Your Life is Not Meaningless

But it is Fleeting – so Live Wisely!

Ecclesiastes 12 13 NIV sgl

Ecclesiastes 7-12

In Ecclesiastes 7-12 the author, the Teacher, continues to discuss things that are “havel”, vain, futile, fleeting and temporary. (If you haven’t yet, go ahead and read yesterday’s devotion on Ecclesiastes 1-6 for a deeper understanding of “havel”.)
The author accepts that death is the end of every person and it is important to accept that fate and live with one’s face toward death. Much of the last half of this book is the reality righteous and wise people suffer the same fate as those who are wicked and foolish. However, we must not let this reality change how we read the entire book of Ecclesiastes. The author writes in 8:12-13 “Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. But it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.” While it is TRUE that the wicked and the righteous both end their lives in death, the author holds that there is good for a righteous person. Still, seek righteousness and wisdom because even a little foolishness can ruin one’s life. (10:1)
For you younger readers, the author commends that you seek out wisdom and that you remember God today! At this point in your life (12:1) There will be days of difficulty as life goes on, but in our days of joy, remember God. God is the one who gives comfort, joy, happiness, and strength on the days when the world is dark, the clouds are gray, and the pains of life are crowding in. Because the childhood and the prime of life are fleeting, temporary and transitory, enjoy them now. (11:10)
We are nearing the end of the book. We have been asking the question : “what lasts? What do people REALLY gain for all they do?” The last two verses of the book tell us what lasts : How we have lived, whether we kept the commands of God and feared him. All this in our life will be judged. Of course, this has been hinted before; now it is explicitly and clearly stated. If we believe, as some have, that the Teacher is a cynical, morose, or even godless man, then the last two verses are a radical departure. However, if this is a man who loves God and understands the futility, vanity, temporariness, FLEETING nature of life, then the final verses in Ecclesiastes are an understandable conclusion.
This of course effects how we read many passages. The author says “eat, drink, enjoy your labor, be merry!” (5:18, 8:15, 9:7) These passage show us that our labor, what we do, are not meaningless, but they are precious because of their very fleeting nature. The teacher says in 9:9, “Enjoy life with the woman you love all the days of your fleeting life…” You know you are precious to God. Your life is not meaningless, but it is havel, transitory, temporary. What we have in this life is not meaningless drudgery of existence, but the temporary good things are to be enjoyed, and to seek the eternal good things, doing the will of God and fearing him.
In the short time of our discussion we missed many interesting passages, some that are difficult (about death and sorrow) and some that are encouraging (about enjoying pleasure on the earth). But, my friends, remember : The entire duty for all people is to do the commands of God. We know that since Christ has come into the world “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” (1 John 3:23) As you continue to believe in the name of Jesus, may you love one another as you seek how to live wisely today!
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes+7-12&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 10-11 and 2 Chronicles 9 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A Time-Out

Psalm 43-45, 49, 84-85 & 87

Psalm 85 8c NIV

Sometimes when I am reading through the Psalms I just get this weird feeling that someone must have copy and pasted a new verse into my Bible while I was sleeping – and there it is for me in the morning.  It is so relevant and timely and hits me where my heart is.  Surely this wasn’t written 3,000 years ago, was it?  Just think of all the differences from their society to ours: architecture, technology, transportation, languages, clothing, careers, and entertainment, just to name a few.  How could that ancient book speak to me today in 2020?  And yet, the most important things have not changed at all.  God – and human nature.  He is still the Almighty.  And we are not.  But as His created beings, even thousands of years later, we still have all the same emotions, fears, desires, weaknesses, hopes, pride, and insecurities.  So thus, these ancient words, were written for me, today.

One such verse that stuck out to me in today’s reading is Psalm 85:8.  Read it a few times.

“I will listen to what God the Lord will say;

he promises peace to his people, his saints —

but let them not return to folly”

So much in this verse:  The importance of listening to God – He is talking but am I listening?

God promises peace.  We know trouble comes, expect it, deal with it, knowing that God gives His Son – and peace – to his people.  (John 16:33)

Be His people – His saints.  Strive for righteousness – it’s what His kids do.  Be His people – His saints – to get the peace (see above).

And – today’s kicker – “But let them not return to folly.

As we sit today in Covid-19 isolation and everyone is chomping at the bit to return to “normal”,  I wonder, how much of “normal” would God call folly?

I checked the dictionary to see what exactly is the definition of folly.  Lexico.com defines folly as “lack of good sense; foolishness; a foolish act, idea, or practice.”  Sounds like a good thing to avoid.  There was another definition for folly that I found interesting and perhaps strangely fitting: “A costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.”  What type of structure was our previous  “normal” building?  What are the dangers of spending our time and finances and priorities on a life/building that looks really good on the outside, but lacks any “practical purpose”? That would be folly, indeed.  What practical purposes would God want us to pursue?  Where did our priorities lie?  What did we always want to do – but never had time for?  What did we do with the majority of our time?  What about our finances?  What role did the pursuit of wealth play in our old normal?  A lot is said about that in another one of today’s passages, Psalm 49.  Make sure you give it a read and see what it says about “riches without understanding”.  How much of our life was a beautiful outside,  but lacking a purpose – folly – foolishness.  

I pray we don’t go back to “normal”.  I pray I don’t return to folly.  I pray through this time we evaluate our purpose, even better yet, God’s purpose.

As a parent and day-care provider for over 20 years I have sat many a cute little behind in the all-powerful time-out chair.  And it is always with the hope that when the time of isolation and consideration is past the offender will walk free – but not to return to their former folly.  The purpose of the time-out chair is to ponder – what is my real purpose?  Do I want to get that prized toy, regardless of how it might hurt my friend?  Will anger, sulking and a bad attitude make my day better?  Are my wants and wishes the only ones I should consider?  And, so often, the preschool time-out chair shows its worth in returning a child, not to normal or to folly, but to a fresh purpose – be the best I can be.

We have been given a little time-out.  Let us use our time-out wisely.  Consider our past folly.  In what ways are we beautiful outsides – with no practical purpose?  What part of “normal” will you work to avoid?  What can we do today, and how can we plan for tomorrow, to concentrate on seeking God, His purposes and His peace.

With Much Love and Prayers,

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+43-45%2C49%2C+84-85%2C87&version=NIV

Tomorrow we read some more of the family reunion genealogies from 1 Chronicles 3-5 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Seek.   Grow.   Love.   

ON PURPOSE – Evangelism

Luke 15 6b

The past five days we have been looking at how to live our lives on purpose.  We don’t want to drift through life not accomplishing what God has prepared for us to do.  We don’t want worldly goals that pull us away from what really matters.

First, we looked at the Greatest Commandment and said that to love God is to worship God.  Next, we discussed the importance of following Christ by being a devoted disciple: the on-going process of becoming mature in Christ (discipleship) which begins with time in God’s Word – and will include other godly habits as well.  And, a disciple remembers they are not alone but are connected to other disciples as the body of Christ so they are eager to fellowship with and encourage one another.  Life in the encouraging body leads to seeing other’s needs and being willing to use our God-given gifts in ministry to others.

So far, we have created an individual who deeply loves God, is growing in their walk with God’s Son, has healthy connections to the church family and seeks to serve others.  That is a GREAT and beautiful start!  But, too often, we are content to stop right there and remain committed to just these 4 purposes – and stay inside our safe little church bubble (myself included).

When church members were surveyed, 89% said, “The church’s purpose is to take care of my family’s and my needs… Only 11% said the purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ.” (Purpose Driven Church – Rick Warren – p 82).  And we wonder why the church isn’t growing.  This selfish, inward focus is not healthy, and is not what God intended for us as individuals, or as the church.

The Great Commission did not tell us to just go and BE a good disciple – it commands us, “Go and MAKE disciples of all nations.”  It is not enough to only be concerned for my own salvation.  To truly love God and others includes a desire to share a great and glorious God with those who are lost and hurting and oblivious without Him.  God wants His lost sheep found and most often he chooses to use people to do that.  Only God can save the lost, but He relies on us to share the good news.  Read Luke 15 to see God’s heart for the lost – and pray that becomes your heart, too.

When Jesus said, “Come, follow me” he wasn’t just inviting you to his church pew on Sunday morning.  He said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19.).  He is asking you to invite others to your church pew.

Who do you know who needs to know God’s saving power and plan?  Who do you know who is not ready for Christ’s return and the Kingdom of God?  Start by naming them and then praying for them and watching for God-given opportunities to speak and act with God’s love and truth.  Then, jump in there and do it.

For Him,

Marcia Railton

 

ON PURPOSE – Ministry

matt 20_26-27 fixed_

 

I had the privilege of attending the Atlanta Bible College graduation this week.  How exciting to celebrate these men and women who have dedicated years of their life to learning at a special institution specifically designed to create disciples of Jesus – who know and use God’s Word.  And, how exciting to think of these men and women going into ministry, in various forms, armed with their knowledge and experiences.

But, imagine the problems that would develop if we send them out into churches where they were expected to be the only ones ministering – the only ones caring for the church body, the only ones serving others as the hands and feet of Christ, the only ones showing love in a practical way in their community.  This would be a recipe for disaster – and certain burn-out.

How exciting that no degree is needed for ministry….and in fact, it is expected from each one of us.  God has already given gifts, talents and passions to each one of us so that we can minister to others!  But it won’t get done if we aren’t living on purpose – making it a priority to seek out ways to serve.

We are by nature selfish people who like to be served.  We are by nature prideful people who want to be recognized for our greatness.  Jesus knew that when he gave his disciples these instructions: “Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28).

How will you give your life to others today – on purpose?

God Bless,
Marcia Railton

ON PURPOSE – Fellowship

1 Cor 12 27

We have been looking at living our life on purpose – choosing goals that are pleasing to God and then striving to live by them.  So far, we have covered the purposes of Worship and Discipleship.

 

Today, we consider the exciting fact that we are not the only disciple of Christ.  Rather, we are a part of a body of believers – the body of Christ.  It is God’s desire that we remain connected to the body of Christ in order to be more effective and to better fulfill the 2nd Commandment: love others.  This purpose can be called Fellowship.

 

Hebrews 10:25 gives great counsel to the family of God: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”   Unfortunately, sometimes the church body fails at this.  In a survey of people who have stopped attending church, 75% said they gave up meeting together because they didn’t feel like people cared if they were at church or not.  They failed to get encouragement from the body of Christ.  This should not be!   As disciples of Christ we have a responsibility to each other – to encourage, to listen, to greet, to show concern, to value the other members of God’s family.  The church is no place for cliques or loneliness.  And each one of us can be part of the solution.

 

Take a minute today to read Acts 2 (particularly verses 36-47).  Look for what the early church was doing together.  How were they creating a powerful body of believers that were on fire for God’s truth and a love for one another?   What will you do today and throughout the week to strengthen your bonds with God’s family?  They need you – and you just might find out you are better off with them, too.

 

A Part of His Body,

Marcia Railton

 

ON PURPOSE – Discipleship

Hebrews 12_2a

How well do you play Follow the Leader?   Do you watch carefully to mimic every movement, or do you get frustrated and jump to the front eager to blaze your own trail and display your fine leadership skills?  When Jesus called his disciples he said, “Come, follow me.” (Matthew 4:19). And the job description for Disciple has not changed in the last 2,000 years.  The CHRISTian church is called to be disciples and to follow Christ, and not just on Sunday mornings.  God sent his son to offer us a way to salvation, to prepare us for a life in the kingdom, and to show us how to love and how to live.

The angels rejoice with each and every new Christian – but there are warnings against remaining an infant in Christ.  The goal is to be mature in Christ.  This comes from developing the discipline (habit) of spending time studying every movement, thought, teaching, and attitude of Christ in order to follow his lead. Discipleship will include other disciplines, but it must begin and continue to grow with a constant diet of God’s word. Jesus studied, knew, and used scriptures well, which built the foundation for him to follow his Father. So we should do the same!

Hebrews 12:1-3 says,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Make time today to fix your gaze on Jesus so you will be able to mirror his moves. The sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) would be a great place to start. You could listen to it while driving, mowing, cleaning, eating… whatever your day has in store.

Be a follower!

Marcia

ON PURPOSE – Worship

Matt 22 37,8

 

The rest of this week we are talking about living life ON PURPOSE – the way God intended.  Choosing God-given targets (not the fake worldly targets that keep popping up in our way), and then pursuing those goals with everything we have – both individually, as well as with the church body.

 

If you took the opportunity to read the passages at the end of yesterday’s post (Matthew 22:36-40, Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 2:41-47), you read the Great Commandment(s), the Great Commission, and a brief description of the Early Church – great reading for sure.   In Rick Warren’s book, Purpose Driven Church, he recounts the work done at his church to create and live by a great purpose statement.  After much study of God’s Word they boiled it down to this slogan: “A Great Commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will grow a Great Church.” (p. 103).

 

Today let’s dive into just the first part of the Great Commandment passage.  A Pharisee tested Jesus, asking him what is the greatest commandment?  Jesus replied – quoting Deuteronomy: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt 22:37-38).  And, so living our life to love God should be our first and greatest priority.  What does this look like?  When we love something/someone we revere it and hold it up.  We spend time with what we love.  We seek out ways to honor those people and things we love.  We put up on a pedestal those we love – and in God’s case – he fully deserves this and much more.  We call this WORSHIP!

 

Worship is defined as, “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity”.  I like that the definition includes not just feeling it – but showing it.  Our church worship services ought to be great places for us to be active, engaged, thoughtful, giving, speaking, singing participants in worship.  But, if that is the only time we are worshipping we are falling far short of our God-given purpose of worship.

 

Many examples of worship can be found throughout the book of Psalms.  Go ahead, pick a chapter or two and look for instances of worship – as well as why God is worthy to be worshipped.  Just a few examples are: “I will PRAISE you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will TELL of all your wonders.” (Psalm 9:1), “OFFER right sacrifices…” (Psalm 4:5), “WAIT for the Lord…” (Psalm 27:14).  “I PRAY to you, O LORD” (Psalm 69: 13).  “I will PRAISE God’s name in SONG and GLORIFY him with THANKSGIVING.” (Psalm 69:30).

 

This is all well and fine when we FEEL like praising God – when the sun is shining and we are on top of His world.  But, what about those days when the clouds are out and we are discouraged or feel God is silent or playing hide and seek with us.  Our feelings don’t change the first and greatest commandment – to LOVE God.  Our circumstances don’t change our first and greatest priority – to WORSHIP God.

 

Psalm 13 is a perfect example for us when we are stuck in the cloudy day mentality.  David feels forgotten by God, he is wrestling with dark thoughts and a heavy heart, he feels he has been trampled down by his enemies/life.  Yet, he ends the short Psalm with this: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6).   God is worthy of our worship – all the time …. And all the time – God is worthy of our worship.

 

How will you WORSHIP Him today?

 

Blessings,

Marcia Railton

 

On Purpose

Eph 2 10

Imagine a marathon runner who starts the race excited, prepared and pumped.  But, he doesn’t know where the finish line is or how to get there.  Add in lots of runners who are running lots of different races – following completely different paths to multiple finish lines.  It is questionable whether our racer will finish the race he had hoped to win.

Or, take an archery championship where all the competitors are lined up and across the field are 1000 targets.  They do not know which target they will get credit for hitting and they each have a limited number of arrows and time.

WHAT is YOUR TARGET_

“It’s not how you start out that matters but how you end.” (Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Church p. 26).   Life gets messy and when you lack a clearly defined goal and a plan for how to get there, it is easy to get completely off track and find you don’t reach the finish line you thought you would and you don’t hit the target that really counts.

 

Just as individuals need a goal – churches also will drift without a set purpose and vision.  Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  Why does the church exist?  Why do you exist?  God knows.  And He gave you His Word to help point the way.   Jesus knew his goal, and what sustained him and kept him going in the right direction.  “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”  (John 4:34).  Paul said that we all have God-given work he designed us to do – “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10).

You don’t want to end life (whenever that might be) with the big house, cute family, lots of adoring facebook friends, and retired from the dream job; BUT, find you missed the mark on doing what God planned for you to do – meeting HIS Purpose for your life.

By digging into God’s Word we can get a clearer picture of what our God-given purposes are for us as individuals and for His church.  Take a few minutes today to look up a few key passages.  Matthew 22:36-40, Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 2:41-47 are great possibilities.  Tomorrow we will look further into God’s Purpose for YOU!

-Marcia Railton

 

Marcia has the cute family and the dream job (wife and mom).  She is working on seeking God’s purpose for her and for the Family of God she gets the pleasure of worshipping with in Granger, Indiana.