Short on time

I’ve read a lot about Steve Jobs. He was the CEO of Apple that elevated that company into a worldwide way of life. More than the guy that gave us Iphones and Ipads, even now, people still look to him for business and leadership insight. By all accounts, he was a next-level kind of guy.

I watched a video of one of his company gatherings. At one point, someone approached a microphone to ask Steve a question related to an older computer program. The program was good, but a newer program replaced it. The question was actually a criticism of Steve. He replied in an elegant way. Never did he call out the questioner’s call out. In fact, he even agreed with his assessment.

Part of Jobs’ response was to recognize the older program’s value. The new program, though, did something different. Instead of marketing a great product to consumers, the company began with the consumers in mind. It was what the company knew about consumers that dictated what kind of product the new program would be.

There’s a gospel parallel there. Someone once said, “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.”

We have this amazing faith. Unfortunately, many have come to believe it’s the world’s responsibility to come find it. But Jesus teaches us to share it. In mission terms, we talk about “meeting people where they are.”

Do we really do that?

You’ll have to look at what kind of ministry we have and the fruit related to it to answer. In a lot of ways, we meet people where we want them to be. Assuming we meet them at all.

Now, let’s take a weird turn.

Remember how I told you people still talk a lot about Steve Jobs? I read an article written yesterday about him. It was a look into a habit of his that makes for a “truly successful life.” Apparently, Steve Jobs would confront the shortness of his life. Every day, he woke up and looked in the mirror and asked himself, “If today were the last day of your life, would you want to be doing what you’re doing?”

Jobs wanted to bring about change through technology, and he did. The church wants to bring about wholeness through the gospel. How passionate are we about bring that about?

Do you recall what Jesus did on his last night alive? When the reality of the shortness of his life was before him, what did Jesus do? He prayed and he served.

And think of our reading today. The apostle Paul heard a prophecy concerning his ministry, told of in Acts 21. The prophecy was that he would be bound by religious authorities. I think there’s an implication that death would follow. What was Paul’s response?

So be it.

It didn’t deter him from what he knew God set him out to do. His short time seemed to galvanize his conviction. 

Recognizing the brevity of our time on earth inspires the Christian heart to follow God’s will. Most likely, you won’t have to face torture or persecution. But you will have to make a decision about your life’s aim. If it’s to please God, we should recognize the calling that comes with that.

Do you know the hymn “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations”? The opening line is:

We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right. 

But can their hearts turn to the right if they don’t hear the story?

We don’t have a lot of time. May it be, then, that we honor and glorify God in our short time in a way that shows others the goodness and love of Jesus.

Stay blessed…john

The right time to eat

In Jeremiah 21, King Zedekiah sent a two-man envoy to speak with the prophet Jeremiah.

It was the king’s goal to get the prophet to inquire of the Lord on his behalf since the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, was on the attack. Maybe God would perform wonders and save them.

Of course, that’s not a bad hope to have.

The problem was this was a mere last-ditch effort to save themselves.

You know the prayer, right? Lord, if you’ll just do this one thing for me this one time. We know that was kind of the idea based on God’s response to their request. It’s an assurance their enemies will prevail against them. 

There is, though, a linger of hope. There was a way to turn the situation around. The Lord told the king to, “administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed.”

Let’s consider a few points within that charge.

We gather that the morning time was when a king would listen to the grievances his people had against one another. My son participated in a baseball tournament this weekend. In the middle of the afternoon, while calling a game, one of the umpires fainted. It’s pretty hot in south Texas, especially if you’re wearing padded gear and standing in the sun. This doesn’t quite parallel, but it gives us a picture. Kings didn’t want to have that happen to them.

So, judgment time was in the mornings. You can also read that into Ecclesiastes 10:16: Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad and whose princes feast in the morning. Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time.

It appears King Zedekiah and his rulers did not eat at the right time.

What did God want from the king now? In one sense, God told the king to get back to work. “Administer justice every morning.” Every morning see to it that my people have justice.

We also notice these weren’t trivial matters. God continued, “rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed.” What does it mean to call someone an oppressor? I’m sure you know the definition of the word. Were kings and leaders robbing people. Perhaps. That would not be out of the question.

Is it more likely the issues brought before the king were the day-to-day business dealings people had with one another, in some form or another? It seems like that would be what would have happened most. If so, justice for those oppressed and maligned by others was God’s first charge to the king.

God didn’t ask for offerings. In the midst of the king’s worry about wartime defeat, God demanded justice among God’s people. At the very least, that is a two-fold process. Someone needs to be rescued. Someone else needs to be confronted about their oppressive actions.

What does that teach us about what kind of ministry God might lead us to do? What might that suggest about how we engage with the social issues we face today? At the very least, we can sense that justice for God’s people is a priority.

Stay blessed…john

How foolish is this?

The conversation is longstanding. At least it seems that way.

The question is whether social justice is a valid part of the Christian faith. Should the church involve itself in political alliances or participate in causes related to social issues. Isn’t the church just supposed to preach the gospel?

I’m not sure how you read scripture and come away without recognizing God’s desire for justice. Will the Lord have final judgment, therefore holding the final word with regards to justice? Sure. But does that mean God doesn’t care about what happens in our time on earth?

On this side of heaven, we’ll never be completely whole. People will always take advantage of other people. Greed and pride will always rule hearts. Every generation has to deal with this reality. Should we take that as just the way things are?

I’m of the opinion our faith tells us the opposite.

If the kingdom of God was Jesus’ primary message, we do well to consider what that kingdom implies. Is it only about getting me to heaven?

The way I see it, getting into heaven is pretty easy. Apostle Paul said it this way, “because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Why do we make it out to be so difficult? I can’t recall the exact way it’s been said, but, essentially, it goes like this: It’s one thing to get man into heaven. It’s something altogether different to get heaven into man.

Living out God’s standards of justice and equality is a much more strenuous task than punching a ticket to eternity.

Now, again, all this comes from what we read in the Bible. Let’s use today’s reading as one example.

When I read Psalm 53 I can hear my dad say, “If God says you’re a fool, you’re a fool.” According to the psalmist, fools are corrupt and commit abominable acts. Does your imagination kick in when you read that? What constitutes an abominable act?

We don’t have to think too hard.

According to verse three, they do no good. The psalmist also said that God looks down and doesn’t find anyone seeking God. No one?

We hear God’s complaint in verse four. God says the evildoers, “eat up my people as they eat bread.” In other words, these people make sure they have enough. They probably have more than enough for themselves. Their enough comes at the expense of others.

So, does God’s future deliverance mean that we decide not to be that kind of people? Of course, but why wouldn’t God desire us to both care for the afflicted and work for their liberation? The Lord could’ve told Moses to encourage the people to be God-loving slaves in Egypt. But liberation is at the heart of our experience with God.

Something I’ve learned is that this question doesn’t really resonate in many places outside America. The global church joins the pursuit of justice with our Christian faith with great ease. It’s not an issue at all.

What might that say about us?

It’s unfortunate that the loudest Christian voices in politics seem more interested in maintaining power and influence rather than a godly pursuit of equity and justice.

According to Psalm 53, that makes us fools. And if God calls you a fool…

Stay blessed…john