Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Nostalgia and A New Year

"Say not, "Why were the former days better than these?" For it is not from wisdom that you ask this."
Ecclesiastes 7:10

Do you ever get nostalgic? Do you ever wish you lived in another era or year? Do you ever wish for the 'good old days'? I know I do once in awhile. I often think I would have liked to live in the England during the 1800's. The days of Charles Spurgeon and JC Ryle. The days of the horse drawn carriage, Sherlock Holmes, and the British Empire. But Solomon warns us that thinking it was better in times past is foolish. This is a good warning for us as we do this frequently, especially in hard times. This kind of thinking is the sin of discontent. Discontent comes easy to our sinful hearts. Let us look at a few reason why this nostalgia is unwise.

The 'good old days' had their problems too. Sometimes they were the same problems, because people don't change, or they were different problems that we can be thankful we don't have to deal with. Human nature is the same in all generations. We are sinful from birth and that hasn't changed. In times past people committed the same sins we commit. There was injustice, anger, lying, pride, sexual immorality, and envy back then too. Often when we look back on the past we tend to overlook the difficulties and focus on the good things we long for. Our memories are selective, which produces a distorted past. So longing to escape to the past is foolish because we will find that we will still be living in a sinful world.

Leaving for the past may be leaving some of the good thing we enjoy now. If we could escape to another time, we would find that we long for the comforts and benefits that we enjoy now. We enjoy many good gifts right now, that were not there in years gone by. Think about life without our favorite foods, email, cars, heated houses, health care, or cell phones. When we think about what good things we enjoy now that were not enjoyed in the past, then we can see that wishing to go back in time is not so attractive.

The best reason why nostalgia is foolish is that God is wise and sovereign. He has placed us in this time and this place for a reason. God is good and wise and so everything He does must be good and wise. He knows what is best for us. Whatever time or situation we find ourselves in, is for our good. Even in persecution and great trials, we can't wish for the days of yesterday. God has a good reason for us to be here. Not only will it be for our good, but for the good of others. Like Esther, we are placed where we are 'for such a time as this.' We need to trust the wisdom and goodness of God and use our lives to bring glory to God in this time.

As we head into a new year, we can be fearful of what may happen. The old days may seem more attractive. We may look back one year, 5 years, 50 years, or 100 years, and wish we were living in those days rather than heading into a new year. This new year may be worse than the last year. But we know that our God is the same. He won't change in this year. He will still be with us in this year. He is still in control of all things this year as well as last year. His plan and purpose will continue on this year as well despite the sin and anger of men. His promises to us are the same. Since our God is unchanging, we can go into the new year with confidence in our Lord.

In fact, We should be excited as we go into a new year. God is going to display His glory in this year. We are going to see God's works in the world and church. God's kingdom is going to advance. Sinners will be converted this year. Jesus may come back this year. We are getting closer to heaven. God will continue to mold us into the image of Jesus Christ. We are closer to seeing the new heaven and the new earth. Soon this old body with the sinful flesh will be gone and we will be glorified.

Wishing for the 'good old days' is foolish. Living here and now by faith in the eternal, unchanging God is wise. "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas and Missions

Christmas is a good time to reflect on the incarnation of our Saviour and to renew our commitment to foreign missions. I would like to show why in this post.

Christmas is all about the eternal Son of God coming down to earth to become a man so He could save sinners by suffering their punishment on the cross and rising again. God the Son left the glories and comforts of heaven to come to this sin infested world. In heaven He was praised and adored by all the angels. But on earth He would be cursed by men. He is the infinite, self sufficient, all knowing, and all powerful God. But in coming to this world as a baby, he became dependent on others. He had to learn and grow. He was weak. He got tired, hungry and thirsty. He felt pain and hardship. He was tempted and learned obedience. The Holy One who dwells in unapproachable light, now lived among sinful men, with sinful words and deeds all around Him. We could spend years meditating on this subject and not exhaust its depths.

Imagine for a moment if I owned a worm farm. One day I realized that my worms were going to die from some horrible red robin. The only way to save the worms was to become a worm and fight this great beast. So I become a worm and defeated the robin, but in the process became mortally wounded and died. Perhaps you would be impressed by my sacrifice, after all, who would actually stoop that low to save a bunch of worms? I doubt anyone would do such a thing. Yet this picture only slightly illustrates what Jesus did for us. He came to save sinners, who are less than worms. We are rebels against God. We hate Him by nature and would joyfully kill God if we could get our hands on Him. I am sure all heaven would have sighed in relief to see me and all other sinners sentenced to an eternity in Hell. "At last justice is done, no longer would these sinners curse and dishonour the only Blessed God," they would say. Yet Jesus came to save these sinners. Those who are worthless and vile, are the ones He came to redeem. God looked with love and compassion on the miserable plight of men and provided a Savior. This is Christmas. It is the story of God's love and sacrifice to an unworthy people.

Missions is all about sacrificing to show God's love in the proclamation of the gospel. The missionary who leaves his home country or culture to go to a foreign land to bring the light of the gospel is in a very small way doing what Jesus did in His first coming. The missionary leaves his home, his family, his friends and all that is familiar. He often leaves his comforts and safety to enter a new world. There in this new culture he must learn many things over again. He must speak a new language, learn new customs, eat new foods, and find new friends. Maybe he will become poor. New sicknesses are a danger. Plus he brings a message that is foolishness to this world. Men may hate him, scoff at him and even injure or kill him. There is mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual difficulties that are all around him and his family. Yet he and they suffer all this so that sinners can hear the only cure for their sin disease. This gospel message is powerful for the salvation of sinners. This he believes and so he continue on in his work, confident that God's word will be effective. To one degree or more, this is what all those who are involved in missions go through. Only the love of Jesus Christ would compel any to go through such hardships. And yet these hardships are only a flicker of light compared to the great suffering of Jesus Christ to save sinners. We can never suffer more for Christ than He did for us.

On this Christmas season, spend some time thinking of the glory of Christ and His humiliation. Consider the hardships that missionaries go though. Pray more for the missionaries that your church supports or for an organization that sends or supports missionaries. Give financially to those faithful missionaries. Also, consider if God is calling you to go and proclaim the good tidings of great joy to those who live in darkness.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Devaluing the Value of Wealth

"He who loves money will not be satisfied with money; nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is a vanity." Ecclesiastes 5:10

 In the mornings I have been studying the book of Ecclesiastes. The book describes the quest of Solomon to find purpose, satisfaction and meaning in life under the sun. He writes this book looking back on his quest for satisfaction. Throughout the book Solomon moves in his writing from his past quest to his current understanding. I found this understanding of Ecclesiastes very helpful as it clear up some confusion I had as I read this book.. I owe this view to the ESV study notes on Ecclesiastes.
   Solomon had seen vanity in all of life. Pleasure, work, laughter and power are all vain when pursued as an end in themselves. In Chapter 5:10-20, Solomon looks at wealth and money. The Bible talks a lot about money and wealth as it is an important subject. Wealth can do great damage to our souls. Wealth can also be used for great good. In a very wealthy culture, we especially need to have a Biblical understand of wealth. It is human nature to love money and wealth. It is a natural idol that we worship. For many people their goal in life is to be filthy rich. But here in this passage, Solomon warns us that wealth and money are not as valuable as we think. Riches are overrated. The idol of money is here exposed as being a sham and a cheat. Let us look at why Solomon found wealth to be unsatisfactory.

1) Loving money and wealth will not satisfy us. verse 10
Greed is a bottomless pit. The desire for money never ends. We never find real contentment in wealth. That satisfaction seems just around the next corner, but when you arrive there, it escapes to the next corner. Rich and poor alike are not satisfied with what they have. It doesn't matter if you have a thousand dollars or a hundred million dollars, you will not be content. A life lived to gain and be satisfied in money is a life that is empty and vain.

2) Gaining wealth adds more dependents. verse 11

The meaning of this verse could be the more wealth a person acquires, the more people will flock to him pretending to be friends to get a share of that wealth or that the wealthier we become the more we need to have people to take care of our wealth. For example the larger one's farm gets, the more employees we need for the running of the farm. Wealthy people have a lot of leeches that suck their wealth.

3) Wealth can bring loss of sleep. verse 12

A rich man can have a difficult time sleeping. One reason is that he may worry about his wealth. How will he manage it? What if all his riches are lost or stolen? Maybe he lies awake thinking about his business deals. Another reason is that a wealthy person doesn't have to work that hard. On the other hand, someone who works hard all day, will have no trouble falling asleep. It doesn't matter if he eats a lot or a little, sleep comes easy to a working man. Wealthy people tend to work more with their minds or at least do very little physical labor. As such it may be hard for them to fall asleep.

4) Wealth brings pain or hurt. verse 13

Wealth takes much pain and sacrifice to acquire and it requires pain and sacrifice to keep as well. Wealth needs to be maintained and it will cost us to hold on to our treasures. Wealth can hurt us spiritually by making us proud, gluttonous or self sufficient. Like the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-25, money can be the cause of our eternal ruin. Wealth can hurt us by making those around us envious. Wealth can bring with many temptations.

5) Wealth can disappear in a one hundred and one different ways. verse 14

Wealth is not certain. There are many ways it can vanish. Thieves can steal what we have. We can make one bad business decision that can bankrupt us. The economy can collapse. The banks could fail. The stock market may crash. A natural disaster could destroy all we have. War could come and ruin us financially. We could become sick and spend all our money trying to get healthy. And the list could continue. Money is an untrustworthy idol.

6) Wealth can not be taken with you when you die. verses 15-16

You can work your whole life to build a massive fortune, but when you die, it all stays here on earth. You really can't take it with you when you go. All your hard work and careful planning to get riches will be in vain. All of it will go to someone else who most likely didn't do anything to help you acquire your fortune and may squander all of it. Naked you were born and naked you will die. Why heap up treasure that won't last.

I will conclude with the words of Paul. Please read them closely.
      "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life."
1 Timothy 6:17-19