Ecclesiastes 9 I have seen something els

Ecclesiastes 9

I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all, v11.

There are no guarantees in life. You may think you are in control but then something happens and you realise you are far from it.
The old man reflects and realises that the fast don’t always own the race, the strong don’t always succeed etc.
Life is not so predictable.
In 2001 Rudy Giuliani was a failed New York City mayor with a failing marriage. In the aftermath of September 11 he was declared “2001 Person of the Year”.
At the same time Ted Olson was the up and coming star in the U.S. as Solicitor General of the U.S. But the world watched him bury his wife, a passenger on
American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.
One man weak who became strong. One strong who through no fault of his own was weakened by disaster.
With such unpredictability doesn’t it further show that the sooner we put our life into the hands of God the better?
So today, realise anything could happen, shocks and surprises are ahead of us, so give your life, your desires and decisions to the One who is never shocked and is always in control.

Ecclesiastes 8 Solomon had looked at eve

Ecclesiastes 8

Solomon had looked at everything and found nothing or no one who made life meaningful.
In this chapter he looks at the power found under the sun.
He sees the power of those in authority, v2-6. He concludes that the only thing we should do is to obey. If you choose not to then you will be punished. Even if you disagree with the king you should view him as a man under God for God’s purpose, v2. For all those working for a difficult boss today this is no doubt encouraging. Though for Solomon in his generation he could find no one who could say,”You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”
He sees the power within the storms of life, v7-8. This morning, the news in the UK is all about last night’s storm. No one had the power to stop it. Maybe you are waking to a storm of life today. I hope you are not like Solomon who could find no one who could rebuke and quieten the storm.
He sees the power of those who arrogantly bully others, v9-10. There are many in the hands of a dictator, of a manipulator, abused by the strength and pride of the big-shot. It would seem that to get to the top in a career you have to walk over the many. It is all under the sun and we have seen it. For Solomon, he had not seen any one who on being a lord did not lord it over others. He had not witnessed true servant-leadership.
Today you may be experiencing one of these or all three powers. But you are different to Solomon. Life is not meaningless. For you have met the One who has showed us all how to obey, how to survive and how to lead.
You have found wisdom. You know His name.

Ecclesiastes 7 Sorrow is better than lau

Ecclesiastes 7

Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart, v3.

I am known for my optimism, for being positive and happy.
But those who really know me also see sadness in my eyes. Over the years missions has ruined me. It has brought me to the place of embracing frustration and sadness into my heart. I laugh so easily, however, tears come without warning. This is who I am. Very unpredictable! But the Great Commission did this. Let me explain.

The authors of the book “When helping hurts” explain how the World Bank tried to alleviate world poverty in the 1990s. They asked the poor from 60 low-income countries this question: what is poverty? Here are some of the answers:
From Guinea-Bissau: “When I don’t have any [food to bring my family], I borrow, mainly from neighbours and friends. I feel ashamed standing before my children when I have nothing to help feed the family. I’m not well when I’m unemployed. It’s terrible.”
From Uganda: “When one is poor, she has no say in public, she feels inferior. She has no food, so there is famine in her house; no clothing, and no progress in her family.”
From Moldova: “For a poor person everything is terrible—illness, humiliation, shame. We are cripples; we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone. No one needs us. We are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of.”

Today the Christian doesn’t need to go overseas to see poverty, they just need to come out of the churches and walk across the street. But the further you journey you will see an increase not just in the lack of essentials that we take for granted, but that also of shame, inferiority, powerlessness and a voiceless humiliation. The journey you make doesn’t have to be physical it can be that of awareness.
I appeal to you today to get involved in the Great Commission. To become missional. To embrace sadness into your happiness.
Solomon says it is good for you.

Ecclesiastes 6 Everyone’s toil is for th

Ecclesiastes 6

Everyone’s toil is for their mouth, yet their appetite is never satisfied, v7.

Solomon had it all: wealth, possessions and honour.
But he also had something which he describes as an evil.

We may wonder at all the evils in the world. The things that man does to man are at times nothing short than wicked. They originate in hell and they belong there. Solomon says he has found another evil: dissatisfaction.
Having it all, having hundreds of children, living for 2,000 years and yet if the person is still dissatisfied it is an evil thing.

If you think you deserve it and you ought to have it you won’t be happy till it comes and when it is finally yours you won’t be thankful when you have it. This is the evil.

It is the ones who have that are dissatisfied the most. This is the evil.

Dissatisfaction, an evil? Really?

Yes, because God gave this insatiable appetite for Him. When it is not for Him it immediately gets transferred to things, people, creations of the mind, to things that then become idols and gods, to yourself, toiling for your mouth.

This is not God’s plan, it has been spoilt. This is evil.

Being a Christian is replicating God’s incredible desire for us by loving and wanting Him, we were created for such. To do anything else is evil.

Ecclesiastes 5 There are so many today w

Ecclesiastes 5

There are so many today with big dreams and big faith-talk to match. It would appear, certainly if you’re a leader, that to not have a dream makes you deficient in some way. Once you get a dream it is a must to make it known. Put it on paper, speak it out, claim it by faith. So we are taught.

Now I am a firm believer in having a purpose and a plan for life and not to wander aimlessly. Author and poet, Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) rightly advises of the tension that can exist in us all.
“There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud”.

I don’t want to be a person without vision. But there are some wild and wacky plans out there.
A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool, v3.

The old man brings some wisdom that he has learnt.

To dream when you have problems is like a fool who says too much which he will later regret.
Not all dreams are healthy, Godly, or possible.
Our cares belong to God not fuelled into dreams.
Dreams can be nothing more than hallucinations based on personal gain if they come from problems.

Solomon says be quiet, don’t be hasty, learn to listen, less words the better.
It is in this place of quietness and trust, of fear and silence that the dreams of God are conceived.

Ecclesiastes 4 There was a man all alone

Ecclesiastes 4
There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. v8

Every man should have a son. I mean someone younger whose life you are helping to shape by encouragement, directing and praying.
Every man should have a brother. I mean someone who you can be accountable to, who will not let you hide and who will ask you the tough questions.
Without a son and a brother every man is alone.
There is a worse scenario though. This is the man without son or brother and without a friend also, “no friend to help him up”, v10.
There are some that are only friends for the sunshine, it takes the clouds of life to blow them away and then you are left with your true friends. Adversity, mistakes and failures will prove your true friend.
Jim was just a little older than his best friend Phillip and often assumed the role of leader, they did everything together. They even went to high school and college together.
After college they decided to join the marines. By a unique series of circumstances they were sent to Germany together where they fought side by side.
One sweltering day during a fierce battle, they were given the command to retreat. As the men were running back, Jim noticed that Phillip had not returned with the others. Jim begged his commanding officer to let him go after his friend, but the officer forbade the request.
Risking his own life, Jim disobeyed and went after Phillip. His heart pounding, he ran into the gunfire, calling out for Phillip. A short time later, his platoon saw him hobbling across the field carrying a limp body in his arms.
Jim’s commanding officer upbraided him, shouting that it was a foolish waste of time and an outrageous risk. “Your friend is dead,” he added, “and there was nothing you could do.”
“No sir, you’re wrong,” Jim replied. “I got there just in time. Before he died, his last words were ‘I knew you would come.'”
Loneliness is no son, brother or friend.

Ecclesiastes 3 “There is nothing better

Ecclesiastes 3

“There is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work” v22
Do you enjoy your work?
Enjoy is a strange word.
I don’t think Bishop Peters of All Saints Church of Peshawar, Pakistan, is enjoying his work right now.
I don’t think Pastors around the world dealing with the evil that man does to man on a daily basis say they enjoy their work.
I don’t think Christians who face being bullied and ostracised at work because of their faith are enjoying their jobs.
Can we enjoy such work?
Perhaps enjoyment is found in realising two truths:
a) There is a time for everything.
b) There is a God in the centre of it all.
There is a time for everything: There were three sisters—ages 92, 94, and 96—who lived together. One night, the 96-year-old drew a bath. She put one foot in, then paused. “Was I getting in the tub or out?” she yelled. The 94-year-old hollered back, “I don’t know, I’ll come and see.” She started up the stairs, but stopped on the first one. She shouted, “Was I going up or coming down?”The 92-year-old was sitting in the kitchen having tea, listening to her sisters with a smirk on her face. She shook her head and said, “I sure hope I never get that forgetful,” and knocked on the wooden table for good measure. Then she yelled, “I’ll come up and help both of you as soon as I see who’s at the door.” Every experience has had a start and it will have an end. This season will come to an end.
There is a God in the centre of it all: He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, v11. The timeless God is present here right now in your work, working in time all things together for good.
We live, we work, we die, we enjoy only because God is here.
Yes. It is possible to enjoy.

Ecclesiastes 2 The old man Solomon testi

Ecclesiastes 2

The old man Solomon testifies that he had denied himself nothing, achieved everything a man could achieve, had every pleasure possible, he got to the very top and when he did there was nothing there. All that was ahead was the same thing that a man who had wasted his life had waiting for him: death.
“So I hated life” v17
Thank God for this old man. I have always learnt more from the struggler than those who have lived in perpetual victory.
Solomon, I don’t want to hate life. I want to enjoy it. I don’t want my life to be meaningless.
The Count of Monte Cristo tells the story of Dantes who is unjustly accused and sentenced to life in France’s most dreaded prison. After 13 years he escapes, but has been unwilling to talk with Mercedes, the woman to whom he was engaged before he went to prison. Thinking that she betrayed him, he does not realize that she never stopped loving him over the years. At the end of the movie, Mercedes finds him and seeks to reconcile with him. “Let it go, Edmond,” she pleads. “Let it go. I don’t know what dark plan lies within you. Nor do I know by what design we were asked to live without each other these 16 years. But God has offered us a new beginning—don’t slap his hand away.” “God! Can I never escape him?” “No,” Mercedes says. “He is in everything.”
Solomon found that “without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” v25
In order not to hate life, God must be in everything.
Martin Luther was approached by a working man who wanted to know how he could serve God. Luther asked him, “What is your work now?” The man said, “I’m a shoemaker.” Much to the cobblers surprise, Luther replied, “Then make good shoes and sell them at a fair price.”
God in my work. God in my rest. God in my leisure. God in my everything. For without Him there can be no enjoyment.

Ecclesiastes 1 This book was written at

Ecclesiastes 1

This book was written at the latter part of Solomon’s life. The Bible shows us a spiritually fallen Solomon. He moved away from the worship of God to that of the idols of his many foreign wives.
These are not the words of an angry young man. These are not the words of an atheist or a hedonist seeking pleasure as the ultimate goal in life. These are the words of a much older man who has risen to the top and fallen to the bottom. He has known great successes and equal failure and disappointments. He is sobered by his own actions of which he never thought was possible. He writes this book to show that he is now back. After a period of searching for understanding of this life he has found it. However, he begins with, “Meaningless!”
I was king.
I was devoted to learning.
I have seen it all.
I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone.
I have experienced much.
I have given myself to wisdom and foolishness.
It is a chasing after the wind. It is pointless. It has no meaning.
Why am I here?
Greta Christina, a writer and atheist wrote an article in the ‘Skeptical Inquirer’ entitled, “Comforting Thoughts about Death That Have Nothing To Do With God”.
“The fact that your life span is an infinitesimally tiny fragment in the life of the universe, that there is, at the very least, a strong possibility that when you die, you disappear completely and forever, and that in 500 years nobody will remember you can be a profound and defining truth about your existence that you reflexively repulse. It can make everything you do, and anything anyone else does, seem meaningless. It can make you feel erased, wipe out joy, make your life seem like ashes in your hands”.
A 21st century atheist and a 1st BC believer struggling with hope.
We know who finds it. The next 11 days the old man will lead us to find it for ourselves.

Proverbs 31 The good woman: A manager, i

Proverbs 31

The good woman: A manager, industrious, skilful, shrewd, enterprising, kind, giving, a counsellor, a mother, pleases her husband and has a strong faith in God.
As a man, I like this list. I approve of it!
I wonder how many married, single, mothers, childless women have made the Proverbs 31 woman their aim in life.
I wonder how many have become disappointed.
I wonder how many men are not married because they are waiting to find this Proverbs 31 woman.
I wonder how many married men are disappointed.
Finally, I wonder how many women are lined up in heaven waiting to give this mother of King Lemuel a slap!
However, the mother did tell her son that this kind of woman is hard to find.
We might want to add … nigh impossible!
How do you find perfection? Who is perfect?
Even this perfect woman’s list isn’t perfect. There is little advice on the relationship between the wife and her husband.
So maybe it will never be possible to be the perfect.
I feel quite happy to leave being perfect to someone else because I know I will never achieve it. Is it not better to let the perfect One be perfect and for us to live in the shadow of that perfection?
Let’s not tear out the list.
Let’s just aim to be the shadow.
The shadow is not that of the image of a woman.
The shadow is that of the cross: an image more beautiful than the Proverbs 31 woman.