“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. Ecclesiastes 1:2-4
The opening lines of Ecclesiastes might lead the reader to believe that King Solomon was a nihilist unless you kept reading to hear his conclusion on the matter. For many years, this has been one of my favorite scriptures, but I have come to prefer the translation “vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Once I overcome the words to the Carly Simon song and understood vanity more as being ‘empty’, ‘futile’ or bolstered by false pride, it related to many more things in life that once seemed spectacular, but in the end were truly empty or meaningless.
If you are a professional sports fan, you should be excited, as we are currently in the two week period of the year where all four major sports (five with Nascar?) are in season. NHL and NBA are just starting their seasons with NFL and MLB in full swing. If you don’t like pro sports, College football is abuzz every Saturday, while High School football and volleyball playoffs are just kicking off as well. If you work at it, fishing can be a year round sport, and there is probably a channel dedicated each day to a variety of motorsports. It seems there is something for everyone, and I’m not even getting into competitive obstacle courses, dancing, cooking, eating, or everything else under the sun.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
So, you may be asking, “What’s the Point?” Ask any player or fan what their hopes are for their team each season, and ultimately it would be to win the championship, to prove themselves better than all their opponents. At the professional level, almost no team ever has an undefeated season, but to keep winning despite losses, is more than reasonable. But win or lose, what happens at the end of the season? It all goes back to 0-0. If a team wins the championship, are they content the next year? Chances are, they want to win even more the next year to defend their title. Ask any Cubs fan if they are content having already won a World Series, even if it was last in 1908. Win or lose, we always want the best for our team the next season.
Full disclosure, I am a fair weather fan. I usually root for the underdog and like close games, even in Iowa v. Iowa State. I do find myself rooting for the High School and College teams where I attended and with much less enthusiasm, I cheer for those Pro sports I liked when I was a kid, but I don’t get too worked up either way if they win or lose. In the end, the puzzle gets put back in the box and shuffled around for the next year. I do find myself rooting more for individuals I know who are playing. Though it is only my opinion, but I believe there is much more value in playing and coaching sports than in watching sports. Learning how to graciously win or lose is a skill that would benefit us all, even as spectators.
So, what are we to learn through all this competition in sports, academics, politics, and any other area of life where we feel the urge to win? While there is an opportunity cost to all the time, energy, and money we put into our passions, hopefully there is some benefit to these investments. The fruit of competition is not always increased love and forgiveness. What if we focused that same energy and enthusiasm we put into our faith? What would that look like? From what I have read from the scriptures, Paul seems to embody this mentality of leaving it all on the field for his faith. It comes through in his writings and his passion to see others grow and know the Lord as he does. Do you think it possible that we could have similar aspirations? For sure. As with any team or individual…with proper training and discipline, a winning season is always possible!
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14
Strength and Courage in Christ,
I love football. I love when the game is on the line and the loosing team has the ball. There is no back up plan, you ALWAYS go for it on forth down. This is why everyone hates Tom Brady. Every time he is in this situation we know the outcome. Some of the best of all time are “the catch” Joe Montana in the 82′ NFC championship, 2013 Iron bowl when Auburn stunned Alabama, and Doug Flutie at Boston College when he threw the 60 yard hale Mary. We could watch these clips over and over again.
Sophomore year of High School we were on the 2 yard line. Before the snap, I told the defense where we were running and that we would be scoring. The game was on the line and I was stirring up confidence in my team that even if the defense knew where we were going they could not score on us.
At the Lord’s supper (commonly known as the Last Supper), Jesus tells the disciples the game plan. Jesus enemy has known for hundred of years what was going to happen. Jesus called the play and let the enemy know it. It was done during the Passover Meal. They celebrated the deliverance from the bondage to Egypt and Jesus was shifting their celebration to deliverance from sin and death.
Luke 22:19 He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”
20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.
Bread and wine was every meal of everyday. This is as common as Mt. Dew and Doritos. It does not feel special or sacred. THIS IS HIS POINT! Jesus takes the common and ordinary and declares it holy and sacred. This is my story! This is or can be your story! Jesus can take you who is common and everyday ordinary and because of His body we are set apart! Because of His blood, we are made new! JESUS TAKES THE SINNER AND MAKES HIM A SAINT!
SINNER TO SAINT! Wow this is the greatest miracle of all time! You didn’t earn this! You don’t deserve this! You just get to receive this! This is grace! This is the moment where he called the play and let everyone know what was coming. He kicks satan in the face steals the keys to hell and offers salvation to sinful men!
What would it look like for you to before you eat any meal you remember Jesus, who made the common you -> holy you? What if before you took your first drink you remembered His blood which gave you the new covenant of sinner you -> saint you? How would you live? How would you talk? How would you respond? How would you treat your family?
Go Be Vital!
Recklessly, obsessively following Jesus
Every 3.6 seconds someone in our world dies of starvation. Over 8 million children die annually due to extreme poverty. Over 3,000 people groups exist where there is no organized Christian presence. Over 70% of our world does not have a saving relationship with Christ. 1/3 of Americans under 30 now identify as being non-religious, the highest in history. I don’t know about you, but each of those problems tugs at my heart, and there are MANY more I could have listed. The reality is that every problem listed above could be addressed in a meaningful manner sooner rather then later by us as Christians. Christians are better resourced then at anytime in history to address the spiritual, economic, and social problems of our world, yet we are slow to do so.
As Christians I think we’ve slipped into a bad habit of wasting much of our energy bickering among ourselves instead of addressing the problems of our communities and world with Christ’s love. Nearly every day someone on my Facebook feed links to an article taking a fierce stance either for or against contemporary worship. Nearly every time I visit my local coffee shop I overhear conversations at other tables complaining about some aspect of their church or other believers. And, I must admit, I’m often not much better. I whine in my head, under my breadth, and even sometimes quite audibly about the ideas, behaviors, and practices of other Christians I personally do not like (and my reasons are often not very Biblical).
This misallocation of our time and energy towards infighting instead of serving is not new, but has been around since Biblical times. Paul addressed this issue beautifully in writing to the church in Ephesus:
We will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:14-16
This thing we call the Church is going to work best when we put aside our preferences and personal desires and chose to work together to be the hands and feet of Christ in this broken and weary world. Here’s what I want to propose to us today. What of instead of whining and complaining we as Christians re-directed that time and energy towards being the hands and feet of Christ in our world? Instead of looking up articles trying to prove our position we allocated more time to serving others. Instead of complaining to other Christians we met together to encourage one another or, even better yet, went out and served together. There is so much work that needs to be done, so lets stop fighting one another and start fighting together for the expansion of God’s Kingdom.
8 My soul follows hard after You. Your right hand holds me up.
The chase for the Sprint Cup Champion is in full swing. With only two races left, Joey Logano leads the chase. He drives the No. 22 Ford Fusion for Team Penske. At the age of only 25, he is the true leader of the pack.
The chase involves 16 drivers chosen primarily on wins during the regular season. These drivers compete against each other while racing in the standard field of 42 cars. The driver with the most points after the final 10 races is declared the champion.
I can only imagine the intensity of the races themselves reaching speeds excessing over 200 mph. Driving down the track and everything is moving so fast it becomes a blur. All that horse power and the chase itself becomes an adrenaline rush within itself.
The chase brings to my mind the chase after Jesus. Do I truly follow hard after Him? Do I pursue righteousness? Now, I am not talking about chasing the works of the law. I am talking about the works that come out of my life because of the transformation that Christ has done in my life.
Not only am I chasing my faith, but because of my faith, I am chasing good works. Works is the fruit of the transformed life. James talks about it throughout his writing. Faith without works is dead faith. These is no chase in it.
My prayer for us today is to get a glimpse of how David chased hard after the heart of God. It is that chase that kept David humble, and he had a repenting heart. I like Psalms 53:10. ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me’. That men, is our chase.
Stay the Course and Chase Hard after God.
Strength and Courage
You have probably heard the following phrases: “No one holds a grudge like him”, or “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, even “Remind me never to get on your bad side.” Each one suggest walking ever so carefully not to step on the landmine that is an unforgiving nature of that person. Even from a worldview we are justified sometimes in the unforgiveness of someone or the number of chances we have given them that no longer requires us to let them off the hook
The Bible has allot to say on the subject, because I believe that through God’s word He realizes just the enormous damage unresolved issues can cause the heart. Much like the fruit of the Spirit which can grow within us with just a little plant of a seed, is the same with just a little seed of feeling wronged by someone. From the same seed of the Spirit that can produce gifts of joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control also can sprout that idea of self that says that you are owed ,something from someone else’s wrongdoing towards you. The little seed much like the Spirit can grow in antithesis quickly and produce toxic emotions of bitterness, anger, and resentment. That is why quick resolution is so needed. Identify the weed of discontent in your heart and separate it from. The Bible does allow us to become angry. Don’t forget that anger is a given human emotion so God would not have granted us the emotion if we could not use them from time to time for His purpose
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, – Ephesians 4:26
Jesus also spoke on the subject of forgiveness with Peter in the parable of the unforgiving servant beginning in Matthew 18:21-35
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
This was and answer to a question the Peter asked Jesus upon how man times a person must be forgiven going back to a passage in the book of Genesis between Cain and Lamech
“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him,“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Basically Jesus is telling Peter to set upon no certain amount. Those who know God’s mercy must operate on the principle of mercy. If they do not show mercy but insist on justice, they will not receive mercy
We each on are own account and because of our own human sinful nature do not deserve one ounce of mercy. But God in his steadfast love grants us grace which is simply defined as unmerited favor. So the next time you reach for vindication promptly remember the vindication God deserves because of our sin and embrace the same grace giving spirit to others that you have received.
You Are Excused In Christ So To Others Extend The Same