2012/04/30

The Meaning of Life

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Why are we here? What is the purpose of our existence? Why did God create us? What is the meaning of life?
These are questions that most of us have asked ourselves at one time or another. They are questions that have baffled many great minds among them those of philosophers, scholars, scientists, kings, literary giants, and the like. They are questions that have left many people bewildered and led others into a deep search for the truth. They are questions that pop up during those pensive moments that occur in the midst of the many cares and concerns of this life. They are pertinent questions – questions that need to be answered.
So, what indeed is the meaning of life? Is it to eat, drink, work, party, study, explore the universe, invent things, marry, raise kids, build houses, acquire property, amass wealth, etc? Is it a matter of being born, doing all these things, and then dying, or is there a higher purpose, a greater calling, a worthier cause behind it all? If so, what is that purpose that makes our existence worth the while? What is that mission that we are here to fulfill? What is that cause that persists across generations? Clearly, it must be something that cannot be eroded by the passing of time; something with a permanent value; something that will matter not only now but also in the days to come; something indestructible that extends beyond death.
Bad News
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Most, if not all of the things that we use in this world, have a sell by date. They either rot, tear, wear out, break, burn, or become faulty. Even the earth itself is in the process of gradual deterioration. Scientists have confirmed this fact and documented it extensively. This means that all the things that we now hold dear will eventually be no more. The Bible says that the time will come when the heavens and the earth will all be burned up. The meaning of life, therefore, is clearly not in the things of this world. They are just here for the purpose of our continuity in the world. They are merely a bunch of tools that serve to stand in for our limited capabilities. With this in mind, it is therefore foolish to make them the center of our focus, life, energy, hopes, dreams, time, values and pride. Doing so is equivalent to building sand castles in the air.
Billy Graham, a world famous evangelist, says, “There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men.” This is true of many people whose lives revolve around various carnal things such as fame, fortune, fun, money, lust, image, sexual gratification, and so on, to the point of worshiping them and basing the meaning of life upon them. When God gave us all these resources, His intention was for us to rule over them, not to be ruled by them. A man is no longer free when his life is driven by the various things that surround him; instead, he becomes like a beast of burden, ruled by the demands and cravings of his flesh.
A sneak preview of coming attractions
The Bible continues to say that when the present heavens and earth are destroyed, God will make brand new ones that will contain bigger and better things than we have ever seen or heard. What we now glorify will pale in comparison to what is coming. In addition, we will be given glorious new spiritual bodies that far surpass the ones that we currently have. In the spiritual realm, there is no need for the various physical gadgets such as vehicles, aeroplanes, phones, etc that we depend on in this world, since spirits are able to supernaturally do what we are physically unable to do without such gadgets. These things that we now consider to be achievements of magnificent proportions will all become a thing of the past and we will therefore not spend our time ooh-ing and aah-ing and fondly reminiscing about them. They will look like one of those primitive artifacts of ancient civilizations that we chuckle about when we study ancient history.
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As disappointing as this may sound, there are good reasons behind it. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, not only were they banished from it, but the earth also lost its original glory. We are therefore living on a fallen planet that is a far cry from what God had designed it to be. When God makes everything brand new, everything will eventually be restored back to its glorious state, and we will get another chance to achieve all that God intended for us in accordance with His master plan.
The Catch
However, only those who are obedient and faithful to God in this present age will get the chance to inherit all that. Those who rebel against God and continue to walk in the futility of their ways, all because of the temporary attractions of this world, will miss out on it altogether and instead be eternally banished to a place of eternal suffering.
Wisdom therefore entails realizing all this and thereby founding our lives and everything that we do on God and on His Word. It is God alone who knows everything and who knows it best, and therefore the only way that we can succeed in whatever we do and attain our full potential is by relying on His guidance and trusting Him. It is upon this truth that the meaning of our lives is founded.
Evidence
This truth was confirmed by a famous and wise king who made it his mission to find out the meaning of life. In order to achieve this, he indulged himself in all manner of activities under the sun. After his long and wide search for the truth, he drew the following conclusion:
1)      That the various things in this world are just but a vanity, and
2)      That what really matters in life is to fear God and keep His commands. 
This king’s research has been carefully documented in the book of Ecclesiastes. The Bible describes him as the wisest man who has ever walked on this planet, and adds that no one else will ever be able to rival his wisdom. This means that he was wiser than any of the many philosophers that we love to quote. God Himself certified this man’s wisdom (1 Kings 3:12), and we can therefore trust his findings. 

On a personal note
When we want to know the meaning and use of a gadget, the best person to consult is its manufacturer. Similarly, to know the meaning and purpose of life, we must go to the one who gave it – God. He created each one of us for a unique purpose and only He is able to tell us what it is. If we seek Him, He is faithful to answer each one of us individually and give our lives the meaning and fulfillment that we seek. After all, weren’t all the great men that we read about in the Bible – the men who heard from, talked to, and walked with God – just men like us? We are the ones who raise barriers for ourselves when we put other created things above God and exalt what has been created rather than he who created it. I would rather go in to the afterlife to rejoice over the many supernatural encounters that I had with God, than over how I pampered my mortal body.
I will conclude with several excerpts, three from scripture and one from a famous hymn:
“A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
– Jesus Christ (Luke 12:15)

“Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.”
– King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you? 
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
Micah 6:8
“On Christ the solid rock I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.”
– from the hymn: ‘My Hope is Built on Nothing Less’

2012/04/16

Our Appreciation

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There is a widely quoted Swahili proverb that says “Asante ya punda ni mateke”. This translates to “A kick is a donkey’s way of saying thank you”.
It is often used to describe a situation in which a person has been shown some kindness but has absolutely no gratitude for it. Instead, the person may turn against the giver or act as though nothing important has been done for him or her.
This is not only hurting but also humiliating to the giver. It might make the giver wonder why they went out of their way to help the ungrateful person in the first place, and become hesitant to offer any more assistance, since as the saying goes, ‘Once bitten, twice shy’.
Without a doubt, such an experience is far from pleasant, and more so if the person keeps acting that way after many kindnesses.
Now consider this:
As human beings, we are here because God has granted us life. In addition, He has blessed us with many other things that have enabled each one of us to be where we are today. These may be a good education, a great job, a successful business, a happy marriage, riches, good looks, health, wisdom, etc. We need to ask ourselves: how do we show appreciation for all these things that He has given us?
Do we use the life that He has given us to do exactly what is contrary to His will? Do we use our mouths to curse, blaspheme, insult and lie? Do we use our hands to steal, kill, and harm other objects of His creation that He equally loves as much as He loves us? Do we use the good looks and bodies that He has given us to promote lust and indulge in sexual immorality? Do we use our eyes and ears to watch and listen to things that do not glorify Him? Do we use our energy to design and manufacture harmful products for our own money-minded selfish reasons?
Image from activerain.com

Well, for sure, our actions are a measure of exactly how much we  honor and appreciate Him.
When we do the things that displease Him, we are essentially spitting in His face and telling Him “Thanks but No Thanks God. This is how much I appreciate all this”
If you were God, how would you feel about constantly looking down at the people you created, only to see them doing various vile and destructive things that defile the world and hinder your wonderful plans for them?
You would definitely be grieved, especially after consistently forgiving and forbearing their rebellion, only for them to continue in their sins.
In the Bible, God once sent destruction upon the entire earth due to its wickedness. Genesis 6:5-7 says:
‘The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain. So The LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth- men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air- for I am grieved that I have made them.”’

Later, in His grace and mercy, God promised never to send a similar punishment (Genesis 9:12-17). He then went ahead and sent His own sinless Son to bear the punishment that we deserve and teach us the right way to live, in order for us to have a chance to part with our old ways  and live the glorious life that God originally planned for us.
Image from duvekot.ca
Indeed, God has kept His promise and has relented from wiping us out in spite of our rebelliousness. However, how have we appreciated all this? By throwing the same kicks as the donkey. We wake up each day and use our God-given breath and the things that He has given us to displease Him and therefore throw His grace right back into His face.

2012/04/03

My First Blog Post

Great. My very first blog post. The first page of a captivating series of good stuff. Now, where do I start? I should probably start by introducing myself. Let me keep it short and simple. My name is Nyambura Ngugi and I am a born again Christian IT professional living in Kenya. I hope that helps. It should say much. Or doesn't it? Well, what have I left out? My age? My education level? My skin color? My gender? My economic status? If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, allow me to ask: Why? Does it matter? In what way?
I understand that there are people who harbor various prejudices based on any or all of the above criteria. I have had the privilege (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it) of meeting them. They will use these criteria to rank whatever you say and do. They will look at you from head to toe and decide what the book is worth from its cover. They will use themselves as a gauge to determine whether you measure up to or fall short of their worthiness index. You might even get the privilege of reading your performance on their faces or in their speech. It will matter to them what car you drive, what kind of house you live in, who your parents are, where you went to school, etc, etc, etc. Maybe you have met them. Maybe you are one of them.
I once made the mistake of buying a pair of shoes based on their classy appearance and catchy heels. They fitted well and felt comfortable when I first tried them on, but wait until I got the chance to spend a day in them. Horror of horrors! I could hardly wait to get home and nurse my aching muscles and sore feet. Just as I had been eager to wear them, so was I eager to get rid of them.
Similarly, once upon a time I used to select oranges based on the even color and smooth texture of their skin. Many are the times that I ended up having to contend with a very bitter and unpalatable dessert, until I discovered that the oranges with the ugly-looking and patchy skin are often the tastiest. An envelope could be tattered and dirty or clean and shiny, but read the letter contained in it in order to know whether it carries good or bad news.

We were all born into this world under different circumstances. However, circumstances are just that - circumstances. None of us chose whether to be born male or female, black or white, rich or poor, by such and such parents, in such and such a place, etc. We all just found ourselves born into whatever circumstances and environments we landed in. Just as a person was born into a white family, so could s/he have been born into a black one. Just as a person was born male, so could s/he have been born female. Just as a person was born into a poor family, so could s/he have been born into a royal one, and vice versa.
Despite our circumstances, we were all born with the potential to do great things, to scale great heights, to accomplish great feats, to perform mighty wonders, and to make a positive impact in this world. And we carry this potential throughout our lives, no matter how roughly or neatly packaged it might be. It is therefore inappropriate to judge each other on the basis of material and superficial things. Rather than waste valuable time and energy comparing ourselves to each other and measuring ourselves by various selfishly-calibrated meters, we should realize the great potential and wealth that lies within each one of us, whether tapped or untapped, and encourage each other to be the best that we can be, recognizing the uniqueness that rightfully and beautifully belongs to each one of us, and respecting it. If we do this, the world will indeed be a better place to be born into, grow up in, pursue dreams in and live in, not just for a chosen few, but for everyone, irregardless of their race, gender, family background, economic status, etc.
Jesus Christ wrapped up all this in one word: LOVE. And the Bible defines it thus:
4  Love is patient,
   love is kind.
   It does not envy,
   it does not boast,
   it is not proud.
5  It is not rude,
   it is not self-seeking,
   it is not easily angered,
   it keeps no record of wrongs.
6  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7  It always protects,
   always trusts,
   always hopes,
   always perseveres.
 8  Love never fails.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Just as we come into this world without the various things that we find in it when we are born, so do we leave without them when we die. We do not carry our property, beautiful bodies, certificates, jobs, social status, etc, into the afterlife. The only thing that matters after our departure is what we invested in those that we leave behind, be it good or bad. If it is good, then our lives were worth it; If it is bad, then it would have been better for us not to have been born. To hate each other is to hurt and destroy each other, and it helps no one.
Well, that should be enough of an introduction for now. Keep watching this space for more.