The Meaning of Life

Meaning of life-smallYou’ve seen the old cartoon strips: A man struggles and struggles to scale a high, steep mountain. He reaches the top to find a “wise man” sitting cross-legged and humming in deep meditation.  The climber kneels before the man and asks, “Oh, wise one, what is the meaning of life?”  Usually the cartoonist ends the strip with some wisecrack like, “Sorry, buddy, wrong mountain.  I’m the guru of income tax evasion.”

What is the meaning of life?  People have searched for it, pastors have preached on it, atheists have spurned it, pundits have pondered it, and cartoonists have exploited it.  It remains, however, an important universal question, one we’d all like answered. And I believe King Solomon, in his great wisdom, answered it for us in his research paper known as the book of Ecclesiastes.

God had given Solomon great wisdom and wealth.  So vast was his wisdom and wealth that his fame spread throughout the known world. Yet even with all this, Solomon felt there was something more, something he was missing. Life seemed meaningless.  The sun rises and the sun sets, again and again, over and over.  The winds blow, the streams flow, generations come, generations go. “What has been will be again; what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (1:9). To Solomon, life seemed boring and empty.  There’s got to be something more, he thought.  (Ever been there yourself?)

So Solomon set out on a quest for meaning. He devoted himself to explore all things under the sun to see if he could find the ultimate answer to the meaning of life. To do so, he denied himself nothing but allowed himself to experience everything. Did the answer lie in: 

  • Pleasures like laughter, folly, and wine?
  • A great house with beautiful gardens?
  • Possessions of all kinds, great and small?
  • Entertainment and the arts?
  • A harem — “the delights of the heart of man”?
  • Work, work, and more work?
  • Career advancement?
  • Much dreams and many words?
  • Money and net worth?
  • Youth and vigor?

After diligently searching all of these, Solomon found that they were “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (1:2).  He found that you can’t stay in a state of pleasure all the time; sorrow and hardships eventually come. He also discovered that no matter how great a house you build or how much possessions and wealth you amass, you still die and leave them behind to someone else who did not work for them. And, although work is a gift from God that you should enjoy, it is not the most important thing; for no matter how hard you work to build a career or a business, at some point you must leave it to a successor. Youth fades; strength wanes; relationships change. And wisdom?  Yes, wisdom is better than folly but even the wise die and are forgotten. 

Solomon came to a somber conclusion: “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (1:14).  Sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? Sounds like he’s saying there is no meaning to life.  Or maybe he’s just saying he failed to find the ultimate answer.  But did he fail?  I don’t think so; I believe he found the answer.  Look closer at his conclusion. Do you see it?

The answer lies in three little words: “under the sun.”  You see, as long as you look for the meaning of life in worldly things, you’ll never find it. The meaning of this life is found in the next life, when we are no longer “under the sun.” If you live for the things of this world, you will be sorely disappointed, for nothing on earth satisfies or brings fulfillment. If you live your life focused on the eternal things, then you’ll find meaning in the temporal things.  As Jesus taught, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). (See also the parable in Luke 12:13-21.)

Ecclesiastes is an amazing book.  I don’t profess to understand all of it, but what I do understand always jolts me back to reality. What am I living for?  If it’s for anything “under the sun,” then it’s meaningless.  As Solomon closed his amazing book:

Now all has been heard;

here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

for this is the whole duty of man.

For God will bring every deed into judgment,

including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

LORD, shut my mouth!

“Don’t even bring up her name!  The mere mention of it makes  my blood boil!”

“I can’t believe he went behind my back like that!  I’m so angry I could spit!”

“Girl, I haven’t spoken to her in years!  Let me tell you what she did to me…”

“I know he didn’t mean it that way, but it still hurts.”

Ever been guilty of saying those words or something like them? Hurt feelings. A wounded heart. A broken confidence. We’ve all experienced them — and caused them. 

I remember years ago when a woman confronted me with an illustration I used in a Bible study. It was an inspiring story involving a mutual friend. She felt I was wrong in sharing it and called to tell me so. Even though I told her I had our friend’s permission to use the story, I couldn’t quite get her to see my side, so I gave the old “we’ll just have to agree to disagree” response. She wasn’t satisfied with that. She called another mutual friend and had her call me about my error. 

Now, I hadn’t known the first caller very long; I had known the second much longer.  We were very good friends and I was hurt that she had taken a side against me. After I explained the situation from my viewpoint, she became confused. She agreed that what I had done was not wrong but still was “disappointed” in me.  For what, I had no clue.

I confess to you that this was one of those times when God took over. I believe he literally put His hand over my mouth and kept it shut.  This was certainly not something my flesh did on its own! I found out later that the underlying problem was not with me.  The woman who initiated all this actually did not like the friend in the story and did not want her to get any accolades for Christian love and service! But the damage was done: my good friend (the second caller) and I were never as close as we were before that time. 

Though my heart was wounded, I refused to nurse any bitterness toward these two women.  One was a new Christian who was still living in the flesh; I knew she’d grow out of it with time, Bible study, and prayer.  The other was being deceived and I had to trust God to open her eyes.  Again, it was God who put this attitude in me. A few years later, just before she moved away, my friend confessed to me that she had been deceived by the other woman, that she’d been told things that simply were not true, and she apologized to me. She mourned over her mistake; I mourned over the years we had lost as intimate friends. 

In this story, God supernaturally kept my mouth shut, kept things from escalating, and put in my heart the desire to pray rather than retaliate. Oh, I could have shared a story about when I didn’t keep my mouth shut and things really blew up — but there were just too many of those stories to choose from! But I wanted to show you (and to remind myself) how faithful God is to fight our battles for us and to heal our wounded hearts.

Let me just say that James was absolutely right when he wrote that the tongue “is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts…”(3:8). The tongue is such a minor part of your body but it can do major damage to the Body. How much stronger the Body of Christ would be if all its tongues were kept under the control of the Spirit!

Author Kate McVeigh has said, “When you have a wounded heart, don’t nurse it or rehearse it, but curse it and disburse it, then God will reverse it!” That is so true!  It is also true that it’s easy to say but hard to do!  So I think I’ll just continue to seek God’s help, regularly praying, “Lord, please shut my mouth!” David put it much more eloquently when he wrote:

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD;

keep watch over the door of my lips.

Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil…

Psalm 141:3-4a

The Truth Project (Part 2)

Glad you came back!  This may be a little more heavy than my usual blogs — a little more educational than inspirational — but it’s critical.  And congrads to Laura, the only bold responder to the questions!  And great answers they were!  Here we go with Dr. Tackett’s insights:

Question #1: Why was Jesus born?

Perhaps your answer included one or more of the following: to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, to serve, to give His life as a ransom for many, to seek and to save what was lost, to save the world/sinners, to take away our sins, to preach, to bring light, to bring abundant life, to do the will of God, to destroy the devil’s work, to bring a sword and division, to bring fire/judgment upon the earth, to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins, to give understanding so that we might know God.

All these were part of Jesus’s eternal purpose and earthly work. But there is one particular passage in which Jesus specifically states the “reason I was born and came into the world.” The statement occurs in John 18:37 when Jesus stood before Pilate, giving testimony to His kingship.  He said,

“In fact, for this reason I was born,

and for this I came into the world,

to testify to the truth.”

Everything Jesus said or did was based on truth — the truth — God’s truth.  As a matter of fact, Jesus testified, “I am…the Truth…”

Question #2: What is the name of the One the Father sent to be with us forever?

Most probably you answered “the Holy Spirit” or “the Comforter” — and you’d be correct.  But Jesus also called Him “the Spirit of truth” and said that when “the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide [us] into all truth.” Yet many, like Pilate, turn away from the truth; others may suppress it, distort it, reject it, or exchange it for a lie. 

Listen, my friend, a cosmic battle rages between the Truth of God and the lies of Satan — and the battleground is inside you.  You must decide on which side you’ll stand. Jesus said, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Listen to the Truth and stand on His side! Lies take people captive; Truth sets them free. 

Question #3: What is eternal life?

Jesus clearly defines eternal life for us:  Now this is eternal life: that they may know* you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  Eternal life is knowing by experience the one true God and Jesus His Christ!

To know truth is God’s desire for all people for he “…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  So…

What is Truth?

It’s God’s Word!

It’s Jesus Christ!

It’s is the language of the Holy Spirit!

It’s the way to salvation!

And, to know the Truth is to have eternal life!

Now, how will you respond to the Truth?


*”know” = Greek gnosko = to know by experience

Scriptures on Truth:  John14:6; 16:13; 17:3, 17; 1 Timothy 2:4

Scriptures on the cosmic battle:  John 18:38; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Romans 1:38, 2:8, 1:25; Acts 20:30; Galatians 5:16-17  

The Truth Project (Part 1)

Tomorrow morning my Bible study class will begin The Truth Project (TTP) produced by Focus on the Family.  The videos are set in a classroom of 36 diverse students who are being taught by Dr. Del Tackett, president of the Focus on the Family Institute.

My friend Cheryl and I attended training for TTP leaders last Saturday. We were very fortunate to have Dr. Tackett lead the training.  What an awesome teacher!  He began the training by asking 3 questions:

Why was Jesus born?

What is the name of the One the Father sent to be with us forever?

What is eternal life?

Many of us spouted off answers to each question, quite confident that we were correct.  Dr. Tacket accepted our answers graciously but continued to probe. “Well, there’s really more than one answer, right?” we reasoned.  As he expounded on the scriptural answers, both Cheryl and I immediately realized we had a lot to learn! 

I’m going to stop blogging here today, but I don’t want you to stop pondering.  Write these 3 questions down on a piece of paper and keep them before you all day.  Pray over them. Meditate on them.   Jot down any answers that come to mind.  Share them in a comment, if you like.

Return to the blog on Friday and learn the answers Dr. Tackett presented.  Amazing stuff!  And, they lead to the most important question you’ll ever have to answer…
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The Lifter of My Head

I had the awesome priviledge of taking a little trip with my friend this weekend. Cheryl and I went to Birmingham, Alabama, to attend a leader training session for The Truth Project by Focus on the Family.  It was fabulous!  We stayed over Saturday night and attended worship at Shades Mountain Baptist Church where a former pastor of ours is now serving.  While the whole worship experience was wonderful, the music lifted me to heights I’ve not traveled in a while. Let me tell you about it:

If you read my last blog, then you know I’m traveling through a pretty rough valley right now — actually a series of valleys! Burden has been heaped upon burden, and I’ve been faltering under the load. At The Truth Project training on Saturday, God showed up, and in His hand He held a mirror. I looked long and hard at the reflection of my soul. It wasn’t a pretty sight. In God’s mirror, I saw that I had become insane.

What is insanity?  It’s losing touch with the truth. It’s saying one thing and living another. It’s knowing the truth but living the lies. According to Dr. Del Tackett, the director of The Truth Project, the enemy’s lies are so powerful that they can lead us into insanity. And I was going mad. I said I was okay; I said God would deliver me; I said “This, too, shall pass.” I knew the truth; I spoke the truth; but I wasn’t living by the truth.  Insanity.

Recognizing the illness is half the cure.  God and I worked through the diagnosis until deep into the night.

I was a bit raw from the purging and refining process — and a bit weary from little sleep — when I sat down on the pew Sunday morning.  But I was ready to move on toward the curing of my soul.  And, once again, God showed up. This time, however, instead of a mirror He brought a healing balm.

We’d only sung one song and then it happened. We sang a song that I’d heard before but only with my ears; this time, I heard it with my heart.  

Thou, O LORD, is based on Psalm 3, written by David when he was probably walking through his deepest valley. He wrote it on the run, when he fled from his son Absalom who wanted to depose King David and take the crown.*  His own son!  And this was just the current valley in a long string of valleys David had traveled. From his deepest despair, David wrote Psalm 3, a song of God’s pretection, His sustenance, and His deliverance — a song of TRUTH.  Psalm 3:3 forms the chorus of Thou, O LORD:

Thou, oh LORD, are a shield for me,
My glory and the lifter of my head!
Thou, oh LORD, are a shield for me,
My glory and the lifter of my head!

The LORD is my shield!  He is my glory!  His is the lifter of my head!  Oh, how that last phrase pierced my heart the first time I sang it. But the second time? It was the balm of God, slathered on my gaping wound and healing it! Through this song, God Himself reached down, placed the fingers of His right hand under my chin, and gently lifted it up, saying, “Lift up your head, my child! Look at me.  I am your Shield!  I am your Defender!  I am your Glory! This is truth; walk in it!”

Praise God who heals us of our every disease — even a season of spiritual insanity!Praise & hand of God

To the LORD, I cry aloud,

and He answers me from his holy hill.

I lie down and sleep;

I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

I will not fear…

(Psalm 3:4-5)


Enjoy the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sing Thou, O LORD.

*For more on the background of David and Absalom, see my January 5 blog article, Lost Faith?
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This Valley I Tread

When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider:
God has made the one as well as the other.
(Ecclessiates 7:14)
Hard times.  I hate ’em!  Yet they’re sure to come.  And just as night follows day, hard times often follow high times.

One month you can be on Mountain Path, enjoying a spectacular view, bountiful blessings, and intimate moments with God (see Nov 12 blog post).  The next thing you know, you’re on a bumpy ride down Valley Trail, dodging potholes, searching for a right turn, and focusing intently on the directions of your GPS (God’s Precious Spirit).

If you could “GoogleEarth” me today, that’s where you’d find me unfortunately.

Hmm.  Let’s mark out that last word.  Is it unfortunate that I’m here in the Valley?  No, I don’t think so.  I’m not here as a matter of fortune but as a matter of purpose. There’s a lot of work to be done here — most of it on me!

You see, this is not the Valley of Sin. I’m not here because of sin I’ve committed (I’ve actually been more obedient lately than usual!).  No, this is a different valley: a valley where wars are fought, where lessons are learned, where painful fires burn as they purify and purge before propelling the traveller upward again!

It’s the Valley of Intimacy, where a child might be instructed by her Father; where a servant might receive orders from his Master; where a faithful yet weary sojourner might be reinvigorated by Living Water; where the purpose of a pot is further molded by his Potter; where a branch might be pruned by her Gardener; or where the army of God defends a soldier against his attacker.

Oh, it’s not an easy place to travel!  There’s rugged terrain and dry desserts to cross which often lead to some “vehicle” maintenance.  Yet there’s an oft-missed beauty about this Valley. It’s a place where one rests in God’s arms beneath her, feels His presence beside her, listens to His Spirit inside her, and relies on His stance above her.  And if one can keep her focus on the purpose of the Valley of Intimacy and the destination that lies ahead, then there can be joy in the journey.

As a preacher said on his television program yesterday, “When you are down to nothing, God is up to something!”  How true!  When we are out of gas, out of resources, and out of power, God takes the wheel — and you better have on your spiritual seatbelt because it’s always an awesome ride from “nothing” toward “something”!

Good times and bad: “God has made the one as well as the other.” And who is He?

He is God Most High;

He is Father Most Precious;

He is Love Most Pure;

He is Grace Most Abundant —

and we can trust Him! 


Whatever You Want!

Imagine: You’re getting ready for bed on a Sunday night.  You’ve enjoyed a wonderful day of worship, really felt the Lord’s presence, and committed to follow Him wholeheartedly.  You settle snugly between the sheets and fall fast asleep. 

Deeper and deeper into sleep you fall until you begin to dream.  A bright light fills your closed eyes, beautiful music fills your ears, and indescribable peace fills your being.  Then a voice — a magnificent voice! — begins to speak.  Somehow, someway you know it’s God’s voice.  God is speaking — to YOU!  What’s that?  What did He say?  Again you hear it:

“Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

God, the Omnipotent Owner of the entire universe, told you to “ask for whatever you want…”! Wow! The wonder of it all jars you awake.  Was it just a dream? Was it really God? Do you need a reality check — or a shrink?

Could such a thing ever happen?  Does the dream sound too remarkable to be true?  Well, it isn’t.  This actually happened to Solomon (1 Kings 3:5)!  King David had named Solomon as his successor to the throne.  Shortly after doing so, David died. Solomon became king at a very young age yet followed closely in his father’s faithful footsteps.  Before awakening, young Solomon gave this answer:

 “…O LORD my God, you have made your servant king…But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties…So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong…” (3:7-9).

This answer delighted God so much that He decided to not only grant his request but to also grant what Solomon did not ask for: wealth, honor, and long life.

Now, how would you have responded?  If you could ask God for anything, what would it be? How would you even begin to decide? Next to the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, God’s Son, what do you believe would be the greatest gift God could give you? 

Here at the beginning of a new year, meditate on that question.  Think through the positives and negatives of your choice.  Tweek it until you believe you have a God-delighting answer — and then ask!  Don’t be afraid to ask your Father.  He knows the best answer to your request.  It could be “no,” but it could be “yes”!

No matter what you choose to ask God for, consider doing as Solomon did.  Ask for wisdom.  It’s greatly needed in our world today.  And God is ready, willing, and able to grant your request!

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God,

who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

James 1:5

Lost Faith?

From shepherd boy to King of Israel, David’s love for and faith in God astound me.  He was not a perfect man, but he did have perfect trust. So when I read 2 Samuel 15, I was surprised. 

David’s son Absalom is conspiring to overthrow his father and take over his throne.  When David hears about it, he flees!  David flees?  David? The man who, as a boy, killed both a bear and a lion with his own hands just to save a sheep? The young man who killed Goliath with one small stone?  The warrior so valiant in battle that the women praised him above King Saul?  The man relentlessly pursued by Saul but who refused to lift a hand against him?  This is not one who flees; this is one who fights!

Why, then, did David flee when faced with a foe inferior to himself?  David had lost faith — not in God but in himself.  David knew that God was sovereign, that God had placed him on the throne, and that God had blessed him with mighty victories.  But David also knew he was only a man, a man enveloped in weak flesh. 

You see, by this time, David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had killed her husband Uriah with the sword of the Ammonites; David’s oldest son Amnon had raped David’s daughter Tamar, and David did nothing about it (probably thinking, “Who am I to judge and punish?”); David’s third son Absalom had avenged his sister Tamar by killing Amnon — and, still, David did nothing.

David’s mind probably went back to disobedient King Saul and how God had removed the anointing from Saul and placed it upon David.  He probably thought, “Who am I to be king of Israel? I am a far worse sinner than Saul.  I’ve lost control over myself and over my own family.  Perhaps it is the Lord’s will to remove His anointing from me and to place it upon my son Absalom.”

Physically, David fled; he no longer trusted himself. Spiritually, however, David remained firm; he continued to trust in God. “If I find favor in the LORD’s eyes, he will bring me back…But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him” (2 Samuel 15:25-26).question - small

Have you been in David’s shoes? Have you felt as though you had fallen too far?  Fallen, not beyond the reach of God and His salvation, but beyond God’s desire to anoint and use you?

“How could God use me after what I’ve done?”

“Failure: that’s all I am and all I do!”

“God may forgive me, but they won’t. So how can He use me now?”

Take heart, my friend!  God is not finished with you yet!  He is our Blessed Redeemer and He can redeem anyONE and anyTHING!  God not only can redeem you in spite of your “stuff”; He can also redeem your stuff!

Consider Saul of Tarsus. God redeemed Saul, turning Saul the mercenary into Paul the missionary and using his “stuff” (his past) to teach others of God’s transforming power and unlimited grace. 

Consider Peter. Not only was he a disciple of Christ, he was also one of Jesus’ most intimate friends. Yet when his Friend needed him most, Peter denied Him.  God redeemed Peter, however, and used his “stuff” (fear and denial) to inspire others to fearless discipleship.

The Bible is full of such stories of redemption — redemption not only of the person but also of their past.

Do you need a Redeemer?  Do you have a past that needs redemption? Have you experienced great failure even though you are a Christian? My friend, you’re not alone! The Church is full of people in need of redemption.  The problem? We’ve not surrendered everything to Christ.  We’ve been taught that, once saved, we’re supposed to have it all together, that we don’t make huge mistakes any more, that we are to be holy in and of ourselves.

Surrender: it”s what sets David, Paul, and Peter apart from believers today.  Though they fled, feared, or failed, they still trusted God!  They trusted Him not only with their present and their future; they also trusted Him with their past!

Surrender your past to the LORD and “let Him do to [you] whatever seems good to Him.”  Surrender it and be amazed at His redemptive power!

(PS — David did see Jerusalem and the ark of the covenant of God again!  Just because David had faltered, God had not forgotten him. He took care of his enemy and restored David to his throne. Oh, what a blessed Redeemer we serve!)

Resolutions: To Make or Not to Make? had an article which listed the Top Ten New Year’s resolutions:  

  1. Spend more time with family and friends.
  2. Fit in fitness.
  3. Tame the bulge.
  4. Quit smoking.
  5. Enjoy life more.
  6. Quit drinking.
  7. Get out of debt.
  8. Learn something new.
  9. Help others.
  10. Get organized.

Not a bad list to use as an outline.  I’ve taken a few of them myself and added some details by which to measure my success.  For example, my version of #10:

Get organized: Rise at 6:00 a.m.and complete my shower/dress/makeup/hair by 7:00 a.m. (I work at home and it’s a huge temptation to remain in my robe all morning!) Spend 1+ hours in Bible study and prayer, followed by  2-3 hours research/writing. Post a new blog by noon at least 3 days/week. Go to work at my secular job after lunch.”

So how did I do?  Well, today is my first day on the march of resolve — and I did pretty well.  I got out of bed at 6:15 and was showered and dressed by 6:30.  I didn’t do my hair or makeup since I am determined not to leave the house today.  I couldn’t go straight to my quiet time because my study/writing spot is in the bedroom and my  husband was still fast asleep. So I put in an hour of secular work, then went back for my quiet time.  I’m still working on this blog  — and it’s way after lunch — but I’ll have it posted in a few minutes!

So, all in all, not a bad day for that resolution. Not perfect, I know, but then I don’t expect to hit it perfectly every time.  I think that’s where most people fail in their resolutions: they set stringent goals and then give up on them the first time they break one. I’m sure guilty of doing that in the past!

Set goals by all means, but set realistic ones. And if you fall off the path of resolve, forgive yourself, get back up, and start marching again. 

And be sure to celebrate your small successes. I didn’t meet the time parameters in my resolution today, but I did achieve all my objectives (at least they will be met once I get this thing posted!).  So I’m going to celebrate with a hot cup of coffee and a few minutes of news and weather– then it’s on to the next item!

After all, what’s the goal of New Year’s Resolutions? Is it to be perfect?  No, resolutions are simply meant to give you focus as you work toward becoming a better person.  And that happens one baby-step at a time!

  ben_franklin (small)

As Ben Franklin said:

Be always at war with your vices,

at peace with your neighbors, and

let each new year find you a better man [or woman].