One Life to Live

“You only live once!” “Go for the gusto!” “Get all you can, while you can!” Such are some of the common declarations we hear. After all, it’s all about [us], babes (so we are told). But what if there really is far more to life than mere stuff and fleeting pleasures? What if it’s not about us, and that we were to someday experientially understand Jesus’ haunting words, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36, ESV)?

While the world uses “one life to live” as a declaration, the Bible uses it as a statement of caution. A psalmist lifts the prayer,

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. ~ Psalm 90:12

The writer of Hebrews warns, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (9:27).

The writer of Ecclesiastes had and experienced it all: wealth, fame, education, pleasures, luxuries, parties, etc. Yet, he found no fulfillment in any of these. After wasting so many years on himself, he ends the book with this:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. ~ Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

His point is not a warning of a capricious and vengeful God; rather, a relationship with our Creator and worshiping Him is the very purpose of our existence and what brings genuine fulfillment.

One life to live is all we have. Are we simply going to waste these fleeting moments on ourselves, or fulfill the true purposes in which we were designed for?

Are You Following Ahab’s Bad Example?

Truth is not always pleasant, it does not always seem kind. However, truth is good and beneficial—like medicine—if we will not resist or reject it. Sadly there are many people who would rather perish feeling good than feel the sting of truth and actually become good and healthy.

In the Old Testament, we are told of the account of Ahab, one of the wicked kings of Israel. Preparing to go into battle, he requested that Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, to be his ally. Jehoshaphat agreed and came to help Ahab. Ahab called for false prophets to ask if he would have victory. They replied that the Lord would give him success. 

Jehoshaphat, a godly king, must have sensed something wrong, because he asked, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?” (1 Kings 22:7). Ahab’s response is astounding:

And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” ~ 1 Kings 22:8

Micaiah, a true prophet of God, was summoned. When he arrived, Ahab  asked if he should go into battle. Micaiah must have had a mockingly tone as he answered, “Go up and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king” (vs. 15). We are then told,

But the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” ~ vs. 16

Did you catch that? “Nothing but the truth,” Ahab demanded. So, Micaiah prophesied that Ahab’s army would be scattered in defeat. Ahab then looks over at Jehoshaphat and asks, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” (vs. 18).

Micaiah proceeded to tell Ahab that he would die in battle. Zedakiah, a false prophet, struck Micaiah, asking scornfully, “How did the Spirit of the LORD go from me to speak to you?” (vs. 24).

What was Micaiah’s reward for speaking the truth? Imprisonment. Yet, what he spoke would prove to be true: the army was scattered and Ahab was killed.

How do you respond to truth? How do you react when you are confronted with your faults and sins? How do you respond when a person of God shares from the Bible of something being wrong, but society says it is okay? Do not follow Ahab’s example. Truth is not always pleasant, but it can rescue you from many perils if you will yield to it. 

The Splendid Sound of Silence

In my last post I had mentioned that ours is a society that not simply loves—but is addicted—to noise. There are many who cannot bear the sound of silence—especially when it is broken by the sounds of their own thoughts and questions.

What is it about silence that is so unnerving? For prolonged periods of silence (and lack of distractions) we must wrestle with questions of deeper issues:

  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Why am I here? Do I have significance?
  • Is there a God? If so, What is He like?
  • What happens after I die?

Such questions are quite natural. The writer of Ecclesiastes notes, “[God] has put eternity into man’s heart.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

Mind you, when I talk about silence, I am talking about healthy, essential periods of quiet solitude. I am not encouraging unhealthy, debilitating isolation. We are social creatures. Yet, consider the following:

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. ~ Psalm 145:5

And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” ~ 1 Kings 19:12-13

What might we hear if we take the time to be still, to be quiet, to hear—to actually listen—in the silence? In his book, The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer discusses “The Speaking Voice.” This Voice, the voice of God, is constantly calling, forever pursuing, people.

“It is spiritual responses for which this Wisdom of God is pleading, a response which she [in Proverbs Wisdom is referred to in the feminine] has always sought and is but rarely able to secure. The tragedy is that our eternal welfare depends upon our hearing, and we have trained our ears not to hear.”

Tozer later writes,

“When God spoke out of heaven to our Lord, self-centered men who heard it explained it by natural causes, saying, ‘It thundered.’ This habit of explaining the Voice by appeals to natural law is at the very root of modern science. In the living, breathing cosmos there is a mysterious Something, too wonderful, too awful for any mind to understand. The believing man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, ‘God.’ The man of earth kneels also, but not to worship. He kneels to examine, to search, to find the cause and the how of things. Just now we happen to be living in a secular age. Our thought habits are those of the scientist, not those of the worshiper. We are more likely to explain than to adore. ‘It thundered,’ we exclaim, and go our earthly way. But still the Voice sounds and searches. The order and life of the world depend upon that Voice, but men are mostly too busy or too stubborn to give attention.” [1]

The Voice continues to speak that we might gain wisdom, discernment, and life. Yet, how often do we miss it due to all the noise? The psalmist tells us:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. ~ Psalm 19:1-4

The writer of Hebrews tells us:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. ~ 1:1-2

If we learn to listen we might learn to delight in the sound of silence, for its in the silence we can begin to hear the Voice. Nevertheless, I am sure many will be apprehensive. Tozer writes:

“The Voice of God is a friendly Voice. No one need to fear to listen to it unless he has already made up his mind to resist it. The blood of Jesus has covered not only the human race but all creation as well. ‘And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven’ (Colossians 1:20)….

Whoever will listen will hear the speaking Heaven…. Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity and bluster make a man dear to God. But we may take heart. To a people caught in the tempest of the last great conflict God says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10), and still He says it, as if He means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence.” [2]

May the Voice break our addiction to noise and may we come to delight in the splendid sound of silence—being broken by the Voice of the God who so loves us!

__________

[1]  A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, (Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1993), 64-66.

[2]  Ibid., 67-68.

The Detriment of Distraction

Ours is a society that not simply loves—but is addicted—to noise. From getting up in the morning to going to bed at night we are bombard with noise: Radios, podcasts, television, news, sounds from traffic, from the workplace, from school, and from people all around us.

Sadly, we are not encouraged to truly think for ourselves. News media, celebrities, politicians, and “educators” often try to tell us what to think and how to feel—regardless   how illogical. With the passion of a bushfire, but sometimes intelligence equivalent to that of a bowl of mashed potatoes. Yet, many will mindlessly agree.

Daily we are blasted with such messages: anyone who disagrees is  a bad person, hate-monger, racist; corruption and lies are okay in politics, these simply come with the territory; hypocrisy is only wrong in religion; truth is relative; those who hold to values are dangerous; because there is evil there is no God; humility is for the weak; do what thou wilt, let the chips fall wherever they may—THINK LIKE THE SYSTEM—DO NOT QUESTION IT. LEARN WHAT IT TEACHES; FEEL WHAT IT INITIATES (TO HELL WITH CONSCIENCE); BECOME ONE WITH THE SYSTEM. YOU’RE AN INDIVIDUAL—BUT REALLY YOU’RE NOT!

We have become so accustomed to noise and distractions that many people literally cannot handle periods of getting alone to think and ponder the deeper things in life. What should bring a measure of clarity is thought to be too boring and unnerving, instead. Many people do not know how to handle the combination of silence, stillness, and the triggering of their own thoughts. Furthermore, we have become so adapted to the system (i.e., the world) we do not even realize how much it seeks to manipulate us.

Let’s question the system for a moment and consider:

  • You disagree with persons, sometimes with your closest friends. Are you, therefore, a bad person? A hate monger? A bigot? Are your friends with whom you disagree?
  • Is lying and corruption to be permissible in politics? Do we not resent liars, thieves, and backstabbers when we find them in our midst? So why are these applauded in politics?
  • Why is hypocrisy only shunned when it is found in churches? Why is it not shunned in politics, business, schools, and Hollywood? Many claim to not go to church because of “all the hypocrites,” but the aforementioned have the church beat by far when it comes to hypocrisy.
  • Is truth relative? If so, then how can anything truly be right or wrong? If truth is relative, then all is mere opinion; and things like bigotry, slavery, and oppression are merely neutral. If truth, indeed, is relative, who is anyone to condemn anything?
  • Are those who hold to values (virtue) dangerous? Borrowing from the illustration of another, if you were walking a street at night, who would you rather see? A group of thugs who mock values or a group of people who try to live by values?
  • Because there is evil there is no God? If there is no God, then there is no Standard by which we can discern good or evil. “Good” and “evil” become mere empty words we assign false meaning to. If there is no God, then evolution might be true. If so, then we merely witness “survival of the fittest” when it comes to oppression—simply nature running its course (IF evolution was true).
  • Is humility a sign of weakness? Without humility we cannot truly show genuine respect to one another. Humility is required to recognize and respond to the value of others.
  • Do what thou wilt? This is precisely why our world is in the mess it is in—people living as they will, doing “what is right in their own eyes.” Every action has a reaction. Every choice comes along with consequences.
  • One other thing I will mention concerns slavery. Constantly media and education reminds us of the slavery in our nations past, and the evil thereof; however, for all the supposed hatred of slavery, how come there is not a unified outcry against modern slavery—human trafficking? For all the outcries against the oppression of women and minorities (which are the majority of the victims in human trafficking)  c there is relatively little outcry. Interestingly, some in Washington, Hollywood, and the sports world are known to have profited from slavery. Strangely, for all the outcry against the slavery of the past, too often a blind eye is turned away from today’s slavery!

If, indeed, there is truth to be known, is it good or wise to scornfully sacrifice the quest of it in order to indulge in our pleasures, greed, and pride?

The writer of Ecclesiastes, in his quest for happiness and purpose, indulged himself in pleasures, entertainment, work, education, prosperity, etc. He admits that in proper moderation many of the things he enjoyed are good—but not when they distract us from our deeper purpose. He ends the book with these words:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. ~ 12:13-14

The writer of Proverbs writes:

Let the wise hear and increase in learning…. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction…. Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? … Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them. ~ Proverbs 1:5, 7, 20-22, 29-32

Does Truth Matter?

Does truth matter? Is it relative? Can persons genuinely have their own individual truths? These questions initially appear idiotic; however, truth has fallen on hard times. And strangely, many who deny truth or declare it to be “relative” are the very ones who tend to vehemently oppose those who disagree with their views.

Isaiah writes:

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. ~ Isaiah 59:14 (ESV)

Earlier he writes:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! ~ Isaiah 5:20-21

C. S. Lewis notes,

“If no set of moral ideas were true or better than any other, there would be no sense in preferring civilised [sic] morality to savage morality, or Christian morality to Nazi morality. In fact, of course, we all do believe that some moralities are better than others.” Lewis goes on to explain, “The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either. You are, in fact, comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others.” [1]

Apart from truth we cannot truly have justice, order, structure, or a foundation. Apart from truth we are left with opinions, illusions, chaos, lawlessness (anarchy), oppression, and insanity. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). This can put persons in very dangerous and costly predicaments.

This is, in part, why our societies are in such a mess. We have ideologies based on desire but not logic; we have opinions based on feelings—fueled by emotions—but not necessarily on reason. As if these are not bad enough, the graver consequence is the loss of ourselves—our real self, our true identity, and our deeper meaning.

Jesus asks:

For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? ~ Luke 9:25

Elsewhere, He says:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! ~ Matthew 6:21-23

If one’s eye is healthy (desirous for what is true and good), a person will be filled with light (truth). But if a person’s eye is unhealthy (desirous of what is temporal, corrupt, false), then a person will be filled with darkness (falsehood, deception)—and how terrible that darkness is!

Ours is a world filled with passions, greed, and lusts. Because of the insatiable covetousness and cravings, people do horrible things to try to satisfy these longings. As a result, our world is also filled with unpleasant consequences: abuse, wounds, scars, guilt, shame, confusion, brokenness, and fear. Yet, these are not what we were created to be; these are not our identities—at least, not the original intentions of who we were to be.

But what is truth? Pilate had asked Jesus this question:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”  Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. ~ John 18:36-38

The text implies Pilate did not really care what truth is—just as many do not care today. What matters is their ability to fuel their drives and succumb to their pleasures. What relevance, then, does truth have?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. ~ Romans 1:18-19

So, what is truth? Jesus states plainly:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~ John 14:6

Sanctify them in the truth; your [the Father] word is truth. ~ John 17:17

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” ~ Matthew 5:17-18

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~ Matthew 24:35

These are astonishing statements. Jesus is not simply saying He speaks truth, but that He is the very essence of truth. He is stating that the Father’s Word (the Scriptures) are truth. He is declaring emphatically that the Scriptures and what He says are absolutely reliable. For those who profess to be Christians (i.e., followers of Christ) but accuse the Scriptures as containing error do not realize the inconsistency of their supposed faith. The very God and Savior they claim to believe in had complete confidence in the Scriptures; in fact, the very Scriptures they cast doubt on are the very ones He declares, “it is they that bear witness about me” (see John 5:39).

At the close of His sermon on the mount, Jesus says,

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” ~ Matthew 7:24-27

Do you realize what He is saying? He is declaring with authority His teachings are foundational, giving stability and structure. It is important to note that many recognize Jesus teaches a lot about love; however, often persons use this as a license and condoning of immorality and unrighteousness. The love Jesus teaches us does have perimeters.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 (emphasis added)

Similarly, throughout Scripture truth and wisdom go hand in hand. James, contrasting worldly wisdom from wisdom from above, writes:

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. ~ James 3:13-17 (emphases added)

So, does truth matter? More than we can even begin to imagine. As long as people continue to suppress the truth (see Romans 1:18-32) in order to pander to desires, mythologizing it and declaring it as “relative,” and speaking such foolishness that persons can have their “own truth,” our societies will continue spiraling downward into mayhem. Even worse, continuing to stumble in complete darkness while never realizing they are in the dark.


Notes:

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1952),11.