How Will You Be Remembered?

I’ve attended and shared in a number of funeral services over my life time.  No two lives are identical and the order of service for each funeral or memorial is remarkably unique.  During the first 2 years of vocational ministry in Northern Ontario, after being called to serve there in 1991, I conducted 30 funerals. One of the local funeral directors asked, in jest, if I did anything else!

I’ve often asked others the question, ‘How will you be remembered?’ In one sense, no one can answer that question accurately. Perhaps the modified, ‘How would you like to be remembered?’ at least permits the individual to affirm values of all types that matter to them

In chapter 3 of Book I, Thomas á  Kempis challenges the pursuit of learning. Like the Greeks and Romans, ‘modern man’ worships wisdom and consumes knowledge. Scholars, of all types, offer their expertise in one of the most worldwide accessible platforms, the Internet. Books, posts and articles continue to pour out at a dizzying rate from our keyboards, but of what eternal value is their content?

Thomas á Kempis asks, ‘Tell me, where now are all the masters and teachers whom you knew so well in life and who were famous for their learning? Others have already taken their places and I know not whether they ever think of their predecessors. During life they seemed to be something; now they are seldom remembered.”

New scholars often correct the work of previous scholars. Take a look for example at the handling of ‘Pluto’ by the astronomers of our world. Is it a planet or not? Pluto is now considered a dwarf planet.

The Universe Today website asserts:

Is Pluto a planet? Does it qualify? For an object to be a planet, it needs to meet these three requirements defined by the IAU:

  • It needs to be in orbit around the Sun – Yes, so maybe Pluto is a planet.
  • It needs to have enough gravity to pull itself into a spherical shape – Pluto…check
  • It needs to have “cleared the neighbourhood” of its orbit – Uh oh. Here’s the rule breaker. According to this, Pluto is not a planet.

Now when primary grade children list the planets in our solar system, to score full marks Pluto must not be included. The ‘discovery’ of Pluto in 1930 has now been ‘undiscovered’ through further research…..or so it seems! Honestly, who gets to make the decision?

So back to our question – How will you be remembered?

My father, who loved and led our congregation to sing a variety of hymns, some times chose this old classic. It speaks to the theme of this post.

Fading away like the stars of the morning,
Losing their light in the glorious sun—
Thus would we pass from the earth and its toiling,
Only remembered by what we have done.

Only remembered, only remembered,
Only remembered by what we have done;
Thus would we pass from the earth and its toiling,
Only remembered by what we have done.

Shall we be missed, though by others succeeded,
Reaping the fields we in springtime have sown?
Yes; but the sowers must pass from their labours,
Ever remembered by what they have done.

Only the truth that in life we have spoken,
Only the seed that on earth we have sown;
These shall pass onward when we are forgotten,
Fruits of the harvest and what we have done.

Oh, when the Saviour shall make up His jewels,
When the bright crowns of rejoicing are won,
Then shall His weary and faithful disciples
All be remembered by what they have done.

—Alternative verse—

Shall we be missed, though by others succeeded,
Reaping the fields we in springtime have sown?
No; for the sowers may pass from their labours,
Only remembered by what they have done.

Our aim in life is not to be remembered but to point with our lives and lips to Jesus Christ, the One who is the same yesterday and today and forever.  We may soon be forgotten but may the fragrance of Christ’s work in our lives remind others of Him!

Self-Mastery

The Oxford Dictionary ‘word of the year’ for 2013 was ‘selfie‘ – (a photograph that one takes of oneself)
I doubt that those who fill their cameras with selfies have a great deal of self-mastery. What do you think?
self-mastery (n)
the ability to take control of one’s life without being blown off course by feelings, urges, circumstances etc
Our self-indulgent culture thrives on self-centredness, does it not? We are urged to follow any feelings, urges or circumstances regardless of the consequences that decisions taken by such selfish creatures create.
I was preaching a few weeks ago on ‘Four Fellows In the Fellowship,’ a sermon rooted in an exposition of Third John. In studying for that sermon and thinking of Diotrephes, one of the ‘major’ characters in this ‘minor’ letter I pondered the word self-centred. In using Dr. Joel Beeke’s practical commentary on 3 John, I discovered this illustration –  When asked to condemn the papacy, Newton retorted, “I have read of many Popes, but the worst Pope I ever encountered was Pope Self.” (3 John Commentary, Dr. Joel Beeke)
One of the greatest evidences of the impact of sin rests in the abundant evidence of self-centred living.
Thomas á Kempis observed in the third chapter of his first book recorded in The Imitation of Christ –
Who is forced to struggle more than he who tries to master himself? This ought to be our purpose, then: to conquer self, to become stronger each day, to advance in virtue.   Every perfection in this life has some imperfection mixed with it and no learning of ours is without some darkness. Humble knowledge of self is a surer path to God than the ardent pursuit of learning.
How would you answer this probing question, ‘Who is forced to struggle more than he who tries to master himself?’
Self-mastery may only be fully achieved through the Spirit of God, the producer of self-control. Out-of-control living shows up in all kinds of behaviour. The menu options are unlimited or so they seem!
How would you complete  this verse: “For to me to live is ___________________?”
How do you conquer self? Have you discovered the secret so evident in the life of John the Baptist as he spoke of Jesus? “HE must increase, I must decrease.” How might we model selfless living?
Romans 12:3, though in the context of one’s self-assessment of spiritual giftedness, certainly reflects the challenge of navigating these waters in a way that honours God.
For by the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly that he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of the faith that God has assigned.” (ESV) With God’s grace may we cultivate self-mastery in new ways in 2018!

So, How Many Angels Can Dance On the Head of a Needle?

Scholars, at times, ask and explore silly questions! The classic medieval question often cited as being a prime example of ‘wasted thinking’ was ‘How many angels can dance on the head of a needle?’  Isaac D’Israeli, the father of British Prime Minister Benjamin D’Israeli, lampooned the Scholastic philosophers of the late Middle Ages, notably Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224-1274), who was famous for debating metaphysical fine points. In several volumes, Aquinas discussed several propositions about the nature of angels.

Perhaps Thomas á Kempis was thinking of such wasted mental energy when he wrote, “What good is much discussion of involved and obscure matters when our ignorance of them will not be held against us on Judgment Day? Neglect of things which are profitable and necessary and undue concern with those which are irrelevant and harmful are great folly.”

The Bible gives us clear direction as to the substance of our thinking. Consider Philippians 4:8 (as translated in the New Living Translation) And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Perhaps you’re more of a visual learner like I am, and a useful diagram with precise definitions will clarify God’s standards for your mental energies during 2018. Here’s what is available at Visual Theology

Now that’s food for thought, isn’t it? Far more edifying that hypothetical philosophical questions with no practical relevance! Paul’s exhortation is clear – ‘THINK on THESE THINGS!’

Watch Yourself!

How much do you ‘watch yourself?’ Is that even a good idea? I guess it depends on how you define this command from Galatians 6.

Paul, the Apostle, is warning a group of provincial churches about the reality of sin traps. Sin, as Hebrews 12 reminds us, easily entangles us and must be laid aside if we are to run the race well for the glory of God. Paul anticipates that some believers will be caught, trapped in a sinful habit, which will destroy their lives if there is no repentance.

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But WATCH YOURSELF, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2)

Someone is caught. The ‘spiritual’ ones in the congregation don’t gossip, don’t throw stones, but in a spirit of humility seek to be used by God in the gentle act of restoration. Discipline isn’t a place for vindictiveness but a gentle touch. Granted if the effort to restore is rejected and the sinful habit is persisted in, Scripture is plain (Matthew 18) about the ramping up of church discipline.

Thomas á Kempis closes chapter 2 with a warning that we would do well to heed.

‘Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself.”

May we remain humble and often acknowledge with deep gratitude, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

 


	

The Imitation of Christ – ‘Humble Conceit Of Ourselves’

This must be a week to focus on humility. I was scheduled Monday morning to attend a pastoral gathering, where the paper to be presented was on ‘The Grace of Humility.’ The inclimate weather caused the event to be regretfully cancelled, which I told the intended speaker would strengthen his humility! How we process disappointments and disruptions to our schedules really provides a litmus test of our own pride.

Chapter 2 of Book I in ‘The Imitation of Christ’ is entitled ‘Humble Conceit Of Ourselves.’ Now there’s a title worth pondering!

I will cite á Kempis with italicized text and add my reflections with a regular font.

‘Every man naturally desires to know (Eccles 1:13), but what does knowledge avail without the fear of God?

The quest for knowledge is a mixed blessing. Obviously, the quest for the knowledge of good and evil prompted Eve and Adam to violate the boundaries God had established. Satan enticed them to ‘know’ more than they ‘knew.’ That’s his perpetual strategy! When it comes to sin, it pays to be ignorant! Paul exhorts the Corinthian church, “Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” (1 Cor. 14:20)

The quest for learning prompts exploration. ‘Curiosity killed the cat,’ may be a popular saying, but curiosity motivates inquiry. Let’s dig deeper. Let’s explore this topic further and the topics to explore in God’s amazing universe seem endless!

But á Kempis is reminding us, in his inimitable way, that ‘the fear of the LORD is the BEGINNING of KNOWLEDGE.’ (Proverbs 1:7) Knowledge, in and of itself, may become a god to us. I’ve seen more than my share of academic, intellectual pride–the ‘I KNOW what you DON’T KNOW type’ especially when it comes to theological topics! Yikes!! Pride is a dangerous vice in any context.

“Whoso knows himself well grows mean in his own conceit, and delights not in the praises of men.” If you know yourself, you should remain humble. Compliments are wonderful to receive, but we all know ourselves to possess issues perhaps well hidden from public view! We are who we are because of God’s grace. He has made us and not we ourselves. There is no ‘self-made’ man or woman despite the many affirmations to the contrary.

“There be many things, which to know does little or nothing to profit the soul.” Our world is filled with trivia, bits and bytes (yes I meant to write ‘bytes’ not ‘bites’) of information. Every day we are inundated through various channels of inane facts about some celebrity’s dog, some Guinness Book of World Records feat, or a myriad of other topics. 

Let’s not neglect the Word of God. Let’s prioritize time each day to know God–Father, Son and Holy Spirit–as He has revealed Himself to us in His word.  ‘…acknowledge your own ignorance,…’ á Kempis urges.

May we be recaptured with the mindset of the Apostle Paul, expressed in Philippians 3:10,11

….that I may HIM (Jesus Christ) and the power of HIS resurrection, and may share in HIS sufferings, becoming like HIM in HIS death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

The motto that has ‘dogged’ my steps through 2 churches, 1 international Bible College and 1 ministry bears pursuing, ‘To Know Jesus Christ and Make Him Known.’

It Is Vanity….

Thomas á Kempis must have been meditating on Ecclesiastes as he wrote chapter 1 of The Imitation of Christ.

Notice the repetition of the word vanity. (emphasis mine)

It is vanity to seek after perishing riches and to trust in them.

It is vanity to hunt after honors and to climb to a high degree.

It is vanity to follow the desires of the flesh, and to long after that for which you must afterward suffer a grievous punishment.

It is vanity to wish to live long and to be careless to live well

It is vanity to mind only this present life, and not to foresee those things which are to come.

It is vanity to set your love on that which speedily passes away, and not to hasten to where everlasting joy abides.

Vanity is the ‘quality of being worthless or futile.’

In other words–it is not worth the investment. The time and energy that we each have is limited. No individual has more than 24 hours in a day, or 7 days in one week, or 12 months in one year. The issue is how shall we invest our time? What are our goals? What do you consider vanity? May God help each of us to ‘redeem the time.’ Life is all about stewardship, isn’t it?

 

 

The Lord’s Day

I’ve been challenged in recent days to explore the idea of ‘Sabbath’ in the Scriptures. What does it mean to ‘rest?’ What is the principle embedded in Creation that is reflected in that first creative week?

So that’s one of my topics to explore in 2018. I’ll let you know later on what I learn.  As a result, I’m taking a ‘Social Media’ day off each Sunday. I honestly think God calls His children to higher priorities!

So see you Monday on this blog and on Social Media.  Blessings!

Digging deeper into the depths of Scripture…

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