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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Futility of Death

Why is it we hardly ever see the gravedigger?

Why is it we hardly ever see the gravedigger?

Futility of Death

I also observed under the sun: there is wickedness at the place of judgment and there is wickedness at the place of righteousness. I said to myself, “God will judge the righteous and the wicked, since there is a time for every activity and every work.” I said to myself, “This happens concerning people, so that God may test them and they may see for themselves that they are like animals.” For the fate of people and the fate of animals is the same. As one dies, so dies the other; they all have the same breath. People have no advantage over animals, for everything is futile. All are going to the same place; all come from dust, and all return to dust. Who knows if the spirit of people rises upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth? I have seen that there is nothing better than for a person to enjoy his activities, because that is his reward. For who can enable him to see what will happen after he dies? Eccl 3:16-22 (HCSB)

The question at the end of this passage reveals the difference of those who know God and those facing death alone. Outside of faith, is it possible for anyone to factually know for certain what happens after death. Certainly there is a lot of speculation and there’s been much research since Socrates poisoned himself in the pursuit of the truth about death.

Are we unlike the animals, who we believe are born and eventually die in some simplistic, beneficial cycle of life on earth? Can we dismiss their death so casually as if God does not care about the animals he created? How can we truly know what happens to animals after death? As the Teacher in the passage above proclaims, mankind shares the same breath of life, and death arrives to man and beast when that same shared breath ceases to sustain life in either man or beast.

The Teacher reveals the futility of understanding death beyond this life. He, like so many today, reckons what he does not know for certain does not affect him. Life now is all that matters. There is no understanding beyond this life.

However, if that were so, what would be the purpose of living rightly in this life?

When we choose to live life guided solely by our own limited understanding and wisdom, we espouse the philosophy of hedonism, the pursuit of self-serving pleasure as life’s main motivation.

However, if that was true, then why don’t the animals reflect the same motivation in their lives, if there really is no difference between man and beast? Animals are instinctive in their life choices.They will defend themselves to preserve their life and they will even put their own lives at risk to protect the lives of their offspring, but what they fight to preserve is their present right to life. Man however is more than an instinctive, reactive thinker as he or she makes choices in this life. Man is endowed with a conscience revealing what are good or bad choices. As a result, there are times when our life choices reveal our life motivation transcends mere survival instincts like the animals. Man recognizes their connection to God and this temporal life maybe finite, but the life that God created for us is eternal and mortal death merely is the divide between the two.

On the other hand, what happens for certain to animals beyond death, only God knows that answer? We have no gained no insight from God on the matter. Yet, we have received plenty of firsthand assurances from God about the prospects of our future beyond death. Even long before the days of the biblical testimony man believed a time of judgment between the wicked and the righteous awaited all of mankind. But, throughout history the struggle has been in defining what about our life makes us righteous before God. Is it our heritage or bloodline? Is it our deemed righteousness or wickedness a personal, a family, or a communal accountability before God? The biblical testimony declares that we all will stand individually before God, accountable for our own life choices. Those who live in denial that there will be such an accounting for our righteous and wicked choices by God seem to prefer to believe there exists no difference between man and the animals beyond the grave. Sadly, there is a difference. Animals made their instinctive choices in life because that’s how God made them, but man was created with a conscience by God to rationalize and dream to direct his or her life choices.

Therefore, I believe when we seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom, not selectively seeking what appeals and dismissing the rest, then little doubt should remain as to how we should strive to live this life, impacting our life choices that are rooted in the belief God awaits beyond the grave.

Thank you Lord God for the heritage of your word entrenched in the biblical testimony, because it clearly guides us in the making right life choices in this lifetime to realize your blessing on that day when all of us will humbly stand before you.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #225-9EC

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Eternity and You

Ponder the cause behind the heavens and you will find God smiling.

Ponder the cause behind the heavens and you will find God smiling.

Eternity and You

What does the worker gain from his struggles? I have seen the task that God has given  people to keep them occupied. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and enjoy the good life. It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts. I know that all God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of Him. Whatever is, has already has been, and whatever will be, already is. God repeats what has passed. Eccl 3:9-15 (HCSB)

Our temporal life is preparing us for our eternal destiny. Yes, whether we want to admit it or not, we all will experience eternal life, but not all will eagerly accept eternity as God’s gift. A gift stored in our heart from conception into this temporal world. However, long before our first heart beat or gasp for breath, God existed, and long after our last heart beat and and final exhale of breath, God remains. You see, God existed before eternity and even its vastness pales to define God. Why? God created eternity for us to share.

Though temporal man can merely theorize the threshold and span of eternity, God gifts the expectation of eternity within each of us. While man futilely searches to define eternity, God awaits patiently to reveal it fully to each of us. And in the midst of this ultimate display of God’s incomprehensible greatness, we will experience the indescribable unveiling of the gift of eternity that has always resided within our hearts. God will then explain how that special gift signifies how we were created in his image.

Even so, some deny God’s gracious, unique gift. Some choose to believe death is final and life ceases with the final heartbeat or gasp of breath. They deny God and eternity exists merely because they rationalize their limited understanding offers a more palatable notion of reality. However, these same rational minds can conceive of the vastness of the universe and discuss the vastness of eternity and its infinite reach in time and space. So, doesn’t this beg the question: Can the created be its own creator?

Since, even nonbelievers understand that all motion requires a force outside of itself. That same motion is perpetual without an opposing force impairing the motion. Thus, who or what provides the force that determines our life? Most scientists recognize that beyond the farthest boundaries of the universe and its infinite, yet tangible vastness lies God, the eternal force, the self-existent cause behind all creation.

When I contemplate on eternity, I can only conclude that God awaits at the threshold of eternal life. I have little doubt that God birthed us into this temporal life for a purpose beyond the limits of our present lifetime. My sense of and curiosity about eternity testifies to God’s majesty and glory. As for those who reject man’s participation in eternity, consider the isolation, limitations and hopelessness of one’s lifetime when you denounce God’s gift of eternity. The way I look at it: No matter how anyone depicts “hell,” being adrift in eternity with only your “self” to navigate through the limitless, unyielding emptiness is far worse than any “hell” man could depict! But, then again we all have this one lifetime to ponder the gift of eternity that resides within us.

What about you? Is this life worth living because you have discovered seeking God’s will, ways and wisdom reveals God’s purpose for your lifetime. Has your search revealed that God has orchestrated your lifetime so you can ponder the joy of eternity with Him? Do you have that assurance within you that helps you through those trying and difficult days we all face? If not, begin today realizing God has an eternal gift for you. You may struggle with all the world shouting around you daily, but I’ve found God invites your skepticism and doubts as a beginning of understanding his gift of eternity. Begin by walking out on the next clear night and stare into the heavens and ponder the cause, the creator behind all of creation. God will do the rest…

Coach

Words of Wisdom #224-8EC

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TIME: God’s Gift

Once upon a time

TIME: God’s Gift

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace. Eccl 3:1-8 (HCSB)

Man has devised the manner which we measure God’s gift of time and even how we keep track of it, but time is not a creation of man. Time is God’s creation for his purpose. Being created, time is also finite, not infinite. Eternity can neither be measured nor defined by time. Eternity is timeless.

Time is for man’s benefit, not God’s. It connects our present time with our past and our future. It measures our lifetime, the dash on our epitaph bridging our birth and death that defines our lifetime. In essence, because time defines our lifetime, it proffers our sense of urgency and anticipation that shapes our lifetime.

Time for each person begins with conception and ends with one’s final sigh and heart beat. Time also is an invaluable, irreplaceable commodity. Time once lost can never be replaced or reset anew. As a result, for many caught up with misery and pessimism casts time as some nagging, unrelenting pest affirming the futility of their lifetime. Each morning arrives later and later and they fear another sleepless nighttime. Only those embracing the value of time as an asset and gift of one’s lifetime discover the joy and contentment making the most of their time.

Fact: Time exists only in the present moment. Once time slips beyond the present, it is lost to yesterday’s grip. The further time slips into our past, the fuzzier our recollection of it becomes. Conversely, tomorrow’s time is but a hope filled concept of what could be, because God never promises us tomorrow, only today.

Time also is the perfect complement to love as God intended it to be expressed and cherished. When our lifetime is full of love, time marks the breadth and depth of our love for God and others during our lifetime. Love requires making the most of time, which is why we should invest as much time as possible with those we love, and less time distracted by money or things! Time wasted on temporal wealth and possessions should never detract us from investing time in loving God and others. Only time invested in love will have value beyond our present lifetime.

Final thought: God created TIME. He cannot be defined by it, nor limited by it. However, he expresses his ultimate gift of love by entering into our lifetime for our sake, so that when we exit time, we will enjoy eternity with him. How can we embrace and value time as God intended? Seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom and embrace the smile sure to come when we all discover God’s gift of time too!

Coach

Words of Wisdom #223-7EC

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What Will Be the Legacy of Our Labors?

The Brown Family

The Brown Family

What Will Be the Legacy of Our Labors?

I hated all my work at which I labored under the sun because I must leave it to the man who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will take over all my work that I labored at skillfully under the sun. This too is futile. So I began to give myself over to despair concerning all my work I had labored at under the sun. For there is a man whose work was done with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, but he must give his portion to a man who has not worked for it. This too is futile and a great wrong. For what does a man get with all his work and all his efforts that he labors with under the sun? For all his days are filled with grief, and his occupation is sorrowful; even at night, his mind does not rest. This too is futile.

There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and to enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand. For who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from Him? For to the man who is pleasing in His sight, He gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy, but to the sinner He gives the task of gathering and accumulating in order to give to the one who is pleasing in God’s sight. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 2:18-26 (HCSB)

In history there have been many well known great kings, emperors, and rulers of vast dynasties, however what happened after each of them passed away? What happened to their grand kingdoms and empires after their reign ended? Most collapsed and many merely faded into history because of the fools that followed in their footsteps. Many of these fools were either sons or grandsons who stumbled, bumbled and fumbled away all that had been passed down to them by the tenacious hard work and grand visions of great men before them.

Solomon was one such ruler. He received his kingdom from his father, King David, and managed to hold onto the greatness of Israel as a great nation until the end of his reign, but then strife and conflict rumbled through his kingdom. By the time he abdicated, his successors fought over the kingdom and the great Nation of Israel split. The downward spiral that followed for the former great Nation resulted in its total devastation and demise. (I wonder what sneak peek into the future did God allow Solomon before he wrote this passage?)

As a result, philosophical questions rise to the surface: Why should we work so hard in this lifetime only to build up something that will likely fall apart after we are gone? How will history treat our legacy because of those who follow behind us? Should we care?

My own father built a great company, but after he finally relented and retired late in life, the business was sold only to be resold again before the company name was swallowed and lost. The legacy of my father’s business success has all but faded, as well. The family still remembers what he accomplished, but none of us inherited the fire or tenacity that matched our father’s dogged determination or bold vision. So to what purpose did the legacy of his labors serve? Are the memories a sufficient legacy?

The good news in this passage from Ecclesiastes is that in the grand scheme of life, God uses others at the right and proper time to pick up the pieces of those who follow us for his purposes. History reveals, God uses our labor of love for greater good in his timing and for his purpose. It doesn’t matter that we may be long gone. We should trust a future generation will benefit from at least the valuable memory of our past efforts by God’s grace.

What is the legacy of your labors in this lifetime? What greater good might those who follow you discover? What greater purpose has your labor in this life served? How will you be remembered? Or, have you chosen to live life that is like the wind – here today, gone tomorrow, leaving no trace, no footprints for others to follow?

If when my days lie in the past, will my children and their children value my memories more than any material inheritance that remains after I am long gone? That is my prayer.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #222-6EC

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The Wiseman, the Madman, and the Fool

Do you which is the wiseman, the madman, the fool?

Do you which is the wiseman, the madman, the fool?

The Wiseman, the Madman, and the Fool

Then I turned to consider wisdom, madness, and folly, for what will the man be like who comes after the king? He will do what has already been done. And I realized that there is an advantage to wisdom over folly, like the advantage of light over darkness.

The wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness.

Yet I also knew that one fate comes to them both. So I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will also happen to me. Why then have I been overly wise?” And I said to myself that this is also futile. For, just like the fool, there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man, since in the days to come both will be forgotten. How is it that the wise man dies just like the fool? Therefore, I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me. For everything is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 2:12-17 (HCSB)

Consider the differences between the wise person, the mad man, and the fool. At the same busy street corner, the wise person will look both ways before proceeding across the street, making certain there is no oncoming traffic. The mad man will look as he begins walking across the intersection even though he sees oncoming traffic but in his estimation he can walk safely across without being hit. The fool, well, he starts walking without hesitation assuming no one would certainly hit him, and never bothers to look either way for oncoming traffic. Which of the three will likely live longer or at worst avoid injury? Yet, which will likely avoid death all together? The answer is clear:The wise man may out live the other two, while the mad man likely will out live the fool, but all have the same destiny with death! So, should then choose to live the life of the fool or the mad man, and not bother to walk in the light of the wisdom that God offers us?

There are many people in this world that you may know who are like the mad man or fool; they walk through life at a brisker and riskier pace, throwing caution to the wind. They believe they are invincible, only to discover after it is too late that such a reckless lifestyle eventually comes at a price. So, why do we espouse that life is too boring and mundane without some inherent risk? If God’s wisdom is so good for us, why do we opt not to apply it to our own lives? Why walk like the madman and the fool, turning from the pursuit of God’s wisdom? Why prefer the thrill of walking on the brink of danger at every intersection of life? Do we prefer the madness or folly, or have we been turned off by the drab notion that God desires us to only choose a totally safe and cautious lifestyle? Actually, I believe the Bible testifies otherwise. One can be wise yet still walk boldly and with confidence in the face of danger, if it is for the right purpose.

When we walk in the light of God’s will, ways, and wisdom, we discover times when God sets before us a mission that will take us out of our comfort zone. However, when on mission from God, though we may very well face inherent risks and imminent danger, we are never alone. When we walk daily with the Lord’s guidance, we are never alone, especially when latent dangers lurk among the shadows of death along the journey. The Lord promises to comfort, guide and protect us whenever we follow his will, ways and wisdom. There lies the difference between a godly wise man, the mad man and the fool.

Solomon recognized the folly in trying to avoid the risks and dangers in life, because in the end, we all face the same inevitable death. However, when we walk with the Lord in His will, ways and wisdom in this lifetime, death is nothing more than a portal to a much greater eternal mission. The mad man and fool are blinded and thus lost as to their destiny beyond death, and even the wise man who seeks his own will and ways sooner or later discovers the folly of his choices.

Are we chasing the wind, or being guided through life by it?

Coach

Words of Wisdom #221-5EC

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When I Choose for Myself, Loneliness Thrives

Crossroads

When I Choose for Myself, Loneliness Thrives

I increased my achievements. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself and planted every kind of fruit tree in them. I constructed reservoirs of water for myself from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees. I acquired male and female servants and had slaves who were born in my house. I also owned many herds of cattle and flocks, more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. I also amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I gathered male and female singers for myself, and many concubines, the delights of men. Thus, I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; my wisdom also remained with me. All that my eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself any pleasure, for I took pleasure in all my struggles. This was my reward for all my struggles. When I considered all that I had accomplished and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind. There was nothing to be gained under the sun. Eccl 2:4-11 (HCSB)

Solomon offers the greatest example of when we live a self-centered, self-focused lifestyle, self-satisfaction is not possible.

When “I” dominates our thoughts and motivates our life, we are focused on pleasing ourself first and foremost. However, “I” focus leads only to futility, and in time, growing futility morphs into frustration, which ultimately develops into hate for our insatiable self. Even when all the prestige, power and pleasures of this world are available, our “I” focus can never be adequately satisfied. Why? Because, God did not create us to be selfish creatures. We were created to serve and share with those within our circle of family and friends.

The richest people in this world have repeatedly testified that when they got caught up in their growing wealth and fame, only loneliness shared that wealth and fame. Why do so many rich and famous people resort to lifestyles that are so destructive, risking all they have? Even the great Solomon discovered his insatiable desires nurtured the loneliness he found himself surrounded by – his concubines failed to satisfy his desire for true love; all his servants could not offer him true friendship; and his enumerable slaves were not a replacement for family.

There is a decision we all must make in life: a crossroads of two choices. One road offers glory, fame and fortune found through a lifetime following our own will, ways, and wisdom – much like Solomon. The other road leads to a destination that can only be discovered by faith. A faith that requires the surrender of shortsighted, selfish desires in exchange for trusting God’s will, ways, and wisdom. At the crossroads, our decision depends on whether we trust our eyes or our heart.

Solomon asked for wisdom, and God gave him his wish, but what he got was a lifetime of misery and frustration. History reveals, his selfish choices affected all the families of Israel. After his death, the clans that made up Israel split, went their own ways and never reconciled. They all entered the slippery slope on the road to destruction. Likewise, if we choose wrongly, we too can land on that same slippery slope and discover we too caused the demise of others as well. Which way is the right way? The one with a favorable destination your eyes can see, or the one with an unclear destination but your heart feels is the right choice? Choose wisely, but unselfishly. Success is never determined by the value of things we accumulate, but by the growing number of people we serve and share with in this world.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #220-4EC

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Futility of Expecting Something New

What can possibly be new?

What can possibly be new?

Futility of Expecting Something New

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.” What does a man gain for all his efforts he labors at under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets; panting, [it returns] to its place where it rises. Gusting to the south, turning to the north, turning, turning, goes the wind, and the wind returns in its cycles. All the streams flow to the sea, yet the sea is never full. The streams are flowing to the place, and they flow there again. All things are wearisome; man is unable to speak. The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Can one say about anything, “Look, this is new”? It has already existed in the ages before us. There is no memory of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no memory among those who follow [them]. Eccl 1:1-11 (HCSB)

We all want to be different, or at the least, uniquely special. However, though we may be unique in many ways, we all travel the road of life the well-traveled and well-marked road of life prodded by many long before us, and many more will assuredly follow us on this same road. The choice we get to make is how we navigate this road of life among all the others who share the road with us. Yet, lets be clear, there are no new paths to choose, just enticing highways with dead-ends should any of us choose to wander off onto our own ways. God clearly stated that there is but one way to follow him. All other ways are futile and paths of destruction for any of us who decide to navigate our own ways.

Just look at the world around us; see how God’s creation share his unique, undeniable hallmark. Even nature’s winds and waters behave certain ways, just as the stars and planets have predictably paraded in the heavens as reliable guides for millennia without deviation. The living creatures on land, in the waters, and in the sky migrate and roam the planet in their own never ending cycle of life as well.

However, God has given man an inquisitive mind. Unlike the rest of creation, man has the innate nature to pursue the unknown and seek the untraveled as a challenge. Yet, when we fail to check with the Creator along the way, our eyes and ears become preoccupied with the prospects of the new, the uncharted paths, which may be perceived as new to us, but is not new to God. It is a simple fact we too often ignore – Nothing new can be created outside the will, ways and wisdom of our Creator God.

So what must we do? We mature as we realize just because something appears new to us, nothing is new to God. The moment we assume we have captured an original idea, a uniquely created revelation of some truth within our own mind, we assume the role of God. Our life should be a constant pursuit of expanding our understanding the truths and realities that flow from our Creator by his grace and will. He alone knows what we are capable of comprehending and benefiting from for his greater purposes. Therefore, as we stumble and bumble our way along the road of life, seek daily to uncover and embrace the new discoveries that reveal God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Trust God alone, and never our own selfish desires and understanding…because on our own, we can only claim to discover the dead-end that waits for our arrival! Life awaits all who trust God’s sure ways and perfect will. But God created us with a choice to choose?

Words of Wisdom #217-01EC

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The Futile Pursuit

Ecclesiastes1_14

The Futile Pursuit

I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to seek and explore through wisdom all that is done under heaven. God has given people this miserable task to keep them occupied. I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. I said to myself, “Look, I have amassed wisdom far beyond all those who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has thoroughly grasped wisdom and knowledge.” I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind. For with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases. Eccl 1:12-18 (HCSB)

God created each one of us uniquely, yet we all carry a similar insatiable desire to understand and master our individual lives. However, the harder one pursues knowledge and understanding, the mysteries of life reveal their unfathomable depths. Exploring an ocean floor abyss or the depth of a black hole in space is man’s ultimate but finite quest to understand infinite God and eternity, and frustration awaits. Knowledge is neither finite or infinite – ultimately absolute knowledge defines what is temporal and eternal, fathomable and unfathomable. Ultimate knowledge reveals itself as dynamic, ever-changing and expanding. No matter what level of knowledge man can attain, there is always more to learn, more to understand. Absolute knowledge is reserved for God. When King Solomon pursued the gift of wisdom from God, he learned this lesson from God: Be careful what you ask for, as knowledge increases, grief increases.

Wisdom is the proper understanding and application of the knowledge we have attained. The pursuit of more knowledge comes with the responsibility of rightly applying it wisely. No matter how smart we believe ourselves to be, God ultimately holds us accountable on how we apply what he has allowed us to understand. Ultimately, wisdom reveals the frustration, sorrow and grief of selfishly pursuing what we all seek after – understanding and mastering our own lives. Wisdom reveals the price we pay for that ultimate pursuit.

As God’s creation, we should be receptive to growing in all knowledge, but pray for God’s guidance for its proper application in our own lives and the world around us. Living the abundant life promised by God provides contentment in our life. Yes, we should be open to new knowledge and opportunities God orchestrates into our lives. We should welcome the change knowledge affords us to experience. Our daily growth should inspire us to know God and his Creation more intimately, but that pursuit should not be the totality of our desires. Life does offer immutable truths from God, such as the ones the Teacher in today’s passage shares: What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. No matter how wise, how knowledgable, we become, we cannot change or create what is in God’s control.
There is but one Author of absolute knowledge. We are His creation and thus limited to acknowledging what is and what is not comprehendible in this life. There just are far too many things that God has chosen to make crooked because He had a purpose in doing so. There are far too many things God has chosen to place a limit upon, because where there are no limits, eternity resides. It is not ours to understand the mind of the Creator, but to accept the limits of our own mind in this life.

How deep is your understanding about the things of God? To what depths to you desire to know him? Are you in pursuit of God’s will, ways, and wisdom? That is all God asks of us. God will do the rest. Ponder the wondrous creation of God, but do not stop living within God’s plan and purpose for your life.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #218-2EC

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The Futility of Our Pursuit of Pleasure

Futility found in the pursuit of pleasure

Futility found in the pursuit of pleasure

The Futility of Our Pursuit of Pleasure

I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure and enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile. I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does this accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to let my body enjoy life with wine and how to grasp folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—until I could see what is good for  people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. Eccl 2:1-3 (HCSB)

The focal point for most of us is our leisure time – that special time to do what we want for mere pleasure. Yet, what pleasure do we actually get from our leisure time? We certainly crave our leisure time! We even work extra hard to save up for it. But, how much pleasure do we achieve really? Solomon with his great wisdom decided that he would engage in all forms of pleasure and determine what good and practical purpose there was in pursuing pleasure. He first defined pleasure as the reward from doing whatever is good and brings you joy above all other things. Then he identified pleasure as a futile pursuit in this temporal lifetime. He declared it as “madness,” questioning what good does it really accomplish in mankind’s short life span?

I believe God allows us the joy of laughter and the re-energizing benefit when we retreat from the fast pace of life, but Solomon focused on the foolhardy pursuit of insatiable “pleasure seeking activities.” Even 3000 years after the days of Solomon, wine and other alcoholic libations freely flow to dull our senses, but for what purpose? What pleasure thrives when we are not in control of our own faculties? Is pleasure being found the fool in the midst of his folly while under the influence of alcohol or some other numbing potion? What lasting pleasure can be garnished through such artificial, mindless adventures? After the euphoric effects wear off, reality returns and a headache and stomachache linger from the pleasure. Would genuine pleasure provide such awful after-affects to detract from the joy it was intended to provide? That paradox is why Solomon called the pursuit of pleasure: madness!

There is a purpose that God promotes that serves to provide rest and relaxation for our bodies and minds; recreation, or (re)creation. Recreation provides rest our bodies and minds desire to revive and re-energize us for another day. Retreating from the harsh pace and realities of the world, engaging in recreational leisure offers far more lasting benefits than hoisting a bottle of wine or mug of beer or popping pills. And, the aftereffects are far less harmful to your mind and body.

The only time God promotes the use of alcohol is when no hope remains and wickedness has entrapped someone into a life of endless misery and pain, and death is knocking on the door. Then indulging in wine or alcohol to dull the senses is deemed an act of mercy.

Think carefully about why you do what you do in the pursuit of pleasure. Is your pursuit of pleasure aimed at meaningless folly and madness, as Solomon points out? Think about the difference of re-creation versus the folly of pleasure seeking through artificial means. Which best serves and seeks after God’s will, ways, and wisdom?

What is true pleasure are actions and attitudes that bring not only a smile on your face during and after the experience but on the faces of your loved ones and friends in this world. When you consider their needs and desires, you witness the joy of pleasing of others that God intended for you. Learn the wisdom of rightly seeking His purposes, not selfishly your desires. Is the pursuit of pleasure in this lifetime of greater value than the genuine happiness God intends for you?

Coach

Words of Wisdom # 219-3

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Authority, Responsibility and Accountability Go Hand-in-Hand

If you have never been lead, how can you lead?

If you have never been lead, how can you lead? 


Authority, Responsibility and Accountability Go Hand-in-Hand

The Lord God of Hosts said: “Go to Shebna, that steward who is in charge of the palace, [and say to him:] What are you doing here? Who authorized you to carve out a tomb for yourself here, carving your tomb on the height and cutting a crypt for yourself out of rock? Look, young man! The Lord is about to shake you violently. He will take hold of you, wind you up into a ball, and sling you into a wide land. There you will die, and there your glorious chariots will be, a disgrace to the house of your lord. I will remove you from your office; you will be ousted from your position. On that day I will call for my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and tie your sash around him. I will put your authority into his hand, and he will be like a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; what he opens, no one can close; what he closes, no one can open. I will drive him, like a peg, into a firm place. He will be a throne of honor for his father’s house. They will hang on him the whole burden of his father’s house: the descendants and the offshoots – all the small vessels, from bowls to every kind of jar. On that day, the declaration of the Lord of Hosts, the peg that was driven into a firm place will give way, be cut off, and fall, and the load on it will be destroyed.” Indeed, the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 22:15-25 (HCSB)

Self-serving leaders will stumble from leadership. No one follows a selfish leader for long? History is full of ego-driven leaders who put their agenda ahead of the needs of the people.  Disaster, destruction and downfall lies in the path of their callous, rebellious ways.

In this Bible passage. God placed Shebna in the position of steward over King Hezekiah’s palace (similar to being the President’s Chief of Staff). However he was caught red-handed taking care of his own self-interests rather than worrying about the people he was charged to care for. The Lord replaced him with Eliakim, a more godly, dependable and servant-leader example.

The Lord desires servant-leaders who will stand firm in the face of adversity and use their authority justly, responsibly and accountably. The Lord always honor those kinds of leaders.

We need more Eliakim-like servant-leaders, because when any leader reveals that his personal agenda overrides his responsibilities and duties, chaos and conflict surely follows. Sadly, when selfish-leaders see the chaos and conflict, they bail out on the people are focus on their own well-being and legacy. I have witnessed prominent men and women who found their way into positions of influence within the church who only served to promote their own agenda, and the aftermath was never pretty for the people left behind floundering in their stormy wake.

I remember being called into the office of a pastor because as a bible-study leader and former pastor, I had asked about the motives of a special lesson series we were asked to teach to all of the church’s small groups. I found the motive of the timing and purpose questionable, so I made an inquiry. Instead of a discussion when I arrived at the meeting I was berated and chastised. The pastor pointed to his ostentatiously displayed diploma on the wall as to say “how dare you challenge my authority, my qualifications.” Needless to say that was the moment he no longer claimed any right to be my pastor. His suggested at the conclusion of that meeting: “take a ‘season’ off from teaching. His associates in the room sat speechless with heads bowed. I stood up and said, “thank you, I understand.” This pastor then uttered a prayer to conclude the meeting that put a cold chill down my spine. The irony of this meeting, my wife and I took a leave from the church for three months. Shortly after we left, a huge, very ugly church split was led by the pastor of some of the prominent families in this historic church. Hearts were torn, family and friend relationships strained, and a vibrant legacy destroyed in the press. There were no winners; just a flock of lost, scattered and scarred sheep whose pastor stole the sheep that would follow him and abandoned the rest, standing in shock, drenched in tears. When the split was announced at the end of a service, the fighting got so intense one of the wise deacons flipped off the lights in the sanctuary. The darkness marked the impact upon the church.

What kind of leader do you believe the Lord honors? Can you recognize a godly servant-leader? One willing to acknowledge the authority, responsibility and accountability that comes with the position he or she seeks, realizing the Lord is ultimately the authority and example? 

Coach

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Choices and Consequences

Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die! We'll never suffer the consequences of our choices.

Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die! We’ll never suffer the consequences of our choices.


Choices and Consequences

If You Are Going to Sin, You Might as well Be Happy

An oracle against the Valley of Vision: What’s the matter with you? Why have all of you gone up to the rooftops? The noisy city, the jubilant town, is filled with revelry. Your dead did not die by the sword; they were not killed in battle. All your rulers have fled together, captured without a bow. All your fugitives were captured together; they had fled far away. Therefore I said, “Look away from me! Let me weep bitterly! Do not try to comfort me about the destruction of my dear people.” For the Lord God of Hosts had a day of tumult, trampling, and bewilderment in the Valley of Vision; people shouting and crying to the mountains. On that day you looked to the weapons in the House of the Forest. You saw that there were many breaches in [the walls of] the city of David. You collected water from the lower pool. You counted the houses of Jerusalem so that you could tear them down to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the walls for the waters of the ancient pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or consider the One who created it long ago. On that day the Lord God of Hosts called for weeping, for wailing, for shaven heads, and for the wearing of sackcloth. But look: joy and gladness, butchering of cattle, slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat, and drinking of wine. Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” The Lord of Hosts has revealed [this] in my hearing: “This sin of yours will never be wiped out.” The Lord God of Hosts has spoken. Isaiah 22:1-14 (HCSB)

How many times have your heard, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”? It is most commonly heard among those floating in and out of fad diets. Once any of us resign ourselves to not being able to stay committed to eating and living healthy, we not only jump off the wagon with a whoop and holler, we push the wagon right off the nearest cliff and feast upon our true desires without and further guilt. These words of submission offer justification for our inner self to be free to do what it innately thirsts and hungers after whenever we provide no checks or constraints upon our impulsive desires. However, somewhere during the morning after our revelrous bacchanalian celebration, we begin to regret our sloven stupidity, because we recognize sooner or later the consequences of our selfish and reckless abandon do catch up to the horrible emotional choices we made.

In fact, I believe, hangovers and upset stomachs are God’s sense of humor at play within our lives. And, then there is the headache that arises about a month later when the credit card bills arrive reminding us of the literal lavish expense of our rash, unrestrained pleasure-seeking revelry. Yes, there are consequences for all our choices, long after we have forgiven ourselves for our stupidity.

A tragic point to this kind of regret and remorse with long-lasting consequences was as a teacher in high school I witnessed the results of “pregnancy pacts” going around among many of the young girls. They decided it was somehow cool to get pregnant. They bragged with each other about who they chose to be the father from among the evidently more than willing eligible young men. Neither the young girls nor the boys stopped and consulted the wisdom of their parents or other responsible adults before acting out their ill-conceived choices. Sadly, as time passed, each young girl discovered the consequences that made them the real losers in such a pact. The boys admitted that they were not ready to be a father, but openly boasted they fathered one. The girls learned they could certainly bear a child, but each struggled as a mother because each admitted they still needed her mother to console and help mother her own child. What about all the innocent people who got drawn into the pact unwillingly? What about the parents of the ill-prepared mother and father, who are forced to deal with their kid having a kid? Last but certainly not least: the innocent child? How sad such a hasty, ill-conceived idea was hatched as such a wonderful plan! Sadly, it was nothing but a “lose-lose” pact based upon the rationale of “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Now, years later, I wonder about all those former students and their children who are entering school somewhere themselves.

If only God’s people in Jerusalem had consulted the Lord of Creation? If only they had trusted in His plan for them and realized God would have protected them from the threats of their enemies. How different history would have been!

Because our choices have consequences, just like the people that Isaiah addressed long ago, we should always consider God’s will, ways, and wisdom before we decide to climb off the safety and security of his wagon. Undoubtedly, there will be far less heartache, headache, and stomachache in our life by remaining safely and securely onboard. How much better our choices when we can identify the real consequences!

Coach

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Tolerance Versus Acceptance

multi ethnicity

Tolerance Versus Acceptance

An oracle against Egypt: Look, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. Egypt’s idols will tremble before Him, and Egypt’s heart will melt within it. I will provoke Egypt against Egypt; each will fight against his brother and each against his friend, city against city, kingdom against kingdom. Egypt’s spirit will be disturbed within it, and I will frustrate its plans. Then they will seek idols, ghosts, spirits of the dead, and spiritists. I will deliver Egypt into the hands of harsh masters, and a strong king will rule it. [This is] the declaration of the Lord God of Hosts. (As a result in summary the Scriptures reveal) The waters of the sea will dry up, and the river will be parched and dry. The channels will stink; they will dwindle, and Egypt’s canals will be parched. Reed and rush will die: [Egypt’s] weavers will be dejected; all her wage earners will be demoralized. Pharaoh’s wisest advisers give stupid advice! Where then are your wise men? Let them tell you and reveal what the Lord of Hosts has planned against Egypt. The Lord has mixed within her a spirit of confusion. The leaders] have made Egypt stagger in all she does, as a drunkard staggers in his vomit. On that day Egypt will be like women. She will tremble with fear because of the threatening hand of the Lord of Hosts when He raises it against her. The land of Judah will terrify Egypt; whenever Judah is mentioned, Egypt will tremble because of what the Lord of Hosts has planned against it. On that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the center of the land of Egypt and a pillar to the Lord near her border. It will be a sign and witness to the Lord of Hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, He will send them a savior and leader, and he will rescue them. The Lord will make Himself known to Egypt, and Egypt will know the Lord on that day. They will offer sacrifices and offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and fulfill them. The Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing. Then they will return to the Lord and He will hear their prayers and heal them. Isaiah 19:1-25 (HCSB)

Are you betting on all the gods like the civilizations of long ago? From a metaphorical sense, Ancient Egypt represents modern society today. They worshiped so many gods, no one really knew which ones they believed nor whether they really believed any of them at all, but everyone exhibited tolerance to all the goods and went through the motions anyway.

Ancient Egypt was ruled by everyone but Egyptians during this historical era – Libyans, Cushites, Assyrians, Persians, and eventually Greeks, who provided a dynasty that ended with Cleopatra  (and we all remember how that ended). This foreign intervention created plenty of opportunity for syncretistic worship. However, when anyone worships multiple gods to hedge their bet on worshiping the right god(s) by increasing the odds, which true god would accept such filtered and watered-down worship?

Well, the Lord, the one true and living God would certainly extend his hand to draw those who would believe in him during this era. Egypt, now primarily a Muslim country, was for much of its post-Christ era, a key haven for the Christian community; that is until the spread of Islam in 700 AD. Alexandria was one of the key Christian cities during the formative years of the early church. There,  Jews of the exile had studied and formulated their sacred scriptures and what we know as the Septuagint was written as a translation of the ancient Hebrew writings into the more common Greek language – a great aid to the early Christian church.

But how does that matter to me, you ask. Consider this: how many of us are caught up in the modern secular philosophy of tolerance to allow their beliefs to become watered-down to allow room to believe and accept other religions and other gods that are sprouting daily in our very syncretistic society today? If not another religion, what about tolerance toward beliefs that claim to be Christian but have strayed from and stretched the truth that Jesus preached in the Gospels?

But, consider this: God may be using your tolerance and curiosity to be of value to your faith. God may actually be seeking to use you for a more significant purpose. Might God be desiring you to connect with those with different religious beliefs? Not to prove them wrong, but to demonstrate and be able to explain to them God’s inclusive message. But God desires that every believer take the time to truly understand and know that know why and what you believe in our era of tolerance. Yes, we should be tolerant of and respond to others, but we should also not allow our own beliefs to falter or become water-down as a result of that tolerance. If history can offer anything worthwhile on this topic, it is this: The Crusades did little good for the spread of Christianity. In fact, it helped the spread of Islam. Coercion never brings about true conversion. Missionaries do far more lasting good than mercenaries with their swords…

Note: In the light off current events, this message is truer than ever. Islamic Extremism is a threat, but as history proves terrorism and tyranny is the response when their beliefs are wrong. This is true of all forms of religious extremism which rallies around the sword rather than the strength of their religious beliefs. As Jesus said, “A house divided cannot stand.” There is certainly division within Christianity, but Islam is at war within itself, and has been for centuries. God will bring together all his people in his proper time. Until then, don’t allow tolerance to be confused with acceptance of other gods or beliefs.

Coach

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Arrogance Tumbled

arrogance
Arrogance Tumbled

When the Lord gives you rest from your pain, torment, and the hard labor you were forced to do, you will sing this song [of contempt] about the king of Babylon and say: How the oppressor has quieted down, and how the raging has become quiet! The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers. It struck the peoples in anger with unceasing blows. It subdued the nations in rage with relentless persecution. All the earth is calm and at rest; people shout with a ringing cry! Sheol below is eager to greet your coming. He stirs up the spirits of the departed for you – all the rulers of the earth. He makes all the kings of the nations rise from their thrones.” …Shining morning star, how you have fallen from the heavens! You destroyer of nations, you have been cut down to the ground. You said to yourself: “I will ascend to the heavens; I will set up my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of the [gods’] assembly, in the remotest parts of the North. I will ascend above the highest clouds; I will make myself like the  Most High.” But you will be brought down… Isaiah 14:3-15 (HCSB)

Babylon was the home of the Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonians) and it became known for its beauty and grandeur; for its haughty rulers proclaiming their greatness. After they plundered Jerusalem and ransacked the temple and palace of the Jews, they felt superior to the God of the Jews as well. However, they failed to realize that they had accomplished the bidding of the Lord. Their arrogance and haughtiness would cause their own demise. The citizens of Jerusalem and Judah who were exiled to Babylonia were not subjects of the Babylonian kings for long. The Persian Empire rose up and captured Babylon while the Babylonians (Chaldeans) reveled and gloated over their plunder. They had become blinded by their own claims of greatness. They sang songs about how they were greater than the gods they conquered. However, this time they flaunted themselves not above man-made gods, but the one true God. God would not let their arrogance go unpunished and they were humbled by defeat and made captives themselves.

The Lord is a gracious and just God, but lessons had to be learned by even his own chosen people. Their belligerent ways and misguided self-serving attitudes were exposed. The Lord responded to them just as he did to all who believe they are without judgment and accountability for their actions. The Lord always humbles the prideful and arrogant and reminds them of their rightful place among all his people.

God inspired the message behind the Proverb that states: “Pride comes before destruction and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” Prov 16:18 (HCSB)

True greatness never needs to be flaunted. True champions and leaders honor God and are among the most humble of God’s chosen. They humbly acknowledge the source of their talents and gifts. In God’s kingdom, those with the greatest responsibility recognize that their authority derives from their greatest accountability before God himself. The message is clear: Be careful! Your arrogance and pride may blind you into believing you are great because of whom you are, rather than who you belong.

This Christmas season, it is appropriate for all of us to take a moment from our busy holiday schedule and humbly acknowledge the true reason for Christmas and the greatest gift of all – God within us.

Coach

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