Sunday Morning Coffee: Hope

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It’s been a difficult couple of weeks, physically. If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you are aware that I have a deteriorating back. I just call it “old woman’s back.” 🙂 Saves going into lots of boring detail.

I had an epidural injection on June 10, and it did really well for me except for something called radiculitis, which radiates from L4 and L5 outward to my right hip area. The pain comes from herniation of both those vertebrae, which pinches the nerves and makes them really ticked off. So they scream and whine and carry on and keep me from doing much of anything.

Desperate for relief, I called my pain team (really good guys who actually listen!) and told them I had very little time before we’re supposed to get on an airplane and fly to England. They chose to put me on a step-down Prednisone pack. I started using it Wednesday, and will finish it tomorrow.

Can I tell you how much I hate the side effects of Prednisone? This much:

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I gain a pound every day I’m taking it. I live in the bathroom. I’m wired up so it’s hard to sleep.

BUT! It IS working, and today I was able to stand up from bed without gasping and crying. I’ve been using my walker all week, and still did this morning even though I think I’d have been okay with just my cane. I’m walking fairly comfortably for the first time in over a week.

There’s this little glimmer of hope. Maybe I’ll get on the airplane without having to be hoisted up there with a crane 🙂

Lots of people have been praying for me this week. There are no ugly side effects from prayer. There is a peace that comes from knowing that friends are going to the Great Physician in my behalf. Prayer is more powerful than Prednisone, but put the two of them together, and I’m getting the best treatment there is.

If you have been praying for me, bouquets of roses to you! I can never tell you how thankful I am for the prayers of the saints that are a sweet aroma to the Lord.

A Correction

On June 24, I wrote this: “Solomon’s two sons, under whom the kingdom was divided, were fairly young. Rehoboam became king over Israel, but refused to listen to his wise older counselors and created horrible conditions for his people. To some degree, he was simply following Solomon’s example. Solomon had conscripted 30,000 men to labor in building his great structures. They were, essentially, slaves. They had no control over their lives once Solomon drafted them to his service”

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My smart husband, who spends many hours in his Bible, was reading this last night and told me I was mistaken. It is true that Rehoboam was Solomon’s son; Jereboam, however, was not. He was the son of Nebat, and a servant of Solomon’s.

You can read his story starting in I Kings 11:26. It’s a very sad story. Before Jereboam is mentioned, the scriptures detail Solomon’s fall away from God. God had warned him not to become involved with the strange gods of his 300 wives and 700 concubines, but he did it because he loved the women. He participated in their sacrifices, forsaking his God-given wisdom and the clear warnings God gave him.

Jereboam proved himself as a young man to be a good worker and solid leader. Also, God had singled him out for leadership as the first king of Israel under the divided kingdom. God allowed Solomon to remain king of the united kingdom until his death. God did so to honor His promise to David, and separated out Jerusalem and Judah for Rehoboam, whose line would continue and eventually produce Jesus Christ, Lion of Judah.

I apologize for the error. I’m usually more careful in my research but this time I wasn’t. If you were confused, you were right to be so.

Pobody’s nerfect 🙂

Sacrifice of Fools

Eccl. 5:1. Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

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Keep: to keep, guard, keep watch and ward, protect, save life

Thy foot: Don’t let anything get in the way. Don’t fall, trip, stumble, or be wayward.

When we go to church, the main thing should be to listen, not to speak. I’m teaching the high school girls’ Sunday school class this summer, so I NEED to speak. But when the preaching service starts, I clam up. Our pastor deserves the respect of a quiet audience, although at times he does ask us to participate. We need to attend the words of the preacher with open, quiet, humble spirits if we’re going to benefit from his words.

The sacrifice : We don’t offer sacrifices as they did in the Temple. Today, though, I think those of us who like the sound of our own voices, believing we are THAT important, that others NEED to hear what we have to say, are offering our own foolish sacrifices.

Of Fools : fool, stupid fellow, dullard, simpleton, arrogant one

Don’t be that. Your self-perceived wisdom could easily come off far differently than you think.

We don’t stop to consider that when we interrupt, spout off, contradict, etc. that we may be doing evil. Pride is a terrible thing. It blinds us to our own folly.

It’s Baaaaaack!

My back, that is. Sigh. The reason I didn’t post my usual Bible post this morning is that I just couldn’t sit in the chair. It hurts.

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I’m not a doctor, but I sure am learning things I wish I didn’t have to know. My pain is most likely from a pinched nerve in my lumbar vertebrae caused by herniation. It screams from there to the top curve of the pelvic bone. And it stays there, burning and laughing at me when I have to move around. This is not sciatic pain, which goes down the leg. It’s diagnosed as radiculopathy. It’s ridiculous, for sure. And the pain level is waaaaaay above a 10.

BUT! I have lots of people praying for me. I have a team of doctors who truly listen and do their best to help me. I have medication that I started taking today, and already I feel an improvement. I don’t like prednisone. It wires me up and makes me manic. But if that’s what it takes, then so be it. I can’t have another injection because it’s been only 2 1/2 weeks since the last one.

We fly to England on July 7. The doctors are working with me to get this under control before we take off. I can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am for these guys. Doctors who listen, care, and respond to your calls and messages? Priceless.

Any way, that’s my story for today. Hoping for a better one tomorrow 🙂

And I treasure your prayers.

Rich or Poor, God Controls

14 For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.

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I’m so thankful for good Bible commentaries and research tools. I puzzled over this verse, and finally found an explanation that depends on the connotation of the word prison. The meaning here is not necessarily a true prison, in which a person is locked up and made to stay until someone else lets him out.

What this verse is saying is that sometimes a man rises from obscurity, poverty, captivity of some sort and becomes king, even though he was not born into a noble or wealthy household.

I thought of Joseph, of course. He was a younger son in a family of shepherds, a child in comparison to the older brothers who were jealous of him, threw him into a deep pit, and then sold him into slavery in Egypt. He did not become an actual king, but his authority in Egypt was superceded only by Pharaoh. He gained that position through his upright behavior, his godly wisdom, and God’s guidance in his entire life.

Some would have thought him nothing but a lower-class, grubby little shepherd boy. He left his literal prison, though, to become second only to the king of Egypt.

It is also true that sometimes, he who was born to riches and to the crown, through his own foolishness and pride, loses everything. Think of Saul, the first king of Israel. He certainly didn’t come to a good end.

An Old and Foolish King

Eccl. 4:13. “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.”

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This verse pictures the vanity of a king who abuses his rights and authority in oppressing the people.

We tend to think that wisdom comes with age, and often, that is true. However, the young are sometimes wiser than the old IF they are walking with the Lord, paying attention to His Word, and accepting godly counsel.

The saying that there’s no fool like an old fool exists for a reason: It is the truth! The old but foolish king described in this verse has lost his understanding of Who God is. He has become so used to his authority that he abuses his people and thinks that is the way it should be. He considers himself above all other authority. There is no moral code, no acceptable law, that binds the authority of a king.

Solomon’s two sons, under whom the kingdom was divided, were fairly young. Rehoboam became king over Israel, but refused to listen to his wise older counselors and created horrible conditions for his people. To some degree, he was simply following Solomon’s example. Solomon had conscripted 30,000 men to labor in building his great structures. They were, essentially, slaves. They had no control over their lives once Solomon drafted them to his service.

All the wisdom and discernment with which God had gifted him somehow became vague and blurry as he grew more and more powerful. He became a foolish king who would no longer accept correction. What a sad situation for the man who was wiser than any other king, more powerful, wealthy and famous than any other king of his time.

He let it all go to his head, and in doing so he lost his common sense.

Advice: Two are Better than One

Eccl. 9-12.

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?

12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

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I’ve always been intrigued by this passage. Solomon seems to be just pondering about the importance of friendship, relationship, partnership. I believe he was often very lonely in his position as King. Some of that he brought upon himself, as he demanded more and more of his people be bound into labor to complete his great works. Some of it, as someone has said, is that it’s just lonely at the top, especially if you have no precious marital partner, where the two become one. Solomon destroyed that relationship with his 1000 wives and concubines. Perhaps his closest relationship was with his mother.

The first three verses in this passage speak of practical things. You get more work done when two people are helping each other; you have someone to help you if you fall; two people sleeping in the same bed will help keep each other warm.

But what about the 12th verse? First it says two can prevail against an enemy better than one; but then it talks about a three-fold cord. What is that? One of my old favorite commentators, Matthew Henry, says it very well:

He concludes with this proverb, A threefold cord is not easily broken, any more than a bundle of arrows, though each single thread, and each single arrow, is. Two together he compares to a threefold cord; for where two are closely joined in holy love and fellowship, Christ will by His Spirit come to them, and make the third, as He joined Himself to the two disciples going to Emmaus, and then there is a threefold cord that can never be broken. They that dwell in love, dwell in God, and God in them.

Blue Letter Bible, Commentary, Matthew Henry

God becomes the third strand in the cord. This applies well to a God-centered marriage. Having Him as the third strand in the cord makes all the difference in the world!

BUT–people who are single, and who love God, still have all the benefits of having a partner Who is always prepared to aid and assist. I think, from watching people I know, that being alone in the physical sense often helps a believer to seek God in a whole new way.

The Miser

Eccl. 4:7-8.

Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.

There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.

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This passage describes one who is alone, probably by choice. He spends all his time working, toiling, endlessly. Yet, no matter how much he gains from his work, it is not enough to satisfy the emptiness inside him. He has no one with whom to share all that he gains in material terms. He is alone; perhaps holds great wealth, and he never stops to ask why.

I am reminded of George Elliot’s story about Silas Marner, a man who is alone and spends all his time working and counting his money. He has nothing else to live for. If memory serves, his work was also done in his house, all alone. Work, gain money, hoard it and count it. Yet when he died, as we all must, there was no value in all that work. He couldn’t take his money with him. He went to the grave the same way he lived—alone. As we all must.

Made For Work

Eccl. 4:4-6.

Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

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Solomon is actually learning some things, although it would seem he is still consumed by his discouragement. Here, he considers again that even if a man labors in that which is right and good, and becomes financially comfortable, he is going to be envied by his neighbors.

We have such small, mean spirits. Of course we know that there are unethical people who have gained wealth and fame through questionable dealings. But not all people who have succeeded in their labors are unethical. Many of them use their money for the good of others, yet we continue to criticize them–mostly because we don’t have what they do, and we’re jealous. Such is vanity and vexation of spirit.

The next verse had me puzzled, so I did some searching. Don’t worry, we’re not dealing with someone who actually eats his own flesh. Instead, this is a picture of how a lazy man who finds all manner of excuses to remain idle usually begins to deteriorate physically, and is eaten up by his own idleness. Our bodies were made to work. God’s intricate design of bone, muscle, nerves, hands, eyes, ears, mouth, skin—all work together to allow us to provide for our needs and the needs of our families. When we fail to do so, out of pure laziness and/or stupidity, our bodies will begin to break down. Muscle atrophy is common with very old age when the body just won’t do what it could do in a person’s youth. Refusing to work is a sure path to a slow death.

A handful with quietness. In this verse, quietness is a sense of peace, calm, satisfaction. It is better to have only a handful, only what we truly need, than to have an over-abundance if there is also a load of misery and emptiness, a lack of contentment.

Advice and Instruction

Eccl. 4:1-3.

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

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Solomon turned back to his earlier observations: The tears of the oppressed; the power of the oppressors; neither had a comforter; it is better to be dead; better yet to never have been born.

Clearly, he is still looking at everything “under the sun,” or through the eyes of man and not the eyes of God. Because his vision was through human eyes, he came to rather dismal conclusions:

Because of the oppression and travail of the oppressed, and because there was no comfort for the oppressed or the oppressor, Solomon concluded that the dead are better off than the living, and that not to have been born would be even better than being dead.

At the end of Chapter 3, he actually seemed to be finding his way; but Chapter 4 took him right back down to the dismals. But don’t lose hope; he does get it right, and in this chapter you will see that his thinking is finally coming to a better perspective.