Words of Wisdom: We are a Creation of the Creator, Ecclesiastes 6:10-12

All is vanity . Ecclesiastes 6Words of Wisdom: We are a Creation of the Creator, Ecclesiastes 6:10-12

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 facts as they are! We are a creation and God is our Creator. As such, everything we know and will ever know is a result of God’s grace and grant. However, does that mean we will ever know all that God, our Creator, knows? Of course not!

With that statement made, then why do we struggle 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 as we uniquely are by God, our Creator. With that said, why does man try to rule, to have dominion over everything and everybody else? Is the created trying to usurp the Creator? As Solomon asks, what advantage do we have in such a struggle?

However, our Creator does give us the choice: follow Him or try to walk with our own abilities in a world that man can never own or possess. Even the things that man tries to grasp, he cannot hold onto nor fully understand and then in the end, like a vapor he 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? Was man there to help God create all the creatures and things of this world? Every attempt man has made to understand is but a shadow of some truth, because man can only speculate and wonder about what he does not know, nor will ever know for certain in this lifetime.

The Bible states: “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.” In that sense, man in our current existence has not earned the right to stand before God, and thus we would be consumed in His glory. Only by His grace and mercy will we receive His invitation to walk with Him after this lifetime has come to an end, and we have come to the point in our life that we have surrendered our lives to God’s will, God’s ways and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word. When we have accepted His invitation that was given through His Son, Jesus, who walked among us to share God’s message, then we will understand the Creator and His love for His creation.

For those who desire to walk in their own understanding, I pray you will come to the point soon to realize what you assume to be truth and knowledge is but a shadow that keeps you from knowing the truth and the reality of the origin of truth. Also, I pray you will come to accept that in this lifetime we will never know everything, but we can know what we need to know so that we may experience the Truth, the Way and the Life that reveals the Creator to us.

Coach

“Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you know Me, you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” John 14:5-7 (HCSB)

Words of Wisdom: Wisdom is More Valuable than Wealth You Cannot Afford, Ecclesiastes 6:8-9

Wind by Jason Prince, Port AlfredWords of Wisdom: Wisdom is More Valuable than Wealth You Cannot Afford, Ecclesiastes 6:8-9

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)

Too often we identify success by material rewards, and I believe there was no difference in Solomon’s day. It was a common belief among the Hebrews 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 certainly by his own admission, he was not perfect.

The wise dream dreams like anyone else, and desire to better their conditions in life also, but the wise know to live rightly in the present and find contentment in it. When we are always seeking what we do not have, there can never be contentment. As a result, we continually grown anxious about what we do not have and feel we have been cheated somehow. The result: we become bitter and try to live out the dream of what could be, rather than what is, and we become the fool who is pursuing the wind.

Futility is trying to live the life we are not able to live in the present. Thus futility is defined as follows: We buy through borrowing what we have not yet earned; what we cannot afford; to pretend to have what we really do not own, so that we can surround our lives with images of what we are not; while struggling in the reality of who we truly are.

This is the futility that has led our country into near economic collapse, and it is the same condition and threat our government is placing our entire country under by trying to bail everyone out. We as a nation are now trying to write checks for programs and dreams that our nation cannot cash! This is nothing more than transferring the futility of wanting what we think we deserve, no matter the cost, onto our future generations. We have mortgaged our wisdom for the sake of our perceived wealth in this lifetime, only to learn our values come with a terrible price: we send the bill to our children and their children.

Why can’t we as a nation accept our limits and live contently in what we have, and not seek to live beyond our means? Corporate America is serving as the agent of evil by promoting a lifestyle of things we don’t need as necessities of life. And, our justification rests in the statement that our purchasing helps America to be strong, yet it is clear that our country is being sold a bill of goods that says we have the technology to pursue the wind and if you run fast enough you can grasp it! Who is the fool now? Does our greed for more blind us of the wisdom that says it is futile and destructive to try and chase the wind? It will always remain just beyond our grasp!

How can we stop this futility and stupidity? Our only hope is to remember what made our country great – rather than try to remove our reliance upon God from everything, why not go the other way and proclaim our need to pray more often and stop and praise God for what we have as a nation. Yes, let’s not promote religion, but let’s not cutoff the relationship that is the fiber and foundation of our nation’s strength. May we turn as a nation to seeking God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word once again! How different life would be when we truly trust in God once again, foolishness would be replaced by wisdom from the author of wisdom.

Coach

For who among men knows the concerns of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the concerns of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order to know what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. But the natural man does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. For: who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Cor 2:11-16 (HCSB)

Words of Wisdom: Happiness, Not Things Brings Contentment, Ecclesiastes 6:1-7

Ecclesiastes 6 7

Words of Wisdom: Happiness, Not Things Brings Contentment, Ecclesiastes 6:1-7

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 millennium, and many have used the question to argue against God’s existence or at least His involvement in this world. Even Solomon is befuddled by what he sees as a tragedy in life: that God gives man “riches, wealth, and honor” to meet man’s desires only to provide circumstances whereby man cannot enjoy them. Well, is that man’s perspective or God’s perspective?

When we focus on the here and now, and we value our life by the things we have, the station in life we have arrived at, or the treasures we have realized in this world, then we have focused upon fleeting things – things that matter little to God. If that is your value system, then I agree to what Solomon grieves about: “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 and cling to things that belong to this world. Either we lose what we claim is ours to have, or we discover what we fought to attain does not really satisfy our wants as we thought they should and we futilely continue to seek other things to fill the void. In that cycle of futility, a still-born child certainly benefits from never having to face such frustration, disappointment and futility! However, the greater tragedy is this: we miss out all together on what truly matters in this world – and it has nothing to do with things!

Happiness can never be bought. Happiness is a blessing for right living in right relationships with others and with God, our heavenly Father. Happiness is a reward that flows when we live seeking God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word. Only proper relationships, proper attitudes and actions can bring satisfaction and ultimately contentment in this life, and thus realize the blessing of happiness and joy from God. As long as we believe that life is all about what Solomon stated: “All man’s labor is for his stomach, yet the appetite is never satisfied,” then we are no better off than someone who never lived at all. However, we have a choice: pursue contentment and happiness our way or God’s way – God says the choice is ours to make!

Coach

Blessed (Happy) are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Blessed (Happy) are those who mourn, because they will be comforted.

Blessed (Happy) are the gentle, because they will inherit the earth.

Blessed (Happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be filled.

Blessed (Happy) are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy.

Blessed (Happy) are the pure in heart, because they will see God.

Blessed (Happy) are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God.

Blessed (Happy) are those who are persecuted for righteousness, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Blessed (Happy) are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matt 5:3-12 (HCSB)

Words of Wisdom: God’s Abundant Gift is our Sufficient Reward, Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

Stand in awe of GodWords of Wisdom: God’s Abundant Gift is our Sufficient Reward, Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

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 the good things in life. We seem to never have enough money, enough of the latest “stuff” that fills our daily life. We seem to never be satisfied with our current relationships, so we are always looking for something better.

In our jobs, we never seem content, and are almost always looking for change to try something else. As soon as a vacation is over, we already are looking for the next vacation. Why can’t we just be content in the station of life we are presently living? Why do we always feel unsettled and need something more? Funny, even when we get what we want, we already discover we still want more! Talk about futility!

However, there is the good life as God intended it. It is the life that enjoys the fruits of the present moment. It is the life that makes the most of what we have, capitalizing on our time, talents, and treasures that we currently have and finding satisfaction and rewards of joy from who we are, what we have, and where we are in our present life. This life trusts God to provide an abundant life without the stress. God knows best what we can handle and what we can responsibly handle, and He blesses us according to our abilities and attitude. When we focus on what we have rather than upon what we do not have, we discover the real treasures of life: contentment, satisfaction and fulfillment.

Who best knows us and desires the best for us than our Creator? Who loves us more than our Heavenly Father? Why do we think we cannot find joy in His generous gifts?

If you are tired of trying to always find a sense of satisfaction in your life – a sense of fulfillment or real contentment – with what you have who you are, or where you are at in this life, then God offers a solution for you. He says trust me to meet your needs and to fill your wants so that you may find joy in this life. The journey begins by investing in seeking God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word. Seek to get to know God and to know you can trust Him. The rewards of joy come when you look at your present station in life, and all the great gifts He has already provided you. Once you learn to truly enjoy what you have, God will smile His blessings upon you and increase your blessings as He sees you are ready to handle more.

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

Coach

“Consider how the wildflowers grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will He do for you – you of little faith? Don’t keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.” Luke 12:27-30 (HCSB)

Words of Wisdom: Rich or Poor, We Begin and Finish the Same, Ecclesiastes 5:13-17

fights the wind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words of Wisdom: Rich or Poor, We Begin and Finish the Same, Ecclesiastes 5:13-17

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 their elaborate and ornate tombs, known to us as the pyramids, with all their worldly wealth and even servants to meet their ongoing needs after death. They believed that the afterlife was a reward for the righteous kings and queens. If their heart was measured as being without sin, they would be able to continue in the lifestyle they had enjoyed on earth. However, in truth, all their wealth ended up in the hands of grave robbers, archaeologists and museums. Wonder of wonders, I wonder what that revelation tells us about trying to build great treasures in this world to take with us into the next?

I have never seen a new born baby arrive with a bar of gold or a diamond ring on their hand out of the womb either. As Solomon shares, in the naked condition we enter this world, just so we will also exit this world. Assuming that to be true, why does man work so hard at gaining 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? In our society, the top 5% of the population controls 80% of all the wealth of the world! The pyramid schematic to reflect such distribution of wealth is a very hallow pyramid because even taking into account the upper middle class, 95% of the population is scrambling to share in the remaining 20% of all the wealth. Outside of a fancier coffin, does our fate with death change the fact that our wealth in this world is left behind for others to squander and squirrel away for their selfish aims?

The tragedy that Solomon speaks of is how focused we as humans can be on material things during our lifetime, and how futile that pursuit actually is in the big picture and the grand purpose of this lifetime. For those who trust their lives over to seeking God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word, there is hope for something far more valuable than treasures on this earth. It is truly the something that you can take with you into the grave, and that is a personal relationship with the Lord of Life itself. This Lord promises us in this life that there may be trials and tribulations to face, but that He will be there and that He will make sure our needs are met in this lifetime. He knows what we truly need, and He knows what we are responsible enough to handle properly. Wealth is not evil, but the pursuit of it certainly is! When our passion for the pursuit of wealth overrides the more important relationships in this lifetime then evil exists. God does bless certain people with wealth but they have a heart for others and they use their wealth in a manner that pleases the Lord, and their generosity is evident.

During Christmas the story of the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens speaks volumes on this subject, and its message resonates in the hearts of people through the decades, because it speaks about this exact subject. I recommend watching it in the light of that message. Learn the lesson that Solomon spoke of through the example of Ebenezer Scrooge this Christmas.

Coach

You of little faith! Don’t keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:28-34 (HCSB)

Words of Wisdom: We Live in a Selfish, Imperfect World, Ecclesiastes 5:8-12

greedWords of Wisdom: We Live in a Selfish, Imperfect World, Ecclesiastes 5:8-12

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 is such a relevant and true revelation about real life. Avarice, the insatiable lust for wealth, has existed since the beginning of time, and has been evident in America in recent times throughout society. Our economy has teetered on the break of collapse as a result of this disease! And it was spurred by greedy corporate investment firms and financial institutions who promoted easy money deals to everyday Americans. The result was Americans who could not afford it bought more and more on lines of credit they could not afford to repay so that gave them a false sense of wealth – however everyone discovered that sooner or later the bills need to be paid. And, that is when the greedy corporate world selfishly soaked America dry shifting the wealth of this country into their pockets. The rich have gotten richer through these tough times and the average Americans, those who thought they had benefited from all the credit have found, are deeper in debt, dreams are dashed and for many all hope seems lost.

Add to the corrupt and irresponsible credit schemes, consider all those who bought into the lie that you should buy homes you cannot afford because it will grow in value and there is wealth in real estate. Add to that fever, there were all the stories that television broadcast about buying run down homes and fixing them up to resell for huge profits in the crazy market! No one stopped to realize the market could not continue to grow as fast as it was. Everyone was blinded by avarice and blatant greed of the moment. And the result, the market went bust and average America lost virtually everything! Even though some of the banks went belly up as a price for this tragic market bust, more of the wealth of America has shifted from the average Americans into the pockets of the wealthy. The rich continue to get richer, while the average American suffers. Yet, is this a new phenomenon? No not at all?

Throughout history, those who have been in power have always benefitted from the redistribution of wealth in the land. The hierarchy of the rich shares the wealth according to their position in the powerful positions they reside. The greatest pyramid schemes that exist legally are in the financial circles, and their goal is to squeeze the wealth from the land in any manner that takes advantage of the greed that exists in all of men who do not stop and evaluate what is truly important in life. It is because of this reality that the rich struggle in their sleep trying to find ways to protect their gains and continue to prosper, while the average person is restless and unable to rest because of the fear they will never be able to get the wealth they have been promised or be able to hold onto what little bit they have managed to set aside. These restless nights are the only commonness of all men, rich or poor.

When we stop and seek God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word on this matter, what does God have to say about this matter? Wealth is its own god and a person cannot serve both their desire for a relationship with wealth and God. Avarice and greed and selfishness will always exist in this world, but there is a better way to live free from its affect on the world. The best financial guide is the B-I-B-L-E, invest in it!

Coach

Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” But the disciples were astonished at His words. Again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” So they were even more astonished, saying to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:23-27 (HCSB)

Words of Wisdom: Choose Wisely Your Words in Worship, Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

alone in churchWords of Wisdom: Choose Wisely Your Words in Worship, Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

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)

I have observed over the many years in church the responses and reactions of people. I have been in the back of the service and as pastor got to see the faces of the people many times from the front of the church. I find it so interesting how people are like sheep in many instances. During services preachers and worship leaders will look for commitment and acclamation during a service, and without fail the great majority of the people in attendance will respond with a hearty “amen” or “hallelujah”, even when they are not sure of why they are saying it.

I also have observed that in spite of what church people want to believe, there are a lot of people in church worship who are there because of reasons other than a desire to worship the Lord for what He has done for them. Some people are there just because it is a habit, a habit etched in stone through the years, and it is now entrenched or etched into their life’s routine. Some people attend church because it is their social activity for Sunday: they go so they can get up to date with all their friends before and after the services. And, yet some are there because they are guilty and confused about their life and are looking for answers. They do not understand what is always being said in the service, but they are hoping to find some relief for the emotional and spiritual discomfort they are feeling. Likewise, then there are those who are there because they are looking for some attention, and they know they can get it by responding in the service. At every prayer time and invitation time they find their way to the front of the church to be recognized. The church is truly an interesting place to study people and their reasons for being in the services. I wonder what God thinks about it?

Of course, as Solomon points out, the person(s) in church that like the attention they can get by raising their hands in praise at every opportunity and their shouts of response to the preacher and worship leader during the service, begs the question: what is their real motivation? Do some people think the louder and more animated you are, the better the Lord responds? Or are they demonstrating to everyone else how spiritual they want you to believe they are? Certainly there are a lot of sincere godly people in the pews, but there also so many religious hypocrites in services as well. But, I guess, God is somehow pleased when even they are there too! However, as Solomon reminds us: Be Careful What You Say When Praising God! Our vocal promises to God are a test of our sincerity. Better to not say anything than to make promises and vows that are empty words!

God listens and measures a man’s heart, not his words. God watches a man’s actions and attitudes, not his emotional outbursts. Sincerity and integrity measure a man’s relationship with God, not his verbosity. It is the man that seeks God/s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word daily that realizes prayers and promises do not need to be publicly proclaimed, just fulfilled with a sincere and genuine heart. Pleasing God does not come from an hour of time in a worship service, but from a daily walk that reflects the relationship one has with the Lord. So do not be the fool who makes empty promises just to sound holy – God is watching and listening not to our spoken words, but to the witness of His Holy Spirit within us as impacting our sincerity, integrity and fidelity of our professed relationship with Him.

Coach

But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:23-24 (HCSB)

Words of Wisdom: Leadership has a Short Memory, Ecclesiastes 4:13-16

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Words of Wisdom: Leadership has a Short Memory, Ecclesiastes 4:13-16

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)

Solomon has a distinctly interesting view of this passage. He is the third in the line of Kings of Israel, and pauses to wonder what the future holds for the kings that follow him. He also ponders how history will regard him after he has long gone.

In fact, relevant to us today, there is little difference between kings and presidents today. We remember recent presidents and compare their time in office while they live in the glow of their presidency after they leave office, some for the good and some for not the good, but nonetheless they are compared to the current president. However, in time, all presidents are relegated to history books and summarized into the hall of former presidents by their accomplishments or failures.

Further, whether a king or a president, their background marks their leadership style. We tend to connect to the rare leader who arrives onto the national scene from common roots. 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 births in poor or average family situations. A couple struggled in broken homes which marked their personalities, i.e. Clinton and Obama. Each of these has a common history of climbing the ladder of leadership by hard work and determination to fulfill their destiny. And in the end, each had a unique stamp on their presidency. However, as time passes, little is recalled of their humble beginnings, or their unique accomplishments as leaders who climbed the ranks in political circles. In time, like Solomon stated of the kings in his day, they too will be nothing more than another presidential bust on display in a long line depicting former presidents that most people will not remember much about.

Whether from rich, average or poor backgrounds – God uses men and women who rise as our leaders for His greater purposes. And, He holds each accountable for their time under the sun. The people may recognize and respond initially to those leaders who appeal to their station in life, but once in office, whether rich or poor in their background, the people look to their leaders for leadership that is just and fair for all. As long as the people feel secure in their homes and they can sense the opportunity to prosper in their land, the leadership wins the favor of the people. However, when decisions or circumstances threaten that sense of security and hope for prosperity, then the people will turn from the leadership and seek a new leader. Nothing has changed in all the millennia of kingdoms, nations and governments instituted by mankind. Monarchs, oligarchies, and presidents, whether elected or appointed, are under this approval of the people. And, God uses the hearts of the people to accomplish His greater good, when governments forget it is the governed who allow the government to govern in the land.

With all that said, the important issue that I believe Solomon is saying is this, kings or presidents, whether from rich or poor backgrounds, it matters not. The people will rejoice in them only while they are in office and making an impact on their lives in the present moment. 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. We should pray for them and seek God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word for their leadership decisions. Because one truth remains: other leaders will follow and they too will be replaced and relegated to history books. The one constant is God’s presence and influence on the leaders in office.

Coach

Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do good and you will have its approval. For government is God’s servant to you for good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience. Romans 13:1-5 (HCSB)

Words of Wisdom: Competition and Companionship among Friends, Ecclesiastes 4:4-12

Eccl 4 12Words of Wisdom: Competition and Companionship among Friends, Ecclesiastes 4:4-12

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 gain is there in life if we struggle through life all alone? What satisfaction is there in competing with one’s self? What inspiration is there in being first in a one man race? Life is about companionship and competition among friends. We are a social creature by God’s design and our inspiration for accomplishing great and innovative things comes from our fellow man.

“Keeping up with the Jones next door” is a catch phrase that speaks about man’s desire to keep the status quo with his neighbors and friends. Merely driving on the interstate reveals the competitive spirit of mankind as people are generally motivated to push the pedal just a little harder to keep up or even slowly pass the other vehicles around us. It is rare that someone sits in the inside lane allowing all the others to pass them by because there is contentment in the futility of being last. We enjoy races and games and competition of all kinds. We buy our children games and teach to compete in sports from early age, and our justification is that it prepares them for real life when they are adults.

We also are a creature who enjoys the company of close friends. We are viewed as a social misfit if we walk through life without any friends. Our companionship need is a survival instinct. Man by himself is a weak creature, but in numbers he is an adversary for even the fiercest animal. Why is it we enjoy team sports so much, i.e. football, baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc.? Is it that our primal instincts are engaged and our companionship and competitive urges are maximized? Even the lonely cross-country runner seeks a teammate to run with him for most of the race before his competitiveness overpowers his companionship as he races to the finish.

Survival is a necessity and requires us to perform at our best to outrun our ever-present adversary, and catch our necessary prey. Companionship inspires and encourages peak performance, whether in survival mode or merely for pursuing a mutual prize of adulation over a game of pool at a party. God wants our best, and He has in His wisdom instilled the gift of companionship and desire of competition to drive us to be the best we can be. Even the spiritual leadership in Jerusalem during Jesus’ day was envious of Jesus’ popularity because it was seen as a threat to their desire for competitive edge among the people. They were so driven they were able to rally the people to their side in the competition for power, and sadly they won at all cost! With that in our mind, companionship and competition is a gift from God that requires we seek God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word as we apply it to our lives for His greater purposes, never own selfish motives.

May the games begin with the Lord urging us on to the finish line!

Coach

Do you not know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly, or box like one who beats the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Cor 9:24-27 (HCSB) 

Words of Wisdom: Does Hope Reside Before, During or After Oppression? Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

oppression_signWords of Wisdom: Does Hope Reside Before, During or After Oppression? Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

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. In how many places and in how many ways does oppression afflict people in the world? Certainly, there is political oppression, religious oppression, and financial oppression. However, the assumption exists that there is always someone who is in authority, whether politically, religiously or financially, who is the oppressor. When we can identify the oppressor we can place the blame for our burdensome, cruel, or unjust circumstances on someone else. We can assume the victim’s role, as if we have no hope in our present circumstances. However, we always have a decision that we can choose to make that can impact our circumstances. But, so many would rather feel helpless and hopeless, whining for someone to bail them out. So many offer prayers to God as if He is absent from their life and He is to blame for their condition. Yes, many people even make God their scapegoat for their oppression.

So where is there hope: before, during or after our oppressive circumstances? According to Solomon, there is little hope during the oppression, as only tears are there to comfort the oppressed. According to Solomon only the dead will escape some form of oppression, and even the survivors of oppression will continue to fear future oppression. However, the unborn are naive to oppression, but how can you understand what hope is, if you do not understand the possible need for it?

However, I believe in any circumstance we have a choice that places the authority within us to realize that the real oppressor is most likely ourselves. We are only a victim when we choose to be a victim, because clearly when we are in God’s will, walking in God’s ways, and seeking God’s wisdom according to God’s Word, we are confident in all circumstances when we have the Lord as our refuge and redeemer. We recognize that often God orchestrates His will and purpose through our circumstances to strengthen our faith, which is the anchor of our hope. And, what prevents our fear is the fact we know His love is always in view.

When we place our faith in God, it matters not on what side of oppression we are, or whether we are currently in the midst of a period of oppression: there is no panic, no fear, and no need to feel as a victim – our faith allows us to persevere, because we are never the victim, but actually the victor!

How about you? Are you the victim or victor in your present circumstances?

The victor has the faith to know hope resides in the Lord and His love. Thus, the victor also knows confidently that no matter the circumstances hope can be found in the present, future, or the past. And, oppression is but an opportunity for God’s will to be realized in his or her life.

Coach

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Romans 8:26-31 (HCSB)

Words of Wisdom: What Separates Animals and Humans in Death? Ecclesiastes 3:16-22

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Words of Wisdom: What Separates Animals and Humans in Death? Ecclesiastes 3:16-22

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 of inquiry from Solomon reveals the difference of those who lived before the Messiah and His Gospel (Good News) and the despair of people prior to His manifestation among His people. Solomon wondered is it possible for anyone to know for sure what happens after death. Are we like the animals, which are born and die in the cycle of life on earth? Do we really know what happens to them after death? We all share the same breath of life, and death comes when that breath ceases in us.

Solomon’s wisdom reveals that he ponders the futility of knowledge beyond this life. He, like so many today, determines what he does not know does not affect him. Therefore, life now is all that matters and there is no reward beyond this life. If that were so, what would be the purpose of living rightly in this life? When we live life within our own limited understanding and wisdom, such a philosophy of life is called hedonism, or the pursuit of absolute pleasure in life as its main purpose. If that is true, then why don’t the animals have the same purpose in life, if there really is no difference? Animals are instinctive in their life choices, however we are thoughtful beings and we have a conscience for good or bad. Our behavior choices are for an intended purpose beyond mere survival instincts like the animals.

What clearly happens to animals beyond death, only God knows for sure? We have no instruction in His Word that says much on the matter. However, we have plenty of first- hand statements from the Lord on our future. Even Solomon acknowledges there is a judgment day between the wicked and the righteous, but evidently he seems to not address what makes us righteous before a Holy God. Is it our lineage or bloodline? Is it our family’s inherited benefit, or is it a personal accountability before God? Jesus clearly points to the fact we all will stand on our own before God, accountable for our life choices. Those who wish to deny there is a real separation between the righteous and the wicked (or those who lived in denial of God’s desire for their lifestyle choices), then I guess you may believe there will be no difference between them and the animals beyond the grave.

Of course, I believe when we seek God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according God’s Word – and not selective seeking but truly opening and studying of all of His Word – then there is no doubt how we are to live now, and the impact of those life choices beyond the grave.

Thank you Lord for the heritage of Your Word that clearly prepares us for making right life choices so we may enjoy the fruit of living rightly in this lifetime, so we may realize your blessing on that day when all of us will stand before you! And, all of us will – the righteous and wicked – and, likewise neither will be able to say anything to affect the judgment. What will separate each us will be our “faith”. God will judge the heart, not our resume’ of good and evil.

Coach

“I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.  I assure you: An hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted to the Son to have life in Himself. And He has granted Him the right to pass judgment, because He is the Â Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out – those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment.”  John 5:24-29 (HCSB)

Words of Wisdom: Is God’s Eternity Yours to Share? Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

God and Right TimeWords of Wisdom: Is God’s Eternity Yours to Share? Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

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 time in this lifetime is but a preparation period for eternal life. All of us will realize a life in eternity, but not all will share God’s eternity. Long before we were, He was, and long after we will be, He will continue to be. Eternity in its vastness still does not define God, because God created eternity. Where man cannot find the beginning of eternity, God was there; and where man searches for the end of eternity, God is waiting already. And in the midst of this awesome display of greatness of God, His gift to man is the opportunity to share eternity with Him. However, some will opt to not accept this gracious gift. Some will deny God because they think they have a better idea. However, what awaits all of us is eternal life, however it is clear, one is with God and His majesty and glory, and the other is alone, isolated and hopelessly devoid of anything but what you worshiped on earth – your “self”! No matter how you try to depict “hell” to be, nothing is worse than eternity alone with only your “self”! But, that is the choice God has allowed you to make.

So what do we can we gain with all struggles in this life? God in His timing has revealed His Son to us to show us the way to real life that makes all the challenges, trials, tribulations, and heartache in this life worthwhile and full of purpose. The joy of seeking after God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word is revealed once we recognize His Son as our Savior and Lord. He then becomes our tutor and tour guide on an eternal journey. And we will not be alone. God desires all to find His Son so that they may find Him in eternity as His gift of love.

What about you? Is this life worth living when we realize it all has a purpose that God has orchestrated just so you can realize the joy of eternity with Him? Once we have the Lord on our side, what can we possibly fear? What could any man do to us that would remove us from the love of Christ Jesus and the Heavenly Father? Do you know that love? Do you have that assurance within you that helps you through those trying and difficult days? If not, begin today realizing God has an eternal gift for you that is worth pursuing. Open God’s Word and seek to know Him and His plan for you today.

Coach

Just then an expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?” He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. “You’ve answered correctly, He told him. “Do this and you will live.” Luke 10:25-28 (HCSB) 

Words of Wisdom: When I live for Myself, Futility Reigns! Ecclesiastes 2:4-11

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Words of Wisdom: When I live for Myself, Futility Reigns! Ecclesiastes 2:4-11

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 is the greatest example of the fact that when we live a self-centered, self-focused lifestyle, self-satisfaction is not possible. As this passage points out, when “I” is the focus of your thoughts and actions, and the purpose of your life is to seek to please yourself, futility is all “I” will give to “myself”. And, with futility comes frustration. And, in frustration “I” begins to hate “myself”. Even when all the wealth of this world is available to give, “I” can never please “myself” – life is not worth anything when we live only seeking to please ourselves! God did not create us to selfish creatures! Family, friends, and faith in others is what identifies our true purpose in life.

The richest people in this world have repeatedly stated that when they caught up in their wealth and fame, they found in all the money and fame there is an abundance of loneliness also. Why do so many rich and famous people resort to lifestyles that are destructive even to the point of losing all they have? Materials things will never buy happiness and companionship! Solomon was surrounded by concubines not a spouse, servants not friends, slaves not family! He had possessions that he really could not share! The only thing Solomon, and others like him, could possess was the wisdom to discover his own lonely futile life, realizing the more he had, the less he possessed that meant anything in this world.here is a decision that we all have to make in life: a crossroads that offers two choices. In one direction it appears that glory and fame and fortune are the destination and is attainable through a lifetime guided by our own will, our own ways, and our own wisdom according to our own understanding and desires – much like Solomon. Versus, the other option which leads you to a path that is not so clear as to its destination and the Lord says you may only travel by faith. A faith that must surrender your selfish ways and trust in God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word. At that crossroads the decision is to believe your eyes or your heart!

Solomon asked for wisdom, and God gave him his wish, but what he got was a lifetime of misery and frustration. His selfish choices had consequences that affected all of Israel, as after his death the Kingdom of Israel split and never reconciled and wound up on a slippery slope towards destruction in history. Likewise, if we choose wrongly, we too can not only get on that slippery slope, but also cause others to join us as well. Which way is the right way, the one your eyes can see, or the one your heart can feel is the right choice?

Coach

If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13:1-13 (HCSB)

 

 

Words of Wisdom: What Purpose Does the Pursuit of Pleasure Serve? Ecclesiastes 2:1-3

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Words of Wisdom: What Purpose Does the Pursuit of Pleasure Serve?Ecclesiastes 2:1-3

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 of most of us is our leisure time – that time we crave to do what we want for pleasure. Yet, what is pleasure? We seek after it! We desire it! We save up for it! But, what is it really? Solomon decided in his wisdom that he would engage in pleasure and determine what there was in pleasure that actually served a practical purpose, or what is good about the pursuit of pleasure. The answer he learned was: pleasure boils down to what pleases you first and foremost. Yet, he identified pleasure as futile in this lifetime, because what does it really accomplish in this short life we have?

Now, I believe God allows us the joy of laughter and the reenergizing benefit of a retreat from the fast pace of life, but Solomon is focused on what many do in the pursuit of “pleasure seeking activities.” 3000 years ago and still today, wine and other alcoholic drinks flow to dull our senses for what purpose? Is there really pleasure found not being in control of one’s self? Is pleasure being the fool in the midst of his folly while under the influence of alcohol? If so, why do many believe letting go and artificially relaxing and risking being out of control is pleasure? After the alcohol euphoria wears off, reality returns and you have a headache and stomachache to boot! Is the pleasure you think you had worth the after-affects? I believe that is why Solomon called the pursuit of pleasure: madness!

There is a purpose that God promotes that serves to rest our bodies and minds, and that is termed recreation, or (re)creation. Recreation is to give us rest to revive and reenergize our bodies and minds. In the pursuit of retreating from the harsh pace and realities of the world, merely turning to recreation activities is much more beneficial than hoisting a bottle of wine or mug of beer, because the benefits are lasting and not artificial. The after-effects of genuine recreation are not sickening to our well-being.

The only time in God’s Word is the use of alcohol promoted is when there is no hope and our wickedness has someone trapped in a life of misery. Then the wine or alcohol dulls the senses out of mercy for that person. So think about why you do what you do in the pursuit of pleasure. What real benefit does it serve? Is it meaningless folly and madness as Solomon points out?

Think about the difference of re-creation versus the folly of pleasure seeking for the pleasing of one’s self. Which best serves and pursues after God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word?

What is true pleasure are actions and attitudes that bring a smile on the faces of loved ones and friends in this world – serving and pleasing their needs and desires, and to witness the pleasing of our Lord as we learn to live rightly for His purposes, not selfishly for what we believe is ours. I will trade the pursuit of pleasure for genuine happiness or blessing any day in this lifetime. How about you?

Coach

Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk – not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. And don’t get drunk with wine, which [leads to] reckless actions, but be filled with the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music to the Lord in your heart, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. Eph 5:15-21 (HCSB)