"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
November 11, 2015
Happy Veterans Day!
I read from Psalm and Proverbs often and have a love for these two books in the Bible. Even when reading elsewhere in the Bible, I tend to flip over and read something from one of these two books on a consistent basis, and always have. But recently I have started reading from Ecclesiastes and discovered a love for this book also. Kind of interesting that these are the books that I am most often drawn to and the book of Psalm was mostly written by David, and Proverbs and Ecclesiastes were written by his son, Solomon.
For the next few weeks, I may write several devotionals using Ecclesiastes as my theme.
My Bible has information at the beginning of each book giving an overview of the content, author, approximate date it was written, purpose and themes. As I stated above, the author of Ecclesiastes is Solomon. Although the date he wrote this is uncertain, it is believed that he wrote it late in his life. The purpose is to teach that life is meaningless apart from God. When reading from Ecclesiastes, I find it interesting that it was written by Solomon, who was the wisest man who ever lived (he had asked God for wisdom and was granted his request) and had everything he could have possibly wanted -- kingship, numerous wives and children, wealth, property, cattle, servants; yet towards the end of his life, he had found that it was all meaningless apart from God.
Here is what is written in my Bible regarding the content of Ecclesiastes: "There are few experiences in life that are more universal than disappointment. It seems as if everyone has experienced a broken promise, an unfulfilled expectation, or a shattered belief. The "Teacher" (Solomon) in the book of Ecclesiastes recorded his own experiences with disappointment as he tried to find peace apart from God. The Teacher (this is what Solomon refers to himself as in this book) uses a series of examples -- wealth, wisdom, popularity, pleasure -- and shows how each of them ultimately ends in disappointment if it becomes the sole reason for one's existence. After pondering this for several chapters, the author finally offers his conclusion: "Fear God and obey His commands, for this is everyone's duty" (12:13). It appears that the Teacher abandoned any hope in worldly pursuits and decided that glorifying God provides the only lasting meaning in life."
We can each learn from Solomon's words. Many times we think if we had more money or more things then we would be happier and have a much easier life. If we had more friends or more time (and money) to enjoy pleasurable activities, then that would bring us more contentment. But there has to come a point in our lives when we realize that those things aren't what bring us joy and fulfillment. We will only find true and lasting meaning when we decide that our main purpose in life is to glorify and honor God.
Solomon begins chapter one by saying, "Everything is meaningless -- completely meaningless!" He goes on to write, "What do people get for all their hard work? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content."
In Psalm 39:5,6 David says, "You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath. We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it."
These verses from both Solomon and David sound a tad depressing! Generation after generation come and go; but the earth remains the same, regardless of the people who live on it. The sun rises and sets day after day.... the wind blows day after day.... the water in the rivers and seas flows into one another day after day..... Solomon sees this as wearisome beyond description.
The next lines that he writes is true from every generation since the beginning of time: "No matter what we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are never content." People always want more, always want what they can't have, always compare their situations to others, always feel like they're missing out, or always feel like life is passing them by and nothing good ever comes their way. They are never satisfied or content, because they're looking at the world and pleasures of the world to fill the void in their heart.
In verse nine, Solomon continues to write: "History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, 'Here is something new!' But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don't remember what happened in the past, and in future generations no one will remember what we are doing now."
I found this scripture interesting. Our current generation tends to feel as if they have accomplished more or have had more success or have made the greatest inventions in history. At times, it's as if we feel as if we are superior to all other generations because of our knowledge and technology. But Solomon writes that history merely repeats itself and it's all been done before. Nothing is ever truly new. Perhaps each generation feels as if their accomplishments and knowledge are the greatest and best. But we don't truly remember what happened in the past, and honestly, future generations aren't going to truly know what we are doing now.
Solomon writes that he was king of Israel and had devoted himself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. He said that he discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. He observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless -- like chasing the wind. In verse 15 he says, "What is wrong cannot be made right. What is missing cannot be recovered."
Solomon ends the chapter by saying this, "Look, I am wiser than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. I have greater wisdom and knowledge than any of them. So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind. The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow."
As we all know, you can't chase the wind. You can feel the effects of the wind, but you can't see it. To try and catch the wind would be pointless and a huge waste of time, because it cannot be done. Yet that is how people often are in chasing pursuits of this world. They are running around in circles, desperately trying to catch something that is out of reach.
Not everything in life is foolish or a waste of time. There are good things that God places in our lives. The wind has bad effects; it can cause damage to trees, plants, homes, cars, etc when it blows too strong, such as in a tornado or hurricane. It you are working outside on a windy day, your face can get wind-burnt. In spring or fall when we are experiencing mid-range temperatures, a wind can cause it to feel much cooler. But the wind can have good effects, also: On a hot summer day, a nice breeze can be refreshing. There have been several times in the middle of summer when I've been mowing on a still, hot day and I will say a little prayer along the lines of, "God, it sure would be nice if you would send a nice breeze to help cool me down a little," and several times it has happened. The leaves will begin moving in the trees and a nice breeze will begin to blow. Wind can also dry up the muddy ground after torrential rains.
In much the same way, wealth and pleasures in life are not all bad. But when we make those things our focus and priority, we will end up never being satisfied or content. It will only cause us grief and sorrow. Pursuing the wrong things in life, even though they may not be particularly bad things, can cause us to be depressed and have a feeling of never being satisfied or content. It's meaningless. It's only as we seek God, keep our focus on Him, and make Him our priority that we will find true contentment and joy!
I remember when I was young, that our generation was going to be the one to clean up the environment, and fix all the harm all the generations before us did. Now, I see kids thinking their generation will be the one to clean up the environment and fix all the harm we and previous generations before us did.
It makes me wonder how many generations before ours said the same thing, and how many will say the same thing after this.
It seems a bit arrogant to think that we could fix everything in a single generation. But it's also a little arrogant to think humans have control over the Earth. Even working all together, we couldn't make the sun rise one minute later, or set one minute earlier.
We can have some effect, like pass a law to make most of the country set our clocks back one hour in the Fall, and ahead one hour in the Spring. But the sun doesn't really rise or set any differently.
I've seen pictures of Pittsburg from the 1920s, and the 1980s. The difference is amazing. The air of the 1920s was so filled with soot and smoke that the marble buildings were stained almost black. Over 60 years, it was cleaned up, and buildings were being washed clean. But the young generation in the 1980s didn't know how much improvement had been made, and still complained about how dirty it was. I'm sure the young generation now complains that the previous generations have failed to put the environment first. Tulsa has gone through similar changes, and probably most other cities.
Okay, so these are the first generations to grow up with Internet and computers in most homes. Computers make life and communicating so much easier than before. But my parents and grandparents were the first generations to have TVs and phones in most homes. TVs and phones make life and communicating so much easier than before. The next generations will have something else that makes life and communicating so much better than before, too.
God has more avenues to share the Gospel. And Satan has more avenues to corrupt it. Just like in previous generations. Morals and ethics seem to be going downhill. Just like in previous generations.
Fortunately, God is prepared for all this. He knew it was coming 6,000 years ago. To Him, it's just the same-old same-old, with a slightly updated look.
Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding
1 (12 ounce) container Cool Whip -- thawed
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (8 ounce) package Cream Cheese -- softened
2 cups milk
1 (5 ounce) box instant French Vanilla Pudding
6-8 bananas, sliced
2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen Cookies
Line the bottom of a 9x13 pan with 1 bag of the cookies; layer sliced bananas on top.
In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a hand-held mixer. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Fold the cool whip into the cream cheese mixture. Ad the cream cheese mixture to the pudding and stir with a spoon until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and layer the second package of cookies over the top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Today is Veterans Day. Take a minute to thank a veteran for their service to our country.
Facts: The Veterans Day holiday began in 1954. It is always celebrated on November 11th, which marks the anniversary of the end of World War I. Major hostilities of WWI were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect.
In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day should be "filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory". In 1926, The US Congress officially recognized the end of WWI and declared the anniversary of the armistice should be commemorated with prayer and thanksgiving. The day was originally known as Armistice Day. After WWII and the Korean War, in 1954, the veteran's service organization urged Congress to change the word "Armistice" to "Veterans". Congress approved this change and November 11th became a day to honor all American veterans, wherever and whenever they had served.
"Some people create their own storms and then get mad when it rains." - Vicki Yohe
We love you!
Loretta & Jon