Category Archives: Ecclesiastes

Leviticus 23; Psalm 30; Ecclesiastes 6; 2 Timothy 2

Holidays interrupt the ordinary activities of my life and give me an opportunity to revitalize my commitment to God or holidays can draw my spirit into contemplating my recurrent need to depend on God. Such interruptions can lead to restoration and hope of blessings. Leviticus 23 lists the times of many God-ordained holidays, reminders of God’s deliverance, provision, forgiveness, and mercy. His presence is the gift in the midst of community, and the same is true during Christian holidays. I didn’t know how much I missed community until this past Easter. I have felt like a nomad these last 10 years, moving from state to state, changing jobs, changing churches, leaving the bones of loved ones in strange lands.

Ecclesiastes 6:2, written by my soulmate, Solomon, says, “A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing for himself of all he desires; yet God does not give him power to eat of it…this is vanity, and it is an evil affliction.” Solomon contrasts this scenario with his earlier statement that every man to whom God prospers and gives the divine gift of enjoyment receives blessings, indeed. Holidays have a way of slowing down my soul’s race to acquire the object and turning my eyes toward the Giver of my soul’s redeemed desires.

Interruptions in my work week can illuminate the threads of discontent or the tears in the fabricated beliefs I’ve entertained. The simplicity of following Christ needs no interpretation – if I am faithless, Christ remains faithful; he cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). I am therefore unafraid of the future, and I am free to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.”

So Lord Jesus Christ, resurrected Savior and lover of my soul, I am pleased to be interrupted with holy days that urge me to focus on You. Like King David, I can praise (Psalm 30:11, 12).

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my        sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, To the end that my glory may sing praise            to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”

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Leviticus 20; Psalm 25; Ecclesiastes 3; 1Timothy 5

“I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. 

God has done this so that all should stand in awe before him.” Ecclesiastes 3:14

Of all days on the Christian calendar, this is the day to let our jaws drop and stand in awe of the mighty work of God on our behalf. It was from His holiness that the supernatural power of His love overcame broke the chains that sin and death held us prisoner. “Up from the grave he arose,” says the old hymn. The Resurrection changes everything.

I need Easter to remind me of the fundamental truth of my life. All that I am is fundamentally tied to the Resurrection. It is the air I breathe. Without it, I am a vapor that is here one moment, gone the next. With it, I have the joy of knowing that whatever comes my way in this life, I belong to Jesus. I am his and he is mine. His work for me is complete, while his work in me continues

“Consecrate yourselves therefor and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statues and observe them since I am the Lord, I sanctify you.”  Leviticus 20:7-8

Lord, from your beauty and holiness, you call me to follow you. You are the Spring rain that falls;  you have cleansed and forgiven me of my sin. You are the coolness that revives what is weary and broken. You bring the freshness of a new day dawning. Your Resurrection bursts through the sorrow, pain and isolation of Good Friday to birth light and life and the song of Easter. Praise you Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Your love endures forever.  Amen

klueh

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Leviticus 18; Psalm 22; Ecclesiastes 1; 1 Timothy 3

Today is a good day! It is Good Friday!

I have to admit the verses I read for today brought on an entirely different meaning to me once I realized the significance of the day they were assigned to be read. On the Christian calendar, today marks the remembrance of Good Friday—the day Jesus was crucified.  There was nothing “good” about that day as it is recognized as the darkest day in all of history.   It is the day the Jews (those who believed) lost all hope that this Man, Jesus, was the Messiah prophesized for hundreds of years.  It was not good for his disciples who had given up everything to follow him. What were they to do now?  But God’s plan of redemption was being fulfilled before the eyes of creation.  No one saw the significance as it occurred.  It proves that God’s greatest works may not “look” the way we think they should.  On that day, God made a way for us to have direct access to Him by tearing the curtain of separation.

Psalm 22 contains verses that were fulfilled in the Gospels.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (see also Mark 15:33-34) NLT

Jesus says these words as he is hanging on the cross. In researching these words I came upon an interesting perspective.  I had always thought of these words as Jesus suffering separation from God (2 Cor 5:21) taking our sin upon himself.  But one commentary I read talked about Jesus pointing the people around him to Psalm 22, revealing the prophecy being fulfilled before their eyes, teaching even as he was dying.  If they read that scripture, they would have read these words that were written hundreds of years before Christ was born:

 16b They have pierced[a] my hands and feet.  (see also Matt 27:35; Mark 15:24; Acts 2:23)

 18 They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice[b] for my clothing.  (see also John 19:24)

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”  (Ecclesiastes 1)

 Apart from Jesus Christ, this is true. Only He gives meaning to life AND death.

I shared in a recent post that it seemed death was all around me. At that time, I was waiting for my brother to die. We had been told it was imminent but I don’t think we ever want to give up hope that a miracle can happen.  It was a wait that took me deep into a pit of depression.  In my eyes, it was meaningless.  The last few years as he slowly declined and then finally the pneumonia that took him–it all made me angry.  I was angry with this horrible disease that took away the life he could have had and the time we could have spent together.  I wasn’t sure what to do with that anger, so I held it in and isolated from the world as much as I could.  I went through the motions of life but it was all meaningless.

As I’ve read through these verses the last few weeks, I began to find comfort. When I first started reading the verses, Ecclesiastes 1 really spoke to my mood.  But this past week, as Easter approached, I thought of Jesus laying down His life for us.  He was willing to die, to suffer, and to sacrifice Himself.  Death had no victory over him.  John 12:24-25 says “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  I began to see anew that there is meaning to death.  Yes, we are separated from our loved ones but only for a while if they have believed in Christ as their Savior.  Yes, we miss them terribly and there is a void in our lives.  But death is not the end!  Jesus rose on the third day.  We are told by Jesus himself that he goes before us to prepare a place for us.  Why would he tell that to us if it were not true?

As I read through the verses in Leviticus and 1 Timothy, they are filled with laws and rules on how we are to live our lives here. Following Jesus gives our life meaning.  Living as he taught us to live gives our lives meaning.  Serving him gives our life meaning.  Getting to be with him when we die—that gives death meaning.   It is time to get busy living until he calls me to be with him.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I need Easter. He is Risen!

Father, today as we remember the price Jesus paid for us to be with You, let us not take it lightly. We need to remember he willing allowed his body to be abused and broken beyond what most of us could ever endure.  For this, we eat the bread.  We need to remember the blood he shed to atone for our sins.  For this, we drink the wine.  He died the death we deserve.  But then he rose!  Hallelujah!

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Ecclesiastes 4-6; Psalm 125; 2 Timothy 2

Is it possible that too much of something good can hurt you?

“Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud… frustrated, discouraged, and angry.” Ecclesiastes 5:17

Author and library educator Josephine Rathbone stated “If we could learn how to balance rest against effort, calmness against strain, quiet against turmoil, we would assure ourselves of joy in living and psychological health for life”

Is this kind of life possible in 2016? I am beyond the age of raising young children and witness first-hand how over busy parents are today… how did life get so complicated? Are we trying to do too much? Are we trying to please too many people? And in so doing, have we unknowingly created the kind of life that has us wanting to quit before life’s race is over? Are we working so hard to get to that certain “retirement lifestyle” that we’re missing out on all the amazing things our children do and achieve and what God has for our life?

This ‘counselor’ phase of life that I’m in with my 2 beautiful girls has me asking them from time to time what they remember most about when they were younger… never once did they tell me how excited they were the time that I was away from home for 3 weeks for my job several years ago. But they did remember Daddy making breakfast with them every Sunday after church and bike rides along the old railroad trail in the fall.

So… can too much of a something good hurt us? I mean, if it’s good for us, why would we need to moderate it? Because, in and of themselves, good things are just that… good! But taken to excess, however, even good things can cause an ‘out of balance’ experience which can be, and often is, detrimental to our well-being. In the nutritional world, for instance, Vitamin E plays a key role to our bodies immune function and cell communication, but is most effective when it is acquired through whole food—in foods like wheat germ, sunflower seeds, and broccoli. However, taken regularly in excess, Vitamin E can become toxic to the body and adversely affect how other vitamins are absorbed and can even cause heart issues. Research has confirmed that ingesting too much of a beneficial nutrient has the effect of decreasing its main benefits and overall effectiveness.

The same is being revealed through the use of technology as it is incorporated into our lives… while all the advances in technology have helped make our lives more efficient, these same technologies, taken to an extreme, can wreak havoc on the gentle balance that God’s plan has for our lives. As with so many other areas of life, we, as humans, think we know better than God in what is best… we think we’re so wise with our ‘advanced’ ideas and our high-tech lifestyles. But after some deep reflection, what does our ‘drivenness’ earn us that truly enriches us and lasts beyond our stressed-out lives on Earth? Does the drivenness really teach us how to live, or does it fool us into thinking that decades of overdosing on busyness are worth a few years to unwind in retirement?

We’re driven to distraction by drivenness! We don’t even realize how tightly wound we are because we don’t know any different!

God calls us to hard work. Knowing that has me seeing hard work as something good… something that pleases God. But what God doesn’t do is call us to obsess about getting ahead to the detriment of a calm mind, healthy human relationships, and most importantly, a rich relationship with Him! We need to work at losing, or at least reducing the frustrated edge on our spirit by releasing our misguided need to push ever more intensely. Get to know God’s idea of balancing work and play… doing so will allow God to teach us the art of rest and the amazing benefits according to His plan for our lives.

Heavenly Father… Your Word provides us insights into how to live wisely in the world with our eyes always on You. Father, it is hard to admit, but I struggle with knowing who I would be if I released my driven tendencies. Please reveal why I, we, keep pushing so hard… and please show us true rest in releasing our drivenness to You! Amen…

Greg Stefanelli (gstefanelli)

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Ecclesiastes 1-3; Psalm 43; 2 Timothy 1

 

Celebrate life! That is what the wisest man in history, King Solomon, determined was the best a man could hope for during his sojourn in this world. The simple things of life, as my elders used to say, are what make us happy. Yet divorced from the love of Christ, the fellowship of the saints, and the worship of the Creator of life, even the simple things fail to give pleasure.

Have you wondered how it is that what we yearn for and cannot wait to experience comes slowly, yet passes into memory so quickly? Even our thoughts and feelings, musings, and worries, ebb and flow daily, yearly. I’m a once in a while journal writer, and when I stumble across an old journal and read what at that time was important to me, I have noticed a pattern or theme. My concerns for family, for instance. My prayers for each and my personal desires. Not so different today, really.

What is most evident in all that I’ve written is this tension between the world and me. How I experience living this life. In fact, the weakness written between the lines to God in my journals and prayers illustrate fears and disappointments, usually followed by thanksgiving for spiritual answers. Miraculous answers, tender comforts, gentle corrections.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. To know God, to be reminded that I am a child of the Almighty, and to see my purpose on earth is bound with the life of Christ frees me to celebrate life with gratitude.

On this 4th of July we celebrate our freedom as a nation. God, thank you that I was born in America.

On this day we celebrate our differences from state to state in a United States. Lord, thank you for Your unending, amazing creation of soul after soul, different yet tied together by a common thread of humanity.

On this July 4th we celebrate the simple things of life – church, family, friendships, national pride. Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for Your mighty work of salvation that offers eternal life where the real celebration begins.

I celebrate life today and can’t wait for the day when the party never ends!

Happy 4th of July!

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Ecclesiastes 4-6; Psalm 125; 2 Timothy 2

Singlemindedness

Easy to recognize and define, but not so easy to live out. Second Timothy 2 paints a vivid picture of this goal. A soldier, an athlete, a farmer. All know their focus. Jim Elliot wrote the reference for these forthright words next to Elizabeth’s (who would one day be his wife) yearbook picture. “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” He knew what God had called him to, and he would not let earthly distractions take away from that.

We can learn from the example of a soldier’s life. Shift your focus to the front lines. Training, preparing daily. Working together with other soldiers. Seeking to please the one that enlisted him. Single-minded determination.

And the athlete. We visited the olympic training center in Colorado Springs last year and the amazing facility showed what it took to come home with the gold. Hours of practice. Moving there for as long as possible. Training with leaders and coaches that knew their field. Daily dedication. Working together with others. Knowing and following the rules. Single-minded determination

Further down in verse 22 it says, “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Pursuit – yearn, chase after, earnestly desire. ACTIVE. Not a passive, occasional part of the Christian life.

Undistracted, undefiled pursuit of God. Does that characterize my life?

Rather, I often find my life more in the pages of Ecclesiastes – futility, vanity, striving after the wind. Time spent browsing facebook, playing computer games, time I really don’t have to spare.

God convicts me on this and yet I keep straying back. Here’s to a fresh start. Leaving behind the emptiness that the world tries to entice me with and pursing with single-minded focus God’s design for my days.

How can you make following Christ the single-minded focus of your training plan?

Here’s my list:

– Start in God’s Word, prayer list in hand

– Spend spare time (when I’m tempted to grab my phone) memorizing Colossians 1

– Seek daily says to interact more deeply with my family (the circle of Christians that I find myself in daily). Ask questions, spend time, turn off screens, live life together instead of just in the same house.

Intentional. Single-mindedness. Everyday.

Lord, keep calling, I’m listening. Help me resist those temptations that keep dragging me away from the relationships that really matter. Help me to train harder and know more clearly how You want me to order my days. Give me strength to follow through and be the wife, mom, and Christ-follower that you have created me to be. ~Amen.

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Ecclesiastes 1-3; Psalm 45; 2 Timothy 1

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men to be happy and do good while they live…So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him? Ephesians 3:11-12…22.

Life can run away with us. We believers can have more in common with the characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby than we would like to admit. Perhaps we are not chasing riches and opulence, but sometimes serving the Lord slides into a pursuit of more activities, programs, power and good works so that in the end, we find ourselves depleted, disillusioned and empty. What went wrong? We can find ourselves feeling far from the Lover of our souls.

I remember feeling disillusioned the first time I ever read the Bible cover to cover. As I worked my way through the Old Testament, I understood the the fatigue of Ecclesiastes’ author; the people of Israel would find God, enjoy the benefits of the relationship and then be inevitably be led away and meet with disaster. Eternity was in their hearts, but it did not seem to be enough to sustain them. Try as they would, their best attempts at following God did not hold. The cycle scared me.

Enter Christ. Enter grace.

This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed because I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. Saint Paul, 2 Timothy 1:9-10…12.

Lord Jesus, you are Grace made flesh and blood. Thank you for going to the Cross and defeating death so that I am delivered from all that would lead me away from you. Father, you call me by name; your arms reach out for me and welcome me home. Spirit, you live within me and guide my steps. Hold me fast this day. Amen.

klueh

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