Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 1 September 18:
1. Ecclesiastes 11:4-6 – “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” Worry, fear, and pessimism are paralyzing, debilitating, and dispiriting. Often a fear of failure or a fear of the future will prevent people from trying or investing. So, they are left with nothing. Planning, planting, investing, experimenting, giving, forgiving, evangelism and so many other essential actions all rely on faith, hope, patience, and perseverance. Many things won’t come out as you had hoped, but many things will turn out far better than expected. Don’t let hard times or uncertainty slow you down or keep you from trying. What would you do if the nation were invaded and you lost everything and were exiled to a harsh foreign land? Consider what Jeremiah told the Jews exiled to Babylon: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare…. I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.’” (Jeremiah 29:4-14) Trust God with your future and continue to plan, invest, and work with great expectation, regardless the lack of apparent promise in the current situation. God is bigger than the apparent barriers and setbacks. As Winston Churchill said in a speech on October 29, 1941 (a perilous time) to Harrow school where he had failed out as a boy, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” No single day in history was more decisive for the creation of the United States than Christmas 1776 when Washington crossed the ice-choked Delaware River in a raging storm with a largely untrained army to attack a fortified professional Hessian army. In the previous months since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s army hadn’t won a single battle, and he had lost 90% of his strength. Those who crossed the Delaware River were exhausted, lacking resources, and near the end of their enlistments. A loss at Trenton would mean the end of the Cause. However, against all apparent odds, George Washington’s victories at Trenton and Princeton saved the American Revolution. Proverbs 3:5, 6 — “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
2. Ecclesiastes 11:7-10 – “Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. So, if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.” It is important to live life joyfully, contently, but soberly. Each day comes only once, and we don’t know how many we will have. The Bible tells us to plan for the future but concentrate on today, making the most of every opportunity. We are to be thankful, joyful, and content, not worrying but rather praying in faith all day. We are to work hard, but not too hard, quietly and with our hands so that we can be self-sufficient and can give to others in need. Our daily priority is relationships — loving others, considering them greater than ourselves. We are on a mission of reconciliation, bringer others closer to God and each other. You get one life – use it well, and make your last day on earth your best day. The Bible guides us on how to live life to its fullest. “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:4) How is your joy today?
3. Ecclesiastes 12:1 — “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’.” Solomon had sought to learn it all and do it all in his pursuit of wisdom, but he recognized too late that, in his pride and vanity, he misapplied his life chasing all the wrong things; the ripple effect of his poorly lived life would be pain and suffering for countless generations. Because he drifted from God’s commands, God’s kingdom was permanently divided under Solomon’s leadership. Life is cultivated one day at a time, and whatever one plants today grows over time. We all reap what we sow. On his chair of regrets, Solomon pens a warning to the generations to come: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) Don’t chase after vanities, wearing yourself out attempting to build for yourself a meaningless kingdom on earth. Don’t exhaust yourself rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Enjoy life living for the Lord! Psalm 100 tells us today to keep things in perspective: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27) Build your life on the Rock of Jesus! Remember, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) Proverbs 10:22 says, “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” However, when we strive to create our own wealth, much sorrow is added. And after all that needless toil and sorrow, our worthless creations will ultimately be “burned up” like “wood, straw, and hay” in “the fire” on “The Day” – “Let each one take care how he builds”. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) Jesus also said, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” Jesus explained this analogy – “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…. any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-33) Completing the house built on the Rock of Jesus requires a full-time, life-time commitment, investing all that you have. However, this is the blessed, joyful, fruitful life that is not lived in vain.
– Psalm 2:1 — Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
– Psalm 60:11 — Vain is the salvation of man!
– Psalm 127:2 — It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
– Jonah 2:8 — Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.
– Mark 7:7 — in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
– 1 Timothy 1:6 — Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,
– Proverbs 31:30 — Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
– Isaiah 45:18, 19 — “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right.
– Jeremiah 18:11, 12 — ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, everyone from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’ “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’
– 1 Corinthians 15:58 — Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
– 3. Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 — A life not lived for God is meaningless and futile.
4. Ecclesiastes 12:11-14 — “The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” The Creator, the LORD has given us His word, His wisdom; wisdom comes only from God. Everyone else has a false, often appealing, opinion. Avoid all of those false teachers. Go to the Way, the Truth, the Life, Jesus. If you need a counsellor (we all do), seek the counsel of the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit who uses God’s word to convict your heart of truth. Spirit led Bible study, prayer, and fellowship is your best success plan. Walk with God, not with the world. The way of man seems right to him, but ends in death. Get past the pointless search for ‘something else’ and obey God. In the end, you only answer to God.
5. Proverbs 1:3 – “…to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity….” The wise always deal with others in righteousness, justice, and equity.
6. Proverbs 1:4, 5 – “…to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance….” The Proverbs are provided to help the youth understand what they haven’t experienced and to remind the experienced lest they forget. Everyone needs the continual coaching of the Holy Spirit who instructs from God’s word.
7. Proverbs 1:7 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The Proverbs are of no value to those who refuse to put them into practice.
8. Psalm 100:2 — “Serve the Lord with gladness!” Are you serving the LORD gladly today? Can others see your gladness?
9. Psalm 100:4 — “Enter his gates with thanksgiving.” Do you have a spirit of thanksgiving today, confident that the LORD is your God, that you are His beloved, and that He loves you perfectly and unceasingly? Do others marvel at your thanksgiving?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 1 Sep 18: Serve the Lord with joy, gladness, and thanksgiving today, walking with Jesus, on the mission of reconciliation. Make today a masterpiece. (see today’s readings)