Your Life is Meaningful

Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. … For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. – Ecclesiastes 1:2,2:21

What is the meaning of life? It is one of those cosmic questions that everyone asks at some point but, since it seems too big for us to get our heads around, we tend to quickly dismiss it and go on to the next meeting or mall or movie.

A man named Solomon asked this question near the end of his life. Solomon was the king of Israel at the height of Israel’s power. He was healthy, wealthy and wise. Yet, as he neared his life’s end Solomon realized that none of his power or success or wealth would last. In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon wrote, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. … For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it.”

If this life is all there is, none of it means anything in the end.

But, Jesus changes everything! Jesus promises that there is a life after this one, an eternal life in heaven. He guarantees we can have this life through faith in him because he paid for our sins on the cross and because he himself came back to life on Easter morning! This means that this world is NOT all there is. We are only going to live in this world for a few years compared to the eternity we are going to spend in the world to come.

So, we don’t need to get so uptight about how much money we don’t make. We don’t have to be constantly stressed over every little thing that doesn’t go our way. We don’t have to chase after every trend that comes down the media highway into our homes.

Live your life in the Lord Jesus and you will learn how meaningful your life is both in the here and now as well as in the heaven to come.

Success

All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. – Proverbs 16:2-3

Best-selling motivational author Stephen Covey once said, “If you carefully consider what you want to be said of you at your funeral, you will find your definition of success.”

John Wooden was a very successful college basketball coach. He wrote, “Success is the self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

These are definitions of “success” from two men who experienced a great deal of success in their respective fields. What these definitions have in common, and what many definitions of success do, is that they focus on the end result of your hard work. Indeed, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines success as: “a favorable or desired outcome,” or “the attainment of wealth, favor, or respect.”

A godly definition of success, however, does not focus on the end result of hard work. It focuses instead on motives at the beginning. “Motives are weighed by the LORD,” the Bible says.

This means that someone who is regarded as successful in the world’s eyes may not be successful in God’s eyes. Someone who has attained great earthly wealth, for example, but whose motive in doing so was primarily to store up more comfort or pleasure for themselves, would not be considered successful in God’s kingdom. The same is true for someone who has gained the favor of many friends because they desired more popularity than everyone around them, or someone who has attained the respect of their neighbors because they thought it might help them eventually get something they want from them.

The Bible helps us identify what a godly motive is when it urges us in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” In other words, our motive in whatever we do ought not be that we gain something, but that God does; that through whatever we do, God would gain greater recognition.

This is how Jesus defined success. As Jesus hung on his cross, he had no money, his friends had run away, and there were far more people ridiculing him than respecting him. And yet Jesus considered the day a success because his motive from the very beginning of his life on earth was to help the world recognize his Father’s desire to love you and me more than anything. He glorified his Father in whatever he did, and his plan—to forgive us of every sin so that our future would include the great gain of heaven—did succeed.

When we do the same thing, when we commit each task to the Lord, remembering that our plans are in the care of the one whose love led Jesus to the cross and whose power pulled him from the grave, then whatever amount of earthly wealth, favor, or respect we may gain, we will have already received success through Jesus in the greatest kingdom of all.

Joy versus Pleasure

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3)

Have you ever been one of those recreational joggers who decided that it would be a good idea to run a marathon? I was once. However, life’s responsibilities got in the way and I never made it to the starting line of a marathon.

I have watched others do it. I think I get the strange attraction. You punish yourself for several months just so that you can really punish yourself on one specific day for 4-6 hours until you cross the finish line 26.2 miles later. Then what?

Then you bask in the glow of the deep joy of great accomplishment. I don’t know that anyone considers marathon training to be the pursuit of personal pleasure. Joy, yes. Pleasure, no.

If you want to please yourself, take a slow stroll around the park while enjoying a tasty ice cream cone. If you want the satisfaction of the deep joy of great accomplishment, then pound the pavement for 8 – 10 – 12 miles or more.

So it is with the Christian faith. If you are after personal pleasure, you can find it everywhere. The world is full of fun things to do—things that please with very little effort on our part.

Joy, however, comes from “pounding the pavement,” that is, from the stress and strain of great personal trials—the “testing of your faith,” James calls it. Why test my faith facing “trials of many kinds?” Because when the testing is done, I have perseverance. Perseverance is “the ability to see past present problems and anticipate future blessing with confident reliance on God every step of the way.”

Consider Jesus. The Bible book of Hebrews says that Jesus “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus, the sinless Son of God found joy in the brutally hard work of bearing the sin of the world in his death on the cross. Don’t forget, this came after the 33-year marathon of living a completely sinless life on our behalf.

When we live our Christian faith no matter what painful trials we may have, we are living the life chosen for us by God. We are part of his joy. The testing is his testing. The perseverance is his perseverance. So “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,” when Jesus sets you on his path leading you to his finish line.

The Great Light

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. – Isaiah 9:2

Are you afraid of the dark? If so, you are not alone. Whether we like to admit a true fear or not, there are things that are scary about the dark: we can’t see where we are going, and we can’t identify hazards that might be surrounding us. Darkness that is so enveloping keeps us from knowing what is going on around us and sometimes puts us in danger.

How comforting, then, that in the Bible verse from Isaiah, God describes his Son, our Savior, as a great light in the darkness. Jesus is the light that came to illuminate the way for those who couldn’t see where they were going. That’s us. We were all living in the darkness of sin, unable to see our way out, unable to find the path to eternal life, unable to even see the dangers that are all around us. This verse tells us we were not just living in physical darkness and ignorance, but we were living in the land of the shadow of death. In other words, we were on the path to hell. This is much more serious than feeling a little lost in a dark house, or worrying about imaginary monsters hiding under our bed.

When Jesus came into this world to live a perfect life, suffer and die for the sins of the world, and rise again, he secured our salvation and revealed it to us. That’s why Jesus is called the light. He made a way out of our darkness, and he guides us on the way to heaven. We no longer have to wander around in the darkness and guilt of our sin. Thank God for caring enough about us that he sent the Light to save us from darkness.

I feel like ending my life…

In our daily journey called life, we have days that fill us with happiness, and days that fill us with sorrow. For many of us, there are more days filled with sorrow and loneliness, which can lead us to feel like ending our life’s journey. These continuous feelings can be overwhelming and make us feel like the journey isn’t worth the travel.

Our life’s journey began at the moment of conception, as we are each a wonderful creation made and formed in the image and likeness of God, (Genesis 1:26). The Psalm writer states, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13-14). We tend not to see ourselves this way. Instead, we see our personal failures, faults, and shortcomings. Because of this, we can be consumed by our failures and allow them to be the focus of our daily journey. “I am not worthy of God’s love”, is the message we send ourselves. These negative messages lead us down the wrong path, the path of self-destruction.

So what causes us to focus on these negative self-destructing thoughts that can eventually cause us to feel like ending our lives? In a word, sin. Sin destroyed everything perfect that God designed. Sin impacts the way we feel about ourselves and has a direct impact on the feelings of despair that looms over our head like a thick, black cloud. When we feel like ending our lives, we are at a point in our journey where life is not worth living anymore, life is too hard, too painful, and the thick, black cloud is not looming over our heads, but rather, we are living in the cloud everyday.

There is a way to take a different path on our life’s journey and that is learning about Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life for us. He died for us and made everything right simply because he loves us. (John 3:16) He desires to have all of us in heaven with him and ending our lives out of despair prevents us from entering his glorious kingdom.

So, on our life’s journey, reach out your hands to Jesus, seek his will for your life, and he will end all of your feelings of despair and sorrow by renewing you with a sense of peace, comfort, and joy that will last for an eternity.

Death Will Be No More

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. … Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; … For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.” – Isaiah 65:17, 20, 22

 

A friend of mine died yesterday.

He was diagnosed with leukemia only a few months ago. He underwent one course of chemotherapy that, unfortunately, didn’t do what the doctors had hoped it would. Then, just last week, he underwent a second course of chemotherapy. Things were looking okay until he suddenly was struck with a massive infection that began to fill his lungs with fluid. For the past several days, he with God’s strength fought valiantly. But yesterday afternoon, he died.

All this makes me profoundly sad. It broke my heart to see my friend struggling to breathe until he breathed no more. I wept, and continue to weep, with his wife, his sons, and the rest of his family.

As Jesus was deeply troubled at the tomb of his dear friend Lazarus, I am deeply troubled. But even as I grieve, I do not grieve as one who has no hope.

I and all who grieve for my Christian friend have hope. For we know that a time is coming when death will be no more. A time is coming when, as God says in the verses from Isaiah chapter 65, there will no longer be “an infant who lives only for a few days or an old man who does not live out his years.” In fact, a time is coming when there will be no death at all. Death itself will be a thing of the past and won’t even be remembered anymore.

All of this will become a reality because Jesus already has conquered death. By rising from the dead, he destroyed death’s power so that it cannot hold onto God’s people anymore. Because of this, I know that death will not hold me forever when it comes my time to die. It will not hold my friend forever either. A time is coming when we will see each other again and live in the new heaven and new earth where there is no death. And we will be with Jesus forever.

May this reality fill your heart with hope.  Trusting in Jesus as your Savior, you too can look forward to the time when death will be no more.

Jesus is the King

Luke 23:35-43
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at [Jesus]. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus is the King

It can be difficult and disheartening to navigate through a political campaign and election. Have you ever gotten the feeling that some of the people involved are self-serving? That they care more about themselves than those they hope to represent? They aim to win at all costs. They will promise anything. They tear down their opponent with half-truths and lies. During an election does it ever feel like some of the candidates, the media and even the general public are simply being self-serving?

Jesus is the King. However, Jesus steered clear of politics. He wasn’t interested in overthrowing the government, winning a popular vote or saying things just to get big headlines or people’s approval.

An interesting thing Jesus, the King, said: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This wasn’t a campaign speech to score popularity points. This was Jesus’ holy, sincere and loving mission. Jesus came to live, suffer, die and rise for sinners like you and me.

As the King, Jesus was suffering and dying, while people watched, mocked and taunted him. They said: “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

They had missed the point. Jesus, the King of the Jews (and of all people), hadn’t come to escape pain, win votes and rule an earthly kingdom. Jesus came to live, suffer, die and rise for sinners like you and me.

Many of the people and the rulers just did not get it. But a criminal crucified right next to Jesus did. Before he died, the criminal turned to Jesus and made a request: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus, his King, responded: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus, your King, came to serve and give up his life for you. He rose and now rules for you. Do you know this? Do you trust your King? Those who do will be with their King forever in paradise.

Soar through Life like Eagles

Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Life can get pretty heavy at times. A person can begin to feel like an overburdened pack mule plodding along with the weight of the world on your shoulders. Perhaps you can picture the packages you are carrying. There is the package of overdue bills on one side and the package of strained relationships on the other. Then there is the package of worries at work and the package of overdue projects at home. You may also be carrying the package of meeting the endless needs of your young children or the package of caring for an aging parent. On top of all these there can be chronic illness or clinical depression. And, as if all of these are not heavy enough, there is the guilt of thoughtless words you have said and kind deeds you did not do. You struggle from one day to the next with no relief and the weight getting heavier and heavier. Plod…plod…plod…

Now, listen to God’s Word: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” God in heaven knows all about your burdens—your work and worry and guilt. He can carry the loads of life—whatever they are. He is the almighty Lord who never tires or grows weary. Rather than relying on your own wisdom or strength to see you through, put your hope in the Lord. He lifts your burdens off your back and frees you so that instead of plodding like a pack mule, you soar through life like an eagle.

Justice in Due Time

How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. – Habakkuk 1:2-3

Was God’s prophet preaching this 2,500 years ago or just last week?

When Habakkuk looked out his front window, he saw violence and injustice. The bad guys just did whatever they wanted to. All of Habakkuk’s neighbors seemed OK with injustice and violence. They took advantage of evil to advance their own cause without any concern for the people getting hurt. Habakkuk could not understand how God allowed all this wrong to happen. Wasn’t he a just God? Wasn’t he a loving God? Habakkuk prayed and prayed the Lord would set things right, but nothing happened.

Sound familiar? Today people abuse their authority to take advantage of others. People disrespect authority to hurt others. People jump to conclusions and ignore facts just to prove their point. No one seems concerned about the people getting hurt. Most people just want to win the argument and advance their personal agenda. Why doesn’t God punish the evil doers? Why does God tolerate all the destruction and violence we see in this world? Why doesn’t he bring an end to conflict and peace to strife-torn hearts?

God answered Habakkuk’s prayer by explaining he would bring justice in his own time and way. God told Habakkuk to be patient and trust that God would do the right thing at the right time–which God did.

Do we really want God to bring justice in our time? Think about it. Have I lost my temper? Have I cut people down with my words? How concerned am I really about people getting hurt by others? What am I doing to help relieve the pain of the suffering? If God pays back people what they deserve, will he be paying me a visit? Do I really want to beg God to bring justice to the world?

Our God already has. On a cross outside of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, God brought justice to this world. He blasted Jesus with all the punishment deserved by all the violence and evil and wrong committed by the human race. God’s Son unjustly suffered in our place. Jesus took that burden because he did not want us condemned. He wanted us forgiven.

On the cross, God’s justice collided with God’s love. On the cross, God punished all wrong-doers by punishing Jesus. On the cross, God forgave all wrong-doers by punishing Jesus. Relying on Jesus as our Savior, we can look forward to meeting God without any fear. Because of Jesus, God will welcome us into heaven.

God will also take care of justice here on earth–in his own time and his own way. Sometimes we will have to wait patiently for God to act. Most importantly for us, we know God has already acted to forgive our sin. We never have to fear that he will punish us. Jesus took our place!

 

When the Words Don’t Come

 The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:26

When the Words Don’t Come

Give some careful thought to the following statement: The times we find it hardest to talk to God in prayer are often the times we need to talk to him the most.

If you have lived more than a few years in this difficult place, you know how true that statement is. What words do you speak to God, exactly, when you walk out of a doctor’s office with the news that your spouse has stage 4 cancer? What words do you speak to God when your finances are on the verge of collapse? What words do you speak to God when you can no longer process how stressful your place of work has become? What words do you speak to God when it feels as though a member of your family has run a sword through your soul? What words do you speak to God when your marriage begins to implode? And what words do you speak to God when all the regrets from your past begin to smother you like a heavy shroud?

These are the times when the words don’t come. These are the times when coherent thought disappears. These are the moments when you and I cannot even articulate a simple cry to the Lord for help.

Enter the Holy Spirit. He knows. He knows very well how the wreckage of this sinful world can overwhelm us, paralyze us to the point of stunned silence. In those moments he comes to us. He intercedes for us. On our behalf he speaks to our heavenly Father “with groans that words cannot express.” And to such groans God listens and responds.

You are a forgiven child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. That means you possess the exclusive privilege of talking to the Lord in prayer. But when you set aside time for him and the words do not come, take heart. The Holy Spirit knows exactly what you need. What he says on your behalf will go beyond human words. God will listen. And he will answer.