heard God’s voice asking, “Who will go?” In that moment Isaiah could have simply been silent, hoping someone besides him would raise his hand. Have you ever done that? Sadly, I confess that I have.

But real commitment meant leaving his comfortable and acceptable life and diving into the unknown. Isaiah could have let the risks outweigh the cost, but instead he said, “I will go!” He committed without knowing where he was going or even what he would be asked to do. He signed the blank check of his commitment and invited God to fill it in. We can be committed to things like fame and fortune, or we can spend piles of money trying to win people’s favor. What matters in the end is best summed up in a saying penned in the journal of missionary Jim Elliot not long before he was martyred. “Only one life, so soon it is past. Only what’s done for Christ will last!”

A Legacy of Praise

I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord. The Humble shall hear thereof and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together. Psalm 34:1-3 KJV

We won’t have read far into the Bible before we realize that our Sunday School hero; that giant killing boy named David, grew to be a man with plenty of moral failures. Yet in spite of his sins, weaknesses and mistakes, God tells us that David was, “A man after my own heart” Acts 13:22. What makes David so special? We could point to His courage as He faced the giant, His humility in the way He obediently continued taking care of sheep even after He had been chosen to be king or even His musical ability. Yet there are other people in the Bible who also had these characteristics, but what makes David unique is his legacy of praise. Praise is a part of our prayer life equally as important as intercession and without it we will just drift along between problems, wondering what crisis we will need to intercede for next. But if we like David, we begin to praise God when we get victory in battle, then God will also teach us to worship when we are being hunted down by people like the jealous King Saul. (See Psalm 52 and 63). And just as David worships when the ark is brought into Jerusalem, we ought to be praising in church. But David also worships after the death of his child who Bathsheba bore as a result of their adultery, and we he leaves us His heart-rending cry for forgiveness and renewal in Psalm 51.

Our real, honest to goodness legacy of praise is not just “Hip-Hip Hooray, I am so blessed!” when we are nicely dressed and singing in church. We hear David praise the Lord “At all times” even when those all times are hard times. Even in those times when we fail most miserably, we can turn to God in humble repentance and praise Him for His wonderful and undeserved mercies. In Psalm 118:24 David tell us that, “This is the day that the Lord hath made.” That means every one of our days is made by God. Our good days and our bad – successes and failures – our greatest celebrations and our deepest moment of grief all belong to God. But if we praise God at all those times, moment by moment and day by day we become more like the person most like God’s own heart – His Son Jesus Christ. And as His praise remains continually in our mouths, we leave behind for others a true legacy of praise.

I love the Mullett family’s rendering of “Though You Slay Me” and it gives us just a peek into their story and how the God who has kept them through it all is worthy of all our worship, our trust and our praise. I pray you will be blessed as you listen, and that God will help you with whatever you are facing today. He is always worthy of our praise!

The Legacy of Intercession

Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Genesis 18:25 ESV

We begin looking at prayer this week, with one of the most vital purposes of prayer: intercession. If you are interested in a deeper look at intercessory prayer, I highly recommend Andrew Murray’s book, “The Ministry of Intercession” It is interesting to me that until we encounter Abraham (the Father of our Faith) we hear very little about prayer in the Bible. Surely Enoch prayed, along with other good guys, like Noah and Abel, but only Abraham’s prayers are recorded in detail. But if you think that Abraham started out by praying super spiritual requests you will be greatly disappointed. One of his earliest prayers that we have is found in chapter 15 of Genesis where he begins by saying,

O Sovereign Lord, what will you give me since I am childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? Genesis 15:2

Then, even when God promises Abraham that despite his age, that he will not only have a son, but that God will give him the entire land of Canaan; what is his response?

O sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?" Genesis 15:8 ESV

Though these questions seem both a bit selfish as well as impertinent, God is not at all bothered by them. He loves Abraham’s prayers, and He is preparing to answer them one day in a spectacular fashion. Abraham’s prayers (and even better God’s response) give me hope as I grow in my own prayer life. After all, we don’t delight in listening to our children, only after they have graduated from college. We enjoy even their most immature conversations while they are toddling around our house, and we are still changing their diapers! Skipping ahead to chapter 17, we listen in again to Abraham praying a few years later, as now he is praying for someone besides himself.

And Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" Genesis 17:18 ESV

And then in the same way that friendships deepen as we become more deeply committed to one another, God continues to draw Abraham into a more intimate fellowship. So. just a couple of years later we come to Abraham, the intercessor in chapter 18. Here, he is no longer praying for himself, or even his family. This time, Abraham is asking for God’s mercy for the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and God patiently listens to his every word. Then Abraham asks –

"...will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Genesis 18:25b

What a question to ask God! It almost sounds like Abraham is making an accusation and yet God does not leap to His feet in anger. Instead, God gently guides Abraham’s prayers, step by step, towards greater and greater mercy. “Spare the city for fifty righteous.” evolves to thirty, twenty, ten and finally, only five. The biggest surprise for me is that eventually those who were spared were the family of Lot. These were not folks who I would have picked out as a particularly special loving group. No! They were complicated, messed up, far from perfect and a lot like us! So be encouraged today. God has given us a legacy of intercession that stretches all the way back to Abraham. Just as God cared enough to listen to Abraham pray for his own imperfect family, so God longs to hear us cry out for ours. He is eager to teach us, He is eager to listen, and He is waiting to answer us in spectacular fashion far beyond anything we could ever ask or think or even imagine!