Well, the story might not be so familiar to each of you, but I do remember such a poem since I was a child. But now that Christmas is over, a Day after Christmas and all though my life…not too much was happening, I felt like a mouse.
I got all the dressings of the holiday still up—unlike the shopping mall anywhere in Japan. One year, a long time ago, when I was single, I left the live tree up—with all the lights and all—until Easter weekend. The pine tree had lost ALL the needles and the room was indeed a fire hazard! I loved the smell. I liked the look. I was too lazy to remove the tree.
But after it all ended, and the wrong gifts were exchanged, how does a person move on? The excitement or lack of excitement is over. Life goes on. There is no let up in the things that NEED to be done. We are as busy as ever! What do we do?
We move on. I was reminded of this very thing on Dec 20th as I wrote a comment on e-mail to a friend. Her question was: “What am I supposed to be doing? Please pray for me.”
Of course I prayed for her but I also gave her some advice: I said, When you need to know what God wants you to do, take the first step.
One of my most favorite verses in the Bible is from the Old Testament. Ecclesiastes 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.
伝道の書 / 12章 13節
To end right, we need to start even better. How is that done? One way is to cover all the past with something and make believe it did not happen. That would not be the good way to deal with life. Another way is to look at what you have and see if there can be any change for the better: your thought life, feelings of anger toward someone, fear of the New Year, etc. Make a list and check it twice for areas that the Lord is touching you, and encouraging you. Make a commitment to move forward in dealing with those issues. Have a friend help you. In other words: Take the first step. Today's message is one of those steps.
When I was a boy, living in Rhode Island, my Dad would give me some advice when needed. His number one advice was: “Stan, keep your nose clean!” What he meant was, don’t get messing around with people, things, or ideas. Stay clean. Don’t go where you should not go. Don’t say things you really should not say. Don’t make friends with the wrong people. “Keep your nose clean.” Develop your integrity.
Over the years, when I was in a difficult place, I remember my Dad’s words to me. Simple as they were, they reflected just what the writer of Ecclesiastes was talking about. When life is coming to an end…when the year is almost over…when the job is almost finished, what is the bottom line? Not how much will I get? Not, was it worth the cost? Rather, was it pleasing to God?
Now, I am a pastor, so I’m supposed to talk like that. But I have not always been a pastor. And words of instruction like what the Preacher gave us in 12:13, I can live with. It is almost easy to gauge if things were successful or not. The conclusion is this: Did I live my life fearing God? Not in the knee shaking fear, but in reverence and deep love. Did I let God have first place? Was He my co-pilot or was He the one flying my life. If He was my co-pilot, than I crashed and burned. He does not sit in the passenger’s seat. His place is behind the steering wheel. He needs to be sailing my boat. He is the coach of my team. He flies my plane. He drives my car. He leads my life. He is the One who tells me which way I should go.
This past month, a friend had been sending me her reflections on Advent. She was once a short-term missionary here in Japan. Over the years since, she has become a doctor and now takes short missionary trips to, first India and now to Indonesia. On last Wed, she wrote this and I love the sound of it. I can see she is ‘keeping her nose clean’ too.
“My steady goal is absolute surrender and complete obedience. God not an ogre God who toys with our desires and messes with our minds. He’s an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful Lord who willingly sacrificed all so we might run and dance full-throttle with Him.”
So that we could enjoy Him.
Do you understand that? She has had some times in her life when she needed to just stop what she was doing, look around and see what God was doing and go do what He was doing. That brought joy and it brought a smile on the Face of God. It was not vanity. Not a smoke trail. It wasn’t striving after a vapor. It was understanding the full impact this verse 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.
伝道の書 / 12章 13節
Think about it, if there is no God, then there is no Judge. If there is no Judge, then there is no Final Judgment. If there is no Final Judgment, there is no ultimate meaning to life. Nothing really matters.
If there is no God to judge this world, than all of humanity’s reason to exist is pointless legal action that ends in meaningless despair. The author of Ecclesiastes would certainly agree. From verse one of his book, he had been saying that if there is no Divine, there is no meaning to life. Nothing matters.
He said: “Vanity of vanity (or self-importance or narcissism)…all is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 12:8.
伝道者は言う、「空の空、いっさいは空である」と。 But in spite of all this self-conceit and striving, we can have joy. We can rejoice in the many things in life that bless us. He encourages us to eat, drink and be happy. Find satisfaction in our work (2:24).
伝道の書 / 2章 24節人は飲み食いし、その労苦によって得たもので心を楽しませるより良い事はない。これもまた神の手から出ることを、わたしは見た。 There is a time for healing and harvesting, a time for laughing and dancing, a time for loving and making peace (3:1-8).
伝道の書 / 3章 1節~8節
天の下のすべての事には季節があり、すべてのわざには時がある。 生るに時があり、死ぬるに時があり、植えるに時があり、植えたものを抜くに時があり、 殺すに時があり、いやすに時があり、こわすに時があり、建てるに時があり、泣くに時があり、笑うに時があり、悲しむに時があり、踊るに時があり、 石を投げるに時があり、石を集めるに時があり、抱くに時があり、抱くことをやめるに時があり、 捜すに時があり、失うに時があり、保つに時があり、捨てるに時があり、 裂くに時があり、縫うに時があり、黙るに時があり、語るに時があり、 愛するに時があり、憎むに時があり、戦うに時があり、和らぐに時がある。
He has told us to enjoy life with those we love (9:9).
伝道の書 / 9章 9節
There is JOY in this world under the blessing of this Biblical God of Creation.
He wants us to understand that without God in our lives, things are really meaningless. How little joy there is if we try to leave God out of His creation.
And for people of Faith, His words can also bring some pain. His words are goads to the conscience. (a goad- a long pointed stick used to move animals along-to provoke or incite someone in to action) At that time, our minds are made uncomfortable enough to turn away from sin. They become a stimulus to the soul, navigating us back onto the right spiritual road.
When we see that the words of the Preacher as the very Words of God, this whole matter takes on a deeper meaning. This Preacher or Shepard of our Souls laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11).
ヨハネによる福音書 / 10章 11節わたしはよい羊飼である。よい羊飼は、羊のために命を捨てる。
The Lord Jesus is the one who calls us away from the vanity of life for without God to find the joy and meaning He has for us in His Grace, we are lost. We are not just living “under the sun” but living under the Living Son-the Son of God who “loved us and gave Himself up for us.” (Eph 5:2)
エペソ人への手紙 / 5章 2節また愛のうちを歩きなさい。キリストもあなたがたを愛して下さって、わたしたちのために、ご自身を、神へのかんばしいかおりのささげ物、また、いけにえとしてささげられたのである。
A good book to read: The Great Divorce, by C.S.Lewis
Are you seeking Spiritual truth? End that quest and surrender to the Lord God who alone knows the answers to life. Paul warned us not to be like the man in 1 Tim 3:7 who is “always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of the Truth.”
テサロニケ人への第一の手紙 / 3章 7節兄弟たちよ。それによって、わたしたちはあらゆる苦難と患難との中にありながら、あなたがたの信仰によって慰められた。
Be content with what the Bible offers and don’t accept anything less.
If there is a God who will judge the world, than everything matters.
It matters if we waste our time on certain activities. It matters what we do with our money, our time, our talents. It matters what we do with our bodies—what we allow our eyes to see, hands to touch, our mouths to speak. Whether we obey our parents will matter; so will the look we give them and the little comment we make when we are walking away from them. What we do with the child, the way we care for the homeless, the underprivileged, the needy, and what we say about someone else’s performance, the sarcastic remark, or the genuine word of praise. The household task, the homework assignment will matter. The cup of water, the word of testimony, the tear of compassion—all of this matters!
What matters most of all, therefore, is the personal decision that each person makes about Jesus Christ. Jesus came into this vain cold world. He took all the mess that was dished out to Him and He responded with forgiveness. He went to the Cross for us. He took our sins on Himself. He died. He went to the grave, but on the third day, He rose again, bringing life out of the Grave.
So, it is the day after Christmas and all through my life, I have made choices, right and wrong, and I need to make a very big one to close this Year with: WILL I MAKE JESUS LORD OF MY LIFE?
Charles Wesley, 1739 –Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled” Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies. With the angelic host proclaim: “Christ is born in Bethlehem.” Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”