Greg McKeown is the author of an excellent book entitled essentialism. Greg contends that the disciplined pursuit of less is a major key to success. Lin Yutang says, “The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” From this premise, McKeown lays out a compelling case which helps us understand why it is important to: say “no” and not overextend; prioritize our lives; exercise the power of choice; discern what is important; know when to make tradeoffs; know when to play and to sleep; know what to select and what to eliminate; set boundaries and focus; etc.
Sometimes to understand the present we have to examine the past. Purposeless people wander the earth and wonder what is the meaning of life? Fortunately for us, the Bible clearly defines why God created us. If we look to the past, King David prayed, “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and You are exalted as head over all”(1 Chronicles 29:11). David recognized that everything belonged to God and that He was therefore exalted. The prophet Isaiah wrote “Bring My sons from far away, and My daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone called by My name and created for My glory. I have formed him; indeed, I have made him” (Isa. 43:6b,7). Isaiah tells us that we were created for God’s glory—this is our purpose.
1 Timothy 4:16—Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.
The Apostle Paul wrote his protégé Timothy to encourage him but what makes his words so powerful is his own example. He faithfully paid close attention to his life and his teaching. Next to Jesus, the case could be made that he influenced Christianity worldwide through his leadership more than any other man. His epistles continue as vital roots of the worship, theology, and pastoral life in the Catholic and Protestant traditions of the West, and the Orthodox traditions of the East.
What made Saint Paul such a strong leader was that he:
My parents are living on a farm in Zolfo Springs with my brother Nate and his wife Melissa. Recently, their guard dog Shepherd went missing. Less than a week later, Nate’s longtime companion, Minnie, was hit and killed by a truck on the road outside their home. As my parents were out walking alongside a ditch looking for Minnie, a car stopped and the driver asked what they were looking for. A conversation ensued in which the driver asked about getting permission to fish in the farm. Dad explained that he was the owner and he would agree for Alex and his wife Elisa to fish as long as they were willing to let him share with them about Jesus. They decided that was a fair arrangement and after fishing a couple of times at the pond and catching nice Bass, Alex one afternoon sat down on the farm porch and conversed with Dad about John 3:16. He ended up placing his faith in Jesus.
Matthew 6:10—Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Let’s make a case for the ten greatest empires/kingdoms of all time.
#1. The Roman Empire: Considered preeminent for its sheer power and long-standing influence in military and political systems, art, literature, and religion.
#2. The Mongol Empire: Five times the size of Alexander the Great’s territory, Genghis Khan established a kingdom that stretched from Eastern Europe to China.
#3. The British Empire: Almost a quarter of the earth’s landmass was covered by an empire effective in warfare and trade.
Ezra 1:5—So the family leaders of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites—everyone God had motivated—prepared to go up and rebuild the LORD’s house in Jerusalem.
For seventy years the Jews lived in exile in Babylon and surrounding nations. Their severe unfaithfulness to God resulted in His fierce punishment which meant they were forcefully removed from their homes. But, in keeping with His promise communicated through multiple prophets, God opened a way through the Persian King Cyrus for the exiles to go home. As we read in the book of Ezra, those who were motivated by Godpacked up their belongings and moved back to their homeland to rebuild the Lord’s temple and settle.
Often each week I focus time in prayer for my family. Specifically, I ask that every one of my children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews would faithfully walk with God and that they would have a deep love for Him. I am thankful that my parents pray the same thing for me! Living for God is never something we can take for granted. The reality, as you already know, is that we live in a temptation-laced world. Our wills constantly grapple with God’s will. So easily we can be enticed to embrace, chase, proclaim and invite into our lives earth’s delicacies that look appealing, yet leave us sick and empty. How many people wander away from God simply because no one is praying for them?
Psalm 138:8—The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me. LORD, Your love is eternal; do not abandon the work of Your hands.
I read a fascinating article in The Oregonian. The following sentences captured my attention.
Having a sense of purpose in life seems to provide a shield against illness—particularly in old age . . . Those with the highest sense of purpose were half as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those with the lowest sense of purpose during seven years of follow-up . . . In an earlier study, the same group [Rush University Medical Center in Chicago] found that the risk of dying from any cause was nearly cut in half among women and men with a greater sense of purpose.*
Mote worked in the building for years. As I got to know him I was amazed at his disdain for women—particularly his own wife. He would ridicule her at every chance and belittle her publicly. He made her seem stupid. He complained of her shortcomings yet seemed clueless to his own failings. In fact, the more I got to know him the more I could appreciate the pain his wife must have endured. Perhaps most grievous, was knowing that he was unfaithful to her and completely uncaring.
Providentially, Jerry discovered Reverationyears ago and signed himself and many African pastors to receive this weekly devotional. Over time he began to correspond with me and to invite me to come to Nigeria to minister. Because I had never met him, I resisted his requests. But in January 2007, I invited him to join us in Kenya so I could get to know him, he could see our work firsthand and then together we could seek God’s will regarding future ministry. I am so glad that God brought Jerry into my life . . .
Why did God scatter people across the globe and confuse their languages? The Scriptural interpretation for an offended God is often based on a literal reading of Genesis 11:4, “And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But why would God be angry with people for plotting to fabricate some skyscraping tower? I don’t know any stupid architects. No one can build anything that reaches heaven. Therefore, there had to be something about the purpose of the tower that drew God’s wrath. Marvin Rosenthal provides us analysis from his careful research.
One day Jesus asked His disciples to go with Him across the lake. So they got in a boat and begin crossing the Sea of Galilee when a fierce storm without warning hit them. I love this story of adventure and danger for the lessons it teaches us.
Tim graduated from High School with no sense of purpose or ambition so he joined the Army. While at the reception station where new soldiers are in-processed, a chaplain handed out Bibles. Tim remembered the New Testament his dad kept from World War II and decided to take one he could keep as his own memento.
Joseph is one of my favorite Biblical characters. He is such a great example of what it means to trust God though times and circumstances may be trying. I believe there are three key lessons we can about God from Joseph that will help us in our daily living.
Prayer can be one of the most disingenuous exercises we undertake as Christians. When I go to the Lord in conversation am I intent on discerning His will or am I out to gain my own agenda? My life is full of plans. I know what I would like to happen. It’s my life and I know what is best for me. Immediately I have gone astray. I have made the cardinal error that so many Christians insist on making.
When we use the word providence in reference to God we mean that He faithfully foresees and effectively preserves, provides and governs over His creation most often through secondary causes. Proverbs 20:24 says, “The very steps we take come from God; otherwise how would we know where we’re going?” (The Message)
I was supposed to go to Hawaii for two weeks of military duty. I’ve always wanted to visit that island paradise so I was pretty excited. Until I received a notice in the mail telling me my orders were rescinded. When I called the people responsible for issuing them I discovered that another person with the last name of York was supposed to have his duty cancelled but mine was mistakenly revoked. It was too late to correct the mistake. Instead, the Army sent me to North Carolina. Because of that snafu I ended up attending a Civil Affairs course. This in turn enabled me to join a unit less than seven miles from our home and ultimately to leave the Infantry to become a Civil Affairs officer. In the course of the last five years, God has given me wonderful opportunities to meet people and serve in challenging assignments all because of a clerical goof. Looking back, I see the hand of the Lord at work redirecting my steps.
Ephesians 1:22,23--And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.