Wednesday, July 26, 2017

It's Good to be King

It's hard sometimes to relate things from history to modern day.  But allow me some creative freedom as I try to put into perspective just who Solomon was.  He was the king, popular among the people for his wisdom, wealthy beyond our imagination, and had over 1,000 wives and concubines.  During his time, he basically had Donald Trump power and position, BeyoncĂ© popularity, Bill Gates money, and Hugh Hefner women.  Solomon had the authority, ability, and means to do any and everything he wanted to do.  And he did.

In Ecclesiastes 2:1, he writes, 'Come now, I will test you (my heart) with pleasure; enjoy yourself.'  But behold, this also was vanity.

Solomon began to indulge in the pleasures of the world, even dabbling in pursuits he recognized as folly (v3) just to see if there was any lasting value and fulfillment in them.  He undertook great projects building homes for himself, improving the environment with parks and gardens, and creating an expansive irrigation system (vs4-8). 

After his amassing of wealth and power he reflected on his life in verse 11 saying, "Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended doing it, and behold, all was vanity and striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun."  Solomon was living the dream, but realized that without God's presence in his life it was all meaningless.

I don't know what all you have in your life or feel you're missing in your life right now.  But I do know that if you don't have God, if you don't have a personal relationship with Him, that your possessions, your power, your prestige will all be meaningless one day.  It's okay to strive for great things, but don't think that the things "under the sun" are going to bring you the contentment you can only get from Him.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Not Every Shot Goes In

We've all seen it.  The walk-off hit, the clinching catch, the game winning pass, the play that wins it for your team.  Many of us have witnessed moments of greatness; times when larger than life players made larger than life plays to win games, titles, and championships for their teams and fans.  And fewer of us have ever had the chance to make that kind of play in the grandest of moments. 

But for every miracle play that won the game, there is a team that lost.  Someone dropped the ball, missed the pitch, or was just off the mark and feels they cost their team the game.  It's one of the worst feelings in the world when you feel that you let your teammates and those rooting for you down. 

Which side of this equation would you rather be on?  Obviously we all want to be with the winners and enjoy the celebration.  But think back to a time when you failed on the play or lost the game.  Which one left you hungrier, yearning to come back stronger, smarter, and better than before?  Our losses shape and motivate us more than our wins ever could.

Michael Jordan is famously quoted as saying, "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.  I've lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I've failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed." 

Every MVP, every All-star, every Pro-bowler has made a mistake.  They've missed a tackle, dropped a ball, or missed a shot that cost them a game.  But they kept going, they didn't stop and let that become their defining moment.  Your defining moment may not be on a field, a court, or in a stadium.  It may not be on a stage, in a crowded auditorium, or convention center.  Your defining moment may be in the car or on the phone with a loved one.  It may be sending a text or sitting on the couch.  But it won't happen if let your circumstances stop you.

Whatever you're facing today, keep moving, and trust God to guide you through.  And if you see someone miss a shot, or make a bad play, encourage them, even our heroes have struck out a time or two.

Monday, July 24, 2017

All is Vanity - Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

A few weeks ago I began reading a book by some extremely intelligent individuals which made me feel that I needed to pursue more wisdom.  Plus as my older classmates in Sunday school reminded me, I am aging so maybe I just need more wisdom anyway.  So I looked for a book of Bible that talks about wisdom.  And God being the sometimes humorous God that he is led me to Ecclesiastes written by the wisest man who ever lives.  Sounds good right?  Until you get barely into the book and Solomon says all is vanity, wisdom included.  Well played God, well played.  But I am still learning so here's what I've picked up on so far.

After declaring that all is vanity, Solomon poses the question (Ecc. 1:3), "What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?"  He had already learned that much of what we "gain" is fleeting and unfulfilling.  The only lasting efforts are those designed to accomplish God's purposes for eternity.

V.7 reads, "All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where streams flow, there they flow again.  This image of a never ending cycle of seemingly futile action is sometimes how we can feel in our daily lives.  We hear phrased like "working for the weekend," the "daily grind," and so many of us work for a vacation.  It can be similar to the streams constantly flowing to the sea which is never filled and they never quit flowing.  If we are not careful we can allow ourselves to slip into a life of mere existence.

V.8 goes on to say, "The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing."  Our eyes always want to see more.  Think of the beautiful things you've seen in you life.  But how many times do we wonder if the sunrise would be more beautiful from somewhere else while neglecting the beauty right in front of us?  This world pushes us to always want more and more.  But God wants us to be satisfied, to be fulfilled in Him.

It is certainly worth noting that the man who wrote that "all is vanity" was one of the richest and wisest men in history.  He had also partaken of many things in life only to feel that something missing, that yearning for more.  And that something more for Solomon and for us is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  That is the only thing that can fill the hole that vanity of possessions, status, and power leave in our life.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Why Invest in Others?

This week Tabernacle had our summer Vacation Bible School (VBS).  Thomas and I were only able to go 2 of the 5 nights but there were a number of children and adults there to learn, help, and serve.  The word of God shared and the love of God was shown to children who may not have heard that message before and that's the most important part of VBS.

Since I knew I couldn't be there every night I didn't sign up to help and I was able to roam around and assist if needed which gave me an opportunity to observe the children without the responsibility of keeping a headcount or anything.  Many of them appeared to be paying full attention during the entire lessons, while some you could tell their focus would fade in and out.  Yet others seemed to have very little interest in what the teachers were sharing and were more concerned with looking at the other kids in the room or fidgeting with other gadgets. 

The freedom to observe this gave me the thought of why do we study, work, and spend time doing something for others who don't know us, don't care about what we have to say, and may or may not even like us?  Then during a song it hit me...God did exactly that for me.  Romans 5:8 says, "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  God didn't send his son Jesus to save the good people, the rich people, the nice people, the church people, He sent Him to save the sinners - the folks who made mistakes, who messed up, who did bad things, who had no idea who God was.

So why do we invest in others?  Why do we spend time, energy, and resources planning, studying, and sharing lessons with children or adults who don't know us and don't seem to care about what we have to say?  Because I was once that child.  I was that person who didn't know, didn't care, and didn't listen.  I was that close to staying lost if one day at VBS I hadn't heard something that finally made it all come together for me and realize that I needed God to make me right.  I couldn't do it, my parents couldn't do it, and my grandparents couldn't do it.  It took Christ changing my heart. 

We invest in others because we have been invested in by the greatest investor of all time whose returns are infinite.  God invested in us through his son Jesus Christ.  So keep sharing, keep telling Bible stories, keep loving on people even if they ignore you.  One day, that seed you plant may be watered by someone else and start to grow.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Is Everything Fixable? My Thoughts on Health Care

I'm sure that many people are reading and hearing the news that the republican backed health care reform bill is pretty much dead.  Before I even begin to wade into this subject, let me first admit that much like some of our politicians I have not read the entire republican health care bill nor the previously adopted Obamacare bill (cheap shot I know but wanted to be clear I don't have ALL the facts). 

No one likes our current health care system.  Patients complain, insurance agents complain, and doctors complain about it.  People are paying higher insurance premiums, insurance companies are having to raise premiums in an effort to stay afloat, and doctors and hospitals are making less money.  Well if more money is going in and less money is coming out, where is it going?  My guess, personal assumption, hunch, whatever you want to call it is that there are many more government forms, fees, and regulations which are driving up costs for all of the above.  Does that sound like a good reason to pay higher insurance premiums as an individual?  Or to have your boss tell you that he planned to give you a raise but your insurance went up 50% so that money is going there.  That's what's happening around the country right now.

Health care is an EXTREMELY complex issue.  I work in finance so I really do not fully understand the "health" side of health care but I do understand business.  If you take out a loan with our bank and don't pay it back, you don't get another loan with us.  It doesn't work that way in the health system as lifesaving care must be provided to individuals who need it no matter the cost based on my understanding of ER policies.  Health care has become so much of a blend of government provided service and private industry that no one can really tell which one should be calling the shots or making the money anymore.  I don't know the best answer to that at this point either as that would require much more research and information than what I am privileged to.

One of the wisest men who ever lived, Solomon, wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:15, "What is crooked cannot be made straight."  Maybe in the future we find a private or government solution for our current health care issues.  Maybe it's some blend of what we've tried, or maybe we should just scrap it and start over.  But maybe it will just stay broken forever.  Sometimes despite man's greatest efforts, without divine revelation or intervention some crooked matters just remained un-straightened .

I hate when people only point out problems without offering solutions, but unfortunately that's all I can really do on this issue because I'm not an expert in the field.  Before I'm attacked or someone says that I don't know what I'm talking about, let me share this analogy:  I drive my truck regularly.  If it begins to not run right I can tell when something is wrong with it.  Though I may not know how to fix it, I do know there's a problem so I take it to a mechanic...much like we need to do with our current health care system. 
P.S. - How bad would Congress try to fix the problem if they had to trust the brakes in the truck?

Monday, July 17, 2017

It Starts Small

Most big things don't start out big.  The greatest accomplishments in the world often started with one person's vision.  The greatest inventions in the world began with a single idea of an inventor.  Your greatest achievement in life, whatever it may be, began with one step.

But there's a dark side to big things too.  Bad things, a/k/a sin, start out small as well.  Most criminals begin with what we consider small non-violent crimes.  Many drug users begin with what are considered to be gateway drugs.  Most affairs begin with a flirting glance or flirtatious email.  We don't leap right into the deep end of the pool of sin.

Think about a ship setting sail from the coast of America to somewhere overseas.  If it began to set sail headed due North everyone would know immediately that it were off track.  But if instead of heading at the exact angle of East that it is to sail, it's only a few degrees off.  That may not seem like a big deal, but over the course of the thousands of miles it has to travel, that slight mistake becomes magnified when it arrives but it miles from its desired destination.  That's how sin slowly infiltrates our life.

Sin is the devil's greatest tool in separating us from God.  He causes us to turn a blind eye to it, denying that it exist or that we are committing it.  He causes us to ignore the warning signs of it allowing us to continue to snowball out of control.  Sin comes in many shapes and sizes.  James 4:17 reads, "So whoever knows what the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."

If you have to pause to think about if something is right or wrong, odds are it's wrong.  Don't let small sins get you off track and separated from God.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

How to be a Man - A Father's Advice to his Son

If you do a quick internet search of "How to be a man" or "What does it take to be a man" you will find a ton of websites and articles that offer varying thoughts and opinions about what it means to be a man.  Most of them are unique but primarily center on several key "ingredients" to what the world considers qualities that make someone a man.  In reading those, they primarily center on how we make a living and earn money, how we treat others (including our family), how we mature and handle emotions like anger, and even to how we dress, talk, and walk. 

Raising a son to be a godly man in this world is a challenge.  So much so that I can only imagine the difficulties that we will face once our daughter arrives.  So what advice should a father give his son today on how to be a man?  Should I use the most recent or most liked article online about manhood?  Or could I use something written between 561 - 538 B.C. that still holds true today?

As David was approaching death, he passed along these wise words of wisdom to his son, Solomon, in 1 Kings 2:2-4; "I am about to go the way of the earth.  Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever your turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me saying, 'If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel."

1.  David offered encouragement.  He told Solomon to be strong and show himself a man because he knew the challenges Solomon would face. 

2.  David offered instruction.  He instructed Solomon to follow God and his commandments, not the suggestions of man or the desires of his own heart.  Following God will lead to true prosperity.

3.  David taught Solomon God is trustworthy.  David trusted God's promises and told Solomon that if he followed the Lord, that God would keep his promise to his people. 

4.  David offered a legacy.  As a father, I have thought about what legacy I can leave behind for my child(ren).  Do we want to leave behind money, a sprawling estate, a mountain of debt, or do we want to leave behind something that truly matters, a legacy of Christian homes and families?

I am grateful for all the lessons my dad has taught me and continues to teach me.  I pray that I can pass them along to my kids.  If Christian parents will begin and continue to encourage and instruct our children then maybe, just maybe, one day we can become a Christian nation that values godly things instead of chasing after that fruitless things of the world.