Category Archives: Ecclesiastes

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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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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