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Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Lasting Impression

Several years ago I went to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the first and only time. My wife came with me on the trip so we decided to drive over to the Mall of America. We looked at a map and took off. We drove very near the speed limit but, knowing we needed to get in the left lane to exit, got in the lane early. A man in a pickup got ride on our rear, blew his horn and started making gestures at us. Since I didn't know how soon I needed to get in the exit, I stayed put driving at or very near the speed limit. He gave me one parting gesture as I exited.

I wondered if he knew that he was a representative of the area. How could he know that I might one day be his employer? I might have been there to bring business to the area which would increase his bottom line. He left a lasting impression. I have never seen him since that day.

No one gets a second chance to make a first impression but they also can't know when they are making their last impression. The last impression is the lasting impression.

Two men made bad decisions the night before Jesus was crucified. Judas betrayed Jesus. He later hung himself and is only remembered as the one who betrayed Jesus. Peter denied Jesus. He later re-affirmed his love for Jesus and is known as the leader of the early church. The difference is in the last impression.

Think of how the Apostle Paul would have been remembered if he had continued to prosecute and have Christians killed. Think of how King Solomon would have been remembered if he had continued in faith to the Lord rather than being affected by his many wives.

There are many stories of people who are remembered by their last impressions whether or not they did bad or good at another time in their lives. Even Samson who broke every part of his vow to the Lord is remembered by his last act rather than all his other actions.

Many people will never know what their last act will be. A man will not know that his harsh words to his wife may be his last any day. He may not know that ignoring his child will be the last thing he may do so that is how his child remembers him. A woman may not know that the gossip she has told will continue to be told to lasting damage even though she may move from the area. She may not know that she will be remembered as the one who disrupted her church or destroyed a friendship.

I did a funeral service a couple of years ago for a lady who didn't have a church. The funeral home called me to ask if I would perform the service. The woman had no church, was not a member of any organizations nor did she have any family. A couple of neighbors were holding the service for her. I arrived at the grave about an hour early. I found the grave with the funeral director and casket prepared for the service. The two neighbors arrived about forty minutes before we were supposed to begin. I thanked them for their faithfulness to the lady. I felt they had honored her when there was no one else left.

They said to me, "Look, the only reason we're doing this is because we promised we would do this for her before her husband died. We liked him and he asked if we would do this a couple of hours before his death. But the truth is, she didn't like us; she didn't like any of her neighbors. She had no friends and we didn't like her either. So, let's just get this thing over with!"

I went through the service but I was struck with a profound sadness. This woman had alienated everyone is her life. Her husband had to know how she was so that he asked his friends to fulfill his last request. He was remembered as a faithful husband. She was remembered as a bitter woman whose impact on her world was negative.

What is the lasting impression that you are leaving? Are you known as one who is faithful to his Lord and to his family? Are you known as one who works hard and can be trusted? Are you known as kind to others? How would you be remembered by those who know you if you were to die right now? Do you need to ask for forgiveness or grant it to someone?

You never know when you will make your last impression. It just may be a lasting impression.

2 Corinthians 5:16-20 (NIV)
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.

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