The Search for Meaning [v40]

JUNE 2002

GREETINGS— For most of us, life is lived in a whirlwind of activities. We go from event to event, day after day (holiday to holiday) without much thought to the things that really matter. I would like to encourage all of us to take a few minutes to consider the ultimate issues of life—the true meaning, value and purpose of why we live—and is there ‘anything’ after we leave this terrestrial ball.

Our “postmodern” culture is becoming increasingly complex and one that seems to be ‘falling apart’—broken promises; broken relationships; broken families; broken people. It has radically altered the way many in this generation think about life’s most basic suppositions—-issues have been considered by many in the past, ones that transcend circumstances and peoples. They are universal. They get to the ‘heart’ of the matter.

This culture is telling us that “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” (1)

This country’s roots determined that government’s role was to enforce commonly held moral beliefs, rooted in Scripture. But today it seems as if their role is to protect the individual from the imposition of moral values—but moral absolutes are our only guarantee of freedom—and without transcendent moral truths, human rights founder.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT, ALFIE?
The songs says, “Is it just for the moment we live? What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?” Haven’t we all, in a time of introspection, questioned our values, beliefs, the reasons for why we are here on Earth, and if there is ‘anything’ after we leave?

When Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living,” he was addressing the citizens of Athens, not the philosophers—and in that sense, to all of us. That’s probably why the big questions keep popping up on their own—the nature of truth, joy and contentment—the meaning of it all.

Most of us are familiar with the questions, but we seldom take the time to ponder them in a deep way. I hope to ‘trouble’ all of us—to convict us to honestly decide for ourselves the age-old issues of human existence.

– Who am I and why am I here?
– What ‘really’ matters?
– What should I do, and how should I do it?
– Is there a God?
– What happens after this life?
– Is there anyway to ‘know’ any of this for sure?

The quest for meaning drives us to ask many questions and propose many answers, but we end up with too few ‘sound’ conclusions. Some tell us that management of our time, money, and relationships is the answer—so we buy ‘organizers’, employ financial advisors, and try to fit in some ‘quality’ time with those we care about. All of these things are noble and worthwhile goals, but it seems that as we attempt to ‘systematically’ track the way we spend our limited resources, there still is that ‘lack’ —a ‘significance’ that is founded on lasting truth—an honest and meaningful integration, in the depth of our souls, for a purpose for life’s journey.

LIFE’S TOO BUSY
All too often, the demands of a hectic daily schedule keep us from pursuing answers to life’s big questions. Such questions concern the very existence of God, whether belief in God is just a psychological crutch for weak people, why an all powerful God allows innocent people to suffer, does Heaven exist, and how does one get there. Even when we find the time to consider these vital issues, few people experience opportunities where they can discuss such questions without fear of being judged or subjected to emotional responses.

A web-based ‘presentation’ that has been helpful to me was developed to offer an environment of honest investigation and personal reflection—one that allows you to consider these issues privately—when you want and what you want. It has been said that the “greatest futility is a life that has not found a reason for living.” Hopefully this presentation will help you examine YOUR reasons.

It looks at all of these issues through the ‘lens’ of Christianity. The discussions are arranged from general to specific, designed to help one think through the reluctance to religion, the specific objections to Christianity, and the clarification of “problems” concerning the Christian position. Click on the following link to investigate it for yourself: http://www.visualimpactsystems.com/searchformeaning/index.html

DOES ‘RELIGION’ HAVE THE ANSWERS?
All religious systems attempt to give meaning to our existence. All attempt to explain our thirst for significance, the problem of pain, and the inevitability of death. All religions attempt to apply the design of the cosmos to our individual lives. The Bible says that society’s real problems are internal problems—ones of the “heart.” In an age of information and technology, failures of character have scandalized institutions of family, government, science, industry, religion, education, and the arts. In the most sophisticated society the world has ever known, our national reputation is marred by problems of racial prejudice, addiction, abuse, divorce, and sexually transmitted disease. Many want to believe that our problems are rooted in ‘other’ things.

Generation after generation has hoped for the best. We fought wars that would end all wars. We developed educational theories that would produce enlightened, nonviolent children. We conceived technologies that would deliver us from the oppressive slavery of work. Yet it still seems that we haven’t  found the ‘answer’—can faith in God solve all this?

Man has been described as incurably religious. In unguarded moments of trouble or surprise, in prayer or in profanity, references to deity persist. Those who would dismiss such thoughts as bad habits or social vices are left with unanswerable questions. Denying the existence of God does not dispel the mysteries of life. Attempts to exclude God from the language of civil life does not eliminate the persistent longing for more than this life has to offer. There is something about truth, beauty, and love that makes our hearts ache. Even in our anger with a God who would permit injustice and pain, we draw upon a moral conscience to argue that life is not as it ought to be. Even unwillingly, we are drawn to something that is more rather than less than ourselves.
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q1_d1_1of10.html

Most religions see spiritual faith as essential—not an accessory ‘item’ that does little more than enhance one’s existing quality of life. It’s been said that our deepest needs are spiritual in nature, and one should expect our search for ‘faith’ to lead into the deepest corners of our lives, and we should expect to be changed from the inside out.

EVERYONE BELIEVES IN ‘SOMETHING’
No one can endure the stress and cares of life without faith in something that cannot ultimately be ‘proven’. Atheists cannot prove there is no God. Pantheists cannot prove that everything is God. Pragmatists cannot prove that what will count for them in the future is what works for them now. Nor can agnostics prove that it is impossible to know one way or the other. Faith is unavoidable, even if we choose to believe only in ourselves.

Consider when one prepares to drive through an intersection on a green light—we have ‘faith’ that the motorists coming the other way have seen the red light and have stopped. What is to be decided is what evidence we think is pertinent, how we are going to interpret that evidence, and who or what we are willing to believe in.

CAN ONE KNOW IF ‘ANYTHING’ IS TRUE?
How do you know that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit? How do you know that woolly mammoths once trudged across our land? How do you know that cocaine is addictive? How do you know that Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin and died in a theater? How do you know that NASA astronauts walked on the moon and not on a back lot in Hollywood? How do you know that Japan’s Emperor Hirohito died of cancer in 1989? How do you know that Julius Caesar ruled the Roman Empire?

In the above examples, the proofs and the methods of confirmation vary greatly. A scientific experiment in a lab could confirm through repeatable experiments that water freezes at 32 degrees. Fossils and frozen remains are visible evidence that mammoths tramped around on this earth. Physical and psychological testing confirms cocaine’s addictive quality.

But when it comes to historical information such as Lincoln’s birthplace and where he was shot, man walking on the moon, and Caesar’s exploits, we cannot perform repeatable experiments. In those cases we have to rely on historical records, eyewitness accounts, and reputable historians who collected data.

Different types of situations require different types of proof. In some cases, scientific experiments are extremely valuable. In other cases, historical research must be used.

When it comes to testing the ‘claims’ of competing religious views of life and God, several key areas need to be examined—and none of us want to commit ‘intellectual suicide’ by just taking a “leap of faith”, so to speak, by just hoping that it is true.
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q4_d1_1of10.html

Also, the first thing we need to understand is…just because we believe something is true doesn’t make it so. Nor does our refusal to believe that something is true make it false. Truth stands on its own. A thing is true because it is true or false because it is false. What a person believes or doesn’t believe has nothing to do with it.
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q3_d1_1of10.html

CHRISTIANITY IS TOO ‘EXCLUSIVE’
Author C.S. Lewis, who at one time was an atheist, believed that all religions are right in some areas, but that where they differ from Christianity, they were wrong at those points. Mathematics shows us an example of this narrowness ‘claiming’ there’s only one right answer to a sum and that all the other answers are wrong. But of course, some wrong answers are closer to being right than others.

As mathematics shows, truth is narrow. The instructions on my car’s instrument panel says, “use unleaded fuel only.” Why not leaded fuel? Why not diesel? For that matter, why not water? I’d save a lot of money.

C.S. Lewis also said, that if Jesus was not the God he claimed to be, then his words would imply a silliness and conceit unrivaled by any other character in human history.

There seems to be only a couple of logical possibilities. Jesus claimed to be God—nothing less—so he must either be right or wrong. If he was wrong, he either knew he was wrong, or he didn’t know he was wrong. So, if he is wrong —if he’s not God—and he knew he was wrong, you’d call him a liar.

Now, if he claimed to be God and he was wrong about it and he didn’t realize he was wrong about it, he’d be an absolute lunatic. This is not just a minor mistake or an inconsequential portion of his teaching.  He made himself and his claim of deity the center of his teaching.
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q6_d6_1of10.html

NARROWMINDEDNESS” AND “INTOLERANCE” IS WRONG
A few weeks ago my brother-in-law was in town and I took him to a Dave & Busters in the Detroit Metro area. One of the ‘neatest’ video games they have there is a 747 cockpit simulator. What an experience! The controls were complicated and the techniques required for piloting this mammoth plane were far beyond my abilities!

In a simulated cruise around Seattle, I crashed into the top of Mount Rainier on one landing approach and effectively demolished a few runway hangers on the next landing try. Real life is like that—and truth is narrow. If you don’t land on the runway, you die.

Fortunately, it was all pretend—otherwise, no one would have survived the tumultuous mishaps brought about by my reckless maneuvers and amateur explorations. But many people live life as if they are flying a simulator. They create their own ‘imaginary’ worlds, hoping to avoid the real consequences on ignorant and purposeless action. If the ‘visual screen’ can be kept active and the volume loud enough, the real world of empty existence may never materialize. Successfully minimize pain and eventually our planes may land on the happy fields of retirement.

But life is not a simulator. Uninformed choices bring fatal consequences—especially spiritually. Without the right ‘approach’, we crash and burn!
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q6_d5_1of10.html

WHY TAKE THE TIME?
For some, it’s time to make revisions to our modern-day life-management ‘flight plans’. We all need a firm foundation that has roots deep in the ‘soil’ of time and history.

The answers you discover to the questions proposed herein will not solve every problem or make life a bastion of perfection. But, they will determine a course, provide a framework, and point to the meaning that God has assigned to every facet of life. And while the answers are not always easily achieved, they are clearly worth the energy. When taken seriously, they will bring you to an understanding of fundamental Biblical truths, and into a process for living that will invariably lead to ‘pearls’ of discovery that will result in a more integrated life than ever before. The precious effort and valuable time you invest will prove very ‘profitable’—both for now and maybe for eternity!

I sincerely hope some significant ‘seeds’ of truth have been planted deep within the ‘soil’ of your heart, and may they bring forth the fruit of a life well lived, so at the end of your earthly travels, you will find yourself completely ready to step through the ‘doorway’ to eternity.

Many people spend a lifetime searching for love, acceptance, and success without filling the “God-shaped vacuum” that Blaise Pascal once described.
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q1_d5_3of10.html

You’re not alone if you are still unconvinced about the reasonableness of faith in Christ. But keep in mind Jesus’ claim that we don’t have to resolve our doubts on our own. He said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” [John 7:17]

I would like to lovingly challenge you to consider the false presuppositions of today’s culture and submit that there is truth and it is knowable!

WHY SHOULD ANYONE PUT THEIR TRUST IN GOD?
Consider that you are in the market for a new car. Do you walk on to a lot and buy the first car you see? Of course not! First, you determine your needs. Then you may do some research about some of the available models that ‘fit’ your criteria. You may ask around to find out how others liked their car, or inquire about a reputable dealer. You would want to try to learn everything you could before you would make such a decision.

So goes it with our faith in God. We should be ‘reasonably’ confident that our questions are answered. The web site I have mentioned has a plethora of information about the 12 most asked questions in determining man’s search for meaning—and for God.

– Can anyone know if God exists?
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q1_d1_1of10.html

– How can a rational person believe in miracles?
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q2_d1_1of10.html

– Is faith just a psychological crutch for weak people?
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q3_d1_1of10.html

– Is the Bible mythical or historical, divinely inspired or merely human?
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q4_d1_1of10.html

– Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q5_d1_1of10.html

– Is Jesus the only way to God?
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q6_d1_1of10.html

– Would a fair God condemn those who have never even heard?
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q7_d1_1of10.html

– Does hypocrisy invalidate the claims of Christianity?
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q8_d1_1of10.html

– How good must we be to qualify for Heaven?
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q9_d1_1of10.html

– What does it really mean to “believe”?
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q10_d1_1of10.html

– Once you gain eternal life, can you lose it? If not, why be good?
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q11_d1_1of10.html

– How do you grow closer to God in the here and now?
http://www.4VIS.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q12_d1_1of10.html

1: Supreme Court—Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)
[Excerpts from: Chuck Colson; Daniel Henderson; The Search for Meaning]

Blessings….
Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v40) for JUNE 2002
(NOTE: Please send your ‘thoughts’ to me at: mbesh@ameritech.net)

I am glad to organize and distribute more ‘stuff’ if y’all send it to me…

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A MEMORIAL DAY PRAYER
Eternal God,
Creator of years, of centuries,
Lord of whatever is beyond time,
Maker of all species and master of all history —
How shall we speak to you
from our smallness and inconsequence?
Except that you have called us to worship you
in spirit and in truth;
You have dignified us with loves and loyalties;
You have lifted us up with your lovingkindnesses.
Therefore we are bold to come before you without groveling
[though we sometimes feel that low]
and without fear
[thought we are often anxious].
We sing with spirit and pray with courage
because you have dignified us;
You have redeemed us from the aimlessness
of things’ going meaninglessly well.
God, lift the hearts of those
for whom this holiday is not just diversion,
but painful memory and continued deprivation.
Bless those whose dear ones have died
needlessly, wastefully [as it seems]
in accident or misadventure.
We remember with compassion those who have died
serving their countries
in the futility of combat.
There is none of us but must come to bereavement and separation,
when all the answers we are offered
fail the question death asks of each of us.
We believe that you will provide for us
as others have been provided with the fulfillment of
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
[Rev. Dick Kozelka]

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This is a wonderful web site that tries to get us thinking about the ‘real’ meaning of memorial day:  http://www.usmemorialday.org

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PASCAL’S WAGER
A French scientist and mathematician, Blaise Pascal postulated a couple centuries ago, that if you choose to believe that there is a God and it turns out, in the end, that you are wrong, you have probably gained something because you had a sense of purpose, direction, and meaning in my life—and have lost nothing. Be if it turns out that you are right, you have not only gained in this life, but have gained in a major way ending up with God in heaven for eternity—nothing to lose and an enormous amount to gain. To sum it up, if you believe in God, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. If you reject God, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose!  [The Search for Meaning]

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THEORIES ABOUT GOD’S EXISTENCE
Imagine a family of mice who lived all their lives in a large piano. To them in their piano–world came the music of the instrument, filling all the dark spaces with sound and harmony. At first, the mice were impressed by it. They drew comfort and wonder from the thought that there was Someone who made the music–though invisible to them–above, yet close to them. They loved to think of the Great Player whom they could not see.

Then one day a daring mouse climbed up part of the piano and returned very thoughtful. He had found out how the music was made. Wires were the secret; tightly stretched wires of graduated lengths which trembled and vibrated. They must revise all their old beliefs; none but the most conservative could any longer believe in the Unseen Player.

Later, another explorer carried the exploration further. Hammers were now the secret, numbers of hammers dancing and leaping on the wires. This was a more complicated theory, but it all went to show that they lived in a purely mechanical and mathematical world. The Unseen Player came to be thought of a myth….but the pianist continued to play.  [From “Leadership”]

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REAL FAITH
Legend has it that a man was lost in the desert, just dying for a drink of water. He stumbled upon an old shack–a ramshackled, windowless, roofless, weather-beaten old shack. He looked about this place and found a little shade from the heat of the desert sun. As he glanced around he saw a pump about 15 feet away–an old, rusty water pump. He stumbled over to it, grabbed the handled, and began to pump up and down, up and down. Nothing came out.

Disappointed, he staggered back. He noticed off to the side an old jug. He looked at it, wiped away the dirt and dust, and read a message that said, “You have to prime the pump with all the water in this jug, my friend. P.S. Be sure you fill the jug again before you leave.”

He popped the cork out of the jug and sure enough, it was almost full of water! Suddenly, he was faced with a decision. If he drank the water, he could live. Ah, but if he poured all the water in the old rusty pump, maybe it would yield fresh, cool water from down deep in the well, all the water he wanted.

He studied the possibility of both options. What should he do, pour it into the old pump and take a chance on fresh, cool water or drink what was in the old jug and ignore its message? Should he waste all the water on the hopes of those flimsy instructions written, no telling how long ago?

Reluctantly he poured all the water into the pump. Then he grabbed the handle and began to pump, squeak, squeak, squeak. Still nothing came out! Squeak, squeak, squeak. A little bit began to dribble out then a small stream, and finally it gushed out! To his relief, fresh, cool water poured out of the rusty pump. Eagerly, he filled the jug and drank from it. He filled it another time and once again drank its refreshing contents.

Then he filled the jug for the next traveler. He filled it to the top, popped the cork back on, and added this little note: “Believe me, it really works. You have to give it all away before you can get anything back.”  [Charles R. Swindoll]

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DEEP THOUGHT:
All truths are not equally valid—if two things contradict each other, they cannot both be right—but they can both be wrong. What is irrational and illogical is to say that they’re both right. One doesn’t have to be an ‘expert’ or a philosopher to know truth—just remember that an “amateur” built the Ark, and “professionals” built the Titanic!
[Mark Besh]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!

Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  [John 14:6]

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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