Meaningless!

Solomon lived a whole life full of great power, wealth, and wisdom. He wrote Ecclesiastes towards the end of it all to offer his keen reflections and insights.

This is what he had to say:

“These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem. ‘Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless!’ ” (Ecc. 1:1-2) NLT

What?? This is his great surmise of life?

Well, that is kind of a letdown.

It is until we know the backstory of why he landed on this conclusion.

For being so wise, Solomon decided he would offer his wisdom but didn’t feel the need to totally live by it. He decided his ways were better than God’s. He chased after things that didn’t matter.

What is “meaningless” are all of our pursuits outside of God’s plan for us: money, accolades, immoral behaviors, and pride to name a few.

Running ahead of God to grab ahold of what we think will make us happy, we soon realize how fast it transforms into sand through our fingers.

At the end of his life, Solomon is still imparting his wisdom. He is just viewing it more from the angle of what not to do.

Solomon wants us to understand to obtain true peace, happiness, and joy, we need to walk alongside our Father all the days of our lives.

Solomon goes on to say, “I, the Teacher, was king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem.  I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (Ecc. 1:12-14) NLT

Do we really need Solomon’s sage advice to know this to be true?  I know I don’t.

I have pursued relationships—begging to find myself within the eyes of the person I was with only to realize they were the wrong eyes staring back.

I have pursued my career in different settings to find my “happy place” only to be let down time and time again.

I sought after praise and approval from those around me desperately wanting to feel “good” and “worthy.”  I skidded into hopelessness when the praise didn’t come.  When it did come, the feeling that I measured up was a fire that burned out every evening.  I needed it to be rekindled each and every day.  It didn’t matter if someone else was having a bad day or preoccupied with their own lives .  Their second job was fill my interal gas tank.  They just didn’t know it.

Food, lust, big houses, bigger bank accounts, popularity, cars, vacations, upgrades, promotions—they all fall within the same ranks.  Meaningless!

Solomon had all of this and more—more than we could ever visualize or wish for ourselves, yet he found the totality of it meaningless.

The truth he gained from the fruits of his labor and dogged focus is that if they are not acquired with God at the center, they are not gains at all.

These are not bad pursuits in and of themselves, but without the presence, paramaters, and approval of God, they will actually illuminate in the end just how empty we really are.

 

The moment we run ahead of him, everything becomes, “Completely meaningless!”

4) My Journey Through Revelation: The Church in Pergamum (Rev. 2:8-17)

“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me.  You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.”  (Rev. 2:13) NLT

As I am reading through Revelation, I often wonder why all of these letters were included.  What is the main purpose for us knowing the content of these letters which held a specific message for a specific church?  The gist of each letter was to tell the churches that Jesus wants them to get their acts together.  If they kept to their ways, Christ would have no choice but to remove their lamp stands and the message of the Gospel would be lost forever.

The letters obviously did the trick, so what does this have to do with us?

Let’s find out.

The letter to the church in Pergamum is short but packed with so much wisdom.  At the start of the letter, Jesus praised the church for remaining faithful and obedient even after they witnessed one of their brothers being martyred for his faith.

The letter also tells us that this church’s address was in the same city where Satan had his throne.  Could you imagine living in the city where Satan had his throne?  His powerful influence kept this city’s air heavy with sin and blinded its citizens to kneel to a rule-set that flew in the face of Christ’s teachings.  As a believer, the oppression would have been both stifling and frightening.

The Church’s small voice attempting to shout warnings into this sea of blackness could easily get lost among the churning of the winds.

It is a good thing our God is not a God of good or bad odds.  In Pergamum, His flock is outnumbered, but numbers don’t mean much to Him.  Remember Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed?  Miracles can occur if we are willing to close our eyes to our human measuring sticks and be willing to accept the vision of our King’s.

Jesus did have something against this church, though.  As strong as they were in their faith and obedience, they accepted some among them who still adhered to the teachings of Balaam—a false prophet.  This nasty man was hired by Balak, king of Moab, to bring a curse the Jews.  God protected the Jews from this curse.  Balaam then resorted to tricking the Jews into partaking in pleasures and practices that were not of God.  To make things worse, they also had those among them who still followed the teachings of the Nicolaitans. 

“Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Rev. 2:16-17) NIV

I am beginning to understand why we are receiving this particular letter and why it wasn’t just read and discarded into oblivion.  The comparison of what Jesus has against these churches, He also has against us.  If this church kept tolerating even a few who believed in these sinful teachings, their sickness would eventually pollute the believers around them.

Have you ever had a pint of strawberries that were plump and sweet?  I have noticed that when one starts going bad and it wasn’t caught early enough to remove, the rest seemed to quickly follow suit.  The ripe strawberries surrounding the rotten strawberry would turn wet and smooshy and end up in the trash.  My beautiful carton of strawberries suddenly decreased in number.

A teeny-tiny crack in the windshield could create a spiderweb effect in the glass if exposed to enough of the hot sun.

It really doesn’t take much to let things crumble.

These letters to the churches are just as relevant today as they were when first written.  Sin hasn’t changed much over the years.  While trying to adhere to God’s laws, we may allow ourselves a small sinful pleasure thinking nothing will come of it.  I mean after all, aren’t we mostly good?

The amazing pastor of a church who does great things and leads according to God’s Word suddenly finds himself in the headlines on the front page because of a small sin he allowed into his life.  The cancer grew and overtook his ministry, but He was mostly good, right?

How often are we “tricked” and led astray by turning our ear only slightly away from God to listen to the whisper of another who didn’t follow God’s laws? A few drinks a day  even though we have a family history of alcoholism: a quick peek on the internet of someone who isn’t our spouse: a married person’s acceptance of an invitation to have a bite after work to discuss the stresses from the day with a coworker of the opposite sex.

These small cracks can lead to so much more than we think.  When the unforeseeable becomes our new reality, Jesus would then have no choice but to use the sword of His mouth against the sin woven into the fabric of our souls.  We let in the enemy disguised as a small, innocent decision which allowed God to be slowly pushed out.

If we find ourselves shaking our heads at the place we’ve landed and see our souls now soaked with the darkness of the sin that has taken over, turn against the sin and towards your God.  Our God is not a God of odds, and He is able to do so much with so very little.  His Grace is sufficient, even if we see no way out.  We need to offer up our admissions and regrets to Him and through our repentance, He will turn back on the lights.

 

 

There is Only One Kind of Clean

(Proverbs 28:26) “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.” NIV

My Christian walk has never been a straight line.  I more resemble those GPS trackers of people who post their run on Facebook.  I make a left then a right, I head straight for a while, backtrack, and eventually end where I started-the spot God wanted me in the first place.

I am so very thankful that His mercies are renewed for us everyday, and that we do not have to earn His love.  Could you imagine if we had to earn His love?  I’d be out in the cold before my feet hit the floor.

Let’s praise Him for His gift of renewal. None of us are deserving which makes us all connected siblings. Our Father is ready to wash away the muck and grime. We just have to be willing to step into the tub to be made clean.

water

Why Just Being Wise is Not Enough

I have been praying to God every day for His wisdom. As I was reading Proverbs 25 in my study Bible, I finally understood it is not just wisdom we should be praying for. We need to pray for moral discernment of what is right or wrong. This is what Solomon asked God for in order to rule God’s chosen people.

I assumed Wisdom covered it all. I was wrong in thinking this way. We need eyes to see what is right and wrong to correctly choose the wise path to take.

I also read in the side notes something that gave me peace. I constantly feel so unworthy to be asking for God’s wisdom because the sin battles I face daily are due to a corrupted heart that lives outside of Eden.

God is very understanding about this. He knows our desire for wisdom is a battle and this is the very reason we need to renew our prayers daily to seek and accept His moral discernment—not ours.

If we don’t seek His views of right and wrong, we are left with our own which can be clouded with jealousy, revenge, or unforgiveness. We can feel with our whole hearts that we are morally correct when there is a slight against us, but whose moral judgment is the right one? God’s or ours?

Let’s listen to the prayer of Solomon and learn by his example.

“5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”

6 And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. 7 Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. 9 Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

10 The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. 11 Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, 12 behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. 13 And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. 14 So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” (NKJV)

How Clean is Your House?

2 Corinthians 6:16King James Version (KJV)

16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

I read this verse, and it hit me powerfully.  I read other Bible translations, but the King James Version illuminated the meaning the best.

“I will dwell in them, and walk in them”

Yikes! God is walking in me.  He is walking in you.  What does He see?

I guess on some level I knew this.  The Holy Spirit dwells within us, and God knows every thought and action even before they occur.  In a way I have been holding on to the idea that I had some control over when and how I let God in, especially the times I was thinking/doing something He wouldn’t approve of.  Even then He is walking inside my temple.

He sees my dirt and grime.  Am I giving Him a place He would want to stay?

Our homes have locked doors.  When people knock, we can choose if or how they will enter our home.  We could keep them standing on the front porch without opening our doors.  We could open the door a crack and make them stand there while we talk.  We could invite them into our entry way or front room that shows a level of cleanliness we  are not embarrassed by and hoping this will provide the illusion that the rest of the house looks the same, or we can have them come inside and wander the house without any fear of what they find.

A locked door won’t stop God from entering.  We can’t keep Him waiting on the front porch or only show Him what we want Him to see.  We can’t create an illusion to make Him believe the rest of our thoughts and actions are just as clean as the ones we are willing to show Him.

When we accept God as our Father and His Son as our Savior, our temples come with no doors or windows.  As Christians, we need to shine a light on our dark corners and sweep out the cobwebs that still lurk inside.  We can’t harbor darkness and accept bits of sin and evil into our lives because we create a space that does not welcome God.

“I will dwell in them, and walk in them”

This was a game changer for me in how I viewed my relationship with God.  There is no more hiding or covering up with sprays and perfumes.  He will see through it all and loves us anyway, so let’s offer up our hurts for His help and sins for His forgiveness.  He doesn’t want us cluttering our temples but rather clearing them out so we can walk with Him along a clear and unobstructed path.  

 

 

Do I Hang a Left or Right?

prov 22 12

It can sometimes be difficult to trust that God’s plans are the right plans. This is especially true when those who are not following God’s plans appear to have an easier path than what is chartered for us.

The smooth and unobstructed pathway for those who don’t seek wisdom presents a blind curve that gives no hint as to what lies ahead.

God promises to be bless those who continue on the path He has laid out for them. When we are struggling, we too don’t know what is behind the curve up ahead. We just know we are asked to be faithful and intentional and God will bless our efforts.

Would you choose to face the unknown bend in the road by following your own path or God’s path? Knowing that God’s promises are true, it is better to travel down a difficult trail with God than sliding on thin ice without Him.

 

Memes for Christ: The Wise are the Rich

We should be seeking out God–not things. His ways should be our ways because to live a life after Him means we are seeking wisdom. We tend to migrate towards the light that wise people cast off and their names are always well respected. When we choose God, we are choosing wisdom. Being wise far exceeds any wealth that silver and gold may bring.

memes

The Sluggard Within

I am sharing an incredible sermon by Rick Hodshire given at my church this past weekend. We are making our way through Proverbs and Proverbs challenges us to live a life of discipline and avoid the consequences of being a sluggard. We should be using our time intentionally and leaving the excuses behind.

I really needed this sermon. I’m trying to be disciplined and consistent in my writing and constantly battling the sluggard within. I have now involved my best friend in prayer and commissioned my early rising husband to literally make sure I’m standing upright and out of bed at 5:00 AM! He’s a brave man who is using his area of strength to help in my desires to be intentional. I prefer the sun to be positioned overhead when I wake up, but the morning is when I am most productive. I’m sleeping through and stealing time away from all that God is asking me to do.

Are you also battling your inner sluggard? This sermon has a lot of tips and truths that will guide you into God’s will for a purposeful life.

#wisewords

http://onecornerstone.org/messages/discipline/

Blessed are Those Who are Wise

Proverbs 21 is like a throw down between good and evil, true wealth and true poverty, wicked and wise, righteous and proud, desire and motive, and the lazy and the diligent. It sweeps across the page like a machete cutting tall grass. It doesn’t allow any chance of evil intentions to be misconstrued as good deeds. What we think is right may be wrong in the eyes of our Lord. Proverbs 21 is a good resource to turn to if you are unsure.

Here are just a few versus:

21:4 “Haughty eyes, a proud heart, and evil actions are all sin.”

21:6 “Wealth created by a lying tongue is a vanishing mist and a deadly trap.”

21:16 “The person who strays from common sense will end up in the company of the dead.”

21:17 “Those who love pleasure become poor; those who love wine and luxury will never be rich.”

21:25 “Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work.”

21:31 “The horse is prepared for the day of the battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.”

Sometimes I love to see our God as a sweet, loving Father who gives great big hugs. The truth is as our Father, He also has to give us direction, wisdom and discipline in order for Him to do a great work in us. Our skeletons need to be exposed and our hearts need to be searched. What is done in the dark has to be brought into the light. The pain this will bring is shadowed by the peace we will gain if we open our hearts to the Lord.

Let God search your heart and your desires today. Give it to Him and ask for His wisdom. We can trick ourselves into thinking our desires and intentions are for good, but your Father is the only one who can read your heart.

Give it to Him today, and let Him do a great work in you.

Don’t Confront a Fool

Proverbs 17:12, “It is safer to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than to confront a fool caught in foolishness.” (NLT)

I loved reading this in Proverbs today. It just struck me funny how an analogy of cubs being taken away from their mama bear stirs the same fearful picture in our hearts today as it did when it was written in the tenth century BC.

This proverb also hit home because of one of my greatest faults–desiring fairness and justice in all situations. I have always viewed my world as black and white. It is either right or wrong. Shades of gray were never my strength.

The biggest problem this poses is during a situation when I am treated unfairly. We bought a used hot tub to help with my Fibromyalgia, and the store clerk touted the model he was showing us as completely refurbished by the company and is in like-new condition. We paid extra for this thorough thumbs-up and all-clear but when it was delivered, there were at least 10 things wrong with it. Some were very obvious things that were not easy to overlook, and some were very expensive fixes like clearing out the bacteria in the pipes until the water was safe to use. I try to treat others as I would like to be treated, but when this rule of thumb is not reciprocated, it drives me crazy.

Have you ever had someone speak poorly of you to someone else, and you can’t fathom why because you don’t even know the person speaking ill of you very well? Has someone spoken untruths about you to a coworker or boss? Has a family member turned their back on you and tried to bring the rest of the family with them? The unfairness examples are too numerous to count, but we have all felt their sting one time or another in our lives.

In the sixth grade my class switched classes for reading with another sixth grade classroom. When reading ended and I was headed back to my classroom, I noticed a boy eating sunflower seeds and sticking the shells inside of the desk that he was borrowing for that hour of reading. He noticed that I noticed him, and he asked me not to say anything.

Soon after I went back into my classroom and sat down at my desk to start a new lesson, a student from the other 6th grade classroom came down and asked me come with him. I was stunned, and I couldn’t think of why I would be summoned back to reading.

The boy who owned the desk that now contained a pile of sunflower seed shells was standing by the desk of his teacher. The boy who committed this offense was also there, and He pointed a finger at me and said, “She did it, I saw her!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! All of the sixth grade students in the class were staring at me with eyes blinking and wondering why I would do such a thing.

Normally being the kid who likes to blend in with the wall paper, I now found myself at the front of the class in the middle of a major controversy. I stammered at first because of the shock, but my sense of injustice kicked in. I pointed my finger back at this boy and told the teacher I saw him eat the seeds and put the shells in the desk, and he had asked me to keep quiet. The boy retorted back that it certainly was me but like a dog with a bone, I wouldn’t let it go. I wouldn’t back down all the while declaring my innocence until the boy relinquished his lie and told the truth that he in fact was the sunflower seed eater. The whole class said, “OOhh!!” It was quite the scandal.

I still have that sense of justice in me and wasn’t surprised when the college career interest test came back 90% law. I didn’t pursue that career choice.  I think if I had it would have made me crazy.

The sunflower seed finger pointing doesn’t end as we grow into adulthood. It only becomes more sophisticated as we grow older. There will be moments we have to defend our truth, but I have found some people won’t admit fault no matter how much we point back. Their personalities are such that if we stick our heals in to defend ourselves, the more they will stick their heels in and rev up their accusations.

Proverbs tells us that in these cases, step away from the situation. We may never be able to convince the person they are wrong, but by living a righteous life and continuing on the path of God, our silence to their slander will speak more about who we are and less about what they say. Trials will come and as Proverbs 17:27 tells us, “A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even tempered.”

When we seek justice with a fool, we’ve essentially given away our peace. They will defend their view like a mama bear defending her cubs. Walk away and give it to God. He sees all truths and knows the hearts of every person. He will defend us and that’s the greatest justice of all.