Upside Down Distorted Reality

In a world turned upside down a lot of changes would cause confusion and chaos.

In a world turned upside down a lot of changes would cause confusion and chaos.

Upside Down Distorted Reality

There is an evil I have seen under the sun, an error proceeding from the presence of the ruler: The fool is appointed to great heights, but the rich remain in lowly positions. I have seen slaves on horses, but princes walking on the ground like slaves. The one who digs a pit may fall into it, and the one who breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake. The one who quarries stones may be hurt by them; the one who splits trees may be endangered by them. If the axe is dull, and one does not sharpen its edge, then one must exert more strength; however, the advantage of wisdom is that it brings success. If the snake bites before it is charmed, then there is no advantage for the charmer. Eccl 10:5-11 (HCSB)

Upside down reality reveals we are facing evil’s spin aimed to confuse and misdirect our understanding of the truth. Consider how so many people have been blinded by false narratives for the sake of change, so that fools have found their way into leadership positions and they have appointed more fools as replacements for more qualified civil servants. Once the government is secured by fools in positions of power it seeks to turn society upside down to suit their upside down reality where the poor and disadvantaged dominate the rich and successful people. Wealth is redistributed like Robin Hood – take from the rich and give to the poor – to win the hearts of the huddled masses. The days of evil are in place because social order has been turned on its head by fools who do not understand the consequences of their folly.

God has orchestrated an order for society, and whenever man attempts to usurp the natural order of things, chaos, division and dissent follow. However, God does not lose control on his natural order intended for the good of the people. When fools pursue their upside down folly, they soon discover that their schemes are but snares that entrap themselves. They are exposed as the thief taking what is not his to take and becomes the victim in the end.

Whenever anyone attempts to perform skilled work without attainting the proper skills and experience the risk for harm to themselves and others is escalated exponentially. Experience and maturity enables a person to develop as a respected and capable craftsman. If this is true, what about the more challenging leadership roles in our government. Failures and mistakes at this level impact a whole nation of people.

When looking to choose people for high offices we should make sure they are adequately experienced and qualified to perform their duties for the common good of the public, not for selfish gain or for vanity’s sake. Who would hand over a sharpened axe to an inexperienced, immature child to chop wood?

We need to realize the wisdom to choose the right people is a gift from God. Our leaders need to be humble men of God seeking God’s will, ways and wisdom. A Godly Nation thrives whenever the leadership and the people are on the same page.

As a final thought, God works his will through “the people” who hold all chosen leaders accountable and responsible. When government fails to serve the people, change occurs! What the fools have turned upside down, God through the people makes right in due time. Let us all consider God’s will, ways and wisdom before we demand change, because equally as threatening as poor leadership, demanding change for the sake of change a part from God’s will is dangerous too.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #250-34EC

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Only Takes One Bad Apple

Can you identify the bad apple among the good? Why should you care?

Can you identify the bad apple among the good? Why should you care?

Only Takes One Bad Apple

Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil ferment and stink; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. A wise man’s heart [goes] to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left. Even when the fool walks along the road, his heart lacks sense, and he shows everyone he is a fool. If the ruler’s anger rises against you, don’t leave your place, for calmness puts great offenses to rest. Eccl 10:1-4 (HCSB)

When shopping in a farmer’s market for a bushel of apples, it is hard to realize at first glance if the bushel you are looking at contains a bad apple that could infect the others. If you do not take the time to inspect all the apples, there is the chance one bad apple could become a host of bad apples in no time.

The same is true in a group of people – it only takes one ‘bad apple’ to harm others. The ‘bad apple’ can disguise himself and blend in among the others, but sooner or later he begins to unveil his miscreant nature.

Because it is the natural instinct within mankind to follow (guess that’s why we are identified so often as sheep), there resides in our nature a constant risk of choosing the wrong leader to follow. However, time unmasks the folly of the fool, and those who have blindly followed him begin to wake up to their precarious state unless they change leadership and dismiss the fool’s folly for others to see.

So choose wisely the leaders you choose to follow. Even if you discover the error of the choice at some later time, a price will be paid for the time you followed the fool. Just a short exposure to the ‘bad apple’ puts a ‘good apple’ at risk.

What can we do? When you are at the farmer’s market selecting apples, reminders of past experiences discovering ‘bad apples’ will guide you to root out even one bad apple from the bushel of apples you decide to bring home.

The same is true in life. The closer we are to God’s will, ways, and wisdom, the more likely we are to recognize the ‘bad apples’ who are opposed to following anyone else’s way of life except their own, their own selfish folly. Whenever anyone claims to be a leader with all the answers: RUN!

We may strive to become wiser and more mature, but we will never be fully wise or fully mature. Those who believe they are all-wise and mature become their own god. The wise man realizes the wiser we become, the more dependent we become to pursuing God and following him alone. When we reach that point in our life, God helps us identify the ‘bad apples’ to avoid their folly.

How careful are you about sorting out the “bad apples’ from the ‘good apples’?

Coach

Words of Wisdom #249-33EC

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Jealousy Skews Our Memory

Jealousy is the cancer of one's soul.

Jealousy is the cancer of one’s soul.

Jealousy Skews Our Memory

I have observed that this also is wisdom under the sun, and it is significant to me: There was a small city with few men in it. A great king came against it, surrounded it, and built large siege works against it. Now a poor wise man was found in the city, and he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man. And I said, “Wisdom is better than strength, but the wisdom of the poor man is despised, and his words are not heeded.” The calm words of the wise are heeded more than the shouts of a ruler over fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner can destroy much good. Eccl 9:13-18 (HCSB)

We call them geeks, nerds, even eggheads, but our lives are better because of those who have the gift of wisdom. We are jealous of their unique gifts, yet all benefit from their impact upon our lives. However, our selfishness fails to appreciate them enough to remember or, at the least, acknowledge their accomplishments.

In the above passage, a single insignificant, behind-the-scenes, wise geek finds a way to defeat the enemy who laid siege to his city. The victory went to the small city, thanks to this geek, but no one acknowledged his contribution to the victory. He was quickly forgotten as the people went back to self-focused living.

Wisdom cannot be bought or created by human endeavor. Either you have received the gift of wisdom from God or you rely upon the wisdom of God from others who have the gift. Such reliance upon others though causes us to be resentful and jealous. But we all should be warned: It only takes one wicked, thoughtless person to wreck the good deeds of the wise.

Why do we envy what God has obviously dispensed for his greater good to be accomplished? When we resent and reject those with such talents, aren’t we mocking God? When a gifted person crosses our path are we thankful for the opportunity, or jealous that we cannot be as gifted?

Examine yourself and everyone around you. Discover the mosaic collage of uniquely talented and gifted people that God has provided to complement your shortcomings and strengths. No one person is fully capable of having all the gifts and talents to survive in this world alone. We all need to rely upon others to be successful in this lifetime. Do not be jealous of what others have, but discover your own giftedness and give freely of what you have to others, as they should likewise do. Seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom and discover how God desires to use you to continue to build his kingdom on earth. Will you choose to connect and collaborate, or turn others away and stumble through life on your own?

Coach

Words of Wisdom #248-32EC

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Evil Happens to the Best of Us

Could you throw a stone because of your sinless life?

Could you throw a stone because of your sinless life?

Evil Happens to the Best of Us

Again I saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, or bread to the wise, or riches to the discerning, or favor to the skillful; rather, time and chance happen to all of them. For man certainly does not know his time: like fish caught in a cruel net, or like birds caught in a trap, so people are trapped in an evil time, as it suddenly falls on them. Eccl 9:11-12 (HCSB)

Why is it that good people experience tough times? Why does evil find its way to good and very talented people? What is God’s purpose for the presence of evil in everyone’s life at one time or another? What if we were able to outrun or overcome evil through own strength; be sufficiently wise enough to not stumble into evil’s trap; be rich enough to pay the ransom on our own to remove evil’s effects upon our life; be so skilled that we could out-maneuver evil’s wily schemes, would we still fall prey to the temptations that evil lays out for us in the choices we make throughout life?

It is clear, God has allowed evil to use time and opportunity for its wicked purposes to test and try the soul of man. Evil’s broad net entraps the best of man along with the least of us equally. When it is evil’s time to spring upon us, there is nothing but a our faith to deliver us from the foreboding times of tribulation that evil intends to put its through. Only an unshakable faith in God’s goodness can protect and thwart evil’s diabolical plans that can cause even the most prepared soul to stumble.

Consider the story of Job in God’s Word, he was a man who sought to please God in all he did and yet God allowed evil to have its way to test Job’s faith.

What are you unwilling to surrender that may cause your faith to falter in a time of testing and temptation? Would it be held so dear that you would risk setting your faith in God aside to protect what you claim as your own in this lifetime?

Job declared that even if evil took his life, he would never surrender his faith in God. When he sat alone and felt he had lost everything and even questioned his relationship with God, God intervened and rewarded Job; everything he had lost God replaced, plus more.

We all have a choice when evil finds it way onto our path: (1) try to fight it in our own strength, wisdom, skill, wealth and face the consequences alone; or (2) seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom and stand fast in the face of evil’s efforts, placing our faith in God’s goodness and promises. Psychologists agree, there are two innate responses when we are confronted by evil – fight or flee. But, I suggest one more, stand fast, anchored by faith. Evil desires each of us to quit the fight and admit we cannot flee what we cannot outrun or outmaneuver. At that point evil wins. The moment we choose to stand firm trusting God, evil cannot win. Enjoy the fruits of strength, wealth, wisdom and talent, but remember they are God’s gifts and are never as powerful as your faith in God when confronting evil. No one can ever be their own savior inmate fight against evil.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #247-31EC

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Celebrate Before It’s Too Late

Old Testament Burial

Old Testament Burial

Celebrate Before It’s Too Late

Go, eat your bread with pleasure, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for God has already accepted your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and never let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days. For that is your portion in life and in your struggle under the sun. Whatever your hands find to do, do with [all] your strength, because there is no work, planning, knowledge, or wisdom in  Sheol where you are going. Eccl 9:7-10 (HCSB)

Sheol to the Hebrews, especially in days of Solomon, represented the destination for the dead – both the wicked and the righteous. God reigned as Lord over Sheol and the dead could be ransomed from the grave where darkness and nothingness swallowed all hope. However, we are encouraged to realize that God knows the condition of our heart, soul and mind so intimately our future destiny is pre-determined.

Because of God’s omniscience, we are encouraged to rejoice during our present lifetime. Celebrate in our limited days anticipating our future destiny. We are either celebrating the expectant joy of being ransomed by God into his dwelling place, or condemned to eternal darkness and separation from God. Either way, celebrate now while you can. Take joy in our marriage, our family, and even our career. Take nothing for granted and embrace every opportunity to enjoy life’s pleasures. Not an excuse for hedonistic pleasure but a plea to not waste the gift of life in the present, because no one knows when their life will end. Our destiny is in God’s hands, whether for good or bad.

Since the days of Jesus, mankind has learned God’s message of love, mercy and justice. Jesus revealed God’s will, ways, and wisdom alone – and not our will, ways or wisdom – offers eternal life with him to all who acknowledge this fact. Sheol has no hold on us in the present; we have the ever-present God, our heavenly Father, as shared and exemplified by Jesus.

We certainly have good reason to celebrate life to the fullest, enjoying to the fullest the light of his way, truth and life.

Was Solomon saved? I don’t know, but you can know about your destiny…

Coach

Words of Wisdom #246-30EC

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Different Routes, Same Destination, Not Same Destiny

Does the same destination mean same destiny beyond?

Does the same destination mean same destiny beyond?

Different Routes, Same Destination, Not Same Destiny

Indeed, I took all this to heart and explained it all: the righteous, the wise, and their works are in God’s hands.  People don’t know whether [to expect] love or hate. Everything lies ahead of them. Everything is the same for everyone: there is one fate for the righteous and the wicked, for the good and the bad, for the clean and the unclean, for the one who sacrifices and the one who does not sacrifice. As it is for the good, so it is for the sinner, as for the one who takes an oath, so for the one who fears an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: there is one fate for everyone. In addition, the hearts of people are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live—after that they go to the dead. But there is hope for whoever is joined with all the living, since a live dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead don’t know anything. There is no longer a reward for them because the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate, and their envy have already disappeared, and there is no longer a portion for them in all that is done under the sun. Eccl 9:1-6 (HCSB)

In this lifetime, both love and hate will impact our lives. We cannot control when or why either will cross our path. God purposes both love and hate to shape and mold, to enlighten and guide the course of our days under the sun, because in the end of our days, no matter how we dealt with the various love and hate challenges in our life, we all share the same destination, regardless of whether we chose for good or bad motives. It matters not whether love or hate prevailed, whether we chose the route of obedience or disobedience, or we pursued the fulfillment of promises made or we turned our back and rejected them. All our unique paths through life arrive at the same destination – the same finish line. Death waits for all without exclusion.

Our days under the sun are designed by God to help us distinguish between good versus bad; love versus hate; clean versus unclean; obedience versus disobedience; truth versus ignorance; faith versus foolishness. God introduces us into this world with the same opportunities to experience, learn and mature, because God loves each of us equally and without partiality. God even perseveres through the folly of our choices that define our routes along the journey of life, because God desires all of us to experience and understand the high price for selfish behaviors.

Until we reach the finish line marking the end of our days, God encourages and inspires everyone with the same desire for us to discover the love and truth that we can embrace by seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Our daily pursuit of God reveals that at the end of our days one final destination awaits, but it marks the beginning of two bifurcating destinies – one destiny is marked “dead on arrival”; the other “resurrected to the eternal life”.

We all have the right to choose between the different routes through our lifetime, and yes, we all arrive at the same destination, but God says that destination does not offer the same eternal destiny.
Coach

Words of Wisdom #245-29EC

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Blinded By Personal Perspective

Is lady justice blinded by or from her personal perspective?

Is lady justice blinded by or from her personal perspective?

Blinded By Personal Perspective

There is a futility that is done on the earth: there are righteous people who get what the actions of the wicked deserve, and there are wicked people who get what the actions of the righteous deserve. I say that this too is futile. So I commended enjoyment, because there is nothing better for man under the sun except to eat, drink, and enjoy himself, for this will accompany him in his labor during the years of his days that God gives him under the sun. When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the activity that is done on the earth (even though one’s eyes do not close in sleep day or night), I observed all the work of God [and concluded] that man is unable to discover the work that is done under the sun. Even though a man labors hard to explore it, he cannot find it; even if the wise man claims to know it, he is unable to discover it. Eccl 8:14-17 (HCSB)

What a tragedy when we perceive justice from our personal perspective. Bad things happen to seemingly good people, innocent people, while bad people appear to have only good things happen to them. Why does it seem the world is turned upside down with the distribution of just rewards? Is it merely a matter of personal perspective because, none of us are able to discern God’s motives for how justice is dispensed? Who understands the mind of God, his purposes and plans?

This explains the Teacher’s message: There is nothing better for man under the sun except to eat, drink, and enjoy himself. Life is a matter of personal perspective to justify what we witness under the sun.

I believe, we must accept what we alone are responsible for and not fret over the choices and consequences of others. Humility demands that we accept the reality that in life there will be those individuals who seemingly are rewarded unfairly even when their rewards do not seem just in our eyes. Why? Because, we must not be jealous for what happens to others. If we truly place our faith in God’s justice and mercy, should there be any reason for envy or criticism? In this lifetime we are not meant to understand all that happens from our perspective. Though we may pray for understanding, why God dispenses his mercy and justice remains abstract. The only ultimate goal of seeking wisdom in this lifetime is that we may realize that we will never know all there is to know. In that simple fact resides the most valuable piece of wisdom we can achieve in this lifetime, which defines true humility.

Remember, in the end of all things we will only be held accountable to God for how we responded to what he allowed us to experience under the sun. We will not be held accountable for how others responded or what rewards we perceived they received. Our attitude and actions must be directed by God’s will, ways, and his wisdom alone. Our prayers must not be to seek justice or mercy for the lives of others, but to understand how we must respond to what we clearly will never fully understand. God’s perspective is beyond our perspective. Ultimately, our faith should declare God’s good and perfect purpose prevails even when we perceive injustice being doled out upon the innocent or mercy and compassion upon the guilty.

Pray only for peace regarding such concerns so that you may humbly live out your days under the sun, able to perceive what matters most: Our personal relationship with God, and leave the rest up to Him.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #244-28EC

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Wisdom Destroys Our Chains

It is the invisible chains that bind us to fear and ignorance in this imperfect world.

It is the invisible chains that bind us to fear and ignorance in this imperfect world.

Wisdom Destroys Our Chains

Who is like the wise person, and who knows the interpretation of a matter? A man’s wisdom brightens his face, and the sternness of his face is changed…For every activity there is a right time and procedure, even though man’s troubles are heavy on him. Yet no one knows what will happen, because who can tell him what will happen? No one has authority over the wind to restrain it, and there is no authority over the day of death; there is no furlough in battle, and wickedness will not allow those who practice it to escape. All this I have seen, applying my mind to all the work that is done under the sun, at a time when one man has authority over another to his harm. In such circumstances, I saw the wicked buried…This too is futile. (excerpted from Eccl 8:1-13 (HCSB)

We shall never fully understand all the reasons under the sun why some evil people seem to prosper while innocent people suffer. Yet, God’s wisdom teaches us to be patient, to persevere, and to persist in the face of such futility because wisdom is not dispensed like candy from a vending machine or doled out like a side dish in a buffet line. God alone has sovereignty over wisdom and the dispensing of it to each person.

I believe there are times and reasons when God guards us by withholding wisdom on certain matters, because we would fail to comprehend God’s greater purpose(s) that allows evil to exist. Whenever wickedness or calamities appear to thwart God’s purposes, God reveals his mercy and compassion amidst the ashes and rubble.

Arrogant, self-aggrandizing authority figures abound, but God has allowed them to rule for a season of time for His grand purpose which leads to our greater good. Therefore, while they flaunt their power and authority, we are told to prayerfully persevere under their tyrannical yoke, because in God’s promises we will witness His blessings by remaining faithful. His wisdom will destroy the chains that bind us. There will always be wicked who walk among us, but they will discover in God’s timing that they cannot escape Scot-free their self-serving attitudes and actions. They will be held accountable, and despite their best efforts, God’s justice will not be forestalled or softened.

The faithful pursue God’s will, ways, and discover the wisdom needed to recognize the wrong and wicked ways of this world, and receive the patience and endurance to persevere through all their difficult and disastrous times. Christian courage enables the faithful to walk in this world recognizing the existence of evil and that bad things happen to innocent people. For a season, bad people may appear to get away with their wicked schemes, but in the midst of those horrendous times, God reveals sufficient wisdom to destroy the chains that bind us to ignorance and fear.

Without darkness and evil that lurks within, how would we know the sovereignty of God’s light and goodness? There resides the beginning of Godly wisdom for us to thrive in this unpredictable and imperfect world.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #243-27EC

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Where Does the Fault Lie?

Was it the woman or the lust within the hearts of men where guilt lied?

Was it the woman or the lust within the hearts of men where guilt lied?

Where Does the Fault Lie?

I have tested all this by wisdom. I resolved, “I will be wise,” but it was beyond me. What exists is beyond [reach] and very deep. Who can discover it? I turned my thoughts to know, explore, and seek wisdom and an explanation [for things], and to know that wickedness is stupidity and folly is madness. And I find more bitter than death the woman who is a trap, her heart a net, and her hands chains. The one who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner will be captured by her. “Look,” says the Teacher, “this I have discovered, by adding one thing to another to find out the explanation, which my soul continually searches for but does not find: among a thousand [people] I have found one [true] man, but among all these I have not found a true woman. Only see this: I have discovered that God made people upright, but they pursued many schemes.” Eccl 7:23-29 (HCSB)

The pursuit of wisdom is an arduous journey. The more we grasp, the more we realize how short our reach remains from obtaining it. If only we could grasp enough of it to recognize the fault of our own wickedness and the price of stupidity it brings upon us.

The ultimate test for a man who claims to be wise and the envy of others is his reputation with women. When man lustfully pursues a woman, it is the pursuit, not the woman herself, that ensnares the man. A wise professor once told me that when a man and woman establish an intimate relationship, a chemical connection begins that outlasts their lifetimes, even though the two ventured onto separate paths. A man will remember vividly each woman he has encountered, given the right circumstances. That is an interesting trait that marks our life full of relationships, however many of those memories come with regrets and consequences.

Are women wicked? Are they to blame for man’s wickedness and stupidity? Why do proverbs identify sin as a temptress? Proverbs and Ecclesiastes both were likely written by a man who felt the need to lust after what he could never possess – the love of the women he lusted after in life.

Women are not some wicked temptress and at fault for man’s lustful desires. The temptress resides in man’s own sinful, lustful heart. Just as wisdom is always beyond our reach, so too is the satisfaction of man’s lust for women. However, the pursuit of wisdom helps us to recognize that our insatiable lust for wisdom, wealth or women is for selfish purposes.

Our only hope and not be at fault is found in pursuing God’s will, ways, and wisdom so that we can learn to love and appreciate others rightly, and break the shackles of lust that imprison us. Lust is the seed of sin that tempts all mankind. Men beware! Do not blame women for our sinful wanderings that when left unchecked destroy all the relationships we claim to cherish most.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #242-26EC

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Honesty Inspires Humility

Wisdom reveals how honesty inspires humility

Wisdom reveals how honesty inspires humility

Honesty Inspires Humility

Wisdom makes the wise man stronger than ten rulers of a city. There is certainly no righteous man on the earth who does “good” and never sins. Don’t pay attention to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you; for you know that many times you yourself have cursed others. Eccl 7:19-22 (HCSB)

Wisdom exceeds knowledge. Wisdom acknowledges our limits, especially when interacting with others. Wisdom knows the power of silence. Wisdom pursues honesty rather than applause. Wisdom pursues a humility nurtured in the honesty of imperfections and shortcomings.

Wisdom is a powerful, God-given gift accessible to all. However, it can never be fully acquired in one’s lifetime. In fact, to some degree we all have acquired a measure of wisdom. Even the fool stumbled across a bit of wisdom along his bumbling ways, just not enough to recognize what he still lacks, but enough to believe he has attained it.

The fruit of wisdom is honesty and humility. Therefore, the more wisdom one acquires, the more one is inspired to pursue it. In the pursuit of wisdom, goodness and sin, right ands wrong, righteousness and evil, co-exist to expose the other. The further one pursues wisdom, the more one understands the eternal value of honesty and humility that wisdom reveals, because apart from God’s forgiveness, only a fool claims to be righteous on their own.

Have you invested time each day pursuing God’s will, ways, and wisdom? How can you know if you are becoming wiser? Do the attitudes and actions of others affect you like they used to? Are you embracing honesty and humility? Finally, whose approval and applause do you seek? The wise person seeks first and foremost the acclamation from the author of wisdom, because in the end our relationship with God matters. But, wisdom also reveals that along the journey of life, we reveal our honesty and humility before others God sends our way. He does not hold us responsible for how others relate to us, rather how we relate to them. God offers each of us with the wisdom we need in even the most difficult relationships and circumstances of life, because through them we discover honesty inspires humility in the truly wise.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #241-25EC

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Beware the Extremes of Life

When is too good or too evil a wrong place to stand?

When is too good or too evil a wrong place to stand?

Beware the Extremes of Life

In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: without question, God has made the one as well as the other, so that man cannot discover anything that will come after him. In my futile life I have seen everything: there is a righteous man who perishes in spite of his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who lives long in spite of his evil. Don’t be excessively righteous, and don’t be overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Don’t be excessively wicked, and don’t be foolish. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp the one and do not let the other slip from your hand. For the one who fears God will end up with both of them. Eccl 7:14-18 (HCSB)

At the extremes, life and death book end the span of time we have on earth. As disconcerting as our limited time may sound, God walks beside us every step of our sojourn on earth. And, if we believe that to be true, how can we believe that at any time God is not involved in our lives? Could we ever consider ourselves that good, that righteous, that we could walk apart from God’s presence? Conversely, could we ever consider ourselves that wicked, that evil, that we would walk alone apart from God’s presence?

At what extreme of goodness or wickedness would God, our Creator, consider his mission at an end with any of us?

God uses adversity and prosperity in shaping and molding us. He allows us to experience the consequences of right and wrong choices in life, so that we will be able to decide for ourselves the value of our relationship with God.

I believe that the story about Adam and Eve reveals a truth about God’s relationship with man: God desires man and woman to choose through their free will the way in life they should go, and to do so, God allowed us to know the difference between good and evil. If we only knew “good,” how would we be able to choose between what is good and evil?How can we know love if they do not understand hate?

“Good News!” — God never desires us to exist in either extreme of life. Our lives experience the fullness and awareness of godly living between the extremes of absolute goodness and wickedness. How else can we best comprehend the choices and consequences we face throughout the journey of life? God also allows us to taste life without his presence at the extremes so that we can value life embracing his presence.

Choices, whether encroaching upon the good or the wicked extremes within us, God remains with us, whether we acknowledge him or not. His love for us wanes no less because we refuse his presence. We cannot dismiss our Creator, nor will he give up on his creation until death’s door opens. There God will ask, “Your way or my way?” Who can stand before God claiming to be so righteous or so wicked that they are beyond God’s care? Who would choose separation from God and dismiss God love for eternity? That choice defines Hell! There only the extremes dwell absent from the light, love, and laughter that God offers.

God demonstrates his love for each of us through both the good and the bad times, through all the life and death decisions we face. How might we know what’s the right choice? Seek first God’s will, ways and wisdom, and he will walk you through the decision-making process and guide you from the extremes of life.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #240-24EC

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Wisdom Versus Wealth?

Wealth or wisdom? Which masters the other.

Wealth or wisdom? Which masters the other.

Wisdom Versus Wealth?

Wisdom is as good as an inheritance, and an advantage to those who see the sun. For wisdom is protection as money is protection, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner. Consider the work of God; for who can straighten out what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: without question, God has made the one as well as the other, so that man cannot discover anything that will come after him. Eccl 7:11-14 (HCSB)

Consider the value of wisdom versus wealth. Which of the two is more valuable and enduring? Which of the two once obtained cannot be taken away? Which has only increasing value and does not fluctuate unless not used properly by the owner?

All the treasures of the world cannot guarantee happiness and contentment. Wealth consumes and can never satisfies what resides inside a man. Power, prestige and position may be bought with gold and silver, but can wealth satiate the lusts within man’s heart? Wealth stirs envy in others and lures the thief and robber to steal the possessions we claimed with wealth. And, before we brag, one thief exists no one can prevent from distributing our wealth to others: Death! What wealth exists beyond the grave?

Now, consider wisdom. Wisdom continues to grow as we nurture and reap the fruit it bears while we mature through life nourished by wisdom. Yet how does anyone gain wisdom? The seed of wisdom is a gift from God. It is the only investment man can profit from through time and faith. If we seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom each day and apply what we learn from God, wisdom sprouts within us and changes our lives.

Wisdom and knowledge are commodities always in high demand, but short on supply. Thus, in the end, wealth migrates to the wise who understands that wealth has short-term, relative value. A wise man understands what absolute value wisdom offers, because God alone is the alpha and omega of all knowledge and wisdom.

The wise man never frets as worldly wealth ebbs and flows because he understands God brings both good times and bad times for a purpose. Ultimately, all things work to the good for those who love and trust God – no matter the circumstances they find themselves facing in life. (The Story of Job sits as a book of Wisdom for this reason.)

Wealth ebbs and flows, but wisdom from God never loses it value. However, be careful not to mistake man’s wisdom for God’s wisdom. One is absolute, the other relative and unreliable. Always identify the wisdom you desire. Filter the wisdom you discover against God’s Wisdom, if what you claim is from God it will offer unshakable truth. Otherwise, it is from man. Likewise, time always increases the value of wisdom that flows from God. That is the final test of God’s wisdom versus man’s wisdom.

Choose wisely between wisdom versus wealth. Wealth comes fraught with risks, wisdom overcomes all risks. Final thought: Only one can master the other. Choose wisely.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #239-23EC

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Don’t Take What’s Not Yours

Only the water at our feet can we alter the course.

Only the water at our feet can we alter the course.

Don’t Take What’s Not Yours

Surely, the practice of extortion turns a wise person into a fool, and a bribe destroys the mind. The end of a matter is better than its beginning; a patient spirit is better than a proud spirit. Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry, for anger abides in the heart of fools.
Don’t say, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not wise of you to ask this. Eccl 7:7-10 (HCSB)

Learning to be content in our present state – the challenges and opportunities that are in the present moment – is the key to learning to be patient. We cannot change the past; those former opportunities and challenges are behind us and never can be realized again. What we failed to accomplish for any number of seemingly valid reasons at the time is like water of a river rushing on by – irretrievable. Yet, in contrast, future opportunities and challenges are unknown until they manifest themselves in the present. However, it’s like trying to predict the impact of waters that just began its journey at the head of a river – so much depends upon the obstructions that interfere with the path of the river waters along the journey before those precise waters reach where you are in the present. Why? The future is unpredictable, and only God knows the future. He alone exists outside of the restrictions of space and time. He is behind all that occurs in ours lifetime: past, present or future without disrupting our free will choices and the consequences thereof.

In light of our present situation in life: why do we get so impatient and angry? Is it because we desire advance notice of what’s the next challenge or opportunity in our life? Yet where is our faith? Do we not believe that God knows what we are capable of handling and only allows what we can handle to be thrown at us in the present moment – the only time when our influence matters. At times we may feel overwhelmed; other times, bored but all times are God’s teachable moments for each of us. Our response in handling life in the now allows God to shape and mold the future for us. Therefore, what good would it do to pursue a seer’s crystal ball to peek into the future? Seers only see what we want to see, never the future. Likewise, wishing to return to our past is futile and brought with folly. If we could go back to the past, it’d certainly never be the same because we’re no longer the person who lived our past.

Learn from the past, but realize we can never relive the past.

So how can we have the strength to cope and survive the challenges and opportunities of the present that present themselves as endless tests, trials and tribulations of our patience, our endurance, and our perseverance? Just as the any river ebbs and flows as the seasons change, we too experience the endless ebb and flow of present life challenges and changes that cause us to make choices which result in consequences. We cannot avoid the challenges or the changes. We can only determine our response to them which affects our ability to cope with more endless challenges and changes flowing at us in the present.

However, the answer is simple to the source of our strength to cope with the endless flow. Seek out daily the author of time and space, the one who orchestrates the challenges and changes directed at us – God, our heavenly Father. Begin each day and return as often as needed, seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Pray for the patience to anticipate wisely the future, while we persevere in the present, and offer praises for all that has passed us by and now rests behind us. Believe with all our heart that God knows what’s best for us, and that He orchestrates choices at life’s crossroads for a grand purpose, but He will also journey alongside us in the present, no matter the choices you may make.

But for heaven’s sake: Don’t be like the fool and try to dam up the river to cling to the past and stymie the future. The fool always gets washed away by what he thought he could control that was not his to possess! The fool believes he or she can take what’s not their’s to take, but learns the past and future no one may possess except God.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #238-22EC

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Are our circle of friends the best source of advice or direction about our life?

Are our circle of friends the best source of advice or direction about our life?

Pick Wisely Whose Advice You Follow

It is better to listen to rebuke from a wise person than to listen to the song of fools. For like the crackling of [burning] thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of the fool. This too is futile. Eccl 7:5-6 (HCSB)

No one desires rebuke as encouragement, yet why are so many people drawn to older, more experienced, authoritative acquaintances for guidance? Why would we choose to listen attentively to firm, honest constructive criticism and correction, but then laugh and nod to the feel-good advice freely flowing from our circle of peers?

Maybe in truth, we all are drawn to older, wiser mentor-friends for advice, correction and encouragement, even when their words are hard to swallow. It is in our nature to seek out a select few who genuinely love us enough to tell us what we need to hear, not always what we want to hear. Successful people realize in due course that much of the chatter and hollow praise amongst our circle of friends and family is not always beneficial. In fact, most of their advice actually is self-serving banter, seeking approval for their own satisfaction. Many desire our laughter and nods as a form of acceptance and approval in their own lives. However, laughter quickly fades like “thorns that pop in the fire.” — they snap and crackle just before they disappear in the flames.

A firm handshake connects two people more securely and significantly than a pat-on-the-back or a spontaneous high-five signifying approval. We respond to a private wink, nod or slight grin from the select few who genuinely care about our desires and needs, rather than their own agenda. We all desire to invest valuable time with those who will inquire and listen to our responses about our goals, dreams and aspirations, rather than prattle on about their accomplishments or shortcomings.

When we spend time seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom, we discover the caring voice of our stern but caring Heavenly Father, who loves us enough to say what we need to hear, not what we want to hear all the time. His words embrace us when we need to admit pour shortcomings, and they offer a safe handhold when we need to be directed and anchored through the challenges of life. His words chastise and discipline when we stray, but with a loving-kindness that seeks the best for us. The way God deals with us also is found through the presence of strong mentor-friends who we run across throughout the various stages of life’s journey.

Who are your mentor-friends? Who has God directed into your life? Or, are you only interested in listening to the always laughing and joking buddies, always blowing their own horn for the attention they desire to feel good with the world? Think about who you allow into your inner circle.

Coach
Words of Wisdom #237-21EC

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Victory Requires You Run the Race

It's the finish line that determines the victors, not the starting line.

It’s the finish line that determines the victors, not the starting line.

Victory Requires You Run the Race

A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Grief is better than laughter, for when a face is sad, a heart may be glad. The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure. Eccl 7:1-4 (HCSB)

Being told you have a lot of promise doesn’t make it so. Being told you come from a great family does not make you great. Until we have competed in life and put forth the effort, we have not earned the right to claim honor for our name.

Success and fame are not something you can claim – they must be earned and are received. Success and fame arrive after the crown has been placed upon you by those you have impacted and gained favor from during the race of life, because no one attains success or fame while still at the start line of the race. What accomplishment can you claim before the race has even begun? You may certainly look good in your fancy track shoes and your uniform may make you look like a winner, but it is in the running of the race that earns the accolades once you cross the finish line.

The Teacher in this passage clearly makes the point that one’s life time of achievements become worth remembering after the results of the race are posted, and thus far more valuable and rewarding than the applause and back-slapping during the race.

I have been a part of many funerals that have turned into a celebration of memories, a genuine testimony of a person’s positive impact on the lives of others. From another perspective, how sad would it be if no one attended your funeral? The tragedy in the Christmas Carol story is that Ebeneezer Scrooge gets to foresee that without a change in his miserly, lonely ways, no one will mourn his death. No one will miss him after he is gone except as the brunt of jokes and ridicule. What a legacy of a life wasted on selfish ambition and values that took from others and never shared with others. Scrooge became too enamored by his own idea of success and fame, he forgot to even compete in the race. He never lined up at the starting line. He chose only to compete with himself.

Consider which stage of the race you are running in this lifetime? Remember, the race of life is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, the course to run may not be clearly marked, but there will be plenty of others running the course with you. At every crossroad during the race, your life can be affected for good or for bad by the choices you make, so choose wisely. Just remember, there’s never a shortcut to the finish line. A moment to consult God’s will, ways, and wisdom is always a good investment to avoid disastrous, hasty choices. And, never trust the crowd to always choose wisely either, because most often the crowd are like sheep and follow the herd, only to learn they have blindly been drawn down the hazardous and dangerous path at the crossroads.

Run the race that is set before you, knowing someone who loves you more than anyone is standing at the finish line, calling you by name, urging you to not quit and finish strong. He knows the way, because he has ran the race and knows the challenges and obstacles you will face along the way. But, he also knows the reward at the end! There’s the roar of all who finished the race before you encouraging you toward the finish line. Do not give up or give in, because eternal success and fame adorns the crown waiting for you.

For those, like myself, who are still running their race, there is plenty of encouragement along the journey. You will be encouraged and rewarded by those you have helped along the way as well. Run the race set before you and seek along the way to celebrate life with friends and family until you break the finish line.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #236-20EC

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Creation Versus Creator

Absolute-knowledge-is

Creation Versus Creator

Whatever exists was given its name long ago, and who man is, is known. But he is not able to contend with the One stronger than he. For when there are many words, they increase futility. What is the advantage for man? For who knows what is good for man in life, in the few days of his futile life that he spends like a shadow? Who can tell man what will happen after him under the sun? Eccl 6:10-12 (HCSB)

Okay, let’s face the fact that we are the creation; God is the Creator. Everything we know and will ever know is by God’s grace and grant. Does that mean we will someday know what God knows? Of course not! As I used to tell my sons: I’ll teach you everything you need to know, but you’ll never know everything I know. Some things you must learn about through time and experience.

Then, if that is true, why do we struggle so hard to control what we can never fully understand? Why do we fight for what we can never fully possess?

There is no originality that man can truly claim in this world, except who we choose to become – yet, we were created to become as we uniquely are at this present moment by the will of God, our Creator. With that said, why does man strive to have dominion over everything and everybody else? Is the Created seeking to usurp the Creator? As the Teacher asks, “What advantage do we have in such a struggle?” Our Creator does give us the choice to seek after the wisdom we need from him, or choose to rely on our own abilities in a world that can never be possessed by mankind. Even the things that man tries to grasp, he cannot hold onto nor fully understand. Like a vapor, every Created Being leaves this world in the same fashion he arrived, empty handed and alone.

Why would anyone try to walk in this life on their own understanding, or try to accept another man’s understanding as their guide? Was man with the Creator when he was created? Which man helped God create this world?

Every attempt man has made to understand creation is but a shadow of truth, because man can only speculate about what he does not know, nor will he ever know for certain in his finite lifetime. Man’s own biblical testimony poses this quandary – “Who has gone to heaven and returned to share the truth about God?” The Bible also says that “no man has seen God as He is and lived.” Created Man has not earned the right to stand before his Creator — the temporal creation would be consumed by the Creator’s eternal glory. Only by His grace and mercy will we receive His invitation to reside with Him after our temporal life has come to an end, and we have come to the point in our life that we have surrendered our selfish lives to God’s will, ways and wisdom. Only then we will begin our eternal journey to understand the Creator and His love for all Creation.

For those who desire to walk in the light of their own understanding, I pray you will come to the point when you will realize what you assume to be truth and knowledge is but a fleeting shadow that keeps you from knowing the truth and the author of truth.

Madness of man’s desire to possess wisdom and knowledge: The more we think we know, the more we understand how much we actually don’t know. Absolute wisdom and knowledge only rests with the Author and Creator of it.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #235-19EC

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Wisdom Values the Elusive Wind

Why are we so enamored by Don Quixote's quest?

Why are we so enamored by Don Quixote’s quest?

Wisdom Values the Elusive Wind

What advantage then does the wise man have over the fool? What [advantage] is there for the poor person who knows how to conduct himself before others? Better what the eyes see than wandering desire. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 6:8-9 (HCSB)

Often we identify success by material rewards. Even in the biblical era, the Hebrews held the common belief that wealth was a sign of divine approval and reward. If that was so, then Solomon must have been nearly perfect according to earthly standards. His wealth was unrivaled in his day, yet he struggled in life and by his own admission he understood the futility of pursuing the elusive wind.

The wise person experiences dreams like anyone else, and the wise person desires to better their conditions in life like anyone else, but the wise person understands how to live rightly in their present circumstances and find contentment in doing so.

When we constantly seek what we do not have, contentment becomes equally elusive. When we continually grow anxious about what we do not have, we feel cheated, shortchanged by life. We become bitter and dream only of what could be, rather than what exists. We become the fool pursuing the wind.

Futility reigns whenever we seek to live the life we do not possess. We buy through borrowing what we have not yet earned and cannot afford, pretending to possess what we really do not own so that we can identify ourselves with what we are not, all the while struggling with the reality of who we truly are. This is the futility that has led our country into near economic collapse. Our nation continues to write checks that cannot be paid without borrowing more money we do not have, transferring the costs of wanting what we believe we deserve onto future generations.

We mortgage wisdom for the sake of wealth, and pass on the consequences of our foolish, futile choices to future generations.

Our Nation will never turn this futility around until we accept our own limits and live contently with what we have, and not seek to live beyond our means. Corporate America grows daily promoting a lifestyle beyond our means because they know how to prey upon this weakness in all of us. They justify their actions by declaring that by borrowing to purchase what we cannot afford helps America to be strong. They dispel the notion that our country is being sold a bill of goods that declares, in the 21st Century we have the technology to pursue the wind and we can one day grasp it!

Who’s the fool now? The elusive wind will always remain just beyond our grasp and serves only to stir dreams and make fools out of those who pursue it outside of our dreams.

Our only hope is to remember who makes the elusive wind blow. May we seek to understand the author of the wind rather than try to possess it by seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom once again. How different life would be when we truly trust what God has allowed us to possess and to be content in that before we chase what we do not have. We just might be surprised by what blessings will follow in that wisdom.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #234-18EC

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Status and Stuff

What is the price we pay when our values get in the way of our happiness?

What is the price we pay when our values get in the way of our happiness?

Status and Stuff

Here is a tragedy I have observed under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity: God gives a man riches, wealth, and honor so that he lacks nothing of all he desires for himself, but God does not allow him to enjoy them. Instead, a stranger will enjoy them. This is futile and a sickening tragedy. A man may father a hundred children and live many years. No matter how long he lives, if he is not satisfied by good things and does not even have a proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For he comes in futility and he goes in darkness, and his name is shrouded in darkness. Though a stillborn child does not see the sun and is not conscious, it has more rest than he. And if he lives a thousand years twice, but does not experience happiness, do not both go to the same place? All man’s labor is for his stomach, yet the appetite is never satisfied.
Eccl 6:1-7 (HCSB)

Why do bad things happen to people? Why do events cause people to lose what they have worked hard to achieve for themselves? Is God the architect for evil or for good in our lives? These are hard questions that men have asked over the millennia, and many have used the question to argue against God’s existence or involvement in this world. Even the wisest teacher remains befuddled by what he the tragedies of life. God blesses man with“riches, wealth, and honor” to fulfill man’s desires only to allow circumstances to unfold whereby man cannot enjoy them. Well, is that man’s or God’s perspective?

When we focus on the here and now, we tend to value life by the stuff we have and the status we have achieved. However, we have valued fleeting accomplishments, or things that matter little to God. If that is your value system, consider the wise teacher’s premise: …that a stillborn child is better off than he; for he comes in futility and he goes in darkness, and his name is shrouded in darkness.

In this world we cannot control nor cling to things that do not belong to us but to this world. The truth is we lose what we claim as ours and we discover what we fought to attain never satisfies our desires as we first hoped they would, and we futilely struggle and stumble seeking more things to fill the dark abyss within us. In contrast to that cycle of futility, a still-born child rejoices never having faced such folly, frustration and futility. It is the living who miss out on what truly matters in this world – and it has nothing to do with things!

Happiness can never be bought or earned. Happiness is a blessing from God. It is the only source of true contentment. Happiness is a reward that flows through us when we live seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Happiness can only be realized through proper relationships, attitudes and actions where ultimately contentment resides in this life. As long as we believe that “All man’s labor is for his stomach, yet the appetite is never satisfied,” we are no better off than someone who never lived at all, but a choice remains: pursue our values or God’s values… God leaves the choice to us.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #233-17EC

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Life’s Sufficient Reward

Maybe this is why there's so many Joneses in this world...

Maybe this is why there’s so many Joneses in this world…

Life’s Sufficient Reward

Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. God has also given riches and wealth to every man, and He has allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart. Eccl 5:18-20 (HCSB)

One of the causes for man’s problem is his insatiable desire for what he or she deems as the good things in life. We seem to never have enough money buy enough of the latest “stuff” that already saturates our daily life. We seem to never be satisfied with our current relationships, so we are always looking for growing the number of relationships we claim to have. We seem to never be content with our careers and are always looking for something better or different. Even before our latest vacation is over, we already have begun anticipating the next vacation.

Why can’t we just be content? Why do we always feel unsettled, always seeking something more than we already have, our just reward? Funny, even when we get what we want, we still want more. Talk about futility…

However, the good life as God intended it is the life that embraces the fruits of the present. The good life makes the most of what is and not dwells upon what isn’t. It capitalizes on the time, talents, and treasures that exist in the present, finding satisfaction and joy from the who, what, and where of those present opportunities and relationships the good life offers. The good life trusts God to provide the abundant life without all the fuss and stress. God knows best what we can responsibly handle and He blesses us according to our attitude in handling it.

When we focus on what we have rather than upon what we do not have, we discover the real treasures of the good life: contentment, satisfaction and fulfillment. Who knows us better than our Creator? Who loves us more than our Heavenly Father? Why then do we think we can find contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment on our own?

If you are tired of trying to experience a sense of satisfaction in your life; a sense of fulfillment or genuine contentment on your own and your tired of always grasping at the wind, then God offers a solution for you. He says seek me first and I will meet your needs and fill your desires in the life he has planned for you. The journey begins by seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom. He will reveal the rewards he has for you when you look at your present life as the good life. Once you learn to truly enjoy what you have, God will smile more blessings upon you as you are ready to handle more.

(Note: if only America understood this basic truth, then our economy would not be in the shape it has been and our country would not burdened with so much debt! God, not our government is our hope for a better today and tomorrow.)

Coach

Words of Wisdom #232-16EC

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As We Come, So We Will Go

Have we learned anything about life after death over the centuries?

Have we learned anything about life after death over the centuries?

As We Come, So We Will Go

There is a sickening tragedy I have seen under the sun: wealth kept by its owner to his harm. That wealth was lost in a bad venture, so when he fathered a son, he was empty-handed. As he came from his mother’s womb, so he will go again, naked as he came; he will take nothing for his efforts that he can carry in his hands. This too is a sickening tragedy: exactly as he comes, so he will go. What does he gain who struggles for the wind? What is more, he eats in darkness all his days, with much sorrow, sickness, and anger. Eccl 5:13-17 (HCSB)

In ancient Egypt the great pharaohs entered elaborate, ornate tombs, known to us as the pyramids. Their carefully preserved bodies entered these pyramids with their worldly wealth and even a few unfortunate servants to meet their ongoing needs in death. They believed the afterlife offered a reward for the righteous. If their heart arrived without sin, they would be able to continue in the lifestyle they had enjoyed on earth. However, grave robbers, archaeologists and museums testify a different reality. What does this revelation tell us about trying to build great storehouses of treasures in this lifetime as we prepare for the end of our days? Have we learned anything over the centuries?

Not the first newborn has ever arrived into this world sporting a diamond ring or toting a purse of gold from out of the womb. As our passage declares, we enter this world naked and empty handed, just as we will also exit this world. Then why does man work so feverishly at pursuing riches in this lifetime? Why hoard wealth? What does having more money than you can spend in a lifetime mean in the big scheme of things?

Fact: the top 5% of society controls 80% of all the wealth of the world. The pyramid schematic to reflect the direction of the “distribution of wealth” is a very shallow pyramid. 95% of the population scrambles daily for the remaining 20% of all the world’s wealth as the top 5% seek to swell their control on even more wealth. Wealth seems to defy gravity and flows inward and upward, not outward and downward. What actually trickles down is a pittance of what pours upward.

Outside of a fancier coffin, does our fate with death change the fact that our wealth accumulated in this world, whether little or much, is inevitably left behind for others to squander and squirrel away? The real tragedy though lies in how focused we humans have become upon material things, yet how futile that pursuit actually fits into the big picture, the grand purpose of one’s lifetime.

For those who trust God’s will, ways, and wisdom there is hope for something far more precious than treasures valued on this earth. It is truly the “something” that one can take with them beyond the grave; a personal relationship with the Lord of life, temporal and eternal. The Lord promises us in this temporal life there may be various trials and tribulations, but in good times and in bad he will be there and will make sure our needs are met in this lifetime. Our Creator knows what we truly need, and what we are responsible enough to care for properly. Wealth and our accumulation of it is not evil, but the lustful pursuit of it is! When our passion for valuing relationships with others and God succumbs to our growing lust for accumulating wealth and status in this lifetime then evil hardens and invades our heart. God certainly blesses some people with wealth but they have a heart for the need of others and they use their wealth and its influence in a manner that pleases the Lord; their generosity inspires, not conspires.

In the stories of the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, or Frank Capra’s Its a Wonderful Life this message resonates. Maybe thats why we are inspired year in and year out to watch them. The stories of Ebeneezer Scrooge and George Bailey remind us of the price we can pay when we forget “as we come, so we will go” in this lifetime, but redemption lies within a genuine change of heart.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #231-15EC

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Avarice Infests Our Imperfect World

Oh the voracious appetite of the Gargantua called Avarice

Oh the voracious appetite of the Gargantua called Avarice

Avarice Infests Our Imperfect World

If you see oppression of the poor and perversion of justice and righteousness in the province, don’t be astonished at the situation, because one official protects another official, and higher officials [protect] them. The profit from the land is taken by all; the king is served by the field. The one who loves money is never satisfied with money, and whoever loves wealth [is] never [satisfied] with income. This too is futile. When good things increase, the ones who consume them multiply; what, then, is the profit to the owner, except to gaze at them with his eyes? The sleep of the worker is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich permits him no sleep. Eccl 5:8-12 (HCSB)

This passage affirms a relevant reality about life. Since the beginning of time, avarice has insatiably devoured wealth. In America today, avarice thrives throughout all levels of society. Our economy continues to teeter on the brink of collapse because avarice once tasted hooks the soul of men like other irresistible opiate. It spawns voracious corporate investment firms and financial institutions devouring one another while seducing everyday Americans with tantalizing money schemes. The result: Americans pretend to be wealthier than their income can afford. Their generous lines of credit entrap them with a false sense of wealth. However, there comes a time when everyone discovers they cannot even pay their monthly interest debt. Then Americans wake in the midst of the nightmare they allowed themselves to embrace only to realize too late that they bit into the shiny apple that blinded them from the greed of the corporate world sapping America dry, raking the wealth of our country into their pockets. During these nebulous times, the wealthy get wealthier while average Americans find they are deeper in debt and fearing the future.

As if America did not learn the lessons of less than a decade ago, new corrupt and irresponsible credit schemes are creeping back, promising once again that everyone should be able to invest in homes of their dreams; owning real estate is an American right. Add to that fever, television networks broadcast shows documenting young couples buying fixer-upper homes, investing in their makeover because their new home will be worth more than they invested when they decide to resell. No one mentions that like before, the future housing market offers no guarantees. The real benefactors are the contractors, home supply retailers, real estate agents, and bankers. If they all are getting their fair share, what is the home buyer left with? Avarice affects us all with blatant, blinding greed. Whether the stock market or the housing market, all market bubbles bust. The contractors, home supply retailers, real estate agents, and bankers have already pocketed their profit while the young couple is left trapped in monthly debts for a dream home that feels more like a financial millstone around their necks.

The rich continue to get richer, while the average American suffers. Yet, is this a new phenomenon? No not at all? We could address the same with school loans weighing down graduates while the colleges grow in wealth because they increase their tuition and fees while they convince unsuspecting, easily duped new students of the value of earning their degree at their school.

Throughout history, as this biblical passage relates, the powerful have always benefited from the redistribution of wealth. The hierarchy of power makes certain that the wealth of the people beneath them flows upward, not downward. The greatest financial pyramid schemes that exist legally are designed to squeeze the wealth from the land by taking advantage of the avarice infestation that exists within all men who fail to stop and evaluate what is truly important in life. This reality allows the rich to sleep at night knowing they will continue to prosper while the average person tosses and turns in his bed, unable to sleep because they fear they will wake up unable to hold onto what little bit they have managed to grasp onto.

When we stop and seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom on this matter, what does God have to say? The pursuit of wealth is its own god. No one can serve both their desire for wealth and their relationship with God. Avarice will always infest this world, but there is a better way to live free from its ill-affects while we dwell in this world. Choose wisely whom you will serve and revere first and foremost.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #230-14EC

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Value Works Over Words

When is God heard the clearest, in the stillness of a quiet moment each day or when the pews are packed each week?

When is God heard the clearest, in the stillness of a quiet moment each day or when the pews are packed each week?

Value Works Over Words

Guard your step when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they are ignorant and do wrong. Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. For dreams result from much work and a fool’s voice from many words. When you make a vow to God, don’t delay fulfilling it, because He does not delight in fools. Fulfill what you vow. Better that you do not vow than that you vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth bring guilt on you, and do not say in the presence of the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry with your words and destroy the work of your hands? For many dreams bring futility, also many words. So,  fear God. Eccl 5:1-7 (HCSB)

Over many years I have observed people from the back of the sanctuary and stood up eyeing the faces of the congregation from the pulpit. Preachers and worship leaders know they can call for acclamation during a service, and without fail, an echo of hearty “amens” and “hallelujahs” come forth, as if on cue.

In spite of what most people who regularly attend church want to believe, many arrive each week carrying deeper, more personal motivations than to simply worship the Lord through joyous songs and words. They arrive each week sprinkled among the regulars who, week in and week out, return faithfully to the same pew out of habit, ownership etched in stone over the years. Among the regular attenders are those solely motivated by the social value. Each Sunday they are eager to exchange the latest tidbits of news with friends and family before and after they dutifully endure the actual worship service. And, then there are some so-called regulars who attend when their guilt stars them. They arrive hoping to hear a soothing message to mollify the nagging guilt they can’t seem to escape. Of course, also sprinkled about the sanctuary are those who thrive on the attention they receive from their emotional displays and outbursts during the service. They could find their way to the altar blindfolded. There is little doubt, church provides a truly interesting hodgepodge of people to study any given Sunday. I wonder what God thinks about it?

Of course, as the Teacher points out in the above passage, those person(s) in church who like the attention they receive hoisting their hands high at every opportunity and shouting enthusiastically whenever the preacher or worship leader cues the congregation, begs the question: What is their real motivation? Do they believe God is hard of hearing and only responsive to the most animated among his flock? Or, are these most enthusiastic attenders demonstrating how spiritual they want everyone else to believe they are?

Certainly, plenty of sincere God-fearing people fill the pews too, but there are surrounded by and impacted by the self-serving, self-focused folks in attendance, as well. But, I reckon God smiles at us all in our efforts to worship him each Sunday. However, as the Teacher reminds us: We all should be careful with our words when praising the God of creation because God tests our words by the evidence of our works. We are told, it is better to say nothing than offer empty, insincere promises and vows. God examines a person’s actions and attitudes over time, not just his emotional outbursts. Sincerity and integrity identify a person’s genuine relationship with God not his enthusiasm and verbosity. It is the person who seeks God’s will, ways, and wisdom who realizes his or her prayers and promises do not need to be publicly heralded. In fact, God listens best to a sincere and genuine heart and we are more likely to hear his whispered response in the stillness of our daily quiet time with God.

Do not be like the fool who offers empty promises just to sound holy. God is not impressed by our foolish exuberance and boisterousness in church, only our daily response to his spirit’s counsel as he offers to guide us.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #229-13EC

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Fleeting Legacy of Leadership

Can you recall the names of these most honored presidents?

Can you recall the names of these most honored presidents?

Fleeting Legacy of Leadership

Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer pays attention to warnings. For he came from prison to be king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom. I saw all the living who move about under the sun follow a second youth who succeeds him. There is no limit to all the  people who were before them, yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 4:13-16 (HCSB)

Which king does this passage focus on? Is it Solomon? I don’t think so, unless he is seen as the second youth. Was David, Solomon’s father, the king that rose from prison. An argument could be raised to that affect because of King Saul’s relentless pursuit of David. Whomever is pictured, this passage ponders how history will regard them after they are long gone.

There is little difference between kings of ancient realms and heads of state today. In our country, every four or eight years the mantle of leadership gets passed on to the next president. As soon as the former steps down we immediately begin to compare their term in office with the accomplishments and disappointments of other past presidents, and in short order with the new president as he (and someday, she) grasps the reins and directs the course of our country.

Initially, a rosy glow follows each past president for a period after they leave office, and it burns once again upon their passing for a spell. However, in time, the legacy of all our presidents winds up in volumes of books crowded amongst the previous volumes written about all the other past presidents, comparing the accomplishments and failures of each president. All written through the bias of time and the fickleness of ever-changing popular opinion.

It is interesting though, as important as their time in office, we relish as much curiosity upon their backgrounds, and how their upbringing and early struggles shaped their leadership legacy. We tend to connect best to the rare leader who arrives onto the national scene from common roots similar to our own. In recent history it has been harder and harder to find that kind of presidential candidate, but there have been several notables since World War II: Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Each of these rose from ordinary beginnings in poor or ordinary family situations. Clinton and Obama were raised in broken homes, which marked their personalities. People relate to common humble beginnings and the climbing of the ladder of leadership through a lifetime marked by hard work and uncanny grit to fulfill their destiny.

However, time takes its toll. Interest in their humble beginnings fades. History redacts our memories and only highlights remain as footnotes in the history books. In time, like the kings of ancient days, little more than another presidential bust or portrait remains identifying the growing line of former presidents, but most people will fail to even recall many of their names.

Whether from rich, ordinary or poor family backgrounds – God calls men and women to rise up as leaders for his greater purposes, and he holds each accountable for their time under the sun. Nothing has changed in all the millennium of kingdoms, nations and governments instituted by mankind. Monarchs, oligarchies, and presidents, whether elected or appointed, lead under God’s approval and the favor of the people they serve. From time to time as Thomas Jefferson pointed out in our nation’s Declaration of Independence, we remind ourselves that governments receives its authority to govern from those they govern. It is a cherished right whereby the value is derived by each of us relinquishing a portion of our freedom to protect our rights to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We may memorialize past presidents and write about them in history books, but only the current president can make a difference in the lives of the people. The only constant we can depend upon is God’s influence upon each leader after the voice of the people reveal his will. May we trust in God as the next president finds his or her place to guide our country.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #228-12EC

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Competition and Companionship

Why do we instinctively love the strain of competition?

Why do we instinctively love the strain of competition?

Competition and Companionship

I saw that all labor and all skillful work is due to a man’s jealousy of his friend. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. The fool folds his arms and consumes his own flesh.
Better one handful with rest, than two handfuls with effort and pursuit of the wind. Again, I saw futility under the sun: There is a person without a companion, without even a son or brother, and though there is no end to all his struggles, his eyes are still not content with riches. “So who am I struggling for,” [he asks,] “and depriving myself from good?” This too is futile and a miserable task. Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if somebody overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken. Eccl 4:4-12 (HCSB)

What value do we add to our life if we struggle through life alone? What satisfaction comes from always competing in a one man race? Life is about companionship and competition among friends. We are born social creatures by God’s design and our inspiration for accomplishing great and innovative things comes from our relationships with others.

“Keeping up with the Jones’ next door” is a catch phrase that speaks about man’s desire to maintain the status quo with our neighbors and friends. Merely driving down the interstate reveals the competitive nature of mankind. Few drivers are satisfied to allow traffic to buzz by without eventually pushing down on their gas pedal just a little harder to keep up or even gradually pass other vehicles. For most of us, what contentment is found in putzing through life always allowing others pass us by? Is that why we enjoy all sorts of races and sporting events, even if the thrill is watching others compete from the stands? We even introduce our children to all sorts of competitive games and teach them the value of winning from an early age. Our justification — competition prepares them for engaging into beneficial companionships as they grow up.

It is in the nature of man to also enjoy the company of likeminded close friends. Part of our social acceptance depends upon our circle of companions. Sadly, we are considered social misfits if we walk throughout life without any friends.

Our need for companionship is a survival instinct instilled within us by God. Man alone is a weak creature, but with the aid of friends and family he becomes a compelling adversary for even the fiercest animal.

Why is it we embrace team sports so much — football, baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, even an impromptu tug-of-war match? Is it that our primal instincts are stirred by the companionship and raised level of competition involved? Even the lonely cross-country or marathon runner seeks a companion to run with until they push each other toward the finish line.

Survival is a necessity of life and demands us to perform at our best to either outrun our ever-present adversary or catch our prey. Companionship inspires and encourages peak performance, whether in survival mode or merely pursuing adulation over a game with friends at a party. God has in his wisdom instilled the gifts of companionship and competition to enable us to be the best we can be.

HOWEVER, companionship and competition is a gift from God. We must daily seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom as we grow through the designed companionship and competition God intends for our greater good. Never allow selfish motives to destroy what God designed for all of our good.

May the games begin with the Lord urging us all toward the finish line!

Coach

Words of Wisdom #227-11EC

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Hope Beyond Oppression

Sometimes tears are the only salve to soothe the pain?

Sometimes tears are the only salve to soothe the pain?

Hope Beyond Oppression

Again, I observed all the acts of oppression being done under the sun. Look at the tears of those who are oppressed; they have no one to comfort them. Power is with those who oppress them; they have no one to comfort them. So I admired the dead, who have already died, more than the living, who are still alive. But better than either of them is the one who has not yet existed, who has not seen the evil activity that is done under the sun. Eccl 4:1-3 (HCSB)

According to the Webster’s Dictionary, oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. How many places and how many ways does oppression afflict people? We can read or listen to stories of political oppression, religious oppression, financial oppression, and racial oppression every single day. Wherever oppression is identified, there must always be someone exercising authority and power to cause the oppression. Wherever oppression resides an oppressor must also exist. Whenever the oppressed can identify the oppressor blame for the burdensome, cruel, or unjust circumstances can be directed. When the oppressed senses no hope in their present circumstances depression results. When depression swoops down upon the oppressed, their growing dark feelings of helplessness and hopelessness stir up relentless whining, begging someone, anyone, to rescue them. Many resort to woeful prayers because they sense God turned his back on their life and he ultimately is to blame for the oppression crushing their spirit. Yes, sadly but true, history records people since the dawn of civilization have even offered up God as the scapegoat for their oppression. Why should we be any different?

So where does hope reside? Before, during or after our oppression. According to the author of today’s passage, little hope resides during oppression. Tears offer little comfort as the oppression morphs into deeper and darker states of depression and the heart is squeezed dry of hope. As all hope escapes through the final tears, the oppressed recognizes only the dead can escape the unrelenting oppression they are under. Even if a miracle occurs and the oppressed find relief from a helping hand, the scarred survivors tremble for fear the return of oppression.

What about the unborn? Each new born enters the world naïve to oppression, but also hope. How can anyone understand the value of hope if there exists no need for it?

I believe, in every circumstance we are called to face in this life, a choice exists: We can trust the authority and power within us to resist the threats of oppression. We are only become a victim of oppression when we choose to abdicate our authority and power and become a victim. Our eternal hope that strengthens each off us is God-given. That hope flows through us as long as we live trusting God’s will, walking in God’s ways, and seeking God’s wisdom. That vibrant hope feeds our confidence to face all circumstances that may rise against us because we the source of our hope is our refuge and redeemer. Of course, I also believe that God undoubtedly and most assuredly orchestrates his will and purpose through the choices we make as circumstances arise intended to strengthen our faith, the anchor and life-blood of our hope. What prevents fear in the face of oppression? We know God’s love, compassion and mercy is always in reach.

When we place our faith in God, it matters not what threat oppression poses today. If hope reigns within you, no worldly authority or power can coerce us to become a helpless victim, a slave to the oppression of others. A helpless victim relents; a victor resists. The victor embraces by faith the hope that resides within our hearts — a golden gift from God. The victor confidently walks through life, no matter the circumstances and challenges, confronting oppression when it threatens as an opportunity to earn God’s smile.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #226-10EC

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