The Outsider (Sunday Replay)

We all have prejudices. We are comfortable with our prejudices. We are blind to our prejudices. We are limited by our prejudices. But God will push us past our prejudices for the sake of His Son and the advancement of the gospel.

How to Live and really love it by Brian Branam

How to Live and Really Love It

If you’re going to waste your life, we’ve looked at the best and worst way to do it. As hopeless as those posts appear, it was very important to establish the dead ends so that you will look for another way. The good news is that there is another way. You can live and really love it!

In Ecclesiastes 2:17 Solomon led us down those dead ends of wasted lives and shared that he hated it. In response, he gave his heart up to despair (v. 20). He went through his daily routines with great success. He gained great wealth. We ruled with great power. He was the world’s most admired king, but he felt as if his life had no purpose.

Why Can’t I Enjoy Life Apart from God?

But then in Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 Solomon finds not only the way to enjoy life, but he points us toward eternal life.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, if from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and striving after wind.

Ecclesistes 2:24-26

You can enjoy life, but not apart from God. That seems like a limited option. So why can’t I just enjoy life in a way that has nothing to do with God?

There are plenty of people who think nothing of God who seem to be having a great time. While that is a fair observation, the answer to our objection brings us back to the first two posts in this thread, the best and worst ways to waste your life. At some point, those people who seem to be enjoying life apart from God will be able to peer down easy street and see that it comes to a dead end. It all comes to nothing. It all amounts to nothing.

Why Living for the Lord Works Best

When we live for the Lord we have a greater purpose in life and we have a hopeful end for life. Jesus explained it like this:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-20

Living for the Lord turns what is otherwise a dead end street into a never ending thoroughfare. What we do in this life impacts eternal life. When you surrender yourself to live according to God’s Word your heart is in a different, more enjoyable place. When you live for the Lord:

  1. You will have a better perspective on life. You may have plenty of stuff, but your stuff will not have you. All of the things Solomon found to be “chasing after the wind” find their proper place. It’s just stuff. It doesn’t define who I am. I enjoy it, but it is not my source of joy. I can have it or not have it and I am fine either way. My life is about something more. If you have to have it, but cannot release it, you can never enjoy it.
  2. You will see a greater purpose for your life. To “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” is a revolutionary concept. It is a link between now and later, between temporal and eternal, between now and forever. In the Lord, I can make decisions now that are truly lasting. I am no longer confined to a dead end street. Furthermore, my stuff is not so much about net worth as it is a tool of eternal value. I can leverage all I am and all I have for not just a great weekend, but for an eternal impact.
  3. You have a greater plan in life. When you live for the Lord the Bible becomes more than just another religious book amongst many, you realize it explains the reason for which the world was made and in turn, explains the way the world works. The Bible is not a religious suggestion, it is an eternal plan. It is not a religious devotional, it is a divine world-view.
  4. You will find hope despite the pain of life. In this life, we will all have pain. Atheists and theists, pagans and Christians, the godless and the godly can all agree on this – life hurts. In the Lord we find the reason pain was introduced in the world and we realize that in Christ there is a cure. My pain is not ultimate. Hurt simply fuels a greater longing in my soul, and for those who truly follow Christ, it causes a most unusual reaction. It motivates me to suffer! What? Yeah. It sounds crazy, but life is so different when you’re not on a dead end street (Romans 8:18-39).

How to be Happy – 101

In 2017 the most popular course offered at Yale was Psych 157, Psychology of the Good Life. 1/4 of all undergrads enrolled at the Ivy League school took the class. Psych 157 is basically the study of what makes us happy. The popularity of the course is indicative of a longing within each of us. We just want to be happy.

But outside of having eternal life in Jesus Christ, Psych 157 is merely another study and suggestion on the best way to waste your life. As I said in my previous post, wisdom for the sake of wisdom is a waste. As Solomon found, it is just another dead end road and winds up in the same place as the fool. We just die!

The Gospel is the Key to an Enjoyable, Eternal Life

The Bible reveals that man has made a fatal decision and introduced evil into the world (Genesis 1-3). The good news is that God has not given up on His creation, nor has he given up on humans, but has done something remarkable. God has become the ultimate victim of our horrible decision.

God has come to us as Jesus Christ. He lived a sinless life and showed us what it means to truly be human. Jesus pleased God. The Son of God obeyed the commands of God. He fulfilled all righteousness. And then, we killed him.

But in the crucifixion of Jesus something significant happened. He did not just die. He died sacrificially in our place (Isaiah 53:6). The condemnation for our bad decision was laid upon Jesus (Romans 8:3-4). In Jesus, a righteousness before God is offered to us that we could not attain for ourselves.

When Jesus arose from the dead our condemnation was conquered. All that is left for us is the proper response – repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of our lives (Acts 3:19).

The only way to truly enjoy life is to know you have eternal life.

Have you come to the morbid realization that every ounce of energy and every bit of money that you pour into this life is meaningless if it’s ultimate? It’s a horrible feeling and will make you hate life itself. It will grieve you. But you will never look for another way until you realize you’re on a dead end street.

Solomon realized that it is from the “hand of God” that we have been given a map to a dead end street. The Lord desires that you not only come to this realization but that you make a great decision. Turn to Christ. Enjoy life by gaining eternal life in Him. In Christ, you can live and truly love it.

Check out Back Porch Psalms – 153 episodes of devotional content from the Book of Psalms.

the worst way to waste your life, blog post by Brian Branam

The Worst Way to Waste Your Life

Have you ever had one of those insomniac, hypochondriac nights were you laid awake all night afraid you were going to die? Perhaps it is some odd pain in your stomach that is the focal point of anxiety, but your mind won’t allow you to think logically. Did you have too much spaghetti for dinner? No! Your mind goes straight to basketball sized tumor in your abdomen.

I think it is freeing for all of us to realize – you’re not alone. We are all semi-crazy.

Ecclesiastes 2 is much like those late night contemplations of life and death where you think way too much and sleep very little. For Solomon though, he is not afraid he is going to die, he is afraid he has never really lived.

For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 2:16-17

Solomon realizes that he is going to die. We all die. But catch his true fear. He is not as afraid of dying as much as he is of living and it meaning nothing. Then comes the most startling reaction. “So I hated life.”

And then he goes back to thinking! In verse 24 the man who hates his life suddenly finds a way to enjoy it.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 2:24

Love It or Hate It, Your Choice!

In summation, you can either hate life or enjoy it. Your choice! On a hopeful note, if you hate your life right now, you can find a way to enjoy it! If you want to find out how to enjoy it, hang with this week’s series of posts. I’m going to show you how.

The importance of this passage, aside from being the inspired Word of God, is that it comes from a man who had it all, tried it all and is now willing to share with you and I about the experience. We can either learn from him or repeat the same mistakes – but we will not come to another conclusion (Ecc. 2:12).

So according to Solomon, how do you live and really love it? This week I want to share from Ecclesiastes 2:12-17 and 2:24-26 two ways to waste your life and hate it; then I will show you how to truly enjoy life and have eternal life.

  • The worst way to waste your life.
  • The best way to waste your life.
  • The only way to enjoy life.
  • The only way to eternal life.

The Worst Way to Waste Your Life

Solomon compares two ways to waste your life. There is a foolish way and a wise way.

Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them.

Ecclesiastes 2:13-14

Fool or foolish, as used in the Bible, describes a person who does things with no thought of consequence. Foolishness doesn’t really speak about a lack of intelligence as much as it refers to a lack of foresight. A fool may have a decent IQ, but he or she is reckless.

The Keke Fool

A great example of foolish is a cultural meme known as the Keke Challenge. If you somehow missed this moment of viral idiocy, the “challenge” was to step out of the driver’s seat of a moving car and do a dance in the middle of the street to a popular song by Drake called “In My Feelings.” What could possibly go wrong?

Jimmy Kimmel deemed a Keke “fail” by Jaylen Norwood as the viral video of the year. If you haven’t seen it, allow me to share a shockingly, surprising spoiler of what could possibly happen to a guy dancing in traffic. He gets hit by a car.

The good news is that Jaylen is OK. What’s even more foolish is that the whole thing was staged. Yep, the fool planned it! The problem is that rather than “jumping” the oncoming car, Jaylen slipped on a greasy spot in the street. Dance and jump a car? Right? Again – what could possibly go wrong?

On his show, Jimmy Kimmel commented to Jaylen, “You risked your life for a meme.” Now get ready for this! And Jaylon’s brilliant response? “But I’m the most famous guy in Florida.” So Jaylen got hit by a car and became the most famous guy in Florida? I’m sure Tim Tebow is jealous.

Such is the fool. Reckless. Thoughtless. Un-phased by his last idiotic mistake. Headed full speed toward the next one. The Bible has a lot to say about a fool.

The Bible and the Fool

  • The fool says there is no God.
  • The fool can’t control his tongue and slanders others.
  • The fool despises his parent’s instruction.
  • The fool is self-centered and never takes ownership of his mistakes.
  • The fool is sexually impure and promiscuous.
  • The fool mocks the seriousness of sin.
  • The fool builds his life on his own opinion apart from the firm foundation of God’s Word.
  • The fool acts as if he will live forever and makes no preparation for eternity.

The fool does a lot of damage to himself and to others for one simple reason. He’s not thinking about the consequences of his actions.

A lot of people are just living and waiting to die. They are reckless and rebellious. It is ironic that a human created with such purpose can become so destructive with the life he or she has been given.

What if you end up like Solomon thinking that you are going to live it up, only to find out that you’ve never really lived? If you’re going to waste your life, being a thoughtless fool is the worst way to do it.

If you’re going to waste your life, there is actually a much better way. What’s the best way? Check back tomorrow . . .

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Check out videos from this sermon series, Finding Meaning or read last week’s series of posts, Don’t Push the Panic Button.

Don’t Push the Panic Button on Rebuke

It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.

With this series of posts we are gleaning truth from Ecclesiastes 7 that will help us avoid those wild swings of emotion during turbulent times of life. It is easy in the ups and downs of it all to push the panic button. To see the introduction to the series, visit Don’t Push the Panic Button on Death.

Rebuke

I don’t know of anyone who enjoys being called out on their character, or on a critical error. We tend to surround ourselves with “yes men.” We like people who will celebrate us and tell us how amazing we are. But Solomon warns us. Surrounding yourself with “yes men” is as he says in Ecc. 7:5, “the song of fools.”

The songs of fools sound great, but amount to nothing. In Ecc. 7:6 these empty words are described as “crackling thorns under a pot.” There is a fast flame. It makes a lot of noise. All of the crackling makes it seems as if there is something really exciting happening, but it burns out with no real benefit. It is a flash fire at best, it produces no real productive heat. In Ecclesiastes 7:7 Solomon says much like a bribe corrupts the heart, so does surrounding yourself with people who will only tell you what you want to hear.

Ecclesiastes 7:5 contains a great line. If you want to be successful, mark it! If you want to make a difference in life, mark it! If you want to be a great father, great mother, great husband, great wife, great student . . . find someone who will love you enough to tell you what you may not want to hear, but what you need to hear – receive rebuke!

It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. -Ecc. 7:5

We live in a snowflake society that props us up on praise. We want celebrations of every post and pic. Everything is #themostamazing thing. When someone dares to bring rebuke, we push the panic button and absolutely melt.

Rebuke doesn’t feel good. Guess what, it’s not supposed to, but it benefits. Rebuke hurts, but it helps. We tend to avoid those people. We may even criticize those people. But if you look closely at the wisdom of the passage, those may be the people who care about you the most.

The person who brings rebuke sometimes hurts the worst but often cares the most.

In my first ministry gig, I became the youth pastor of my home church. It was a wonderful opportunity that set me up for success, but there were some subtle traps within it that could have easily been my downfall. For one, my parents were in the church. We were longtime members of the church. Most of the adults in that church raised me, coached me, taught me, encouraged me. I was surrounded by people who would celebrate everything I did as if it was the greatest thing that had ever been done. They were proud of me.

I truly appreciate their encouragement, because looking back, I realize those were some bad sermons and a lot of dumb decisions. Now at 45 and the father of two daughters, I realize what it must have been like for a parent to trust a 20-year-old to take their teenager to youth camp. Thank you New Liberty for your days of grace.

But there was one person in my life at that time who not only encouraged me, but he loved me enough to tell me the truth. Not everything I did was great. Not every sermon I preached was amazing. Not every decision was the best decision. When I did wrong, he would sit me down and call me out on it and correct it. He was my pastor.

His name was Wayne Hamrick. And I’ll be honest, I would leave his office so mad at times that I wanted to quit. But even at that time I had the good sense to know, maybe I didn’t like what he was saying; maybe I didn’t understand what he was saying; maybe I didn’t even agree with what he was saying; but 1) he was the pastor and 2) he had been doing this a whole lot longer than me. Intelligence means you have information. I was in school, I was learning a ton. Wisdom means you have information AND application. Bro. Wayne knew where certain decisions and actions would lead. He could see down the road, I could not.

The older I get, the more I appreciate him. And I will say this, the older I get, the more I realize he was right especially when I thought he was dead wrong. When I got mad, I should have been glad that he was a caring, wise, honest voice in my life.

I pushed the panic button a lot of times when he would rebuke me, but I wonder how much better I would be now if I had laid off the panic button and been more ready to receive what he was saying. Rebuke does not feel good, but it is good. Don’t push the panic button.

Be bold enough to invite some people into your life who are willing to rebuke you. Be vulnerable enough to listen and make correction. Be teachable. Wisdom does not come from what we want to hear. Wisdom is gained in what we need to hear.


As I was working on this post I came across some great material that relates in Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling. This book is cutting me to the core and will most likely be added to my “5 (now 6) books that rocked my world” list.

None of us is wired to live the Christian life along. None of us is safe living separated and unknown. Each of us, whether pastor or congregant, needs the eyes of others in order to see ourselves with clarity and accuracy. And what is this daily ministry of intervention protecting us from? The answer should sober every one of us: the grace of having our private conversations interrupted by the insight-giving ministry of others is protecting us from becoming spiritually blinded to the point of the hardening of our hearts. The author argues here (Heb. 3:12-13) that personal spiritual insight is the product of community. It’s very difficult to get it by yourself. Perhaps every pastor needs to humbly recognize that because of the blinding power of remaining sin, self-examination is a community project. Every pastor needs people in his life in order to see himself with biblical accuracy.

Dangerous Calling – Paul David Tripp (p. 73)

I Can’t Take “No” For an Answer

I’m not sure anyone enjoys a pushy salesman. Here is a sure fire way to get out of the deal!

We can also be afraid of sounding pushy if we keep asking people to church. But if we believe what the Bible says and obey Jesus’ command, we can’t take NO for an answer! In this message I share four reasons why we can’t take No for an answer.

I Can’t Take “No” For an Answer from Liberty Baptist Church on Vimeo.

 

Sermon of the Week: Raising Cain

The choice for this edition of Sermon of the Week is strategic. It was originally shared at Liberty Baptist Church in March of 2012, but I think it is particularly pertinent as we continue to grieve over the tragic massacre of students in Parkland, Florida last week. We not only grieve, but we scratch our heads trying to figure out, “why?” We debate as a society on how to prevent the next one.

I think the Biblical story of Cain’s slaughter of his brother Abel is instructive for us as we seek to make connections between Biblical content and culture. We had a great dialogue last week in the opening week of our forum and I want to draw this topic to a conclusion tomorrow night (2/20) in a follow-up post also entitled, Raising Cain.

In the course of political debate, we cannot fail to examine ourselves as humans. Sin is crouching at the door. We need to be careful concerning our approach to self and sin.

You can also find this audio on Liberty’s sermonaudio page.

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The Grace, Hope, and Love Daily Devotional: 52 weeks of great stories and devotions with Scriptural insight from some of America’s greatest pastors, evangelists, and authors, to help you on your daily walk. I contributed week 50!