Thursday, April 21, 2011

It was not a trip that I was particularly looking forward to.  Pastor Ross Hownslow in Port Elizabeth, South Africa had invited me to preach in their Harvester’s Homecoming, which essentially meant flying halfway around the world for a weekend filled with ministry!  So, I tried to back out at first.  “I’ll send you Pastor Rubi?  I’ll send you Pastor Smith?  How about a two-for one?” Ross, however was persistent, which meant that I had to give it a serious amount of thought.  I felt God telling me that I needed to go; and the reason was wrapped up in one word that was important to Him and His kingdom, HERITAGE!  Heritage is defined as property, status, conditions or character acquired by being born into a particular family.  True heritage are things of value that are passed from generation to generation.

You see, our church, had sent Alan & Laurie Kern to pioneer a church there 14 years ago.  There was a sizeable investment in personnel, money, resources, and in prayer and vision for world evangelism.  Since that time Isaac & Doris Cortez (San Antonio, TX) took over that pastorate, and when they left, Ross & Judy Hownslow (Perth, West Australia) took over that work and labored in an admirable fashion.  “P.E.” was part of our church’s “heritage” in that nation, and I felt God telling me I needed to go, not just for my sake, but as our congregation’s representative to acknowledge the seeds of investment all of these people were working to make.  I can certainly tell you, now, I was so glad I went!  To see the continued outpouring of God’s grace and Spirit that our church had initially made, was priceless.

Biblically, when we talk about heritage, we’re talking about the realm of sacred things!  (Acts 26:18).  Part of the miracle of salvation includes this vital transaction!  “To open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given an inheritance among God's people, who are set apart by faith in me.' ” Paul’s “last will and testament” to the Ephesian elders is the truth that none of us got here on our own!  (Acts 20:32) “I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”  One essential for identity and purpose, and for giving healthy direction to people, is a strong sense of and appreciation for our heritage in Christ and His Kingdom!

This is the “missing piece” in so many people’s lives, both individually as well as nations!  The October 22, 1996 headlines of the Times of London read: “Lost Forever: A Nation’s Heritage Looted By Its Own People.”  It spoke about Afghanistan’s National Museum in Kabul which is in rubble.  It once held one of earth’s greatest multi-cultural antique collections: Persian, Indian, Chinese, Central Asian, and beyond.  Mujahidin rebels blasted into vaults and shattered display cases, looted the relics, and sold them here and there around the world for quick cash.  Pottery from pre-history was thrown into bags like cheap china.  The Bagram collection, one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century, disappeared.  Nearly 40,000 coins, some of the world’s oldest vanished.  The museum, once a repository for Afghan history, became a military post, and the storied past has now been ruined by the unbridled present.  A nation has lost its history.  With no history, there is no heritage.  And with no heritage from the past there is no legacy for the future!

What we have is a potent reminder about a real danger.  (Heb.12:16,17) “That no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.  For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.”  Esau sold his birthright!  This is not a story of Esau being tricked or swindled out of something, but it is the sad record of his selling things because he wanted to feed his flesh.  The Old Testament uses a strong word here, it says, he “despised” his birthright.  He failed to place the proper price tag on spiritual things, namely heritage!  The “Esau spirit” is definitely not dead today.  We see that God is not happy with the attitude of anyone who despises or fails to cherish the importance of their spiritual heritage.


Heritage should also be a powerful reminder of a two-fold responsibility.  The first measure of a man is to treat heritage with honor and respect.  This was the posture of Naboth when King Ahab wanted to negotiate with him about his property that was adjacent to Ahab’s palace.  (1Kgs 21:3) “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”  This was not an ordinary piece of real estate, but if carried a sacred quality because it was about his heritage.  He refused to sell it at any price.  To do so would leave him with no meaningful future.  The second responsibility that heritage brings to us is to transmit it to the next generation!  (Ps.78:4) says, “We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.”  The gift of faith brings a burden and responsibility to declare, demonstrate and pass on those spiritual realities to the next generation.  Listen, there is a generational quality to life that is transmitted and being passed on, for good or for bad.  The Pentecostal promise of the Holy Spirit carries this dimension (Acts 2:39) “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."  Think beyond just yourself and your circumstances, and realize there is a wonderful and powerful spiritual heritage involved.  Those who’ve come before us as well as those who are to follow you!

This past week I received a letter from a young man who has caught some of this in his life and ministry.  He wrote to me, “Pastor Warner.....I wanted to write to you because in my heart I felt that I should.  Even though my relation to The Door Ministries was from my childhood, I remember my salvation like it was yesterday, and I recognize that something was spiritually planted into me that I cannot always explain.  But nevertheless it is there.  I have served the Lord since I was very young and if not for The Door, this may not have been the case - Thank you.” He spoke of some things that he was stepping out into in the future.  He said, “This process may take some time but I know that the Lord will open doors as He sees fit.  I wanted to ask you to pray for me — I understand the power of blessing that can only come from Spiritual Fathers.  Sir, I am asking nothing from you except that you lift me up in your prayers as I strive to be obedient.”  He’s echoing what David said centuries ago, “your lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places, yes, I have a good heritage.”  It is not accidental that the Hebrew word for “inheritance” (heritage) comes from two roots: stream (valley where things grow) and a shaft (of a mine) where treasure is found!


SO THANK YOU PORT ELIZABETH FOR BEING SUCH A BLESSING AND MEMORIAL TO ME ABOUT OUR “GOOD HERITAGE!”  There is an old hymn by Frederick Faber: “Faith of our fathers, living still, in spite of dungeon, fire and sword; O how our hearts beat high with joy, whenever we hear that glorious word!  Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee ‘till death.”  He’s calling attention to more than a song, but to sacred responsibility to give us in Christ Jesus our Lord.  When I think of all that God has done for us, I can say, “what a wonderful inheritance!”

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