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.

crooked-forest-866294_1280

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

*************************************************************************************

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.

img_0654b

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.

 296-1220233331pbar

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.
Advertisements

Seeing God Through Jesus

DSCF0176
This is at a vineyard that a friend of ours owns these folks are all harvesting grapes for ice wine.  Ice wine is a very risky crop as the grapes for it must be harvested when they are frozen, usually having been frozen at least twice.  The vineyard loses a lot of the grapes because of this, thus Ice Wine is in smaller bottles and very expensive.

John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Read John 1:14-18 Jesus was full of the grace of God, and came to declare God’s grace to us.  We can only see God through seeing Jesus.  And of Jesus’ fullness we have all received grace.  Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ and the law was given by Moses.

Read Matthew 20: 1-16  Jesus tells us The Parable of the Hired laborers.  In this story the owner of the vineyard pays the workers who work all day the same wages as the worker who arrives just before the work day is over.  Jesus is saying that God has a different view of what is important.  People who are grabbing for themselves and worrying about how to get it all for themselves, or get more than another person, have the wrong view.  God is looking for us to give Him all of ourselves.  Some people don’t respond to God’s call until later in life.  They receive the same gift of grace as those who responded to God’s call when they are children.  In God’s view they are equal in Christianity.  The Christian who has been a Christian all of their life does not have anymore Christianity in their soul than the person who has been Christian only a day.  When you accept God’s grace, you are all equal.  There are, of course, knowledge level differences between these two Christians, but not soul level differences.  Also the person who has walked with God longer, has avoided many worldly or sin related problems that the other person has had, or at least has had Godly support during those problems, and has been blessed longer by God.  The issue is to look to God, and not to your own reward.  Jesus set us a good example of this with his ministry.  When we look at Jesus and His priorities we see what God’s priorities are.   God’s priority is to win souls back to him.  Jesus shows us that the two most important things we are two do is to love God above everything, and love others like we love ourselves.

One of the major blessings to a Christian is being able to share in the joy of someone else’s redemption.  In this parable the point at the end about “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” is the most telling thing about this whole parable.  It is the idea that the land owner could have paid those who worked all day first, then sent them on their way.  They probably wouldn’t have known that the ones who arrived later got paid the same wage if he had done that.  Instead, what the land owner was looking for was an appreciation of his generosity, and for the workers who had worked all day to celebrate the good fortune of the later workers in still being paid enough to feed their families, despite being hired later in the day.  A Denarius was what it typically took to feed a family for a day in Jesus’ time.  

Instead what the workers did was look to themselves and shout that the situation was unfair.  That is a typical world view commonly held today, “It’s not fair, I did more so I should get more!”  or “It’s not fair they get more, even though…..”  Both views are the world view.  God views things very differently.

God gives us what we need to accomplish the task that he has put us on this earth to do. If you need to be wealthy to accomplish that task, then you will be, but if you don’t then you probably won’t be.  God is not against wealth, he just doesn’t see it the same way that the world sees it.  If I tell you that God is going to make you wealthy because you follow him, then that would most likely turn out to be a lie.  There are plenty of examples of people in the Bible who followed God and were not financially wealthy.  Take the story of the widow’s offering to be an example (Mark 12:41-44) This woman was clearly not wealthy, yet she was faithful.  God blesses the faithful, but there are all kinds of blessings that do not necessarily include financial wealth. True wealth is being able to have a lifetime of relationship with God because of having accepted his son, Jesus Christ as your personal savior, and being able to share that joy with others!

By the way, here is another often misquoted Bible verse for you about wealth:  1Timothy 6:10 The love of money is the root of all evil.   Frequently you just hear people say, “Money is the root of all evil”  That is not true.  It is the “love” of money, not the money itself that is the problem.  So look to God and enjoy the blessings he has for you whatever form those blessings take in your life!

Being Content in the Lord

Photo on 3-24-14 at 2.22 PM
This is Patches she is 17 years old, and has been frost bitten (she is a barn cat)…she is contently lying in the sun.  We have to bring her in during the Winter now, but she is healthy for her old age.

Read Philippians 1:1-21  Paul demonstrates his contentment in waiting on the the Lord’s will for his life where ever he is, and in whatever circumstances he finds himself in.  This letter was written to the church at Philippi while Paul was under house arrest in Rome(Acts 28:16).  It had come to Paul’s attention that the people at Philippi thought that his imprisonment was hindering the spread of the gospel.  Paul wrote to tell them, that on the contrary his imprisonment was allowing him to spread the gospel to all the palaces, and that it also emboldened others to speak out and spread the gospel.  Through his imprisonment Paul was able to speak to Herod Agrippa who replied that after hearing Paul’s witness that he could almost become a Christian. (Acts 26:28 KJV). Overall in this letter Paul asserts continually his contentment to wait upon the Lord’s will for his life, while continuing to pray and spread the gospel.

Also read Acts chapters 25 thru chapter 28…this will really fill out the lesson and really drive home the point of how difficult Paul had it and how he really found ways to be content and trust the Lord in all situations that he was in.

Note:  The KJV of Acts 26:28 was used because it seems more reasonable that Agrippa would be “almost persuaded” by a man of Paul’s changing background from persecutor to the most devout disciple, and by Paul’s charisma, also Agrippa’s parting words in verse 32 seem to be in sympathy with Paul’s plight, not overly skeptical as the NIV version seems to indicate.

Looking at the world today we see a lot of discontent in people’s lives.  We are trained to always want to achieve more, more, more…more intelligence, more material goods, a better house, a better job, a better body…etc.  While wanting to be the best that we can be and really respect that we would like to live up to being all that God created us to be is a good thing most people get carried away and focus on what they don’t achieve and what they cannot do or have not done instead of what they have accomplished.  The World view is very skewed to look down on people who are less than others in those achievements.  The fact of the matter is that we are all different.  God created us all differently and we are all created for different purposes in God’s plan.  Some of us are as smart as Einstein, and others are not gifted with intelligence at all.  (I am not taking a dig at anyone here!)  Our society has a role for people intellectually gifted, and also for people who are not so gifted.

 Some folks are gifted with the ability to fix anything mechanical, almost as if the machine itself talks to them.  There are others who cannot seem to change the oil in their car, but can design a computer chip that revolutionizes the world.  In the world view the computer chip designer is valued more because they can do something for the whole world.  However, if a person who relies on their car needs their car fixed, then the most valuable person is the car mechanic…at that time, there is no value to the computer chip designer in their life. It is all a matter of perspective.  Just as what is going on in your life and how difficult your life is…that is a matter of your perspective versus the world perspective.

 The saying that God doesn’t give you more than you and he can handle is a prime truth.  It is also a prime truth that some people can handle more difficulties than others.  A lot of times we will have a melt down in a situation where someone watching us would say, “What is happening here?  Why are they so upset, this seems like such a minor thing?!!”  Well, some things that are minor for one person, can be the last “straw” for another.  It is again all a matter of perspective.  So the next time you get into one of those “last straw” moments…take a breath and ask yourself…”Next week will I even remember this issue?  Next year will it be an issue?  In the scheme of my life, is this really important?  How can my reaction to this situation I am in best serve God’s purpose in showing another person who God is in my life?”  That is the most important question of all…I had a failure in this very area this week…thankfully, I was given the opportunity to rectify it with the person involved.  God is good in giving second chances, but it is always nice when we don’t need them.  Unfortunately, most of us do flub up once in while in our relationships with others, and with God.

It is nice to stop and consider the situation from another perspective… God’s perspective, if possible.  The thing about it is that you cannot know God’s perspective unless you study the Bible and get to know God.  Paul really understood who God was, and that every situation we are in is an opportunity to serve God.  He learned to be content that he had a relationship with God no matter what situation he was in, and to wait and embrace the situation as an opportunity to serve God!  We should all attempt to do that same thing…it leads to a much less stressful, much happier life!

Don’t Rely on Earthly Wealth

10497352_823274957690775_3422703580421924713_o
The view from the Bridge of Sorrows in Venice Italy.  This was the last view a condemned prisoner would see as they walked across the bridge from the Doge’s Palace to the Prison.

1 Timothy 6 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.  Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers.  Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them.   These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.  If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing.  He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.  But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who along is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.  To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.  Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care.  Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.  Grace be with you.

**Don’t rely on earthly wealth, you came into the world with nothing, and you leave it with nothing ….(you can’t take it with you!)

Rich people with worldly wealth are easier to tempt than those who have nothing, because they have more resources they are tempted to rely on their wealth instead of God.  (This is one reason why in the Beatitudes – Matthew 5 – in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus stated that the  “poor are blessed” – they have no resources and cannot rely on anything else, but God thru prayer to solve their problems.)  Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and can cause you to wander from faith in God.  Look at David, when he was a poor shepherd boy with only a sling shot and stones, he was willing to trust in God to make his stones fly true and kill the evil Goliath for God’s glory so that the world would know that He is Lord of All.  And yet, once David was King and set eyes on Bathsheba, he felt that as King there was no reason he shouldn’t have another man’s wife as his wife.  That after all he, David, was the King.  He was so far from God, and so full of himself and his own power, that he didn’t even think twice about taking advantage of Bathsheba. 

Note:  It is the LOVE of Money that is the sin…NOT the HAVING of Money.

Read Matthew 19:16-30  The story of the rich young man.