Monday, March 18, 2019

4 Things you do not Know

Read Ecclesiastes 11.

The wisest who ever lived did not know everything.  Four times in six verses Solomon tells us some things we do not know.

1. You do not know what may happen with an investment. (vv.1-4)
Generosity and/or investing in opportunities always carry risks.  One can never tell how coming to the aid of another person or an organization may reap dividends.  But nothing ventured means nothing gained.  Many never give to their church or to help others.  Some never invest in things that matter due to selfishness, laziness, fear of what might happen, or procrastination (v.4).  Profits and rewards only go to those who gave of themselves and their resources.
"Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed." (Proverbs 19:17)

2. You do not know how human life is formed. (v.5a)
Certainly, the process of is known.  Babies are born.  But the intimacy and intricacies of what God does in the womb to bring all the physical, spiritual and personal elements together is a mystery.
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 140:13-14a)

3. You do not know the work of God. (v.5b)
This is the completion of the thought above.  Not only is human life the work of God, but everything is His.  We can see the results of the LORD's handiwork, but we do not know what, when and how He will move next.  Jesus said that the way of the Spirit is like the wind.  We do not see the wind; only the effects (John 3:8).  As Sovereign Creator, He is the rightful Owner and Sustainer of all things.
"The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world an those who dwell therein." (Psalm 24:1)

4. You do not know what will lead to success. (v.6)
The illustration is of a farmer sowing seed.  He is totally dependent upon the soil, the sun, the amount of rain, and timing.  All out of his control.  Yet, if there is to be a harvest, he must go to work.  He will work hard.  He will probably diversify into planting more than one or two crops to increase the possibility of increased profits.  Then, after he has done all he can do, he must trust God for the outcome.
"So...whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Be Careful!

Read Ecclesiastes 10.

Solomon spoke 3000 proverbs and wrote 1005 songs (1 Kings 4:32).  This entire chapter, and into the opening verses of chapter 11, is given to wise observations that teach by contrast or comparison.  Here we are warned that a life of wisdom can be overturned in a moment.

1. A wise person is careful about their directions. (vv.1-9)
One may live for God and do great things in His name.  Many people may benefit from their service.  Then, with a single foolish decision or act their entire reputation may be destroyed and considered worthless.  The highway sign is a good reminder: Keep Right.
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16)

2. A wise person is careful about their duties. (vv.8-10)
Such a one wants to be the most effective and efficient person on the job.
"...not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man..." (Ephesians 6:6-7)

3. A wise person is careful about their discussions. (vv.12-20)
People respond best to gracious or kind words.  No one enjoys the endless, meaningless rants of a fool.  And, one can never tell where those words, once said, may end up.
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

4 indicators of a thankful Person

Read Ecclesiastes 9.

Call it a rat race or a rut, but life without hope is dangerously depressing.  Looking at life from only a horizontal perspective, the same stuff happens to everyone.  Nice guys sometimes do finish last.  So, where is the benefit for one who loves God and tries to do what is right?

When Solomon presented life "under the sun," it was always with a futile tone.  But then in his wisdom he added the view from God's perspective.  The conclusion is that only those who live for the LORD can truly appreciate what God has given to them and enjoy life.

How do people show they are living a life of gratitude to God for all He has done and possess great hope for their future?  Here are four practical principles to observe.  Each of these is a personal choice we make.

1. A thankful person with hope enjoys their food. (v.7)
One who is depressed often loses their appetite.  More than saying a prayer of gratitude before eating, this refers to actually taking time to appreciate the meal.  Too often in a fast-food world, people are hurrying to get on to something else.  Without slowing down the pace and engaging in good conversation, food can become a necessary inconvenience.

2. A thankful person with hope gives attention to their appearance. (v.8)
A person who is depressed will most often show it in the way they look.  Their countenance will be down.  They cease to care about their weight, clothing, hair and face.  While we cannot always judge a person by their outward appearance, one who lives a life of gratitude and hope cannot hide it.

3. A thankful person with hope loves their family. (v.9)
Specifically, the wife is mentioned here.  A marriage is a life-long commitment regardless of the changes in circumstances-for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish.  Remembering that a spouse and children are gifts from God renews the appreciation and care of the relationships.  Forgetting that fact, and treating wedding vows as dispensable, is an affront to God and a sign of selfish ingratitude.

4. A thankful person with hope engages in their work. (v.10)
Notice a person who does not like their job.  They become lax in details.  They only want to do the minimum to get by.  They cannot wait to get off work.  But one who is grateful to have a job, to be able to care for their needs, and appreciates the opportunity God has given them, shows up energized.

Monday, March 11, 2019

3 life management Essentials

Read Ecclesiastes 8.

The wisest man who ever lived gives advice on how to enjoy life.

1. Relating to authority. (vv.2-9)
Obey those over you.  This essential is not only for those in power who are godly and right.  The Apostle Paul expanded upon this principle in Romans 13:1-4 with Nero as Caesar.  Five times in that passage Paul stated that those in authority over us have been placed, represent, serve and use force on God's behalf.  Pride and selfishness in the heart wants to rebel and get our own way.  And, what if the authority is wrong or out-right evil?  Solomon wrote, "...the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way" in dealing with it (v.5).

2. Recognizing accountability. (vv.10-13)
Fear God.  The greatest deterrent to lawlessness is quick justice.  Because the consequences for sin are not immediate or speedy, the wrong-doer thinks he may get away with it.  The United States Constitution guarantees a speedy trial but the justice system takes years to prosecute.  Even one found guilty of a capital crime may sit on death row for a couple decades or more without the sentence being carried out.  This distances the crime from the punishment in such way that it refocuses attention on the court system instead of the evil.  Lack of accountability and fear of God becomes the result.

3. Rejoicing on the journey. (vv.14-15)
Enjoy what you have.  Worrying and grumbling about what we do not have will kill our joy.  Yes, life is full of hard work.  Yes, there are hurts and hardships along the way.  Not everything will turn out the way we planned or wanted.  Yet, when we remember that God is sovereign and in control, that our lot in life is not a mistake, that God loves us and extends His grace every moment, that one day we all will stand accountable for what we did with what He gave us, that we have a home waiting in heaven, then we of all people have cause to enjoy this temporary life.

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)  Live like God's masterpiece today.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Thinking through the Issues

Read Ecclesiastes 7.

After presenting those three thought-filled questions in chapter 6, Solomon then spoke to the issues in a series of "better than" statement.

1. Choose the better. (vv.1-9)
The sum of one's life is comprised of the choices made.  Some choices are eternal; some are major; most are daily.  Practically no one attends a celebration to listen and learn.  It is in the sobering moments of life that we become eager to hear a word of wisdom.

2. Count on the wisdom of God. (vv.10-12)
Where is the advantage?  It is in possessing wisdom along with our material things.  Wisdom from the LORD will give us what money cannot buy; namely, protection and preservation of life.

3. Consider the work of God. (vv.13-14)
Learning to be content with what God has provided is the secret to a satisfying life.  The Apostle Paul learned this lesson through the difficult times and the good times.  "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need." (Philippians 4:12)

This wisdom from God is available.  Why then are not more people living is a wise way?
The answer: personal sin.  "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." (v.20)  That is why one must come to the LORD and deal with their sin to begin a life-journey of wisdom.  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning…” (Proverbs 1:7).

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Stop! Think about It.

Read Ecclesiastes 6.

In the book of Psalms, there are frequent musical rests inserted with the word Selah.  It is a pause.  Even though we do not have the psalmist's music score, that word encourages us to pause and think about what was just read.  If chapter 6 had been a psalm, then I would expect a Selah in capital letters at the end.

From Solomon's observations, he concluded the following:
1. There is no satisfaction in Luxury. (vv.1-2)
Just amassing stuff will bring no contentment in life.  Not only are the material possessions we have gifts from God, but even the ability to enjoy them is a gift from Him.

2. There is no satisfaction in Longevity. (vv.3-6)
More time on earth does not equal success or a contented life.  Being surrounded by a huge family with all their potential love and support will not meet the direst need of the human heart.

3. There is no satisfaction in Labor. (vv.7-9)
"Well, I'd be happy if my needs were met."  So, we work even more.  But there is no end to a person's felt needs and wants.  As Solomon observed, all earnings are consumed.  The word "appetite" (v.7) is the Hebrew word for "soul."  The soul is not satisfied by more work.

Then, Solomon asked three questions in verses 10-12.
-So, what's the use?

-Who knows what is good for man?

-What will happen after we are gone?

The answers are in chapter 7. But until then, SELAH!

Friday, March 8, 2019

"If only I had..."

Read Ecclesiastes 5.

"If I only had .....(complete the thought)...then I would be happy."

Dreaming and doing are mostly healthy activities for the mind and emotions.  Dreams can keep us going.  Doing can provide a sense of accomplishment.  Solomon not only envisioned great things but achieved them along with enormous wealth.  So, here is his wise counsel to the rest of us.

1. Listening to God. (vv.1-2)
Worshiping God is a given in this verse.  The question is why do we come?  Yes, there are things to give and do in ministry, but the priority should be to hear what God has to say to us from His word.

2. Giving to God. (vv.3-7)
When promises and/or commitments are made to the LORD, He holds us accountable to fulfill them.  How many know they should be serving God in some way?  How many have agreed that God expects them to tithe as a minimum and be generous beyond that in their giving?  How many have stood before God and witnesses to promise themselves exclusively to their spouse, regardless of circumstantial changes, until their death?

3. Living for God. (vv.8-20)
Without the LORD, people will become disillusioned with the emptiness of life.  They will dream and involve themselves with activity so they do not have to think about their hurts and the discouraging world around them.  Solomon mentioned those who are oppressed and seeking justice.  Next, he was very specific that money does not satisfy.  Then, he mentioned how a lack of generosity and the potential loss of money through bad investments make trust in riches even less desirable as a life goal.  So, what are we to do?
-Recognize it is God who "has given wealth and possessions and power."  This is the first lesson of stewardship.
-Rejoice in what He has already provided.  This is the secret to contentment.
-Remember so there can be joy in your heart.  This demonstrates understanding that life-our time and resources here-is a gift from God.