The Odor of Stupid–Ecclesiastes 10 Part 1

Stupidity has a very noticeable odor.  When one is in a situation where stupidity reigns, it is itself intolerable.  Stupidity has many side effects.  It causes people to ignore God and become self-sufficient.  It causes them to make choices that are life ending, life threatening, and world changing. As a former prosecutor, we always opined that the criminal code could be made a great deal more simple by adding a law called felony stupid.
smelly-images
Stupid not only lives in the criminal realm, it also lives in politics, corporate America and hold on to your hats, the church.  As God’s chosen, we need to cling to the truth of his word and stand firm in what we know is right.  We cannot succumb to the culture’s pressure to ignore what is right and decent to avoid offending those that make stupid choices.
 
As a father, husband, worker and follower of Christ, I am under scrutiny all the time.  I make my share of dumb choices–and believe me, they stick out like dirty socks. I am grateful that God is full of grace and mercy and will forgive and restore those willing to admit and agree we make stupid choices– and seek to follow him in making the right choices as we move ahead.
 
God Bless You
As dead flies give perfume a bad smell,
    so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
    but the heart of the fool to the left.
Even as fools walk along the road,
    they lack sense
    and show everyone how stupid they are.
If a ruler’s anger rises against you,
    do not leave your post;
    calmness can lay great offenses to rest.

There is an evil I have seen under the sun,
    the sort of error that arises from a ruler:
Fools are put in many high positions,
    while the rich occupy the low ones.

Embrace the Uncertainty–Ecclesiastes 9 Part 1

The uncertainty of life; it is truly a mixture of exciting and maddening to have to walk by faith.  Solomon, speaks to faith from an unorthodox perspective.  He sees that there is so little we actually control.  Whether good or bad, responsible or not–God remains in charge.  In his plan execution, God leaves us questioning the fairness, the logic and reason and even the holiness of God’s plan.
 
Truth is, we simply cannot know the mind or plans of God.  We can choose to trust and follow him or choose to stay independent of him and do things our way.  Each time we choose to follow him, the ultimate end is glorifying to him and most often great for us. We grow and are prepared to face any and all circumstances.  That ability keeps us from being destroyed when things turn away from the normal.  Sadly, those that refuse to follow often think they have the world by the tail–only to find they were deceived and entrapped into a life of emptiness with little to show for their journey but trinkets that go on eBay.
 
Solomon put a nice point on the issue in Proverbs 3 when he said–“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your path straight.”
 
God Bless You
So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad,[a] the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.

As it is with the good,
    so with the sinful;
as it is with those who take oaths,
    so with those who are afraid to take them.

This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. Anyone who is among the living has hope[b]—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!

For the living know that they will die,
    but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
    and even their name is forgotten.
Their love, their hate
    and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
    in anything that happens under the sun.

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom

A Good Name is Better than a Fine Perfume–Ecclesiastes 7 Part 1

The older we get, the more we come to realize that our reputation and integrity are our most valued treasure.  We also come to realize that the end of the journey often holds more value than does the beginning.  Merlin, of King Arthur fame said it best, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Solomon is stating the case that, while frivolity, laughter and fun are enjoyable and memorable–it is our trials, the mourning, and the struggles in our lives that define us.  boots_half_price_fragrance_

He also wants to make clear, that it means more to have a good name than it does to have a house full of treasure or a schedule full of games and parties.  We all love to have fun.  Games, vacations, family gatherings all are wonderful–but, it is our handling of life and its daily challenges that define us, strengthen us and equip us to lead and teach others about God and his power.  Protect your name–do not let a circumstance destroy what you have built for a lifetime.  Embrace those moments and people in your life that make you stronger.  Don’t only seek yes men and charmers–seek those willing to keep you accountable and willing to speak the truth in love.  They will bring you a great name and a lasting legacy.

God Bless You

A good name is better than fine perfume,
    and the day of death better than the day of birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
    because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person
    than to listen to the song of fools.
Like the crackling of thorns under the pot,
    so is the laughter of fools.
    This too is meaningless

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

Paul’s Arrival to Rome!-Acts 28 Final

Paul finally arrived in Rome. He had been beaten, stoned, flogged and shipwrecked– but, as God promised, he was safely delivered to Rome where he was able to preach freely for over 2 years.  He made the Gospel known to both Jew, Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, slave and free.  He made no distinctions , he only told the truth to whomever would listen.  There at the center of the world at his time, Paul was able to spread the message to so many across the globe.  It was very difficult, and Paul ultimately gave his life for the Gospel, but, the legacy of this cocky young Pharisee was to literally change the world.

We can never be sure the impact we will have on the lives of others.  Our trials, temptations and tribulations seem to us to hold us back from being effective.  Still, in God’s planning and execution, those things become the very cornerstones of his plan.  He loves the uniqueness of each of us and exploits that uniqueness to further his mission in our lives.  We, like Paul, must accept his plan, his leadership and his method.  If we will, he will do wondrous things to us and through us until we rejoin him for eternity.  Paul said it best to the Romans–“All things work together for the good to those that Love Jesus and are called according to His purpose!” Romans 8:28

God Bless You

The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him...

‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]

28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” [29] [b]

30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

What are you Crazy, or Something–Acts 26 Part 2

The Governor, Festus was the one that asked what everyone was thinking…”What are you nuts?”  Why would a perfectly successful Jewish leader, at what seemed the height of his career, turn rogue on his group and become public enemy number one in the religious circles?  The answer was simply that God called him to repentance, restoration and revolution.  Paul, the king of the rules, was to teach the world about a life justified by faith and covered in grace.  This was truly one of God’s huge ironies.  Still in the midst of his trial, it became clear to Agrippa and Festus that the trial was a sham and that Paul was wrongfully accused of sedition.  He was simply guilty of sharing his beliefs and being passionate about his mission–neither act was worthy of execution or even trial court.
 
The world still thinks we are nuts.  For the world, we are all like Paul.  We are counter-culture.  We Love God and others more than we love ourselves.  We choose to give ourselves over to the service of others, rather than, taking from others to meet our wants and desires.  In the godless person’s eyes, “that is crazy stuff!”  But, in our experience, the reality of God’s paradoxical nature makes perfect sense.  We know by faith he is in charge of meeting our needs, we are simply to trust and follow.  While we are following, he uses us to meet the needs of others in big and small ways.  From a kind word to paying someone’s electric bill, we are at his service throughout the journey.  As we serve, the amazing miracle of his desire to make our lives full of purpose and meaning–shines through.  We, like Paul see God’s hand and are blessed in the mist of the world’s persecution and disbelief. That is what makes it an amazing adventure!
 
God Bless You
That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”

32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Then to Ceasar You Will Go–Acts 25 Part 2

The plan was to change the world.  Paul had traveled Europe and Asia for years–preaching the Gospel and turning both Jew and non-Jew to the Lord.  Still, after literal years of incarceration and being tried in Jewish and Roman courts–never adjudged guilty of anything–Paul stood before another governor pleading his innocence. Outside the court, the enemies of Paul waited to have him released so that they could kill him.
 
Paul claimed his rights a Roman–to appear and plead his case to the Emperor. In most cases, such a request would be laughed at–but Paul was not most cases!  God had a plan to have him inhabit the very palace of Caesar. There he could change the very inner workings of an Empire.  There, Paul would be safe from his “would be”  assassins and finally be able to encourage and disciple the Romans that already knew Christ.
 
Tough circumstances are never easily or eagerly welcomed by God’s people.  Personally, I like rainbows and unicorns.  I hate the trials, temptations and tragedies we have to face on this journey.  If, however, as his chosen people, we can use each event to somehow advance his kingdom, then, looking back–we will see his plan unfold and our legacy increase.  There is neither possessions enough or power enough to replace an eternal legacy. 
Paul said it best in Philippians 3–, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus!” 
 
God calls us to face the journey with our legacy in mind–if we will, then we will experience a full and meaningful life. 
 
God Bless You
Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?”

10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”

12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

Soldiering On–Acts 25 Part 1

I am sure that there were days that Paul was really tired of the fight.  He went to Jerusalem to show solidarity with the Church in Jerusalem.  He brought them financial aid collected from around the world.  He followed Jewish tradition to humor them.  Still, well over two years later, he sat in prison, having been tried twice; examined by Felix countless times–and still, no resolution.  Paul had every right to be angry, resentful frustrated and demoralized.  But-instead, he continued to share the Gospel with whomever would listen.
 
Life is not fair.  As his chosen, we are faced with trials, tribulation and temptations that seem to go on forever.  Amazingly, as we look, we see him answer prayers–one after another.  We watch his plan unfold and the results are always awesome.  Even when the inexplicable does occur–his love, grace and mercy carries us through what would otherwise be life-ending emotion and pain.  But, over time, we grow weary and discouraged.  We start to lose the energy and focus needed to navigate the spiritual battle in which we are locked.  That is when we can fall into his arms, follow his lead and allow him to provide the strength and courage to carry on.  It is a miracle each day.  If we will remain humble and submissive to his lead, he will deliver us and fortify us with his spirit.  Then we will truly experience the abundant and fruitful Christian life.
 
God Bless You
Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.”After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.

Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”

The Truth of the Self-Absorbed–Acts 24

After Paul was safely delivered to the Governor Felix, He presented his case to the Governor.  Paul, who was accused of being a hooligan and a rabble-rouser, was easily seen as an articulate and reasonable man.  Felix listened as Paul explained about Christ and his mission to Europe, Asia and his brief visit back to Jerusalem.  Problem was–Felix simply did not care.  He was looking for Paul to line his pockets not explain his innocence. He met with Paul several times over a two year period, gave him some limited freedom and even had him preach to his wife–still at the end of his term, he had no intention of freeing Paul.  He simply used him as a tool to control the Jewish leadership.

In present day, little has changed.  The overriding principle with those that do not know Jesus is–that they are focused on themselves and their own personal interests. They may entertain and even feign interest in the truth and what is right, but at day’s end, they have only one intention, to meet their personal interests and line their own pockets.  We, as believers, must not be fooled into believing that the world will ever accept or believe in the truth.  We must be faithful in delivering the truth, but, leave the power of change to the one person that makes change–the Holy Spirit.  Paul knew it, and we should always remember– we are to remain available but allow God to be the change agent.  If we do, then we will walk in peace and get to watch God do amazing things!!!

God Bless You

17 “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 18 I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. 19 But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. 20 Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin— 21 unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’”

22 Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.

27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.

The Best Laid Plans–Acts 22 Part 2

There is a direct correlation between the submission to God’s authority and the peace and order we experience in our lives.  Paul was traveling the journey God had warned him about.  He was clearly under persecution, and his enemies–the Jewish leadership, continued to try to unhinge and ultimately kill him.  While the attempts continued to be troublesome for Paul, the Lord made it clear that his ultimate plan would be executed.
 
The best laid plan of the Jewish assassins was formed, and would have been great–except, God allowed Paul’s nephew to be made aware and report it to the authorities.  Jerusalem was a big city; imagine the odds that of all the people to overhear the secret–it would be one of the few folks that actually cared about Paul’s life.  With God, there are no coincidences.
 
In our lives, we are faced daily with circumstance and oddities that we disregard as coincidence.  If we would be honest and aware, we would see and acknowledge God’s hand in our daily lives and direct answers to our prayer.  If, we as stubborn and stiff necked children would then simply admit God is in control,then the light would come on and we would, like Elisha’s servant in Dothan, begin to see things from God’s perspective.  In that view, the darkest and most hopeless of times would take on a new light and luster of faith and peace.  As preachers and followers of Christ have said for years, “I have read the last page, and guess what–WE Win!”  Paul summed it up best in his letter to Philippi–“Do not be anxious about anything, but, in everything–by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, bring your requests to God.  then,the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!”
 
God Bless You

The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.

17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him to the commander.

The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”

19 The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”

20 He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. 21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.”

22 The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.

21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’