The Meaning of Life

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With the vast amount of information now available online we have access to all kinds of “wisdom” to help us find the answer to “What is the meaning of life. “Google it” has become a verb in which many of us use today. Wikipedia has become a free “reliable” source of information that covers nearly any topic you can imagine. Just for fun I searched for “the meaning of life” on Google, the search engine returned about 274,000,000 results. It took Googles servers 0.82 seconds to come back with all those results, it’s going to take you more than a lifetime to read them all. Here is a shortcut…

The author of Ecclesiastes has really given us something to think about when it comes to understanding wisdom and life.  He, presumably Solomon, takes us on a wild and at times confusing journey of trying to find meaning and purpose in life through pleasure, work, prosperity and wisdom. “Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (1:2) “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (1:14) Solomon was in his time one of the wisest men in the world, “God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore.” (1 Kings 4:29) So here we have the words of a very intelligent man, one who was given a gift from God to lead and guide his people, to help them find purpose and meaning in life so that they could lead a life holy and pleasing to God. This collection of life experience and Godly wisdom written for the people of that time is transferrable to our lives today. We all live in the same world of sin and despair today. God, who is our hope in life and in death has revealed to us through his word the true meaning of life.

So, can Google or any other online search help give you and answer to what the meaning of life is? Yes, I believe it can, but it is like finding a needle in a haystack. Our online digital world is relatively new compared the writings of the bible which date back much further and much deeper into history. Understanding wisdom, finding meaning in life has been a journey many people have made before us and God inspired man to record it for us in His word. The author of Ecclesiastes comes to a point in his journey that brings him to this conclusion about life, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (12:13) Our attitude in life is one that needs to focus on trust and obedience to the word of God. Yes, life is difficult. Live and grow in the knowledge and experience found in this collection of teaching on wisdom written by Solomon, it is the needle in the haystack of 274,000,000 hits on Google, and it will only take you an hour to read it.

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Rocks and More

FullSizeRenderOne of the things I enjoy about living on the west coast of British Columbia is the easy access to a variety of different types of beaches. One of my favorite things to do on the beach is collect uniquely formed rocks and rocks of interesting color. I am not a rock expert, I can’t identify all the different types of rock or tell you how they are formed. My rock identifications skills are limited to knowing the best skipping rocks on the beach and the rocks that fly perfectly straight from my slingshot.

In Matthew chapter 7:24, Matthew uses a simple illustration to help us identify the connection between listening to God’s word and living them out in our lives. This is what he says: “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock”. “These words of mine”, refer to the teachings of Jesus recorded for us in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7). Wisdom is living a life that is holy and pleasing to God; to be wise like the man who built his house on the rock is a picture of us standing on the foundations and truths presented by God through the Bible. The Sermon on the Mount is bursting at the seams with knowledge and understanding for us as believers. Jesus is extremely clear in his teachings on topics like murder, adultery, divorce, generosity, love for our enemies, prayer and worry. All these things and more define how we are to live among one another, how we are to respond to the grace and mercy of a God who created us and desires to have a relationship with us.

Our human condition (our sinful nature) is constantly fighting to distract and pull us away from living out the truths of scripture. Sin has a notorious way of creeping into our lives, it rolls around and mixes into our lives causing us to stumble and fall. Matthew continues to tell us of the foolish man who built his house on the sand and how it was destroyed by the water and wind. Living in ignorance to the words that we have heard in scripture is foolishness and leads to separation from God. There is a wonderful little children’s song that teaches these truths from scripture, my favorite line as a kid was “and the house on the sand went splat”. The house is you and me, build your house on a firm foundation like the wise man, feel free to “renovate” and add-on but follow the building code (be wise in the knowledge and understanding of God’s word).

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Black & White

b&WThere are infinite possibilities when it comes to mixing colours. With all these possible combinations, my personal preference as an aspiriing artist is to do a lot of work in black and white. For me, I appreciate the simple contrast between these obvious opposites; black representing the complete absence of white, and white representing itself as brilliant and pure, free of any black.

James asks an interesting question in his letter to God’s people, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” (3:13). To fully grasp the scope of what James is asking, we need to understand the truth about how the bible defines “wise”. Thankfully James helps us with this by including these words in his letter, “Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (3:13-16) In essence, what James is saying is those who are wise should demonstrate their wisdom in how they live, by deeds done with an attitude of humility. We as believers demonstrate wisdom if our deeds reflect God’s commands.

You can now begin to see a contrast between two types of wisdom. James continues in his letter giving these words of truth, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (3:17). Pure and void of any darkness, this selfless and humble wisdom is filled with the characteristics of our great God. Each of these things stand in contrast of the way the world defines its wisdom. When we live out these virtues or characteristics in our own lives, when we show greater concern for others then for ourselves (this is what James would call a “good life”) we bring glory and honour to God. The good fruit that James writes about here parallels the words of Paul in his letter to the Galatians, this is where he describes for us the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. A good life lived in accordance to God’s will is evidence that we are wise and understanding. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we as believers will stand as wise in contrast to the “wisdom” of the world.

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Wise Old Owl

Owl

Our western culture portrays this rather mysterious birds as wise; the owl is known for its stealth like ability to hunt its prey at night. It has been said that Athena, who was the Greek goddess of wisdom is often represented by the image of an owl. The famous character Owl from the classic story of Winnie the Pooh is characterized as a know-it-all. What about this perspective; The owl is considered dumb and empty-headed in India because it has the tendency to sit and stare blankly into space. So, is the owl really all that wise? I will leave that up to you to decide.

The book of Proverbs is filled with wisdom, instruction and divine truths. This is how the author opens this book, “Purpose and Theme: The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple.” This short introduction gives us a pretty clear scope of what God has provided through His word for direction in our lives. Verse seven of chapter one is the key to everything we find written in this book of wisdom, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” What is this fear? Well, it is an attitude of the heart and mind, an attitude of reverence, respect, awe, loyalty and obedience to live according to the words of the Lord.

The Bible is the inspired word of God given to man. The wisdom imparted through the Book of proverbs came from the Lord in a time much like we are living in today. The world that surrounds us has been plagued with foolishness (the antithesis of wisdom), dare I say it as the Indian culture describes, “empty-headed”. Reading through proverbs I found it noteworthy that the author was often addressing his son; the message was directed to those who were young and receptive to the teachings of the word. Solomon records these words in Proverbs 10:17, “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” As Christian leaders, we are called to be an example of one who heeds discipline, to increase in our knowledge and understanding of who God is and how we should live. We are called to teach this wisdom, knowledge and experience to the next generation of believers, giving them the proper foundation to grow on.

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The Alarm is Sounding.

Alarm ClockI’m not sure I have met anyone who enjoys waking up to the sound of an alarm clock. If you are old enough to have had one of the “old school” bell ringing alarm clocks, you will recall that they have only one volume, and that is LOUD. Today most of us have digital alarm clocks on our bedside tables and alarms set on our digital devices to wake us up or remind us of an important task. No matter what you use the alarm for, it is a wakeup call, a reminder of something important.

The book of Revelation is much like an alarm clock, it is a “loud and dramatic” wakeup call, a reminder of the reality of how great and powerful our God is. It is a wakeup call to the church to hear, understand and respond to the truth and message of the gospel. God’s message through John to the seven churches is quite clear as you read through the first three chapters of Revelation. “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die… But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” John is revealing the words of Christ to us, the church, proclaiming a future judgement over all the earth. There is a profound sense of hopelessness and despair when we read John’s revelation the churches.

Where can we find hope in such a fallen world? Through Christ. In Christ. He who stands before us calling each and every one of us to him. There is a promise of victory in the future for those who open their hearts and lives to him. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (3:20) “Consider how far you have fallen, repent and do the things you did at first.” (2:5) The church, the believers then and now exist in a world filled with sin, hurt, pain and suffering. Christ is calling us back to a restored relationship with him. He made the ultimate sacrifice and provided a way for all of us to overcome sin and judgement when he returns. The book of Revelation brings us a picture of future blessings, given by a God who is just in all his ways, who is true to his word and a God who is the final judge in life and death. The alarm is ringing, wake-up, open the door and let God be by your side.

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Oil & Water

There is a complex and somewhat exhaustive explanation of why oil and water do not mix together. If you were to check in with your local science expert they would use terms like immiscible, density and mass to explain the chemical properties of each liquid. On a very basic level most everyone knows that oil and water do not mix, they both have inherent qualities that make them incompatible.  
Paul writes to an audience of believers in Rome that have come to know Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour through the ministry of men like himself and others. Written into Paul’s letter to the Roman believers is a myriad of incredible truths that give instruction and motivation to live vibrant and faithful lives as Christians. Paul’s written message was a reminder to the people about the power of sin and deception that is persistently trying to lead them away from a proper relationship with God. Sin, and our sinful nature have the ability to create conflict between living by the ideals of the world compared to that of God’s call on our lives to live a life holy and pleasing to him. This conflict is much like that between oil and water; Life in Christ (the water), dose not mix with life in the world (the oil). Although the two can coexist together, the both have their inherent qualities that make them incompatible.  

The power to overcome sin comes through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Through Him we have access to His Father in heaven. Paul writes these words in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Our hope comes from the Lord through the work of the Holy Spirit when we allow him into our lives. Hope is an anticipation, a confident expectation (faith and trust) in the promise that God will fulfill his promise of eternal life with him. “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is not hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (8:24-25). For all the many earthly things that we have in this world they cannot and will not fulfill the promise of something better, they are only temporary. A question I often ask of myself is this, is my hope overflowing in a way that it spills out so others can see? God provided a way for joy and peace in life and that comes through his Son, a joy and peace that fuels our hope. The power of hope in Christ over shadows the power of sin, it separates us from the world.  

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A Needle in a Hay Stack

WaldoOften, when something is near impossible to find we use the term “like finding a needle in a hay stack.” This aptly describes the extreme difficulty of locating something that is well disguised by its surroundings. I can’t help but think of Waldo, the little guy in the red and white striped shirt and matching hat who is hidden among other similar colored items and people dressed the same. These well designed puzzles can drive a person crazy trying to find Waldo, the thing to remember is that he is always standing somewhere.

Filled with words of lament from Jeremiah (also known as the weeping prophet) the book of Lamentations portrays the broken heart of the prophet over the destruction of Jerusalem and the brokenness of the people who have turned away from God. Jeremiah’s passionate expressions of grief and sorrow instill feelings of desperation, fear, loneliness and hopelessness. Brought to his knees, Jeremiah, amid all that is happening around him shows us a small but powerful spark of hope that keeps him from spiraling further into the full presence of darkness. “The Lord is good to those who’s hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.” (La 3:25). God’s promise of rescue and comfort to Jeremiah,(Jer 1:8) the promise of love, is what Jerimiah put his hope in. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” (La 3:22)

Jeremiah found hope in the Lord because of His great love. The Apostle Paul expands on this great love in 1 Corinthians 13 saying, “love never fails… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Under the protection of God’s love Jeremiah put his hope and trust in Him for a better future, a hope in moving forward to better place in life. God, who was and is in full control over all his creation longs for each and every one of us to find hope and comfort in his love. This reminder of God’s sovereign power through the judgement over Jerusalem stands as a critical reminder that, in the busyness and of life we must continue to live a life according to His will. Jeremiah’s life and experiences model for us the incredible power of confession (crying out to God), forgiveness, hope and love.  Therefore, have hope in life. Live in obedience to God’s will because of His great love for you.

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Talking to a Brick Wall.

michal-grosicki-221225You have probably heard the statement “in one ear and out the other”, this implies the person or people you are talking to are in the room and for whatever reason your words or message didn’t sink in. This might seem like an odd question but have you ever tried talking to a brick wall? Brick walls don’t listen. In fact, your voice, the words you speak will bounce back from the hard surface and come back at you like a “slap in the face”. Brick walls are not only hard to break down, it is even difficult to put a hole in one so you can reach the other side.

At times, I think Jeremiah felt like he was talking to a brick wall. The people God had called him to speak to had built up walls with their own “brick and mortar”, materials that were not up to God’s standards. The people chose to ignore the words that God spoke through Jeremiah, “they did not listen or pay attention” (17:23) “These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words” (13:10). Jeremiah knew for the most part what he was up against from the time God called him into this role, 7:27 says, “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.” When we continue to read through Jeremiah we see the other half of the picture. Jeremiah was beaten (20:2), left for dead (38:6), called a liar (43:2) and again, threatened with death by the priests and prophets (26:11). Not only was the “brick wall” Jeremiah facing not listening it was “fighting” back, growing in strength and height as he pursued his calling to prophesy God’s impending judgment on the people if they did not repent and begin to follow Him.

Jeremiah had every reason to run the other way, to throw in the towel and let the people deal with God’s wrath on their own, but he had one very good reason to stay, and that was God. When we see God as our all-powerful (sovereign) Lord and King through Jeremiah’s story we get a glimpse of how God provided for all of Jeremiah’s needs. Knowing exactly what he needed and when he needed it and ultimately how much his mortal mind and body could handle, God walked alongside Jeremiah through all the trials that he faced. Jeremiah put his hope and trust in God to carry him through as he promised (1:8) Just as God worked through the life of Jeremiah to reach a lost and wandering nation of people He calls us to do the same. God created this world and all that is in it. As his people we are commanded to “go out into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. (Mk 16:15) Breaking down brick walls and reaching into the  lives of the lost so that they may come to know God in all his power and glory should be our goal. It is our responsiblitiy to live in obedience to his will, it is what He desires.

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The Letters of Life

There are letters of recommendation, letters of acceptance, letters of commendation, letters of refusal, hate, inquiry, love, complaint or concern. Although very different in the nature of their content each of these letters has a common purpose, they are written to communicate a message or to its intended audience. When we receive one of the above letters we know there is a certain “tone” associated with them. For example, a love letter will have a much different tone than a letter of refusal and a letter of hate will communicate a message clearly different than that of concern.  
2 Corinthians is a letter written by Paul to the church in Corinth. His letter varies in tone and subject matter as he try’s to communicate a number of things to the people. This is a letter written to commend the Corinthian church for responding to his earlier plea to love one another in Christ’s name and to remember how much He loved them. Paul wrote in order to help prepare the people’s hearts to live and give generously and with joy so that the work of spreading the good news of the Gospel would continue. He conveys a specific message surrounded by urgency and warning about understanding and recognizing the teachings and tactics of false teachers and prophets that have made their way into this family of believers. Paul writes with incredible passion, deeply rooted feelings and divine inspiration. He is writing from the deepest depths of his heart, a heart that has been radically transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ.  

Preserved in the Bible for thousands of years, the words of Paul have been interpreted, read, taught, lived out and spoken to generation after generation of people. The message communicated to the people in Corinth is a message that continues to cross cultures even today. It’s timeless reminders and commands hold true to who we are called to be as followers of Christ. This letter and many like it in scripture have the power to transform lives. As followers of Christ who have experienced this transformation we must continue to “eat, sleep and breathe” these inspired words from God. What does that mean for you? For me, right now, it means that through the work of the Holy Spirit my life I must follow as close to that of Christ’s life as I possibly can.  

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The Three C’s of Gospel Communication.

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There are so many ways that we can educate ourselves about the art of communication. A quick Google search will list a variety of websites that gives us information like this: “The Three V’s of Communication” (visual, vocal and verbal), “The Three Dimensions of Communication” (miscommunication, attitude and mindfulness) and “Three Dominant Styles of Communication” (passive, aggressive, and assertive). All these tools can be helpful in understanding how to communicate effectively but when it comes to the gospel message the Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy gives us some great keys to communicating this life changing message. I will call the them the Three C’s of Gospel Communication.

Christ – “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead… This is my gospel, for which I am suffering.” (2 Tim 2:8,9)

Confidence – “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so through me the message might be fully proclaimed.” (2 Tim 4:17)

 Courage – “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Tim 1:7)

Without Christ, the gospel message would not exist. Knowing, trusting and participating in the absolute truth of the reality of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection is essential to communicating its significance and its transformational power. When we put our full confidence in Christ (knowing he is standing beside us) our lives become rooted in His word. With confidence, we can stand firmly on the promise that he will never leave us or forsake us. He works in us so that the message of his word will be proclaimed. We are given the power of the Holy Spirit through Christ and the confidence we put in Him. Sharing the good news of the gospel takes courage, a power that we alone cannot produce. God, through his son Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit gives us the courage (power) to stand against the forces of evil that work so powerfully to try and put a stop to the proclamation of the message of the gospel.  Through Christ, confidence and courage the message of the gospel will continue to be spread.

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