James Meyer - Sermon - Meaningless


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This was my first sermon. I wrote and delivered it to fill in my for my friend, who is the pastor at our church (www.reallylivinghamilton.org). In it I talk about my journey in understanding christian love which was a struggle since I'm more logically/mechanically minded. Ecclesiastes played a large part in the sermon.

I also have a blog up at http://Walk.ingWithGod.com where I write about living a practical christian lifestyle as a husband, father, and self-employed software engineer working in corporate Canada.

My sermon notes and Powerpoint slide deck will also be available there.

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  • Prayer
  • I entitled this sermon “Meaningless?”, frankly because Szasza asked me on Thursday what my sermon title was, and I didn’t have an answer.By Friday morning, this was the best I could come up with because I wasn’t done writing it yet, but she needed to print the bulletins.You’ll notice I’m going to shed some light on my method of sermon writing while going through this. For better or worse.
  • First SermonNever been to SeminaryNot OrdainedJust like youWith the exception of Ralph and Miguel and any visiting pastors I might not know about.Francis, our pastor, along with the rest of the leaders, have been discussing the need to train interns in all of our church functions.Francis’ method of training appears to be
  • “Just Do It.” So here I am.I’m just kidding, he offered to answer any questions I had. I just couldn’t think of any.He also offered tips and tricks along the way.Yesterday morning, my question was “how do I end a sermon?”You’ll have to stick around to see the answer.Francis has said during his sermons I don’t just write these for you, I write these for myself as well. They challenge me as much as they challenge you.
  • And though Francis might disagree, I think he’s a wise man, so, what do you do when you start writing your first sermon? You copy the methodology of someone who has experience, and whose sermons you feel touch you.Plus, he’s the only pastor I’ve heard preach consistently in the last year.
  • And so, I picked one thing that would challenge me most. But, before I tell you what it is, I’m going to give you a brief background of myself so you can start to see how my mind works. This is a scary thing, both for me, and for all of you, I think.Growing up my favorite TV show was Star Trek
  • and my favorite character was Data and secondly, any Vulcan, especially Spock. Data was an android, incapable of feeling emotion, and the Vulcans had spent hundreds of years breeding and training to distance themselves from emotion because they saw it was destroying their race. They lived using only pure reason and logic in their daily life. I wanted to emulate this behaviour; I was enamoured by their words, their arguments, and their cold calculating approach to any problem. They never panicked; they never let feelings get in the way. As a teenager it was seemed like it would be easier to deny the existence of all emotions than to learn to deal with the negative ones. And once I got my emotions under control, this is how I learned to argue. This is how I learned to deal with situations, and this is how I explored my theology. Step 1 of any problem: suppress your emotional self; it will only get in your way. From my perspective, if you could do this, you could get to the core of any issue. Math problems are purely logical if you’re not frustrated.
  • People can be reduced to psychological profiles if you set aside your feelings about them. It’s easy to treat your enemies as your friends, when you use the same cold and calculating response for both.
  • And you can reduce God to a formula.So, how do you get around all that love stuff in the Bible?
  • Who remembers your grade 9 algebra? Or is it grade 3 now that they’ve pushed everything forward in school.Find your variables and cancel out the ones that are redundant.Ok, this is mostly a joke, but its a reflection of reality as well.
  • Growing up, I learned the Apostles Creed, which I believe many of the people here who came from other Denominations are familiar with. I can recite it by heart, at least in a room full of people reciting it. In many churches, this is considered the fundamental body of what a believer needs to know. Love isn’t mentioned once, but there is a lot of stuff to know.And so, I learned to debate. I learned to rationalize. I learned how to find the loopholes in Christianity.I was born a Christian, but we don’t truly become one until it becomes our faith, not our parents, grandparents, sponsors, role models, or whoever brought us to Christianity. And at one point, I realized this fact, and I rationalized there was a high probability of God.
  • And even if there wasn’t a high probability, Pascal’s Wager still told me I should be Christian.Explain Pascal’s Wager
  • The Bible made sense to me. I didn’t see any glaring holes as I had in some of the other religions I’ve been exposed to, and voila: I was a Christian with a faith born of logic. Something I know my friend Dom appreciates (he can’t stand people who don’t think about their religion).And I continued to grow in this regard.
  • I attended catechism classes (like adult Sabbath school here) until I was asked not to return, my questions were too disruptive. I attended profession of faith classes until the elder and I had a disagreement over what I felt to be a major point of doctrine, but she didn’t. And finally a year later, in my grandparents church, I finally became a member, the elder there was willing to humour me.Fast forward a few years and Christina and I were married. We were steady attendees at my parents (our) church. But after a few years, we started becoming dissatisfied. Christina, who is the polar opposite of me, in that she is very empathetic, caring and very in touch with her emotions, was annoyed that people kept asking if she was a visitor after years of attending. I was bored with recycled sermons (or at least topics) and I felt I wasn’t growing intellectually. (I got tired of hearing “You just have to have faith” in answer to every question I asked)And so, we started skipping (we were not that far out of school, so it was an apt term). First we’d miss a week, then 2, then 4, then 8, then half a year. Then, during our 4 year sabbatical from church, my mom received an invitation to
  • the Leo Schreven prophecy seminar. She attended one night and immediately called me and said “James, you have to check this out, this is right up your alley.” So, I showed up the next night, and the next, and the one after that, right through to the end. It was amazing. Here was a man who had answers! He strung verses together like they were physics formulas. Everything was logical; everything was perfect with mathematical precision. This is what I was looking for: the textbook on God, and so I immediately began attending services here, and Christina joined shortly after resolving her job on Saturday.
  • Since we’ve been here, in the past 5 years, we’ve been heavily involved. And every job I take on here leads me further out of my comfort zone.
  • Audio Department (techy)Cell Group Member (theology discussions)Church Board (The church manual is my textbook, very political)Vision Committee (alright, a little spirit led, but a lot of goals oriented, I can handle this)Sermon Based Small Groups (we have to apply this stuff?)Youth Group (Juan’s Advice: “Just love them” What does that mean?!)Church Board Changed (no politics, more spirit led, this is weird)Roots Groups (you want me to share what I’m feeling?!)Half way through this, Francis showed up, and began challenging things,
  • after a proper mourning period for our previous pastor, Dan. For those who never met him, he didn’t die, he just moved on to another position.
  • Our church board read Sticky Church (parting wisdom from Dan), Our church leadership read Sticky Teams (based on love)Francis challenged us to Read the Bible in a year (time is about up) (I found it really hard to ignore the message of love this time around)Our Roots Groups went through A Life to Die For (can you get any more of the love message)Francis again challenged us to Memorize the Bible (I’ll admit, I haven’t started this yet)And he challenged us to Ask for Forgiveness (this one is also hard)
  • And to top it all off, Francis is excited, visibly, when he discusses the bible. Not just theology, but the Bible. He’s excited about Bible passages I’ve never seen pastors get excited about. He’s extremely empathetic, he cries when people are suffering, and he laughs with people when they’re rejoicing. He has been the model I needed to see during the last year.
  • So, here we are. And this has all started leading to a question that weighs heavily on my mind:
  • Is there any use to having any of this knowledge I’ve built up? Should wisdom be a goal. Will being logical help me in any way in my walk with God. Does it count for anything?This was my mindset when I started looking into this topic. This was the topic that challenged me to my core, and frankly, it scared me. It’s a scary question for someone like me: If the Bible says there is no point to learning, all my books, all my studying, all my arguments/discussions will have been for nothing. If the Bible goes one step further and says they are harmful, I will spend the rest of my life trying to undo the persona I’ve spent the first half of my life creating. I was worried about what I would find. I tried to start at least 2 other sermons, but I kept going back to this topic. And in the end, I was a little surprised by what I found. First let me show you why I was a little worried.
  • Apparently David thought there were things too great for him to concern himself with. I’ll be honest, I’ve never had that thought.
  • During my reading I came across passages like these:Isaiah when prophesying about the Chaldeans stated that wisdom and knowledge can pervert you.
  • In the book of Daniel, 10,000 Israelites were captured. The best and brightest.Even if we assuming 2/5ths of them died en-route (1/5 was the death rate of an earlier exile), that still leaves 6000 of Israel’s finest philosophers, theologians, scientists and teachers. 4 of them escaped with their faith and beliefs intact. (Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego).Things are not looking so good for knowledge and wisdom.
  • During my Bible reading, I came across Ecclesiastes. And for those who haven’t read it, the most popular phrase in that book is “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” A lot of people find it disheartening. I loved it for some reason… except for this passage:
  • There was a point in Solomon’s life, who, according to the Bible, was the wisest man in the history of mankind, where he concluded having great wisdom and knowledge amounted to nothing. In fact, it only increased his sorrow. This is not what I was hoping to find.
  • He concluded that we will all be forgotten by men, wise or foolish.
  • And that wise men will mourn while fools are happy. This is just going from bad to worse, the wise guy can’t get a break.
  • So now we have a warning against being overly wise, IT CAN DESTOY YOU.Now I was worried.
  • I read in Acts how Jesus picks unlearned ordinary men to be his companions.Is that it? Warnings to stay away from knowledge? To be happy without wisdom? Then I remembered Proverbs. I love Proverbs. You know why? It is full of sayings about wisdom and knowledge.In Solomon’s reasons for reading the book of proverbs he writes:
  • Solomon is big on wisdom, knowledge, education, instruction:
  • I felt a little better after that. I was starting to get the idea that knowledge might not be the answer to everything, but it definitely has its uses.So far I had nothing conclusive though, so I kept searching looking for the answer.I started looking at Paul’s letters.
  • Paul warns against knowledge, suggesting love instead.
  • Then he states love surpasses knowledge.
  • Finally he just comes out and says it. If you don’t have love, all the knowledge in the world won’t do you any good. And finally, at 6 pm, sitting in the Emergency Room at Henderson hospital with my wife, …Tell about Francis’ offer to have Ralph preach…on Wednesday night, I found this.
  • This leapt off the page at me.
  • Knowledge wasn’t useless, it was just step 3 of 8! I’m a software engineer, I can get behind a process, no problem. Now I’ve even got a road map. In all honesty, that was my first thought. But after a few readings, I no longer believe this is a step by step process.
  • I started to see instead a list of attributes a Christian should have to be efficient and productive for God.But now I knew that knowledge is an important aspect.But knowledge by itself is dangerous.
  • If you try to gain wisdom for the sake of wisdom, or knowledge for growing in power, to be better than others, it will turn on you. Proper intent is key. The flip side of this, in the beginning of the verse, tell us thatif you have knowledge, you have to use it. My wife, Christina, said a couple of weeks ago “you have really weird hobbies.” And she’s right. But I think a lot of them are directed by God.
  • Sometimes people just want answers. And hugging them just isn’t enough. And if they’re anything like me, telling them “You just have to have faith” will just make them more frustrated.Right now I’m learning Japanese. I have no idea why, I don’t know anyone who speaks Japanese, but maybe one day God will put someone in my path that does.Now, I want to show you why knowledge is important within the context of a loving nature.
  • The Message Bible says “You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.”Knowledge is necessary to know what is good and what is not.
  • So, what did I learn?I learned Knowledge is good, but not absolute. I cannot rationalize my way into heaven. Knowledge by itself is dangerous for that very reason, and others.It can pervert, it can destroy, and it can make you miserable.It can cause you to reject God’s teachings because you can think of a reason why the Bible doesn’t really mean what it says.I can’t hang on to my knowledge or use it when I’m dead, people won’t remember me just because I knew a lot of stuff. So what I have, I better use in this life and I better use it helping other people and glorifying God.
  • Knowledge is part of a balanced life, but its not everything. We need to constantly add to our other qualities so that we, in the words of Peter, “shall neither be barren nor unfruitful “.
  • James Meyer - Sermon - Meaningless

    1. 1. Meaningless?
    2. 2. Disclaimer• First Sermon• Never been to Seminary• Not Ordained• Just like you
    3. 3. How did I get up here?
    4. 4. Francis Douville (Our Pastor)
    5. 5. Star Trek
    6. 6. What about the love?Love your neighbour as yourself Neighbour*love=self*love Neighbour*love=self*love Neighbour=self Treat your neighbour as yourself
    7. 7. Apostles Creed• I believe in God, the Father, almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic* church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. * that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places
    8. 8. Prophecy Seminar
    9. 9. Positions held at Living Word• Audio Department• Cell Group Member & Intern• Church Board• Vision Committee• Sermon Based Small Groups• Youth Group• Church Board Changed• Roots Groups
    10. 10. Dan & Verlaine Linrud
    11. 11. Numbers 7:18-29On the second day Nethaneel the son of Zuar, prince of Issachar, did offer:He offered for his offering one silver charger, the weight whereof was an hundred andthirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary;both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering:One spoon of gold of ten shekels, full of incense: One young bullock, one ram, onelamb of the first year, for a burnt offering: One kid of the goats for a sin offering: Andfor a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs of thefirst year: this was the offering of Nethaneel the son of Zuar.On the third day Eliab the son of Helon, prince of the children of Zebulun, did offer:His offering was one silver charger, the weight whereof was an hundred and thirtyshekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary;both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering:One golden spoon of ten shekels, full of incense: One young bullock, one ram, onelamb of the first year, for a burnt offering: One kid of the goats for a sin offering:And for a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs ofthe first year: this was the offering of Eliab the son of Helon.
    12. 12. Does knowledge help us in our walk with God?
    13. 13. Psalms 131:1LORD, my heart is not haughty,nor mine eyes lofty: neither do Iexercise myself in great matters,or in things too high for me.
    14. 14. Isaiah 47:10bYour wisdom and yourknowledge, it has pervertedyou; and you have said inyour heart, I am, and there isnone else besides me.
    15. 15. Daniel 1:4Young men in whom was no blemish,but handsome, and skilful in allwisdom, and gifted in knowledge, andunderstanding science, and such ashad ability in them to stand in thekings palace, and whom they mightteach the learning and the language ofthe Chaldeans.
    16. 16. Meaningless, meaningless, everythingis meaningless, a chasing after the wind
    17. 17. Ecclesiastes 1:16-18I said to myself, "Behold, I have obtained formyself great wisdom above all who were beforeme in Jerusalem. Yes, my heart has had greatexperience of wisdom and knowledge." I appliedmy heart to know wisdom, and to knowmadness and folly. I perceived that this also wasa chasing after wind. For in much wisdom ismuch grief; and he who increases knowledgeincreases sorrow.
    18. 18. Ecclesiastes 2:16For of the wise man, even as of thefool, there is no memory for ever,seeing that in the days to come allwill have been long forgotten.Indeed, the wise man must die justlike the fool!
    19. 19. Ecclesiastes 7:4The heart of the wise is inthe house of mourning; butthe heart of fools is in thehouse of mirth.
    20. 20. Ecclesiastes 7:16Dont be overly righteous,neither make yourself overlywise. Why should youdestroy yourself?
    21. 21. Acts 4:13Now when they saw the boldness ofPeter and John, and perceived thatthey were unlearned and ordinarymen, they marveled; and they tookknowledge of them, that they hadbeen with Jesus.
    22. 22. Proverbs 1:4To give prudence to thesimple, to the youngman knowledge anddiscretion.
    23. 23. • Proverbs 1:7 … fools despise wisdom and instruction.• Proverbs 1:22 … fools hate knowledge• Proverbs 1:28-29 Then will they call on me, but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me; Because they hated knowledge, And didnt choose the fear of Yahweh.
    24. 24. • Proverbs 10:14 Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.• Proverbs 11:9 A hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.• Proverbs 19:2 Also, that the soul be without knowledge is not good; and he that hastens with his feet sins.
    25. 25. 1 Corinthians 8:1bKnowledge puffs up,but love edifies.
    26. 26. Ephesians 3:19… to know Christs lovewhich surpasses knowledge,that you may be filled withall the fullness of God.
    27. 27. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3If I speak with the languages of men and ofangels, but dont have love, I have becomesounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. If I havethe gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries andall knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as toremove mountains, but dont have love, I amnothing. If I dole out all my goods to feed thepoor, and if I give my body to be burned, butdont have love, it profits me nothing.
    28. 28. 2 Peter 1:5-8And for this reason, giving all diligence, add toyour faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; Andto knowledge self control; and to self controlpatience; and to patience godliness; And togodliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherlykindness love. For if these things be in you, andabound, they make you that you shall neither bebarren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of ourLord Jesus Christ.
    29. 29. Love is the end of a process? Faith Virtue Knowledge SelfGodliness Patience ControlBrotherly LoveKindness
    30. 30. Love is one component of a well rounded Christian
    31. 31. James 3:13-17Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge amongyou? let him show out of a good life his works withmeekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envying andstrife in your hearts, boast not, and lie not against thetruth. This wisdom descends not from above, but isearthly, sensual, demonic. For where envying and strifeis, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdomthat is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, andcompliant, full of mercy and good fruits, withoutpartiality, and without hypocrisy.
    32. 32. Some of my interestsQuantum Theory Explain how God can be omnipotent (know everything, even the future)Particle Theory and E=MC2 Explain how Big Bang theory and Creationism can co-existGeneral Theory of Discussions on young universe theoryRelativity (specifically timedilation)Neuro-Chemistry Explain why it’s so hard for us to break patterns and how to retrain your brainMilitary Strategies To discuss how there can be prophecy and free will
    33. 33. Philippians 1:9-11This I pray, that your love may abound yetmore and more in knowledge and alldiscernment; so that you may approve thethings that are excellent; that you may besincere and without offense to the day ofChrist; being filled with the fruits ofrighteousness, which are through JesusChrist, to the glory and praise of God.
    34. 34. So, what did I learn?
    35. 35. Balanced Christian LifeSelf Control LoveKnowledge Brotherly Kindness Virtue Godliness Faith Patience