Category Archives: Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 3-5; Psalm 45; Matthew 15

I think of the scraps that fell from the table: could meager remnants become a feast? I sat on a bench one year and considered the crumbs and thought of this woman in Matthew 15 and her perspective.

24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table. (Matthew 15:24-27, NLT)”

She taught me something profound that day about my own heart. About contentment. About gratitude. About the Lord. About enough.

The Pharisees had their expectations of what life would look like, and how purity would be recognized, and a protocol for how things would be done. I think on how my own expectations, perceptions, and protocol have kept me sour, hurt, angry, or disappointed.

Ecclesiastes marks time like seasons for war and peace, tearing and mending, silence and speech. Couldn’t it show on the calendar? On (this day), you will cry. You will grieve. But in a few turns of the calendar pages, you will laugh. You will dance. Would the wait feel long?

Here, I linger:

What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 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. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13, NLT).

The injustices of life. The advantages of companionship. The futility of power and wealth. The importance of integrity. Read slowly. Everything, beautiful. Even in the becoming, beauty, in the wait. A scope of His work.

17 Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.

18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. 20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past (Ecclesiastes 5:17-20, NLT, emphasis added).

I did a quarterly evaluation in areas of my life from 1-10: work, health, friendships, etc. Goal books and podcasts preach a level-10 life. What would it look like, I wondered. And slowly I realized–I was already there. I have all I need. And maybe living out level 10 didn’t mean what I was making it (nebulous as it was). Maybe it didn’t look like anyone else’s vision of ten. Maybe, in some cases, it had to do with letting go of hurts and expectations, with looking forward and sowing into a future than looking back and carrying past burdens. Maybe my disappointment stemmed from exceptions and restrictions and expectations I placed upon things, a schedule I overbooked, a relationship I overestimated. For community that was never going to be what I hoped it could be. For the friend who never agreed to be who I needed her to be. What if I let go of my own restrictions, instead of wrestling with a past I couldn’t change, and people I wished who would? Seems like chasing the wind.

Lord, thank you for meeting me that day on the bench, bringing that woman’s story to mind. Thank you today for reminding me of the scope of your story. Thank you for gifts from you: good things from you, and the health to enjoy them.

Courtney (66books365)

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Proverbs 31; Ecclesiastes 1-2; Matthew 14

What a great reading today – sets the tone for the day. The ideal woman is described through her activity as a wife. I was reading that the traditional hymn sung praising the mighty deeds of a warrior was transposed to extol a heroic wife – the focus on her exploits. As beautiful as all of this is, nothing really matches the words from her children and her husband as they praise her. What a portrait of a household ruled by Woman Wisdom and if you will, the home of those she has discipled. I love calling my wife a woman of wisdom.

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:  – Proverbs 31:28  ESV

The man of wisdom himself, Solomon, takes the idea of being transparent seriously. I have so much to learn from him in this area.  I notice whenever he uses the word “you” in advice or warning, he actually sounds like he is speaking to himself. While he is talking to himself about things he should be doing, he finds himself not doing it. Have to remind myself not to do that when I am preaching.

The words of the Preacher,[a] the son of David, king in Jerusalem. – Ecclesasties 1:1  ESV

No matter what my need is, Jesus comes to me in my hour of need. He is watching over me even when I cannot see Him. The storm and the miracle of walking on water is a great picture of what Jesus still does in my life when I am sailing through my own storms which happen in the dark so often.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” – Matthew 14:27  ESV

I am meant to recognize the metaphor. If I allow myself to face my storms alone, that is on me.

Father, I look at this amazing woman of wisdom and I see this wise man filled with wisdom, and I cannot help but realise how You sent Jesus, Your wisdom personified, to walk with me in life. Thank You.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

 

 

 

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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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