The Prayer for Wisdom*

(*The pattern of prayer explained here is taken from Gordon Smith’s The Voice of Jesus)

One of the most incredible miracles of being a follower of Jesus is that we have the Holy Spirit, God Himself, living inside of us guiding, directing, and leading us towards wisdom and discernment. There’s a process to what the Holy Spirit does in our lives, and our response to His movement brings us to a place of wisdom and discernment. There’s a character to our prayer. That character and pattern of our prayers is: Gratitude, Confession, Meditation, and Discernment. It’s a pattern of prayer that responds to who God is and what He does through the Holy Spirit.

Gratitude is our response to the Holy Spirit’s assurance that we are loved by the Father. We must always start here… the love of God for us. Nothing is so fundamental to the Christian journey as knowing and feeling that we loved by the Father. It is from the experience of God’s love that we know the grace of God and live out every other dimension of our Christian faith. So the Holy Spirit begins by assuring us of the Father’s love for us, toward us, in us, and through us. And our response is gratitude for that love.

Confession is our response to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin. When we know the depths to which we are loved and known by the Father, then our sin becomes all the more “despicable.” I don’t say that to take us into deeper places of self-loathing and shame. I say that to ask, “how can we walk away from that love in our sin and disobedience?” The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and then disciplines us because He loves us… because He wants to remove all of the barriers and roadblocks that prevent us from seeing and experiencing the Father’s love. Our response to the Spirit’s conviction of sin is confession.

Meditation is our response the Holy Spirit’s illuminating our hearts and minds through Scripture. Knowing that we loved by the Father, having confessed our sin and rebellion against Him and His love, we are now ready to come to God through His Word. Our minds and hearts are clear to hear His voice and to see His character and plan as revealed through His Word. And the Holy Spirit illuminates (shines light on) the Word, and our hearts are changed in the process. Our response to that light is to meditate upon it.

Discernment is our response to the Spirit guidance in times of choice. Now that we are beginning to know and experience the assurance that we loved by the Father, convicted of our sin in His perfect love, and having come to His Scriptures to shape our hearts and minds in light of who Jesus Christ really and fully is, now and only now are we ready to hear the voice of Jesus through the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides in times of choice.  The problem is that we often jump immediately to wanting the Spirit’s guidance in times of choice. When we go here without having practiced gratitude, confession, and meditation, we short-circuit the process and cannot clearly hear the voice of Jesus through the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we know we are loved, if we know we are forgiven and freed from our sin, and if we know the heart and character of God as revealed in the Scriptures, then we are much more likely to make the right choices through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Try praying with this pattern and see how the Holy Spirit develops wisdom and discernment in your life and experience.

Time, Seasons & Eternity

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

Everything ultimately matters, so how we use our time, journey through the seasons of life, and spend eternity ultimately matters.  This is what the ancient philosopher and king Solomon discovered on his quest for meaning of life. There is a time for everything, and there is a God in heaven who rules over an all-encompassing plan of life and eternity. The invitation to us on this side of heaven is to allow the God of time, seasons, and eternity to shape our time, seasons, and eternity

Time. How are you spending your time? If you allowed someone to look at your calendar, would it sync with what you say is most important? If not, what do you need to change in your day, your week, and your month to live out what is most important?

Seasons. Do you recognize the season of life you’re in right now? What’s best about it? What’s the greatest challenge of this season? How can you find someone who has walked this season before to help you navigate it well?  If you’ve been through a particular season, will you be generous with your heart and time by helping someone else walk through that season?

Eternity. Ultimately God has placed the longing for eternity, the longing for more, in the human heart. And the God of eternity longs to have us be with Him for eternity. That’s the great hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ… that our sin would be done away with by His cross, the barrier removed, our weapons laid down as we come to Him. His death for ours. His life for ours. But death could not hold the God-Man in the grave. He is risen, and He invites us to everlasting, eternal life with Him… forever. And forever is a long time.

Make the most of your time and seasons on this side of eternity, and make the most of the opportunity to be with God on the other side of eternity.

Uhauls, Hearses, & Generosity

“A checkbook is a theological document, it will tell you who and what you worship.” BILLY GRAHAM

We’ve been discovering in the book of Ecclesiastes that everything ultimately matters.  We are hard-wired by the Creator to long for and search for meaning, identity, and purpose.  As we discovered Sunday, one way that we tend to attempt to find meaning is through the endless pursuit of money, wealth, and possessions.  The ancient author Solomon tells us that the pursuit of money only produces a vast emptiness but the pursuit of God produces a vast joy (Ecclesiastes 5:10-20).  The question put before us is this… Am I being a good and godly steward of what God has given me? During our brief time here on this earth this side of eternity, are you wisely stewarding that with which you have been entrusted?

How do you spend and invest your TIME? How you employ your TALENTS and gifts?  How do you use and steward your TREASURE and finances?  How do you TOUCH peoples lives as you willingly share your own with them.  Pick one of these 4 “T’s” and find a way to grow in your sacrificial generosity.  In the end, Jesus’ great joy comes as we make much of Him, as we treasure Him above all else, and as we steward His gifts for His Kingdom, His glory, and His name.

Spending Your Life & Time on Purpose

If reality says “life is brief” (read Ecclesiastes 1:1-11), and the gospel says that Jesus can bring meaning and purpose into every life, every aspect of our lives, and every moment, then a crucial question is “Am I spending my life and time on purpose?” If life is brief, then how we spend our time and energies is crucial to avoid “chasing the wind.”  This calls us to wise “life” time management.  In my last post “Ultimate Meaning” we addressed life values and vision.  And now we have to take those values and vision, the things that are most important and ensure that we are using our time to live those out.  If you tell me a relationship is important, but you spend little to no time with that person, I’d ask you how important that relationship really is.  If something is important, we’ll invest our time.

Here’s an clarifying exercise:

1. Record how you spend your time over a week (and even two or three if you want an accurate snapshot).

2. Put each activity into a category and then assign a percentage of how much of your week is spent on that activity.

3. Is there a “gap” between your time and your values?

4. What can you change to ensure that you’re spending your time in alignment with your values?

Americans watch more than 200 Billion hours of TV each and every year. Clearly, we collectively have more time than we think we have. We just use it on other things.  We will always find time and money to do what is important to us.

How we spend our time reflects what we value most. If we value other things more than we value Jesus Christ, His gospel, and His mission, we will not live with ultimate meaning and purpose.  We’ll wonder where life went.  Remember, we can’t ultimately fix what we originally broke – only Jesus can.  And there’s a world of people around us who need to hear that from us and see us live that out.  So our prayer becomes what is written in Psalm 90:12 – “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”

Ultimate Meaning

Here’s a life-changing question: “what do you want said about you at your memorial service and then live life backwards?” I think this is the question Solomon is inadvertently asking and shaping the answer to as he pens the ancient book of Ecclesiastes.  So what do you want said about your life… that dash between your date of birth and date of death on the service program? And how can you begin to live life now so those things are said?

Here’s the Johnny Cash cover of “Hurt” I showed during Sunday’s message from Ecclesiastes 12:1-14… in a sense, how NOT to get to the end of life and say, “If I could start again, a million miles away. I would keep myself. I would find a way.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clq01TXQR0s[/youtube]

Maybe the best way to NOT get to the end and have to say “If I could start again…” would be to determine what is most important in your life right now? What are the qualities and values you want to define your life? How does the gospel of Jesus Christ inform and shape those values? How are you living them out right now? When you think of a “preferred” future, what do you see? And how do you live life in light of Jesus Christ, with every moment and aspect of your life lived in joyful obedience and worship?  Seek the answers to these kinds of questions through the leading of the Holy Spirit, and you will have the things you want said about you at your memorial service.

The Meaning of Life

During our weekend services, August 1st – September 5th, we’ll explore Ecclesiastes and the ultimate meaning of life. We’ll discuss five key themes in the book which can shape how we live a life of meaning and purpose today.

What happens when we seek ultimate meaning outside of relationship with the Creator God? What happens when we’re desperate for the answers to life but can seem to find none? What happens when our souls get wearied from the constant pursuit of pleasure and possessions? These are enormous questions of life and meaning that Ecclesiastes grapples with in the timeless complexity and messiness of reality. Ultimately, the ancient philosopher recalibrates our hearts, minds, and lives to pursue ultimate meaning in the Ultimate God because God alone holds the key to the meaning of life.

August 1: “The Meaning of Life” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-14) explores the theme of meaning & purpose

August 8: “Chasing the Wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-18) explores the theme of the brevity of life

August 15: Summer Sunday at the Farm

August 22: “Back in the Box” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11; 5:10-6:12) explores the theme of money & possessions

August 29: “Seasons of Life” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-22) explores the theme of the different seasons of our lives

September 6: “Pursuing Wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 7:1-29) explores the theme of wisdom

Here’s an Ecclesiastes Study Guide to take each passage and theme deeper in your life and relationships.

Join us for the next six weeks as we explore God’s ultimate design for the ultimate meaning of life.

Summer Series at Northshore

This summer, we will have two sermon series for our weekend services. July 11, 18, & 25 Pastor Wayne Phillips will preach a three-week series entitled Three to Thrive.  I return to the pulpit on August 1, and we’ll explore the ancient book of Ecclesiastes in a 6-week series called The Meaning of Life.  Here are brief overviews of the series:

Three to Thrive: Faith, Hope & Love

July 11-25

Like a good parent God wants the best for us. He wants us to thrive. When we consider the teachings of the New Testament we see that the thriving life that Jesus has come to give us is characterized by two things: love for God and love for others (Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31; Lk 10:27-28). The Spirit of God is working to remake us into men and women who live that out daily. As we do that more and more, as we take off the things that get in the way of loving God and loving others, we will truly live (Lk 10:28). We will step into the fullness of life that Jesus has come to give us and that Satan seeks to steal (John 10:10). Simple enough, but it turns out that love is very difficult in practice. In fact, Biblical love is downright impossible without two other essentials that the Spirit of God is building in us: faith and hope.

These three—faith, hope, and love—are primary themes throughout the Bible, and they make up a framework used by the apostle Paul to examine the condition of his churches and strengthen them where needed. The interplay of faith, hope, and love in his writings is seen most clearly in 1-2 Thessalonians (ex. 1 Thess 1:2-3), Colossians (ex. 1:3-8), and in this classic:

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

Through the series Three to Thrive: Faith, Hope, and Love, you will learn what defines and undermines each of them, and you will take away the Paul’s framework to help you more fully love God and love others wherever you are.

 

 

The Meaning of Life: Exploring Ecclesiastes

August 1 – September 6

What happens when we seek ultimate meaning outside of relationship with the Creator God? What happens when we’re desperate for the answers to life but can seem to find none? What happens when our souls get wearied from the constant pursuit of pleasure and possessions? These are enormous questions of life and meaning that Ecclesiastes grapples with in the timeless complexity and messiness of reality. Ultimately, the ancient philosopher recalibrates our hearts, minds, and lives to pursue ultimate meaning in the Ultimate God because God alone holds the key to the meaning of life.

August 1st–through September 6th during our weekend services, we’ll explore Ecclesiastes and the ultimate meaning of life. We’ll discuss five key themes in the book which can truly shape how we live a life of meaning and purpose today.