The Meaning of Life: We Are Here to Love & Worship God

In our investigation of the meaning of life, we ask: Why are we here?

Last week we said one reason is to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. As Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37: We are to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” But how do we do that?

First, is that we are to put God, not others, first. Some people turn this around and put others first. But that’s not what Jesus said, is it? Doing good works, helping others, feeding the hungry, helping the poor and the sick—these are in the second part of Jesus’s command. The first part is to love God, and without that, the second is of no use. It’s a matter of priorities.

We love God by putting him first, by not creating idols that supersede or overshadow God’s place in our lives. The first two commandments Moses received on Mt. Sinai deal with those things. God is to be the first and only God in our lives. The third commandment, “Don’t misuse God’s name,” is one that too many people ignore. There are even websites whose very name takes the Lord’s name in vain. We are to keep his name holy because God is holy. So putting God above all other things—money, career, sex, hobbies, friends—that’s of utmost importance.

worship-God2Next we are to worship God on a regular basis. We can only do this in a community of Christians. In Western culture this is usually, but not necessarily, on Sunday mornings.

Note that we come to faith individually, but it cannot end there. We must worship God with others. This means gathering with other Christians in both large and small groups. In the large group gathering we can experience a tiny slice of what it will be like in heaven, singing and praising God en masse. It also provides a venue for hearing teaching and preaching. In the small group gathering, we can share meals together, discuss, and ask questions, do in-depth Bible studies, make friends, and live life together. That’s what we try to do in the community group that meets at our home each week. And it’s a necessary part of Christian life.

So we worship God in both large and small gatherings. We sing praises to him.

What else do we do? We obey him. 1 John 2:3–6 (NLT): “3 And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. 4 If someone claims, ‘I know God,’ but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. 5 But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. 6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”

Also part of obeying God is serving Him. Doing good works. Helping others. Fulfilling the second great commandment to love others. James 2:17 (NLT): “17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”

Another part of loving God is knowing Him. bible-lightSo we study and learn and pray to Him on a daily basis. Prayer is communication with God. Prayer involves praising Him, bringing petitions to Him, and asking for His guidance.

Worship. Praise. Christian community. Service. Obedience. Loving others through good deeds. Seeking him through knowledge and prayer. I’m sure there are ways I’ve missed. But that’s how we love God. That’s why we are here.

Next time we’ll look at the second part of why we are here.

My Response to God

What have I don’t since my baptism?

I began my Christian life in 2008 by creating a 20-week course on apologetics and teaching it twice. Apologetics, if you don’t know, shows the truth of Bible through science, logic, philosophy, and evidence.

Then in 2009, after 28 years working as a computer programmer for IBM, I got retired.

That same month, Pastor Kevin Barnhart at Calvary Evangelical Free Church convinced me I should join the Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development out of Ames, Iowa. This was church-based training, led by Pastor Kevin. I joined the class and almost immediately was gripped by a message from the book of Acts about the importance of church planting and spreading the gospel.

I also read John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life and one of its images greatly impressed me. In the book, Piper describes a couple who retired early, bought a thirty-foot yacht and spent their waning days playing softball and collecting seashells. We’re invited to imagine these two standing before Jesus on the day of judgment. Jesus asks them what they’ve done with their lives. They hold out their hands and say, “Look, Lord, see our shells.”

By contrast, Matthew 16:25-26 tells us this: “…whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life?”

So here was another choice: I could stand at the end of my days before my Lord, having lived a self-centered existence. I could live without spiritual purpose and collect seashells. Or I could go in a different direction. Thus, I began to focus my life on working for God’s kingdom with all my heart and soul.

Since then I’ve led numerous small group Bible studies. Some of them I created myself. For many years I was in charge of missions mobilization on Calvary’s missions team. I was a core leader of the former Saturday night service at Calvary that was the forerunner of this church. Through the Antioch School, under Pastor Kevin, I also finished my Masters of Ministry. Once a month I preach a message and lead a service at Homestead Senior Living Center.

And then I went back to a passion I’d almost given up—writing.

TalesFromCalvaryCoverOver a period of thirty years, before I was a Christian, I wrote two dozen short stories and two novels of fantasy and dark fantasy—none of them published. Then my inspiration dried up and I stopped writing. But my new faith inspired me and I began writing again in earnest. I wrote short stories from a Christian perspective. And I conceived of a book of short stories, testimonies, non-fiction, and poetry solicited from Calvary’s congregation. Vicki Tiede and Stanley Steely joined the project as coeditors.  You can still find Tales From Calvary on Amazon. It includes four of my short stories.

Then I began writing the novel of historical fiction that ended up being The Bonfires Of Beltane. I’ve finished the first draft of a sequel, The Broken Amulet, that follows Taran’s son, Tynan.

But beyond all this, the Holy Spirit has impressed upon me a work more important than any other—a work coming directly from the book of Acts. That is helping to plant The Gathering Church. In October 2013, Calvary Church commissioned us and sent us out. Since then we’ve met each week in the Holiday Inn Ballroom in downtown Rochester.

It’s now a year later and we are growing. Forty to fifty people attend each week. I preach there once a month. I’m its Treasurer and an Elder. I assist our lead pastor, Willie Grimm. And by God’s grace, we are bringing the good news of Christ to the unreached, unchurched people of Rochester.

Now please understand that all these acts, these works, are my response of obedience to the salvation Christ gave me. They are my way of using the skills and gifts I was given to obey Christ’s command to spread God’s kingdom across the earth. It’s also my way of thanking Jesus for this gift of eternal life.

I fear it’s a pitiful response. For how can one’s finite works ever adequately give thanks for an infinite gift?

And that’s my life so far, at least what’s worth reporting.

How Have I Followed St. Patrick?

How have I followed St. Patrick’s example? Poorly, I confess. Until I was 57 years of age, I lived as if God didn’t exist. It was only a little over seven years ago that I became a child of God. Before then I knew God existed, but I was untouched, unmoved by that knowledge. About Jesus, I was agnostic. I was not saved.

As a child I was baptized into the Christian faith, but through the years the strength of my belief was weak. It waxed and waned, finally fading to nothing. During my college years, I even investigated other religions. Then in the early 1980s, I became ill with a sickness no one could diagnose. Off work and in the midst of despair, I read about every religion I could find. I examined Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, and Islam. All were frauds. My wife pointed me to the book of Job and the Gospels. Then I prayed to God to cure me and He did.

But I soon returned to apathy, ignoring the God who’d answered my prayers. Many years later a new pastor came to my wife’s church and he invited me to hear his sermons. So I went. He preached about heaven and hell, eternal life and death. I read the books he suggested. I bought a new Bible and read it cover-to-cover. Then something happened.

I don’t remember when the realization hit me, but it did. My great epiphany came in two parts.
The first discovery was this: There is proof that the Bible is true. You see, truth is very important to me. I needed evidence. Was it real?

universe2When I found the proofs it shook my world. I’ll mention two among many. First, the critics said there was no such people as the Hittites, yet archaeologists discovered their entire capital city buried beneath the sands of Bogaz-Koy, Turkey. Second, there exist some 61 major fulfilled prophecies concerning the Messiah. What are the odds of that happening without divine, supernatural intervention? Much less than if you collected all the subatomic particles in the universe—all the protons, electrons, neutrons, etc…—into one pile and tried to find a single, marked particle.

Yes, the Bible was real and I’d better take it seriously. My second great discovery concerned the nature of God and it was this: God is a being of perfect goodness and love. But He is also perfectly holy and just. And because God is perfectly good, perfectly holy, He cannot tolerate sin. And so a great gulf existed between this perfectly good God and me—an unbridgeable gap. And no matter how hard I might try, I would never be free enough of sin. But I realized God loved me, that He loves each of us with a love so great, we cannot comprehend it. And He wants me—He wants each of us—to be with Him in His heaven, for His plan is to create a people for Himself whom He can love and who will love Him. A people among whom He will dwell for all eternity. So I had to make a choice. I could choose eternal life. Or eternal death. Thus, I chose to follow Jesus and put my trust in Him. And I know that because Jesus rose to live again, when my physical body dies, I too will live again. But my new life will be for all eternity with Christ.

That was over seven years ago. I leave it to another post to tell you what I’ve done since then.