SOLOMON’S PUZZLE

Money
What is the most important pursuit in life? (Image source: flickr)

 

I am bad at riddles but good at puzzles – but what is the difference between riddles and puzzles? The internet says riddles are questions that require creative thinking to answer, while puzzles are challenges, games or toys with many parts. The solution to a puzzle is revealed when the parts are put together in the right way.

In the Bible, Ecclesiastes, the work of King Solomon, is a puzzle. He opens with these shocking words: “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” (Eccl. 1:2); and adds that: “I observed everything going on under the sun… it is all meaningless – like chasing the wind” (Eccl. 1:14).

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon preaches that AS there is no final reward in trying to catch the wind, there is no eternal reward spending all of our time seeking after money, career, fame, pleasure, and even wisdom (including knowledge).

However, Solomon also tells us the one thing that is NOT meaningless chasing after the wind: “Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad” (Eccl. 12:13-14).

Solomon concludes, that our relationship with God is the only MEANINGFUL thing, because there is a final eternal reward attached to chasing after God. This is the key to understanding the puzzle that is the book of Ecclesiastes.

Praise God for this piece of wisdom from Solomon – may we be guided by it, as we pursue money and many other ambitions in this life, Amen! 

JESUS or PLATO?

Learn from him
Learn from the humble King (Image source: Jesus.net)

 

This week, I am teaching my undergraduate class, The Allegory of the Cave, written by the Greek philosopher Plato. It is a short story on the value of learning, and promotes the virtue of using knowledge acquired from learning, to enlighten other members of society. Plato lived about 2500 years ago and was a very wise man.

In his book, THE REPUBLIC, Plato writes about justice and good government. He shared the idea that the best government will be a government ruled by philosophers, who have passed through at least 50 years of training to acquire knowledge, and to love truth. Plato believed that vast knowledge and education will produce good rulers.

Compare this with Jesus, who says in Matt. 11:28-30 (NLT): “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  

Jesus teaches that finding rest and fulfillment comes from looking up to him, as wise teacher and humble King. This is the type of leader that Plato says the world needs for there to be justice and good government. While Plato believes we can train such leaders, the Bible teaches that only Jesus possesses such qualities.

The Bible also teaches that Jesus can impart his virtues into us as a farmer sows a seed into the ground; and over a period of time, through communion with him, the seed virtues will grow into mature behavioral character in us.

Lord, the world urgently needs Jesus type of leaders, loving-wise-humble-powerful, help us to see and to learn from Jesus, Amen!  

WHEN FAILURE IS TRUTH…

 

Success and Failure
Failure reveals pertinent truth (Image source: Aviso Retention)

I have failed so many times and in so many things – failed school exams, failed at relationships with family and friends, failed in the workplace, failed in managing money the right way. Each time I ask myself ‘why?’ I stay brutally honest with myself, and I strongly resist the push to blame other people for my failure.

There are many reasons for failure; the story of Paul and Apollos helps illustrate one cause of failure that is easy for us to overlook.

In the book of Acts Chapter 18, Paul had gone to the wealthy sea-port city of Corinth to preach. Corinth is between Athens and Sparta in Greece. Being a Greek city – many of the people loved a good public debate. Paul’s preaching won many converts but also led to strong public opposition that eventually made him leave Corinth.

When Paul left Corinth, Apollos arrived; Acts 18:24-28 (NLT) describes him as ‘an eloquent speaker’ and that when he arrived Corinth ‘he proved to be of great benefit to those who, by God’s grace, had believed. He refuted the Jews with powerful arguments in public debate… he explained to them that Jesus was the Messiah.’

Where Paul failed at public debate, Apollos excelled. Paul was well educated, a passionate preacher willing to die for the gospel, but he was not eloquent; Apollos was well educated and eloquent. While Paul was the greater missionary, in this Greek city of Corinth, Apollos was more successful as he was better at public debates.

When I fail, am I able to honestly and humbly examine myself, and accept that I do not have the skills to succeed at that specific task? Am I able to accept that others are better at it, and I should step aside?Am I able to accept that I need capacity building or quite possibly that I will never be an eloquent Apollos?

May the Lord give us the discernment to be self-aware of our limitations, and the humility to accept that which we cannot change, Amen!     

 

 

LOVE IS THE CURE

Love is the cure
Love is the cure (Image source: Mission Basilica San Diego)

 

I lived with my grandparents from the age of 3 to when I turned 6. I missed my mother so much during that period, I eventually became angry and mad at her. I had concluded that my mother did not love me. It took another 7 years of awesome motherly love before my anger went away to be replaced with love.

My thinking about love from that early age was not about what I could give, but about the affection and care I believed I was entitled to receive from my mother. Even now as an adult, husband, and father, my first reaction when I hear the word love, is not about what I can give, but about what I want from the other person.

Jesus calls us to think differently, when he states in Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT): “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart…’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and… the prophets are based on these two commandments.”    

We all want to be loved, but the only way this can happen is when we all give love. If we keep our love to ourselves, we don’t give to others, society becomes hell for all. Society works better when we practice a ‘love your neighbor’ lifestyle; LOVE is the cure,  to all our political and economic problems.

May the Lord help us grow out of viewing love in terms of what we get, into seeing love as a well of goodwill from us to our neighbor, Amen!   

PRAISE DURING THE STORM!

Praise 2
Praise ye the Lord (Image source:blog.logos.com

When political leaders speak, of the military and other branches of a nations security agencies, they often do so with plenty of praise for these agencies. We are very aware that there are bad officers in these agencies, but out of a heart filled with gratitude for the history of service from these agencies, we offer our praises.

There is an odd story in the Bible about two missionaries, Paul and Silas, followers of Jesus. They had traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city in the district of Macedonia, northern Greece. In the course of their preaching, they offended influential people. As a result, they were severely beaten and thrown into jail.

Then the impossible happened – Acts 16:25-26 says: Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken… All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!  

Paul and Silas were not singing hymns because they were in chains; they sang in confidence that the storm around them will pass, and a good result will come out of it. How could they be so sure? Simple – countless numbers of faith people in the history of the Bible, have experienced storms and come out of them rejoicing.

The fact that life throws plenty of storms our way, is not news. The good news is that like Paul and Silas, we can pray and praise the One who has power to lift us out of any storm life throws at us. We praise not out of naivety, we praise in thankfulness for the many rescues in our own lives and the lives of others close to us.

The storm today will pass away, just like the storm of yesterday is gone. As we pray and praise Yahweh for his rescue yesterday, our rescue today, and from the storms of tomorrow, are scheduled to arrive just in time.

Praise be the Lord, Amen!  

MAGNUS OPUS!

Sermon on the Mount 2
The greatest sermon on the Mount (Image source: forhisglorytexas.com)

In this age of wide availability of knowledge, we all face a huge challenge of who to follow as a spiritual guide. C. S. Lewis, author of the popular ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ novels, was clear about this; in his book ‘Mere Christianity’ he wrote:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic… or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.”

In the book of Matthew, Chapters 5 to 7, Jesus teaches on how to live a godly and considerate life, ending with this counsel in Matthew 7:24-28 (MSG):

“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.”

“But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” 

When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause… This was the best teaching they had ever heard.

This was a magnus opus moment for Jesus; Matthew Chapters 5 to 7 are a Jesus masterclass with some of his greatest principles for life. May God help us to learn these principles and live by them one day at a time, Amen!    

SATISFACTION – HOW TO GET IT AND KEEP IT…

Satisfaction
In search of SATISFACTION!

 

The great French sociologist David Émile Durkheim in 1897 published his study of suicide rates in Europe. Among his discovery was that people experienced high moral confusion in times of economic depression (hard times) and also in times of economic boom (good times). This satisfaction deficit is linked to expectations.

In hard times, expectations are shattered, leading to disappointments and depression. In good times, expectations are overly ambitious, leading to disappointments and depression. How then are we to live whether in hard times or in good times, in order to avoid falling into the disappointment-depression hole of misery?

Paul, from jail in Rome, wrote to Christians in Philippi, and penned these wise words about satisfaction in Philippians 4:10-14 (MSG) (shortened): “I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess… I don’t have a sense of needing anything… I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances… Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am…”

Paul says “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am…”; Paul’s contentment and satisfaction is not in what he owns or does not have, it is based on faith in God. A faith that includes the knowledge that God is looking out for your interest in good times and bad times.

May we experience the satisfaction-contentment that comes from faith in God – that takes away depression from disappointments, Amen!