Sunday, January 14, 2007

Life Under the Sun (Part I)

I'm beginning a series of sermons on the book of Ecclesiastes, so I thought I would blog some of the highlights from the messages here. Today I preached a summary from the first two chapters of the book. In the first chapter, the writer of Ecclesiastes (most likely King Solomon, who refers to himself as "the Preacher") laments a life lived only with an earthly perspective. The Hebrew word translated Ecclesiastes means "to assemble." Bible scholars believe that Solomon probably wrote this book in the latter portion of his life. It is not difficult to imagine him assembling folks around him to rehearse the meaning of life and teach lessons about wasting youth on pleasure and the pursuit of earthly wisdom.

He realizes that things continue on an unchanged course- the rising and setting of the sun- the cyclical patterns in history- and that there is "no new thing under the sun." He describes how he sought meaning in life through wisdom. Without doubt Solomon was the wisest man of his day and beyond (until Jesus Christ's advent of course). He had such a breadth of knowledge that he could intelligently speak about horticulture, agriculture, zoology, and practically any other topic. And yet with all of that knowledge he was still miserable.

Then he says he decided to search for purpose in pleasure (the beginning of chapter 2). Scripture records that Solomon's house was 13 years in building. He had thousands of stalls for his horses and chariots to match. He had beautiful gardens and waterfalls to entertain him. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines (which eventually turned his heart away from the Lord to serve idols). He could easily say with confidence to anyone who asked of him that he had "been there...done that...and got the t-shirt." If anyone knew what it was to live a life of luxury, power, and was Solomon.

He then laments the fact that all of his wisdom, pleasures, and riches and labor could not prevent his death. That one event unites the foolish with the wise. The writer of Hebrews says that it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this- the judgement. Further compounding the problem is the fact that most likely his heir Rehoboam would turn out to be a flop (which history and scripture both reveal that he did- disregarding the counsel of wise men and keeping the company of fools).

Until next time....

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Beating the Air This New Year?

1 Cor 9:26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air (KJV)

If you're like me then you're probably midway through your first day of your new diet and already wondering if it was such a good idea after all! By the grace of God (and the loving support of my wife), I somehow found my way to the treadmill this morning for a brisk walk. I must say that it felt good to get my blood circulating this morning and get some excercise. (We'll see how it works out tomorrow). Ok- enough about me and my journey towards physical fitness, let's wax spiritual for just a moment.

Paul told the Corinthians that he discharged the duties of his ministry with purpose. It's very easy to make bland and generic goals when a new calendar year rolls around. We say things like "I'm going to pray more this year", or "I'm going to get closer to God", or perhaps "I'm going to increase my giving to the work of the ministry this year." These are all noble desires, but sometimes I think we are like the proverbial man that Paul describes "beating the air" or running around aimlessly. Many times we expend a lot of energy and resources, but end up accomplishing very little for the Kingdom of God.

I hate to sound cliche' but just as the old proverb goes, "no one plans to fail, they simply fail to plan." Paul used the analogy of an athlete. No serious athlete approaches a contest or competition with a haphazard method of training. They typically follow a strict diet, exercise, and rest routine in order to maximize fitness and endurance. I'm not saying that our Christian life must be so rigid and programmed that there is no sense of vibrance or variety (the Pharisees and their customs immediately come to mind). But I also believe we should set some quantifiable goals and then be mindful to evaluate our progress (or the lack thereof). Paul said that he had to beat his body into subjection and make it his slave. We must take the initiative and do those things that we know are needful for our spiritual maturity.

If you've been waiting for someone to motivate you into action, then hopefully today's blog entry will serve that purpose. I know I have certainly challenged myself to do more for the Kingdom in 2007.

Until next time.....