Sunday Morning Coffee: Changes

We have a dogwood tree in our front yard that I can see from “my” chair in the living room. Its leaves have almost all changed from green to orange just in this past week. When we drive to church this morning I know we’ll see evidence of the coming season all along the way. I keep hanging onto the fact that we have about a week until summer is officially over, but the blending of one season into another is undeniable.

I do love fall. Here in my corner of PA, it’s almost always temperate. The humidity in the air goes away, and we are left with crystalline color that simply takes one’s breath away. The mosquitoes turn tail and fly to warmer places; I hope they die there before they can reproduce ūüôā Warm days, cool nights, great for cuddling under a puffy comforter.

People are starting to talk about pumpkin spice lattes, although I have to say they’re not my personal favorite. Too sweet. But the roadside farm market stands are chock full of corn, tomatoes, and pumpkins already.

Friends posted pictures of going apple-picking yesterday, so there will be lots of applesauce, apple butter, and apple pie in kitchens all over this area. The bounty of the harvest is always exciting. Out in Amish country, you can stop at just about every farm and sample the delicious apple cider; fruits and vegetables overflow the market tables.

Fall lasts a long time here. We don’t have winter really setting in until after the New Year, usually. Growing up, I was disappointed if it hadn’t snowed by Thanksgiving. Now, I’m thankful that it almost never snows that early ūüôā

Something else we see in abundance: Yard sales, garage sales, neighborhood sales. We seem inclined to get rid of stuff, maybe in anticipation of the glut of Christmas that the stores are already promoting. If you love yard sales, you’d love living here right now!

Looking at all of it brings music to my mind. No surprise there–I almost always have music running in my head. This morning? “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come!”

Emptiness of Life

Eccl. 9:1. “For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works,¬†are¬†in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred¬†by¬†all¬†that is¬†before them.”

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In all his wisdom, Solomon still struggles with the “under the sun” perspective. It appears to him that while righteous wise men and their works are in the hand of God, still no one knows what awaits after the grave.

He seems to think that one’s behaviors don’t really matter in the face of the death that awaits all of us, righteous and unrighteous alike. Apparently he has not, does not, spend much time at this point in his life, studying the scriptures to find the grace of God in His promises to Israel.

Most of us are familiar with 2 Chronicles 7:14 :

14 If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

But even with those kinds of promises, Solomon still looks bleakly to the condition of all mankind, which ends in the grave. What he is not mentioning, perhaps because of a lack of understanding, is that the eternity of an unbelieving person is much different from that of a person of faith.

Hebrews 11, the great “Hall of Faith” chapter, details people of faith in the Old Testament who understood and practiced their belief in Jehovah and in His promises of rewards both here and in eternity to come. This is a fascinating area of study and I would encourage you to dig into Old Testament faith and its outworkings.

His Ways are Greater than Ours

Eccl. 8: 16-17.

When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)

 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

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Solomon is finally beginning to realize that no one is going to “find out,” understand, all that God has done from a human perspective. All his work and all his wisdom are never going to be able to figure out all that God is, and all that He has done.

Isaiah 55:9. “For¬†as¬†the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

We are foolish to think we can ever figure out God. What we need to do is trust Him. Love His Word. Obey Him. Only then can we begin to get a glimmer of understanding about Who He is.

I saw a news item this morning, featuring a group of new representatives in our House of Representatives in America. One of these women was claiming that everyone is afraid of this group because “They know how powerful we are.”

No. They are not powerful. But the fallen angel behind what drives them is indeed powerful, and we need to fear that power. How do we do that? By staying close to God. We need a spiritual revival in this country.

There have always been, in every generation of mankind, those who think they are greater than God, and have better ideas than God does. They even deny His existence, placing themselves as superior to all others by virtue of their great wisdom and understanding.

They all die, and will continue to do so, because they are only mortals who have become full of themselves.

James 4:10. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.”

Enjoy Life!

Eccl. 8:15. “Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.”

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Is Solomon recommending that we forget about work and just spend our lives in partying? Would that be consistent with the rest of his teachings?

Remember that Solomon has an “under the sun” perspective here. He sees that life is full of work; of not being satisfied; of feeling a lack of purpose. All he can recommend at this point is that we enjoy what we can, because life is short.

He is not suggesting a hedonistic lifestyle. Rather, he is saying that when we sit down to a meal, we should enjoy it. We should take pleasure where we can find it.

Here is a good example from my childhood. We had lived in southern Minnesota when I was very young, and had made friends with a wonderful family that I really believed were my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. They were hardworking farmers, and the wives and children knew how to pitch in and carry the load. It wasn’t always pleasant, in those extremely cold prairie winters, to get up early to take care of the chores before heading off to school, but it was a normal part of life for them.

It was also a normal part of their lives to relax, enjoy wonderful food and laugh out loud when stories were told around the dining room table. Going there for Thanksgiving and Christmas was an exciting treat. We ate, we drank (no alcohol necessary) and we laughed. It was a time away from the workaday life, a time of enjoyment, mirth, and pleasure that everyone loved, because the next day things would go back to normal.

Those are still some of my most-treasured memories.

No Escape

Eccl. 8:14. “There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just¬†men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked¬†men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also¬†is¬†vanity.”

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( A note before I begin: I am already falling into a pattern, since my retirement nearly two weeks ago, in which I don’t HAVE to get up early, so I don’t. And of course that puts me all off my normal routine, which includes getting my Bible study blog post up early in the day. It is now 1:39 p.m., and I’m just starting to write. I need to do better. I can see there are some adjustments I need to make, and some serious praying I need to do, about maintaining a more sensible schedule. Last week, I deliberately chose to loosen up on my routine. This week, I’m just being lazy, and it has to stop.)

Now. In today’s verse, Solomon is reflecting on the fact that sometimes, bad things happen to good people; sometimes, good things happen to bad people. One vitally important thing he’s overlooking is that “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one!” (Romans 3:10). No one is exempt from the results of the human condition (“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jer. 17:9). No one can rightfully claim that he has never done wrong, and therefore should not have to suffer the ills of life “under the sun.”

We need to remember that Solomon was not looking at life with an eternal view, but from the perspective of this earthly life only. Sometimes, life just isn’t fair.

Ask Job! He was a good, God-fearing man, and yet he suffered terribly when God allowed Satan to torment him. There are 42 chapters in which Job’s “comforters” tried to reason out the why of his sufferings, and ended up looking like dogs chasing their own tails. It isn’t until the last few chapters that God reveals Himself to Job and puts an end to the empty philosophizing of his friends.

The incredible, unfailing mercy and grace of God are seen throughout His Word, including the Old Testament. One of hundreds of examples was His promise to never again destroy the entire world by flood, a promise marked by the beautiful rainbow as a seal of His mercy (Gen. 9:11).

Instead of looking around us and wondering why evil seems to go unpunished, we need to examine our own hearts and be sure we are not giving God cause to punish us. He will take care of injustice and unfairness. All who have ignored His Word will answer to Him. There will be no escape (Heb. 2:3; Heb. 12:25; Psalm 139).

It Shall be Well with them that Fear God

Eccl. 8: 12-13

Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:

 But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.

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One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 37. Verses 1-5 relate very well to today’s passage in Ecclesiastes:

Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.

I know how hard it is, from our “under the sun” point of view, to watch wicked and godless people seem to flourish. I am particularly appalled that we seem to worship entertainers in America today; some of them have completely abandoned all appearance of godliness and despise all that used to be considered good and righteous. They lecture us on how intolerant we are if we continue to cling to biblical standards of morality, telling us that we are hateful.

I would like to know how and when these people become authorities for us to follow. I am amazed that anyone listens to them. And yet, God tells me not to “fret” (to be hot, furious, burn, become angry, be kindled) or be envious of them. They are temporary, like summer grass, and they will fade and die.

Instead, I am to take delight in the Lord, in His Word, and trust Him to deal with workers of iniquity.

This is essentially what Solomon is telling us in today’s passage. Those who seek to walk a sinful path will answer to God, not to me. Even when they literally get away with murder, they will still face our “immortal, invisible God only wise.” As will we. At that moment, I don’t think we’ll be concerned at all with other people’s behavior, but only our own.

Sunday Morning Coffee: A Picnic

Every year, the owner of the counseling center I worked in invites everyone in the office to a picnic at his place. Today was the day. It couldn’t have been better weather, with moderate temps, a slight breeze, and a lovely country setting.

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As I enjoyed the weather, the food, and the people, I found myself just listening to several conversations at once. Of course I could only follow one at a time, but the thing that impressed me was that matters of faith were high as a topic of conversation. Family, work, children. Sometimes there were actually conversations around some counseling issues, but no one was talking politics. What a relief!

There was laughter. There were silly jokes. There were questions directed to me: What are you going to do with your time now that you’re retired? Did you miss being at work this week? Are you bored yet?

Well, let’s see. I want to keep working on my book. That’s primary.

I teach a women’s Bible study at my church every week.

I teach high school kids in the homeschool co-op my church supports, starting next Friday.

I’m teaching the high school girls in Sunday school right now.

No, I’m not bored. I have a zillion jobs around the house that I need to get to. And I have a whole bunch of unread books just waiting for me to pick them up.

Not bored. Never bored.

Thankful, though. Thankful for days like today, enjoying fellowship with friends who do the same work I did, and who understand how exhausting it can be.

Thankful for a husband who has always been my biggest cheerleader.

Thankful for a church family that has taken us in.

Thankful for all four of my kids, in-laws, and nine grands.

Thankful for relatively good health.

Thankful for my salvation, and the sure knowledge that heaven awaits, and that soon I will see Jesus!

Life is good.