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Bursting the Bubble of Wealth

“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that i must leave it to the man who will come after me.”  -Ecc 2:18

Wealth is an amazing thing.  I was blessed to grow up in a home that while not “wealthy” certainly provided me with a life of ease.  I didn’t have to work to put food on the table, my parents didn’t take my birthday money for gas money, and I always had presents under the tree at Christmas.  I lived a blessed life.

However, there are those who had much more money than I.  Families and people who could have bought and sold all that I had twenty times over and never made a dent in there money.  This also is a blessing.  How then can Solomon find any fault or struggle in the gaining of money and wealth?

Solomon, who was one of the richest men who ever lived, says that even the accumulation of wealth is ultimately vanity and striving after the wind.  He uses these three points to show how living a life that is about money and wealth is a life empty of any reason to live.

  1.  Ultimately we don’t get to Keep It

“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that i must leave it to the man who will come after me.” -Ecc 2:18

Solomon begins by simply recognizing the inevitability of his own demise.  Solomon knows he will die.  Sooner or later his life is going to come to an end and everything he has ever owned will pass on to his relations.  He will no longer own any of his stuff and he will have no say over how it is spent. Solomon will have worked his whole life only to give his money to those who didn’t earn it.

Ultimately that is what will happen to all of our wealth.  We can only enjoy it while we are here on this earth.  We can use it for good or evil.  We can use it all or nothing.  The only thing we can’t do is take it with us. 

2.    Ultimately we cannot Protect It

“and who knows  whether he will be wise or a fool?  Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun.” -Ecc 2:19

Solomon not only recognizes that one day he will die, but also that when he goes his idiot kids are gonna get everything.  Solomon realized there is no way to be sure that his kids spend his money well.

There is a difference that has been pointed out between being wealthy and being rich.  I can never remember which is which, but the basics are “a wealthy person made there money,  a rich person inherits it”.  Our world is filled with examples of people who ran into this problem. A hard working father/mother builds up a fortune only to see there children with no morals or work ethic tear that fortune down.

Solomon points out to us in these verses the futility of living for money.  Even if you were to get all you could hope, and are ok with passing it on when you die.  You do not get to decide what is done with it once you are gone.  Whoever gets your stuff gets to decide how to use your money.

3.    Ultimately we cannot Enjoy It.

” What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?  For all his days are full of sorrow…”  Ecc 2:22-23a

Solomon continues as he points out one simple truth that we all understand even if we don’t say.  The more wealth you have, the more worry of loosing wealth.  Solomon acknowledges that all his work and toil to attain such wealth has caused his heart nothing but “sorrow and vexation”.  When you work for wealth you heart is never satisfied.

The sad truth of wealth is that no person if they set wealth and riches as there goal ever said “now I have enough“.  They continue to work and worry and snuggle to get more and more always believing that the next hundred or next thousand will satisfy. Solomon is trying to show us early in life that the only thing that satisfies our desires is Christ/God.

“For apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  For to the one who pleases Him, God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. ” Ecc 2:25-26

In the last few posts we have talked about Solomon’s frustrations with life.  We have “burst the bubble” of many vanity that plague the human race.  However the ultimate point is summed up in these last two verse.  All pleasure and joy and good things are given to those who strive after Him.  To those who are not believer he has given the ultimately futile task of gathering and collecting.  I pray that anyone reading this finds there satisfaction in God, and not look for it in the business of collecting.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2016 in Ecclesiastes, Uncategorized

 

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Why, Why, Why?

Why, Why, Why?  The single most annoying question to infect the ears of a parent, teacher, or pastor.  This question is a never-ending circle of cause and effect that if brought to its final conclusion can end up at the creation of the world every time!*

James, however takes this question in three different routes to answer three specific questions as to why we as a people fall into the trap of Worldliness.

Question 1:  Why do we fight among ourselves?

If you have lived in this world longer than a few minutes you already know that arguments and quarrels are something we cannot seem to shake.  Every day seems like another fight and another time when “they” are wrong and “we” are right.

The church is not immune to this problem.  Even in the time of James there was fighting and strife inside the people of God.  As James, with the direction of the spirit of God, attempts to address this issue he uses a culprit that has already appeared in his book as the cause of all our sin….Our Own Fleshly Desires.

In James 1:12-15 he spells out how our base desires are what tempt us into sin and cause us to seek after other things.  By that same note James here in chapter 4 says that it is the fight between our old and new flesh that causes arguments and quarrels.

“You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel.”  James 4:2

James says that we desire things in our life both fleshly and spiritual and we cannot obtain them so we murder, steal, and fight.  However he leaves us with what is the base problem “You do not have, because you do not ask.”

Question 2:  Why are my prayers not answered?

So all of our quarrels can be summed up in that we do not have the things we desire, and we do not have the things we desire because we do not ask!  It seems so simple all we have to do is ask God and he will give it to us!

Again if you have been involved in Christianity for any length of time you have run up against the statement, “God did not answer my prayer”.  Putting aside the fact that “no” is just as much an answer as “yes”,  we encounter the problem that not everything we as Christians have prayed for has come to pass.

James once again has the answer.

“You as and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”     James 4:3

So the reason that we do not see prayers being answered is because like the people of James’ day we are praying wrongly.  We do not see health and wealth pouring from the sky precisely because we are praying for health and wealth.

You may ask then, “How should I pray?”

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'”  Matthew 6:9-13

The Lord’s Prayer, as it has come to be know gives us a great instruction on how we should set up our prayers.

1. Adoration of God The Father

2. Request for the will of The Father

3. Request for what we need to do The Fathers work.

4. Forgiveness for when we have disobeyed The Fathers words.

Question 3:  Why can’t I have it all?

We are by our very nature an adulterous people.  Every good thing that God has done for us and we still try and find ways to sneak the world into our lives.  It is from that lack of commitment that this final question spawns.  “Why can’t I have both the world and God?”

James again in answering these three questions lays out the answer to us beautiful in his letter to the people.

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”   James 4:4

Anyone who has been married can tell you that its not as easy as it looks from the outside.  As a man I can attest that the other women do not get uglier just because I am married (like I thought they might) nor do my thoughts get easier to manage.  Rather, I now focus my mind on my wife so that she is my every thought.

This is how James speaks about our relationship with God.  The world and all it offers us does not get less appealing just because we give our lives to Christ.  Rather, we are called to focus on God above all the things of this world.

Just like a marriage, James says that our relationship with God is one of a singular nature.  I cannot expect to flirt with other women and not have my wife be mad at me. Likewise, we as a Church cannot have friendship with the world and still be a bondservant to Christ.  We must be committed wholly to Him.

In answer to the question Why, Why, Why, James simply replys…Love God, Seek His Will, and Ask in His Name.

*(ex.. Why does a grasshopper hop – cause it has legs – why does it have legs – cause God made it that way – Why did God make it that way? – Cause he created the world, now be quiet and go to bed!)

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Radical vs Realist – Elijah & Obediah

We need revival!  We need a new work!  We need a radical change! 

Many a conversation among church leaders seem to center around these statements.  I myself have had many discussions with people both my own age and much older who are desperate to see a radical change in our churches.  In fact there has been a book published by David Platt called Radical, that is all about how we need to get back to the “radical” life to which Christ has called his church.  However, is the radical approach the only way to change the church?  Is there room for realists in the body of Christ?

To truly understand this we need to define what the difference is between a “radical” and a “realist”.

“A radical is one who holds or follows strong convictions and extreme principles, usually in an uncompromising and direct method.”

“A realist is one who is aware of and understands things as they are, and seeks to work within a system to enact change.”

Perhaps putting it more simply we should say that a radical would be more likely to tear the system apart and start fresh and new.  A realist, however, would be more likely to stay within the system to enact a change.

How does the Bible showcase these two different viewpoints, and how can they work together to further His kingdom?

Elijah

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Elijah was a radical!  From calling down fire to prove God’s power to calling the priests of God to eradicate the priests of Baal, Elijah was always making what most people of Israel would call controversial decisions, yet there can be no doubt that he was used by God to move the people of Israel back to God.  In all of Elijah’s activities though it is his challenging of the king on which we should focus.

The radicals among us can identify with Elijah’s confronting of the king (Kings 18).  Isn’t that what we are called to anyway?  Confronting the problems in our government and church from the front and taking a stand.  To be the person standing in the breach, drawing a line and saying “You Shall Not Pass”*.  The heads of our churches are saying that this is what God calls us all to do.  That we are called to be standing between the armies of the world and the people of God with our only options being corruption or death.

Is this radical path the only way?

Obadiah

While Elijah may be a well know radical of our Christian history, there is in this same story (Kings 18) the tale of a much lesser known man Obadiah.  Of this man’s life we have little to know knowledge, he may be the same Obadiah from the prophets, more than likely he is just another man with the same name.  The only thing we are told of this Obadiah is this:

“Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly, and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water”   – 1Kings 18:3b-4

So the entirety of this man’s legacy is that he feared the LORD so much that he would take the prophets of God  to hide and shelter them from an evil queen.  Notice, however, what these verses do not say.  They do not say that Obadiah confronted the queen about her evil.  They do not say that Obadiah quit his position to live in the wild with Elijah.  In fact, we find out in later verses that he was still a trusted servant of the king who was causing all of Israel’s problems, yet this man “Feared the LORD“.

So which path is the one God wants?  How should these very different ideas deal with each other?

The answer to these questions is shown in the next segment of these verses. (Kings 18:7-16) As Obadiah is on a mission for the king, he finds himself confronted by the Elijah himself.  When Obadiah sees him he bows in homage to this man who has put himself on the line for God.  These two men then converse about there different “ministries” and discuss a mission Elijah has for Obadiah.  They meet as equals, neither one condemning or challenging the others methods.

We as a group of Christians need to continually be taught this truth, “There is no wrong way”.  Christians get caught up in saying that radical life is better, or an organic (realistic) life is better; when the honest answer to these struggles is both are valid avenues to change.  Instead of trying to undercut other styles of change we should be building up our fellow Christians in there unique situations and agree that as long as we are moving toward change in Christ that we are on the right path.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Radical vs Realist, Uncategorized

 

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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 Life

I am…, the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father but through me.”  John 14:6

In previous posts we have talked a lot about Christ and what He said about Himself in John 14:6.  We went over every detail of the names He gave Himself to his followers so that they would be able to know more about Him, and we talked about the implication of those names.

He called Himself “I AM” which showed how He is always the same and can sustain and save us.  He called Himself “The Way” which showed He gave direction to the lost, safety to the traveler, and rest for the weary. He called Himself “The Truth” which showed He gives freedom from worry, death, and pride.  Now we get to the most important of them all “The Life.”

Life is such an important concept, in fact, the right to life is one of the only truly universal beliefs.  There is no culture where life is not held sacred. Now certainly there are those who take the right to life more seriously.  We in America for example, hold it to be one of our “big three” rights along with liberty and happiness. Without life we would literally not exist.

So what is Christ implying when He calls Himself “The Life?”

1. He Implies A Connection To All Things.

There is nothing in this world that does not connect to God. Whether it is a slug on a leaf or a king in his castle, God is intimately acquainted to all the world. Not only is He connected but he cares about all things. Luke 12:6-7 even tells us that God knows every sparrow sold at market, and every hair on our head.  God is intimately connected to this world!

2. He Implies A Ownership Of All Things

If Christ is “The Life” then that implies a certain amount of ownership. The psalmist says,”For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (50:10). The implication of this verse is that all the world belongs to God.  How then can we expect to ever repay God for all the good things that he has given to us?

3. He Implies A Purpose To All Things.

If Christ not only has a connection with us and an ownership over us, then it must be to that he has a purpose for us.  Think of all the things you have owned.  They were created with a purpose and bought for that purpose.  Now if we as people do not create things without purpose why then do we believe our God would do so? The bible itself proclaims: “For I know the plans I have for you says the LORD, plans to prosper and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a hope and a future.”  – Jeremiah 29:11

Christ, however, does not finish this statement with names.  He finishes with a purpose, and that purpose is to lead all who would be seeking to His father, the author and perfecter of our faith.  The Father in whom our salvation lies!  So no matter if you are seeking who God is (I AM), where God is taking you (The Way), the mysteries of the gospel (The Truth), or the meaning of life (The Life); remember this.

No man comes to the father but through me.”  John 14:6

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in John 14:6

 

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The Truth…(Part 2)

I am…, the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father but through me.”  John 14:6

So if this is true (see The Truth…Part 1), if we truly are afraid of God because of the truth He knows about us.  Then what is he telling us by saying that he is “The Truth”.  Surely it is more than just a quaint nickname or a halfhearted metaphor. Is He possibly revealing apart of his nature?  Is He saying that He has nothing to hide from our searching of Him?

What Christ is ultimately saying then when He gives himself this “nickname” is that we can search, ponder, and question Him all we like.  That no matter what accusation or slander we as people can throw at Him, He can take it all and not be changed!  Because as we said before “The Truth” is the most accurate interpretation of all of the facts, and when you put all the facts together the only interpretation you can have is that God is in control!

So what comfort does this truth give us?

1. This Truth Gives Freedom From Worry.

On the subject of worry Billy Graham had this to say: “Anxiety (worry) is the natural result when our hopes are centered in anything short of God and his will for us” When we worry we are taking our sites off of God and putting them on the troubles of this world. “The Truth” is that if we do as God has told us in his word (Phil 4:6-7) we can be free from the stress that worry brings!

2. This Truth Gives Freedom From Pride

Pride is a cancer of the mind that allows us to believe that we are above God. It allows us to say that we know how to run our own lives and no one can tell us any different. This stems from what gamer’s like me call the illusion of choice, the idea that we can change the ultimate outcome. “The Truth” is that anything that has been done was already know at the beginning of time, and nothing we can do can change the outcome that Christ will win!  When you understand that, you are free from the pride that control can bring.

3. This Truth Gives Freedom From Death

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

The saying goes that the only things for certain are death and taxes.  The story of the bible is one of redemption and salvation from death.  Not from physical death as some skeptics say, but from a death of the soul.  This death is caused by a complete separation from our God.  None of us will know how this truly feels on earth because we are all connected in a small way to Gods love.  “The Truth” is that God, taking on the form of a man, came down to this earth to save us from this separation!

So what is “The Truth”?  The truth of God is this, that He loved this world and everyone in it so much that he was willing to sacrifice His flesh and blood.  He did this even after we as a people had turned our backs on Him and distorted His perfect world.  “The Truth” is that His salvation is free to anyone who will come and ask it of Him.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in John 14:6

 

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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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