"Everything is meaningless."
Well...there's that. That's a great way to start off a pastoral blog, isn't it?
The book of Ecclesiastes is not something we talk about much. Honestly, the only time I've spent much time in it is to prepare for a funeral, specifically Chapter 3. You've heard it before. Either in a service or in The Byrds song from the 1950's. "To everything, turn, turn, turn..."
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." ~Ecclesiastes 3:1
But the way The Teacher starts his meandering, meditative journal is this:
"MEANINGLESS! MEANINGLESS!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." ~Ecclesiastes 1:2
Makes you want to read on, doesn't it?
Have you ever felt this way? That everything is pointless? Meaningless? That no matter what you do, you can't get ahead? That no matter how much you argue until you're blue in the face, you won't change the mind of your friend on who they should be voting for? That when someone posts something on Facebook that commenting on the thread will only bring you more frustration and heartache?
Yeah...that's me today.
It doesn't matter who I voted for (after all, I was always told to "vote early and vote often"), but there are people who I trust, people who I look up to and I just don't understand how they see things so differently from me. If I'm being honest with myself, it actually makes me think, "what if I'm wrong?"
Does that happen to anyone else? I mean...I'm willing to be wrong, but what do I believe what I do? Why do you believe what you do?
And then it dawns on me...maybe we're all wrong.
I want to share something with you from my Wesley Study Bible.
"Sometimes we live for the wrong reasons and pursue the wrong things. We try to get all we can and can fade when God is kept on the outskirts of our lives. Without God, things have no meaning and cannot fill the void in our lives. When we give up our pursuits of happiness and seek the kingdom, we discover the full meaning of life. Giving up what we want and giving in to what God wants leads us to a fulfilling, meaningful, and purposeful life."
Everything is meaningless...WITHOUT GOD.
There have been so many times when I have come to a point where the anxiety is just so strong. When I think about our country and the unrest; the uneasiness. It seems like the closer we get to November 3, the worse it gets. Then I think, all that junk...what's the point of being anxious about it?
Do I have control over it? Do I have the ability to change it?
But I do have the ability to focus on God and seek him in all that I do. I do have the ability to preach the gospel and train people how to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
See how meaningless it all is?
This idea of "everything" being meaningless isn't really a bad or depressing thing. It is a reminder that: "[We] do not belong to this world, just as [He] does not belong to this world."
Today, let us focus solely on God. Let us make this life meaningful by putting God on the throne of our hearts.
Let us Pray,
O God, you Good and your steadfast love endures forever. Help us to be people who focus entirely on you; for without you, everything is meaningless. Give us the strength to get through these next couple weeks that are filled with anxiety and stress. Be with our president and vice president; be with our senators and representatives at all levels of government. We also pray for Presidential Candidate, Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris. We ask, Father, for your will to be done, that all of our public servants be protected Spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Help us to remember that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
In the name of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the Glory of God the Father we pray.
There was a commercial back in my childhood that every once in a while comes back up for a brand of peanut butter called Jif. The catch phrase went like this:
"Choosy moms choose Jif."
Perhaps you remember it too.
Well, my mom never chose Jif. We always had the Peter Pan brand.
Honestly, I don't think I really cared what brand we got because I just love peanut butter. One of my favorite snacks growing up was to cut an apple into slices, put a dollup of peanut butter on a plate and dip the apples in it. In fact, now that I have written about it, I may have that snack this afternoon.
Anyway...my stomach took over...sorry.
Choices. Every single day we are faced with choices. From the very beginning of creation, we have been given a very specific choice. When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, the choice they had was the most consequential choice ever made...and no, it wasn't to eat the fruit or not.
The choice they were given was to be in relationship with God, or not. Would they be faithful to God, or would they go their own way.
Another choice that was made in the Scriptures was for Abraham. In fact, Abraham had a lot of choices. He could do as God told him to go from the Land of Ur (his home, the place he had known all 70 years of his life at this point) and "go to the place that God will show him," or he could just chalk up hearing the voice of God to a bad peace of Bar-B-Que'd lamb he had just eaten.
Yet another choice for Abraham was to some how get out of the house without his wife Sarah noticing, take his son with two of their slaves and a donkey to mount Moriah to sacrifice Isaac, or to roll over and go back to bed.
In our scripture for this week, Joshua called together all the people of Israel at the Tree at Shechem and put the question to them, "On this day, who will you call God?"
The reality is, while there are many things in this life we can choose: Where we eat lunch, where we go to school, and yes...even who we elect for president, those are just minor choices. And yes...I mean that.
The only choice that matters is "whom will you serve?"
Who will you put on the throne of your life? Who will you call Lord?
My friends, I honestly don't know how many people have been reading this blog over the last few weeks, but I do know I enjoy writing them. It is my hope that once a week I can give you a little "pick-me-up" through the middle of the week. Today, if you read nothing else from me, or hear none of my sermons, or go to none of my bible studies, I hope you hear that the best decision I have ever made was to say yes to Jesus.
One of the things I say every Sunday, and I believe it's important to say is: "If there is anyone in here who, for the first time, wants to know what it means to follow Jesus, please do not leave this room without talking to me first, because there is no more important conversation I could have with someone."
I say that because it's true. There really is nothing more important than for you to say yes to Jesus.
So, on this day, you need to answer the question, Who will you choose?
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Do you remember the old saying, "Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it?" Yeah...sometimes prayer is like that.
The beautiful thing about prayer is that when we communicate with God, he hears us. Sometimes the answer is not yet, sometimes is straight-out no, and other times, he says yes. But God always hears.
We read this passage last week in our Sunday Services, but I thought it worth repeating. In Matthew 6, Jesus is wrapping up what we call "The Sermon on the Mount." It is a lengthy sermon where Jesus goes through a bunch of mini lessons on how to live in the world, but not be of the world. Then he gets to the part about prayer, and we read these words:
When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father know what you need before you ask him.
One of the sayings I have picked up over the last few years of ministry, started as a way to transition from my pastoral prayer into the Lords prayer. While I admit, it kind of became a filler to move to the Lord's prayer, over time, it has picked up meaning for me.
It goes like this:
"God, we thank you for your son Jesus, who you sent so long ago to walk with us, talk with us, and teach us many things. One of the things you taught us was how to pray, so that when worlds failed us, and we didn't know what to say any more, we would have words that speak directly to your heart."
If you've been a part of any of the churches I have been appointed to, you have heard me say these words. In fact, I even work it into our understanding of prayer for our Confirmation Students. But I say them, not to be just a filler, but to remind us that when we do pray, sometimes, words fail us. Sometimes, we don't know what to say, and so maybe we just stop praying...or maybe we just babble (which is often my problem).
So, when we pray, it helps to remember that while we pray for specific things, when we pray the Lord's Prayer we are praying first of all about the Holiness of God. We pray about his kingdom and will; we pray about receiving that which we need to survive on a daily basis (bread), and we ask for forgiveness. For lack of a better phrase, we're covering all the bases...not just for the sake of covering the bases, but because these are the things we need.
We need God's holiness, we need to recognize that we are not of this world, that God is sitting on the throne, that we need sustenance, both for our bodies and our souls, and that we need his grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
SO...with that, let us pray.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will Be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the Glory
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
. SomeEvery year around this time, I take a week long retreat in Estes Park, Colorado. In fact, as I am writing this, I am sitting in the living room of the cabin where I and 29 other men from around the country are staying. Every day we spend time reading, playing disc golf, and hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. But the most important part is the worship. In the evening after dinner, we spend time in the living room (all 30 of us) singing, praying, hearing the word proclaimed, repenting of our sins, and being forgiven and set free from any shackle that holds us down.
The first time I came to this was in 2015, and I have been every year since. I have made a commitment to come to this every year primarily because it is a time where I can refresh, rejuvenate, and rest in the Lord so that I can be a better Husband, Father, and Pastor.
Every year, being that it's in the mountains, it is both figuratively and literally a mountain top experience; much like Jesus big three disciples had when they witnessed the transfiguration.
But what I love about that story is less about the transfiguration itself (although it is super important) and more about how the disciples react.
They want to stay there. They want to build three shelters to commemorate the moment. But Jesus has other plans. He says, no...it's time to go back into the real world.
I love my job...I really do. I love preaching and teaching, I love building relationships, and there is even a part of me (albeit one that concerns me) that enjoys the administration of the life of the church. But it can sometimes be draining. It is so important for my spiritual well-being to get away for a few days, decompress, and to spend time with other like-minded pastors and friends to know that I am not alone.
The world doesn't understand Sabbath. But the reason Sabbath exists is so that we can be the best at what we are called to do. We come to these "mountain top" experiences, not so that we can stay here, but so that we can come home.
My hope for you is that you find your mountain top experience so that you can be the best in your calling. Something different from a day off, or different even from a vacation...but something fulfilling to your soul.
Let us Pray...
God of the Sabbath, we thank you for giving us the ability to rest in you. We thank you for those mountain top experiences that give us a glimpse of what we are fighting for; who we are pursuing. Help us to take a moment to stop to focus solely on our relationship with you. Help us then to come back to the real world and share what we've learned with you!
In Jesus name, Amen.
Growing up in the United Methodist Church, I have always had a passion for ministry. Now, I have been called to serve the people of Llano at an awesome place called Lutie Watkins Memorial!