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Denison Forum – Bill Gates, Liz Smith, and Australian cockatoos

Bill Gates has announced that he is investing $100 million in the fight against Alzheimer’s. The world’s wealthiest person is joining the fight in part because men in his family have suffered from the disease. He notes in his latest blog: “I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity, and there is nothing you can do about it.”

Gates’s legacy in the world of computers is assured. But one day, if the Lord tarries, every technology he invented and every line of code he wrote will become obsolete. However, if he helps defeat one of our most feared diseases, his significance will far outlast his success.

By contrast, the gossip columnist Liz Smith has died at the age of ninety-four. Famous for covering the private lives of A-list celebrities, she once said of her work: “We mustn’t take ourselves too seriously in this world of gossip. When you look at it realistically, what I do is pretty insignificant. Still, I’m having a lot of fun.”

A third news item caught my eye this morning: the yellow-crested cockatoo is wreaking havoc with Australia’s broadband network. The country spent $36 billion on this infrastructure project, but as a spokesman explains, the birds have “developed a liking for our cables . . . these birds are unstoppable when in a swarm.”

What we do today may not last or matter tomorrow. How do we leave a legacy of significance?

Live for eternity today

Life is both short and unpredictable.

Two people were killed and two others were wounded at a shooting in Atlanta over the weekend. Multiple people were stabbed inside the Mall of America in Minneapolis, leaving families and children stunned as they waited in line to see Santa Claus. An earthquake on the Iran-Iraq border killed more than four hundred and fifty people.

Scripture teaches us to “make the most of every opportunity” because “the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16 NIRV). How? For help, I’d like to explore with you an insight I had never considered before.

David Brooks, writing for the New York Times, cites the sociological distinction between Anywheres and Somewheres. To summarize: Anywheres embrace the global economy and “are cheerleaders for restless change.” Somewheres are “rooted in their towns” and identify themselves by place: a Virginia farmer, a West Virginia coal miner, a Pennsylvania steelworker.

Anywheres value mobility; Somewheres value tradition. We are one or we are the other.

With all due respect to my favorite columnist, I would like to amend the model he cites by noting that God is both.

He is the God of place. He had a land for Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:1–3). He led his people to settle the Promised Land as theirs (cf. Numbers 34). He wanted his exiles in Babylon to “build houses and live in them” (Jeremiah 29:5). He instructed them to “seek the welfare” of the place where they lived (v. 7).

But our Father is also the God of mobility. He asked Abraham to leave where he was to go where he was called (Genesis 12:1). He called Moses to Pharaoh’s palace (Exodus 3:10) and Paul to Macedonia (Acts 16:6–10). Read the apostle’s journeys in Acts and you’ll get a sense of God’s present-tense, real-time leadership in the moment for the sake of the Kingdom.

Live in the now here

The key to fulfilling God’s anywhere and his somewhere is to be faithful in the now here. How?

One: Use temporal success for eternal significance.

Omri was one of the most significant kings of Israel, according to historical records. His descendants held the throne of the Northern Kingdom for more than a century; the Assyrians later referred to Israel as the “land of Omri.”

But the Bible tells us that “Omri did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did more evil than all who were before him” (1 Kings 16:25). As a result, he received far less notice in Scripture than in secular history.

When you must choose between heaven and earth, choose heaven.

Two: Choose obedience at all costs.

Psalm 119:137 states, “Righteous are you, O Lord, and right are your rules.” If a ruler is righteous, his rules must be so as well. Whatever your loving Father’s will is for you, know that it is for your best.

Three: Abide in Christ.

Jesus promises us, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). To “abide” in Jesus is to stay connected to him in prayer, Scripture, worship, and devotion. It is to walk through the day in his presence.

Then you will bear eternal fruit for God’s glory and our good. As Anne Graham Lotz notes, “the branch bears the fruit, it doesn’t produce the fruit.”

Are you bearing eternal fruit today?

 

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