May 10, 2018

Today you should read: Ecclesiastes 8

When I was in college, I interned for a phenomenal pastor named Barry. He served faithfully at his church for 30+ years. He invested in my life and inspired me to believe big in terms of what God could do in my life. I feel strongly that I am a better follower of Jesus because of him.

One of the best things he imparted to me came from a discussion on the WWJD bracelet fad. Barry said, “WWJD makes sense, except when it doesn’t.” By that, he meant that interpreting what we should do based on what Jesus did is a challenging thing for any Christian to take on, since He was the Son of God and did things we can’t, and didn’t always reveal why He did some of the things He did. So how could we possibly apply WWJD accurately?

We can’t.

Barry taught us a much harder acronym. WISTWTTD?  That’s got a nice ring to it, right? But what does it mean?

“WHAT IS THE WISE THING TO DO?” 

What Barry explained was that the Bible teaches all about wisdom. Read James, or Proverbs… or read Ecclesiastes 8. If we stay in the Word, submit to the Holy Spirit, and ask God for wisdom, we would probably do what Jesus would do.

“Who is like the wise? (v.1)”  The best snippet of wisdom from this chapter comes from verse 12: “it will be well with those who fear God.”

WISTWTTD? I don’t know what you’re facing today or what decisions need to made in your life, but I know at least part of the answer: fear the Lord.

By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor

May 9, 2018

Today you should read: Ecclesiastes 7

I’ll never forget a certain text from a high schooler who was a new Christian. I led her to Christ after a Wednesday night service about a month before the text and she was on fire for the Lord. She was bringing friends to church, scheduled to be baptized and excited for her family to attend the service and was getting in God’s Word each day. I’m not sure how she found herself in Ecclesiastes but I remember watching a Cavs game and having a text exchange that went something like this:

ZOE:  “Why does God want us to be sad instead of happy?”

ME: “Ummmm, Excuse me?”

ZOE: “It says in the Bible that being sad is better then laughing and I was wondering why it said that, especially since I’ve been happier since receiving Jesus into my heart and life.” (she was a self-proclaimed emo)

ME: “I’m pretty sure the Bible doesn’t say that and although happiness is not the purpose of life and shouldn’t be the number one pursuit of a Christian, I’m pretty sure the Bible doesn’t say God wants us to be sad over being happy.”

Lo and behold she next sent me a verse in the chapter of Ecclesiastes that we read today:

Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. Ecclesiastes 7:3

This of course led to a conversation about hermeneutics and surrounding context which made more sense to her after pointing out verse 4, right after verse 3, talking about wisdom in the house of mourning (ex. When someone dies and how wise it is to be mourning and thinking about death for it can lead others to thoughts of the afterlife and how unnatural death is and how we were created for eternity). This also led into a conversation on the whole point of chapter 7 which is the value of God’s wisdom over foolishness. A message that is extremely relevant to our current culture and age. You notice how the chapter gives examples of wisdom being gained through trials and times of perseverance instead of the easy, enjoyable times and the folly of giving up.

So today as you read Ecclesiastes 7, look at your times of hardship as opportunities for God’s wisdom and make sure a new Christian starts reading the book of John before Ecclesiastes. 😉

  • Can you give an example of a time that God gave you wisdom through a trial or tough time in your life?

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor

May 8, 2018

Today you should read: Ecclesiastes 6

In Ecclesiastes 6 – Solomon continues to make his case that life without God is meaningless.  He uses several illustrations:

People who acquire great wealth and honor – everything they could ever want – but they die early and a stranger ends up enjoying everything.  Wealth without God is meaningless. (v.1-2)

A man has many children (100 of them!) and he lives to be old – but when he dies his children don’t honor him.  Family without God is meaningless. (v.3-4)

A man could live to be 1,000 years twice over – but still not find contentment.  Life without God is meaningless. (v.6)

Everyone spends their life trying to provide for themselves – the wise and foolish alike.  Wisdom with God is meaningless. (v.7-8)

Solomon teaches us several critical wise principles:

Enjoy what you have rather than desire what you don’t have.  Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless – like chasing the wind. (v.9) This reminds me of the teaching in the New Testament found in 1 Timothy 6:6. True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.

Solomon wraps up the chapter saying:

Our lives are like a shadow.  Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone? (v.12)

Reminds me of the words in James 4:13-14:

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.”  How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 

  • What are you chasing that is meaningless?
  • What are some ways you try and live without God?
  • How can you make the most of today?

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor

May 7, 2018

Today you should read: Ecclesiastes 5

Ecclesiastes is probably my favorite book of the Bible. To me, it paints a picture of the world as I see it. Also, if you take time to consider life, and your place in this world, you should walk away feeling a little depressed. After all, everything is, as the Teacher proclaims, “hevel.” This word literally refers to vapor or smoke, and it provides a great image for life—days are long, years are short, and a century from now the dent of our lives will probably not remain on Earth.

To brighten things up a little bit, let’s step into chapter 5 dealing with the idea of the fruits of our labor. Here is the idea of chapter 5: You will toil and labor. You will reap some fruit from your labor. You will lose the fruit of your labor because everything is outside of your control. The question of how we lose the fruit of our labor is the content of our chapter.

First, you might lose the fruit of your labor due to a rash vow. We see this clearly in verses 4 & 5, “ When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.” To make a rash vow is to exhibit your lack of wisdom before the Lord. We’ve all said, “Lord, if you do X, I’ll do Y.” For the most part, that is stupid and it would have been better to say nothing at all because when God comes through, you’re left holding the bag.

Secondly, in verses 8–9 we see this odd little section about the poor and officials having higher officials finally ending with “After all, a king who cultivates the field is an advantage to the land” (9). Basically, the idea is you will lose the fruit of your labor because we all have an authority over us who wants something for nothing. The author is essentially saying in verse 9 that it would be great for the king to work for his own food, but no king does. Every king takes what they didn’t earn.

The third way you may lose the fruit of your own labor is your own greed. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money” (10). Some people lose the fruit of their labor because of their own stupidity with rash vows, others from corruption or those who want something for nothing, but some people lose the fruit of their labor because they never stop to enjoy it. They toil, toil, toil, then drop dead.

Labor and it’s fruits are “hevel,” if you do not lose them through the above means, you will ultimately lose them when you die (16). No matter what, you will lose the fruits of your labor. So what’s the point? Why should anyone labor?

Verses 18–20 answer those questions. God has given us a few years. God has given us work to do. If you work, you will reap fruit. Enjoy God and enjoy the fruit—everything else is meaningless.

Questions for reflection:

We understand a relationship with God transcends the meaninglessness of life (the point of the book of Ecclesiastes), but in what ways are you tempted to despair about the meaninglessness of life?

This passage is pretty depressing; where do you find hope?

In what ways have you witnessed the loss of fruits in your own life or in the lives of others?

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate