Saturday, July 2, 2022

Beginning or End?


 

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz
 
Our immediate response to the Title question should be “Jesus is the Alpha AND the Omega.” He is the first, and He is the last; the beginning and the end. The Bible declares it several times, so why the question?

Solomon focuses in this chapter on what might be called opposites, and often the undesirable things in life come up first: Mourning rather than joy; sorrow rather than laughter. Sadness, mourning, and sorrow position us closer to bigger questions, more detailed heart searching, and crying out to God for help. Those that are joyful and comfortable often don’t find a need for God’s answers, but those in dire straits are asking questions that only God can answer!

With all that Solomon has written in the earlier chapters of this book, his insights in Chapter 7 are right on target. As Believers, we often hear that it is through the difficult times and trials when the Believer will grow in faith more than when he is at peace. If you have been a Christian for any length of time, your own experiences will bear this out. Such are the lessons we reminded of from King Solomon today.

This seems contrary to what we thought Christianity was when we first believed: New life, our needs provided, and good things in the future are powerful things to draw us to Christ. And then the Lord teaches us through His Word, and through our life circumstances. In hindsight, it is a journey that few of us would trade away, but it’s not likely what we expected when we first heard of the wonderful works of Jesus. Mystery and the unknown surround the beginning, but in the end our knowledge will be full. He will reveal all the mysteries to us.

Relinquishing human wisdom and adopting God’s, Solomon seems less fickle, less troubled and sad, more steadfast and aligned with the Father of us all.
“For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” ~ Proverbs 2:6


Today's Audio Message:
Ecclesiastes 7:1-29 - "Beginning or End?"

Summary/Notes:

The author of the book of Ecclesiastes looked for the meaning of life in many vain pursuits. He describes the feeling of emptiness he felt: “Meaningless! Meaningless! . . . Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). King Solomon had wealth beyond measure, wisdom beyond any man of his time or ours, hundreds of women, palaces and gardens that were the envy of kingdoms, the best food and wine, and every form of entertainment available. He said at one point that anything his heart wanted, he pursued (Ecclesiastes 2:10). Yet he summed up life “under the sun”—life lived as though all there is to life is what we can see with our eyes and experience with our senses—as meaningless. What explains this void? God created us for something beyond what we can experience in the here-and-now. Solomon said of God, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In our hearts we are aware that the “here-and-now” is not all there is.


In chapter 7 of Ecclesiastes, Solomon explains for us what makes for "better living" in this vain world.  
This chapter, as much of Ecclesiastes, reflects "the two ways" of life.

Psalm 1
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Looking back at the first six chapters of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher (Solomon) has shared with us his search for meaning in this life (1:1-2:24) and observations gleaned during the course of his search (3:1-6:12). He has repeated his conclusions time and again.. * Life "under the sun" is vanity - 1:2,14; 2:11 * Yet there is good that one can do, provided one is blessed by God - 2:24-26; 5:18-20.

In the remaining six chapters of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher shares his counsel through a mixture of proverbs and narration. He imparts wisdom designed to make the most of life "under the sun". In other words, while life under the sun is "vanity", how then should we live? 
Proverbs 9:10 - "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding."
Proverbs 8:13 - "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate."

The first half of chapter seven offers "counsel for better living" with a series of comparisons. For example, honor is better than luxury, your day of death is better than your day of birth, a funeral is better than a party, etc. His estimation of what is better may often sound strange, but it comes from who has learned from both experience as well as inspiration (1-14). The second half of the chapter offers "counsel for balanced living." There are challenging and difficult statements which should be understood in their context, and in the context of the Bible as a whole. It appears the Preacher is mainly warning against extremism, and against the presumption that one can find the answer to every question in life (15-29).


 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Common To Man: The Vanity Of Humanity




Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The short sixth chapter in the Book of Ecclesiastes reiterates many of the things King Solomon has already spoken of, but perhaps more pointedly here. The thing Solomon finds common among men is the vanity that pervades humanity, and everything that motivates the human heart.

His insights describe the condition of the masses. They also describe his own condition. All men have the same fate; it’s part of God’s plan. What sorrows, disappointments, or hardships must a man go through before he cries out to God? How much will it take to get mankind to see the futility of the worldly system of living day-to-day. Vanity prevails.

Solomon’s situation itself is perhaps the most troubling of anyone’s. Given all that he could ever want, he does not know how to make a living through work. Make no mistake: his words are as anointed as the Apostle Paul’s, or any other scribe of the Bible. Solomon knows that God is supplying his every need, but Solomon also sees the frustration of the masses, and hence, his own end on earth. It’s all emptiness. To what end is all of life’s effort? That a man should enjoy the fruits of his own labors?

There is a word common to much of scripture that’s absent from the Book of Ecclesiastes. That word is “praise.” It is also missing from The Song of Songs, and used sparingly in the Book of Proverbs, Solomon’s other two books of scripture.

For a man to be so blessed as Solomon, and to not reference his praise to God, seems contradictory. But to be raised in the house of the King? The entitled have been among us for many years.
“Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man poor man, beggerman, thief...”
Songwriter Josh Cohen wrote this for a song lyric.

Without the Holy Spirit, we are lumped together with all of these.


Today's Audio Message:
Ecclesiastes 6:1-12 - "Common To Man: The Vanity of Humanity"

Satisfaction is the state of being content, the feeling that one’s needs or wants are met. Satisfaction seems to be a rare condition in our world today, as many people express dissatisfaction with their jobs, their marriages, their circumstances, and themselves. The Bible teaches that finding satisfaction in life depends on having a relationship with God through Christ.

While looking back at his life, Solomon realizes that once he’s dead, once everyone is for that matter, everything a person has acquired is left behind. You can’t take it with you. Even more on point, both rich and poor end up in the ground just the same.

People chase after everything. They want and they get, yet they are never satisfied. They bypass the good for what they think is the best. Their insatiable appetite is wasted on wishing for things they don’t have. But in the end, none of the things we’ve tangibly built here go with us. People work so hard to prolong their lives, invest in the world but most don’t take that same amount of energy to invest in their own spiritual health and relationship with Jesus.

The human heart is like a whining toddler who, if left to himself, will never be satisfied (Matthew 15:19; Ecclesiastes 6:9; 9:3; Jeremiah 17:9). We tend to constantly demand more, more more! We want bigger, better, flashier!  We want to be the best, build the biggest, earn the most and be the wisest. But when our hearts are filled with the Holy Spirit, the demands of our hearts can be brought under His control (Galatians 5:16–17). We recognize that God has provided all we need for our present happiness, and we can, therefore, experience satisfaction. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10).

When we recognize that our Creator created us with a purpose, and that is to simply to reflect the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 5:20), we will be satisfied. When we make it our goal to live for Christ, the result is a satisfaction that carries into eternity. Even when enduring life's struggles, our souls know this state is temporary and our eternal satisfaction is just ahead. “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11; cf. Matthew 6:19–21).






Saturday, June 18, 2022

Holy Ground



Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

“Keep Thy Foot” ~ From this phrase in the opening verse of Chapter 5 we continue through the Book of Ecclesiastes. Though it may seem vague as it stands by itself, the directive cross-references to Exodus 3:5, as Moses approaches a Burning Bush to see the strange sight of a bush afire, but not being consumed by the flames.
“Draw not nigh thither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground,”
As Moses approached the miraculous sight, he heard these words. The presence of God was there in the fiery bush. to “keep thy foot” has a powerful meaning. As in the case of today’s study, the phrase prefaces the whole chapter. Watch where you are walking, Sacred places are sacred because of God’s presence. Let our words be few, because as we approach the Lord, we do not want to bring the filth of the world into our meeting place. The sacredness extends to wherever God abides.

Our God is a holy God, and a consuming fire, but not a destructive one. As He did with Isaiah, God wants our lips purged of worldly speech to bring His holiness forth from our lips. It is life changing to know what God’s desires and plans are for us, and once such changes begin, the process continues throughout our lives on Earth. It is called sanctification.

It is the holy work of God as He brings us from death to life, and it is continual as Paul states in Philippians 1:6. It is also the mark of a true believer as they go through the perfecting changes towards God’s will for them. The new fruit of their lives will give testimony that the Lord Himself is actively at work in their lives.

The Believer feels it personally, and can recognize it in others, giving credence to the fact that we can recognize in others what’s going on in our own hearts, and we are able to relate to one another with loving compassion, empathy, patience, and love (all gifts of the Spirit!).
“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”Philippians 1:6

Today's Audio Message:
Ecclesiastes 5:1-20 - "Holy Ground"

Summary/Notes:

The apostle Paul described true worship perfectly in Romans 12:1-2

12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

In Proverbs 9:10, Solomon wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” What does he mean by fear? The fear of the Lord is having a holy reverence of who He is. As Pastor Bob has said many times, “God is God, there is no other.” God is the Creator and Sustainer of ALL life. He is all powerful, all knowing, and all present.

In chapter 5 of Ecclesiastes, Solomon begins to instruct us on how we are to approach God with careful humility, guarding our steps. Our attitude when going to the house of God should be an open heart to hear and receive what He has to say to us with a willingness to obey His word, not the other way around.  No longer are we to conform to this world, we are in the process of being transformed and renewed by His Spirit. (Romans 12:2). He's not interested in our ceremonial sacrifices, but our hearts.  In 1 Peter 2:5, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."   We are designed for the purpose of offering up acceptable sacrifices to God.  Not animal sacrifices of old, but "spiritual" sacrifices:  Prayer (Rev. 8:4).  Giving (Philippians 4:18).  Praise (Hebrews 13:15). Good Work and Sharing What We Have (Hebrews 13:16; Ephesians 2:8-10). Ourselves (Romans 12:1). 

God is awesome and worthy of our praise. He can be trusted with our prayers, our resources, our praise, our works and our lives. 

The lessons of life will fall into place when we learn that God is God, and He is in charge of life. Let Him be in charge of your life.

Life is God's gift, never forget that.  Life in Him is never a drudgery, but a joy.  Take pleasure in God's calling in your life.  We are blessed to have His joy which makes our labor easy, and our afflictions light. When we are obedient to His Word, we will make proper use of what He gives us.  Life and its enjoyments should be used consistently with His will and to His glory...ALWAYS.

"Labor not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life"  John 6:27  Jesus is that Bread of Life, only He can satisfy our longing souls. Seekin


"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33





Saturday, June 11, 2022

Problem: No Comforter



Bobservations Column

Pastor Bob Lawrenz

As we open up the fourth chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon again ventures into his own thoughts and conclusions about life on this earth. One phrase stands out early in the chapter: “They had no comforter...”

The New Testament describes The Comforter, and His role in our lives: to teach us all things, and to remind us of whatsoever Jesus has said. You will find the description in John 14:26, and the Comforter is there identified as the Holy Spirit of God.

While the English word “comforter” is translated from the Greek word “parakletos,” the word is also translated later on scripture as “advocate” in First

John 2:1, and there it is Christ Himself as the advocate for Believers. The versatile application of the word lends itself to the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit being One (John 14:16, 18, 20, and then 26). “I will ask the Father to send you another comforter… "I will come to you” is a promise for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to come and be with us. (Immanuel: God with us; Isaiah 7:14)

It goes without saying that an advocate is someone who comes along side to advise us, and to guide and comfort us in trials. It is most comforting to know, and to have an assurance that we, as Believers, are not alone in this world, ever!

This same “parakletos” took on the form of a dove coming down and alighting upon Jesus when He was baptized by John, and He is the same parakletos that will indwell our hearts when we ask Jesus to send Him. In the passage that tells us of John baptizing Jesus, we find all members of the Trinity present in those verses (Matthew 3:16,17).

Solomon’s words remind me of Paul’s teachings in Corinth in Acts 19:2. While teaching the church there:

“he said to them: Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
Did Solomon know nothing about the Holy Spirit, in spite of God blessing him with His wisdom? The prayers of his father David reveal something different, as we shall read in our Reading for this morning.
“Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” - Deuteronomy 6:4,5


Today's Audio Message:
Ecclesiastes 4:1-16 - "Problem: No Comforter"

This chapter continues with the theme of finding meaning in a broken sinful world. It begins by analyzing how the strong take advantage of the weak. It’s an issue and question that people still explore today. In fact, Solomon concludes, like Job, that in many situations it is better to be dead than to suffer through life. This is especially telling considering that in chapter 3 he explored the uncertainty of what happens after death.

Solomon's examination of the apparent anomalies and contradictions that confront our lives every day continues in Ecclesiastes 4. Walter Kaiser, an Old Testament Bible scholar, describes the progression of thought from chapter 3 to chapter 4 as follows:

· Unrighteousness is in the halls of justice (Ecclesiastes 3:16-17).

· Men and beasts can be alike (Ecclesiastes 3:18-21).

· People can be oppressed (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3), rivalrous (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6), and isolated (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12).

· Popularity is temporary (Ecclesiastes 4:13-16).

In other words, people long for comfort, but oppression reigns. We long for rest, but competition saturates. We need companionship, yet isolation consumes. We long for permanence, but everything in this life is of a limited duration.

People fill their thoughts and plans with themselves as they constantly work out how to navigate the world in a way that will give meaning and happiness. The Holy Spirit is our divine advocate and teacher (John 16:5-15). He applies God's Word to our lives. We must arm our minds with the Word of God and bolster ourselves through Christian companionship.

We who are in Christ will never be without a comforter. One of Jesus’ most precious promises to His disciples was: “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16, KJV). The “Comforter” promised to us is the Holy Spirit (see John 14:26). The Holy Spirit is with us, leading us, guiding us through any adversity that we may face in this fallen world.

For those in the world today without the gift of the Holy Spirit (who is given to all God’s children), the oppression of men can be unbearable. The responsibility is upon us, who have the Comforter, to be comforters to the oppressed who do not have the Comforter. May the comfort of the Holy Spirit overflow out of our lives upon those who need His comfort: that they, through the comfort we give, may find life bearable; that they themselves may seek the comfort of the Holy Spirit by turning to the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.

In conclusion, we find that obedience to God is greater than achievements, and along the same line relationships are greater than accomplishments. People place great value in their own accomplishments, yet they are never truly satisfied. In the end, there is very little gained. From a Biblical perspective, our relationship with Christ is far more important than anything we obtain in this life, for only He can truly satisfy our deepest needs.   











Saturday, June 4, 2022

There Is A Season


Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

We come today one of the most familiar and beloved passages of the Bible. King Solomon’s insights give credence to his wisdom and understanding. After reading of his difficulties and disappointments in the first two chapters of The Book of Ecclesiastes, we read in this chapter how he has set things a-right, at least in his own mind and heart.

It was in the late 1950’s that folk singer/song writer Pete Seger borrowed the first eight verses of Ecclesiastes 3 to use in his song, “TURN, TURN, TURN.” The song was released by a number of different singers, but it was in 1965 that the song hit the top of the Music Charts when a music group named “The Byrds” released it on one of their albums. Their rendition of the song would be played several times each day by radio stations committed to “Pop” Music. If you were alive during the 60’s and 70’s, you have most certainly heard The Byrds sing Solomon’s words.

But before we give credit to either Solomon or to The Byrds for this passage of the Bible, we must give all credit to God’s Holy Spirit for putting these words in Solomon’s heart, and for Solomon to put them to pen and paper about 977 B.C.

The result of God’s words here is an understanding that He is in control of all things, and every event. The changes in our lives keep us from a mundane existence, and teach us to be flexible in all our doings. The monotony of “same old-same old” would dull our senses and give us nothing different to ever look forward to; hope would be lost.

Our times are a testimony of God’s all-encompassing power and authority in heaven and on Earth.
“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Today's Audio Message:
Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 - "There Is A Season"

Summary/Notes:

God has a plan for His people. It’s always been there and stands even to the end of this life we live. Through Solomon’s words, we realize very simply that life is filled with cycles. Cycles of joy and sorrow, cycles of life and death, or even at times the monotony of things all are part of our earthly experiences. Many times the things we encounter through the life we live walk us through the shadow of death. Death of not only a person but death of things that were once important. He uses these things to draw us past the barriers we face to trust Him.

For as Solomon pens, “He makes everything beautiful in its time”, his point is all the experiences we encounter from the good or the bad is still in the hand or oversight of God. There is a discovery through all of the things life throws at us,  a peace only which can be found in our trusting Him. For this speaks to the mysterious and perfect timing of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 serves as a bridge between the first two chapters and the section that follows. People are to accept each day as a gift from the hand of God (2:24–26). Why? Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 explains it is because God has a reason and a time for all things. People may be ignorant of God’s timing (3:9–11), but they are called to enjoy life in the present (3:12–13) and trust in God’s sovereignty (3:14–15).

God offers much wisdom in the saying, “There is a time for everything, / and a season for every activity under the heavens.” God is sovereign. Our activity in this world is meaningful as we rely on His wisdom, His timing, and His goodness.

What we must realize is the seasons of life Solomon portrays are not confined by duration. Time can be measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc. Therefore, what we experience can stay for a short period of time or last longer than we anticipate. The more important issue is how we will respond to the season of life we find ourselves in.

If we can learn to find the blessings in trials and be aware of the trials in blessings, we will more easily embrace whatever season comes our way, trusting in God's Word as our source of strength, because "
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9).

He longs for intimacy with us and will stop at no expense to pursue us to the ends of the earth because He loves us unconditionally. For His love fuels His will for us, and the seasons we face are simply a means of His sanctifying power and purpose in our lives if we submit to His authority and obey His Word without excuse or reservation.

God makes our appointments. He is involved in all the details of our lives. Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 contains 7 statements that cover all of our lives. We all go through the same things to differing degrees. One author said, "Solomon begins here to put together the big picture of life and the individual smaller parts of life to explain why our lack of control over either is the very thing that should give us hope."

We are enclosed in time, but God is not (2 Peter 3:8). Everything He does, lasts (Eccl 3:14). Life has rhythm like nature does (see chapter 1). We experience good and bad and in-between. God has a purpose for each of these details as the Master Planner. His Providence means his ability to see ahead. God lives in a constant present and sees all. He observes our faithfulness within our daily routine and how we handle the unexpected.

There is a distinction between humanity and animals in what follows this life. We will be held accountable and our souls will dwell in eternity. God will deal with us. Unless we know and have the assurance of eternal life we’ll never have real joy in our lives today. There is a freedom a joy in our work when we realize this is not all there is. Why? Because when it’s not going well we have hope of something greater and when it is going well we know it is but a shadow of what is to come! If God is sovereign over all time, he puts eternity into our hearts, has a purpose even in allowing injustice to occur, and He holds our eternal destiny of our souls in His hands we can have gratitude, worship, and enjoyment in our life now.

 


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