Life is very precious to God. From the very beginning of Creation, God spoke to the Earth and said, “generate life.” Generate life. We read of the creation of animals and then we read of the creation of man. Man becomes responsible for the animals and even for Earth.
Now with this command to the Earth to “generate life” and with our responsibility for the Earth and all upon it, we need to understand this command because it is for us as well. What does it mean to generate life? To generate means to bring about or cause or lead to something. In this case, the something is life.
If the Earth’s job is to lead to life, to produce life—and if we are responsible for the Earth, then we need to live in a way to help the Earth to generate life. Promote life. Save life. Protect life. Speak life. Value life. Pro-life. This doesn’t mean we should all start mass producing. This doesn’t mean we should all become vegetarians. To dive deeper, consider this: God created these things so He cares for them. He may have created them from nothing, but He didn’t create them for nothing. Generate life.
“God spoke: ‘Earth, generate life! Every sort and kind:
cattle and reptiles and wild animals—all kinds.’
And there it was:
wild animals of every kind,
Cattle of all kinds, every sort of reptile and bug.
God saw that it was good.”
– Genesis 1:24-25 [MSG]
If you are the older sibling, you might have heard the phrase “look after” your brother or sister. If you are in a management position, your job is to “look after” whatever you are managing, and this usually includes a group of people. When you have children, you “look after” them.
Looking after someone requires time and attention. Looking after someone at its best requires love and dedication. Looking after someone or something requires caring. Looking after someone requires being intentional and present.
The author of Hebrews wrote, “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.” He went on to mention bitterness that leads to trouble and corruption. We spend a lot of time looking after ourselves, looking after our families, looking after our co-workers—let us not forget to look after our brothers and sisters.
“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” – Hebrews 12:15 [NLT]
I love to cook. When I have the time, I will search for new recipes and walk in uncharted territory. I love to pull out old recipes that are favorites to enjoy again. Sometimes I will pull from my Pennsylvania Dutch roots. Whenever I am cooking, utensils are needed—and for some things I have a special utensil used for a particular usage. I will look deep in the utensil drawer to grab that one, no matter how long it takes to find it. To me, it is the only one that can do the particular job.
In 2 Timothy we read about keeping ourselves pure. Today’s verse speaks of a “special utensil for honorable use.” We might think about the special utensils we have in our kitchens; however, we also are special utensils. Each one of us was created by God and chosen for honorable use. He has a great plan and purpose for YOUR life.
You will be a special utensil for God. You need only “keep yourself pure.” Focus on Him. Focus on His Word. Focus on what is good, pure, holy—and watch how God uses you for His glory. This is a great promise. YOU will be a SPECIAL UTENSIL for HONORABLE USE. Yes, you!
“If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 2:21 [NLT]
It is difficult to stay motivated when there is a long road ahead and the finish line is a far distance away. I remember trying to press through college and wondering if I would ever finish. As time passes and the goal appears so far out of reach, it is hard to keep from falling off course.
In Hebrews, the writer mentions how Abraham, Noah and others died believing the promises of God. They had not yet received what they were promised. They believed. But they had not yet received. The writer said, “They saw it all from a distance and welcomed it.”
We receive promises from God just as these great men. These promises are from a distance. We too can only believe God and welcome what He has promised. He keeps His promises. He is faithful. There might be times when it is hard to stay motivated, but this life is a small span compared to the eternity we have with God. From a distance is a peace unable to comprehend. From a distance there is joy like no other. From a distance is life in abundance, eternal life, true life as God intended.
“All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.” – Hebrews 11:13 [NLT]
One of the most quoted verses is Philippians 4:13, but so often it is taken out of context or used as a motto to say declaring that you can do anything. Paul was writing this letter while he was in prison. That must be recognized first. I think it is important to read the verse prior to get a better understanding of what verse 13 means.
Paul says that he knows how to live in every situation – whether he has a lot or whether he has a little. It didn’t matter if his stomach was full of food or deprived of food. He knew how to live. He could live in every situation because he could do everything through Christ, because Christ provided the strength he needed.
Don’t ever use Philippians 4:13 as an “I can do everything” card that says you can do whatever you want because God will provide the strength. Paul was serving God—serving while in freedom and serving while in chains. Paul learned to live with whatever God provided and understood that it was enough. Paul’s focus was on Christ. You can do everything through Christ—if He calls you to do it, He will provide for all your needs to accomplish it. You might be living with almost nothing or you might be living with a lot more.
“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:12-13 [NLT]
As a baby, we grow and learn how to do things for ourselves. We spend many years trying to learn how to be independent. From walking to talking to eating to reading to driving, we become more and more independent. We are so often taught about hard work and pushed to put forth great effort to become a “success” in life. And there is nothing wrong with these milestones and achievements.
Nonetheless, no matter how hard we work, no matter how much we learn, there is no way we can be truly independent. We rely on God, whether we believe or not. He is our Creator and our Sustainer. But sometimes because we have achieved some success in life, we begin to put our confidence in our own hands or in the hands of others. Someone might have come through for us a few times and we believe we can count on them. Or we only trust ourselves because we know we can get the job done.
No one can do it all. Everyone falls from time to time, some more than others. Humans are finite. Humans make mistakes. Humans have needs that can only be met through God. When we put our confidence in people, we will always be let down. There is only One who can keep every promise. There is only One who knows all the stars. There is only One who sees all things, knows all things, created all things. There is only One who can save us. Therefore, “we rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us.” He alone is our hope and confidence.
“For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.” – Philippians 3:3 [NLT]
We can look around and see so many things. As technology improved, we have the capability to see so much more than when you and I were younger. With this great advancement comes an open door to allow more things to pass by your eyes. Some things are great and some things we could do better without.
Paul told us to “fix our thoughts.” To put our attention in a particular area. To focus on certain things. It is something that I remind myself of daily. With all of opportunities we have to see things, it is clear that we need to filter what we see so as to focus on what is “excellent and worthy of praise.”
If you look at a magazine shelf at a store, you will see so much destruction. So much divorce. So much scandal. So much drug addiction. So much gossip. So much impurity. As you focus on all this sin, it starts to draw you inward. The marketing experts know what they are doing. You won’t see many “admirable” magazine articles plastered in the more frequently used aisles. You have to seek them out in the aisles rarely opened. But we are challenged to fix our focus. I say “challenged” because it is a challenge but it can be done. Today, be boldly focused. When you find yourself seeing things that are not worthy of praise, fix your focus. Allow more of what is good to come in, and gradually you will find that there’s a great benefit with this intentional focus on what is good.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” – Philippians 4:8 [NLT]
When things are going well, it is very easy for us to rejoice. Everyone loves when things are going well. When we have free time to spend with family and friends, we are happy. When we have enough money to pay all of the bills, we are joyous. When we are healthy and feel energetic, we wear a smile. When we love our jobs, we love going to them. When we can get off for a dream vacation, we are ecstatic.
But then there’s the “other side” of things—when things don’t go well. We face trials. We face struggles. We face situations that are difficult and bring us pain, torment, tears, sadness. We don’t feel like rejoicing. We aren’t very happy. Paul says, “Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.” Whatever happens.
There are moments in my life where I found it very difficult and nearly impossible to rejoice. My eyes were tired from crying. My head hurt from lack of sleep. My knees hurt. But I am reminded of God’s goodness, of His promises, of His blessings. Whether it’s a good day or a better day or a day we would like to forget, we rejoice. We rejoice knowing that He gives us everything. We rejoice knowing that this is not our final destination, but a small portion of something so much bigger. We rejoice for He is our Lord, our Savior, our God. We rejoice. Whatever happens. No matter what. We rejoice.
“Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.” – Philippians 3:1 [NLT]
There are many ways to get to a destination. I love when I am driving using my GPS to direct me to somewhere I have been before but might not know each turn necessary. I will not listen to the directions given by the GPS because I know a better way to go, perhaps a faster highway or a safer road. I take the directions I know will still get me to the destination and then I listen later for the directions from the GPS to finish the journey. The GPS yells at me again and again because I am off the desired route.
The Highway of Holiness doesn’t allow for different ways to make the destination. There is only one path, the straight and narrow path. The path is Jesus Christ. He said He is the Way and He is the only way.
Isaiah states that there are some people who will not travel on the Highway of Holiness, otherwise known as the Way of Holiness. We have the option to travel on the great road—to follow in God’s ways—to follow Jesus Christ. We can only travel on the Highway of Holiness through Christ. He is our EZ Pass. We cannot afford the toll otherwise. We also have the option to choose another destination. C.S. Lewis pointed out that hell was a choice and it’s true. Jesus said you couldn’t reach the Father except through Him. He is the Way. The only way.
“And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there.” – Isaiah 35:8 [NLT]