True Happiness

Millions seek the white lights of pleasure, and night after night fill the palaces of make-believe.  There they find that laughter and song are but tinsel covering jaded souls and broken hearts.  The lights flicker out into the darkest night, and the music fades away into a sob. The world is ever seeking happiness but seldom finding it, like the boy who chases a rainbow.  Many, rushing on through life pursuing the will-o’ the wisp of joy, find their hair turning white, their shoulders beginning to stoop, wrinkles stealing across their faces, their steps faltering.  There is a sigh and outstretched hand at last, and they reach the end of the journey – with happiness still beyond.

Solomon, the world’s wise man, joined in the search for happiness.  He tried everything.  He said, “I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.” Ecclesiastes 1:13. Did he make a complete search? Did he succeed?  We read on: “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Verse 14.  He was the wisest man of his age, the leading scientist of his day, the world’s greatest botanist. “He spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springs out of the wall.” He was the greatest authority of his time on zoology, ornithology, herpetology, and ichthyology.  He also spoke of beasts, and the of fowl, and creeping things, and of fishes.” I Kings 4:33.

He was a literary genius, a walking encyclopedia. “He spake three thousand proverbs.” He was one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived. “His songs were a thousand and give.” I Kings 4:32. He was the world’s leading bibliophile. He gathered the literary treasures of past time into his great library. Still, as he burned the midnight oil of research, he said with a sigh, “Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecclesiastes 12:12.

He also tasted every physical and mental joy of life. “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceedingly much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore.” I Kings 4:29. He stood at the peak of wisdom. When the Queen of Sheba journeyed to his court to hear his knowledge, she said the other half was never told her. (I Kings 10:7.)  But did all things bring him happiness? No. He said, In much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.” Ecclesiastes 1:18.

Then Solomon tied wealth.  According to the Scripture record, he was worth millions. I Kings 10:21, 27.  Did riches bring him happiness? He says, “He that trusts in his riches shall fall.” Proverbs 111:28 and “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” Proverbs 22:1.

All this is just a fraction of who Solomon was, and even at this, Solomon said, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 12:8.  Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and behold all was vanity and vexation of spirit.” Ecclesiastes 2:11  No, the wise man did not find happiness in pleasure or activity.

Solomon’s example is at once a warning and an inspiration, for though his efforts to find happiness through the devices of this world, through the gifts of intellect, failed, he did find true happiness at last: “He that keeps the law,” wrote Solomon. “Happy is he.” Proverbs 29:18.  He found happiness in obedience to God. In his old age, he sat down and wrote out his final advice on the subject: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14.

These are almost the same words that we find in Revelation 22:14: “Blessed, are they that do his commandments.”  The word blessed in both the Old and New Testaments carries one of its strongest meanings, “Happiness” or “happy.” Thus the scriptures could well read, Happy are they that do his commandments.”

Solomon’s life contrasts between perceived happiness and true happiness, which is only found through Christ.  Therefore, each day, we have a decision to make.  Do we look to Christ or the things of this world to bring us happiness?

In Our Brokenness, Christ Shows What True Justice Is

Yesterday, I lamented our world’s condition and how it has changed especially as 2020 comes grinding to an end.  Hopefully, you were left with a sense of hope because Jesus promised His disciples and us that “He would always be with us even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Beginning the Sabbath after Christmas, I have decided to do a preaching series closely examining eight critical areas in our life that are often broken. Perhaps we are not all broken in all of these areas, but I am afraid we are more broken than we perceive. These fractured areas in our life are Justice, Love, Spirituality, Beauty, Freedom, Truth, Power, and Trust.   Each of these is essential to our Christian faith, and ultimately Christ uses these to draw us closer to God the Father.  As we look closer, clearly, many of these indicators, or signs, are seemingly pointing in the wrong direction or are broken.  In many cases, humanity has perverted them till we hardly recognize the direction they are to be pointing.

Our series will start with “Justice.”  I specifically choose justice instead of love. Why?  Because in each of us, there is both the need to love and be loved.  Yet, love is often overpowered by our sense of wanting the wrong around us to be again made right. We long for justice. But, in our attempt to make right the wrongs, we are often left with unintended consequences of our own doing by attempting to play God.  These unintended consequences create even more strife and tensions that last for years, even for centuries.

Once I was told that all wars start over natural resources and one country’s need for those resources. Yet, the more we study history, the majority of conflicts start over long-term grievances and the need to make the perceived injustices right. Injustices that have gnawed away at the fabric of their society eating at us until we strike back.  Tragically, our attempts at justice to correct the wrong around us produce more grievances than before.

Interestingly Jesus came to show us true Justice.  It is the Christmas season, a time when Christians worldwide typically celebrate the birth of Christ.  Down inside, we know this is not the correct date of his birth because the Bible specifically doesn’t mention the day yet gives us the year.  Instead of celebrating his birth, why not celebrate the life that came to show us the true meaning of Justice, Love, Spirituality, Beauty, Freedom, Truth, Power, and Trust.

In the Sermon on the Mountain found in Matthew chapters five thru seven, we see in verse one of chapter seven Jesus saying, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment, you judge you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:1, 2)

How does this look?  Christ gave a beautiful illustration of how this looks.  It happened on the day He was hung upon that cruel Roman Cross.  An instrument of torture designed to strangle the breath out of you.  Naked and alone, He hung upon that cross. Yet, He did not judge those that condemned Him, nor those who nailed him to that rough instrument of torture.  Instead, He said, “Father forgive them” (Luke 23:24).

Jesus, with all his humanity suffering, asked our heavenly Father to forgive those that were responsible for his suffering. If Christ can, then why can’t we do the same? Asking God to forgive those that hurt us.  Instead of taking justice into our own hands, let us rely on God to work out in our lives and theirs a real sense of fairness and justice that belongs to God of which He is willing to share with us.

An Exceedingly Strange Time

It has been a year and four months since my wife and I pick up stakes, sold the house, and moved to the wild west called Wyoming. It was a new beginning for us. We began a new career pastoring a five church district in Northeastern, Wyoming.  Little did we know that our life and the life of others around us would change so drastically. 

The year 2020 started as normally as I suppose most every year does.  Life is busy, and between the five churches, we fell into a routine.  The people and the work were great. Then in mid-March, life in these United States changed forever.  Some might be old enough to remember when Kennedy was shot, while still more of us remember the events of 9-11.  Each of these events changed us and the life of those around us and society at large.  We could name many more, but for most, 9-11 may have changed us the most.  That is till 2020, which is slowly grinding to an end but will be imprinted on all our hearts and minds forever.

This year will forever leave its toll upon us, from pandemics to a record number of forest and prairie fires along with the many natural disasters. Then there has been political and social unrest we have not seen since the 1960’s. People the world over wonder what the next year will bring, but more importantly, is this the beginning of the end?

Jesus’ disciples had recently experienced a life-changing or rather an earth-shattering event. Just 40 days before, they had witnessed the most horrific scene they could imagine, their master, their Rabbi hanging on the cross.  He had changed their life and their world.  When Christ yelled out those words, “It is finished,” into the blackness that surrounded the cross, Jesus hung his head and died. As those words were uttered from the lips of Christ, all hope slipped from the disciples.

Now forty days later, their life was about to change again.  Jesus was talking to them about returning to His Father in heaven.  The disciples must have felt devastated.  Jesus had died, return from the grave three days later, and now forty days later, he was about to leave again.

But before he left, Jesus spoke words of comfort to his disciples, and they serve as words of comfort for us today.  In Matthew 28:20, the last half of the verse are words of comfort spoken to the disciples, yet they still serve as words of comfort for us today. “Lo, I am with you always,” He said to his disciples, and he will be with us even till the end of time.”  As the Christmas season is upon us, and this exceedingly strange year draws to an end, remember these words by Jesus, “Lo I am with you always” even until the end of of this age.”  He is our only hope and our only sure thing.

Blessings,

Pastor Lester

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