Is My Faith a Joke?

IMG_1992The other night I was watching The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, a rerun from back in May, when he told this joke in his monologue:

“The St. Louis Rams made history on Saturday by drafting Michael Sam, making him the first openly gay player in the NFL. Yep, an NFL player who’s never been with a woman — or as Tim Tebow put it, ‘Eh, it’s been done.’”

After the first part of the joke, Fallon and the audience applauded at decision of the St. Louis Rams, and then laughed at reference to Tebow’s faith and belief.

I was fairly fired up, mainly because in a world today that raises the banner for “equality,” this joke was a microcosm of what reality is really like. I know, it’s just a joke on a tv show, but it got my gears turning. And then I got even more fired up, but this time it was directed at me.

This whole instance made me ask myself, “Is my faith a joke?” What does it say about me, other Christians, and the Church, when what we believe and so many have given so much for is the punchline in a joke?

What do others say about God because of me? Is my faith a joke?

Paul dealt with this very issue when he wrote the letter to the Romans. Actually, he was bringing up an issue that was a constant in Israel’s history. Their lives and actions did not match up with the God and faith they professed. Take a look at what Paul wrote in Romans 2:17-14:

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself area guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Verse 24 is a reference to Isaiah 52:5, when the prophet deals with the same problem. No one took God seriously because the Jews were no better than anyone else. Their lives reflected no difference, no desirable qualities.

Jim Putnam wrote about this idea regarding today’s Christians. In his book DiscipleShift, he looks at the fact that Christian marriages are just as likely to end in divorce, Christians are not healthier, in as much debt, are not more generous, and so on. Basically, overall, our faith really is a joke to those that look on. Many of us are trying to hold to the days when being a “Christian” was something that was respected or admired, but those days are quickly crumbling away.

Even though Christians are divided on issues in our culture today, the Bible is very clear on many things. It is also equally clear on how much the world rejects God and all that He stands for. We can never expect to tell the world that such and such is a sin and expect anyone to listen if our lives do not show that following Jesus is better than anything else in life.

Ask yourself, are people laughing at God because of my life? Is my faith a joke?

As long as there is sin in the world, people will always reject God – even if we lived incredible lives full of faith. But we must ask ourselves about the reality of our faith.

If we really want to change the world, we have to live in such a way that shows people that Jesus really DOES make a difference. Our lives at church and at home must be the same. We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Our marriages have to be better. Our business dealings have to be better. Everything should be better – because Jesus is better!

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I Hate Giving Blood, But…

I hate giving blood.blood

Don’t get me wrong, donating blood is an incredible thing that we can do to help others that really need it. I think it’s wonderful, our church supports it, and I have no beliefs or opinions against it.

My body, however, does not agree.

I am not exactly sure why my body freaks out when I give blood, but it is rather embarrassing. The first time I ever donated was in high school. I was sitting there, chatting along, and all of a sudden I got really dizzy and even more pale than I already am. Everyone started putting ice packs on me and buzzing about.

That’s pretty much how it goes every time. So when a blood drive rolls around every few months, I don’t get too excited. I really hate it, because I want to do it, but it’s hard.

However, there have been a few times when certain people I personally know have had urgent needs for blood or platelet donations, and my donation could really help them. In spite of my physiological aversions, I sign up and give. It’s never easy, and it usually ends up the same way every time. Still, there is an urgent need, and urgency demands action.

I’m not writing any of this to boast, because there anything for me to brag about really. But in the past several weeks our church family has been studying through Dr. Jeff Iorg’s book, Live Like a Missionary, which is challenging us to share the Gospel in our everyday lives. There are many reasons why we do not share Christ with those around us, but one that is huge is a lack of urgency.

Matthew 25:1-13 contains a parable told by Jesus of the Ten Virgins before a wedding. Five were prepared, and five were not. When the bridegroom came, the five who weren’t ready missed out. Jesus told this story because He wanted His disciples (and us) to always live with urgency and be ready. Verse 13 says, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

One way or the other, our time is short. Time is short for the people around us. We must have urgency when sharing the Gospel. It may not always be easy, but people NEED Jesus – they need what we know!

I hate giving blood, but I do it because there is an urgent need. Now, don’t read too much into the analogy, I DO NOT hate sharing the Gospel, but it hard for us sometimes. The Gospel is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. The main point is that there needs to be a sense of urgency in our lives.

Maybe sharing your faith is hard for you, for whatever reason. But please do not let that stop you from sharing the life that Jesus has given you with others. Without Christ, people are dying, and we can share with them what gives life.

Christ Makes Things New // 2 Corinthians 5:17

2013. Somehow we survived the “end of the world” and other crazy things, but now, it is a new year. Isn’t new great?

This is a pic of my grandpa's 1944 Farmall tractor he completely restored from a pile of rust to look brand new.

This is a pic of my grandpa’s 1944 Farmall tractor he completely restored from a pile of rust to look brand new.

The New Year has always been somewhat interesting to grasp, especially when it seems to fall in the middle of everything we are involved in our lives. School starts in the Fall, many fiscal years begin in mid-Summer, but yet, our calendar begins on January 1.

Here in America, “new” is a concept that we understand but don’t always fully appreciate. We have a very “throw-away” based society where if something is overused or completed, we get rid of it. Also, we have so much freedom and opportunity with work and beliefs, that we can start a “new” career whenever we want.

So, for many of us, a “new beginning” may not be as incredible as it is to some.

Over the past 10 years, I have been very blessed to serve and do mission work in East Asia in a communist country. Several times I have traveled over there, but the first time the missionary I worked with taught our team what “new life” and “new beginnings” meant to these people.

For them, communism traps economically, spiritually, and geographically for the most part. Some younger students may travel to a university, but generally where you are and what you do stays the same. Not everyone is a communist. In fact, one has to be a part of the communist party to have higher paid jobs and power, but it restricts your lifestyle even more. IMG_1438

So, when our conversations would turn to Jesus, we would talk about John chapter 3 and the conversation Nicodemus about being “born again.” We would also show them 2 Corinthians 5:17,

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

The idea of a life with Jesus being brand new with a new beginning was simply astounding. It wasn’t a rescue from the life that surrounded them, but it was a life with hope, purpose, and love.

For me, I had never really appreciated that idea until then. There are many days when I even forget it. Jesus has made me brand new. He hasn’t just cleaned up the old me – He paid the price with His life and purchased me with His blood.

Whatever your past year or years has been like, or wherever you are right now, do you long for a new beginning? Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try you just can’t get things right?

Give your heart and life to Jesus. Let him make you brand new. Baptism is an incredible symbol of this. Before Christ, our lives are above the water, then we are submerged and we die to our old life, then we are raised out of the water to walk in new life with Him. IMG_2654

Doesn’t that sound amazing and refreshing? Even if you are already a Christ follower, today you can make that commitment and resolution to walk in the new life Christ has given you.

Life with Christ is full of new hope, purpose, and love. Walk with Him this year and the many to come!

ps…Do you have a story of new life in Christ? Leave a comment below!

pps…I would also like to hear some of your favourite new things: like new car smell, new clothes, etc. Leave a comment below!

What Made David So Special? // 1 Sam. 13:14, 16:7, Acts 13:22

Lately I’ve been asking myself this question, what made David so special? He is described as a “man after God’s own heart,” and yet there were so many things David did wrong. He committed adultery, murder, lied, and even battled some pride issues. He even writes in Psalm 51 that “surely I was sinful since birth” and asked for a new heart to be created in him by God.IMG_4481

So how was he a man after God’s own heart? Despite all his faults, God never left him, and David was always a huge figure in the history of Israel. The answer lies in what really set David apart from so many others.

When it came to the Greatest Commandment, David nailed it. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 has written the “Greatest Commandment” which is also quoted by Christ in the Gospels, “4″Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

If you look through the history of all the Kings of Israel, David clearly sets himself apart by his worship. He truly loves the Lord with everything. He never worships a foreign god, consults a medium, or tries to be God. He had no other gods before him.

There are only a few other kings that come along – Asa, Hezekiah, Josiah, and a few others – that display this some type of attitude and behavior, but David is the shining example of it. And what set the other kings apart was their actions concerning the worship of other gods in the land. Asa was even described in 2 Chronicles 14 & 15 as serving the Lord “wholeheartedly.” He had an amazing prayer in 2 Chr. 14:11,

“Then Asa cried out to the LORD his God: ‘LORD, there is no one besides You to help the mighty and those without strength. Help us, LORD our God, for we depend on You, and in Your name we have come against this large army. Yahweh, You are our God. Do not let a mere mortal hinder You.’”

So what’s the point of all this? What amazes me about David is the dynamic of his relationship with God. In spite of his moral shortcomings, God never leaves Him. Times got tough and David even underwent discipline, but God never left Him. What David did was a lower priority to the condition of his heart.

God looks at the heart first. He does not ignore what people do or don’t do, but those things come second. Notice what Isaiah 29:13 says, “And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…” God is not upset with what His people are doing; He cannot stand the difference between their hearts and lives.

What does this mean for us today: What or who is number one in your heart? What drives your life?

We are not going to be perfect. We are going to mess up, and God knows that. God knew David would mess up, and boy did he! But he still sought the Lord first, and that is what drove his life. When David did mess up, he turned back to the Lord and not something else to make things right.

Our hearts need to be our number one concern before we try to “live better.” God wants us to live for Him, but He wants our hearts first.

That is what made David so special: God had his heart. That is why he was a man “after God’s own heart.”

Who has your heart?

The Real Heart of a King – The Real Heart of a Leader // Deuteronomy 17:14-20

I read a great book not long ago entitled Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership, written by a man named John Dickson. It was a leadership book with the main idea that the greatest leaders are those who are humble and servants. Those are the types of leaders we look up to and admire. In the past few days a photo has been going around the internet of a NYC police officer kneeling down to give a homeless man some boots for his naked feet.

NYC Police Officer giving a pair of boots he bought for a homeless man with no shoes.

Conversely, we tend to think negatively of those who are arrogant and full of themselves. Celebrities, athletes, and other leaders who lack humility are the ones that we tend to not be a fan of. When he left Cleveland to go to Miami, Lebron James experienced quite of bit of backlash when he held a press conference and had a one-hour special just to announce his move. Brett Favre could have been a legend in Green Bay and football but tarnished his legacy when he chose to not gracefully bow out of the game, along with some moral issues that came later. Political leaders like John Edwards who misused money to meet own needs or men like Castro who live in wealth while his country is in poverty are vilified.

However, long ago the world was different from today in this respect. Ancient leaders were qualified by their status, wealth, and displayed greatness. The Caesars of Rome put up giant statues of themselves and put their faces on the currency.

What is interesting about this time is how God defined the type of leader He wanted to see for His people. In the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord is laying out how life is to be lived in His Kingdom for His people. The main theme of the whole book is to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength – with one’s everything! But in chapter 17, God describes the type of leader in His Kingdom; He gives the description of a king:

14″When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, “I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,” 15you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, “You shall never return that way again.” 17And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

18″And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.19And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

A king by the Lord’s standards is a man who does not build himself up by an army, wealth, or wives – He is a man who follows and depends on the Lord. He is also a man who is not above His people but serves His people. The king is not above the law but embodies and enacts the law. He is a true servant, humble leader.

If you read forward from this point, you will not find any kings of Israel that really fit this description. Even David, a man after God’s own heart, falls short of many of these standards. Josiah is a bright spot in the kings that follow, but still none seem to come even close to this…until the real King arrives.

Then Jesus Christ came into the world in a manger, in a barn, in a small, unimportant town. Wise men and shepherds bow down before Him in the midst of animals, hay, and the smells. He grows up poor, lives without a home, and has 12 men that follow Him.

Jesus says things like, “The greatest of these will be your servant,” and “greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends.” But He also says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

And there it is. Jesus is the King that Israel has always needed, but never really wanted. Even the disciples, after Jesus had died and risen from the grave, were asking when Jesus was going to restore the kingdom. No one could quite get it then, but soon they surely did. Jesus displayed what a true king was like – what a true leader should be, 1400 years (or so) in the making.

John Dickson writes in his book about how Jesus totally revolutionized our view of leaders. It was only after Christ that humility was a quality desired in leaders. He was the one who changed it all! Now we really can’t stand those that don’t follow His example. Even most people who do not believe in Jesus feel this way!

But it all started back in Deuteronomy 17, and it tells us so much about God. With Him, it’s not about status, accomplishments, or all the things we think make people great. Greatness comes from a heart that loves God with everything and a heart that loves to serve people.

May we all, especially those of us that lead, have the heart of a true leader, the heart of a true king.

The Nose Knows // 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Grilled PB&Js – Absolutely Delicious

The olfactory senses are absolutely brilliant. Our minds connect to so many things through the senses, but a certain fragrance can bring up so much imagery in the mind.

Not long ago, we had a small cabinet built and painted to put over the washing machine. The first several days it was there, I could smell that fresh paint smell. That exact smell took me back to when my family moved into the house I grew up in many years ago. As soon as we moved in we painted most of the walls in the house, and it had that same smell for days. Specific memories and impressions came to my mind the instant I smelled that paint.

Counselors and other therapists will often not wear cologne or perfume because of this same concept. However, their reason is to avoid bringing up certain memories. Someone who had been abused, for instance, can be taken back to the horrible time when it all happened by smelling a similar fragrance. Those who work with rape victims are never supposed to wear any kind of cologne or even lotion that smells.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians about the “fragrance of Christ.” The apostle was writing about the previous confrontation that we can read about in 1 Corinthians 5, and by the end of chapter 2 in this letter, he takes a different direction.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 “14 But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this?”

As Christians live their lives out, we leave an aroma of Christ to the world. People see and experience Christ through us, whether we know it or not. And just like the olfactory senses in our noses, the aroma of Christ can have a powerful effect on others.

For some we are going to be a sweet smelling, life-giving fragrance that people are longing for. Paul’s imagery is most likely centered on incense, a powerful thing in the ancient world. And our goal should be to bring that “smell” that helps to bring people to a positive image of Christ.

Some folks won’t like how we smell at all. One reason is some people just don’t like the smell of good things, or the fragrance of God. To these people we can’t really do anything at all. God must work on their hearts. Still, we can be a stench in other ways that we can control. We can be “burnt toast” Christians that cause people to wrinkle their noses and not have anything to do with Christ or the church.

Paul asks a great question though, and it may be one that you are asking too: “Who is competent for this?” In other words, “Who can possibly achieve this kind of life?” Being a pleasing aroma is often difficult. We sweat. We stink. And sometimes, we just don’t care about how we smell. Sin does that to us.

Our only hope is to let the Holy Spirit guide us and make us the fragrance of God. The transforming power of His leadership is what makes us smell sweet. Doing it on our own may produce some results, but ultimately we will fall short. Have you ever had that one friend who put on way TOO much cologne? Or maybe you knew someone who felt like deodorant was a conspiracy and no one really needed to wear it? That’s how we get when we try to do it ourselves.

Today, just pray that you would be a sweet smell to the world. May we lead people to Christ in a way that their minds are eternally etched with the aroma of life.

Trading the Kingdom for a king // 1 Samuel 12

Ever feel like you got a bad deal on a trade in? It always seems like cars never quite the trade-in value we feel like they should. I remember one time I had a nice acoustic guitar that I paid quite a bit for, and I wanted to trade it in a music store for an electric and an amp. In my head, I figured the values were about the same.

When I went in, the people at the store looked over my guitar (in great shape by the way), and after some time they offered me a price, which was WELL below what I had hoped. As much as I wanted that electric and amp, I knew this was not a fair trade.

The people of Israel wanted a trade – they wanted to make a deal with God. Picking up the story of the Hebrews in 1 Samuel, up to this point Israel had been led by the Lord, His Law, and several men and women who “judged” or helped the people live the law out. This didn’t always go like it should, for man is man, and several of these judges fell short.

Even before that the people had Moses and Joshua – great leaders but still lead only by the voice of the Lord and made it known that it was God who led the people.

But in the time of Samuel, the people of Israel were not happy being unlike the rest of the world, not having a king. Everyone around them had a king for their kingdom, and the Hebrews were not satisfied to have God as their leader.

Don’t we act the same way? The people of Israel had the Creator of the Universe leading them. They were HIS people and He wanted to be THEIR God, but time and time they rejected him. They “traded down.”

We will do that in different ways too. We will say we are God’s people, but our time, money, energy, and worship goes to things that are not worth it. Samuel, the great prophet who lead Israel until they had a king made this statement in his farewell address in 1 Samuel 12:20-21,

“Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the Lord. Instead, worship the Lord with all your heart. Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or deliver you; they are worthless.”

I know I’ve been there before. I’ve felt like I’ve messed up so badly that even God wouldn’t want me back, so what’s the point? And I have also spent plenty of time chasing after worthless things.

Any trade that we accept in exchange for God is a trade-DOWN. Make no mistake – you can’t get better than Christ and His Kingdom.

All the time in the Old Testament people would carve an idol out of wood, stone, or metal and worship it. And so many Scriptures showed how foolish that is. Habakkuk 2:19 says, “Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.”

Between people and idols, we far too quickly put our lives and loves in the hands of corruptible, lacking things. Take just a minute and read 1 Samuel 12 and Samuel’s words to the people. Look and see if there is any correlation you can see between our lives today and how Israel was acting.

Are you chasing after worthless things? Our time is much too short for that. The Lord is the One who loves us and will deliver us. Put your trust and faith in Him.

Don’t get the raw end of a lousy trade. Follow Christ, He will take you on a life of unending worth.

The Context of Jeremiah 29:11 // God Has a Plan Even in the Midst of Pain

Ever watch the A-Team? In summer of 2010 an “A-Team” movie was released, and the catchphrase from that movie was from the A-Team leader, Hannibal. He was an elaborate planner, and he would say, “There’s a plan in everything, and I love it when a plan comes together.”

A very often quoted verse is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It’s a great verse and a great promise, but I think we are quick to miss the fullness of the meaning if we skip the context of the chapter and the book. We may even miss it all together if we aren’t careful.

It would be easy to look at this verse and say, “God promises me nothing but good times and I will not be harmed,” but that is not at all consistent with the rest of chapter 29 or the rest of the Bible.

The chapter is a letter sent by Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon from Jerusalem. They have been taken to live in a land far away in a culture much different from their own. However, God assures them to live in hope, because their exile will not last forever. In fact, the Lord even tells the people to find peace in their current circumstances, which is a message for us to look to see how the Lord wants to use us where we are right now, no matter where that might be.

But verse 11 comes right in the middle after the promise of the exile’s end. What God is saying is that times will be tough but not impossible, and there is a great plan in all of this. And God’s plan is greater than any of the plans we could even make ourselves, so trust Him!

There is still another factor we have not considered, this letter is written specifically to the exiles in Babylon. It has an intended audience. When the Lord speaks through Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you,” he is referring directly to the exiles. The pronoun “you” is not speaking right to us. 

Now, am I saying God does not have a plan for your life? By no means! This verse shows us the love of God for His people and the power of His plans. Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Paul really captures the true meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 in his writings in Romans chapter eight. Through the pains of this life, God has a plan. And his plan is not just another plan – it’s the perfect one.

My hope for this post was not to derail anyone’s hope in Jeremiah 29:11 or make anyone feel bad for having it as a “life verse.” My hope was to show a fuller and deeper meaning to a promise that so many hold on to.

God walks with us and leads us through life – the valleys and the mountaintops. When you find yourself in the dark of the valley, trust in God’s plan. When you find yourself with the wind in your face on the top of that hill, trust in God’s plan.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” –Psalm 23:4a

Live a Life Worthy of the Gospel // Philippians 1:21-2:11

Just a few months ago, Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino was fired from his job for having an inappropriate relationship with a woman he worked with and lying about a motorcycle accident they were both involved in. The comments the Athletic Director Jeff Long made were gripping but paint for us a clear picture,

“He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program,” Long said, choking up at one point as he discussed telling players that their coach was gone. “In short, coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident.” (from ESPN.com)

We have seen similar circumstances where something like this has happened. A mistake is made that not only affects the individual but also the name and reputation of something larger. For Petrino, it was Arkansas. For Joe Paterno and others, it was Penn State. It happens with politicians, pastors, presidents, and all sorts of people.

For Christians, are names are directly tied to the name of Christ, the Messiah. Literally we have the title “Christian,” which means “follower of Christ,” or “belongs to Christ.” It’s like our family name, and how we live reflects on our family.

Taken by my friend David (@spaceportorange)

Paul urges the Christians in Philippi to “Live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” He wants these people, and us, to bring honor to His name. Looking through these verses, we see how Paul lays out a few ways to live our lives in a way that honors Jesus and all that He has done for us.

First, while we have life, we have a chance to make a difference (vv. 1:21-26). Paul says that he knows life with Christ in eternity is so much better than this one, but he knows God has a plan and work for him right now. Paul can’t waste his life and the opportunities God has given him to be a part of the great work of the Kingdom.

Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came to bring us life to the fullest, and that’s a life following Him. There is no greater adventure, and no greater joy. What is in your life right now that God is calling you to? What do you need to say, “Yes, I will…” to?

Secondly, we live a life worthy of Jesus’ name when we stand together (vv. 28-30). The early Christians faced so many hardships and persecutions. Standing together was how they would face the hardships that would try to derail their faith and witness.

Sin is the great separator. Because we still battle sin, we face conflicts within our churches and Christian family as well. Living to honor Christ’s name means seeking unity and reconciliation. This is difficult and lifelong journey at times, but we must stand together. Are there sins or struggles separating you from the family? Is there anyone you need to make things right with to stand together?

Finally, living a life that honors Christ means having the mind of Christ (vv. 2:1-11). Looking through Gospels, we can see how Jesus stunned the world by how He lived and acted. Paul lays out the mind of Christ and His motivation in these few verses. When we seek to think and see the world like Christ, that changes how we live.

Looking for Christ in everything, or seeing the world through His eyes, changes the way we live. This means looking at things that really matter and living for the eternal, not the temporary. Church may be on Sunday, but we see God moving and where He is leading on Monday through Saturday. Our Christian life is not compartmentalized. We don’t retire from the Lord’s work. Christ and His Kingdom consume us. Ask yourself this question, what consumes you? What do you think about? What do you spend your energy and life on? What really matters to you?

Paul writes in 1:9-11 of this letter, “I pray that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can determine what really matters and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

It’s a recurring theme throughout the letter, “what really matters.” In chapter two Paul writes about focusing on one goal. Chapter three centers on forgetting what is behind and pressing on what is ahead. In four we are challenged to fix our minds on what matters and is good.

Our lives will be worthy of the Gospel when we run after what really matters. What are you running after? May we live our whole lives to make His name great and make His name famous.

You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This Blog Is About You // Ecclesiastes

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

These words were written by King Solomon, and they are from Ecclesiastes 1:2, but you will find them throughout the whole book. Ecclesiastes is such a good book for so many reasons, and the piercing principle we find is that our time is short, so we must focus on what really matters.

If you pull up your Twitter or Facebook feed, spend time with someone over lunch, or take a look in your neighbor’s garage, then you will probably find some evidence of what people think is important. We put our time, energy, and resources into what we value. Like Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

Solomon is an incredible figure. When God tells him that he can have whatever he asks, Solomon asks for wisdom. He doesn’t want money or power – he wants wisdom. So the guy is pretty sharp. Not only is he wise, but he also decides to do a living experiment and try everything in the world, looking for what really brings pleasure and happiness. And you know what he finds in this life that really brings happiness?

Nothing.

Yep. He had money. He tried every kind of food. He had women – lots of women. He had power. He drank and drank. After experiencing everything someone could possibly experience, he says, “Then I considered all my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there is nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Eccl. 2:11)

Why would Solomon do this, and why on earth would God allow such a lifestyle? What Solomon now has is the “been there, done that” card. When you read Ecclesiastes and what Solomon had to say, he is not merely speaking in theory or speculation. This guy knows because he lived it.

So maybe you’re thinking, “Well, what is the point of life at all then?” Good question. While Solomon made a great point to say, “All is vanity,” we have to really examine what he was saying. He is really talking things that are temporary and fleeting. What really matters are things that last – like joy, family, and our relationship with God.

The consistent positives of Ecclesiastes are taking time to enjoy life, enjoy our family, and enjoy our Creator. Solomon warns of not trying to save and build and never enjoying the results of one’s hard work. As we have all heard, “You can’t take it with you,” which is a derivative of what Solomon is trying to tell us.

My point in writing this is to urge to stop and think about what are you are pursuing with your life. Even if you are 18 or 80, we need to ask ourselves if we are putting our time into things that really matter?

Take a few minutes to read Ecclesiastes. It’s only twelve chapters, which are not very long. Solomon tried to live out mistakes and failures so that we could learn and maybe avoid wasting our lives.

The last two verses are really powerful and pierce the soul. “13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”