Pastor Terry Tatum
I have had a pretty normal life. I’ve worked hard. I’ve played hard. I’ve had great friends. I know what it means to love and to be loved.
Thinking about all of that, it has occurred to me that one day this will all be over with. One day I’m going to breathe my last breath … then what?
At a recent funeral I used a line that I use a lot at funerals. I told those gathered that no matter what the deceased had, no matter how wealthy they were, someone else owned their stuff now. I’ve never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse. Have you?
Like me, you have probably asked yourself what life is all about. You have probably wondered what all the hard work is for.
As for me, I believe we are here to serve God and to pass something on to the ones we love.
I recently read that the life expectancy for the average American male is 78. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I’ve lived more years than I have left. Ladies, it doesn’t get much better for you. The life expectancy for the average American female is 81. Those numbers drop when you figure in that fact that we live in the south – home of sweet tea and cornbread. So, if you have surpassed those ages you are “playing with house money.”
While I was thinking about those fun facts, I started to think about what I was going to leave behind, “my legacy.” I’m not rich. I really don’t have a lot of stuff. So, what can I really leave behind?
The answer: A legacy. Hopefully a great legacy. What does it mean to leave a great legacy? Great = considerably above normal or average, Legacy = something handed down by a predecessor. So we’re talking about passing on something that is above average.
I’d like to tell you a story from scripture that to me is all about leaving a great legacy. This story spans from the book of Exodus through the book of Joshua. It is the story of Moses and the Israelites.
Moses was born into a Hebrew (Jewish) family during a time when the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt. The Hebrew people became so numerous that Pharaoh (king) ordered that all male Hebrew babies born were to be killed. Moses’ mother hears this, gives birth to Moses and floats him down the river in a basket in hopes his life would be spared. Moses is found by Pharaoh’s daughter and is raised as a member of the royal family.
When Moses had grown up, he witnesses an Egyptian man beating a Hebrew and he kills the Egyptian. He flees to the far side of the desert to a place called Midian where he eventually settled and married. He began to work for his father-in-law as a shepherd. While he is tending his flock, the Lord appears to him in a burning bush and tells him he is the one chosen to lead the Israelites out of captivity.
Moses then proceeds to give God all kinds of reasons why he couldn’t possibly be the right man for the job. Eventually he accepts this calling from God and after a very dramatic series of events he leads the Israelites out of Egypt smack dab in the middle of the desert where they walked in circles for 40 years. During these 40 years God provided food, guidance, blessed them with the Levitical law, and eventually lead them to the land He had promised to lead them to, what we know today as Israel.
As they get to the edge of the Promised Land Moses sends 12 men to scout the land and report back. Ten of the men reported how great the land was and how it was all God said it would be, but they did not want to enter due to the fact that the people living there were huge and they thought these giants would kill them. But two men said “No, let’s go forward.” Those two men were Caleb and Joshua. “We can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30)
Moses dies before they enter the Promised Land and Joshua becomes the leader of the Hebrews. Right as the people are ready to enter into the land God promised them, something miraculous happens. The Jordan River was too big for the Israelite’s to cross, but God made a way. He said to Joshua earlier, “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” He goes on to say, “Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.” Then on the third day they begin to cross the river.
They followed the “Ark of the Covenant” which is where the presence of God dwells. “…as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD — the Lord of all the earth — set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” “The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” Their trust in God had been rewarded and the Jewish people entered into the land just as God had promised.
What happens next is what leaving a great legacy is all about. Joshua has twelve stones placed where the Israelites crossed the Jordan and says, “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:6-7).
Joshua knew how special this event was and he had enough foresight to leave something behind for future generations.
What the stones commemorated was what God had done, not what the Israelites had done. As we all know, the things of man won’t last. Things get old, they rust, they crack, they get destroyed in hurricanes, but those things aren’t what our legacy is about. Our legacy is about what a great God we serve. With that in mind I want to ask you the question of the day, how can I leave a great legacy? There are three points outlined in your worship guide that will help you answer this question.
The first way we can Leave a Great Legacy is to leave LITERAL STONES. What tangible thing are you going to leave?
“In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ (Joshua 4:21-22)
For me, it’s my Bible. This bible was given to me by my Aunt who raised me. She passed on her faith in God to me. I learned the stories God wanted passed down by reading this Bible, and most all of the faith I live by today I learned by reading this. It is one of my most prized possessions. You see how that works? It doesn’t have to be millions of dollars that you pass on, it can be something as small as this Bible. This Bible changed my life and I pray that one day it will change someone else’s life.
What tangible thing as a church can we leave? We are on our fourth location in the last 100 years now. Both of our campus were destroyed by Hurricane Michael, so what tangible thing do we have left? How about this picture that was one of the only things that survived Hurricane Michael? It was painted in 1918. Whatever we do going forward with our facilities, this picture will play a prominent role. It is a reminder that no matter what troubles we face in this life, Jesus is always right there with us.
What LITERAL STONES are you going to leave as part of your legacy?
The next way we can Leave a Great Legacy is to leave LIVING STONES. What has happened in your life that you will pass on?
Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away… (Joshua 4:15-16)
As I mentioned earlier, most of the time I feel that I’ve led a very ordinary life, but when I sit back and think about all that God has done for me and all the great things I’ve had a chance to experience, I am overwhelmed. I’ve had the opportunity to witness literally hundreds of people give their lives to Christ. I have seen God heal people who were goners. And I’ve seen people with the hardest hearts cry like babies when they finally realize how much God loved them.
As for our church, what living stones will we pass on? How about Norma Wallace and her team making more than 50,000 prayer squares that have been distributed all over the world, simply letting people know we’ve prayed for God’s blessing over them. How about the thousands of jobs Hardly Able has completed building wheelchair ramps and installing grab bars for people with physical needs? Or how about several hundred people meeting in the parking lot for weeks after last year’s hurricane. Or the eight churches we have built in Uganda over the last decade, or the school we are currently helping to build.
LHUMC has been blessed by God with people, and we have also been blessed with great opportunities to witness to God’s faithfulness. Our church is more than 100 years old. In this room today we have multiple generations worshiping together. Thousands of people coming to Christ, countless numbers of people answering the call to ministry because of the faithfulness and guidance of this church.
You want to talk about living stones, look around. There are 500 people worshiping in a school gym today. We spent seven weeks worshiping in a parking lot. With all those challenges almost 150 people have accepted Christ this year. If you want to pass on living stones, tell someone you love about God’s faithfulness, tell them about all the lives being changed right here.
What Living Stones are you going to leave as part of your legacy?
The final way we can leave a great legacy is to leave LASTING STONES. What are you going to leave that will last?
In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God. (Joshua 4:19-24)
What lasting stones am I going to leave? I’ve spent the last several months working in a building with spotty AC, internet..ish, loud noises, construction workers you name it. All the while knowing that these workers who are there are building our lasting stones (and many don’t even know it). I want to be clear; Fusion is going to be awesome but that isn’t our stones of remembrance. The love, the faithfulness, and the foresight of this church for more than 100 years are our lasting stones.
Do you realize we are re-building that building with proceeds from our insurance policy? We have been paying insurance premiums for decades, premiums we couldn’t have paid without people’s faithfulness to the Kingdom and to our church. So, if you really think about it, we are able to rebuild because people were faithful back in the 70’s, 60’s, and further back. Our lasting stones will be visible in our new facility but what will last is our faithfulness to God and God’s faithfulness to us.
What Lasting Stones are you going to leave as part of your legacy?
We all need to spend some time thinking about what legacy we will leave behind. The clock is ticking. Whether it’s literal stones, living stones or lasting stones, the decisions we make today about how we spend our time and resources will eventually become our legacy. I know I want mine to be a great one. How about you?