Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ecclesiastes 1-2

A young man in Ukraine said to me, "I worry about not having purpose in life." Every person struggles to make sense of life in a broken world. That is exactly what the author of Ecclesiastes is trying to do, make sense of life in a broken world. In Ecclesiastes 1-2 life is put to the test. These chapters begin with a summary statement in 1:1-2, "all is vanity." 1:3-11 follow with a premise which will be tested throughout the rest of these first two chapters. The premise proposed is that life is an endless circle without meaning. In the following verses wisdom, and the pursuit of pleasure are both tested and found to lack the ability to bring meaning to life. Why? Ecclesiastes 2:12-17 tell us that the wise and the fool both face the same end, therefore life is meaningless. If pursuing pleasure and living wisely both end at the grave then what is the point? The first two chapters of this book then conclude that life is hard and we cannot control the future, therefore all is meaningless. If that is where the story ended we would be left with no hope and no joy. Thankfully that is the beginning of the story, not the end. Chapters 1-2 test life by experience. Chapter 3 will test life against theology. In chapters 1-2 life, as it is viewed under the sun apart from God, has no meaning or purpose. Chapter 3 reminds us that contentment is found in understanding that even in a fallen, broken world God never stops being God. Contentment is found in understanding God's sovereign control over all things. He can be trusted.

 

Father, it is really easy to see the meaningless side of life if we look closely. Would you remind us often of your goodness, your power and your sovereignty when we are struggling to make sense of life?

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (ESV)

[13] The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. [14] For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

 

Ecclesiastes is poetry. Poetry is not to be read in the same way as history, law or teaching passages. Like a good story poetry needs to be read all the way through to get the point. One of the errors commonly made with Ecclesiastes is that we read it and try to study and understand it verse by verse. Ecclesiastes is poetry reflecting on the meaning of life from an earthly perspective. As such, every part of the book must be read and understood in light of the conclusion. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, as quoted above, is the conclusion. Fear God and obey him because one day he will judge us. There will be nothing hidden from him on that day.

 

Ecclesiastes teaches that because there is sin in the world life looks empty and meaningless from our perspective. We live. We experience both joy and pain. We die and are forgotten. From "under the sun" life is pretty pointless. But Ecclesiastes is not a book of dark hopelessness. It is a book of perspective. From "under the sun" life appears pointless, but there is life beyond this life. We will one day stand before God and answer to him for what we have done with this life. If this is all there is then life has no point, but this is not all there is. That is the point of Ecclesiastes. So, if there is life beyond this life then how should we live in this life? Ecclesiastes is a call to a life of balance and faith. Work hard but learn to find joy in what you have. Fear God and obey him knowing that one day you will answer to him for what you have done in this life. Don't live for today, but enjoy today while you are able. Or to say it the way the Apostle Paul said it, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6)

 

I plan to spend the next several weeks in Ecclesiastes on Sunday mornings. Let me challenge you to read through the entire book of Ecclesiastes several times this week if possible. I would also suggest that Ecclesiastes is written in the context of the first three chapters of Genesis so I recommend going back to refresh your memory as to the content of those chapters. May God use this book powerfully in our lives to his glory.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Colossians 4:12

Colossians 4:12 (ESV)
[12] Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

Yesterday I wrote that the Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. We need other believers. Reading through the last twelve verses of Colossians we discover at least four benefits... of having other believers in our life.

1. Paul calls Tychicus a "fellow servant." There is always more ministry to do than one person is capable of doing. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 talks about the value of having a companion:

[9] Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. [10] For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

2. Paul challenges the Colossians to help Mark if he comes to visit them, and talks about the encouragement his companions have been to him. It is easy to get discouraged when you are all alone. It is difficult to ask for help when you do not have close friends. The value of a close connection with others believers is that we have a source of encouragement when we are down and a source of help in need.

3. Prayer is an important part of the Christian life, but we all need to know that we are not alone even in our prayers. Jesus, the night he was betrayed and arrested, asked his disciples to keep watch with him in prayer but they fell asleep. There is value in knowing that when we do not know how to pray the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (see Romans 8), but there is also value in knowing that other brothers and sisters in Christ are struggling on our behalf in prayer (Col 4:12).

4. When we are in close fellowship with other believers we have someone in our life who can challenge us, instruct us and hold us accountable. Paul wraps up his letter to the Colossians by challenging them not only to pay attention to this letter, but to read the letter he sent to the Laodiceans as well. He then challenges them to encourage Archippus to "fulfill the ministry" to which he had been called. Too often when believers begin to make poor choices in their lives they also begin to withdraw from those who care most. That is sad because the truth is that those are the times when we most need someone to be speaking into our lives. Withdrawing often leads to destructive behavior.

These are four benefits to have close fellowship and friendship within the church. Unfortunately our church services are not usually designed to provide this kind of closeness. We need to be very intentional about seeking out and pursuing godly friendships.

Father, I acknowledge that when I am struggling my first inclination is to withdraw. By your grace may I seek out those friendships I need in my life and may I never withdraw from a brother in need.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Colossians 4:7

Colossians 4:7 (ESV)
 [7] Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.

The last 12 verses or Colossians are filled with names of Paul's friends and associates. Our American independence lends itself to understanding the Christian faith as primarily about God and me. It is personal and private. The old song with the line "you and me against the world" becomes "God and me against the world" in our evangelical minds. Our greatest biblical heroes are those that apparently stood all alone in their faith: Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Samson, David. But Elijah had a widow's help and later the companionship of Elisha. Jeremiah had friends who pulled him out of the well. Daniel had his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Samson needed some friends to hold him accountable and challenge him. His problems were largely because he was a loner who insisted on doing things his way. Samson is no great model of faith nor faithfulness. David had his inner circle of friends beginning with Jonathan and ending with his long list of mighty men. The truth is that we were never intended to go it alone.

Faith was never intended to be a solitary and private thing. We need each other. We need the fellowship and friendship of others who share our faith and who are willing to walk through life with us when it gets hard. We need friends who will care about us enough to challenge us when we are headed down the wrong path and encourage us when things get rough. The apostle Paul did not live out his life and mission alone. Neither should we.

Father, forgive me for the times that I isolate myself from people. Forgive me for the arrogance that causes me to think that I don't need others. Thank you for those friends that you have placed in my life. May I grow to increasingly understand and value my brothers and sisters in Christ.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Isaiah 50

Isaiah 50:4-7 (ESV) The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him w...