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Monday, February 3, 2014

A legacy awaits - what are you waiting for?

Legacy is really what some would refer to as having something to show for their life - their time, talent, and treasure revealing something which others will be able to remember them by after they are no longer walking this earth. If we were to truly examine the legacy we are creating, I wonder what we'd observe - we might just be a little surprised to see our legacy through the eyes of another, not just how we see ourselves!  If you have ever known someone with Alzheimer's Disease, or some other "memory-altering" affliction, you probably have sat contemplating how the person "used to be" - because that is the legacy you want to remember - not the wasting away of their lives after the disease begins to take them from you.  You want to remember them in their "previous state" because the present just doesn't account for their capabilities or their past experiences.  To the Alzheimer's patient, their world is the past - definitely not the present.  They cannot quite associate with any longer making a legacy, for they see themselves (and you) as somewhere in the past.  Those moments of breakthrough when there might just be a glimmer of "in the moment" recognition are few and far between.  Where their brain chooses to live is not always where their bodies presently dwell.  In a spiritual sense, where our minds choose to dwell may also not always be the place our bodies presently dwell.  Any disconnect between mind/body and spirit will often lead to a whole lot of unnecessary conflict in our lives.

“Seek me and live. Don’t fool around at those shrines of Bethel, don’t waste time taking trips to Gilgal, and don’t bother going down to Beer-sheba.  Gilgal is here today and gone tomorrow and Bethel is all show, no substance.  ”So seek God and live! You don’t want to end up with nothing to show for your life but a pile of ashes, a house burned to the ground. For God will send just such a fire, and the firefighters will show up too late.  (Amos 5:4-6 MSG)

To really get the picture of why God focuses so much on seeking him first and foremost - each and every day - we must see this connection between mind/body and spirit.  Seeking is both an action of the mind and the spirit. If the mind and spirit are engaged in seeking, it is reasonable to assume the body will follow.  What we seek to dwell upon becomes the gateway to our present, and possibly our future actions.  Seek God and live - this is pointed out a couple of times - action which produces something of value and gives us a lasting legacy.  To understand what or who we seek is to open the door to recognizing the "legacy path" we are on.  

For Israel, they were on a path of which allowed for quite a bit of "drift" in their focus and in the legacy they were choosing to leave for a generation to come.  What had started out well, through a series of compromising actions, became a pathway which would leave them with a life as insignificant as a pile of ashes.  None of us wants to be left with ashes - in fact, we are hoping desperately that God will take our ashes and turn them into creations of glory! Gilgal was a place which started out as a place of worship - the first place Israel camped after crossing over the Jordan River into their quest to take the Promised Land.  Twelve large stones were placed in a circle - a memorial of how God had promised to lead them into this land.  Yet, it was also a place of memorial because of what occurred there - they dedicated themselves afresh to their Lord.

At Gilgal, those who had wandered in the desert wilderness for forty years, mumbling and grumbling about how God had brought them out of Egypt, but how difficult it would be to ever "come into" the Land of Promise simply because there were "giants in the land" had a mindset change - and with the change of their mindset came a change of heart - affecting their actions in every respect.  At Gilgal, the men were circumcised - indicating their separation with the old and their dedication to living as "set apart" for God. There the Feast of Passover was celebrated - indicating their reliance upon God as their protector and salvation in all things.  Also noteworthy is the cessation of the daily provision of manna from heaven - even this symbolized the separation from the old and the entry into the new.  Old had been put in its place, new lay ahead - God's work at Gilgal in the hearts of those who chose to dedicate to his purposes was begun.

Over the years, Gilgal became a place of "distant memory".  Yes, it still held the connotation of being a "holy place" for Israel, but it faded in significance as they became more "settled" and self-reliant in their new homes.  Gilgal went from being a place of "dedication" and "commitment" to being a place of idolatrous worship - allowing for the invading of compromising beliefs and practices to take the place of God at the central part of their lives.  No wonder God reminds them (and us) of the foolishness and extreme waste of time "visiting Gilgal"!  What once held the potential of an excellent legacy had become a place of compromise. 

Bethel was first mentioned in the Book of Genesis, when Jacob flees Esau, coming to a place of sheer exhaustion - having used all his energies to escape his past manipulative deeds.  In his utter exhaustion and loneliness, he falls into a deep sleep and sees a vision of a ladder leading straight into the presence of God.  The significance of this place cannot be overlooked, for it began as a place where God would transform a life - a place of new beginnings.  There Jacob received his new name (Israel), and he began to form a new legacy.  Who knew this place would ultimately end up as a place of cultic worship many years later.  Surely the place of "new beginnings" - the place where the exchange of heart meant the end of one's energies and manipulative ways - would never become a place of cultic worship!  Yep!  In the "drift" of the years, the distant memory of the life-transforming place faded - leaving it a place of cultural diversity and compromising worship practices.

Both suggest a good beginning - both have the potential for a disappointing end.  Life's legacy is indeed a matter of focus - for where the mind settles, the heart follows - where the mind and heart choose to dwell most often becomes the place practice is formed.  Ashes piled high, or lives on fire for Jesus - you choose.  Your legacy awaits!