The search for meaning

The search for meaning is a life-long journey for most people. Over the last few months I’ve had multiple conversations with a friend that lead to this assumption. “There’s gotta be more,” he’s said. There’s gotta be more to a relationship than surface level conversation. Or “there’s gotta be more to this life than work. Well, there’s the weekend I guess.” “But when I said, “but even then weekend…” Implying, even the weekend lacks meaning or purpose. He seemed to agree.

See, every human being is going to have to come to terms with this very simple question. What’s the meaning and purpose of life? If it’s only to toil, and strive, and struggle, what’s the point?

I met a guy about 7 year’s ago at a small community college. He and his twin brother were in my philosophy class. I loved the guys. They were more bold than I’ll ever be and they were only 17; I was 19. They’d ask tough questions or share their faith in bold response to fellow classmates condemning Christianity. I admired them and eventually we became friends.

One day I asked one of them for his story. He shared and it was powerful. What stood out most profoundly was when he mentioned the philosophical reality; that if their is no meaning or purpose in this world there is no point to life… Like the guy was extremely distraught as he serious searched for true meaning in life. He couldn’t find it. He looked in all the right places in my mind: other religions, science, philosophy… But he couldn’t seem to find it. He was incredibly smart, yet still could not find true source of meaning for his life.

I remember him telling me that he even contemplated suicide, for if there was no meaning why struggle in life and experience all the pain in the world for 80 plus years? He wasn’t the kind of kid that seemed like he would do something so extreme. In fact he seemed the exact opposite as he was a 4.0 student, working toward a college degree at age 17, and extremely bright. None the less, no meaning meant no life. Through the struggle to find truth he finally came to a conclusion. He concluded that Jesus had to have been right. My friend began to receive and believe Jesus’ teachings as truth, and what happened next was incredible. His life began to change and he found true meaning and purpose for his life in the source of the God of the universe who sent Jesus Christ into the world to reconcile sinful man to God. My friend found meaning in that truth.

Now, I’m writing this in response to the conversations I’ve had or to people I’ve seen who’ve been out of college for several year’s and seemed to have settled into a comfortable life and routine. I want to encourage people to see anew the bright purpose God intends for our lives. Jesus asked His followers to “pick up their cross daily.” Please consider those words with me. It’s so easy to go through life half heartedly. To just “get by…” I don’t want to settle for that, And I don’t want to see other Christians settle for that either.

I want to pick up my cross daily as I serve my friends, and those I don’t know very well, and those that might even be hard to talk to… I want to pick up my cross daily as I seek God in His Word and in prayer. I want to pick up my cross in thankfulness praising the God who extends grace every day. I want to pick up my cross and not look back or put it down until the day I die. I want to repeat with Paul those iconic and terrifying yet purposeful words, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

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A story of faithfullness

A lady had some time to spare after landing in Boise. She rented a bicycle and rode to a small coffee shop filled with people. With only a few available places to sit she decided to sit around a coffee table amongst four other people. One couple was practicing for a upcoming play, another man was vigorously writing, and the fourth young man was reading the Bible and journalling. As he was journaling a prayer came out. Something like this, “I pray that others in this room would be met by God, as He is faithful to meet me here.”

Minutes later the lady asked the young man a question. “Why do you read the Bible?” The young man explained why, and their conversation continued. The lady stopped praying and reading her Bible many years ago because of a tragedy in her family. How can a loving God allow terrible things to happen to good people she thought, and asked aloud. In conclusion the lady told the young man that she wanted to start reading the Bible again. On this particular day God decided to meet her. The simple prayer asking God to meet others in the room was answered.

God is faithful and stories like this are happening every day all over the world as He desires to reach all people and give ALL PEOPLE the chance to know Him. As followers of Christ we must be ready for anyone that God want’s to speak to or meet; through us. We are the vessels He use’s to spread the Gospel of Jesus. As we choose to live for Him, He will live through us, and as He lives through us, we will live for Him. For He is faithful.

I don’t smoke, but I desire to share hope

Today I heard a piece of a friends story that reminded me of the urgency of the gospel. After working 4 hours with a few guys unloading a truck, we ate lunch and then went out back for a smoke break. I don’t smoke, but lately one of the guys, a Bosnian has been offering me an American Spirit. I gently decline and we usually start up conversation about sports, his garden, or what ever else might be on our minds. Today was different though, he asked a question that I am still learning how to answer. He asked, “Teddy, you don’t smoke, you don’t drink, why not?” I  gave him a short explanation as to why, and then he proceeded to tell me the story of his Nephew who died at age 22 after drinking and driving.

His nephew fought in the front lines for his country (Bosnia), was shot in the mouth by a sniper, fully recovered, and then relocated to the United States. From the story he was a smart kid… He was applying himself… In our western culture he may have had a nice future for himself… All this was destroyed. My friend looked sad, I was sad, I didn’t know what to say. All I could think about was how nothing in this world satisfies. I wish I would have told my friend how Jesus satisfies, and thats why I don’t smoke or drink, because Jesus satisfies me and gives me hope. 

There is an urgency for people to hear of this hope as we live in a hopeless society where everyone lives in uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring. As followers of Jesus we are the administers of the gospel, and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring for those who do not know God. Learn to live like this with me. Learn to live with an eager urgency to share the gospel of hope and reconciliation with everyone you encounter. 

Plant a seed – Be a link

photoHow sweet a story when God uses someone to share truth with an unbeliever. This summer I was asking the Father to open my eyes to the opportunities He has presented to me. A friend of mine struggled with the thought of not sharing as much as he felt he should or could. This thought was strait from the devil. He recognized this and took it to God. As I said, we began praying. After a couple of weeks Him and I volunteered  at an English camp. While there something wonderful happened. Our prayers were answered, our eyes were opened, and we saw opportunities, and we were emboldened by the Holy Spirit to share.

We planted but a seed in the lives of those we were privileged to share truth with. Whether the whole gospel, a story, or the example of our lives. We may never see the fruit of our labor or someone saved, but we know the Father loves these people more than we do and He has a plan for their lives. In fact He was at work in their lives before we even met them. In a long chain of life events the Father has used us and many others to be a link of truth or Christ like love in the lives of our friends.

The question is: will we, as believers, be faithful to planting seeds and being links of truth and love in the lives of those around us, no matter the circumstance or how we feel?

 

Seeing as Others See

My mother went to the tourist filled Croatian coast for a couple day getaway and brought back these cheap off-brand Croc sandals. It just so happened that in our town, a long ways from the beach, the cheap off-brand Crocs hadn’t come yet. But there was a huge, and stratigiacally placed, billboard bragging of the real crocs and demanding an absurd amount of money for them. So now our family of Americans owned some cheap Croc looking shoes. I made the mistake of playing futbal (soccer) in them once. The shoes held up fine, but my reputation with those kids changed a little bit. It’s easy to tell when something is going on. People whispered and so on and then one of the leaders of the kids I was playing soccer with commented on my shoes. American with super expensive shoes, why not? There is a lot of wisdom in thinking about the things that you wear, things you say, and how you present yourself through the other culture’s eyes.  To us, it wasn’t a big deal. We knew they were knock-offs probably a couple bucks for the cheap foam, but through Croatian eyes they were some of the newest and nicest shoes out there, making me the stereotyped rich American. It’s difficult to see through other’s eyes, but it’s worth trying to see through their cultural eyes and perspective. Even here in America we have many different subcultures that will see differently as well.

A Sheet of Clear Cultural Plexiglass

It was one of the first days we were there. Our family had gone downtown trying to get a feel for the use of trams. We lived on the upper side of town and this adventure had been our first time downtown, exploring the central square and the towering cathedral. We were now, after a lot of walking, going to head home on the tram.

Tram stops are easily located. They are little shelters with blaring advertisements on every side screaming that you need a cheaper cell phone, or a slicker car. Regardless of your location in the world or your ethnicity, trams and buses always seem to pass you when you are 50 to 100 yards from the stop. Naturally, this is what happened to our family. Luckily, we are all reasonably fit and start sprinting.

Before I continue I would like to say that we did make the tram. So my older brother and I are heading the charge, and are just a couple yards from the tram doorway. My dad is taking up the middle not wanting to let us get too far ahead, and not wanting my younger brother and mom to get too far behind. My dad looked back and encouraged my younger brother (probably 7 years old) to hurry; as he turned back around a clear sheet of plexiglass smashed into him. Or more like he smashed into a clear sheet of plexiglass. It was quite strange. Every other stop had advertisements all the way around, but this one had one side that had a remarkably clean and clear sheet of plexiglass. Needless to say, we made the tram and dad’s nose was okay, but it taught us a very real cultural truth. Sometimes when dealing with other cultures there are clear cultural walls that you will run into completely unawares. Not meaning to, not expecting anything, just breaking some cultural boundary that nobody told you about. I’ll give a couple of examples in later posts. In case you were wondering, we checked later and there weren’t any boogers smeared on the glass.

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