Salvation Test

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.  – 1John 3:10

The NIV starts verse 10 out this way, ‘This is how we know’.  All throughout Scripture, obedience and love are the hallmarks of a true believer.  1 John 3:10 answers the question every believer should test themselves on: how do I know that I am saved?

God assures believers of their salvation through the Spirit. (1John 3:24)  A believer’s renewed heart compels them to obey the will of the Father in obedience to His word and to love God and others in deed and truth.  The presence of Christ in a believer is unmistakable to them over time.

And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. – 1John 3:24

Obedience and love.  Like all of Scripture, 1 John chapter 3 continues to return to these two hallmarks of a believer.  As you read through today’s Scripture: 1 John 3 and Psalm 41, be on the lookout for these.  As you enjoy the fellowship of Christ today, feel the Spirit leading you to obedience and love.  

If you have not committed your life to Christ, placed your trust in Him alone and repented from trusting in all other promises, imagine for a moment what your day would be like if you had.  Your whole life made new.  Ever going with a Companion who will reign in your heart and will never leave you.  A companion who is Master over all, King of Kings, who leads you beside still waters in righteousness, who makes you to lie down in green pastures. 

 

Refreshed

“Make room for us in your hearts” (2 Corinthians 7:2). Paul writes this toward the beginning of Chapter 7 of 2 Corinthians, and I just love it. First, a bit of context. It would never have occurred to me that some may not have welcomed Paul upon his arrival in Macedonia, where the Corinthian church was located. But many did not! In fact, Paul tells us, “Even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn – fighting without and fear within” (2 Corinthians 7:5). Paul and his companions were tired and troubled. Can you relate? I know I can.

It’s interesting to note how Paul responds when he is exhausted and stressed. First, he knows the source of his comfort: God. Next, Paul explains the means by which God comforted him: “(God) comforted us by the arrival of Titus”. Knowing Paul was stretched thin personally and professionally, God sent a brother in the faith to encourage him. Take a minute to think about when God has sent someone to you at a time when you really needed encouragement. I remember when I was going through a difficult time, my college roommate arrived on my doorstep – uninvited, after driving for an hour in the middle of a New England winter! And this was before cell phones – so she wasn’t even sure I’d be home! But she showed up. She listened. She encouraged me. She made me laugh. And when she left for work the next morning, I felt comforted. God sent her to me, knowing I needed encouragement.

Did you think of someone who encouraged you? Perhaps you might call or send them a quick text thanking them for comforting you.

Paul also notes that Titus himself was encouraged by the Corinthian people. The very people who Paul was ministering to encouraged the person sent to comfort Paul! Listen to what Paul writes: “And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.” (2 Corinthians 7:13) Could my friend possibly have been encouraged by me as well, as Titus was by the Corinthians? I’m not sure – I certainly was more focused on receiving than giving comfort at that time in my life. But maybe I did encourage her in some way, and maybe someone who encouraged you also received comfort from you, or those around you, at the same time.

Finally, Paul notes that he himself was encouraged when the Corinthian people encouraged Titus. Paul writes, “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you…so that I rejoiced still more.” (2 Corinthians 7:6-7) What a full-circle idea! Paul is troubled and tired. God sends Titus to encourage Paul. The Corinthians encourage Titus, and this fact also encourages Paul. Amazing!

How can we apply this to our own lives? First, we must look for ways that God wants to use us to comfort and encourage others. And when He calls us to do so, we must respond. Second – and this is perhaps even more difficult – we must be open to receiving comfort and encouragement. So many of us – me included – have a difficult time asking for help, or receiving it when it is offered. Perhaps if we consider the help a divine intervention from God, we will be more ready and willing to accept it, and allow ourselves to be refreshed.

Lost Letters

Have you ever talked with someone about things in their life that were hurting them? It could have been alcohol, drugs, abuse, lying, meanness… the list can go on.  Maybe you have taken it even a step further and intentionally took time to mentor, coach, or were directive and intentional about sharing steps to help lead that person to a place that would change their life for the positive. Prayerfully eternal changes.  Really, a life closer to God.

If you have children I know this is part of our daily parenting.  Besides our own children who we will leave our biggest impact on, who are you filling into? Who are you guiding, planting seeds of hope, and eternal future?  Personally,  I know I can and need to be more intentional in my conversations and recognize the need from others. To be more courageous in sharing God’s love. I plan to use some of the tips shared yesterday from Jillian in The Last Word is Love.

Next question, has there been a time where you were mentoring and it seemed like it had worked? Like it was all good.  Coaching success!  Then unfortunately, you find out they are back to their old ways.  The bad habit had crept back in and the pressures of our worldly desires or influences took hold and brought them back to where they were, maybe worse.  Then to top it off, the person you were pouring into was making negative comments about you and your motives.  I personally can relate, I’ve been on both sides of this fence.  Most of my younger years the wrong side of the fence. This is where Paul was when he started to write 2 Corinthians. Paul was feeling saddened, frustrated, displeased at the church he had founded just four years earlier. He thought they had listened and his previous letter giving specific instructions to moral issues. In this letter Paul shows courage to speak up to those who were slandering him and his ministry, Paul defends our God against those who were twisting the truth.

In referring to a couple study bibles on the themes for 2 Corinthians here are reflecting points as we read and reflect.

  • Suffering/Trials – Paul had experienced it all.  Suffering, persecution, he paid a price for service to Christ and the gospel. 2 Cor. 6:3-13,  2 Cor. 11:16 -33. Reminder – God is faithful. He will provide the strength we need for any trial.
  • Giving – 2 Cor. 8 and 9 Paul lays out detailed ways of giving. Reminder for us is our giving and generosity of whatever helps those in need and allows them to thank God.
  • Sound Doctrine/Apologetic’s – Paul shares how to represent Christ. The boldness to share the gospel and boast in the grace that we have all received.  Paul does all this with Love.  2 Cor. 12:7-10

As we read through 2 Corinthians notice how Paul affirms, defends, and stands up to false teachers. Corinth was full of people who wanted to do everything their own way.  Making others look bad by talking about them.  Paul reminds them, he reminds us, that they are a new creation, ambassadors for Christ. 2 Cor. 5:17-20.  That in all the stress, anxieties that they go through, that we go through, it is encouraging to know that God has a divine plan for us to be part of His eternal kingdom.  So our mission while in this temporal world is to point others that way and to please Him.  2 Cor. 5:9

I recently read that Paul had written 2 other letters to the Corinthians and now they are physically lost.  Let’s not lose these and their instructions for us.

 

Dear Father,

As we read your word today we pray for the courage of Paul to always want to please you.  To be ambassadors for you and to let others know about the grace you have given us and them. That these worldly desires that the Corinthians face and we face today are temporal, and that the indescribable gift of a “new creation” covered by Your love is available to everyone.  We pray for obedience in all we do and a heart that will boast of Your love and goodness always.  We pray to listen and follow Your will until the day you come to take us home to you. Amen

 

References:

Tyndale Life Applications Study Bible

The Jeremiah Study Bible

Follow Me

    “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.”  And he rose and followed him.  (Matthew 9:9)

     I’ve always been a planner.  September 1 has long been my favorite day of the year, coming just before the beginning of a new school year.  I grew up in New England, so our school year didn’t begin until after Labor Day weekend.   Labor Day itself would usually find me organizing my new school supplies and setting up my planner for the academic year.  I still love September 1  – after going to school for 17 years and then homeschooling for another 16, my love for the beginning of a new school year is probably here to stay.  For the past few years, though, I’ve also come to love the first of January, New Year’s Day, almost as much.  I love the beginning of a new calendar year filled with promise and dreams and plans.

So when I read Matthew 9, our text for today, in which Jesus calls to Matthew as he is working and says simply, “Follow me” – I’m amazed that Matthew simply dropped everything and walked away with Jesus.  I’m amazed, and maybe even a little uncomfortable!  Matthew was a tax collector, a man whose job involved important things like schedules and ledgers and money.  He was probably a planner, too, like me.  Yet Matthew didn’t even question Christ when He called to him to follow.  He didn’t ask, “May I just finish this one thing?”  He didn’t say, “Sure, but I have to come back next week for this reason.” Instead, Matthew stood up and simply walked away from the life he knew to follow a man he did not yet know.

To do as Matthew did would have been a challenge for me, to be sure, and in realizing this, it made me wonder if this step of obedience was difficult for Matthew as well.  I would imagine that it was.  Nonetheless, Matthew stood and followed, and in so doing he set a fine example for me – for all of us, really – to do the same.  In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Clearly, just as Christ called Matthew 2000 years ago, He calls us today – and he expects our response now to be the same as Matthew’s was then.

     Even though today is January 10, and we are already almost two weeks into the new year, I’m still in planning mode, still thinking about the new goals I’ve set for this year and working to make progress on them.  But my study of Matthew 9 has reminded me of Jeremiah 29:11, in which God reminds us that, “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  God has plans for me – and for you – that far surpass any I have for myself.  So in order to follow Him well, I need to approach any plan I make by first seeking God’s  input and His guidance.  Each plan I make and every goal I set should be placed before Him first, filtered through His perfect plan for me.  I encourage you to do the same!  May we all follow Him well, together.

With a little help from my friends

I love writing for Bible Journal! This experience has caused me to view every situation in my life as a story and reflect on how Jesus is part of that story, with the potential to share that story on this site. God is at work in all things… ALL THINGS! He is mighty and perfect, and he loves us more than we can comprehend! Where do you see God at work in your life? Not sure? Take a moment and pray; humbly ask him to show you where he is at work. I believe if you truly want to know, and truly seek him, he will show you and answer this prayer.

Today’s reading includes Acts 2 which was the focus of my very first post, and today’s post is going to be a follow-up. Here’s a link in case you’ve not read it, or if you’d like to read it again under different circumstances: Cut to the Heart

Cut to the Heart ended with Acts 2:38, where the believers were promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. Here’s what happened after the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. (Acts 2:42-44)

What touches me here is that the believers while filled with the spirit became so selfless that they either gave away or pooled together all of their possessions. I think about people in my life who I’m honored to call “friend” and see this playing out. They freely give their time and even their possessions to others and me. They listen and obey God’s voice.

Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, (Jeremiah 11:4b)

How does God speak to us? Can we hear his voice? In the Old Testament God spoke through prophets and today he uses his Holy Spirit. One of the many mistakes I have made in my life was that while I claimed to be a christian, I had no relationship with God. I didn’t read the Bible, prayed only when it would benefit me, and didn’t seek God’s direction until something big came up. No wonder why I didn’t seem to hear an answer; there was no relationship. God was listening, I wasn’t. God wanted a relationship, I was selfish.

Having a relationship with God the Father, his son Jesus, and The Spirit is a result of active participation; listening, obeying, seeking, yielding. I was reminded of King David today by my mom and how he faced countless adverse situations but had tremendous faith. In 2 Samuel 5:17-25, David followed this pattern:

  1. Inquired of the Lord as to what he should do. (verses 19, 23)
  2. Obeyed God’s voice. (verses 20, 25)

How beautiful it is when we live this out today as we inquire to the Lord, listen, and then obey. It is very evident in my close relationships where there is an obedience to God. Special thanks to some of those impactful friends recently whether it be through prayer, listening, kind words, or acts of service: Amy, Mike, BJ, Duane, Rick, my mom, my sisters Marne and Katie. Your obedience is bearing good fruit. Thank you!!!

Joshua 22; Acts 2; Jeremiah 11; Matthew 25

Extra Credit:

  1. Today’s scripture reading had multiple references to God calling us to listen and obey. Re-read them and consider where God may be calling you to listen and obey. Seeing this pattern helped me remember how serious God is about his commands. If he says “listen”, since he is a faithful and true God, that means that he is giving us a way to listen, but we must actively participate. Here are the verses: Joshua 22:2, Jeremiah 11:2-4, Jeremiah 11:6-7.
  2. Check out this prayer one of my friends sent to me after I asked him for some prayer over a certain situation the other morning. This left me in awe, humbled, thankful and joyful and was another reminder of someone being filled with the Holy Spirit, listening and obeying. Praise God for putting real friends in my path; friends who care about me! Is there someone in your life who needs prayer? Why not text or email them a specific prayer over them right now? Here’s the prayer:

God You are the Creator. You are holy and set apart. We are sinners God. Would you please forgive us of our sins. God please also forgive those that sin against us. God we forgive them. God we need You. We like sheep, do not know what is best for us. God would you send Your Spirit to fill us up? God would you fill Jon up this morning with Your Spirit. Got would you push everything else out? Would you fill him up to overflowing so that even those who see him coming from afar would see You through him and for Your glory? God would you empower Jon this morning to abide in Your fruit; love, joy peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. God would you help Jon love people with the love of Christ that he’s been given; patience; kindness; without envy; without boasting; without pride; with rightness toward others; with selflessness and humility putting others first; not quick to anger; with no evil thought; rejoicing with the truth; protecting; trusting; hoping? God would you uphold Jon’s words, guarding his mouth and not letting his words fall to the ground? Would you fill him with integrity LORD? God we rely completely on You. We come under Your protection and provision as Your servants LORD. God would you bless Jon and increase his territory? Would you place Your hand upon him and keep him from evil? God to me this feels like a long list. I know you have all these good things to give to those who ask for them. God would you pour them out upon your servant Jon this morning and for all his life? We humble ourselves God. Thank You LORD! You are good! You are worthy of all glory and honor and power for You have created all things and for Your pleasure they are and were created!

The Holy Spirit

White Holy Dove flying in the sky panoramic view

Joshua 20–21; Acts 1; Jeremiah 10; Matthew 24

In Acts 1, the disciples are hanging around Jerusalem after Jesus’ death. While they wait, Jesus comes to them.  He talks with them about the kingdom of God. Talking to the one who died on the cross, brought them hope.  Hope that their dreams of a new life had not ended. In fact, their life with Jesus was very much alive. The disciples could feel the new world order upon them. This was the time that they had waited for. Jesus would now rule the world! Israel will finally be restored and all of God’s promises would now be fulfilled. The Bible explains these promises with words like freedom, liberty, fearlessness and peace, along with promises about healing our physical ailments and living prosperous lives. This was it. Israel will again be on top, the leader of all nations. Let’s go! But, Jesus wasn’t ready. He was holding them back. When they ask when it will happen, he responds, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business” (Acts 1:7, Message). For now, he continues, “you will receive the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that will enable you to be my witnesses.”

In that moment, upon hearing Jesus’ answer, do you think the disciples were disappointed? Seriously, the victory party they were anticipating seemingly vanished into thin air. No doubt, they did not fully understand. Yet, they remained silent. Consider that their silence is an indication of their acceptance and submission. They trust Jesus with whatever is coming. Or, perhaps their hope is kindled in Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit. With his presence, Jesus explains, the disciples will receive power. In Greek, it is called “dynamis.” If you hear our modern words “dynamite” and “dynamic” in there, you are getting the idea. The Holy Spirit brings power that is explosive. His power provides “energy, ability, efficacy, and meaning.” With the Holy Spirit, Jesus explains, the name of Jesus will be extended “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

I readily admit that this scripture reveals my ignorance of the Holy Spirit. To be sure, this American Christian often misuses and misinterprets the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, selfishly claiming His good work for myself.  Similar to the disciples, I want to use this power to reign over all.  If I cannot reign over all, I’ll settle for health and good fortune.  You see, when the Holy Spirit indwells us with the power of God, we can easily use His gifts to get ahead in this world.  According to John Maxwell, this is a defensive posture resulting from focusing on my short life and not on servicing all of God’s creation, extending His rule for eternity.

Contrast that with true Holy Spirit indwelling. Jesus releases the Holy Spirit to us so that we can share God’s love and meaning with the world. Aligning with Him means that I will use my gifts in concert with His vision, not mine. This is what the disciples were able to grasp. They quickly dropped their own pursuits and limited vision in favor of His. As we move through the book of Acts over the next several days, we get to watch the Holy Spirit work through the lives of Jesus’ disciples. The Spirit gives power is both dynamic and explosive in the lives of everyone that the disciples meet. It is the beginning of Jesus’ great vision to take God’s message of love and hope to the ends of the earth.  Today, we continue to carry out this vision.  How are we doing with it?

In his book Forgotten God, Francis Chan offers several great questions that help us evaluate our relationship with the Holy Spirit. Take some time to consider them.

  • Can you say with confidence—from the depth of your being—that you know God and are known by Him?
  • Do I want to lead, or do I want to be led by the Spirit?
  • How would you be missed if you left this place? What would change? Basically, what difference does your presence here make? Or, as my youth pastor once asked me, what would your church (and the worldwide church) look like if everyone was as committed as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would the church be healthy and empowered? Or would it be weak and listless?

Rain Down

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 11; Psalms 95–96; Isaiah 39; Revelation 9 

Deuteronomy 11:13-16
And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them;

Good Morning & Happy Tuesday!

As only God can do, the rain perfectly comes down as I reflect on where to start for this week. God has his perfect timing for all seasons. He has his perfect timing planned for you today. Enjoy the moments! I pick up my raindrop filled bible and journal and head in.

In Deuteronomy 11 Moses reminds the Israelite’s to love the Lord our God, keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, his commandments. In addition we shall lay His words in your heart and soul, binding them to your hand and teaching them to your children. Now it may sound easy but we know that even the Israelite’s witnessed amazing miracles like the splitting of the Red Sea and they still had trouble remaining faithful.(v. 3-6) Moses reminded the Israelite’s and he reminds us to obey and remain faithful. We all need this invitation or reminder.  For myself, waking up in the morning reading the beautiful heartfelt and God-filled journal writings in addition to the daily reading is that reminder.  It is my highlight of those early hours that helps me through the day.

There are miracles all around us if and when we look. As I start to write this Saturday morning it’s the rain. Tonight, I watch a sliver of a moon in the midst of a red to blue sunset.  I’m filled even as I do drive my son around trying to get him to sleep:). I pray you look for those moments today and praise Him. In the season of deadlines, summer schedules for our children, and everything else that can direct your day, love the Lord, obey Him and serve. He will provide everything you need. He always has, he always will.

God has given us the Bible that has shared a panoramic view of his amazing miracles. This picture is being developed and divinely planned out by Him still now. We are part of this picture. Today, his Word lives in and through us. If you haven’t spent time reading the daily scriptures that go with these journals I encourage you to wake up 15 minutes earlier to feel and allow scripture to live in you. I guarantee the start of your days will change for the better.  They have for me.  He provides lessons from the past, instructions for the present, and opportunities in the future to strengthen our love and faith.

In verse 26 God gives the Israelite’s a choice between a blessing and a curse. A blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, and a curse, if you don’t obey the commandments, turning aside from the way he is commanding you today, to go after other gods. We have this same choice today. We can live for ourselves and other gods or live for the Lord our God who promises eternal life.

What choices will you make today? What gods will surround you pulling you away from our eternal God?  Acts 3:19 motivates us, “So change the way you think and act, and turn [to God] to have your sins removed”.

In addition, Psalms 95 says, “if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. Come into his presence with thanksgiving and when you’re put to the test, remain faithful”.  As we wrap session 8 of Follow by Andy Stanley I encourage you to refuse to Unfollow.  Keep God close.  Along your faith journey you will be tempted to Unfollow.  But to whom shall we go? John 6:68-69 says Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God. Many things will test us.  His words are eternal.

Moses was speaking to the Israelite’s, he is speaking to us. Don’t be deceived today.

Dear Almighty Father, Show me your ways, Lord, teacher me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  Psalm 25:4-5

Ask yourself today,

  • Did I spend time in Scripture today?
  • Did scripture live in me?
  • Did I grow in awe and wonder of God today?

Obedient To Our Beliefs

Ladder

Numbers 5; Psalm 39; Song of Solomon 3; Hebrews 3

We lead extraordinarily busy lives. Between the pressures and problems of our work lives and the turmoil of training children to have healthy lives, we find ourselves chasing one thing after another, never stopping. If you are like me, there is a still small voice in your heart that is crying out for more. So what do we do? We choose more. We think that working harder, maybe earning that next promotion, will finally silence that nagging voice. We transfer the belief of more to our kids, assuming that my happiness comes from more, theirs does too. We add new activities and focus attempt them more intensely. The result: more pressure, more turmoil and more problems.  Too often these become manifested in depression, substance abuse and a myriad of illnesses. Exactly the opposite of what our heart is crying out for and definitely not the life that God promises us. He is calling us to one simple thing, obedience.

I don’t think of myself as disobedient. Maybe that is why I find myself annoyed when I read Biblical truths about disobedience. In fact, Instead of translating disobedience truthfully, I reinterpret it with positive words like progressive and enlightened.   These twists of truth allow me to avoid guilt while fully embracing, even amplifying my individuality. My prayers are also shaped by this belief. I ask God to help me in the places I am falling short. They sound like, “God give me that promotion,” or, “please help Junior play well today. He deserves to win.” All seems well until God doesn’t perform for us. When we fail to get recognized at work or our kids fall into trouble, we accuse Him of not providing and our restlessness accelerates. James 4:3 confirms this, “you ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Today, in Hebrews 3, we read a related comment. It says, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 3:15).

If we want to have rest as God promises throughout Scripture, we must look toward obedience. This means that I can no longer avoid the hard work of transformation. The first step of obedience is listening.  When I pause and listen for God, I realize that the still small voice in my heart is not asking for more. Instead, recognizing that this is the still small voice of God, I hear Him calling me, calling me to obedience. Waiting in silence, He convicts me that my past re-interpretations are nothing more than a hard heart.   This hardness gives way to misbelief in my individuality and self-importance.  According to the Bible, they are more than misbelief, they are unbelief  (Hebrews 3:19).  My unanswered prayers, therefore, are not the result of God’s punishment or wrath, but my unbelief!  OUCH!

There is hope. When we turn our cry of desperation toward Jesus, stopping to listen, he responds. Thankfully, he does not ask for more than that.  When we do, He assures us of the rest we are looking for. (Matthew 11:28-29)

I found myself captured by the picture I added to this post.  Our stories parallel the boy’s burning of the ladder rungs.  He believes that the fire will keep him alive while we believe that “more” will lead to rest. His comfort is temporary, short-lived even.  What about ours?  Proverbs 14:12 says it clearly.  “There is a way that seems right to a man that leads to death.”  

Thanks to Pawel Kuczynski for creating a fantastic illustration of how our true beliefs shape our actions.

 

 

Dead Weight

stretcher gurney for patient in hospital (blur background and wooden table for displaying your product)

Leviticus 22, Psalms 28-29, Ecclesiastes 5, 2 Timothy 1

I was really looking forward to sharing this new book of the Bible I found called Ecclesiastes. Well, it was new to me anyway. I’ve been working for a few days in a row at the hospital. Now that I’m sitting down to write and catching up on my reading I see that this short book has been the subject of a few reflections this week. I’ve been drawing out a little “blueprint” of Ecclesiastes all week. Of course, we already know that it was written by King David’s son, Solomon almost 3,000 years ago. It seems to me that nearly nothing could be the same then as it is now. But, with a closer look, there are 5 key themes that are very relatable.

  • Searching
    • Without God there will be no true pleasure or happiness, searching for wisdom, knowledge or joy is futile outside of Him.
  • Emptiness
    • Fill your life with God. The cure for emptiness is Him.
  • Work
    • God gives you the ability and opportunity to work so that you can use your time to glorify Him.
  • Death
    • God gives us hope that goes beyond death
  • Wisdom
    • We must get to know God and honor him in order to have wisdom

See NIV, ESV and HCSB study bibles for more on these themes, I did NOT come up with them myself

When you place Solomon’s words in those 5 categories, it brings us back to what I think is the most important theme: without God life is empty. I spent the weekend thinking that the lessons presented to us in Ecclesiastes are darker and more serious than Proverbs. Tonight as I sit and reflect on how to really bring them alive in my life, I realized that God had given me an example through death.

My Saturday started in the basement of the hospital. I’m a physical therapist there and I cover a weekend or two a month. I had my clipboard in hand with a long list of patients to be seen for the day. As I punched the up button on the elevator, a security guard rolled up with a metal gurney. A few years of experience told me that she was on a transport mission. A patient had died, the family had come and gone and now it was time for the body to be moved. We rode up together with few words passing between us. We exited on the same floor and I went about my business checking charts. Next to me the security guard was focused on her task, checking boxes on a list and packing personal items into a box. It’s important to take care of sensitive matters at the hospital before visiting hours begin. I asked the guard which room she was going to, so that I could avoid bringing patients into that hallway. Before she could answer, a nurse turned and said, “We could really use some help lifting the patient, it’s kinda like dead weight.”

A life. Transformed in an instant from a vibrant presence to dead weight. For the record, this nurse is a patient, compassionate and kind person. This ill-timed pun wasn’t meant to diminish the life lost. It did get me thinking though about my own dead weight on this earth. The HCSB Study Bible opens the book of Ecclesiastes with this introduction:

“The Bible is never shy about confronting painful truths or hard questions. The book of Ecclesiastes faces the issue of how we can find meaning on life in light of the seemingly futile nature of everything. It will not allow the reader to retreat into superficial answers. It does not answer the problem by comforting us with hollow slogans. To the contrary, its motto is “Everything Is Futile.” But by forcing us to face the futility of human existence, it guides us to a life free of empty purpose and deceitful vindication.”

I got to thinking about the patient that I didn’t know. He or she did not take wealth or poverty with them. The struggles he or she faced in illness and death are now gone. I wonder, was it a life well lived? What truly held weight at the end and what simply didn’t matter anymore? My favorite verse in today’s scripture is this:

“For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” Ecclesiastes 5:7

 Am I so full of words, and dreams and aspirations that there is no room left for obedience to God? The foundation of this teaching is our eventual mortality. We can try and try to impress God with our gifts and promises but in the end we cannot deceive Him. He calls us to be humble and obedient. He is asking us to depend on him and his grace. Without Him, life is meaningless. Back in the hospital room as the clean white sheet was drawn up and the wheels began to turn toward the door, I saw an end as well as a beginning. I asked God to lead me into fulfillment in Him. I asked for more reminders to broaden my vision from the context of today into his plan of eternity. As I heard the elevator ding and the heavy doors slide open, I realized that there is no timeline. There is no promise of tomorrow, only the promise of right now. Lord, help us to seize this moment, this Monday, this week. Help us to delight in you here until we are there…