In a post a few weeks ago I suggested that Revelation is the most difficult book in the Bible to interpret and understand. I still think that is true, but now as I come to the conclusion of a class I have been leading on the New Testament letter of Hebrews I’m thinking it is probably the second most difficult book in the New Testament.

As challenging as our study has been, we have gained a lot of knowledge as well as received much challenge and encouragement. I think challenge and encouragement for readers was the two primary goals of the author. And while parts of the letter are not easy to understand, other parts are crystal clear.

Today I’m thinking about Hebrews 12:1-3 and the writer’s image of the Christian life as running a race while keeping one’s eyes fixed on Jesus. We can get discouraged, question our faith, and get into all kinds of trouble when we take our eyes off Jesus. And often when we take our eyes off Jesus it is because we fix our eyes on someone else – usually a pastor or leader whom we look up to and admire.

The problem with fixing our eyes on another Christian is that no Christian measures up to Jesus. In spite of the highest motives and deepest faith, every Christian leader still has feet of clay. As committed to the Lord and their calling as they are, there are no perfect pastors.

This has always been the case, but in the recent months and weeks there seems to have been more cases and accusations of failures among Christian leaders than usual. Of course it grieves us, but it does not destroy our faith. Our faith is in Jesus and we are to keep our eyes on him.

The reality of the imperfection of pastors does not mean we shouldn’t respect, honor, and look up to our leaders. We should. Hebrews 13 gives two notes of instruction about how we are to view leaders.

Verse 13 tells readers to “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” My sense is that these leaders are primarily the ones who first presented the gospel to them and welcomed them to faith in Christ.

Verse 17 challenges readers to “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.” The leaders in this verse seem to be the ones who are currently overseeing things.

I think all pastors and church leaders should echo the words of the Apostle Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1). And we can more easily do that if we make sure we fix our eyes on Jesus and never take them off him.

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A good friend recently asked me in a phone conversation if I had any Bible references about legacy. She was leading a break-out session at a conference and wanted to include Scripture in the discussion. I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head, but I’ve been thinking about the subject since we talked.

One of the first things I did was look up the word in the dictionary and found that the first definition of legacy is “a gift by will especially of money or other personal property.” I knew passing on wealth was a part of legacy, but didn’t think of legacy as only, or even primarily, about it. When I consulted two Christian authors I was surprised—and disappointed–to note how much they wrote about money and wealth in their discussion of legacy.

Two and a half years ago when I stepped down after 30 years as pastor of Discovery Christian Church, I was honored by the theme promoted for my last Sunday “Celebrating a Legacy.” I can assure you the church body was not celebrating any financial gift I was giving as I left!

My preferred understanding of legacy is the second part of the definition as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” And the reality is what is transmitted or received can be either good or bad. The definition gives the illustration of a negative: “The war left a legacy of pain and suffering.” I’m confident all of us are aware of situations in which people have been hurt by damaging legacies passed on to them.

There are also many illustrations and avenues of positive and good legacies transmitted and received. I love the report of author Dave Ramsey who wrote “My grandfather left me an inheritance of character and wonderful memories.” I also appreciate his usage of the word inheritance to refer to something other than money and wealth. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that all of us are leaving and are going to leave a legacy. While wealth, education, and job or career are factors, legacy is about so much more.

To me, the most important aspect of a good legacy transmitted and received by those who follow is a person’s example. For the most part, one’s example is unintentional and far reaching. There will no doubt be some specifics that stand out to those impacted by our legacy, but there will also be innumerable incidents that don’t stand out, but have an accumulated impact.

Drawing from Ramsey’s comment, more than money and wealth, our most important legacy is about our character. And our character is shown by things such as how we treat others (including family, friends, strangers, those in need, our critics, and our enemies), how we respond to our mistakes (admitting and learning from them or denying and repeating them), and how we deal with problems. Again, in my mind, it’s about our example.

Understandably, we usually don’t think much about legacy until we realize we are getting older. Then, of course, we can’t go back and do it all over. What we can do, however, is use the realization to become more intentional from then on.

Jan and I moved to Texas in December to be closer to and more involved with our two grandsons. Interestingly enough, our home in Texas (not the one pictured above) is on Legacy Parkway. Is that prophetic for Jan and me?

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The man who was my Little League Baseball coach died on Monday. He was my first, last, and only baseball coach. I think I played around eight years for him. Since I am now almost 65 I would guess he had to be in his late 80s.

When I first started playing Little League Baseball my dad was still a weekend alcoholic and not really engaged with my brother and me. As a matter of fact, I don’t think he ever went to watch me play in one of the games. Mr. Nell was not a father figure to me, but he was a man who did a lot for me.

During my years of Little League Baseball we practiced on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and played our games on Saturday mornings. Mr. Nell picked me up at my house for every practice and game and dropped me off at home afterwards. After most games he took us out for ice cream.

His wife was also very involved and his son was on the team. But neither parent treated Timmy any different from the rest of us. Mr. Nell taught us how to catch, throw, hit, bunt, and run the bases; but he taught us much more. His attitude, style, outlook, and gentle discipline set the example for us. I don’t remember a time when he ever went over the top in dealing with any of us or in disputing an umpire’s call.

As much as he meant to me as a baseball coach, that was not the most important thing he did for me. Around the age of 10 one day he dropped me off at my house and said “We’ll see you in church on Sunday Bobby.” I replied, “Mr. Nell, I don’t go to church.” And my best friend chimed in, “Why don’t you come to my church?” My best friend’s church was close enough for me to walk on Sunday mornings.

I went to church the next Sunday morning and have been going ever since. My older brother started going with me and we both became Christians. My mom started going and eventually rededicated her life. And after a few years my dad began going and eventually became a Christian. After high school I went to Bible College and became a pastor. When I was ordained as a Christian minister the elder at my home church who said the prayer was my dad.

Several years later my home church invited me back to preach on Father’s Day. Somehow Mr. Nell found out about it and came that Sunday instead of going to his church. What a privilege it was for me that morning to affirm, honor, and thank both Mr. Nell and my own dad. I spoke by phone with Mrs. Nell Sunday evening from the hospital and she indicated that Sunday meant a great deal to him.

I haven’t seen Mr. Nell in many years but my emotions are stirred by that Sunday evening phone conversation and learning of his passing on Monday. I thank God for Mr. Nell and how God used him to make a huge difference in my life and family. And I hope and pray that God has used me and will use me to make a difference in the lives of others like me.

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