Posts tagged ‘Ecclesiastes’

April 15, 2014

843 Acres Lent Tweetable Tuesdays: Pursuing True Pleasure

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 2 (txt | aud, 3:51 min)
1 Ti 4 (txt | aud, 1:55 min)
Highlighted: Ecc 2

Discerning Brokenness

I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. Ecc 2:1

Whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure. Ecc 2:10

I considered all that my hands had done & the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity & a striving after wind. Ecc 2:11

Imagining Redemption 

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Matt 6:19-21

When we’re young, we pursue success for its own sake. When I was young, I admired clever ppl. Now that I’m old, I admire kind ppl. #Kushner

Praying ACTS

Lord, We #adore you for you give us all that matters – namely, you. Chasing after pleasure apart from you is a fool’s errand.

Yet we #confess that we often want to gain the whole world, lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, pursue success for it’s own sake.

We give you #thanks for answering the quest of Ecclesiastes by raising Jesus from the dead. In his life, we have life.

Thus, make us kind. Change our hearts to want treasures in heaven. May we not forfeit our soul for the vanity of this age. #supplication

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April 25, 2012

Forgiveness Is Divine

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Philemon 6
Full Text: Ecc. 12; Philemon

Getting Forgiveness | Onesimus needed to be forgiven. He was a bondservant who stole from his employer, Philemon, and then fled when he couldn’t afford to pay him back [1]. When he was on the run, however, he met Paul and then Jesus [2]. Following his conversion, he needed to reconcile his relationship with Philemon. So Paul wrote a letter to Philemon on Onesimus’ behalf and told Onesimus to deliver to Philemon [3]. Pastor Mark Dever writes, “Can you imagine the former slave standing in the doorway as his former employer opens the door – needing forgiveness, helpless to repay, cared for only by someone far away in prison?” [4]

Giving Forgiveness | When the door opened, there stood Onesimus. Before him was Philemon, who was a wealthy and prominent church leader and friend of Paul. In Onesimus’ hands, however, was a letter asking Philemon to welcome Onesimus back into his home. Yet how could Philemon do this? Not only would he struggle with trusting Onesimus again, he would also risk being seen as weak (by his culture that didn’t value forgiveness as a virtue) and easy on crime (by his other servants who might take advantage of his mercy). Paul knew, however, that forgiving Onesimus would cost Philemon something and, therefore, he wrote, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge it to my account” [5]. In other words, “Indebtedness must be taken into account and, therefore, I will settle the bill.”

Saving Forgiveness | Yet extending forgiveness is worth more than merely receiving back a payment owed. Philemon’s own appreciation of his salvation was at stake. As Paul wrote, “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ” [6]. In other words, by sharing his faith – in the form of forgiveness – with Onesimus, Philemon himself would gain a fuller understanding of what Christ had done for him on the cross.

Prayer | Lord, We – like Onesimus – come before you with nothing to offer but a sinful record. We sin against you and then run away from you. Yet Christ is our letter of justification. We stand on his record. As we recognize this, help us to forgive others and, thereby, gain a fully understanding of your forgiveness. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See Philemon 14, 18.  |  [2] See Philemon 11, 16.  |  [3] See Philemon 12.  |  [4] Dever, Mark; John MacArthur (2005-11-30). The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept (p. 401). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.  |  [5] Philemon 18 ESV  |  [6] Philemon 6 ESV

April 24, 2012

How often do you think about death?

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Ecc. 11:9
Full Text: Ecc. 11; Tit. 3
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective

Past | How often do you think about death? Apparently, people who think about it too much may have a mental health condition, e.g., depression, bipolar disorder [1]. In the first century, however, Seneca the Younger taught that thinking about death was an essential part of life: “What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years behind us are in death’s hands” [2]. Indeed, we cannot get back the years that have passed. They belong to the past; they are dead.

Future | Recently, we have thought about the future – last week, we reflected on eternity [3] and, yesterday, we thought about “faith in future grace” that looks back to the cross of Christ and forward to his return [4]. Yet, in our meditations, there has been an elephant in the room – our pending judgment. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes warned, “For all these things God will bring you into judgment” [5]. If all of us will be judged [6], therefore, is thinking about death a sign of depression or a sign of wisdom? Was Moses mentally ill when he prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom”? [7].

Hope | When Christians stand in judgment, God will open the books of our lives and use our sins to glorify Christ. He will open the last page – Christ’s final hours on the cross – as the public proclamation of our faith and union with Christ. None will be saved by works [8]. Yet our works – if we are in Christ – will display a born-again and regenerated heart that humbly longs for more holiness [9]. As we saw yesterday, our condemnation is past [10]; our names are in the book of life [11] and the One who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it at the day of Christ [12].

Prayer | Lord, Today, we see your glory. and, therefore, we know that we are unable to stand before your throne. Yet we praise your infinite grace for calling us to be co-heirs with Christ. Let us look back at the years that have passed and forward to the years that remain, knowing that our entire hope lies in Christ and resting on his perfect record. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See T.C. Vollmer, M. Whitmann, C. Schweiger, W. Hiddemann. “Preoccupation with death as predictor of psychological distress in patients with haematologic malignancies.” European Journal of Cancer Care. Vol. 20, Is. 3, pp. 403-411. May 2011. See also Gallup. One in 10 Teens Thinks Often About Own Death. 29 June 2004.  |  [2] Seneca. Epistles, Vol. I. “On Saving Time.”  |  [3] 843 Acres, He Set Eternity on All Hearts. 16 April 2012.; 843 Acres, What Currency Counts Beyond the Grave? 17 April 2012.; 843 Acres, How the Love of Money Disguises Itself. 18 April 2012.; 843 Acres, Our Days Pass Like Shadows. 19 April 2012.; 843 Acres, An Elevator Pitch for Christianity. 20 April 2012.  |  [4] 843 Acres, Avoiding the Debtor’s Ethic. 23 April 2012.  |  [5] Ecc. 11:9 ESV  |  [6] See Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10.  |  [7] Ps. 90:12 ESV  |  [8] See Is. 64:6.  |   [9] See James 2:14-26.  |  [10] See Rom. 8:3  |  [11] See Rev. 20:12  |  [12] See Phil. 1:6

April 23, 2012

Avoiding the Debtor’s Ethic

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Tit. 2:11-13
Full Text: Ecc. 10; Tit. 2
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective

Jesus | Last week, we reflected on eternity and, today, we consider our hope for eternity. Our hope rests on looking back at Christ’s work and looking forward to his return. As Paul wrote Titus, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” [1].

Warning | When looking back, however, John Piper warns, “There is an impulse in the fallen human heart – all our hearts – to forget that gratitude is a spontaneous response of joy to receiving something over and above what we paid for. When we forget this, what happens is that gratitude starts to be misused and distorted as an impulse to pay for the very thing that came to us ‘gratis.’ This terrible moment is the birthplace of the ‘debtor’s ethic’” [2].

Nullification | What’s so wrong with the debtor’s ethic? Piper continues, “The debtor’s ethic says, ‘Because you have done something good for me, I feel indebted to do something good for you.’ This impulse is not what gratitude was designed to produce. God meant gratitude to be a spontaneous expression of pleasure in the gift and the good will of another. He did not mean it to be an impulse to return favors” [3]. In other words, the debtor’s ethic nullifies grace.

Grace | How should we look back and look forward? Piper says, “True gratitude exults in the riches of God’s grace as it looks back on the benefits it has received. By cherishing past grace in this way, it inclines the heart to trust in future grace … Gratitude exults in the past benefits of God and says to faith, ‘Embrace more of these benefits for the future, so that my happy work of looking back on God’s deliverance may continue’” [4].

Prayer | Lord, Thank you for Christ’s work on the cross. Yet guard us against thinking that we “owe” you something as debtors. Jesus paid our debt. Instead, let us look back at the grace of the cross and say, “That is the grace that I grasp for faith tomorrow. I am in Christ because of his grace, not my work.” Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Tit. 2:11-15 ESV  |  [2] John Piper. Future Grace. p. 32  |  [3] Id. 32  |  [4] Id. 38

April 20, 2012

An Elevator Pitch for Christianity

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: 2 Tim. 3:12
Full Text: Ecc. 72 Tim. 3
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective 

HBS | Harvard Business School’s Elevator Pitch Builder advertises, “You have one minute to explain yourself, your business, your goals and your passions. Your audience knows none of these. Are you prepared? Can you present your vision smoothly, enticing them to want to know more?” [1] What would your elevator pitch for Christianity include? How about Paul’s words to Timothy: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” [2]? Will that leave the audience wanting more?

Counter-Cultural | Godliness, not suffering, is the goal of the Christian life. Yet in this culture – that often rewards those who are “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” [3] – those who long to be like Christ will be persecuted and slandered. As Jesus told his disciples, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you … Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” [4].

Eternity | As we’ve seen this week [5], our lives are short and eternity is long. If we long to be like Jesus in this life, then our lives might end up looking a lot like his. He was born to a teenage mother, came from a small town, was mocked and homeless throughout his ministry, never married or had children, was betrayed by one of his closest friends and then murdered. This is the God we worship – “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” [6].

Include | Why did Paul warn Timothy and Jesus warn the disciples about this part of the Christian life? Jesus explained, “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away” [7]. In other words, as we aim for godliness and the eternal rewards that it brings, we ought to endure hardships as crucibles – knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope [8].

Prayer | Lord, We rejoice that our final destination is your kingdom. Yet we must endure many trials before we enter into your presence. When we are slandered for our obedient pursuit of godliness, therefore, let us rejoice insofar as we share in Christ’s sufferings that we may also rejoice when his glory is revealed [9]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See HBS Elevator Pitch Builder.  |  [2] 2 Tim. 3:12 ESV  |  [3] 2 Tim. 3:2-5 ESV  |  [4] John 15:18, 20 ESV  |  [5] 843 Acres, He Set Eternity on All Hearts. 16 April 2012.; 843 Acres, What Currency Counts Beyond the Grave? 17 April 2012.; 843 Acres, How the Love of Money Disguises Itself. 18 April 2012.; 843 Acres, Our Days Pass Like Shadows. 19 April 2012.  |  [6] Is. 53:3 ESV  |  [7] John 16:1 ESV  |  [8] Rom. 5:3-5 ESV  |  [9] 1 Peter 4:12-14 ESV. See also Acts 5:41 (where the disciples “left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” ESV).

April 19, 2012

Our Days Pass Like Shadows

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Ecc. 6:12
Full Text: Ecc. 6; 2 Tim. 2
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective

Nostalgia | New York City, writes Pete Hamill, is “the capital of nostalgia” [1]. In his book, Downtown, he reminisces about the fourteen apartments in which he has lived, the Third Avenue El, the Brooklyn Dodgers and, of course, the World Trade Center. He writes, “New York teaches you to get over almost everything … Irreversible change happens so often in New York that the experience affects character itself. New York toughens its people against sentimentality by allowing the truer emotion of nostalgia” [2].

Vapors | It’s not just the things of New York that pass away. As we’ve seen this week [3], it’s the people, too. Our lives are vapors that appear for a little while and then disappear quickly. One day, we will be no more and the hustle and bustle of life will go on without us. As the Teacher in Ecclesiastes pondered, “For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?” [4]

Labor | What are we supposed to do with our short lives? Jonathan Edwards suggested that we ought to become like what we hope to attain: “We should be endeavoring to come nearer to heaven, in being more heavenly, becoming more and more like the inhabitants of heaven in respect of holiness and conformity to God, the knowledge of God and Christ, in clear views of the glory of God, the beauty of Christ, and the excellency of divine things, as we come nearer to the beatific vision. We should labor to be continually growing in divine love – that this may be an increasing flame in our hearts, till they ascend wholly in this flame” [5].

Prayer | Lord, You are the creator who is from everlasting to everlasting. We are the created who live in time – even though we are made for eternity in the age to come. As we pass by old storefronts or abandoned restaurants in our cities, remind us of our own mortality so that we long to become more and more like you and increasingly crave the excellency of divine and permanent things. Increase the flame in our hearts that burns with love for you until we ascend wholly into it. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Pete Hamill, Downtown: My Manhattan. Chapter 1.  |  [2] Id. at pp.18-19  |  [3] 843 Acres, He Set Eternity on All Hearts. 16 April 2012.; 843 Acres, What Currency Counts Beyond the Grave? 17 April 2012.; 843 Acres, How the Love of Money Disguises Itself. 18 April 2012.  |  [4] Ecc. 6:12 ESV  |  [5] Jonathan Edwards. Works. “The Christian Pilgrim, Or, The True Christians Life a Journey Toward Heaven.” Banner of Truth. (p. 244).
April 18, 2012

How the Love of Money Disguises Itself

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Ecc. 5:10
Full Text: Ecc. 5; 2 Tim. 1
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective

Money | The book of Job teaches us about the meaninglessness of this world by losing it all; the book of Ecclesiastes teaches us about the meaninglessness of this world by having it all. As we saw yesterday [1], money cannot buy the greatest and longest gains. In fact, Paul told Timothy, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” [2]. Today, we see that the Teacher in Ecclesiastes – who wrote hundreds of years before Paul – similarly reflected, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” [3].

Disguise | “The love of money” disguises itself in our affections. After all, we usually don’t see people hugging money or taking cash out on dates. What do we see? Perhaps we see a man who takes pride in obeying all that the law commands, but fails to sell his possessions and give to the poor [4]. Or maybe we see someone who thoughtlessly and effortlessly spends money on entertainment or clothes, but hesitatingly contributes to the work of the church [5].

Reason | Since “the love of money” disguises itself differently in different people, each of us should test our relationship with money regularly. Why is the love of money so dangerous? First, we brought nothing into the world and can’t take anything out of it [6]. Second, we don’t want to wander away from the faith and fall into ruin and destruction [7]. Finally, we don’t need extra stuff to make us peaceful and secure [8] because we already have God, who is the greatest good in the universe and who has eternal pleasures at His right hand [9].

Prayer | Lord, Let us flee from the love of money and, instead, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. Help us fight the good fight of the faith and take hold of eternal life to which we were called. As for those of us who are rich in this present age, let us not be haughty, nor set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. Let us do good, be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for ourselves as a good foundation for the future, so that we may take hold of that which is truly life [10]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres, What Currency Counts Beyond the Grave? 17 April 2012.  |   [2] 1 Tim. 6:10 ESV  |  [3] Ecc. 5:10 ESV  |  [4] See Matt. 19:16-22 (The Parable of the Rich Young Ruler)  |  [5] See, e.g., Is. 55:2; Prov. 11:24; 28:22; Acts 20:35  |  [6] See Ecc. 5:15-16 ESV; 1 Tim. 6:7.  |  [7] See 1 Tim. 6:9-10  |  [8] See Heb. 13:5, 6  |  [9] See Ps. 16:11  |  [10] Prayer entirely based on 1 Tim. 6:11-19.

April 17, 2012

What Currency Counts Beyond the Grave?

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: 1 Tim. 6:6
Full Text: Ecc. 4; 1 Tim. 6
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective

Investment | Good investment bankers advise their clients to spend their money in ways that bring the greatest and longest gains. As we saw yesterday, however, the greatest and longest gains cannot be found under the sun; they are beyond the horizon and in eternity. Yet how can we invest our money in eternity? What currency counts beyond the grave?

Gain | Paul warned Timothy about some false teachers in Ephesus who had become so addicted to the love of money that truth no longer had a place in their affections. Instead of preaching to proclaim the good news of Jesus, they were preaching to get financial gain in the growing evangelical market. Yet Paul didn’t tell Timothy that gain itself had no place in Christian motivation. In fact, he said, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” [1]. In other words, “Yes, Christian, pursue gain! Pursue it with all your heart because the only way to get the greatest and longest gains is by investing in godliness with contentment!” As he wrote earlier, “While bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” [2].

Eternity | Does this mean that those in for-profit ventures shouldn’t pursue financial gain? No! Working to earn money isn’t the same as wanting to be rich. Paul warned against “the love of money” – not money itself – because “it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith” [3]. Having faced death so many times for the sake of the gospel, Paul lived on the edge of eternity. He desperately wanted to gain eternal life and to encourage his fellow believers to spend their lives wisely – not desiring to be rich, but to be content with the simple things in life. He wanted them to set their affections on God, not money.

Prayer | Lord, You alone are the greatest and longest gain that we could ever enjoy. Help us to invest our money wisely so that we will bring others along with us into the deep and lasting delights that you provide. Make us content with simple necessities because we know that we have you, obeying the command: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” [4]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] 1 Tim. 6:6 ESV. See also C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  |  [2] 1 Tim. 4:7-8 ESV  |  [3] 1 Tim. 6:10-11 ESV  |  [4] Heb. 13:5, 6 ESV

April 16, 2012

He Set Eternity on All Hearts

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Ecc. 3:11
Full Text: Ecc. 3; 1 Tim. 5
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective 

Inevitability | What do Steve Jobs, Aristotle and Whitney Houston have in common? They are all dead. We’ve been reading in Proverbs about how to live wisely, but all of us – whether we live wisely or foolishly – will die. As the Teacher in Ecclesiastes reflects, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise? … How the wise dies just like the fool!” [1].

Hearts | Death casts a shadow of meaninglessness on everything that happens under the sun. Yet there is more to life than what is under the sun. God made us to be dissatisfied with this world alone [2]. He made us to bear His image [3] and the heavens to declare His glory [4]. Our consciences show that His law is written on our hearts [5] and our lives are ordered so that we might reach for Him [6]. Indeed, as the Teacher in Ecclesiastes continues, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men” [7]. Yes, we live under the sun, but the desires of our hearts reach far beyond the sunset.

Eternity | A.W. Tozer wrote, “We who live in this nervous age would be wise to meditate on our lives and our days long and often before the face of God and on the edge of eternity. For we are made for eternity as certainly as we are made for time, and as responsible moral beings we must deal with both. ‘He hath set eternity in their heart,’ said the Preacher, and I think he here sets forth both the glory and the misery of men. To be made for eternity and forced to dwell in time is for mankind a tragedy of huge proportions. All within us cries for life and permanence, and everything around us reminds us of mortality and change. Yet that God has made us of the stuff of eternity is both a glory and a prophecy yet to be fulfilled” [8].

Prayer | Lord, You have made us for eternity and, thus, we long to defy death. Make us increasingly dissatisfied with the pleasures of this world alone and satisfied with the face of God and the edge of eternity. Give us confidence in our evangelism, as we recognize that you made all people to long for deep permanence and meaning in you. Make us lights that show the glory and prophecy of the eternity to come. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Ecc. 2:15, 16 ESV  |  [2] C.S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.” Mere Christianity. 136-137  |  [3] See Gen. 1:27  |  [4] See Ps. 19:1  |  [5] See Rom. 2:15. See also C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity. “The Law of Human Nature.” And J.I. Packer, Concise Theology, “General Revelation – God’s Reality Is Known to All,” and “Guilt – The Effect of General Revelation.”  |  [6] See Acts 17:27  |  [7] Ecc. 3:11 NIV  |  [8] Tozer, A.W. (2010-10-20). The Knowledge of The Holy (Kindle Location 705). Kindle Edition. See also entire text in PDF (free): here.

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