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Displaying items by tag: meaning of life
Thursday, 24 September 2009 14:08

My Letter to the Editor Reqarding Suicides

Here's a letter I wrote yesterday to the newspaper. They interviewed me yesterday for a story about the school's response and I decided to bang out a few of my thoughts that I didn't get across clearly on Monday's meeting:

The recent tragedies in our community have caused many of us to pause and search our souls. Out of the confusion we have become increasingly more certain that life is a privilege and blessing. It is a precious gift of God, a possession to care for and cherish. We value life and are puzzled by those who seemingly do not.

Many people are examining where we are at and what got us here. Over the recent days, I have spent countless hours talking with many people. I often hear people searching for silver-bullet solutions to a problem that is too complex for any single cause, nor a single solution. Consequently, opinions abound and bombard us from every direction. People try to place the blame on schools, on parents, on society. Each accusation rings insufficiently hollow. Rather than bringing clarity, each competing idea/suggestion/speculation further adds to the din of confusion.

I realize that I am stating the standard pastor’s line, but I believe the answer lies in the Lord and our turning to him. He has written the manual on how we ought to live. He has written the manual on how we are to interpret the world. He has written the manual on how to handle life’s joys as well as disappointments. For thousands of years, his word has been the supreme guide for millions of souls—many of whom were facing even greater death, despair and defeat. His word can be the guide for us today.

This suggestion is not just another silver-bullet solution because the Bible speaks to every aspect of our complex lives. The Lord—his presence and power and wisdom—is only a page away. When we open up the Bible and begin to read it with the will to obey, we too will find that the merciful Lord will begin to mend our broken hearts.

God is in the business of redemption. He has redeemed His people by His son. He can redeem this situation by His grace. If we turn to Him, we will indeed find the refreshing waters of the Living Lord that sooth the anguish of our weary souls.

Grace and Peace,

Russ Brewer
Associate Pastor
Grace Tabernacle
2014 Main Street
Lake Como, NJ 07719
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Jeremiah 2:5 Thus says the Lord, “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, That they went far from Me And walked after emptiness and became empty?

All of us come to a point in life where we weigh our situation and conclude it’s empty. Often we hear of professionals who have reached the top of their game, having always pursued the goal to be the best, only to find that once attained, its pleasures are temporary and fleeting, empty. Whatever our measure of success in this world, all people at some point come to this same conclusion. There is a reason for this. It is not accidental, nor insignificant.

The people in Jeremiah’s day had come to the same realization. The entire society had become a fragmented, selfish, secluded people bent on self-gratification and self-pleasure. Yet with all their pleasure and gratification, they had become empty. God’s solution for them is the same solution in our day as well.

The Israelites, had drifted away from the Lord. God was no longer hip or vogue; He had been replaced by what was believed to be more sophisticated, promising sources of love, joy, truth, etc. Worse still, according to verse 5, this departure from God was not due to any true lack in His faithfulness to them. He had not forsaken them. He still was their protector and provider. He had been faithful and successful. Yet they went far from Him and followed after that which was empty. In so doing, they had become empty themselves.

The word empty here is the Hebrew word *heber* which literally means “breath” or “vapor” but almost always describes the nothingness associated with something that it is temporary, fleeting, worthless and empty (TWOT, 463a). Interestingly, this word is used in the Bible as a synonym for false gods (1 Kings 16:13, II Kings 17:15, etc.). These false gods were empty. The use of this word “empty” as a word for false gods underscores how all these other “gods” in reality were not only fictitious, made up, and manufactured but more importantly they were impotent and unable to do anything. Thus, the people forsook the God in whom they move and exist and have their being. They forsook God who had created them and given them life and determined the boundaries of their inhabitation. They forsook God who determines what is real, what is, abd what will be. They forsook the God who is full of substance, presence, reality and they blindly and arrogantly followed after that which is mere breath, vapor, and fantasy.

Some of us might be saying, “Well, I don’t follow after any other gods!” True, you probably don’t have a statue of Buddha in your home, and you don’t likely chant the name of the Hindu god Om. But we must remember that the gods of ancestry were not necessarily like Zeus and Thor that we often imagine. Zeus, Thor, Baal, Om, etc. were just vehicles for a person to achieve some state or condition. It’s not that people wanted the statues; it’s that they wanted what they believed the statues could provide.

In all societies, people have a sense that there is something that is the source of joy, prosperity, success. How they get there may differ from people to people, but the route they take is essentially their religion. Thus, we are all are worshippers of something, even if we don’t have a statue or idol in our home. Our worship takes the form in focus, attention, etc. For instance, a person whose god is money will focus on it, dream about it, go to the altar and do what is necessary to acquire it. Likewise for love, power, success etc. The ancient people believed that their gods would provide the same goals that we have. Back then to have joy and prosperity you went to the god Baal; today you go to the Mall (those words rhyme!). Or you go the Movies or to the beach or to the golf course. We do that which we believe will work. In the ancient days, they thought gods were the sources of these things. Today, we usually look to people or objects to reach the same goals. Yet all these pursuits will not provide the true lasting joy/peace/prosperity/purpose, etc. According to verse 5, they are all empty and a life absorbed by them will always be filled with emptiness.

As stated in verse 5, the result is that having followed after things that are empty, the people became empty themselves. Every person takes on the character of the god whom he or she worships. Thus, when we follow after and chase after that which is meaningless and empty, when we seek and pursue that which is empty, we become empty ourselves. There is a silly-putty dynamic of lifting off the image of what we have been stuck to. Thus, if we are stuck to that which is false, empty, and fantasy we ourselves become that way too. The longer we stick to that image, and the most intense our commitment to that image, the deeper and more ingrained that image becomes on our soul. The more we chase after something which is truly empty, the more empty we become.

The parallels to our modern day are deep and troubling. Have we not forsaken the God of reality, the God who is real, awesome and mighty and have we not chased after that which is empty, a vapor, a fantasy? The net result is that we too have become empty. The anguish of our souls, and of our nation and our world are filled with despair. There is so much sorrow and depression due to this chasing after emptiness. No wonder the role and rate of vices in our society continues to skyrocket as people believe the lie of the world and chase after meaninglessness; only to destroy their own lives because they are crushed by the despair that come from finding nothing but meaninglessness in that which they have chased.

The answer to this emptiness is found in a total realignment of our life purpose and focus. Later in Jeremiah God says, ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." The answer to this emptiness is not chasing after more false gods, but with connecting with the one true God.

Likewise, Jesus said “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.” He said “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Jesus said, “I am the bread of life and whoever eats of this bread abides in me and I in him.” These are not the idle words of a false prophet of old. These are the very words of God himself, who came to rescue that which was lost, to heal that which was sick, to mend that which was broken.

After high school I was sitting on the edge of a dock in a lake in Maine. I was with some friends who were a few years older. At the time I was running my store, making great money for an 18 year old, had a girl friend, a fun car. I clearly remember looking over the beauty of the lake and feeling utter emptiness. I asked the guys I was with, “Is this all there is? Is this it?” They didn’t have an answer. I left that trip even more depressed. But the, a few months later I received my answer as God used compounding tragedies to drive me to Him. In Him, I have found forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation. In Him I have found all the satisfaction that I was ever looking for.

You can see my note titled "The Ultimate Status Update" to find out more about being connected with God.
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