finding truth matters

What is the point? For many people the point to life is success. For others it’s the accumulation of wealth. Still for others it’s about maximising happiness and pleasure. We are all looking for significance. In ancient times there was a man who was unbelieveably wealthy. In today’s terms his income was a staggering $1,153,846 – a week! He boasted about sexual exploits with over one thousand women – and he received a level respect for his intellect that garnered for him worldwide acclaim. Yet  along the way he declared that it was all meaningless (“vanity”). 

But then toward the final moments of his life he realised that it wasn’t success and acclaim that he was living for – but significance. Solomon the King had long ignored the safety and protection of Wisdom’s walls and plunged blindly off them into the Siren’s deep pit of false success, where the mire of false wealth and the fallacy of fame had already seduced other royal greats. 

What on earth are you here for? There is deep need within every person for significance. King Solomon had at his disposal everything that most men applaud and many men strive for. He had virtually unlimited wealth. He had his choice of over a thousand women to do with whatever brought him pleasure. He was able to oversee great civil constructions and building programs and apply his energies to achieving satisfaction from his work. He had a gifted intellect that enabled him to apply himself to learn complex lessons in the fields of engineering, agriculture, botany, music, biology, religion, and philosophy. 

He tells his story in the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes. In this somewhat novel telling of his journey, Solomon describes his distorted view of the world at the time of his life when he was drifting further and further into deception. This divinely inspired account accurately records this man’s skewed assessment of reality. The reader should note this before they cite any verse from Ecclesiastes as a proof-text for ideas generally foreign to the Bible. For example, in the midst of Solomon’s backslidden state he felt that “money is the answer for everything” (Eccl. 10:19). Money is not the answer to every problem. Other Scriptures warn against relying too heavily on the money (for example, 1 Tim. 6:10). Thus, great care should be taken when citing verses from Ecclesiastes.

Appearances can be deceiving. Often people who seem to have it all – or at least, seem to have it all together, don’t. King Solomon had everything that most people think would significantly satisfy. Yet. There’s nearly always a ‘yet’. Many highly successful people are driven by a deep ache. It’s not uncommon for a high-achiever to reach a stage where they ask, “Why am I doing this?” “What am I really doing that makes a difference to the world?” Success often masks emptiness.

History tells us that most people cannot handle success wellBy any measure, King Solomon was a success. But his was an empty success. Despite his massive wealth he still couldn’t buy what he was really after – what we’re all after. And he’s not alone. Many people have attained the pinnacle of success and earned phenomenal amounts of money, only to find they were the worse for having done so. For example, former NBA, Antoine Walker amassed a whopping ten million dollars during his basketball career, but by the time he was 38, it was all gone and he was in debt. Living the high-life, women, gambling, free-loaders, bad investments, drugs and alcohol, often combine to ruin elite professional sportsmen like Antoine. History tells us that most people cannot handle success well. 

Francis ThompsonIt’s easy to confuse success with significance. It’s easy to think that success alone can satisfy. But King Solomon’s journey, and the pain he endured from relentlessly pursuing success nearly at the cost of his soul, is still relevant for anyone today and stands as a warning for all who fail to heed his conclusions. The most significant man who has ever lived gave a similar warning (without ever having inflicted such similar pain on Himself as Solomon did) when He asked what the point of temporary success was if it meant eternal damage to one’s soul? This was the nearly too late conclusion that Francis Thompson reached. He was from a wealthy family, he graduated as a doctor from Owens College (University of Manchester). But he never practised as a doctor – moving to London instead to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. But he fell on hard times and became a homeless opium addict living under a bridge at Charing Cross. He was taken in by a prostitute who nursed him back to health. In his ache for significance he encountered the relentless love of the Undying One, and taking an old pencil and scrap of paper, he wrote an epic poem about his journey. 

I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
  Came on the following Feet,
And a Voice above their beat—
‘Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.’

All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.

THE HOUND OF HEAVEN, by Francis Thompson

There is an ache in every human soul for significance. Significance in life is that sense that what a person does really matters and will matter even after they are gone from this life. The God who made us also made us for His pleasure and it is when we do what pleases Him that we discover true and lasting significance. This always involves helping others. Living a significant life is a considerate life. It often involves sacrifice for the benefit of others. It has the potential to outlive the life of the one who lives significantly. The outstanding message from Solomon’s account of his journey from success, fame, pleasure, to significance is that it is never too late to find peace with God and to begin a life of significance. But there is also a message that should be heeded as a warning from this same journey.

Solomon eventually discovered what his soul was aching for just prior to his death. Perhaps just months or maybe even weeks before he died, having learned that wealth, women, work, or wine, could not satisfy or fulfil, he realised how a person could live significantly. With such a profound discovery coming so close to the end of his life, Solomon was never able to develop his soul with the level maturity or godliness (a God pleasing lifestyle which shapes a person’s character to more accurately reflect the heart of God) that God intends for a person.

Godliness is formed over years of faithful and significant living. It can only be formed through trial and adversity. It is in the midst temptation to sin that true godliness is needed to demonstrate to a watching world – but more importantly – to an on-looking God, that God is treasured above any other pleasure. The Apostle Paul talks about this process of developing godliness to his young protegé Timothy when he tells him –

for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
First Timothy 4:8

In the closing chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes how his body has aged. He has lost hair, teeth, part of his hearing and control over his bladder. His eye-sight has deteriorated. His back had suffered nerve damage and he was blighted with resultant insomnia. Without the full use of his bodily functions, he was unable to achieve the level of significance that he might have – especially as a man with his position and resources. To whom much is given, much is required. As he stared one of life’s great certainties in the eye, he came to realise life’s greatest certainty.

Solomon concludes with the profound words of an aged sage directed at a much younger audience.

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

A life significance starts when a person surrenders their life God and experiences peace and reconciliation with God. It is King Solomon who reminds us that you can never go too far from God, or rebel too much, that God cannot even then demonstrate His limitless love and corresponding ability and willingness to forgive the repentant. You are not a million miles from God, you are but one prayer away. By turning to God in prayer and receiving His forgiveness you can begin to live a life of significance. And the younger you are when you do, the better your chances of leveraging this significance by developing your walk with Christ as your Saviour and Lord.

Impossible Faith

Some people find faith in God to be impossible. These people have reasons for their impossible faith. Their objections may be intellectual, moral, or emotional. There are three well-known figures who each exemplify each of these objections to faith in God. Charles Darwin, Thomas Hardy and Bob Hawke each respectively held these particular objections to Christianity.

The Reliability of The Bible and How Best To Interpret It

The Bible is the most influential book of all time. It’s contents have changed the course of history. It’s story has formed the pattern for all the great literary classics. It also makes the astounding claim that it is the uniquely authoritative revelation from God and therefore has the authority to command our moral behaviour. But if the Bible is not reliable, then its claims are indefensible and Christianity is without foundation! Yet despite this glaring vulnerability, the Bible has withstood rigorous scrutiny and repeated attempts to refute it. Here’s why it is indeed reliable.

What Is Heaven Like?

I honestly used to think that Christianity was all about having the assurance of going to Heaven. But as I learned more about the Gospel and the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth I became curious about the relative scarcity of references to Heaven in the Bible. Yet, while my understanding of the place of Heaven in my Gospel proclamation has been refined, some God-Channel evangelists have headed in the other direction and made Heaven central to their Gospel. Some of these evangelists now even claim to have the spiritual power to make repeated visits there!

Presumably God, the Supreme Being, has a supremely beautiful home, in a supremely magnificent neighbourhood. Amazingly, God invites mankind to move into His neighbourhood- for eternity! But what is Heaven like? Is it possible, as some are now claiming, that we can visit Heaven? While I am going to lead readers to conclude that Heaven is not the Gospel’s focus, if it is the only reason someone is motivated to convert to Christ, then we should rejoice!

The Tragedy of Suicide – And How We Can Help

Suicide hurts. It is motivated by pain, but causes much greater pain. For those affected by suicide the guilt and anguish it produces is almost unbearable. But since suicide is in the Bible, how can we know that it is wrong? How should we regard the sinfulness of suicide? Is it unforgiveable? How can we help avoid suicide? What should those affected by it know after its happened?

The funeral celebrant rang me to warn me. He was used to dealing with sensitive situations but this one had a few extra layers of complexity. He decided to get me involved. He outlined the story to me and then told me the purpose of his call. When a loved one dies there is often a measure of guilt for those left behind. But when the death is caused by suicide that guilt is compounded. Suicide hurts. The funeral celebrant told me that a young man with a diagnosed mental illness, who had professed Christianity, had taken his own life and his devout mother (who we will call “Betty”) was devastated. The celebrant told me that Betty would ring because her guilt was beyond his expertise due to her Biblical understanding of suicide.

How To Handle A Crisis

The definition of a crisis is a calamity or event which disrupts a person’s sense of well- being and lifestyle. It is generally short term and requires immediate action in order to restore balance and control in the person’s life.  The results of crisis are: anxiety, bewilderment, confusion, desperation, anger, helplessness and even apathy. There is an increased sense of dependency upon others, a sense of urgency, and decreased efficiency in decision making and performance. The account of Judah being sieged by the Assyrians in Second Chronicles 32, involves all the aspects of a crisis. The major distinctive is that it involves a nation of people rather than just one person. The “helper” in this instance was their leader – King Hezekiah.

Roman Catholicism Compared With Christianity

Any discussion about religious wars, clergy violations, or child abuse, and it won’t be long before the The Roman Catholic Church unfortunately features. But I want to have a different discussion. And unlike most of the ‘discussions’ of this nature, I’m not on a mission to attack, ridicule, or mock anyone. Rather, I want to look at what the Roman Catholic Church officially teaches and asserts and compare it with the Bible’s teaching.

I’ve been a denominational minister for over two decades, so I know that it is possible to be a part of an organisation with which you disagree on some points.  I understand that this is certainly the case with the Roman Catholic Church as there are many priests who do agree with all that their Church asserts. For the purposes of this discussion, I have chosen to take the official Catholic positions on the matters I am comparing with the Biblical data. It is my hope that my Roman Catholic audience will acknowledge that I have represented their views fairly – but it is also my hope that I can appropriately demonstrate how these core views compare with the Biblical prescriptions.

Soli Deo Gloria

The final statement in The Five Pillars of Biblical Christianity is Soli Deo Gloria – for the glory of God alone! The reason we are saved is so that we can glorify God. In one sense it is true that reason Christ died for us was to save us from our sins and the just wrath of God for our sin. But the main reason Christ died to redeem us was for the glory of God.

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
John 5:44

The glory that comes from God is when we give God glory. One of Christ’s last prayers was that His disciples would see His glory (John 17:24). Therefore God’s glory, His radiant magnificence, is visible and apprehendable. God’s glory is described several times in Scripture. In this sense, God’s glory is a visible reality (a noun). God’s glory is variously described as being like a cloud (Exodus 16:10), a devouring and consuming fire (Exodus 24:17), fire and smoke-like cloud (2Chronicles 7:1), and a brightly glowing cloud (Ezekiel 10:4).

Where Are The Dead?

Sitting across from me in my office was an older middle-aged man who had just read my draft commentary on the Book of Revelation. He had come from Queensland to visit friends in Tasmania and while in the neighbourhood, dropped in to see me to have chat and get a later edition of my book. He asked a lot of theoretical questions and we discussed the implications of what we discussed. Not until he returned to Queensland did I get an email regarding the chapter on the Resurrection. It was at this point that he confided in me that he was in the advanced stages of cancer and that his query was far more than theoretical.
The ancients believed that death was merely a change of location for the soul of a person. The place of the dead was called “Sheol”. When Jacob thought his son Joseph was dead: “All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.” (Gen. 37:35 ). When the judgment of God came upon Korah and his rebellion.

TULIP, The Essence of The Reformation

Jesus Christ taught that following Him was only possible through the miracle of conversion. He taught that for someone to authentically claim to be a Christian they needed a spiritual encounter that changed their heart and mind. Without such a miracle, known Biblically as ‘regeneration’, no one could merely decide to be a Christian.
It’s important to appreciate the geo-socio-politico conditions at the time of the Reformation. This was the time when John Calvin, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and others dared to defend the Biblical revelation against a militant Papal Church which had previously executed similar voices (Wyclif, Tyndale, Savonarola, to name a few) for daring to defy the teaching of the Papacy. One of the central claims of the Papacy was “Universalism”, the doctrine which taught that Christ’s sacrificial death was repeated over and over through the celebration of the Mass and was effective in saving all those in communion with the Roman Catholic Church (thus, universal salvation was activated by works). Since Salvation was universal (everyone is automatically saved), the Papal Church was more concerned about administering this salvation through having people in communion with it, or alternatively, disfellowshipping (or, ex-communicating) those who it disliked. Calvin on the other hand saw that Scripture did not teach universalism, but conversely- that not everyone would be saved.

Leadership Lessons From Shackleton

Sometimes when the going gets tough, you just have to keep going. In fact, success in life – no matter how you define it – can only be achieved with endurance. Surely one of the greatest examples of endurance (if not the greatest) is the story of Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to the Antarctic on the ship: The Endurance. While we ordinary mortals may never have a death defying adventure like Shackleton and his 28 men, we are already in the midst of our own great adventure called life!

Some people want to live their lives by seeking their maximum comfort and avoiding all risks. But this is not the Believer’s lot. We are called to follow Christ- who even though He is entirely consistent in character, is somewhat unpredictable in his plans for His followers. The New Testament calls this “walking by faith” (2Corinthians 5:7). This is why for the Believer, Life is the Greatest Adventure.

When was the last time you did something for Christ that required “great faith” (Matthew 15:28)?

Dr. Andrew Corbett

FTMtweets

@FTMtweets

- April 22, 2018, 12:04 pm

RT @DrFWBoreham: Read Dr.F.W. Boreham’s essay, ‘Sister Kathleen’ written in 1918 - https://t.co/6Bzvci8SBq https://t.co/j0JAdAD8Q8
h J R
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- April 21, 2018, 11:57 am

Why Charles Darwin found it impossible to believe in the God of the Bible … https://t.co/YD6y3pdiOF #apologetics https://t.co/V820gazbvo
h J R
@FTMtweets

- April 20, 2018, 5:24 am

Christians claim that the Bible is divinely inspired and without error! But just reliable is the Bible really? Chec… https://t.co/yMSPikQMHD
h J R
@FTMtweets

- April 19, 2018, 7:15 pm

How could a good, loving, forgiving, all-powerful God send anyone to Hell for eternity? https://t.co/VZuTBfi2Tjhttps://t.co/TnjaanPXDQ
h J R
@FTMtweets

- April 18, 2018, 6:15 pm

How can there be a good, loving, all-powerful God if there are natural disasters which kill thousands of innocent v… https://t.co/8tQVr0XS49
h J R

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