Monday, March 31, 2014

the steadfast love of The Lord

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. 

Psalm 103:17-18

God is faithful to all generations. He does not fail in displaying His everlasting love. The relationship He had with David, marked by His faithful love to His servant, is the same sort of relationship that I enjoy in Christ. Millennia and history have moved on, but God remains steadfast through all generations and the march of time.

God's vision for humanity is so much bigger than my experience can fathom. God is faithful generationally. He enters into relationships that last thousands of years and extend into eternity. 

God could see in Abraham a nation of countless souls whom He loved. He made covenants to preserve future generations. My day to day moments are so microscopic in comparison, yet God's steadfast love is carried into my neediest single moment. That is faithfulness that reveals a carefully created past, protects my present, and preserves the future, not only for me, but for all those who will come after me!

Friday, March 28, 2014

through generations

But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations. 

Psalm 102:12

From beginning to end

Your kingdom will not end

Ruling forever

Failing us never

Each generation sings Your praise

Your power never ceases

Your greatness increases

Our voices we raise

in grateful praise

Each generation worships You

Christ's love given

Securing hope and heaven

Repenting of sin

We enter in

Each geneartion cleansed by You

Salvation's story

Bringing You glory

Your church will sing

Her worship to bring

Each generation surrendered to You

Thursday, March 27, 2014

a vow of integrity

I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. 

Psalm 101:2b-3

This entire psalm is a vow of integrity that David made before the Lord. Some of it is unique to his role as Israel's king. Other parts are the kinds of things the covenant of the Law demanded. But the personalization of David's obedience in this matter is still quite instructive. Holiness means something when we own it and apply it to our own circumstances.

Part of our call to holiness should compel us to commit to personal holiness. We have to stay at the task of letting God change us. We must purpose to be true to Him. Our efforts do not save us, but they do keep us safe. 

For David, integrity started in his own house. He vowed to not even look at worthless idols. He would not let idolatrous desires cling to him. He knew that God was deserted first at that long, lusting look. And integrity crumbles when worldly longings cling to our hearts. Integrity starts in the purposes of the heart.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Preacher's conclusion

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

The book of Ecclesiastes ends with one final clear observation. There is one overarching truth that sets the framewok for living in a fantastic and sometimes frustrating world: "fear God and keep His commands." That is the driving philosophy Solomon found to make sense of things.

So when I share in Solomon's sarcastic observations about the world's absurdities, I pause and recall that God is in control. It is His plan to sort it all out in righteous judgment. No person gets away with anything. No secret sins go unpunished. No hidden charity goes unrewarded. That is why my entire duty is to know, fear, and obey God.

Solomon processes earthly observations with heavenly wisdom. He factors in the reality of God's holiness and everything falls in place, including human duty to God. God makes everything else make sense.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

a kingdom portfolio

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

Ecclesiastes 11:6

The message from this little observation is to invest your life carefully in a diverse portfolio of opportunities. It is not wise to keep your eggs in one basket. Better to explore and expand than to sink into one opportunity alone and have it fail. That makes sense with money and with our life choices.

I realize that I should contemplate how to follow this. I have a tendency to get comfortable and settle in to the numbing sameness. It is soothing. I don't take risks very much. But I might be missing the wise move in the process.

I am thinking now in terms of ministry. I tend to sow seeds of gospel ONLY in the context of local church ministry. But what if the potentially prosperous "field" that needs more gospel sown into it is outside the established Christian culture and I miss it? I think that is the case. I need to think bigger with the gospel driving all facets of my life experience. Most of the needy sinners in the world are not in the church (although there are plenty of us there as well!). And Jesus wants to reach them. My kingdom portfolio seriously needs to diversify.

Monday, March 24, 2014

an absurdity

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were an error proceeding from the ruler: folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves.

Ecclesiastes 10:5-7

Solomon comments on the absurd realities of human decision-making. Just because a person has power and influence does not mean they also utiize proper wisdom. From his observation, Solomon concludes that rulers often display folly. Politics is then something of a fool's game. It does not always lead to a satisfactory view of humanity, but instead has the opposite effect.

That is why no power or control system devised by humans is worth emulating. No business plan, no denominational structure, no system of government can guarantee wisdom. God is the center of wisdom and only thoughts that start and end with Him can prevent folly from taking over.

Human culture apart from God's truth leads to absurdity. A Christian worldview must center upon this, hold fast to it, and demand its answers from God. Errors proceed from any other rulers.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"under the sun" or "under heaven"?

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

From a finite, human perspective these observations hold as reality. I know I see them. There are exceptions to almost every expectation. This verse however is not a concession. It is reality. And scripture has recorded Solomon's observation for us to ponder.

These are "under the sun" notations. That phrase is shorthand for a limited, naturalistic, human perspective that only takes into account physical observations and not spiritual revelation. As such, these notations reflect life in a fallen world. Sin twists lives and ruins our experiences and expectations. And so even the best of human efforts come up short... fast runners may occassionally lose races, battles are won by unseen fortune, wisdom goes unrewarded, and chance accidents occur.

But "under the sun" is different than "under heaven". And when our periphery extends to eternity, these obervations don't sting as much. God has given us Himself and that relieves the ache of our heartfelt disappointments on this earth. It brings much needed perspective. Faith is a power greater than disillusioning experience. And the gift that God gives of Himself lasts forever!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fearing God is its own reward.

Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him.

Ecclesiastes 8:12

Solomon addresses an apparent inconsistency. Sometimes it appears like wicked people prosper despite what we believe about God's justice. But there is much more to the story. He observed that a wicked sinner may seem to have a full life, but that really amounts to nothing without God.

What the Preacher knows is that real satisfaction of soul abides with those who fear God. God is their source, their sustaining life, and their joy. Because of this they do well... more so than someone who only has the stuff of this world.

That same observation can be made today. Wealth and worldly success mean nothing in comparison to knowing the pleasures of God. Fearing God is its own reward because those who do so have God as their king. And God has everything.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

song of fools

It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. 

Ecclesiastes 7:5

Correction and learning are much better for a person than entertainment and amusement. But don't tell that to our culture! People may not be able to look away from their 60 inch plasma screens long enough to understand. Entertainment is an idol and amusement is very big business. But we may just be amusing ourselves to death. This tendency has always been part of the human struggle.

The words of Solomon ring out to us. But can we hear them? Are we too distracted by Hollywood glitz, flashing video games, and the constant demanding attention of social media on our cellphones to even listen? Wise words rebuke us and call us to change. But it requires effort for us to first even listen to the call to do so!


in my culture of ceaseless info-tainment I probably miss many wise words. Help me to set limits. Let me learn from Your rebuke. Keep me focused on You and not my endless demanding false "need" for more of my world's mind-numbing amusements. Amen

Monday, March 17, 2014

eat then die

All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.

Ecclesiastes 6:7

There you have it. The end of naturalism as a motivating lifestyle is absolute frustration. It is not a good thing. We work hard, we feed our faces, yet we will be hungry again until the moment we die. That is not very exciting. It is a drudgery and just a mere existence.

I don't see how mere naturalism can be a joy to the heart of anyone. I watched Neil DeGrasse Tyson exult evolution as a personally spiritual experience for him as last night's episode of "Cosmos" did its best to defeat arguments for a Creator. But evolution is just the epitome of "eat and then die" morbidity. Hardly spiritual... in fact it is a logical fallacy to suggest that naturalistic processes create "spiritual" experiences. DUH!

I enjoy the philosophical merits of Christianity. It places the natural world in a created order. It is not an "eat then die" conclusion. But instead it finds a fulness of joy in the nail-scarred hands of Him Who gives Himself for us so that we may enjoy life! It is life beyond life. That is a spiritual experience that is impossible via naturalism.

Friday, March 14, 2014

worship is dangerous

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.

Ecclesiastes 5:1

Worship is a serious matter. It is not generated by programs or liturgy. It comes when an individual approaches God and means business. It should never be flippant or casual in its meaning to the worshiper. That is why we are told to "guard our steps" when we approach God's house.

The key is to come to hear from God. That is contrasted with committing to meaningless ritual with much flair. It is better to be true to simply appoint our hearts to hear from God than to impress anyone with loud music, colorful lights, and fog machines that cause us to miss hearing from God!

It we miss the chance to listen to God, we missed Him. And to do that is called "evil" in this warning. So if we are not attentive, our false worship will do much harm. Hearing from God is a priority in worship.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

the grass isn't greener

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:4

They color envy green money my neighbor's yard a manicured country club

I think I know what they mean

...more cash

...keep up with the Jones's

...prestige in what I own

But money is good clothes the cold

...feeding hungry kids

...saving lives with medicine

Motives can be bad

...driven by greed

...dominant selfish need

...ignoring others that I see

Unhappiness results

...when envy and greed

...override holier views

...materialism is cruel

Contentment is achieved

...with godliness joined eternal commitments's just equipment

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

a heart filled with forever

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

This is one of the major observations of The Preacher in Ecclesiastes. It is Solomon's solemn realization that God does good work. And one of God's important creative designs is the very nature of the quest that we were made to pursue. It is "beautiful" because it is made by God.

We were designed to ask big questions because built into the heart of every human is this big eternal gap. In that canyon that only God can fill are the echoing existential questions of the soul. It is the seed that grows our worldview. It makes us aware of "something more". It is an aching source of longing to know... anything or everything. It drives us to "find out what God has done". In that "heart filled with eternity" is the desire and drive of all of humanity. It is exhibited in art, in science, in human achievement, in civilization and in contemplation.

But Solomon also notes that the same drive that compels us to understand, to ask big questions and to search for the truth of things is frustrated by human limitation. And that too is God's design. We want to know it all. We physically cannot do so. Hence the need for trust in the God we are driven to seek out.

I like to put Solomon's observation this way: My life was made to make sense with God. Anything else will engage the wonder of the search (which feels powerful) but not the pleasure of satisfying it with full answers (ultimately frustrating). I was made by God to know God. That observation puts it all into perspective, even if I am still looking to Him for more answers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

nothing gained

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:11

We like to tell ourselves that hard work is its own reward. But that is not entirely true. Work cannot be an ends in itself. Neither can money, or things, or pleasures. All of these are just temporary moments of fulfillment at best. They all must focus us to a greater purpose.

Solomon vents his frustrations at the pursuits of wisdom, pleasure, leisure, accomplishment, and treasure. All those kinds of things would not really bring a full joy. In the end they left the big questions unanswered and the needs of his heart unmet. They all led to the same frustrating chasing of the wind that plagued Solomon's soul.

This is the way of the world. We were made for more and we know it. This knowledge is why we pursue almst anything with the rabid devotion of a starving person, hoping for those answers to settle. And it is what should lead us to pursue our pleasure in God Who is the Source of those things. We mistake the signs for the destination every time.

There is nothing to be gained under the sun if we ignore the call to live under the Son. When we begin to live with an eternal viewpoint, things change. There is still the vanity of earthly things. But there is a deeper purpose that lifts us out of the blowing, worthless wind and into the joy of our Father's love.

Monday, March 10, 2014

chasing down the wind

I said in my heart, "I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge." And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 1:16-17

Solomon's intimate personal journal details are found in this book. It is a record of his personal quest to figure out his world. It is a philosophical masterpiece of human reflection. But it is not a slappy-happy feel-good kind of diary that would sell well in a modern Christian bookstore! You  can't really market coffee mugs, wall paintings, and T-shirts from Ecclesiastes. Don't try it. It is a darkly written notebook stinging with the cynicisms of a man who burned out on everything but finally found Something in the ashes. It is worth sorting through the tougher, bitter observations to get at the kernels of life truth Solomon found.

Solomon had it all. He did it all. He had the wealth of a nation in his palace treasuries and he utilized it to gain the finest education on every possible subject. He pursued wisdom and pleasure equally lustily, wringing them out for every last drop of personal experience possible for him to have. And ultimately they did not satisfy. His final verdict on all of that endeavor over his lifetime: chasing the wind.

There is a human perspective in Ecclesiastes that is just as real today as in Solomon's troubled soul. Only most westerners can be like Solomon in the pursuit of the wisdom of this world. We often have access to a university of human thought in the palm of our hands... literally. But there is an error at the beginning of this search that leaves us trying to catch wind in our jars. It is the mistake of assuming that the cosmos is all there is and has all the answers within itself. (Sorry, Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson) The physical universe is the source of a big wind chasing race. And like Solomon, hearts today burn out in the passionate run after the breeze. We were made for a deeper purpose focused on a strong center. Knowledge is good and the universe is worth exploring. But to make that pursuit the center is to miss out. And Ecclesiastes will eventually show this later as we read Solomon's reflections at the finish line. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

God is always the same.

For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. 

Psalm 100:5

God is good. God is faithful. His love will last forever. He will always be faithful to each new generation. These are facts that were true in ancient Israel. They were true when Jesus taught in Galilee and brought them to life. They have been true for countless generations. They are certainly true now. And the future will be defined by these truths as well.

God is timeless and His actions toward humanity prove this. What He was when Israel worshiped Him is Who He is now and Who He will be for succeeding generations and forevermore. 

Trusting God is an action and a lifestyle that generations past have lived and they were not disappointed. And God will not fail that trust now, even in our generation's challenges. He will carry each generation in His faithful love. These assurances transcend culture and time. They encourage us as we remain faithful to a faithful God.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy! 

Psalm 99:9

I can't make You greater

than You already are.

So when You call me to

exalt You, I don't raise the bar.

I add nothing to You.

I don't increase Your glory

or make You more worthy

or even complete Your story.

You are higher than the

universe, unknowable in full.

My life has chased Your presence

grasping at the edges of the whole.

Nothing compares to You.

Magnificent in power,

filling up ambition's flower,

in my every breathing hour.

I am a meager, finite man

with an infinite God before me.

I drop down to my knees,

the only place I can adore Thee.

Worship just seems right.

It's the only explanation

for my heart's avocation,

loving You in adoration.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

worship worldwide

The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. 

Psalm 98:2-3

And what was true for Israel so many thousands of years ago is true for me as well. Through Christ's work and the visible evidence of His redemptive love the world can see the salvation of our God. It is the heart of God that His love be known in His people in the sight of all the nations. There is a mandate then that we who are God's people will share His heart for the people of the world. We are called to demonstrate His salvation and God's righteousness to all the earth.

God is steadfast and faithful to His people so that we in turn would be faithful to His desire to make His glory known in all the earth. Worship is not just a cloistered cluster of Christians on Sunday. It is a proclamation of God's glory and the great power of the gospel to meet the need of all the world! Worship has God's glory in mind with a desire to make it known to all the world. And if I have not considered my part in that picture, then I may not have ever really worshiped God.


In Jesus Your salvation is made known. Your righteousness is revealed. And I am called, like all believers, to make that righteousness known so that the world may rejoice in it. Use me in Your way so that the ends of the earth may see Your salvation.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Loving God and the promises He makes

O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. 

Psalm 97:10-11

When we love God, it is a necessary result that we also love what is right, for God is holy and righteous. And when we love what is right, we must hate what is wrong. We hate evil. We don't hate evil PEOPLE who are wrong, but rather the evil that is done. And when we do so, there are certain blessings that attend a love for God and what He is in all His holiness and goodness. That is displayed to us by God. We are blessed by loving God.

We are promised deliverance from the hand of the wicked. But...this promise has a dark warning in it. Wicked people oppose God and if we represent Him well, we will probably be opposed. But God will deliver us. We will face a struggle because good and evil are in opposition. But God will preserve the lives of His saints since He uses them for His good purposes. They cannot lose. Even in death, good will be known by God's graces.

God is doing something bigger than just any one life. I see that in the language of light being "sown". The seed is sown with the promise of future harvest. And loving God and hating evil work that way. Sometimes the promise is sown to be enjoyed in another season. It may not be immediate, but God will be glorified and His saints blessed by our worship of Him... our love and obedience to God right now will yield blessings. I trust that truth.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Exclusivity is a necessity for worship.

For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. 

Psalm 96:4-5

It seems to me that one element of worship is the celebration of the exclusivity of God. It is what His people have always praised about God. And this psalm unashamedly does so. It compares the mighty power of God to the worthlessness of idols. It calls the beliefs of others worthless. Yep. That's pretty intolerant, wouldn't you say?

The purpose of pointing out the worthless pursuit of idolatry is twofold: 1) it praises the God Who is Maker of all things and 2) it protects our hearts from temptations to idolatry. What we are most prone to do when we are not worshiping God is to worship something else. We were created to wroship. We are finite. And our hearts crave the "greater" since inately we know we are made for eternity. And we will foolishly worship the works of our hands, ascribing value beyond ourselves to them. That is exactly what an idol is.

Exclusivity protects us from sinful idolatry. The minute we stray from an exclusive worship of The Lord, we take away from our understanding of His majesty. And we make created things and man made things false gods. Worship The Lord. Worship Him alone. Only God is worthy. Only God is God. There is no other.