Tag Archive: Meaning of Life


God doesn’t see things our way, and there’s nothing we can do about it. In fact, it seems sometimes to us that God has a huge, mean, dark side to his nature…

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Yet we read in the Book of books, the Bible, that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”. So how do we reconcile the hard realities of life with what we read?

What we’ve discussed in this little series can be boiled down to the fact that God-and reality-is something other than what we are and what we expect him or even want him to be. God is in no way controllable, tamable, measurable or understandable.

We cannot get a grip on God. And if you think about it, that’s how a God should be. Why should we expect the creator of the universe to be understood or controlled by limited, finite, mortal man? Since this is the case, how do we deal with a God who is apparently unapproachable, who has standards far above what we are able to live out, and who transcends all of time and space? There’s only one answer: God has to provide the way himself, and that’s exactly what he’s done.

God is infinite and perfectly holy, and yet perfectly merciful. The perfect God didn’t create the world and mankind in order to provide himself people to pick on. In fact, when he created the world in its original perfect condition along with mankind, as only a perfect God can do, we’re told that:

“…God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 2:31).

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What could a perfect God do when his created beings began to be imperfect and to rebel against him and to betray each other? He didn’t want to wipe out his own creation, so he provided for himself ways of  reaching out to weak, fallible mankind, and forgiving that imperfection and rebellion. Such provision is seen repeatedly throughout the Bible in many characters.

An early and clear example found in the Old Testament is Moses. Moses was chosen by God to deliver his people from slavery. But it wasn’t just physical deliverance from Egypt that God had in mind for Moses, it was deliverance for the people from his own perfect standards and from his wrath against those who would break them. God’s desire and in fact his natural, perfect compulsion was to punish and destroy those who were rebellious. But there were times when Moses stepped in:

I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you

But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people…?  Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people… And the Lord relented from the disaster… (Exodus 32:9-14).

God provided Moses to protect the Israelites from himself.

Many examples of people who stood between God’s wrath and man can be found in the Bible, but the greatest, and the most important one, is Jesus Christ. The gospel, or the “good news” about Jesus Christ is that he, being the only son of God, was sent by the Father to pay the price of our sin, rebellion and imperfection, which is God’s wrath:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed…and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all…(Isaiah 53:4-6).

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Remember the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, when he knew what was about to happen to him but surrendered to the will of the Father:

My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless , not as I will, but as you will… (Matthew 26:39).

Jesus Christ suffered God’s wrath in our place when he was crucified and left to die. This was the Father’s, and the Son’s, ultimate expression of love and mercy to his creation:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only son into the world, so that we might live through him…he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins… (1 John 4:9-10).

Jesus Christ is our answer to God’s perfection and justice. Our escape from what we may perceive as “the dark side” of God is his own son Jesus Christ. But we have to accept that way of escape. There is no escape from the perfection of God without Jesus Christ:

Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him (John 5:23);

Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die… (John 11: 26).

 

 

 

 

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Who are you? What are you made of? Have you been in touch with yourself lately? I don’t want to contribute to the “me” mentality raging all around us and in us, but staying in touch seems like an important thing to do…

I’ve been realizing how relevant staying in touch with my roots is to living a meaningful life. For many years I failed to pay attention to the benefits or even the concepts of roots and beginnings. The results of my attitude can be seen in the multitude of broken relationships and hurt people strewn along the path of my life; the missed opportunities, the blunders, and the consequential festering pool of regrets swilling around in my brain.

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As they say though (whoever “they” are) better late than never. I’ve been in touch with a few good friends I once had and lost, and attempted to right a few wrongs. Except for one, they all give the honorable reply that there were no wrongs: it was all good. I’ve given time to thinking about people who were important to me when I didn’t realize it, and places, and events I never appreciated or reflected upon until now. And I’ve been taking another look at some of the things I enjoyed about the culture I once lived in, in another country and another time. Yes, there is some of my old, “B.C.” life which needs to and will remain buried in that baptism I experienced as a new believer, but others are of great worth.

For example, I’ve always had a very progressive taste in music. I could never tolerate sameness or cliches: I wanted to hear something new and experimental. But in the last couple of years I’ve been listening to some of the music I enjoyed in my teens, and hey- some of it was pretty amazing. I don’t think I’ll ever get into an “older guy” habit of saying that nothing new is worth listening to-that’s just silly. And after all, even nostalgia isn’t what it use to be (joke). Similarly in the world of art I’ve been rediscovering some tremendous works and styles I once found stimulating.

The value I’ve discovered lately in those things and others is that they’re what I’m made of. They all contributed to my character, my view of life and the world, and my part in it. They’re inextricably related to some of the events of my past-my childhood, my teens, my life. They remind me of friends, family, loves, dreams, laughs, styles and a thousand other things which make up my personality and my experience on this earth.

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The Bible speaks of the importance of being in touch with our roots, particularly as they relate to family, traditions, commitments, values, society, and most importantly our faith. A failure to stay in touch with those things will lead to catastrophe just as surely as pulling out the foundation of a house will collapse the whole building:

If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3 KJV).

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But I’m speaking here more about an understanding of ourselves. We can’t have a clear view of our future and our direction in life without being aware of the people and the things which made us. Knowledge of our self, and of what makes for a good and meaningful world, produces what was once called “wisdom”. Wisdom guides us into a better life-one without regrets.

In short, I’m saying that by being in touch with all points of my past, including the ugly, painful ones, I am in fact staying in touch with…me. Not in any narcissistic, obsessive, selfish way-I hope, but in a way which will lead to a better life, a fuller appreciation of life, a better testimony, and fewer regrets.

An old song by a British band I once liked was titled “I’m bored”. I’ve identified with the sentiments of the song numerous times in my life, and this little admission forms the basis of a theory of mine which I believe explains many maladies in our world…

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I was listening to a discussion about Don Quixote, the fictional, self-styled knight-errant, created four hundred years ago by Cervantes. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it-most particularly the Tobias Smollett translation. Quixote made himself what he could never really be-a brave knight-and went out into the world in search of adventure, causing all kinds of trouble, mostly for himself.

The learned panel discussing Quixote debated whether he was mad or just eccentric. I go with the “eccentric” diagnosis. However, I say that it was an eccentricity born of boredom, as eccentricity probably often is. Quixote had had it with his dead-end, uneventful existence, and having read all those exciting stories of knights traveling the world and fighting dragons and saving beautiful maidens, he could only find a way of avoiding madness by re-making himself as one of the knights he’d read about.

Isn’t that the kind of thing children do? Their little minds (before television, overbearing parents and public education get a hold of them) are vitally, vibrantly, constantly active, and unencumbered by the stiff, monochrome, limiting confines of reality, they create their own worlds to find fun and thrills in.

We humans look for meaning and entertainment in all kinds of ways. In the West large numbers of people are fixated on Television. I’m not saying TV us intrinsically wrong. It isn’t, but for millions who live out drab, uneventful time-lines, or who don’t have the time, energy, money or imagination to do the real thing, it’s a convenient and easy way to experience any number of situations and activities without moving out of the comfort and safely of the e-z chair. The rest of us are virtually (pun intended) addicted to various forms of digital entertainment via the internet and computer-based devices. We’re all trying to brighten our lives somehow.

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Conquerors and marauders do their thing partly because it’s so thrilling. It’s much more fun setting fire to things and picking fights with people than spending eight or ten hours of mundane drudgery a day at the office, followed by a few hours of sitting on a log or in an armchair, dreading the thought of doing it all over again for the bazillionth time the next day. People take hallucinogenic drugs not necessarily because they’re evil but because normal life is so stale, empty, gray and uneventful in comparison. I’m not condoning illicit drug use-just stating a fact. Even cats are similarly challenged with boredom, which is why they sleep so much. Some people sleep their lives away because dream worlds are much more interesting than the real one.

I’m not pointing any fingers, because I’m as guilty as anyone. And anyway, I’m convinced that God created us for so much more than what we as a society have made available to ourselves.

Neither am I saying that sin doesn’t play a part in such things as despotism, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual promiscuity: it does. In fact, it’s the central cause, the root cause. But sin is frequently manifest in the lives of us humans because we’re seeking-consciously or unconsciously-meaning and fulfillment. Just look at Eve, who was persuaded that she would gain some exciting kind of enlightenment by doing what God had told her not to do.

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We’re bored. We’re more bored than we realize. We’re seeking vital, real, experiential, fun-filled, scintillating lives. And because we’re so incredibly and intricately designed, so fantastically crafted, yet using only five percent of our brains and sometimes even less of our physical potential, we look for a way-any way-to do something to alleviate the mind-numbing, crushing frustration and boredom which we often don’t recognize or identify. We’re unable to analyze our problem, let alone look for an answer in any constructive way. And having not lived long enough or having been unwilling or unable to find the wisdom or the power to control ourselves, we-that is, some of us-launch out in ways which may be destructive and which are sometimes sinful. Profligacy, hedonism, harmful proclivities, addictions all come from an inability or unwillingness to assess or conjure up a proper response to our pent-up potential.

Modern society is part of the problem. It also seeks to profit from the problem it creates, taking natural freedoms and real paths to fulfillment from us, and then providing endless forms of entertainment at our expense to fill in the gap. However, in many ways it fails to give what we really need to overcome our condition.

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So what’s the solution: what do we do? I’m not sure that there is a completely satisfactory fix in this life. I do, however, agree with Augustine, who, having once lived a life of unbridled hedonism, came to the following conclusion:

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.

(From “Confessions”).

Solomon, sometimes seen as the wisest man who ever lived, sought after meaning and fulfillment through entertainment, sex and wealth. Being a king, and a very successful one, he was in a position to fulfill all his sensuous desires in as many ways as he could imagine, including possessing a huge harem. However, having tried it all he eventually came to the same conclusion as Augustine. Deciding that it was all “vanity” or emptiness, he declared:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV).

I hear some of you groaning and complaining about “church”, and about how boring and unfriendly it can be. Actually, I didn’t say anything about “church”. And do you know what? I agree with you: “church” is frequently not what it should be, and no amount of what’s called “contemporary worship” is going to cut it for me personally-although I understand that it seems to do the trick for some people. Yes, church can be rather dull and can fail to provide the things in life we crave for, but really, it isn’t intended to, on its own. Church attendance is part of a much bigger picture of living life in step with our Creator.

How do us active-minded, imaginative souls live a life of faith and obedience without screaming inside with frustration? Is the entertainment the world offers off-bounds to believers wanting to live a godly life? The answers to these questions could be the subjects of an entire series of blog posts, and I could probably not do them justice even so. However, in part 2, I’ll attempt to offer a few thoughts…

Copyright © January 2017 by Nick Fisher

 

We dream, we plan, we think, we strategize. We try to manoeuvre the pieces of our lives in the hope that one day…one day…everything will be just right. But somehow things never turn out quite as we imagined. In fact, they often turn out very differently. Just as we think we’re getting used to things, they change. Our lives can be as slippery as a bar of soap in the bath-tub: almost impossible to get a grip on…

egypt-giza-sphinx-02And it’s not just our personal lives which are unpredictable, but the world we live in changes every day. Nations change, cultures change, cities change, people change, and what was once familiar, what we once thought was the way of things for the rest of our lives, is now gone, or radically altered.

When you’ve been around for a few decades as I have, you look back on your life so far and on the land you once considered to be your safe, comfortable, familiar home, and you see all the twists and the turns in the events of your life and in the life of your civilization; you see the people you once felt would be close to you forever; the places you once knew intimately; the leaders you had some confidence in; the institutions and icons you’d built your world on…all gone, and replaced by others you may feel no attachment to.
I’m not saying I’m opposed to any kind of change, or to improvement or innovation: quite the contrary. I quickly get bored with status quo, with clichés and the same old way of doing things. Give me imagination any day. Neither am I one of those who resents modern technology: I’m tapping away on a laptop right now which gets used many times a day for all kinds of tasks, and I say thank God for it.
The best we can do is to make the most of our lives, and to enjoy what we are blessed with while we can.

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But people come and go: that’s the hardest thing to deal with. And the people you would most wish to hang around often don’t, for one reason or another. And some changes in our world, let’s face it, just mess things up totally, and there’s usually no turning back. We have to face up to the fact that things will never be just how we want them to be…at least, not for long. We all need to have the ability to adapt. We all need to get into our heads that this world is temporal, our lives are temporal. We are, to borrow the name of one of the Doctors’ subjects of rescue, the “Ephemerals”, and while we want to think of our lives as unending and indestructible, they aren’t.
Here’s just one more of those subjects on which the Bible succinctly captures our condition. I don’t call it a “plight”, because the ultimate message of the Bible is supremely positive. After all, how could our future possibly be any better than having eternal life in an incorruptible body, with our Creator who loves us unceasingly?

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I often think that if the Bible’s inspiration were solely human there would be far less consideration of the ugly side of man’s existence, such as the brevity of life. We’re brought to our senses not to depress us, but to align our minds with reality and with that of our Maker. In that vein, Bible writers speak on our behalf, uttering the things many of us are never willing to face up to:
Teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12 ESV)
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14).
I’m convinced God understands and appreciates that we can’t naturally see the real end from the real beginning: we know only what we see in our own very tiny corner of time and space:
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14)
There’s hope for us, because God is our savior, and he is eternal. He isn’t subject to change like we are:
The grass withers, the flower fades…Surely the people are grass…
but the word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:7-8).
That’s why God was prepared to send His Son to deliver us:
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
The eternal God invites us to look beyond our limited view. We need to look ahead, not backwards. Anyway, not even nostalgia is what it used to be.

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I think time is just a measurement of change. Without change, there would be no time, and vice-versa. You can’t go from A to B without time, and there can be no time without change-that’s the nature of our universe. So somehow, while we should look back with fondness on the past, and to learn from our mistakes, we must more importantly look to the future, which is never-ending.
It’s a mistake to get too attached to the physical while neglecting the spiritual:
…we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV).
We live in a fallen world where people and things let us down continually and we let them down. But there’s coming a time of restoration. How can a God who created such an amazing universe not want to restore it? And He’s promised that he will. In that future there will be no more tears, and no more struggle. The only change will be all positive, constructive, attractive: improvement and growth. I personally believe the universe is not only vast because our God is vast and uncontainable, but because he has plans for it, which we will be a part of, if we choose Him.

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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children (Revelation 21).

DOES SUFFERING DISPROVE GOD?

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Someone very close to me lost his faith in Jesus a number of years ago. He puts it down to a series of unhappy events and setbacks in his life: a good Christian man he knew died suddenly at a young age; his wife and first love left him for another man; his business failed; a close friend was involved in a road accident which left him brain damaged. Now this person angrily refuses to hear any talk about God.

I used to love watching David Attenborough’s television series on nature: as an ardent evolutionist, he unwittingly helped me to reject the notion of evolution.  I saw David being interviewed in a short video, and speaking about why he had decided for himself that there is no God. Instead of laying out the “evidence” for evolution, he related how he had seen someone in India suffering with a worm which had burrowed into her brain and which made her blind. This, said David, was enough to tell him that there is no God.

These views reflect common reasons given for rejecting the existence of God: some complain that a loving God would not have allowed them to suffer personally, and others complain that a loving God would not allow the suffering they see in the world around them.

However, this view has a serious flaw, and it’s this: the God of the Bible never said that we would not suffer. On the contrary, he gave numerous warnings that mankind is to expect suffering of all kinds in this world. Examples:

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life”…”by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food., until you return to the ground…” (God to Adam, Genesis 3:17-19);

“In this world you will have trouble…” (Jesus Christ, John 16:33).

In a series of posts I wrote on suffering I discussed its main causes – the causes we are warned of in the Bible, the same Bible which tells us of the very God who people say has failed in his duties. They are:

The Curse. All of nature is decaying, not onward and upward as in the theory of evolution (Romans 8:20-21);

The consequences of our own intentional sin or poor decisions: actions which affect us personally, such as sexual sin, drug or alcohol abuse, or actions or decisions which lead to accidents;

The consequences of intentional human sin: the actions of others, like hatred, theft, conspiracy, violence;

Deception, coercion, attacks from angels who have sided against God and his followers;

The consequences of rejecting God’s ways, which are designed for our wellbeing and happiness, as individuals or as a society;

Negligence , including failure to love, or give, or care, or share;

Irresponsibility or bad judgment, for example, dangerous driving;

Being tested by God;

Being Disciplined by God;

Being punished by God;

Humbling by God.

THE REAL PROBLEM

So where does the notion that God has failed come from?

The answer is that mankind creates or imagines his own view of what God should be like. Man dethrones God and sets himself up as the conceiver, the creator, and the judge of God, when in fact it’s the other way around. Man ignores the message of God-the Bible- totally, and then has the nerve to reject that Biblical God entirely on the grounds that He has failed miserably in his duties.  Man remakes God in his image. “If there really were a God, we say to ourselves, he would fix all our problems, he would stop all bad things from happening, except perhaps to people like Adolph Hitler, and he would do everything in his power to make sure that I-the great and mighty I-can go about my own business and live a happy, trouble free and fulfilling life.

Not excusing myself-indeed including myself in the ranks of the guilty, I can see that our view is simplistic, narcissistic, selfish, self-righteous and arrogant. It’s the same attitude that got us into this mess in the first place, as summarized in Genesis chapter 3-the attitude that says “God is wrong, he’s holding something back from us, he lied to us, he’s not a loving God at all, he doesn’t want us to enjoy ourselves, he’s failed us”.

THE ALTERNATIVE TO GOD

What amuses me is that many people who think that God obviously cannot exist because he has failed them, are angry with him. How can you be angry with someone who doesn’t exist? If there is no God, there’s no-one to get angry with. There’s no such thing as “evil” (but only an “illusion”, to borrow a popular contemporary term among evolutionists). There is no such thing as “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”, except what we see or decide individually or as a society in our own subjective, relativistic notions of such things. In this case these terms evolve with us: they are not fixed.

If we evolved out of nothing, the “good” in life’s existence is competition, survival, death, extinction. It’s the strong overcoming the weak, the rich overcoming the poor, the achievers overcoming the failures, the healthy overcoming the sick, the slick overcoming the slow. Life is all about the survival of the fittest. Suffering is a natural part of the evolution of life. It’s for our own good: we should applaud it –worship it. Suffering is only “bad” because it feels unpleasant when it happens to us personally. Emotion over suffering is just a useless feeling, a weakness caused by chemical reactions which we should hurry up and evolve away.

However, if there is a God, a God who has created us with a sense of right and wrong, and who has fixed standards, and who has instilled within us concepts of love, happiness and perfection, then we will naturally be reviled by suffering, evil and injustice.

THE ANSWER

Our world is deep in trouble. Human nature is “desperately wicked” by God’s standards, and totally at variance with Him. All of nature is under a curse because of that human nature. But there’s an answer, a remedy. While God is not planning to run around patching this world up piece by piece, while mankind continues in open rebellion against him and his ways, he has given the promise of a new world, and has provided a way for us all to go there. This is God’s answer to suffering:

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes on him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Those of us who claim to have faith need to steel ourselves.  Many Christians over the centuries have kept or even exponentially grown their faith through suffering  We need to prepare for what could come in our lifetime. If we are serious about our faith, we should build it up, and learn to lean on our God, no matter what. We need to so familiarize ourselves with what He has really said that we are not like rocky ground which received the seed, but which did not last when trouble arose (Matthew 13:20-21).

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