Intro to Ecclesiastes

It’s not 100% known, but it is thought that King Solomon is the author of Ecclesiastes.

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

16 I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.”

Ecclesiastes 1:1, 16 (ESV)

You can also read this language in 1 Kings:

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

1 Kings 3:10-14 (ESV)

An interesting note: The name of the book, Ecclesiastes, refers to an assembly or gathering. The word in verse one translated as “Preacher” above could also be referred to as a Convener – one who gathers an assembly (or convention) together.

Lastly, there are going to be parts of Ecclesiastes that seem contradictory, but they aren’t necessarily so. The circumstances often determine whether you turn one way or the other, or whether you respond or not respond.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 1:11 (ESV)

A phrase from my Bible study this morning that really struck me:

If we could understand God, then He’s not big enough.

We’re not supposed to understand the mysteries of God, despite being given minds that are hard wired to try and figure things out. That’s where faith comes in.

Matthew 2 Notes

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,

Matthew 2:1 (ESV)
  • There were at least two wise men, perhaps more. It’s not known how many or what their names were.
  • Wise men = magi = scholars / astronomers
  • Herod was an Eodmite. Jewish by geography, but not really a Jew. He was put into power by Rome.

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:11 (ESV)
  • This visit did not happen in the stable at the manger when Jesus was born. It happened in “the house” which was likely a cave.
  • Joseph not mentioned. It is likely that he was out working, or he’s simply not mentioned.

And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Matthew 2:12 (ESV)
  • This is the second dream in Matthew’s Gospel. In Luke’s Gospel, there’s a few more recorded. God is doing a lot of communicating during this season after 400 years of silence.
  • God is present and making His plan happen.

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

Hosea 11:1 (ESV)

Israel is Jacob and is the nation of God’s people called out of Egypt. Israel is more than just a location.

The purpose of the Exodus was to create a new nation of God’s people to be a model of God’s perfect kingdom on earth, but they failed. They rebelled. Then, Jesus came. Again, God calls his son out of Egypt. Jesus is the perfect model of God’s kingdom on earth. Jesus did all the things that Israel went through to do it right – even going into the wilderness. Where Israel failed in the wilderness, Jesus did it perfectly right.

Jesus is the light to the world. If we are not shining the light of Jesus into the world, we have failed. The world is going to be the world, but the church (God’s people) are called to be different. Our focus should not be on changing the world, but on our relationship with Christ so that we are changed. As we are changed, then the world is changed.

Breath: making room for Sabbath

Slavery inventory: What holds control over me? What do I have a hard time saying no to?

  • Working (but I love my job!)
  • GTD, actually doing and the tools to do the things
  • Social Media
  • Procrastination
  • Overthinking
  • Family

Some of these aren’t great, but many of them are good things!

Sabbath Principle

“The Sabbath principle can keep these things from bossing us around, controlling our lives, and becoming masters over us… it’s the key to freedom.”

Priscilla Shirer, Breath

Sabbath rest is a healthy boundary. Sabbath in Hebrew is Shabbat = to cease, stop, pause, to come to an end.

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

Genesis 2:2 (ESV)

God had Sabbath rest in mind from the beginning. Creation wasn’t completed until rest was created. Not just “not doing” rest, but tranquility, serenity, and peace.

“Rest was the capstone of creation and without it the universe would be incomplete.”

Priscilla Shirer, Breath

Rest is active. You have to chose rest. You have to really commit to it and create space for it. Rest guards our hearts in Christ Jesus. In other words, to allow space for rest, I must be intentional in creating margin throughout my life.

“Margin in families creates memories. Margin in our personal finances creates generosity. Margin in our friendships creates significance and impact. Margin in our lives overall creates options. Options to pursue dreams, think, pray, relax, meditate, process, grow, and ultimately live life more fully.”

Brad Lomenick (from Breath, by Priscilla Shirer)

When rest gets labeled at lazy or causes guilty feelings…

I grapple with a chronic pain condition. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve learned when to rest, which is often, and when to take it slow, which is often. I’ve been accused (by those who don’t know) of being lazy, but I know how much work it takes to arrange all this required rest and still get some things done. I wasn’t hurt by this accusation because they really don’t know. However, I do wonder how to best respond in kindness without discussing my medical condition in nauseous detail. Do I respond at all?

The fact is, I do often feel guilty about not being able to keep up with my own ambitions. I build rest in, but I often view it as wasting time even though I obviously need it! Perhaps it is a matter of focus? I’m focused on the stuff I’d rather be doing rather than God.

Sometimes I ponder how to make rest more productive! Craft, read, study, write, pray… Am I just trying to fill a void? I’m beginning to determine there’s a difference in Sabbath rest and rest. Both are needed, but only one is driven by a focus on God and drawing closer to Him. It doesn’t take much thinking to know that Sabbath rest is better.

Why do I try to keep so busy?

Yeah, that’s the question! Let’s see… I don’t know how to be still. I feel useless if I’m not producing. I feel this weird need to prove myself – not to anyone in particular, but maybe to myself. I’m seeking the satisfaction of tasks that are done and done well (recognized or not).

Rest and margin is not just a principle of time, but applies to other areas of life as well, like finances and stuff/clutter.

“The very essence of the Sabbath principle – to cease, stop striving, and trust – went completely against their nature, making it extremely difficult… they needed to practice the discipline of freedom. A change in their hearts would be the result of practical changes in their lifestyle.”

Priscilla Shirer, Breath

he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’”

Exodus 16:23 (ESV)

This verse is the first time that the word Sabbath is used. It is proposing a huge lifestyle change for these slaves just liberated from Egypt. It was a lifestyle change intended to change their hearts.

A Sign to All God’s People

My notes from the sermon:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (ESV)

Immanuel = God with us.

To us, this is a sign of hope and salvation. To others, this is a sign of judgement & wrath.

Ahaz was a bad man and a bad king. He was seeking an alliance with Assyria – a much stronger nation, but God told him not to trust Assyria but to trust Him. God’s message was essentially be patient, follow the Lord, and be faithful and His commands. Trust the Lord.

Ahaz refused.

The prediction of the child was pointing towards Jesus, but was an immediate prophecy marking the time “these things” would happen.

Jesus is the sign to us of God’s love. Our calling is to show to all people Jesus’ love through us as we are children of God.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him… Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

1 John 3:1, 18 (ESV)

Who “they” are does not change who we are. We are the sign for all people.

This brings to mind a scene in “the Chosen” (episode 4) where Jesus tells Simon to catch as many people as he can, all kinds, and that Jesus will sort them out later.

Joy of Returning

You want to see and feel the joy of returning? Check out this video of military personnel returning home to their loved ones.

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
    the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
    and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
    the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
    the majesty of our God.

Isaiah 35:1-2 (ESV)

Isaiah is encouraging God’s people for Jesus’ return – the ultimate joy of returning.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;

Isaiah 35:5-6 (ESV)

There are signs of what are yet to come and they are pointing to the salvation that Jesus is bringing to the world.

It is beyond our imagination or the words to describe, but Isaiah gives us a glimpse.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isaiah 35:10 (ESV)

It’s not just God returning, but also the ransomed of the Lord – us! The closest picture we have of this is the story of the prodigal son.

Joy is obtained, not inherent or natural. It’s obtained from God and reflects God’s joy over us.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

God’s joy is now. We don’t have to wait! Our duty (or calling) doesn’t steal our joy but can add to it because with God all things are possible.

MLC Sermon 12/13/2020

What’s your motivation?

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

Luke 15:11-32 (ESV)

The older son’s relationship with the father is based on obligation, whereas the younger son’s relationship basis transformed from selfish rebellion to humble submission. The father’s relationship with the sons is based on unconditional love.

There’s also a whole works vs. grace vibe in this story as well as obligation vs. sacrifice element. What is your motivation/attitude regarding the inheritance we receive from the Father?

Spiritual Qualities

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (emphasis added)

Faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love are all spiritual qualities that should be growing in every Christian out of our love for Jesus through the help of the Holy Spirit.

Weakness is Strength

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

This verse reminds me of the song “In Me” by Casting Crowns:

If you ask me to leap
Out of my boat on the crashing waves
If You ask me to go
Preach to the lost world that Jesus saves

I’ll go, but I cannot go alone
Cause I know I’m nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong

Cause when I’m weak, You make me strong
When I’m blind, You shine Your light on me
Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability
How refreshing to know You don’t need me
How amazing to find that you want me
So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me

If You ask me to run
And carry Your light into foreign land
If You ask me to fight
Deliver Your people from Satan’s hand

To reach out with Your hands
To learn through Your eyes
To love with the love of a savior
To feel with Your heart
And to think with Your mind
I’d give my last breath for Your glory

After reading the lyrics, another verse comes to mind:

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

Not Good Enough

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in the one point has become accountable for all of it.

James 2:10

Good people are good enough for the world’s standards, and even some religions. Being a good person alone just isn’t good enough by heaven’s standards. We need Jesus!

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

Double-Minded

he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:8

In context, this verse refers to praying in faith without doubt. I saw this scripture in a different light this morning. There’s a common phrase people use: “The ends justify the means.” This is not true. It cannot be true.

In God’s eyes, honest and good intentions (godly intentions) cannot be paved by dishonest means. Such a person is double-minded, unstable and doomed to fail.

So, honest ends cannot justify dishonest means.