How long ago was Christmas…was it?
How long until next Christmas?
Raise your hand if you are in K, 1, 2, 3, 4 grade
Put your hand down if you really, really love school.
Which is longer?
Hour is same amount of time
You have almost finished a whole year of your life, that’s a lot of time …congratulations!
What is one thing you learned last year?
I’ll tell you one thing all the older people in this room hope you learn this year…that God loves you and we love you very much.
*But maybe you already knew that…did you know that?
Well…here’s the thing…we hope you know that even more or better than you do now.
Christmas Eve…good news/hoorah people/place
Here…you are loved…I hope in a year…you feel that and know that more than you do know…that is our job to help you know and feel that.
Paul at Macdonalds
So…sometimes our faces and even our words don’t seem to say “I love you” but our hearts do…and this year…we are going to try to get better at using faces and words that say “I love you”…because we do.
And God does…very much.
We spent about 8700 hours in 2019 so far…there are about 60 left.
We spent about 52 of those hours in here (some more some less)
On average about 2500 hours sleeping (Mom’s with babies divide that in half)
On average about 400 of them eating (babies can multiply that by 3)
Then work, school, and all the other things that make up our lives that equal the remainder.
We use clocks and calendars to measure time…but time is strange, no one knows exactly what it is.
Moving clocks run more slowly than stationary ones, this becomes more pronounced as they approach light speed.
A clock moves more slowly depending on the gravity…for instance you would age more slowly if you lived on the top floor of skyscraper than the bottom floor.
-But don’t move for that reason…you would live less than a billionth of second longer on the top floor than on the ground floor…but longer non the less.
We experience time differently depending on what we are doing…sleeping, being bored, enjoying a movie…during emergencies we experience time slowing down…but it doesn’t really.
But time is what we call our lives…we have almost spent another year of our lives in what we call 2019.
It’s common at this time of year to do life reflection…often leading to attempts at course correction…otherwise known as “New Year’s Resolutions.”
New Year’s resolutions are where we resolve to do things better or differently this year than last…they are infamous for not lasting much longer than Valentines Day, Mid-Feb.
But regular life reflection leading to ongoing course correction should be a very important part of our lives.
As a local body of Christ what we do each week in worship is spiritual reflection (based on the gospel) that leads to regular life re-direction or encouragement to stay the course when we are track.
This worshipping life together…allows us to live life “out of the ditches” and on the good path.
Without it (Hebrews teaches and experience confirms) we tend to life from ditch to ditch…not staying on the path of a well-lived life.
We should be resolved to continually (daily: QT and weekly: worship and then other times of fellowship and encouragement) do spiritual reflection and life course correction.
In 2020 we are going to spend the year in Proverbs…immersing ourselves in the Wisdom of Christ as revealed in that book.
There are 31 chapters…I hope you will read through the book 12 times next year, once per month.
*We are providing a very useful tool to help you do this(explain)…these will be available through your small group leader.
Proverbs is one of three “Wisdom books” in the OT, the other two are Job and Ecclesisates.
Together they form a unit, they are designed to give us course correction…so that we will walk the wise path.
Let’s spend a few minutes in our last Sunday in 2019 in Ecclesiastes.
The main speaker of the book goes by the name “Teacher”…he is a wise man who concludes(shockingly) that life is completely meaningless.
Precisely because the whole principle of “Good comes to the good and bad to the bad” just doesn’t work in real life.
“Both I observed in my meaningless life: There is a righteous person perishing in his righteousness, and there is a wicked person living long in his evil.” 7:15
But there are really two voices heard in the book, one is the “wise man or the “teacher” who uses common thinking patterns like “good happens to the good and bad to the bad” and becomes a cynic when this is not how life works.
The other voice is the “author” we find his “voice” in the first and last chapters as he introduces and then evaluates the “teacher” and gives a more balanced conclusion…life is more complex than the wise, but confused teacher has led us to believe.
The conclusion is not cynicism but faith…
“Fear God and keep his commands…this is the whole purpose of humanity.”
Now the teacher was not always wrong…much of what he observed was true to life…but his problem was in his conclusions related to his observations.
You see he started with a faulty premise…life is simple…”Good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people”…so he came to faulty conclusions.
What we have in the three wisdom books together is: walk the wise path, trust God in all that he brings your way…in the end, he is God and life with him is your ultimate good.
Beyond that…we now have the gospels…we know the whole story of wisdom…Christ is the wisdom of God…more on that shortly.
Let’s take a quick look at Ecc. 3:1-11…a passage made famous in a song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” by the rock group the Byrds in 1965
It’s doubtful that many who heard the song then knew the meaning of the words they enjoyed.
A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
14 areas of life given using polar opposites…birth/death, plant/uproot, war/peace.
This is not prescriptive…he is not saying “you should love sometimes and hate sometimes, go to war sometimes and seek peace other times.”
This is an observation of what time, human life…looks like to us…and most often…we cannot make sense out of it.”
Look at verse 9 “So what do people really get from all their life’s work?”
9 What does the worker gain from his toil?
-The implied answer to the rhetorical question is “Nothing, absolutely nothing.”
He goes on to describe our situation or our burden…v. 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men.
-“Okay, what is that burden?”
- God has a plan; he knows his purpose in all this (He has made everything beautiful in its time)
- We have a sense of expectation of meaning, search for purpose is hard wired in us (He has also set eternity in the hearts of men (humans)
- But we don’t really have the ability to know what God is up to (yet we cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end)
So it all seems rather meaningless.
Do you see the problem…the troubled wise man has (you and I)?
*Lots of confusing, conflicting stuff going on…all this life, death, war, peace.
*God knows what he is up to (he has meaning…he sees the purpose)
*We have been hard-wired for meaning by God.
*But we don’t know what God is up to.
So..life is vanity…meaningless…all this stuff means nothing…all the loving and hating, planting and ripping up, war and peace, friends and enemies…meaningless.
But the book ends with the author evaluating the confused wise teacher… “No, our purpose is to obey God”
-Meaning: Trust him, even when you don’t understand.
Let’s evaluate 2019 as we look to 2020…through this lens…maybe we can see ourselves in the confused wise person.
- Lots of confusing stuff have happened in the world and in our lives.
- God knows what he is doing…how it all fits together…there is meaning in all of it…ultimately.
- We have been designed to look for meaning, purpose…it’s built into us…you know it, I know it.
- Yet we look around and cannot see meaning…good dying young, young dying…bad living long and prospering…wise choices not seeming to pay off, bad choices seeming to prosper.
-What is going on?
-Why try anyway?
-Where is purpose to be found?
But the Bible is a single book, with many chapters…we have the full story…we have the gospel…the good news of Jesus.
Move from Ecc to…Christ, the wisdom and power of God. (1 Cor. 1:24)
We have been given a gospel lens to see all of this Ecc. 3 “stuff” from God’s perspective…like the Hubble Telescope in space…letting us escape the haze of our own atmosphere to see into deep space.
We can see through the haze or our world and our lives into the deep purposes of God.
Not in every detail but with enough perspective to live lives of faithful hope.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were sinners Christ died for us
-You are dearly loved…because of Christ…you know that God is trustworthy
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself
-Your purposes are all tied up in the purposes of God…he wants to be known and loved…he wants you to make his love known.
Whatever else you resolve in 2020…resolve this…to engage in weekly, daily, and more often that that…reflection and course correction to stay on this good, wise path.
This is how you stay out of the ditch of confusion and despair and doubt.
Your heart is hard-wired for meaning…you can try to run other software on it, but eternity is built into you.
We cannot understand all the whats and whys of life…but we don’t need to in order to live a life full of meaning…to know that life is wrought with purpose.
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
This is not “naïve optimism”…a cheesy false promise of finding some immediate happy outcome in all life’s difficulties…this is about the final promise of the Gospel.
In spite of all the imperfections, suffering and adversity of this life…God’s plans for his children will prevail, working for their ultimate good in the full realization of life in his Kingdom.
So…so now…be found faithful.
Do what is put in front of to do, endure what is put in front of you to endure, enjoy what is put in front of you to enjoy…do this with faith and faithfulness.
Do ongoing reflection and course correction…walk the wise path in 2020.