Finishing Strong

Rambling speakers bore me. I know, I probably should say that nicer, but it’s true. Perhaps you’re the same way. If so, then you’ll like Solomon’s masterful summary of the big question, “What’s the point of life anyway?” Take a look: 

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Eccl. 12:13-14 NKJV 

After previously discussing the question at length, he comes back in these closing remarks (under the Holy Spirit’s leadership) and nails it like a 400 yard bull’s eye! Here are three thoughts I took away from it going forward.

1. Fear God

The word fear in this context is so important. It’s a reverence for God that permeates our entire life, whether public or private…the perspective that He’s God and I’m not. In a practical sense, it helps keep me from foolish choices and be an authentic Christian example to others. My God is a BIG God!

2. Keep His Commandments

We can approach this in three ways:

  • As a Legalist-strict adherence to rules, but little attention to meaning, purpose and grace
  • As a Libertine– living as if there are no constraints as a Christ-follower, therefore mocking the precious liberty we have in Jesus
  • As a Bondservant-willfully serving Christ as the one in authority over us, just as Paul described himself

Since Colossians 2:5-8 describes Jesus modeling the role of bondservant, I believe the scripture teaches us to do the same. We were bought at a price, and are not our own (I Corinthians 6:20). Bondservant is by far the best!

3. God will Judge

The Bible describes two judgments; one for people who know Jesus as Savior (The Judgment Seat of Christ, II Corinthians 5:9-11) and another for those who do not (The White Throne Judgment, Revelation 20:11-15). The consequences are severely different for each group, but accountability is common to both. Whether reward or punishment, we’ll all answer for the life entrusted to us. I hope your trust is in Christ. If so, live for Him and make each day count!

Series: “What’s the Point of Life Anyway?” – Conclusion

7 Ways to Minimize Regret

No one plans to have regrets and we all make mistakes, but can scripture help us minimize them? Absolutely! As followers of Christ, scripture gives guidance and here are 7 principles Solomon taught: 

1. Be a Learner
”It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools.” -Ecclesiastes 7:5 NKJV

To really hear as the Bible teaches is not just listening, but to receive, evaluate and act on what’s heard.

2. Value Patience Over Pride

“The end of a thing is better than its beginning; the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” -Ecclesiastes 7:8 NKJV

Choices offered by our fleshly nature present the best up front with declining value afterwards (shortcuts), versus what God offers (the best at the end). Pride can cloud good judgment.

3. Watch your Words

“The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but the lips of a fool shall swallow him up. -Ecclesiastes 10:12 NKJV

Words spoken cannot be retrieved. It’s probably one of the hardest areas to control for many of us, but we need be mindful of the words, tone and timing of our speech.

4. Give Thanks

“Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. -Ecclesiastes 2:24 NKJV

Enjoying the simple things in life begins with a grateful heart. If I can see God’s blessing in small daily things, then everyday moments have recognizable purpose and value.

5. Show Love While you Can

“Also their [the dead] love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 9:10 NKJV

We should speak words of love, encouragement, and gratitude while we can because we don’t know what tomorrow brings.

6. Guard your Integrity

“Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor;
so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor
.” Ecclesiastes 10:1 NKJV

Don’t let the bad smell of compromise destroy the fragrance of Christ in your life.

7. Be Diligent

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” Ecclesiastes 9:10 NKJV

We ultimately serve Christ in all we do, so approach life, work and play as a way to demonstrate devotion to Him (Col. 3:23).

Series: “What’s the Point of Life Anyway?” – Lesson 3

What if the Bible is true?

Many dismiss the Bible’s authority, even suppressing its use in public, but here’s an open invitation for all to consider a simple question; “What if the Bible is true?” If so, then: 

  1. All non-biblical belief systems are false (John 14:6).
  2. God really does love us (John 3:16).
  3. God desires all people to turn to Him (II Peter 3:9).
  4. Jesus is the only path to heaven (Acts 4:12).
  5. Jesus freely offers peace and hope (Romans 5:1-2).
  6. Jesus changes lives forever (II Corinthians 5:17).
  7. God personally spoke the world into existence (Genesis 1).
  8. God is totally sovereign to make unilateral decisions (Psalm 86:10).
  9. God is just in all His dealings with man (Psalm 89:14).
  10.  God is still in charge of nature (Genesis 8:22).
  11.  Christians are expected to behave like Christ (Ephesians 4:32)
  12.  God’s standards never change with culture (Job 23:13).
  13.  Christians are to be disciple-makers (Matthew 28:16-20)
  14.  People not trusting in Jesus will suffer forever (Rev. 20:15).
  15.  Heaven can’t be earned (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  16.  Jesus physically rose from the dead (Acts 1:3).
  17.  God will ultimately judge all mankind (Revelation 20:12).
  18.  God’s plan will ultimately be accomplished (Revelation 21:6).
  19.  Jesus is serious about His bride, the Church (II Corinthians 11:2).
  20.  Jesus will return in awesome power and glory (Revelation 19:11-16). 

Of course some will respond with “What if it’s not?” In that case, then there’s nothing to worry about, but what if it is…

5 Points Concerning Gay Marriage

With the national dialogue heating up over gay marriage, here are 5 quick thoughts to consider:

  • The premise is flawed. The term “Gay Marriage” is an oxymoron…like trying to discuss “dry water”. We don’t have the privilege to define marriage, God does. He made us “male and female” (Genesis 2:27), and pronounced; “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24).
  • God’s way is best. Biblical marriage is far superior to any counterfeit models. God formed Eve specifically to complete Adam. A man and woman fit together in every way. Physically, emotionally, and psychologically, God designed us to compliment each other. It doesn’t take much observation to see how boys and girls are wired different. We augment each other’s weaknesses, and keep one another’s extremes in check. It’s an amazing process of two lives merging together into something greater than the sum of two parts.
  • Understand the motive. The attempt to destroy what God designed is rebellion. Our core problem as humans is struggling against God’s authority. Throughout history, we’ve chosen to worship idols built with hands, deny His existence, and refuse His directives. Seeking human peer validation for something unnatural reveals the same motivation.
  • The home is vital. Our society depends on the home to build and shape character. Life experiences growing up have tremendous effects on adult life. We’re already seeing the implications of broken homes, and same-sex households will only continue the downward trend. 
  • Remember to love. There are no special categories of sin or sinners. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Some sins have greater consequences, but we all need God’s grace and forgiveness equally. The truth of scripture should be spoken in authentic love. There is forgiveness and acceptance to any who trust Christ as Lord (Romans 5:8 & 8:1, II Corinthians 5:17).

Defining Wealth

What does it mean to be wealthy? Many would say large financial resources, some would say it’s relative to others, and a few would consider the number of friends as a measurement. In Solomon’s monologue, he connects financial riches with anxiety, sleepless nights, and other things. So what does he suggests to focus on instead? Character.

Great character is a rare commodity and is defined by the attitude of the heart. Godly character determines our overall approach to life. In chapters 5 & 6, He gives us three specific areas.

 I. Our Attitude in Worship  

1Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. 2Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 NKJV

Walking prudently or “guarding your steps” is the image of being purposeful. Our approach in worship shouldn’t be flippant or casual (v.1). God is still Holy, Sovereign and Awesome! The proper perspective demands humility and respect. We should: 

  • Talk less and listen more (v.2)
  • Pray from the heart without empty repetition (see also Matthew 6:5-15)
  • Not make foolish promises to God (v.2) 

II. Our Attitude in Action 

“…a fool’s voice is known by his many words. 4When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed. 5Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin…” Ecclesiastes 5:3-6 

  • Be Diligent – The Bible instructs us not only to fulfill our commitments, but to do it timely. Following through on easy obligations is one thing, but the true measure is when it becomes tough. It’s easy now in our culture to “just walk away”, but God’s view hasn’t changed with modern laxity toward promises. As disciples of Christ, our “word” should matter, even if others’ doesn’t.
  • Count the Cost – The wise consider the long term effects of a decision. In Luke 14, Jesus compares following Him to building a tower and considering the total cost beforehand. Choices have consequences. Even though the Lord shows us tremendous grace through forgiveness, consequences can last a lifetime.

III. Our Attitude in Choosing Treasure 

“He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver…” (5:10a) 

  • What we love – you can fill in the blank with any item or activity and it will ultimately be true: “He who loves __________ will not be satisfied with ____________…” – What do you treasure?
  • What we see as good – Chapter 6, verses 3-6 tell us a man could live 2,000 years, but if he doesn’t recognize the goodness of God all around him, his life was wasted. A simple rule of thumb is to ask this question, “Based on scripture, what does God value?” and then choose to value the same. – What do you treasure? 

Once again Solomon is encouraging us to look higher, think deeper, and love more than the world around us. Let’s review his reflection in Ecclesiastes 2:24-26:

24 “There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from Him? – HCSB 

Make the choice today to find your joy in the Lord. He’s provided all we need, plus so much more! (II Peter 1:3-4)

Series: “What’s the Point of Life Anyway?” – Lesson 2

The Man Who had it All

Every few days I pass the Lottery counter at the grocery store. People are patiently waiting to hand over their hard earned money (or someone else’s) for the hope of happiness and the dream of having it all. So what comes with “it all”?

There is a man who actually did have it all, super-wealth, world-wide fame, adoring women, intellectual notoriety, and unbridled power. There was nothing left in the world’s treasure chest to be obtained. Sounds like bliss and fulfillment right? Not exactly. The man was Solomon, and he was unique. The Bible says in I Kings 3:12, God gave him wisdom like no person had before, or would have after him. He’s famous for wise sayings in Proverbs, but his commentary on life is in Ecclesiastes. So what were his thoughts, after enjoying “it all”.

He begins with “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless!” Then goes on to detail acquiring or experiencing all life could give, but ended up feeling the same as a fool who dies with nothing. He declares it all to be a “chasing after the wind”. It’s an interesting word picture…basically chasing something unpredictable, elusive, and ever-changing. The key question is, “How does this help us in daily life?” Well, he declares 4 basic problems all of us grapple with (1:1 – 2:23). Warren Wiesbe outlines them this way: 

  • The Monotony of Life
  • The Vanity of Wisdom
  • The Futility of Wealth
  • The Certainty of Death

Let’s briefly consider the first one in this post; the monotony of life. He transitions with these words in chapter 2:

24 “There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, 25 because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from Him?”– HCSB

So how do we “enjoy life” like he says? First, we must know Him as he says in verse 25. Who can enjoy life apart from Him? Knowing God through faith in Jesus is more than a good idea, it’s everything! It’s the starting point of seeing life from God’s perspective, and not our own. As followers of Christ, we’re to look for biblical precepts to guide our thinking. He advises us in chapter 3 to: 

I. Embrace God’s Order

“For everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” (3:1)

God’s creation has order and rhythms to it. Planting & harvesting, gaining & losing, speaking & listening, they all have their place. He made us a central part of the created order. Not as a celestial mystery like misguided mystics teach, but purposely made to know Him. A life focused on God, is one: 

  • Acknowledging His right to change things as He chooses
  • Looking for and praying for His working
  • Asking for His help in dealing with change

II. Be Content

Life is a gift (3:13) and not to be squandered. The old “stop and smell the roses” phrase fits, because life truly is fleeting. Verse 11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time”. If I’m not careful, I can speed right past a beautiful moment and completely miss the significance. One of my favorite parts of the day is morning coffee while the house is still asleep and quiet. I sit in our front room watching the morning begin and I listen. It’s amazing how a few moments of solitude with the Lord refreshes my soul, while He directs my thoughts to the daily blessings in front of me.

III. Look “Beyond the Sun”

At the beginning (Ch.1& 2) Solomon talks of things “under the sun”. Now he begins to move our attention beyond this life. Verse 15 of chapter 3 declares, “God requires an accounting”. He will open the books and see what’s there. What do we hope He finds? It’s not to see if I’m worthy of heaven, I’m not. Only Jesus’ sacrifice can justify me in that regard, but it’s measuring my obedience to Christ. Looking “beyond the sun” means fixing my eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12: 1-2), letting go of worldly trinkets, and pursuing goals with eternal value.

What are you doing today that has eternal significance?

Series: “What’s the Point of Life Anyway?” Lesson 1

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