Ecclessiates 5

Ecclesiastes can feel a little demoralizing sometimes.  The majority of the book is a rich, wise man reminding us that most everything we do in life is done in vain.

The end of chapter 5 gives us a good reminder of what God is telling us about these things: they are not bad.  It is even a good and fitting thing to enjoy food, drink, or the peace from work so long as we recognize all of it as a gift from God.  God cares more about our hearts than he does about our actions.  He wants us to be near him, and recognize were all of our good gifts come from.

In chapter 6, this theme is echoed as Solomon reminds us that our actions are in vain, without a satisfied soul.  How do we have a satisfied soul?

Eternal dependence on Jesus.

Ecclesiastes 2

For those of you who don’t know, I work at a desk job where I manage data and email all day.  Some days are better than others.  At its worst, I feel like my work is worthless: why am I even there anyway?  And I contemplate all the life choices I have made that would have lead me down a different path.

I daydream about a more fulfilling job.  It was almost relieving to read Ecclesiastes 2:11 and know that our work is in vain, regardless of our profession.  Our work does not make us valuable (v22-23).  But instead, it is Christ that makes us valuable, and makes our work, in any profession, valuable.

Forgiving Fellowship

In 1 John 1, we get a taste or at least an example of what it will be and/or can be like to be with and know Jesus (v4).  We know that our joy will be full.

This chapter describes this joy as coming from merely having fellowship with Jesus and one another.  In this fellowship we are offered an opportunity for confession, being honest with our sins, and by confessing we can be rid of the sin and draw more closely into the glorious light of fellowship.

While the message of forgiveness is great, it is not the only truth highlighted here: there is also a recognition that sin is real and that we have it.  This is helpful reminder a) when we are getting puffed up by our own pride and b) when we are feeling discouraged because everyone else doesn’t seem to be struggling as much as you.

In both cases, sin is real, and present, and destructive (perhaps even more destructive if we do not recognize it or hide it) and self-defeating  and so totally not worth it.

The 12 Obeyed

Recently,  I was reading through Mark 3 and came to the part entitled in my bible: The Twelve Disciples and wondered why did he choose only 12?

The likely answer is that these twelve were those who would fully obey him*. This is not to say that others did not obey, but they were willing to leave all that they had and were to follow Christ.  In Mark 4: 39-41 we see that even the wind and sea obey Him.

Would I be one of the twelve?  Most of the time, I don’t think so.  It is a hard truth to know: I am not obedient enough.  That great news is that I don’t need to be.  Like my many other faults, my lack of perfect obedience doesn’t keep me from God.  In fact, Christ stretches out for me.

I think the reason the obedience of the twelve was so key is because He needed servants who would work with him and along side him, even when they could not feel his attention.  Christ was a busy man, and interacted with a lot of people, often without all of the disciples standing near.  That is what I want to be: a servent that can follow Christ even when he is working without me.

How do we obey God?

Have you ever asked how we actually, practically obey God? Have you ever wondered how we are supposed to do all the things that God commands? I have, and I have had a very hard time asking this question because most people respond with a “you just do it”. I always feel so discouraged because I can’t just channel my inner Nike to obey God with the obedience He deserves. I feel like I should just be able to try harder and then I will obey God better.

But with this mentality, I miss so much of the Gospel picture and have put too much responsibility on myself. Instead of relying on God, this mentality lets me rely on me. 

I teach Sunday School in the 3-5 year old classroom, and I have the honor of being able to modify and organize curriculum from The Gospel Project for the class each week. It is an honor to serve my church through curriculum management because I get to soak myself in the material to see the Gospel clearly and help the other teachers see the Gospel too, so that we can share it with the little ones. Now, I have had to practice how to share the Gospel to 3, 4, and 5 year olds, and I’m so encouraged to hear how I’ve grown and how the kids, whom I’ve worked with for almost 2 years, are coming to understand the Gospel better and better each week. I love these kids and their families deeply, and I love knowing that we are preaching Jesus and His Gospel (not our gospels of “work harder”, “try better”, or “do more”). I also love when the lessons in the classroom are lessons that my heart needs to hear, like figuring out how to be an obedient Christian. 

For the month of January, we are answering the question “How do we obey God?” with the answer “We TRUST God to help us obey Him”. I’ve never gotten this answer, but I think it is much more accurate with how God wants us to obey Him. We cannot obey God (even imperfectly obey Him) with harder work, more rules, and better obedience. It doesn’t work. It is like us having a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym with your new workout schedule and a “try harder” attitude, and failing again and again no matter what our schedule or attitude. Except our failure isn’t with a fitness goal, but it is the goal to bring the Most High God all the honor, glory, and praise that He deserves, and help others to know Him too. It’s a bit more serious, and yet, we all fail over and over. So we ask “How?” and we often hear “try more” and we begrudgingly repeat the cycle.

I challenge you to break your cycle. I challenge you to stop responding to “How can I obey God?” with a Bible reading or prayer plan (both are good, but they aren’t going to inherently lead to obedience) or guilt or a “try better” attitude. I challenge you to sprint, walk, or crawl to the Creator of the Universe who is waiting for you, and ask Him to help you obey. Ask HIM for a heart that wants to bring Him glory through obedience. Ask HIM to change your heart. Ask HIM to reveal to you how you need to be obedient. Ask HIM. And then let Him change you.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin. Let us then draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”- Hebrews 4:14-16 

He may be calling you to dive deeper in relationships with believers to strengthen your faith and theirs. He may be calling you to seek Him through His word, through prayer, and through worship. He may be calling you to serve Him in a different or challenging way. He will give you the strength and grace you need to fulfill whatever He is calling you to do. I pray that we can stop telling ourselves that we can just try better and work harder to be obedient servants of the Lord. I pray that we can draw near to our loving Father and ask Him to help us follow Him in whatever way He is calling us.

Being a Cafeteria Christian

Have you ever heard of a Cafeteria Christian? This is the kind of Christian that walks up to the metaphor biblical cafeteria counter, and picks up the stuff they like, but leaves the stuff they don’t like behind before moving onto the dining room floor to live out their meal. This idea has always bothered me, both when I do it, and when I see other people do it too. A while ago, I read through Malachi and this verse stood out: 

So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law – Malachi 2:9 (NIV). 

Partiality. Wow. They were being Cafeteria Christians too! And they suffered because they did not follow the whole law, but they had chosen parts to follow and parts to ignore.

Now, I can easily feel tempted to say, “but that doesn’t apply now” because of Jesus. Let me clarify one thing first: Jesus has already fulfilled the law, and therefore we are not under the law like the Jewish people of the Old Testament. We do not need to feel condemned by the law and that is an amazing thing! Our church has been walking through a series about the 10 commandments, and we get to this point every week: Jesus fulfilled the law so that we are not going to inherit the curse from the Old Testament, but we inherit Jesus’ perfect righteousness instead. This still doesn’t mean we can neglect parts of Scripture. 

As believers, we still have expectations and standards from God that we should uphold so that we can live the kind of lives He wants us to be living. Let’s acknowledge that it is not honoring to God to pick and choose what parts of the Bible we want to adhere to based on what we do and do not want to do. Can’t we just follow the real Jesus, which includes the stuff we like AND the stuff that is hard to swallow?

These verses are some of my prayers for myself, and for all of us. Let’s choose all of Him and walk in His complete way through our days.

Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. – Psalm 119:133

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit – Galatians 5:25

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the trust with set you free.” – John 8:31-32