Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Shakin' things up...

Matthew 28:1-8 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 
The earth had fallen asleep from exhaustion.  The struggle of the battle at Calvary had left everyone tired.  But certain followers of Christ had chosen to get up and get going anyway.  And Christ and His angels were very much away.  They shook not only the earth, and the guard, but the hearts of His followers and history.  The guards were terrified for their jobs and their lives.  The women were filled with awe-struck fear and joy.  And mankind ever since should be shaken with this thought; Who is this Man Whom death cannot contain.  If He has authority there, what other authority might He have, over me and the world.  May that thought shake us up as we continue to ponder His Passion.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Asking, Alarmed, and Afraid...

Mark 16:1-8 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. 
In one short paragraph, Mark (speaking from Peter's perspective) reveals the fast array of thoughts and emotions these women went through on Resurrection Day.  At first they were asking, wondering, how they could get into the tomb.  They had not even thought through what they would find there (or NOT find there.)  Their thoughts and feelings quickly change as they enter the open tomb. They are alarmed - caught unprepared - not knowing what to do or say.  The words of the messenger impact them in such a way that a whole new set of thoughts and emotions run rampant.  Totally shaken, their reaction is to run away.  What they had seen and heard was too much to handle!
Sad to say, we often make our way through this week emotionless and thoughtless.  We accept the facts and move on, without asking any questions, without any rush of alarm, without any reverential fear of the holiness of it all.  May we pause and peek into the tomb, and be speechless for awhile.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Meet, Greet or Tweet?

John 12:17-19 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” 
When Jesus rode down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem, He drew a crowd.  People came for different reasons.  Many were just "along for the ride" as they were going to the temple too.  They just happened to "be in the right place at the right time."  Some seemed to alter their journey, waiting for Jesus to come to them, or trying to keep up with Him.  Some came out to meet Him, though apparently with different motives.  The Pharisees we waiting for Him, but not to worship Him. Even in this crowd there were different reasons people came to this great worship event: curiousity, a long-awaited dream, a desire to not miss out one what everyone was talking about and be able to tell their friends they were there.   Why do we come today to worshp?  May it be a day full of anticipation. May we come not to find fault with anyone, or with a cynical or skeptical attitude like: "I wonder what God will do for me?"  May we humbly come with a heart that says: "Here is my King!"  Then, He will do something in, with, through and even for you.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Understanding our worship...

John 12:12-16 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,“Hosanna!”“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;see, your king is coming,seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. 
The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is one of those few events recorded by all four Gospel writers.  Each one adds a detail or two to the picture only he records.  Such is the last statement of John's accounts.  The disciples and those who joined them in this great worship celebration did not fully understand what they were doing at the time.  They were in a sense "caught up in the moment." It was only as they reflected back that they realized what they had done, and it was the right thing: they had acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, the King, the One sent by God to save.  They were being the kind of worshippers God was looking for - grateful for what He had done; trusting in what He said He would do, even when we cannot see the big picture at the time.  May our lives be ones of responsive worship today.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Keeping it short...

Mark 11:1-11 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,“Hosanna!”“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
 Mark, speaking from Peter's perspective, tends to keep things straightforward and to the point.  While the other writers record further events and discussions during that day, the experience was so overwhelming to Peter he does not record much from the rest of the day.  He also includes a small detail that seems so Peteresque...  The Lord needs it AND WILL SEND IT BACK HERE SHORTLY.  The Lord is no thief; He is simply borrowing.  But even more so, impressed on Peter's mind once again is this fact: It always turns out just like Jesus says.  All the details, as strange as they may seem. He knows.  The same is true of our lives - He knows all the details, strange as they may seem.  He has a plan.  He is not out to steal our lives away; He is asking for us to entrust them to Him.  And He will use them for even higher glory than the donkey, making history, and making this day memorable.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Identity Theft...

Matthew 21:1-11 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion,‘See, your king comes to you,gentle and riding on a donkey,and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,“Hosanna to the Son of David!”“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” 
As Jesus proceeded down the mountain people were hailing Him as the Messiah, the special one come from The Lord, worthy of  our trust, praise and allegiance.  But by the time He gets into town, the crowds had changed their tone: He was "the prophet from Nazareth."  How quickly we change our tune.  As soon as we walk out the door of the church after the last hymn, and go out into the world, we lose our zeal, we forget where we have been, we speak little of Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord.  May we see Him and speak of Him the same through the week as we do 11 a.m. Sunday.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Unstoppable Praise...

Luke 19:37-40 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” 
The Pharisees asked the impossible: for Jesus to stop the peoples' response to His ministry and miracles.  He had calmed the storm, quelled the demons and healed the sick. Why could He not stop the praise?  Praise has to come out, one way or the other.  Ultimately all will praise Him, whether they want to or not. (Philippians 2).  Why hold it it?  It should come out. It needs to come out. It ought to come out of our hearts and mouths.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Being needy...

And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. (Luke 19:28-35 ESV)
The words jump off the page to me: "The Lord has need of it."  Does that take you back? How does the Lord need anything?  Yet, that is part of what He did when He laid aside His glory to come to earth to do His work of salvation: He put Himself in need; He made Himself vulnerable.  He needed a  mother to hold Him, a father to provide for Him, teachers to bring out what He already knew, angels to minister to Him in the wilderness, a woman at a well to draw Him water, and now, a donkey on which to make His triumphal entry. Soon He will need much more: a room to meet in, disciples to pray for Him, a draftee to carry His cross, someone to lend Him a tomb.  And He needs you and me, to proclaim Him to a needy world.  He planned it that way - to have needs, because we have needs. It is not something He has by nature, but we do.  He wanted to know what it was to be needy, just like us.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Renewed and Ready

And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:40-46 ESV)
The disciples were tired... they thought they just... needed... sleep...  Christ had told them otherwise, and now He shows them and us that they would not be ready for the challenge before them, and He was.  Again He says: "Rise, let us be going..."  It is time for the next step. He is prepared by prayer. They will soon see how NOT ready they are by rest.  Something for us to ponder, and talk to Him about...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Praying it through...

Matthew 26:36-39 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 
This was the greatest struggle ever - Christ preparing to endure the cross for us.  It was the climax of why He had come, yet He realized what it would mean - full separation from the Father. It had been hard enough to leave Heaven for here - at least He had had these times of prayer, of communion with Him.  But this will be different.  We know how we fear the unknown.  This was the one big unknown Christ had never faced before.  It was a complete act of trust in the Father's plan.  So He prays it through.  If we would only do the same for our struggles which pale in comparison.

Friday, March 20, 2015

All Together...

John 17:20-26 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” 
Christ's goal for us is high and lofty - the highest of all - to experience the oneness characteristic of the Godhead, to know now what it will be like in eternity.  He wants us to have that in our relationship with Him and with one another.  He is the key to it all.  May we honor Him, glorify Him by pursuing that same goal today.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fully immersed...

John 17:13-19 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 
As Jesus prayed for His followers, He told the Father what they could overhear: He had shared the truth with them. He wanted them to fully immerse themselves in the Truth.  No sponge bath - fully washed and cleansed.  That is the way to joy, despite living in a hostile world opposed to the Truth.  We need to go out into the world, into our daily lives having soaked up His Truth, allowing it to cleanse and change our lives.  When we do that, His Truth sustains us in all trials and temptations.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

He's got you covered...

John 17:6-12 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 
As followers of Jesus Christ, we know that He as always at the right hand of the Father, interceding on our behalf.  This intercession began even before He ascended.  He protectively watches over His own.  He also is constantly seeking to remind us, through His Spirit, of what we need to know and remember for today.  He has given us His words and His Name to protect us and guide us today.  May we accept them and live by them, staying under His protective cover.

Monday, March 16, 2015

True Glory

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:1-5 ESV)
Often, Jesus went alone to a mountain to pray.  Sometimes, He granted instruction on how to pray. Here, He allows us to listen in to His intimate discussion with the Father.  His first request is glory.  But this is not "glory" in what we often think of - "Look at Me!" It's true glory: being with the Father , knowing Him intimately.  He knew the victory was secure: He was going to defeat sin and death, so He could give us life. What He longed for was full access to the presence of the Father.  That is the place of true glory.  May we learn from the Best.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Comparison Game...

Luke 22:24-27 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 
Jesus has just revealed that one of the twelve is the traitor.  Having been convinced and assured that he is not that one, each one of them begins to jockey for position, to legitimize his own importance and love for The Lord.  That thinking spills out into their speech.  Jesus shuts them up: "when you begin to compare yourself to others, go back to what I said earlier: Serve one another."  That is the cure for our comparison, the setting straight of our superiority complex: "How may I serve you?"  Let us take up that challenge today.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Refusing to take "Yes" as an answer...

When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.: (Matthew 26:20-25 ESV)
As the disciples gathered with Jesus for the Passover celebration, He was heavy of heart and mind with so many issues He wanted to review with them.  Judas was one of those issues.  Jesus knew he was going to betray him.  He knew Judas was consumed with the things of this world.  He knew that on the outside people viewed Judas as one of His, but Judas had a hard heart. He refused to own up to what he was all about - even when confronted by the One who knows all.  Judas truly expected Jesus to answer: "No, Judas, it could never be you."  But even when Jesus acknowledged him as the one, Judas acts as if Jesus had given him the answer he wanted.  Judas refused to be examined by God, admit the truth, and receive the forgiveness He was offered.  How about you?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Doing what He has done...

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
(John 13:1-15 ESV)
What does it mean to follow Jesus?  That is the topic of discussion here in the upper room.  He shows and tells us what one of His priorities is right away: He wants us to be servants as He has served us.  His question is simple: Do you get it?  Let us do what He has done.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Can't wait to get to Communion

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:14-16 ESV)
As Jesus gathered with His disciples in the upper room, he opened with this statement.  "I have deeply desired with great desire to be here with you."  He was there with great anticipation; He had much He wanted to show and tell them.  The parallel passage in John tells us some of those initial things were to demonstrate servanthood in washing their feet and to disclose the fact that one of them was the betrayer he had been telling them about.  But most of all, Jesus wanted to be with them as His family of faith.  May we approach communion the same way He approached that final passover - with great desire to see His love demonstrated, to hear His instructions, to appreciate His presence.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Approaching God...

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth,do not be hasty in your heartto utter anything before God.God is in heavenand you are on earth,so let your words be few. A dream comes when there are many cares,and many words mark the speech of a fool. When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God. 
Today, as we go to worship with God's people - and I hope you do - let us go softly before Him.  May the words we sing, pray and say, and even the thoughts we think be dine in humble reverence so He can do what He has brought us there to do - listen to and learn from Him, then go out and obey Him.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Stepping back to See..

Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. 
The emotional and spiritual exercise of Ecclesiastes is almost exhausting, as The Preacher takes us through life looking for meaning.  Yet overall, despite some real skepticism at times, Life is a Good Thing!  God has a big picture and plan in mind, and He has placed within us a desire to be a part of that plan.  He put within us the desire to work and create just as He created.  He planned for us to be able to sit back after our labors and enjoy life.  And He has done it all so we can stand back and be in awe of Him and have fellowship with Him.  He wants us to be a part of His plan.  Do we want to be?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Lonely at the top of the Ladder...

Ecclesiastes 4:13-16 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 
Looking back on life can be very disturbing, if one has set out on life with the wrong foundation.  Riches will fail you.  Success and advancement will fail you.  Popularity is fading.  Almost hidden in this lament of one who knew - Solomon the king, who had all the riches, power, and popularity, is the one goal and guideline that will not leave you empty: wisdom.  He had that too.  That's why he was still around to share his stories. He did not check out, bail, cash in, give up and die.  The only thing that will help as you look back on life are the wise decisions you have made - to follow Christ, to die to self, to live for God and others, and on down the line.  Those are the things that matter and give peace to the aging soul.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Declaration of Interdependence

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)
We are an extremely independent society.  Our historical roots, our dog-eat-dog economics, our always-need-to-compare-myself mindest, drives us to want to "do it myself."  (Add to that Baptistic Autonomy, and you've got a strong independence.)  But we do need one another.  God made us that way; it's been so from the beginning.  We are more productive and more well protected together. So let's stop kidding ourselves and see what we can do to strengthen the ties that bind us together, especially those bonds of love found in Christ.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

An Unhappy Business...

Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.
(Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 ESV)
I love the way the ESV translates this pursuit and passion for possessions: an unhappy business.  So is the picture of so many of us: we look, we see, we want, we pursue, we are let down big time. The paradox is that what looks like pleasure deprives us of real pleasure.  The key is in the first sentence. It is the pursuit of stuff over meaningful relationships with whom to share life.  It leaves one empty. Again, the preacher presses us to think: "Is that me?"

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why do I do what I do???

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.
Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 ESV)
Work is a four-letter word.  But that does not make it evil.  In fact, we know that God created us to use our minds and hands to be creative like He is.  But like everything else, sin has entered the world.  That includes why we work, and what we do with our work.  Our work can consume us, becoming the driving force behind our lives, ignoring the relationship with the One who made us to work. It can also team up with envy of others, where we are always striving to have more and look better than our neighbors.  We don't want to "keep up with the Jones's; we want to fly right past them with our noses in the air.  The preacher her is by no means downgrading the work of our hands; he is asking us to evaluate why we do what we do.  Is it to take up our place in the wonderful world God has made for us to enjoy before Him?

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Monday kind of passage...

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter;power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead,who had already died,are happier than the living,who are still alive. But better than bothis the one who has never been born,who has not seen the evilthat is done under the sun. 
The preacher is sitting back, looking at life around him, and it's not pretty.  Somewhat cynical, he looks around and does not like what he sees.  In Jonah-like fashion, he struggles to find reason to go on.  Would it have been better to never be born?
Recently I watched a movie called "Doonby".  In order to understand the gist of the movie, you need to do a word scramble with the title, but simply put, it asks this very question.  Thankfully, the answer is "no."  Every one of us makes a difference, even on Mondays.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Simply put: let love rule...

Romans 13:8-14 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. 
Sometimes living the Christian life can seem like a balancing act- fulfilling our roles and responsibilities to our family, church, the government, and everyone else around us.  It seems to be so complicated.  But God really has made it simple:  live in Christlike selflessness.  That still is not easy, but it is simple, uncomplicated, and real.  In Him we have all we need to carry out these roles.  Like Him, it's a matter of choosing to love.