Leaving a Legacy–Ecclesiastes 6 Part 2

By all world standards, this journey is meaningless.  It is as frustrating a paradigm as can be conceived.  The great news is–it simply does not have to be that way.  Our creator and Lord knew that giving life meaning and purpose was far more valuable than any possession, position or place a man can name.  As the designer and creator, God has placed in men from the beginning of time the overwhelming desire history-booksto leave a legacy. 

Throughout history, parents have poured into their children as much history and protocol of their family and tribe as possible.  The desire to carry on tradition and history is critical among cultures all over the world.  In addition, as the spirit inhabits us as his chosen, we find that same compulsion to seek and save the lost.  We want those we pass to find the purpose and meaning He has given us.  It is  not radical to want others to experience the peace and purpose we have found in him. 

While Solomon has found the bitter truth of life in this culture–Christ created a new culture.  That is why those who follow him closely–seem so strange to a purposeless and meaningless world.  The radical shift to a purposeful and meaningful life gives hope and leaves the legacy we were intended and created to build–embrace holiness. Be different-  Christ was; and we are called to be like Him.

God Bless You

Everyone’s toil is for their mouth,
    yet their appetite is never satisfied.
What advantage have the wise over fools?
What do the poor gain
    by knowing how to conduct themselves before others?
Better what the eye sees
    than the roving of the appetite.
This too is meaningless,
    a chasing after the wind.

10 Whatever exists has already been named,
    and what humanity is has been known;
no one can contend
    with someone who is stronger.
11 The more the words,
    the less the meaning,
    and how does that profit anyone?

12 For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?

Prosperity Zombies–Ecclesiastes 6 Part 1

They are out their, they are in every walk of life. Let’s call them the “Prosperity Zombies.” If you have ever watched a zombie movie, it is easy to spot the monsters–they walk through the village and bring death to all they encounter.  Prosperity zombies are similar–No matter their life stage, they are unhappy.  No matter their Job, they are seeking a higher position.  No matter their wealth they must have more–to the point that they cannot enjoy what is right in front of them.  They are not dead–they are worse–because nothing in life can bring them joy or peace–like a zombie.genericzombiemale
 
What God  says is simple–be grateful for what you have, not ungrateful for what you do not have.  If we focus on being grateful and appreciative for our life, position, wealth and family; we then can also be grateful for the Lord’s granting the use of what he has put before us.  It is after all–all his stuff! Only when we begin to feel entitled, do we lose sight and the enjoyment of all that is sitting before us.  If we would focus on that, we would not become the prosperity zombies.  This is the season for us to reevaluate our heart of gratefulness and be thankful for all he has provided!
 
God Bless You
I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man— even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. Do not all go to the same place?

The Good Life–Ecclesiastes 5 final

As one reads Ecclesiastes, there is a sense of frustration and futility. Solomon seems to be looking at a life of utter waste and sorrow.  Such a view is inaccurate.  Solomon was simply analyzing the world and its state; and determining how to find meaning in a meaningless proposition.  His answer–“be content.”  Each person has a role to play.  Some are wealthy, others are barely solvent.  Some labor under back breaking conditions, while others sit at a desk and barely lift a finger. As one observes others in the world, all other roles seem more attractive; when, in fact, each carries its burdens and unique set of problems.

Solomon grasped that whatever our role, as long one has food, shelter and clothes, they can have a good life.  He learned that it is what occupies our heart that brings us joy, not what we possess. In our lives, in this country, many of the nation’s poor have a great number of luxuries that others in the world lack.  But, until each of us, rich or poor, become content in our current circumstance; we will not be content in any other condition.  The key is to understand that we simply need food, clothing and shelter–beyond that, it is all a luxury.  We can be grateful for those luxuries we are given, but, we can never expect them to be a need.

God Bless You

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

No Relief from the Rich or the Government–Ecclesiastes 5 Part 2

The context of Ecclesiastes five is probably the most telling message to the verses.  Here, the wisest man that was ever king; the king of one of the richest nations on earth at the time–is writing a book and telling all whom would listen, “Guess what–the government and the rich will not fix life.  Instead, the government will take all the extra it can get–and well the rich will never have enough; nor, will they ever be at peace with their stuff.  On balance, probably one of the most unsettling messages he could have given.

Once again, it comes down to the basic truth–only God can fill the void in our lives.  If we look to the government to fill it, we will be disappointed. It really does not matter the government’s form–republic, monarchy or dictatorship–in the end, they are run by humans and humans fail.  The best we can hope for is that our leaders will seek God and follow His leadership–then, there will at least be less chaos.  As to the wealthy, they sadly get it from all sides–the less fortunate are jealous, the more fortunate are competitive and petty.  The government wants more, and no one realizes that they have lives and issues like everyone else–what’s more, even if they do realize, they do not care.

That is why Paul’s words continue to ring true–“I have learned to be content, no matter what the circumstance; whether well fed or hungry–living in plenty or in want, I can do all thing THROUGH Christ who strengthens me.

God Bless You

Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.

If you see the poor oppressed in a district,

and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things;

for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.

The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.

This too is meaningless.

As goods increase, so do those who consume them.

And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?

The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much,

but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep

Integrity and God–Ecclesiastes 5 Part 1

Do what You say that you will do–to God and to men. As Solomon continues his search for truth–After determining that the world’s approach to life is meaningless, he next covers the issue of integrity.  In a word, He first discusses vows with God–When we make a vow to the Lord, we have to keep it.  God does not require us to make a number of vows–in fact, the primary covenant we have he makes–“If you confess with your mouth that he is Lord, and believe God has raised him from the dead, You will be saved.” Romans 10:9-10.

When we make covenants with God, however, he expects us to honor them. Whether fasting, giving, serving or trusting him–he does not require us to speak brashly or promise the world.  But when we promise God to do something, we need to understand he takes it seriously.  We should honor him by being careful about what we promise and then keeping the promises we make.  It is of course the same in our relationships with others.  We need to be people of integrity.  Be slow in making covenants and promises–but, be faithful in the ones you make.  It will change your life and it will bring purpose and meaning to an otherwise senseless culture!

God Bless You

Do not be quick with your mouth,
    do not be hasty in your heart
    to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
    and you are on earth,
    so let your words be few.
A dream comes when there are many cares,
    and many words mark the speech of a fool.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.

We Are Better Together–Ecclesiastes 4 Part 2

 

There are many kinds of poverty, but, according to Solomon, one of the worst is facing the world alone.  Being an American, we are programmed from an early age to embrace our independence.  We can be an army of one.  Truth is, however, the greatest treasure we can have as people–is each other. 
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There are so many situations in our lives that we need others.  I watch the struggle of adolescence where my kids have felt alone–no real friends–such an emptiness.  Single people that have lost folks or just have not found anyone–struggle daily.  But the saddest of all are those who choose to detach for fear that they may have to give up time or stuff for the benefit of others.  It is a selfishness that becomes a disease and a destructive force–leading to an empty and miserable existence.
 
Solomon makes clear–we are better together.  Two are always better than one.  We can protect, rebuild, encourage and succeed better with others in our lives.  In the end, stuff fades.  All the wealth we acquire has no value beyond the grave.  The legacy of friends, family and folks we have poured our life into–become the true treasure of a life well spent.  Dr. Billy Graham is not iconic because of the buildings he constructed or the wealth he amassed.  He is a legend because he has shared the heart of God’s word to any and everyone that would listen.  His legacy spans generations and continents–but he never did it alone.  To this day–he is changing the world through his kids, his ministry and his life of faith and prayer–He is truly rich, not because of what he has, but because of who he has, and who he has influenced–We are better together.
 
God Bless You

I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun.This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother,

yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can.

But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for?

Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?”

It is all so meaningless and depressing.

Two people are better off than one,

for they can help each other succeed.

If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.

But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.

Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm.

But how can one be warm alone?

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.

Sympathy For Solomon–Ecclesiastes 4 Part 1

It is at this point, that I begin to feel sorry for Solomon.  The wisest, richest, most accomplished man in golden-royal-crown-24448232the world was finally realizing how a fallen society is miserable and hopeless.  In a society not submitting to God–rich, poor, oppressor, oppressed, winner, loser, peasant or king all search for meaning and purpose.  When they cannot find it in power, possessions, pride or position; they are left in a void.  That void has been a void for the ages.  You see, this is the main message of this book. The wisest man in the world uses the most scientific means possible to determine how to be at one with the universe–but apart from God, nothing works!

Fast forward to 2016, we still have oppressors and the oppressed.  We have criminals and victims.  We have the powerful and the vanquished. We have achievers and non-starters.  But, at the end of the day–none are fulfilled.  The Rich fear losing their wealth, the poor fear not having basic provision. The oppressor fears losing his position of power, the oppressed have lost hope.  The powerful see how fleeting and fragile their power is and the powerless see no reason to fight or improve!
 
The reason, the purpose, the very essence of what we desire is the eternal and complete relationship we have with the Lord.  He provides a purpose–live beyond yourself.  Be selfless, Be kind–show these who have lost hope–where hope is found.  Work, play , laugh, sing, achieve, protect all for the Lord–not for yourself.  Do not live like you are your only means to the end you seek!–Live, instead like you have reached that end–a full and meaningful life on earth, and eternity with the King of Kings after this life ends.  In short, this life is nothing but the means–a means to an end where we are glorified as one of His chosen in eternity! Paul said it best, ” For You have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God!  When Christ, who is your life, appears; you will also appear with him in Glory.” Colossians 3:3-4
 
God Bless You
Again, I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:

I saw the tears of the oppressed—
    and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
    and they have no comforter.
And I declared that the dead,
    who had already died,
are happier than the living,
    who are still alive.
But better than both
    is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
    that is done under the sun.

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Fools fold their hands
    and ruin themselves.
Better one handful with tranquillity
    than two handfuls with toil
    and chasing after the wind.

Do What Ya Gotta Do–Ecclesiastes 3 Part 2

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Maybe if I work harder…one of the most difficult lies we face as people.  It is incredibly important to have and to build a good work ethic in our lives.  Our family should see in us a desire to work and do our best–but to what end? Will working hard make us or save us from our fate?  The answer from Solomon is once again–no.  It is great to be a good steward with our time, talent and treasure–but, stewardship is not what sets men on God’s level.

Objectively, Solomon notes that whether or not you work hard and are successful, life ends.  We can not escape the eventual outcome by being either industrious or illustrious.  Make no mistake, We will be held accountable for our actions, and apart from the grace and mercy our Lord’s death and resurrection provided, we, whether well behaved or wretched, were doomed to account for sin and separation from God.  There is a certain joy from doing and being all you can be–we were designed that way.  But, sadly, those behaviors can never bridge the gap between God and man–only Christ can do that.  So, Solomon makes it clear–Work hard, play hard but never expect for those things to change how your life will end–only God can do that!

God Bless You

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
    and what will be has been before;
    and God will call the past to account.[b]

16 And I saw something else under the sun:

In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
    in the place of justice—wickedness was there.

17 I said to myself,

“God will bring into judgment
    both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
    a time to judge every deed.”

It Is About Time!!!–Ecclesiastes 3 Part 1

Clearly, God is timeless–He is all-knowing, all-powerful and in all-places and times at once.  He does not perceive things linearly or chronologically! So, for those of us that are limited by the linear view of time–Solomon reminds us there is timing for everything.  In life, then and now (another time reference) we all have to face the events that are part of the journey.  When men are in balance, they meet each phase of life, both the good and bad with equal vigor. 
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As men are controlled by their selfish natures, they love to wrap themselves in the good times and avoid the challenges. Who could blame them, right. But, Solomon speaks to this in such a direct way, that it deserves us taking time and embracing the truth.  The truth is simple; we will face good and bad, happy and sad, hard and easy, profitable and expensive.  Each part in some way prepares us for the life we lead. 
 
We need to embrace life and its timing. In the wonderful times, we need to take the joy it provides and treasure it. In the difficult times, we need to learn and become better.  In the mournful times, we need to embrace the Lord and his eternal perspective; and, in the times of great success, we need to learn and replicate the things that brought us to that point.  Each event is critical to the journey.  If we can value them and use them to make us better, then we will see that timing is everything and God has timed things out–Perfectly.
 
God Bless You
There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

We All End the Same, Or Do WE–Ecclesiastes 2 Part 2

I make no apologies for this, but Solomon makes a difficult point–we all DIE! My pastor said it another way, “Nobody gets out of here alive!”  Solomon, as he was looking at all options, spoke to the obvious–clearly there are great advantages to seeking wisdom over folly.  It is as different as night and day! It is like walking as a sighted person versus walking blind. But, as one seeks wisdom or seeks folly, they will end in death.  Solomon realized that even the great things could not bring immortality. 

 
The great libraries across the world are stuffed with books and novels exposing men’s desire to be immortal and to be Superhuman–they chase science, philosophy, industry and folly.  In the end, however, it is always the same.  Well, that is the case with God out of the equation.  The great news is–that if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is LORD; and believe that God has raised him from the dead–then we will be saved and have eternal life! Romans 10:9, Romans 6:23.
 
Solomon, point taken, is looking at the world apart from God–The fabulous news is that we do not have to! We know that Christ is the difference.  We will not leave this joint “alive” by the world standard; we will leave to join God in our new eternal bodies–not ravaged by sin and death. In that day, we will be free and we will see that the journey was not meaningless–it was epic! Help me, Lord, to keep the faith to know that you are the difference, and we are yours!
 
God Bless You
Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
    and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
    than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
    just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
    while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
    that the same fate overtakes them both.

15 Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
    What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
    “This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
    the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!