Category Archives: Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 7-9; Psalm 46; 2 Timothy 3

Yesterday was Independence Day in the United States. My family and I had a quiet day at home. But I was acutely aware of past celebrations: swimming, cookouts, a bonfire. As I walked around the yard, I stopped and remembered–Alan stoking a fire (that was the summer he was diagnosed with cancer; he died almost two years later); Linda and her wide-brimmed hat (disease took her away from us last year); another family staying later, wrapped in blankets as the evening cooled dramatically; Denise holding up a flag and smiling for the camera. Some of these, years ago but the memories felt fresh yesterday.

***

I think of her as The One Who Loves Me. She has called me lately to share her heart, thoughts, and fears. She has a heart catheter procedure scheduled tomorrow. She tells me the things she needs to say, just in case. She will call me again today, and she will tell me those things again, and I will do my best not to cry at the implication.

The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t.

It seems so wrong that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. Already twisted by evil, people choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway. There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!”

The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. Whatever they did in their lifetime—loving, hating, envying—is all long gone. They no longer play a part in anything here on earth. (Ecclesiastes 9:2-6, NLT)

While he was alive, and especially after his death, my father’s life caused me to think long on legacy. Paul’s printed words affect the future, but at the time, he was writing to Timothy. The words were to him.

10 But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. 11 You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. (2 Timothy 3:10-11a, NLT)

While we are here, we are known by those around us. Influence, example, purpose–these things speak of us and for us. I know the things I value, but does my life reflect them?

Thank you, Lord, for your word in my hands and heart. I want to be true to the person you designed me to be, to live this life to glorify you. You put songs and delight in my heart. Help me to live this life well.

Courtney (66books365)

So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne! … 10 Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 9:7-8, 10, NLT)

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Ecclesiastes 4-6; Psalm 125; 2 Timothy 2

I love Ecclesiastes.  Remember Peter, Paul and Mary singing, Turn Turn Turn? I was only a child then but I remember every word.  My favourite chapter in the entire Bible is chapter 3, and again probably because of that song.  When I read Chuck Swindoll’s book on Ecclesiastes, that probably sealed the deal – it finally all made sense (that is, the other chapters other than chapter 3 – that one I had nailed down).

So it makes sense that my wisdom comes from this book more than any other.

 Be careful what you do when you enter the house of God. Some fools go there to offer sacrifices, even though they haven’t sinned.[d] But it’s best just to listen when you go to worship.  Don’t talk before you think or make promises to God without thinking them through. God is in heaven, and you are on earth, so don’t talk too much.  If you keep thinking about something, you will dream about it. If you talk too much, you will say the wrong thing. – Ecclesiastes 5:1-3  CEV

Be thoughtful when I enter into God’s presence, listen while I worship, and think through what God is asking from me making sure that whatever I say or do will in the end glorify Him.

It is probably why I have so much faith in God protecting me.

Just as Jerusalem is protected
    by mountains on every side,
the Lord protects his people
    by holding them in his arms
    now and forever. – Psalm 125:2  CEV

In my role with the Navigators, I am called to share how I have been growing in my faith and to lead others into the same kind of walk I have with Jesus. I disciple disciple-makers.

Timothy, my child, Christ Jesus is kind, and you must let him make you strong.  You have often heard me teach. Now I want you to tell these same things to followers who can be trusted to tell others. – Timothy 2:1-2  CEV

Father, as You lead me today, give me wisdom to know that needs to be done.  Allow me to see Your hand making the day exactly what You made it to be.  Protect me and my family as I move out to do what You have called me to do.  Show me how to be full of grace and allow me to let You make me strong.  I want to tell others how they can follow You, show me who can be trusted to do and be this kind of person in order to advance Your Kingdom. Amen.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

 

 

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Ecclesiastes 1-3; Psalms 45,2 ; 1Timothy 1

“Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.” Ecclesiastes 1:8 NLT

“You can live with pain easier than you can live with purposelessness.” (Beth Moore)

I think about how true this has been in my own life. When I am focused on how God is going to use my pain, I am less likely to fall into self-pity over it.  It gives me a sense of purpose. How might I help someone else? What work does God have for me to do?

“What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:9 NLT

When I make my work about me, I get anxious, worried.  I wonder if I am enough.  But when I remember there is an eternal perspective to it, I can hand it over to God.  I can trust that he’ll  help me in my weakness. Than I know that I can’t take the credit, but give him the glory for the gifts he’s given me.

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:12-14 NLT

My 10 year old son was was telling me that he prayed on the pitcher’s mound during his championship baseball game.  He was feeling the pressure of the bases being loaded and everyone depending on him.  In that moment, he realized that he didn’t have the strength on his own.  This mom’s heart swelled with this life lesson.  My son knew who to turn to.  I imagine Jesus cheering him on for his faith.  Maybe that’s how Paul felt about Timothy.

“Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based in the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles. Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.” 1 Timothy 1:18-19 NLT

Thank you Father for your faithfulness.  Help me to run to you.  I give you the glory. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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Num. 25; Ps. 68; Isa. 15; 1 Pet. 3

Would there be enough evidence to find you guilty as charged?

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives… Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3

In lieu of the current-day statistics on marriage, the good news is there’s a 100% chance of success in marriage! A rather bold statement in light of how marriage is portrayed today in the world. I know that 100% sounds extreme, but it is possible! How? Because our God made marriage and He never makes or designs anything to fail! Nor does He make anyone to fail. God speaks to us throughout His word in various forms, but nowhere more clearly and direct, than in 1 Peter 3, which speaks to both men and women about His perfect plan for covenant relationship. And, just like in Ephesians 5, men and women are given specific instructions to submit to one another in the fear of God, then continues with specific instructions to each on their responsibility.

So, if the “manual” tells us what to do, why do so many Christian men and a women fail to fulfill their God-given calling as husband and wife? Why is the divorce rate of Christians and non-Christians virtually the same? The answer is simple… 18”! The distance between the head and the heart… it’s the distance between the knowing and the doing, as many Christians have chosen to ignore or reject God’s perfect plan for marriage into their hearts. Head knowledge offers a mental perspective of God’s plan, however it is in the heart where true relationship with God resides and actions have the best chance of survival.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Other factors are at work, as well, which threaten God’s plan for marriage… contemporary attitudes towards marriage have distorted God’s architecture of mutual submission to mean something negative, using descriptors such as dominated, oppressed, and dictatorial instead of the divine expression of God’s love and understanding for His children and how they innately function in the context of relationship.

Jimmy Evans, in his book “Marriage on the Rock,” stated that of the scriptures related to relationship, couples love Ephesians 5 because of what it says about their partners responsibility to relationship, not their own! Perhaps the answer to living according to God’s plan lies in considering what scripture says about ourselves first, and inviting God into the process of holding us accountable to our roles, and let Him handle the rest. Man… Woman… God… three strands… not easily broken!

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

God, who made us, understands completely that the innate need of a woman is security and to be loved, and for a man, to be respected and honored… both 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5 speak to this directly. Interestingly, women are not commanded to love their husbands, rather to submit to their husbands… to understand and support them, as that is the language that speaks to men! Men? 1 Peter and Ephesians 5 use different language on what you’re to do… the command for men is to love their wives, as Christ loved the church, who gave Himself up for her… to live with her in an understanding way. Different approach… different language… same origin… SACRIFICE for each other, using the language of your partner! Isn’t He amazing? God knew what He was doing and His design is perfect! God’s plan isn’t meant to harm us… QUITE the contrary. God’s plan, at its foundation, is to protect us… it’s the instructions on how to penetrate brokenness and speak deep within our partner’s heart.

Perhaps, if things aren’t going so well relationally, prayers aren’t being answered, it might be worth considering a different approach… How about God’s plan for marriage… so that our prayers may not be hindered.

So… a quick question… (answer honestly!)…

If you were accused of “acting like a Christian _____ (husband/wife)”, would there be enough evidence to find you guilty as charged?

Father, in our humanness, we often forget that You designed us… and who better than You to guide us how best to live as husband and wife. Lord, soften our hearts to adopt Your way as the only way to live this life in relationship as husbands and wives, so that our actions towards one another are a tangible expression of You living within us. Amen!

Greg (gstefanelli)

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Numbers 2; Psalms 36; Ecclesiastes 12; Philemon 1

“I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people. That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. Consider this as a request from me-Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus. I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison…He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.” Philemon 1 NLT

I don’t know what I would do without my brothers and sisters in Christ. Just like Paul was sending Onesimus to Philemon, God has been faithful to put people in my life. A mentor in my path when my world was shaking…friends to do bible study with and dig deeper into God’s word. I pray that I can be that for others. I pray that my kids would have deep friendships and mentors to encourage them in their faith. There is nothing that brings more joy to my heart than to watch my twelve year old daughter worship God. She sits in the front row at church raising her hands in surrender, not concerned about how she might look to others. It took me all of my 41 years to reach that point. But, I am thankful that God is still working on me.

“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky…Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken.” Ecclesiastes 12:1&2;6 NLT

Thank you Father that it is never too late to turn back to you. You have good plans for my life. Help me not to look back in regret, but forward in hope. I love you. Amen.

“Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.” Psalms 36:5-7 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

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Numbers 1, Psalm 35, Ecclesiastes 11, Titus 3

“I don’t believe in heaven and hell. I don’t know if I believe in God. All I know is that as an individual, I won’t allow this life – the only thing I know to exist – to be wasted.” (Celebrity quote)

Although there have always been naysayers and critics of God’s true word, I feel like we are living in a culture that is more self dependent and selfish than other times in history. The days of common moral values are gone and people are out to get everything they can. It’s truly a dog eat dog world and why not? Aren’t we all entitled to the American Dream?

Slogans are so common you could finish these off without me typing the words. Slogans such as “Live everyday like it was your last” or “Create your own happiness”. We are conditioned to believe that we are responsible for our happiness and our own good fortune and outcomes.  We are quick to take credit for our own accomplishments and good works but can just as quickly turn around and blame God when “bad things” happen.

Even in Solomon’s day he knew there was a balance between good works, enjoying life and being accountable for one’s own actions. We are called to live each day to the fullest but who are we living it for is the real question that differentiates good works for the kingdom of God rather than for selfish and prideful gain. Solomon’s wise words also come with a warning:

So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.[b]

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

10 Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain[c] from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. Ecclesiastes 11:8-10

Yes it is important that we live each day to the fullest but it is only by the grace showed to us by Christ and the washing of our sin with his blood that any “good” work is seen by God as righteous.

 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:3-7

The irony in the celebrity’s quote above is that the very thing he is trying to avoid (wasting life) is exactly what he is doing by living for himself and his own glory. Without Christ, everything is meaningless. May our enjoyment and blessing of each new day be evident in the our good works, done not for self pleasure or advancement in to heaven but in gratitude to our Savior who gave his all for our sin!

Dear Jesus, than you for your blood that washes over my sin. Thank you for dying in my place so that when the Father looks at me he see’s your righteousness. Holy Spirit, help me to live each day joyfully devoted to good works that bring you glory. Amen!

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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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