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Bursting the Bubble of Wealth

“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that i must leave it to the man who will come after me.”  -Ecc 2:18

Wealth is an amazing thing.  I was blessed to grow up in a home that while not “wealthy” certainly provided me with a life of ease.  I didn’t have to work to put food on the table, my parents didn’t take my birthday money for gas money, and I always had presents under the tree at Christmas.  I lived a blessed life.

However, there are those who had much more money than I.  Families and people who could have bought and sold all that I had twenty times over and never made a dent in there money.  This also is a blessing.  How then can Solomon find any fault or struggle in the gaining of money and wealth?

Solomon, who was one of the richest men who ever lived, says that even the accumulation of wealth is ultimately vanity and striving after the wind.  He uses these three points to show how living a life that is about money and wealth is a life empty of any reason to live.

  1.  Ultimately we don’t get to Keep It

“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that i must leave it to the man who will come after me.” -Ecc 2:18

Solomon begins by simply recognizing the inevitability of his own demise.  Solomon knows he will die.  Sooner or later his life is going to come to an end and everything he has ever owned will pass on to his relations.  He will no longer own any of his stuff and he will have no say over how it is spent. Solomon will have worked his whole life only to give his money to those who didn’t earn it.

Ultimately that is what will happen to all of our wealth.  We can only enjoy it while we are here on this earth.  We can use it for good or evil.  We can use it all or nothing.  The only thing we can’t do is take it with us. 

2.    Ultimately we cannot Protect It

“and who knows  whether he will be wise or a fool?  Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun.” -Ecc 2:19

Solomon not only recognizes that one day he will die, but also that when he goes his idiot kids are gonna get everything.  Solomon realized there is no way to be sure that his kids spend his money well.

There is a difference that has been pointed out between being wealthy and being rich.  I can never remember which is which, but the basics are “a wealthy person made there money,  a rich person inherits it”.  Our world is filled with examples of people who ran into this problem. A hard working father/mother builds up a fortune only to see there children with no morals or work ethic tear that fortune down.

Solomon points out to us in these verses the futility of living for money.  Even if you were to get all you could hope, and are ok with passing it on when you die.  You do not get to decide what is done with it once you are gone.  Whoever gets your stuff gets to decide how to use your money.

3.    Ultimately we cannot Enjoy It.

” What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?  For all his days are full of sorrow…”  Ecc 2:22-23a

Solomon continues as he points out one simple truth that we all understand even if we don’t say.  The more wealth you have, the more worry of loosing wealth.  Solomon acknowledges that all his work and toil to attain such wealth has caused his heart nothing but “sorrow and vexation”.  When you work for wealth you heart is never satisfied.

The sad truth of wealth is that no person if they set wealth and riches as there goal ever said “now I have enough“.  They continue to work and worry and snuggle to get more and more always believing that the next hundred or next thousand will satisfy. Solomon is trying to show us early in life that the only thing that satisfies our desires is Christ/God.

“For apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  For to the one who pleases Him, God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. ” Ecc 2:25-26

In the last few posts we have talked about Solomon’s frustrations with life.  We have “burst the bubble” of many vanity that plague the human race.  However the ultimate point is summed up in these last two verse.  All pleasure and joy and good things are given to those who strive after Him.  To those who are not believer he has given the ultimately futile task of gathering and collecting.  I pray that anyone reading this finds there satisfaction in God, and not look for it in the business of collecting.

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Posted by on August 24, 2016 in Ecclesiastes, Uncategorized

 

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Bursting the Bubble of Pleasure

“‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But behold this also was vanity”  Ecclesiastes 2:1

As I work on this lesson I find myself realizing that this is the stage of life, as Solomon describes them that I find myself.  I am enraptured with pleasure.  Good friends, good food, and good fun are the places where I find joy.  So it is with a heavy heart that I must write that these things fun and enjoyable as they may be cannot bring lasting or ultimate pleasure!

Solomon continues his discussion of useless things here in chapter two of Ecclesiastes by bursting the soap bubble of pleasure.  He comes to it as a man just off a night of self reflection, and begins to discuss the parts of his life where pleasure and achievement were everything to him.  

It is in this discussion of his life of pleasure that Solomon makes note of two things that are important to understand about pleasure and achievement.

  1.  Pleasure is Good, but Too Much is Sorrow

“Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness.”               Prov. 14:13

Pleasure is a gift of God!  There can be no denying this fact.  For some reason back in the middle ages and even before people got a view of God as this heavenly school teacher who was just there to wag a finger and take away all the fun.  At one point a child even using his imagination was considered a sin, but this is not the God we see pointed to in our bible.

The God we see in the bible is a God who led his people to a land of pleasure flowing with “milk and honey”.  A God who threw feast and party for every little event in the lives of the Jewish people.  Even James in the new testament says “every good and perfect gift is from above”

There is a down side to pleasure though, this comes in the law of diminishing returns.  The essence of this law is that the more you do something the less pleasure you will get.  This means that to get the same amount of pleasure you will have to increase your activity.  We see this most acutely in drug addiction.  At first one hit of whatever drug you use will get you high, but as you continue using you need more and more of that drug to get the same high.

The Law of Diminishing returns holds true weather you pleasure is gained from drugs, sex, gambling, video games, or any other pleasurable activity.  If all you are gaining is pleasure than it will eventually turn sour and sorrowful.

2.   Achievement is Good, but Cannot Bring Happiness

“So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem.”  -Ecc 2:7

Solomon was, as has been said before, one of the wisest men who ever lived.  Due to his wisdom he was also one of the greatest kings both Israel and the world had ever seen.  Solomon outlines some of his greatest achievements here in this chapter.  He achieved more than any other king of Israel and yet he still found no lasting joy in his achievements.

No one can say that being productive and having great works and achievements is a bad thing.  The Bible has plenty to say on those who are lazy and slothful, but achievement can have its own dangers.

Achievement for achievement sake, however, lends itself to becoming an escape to the rest of life.  Those who become “workaholics” fall to the same vanity and uselessness that we discussed about pleasure.  Eventually the law of diminishing returns causes you to need more and more; and bigger and bigger achievements.

However, Achievements also has its own unique struggle and that is the struggle of becoming a god to yourself.  When your good works, and your achievements become so  important that God becomes a secondary character in your life.  You begin to elevate your own interests above the interests of others.  The ultimate end of this struggle comes as you get to the end of your life and there are no more achievements to be gained.  Then you become useless, and your god is no more.

Solomon looked on pleasure and achievement and pronounced judgement.  Without God they are useless and vain pursuits.

 

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Ecclesiastes

 

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Under Pressure…(bum bum bum ba-dum bada bum bum)

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself”    – 2 Cor 1:8

Its funny, how many things in this world can be both good and bad for us depending on the context. Fire can bring heat and also burn buildings, water can bring floods but also sustain life, and spiders kill mosquitoes but also are scary (and of the devil), but the most intriguing of these dualitys is pressure!

Pressure is one of the greatest things that are involved in our lives.  With enough pressure and time (and coal) you can get diamonds. With correct pressure and students you can get leaders.  However, even though pressure can make great things it can also (as a recent event in my life can attest) be a crushing unbearable burden.

Pressure, in Christ, can come in many forms.  It comes in wise council and instruction, in discipline and punishment, in encouragement and fellowship, and in faith and prayer. However, like most things there is a very fine line between too little and too much. There is a fine line between just the right amount of council and not enough, between discipline and encouragement, and between safety and faith.

How do we appropriately apply pressure?

1.  Pressure is Best Applied Differently

“Even in my short ministry life I have learned that what will turn one person into a diamond will crush another into dust.  There was a old preacher who said ‘good leaders play checkers…great leaders play chess’.  The idea is that everyone in this life needs pressure in different ways and when you learn to “play” everyone according to there needs you are approaching great leadership.”

2.  Pressure is Best Applied Evenly

“Diamonds, as we all know, are made over long periods of time due to constant and even pressure.  Likewise, when we put pressure on others ,even in Christ, we need to apply that pressure evenly over time.  In fact going from no pressure to massive pressure is like taking a red hot skillet from a red hot stove to a cold water tub…much more likely to crack than clean.”

3.  Pressure is Best Applied Singularly

“Some may not agree on this point, but it is one that I believe in with my whole heart.  The best ratio of people applying pressure is one to one.  Through my entire life the time where I have seen people be cracked and burdened by pressure the most is when every acquaintance decides they should be the one to apply pressure. This causes the pressure in that persons life to increase to the point where they are “smooshed” by all the advice.

In the end all that can be said about pressure is that it is very important, and very dangerous.  It should be handled with care and concern for the person “under pressure”.  If our goal is to produce diamonds then we need to allow for time and not rush the process with more pressure.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Theology of Faith

 

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The Life

I am…, the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father but through me.”  John 14:6

In previous posts we have talked a lot about Christ and what He said about Himself in John 14:6.  We went over every detail of the names He gave Himself to his followers so that they would be able to know more about Him, and we talked about the implication of those names.

He called Himself “I AM” which showed how He is always the same and can sustain and save us.  He called Himself “The Way” which showed He gave direction to the lost, safety to the traveler, and rest for the weary. He called Himself “The Truth” which showed He gives freedom from worry, death, and pride.  Now we get to the most important of them all “The Life.”

Life is such an important concept, in fact, the right to life is one of the only truly universal beliefs.  There is no culture where life is not held sacred. Now certainly there are those who take the right to life more seriously.  We in America for example, hold it to be one of our “big three” rights along with liberty and happiness. Without life we would literally not exist.

So what is Christ implying when He calls Himself “The Life?”

1. He Implies A Connection To All Things.

There is nothing in this world that does not connect to God. Whether it is a slug on a leaf or a king in his castle, God is intimately acquainted to all the world. Not only is He connected but he cares about all things. Luke 12:6-7 even tells us that God knows every sparrow sold at market, and every hair on our head.  God is intimately connected to this world!

2. He Implies A Ownership Of All Things

If Christ is “The Life” then that implies a certain amount of ownership. The psalmist says,”For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (50:10). The implication of this verse is that all the world belongs to God.  How then can we expect to ever repay God for all the good things that he has given to us?

3. He Implies A Purpose To All Things.

If Christ not only has a connection with us and an ownership over us, then it must be to that he has a purpose for us.  Think of all the things you have owned.  They were created with a purpose and bought for that purpose.  Now if we as people do not create things without purpose why then do we believe our God would do so? The bible itself proclaims: “For I know the plans I have for you says the LORD, plans to prosper and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a hope and a future.”  – Jeremiah 29:11

Christ, however, does not finish this statement with names.  He finishes with a purpose, and that purpose is to lead all who would be seeking to His father, the author and perfecter of our faith.  The Father in whom our salvation lies!  So no matter if you are seeking who God is (I AM), where God is taking you (The Way), the mysteries of the gospel (The Truth), or the meaning of life (The Life); remember this.

No man comes to the father but through me.”  John 14:6

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in John 14:6

 

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The Way…

I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

The way. Such a simple phrase it hardly even seems worth mentioning; and yet this understanding of Christ and of the role that he plays in our Christian life is absolutely paramount to the relationship that we have with Him. In fact, this description of Christ was so important to the early church that they started out calling themselves not Christians but “Followers of the Way”.

So, what can we learn from this description of Christ?  What is He trying to teach us by describing Himself this way?  Certainly there is the obvious realization that Christ is the one and only road that will lead us to our salvation in God, but is there more to his being the way. Is it also a description of the protection and peace that Christ offers?

So what does “The Way” offer us?

1. The Way Offers Salvation To The Lost.

Imagine, if you will, that you are lost in a dense dark forest.  There are dangers all around you and many predators just waiting to devour you in the dark.  How happy would you be to find a path, and with it direction and the way of escape?!  This is the situation in which we as people find ourselves.  We are lost in a dark world full of sin and pain with the enemy just waiting to devour our very soul (1 Peter 5:8). It is into this situation that God came and provided the way of escape!

2. The Way Offers Safety To The Traveler.

People for almost all of time have sought out and used established paths.  This is because they offer travelers the knowledge that others have come before them.  Rather than just trudging through the darkness and fearing the forest, travelers can be certain of a direction.  Also, a traveler can be certain that if he runs into trouble there will be another who can find him to help.  We as “Followers of the Way” can likewise be certain that on this path we follow, Christ has gone before and others will be there to pick us up!

3. The Way Offers Rest To The Weary.

The ultimate goal of any traveler is the destination and the completion of his journey.  It is the knowledge that there is a season of rest waiting for him at the other end that can keep him going even when the road gets tough.  It is the same for us in our Christian walk!  We are traveling our whole lives doing our duty for our savior and what keeps us going more than anything is the knowledge that in the end we will get to sit and worship the One who has provided for us. (Phil 1:21-23)

Christ knew that the Christian life would be full of dangers and pitfalls.  That is why He used this description of the way, so that we as people could realize that even while we are on our journey he will guide us to our rest. He used this description so that when we wonder how we were going to make it through this life we will know His response:  I Am the Way!

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2012 in John 14:6

 

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I AM…..

I AM..,the way, the truth, and the life; and no man comes to the father except through Me.”  – John 14:6

God has used this statement over and over again in the bible to sum up His very existence…I AM. Even put into just two words, God seems like one of the most complex personalities of all time. What does that mean exactly? Does it mean that God is in everything? Does it mean God is everywhere? Maybe it means God is in us, people, like so many religions believe, or maybe, just maybe it means God is a fact!

I AM… It is not a question, just a statement that no matter what I AM.  Perhaps God’s intention in describing Himself that way was to indicate that among all the absolute facts that can be argued back and forth in religion and philosophy one remains fixed and that is that He Is. I AM indicates that before there was anything I AM, that after it is all gone I AM, and when our strength is not enough I AM.

So how has God used His name in the Bible?

1. God Is Always The Same

In the Book of Exodus, God gives his name for the first time to Moses and he says, “I AM who I AM.” With this simple statement God was indicating to Moses that He was the same God who was with his forefathers. Moses was then told by God to go back to his people and if they asked to tell them one thing if they questioned who sent him….I AM. (Ex 3:14)

2. God Will Sustain Us

In John we see God once again begin to use his name for the purposes of teaching the people.  After having fed the people on the shores of Galilee, Christ went off by himself to pray and avoid his ‘adoring fans’. After a while, they find Him on the opposite shore and begin comparing Him to Moses because He gave them bread to sustain them, but Christ then connects Himself to God His father once again by saying, ‘”I AM the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger..”  Christ says that He will sustain us the way only food can but His provision will be forever. (John 6:35)

3. God Will Save Us

Finally, God uses His name to show that He is our only way to salvation. “I Am, the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the father except through me.” The next few blogs will go through this in a deeper manner, but the point that Christ is making here is that There is no other way that we can get to salvation except through Him.

With two simple words God managed to say so much about His life and character. He will never leave us, He will never change, He will give us sustenance in the desert of our lives, and He will save us from coming judgement.  So what does God say with his name?  I AM all you need!

If you enjoyed this check out my other blogs at ministryinreality.wordpress.com 

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in John 14:6

 

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