Thursday, March 15, 2018

Pay Attention to the All Important "BUT"

Psalm 130:4; 1 Corinthians 15:20; Ephesians 2:4 and more

Last night in my sermon for our midweek Lenten service, I said to the congregation, “There is a really big “but” (B U T) in this Psalm.  That of course drew some laughter.  Everyone was chuckling at what they saw as a play on words.  Someone even suggested that this might make a great title for a book – “The ‘Buts” of the Bible.  All kidding aside though, I was serious.  The little word “but” can often be one of the most important words in many texts… one worth paying attention to.

Now I know that in life, the use of the word “but” often means that bad news is coming.  People start out saying nice things about us.  Then they say “but” and we know the bad news is coming. “We have really enjoyed having you work here for 20 years BUT we are ending your position.”  “Honey, I know we have been great kids, a wonderful family, BUT I don’t love you anymore.  I want a divorce.”  “Well the tests all turned out well.  You don’t have a thyroid problem.  BUT we found something else.  You have cancer.”  You can probably add your own “but” story.  In life the word “but” often means someone is about to tell you something unpleasant… something you probably won’t enjoy hearing. 

With God it’s just the opposite.  99%  of the time the use of the word “but” in Scripture that good news is about to come.  Take the text I preached on last night – Psalm 130.  In verse 2 the Psalmist writes, “If You, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand?”  That is so true.  If God is keeping a record of our failings.  If we are to be judged on that record – on the things we have thought, said or done – we are in trouble.  We are sunk.  We might as well give up now – because that list is a long one for each of us.  Thank God the Psalmist doesn’t stop there.  He has good news for us.  There is a big “but” in this text.  “If You, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand? BUT there is forgiveness with You.  Therefore You are feared.”  What a relief!  What a joy!  God forgives.  “As far as the east is from the west so far does He remove our transgressions from us.”  “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 

Or there is Ephesians 2.  The news at the beginning is all bad.  Paul is not glossing over our sinful condition. “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins…”  We were already dead.  The battle has been lost.  What hope is there?  Then comes verse 4 and another big “but.”  “BUT God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

One of my favorite “buts” in the Bible is in 1 Corinthians 15.  Once again, Paul starts out with a gloomy assessment of our predicament because of sin.  He describes exactly what it would mean for you and me if Easter didn’t happen.  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.   Once again, on our own, without Easter, because of our sin – we would be sunk!  Then comes the “but” in verse 20.  BUT in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.   Easter did happen.  Christ has been raised!  Praise God.
That little word “but” is so very important.  In that little word, in each of these verses, is summed up the whole meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection.  Jesus – his birth, his life, his sacrifices for our sins, His Easter victory over the grave is God’s “But” to sin and death.  

My point is this. There are times when guilt weighs down… when fear rules our life… when worry and anxiety takes hold… when all you see is gloom and doom.  At those moments pay attention to the all important “but.”  What God has done in Christ changes everything.  In Jesus God has said “but” to all the troubles us. He has said “but” there is hope in Jesus.  Amen.  

Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Cross Perspective

Isaiah 43:2a
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…”

I know it’s already been 3 or 4 weeks since our latest school shooting but it has taken me a while to get some perspective on this.  As you know, I purposefully stay away from politics in this blog, and today’s devotional will be no exception.  It has just been hard these past weeks, at least for me, to get to the point where I can see this tragedy through eyes of faith. 

In the past weeks I have found myself considering this from all sorts of different perspectives.  First, there was that father in the meeting with the President – so understandably angry about his daughter’s death… angry because it seems that by this time we would have found a way to protect our kids in school.  I can only imagine what this is like for any of those parents whose children were killed or injured.  Just imagining this brings pain and tears.

Then there was a post on Facebook from by an American friend living in Germany.  She wrote about how thankful she is that she is not raising her children here… that she is thankful she doesn’t have to be afraid to send her kids to school.  That fact just made me at first.  It also got me thinking about my grandkids going to school in America.  School shouldn’t be a place of fear.  I always felt safe there.  It scared be to think that something like this could happen at the schools of my grandkids.  But then my eldest said to me, “Dad, don’t let fear control you.  It’s no use living that way.”  He was and is right.

So then how should we look at this tragedy and others like it – where human beings inflict great pain and suffering on each other.  What perspective does our faith bring?   That’s when my meditation took me to the cross.  What perspective does the cross give us on this?  The answer is quite simple.  The cross of Jesus teaches us that God reveals Himself by hiding Himself.  He reveals Himself by being present in places where we don’t expect to find… indeed in places where we might even think – “God shouldn’t be there… That’s not a proper place for God to be.”

Take the cross of Jesus.  The Cross is one of the reasons the Jewish people struggle with the Christian belief that Jesus is the Messiah.  The Old Testament is clear. “Cursed is every man who hangs upon a tree.”  How, they ask, can the Messiah be this man who was crucified?   The Word of God is clear – such a person has been cursed by God.   Yes is our answer.  In His death Jesus was being cursed by God.  He was cursed for our sins… in our place.  That is precisely what it meant for Him to be the Messiah.  “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by Himself being cursed for us for it is written, ‘Cursed is every man who hangs upon a tree.’”

What does this have to do with the shooting in Florida, or any other tragedy?  The cross reminds us that Jesus came into this world to enter into our suffering, as our Savior.  He came to suffer beside us, to suffer with us, to suffer for us.  God reveals Himself and His love for us most clearly by hiding Himself in the suffering of His Son on the cross.  Therefore we can know even in the midst of the worst suffering that God is there, hiding Himself, making Himself known.  I think of Cory Ten Boom who saw God’s love most clearly while suffering in a concentration camp and then went around the world sharing the lesson she learned – “That no pit is so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”  I think of the coach who put himself between the shooters and his students – giving his life to save theirs.  Is that not a picture of Christ who, on the cross, put Himself between us and sin, death and Satan – giving His life to save ours.

Please know I am not saying that God wanted this tragedy.  He didn’t. He did not cause it.  But He does not leave us alone in this tragedy.  He who took flesh and blood to live among us and die for us.. even today comes into the midst our tragedies to make known to us His love… that He is with us.  While I still feel anger and sadness over this and other senseless tragedies, I find great comfort in this – The Lord still keeps His promise given in Isaiah 43 - When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

What Defines You?

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” 
Psalm 121:1

The DCE at Trinity Frankfurt comes from a church in Florida.  The Pastors there have a very strange custom.  At Christmas time, when the congregation is done decorating the church, the Pastors will sing a Christmas Carol to the melody of a Lenten hymn.  Imagine “Deck the Halls” sung to the tune of “Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted.”  “Deck the Halls with boughs of Holly, Fa la la…”  Doesn’t sound right does it – to take a fun, happy song and make it sound like a funeral dirge. 

Have you known people who can do that with life?  There are people who are defined by negativity. You know what I mean – people for whom the glass is always half empty not half full… people who can see the dark side of any situation.  We even have them at Church.  Someone comes up with a great idea and these people can always be counted on to come up with a dozen reasons why it won’t work or it’s too much work.  Some are like that all the time.  All of us are like that some of the time.    We each get in those moods where all we seem to be able to do is complain or worry… nothing makes us happy or joyful. There are times when each of us is defined by negativity.  It’s understandable.  Our journey through life is not easy, even for followers of Jesus.  A couple of weeks ago, on Sunday, my sermon was about the fact that there will be trials in life.  Temptation will come.  We will make wrong choices and do wrong things.  The economy that prospers, will go into recession.  Jobs will be lost.  Marriages and families will have difficulties.  Divorce happens.  People get sick.  Loved ones die.  The list of trials we encounter in life is long.  It’s no wonder that there are times when the song we sing on our journey is a sad one, lamenting life’s hard road. 

Such a lament could easily have become one of the Psalms of Ascent.   A walking journey up to Jerusalem was not easy.  Linda and I experienced this on our first trip to Israel.  It was a hiking trip, the kind Ray Van Der Laan leads.  The purpose of the trip is to experience the climate and geography of Israel.  We did just that, hiking 70 some miles that week.  The land is rocky.  They say God had rocks left over when He created the world, so He just dumped them in Israel.  In some places the land is fertile fields, in others its rugged mountains or arid dessert.  The climbing isn’t easy.  I did stumble and fall.  9 months of the year there is a blue sky, a blazing sun. It’s hot. It’s humid in some places, bone dry in others.  Sun stroke happens.  At night it can get very cold.  I am sure on such pilgrimages to Jerusalem, people got tired, grumpy, and found lots of things to complain about.  I did.   

That’s why Psalm 121 is so powerful and comforting.  For this song is not a lament. This Song celebrated God’s love and care on the journey.  The central point of this Psalm is not the dangers we encounter.  Psalm 121 is about the God who walks with us.  The point is that in the midst of all those dangers, we have a God to look to for help.   “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  Picture again those Hebrews making their pilgrimage.  The hills which they could see ahead of them were the hills of Jerusalem.  There on the highest point sat the temple… the symbol of God’s presence among His people. Where does my help come from?  The temple provides the answer.  My help comes from the Lord…”   As we journey through life, we have one who journeys with us… one whom the Bible says is greater than the temple. We have Jesus who made this pilgrimage ahead of us. We have Jesus who was tempted in every way that we are except He was without sin.”    We have Jesus who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross despising the shame and sat down on the right hand of God…   He paid the price for our failings… He endured the pain of our falling. He carried our sorrows, our worries, our fears, our wounds, our sicknesses to the cross… and by His wounds we are healed.  On the third day He conquered them all.  He says to us, “IN the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”  “Where does our help come from?  Our help comes from the Lord.”   Therefore, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith…”   In the midst of temptation… when guilt weighs us down… when sickness or worry or any other danger comes our way… we know where to turn.  We know Jesus.  “Let us approach the throne of grace of with confidence that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

There is a word that summarizes God’s care and protection – Providence.  That’s our song this week… Psalm 121 is a song of God’s Providence.  This is what that providence looks like “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.   The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.”   In other words, all along the way… from the beginning to the end of your pilgrimage, in the face of every danger that comes your way – God will be with you, protect you and take care of you. Paul described it this way in Romans 8.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sometimes it can be very easy to let the dangers and struggles of life define our lives. It can be easy to obsess with the things that go wrong or might go wrong.  But then I think back Marcia Williams, who lived every day bedfast, paralyzed, only able to move her right arm and her head.  Do you know what I remember the most about her?  Her smile… the fact that she would almost always be on the phone encouraging others, talking about Jesus.  Her ailments didn’t define her.  Her faith defined her. Her Savior defined her.  God’s care defined her.  His love for her and her love for others – defines her in my memory.  That’s the point of God’s providence.  That’s the message of this Psalm.  Walking with Jesus our journey through life is not defined by our troubles.  In Christ our journey is defined by Gods Providential care.  Our journey through life is defined by our God who preserves and protects us through the troubles.  Our journey is defined by Jesus. This is the song God gives us to sing on our journey up to the heavenly Jerusalem.  Where does our help come from?  My help comes from the Lord.  Amen!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Are You Really God's Child?

“If you are the Son of God…”
Matthew 4:3b

I think it’s the question most every son grapples with.  Am I really my father’s son?  My dad could take scrap wood and build anything.  I can take scrap wood and make more scrap wood.  My dad could drive a nail home with two blows of the hammer.  In two blows of the hammer I could bend over any nail.  My dad could fix anything.  I can break just about anything.  Now I know that I am, but sometimes I wonder, “Am I really my father’s son?”

This is the question Satan asks Jesus in the temptation.  “The tempter came to him and said, “IF you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”  This comes right after His baptism.  Gods voice has just spoken to Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love…”  Then Satan goes to work.  He casts doubt. If you are really God’s Son why has He allowed you to starve for 40 days? What kind of father would do that?  If you are really His Son, then tell these stones to become bread.  Then Satan took it a step farther. “I’ll prove to you that He doesn’t really love you.  Put Him to the test.”  IF you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”  Let’s see if He catches you.  Then Satan pulls his final punch.  He makes his own promises.  The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”  In other words, I care about you more than He does.  I won’t make you go to the cross.  Just call me your father… Bow down and worship me… and I will give you everything.”

That question is at the heart of every temptation you and I face.  “Are you really a child of God?”  es.  “If God really cares about you, why would He allow you to suffer?  That’s the question that entices us to give each temptation a fair hearing.  “Don’t worry about it.  Go ahead and do it.  He’ll forgive you anyway.  After all, you are God’s child, aren’t you?”  That’s the question that raises doubts in our minds.  To the mother who has been praying and praying for her son’s faith is tempted to wonder, “If God really cares, why hasn’t He answered your prayer?”  The tempter even makes you his own promises… makes it seem like he cares more about you than God does.  “Why should you have to stay in this marriage?  Surely you have a right to be happy.”  “So what if you aren’t married.  It feels good doesn’t it.  How can that be wrong?”  Of course when you give in the questions become even more sinister.     If you are really a child of God – how can you lie like that? How can you look at those pictures on the internet?  How can you call yourself a child of God when you talk back to your parents? When you stab your friends in the back?   That’s the question temptation raises – “Are you really God’s child?” 

Jesus was not afraid of this question.  He could look at Himself. He could look the devil in the eye.  Without hesitation He could answer,  “Yes I am the Son of God.”  Each answer he gives to temptation reflects his complete trust that God is His Father.  “Why would He allow me to go forty days without food?  Because, answers Jesus, He has better food to sustain me.  ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Jesus doesn’t need to jump from the temple for His Father to prove His love.   Jesus has the word His Father spoke to Him at His baptism.  So Jesus answered, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  Because Jesus knew exactly where He stood with the Father in heaven, Satan has nothing to offer Him.    
We need not fear this question either.  “Are you really God’s child?”    God Himself has answered this question.  His answer is Jesus.  Jesus answers this question for us by living as the perfect child of God that you and I can never be.  He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.”  Jesus gave His life for our sins on the cross. He rose again on Easter that we might have life forever.  He prepared a place for us in His Father’s house.  In other words, Jesus took our place in death, that we might have His place as God’s child. 

You need not fear that question – no matter what the temptation… no matter how bad your own failure!  In Jesus God has supplied the best answer.  On that day when you and I came to faith… when you and were baptized, the Father said, “Yes You are my Son… You are my daughter whom I love.  In Jesus I am well pleased with you.”  He invites you weekly to sit at His family table… to receive His Son’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.  He has made you a member of His church,.  Believers in Christ are your siblings, your spiritual family… and is eager and ready to adopt more and more people as His sons and daughters.  Are you really God’s child?  God answer is beyond doubt.  There is no dispute.  In Christ – YES you are.   

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Place for Everything

“I go to prepare a place for you…”
John 14:2b

“I go to prepare a place for you…”  I have always read those words as Jesus telling us that He is preparing a place for us in heaven.  That is certainly what those words mean.   After all, Jesus prefaces those words with these – “In my Father’s house are many rooms.”  Jesus most certainly died on the cross, rose again on Easter and ascended into heaven that we might have a place in His Father’s house.  But then this morning, in my devotions, I read a prayer written a long time ago by someone named George Matheson.  That prayer got me to thinking – maybe Jesus was promising to prepare more than simply a place for  us in heaven. 

Here are the words of that prayer – “My Father, prepare a place for the child-life that lingers in my heart!  Even in the night teach me the song of the coming day.  Thou hast prepared a place for my yesterday – thou hast cancelled the dark deeds of my past.  Thou hast prepared a place for today – Thou hast promised strength for the hour.  But I have need beyond my yesterday beyond today; I have a yearning for tomorrow. Shall this be the only part of my soul for which there is no environment!  Thou hast provided for memory – Thou hast suffered my heart to see its past glorified.  Thou hast promised for the vision of today – Thou hast sent the energy with the emergency and refuge with the storm.  But is there to be no provision for hope, O my Father!  It cannot be – O My Father.  O my Father, it is not.  Behold the Lamb of God!  He is our Light in darkness, our Song in the night, the bright and morning Star, our joy and hope, the same yesterday, today, tonight, tomorrow, not and to eternity.  Amen.”

It struck me as I prayed that prayer that by going to the cross, Jesus did so much more that reserve a place for us in the Father’s heavenly house.  Mr. Matheson is right.  Jesus prepared a place for our yesterdays.  That place is his tomb.  After all, in baptism, we were each buried with Christ in His tomb so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might live a new life.  Think of it this way, having been raised with Christ, what remains in that tomb?  Our sin.  He left a place for our sins to be left behind, buried forever, remembered no more.  Isn’t that what God has promised, “I will remember your sin no more?”

What’s more by His death and resurrection He has prepared a place for our today!  Wow.  That also is what He gave us in baptism.  “We were buried with Christ by baptism into death in order that as Christ has been raised from the dead, so we too might walk in newness of life.”    Luther tells us that our baptism every day gives us a new day to live – to live under forgiveness and grace.  In the Small Catechism We read that Baptism “signifies that that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die, along with all sin and evil desire, so that daily a new many might emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” 

In Christ, He gives us strength for the hour, energy for each emergency, a refuge for each storm.  I once asked a woman who lived every day for years in bed, able only to move one arm and her head – “How do you do it?”  She answered, “Jesus has taught me to live one moment at a time, looking to Him for each new day.  Yes by His death and resurrection Jesus has prepared for us a new life for each new moment.

And then also, as I have always heard in these words of Jesus, He has prepared hope for us, a place in His Father’s house, a tomorrow that will never end!  “For,” writes Paul, “if we have been united with Him a death like His, we will also be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”  One day He will give us brand new bodies, just like His resurrection body.  He will take us to a place will there will no more death, neither shall there be mourning or cry or pain, for the former things will have passed away.”  Yes that’s how He prepared a place in His Father’s house for us – He gave us a place to leave the past of sin behind… He gives us a place to live each new day on our journey – following and trusting in Him, knowing that on one of these “tomorrows” by His grace we will finally arrive at His home.  After all, Jesus has promised, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am, You may be also.”  He truly has a place for everything. Amen.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Are You a Door or a Window?

“Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”
John 12:21b

I am the youngest child among my siblings.  As such, my sisters would tell you, I was spoiled.  I liked to be the center of attention.  There were many instances of “Hey, Look at me.  Look at me!” coming out of my mouth.  In fact there were times when I would be goofing around in the middle of the family room, trying to get everyone to watch me rather than the TV.  I must have done a good job because my sister would get really annoyed with me.  That’s when I first heard the phrase, “Wayne, you make a better door than a window.”  In other words, “Get out of the way.  We can’t see the TV.”

I think that there are also moments when that is true of us spiritually – when you or I make a better door than a window.  When we make life all about what we want… when we put ourselves at the center of attention… when we become selfish, self-centered…   I heard recently of one Pastor who in his sermons and classes and emails spends a lot of time talking about him and almost never mentioning Jesus.  I remember one church member who would do anything for you.  But he always had this need to point out to everyone the nice thing he had done.   There are times when I can become very negative about things, or very critical of others because things aren’t being done the way I would do them, or the way I think they should be done.   Again and again, I have seen people pout when they don’t get their way - threaten to quit a ministry or leave a church unless they get their way.   At such moments when we shine the spotlight on ourselves, when we make ourselves the focus of attention, we get in the way of people seeing Jesus. We make ourselves into a door, or wall rather than a window. 

Nothing could be sadder.  After all you and I cannot win salvation for anyone.  We cannot restore people to a right relationship with God.  We cannot purchase forgiveness for anyone.  We cannot prepare a place in heaven for anyone.  Only God can do that.  People don’t need to see and be impressed with us.  They need to see and know God.  They don’t need a door.  They need a window.

That is just what God has provided.  Remember when Moses asked God to show him His glory.  The Lord wouldn’t let him see his face, only His back.  The Lord said to Moses, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see Me and live.”  Why?  Because God is holy and we are sinful.   So what did God do?  He provided a window through which we could see Him and know Him.  That window is Jesus Christ.  “No one has ever seen God,” John writes in His Gospel, “but God the one and only who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.”  In order that we might see and know Him, God hid Himself in the flesh and blood of Jesus.  He came down to our level, entered our world, became one of us.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  If you want to know God better, than get to know Jesus better.

Those Greeks who came to the disciples in John 12, making the right request.  “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”  Do you know where I first read those words?  I got up into the pulpit at my home church to preach for the first time.  These words were typed out and taped there for only the Pastor to see.  “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”  What a great reminder of why I was preaching a sermon – not so people could be impressed with me… but so that people could see Him.  That’s what God seeks from all of us – that we would be windows through which people could see Jesus.  So He puts His Spirit in our hearts.  He puts to death pride, selfishness and self-righteous in us.  He washes away our sin with His forgiveness.  By all of that He daily seeks to make your life and mine to be better windows that doors. 

So, I have a challenge to you my friends.  Find a spot and put these words where you will see them daily.  I am going to go write down and tape them in the pulpit here at Fishers of Men – “Sir we would like to see Jesus,”  We need that reminder daily of just exactly why God places people into our lives and us into theirs… We need and they need to see Him!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Tale of Two Rocks

“that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel”
1 Samuel 17:46b

When you are gone, what will people remember about you?  What will be your legacy?  What will be the central theme and message of your life?  What will they put on your tombstone?  I think about that every time I visit a cemetery.   The older the tombstone, the more likely it is that there is almost no one left who remembers the person buried here.  So when I am gone – will anyone remember me?  Or more importantly, if they do remember me, what will they remember?

That’s why I brought these two rocks with me today.  I picked them up when I was in Israel a few years ago.  This first one is a piece of marble I found washed up on the beach at Caesarea Maritima.  Caesarea Maritima is the ancient man-made port constructed by one of the greatest builders Israel has ever known – King Herod the Great.  Herod built all sorts of amazing palaces and fortresses around Israel.  He built the temple in Jerusalem, the one that existed in Jesus’ day.  He built a man-made mountain with a palace on top, just outside of Bethlehem.  It was called the Herodium.   This is most likely where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded.  Herod the Great built Masada – a virtually unreachable and impenetrable fortress on a high plateau near the Dead Sea.  Herod’s construction projects were enormous.  His palaces and fortresses dwarfed those of the Caesars.

Why did Herod do all this?  Well basically he was out to make a name for him.  He wanted people to know that there had been a Herod and that he was amazing. 

Then there is this rock.  You will notice that I have it wrapped in a sling shot.  I picked up this round rock in a creek in the Valley of Ellah.  The Valley of Ellah is where young David picked up five smooth stones like this one.  Then he took those stones out to face, and kill the giant Goliath.  Why did David do this?  He gave the reason in 1 Samuel 17. He didn’t go out to make a name of himself.  David went out to face Goliath “that all the world may know that there is a God in Israel.”  He went out so that the name and reputation of His God might be exalted, that people throughout the world might know of Him.

Now I want you to think about these two men.  I have this piece of marble because all of Herod’s great palaces are now ancient ruins.  What do most people remember or know about Herod?  Most only know that he had a few baby’s killed in Bethlehem.  Otherwise he is largely forgotten.  But David?  Still today people tell and teach the story of little David who only went out with five small stones like this one and slew the giant Goliath.    We tell and retell David’s story, marveling at the great power of God.  After all David could never have done this on his own.  It was God working through him that brought Goliath down.

I keep these two stones on my desk and I share them with you today as a reminder.  If I make my life all about wanting people to know and remember me, then it won’t be very long and my legacy will be the same as those names on a tombstone – No one will remember me.   But if your life or mine is about letting people know about Jesus, it won’t really matter that they remember us.  For knowing and believing in Jesus people will know the good news that God loves them so much He gave His Only Son so that they might have everlasting life.  Then they can take that good news and share Jesus with others – passing on a legacy that will impact generations to come… an eternal legacy.

You know maybe I should ask my kids to leave my name off my tombstone.  Just write these words there – “The fellow buried here just wants you to know that God loves you so much He gave His Son Jesus to die for you and rise again, that you might have eternal life.”    That’s something worth remembering for all eternity.