Fathers, Direct Your Kids Toward that Which Matters – Part 4

Solomon, one of the wisest kings ever to live, at the end of his life wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. He wrote not only to his children but to his kingdom and us as well. The book itself consists of Solomon’s learned wisdom. Wisdom he seeks to pass down so that we won’t waste our life chasing after that which doesn’t matter. In doing so, he continues to be a vessel of living water to all who read it.

Fathers when you think about deliberately writing to your children. Whether it be in the margins of your Bible or in a short book like Solomon has written. When you think about it, what advice, what wisdom, what direction would you give your children?

That’s a big question, a deep question, one that requires a lot of thought. In order to help get the juices flowing, we’re going to look at some of the wisdom Solomon passes down. Wisdom that’s lost in our current cultural moment. The topics we are going to explore are pleasure, career, and money.

That’s our roadmap, so let’s dive in.

What can provide ultimate meaning, satisfaction, and purpose in life?

What should we chase after? And what should we encourage our kids to chase after? At the end of the book, Solomon says this in verse 13 of chapter 12,

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ec 12:13)

Serving God and living as He commands is the only activity that’s going to provide ultimate meaning, satisfaction, and purpose in life. And that’s because God has created us for that purpose. When we live in the way God has designed for us to live, when we have a right relationship with Him, then and only then will we experience and gain that for which we long.

I know you all have heard the saying,

“You have a hole in your heart that only God can fill.”

And that’s true. Money, pleasure, career, and anything else we want to try and fill that hole up with won’t satisfy. It will always leave us empty and grasping for more. So we should heed Solomon’s counsel, his advice, his wisdom, and pursue God above anything else this world has to offer. God is the only One that will ultimately satisfy.

Conclusion

And that — a life dedicated to God — is what we must ultimately pass down to our children. So fathers let today be the day that motivates you to be the spiritual leader in your family, to point your children to the things of God instead of the things of this world. Not only will their life on earth be better for it, but they will experience true meaning, satisfaction, and purpose that will transcend this world and provide them with eternal life.

Quit chasing after the things of this world and start chasing after God!

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you understand that God is the only One who can provide you meaning and purpose?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon: Fathers, Direct Your Kids Toward that Which Matters

Fathers, Direct Your Kids Toward that Which Matters – Part 3

Solomon, one of the wisest kings ever to live, at the end of his life wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. He wrote not only to his children but to his kingdom and us as well. The book itself consists of Solomon’s learned wisdom. Wisdom he seeks to pass down so that we won’t waste our life chasing after that which doesn’t matter. In doing so, he continues to be a vessel of living water to all who read it.

Fathers when you think about deliberately writing to your children. Whether it be in the margins of your Bible or in a short book like Solomon has written. When you think about it, what advice, what wisdom, what direction would you give your children?

That’s a big question, a deep question, one that requires a lot of thought. In order to help get the juices flowing, we’re going to look at some of the wisdom Solomon passes down. Wisdom that’s lost in our current cultural moment. The topics we are going to explore are pleasure, career, and money.

That’s our roadmap, so let’s dive in.

(3)  Money can’t provide ultimate purpose, meaning, or fulfillment in life (vs. 5:10-17)

You guys have probably all heard the saying, “Money makes the world go round.”

But what does that mean? A quick google search turned up this definition of the phrase, a definition that reveals how our culture thinks of money.
One person says,

“The expression “money makes the world go round ” means that money is very important, it is the most important or one of the essential things in life, a lot of events could not happen without it, money solves lots of (or all) problems,…”[1]

But is that true? Is money the most essential thing in life? And can it solve all our problems or does it create more problems for us?

Solomon certainly has a different take on money than this writer. Starting in Ecclesiastes 5:10 he writes,

“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them,” (Ec 5:10–11a)

You see, while money is important — it allows us to buy and sell, and to provide for our family — it is not everything. It doesn’t solve all problems. In fact, it can create more problems than it can solve. Case in point here with Solomon. He has observed that

Those who have money also have more people knocking on their door seeking help. 

But not only do those who have money constantly have people knocking on their door, they also:

Have to spend time, money and energy guarding their money,

which leads Solomon to say in the second half of verse 11 on into verse 12,

“…and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.” (Ec 5:11b-12)

Though they might not be hungry or cold, the rich might find that their sleep evades them, which is sweet and is to be prized over riches.

But that is not all the difficulties that money brings with it. Those who have money, Solomon tells us

May lose their money. 

What they have might disappear over night due to a bad venture or a disaster. Which results in the father not having anything to pass down to his children. And ultimately it results in loss, not just of money but of house, health, and friends. Solomon says in verse 17,

“Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.” (Ec 5:17)

The picture Solomon paints for us, then, is far from the idea that money solves all problems. We see that money can bring with it even greater problems, as well as the loss of it, can bring about loneliness, bitterness, and anger.

All that is not to say that having money is wrong. It’s not. But we have to recognize money’s place in our life. It is a tool that we use to buy and sell, but it’s not something that can provide ultimate meaning, satisfaction, or purpose in life.

So fathers, we must teach our children how to properly think about money. That’s what Solomon is trying to do, so that’s what we should try to do too.

So we see that pleasure, career, and money can’t provide ultimate meaning, satisfaction, and purpose in life, which means we mustn’t chase after them. So what then? What should we chase after? We will discuss that next time.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you hoping money will provide you meaning and purpose?

Resources

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[1] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-meaning-of-the-phrase-money-makes-the-world-go-round

Post adapted from my sermon: Fathers, Direct Your Kids Toward that Which Matters

Fathers, Direct Your Kids Toward that Which Matters – Part 2

Solomon, one of the wisest kings ever to live, at the end of his life wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. He wrote not only to his children but to his kingdom and us as well. The book itself consists of Solomon’s learned wisdom. Wisdom he seeks to pass down so that we won’t waste our life chasing after that which doesn’t matter. In doing so, he continues to be a vessel of living water to all who read it.

Fathers when you think about deliberately writing to your children. Whether it be in the margins of your Bible or in a short book like Solomon has written. When you think about it, what advice, what wisdom, what direction would you give your children?

That’s a big question, a deep question, one that requires a lot of thought. In order to help get the juices flowing, we’re going to look at some of the wisdom Solomon passes down. Wisdom that’s lost in our current cultural moment. The topics we are going to explore are pleasure, career, and money.

That’s our roadmap, so let’s dive in.

(2) Career can’t provide ultimate purpose, meaning, or fulfillment in life [either] (vs. 2:18-23)

Recently, I was talking to one of my friends about attending a local church in his area. Prior to our conversation, I had sent over several recommendations, but he hadn’t been to visit any of them. When I asked why, he said he didn’t have time because he was busy concentrating on his career.

In that concentration, in that pursuit, my friend is not unique. A lot of people spend a lot of time and energy focusing on their career. They sacrifice time with family and friends. Even time off, hobbies, and vacations are set aside in pursuit of career.

While there is nothing wrong with having a career, it can’t and shouldn’t be a consuming force in our lives. Solomon tells us why that is in the last part of chapter two.

Starting in verse 18, he says,

“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.” (Ec 2:18–21)

I know you all have heard the saying,

“You can’t take it with you when you die.” 

That’s a true statement, and it’s what Solomon is getting at here. No matter how hard we’ve worked, how much we have done, none of it makes it to the other side of the grave with us. We must leave it all behind for someone else to enjoy and work at. What makes it even worse is that that person we have to leave it to might be a fool. They might squander all that we have worked so hard for.

If that’s the case, if we can’t take it with us and it might just be squandered anyways, we should think twice about how much stock we put in our career.

But that’s not the only reason Solomon gives. He also says starting in verse 22,

“What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.” (Ec 2:22–23)

Not only can we not take it with us, but those who pour their life into their career will find that:

There is no rest. 

Sleepless nights are common to the workaholic and career minded individual because they are always thinking about their job. What they are going to do. How they are going to fix something. Or how they can make a deal go through, so that they will look good and get the promotion. But that’s no way to live, just ask the insomniac who wishes they could sleep.

But sleepless nights are only part of it. Solomon also tells us that:

Stress is common to those whose sole focus is career.

We all know that being stressed is not only a joy killer, but it produces health problems, which could literally send you to the grave.

Along with stress, those who put career first,

Don’t have time to enjoy life, family, or even the money they’ve amassed because they are constantly working. 

I don’t know about you, but career doesn’t seem like a viable candidate for something that is going to provide ultimate meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life. It sounds miserable. And I think that’s the point. Solomon is trying to keep us from seeking something in our work that it just can’t give us.

Father’s we need to pass that idea down to our kids as well. Sure, we want them to work hard. We want them to be successful. But we have to teach them that they aren’t going to find that for which they ultimately long in a successful career. They must approach it in a balanced way. Working hard, but also enjoying life and seeking meaning and purpose in something other than our work.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you hoping your career will provide you meaning and purpose?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon: Fathers, Direct Your Kids Toward that Which Matters

Fathers, Direct Your Kids Toward that Which Matters – Part 1

A couple of years ago, I came across an article put out by Desiring God entitled: Dad’s Write in Your Bible. The article was written by Jonathan Parnell, who is a pastor in Minneapolis. In the article, he picks up on the idea that our time in God’s Word and prayer not only benefit us but those around us. That’s because God’s Word transforms us into a river of living water that flows from us to our friends, family, co-workers, and community.

With that in mind, he suggests one-way fathers could be a river of living water to their children is by setting aside a fresh copy of God’s Word, one with no marks and wide margins. As they read through that Bible, they should write notes, prayers, application, and advice to their children in the margins. Once finished, and their children are of age, they should give it to them as a way to encourage them in the faith. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty cool.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty cool. Imagine being able to give that to your kids? Imagine the impact that would have on them, as they read your prayers and application for their life.

Personally, this isn’t a project I’ve embarked on. I actually forgot about it until I sat down to write this post, but it’s something I’m considering, and something you might consider doing as well.

Solomon, a Vessel of Living Water

While it’s not exactly the same, something similar appears in the Bible. Solomon, one of the wisest kings ever to live, at the end of his life wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. He wrote not only to his children but to his kingdom and us as well. The book itself consists of Solomon’s learned wisdom. Wisdom he seeks to pass down so that we won’t waste our life chasing after that which doesn’t matter. In doing so, he continues to be a vessel of living water to all who read it.

Fathers when you think about deliberately writing to your children. Whether it be in the margins of your Bible or in a short book like Solomon has written. When you think about it, what advice, what wisdom, what direction would you give your children?

That’s a big question, a deep question, one that requires a lot of thought. In order to help get the juices flowing, we’re going to look at some of the wisdom Solomon passes down. Wisdom that’s lost in our current cultural moment. The topics we are going to explore are pleasure, career, and money.

That’s our roadmap, so let’s dive in.

(1) Pleasure can’t provide ultimate purpose, meaning, or fulfillment in life (vs. 2:1-11)

We learn that as a result of Solomon’s test in chapter 2. That’s really how the book works. Solomon either draws conclusions from his observations, his own experience, or both. In the beginning of chapter 2, Solomon tells us he going to test pleasure when he says,

“I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” (Ec 2:1a)

When Solomon says he is going to test pleasure, he does it on a scale that we could only imagine. You see, Solomon is the wisest and richest king ever to live. He can have whatever he wants. There are no limitations. So starting in verse 4 when he says that:

“I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.” (Ec 2:4–10)

So when Solomon tells us he sought pleasure in these things — and these things being possessions, art, sex, partying, and building projects —when he tells us that he did these things, we should imagine that he did them on the grandest of scales. That he had no regrets, no wants, nothing more was left for him to do.

Does pleasure bring meaning?

Solomon sought pleasure because he thought this was going to bring him satisfaction, some sort of meaning to life. Isn’t that why we seek pleasure today Don’t we believe more fun, excitement, and things will satisfy us; provide us with meaning? I know I’ve been guilty of this myself.

After attending a small local university for two years, I transferred to the University of Georgia. Prior to transferring, I was highly involved in the life of my church. But that wasn’t the case when I moved up to Athens to attend UGA. Instead of getting plugged into a solid church and Christian community, I got plugged into a group of people who partied all the time.

We hit the party scene hard. So hard that within my first couple of months there, I had spent close to $1,000 dollars going out with my friends. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of money to me, and a lot of money to spend in a college town because things are much cheaper there.

And the crazy thing about it is that when it was all said and done, I didn’t have anything to show for it, except an empty bank account. My activity back then was purely a pursuit of pleasure. But you know what, the fun and excitement of a night out on the town eventually faded, leaving me not only broke but empty. Through that experience I learned that when it comes to pleasure, the feeling, excitement, and fun it produces never lasts. And what you experience one time, usually can’t be reproduced. Which usually leaves people in a cycle of chasing after something that’s not possible to gain again.

Solomon agrees and tells us just that in verse 11 when he says,

“Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ec 2:11)

Vanity, what does it mean?

When Solomon tells us that something is vanity or a striving after the wind, what he means is that the feeling or thing he’s tested or observed is fleeting. It’s not something that can be grasped or held onto. To try and grasp it is like trying to hold onto smoke or the wind. You can feel it, you can see it’s effects, but it can’t be contained. It can’t be held onto. Which means it can’t provide ultimate meaning, purpose, or fulfillment in life.

So when it comes to pleasure, in whatever form we might seek it — possessions, art, sex, partying, building projects, and whatever else — we see that despite our cultures messaging and our all out pursuit of it, pleasure really doesn’t provide that for which we long. It doesn’t and can’t provide ultimate purpose, meaning, or fulfillment in life.

This is what Solomon tells his children, his kingdom, and us. Fathers, this is what we should tell our children as well so that they don’t find themselves walking a hedonistic road with no purpose.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you hoping pleasure will provide you with meaning and purpose?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon: Fathers, Direct Your Kids Toward that Which Matters

Our Deepest Longings are Only Fulfilled in Jesus

As soon as I was able to hold and swing a bat, my dad had me in the backyard hitting off the tee. As soon as I was old enough, I was playing coach pitch baseball on a city league team. I played baseball every year thereafter until high school, when I finally gave it up for soccer. 

Save

The two positions I played were shortstop and pitcher. As a pitcher, I mainly started the game, but sometimes I was brought in as a reliever. For relieving pitchers there is a statistic known as a “save.” A save, as you can guess, is earned when the reliever comes in and finishes out the game with his team still in the lead. 

Celebrate

If you watch the nightly ESPN highlight reel, you will notice saves are highlighted over the myriad of other statistics, and that’s because we love to hear and celebrate salvation stories. Stories where the relieving pitcher enters the game in the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded, no outs, and strikes everyone out to win the game for his team. We love to hear and celebrate stories like that, because salvation is the natural longing of the human heart.

While it’s exciting to watch your favorite closer save the game, the excitement and joy we feel in that moment doesn’t last. It doesn’t last because we long for a greater salvation, a true and lasting salvation. Something we can put our faith, our trust in, knowing it will not let us down.

Lasting Fulfillment

The only One who can provide us with a true and lasting salvation is Jesus, because He is the only One who could pay the penalty for our sins, repairing our relationship with the Father (Col. 1:19-20). So the next time you celebrate your favorite pitchers save, remember that there is an even greater salvation available that will eternally fulfill the deepest longing of your heart, and that is the salvation Jesus provides through His cross.

Question for Reflection

  1. What are you trying to fulfill your God sized hole with?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon: Only in Christ are our deepest longings fulfilled 

 

Can Stuff Ultimately Satisfy Us this Christmas?

Presents

Christmas is tomorrow and as a kid I would be one day away from opening the last door on my countdown to Christmas calendar.

Every year along with our Christmas decorations my mom would pull that calendar out of the box and hang it on our refrigerator. Every morning the first thing my sister and I did was go to the refrigerator and open the next door on the calendar, which marked one less day until Christmas.

I think my sister and I thought opening the door on that calendar made Christmas come faster, but thinking about it now, I actually think it made Christmas come slower. As we opened each door on the calendar, we were reminded Christmas wasn’t here yet.

You see, my sister and I, we couldn’t wait for Christmas to get here. We couldn’t wait to see what presents we were going to get from my mom and dad. For weeks that’s all we would talk about. What we thought we would get. Our speculation and excitement grew when presents started showing up under the tree. Was that big box a Nintendo — hey, it was the 80’s — or was it a new baseball glove, maybe a football? All the while we were hoping it wasn’t clothes — What kid wants clothes for Christmas? I know I didn’t. I wanted something cool. A toy or game. Something I could play with. My sister and I would go on for days like that — wondering, hoping, waiting to see what we would get.

While all the days leading up to Christmas were tough, nothing compared to Christmas Eve. You know what I am talking about. With Christmas just hours away, we could hardly contain our excitement. You see, for kids, and maybe some adults, the time leading up to Christmas is almost an unbearable wait.

Here is the question:

Can Stuff Ultimately Satisfy Us this Christmas?

The book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon, answers that for us.

Solomon was the wisest and probably richest king to ever live. Just to put it into perspective, if he was alive today, a new Aston Martin One-77 — a million dollar car — would be pocket change. A Gulf Stream Jet — he probably would have 3. A Ferrari — he’s got a different color for every day of the week. His house would no doubt make it into a magazine or maybe even MTV Crib’s.

Solomon was the wisest and riches king ever and he could have whatever he wanted. The book of Ecclesiastes he tells us that is exactly what he did. He allowed himself to indulge in whatever he thought would bring him pleasure and fulfillment in life. He held nothing back from himself.

In chapter 2 of Ecclesiastes, we are told he indulged in the best wine money could buy (2:3). He had the grandest buildings, gardens, and parks. He owned vineyards and farms. He made himself pools of water to water the forests he owned. He had 100’s of servants and concubines. He had it all (2:4-8). In verse 10 of chapter 2 he confirms this when he says,

Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure…” (Eccl. 2:10a).

So Solomon had every possession he could ever want. But in verse 11, he comes to this conclusion:

…and behold, all was vanity and striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Eccl. 2:11b).

So Solomon, the richest and most powerful king in history who had everything he wanted comes to the conclusion that:

Stuff can’t ultimately satisfy us. It can’t provide us with ultimate fulfillment in life.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you hoping the presents you get at Christmas will fulfill you?

Resources

Adapted from the sermon: Is There Anything Worth Waiting For?

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