Your Opinion or God’s Standard?

peter-paul-simon-magus-neroProverbs 14:12  There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Read Acts 8:9-25 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”

25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.

 

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

This is the story of Simon the Sorcerer.  He thought that he could buy the gift of God with money.  Peter told him that he needed to get right with God and put aside his bitterness and become free from sin.  Simon was trying to have God by his own standards, and not live by God’s standards.  The thing about having God in your life, is that you cannot chose to accept some of his word, and reject the parts you don’t like.  Even when society wants you to believe that if you chose God’s way, then you are just being mean! 

We must do everything with love towards each other, and nothing in hatred.  However, do not get confused loving someone does not mean that you have to be okay with  everything they do and think that everything they do is good and correct.  That kind of thinking does not lead to a good relationship with anyone.  On the contrary, it will lead to bitterness and resentment toward the other person.  Bitterness and resentment eventually will lead to hatred. That is why God wants us to be forgiving toward others, but again, we do  not have to agree with their every action as being right, in order to love them.  Healthy relationships allow for a difference of opinion.

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God allows us to follow our own way, our own opinion, but whenever we do this, we get further from God, instead of closer to him.  That is our choice…God gave us this free choice.  Just as we draw closer to the people we love whenever we are united with them in thoughts; we draw closer to God when we follow his way of doing things.

When dealing with people we have to have an “agree to disagree” ability on some issues.  Sometimes an issue needs to be set aside for a while and more information gathered then revisited.  The thing to remember in dealing with God is that God has all the information already and has already determined the best way for people to be in relationship with him and with each other.  We, here on earth, never have all the information.

People make mistakes and wrong choices through their lack of knowledge of God, or just willfully choosing to sin.  Jesus said, in Matthew 19:19 Honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.  If you love yourself, then you need to be honest with yourself as to what your faults and sins are and confess them to God. 

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We do not have to confess all of our faults to others; they may not understand and may be judgmental and condemning of our faults.  People are very frail, emotionally, and we tend to be unreasonably judgmental toward others in their wrong doings…even though we all have wrong doings of our own.  Many times the person being judgmental just doesn’t have the correct understanding of sin, forgiveness and love…another way to look at it is that they may not be spiritually mature yet.  Sin can be kept between ourselves and God and left at the altar of our confession and repentance.

We do not have to unburden and shout our specific sins from the roof tops and tell the world.

Though depending on the sin, some things may need to be addressed to another person who is involved by way of apology to them…that is making amends with them as far as possible.

Proverbs 28:13 He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

Remember, God’s forgiveness is complete and total…we can freely unburden ourselves to God and walk away from the altar knowing that he loves us and understands us… that he has all of the information about our guilt or innocence in every circumstance.  God is not forgiving us without understanding the totality of our sinfulness.

The thing is that in order to confess our sins we first have to realize in our hearts and minds what they are.  A peculiar thing that I have found as a growing Christian is that my realization as to what my sins are grows as I grow.  Some things that I have been sinful in doing either haven’t bothered me enough to address it, or I have not realized that it was a sin at all.

Psalm 19:12 Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.

That is kind of what the Bible verse means that talks about trying to get a splinter out of someone else’s eye when you have a big old fence post in your own eye. If you cannot clearly see your own sins to deal with them rightly, then how in the world are you going to be able to accurately figure out what someone else’s sin is and how to deal with it.  Another way to see that verse in more common terms would be like the “blind leading the blind”…it just doesn’t work…you both just bump into everything!

Luke 6:41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

log-in-eye

God is wonderful to reveal our sins to us a bit at a time so that we are not overwhelmed with how awful some of our actions are, in God’s eyes.  That is one of the most wonderful things about God’s love and viewing God as a Father to us…he is not in a hurry with us.  God has a lifelong plan for each of us and wants to mold us into the very best person that we can be day after day, year after year…drawing us ever closer to him.

All we have to do is to act in faith and faithfully believe in God and that God knows what is right and wrong.  We have to trust that what God says is right is actually right, and what God says is wrong is actually wrong.  We also have to study God’s word and talk to God so that we can come to understand for ourselves exactly what is right and what is wrong in God’s eyes…and how we can best live out our faith.

We need to stop making other people’s sins our business…and focus on our own. Whether someone drinks, smokes, cusses, dresses scantily, lives with their boyfriend, or girlfriend…those things are not our business to tell them about…unless they are a person who is saying that they are within the body of Christ…then as a fellow Christian who loves them it may be that there comes a gentle way to introduce the subject to them and remind them of God’s way being the way they have decided to follow in their lives and that they are off the mark.

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However, not every fellow Christian needs to butt into other Christian’s lives and discuss these things…you have to be in a relationship with that person that is close enough for your words to them to be considered loving and to be accepted.  You cannot just randomly walk up to someone in your church whom you don’t have a relationship with and start telling them what they are doing wrong in God’s eyes.  All you will do is alienate them from both you, your church, and possibly from God…you will be seen as a hateful and judgmental and condemning person…not as the loving person that you intended to be.  If someone is not calling themselves a Christian then you cannot hold them to God’s standard of living.

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

A person’s sin is always between them and God, not between them and us!  It is possible that God has not yet revealed or convicted that person about their sin being something that needs to be taken care of yet.  So we cannot go around like a sledgehammer banging them over the head with it!

This is a huge problem in Christian circles…we all want to go and fix all the world’s problems by shouting out…”That’s wrong!  That’s a sin!  They shouldn’t be doing that!”  If we take a look at how Jesus handled things we can see that other than him booting the money changers out of the temple…he was always very gentle and kind in dealing with people’s sins.  We as Christians need to remember that!  There are no people in this world who have ever and I do mean ever, been hated, or harassed into loving God.  Hatred and condemnation only gain more hatred and condemnation.  

Proverbs 3:30 Do not contend with a man without cause, If he has done you no harm.

Sometimes when we represent what God says is right in dealing with others we do it in the most wrong way possible…making the person feel that they have committed an unpardonable sin by going on and on about a specific issue will not lead them to repentance and into relationship with God.  It is more likely that they will feel rejected by both man and God.  Haven’t you ever done something and felt that it could not be redeemed so you said, “To heck with it then!”  and just continued in the same path feeling that nothing could be done about it?

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

Our goal as Christians should be to bring others to genuine repentance and into a closer relationship with God, so that they can then bring others to genuine repentance and into a closer relationship with God…and so on and so forth!  Our goal is to become united in our relationship with each other and with God.

1Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Challenge: Get a jar, or some sort of container and make it a bank that every time you sin by trying to ignore God’s standard you must put a coin in the bank.  When the bank gets full, then you give the money to a Godly cause (not yourself!)…Remember God’s standard is a standard of love!  Sometimes the need for love in a person’s life actually trumps the letter of the law….that is what grace is about…loving someone and showing them love when they or we don’t deserve it at all!

Rob & Mickey 1965

1Corinthians 13:4-7 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

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The Confusing Knowledge of Good and Evil

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Read Genesis Chapter 3

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring  and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

20 Adam named his wife Eve,  because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

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Looking at the Garden of Eden God mankind gained the knowledge of Good and Evil from eating the forbidden fruit….but does this mean that they while knowing that there is Good and there is Evil (which destroyed their innocence) that they understood what is good and what is evil? No, it doesn’t seem so.  For instance, it obviously was not a sin in the Garden of Eden to be in a state of nakedness…if it was then God would have clothed man right off the bat, wouldn’t he? Yet, their response to this new “knowledge of good and evil” was to notice that they were naked and go and hide from God…in fear.

I kind of picture this as the same reaction as a deer when the headlights of an oncoming car get into its face….it knows that something is outside of the norm and knows that this is scary, but doesn’t know exactly why or what to do about it.

Another way to examine this issue is to think what it is like whenever we have to go to a place where we don’t know anyone.  Most of us feel quite a bit of concern and stress, anxiety and fear even about these kind of new situations.  I ran into a person at my church this past weekend….she came into the door, and told us that she had passed by many times, but was really afraid to come in.

To hear this, you would think that we were not a nice place, or had a bad reputation, but that is not the case at all.  The lady was simply verbalizing the common fear almost all of us have of new groups and situations.

The question is why do we have this fear?  If we really analyze it the answer is clear….anytime we enter a new group of any kind and especially when we don’t know anyone there…we have a very tough situation…a tough question must be answered…we ask ourselves:  “What if I don’t fit in?  What are the rules of this group?…how do I learn them?…What if I make a mistake because I don’t know the rules?!!  How uncomfortable will I become? How embarrassed will I become?”

So now, let us revisit the Garden of Eden situation here…doesn’t it seem like that even though they were suddenly aware that Good and Evil existed that they did not really understand what Good and what Evil were?

When God deals with them there are certainly consequences to their disobedience…they obviously knew that they had disobeyed, but the mindset they had was not one of sorrow and repentance…it was the mindset of “who can I blame that will let me off the hook?” (Doesn’t seem like much has changed for mankind in all these centuries since Adam and Eve’s time, does it?!)

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The thing is that God sent them out of the Garden and their act of disobedience definitely had consequences…hard labor both for Adam and for Eve….the earth itself was put under a curse.  The peculiar thing is that it seems that God is saying that the curse was because of Adam and Eve and the serpent….it doesn’t say that God was “kicking them out of the garden because he was mad at them”.  It does tell us that God was sending them out of the garden to keep them from eating from the tree of life.

Now I have heard the idea that this was a protection for them, so that their state of sin would not be permanent.  Mankind and the earth would not be permanently cursed.  I think we have all seen movies and read stories about immortals who are self-centered and destructive…after all what have they got to lose…they are not able to be killed so they can do anything they want.  That is the problem with someone who lives forever, but has no moral compass, no compassion, no love for others.

One of the things not mentioned in Genesis 3 is anything about love. Desire is mentioned…desire for the apple, desire for the husband…all of these are fleshly desires, but no mention is made of tender love and concern for one another.  There is no evidence of it at all…just desire, and blame.

John 15:1-25 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prune so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

The World Hates the Disciples

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

The thing is we are all born as selfish and self centered human beings…we have to be taught how to love and care for others and put their needs above our own.  By setting Adam and Eve outside the garden in a situation where they had to struggle in their everyday life God put them into a situation where they would learn to rely on one another and need each other…where they would have to learn to care about the other person for their own survival.  Now, some of you may think this is just plain mean…but to be truthful…it is tough parenting…God style.  They could have obeyed and remained in the Garden, yet they chose not to do so.  God was not surprised by this choice!

So, now we have people struggling day after day to figure out what is good and what is evil. Another way of saying it is…”What are the rules?  So that I don’t get into trouble?”

2 Cor 10: 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

In a parenting magazine when my first child was born I read what turned out to be very sound advice:  “Kids like to know that you are in charge…because if you are not in charge, then they are in charge, and being in charge is scary…therefore, kids like routine because it is comforting and shows that you have things under control and that you are in charge.”  Or “kids like rules and boundaries.”

adorable-20374_1280Ephesians 6:1-3  1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 
2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 
3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

To God we are all children, and God is a wonderful parent.  So he lovingly gave us a set of rules to live by…the rules were not given to us so that we can feel condemned or hemmed in, or constrained.  Though many times that is the attitude we hear from people about God’s rules.  People many times have been given the impression that God is mad, and mean, and just gave us a bunch of dos and don’ts so that we can be kept under control and have no fun at all in life!  Nothing could be further from the truth!

God gave us his laws so that we would not be like the deer standing in the head lights…scared and confused and unsure of what to do…or how to please God.  God gave us his laws because he loves us and wants to clear up the issue of exactly what is Good and what is Evil?  How can we tell one thing from the other.  He sent his son to further clarify what is Good and what is Evil by living out for us in a normal day to day life how to abide by God’s law.  While we were in a state of sin, outside the Garden of Eden, God loved us so much that he gave us both his laws, and his son.  His laws so that we can live together in peace and harmony in a Godly way, and his son so that we can understand how to draw close to God and what God considers important in our daily walk with him.

I am a parent, both my children are adults, and I can tell you that no matter how many of the rules my children broke or what they do in their lives I will always, always love them.  Yes, sometimes, I have been mad at them and disappointed in them..as I am sure my parents were at times mad at me and disappointed in me…but there has never been a moment that I have not loved my children.  There never will be a moment when I won’t love them.

That is how God, the Father, feels about me and about you…sometimes we don’t follow his law…we miss the mark (sin) or even, willfully, disobey a command, but when we turn back to God, the Father, with a heart of sorrow and apologize…God forgives…just like we earthly parents forgive our children.

There are penalties to sin that cannot be avoided on this earth…if you steal you can be put in jail, if you kill you can be put in jail, or killed yourself, if you lie, then you lose the trust of those you have lied to…etc.  There are some penalties or responsibilities that have to be taken for doing the wrong things, but God is gracious to forgive and restore your place in relationship with him regardless of the penalties you have to face.  God says, I will be with you always to the ends of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

God’s law is a law of love..he gave us those laws because he loves us…unendingly…eternally…God loves us!  Each and every one of us!

John 3:16-21 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

 

Meaningless things

IMG_5655Ecclesiastes 1:2  “Meaningless!  Meaningless!”says the Teacher.  “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (NIV)

Read: Ecclesiastes Chapters 1 and 2  The book of Ecclesiastes is thought to have been written by King Solomon and when you see verse one of Chapter one it seems to bear that thought out…as we also know that Solomon prayed for wisdom from God.  When I first read these two chapters I thought, “Well, how depressing can you get?  Solomon must have really been having a bad time of it when he wrote this.”  Then as I thought of it more there is a lot of truth in this.  We do all live and we all die..no matter how we live our lives…either foolishly, miserably, happily, contentedly, in anger, or in love…we all have a limited life span, and a physical death to look forward to in the end.  For some of us, the end comes sooner, and some much later, but we all have that ending to this physical life.

IMG_0996Also, it is true that we are generally forgotten once everyone who knew us is also dead.  We become just a name on an ancestral chart, or if you are one of those people who actually change the lives of a lot of other people your name may appear in a history book to torment students for many generations to come as to who you are and what you did…when you think of it that is pretty funny.  Names like Marie Curie, Sister Teresa, Jonas Salk…then there are other names that are more infamous…Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini we only wish we could forget those last three…unfortunately if we forget them, then we may not learn the lesson about humanity’s cruelty to humanity that we should remember and be aware of so we can guard against it and others who may appear who are like them.  So, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, is it all meaningless?  Well it might seem to be if you leave out the most important thing in life….your Creator, God!

The thing is that in 1:15 Solomon tells us that 15 What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.”  Now, if we are looking at our ability to straighten things and count what is not there, then this is absolutely true.  However, God can see what is not there in a person, and also has the power to straighten up crooked things.  Only the power of God can do that.  God sees the potential in a person that is not readily visible to others.

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Ecclesiastes 1:18 18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.

Ecclesiastes 1:18 also gives us a bit of truth…as we age we generally can look back and see what we did wrong, and then when we see a young person making the same mistake and cannot influence them with the wisdom we have acquired it does cause sorrow to us.  However, it is good if we can remember that we got through our unwise state and in many ways we are still unwise in our thoughts and actions.  Yet we can take comfort in knowing that God is also working on that youngster’s path in life, as he does on ours. We need to turn our griefs over to God and let him help us through them.  Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

Ecclesiastes 1 New International Version (NIV)

Everything Is Meaningless

The words of the Teacher,[a] son of David, king in Jerusalem:

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

What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

Wisdom Is Meaningless

12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

15 What is crooked cannot be straightened;
    what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
    the more knowledge, the more grief.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 1:1Or the leader of the assembly; also in verses 2 and 12

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In Ecclesiastes 2 Solomon starts talking about how meaningless Pleasure and work are in life.  He tells us that he thinks that laughter is madness and what does pleasure accomplish?

Well, as far as I am concerned…I think that Solomon may have forgotten that God invented laughter and pleasure and work.  God knows that laughter is good for us and wants us to have pleasure in the things in life, and have meaning in our work.

After all, God gave Adam a job right away in the Garden of Eden…he was told to name the animals, and care for the Garden.

Genesis 2:15  The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 2:20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

God tells us to have some rest and worship on the Sabbath Day…so God knows that rest is important to the renewing of ourselves to continue the work he has given us.

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The thing is that Solomon tells us a few things about his pursuit of pleasure and work and it is pretty plain that he was not including God in his pursuit of pleasure or in his work.  That is why he came to the conclusion that it was all meaningless.

When we get down to the end of Ecclesiastes 2 we find that Solomon ended up with this very same conclusion…if you do everything in service to God, then God rewards that service with a sense of satisfaction in life.

Not so, for the person who is not serving God…they continue to run through life like a rat on an exercise wheel…until life runs out on them.

Solomon’s thoughts in 2:24-26 may be hard for some to accept, especially if they are running away from God.  It just comes down to one thing…either a person can have a fulfilling and meaningful life with God….or they can choose to run their own life…without God..which means that there is no more life after life…all that person has is the here and now and whatever satisfaction they can find in it.

Personally, I am happy that I have chosen not to live life without the inclusion of the Almighty God, my creator….because this means that not only do I have an after life to faithfully look forward to, but I can also share in God’s joy here on earth by doing the work he has given me to do.  I have assurance that there is meaning to life!

I am hoping and praying that all of you have that assurance also…that is how we all share in God’s joy…the joy of a sinner saved, and the joy of fellowship with God and with fellow believers.

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

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Ecclesiastes 2 New International Version (NIV)

Pleasures Are Meaningless

I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart.I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
    and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.

Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless

12 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!

Toil Is Meaningless

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 2:8 The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Silver or Gold I do not have…

Isaiah 35:6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah.

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Act3 and 2Samuel 9 are two stories about people who are lame. One story is from the New Testament, and one from the Old Testament.  They are very different stories, but both stories have something in common.  A person who was looked down upon was raised up.

In the story of Mephibosheth (Meh-fib-o-sheth is how I pronounce it) King David is looking for any survivor of King Saul’s household so that he can honor them with the blessing of God.  It turns out that the only one left other than a few servants is his friend Jonathon’s son, Mephibosheth.  You may recall that Jonathon was David’s best friend, and the son of King Saul.  So you can imagine how happy David must have been when finding that his friend’s son was the one who had survived from King Saul’s household.  Mephibosheth is different from the lame beggar in Acts 3 in that his lameness came from an accident.  At the time that Mephibosheth was 5 years old and his Grandfather King Saul, and his father, Jonathon were slain – well, his nurse grabbed him and went to run away with him to save his life.  Unfortunately, we are told that Mephibosheth fell and was lame from then onward for the rest of his life.  Now, most of us would probably decide that when he fell he broke his foot or leg and it wasn’t set properly and healed up wrong.  At least that is what I am getting from this story.  Anyway, to sum up what happened here, King David, was very happy that Mephibosheth was alive, and decided to restore to him all of King Saul’s lands, servants, etc.  He also declared that Mephibosheth would eat regularly at the King’s table.  In other words, he bestowed a great honor and wealth on Mephibosheth and also made it so that he could enjoy the company of his friend’s son on a regular basis. You can be sure that Mephibosheth was looked down upon prior to that because he was King Saul’s grandson, and also because of his lameness.  So King David, although he could not heal the lame, physically, (as Peter and John were able to do through the gift of the Holy Spirit)was able to heal the heart of Mephibosheth through his kindness and showing love toward him.

Now in the story in Acts Chapter 3 We see an actual physical healing of a man who had been lame from birth.  He was so lame, that he had to be carried from place to place.  It tells us that he was carried by people every day to the temple gate called Beautiful so that he could beg from those going into the temple courts.  Now there are a lot of gates into the city during Jesus’ time and they are all named.  The Beautiful Gate is the gate that is in front of the Temple…it leads to God’s house.  So this lame beggar had a pretty good spot for begging…after all, wouldn’t people be the most generous when they are going in to stand and worship God?  He also apparently had some family or friends who made sure he got to that place every day to do the work of begging for money so that he could eat.

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What I find fascinating about this story is that the beggar had apparently asked Peter and John for money, but then he must have discounted them right away as being unable to give him anything.  We know that Jesus told his Disciples to not worry about how they were dressed, (Luke 12), and not to act grandly with self importance, but to be humble. (Matthew 6) So we can, probably, safely believe that neither Peter nor John were richly dressed.  The reason I think this is that we read in verse 4 that Peter and John both looked straight at the beggar and then Peter tells the beggar “Look at us!”  This causes the beggar to look back at them, with expectation of receiving money.  In actual fact, it seems that Peter and John showed the beggar more respect than he gave them.

This is rather peculiar, as in our world today the person who is shown the least respect is the person who is homeless, who is reduced to begging in order to survive.  People tend, generally, to look past them, or through them, anything, but making eye contact with them.  Usually they are ignored by the larger percentage of those who are going by them.  I am wondering when reading this story if it was the same in the days of Jesus.

We know that it wasn’t this way with Peter and John, but they were Disciples of Jesus.  God had provision in the old testament for widows and orphans, the poor and the helpless. Below are a couple of verses showing the attitude that God wanted his people to have toward the poor.

Proverbs 22:9 The generous will themselves be blessed,
    for they share their food with the poor.

Daniel 4:27 (ESV) “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed [poor], that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

851-yeshua-handSo let’s go back to the story…here is this man looking at these two men whom it was obvious he expected to receive nothing from to start with and now he has an expectation from them…because of their attitude…imagine how he felt at Peter’s next words:  Peter says, while looking this guy straight in the eyes…I don’t have any silver or gold, but I will give you what I do have.  Now this beggar was probably expecting Peter and John to give him a piece of bread or something like that, right?  I mean, that is what I would be expecting if I were him.  Instead, Peter reaches down and takes this beggar by the hand and helps him up, instantly this man’s feet and ankles (which had never known how to hold weight in an entire lifetime) were strengthened and he was able to stand. He was not only able to stand, but the man was suddenly able to dance and jump around.  He went in to worship God, walking, jumping and praising God with all his heart!  What a sight that must have been.  How glad this man was at this very unexpected healing in his life.  I am thinking that the Beautiful gate had never been a place more beautiful to him than right then.  Peter and John look at all the astonished people and ask them why they are so surprised…then go on to use this healing as a way to glorify God and talk about who Jesus really was and what his purpose was in walking the earth.  They turned this monumental occasion in the man’s life into an opportunity to glorify God and share who God is with their fellow Jews.

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They literally did the same thing that Jesus did as he was illustrating who God was…they met the needs of the people first, in order to show the love of God, then they told them clearly who God was and how much he loved them.  How much he wanted them to have a restored relationship with him.  

Note:  I know that we see a lot of people who have signs and some of them may not actually need the help they claim to need, but that is between them and God, not between us and them.  We need to remember that and not let it keep us from following God’s leading when it comes to helping people in need.

Read Acts 3

 1One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks to the Onlookers

11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’[a]

24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’[b] 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

Footnotes:

  1. Acts 3:23 Deut. 18:15,18,19
  2. Acts 3:25 Gen. 22:18; 26:4

 

Read 2 Samuel 9 (NIV)

David and Mephibosheth

David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”

“At your service,” he replied.

The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”

“Where is he?” the king asked.

Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”

So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.

When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.

David said, “Mephibosheth!”

“At your service,” he replied.

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)

11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s[a] table like one of the king’s sons.

12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Samuel 9:11 Septuagint; Hebrew my
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.