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Bursting the Bubble of Pleasure

“‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But behold this also was vanity”  Ecclesiastes 2:1

As I work on this lesson I find myself realizing that this is the stage of life, as Solomon describes them that I find myself.  I am enraptured with pleasure.  Good friends, good food, and good fun are the places where I find joy.  So it is with a heavy heart that I must write that these things fun and enjoyable as they may be cannot bring lasting or ultimate pleasure!

Solomon continues his discussion of useless things here in chapter two of Ecclesiastes by bursting the soap bubble of pleasure.  He comes to it as a man just off a night of self reflection, and begins to discuss the parts of his life where pleasure and achievement were everything to him.  

It is in this discussion of his life of pleasure that Solomon makes note of two things that are important to understand about pleasure and achievement.

  1.  Pleasure is Good, but Too Much is Sorrow

“Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness.”               Prov. 14:13

Pleasure is a gift of God!  There can be no denying this fact.  For some reason back in the middle ages and even before people got a view of God as this heavenly school teacher who was just there to wag a finger and take away all the fun.  At one point a child even using his imagination was considered a sin, but this is not the God we see pointed to in our bible.

The God we see in the bible is a God who led his people to a land of pleasure flowing with “milk and honey”.  A God who threw feast and party for every little event in the lives of the Jewish people.  Even James in the new testament says “every good and perfect gift is from above”

There is a down side to pleasure though, this comes in the law of diminishing returns.  The essence of this law is that the more you do something the less pleasure you will get.  This means that to get the same amount of pleasure you will have to increase your activity.  We see this most acutely in drug addiction.  At first one hit of whatever drug you use will get you high, but as you continue using you need more and more of that drug to get the same high.

The Law of Diminishing returns holds true weather you pleasure is gained from drugs, sex, gambling, video games, or any other pleasurable activity.  If all you are gaining is pleasure than it will eventually turn sour and sorrowful.

2.   Achievement is Good, but Cannot Bring Happiness

“So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem.”  -Ecc 2:7

Solomon was, as has been said before, one of the wisest men who ever lived.  Due to his wisdom he was also one of the greatest kings both Israel and the world had ever seen.  Solomon outlines some of his greatest achievements here in this chapter.  He achieved more than any other king of Israel and yet he still found no lasting joy in his achievements.

No one can say that being productive and having great works and achievements is a bad thing.  The Bible has plenty to say on those who are lazy and slothful, but achievement can have its own dangers.

Achievement for achievement sake, however, lends itself to becoming an escape to the rest of life.  Those who become “workaholics” fall to the same vanity and uselessness that we discussed about pleasure.  Eventually the law of diminishing returns causes you to need more and more; and bigger and bigger achievements.

However, Achievements also has its own unique struggle and that is the struggle of becoming a god to yourself.  When your good works, and your achievements become so  important that God becomes a secondary character in your life.  You begin to elevate your own interests above the interests of others.  The ultimate end of this struggle comes as you get to the end of your life and there are no more achievements to be gained.  Then you become useless, and your god is no more.

Solomon looked on pleasure and achievement and pronounced judgement.  Without God they are useless and vain pursuits.

 

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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Ecclesiastes

 

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Under Pressure…(bum bum bum ba-dum bada bum bum)

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself”    – 2 Cor 1:8

Its funny, how many things in this world can be both good and bad for us depending on the context. Fire can bring heat and also burn buildings, water can bring floods but also sustain life, and spiders kill mosquitoes but also are scary (and of the devil), but the most intriguing of these dualitys is pressure!

Pressure is one of the greatest things that are involved in our lives.  With enough pressure and time (and coal) you can get diamonds. With correct pressure and students you can get leaders.  However, even though pressure can make great things it can also (as a recent event in my life can attest) be a crushing unbearable burden.

Pressure, in Christ, can come in many forms.  It comes in wise council and instruction, in discipline and punishment, in encouragement and fellowship, and in faith and prayer. However, like most things there is a very fine line between too little and too much. There is a fine line between just the right amount of council and not enough, between discipline and encouragement, and between safety and faith.

How do we appropriately apply pressure?

1.  Pressure is Best Applied Differently

“Even in my short ministry life I have learned that what will turn one person into a diamond will crush another into dust.  There was a old preacher who said ‘good leaders play checkers…great leaders play chess’.  The idea is that everyone in this life needs pressure in different ways and when you learn to “play” everyone according to there needs you are approaching great leadership.”

2.  Pressure is Best Applied Evenly

“Diamonds, as we all know, are made over long periods of time due to constant and even pressure.  Likewise, when we put pressure on others ,even in Christ, we need to apply that pressure evenly over time.  In fact going from no pressure to massive pressure is like taking a red hot skillet from a red hot stove to a cold water tub…much more likely to crack than clean.”

3.  Pressure is Best Applied Singularly

“Some may not agree on this point, but it is one that I believe in with my whole heart.  The best ratio of people applying pressure is one to one.  Through my entire life the time where I have seen people be cracked and burdened by pressure the most is when every acquaintance decides they should be the one to apply pressure. This causes the pressure in that persons life to increase to the point where they are “smooshed” by all the advice.

In the end all that can be said about pressure is that it is very important, and very dangerous.  It should be handled with care and concern for the person “under pressure”.  If our goal is to produce diamonds then we need to allow for time and not rush the process with more pressure.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Theology of Faith

 

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The Truth…(Part 1)

I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the father except through me.”  – John 14:6

What is truth?  How do we find it? and What is our reaction to it?

I found myself just a few months ago entangled in conversation with a man who, while being bat crap crazy, asked me a question that left me pondering the answer.*  We were embroiled in a debate over what the reality of God was and whether any religion was truly the right religion. But, over the course of this argument we wandered onto what is truth.  It was then that this crazy old man asked my this:

“What is the difference between truth and fact?”

After this obviously unsuccessful attempt at witnessing to a man at McDonald’s I just went about the rest of my day; however, I found the man’s question sticking with me.  What was the difference between truth and fact?  A point he made, and I was hard pressed to disagree is that fact is unquestionable!  You can’t get rid of facts no matter how hard you may try. You can deny them.  You can hide them.  You can even obscure them, but they never truly go away.

So if fact is so absolute then what is truth?  Being raised as the good christian that I strive to be, I was always taught that truth is absolute. Could both of these things be correct?  It took a lot of prayer and many hours of study to arrive at my answer, but finally I found it.

Truth is the most accurate interpretation of all of the facts!

As I said before facts are absolute but they can be obscured and even misused to produce a false truth, but that is not TRUTH.  Truth is when all of the facts are put in the correct order brought into the light and exposed for all to see.

The realization of this caused me to question then an even older philosophic question I was given. It was this:

“If you could spend the whole day in a room with another person and you had to speak the truth would you want to?”

This question was posed to a group of about twenty-two senior high school students, and with the exception myself and one other all of them answered with a firm and unshakable no.  Even at the time I was stunned how could this group of seventeen to eighteen year old Christian students not want to be open and honest with each other.  Wasn’t one of the tenets of our religion to be truthful?

They of course gave the answers that you would expect of a question such as that. What if the other person told?  What if a deep dark secret came out?  What if I was basically a devil and them an angel?  Who would come out on top?  These questions and more plagued there minds. They were scared about which truths might be found out.  What then was changed about this question then you might ask?

What changed was this: If truth is the most accurate interpretation of all of the facts, then what you were telling in that room was not truth but fact!  Now that may get lost on some but the distinction is very important.  These people were afraid, not of what truths this person might find out but what facts.  That fear, however, ran deeper.

There fear was that with enough facts this person might learn the TRUTH!

All that is left to ask then is why is this such a frightening thing?  Why does someone knowing the truth about us frighten us so much?  There is I believe a very simple but haunting answer.  When the truth about us is known it forces not only the one who finds out and the one whom the truth is about to face that truth.  When someone has all the facts and knows us so completely, they can force us to confront who we really are!

“Is this then the reason we are all so afraid of allowing God into our lives?!”

*As all good questions should!

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Excestential, John 14:6

 

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The Way…

I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

The way. Such a simple phrase it hardly even seems worth mentioning; and yet this understanding of Christ and of the role that he plays in our Christian life is absolutely paramount to the relationship that we have with Him. In fact, this description of Christ was so important to the early church that they started out calling themselves not Christians but “Followers of the Way”.

So, what can we learn from this description of Christ?  What is He trying to teach us by describing Himself this way?  Certainly there is the obvious realization that Christ is the one and only road that will lead us to our salvation in God, but is there more to his being the way. Is it also a description of the protection and peace that Christ offers?

So what does “The Way” offer us?

1. The Way Offers Salvation To The Lost.

Imagine, if you will, that you are lost in a dense dark forest.  There are dangers all around you and many predators just waiting to devour you in the dark.  How happy would you be to find a path, and with it direction and the way of escape?!  This is the situation in which we as people find ourselves.  We are lost in a dark world full of sin and pain with the enemy just waiting to devour our very soul (1 Peter 5:8). It is into this situation that God came and provided the way of escape!

2. The Way Offers Safety To The Traveler.

People for almost all of time have sought out and used established paths.  This is because they offer travelers the knowledge that others have come before them.  Rather than just trudging through the darkness and fearing the forest, travelers can be certain of a direction.  Also, a traveler can be certain that if he runs into trouble there will be another who can find him to help.  We as “Followers of the Way” can likewise be certain that on this path we follow, Christ has gone before and others will be there to pick us up!

3. The Way Offers Rest To The Weary.

The ultimate goal of any traveler is the destination and the completion of his journey.  It is the knowledge that there is a season of rest waiting for him at the other end that can keep him going even when the road gets tough.  It is the same for us in our Christian walk!  We are traveling our whole lives doing our duty for our savior and what keeps us going more than anything is the knowledge that in the end we will get to sit and worship the One who has provided for us. (Phil 1:21-23)

Christ knew that the Christian life would be full of dangers and pitfalls.  That is why He used this description of the way, so that we as people could realize that even while we are on our journey he will guide us to our rest. He used this description so that when we wonder how we were going to make it through this life we will know His response:  I Am the Way!

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2012 in John 14:6

 

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I AM…..

I AM..,the way, the truth, and the life; and no man comes to the father except through Me.”  – John 14:6

God has used this statement over and over again in the bible to sum up His very existence…I AM. Even put into just two words, God seems like one of the most complex personalities of all time. What does that mean exactly? Does it mean that God is in everything? Does it mean God is everywhere? Maybe it means God is in us, people, like so many religions believe, or maybe, just maybe it means God is a fact!

I AM… It is not a question, just a statement that no matter what I AM.  Perhaps God’s intention in describing Himself that way was to indicate that among all the absolute facts that can be argued back and forth in religion and philosophy one remains fixed and that is that He Is. I AM indicates that before there was anything I AM, that after it is all gone I AM, and when our strength is not enough I AM.

So how has God used His name in the Bible?

1. God Is Always The Same

In the Book of Exodus, God gives his name for the first time to Moses and he says, “I AM who I AM.” With this simple statement God was indicating to Moses that He was the same God who was with his forefathers. Moses was then told by God to go back to his people and if they asked to tell them one thing if they questioned who sent him….I AM. (Ex 3:14)

2. God Will Sustain Us

In John we see God once again begin to use his name for the purposes of teaching the people.  After having fed the people on the shores of Galilee, Christ went off by himself to pray and avoid his ‘adoring fans’. After a while, they find Him on the opposite shore and begin comparing Him to Moses because He gave them bread to sustain them, but Christ then connects Himself to God His father once again by saying, ‘”I AM the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger..”  Christ says that He will sustain us the way only food can but His provision will be forever. (John 6:35)

3. God Will Save Us

Finally, God uses His name to show that He is our only way to salvation. “I Am, the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the father except through me.” The next few blogs will go through this in a deeper manner, but the point that Christ is making here is that There is no other way that we can get to salvation except through Him.

With two simple words God managed to say so much about His life and character. He will never leave us, He will never change, He will give us sustenance in the desert of our lives, and He will save us from coming judgement.  So what does God say with his name?  I AM all you need!

If you enjoyed this check out my other blogs at ministryinreality.wordpress.com 

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in John 14:6

 

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Super Hero Faith

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”  Heb 11:1

What is the first thought of a super hero when he discovers he has “powers?”  Once you are past all the, “Dude, this is awesome!” and “I’m gonna kick that bully’s butt!” what is left to think?  Did Captain America trust his shield the first time he used it?  Did Spider-man try his web swing right out of the gate?  Did they have faith that in the heat of battle there “powers” would sustain them?

To talk about faith, you must also talk about belief; though they are not the same, they do go hand in hand.  So what is belief? Belief, simply put, is an opinion or conviction of something with no available proof.  So what is the difference?  Faith is allowing your life to be molded around a belief and living as if that belief were fact.  The classic example is this: when a person walks into a room and sees a chair, he most likely believes it can hold  his weight. It becomes faith when you place yourself at the mercy of that chair.

So do we have true faith?  Are we as people willing to act on the belief that God will sustain us through the upcoming battles?  How can we truly know if we will be able to use the shield of faith? Here are some ways to know if you are ready.

1. Do We Obey?

“If you want to know if you have true faith first look at your obedience.  When God calls do you listen and do, or do you grumble complain and question?  Your obedience should be like Abraham’s who ‘obeyed when he was called to go out….and went out, not knowing where he was going.” Heb 11:8

2. Do We Please God?

Not only should we look at our obedience, but also we should see if our personal actions are pleasing to God.  Does our life line up with scripture?  Are we living like we truly believe in Christ?  In this respect we should be like Enoch who “walked with God” (Gen 5:24) and “…was commended as having pleased God.” Heb 11:5

3. Do We Trust God’s Faithfulness?

Do we truly believe that God will protect us?  When the chips are down and its just you and God in your corner, do you really believe that he will provide for you?  Is your belief just God can do, or God will do?  We should be like Sarah who was allowed to conceive well past her prime because “she considered Him faithful who had promised.” Heb 11:11

So, do super hero’s have faith in there “powers,” and if they, do can we truly be like them?  Can we as mere mortals in this world, not only believe in the power of God, but also have faith that this power will sustain us through all the times of our lives? Can this power truly save us?

“But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”  John 1:12

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2012 in Theology of Faith

 

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Mordecai – A Lesson In Humility

“Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”  Est 6:11

If there ever was a man who knew how to remain humble, even when he had every reason to be proud, it was Mordecai.  To this day this man of God, a paragon among the Jews of his time, has his story cast in the shadows of what we know of as the story of Esther.  He remains now and forever as nothing but a side story in the grander plan of the salvation of the Jews, and I believe that is exactly how he would like it.  If, however, I could shine a light on this small but great man for just a moment, we could learn a great lesson in humility.

How many of us when we have done a great thing, at least in our minds, are willing to let them go unnoticed   Are we able to just let our deeds be enough for us or do we demand some greater prize? This is a struggle that we are all faced with at one time or another, yet how we answer those questions can be a great indicator of our humility. So how should we act when we have done some deed deserving of recognition?

1. Let the act speak for itself.

Often the first indicator of our humility in these situations can be how we “spread the news”. We should be as Mordecai was in the Book of Esther and once the deed is done, be content to go back to our post and resume our duty.

2. Continue without bitterness

Even when we get the first step right, and we don’t go shooting off our mouths about how great our actions have been.  We may still be waiting for someone to notice our “greatness”, and when that recognition does not come we get bitter and angry at those people who “refuse” to recognize our works. So when you get this bitter feeling ask yourself, “Did I do it for the recognition, or because it was the right thing to do?”.

3. Know that God is in control.

The ultimate answer to all humility questions is this, “Are you fine if only you and God know?”.  If your answer is yes then you have truly reached the point where you are contented in the place where God has you, and it is there that you can begin true humility.

One last question before the discussion is done, “How do we react when recognition finally comes?” Do we rub it in the faces of all those people who thought we were nothing, or accept it graciously?  Mordecai, again gives us a better example than we could hope to receive.  He is finally rewarded for saving the kings life. He is driven through the streets with one of the kings top officials shouting how great his honor is in the kings eyes. How does he respond?

“Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate…” Est 6:12

If you enjoyed this check out my other blog at ministryinreality.wordpress.com

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2012 in Humility

 

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