While We’re Young

So what are we to make of this book of Ecclesiastes?  Throughout the book, the Teacher says over and over that everything is “meaningless.”  Is life meaningless?  Are all of our pursuits meaningless?  Are our relationships meaningless?  Is our working meaningless?  Is it truly best to just pursue pleasure because nothing really matters?  As we search for meaning and purpose, are we capable of finding them?  Or do we just flit about our days and look to the sky occasionally and throw up a few, “Thank Yous” to the Almighty and hope that everything works out?
Solomon concludes this book of wisdom with these words:

Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth​ – Ecclesiastes 12:1a (NIV)

The Hebrew word for “remember” means to honor, revere and obey the Author of life.  He says to do this while we are young.  Why?  I think that as the years progress it becomes harder to honor God.  Without a foundation of faith in our youth, we find it harder to come to faith when we are older.  It’s not impossible, mind you, but it is more difficult.  We grow more cynical and bitter as we age.  Life gets harder the older we get.  It gets harder physically as our bodies break down.  It gets harder emotionally as loved ones pass away.  It gets harder spiritually as the big questions of life seem to go unanswered.  Young people are dreamers and believers.  Little kids are believers and they question less than adults.  We educate the faith right out of our children.  We educate their innocence away.  What little faith and innocence remains is quickly eradicated by experience.  Do not lose the idealism, innocence and faith of your youth.  Honor God because, in the end, God is all you’ve got.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 (NIV)

Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”—
before the sun and the light
    and the moon and the stars grow dark,
    and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
    and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
    and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
    and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
    but all their songs grow faint;
when people are afraid of heights
    and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
    and the grasshopper drags itself along
    and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
    and mourners go about the streets.

Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
    and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
    and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
    and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
    “Everything is meaningless!”


No Matter What

NOTE: This is a re-post from 5 years ago yesterday. 

I am sitting at the University of Chicago Hospital this morning (5/25/2010) with my Dad.  He had emergency surgery at midnight.  The surgery went well and he’s resting now.  Please pray for his recovery.  What I wanted to write about was a statement made by his nurse a few moments ago that got me thinking.  She happily fulfilled a request of mine to turn off his roommate’s television (after the roommate went out for a test) and said, “Ask and ye shall receive.”  I said, “That’s what the Bible says.”  She said, “Oh, really?  That’s where that’s from?”  I answered, “Yes.  I kinda have to know that because I’m a pastor.”  She said, “Well, I’m Catholic, but I can’t say that I really go to church.”  She then went on to do her duties.

I started thinking about what she said about not going to church and how Jesus might respond to her.  I think His response would go a little something like this: “I love you.”  I believe that Jesus loves us no matter what.  Whether we are singing His praises or sinning against Him.  His love never changes and there’s nothing we can do to make Him love us more and He’ll never love us less than 100%.  Jesus always loves us perfectly.  Whether sitting in a church building or sitting in a bar or a strip club or a casino or a classroom or a hospital room or a cubicle, etc.  Everywhere you go, Jesus is loving you.  Whatever you are doing, Jesus is loving you.  May we somehow be able to grasp the incredible depth, height and width of God’s love today!


The Power Of God To Raise The Dead

The latest message from Griffith First Christian Church in Griffith, Indiana.  This message is based on John 11:38-44 and is about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.


Preparing For Judgment

I think that the second half of Ecclesiastes 11:9 offers a pretty clear warning about “following your heart”:

Follow the ways of your heart
    and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
    God will bring you into judgment.​ – Ecclesiastes 11:9b (NIV)​

It seems like Solomon is telling us to do whatever you like…but know that you will stand before the Judge one day.  Feel free to find your bliss or follow your heart, but you will be judged by Christ for everything you’ve done – good and bad alike.  We will be held accountable for every single word and deed in this life.  Whether you follow Jesus or not, there is a judgment coming for all of humanity.  Those who follow Christ will be found “not guilty,” while those who reject Jesus will be condemned for all of eternity.  The church has orders from Heaven to keep this from happening!  Look at verse 23 of Jude’s short letter:

save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.​ – Jude 23 (NIV)​

We have a job to do!  We have a Heavenly mandate!  The world is going to hell and we, as followers of Christ, cannot sit idly by with our eyes on the sky going, “I hope Jesus comes to rescue us from this horrible place.”  We are supposed to be urgently pulling people from the fires of hell, not just biding our time waiting for Jesus to come back!  We long for His return, but the fact that Jesus is coming back to judge the world should give us a sense of urgency to be making disciples of all nations as He told us to do in Matthew 28:18-20.  We will all be judged.  We must do everything in our power and with the power of the Holy Spirit within us to prepare people for judgment.  At the very least, let us tell the world that the Judge is coming.  He is coming and when He does, will He find us faithful to Him and His cause?
Ecclesiastes 11:7-10 (NIV)

Light is sweet,
    and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
However many years anyone may live,
    let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
    for there will be many.
    Everything to come is meaningless.

You who are young, be happy while you are young,
    and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
    and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
    God will bring you into judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart
    and cast off the troubles of your body,
    for youth and vigor are meaningless.


Understanding The Things Of God

As you do not know the path of the wind,
    or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
    the Maker of all things.​ – Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NIV)

People have gotten pretty good at predicting the weather, but we don’t really know for sure.  We know how the body is formed in the womb thanks to technology.  But back in Solomon’s day, they did not have 3D ultrasounds.  They did not have Doppler radar.  They did not have computer models for forecasting the weather and which way the wind would blow.  But one thing has not changed since those days.  You see, Solomon knew that the work of God is higher than the understanding of people.  It still is.  People want to know the works and things of God.  People are curious as to how and why God does what He does.
Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 2:11 (NIV):

…no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Here’s the good news for believers in Christ: the Spirit of God dwells in each of us.   For the Christian, we can understand better the things, thoughts and work of God because the Holy Spirit reveals them to us.  The Spirit of God reveals the things of God to followers of Christ by God’s grace.  If you’re living without the Spirit, you’re you cannot possibly hope to understand the things of God.  If you have the Spirit, He will show you God’s ways.  You will understand them better than those without the Spirit.  That does not mean that our finite minds will understand fully the things of God.  His will and His mind far surpass our knowledge and understanding.   Without the Spirit, though, there is no hope to possibly understand anything about the things of God.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 (NIV)

Ship your grain across the sea;
    after many days you may receive a return.
Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
    you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.

If clouds are full of water,
    they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
    in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
    whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.

As you do not know the path of the wind,
    or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
    the Maker of all things.

Sow your seed in the morning,
    and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
    whether this or that,
    or whether both will do equally well.


Others Before Self

14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too.19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. — Romans 14:14-23 (NLT)

In the 2nd half of Romans 14, Paul talks about being a stumbling block to others.  Our love for our brother or sister in Christ should cause us to put their spiritual well-being ahead of our own freedom.  If a brother or sister of mine has an issue with Christians drinking alcohol and I don’t, I should, out of Christian love for them, abstain from drinking in their presence.  If it is going to cause them to stumble, I need to be aware of that.  I need to love Christ and love them enough that I won’t cause them to stumble in their faith.  We may think, “That’s not fair!  That’s their issue, not mine!  I have the right to do as I please as long as I am not sinning!”  Being a Christian, though, is about putting God first and others before yourself.  If you are going to hurt someone’s walk with Christ then we need to set aside our “rights” for their benefit.  No one ever said that being a Christian was easy.  It is hard to put others before ourselves.  With the power of the Holy Spirit we can do just that.  What is more important?  Someone else’s spiritual health and walk with Christ or that light beer or glass of wine you want to drink?  The point is to be aware of others and to put their spiritual journey ahead of our freedom.  It’s not easy and it may not seem fair, but it is better to abstain than to cause someone whose faith may be weaker or on the edge to stumble and lose their faith altogether.



Due Diligence

What kinds of leaders are good for a nation?  Solomon addresses leadership in this passage in Ecclesiastes 10.  Foolish leaders are concerned only with themselves and are drunks.  They are lazy and let everything fall apart around them.  They revel in their position and they do nothing to help others.  They foolishly believe that money is the answer for everything.  He warns against speaking out against them because they may catch wind of what you’ve said and then they will make life very difficult for you.
We must be careful with regard to the leaders whom we select.  Are they wise or foolish?  Do they make good decisions based on what is best for their constituents or are they greedy for money and power?  Do they believe that money is the answer for everything or do they apply wisdom to situations to make the best decisions?
I believe that one of our greatest flaws as Americans is that we are lazy when it comes to electing our leaders.  Those who do their research into a candidate are few and far between.  We’ll watch pundits on 24 hour news networks use soundbites to shape our opinions of candidates.  We’ll read commentaries by columnists instead of going straight to the horse’s mouth.  We might even believe awful political ads that take words out of context and twist facts for a particular candidate’s benefit.  We need to do better when it comes to selecting our leaders.  We must be diligent in our research of the candidates and trust that God will hold them accountable for their leadership.  We have a major election next year in 2016.  Will we be ready when the candidates are narrowed down?  Will we do more than just vote along party lines?  Will we truly examine which candidates are wise and which ones are foolish?  The fate and future of our country depends on it!

Ecclesiastes 10:12-20 (NIV)

Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious,
    but fools are consumed by their own lips.
13 At the beginning their words are folly;
    at the end they are wicked madness—
14     and fools multiply words.

No one knows what is coming—
    who can tell someone else what will happen after them?

15 The toil of fools wearies them;
    they do not know the way to town.

16 Woe to the land whose king was a servant
    and whose princes feast in the morning.
17 Blessed is the land whose king is of noble birth
    and whose princes eat at a proper time—
    for strength and not for drunkenness.

18 Through laziness, the rafters sag;
    because of idle hands, the house leaks.

19 A feast is made for laughter,
    wine makes life merry,
    and money is the answer for everything.

20 Do not revile the king even in your thoughts,
    or curse the rich in your bedroom,
because a bird in the sky may carry your words,
    and a bird on the wing may report what you say.


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