Monthly Archives: March 2017

A One-of-a-kind Relationship

 

I have been putting off the completion of a book project for a number of years now. Life’s demands and complications necessitated that I make a few detours.  A project I viewed of paramount importance dropped off my radar. Where did the years go?

Recently, God has reminded me on a number of occasions that I need to finish this project.  The subject matter of the book is near and dear to my heart: Defining a relationship with God.  I hope to illustrate what this relationship could look like using a one-of-a-kind relationship familiar to all of us: one that involves “man’s best friend.”

So, in an effort to raise some interest on upcoming book and hold my own feet to the fire I will attempt to do a weekly post featuring an interesting dog quote.  Here is the first of many.

billings

 

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The Problem of Evil

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Ecclesiastes chapter 8.  As Solomon continues to process his thoughts on the benefits of wisdom, he comes up against the problem of evil. The existence of evil in our world is not generally one that godless people (unbelievers) concern themselves with. Those who don’t know God may not like evil, but it is what it is. The problem of evil lies with people of faith. If God is good and loving, why is evil allowed to fester in our world, and why is there so much suffering?

Warren Wiersbe explores the problem of evil in three areas: Authority (8:1-9); Inequity (8:10-14); Mystery (8:15-17)

military-662863_960_720Authority

Rulers have oppressed good citizens since the time of Nimrod (Genesis 10). Ancient rulers weren’t elected democratically. They held the power of life and death over their subjects. Rulers were sovereign and each ruler believed that he or she made no wrong decrees.

But what if a ruler asks an officer to do something evil? Should he:

  1. Be disobedient (v2) – Solomon advises to keep kings command. Be loyal (he made an oath to serve the ruler. Following orders avoids punishment
  2. Consider desertion (v3) – Officer risks punishment or worse. Desertion would preserve his character.
  3. Be defiant (v3) – Solomon advises not to get involved with a plot to overthrow the king. Is there a time and place for defiance?  In Acts 3:29 Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Christians must obey their consciences.   Disagreement demands “wisdom and grace.”
  4. Use discernment (v5-6) – Understanding proper time and procedure (text uses judgment) under which the officer can operate. The lives of Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, Nehemiah in Persia demonstrate the use of discernment (James 1:5; 3:17-18)

Inequity

The righteous get what wicked deserve, wicked what the righteous deserve. The example we are given is of a deceased man who routinely visited the temple. He had not lived a godly life but praise was heaped upon him. The truly godly people of the city were ignored or forgotten.

Mankind continues to sin because it can be gotten away with. God is viewed as being asleep at the helm. However, God is long-suffering and doesn’t judge sinners immediately (2 Peter 3:1-12).

interview-851440_960_720There will be a judgment of the wicked, rewards for righteous

Mystery

“The person who has to know everything, or who thinks he knows everything is destined for disappointment in this world.” Wiersbe

Will Durant, a historian, concluded, “Our knowledge is a receding mirage in an expanding desert of ignorance.”

If anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know            1 Corinthians 8:2

Solomon admonishes us for the 4th time to enjoy life and the fruits of our labor.

Solomon does not reject wisdom; instead, he finds it necessary and useful to get the most out of life.

Wisdom’s Purpose

 

orion-568635_960_720Every one of us would like to know what the future holds. But no matter how much experience we gain or how much wisdom we possess, the future is still going to be a big unknown. For Christians “the future” is always and forever a matter of faith in God and yielding to his providence.

How, then, can wisdom be put to good use. Solomon gives us three useful purposes of Wisdom in Ecclesiastes chapter 7.

The first purpose of wisdom is to make life better.

  • Why is a good name better than perfume?

Warren Wiersbe: every person is born with three names. A name the family gives you, the name others call you, and the one you acquire for yourself. At birth you have no reputation. After you die your reputation defines you.

  • Why is the day of death better than the day of birth?

At birth we are propelled into a transient existence “under the sun.” Death propels us into eternity (Paul said “to die is gain” Phil 1:21, 23)

  • Why is attending a funeral better than attending a party?

Eaton said, “Every funeral anticipates our own.” Funerals remind us of our mortality. Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

  • Is frustration better than laughter?

A fool doesn’t learn from the lessons of life. A wise person when they face death, disease and destruction learns from it and they become better not bitter. (Dr. Jeremiah)

  • Is rebuke better than praise?

Being flattered by worthless praise is like feeding crackling thorns to a fire. There is a burst of heat and bright flame but no lasting value. “Rebukes are really compliments turned inside out, designed to mold and mature us in wonderful ways.” Dr. Jeremiah (Proverbs 10:17; 12:1; 15:5; 17:10; 25:12)

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  • What’s wrong with shortcuts?

A bribe is a shortcut. Consider Satan tempting Christ in the wilderness. You want food—make these stones bread; you want fame—leap from this temple; you want followers—just bow to me. Bribery corrupts the heart.

  • Is the end really better than the beginning?

Steven Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” We need to visualize the goal and choose our steps to get there. The patience of a wise man is much better than the pride and anger of a fool.

  • Don’t long for the “good old days”

It is said that the “good old days” are a combination of a bad (selective) memory and a good imagination. Victorian essayist Hildaire Belloc: “While you are dreaming of the future or regretting the past, the present, which is all you have, slips from you and is gone.”

The second benefit of wisdom is enabling us to see life more clearly

Maturity is the ability to put life in perspective. Wisdom leads to maturity (Wiersbe)

Wealth – without wisdom an inheritance flounders. With wisdom, an inheritance likely flourishes

Providence – (Consider what God has done) Yielding to the will of God accomplishes more than fighting him every step of the way

Adversity and prosperity – with wisdom we can differentiate between mountain top experiences and spiritual valleys (we can see the sun). With wisdom we can battle adversity and keep from being discouraged (Job 2:10)

Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New Testament.” Francis Bacon.

The future – No matter how much experience we have gained as we walk through life we must still walk by faith. (Wiersbe). In Daniel 12:8-9, He asked, “What shall be the outcome of these things?” The angel told Daniel to go his way.

Verses 15-24 are very difficult to commentate on their meaning and hard to understand.

Wicked prosper while continuing their wickedness, the righteous seem to be robbed of both blessing and long life. Dr. Jeremiah offers this comment, ”God is both loving and powerful, but He allows the rewards to be reversed—success for evil, suffering for the good—for reasons relating to his eternal plan, and because it is the consequence of a fallen world in which we ourselves have invited such chaos.”

Don’t be overly righteous, overly wise or overly wicked and foolish?

Solomon is not advocating middle of the road spirituality. Being “sorta” holy is a sure path to hell. It’s a warning about being self-righteous and exalting yourself before others.

The third and final purpose of wisdom found in Ecclesiastes chapter 7 is being able to face life stronger

directory-229117_960_720Seek wisdom, not perfection. We are flawed creatures, our nature is to sin. Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10); fear of the Lord leads to life. (Proverbs 19:23)

Don’t listen to the gossip said about you. If it’s not constructive, it is not worth your time. Trying to shape your life solely from what people are saying about you is not wisdom. “If we get upset when people talk about us, we are holding them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves to.” Dr. David Jeremiah

Solomon admits he lacks wisdom in areas of life’s inequalities and that death is inevitable. Ultimate wisdom does not lie in the land of the living (Job 28:13).

The woman whose heart is snares and nets is a seductress (opposite of a loving wife). Solomon’s harem could have totaled 1,000 women. These are the women who served foreign gods, daughters of foreign kings  who were often priestesses of pagan religions. Contrast this with what Solomon said about godly women (Proverbs 1:20-33)

Not one upright woman among them all (his harem?). As one commentator put it, what godly woman would place herself willingly in the midst of Solomon’s harem?

We were made upright (to walk in God’s light of truth) yet we continually scheme and pervert God’s ways

Phillip Ryken sums up all of Ecclesiastes this way, “Wise people will say all of the things that Ecclesiastes says. They will tell us that living for pleasure and working for selfish gain are striving after the wind. They will tell us that God has a time for everything, including a time to be born and a time to die. They will tell us that two are better than one at facing all of the toils and trials of life. They will tell us that because God is in heaven and we are on earth, we should be careful what we say. They will tell us that money will never satisfy our souls. In Short, they will teach us not to live for today, but to live for eternity.”

 

Life’s Inequalities

Is life a dead end street? If you are among those who have found no lasting enjoyment in any of life’s pursuits, it may seem so. This thought is not new. Moses, Elijah, Job, Jeremiah, Solomon, Jonah, Paul and other notable Bible figures struggled to the point where some “wished they’d never been born.”

In chapter 6 of Ecclesiastes Solomon struggles with the inequities of life he has seen.

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V1-2    One of the great inequities in life according to Solomon is someone possessing wealth yet not being able (or allowed) to enjoy it for one reason or another.

  • We need to realize that God controls both the giving of wealth and ability to enjoy it (Wm. Barrick)

V3-5    Solomon’s illustration switches to other forms of wealth. Culturally, being blessed with children was seen as possessing great wealth. (Ps 127:3-5)

  • In Solomon’s view a stillborn child is better off than a man who faces nothing but frustration and disappointment his whole life with regards to his family.
  • Stillborn children were not named in ages past as it was thought that by not naming a child it would facilitate the passing of grief
  • No burial – culturally viewed as dishonorable; a person not receiving a proper burial would be viewed as cursed

V6       Long life – in ancient times long life is said to bring honor to ones parents. It is no guarantee, however, that a person will be remembered or that they will enjoy life more and experience an extra measure of happiness.

According to Warren Wiersbe, refusing to acknowledge the Giver (God) while enjoying gifts we receive is a form of idolatry. Likewise, searching for enjoyment apart from God equates to fleeting entertainment. But knowing God and finding enjoyment in his will offers lasting joy and satisfaction (enrichment).

V7-9    The word “satisfaction” here carries the meaning of being filled.

  • A poor man labors with his muscles, while the rich man lets his wealth labor for him. They both labor for food. Why? Each strives to add years to their life.
  • In nature, self-preservation is the first law of life. In man’s case this same desire for self-preservation leads to death (Mark 8:34-38).
  • V9 is equivalent to the saying, “a bird in hand is worth more than two in the bush.” It is better to have something and enjoy it than have nothing but dreams.

hands-1139098_960_720Dr. David Jeremiah offers this perspective on work:  You may be tempted to think: My boss is not God so why give it my all?

  • Work makes life compelling and teaches us about ourselves
  • Work brings us the pleasure of fruitfulness; we find meaning in it.
  • Work is earthly, while joy is heavenly. How do we connect the two? We need to make sure the Holy Spirit supplies the power to help us find enjoyment in our work.

V10-12 Introduce us to the theme SOVERIEGN LORD, which the balance of Ecclesiastes concerns itself with.

V10     Named – naming displays authority. In the book of Genesis God named “light,” he also named “day”

Man – (adam) is formed from the earth and hence this is our standing in the grand scheme of things.

“Devote yourself not with the pursuit of happiness, but with discovering God’s purpose and plan for your life.” W. Wiersbe

v11     Words which increase futility – this exposes our critical need to spend time in God’s word. God’s word leads to life, man’s words are condemning.

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What then is our advantage – Everyone wants an advantage, to use it to control his or her own destiny. We manipulate objects, circumstances and people trying to accomplish that aim. It is God that determines what happens to the individual. Striving against God accomplishes nothing (Isaiah 45:9-12)

V12     Who knows what is good for a man or woman – there is an expression, “God is good all the time, all the time God is good.”

GOOD is the bridge to Ecclesiastes chapter 7.

“Solomon systematically removes every rationale that a person might offer for the existence of inequalities in life “under the sun.” He places creature in contrast with Creator to exhibit mankind’s weakness in the presence of Almighty God.” Wm Barrick

God designed man in a certain way. He made us for himself. This is why success and riches never seem to satisfy because they lead us away from Him. The secret of life, finding heaven on earth has nothing to do with finding a treasure map that will lead us to treasure. The secret boils down to obedience. (Dr. D Jeremiah)

A sixth key to happiness

man-1365569_960_720This one may seem obvious to some, especially those who already carry it with them.  I assert that carrying a song in your heart is a key to happiness.  Music has the ability to reinforce our mood or change it.  A song can buoy us in times of great pain, or comfort us in times of sorrow.  With music we can express our deepest feelings and desires.  When we sing with our heart, the song that resides within us becomes our song, our expression.

Putting a song in our heart, enables us to  worship that which we desire to serve.  So choosing the right song(s) to carry us through life is paramount as we search for joy that can bring us happiness.  Will the joy we find be temporary (worldly), or everlasting (heavenly)?

Shout with joy before the Lord, O earth!  Obey him gladly; come before him, singing with joy.  Try to realize what this means–the Lord is God!  He made us–We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.  Go through his open gates with great thanksgiving; enter his courts with praise.  Give thanks to him and bless his name.  For the Lord is always good.  He is always loving and kind, and his faithfulness goes on and on to each succeeding generation.  Psalm 100 NLT

Now that is something worthy to sing about!  May the song in your heart offer praise to the God who created you, His Son, Jesus, who saved you, and His Spirit equipped to guide you all the days of your life.

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