For when dreams increase

Because much talk comes from dreams and things of no purpose. But let the fear of God be in you.
(Ecclesiastes 5:7, Bible in Basic English)

For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.
(Ecclesiastes 5:7, English Standard Version)

You and I may have all kinds of ideas and “dreams” that come to our mind, but that does not mean they are all good ideas or great directions we should travel. Those ideas and dreams can lead us in a thousand different directions, and we have to develop discipline in how we deal with those ideas and plans.

There are many directions we can go in our business and in our homes, and many new things we can buy or try. What can happen is that we can dive into 20 or 3o things that sound like a great idea to do, and we end up not doing anything well at all.

We could learn a lesson from Nehemiah. It seems that in chapter 1-2 he spent months praying and developing a plan for rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. And when he returned home, he did several days of surveying Jerusalem with just a few people (Nehemiah 2:11-15). He wasn’t talking to a lot of people. He developed a firm plan, and then spoke to the leadership.

Nehemiah didn’t just stroll into Jerusalem, stand on the rubble, and confidently proclaim to all that he had an awesome idea about rebuilding the walls. He was disciplined and formulated the details of the plan in prayer before he started talking much about it.

Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode.
(Nehemiah 2:12)

Again, just because you have a good idea that pops into your head doesn’t mean that it is a good idea to share with others. That good idea might take you and others in the opposite direction from the last great idea you had. Take time to be silent, take time to pray, take time to plan. Ask wise counsel from a very select few.

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
(Proverbs 16:1-3)

Christians Rebuild, Raise Up, and Repair

They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
(Isaiah 61:4)

At our congregation we just wrapped up a special series of lessons by Andy Cantrell on Finding Our Purpose from the Past. Andy did such a marvelous job of opening our eyes to what God prophesied about the Christian in the Old Testament. In those passages we were shown what God was going to do for us and what God was going to do through us.

One of those passages we looked at last night was Isaiah 61. Andy helped us to see through Isaiah 61:4 that the mission of the Christian is to rebuild, repair and raise up. We are helping to rebuild and restore the broken lives of others. God has taken us out of darkness and brought us into light. Just like Jesus, He raised us up from the dead to walk in newness of life. Jesus came to preach good news to the afflicted, to heal the brokenhearted, and to free the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1-3). All of this of course was intended in a spiritual sense.

So if God did this for us, what can God do through us? If He rebuilt our broken lives, what does He want to do with us? He wants us to see the broken lives of others and help those poor, brokenhearted prisoners turn to the saving and healing power of Jesus.

Do we see the poor and the brokenhearted and the captive all around us? Do we see them at work? Do we see them at school? Do we notice them in our neighborhoods? Do we care enough for them to help them see Jesus? Are we going to take our calling seriously as re-builders and repairers?

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.
(Isaiah 61:10-11)

Finding Our Purpose from the Past

This coming weekend, we are having a guest speaker, Andy Cantrell, to come and give a series of lessons around the theme:

“Finding Our Purpose from the Past”

Old Testament Images of New Covenant People.

May 6-9

South Macomb Church of Christ

18551 Eastland, Roseville, MI 48066

Click here for pdf of meeting flyer

 

Here is a link where you can listen to these lessons that Andy presented at another congregation.

If you are in the area, we’d love to have you with us!

 

God Has Given Them Work To Do

For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 2:26)

We all have work to do, whether we are righteous or wicked. God keeps us busy. But in the Scripture we see that God keeps the wicked busy preparing money and things that will in some way end up in the hands of righteous people. This is not to mean that we as God’s people sit around on our duffs and wait for God to take away money from others and give it to us. Nor is it to mean that because we are Christians we are going to be blessed with tons of money.

What it does mean is that God will take care of His people, and sometimes that means He takes care of His people by “transferring funds” from the wicked. How the Lord does that is up to Him, but we see lots of examples of this in Scripture.

What it also means is that the wicked think they are busy taking care of themselves and heaping up riches, but they are only busying themselves in vain. Their purpose in life is selfish and focused merely on getting more stuff. All that stuff eventually goes away, and it is through the merciful hand of God that He directs it toward caring for His children.

Though he heap up silver like dust, and pile up clothing like clay, he may pile it up, but the righteous will wear it, and the innocent will divide the silver.
(Job 27:16-17)

Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
(Proverbs 13:21-22)

Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
(Proverbs 28:8)

The Israelites walked out of Egypt with the wealth of the Egyptians. It looks like a lot of that wealth ended up being used to build the Tabernacle (Genesis 15:14; Exodus 12:35-36; 35:21-22). God’s house was built with the wealth of the Gentiles (compare with Isaiah 60:5,11). Moses’ mother, Jochebed, was paid wages from Pharaoh’s house to nurse her own son (Exodus 2:1-10).

Let’s end with two more passages, one from Deuteronomy and one from the Psalms. Why did God pour out the wealth of the Gentiles upon Israel? Look at the following passages.

He brought out His people with joy, His chosen ones with gladness. He gave them the lands of the Gentiles, and they inherited the labor of the nations, that they might observe His statutes and keep His laws. Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 105:43-45)

Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest–when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end–then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 8:11-20)

Let’s not forget our purpose! Let’s not forget why God put us on our earth. If we are busy, let’s remember God in the busy-ness! Otherwise, we are just busy heaping up stuff that will go to someone else.

Created With Purpose

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10)

When God created water, it was given a purpose, and that is to water the earth. When God said, “Let there be light,” it had a purpose. Because of light we have life, growth, seasons, years, etc. Everything God created had a purpose.

The Christian is a new creation. We are His workmanship. God took what was dead and lifeless and breathed new life into it (Ephesians 2:1,5). He spoke into the darkness of our souls and said “Let there be light” (2 Corinthians 4:6). He turned a valley of dry bones into a massive spirit-filled army (Ezekiel 37). We are that army (Ephesians 6:10-18). God created us as new creatures, but just like light and water, we have a purpose. God created light in our souls because He wants us to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). God didn’t create water just to sit in a lake, nor did He do such amazing things within us so that we fail to fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

So, thinking of all this, why did God create marriage? What is the purpose of marriage? How is God glorified through marriage?

Marriage is to be held in honor among all (Hebrews 13:4). By living in a relationship that God created and supports, we are honoring God and teaching the world about God’s ways and how His ways are best.

Marriage mirrors the relationship that Christ has with the church (Ephesians 5:21-33). In marriage we learn so much about love, respect, and submission to each other in very similar ways to how the church interacts with Jesus.

In marriage, God wants us to enjoy the marriage and grow old joyfully together (Ecclesiastes 9:9). It’s sad to see Christians be so miserable in marriage. When those who don’t even believe in God have better relationships and communication in marriage than those who should know better, it doesn’t say much for the Christian’s claim that God’s ways are best. God’s name is reviled when God’s people don’t behave as they should in the home (Titus 2:5). Sometimes the Christian couple is just miserable because they don’t like each other, but can’t divorce. God wants better for you, and that isn’t pie in the sky religious talk, it’s true. Marriage, God’s way, should have joy and peace. When we are miserable in marriage, then we are not fulfilling the purpose for which the relationship was created. Get help from godly Christians who can sit down with you and guide you into a better marriage.

God seeks godly offspring. One way God is glorified through marriage and one way we accomplish the purpose for which marriage was created is to bring godly children up in our homes (Malachi 2; Psalm 127-128). Just as water is created to help bring life into the world and  continue to nurture that life, we are given the blessing of marriage to water our precious children’s souls.

A Song of Ascents. Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.
(Psalm 128:1-4)

It’s All About Perspective

What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
(Ecclesiastes 1:3)

I’m preparing right now to teach a class on Ecclesiastes at our congregation, so I’ve been reading it quite a bit and trying to get the flow of the writer’s thinking. I’m assuming the writer is Solomon, but I know there’s debate about that. Solomon begins with a question, “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?”

In the first two chapters, Solomon goes through all the things he has tested, seen, experienced and observed. He tries everything including, wisdom, work, wine and women. It all leaves him wanting. By the middle of chapter 2, he gives an answer to his question…there is NOTHING to be gained.

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 2:11)

Where does this leave this great and wise king?

So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
(Ecclesiastes 2:17-21)

He hates life! He hated all his toil! He gives his heart up to despair! “What’s the point?”, he asks in anguish.

But then at the end of chapter 2, Solomon seems to completely contradict himself and say that you should enjoy your toil.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?
(Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)

What? Are you barking mad, Solomon? You just said you hated it and life, now you told me to enjoy it?

Go back and read through chapter 1:1 through chapter 2:23 and look for what you don’t find there. What you don’t find there is God. There is one reference to God in 1:13 but it is not a positive outlook on God. God is basically missing from the first two chapters. Why was Solomon’s conclusion about his work so despairing and negative? Because he was doing all this without a mindset of connecting it all to his relationship with God.

If life only consists of going to work, getting money, building stuff, going places, being entertained and getting in and out of relationships, then yes life is quite the unhappy business! Is it any wonder why the suicide rate is so high? Solomon’s question answers that with Spirit-filled wisdom and accuracy:

For apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”

When Solomon turned his perspective to God and looked for God’s involvement, then things turned around in his mind. When the great-old-wise king began seeing God’s purpose and God’s working in things, the enjoyment came back. Brightness comes back to his eyes, and a spring comes back in his step. There is meaning to all of this, and yes, we can enjoy this fleeting life, because God is here with us.

It’s all about perspective. You can go to the same job and do the same work, but have two very different attitudes about it. We can live with the same wife and kids, and have two very different perspectives. As you look around the house and property and see all that you have and all you have to do, you can look at it as a curse and drudgery, or you can see it as a blessing.

So which will you be? Will you be the Ecclesiastes 2:18 Solomon that hates work or the 2:24 Solomon that loves work and finds enjoyment in it? It all comes down to where your focus is.

Solomon’s Perspective on “Toil”

I’m studying Ecclesiastes right now in preparation for our next class, and yesterday I was in chapter 2. Solomon sure seems all over the board about whether he likes work (toil) or not.

At first he found pleasure in the toil, and the pleasure was his reward for doing the work (2:10-11).  Then he started to get tired, older and reflective, and he realized that he will work his whole life and hand his life’s toil over to someone who didn’t work for it and probably wouldn’t appreciate it. What if that person doesn’t have the sense to tie his own shoes? Seems like a waste doesn’t it?

But then at the end of chapter 2, Solomon is back to saying that we should enjoy our work. What happened? Is Solomon mental or something? No, he realized that his mindset and purpose for work was all out of whack and that God wasn’t in the center of his purpose for work. When pleasing God is your purpose, then work becomes fun again. If you’re out to please yourself and acquire stuff, then it all eventually becomes “vanity” (a complete waste of time).

Is God at the center of your purpose? How would you know? What does that look like when your focus for working is pleasing God versus pleasing yourself and getting stuff? Take time to talk this over with a wise godly brother and do some praying and reflection about it.

Below are the passages I referenced from Ecclesiastes.

And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)

I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 2:18-26)

Meet Dr. Audrey Evans

They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing,
(Psalms 92:14)

Dear friends, Stephen and Samantha, shared this video with me about a wonderful 92 year old woman, Dr. Audrey Evans. Please take 10 minutes to watch this video. Think about how this Dr. knows her purpose and lives it.

Meet Dr. Audrey Evans

The God Whose Plans Don’t Fit In A Sitcom

On a personal note: Thank you to all for your encouragement, prayers, and overwhelming support of my family as we walk through the recovery and healing process after our barn fire. God is good, all the time.

The God Whose Plans Don’t Fit In A Sitcom by Jason Hardin

I want to share with you a sermon that I watched this morning that I really needed. This sermon is by Jason Hardin, and it is called “The God Whose Plans Don’t Fit in a Sitcom.”

At the end of Jason’s sermon, he spoke of 4 conclusions that we can build our lives upon, and they were a blessing to me for sure.

  1. At pivotal moments in life, the people of God had no idea WHAT God was doing; some times neither will we.
  2. At many points in life, we won’t understand WHY God is allowing certain things to happen.
  3. And yet, the clear testimony of Scripture is that He knows perfectly what He is doing.
  4. Therefore, rather than being anxious about things we cannot change…let’s make sure to seek Him while He may be found.

I would add, I don’t know the what nor the why, but I know the WHO. Like the old song sings, “I don’t know about tomorrow, but I know Who holds my hand.”

Know Your Why

Here is a short video by comedian Michael Jr. on “Know Your Why.” He used an audience member to make an incredible distinction between “what” we do and “why” we do it.

Here is the full version of the episode “Break Time” to which Michael Jr. referred in the previous video.

I encourage you today to think long and hard about your “why,” your purpose for doing “what” you do.