Friday, 30 June 2017

Calling evil good

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5.20

I am still not that old, but I certainly am amazed at how much this world has turned since I was younger. I have been saved for 43 years now. Looking at life from a Christian perspective has been an amazing experience. The are loads of things that everyone ‘knew’ were wrong back then that now are seen as a normal part of life.

We can expect that out of the world, but the sad thing is that things that we once knew were sin have become accepted and now are even seen as laudatory and good and positive.

While we are called to be loving and compassionate and caring and kind despite the sins of the world at the same time sin is still sin and we still must pronounce it as such. We still need to recognise wrong as wrong and evil as evil. We can and should be loving in the way we deal with it, but sin is the enemy, not the sinner. We must never get to the point where we tolerate sin just because it is popular or ‘normal.’

Evil is never going to become good. We can sugar coat it and call it by different names and make excuses, but evil is evil, was evil, and always will be evil. We dare not call evil good.

In all of this, let us remember that the enemy is evil, not the people that are caught up in that evil.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Walk in the light

O house of Jacob, come ye,
and let us walk in the light of the Lord. – Isaiah 2.5

There can be no doubt that we live in a world of darkness. There are times and places and situations where the darkness is nearly palpable. In places like Ireland, where there has never been a genuine revival the darkness can be overwhelming. All of man’s attempts at creating light eventually fail.

Part of the problem is that men tend to love darkness more than they love light. Darkness hides their sin. Nobody can see what we do in the darkness. The bad thing about darkness though is that we all stumble in the darkness and man doesn’t even know why he is stumbling.

Things are so dark and so bad that even we Christians can find ourselves ignoring the light and trying to muck about in the darkness.

The thing is that Jesus came as the Light of the world, to lead the way out of that darkness, but He was rejected by the world because they love darkness so much.

But there is no excuse for God’s children to walk in darkness. We have the light and we must not allow ourselves to get trapped in darkness and spending our days walking in it.

Not only that, but because we have the light we are to shine that light to the world. When we walk in the light we will draw others to walk in that light. We are instruments of light to show the world the Light that is found in Christ.

May my light shine so brightly before the world that they will see my goods works and that God might be lifted up and glorified in this dark world.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Swords into ploughshares

And he shall judge among the nations,
and shall rebuke many people:
and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruninghooks:
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.  - Isaiah 2.4

In 1959, at the very centre of the Cold War, the Soviet Union gifted the UN with the iconic image of a man beating a sword onto the cutting edge of a plough. The image is not only iconic, but also ironic since the USSR at that moment was on the verge of a potentially cataclysmic war against the US.

But still, the image and the notion was a good one. That war never came. Despite the hard talk and the rhetoric and a few near misses somehow that war was avoided.

Sadly though the image hopes for an impossibility. Man’s wars have continues to rage since 1959. We just can’t seem to get along despite of laudable goal of turning our weapons of war in to tools for peace and the betterment of mankind.

We can’t do it because man is always going to want what is best for himself. Nations want to take care of themselves and the cost to others really doesn’t matter. The goal is noble and man should all he can to achieve it. But, at the end of the day man’s peace will always fail.

That’s the context of this verse. Despite man’s conflict and despite the raging battle and all that the day is coming when God will send His Son back to earth to put an end to all war. The day is coming when He will reign and war will be no more.

That is only possible when man’s broken relationship with God is restored. That’s what the angel’s meant when the promised ‘peace on earth’ and that’s what Jesus meant when He said ‘My peace I leave with you.’

So lets take great hope in the image of swords being beaten into ploughshares. We have a great and mighty God who is going to bring it to pass and let us put our trust in Him to see it accomplished. 

And lets be busy bringing the message of His peace to a world that surely needs it. 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Whiter than snow

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:
though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
But if ye refuse and rebel,
ye shall be devoured with the sword:
for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. - Isaiah 1:18-20

We could hardly blame God if He just decided to wipe it all out and start again. The whole Bible is a record of God’s people walking in rebellion against Him and turning from Him. No matter what God does for us, we seem to turn from Him.

Why not just give up on us?

Israel in Isaiah’s time was like that. They didn’t really care about God or His way or His desires. They were all about satisfying self. God had been dealing with this since He chose Israel.

But God still loved His people. He continued to reach out to them. He wanted them to come to Him. God reached out with an offer because man had not power to reach out to God. ‘Come to me with your sins’ God says and I will taken the darkness of sin and make you whiter than snow.

Our only hope to have our slates washed clean is through the blood of Christ. It is the only thing that makes sense. I know I am not perfect and I know that I cannot rectify my sins on my own. I can be made white as snow because Christ’s righteousness covers me and God sees only His perfection when it is imputed on me.

I may not always feel whiter than snow – but that is how God sees me because of Christ.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Tired of your religion

Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth:
they are a trouble unto me;
I am weary to bear them.
And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you:
yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear:
your hands are full of blood.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
Learn to do well;
seek judgment, relieve the oppressed,
judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. - Isaiah 1:14-17

Even while Israel was in a mess they still maintained their semblance of religion. They did the sacrifices and observed the holy days. The surface religion was still there. But there was no reality to it.

So God told them what they needed to do:

Cleanse yourselves of your sin
Get rid of the evil in your lives. Stop doing it.
Learn how to do well.
Seek just judgement.
Take care of the poor.
Care for the fatherless and the widows.

Obviously, the first though that comes to mind is how James defined true religious – ‘to care for the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep yourself unspotted by the world.’

I wonder how God feels about my ‘religion?’ Is my religion the kind of thing Isaiah talks about or James writes about, or my religion mostly a show that makes me feel good about myself. Am I content with my religion, or am I striving to live out my faith by dealing with my sin and by caring for others?

Sunday, 25 June 2017

A very small remnant

Your country is desolate,
your cities are burned with fire:
your land, strangers devour it in your presence,
and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard,
as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers,
as a besieged city.
Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant,
we should have been as Sodom,
and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. – Isaiah 1.7-9

It seems like we are in days of overwhelming opposition. The world grows more and more wicked by the day. Christians seem to be shunted more and more to the touchlines and the shadows of our world. There is still plenty of religion, but the question is how much true faith is left? There are pockets where Christians still have some semblance of power in society, like this pocket of North Carolina, but we have to ask ourselves how many dedicated followers of Christ are there left?

In Isaiah’s day Israel found herself in a similar situation. The country was in a shambles and it was all doom and gloom.

But God left hope there. In the midst of all the disaster God had left ‘a very small remnant’ of His own true people who were carrying on faithfully for Him. That remnant gave hope.

Though we are not Israel I think we can learn from this truth of a very small remnant. In our culture, where it is even difficult to find truth in the churches, there still exists a very small remnant who hold true to the word of God and who will not be turned away by the lies and deceptions and the draws of this present age. That remnant is the hope for our churches and the hope of people caught in the horrors of this present.

That is why the remnant cannot give up. We can’t quit because we are tired. We can’t be moved. We must be steadfast. We must remember that our labour is not in vain in time we will reap if we don’t lose heart.

May that remnant be always faithful.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Arise and come away

My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. - Song of Songs 2:10-13

These words of the bridegroom were exciting words for the bride to look forward to. After all the celebration the bridegroom would say something like ‘the time as come, arise and come away with me. It is time to go home.

And those are words that we can look forward to as well. One day our Jesus is going to come to us and say ‘Arise, my beloved, it is time to go home.’ All of the waiting is going to be worth it all when we hear those wonderful words.

I get really tired of this broken world. It is sad to see a world full of broken people. And it even sadder when I let that broken world full of broken people get the best of me.

But, He will return. The bridegroom is coming to catch us away. He is coming to take us home to the place He has prepared for us. We are going to go home with the One who gave His life for us and spend eternity with Him in the perfect place He has made just for us.

What a day that will be when He says, ‘Arise, come away.’

Friday, 23 June 2017

The love banner

As the apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down under his shadow with great delight,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love. - Song of Songs 2:3-4

The bride here is rejoicing over the marvellous provision of her groom. She speaks of the things he does for her and also of the great love that flies over everything.

He brought me to the banquet house and his banner over me is love.

Here again I think we see a picture of the wonderful relation that Jesus has with us, the church, His bride. We look forward to His great provision of eternity with Him, but we also see daily provision that He provides.

But what sticks out to me is His motive. The thing that overrides everything else is that His banner over me is love. The flag that flies over my relationship with the Savour is love.

It is His love that sent Him to earth to live amongst men. It is His love that motivated Him to go to the cross in my stead. It is His love that drives Him to be with me today. It is love that allows Him to be my advocate before the Father. And it is His love that will have Him one day come and say ‘arise and come away.’

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Let us hear the conclusion

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. – Ecclesiastes 12.13-14

Whoops, I jumped ahead of my self there and didn’t finish Ecclesiastes before I jumped into the Song of Songs, but how can I leave out the ‘conclusion of the whole matter?’

After all of Solomon’s searching and trying things out and finding only vanity he comes to the end of his search. He had tried power and pleasure and possessions and people and found everything wanting and stated ‘vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’

The conclusion of the whole matter?

Fear God and keep His commandments


This is the whole duty of man.

It is only in fearing God and keeping His commandments that we can find peace and contentment and satisfaction and the meaning on life. If that is our goal the circumstances we face can’t destroy us. Our lives are based not on what we can get out of them but on how we can serve Him.

When we do that all the stuff that Solomon sought to find peace don’t matter – our peace is the peace that Jesus left behind that the world can never provide.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

How can I turn aside?

Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth,
where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon:
for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? - Song of Songs 1:7

Well, here we go into the Song of Songs. To me personally this is the most difficult book from which to glean spiritual truth. It is a beautiful love song full of love and intimacy where I often can’t make sense of why we are privy to such an intimacy. But, I know this is God’s word and that it is there for a purpose, so here goes.

The first thing to jump out at me was chapter 1 verse 7. The bride is speaking of her love and says ‘I love you and you provide for me. Why then should I be turned aside by anyone else.’ (A little bit of parrowphrase there)

But I love the picture that this conjures up. They tell us the the Song of Songs is a love story that illustrates the love that Christ, the bridegroom, has for us, His church. That being the case we have an image of the Christ that provides for us. Since we claim to love Him and He meets our needs how can we be turned aside by everything else out there? Why should we go anywhere else? It reminds of when Peter, I think it was, said ‘Where else would we go Lord?’

We have all we need in Him. How can we be turned aside by the passing baubles that the world offers us? All the other things are passing away. Only Christ is for eternity. The visible things of this world are tempting, but temporary. He is invisible, but eternal.

So let us follow the bride's example here and ask ourselves ‘how can we be turned away?’

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

One sinner does great harm

Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good. - Ecclesiastes 9:18

The first thing I think about here is the story of Achan and the battle of Ai. In that account the nation of Israel had just had a great victory at Jericho, but were defeated at the battle of Ai which they should have won easily.

Hw could they lose such an easy battle? Achan, one of the men of Israel has sinned by taking some of the loot for himself.

The picture is pretty clear. One sinner can make a mess of things for everyone else.

We are primarily talk about something dealing with God’s people. Achan sets the example in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament we have an example of the truth in the church at Corinth.

A man in the church there was have sexual relations with his mother-in-law. The church has tried to get him to confess and repent and lay aside his sin. Still he continued, but something had to be done.

So Paul told the church to ‘put him out’ until he repented.

That sounds harsh, but it worked. The man was restored.

It is important that the church deal with sin in her ranks. Tolerating a little sin does a lot of damage. It is never to be done in a haughty, arrogant, or punishing way. The goal is always to restore the erring member.

But one sinner can do a lat of harm, to himself and to the church. Our task is to admonish and help get him on the right path.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Quiet words of wisdom

The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. - Ecclesiastes 9:17

I realise that Ecclesiastes 9 comes before Ecclesiastes 12, but I was looking back and spotted a couple of things from last week, that just need to be talked about.

For one thing, I can’t imagine more needed words in today’s climate than ‘the words of wise men are heard in quiet.’ ’

We live in a day of great loudness. Everyone has an opinion, which is fine, but it seems like a lot of folks think that their opinion must be heard and that if no one will listen the best thing to do is to just say it more loudly. The quiet voice that tries to speak out is far too often shouted into silence.

Any fool can shout with a loud voice.

But still, there are those quiet words being spoken in the midst of all the shouting. Those wise words are being said, and all we have to do is to listen.

But there is something even more important that we can do – we can strive to be that quiet voice of wisdom in this world of screaming.

Lord, help me to be one that has that has that quiet voice of wisdom.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Remember in your youth

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; - Ecclesiastes 11:9 - 12:1

In all that rejoicing of the life we are to have there is something. There is a ‘big but,’ if you will.

‘Remember now your Creator…’ Solomon writes. Enjoy your life but don’t leave God out of it. The next few verses are kind of depressing in their description of getting old with things like our teeth wearing our and our eyes going bad. I remember way back to about 2002 when my arches collapsed and I first need varifocals and thought that was bad. Since then I am sensing the changes, and though I am still in relative good health and trying to stay active I am not the man I was forty years ago. The reality of this passage is starting to sink in.

Remembering God is the counterweight to rejoicing in youth. It is the thing that keeps everything in check. Remembering God is what. Gives me the ability to really enjoy life in a way that does not cause destruction or make me do things I will regret later.

While the youth, and all of us, enjoy life we must also put away evil. ‘Remove sorrow, but put away evil’ Solomon says. We need not do evil to rejoice in our lives. In fact they ought to go hand in hand.

The balance requires the right perspective – and that comes when we focus on remembering God as we go from day to day.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Rejoice in your youth

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity. - Ecclesiastes 11:9-10

Though we live in a terribly broken world God did not intend for us to live a life of drudgery. This passage is a reminder to enjoy the life we have while we can,

That’s a wonderful truth for all of us. God wants us to enjoy the time He gives us. Here He specifically says ‘rejoice O young man in your youth’ and that is something young people need to remember. But I think the principle is true for us all. Enjoy the time we have because the years are passing by and soon they will be done. Don’t put things off until tomorrow. Use the time we have.

But enjoying is only half of the story. That is not the important things here. There is something to remember while we enjoy. More anon.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Cast your bread

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth. If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be. He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good. - Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

‘Cast your bread upon the waters’ is an interesting phrase. I don’t understand how the idiom came to be, but the idea is that we are to do good without any regard as to how we might be rewarded or recompensed.

That is a beautiful idea, isn’t it? We ought to just be doing good no matter what. This casting bread could be as simple as being a kind and helpful person. It could be meeting the needs of those less fortunate. Or it could be something as profound as sharing Christ with people we meet.

It does seem at times like that last thing is done without any sign that it is doing any good. Solomon writes that we don’t understand how the spirit moves or the bones grow in the womb. We can know more hope to understand how God is using us or how He is going to work.

So we just keep casting our bread on the waters and leave the rest up to God. Keep on loving, keep on doing good deeds, keep on caring, keep on caring for others, keep on sharing your faith, keep talking about Jesus. We don’t know if it is going to prosper or not – God does, so lets trust Him.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Yielding pacifies

If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences. - Ecclesiastes 10:4

Before I get started let me assure you all that I understand the need to stand and fight and not be moved and never to yield to wrong or sin or the forces of evil.

But, there are times in our every day lives when we need to acknowledge that there is a place to yield and watch yielding bring about peace. Don’t get too excited, Solomon says, when you have problems with the government. Giving in can pacify great offences.

Sometimes the best thing we can do when people treat us unfairly is just to let it go. Here it is the light of a ruler rises up to oppose the people, but I think the application is that we need to carefully choose our battles. We don’t need to fight about everything. That concept seems to be forgotten in 2017 when people, including God’s people, seem to be ready to fight at the drop of a hat over sports or politics or smartphone choices or what kind of tea to drink (though I don’t understand anyone who doesn’t think Lyons Gold is the best tea in the world).

Sometimes we just need to choice not to take offence or be bothered and yield so that there will peace and we can move on to more important things.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Wisdom is better than strength

Then I said:
“Wisdom is better than strength.
Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised,
And his words are not heard.
Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard
Rather than the shout of a ruler of fools. - Ecclesiastes 9:16-17

We have all heard the old saying that ‘might makes right.’ And, it certainly seems to ring true. The stronger you are the better chance you have of winning whatever you are doing. Might always overcomes weakness.

But even in a worldly secular context that’s not the way it always works. “Wisdom is better than strength’ we read here. There are times when a David defeats a Goliath out of wisdom. I think of sporting events where a vastly superior team with far more skill and far more talent and much stronger players was out played and out strategied by a wiser coach and smarter players.

Sometimes, even in a practical sense wisdom is greater than strength. That being the case it is even more obvious that when we exercise God’s wisdom we can defeat even the strongest foe.

Nobody is going to outsmart God or outpower Him or outthink Him. He has the perfect plan that is going to always win out over the best man can throw at Him.

So we need to rely on His wisdom working in us as we leave our lives today. God’s wisdom may seem like foolishness to the world, but it will always win out over the world’s might.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

A snare

For man also does not know his time:
Like fish taken in a cruel net,
Like birds caught in a snare,
So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
When it falls suddenly upon them. - Ecclesiastes 9:12

We never know what is around the corner. We are like fish swimming in a net filled sea. We are like birds in a field of snares. We never know where the nest trap might bet or even what it might look like.

This is why we believers are told to be sober and be vigilant because our adversary the devil walks about seeking whom he might devour. It is why we are told to walk circumspectly. Eve had no idea she was going to be caught out by Satan when she went for her stroll though the garden.

We can have the same problem. We don’t know what is there to catch us out. So we must be ever vigilant as we go from day to day so that we are not caught in the snare of the evil day.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Time and chance happen to all

I returned and saw under the sun that—
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all. - Ecclesiastes 9:11

The race is not always to the swift and the battle is not always to the strong. Bread does always come to the wise or riches to those who understand. Favour does not always go to the skilled.

Generally these things so happen, but sometimes the weaker win the fight and he slower win the race and the foolish prosper and so on.

Because sometimes strange things just happen. Sometimes things don’t go the way they ‘should.’

Solomon seems almost obsessed with the fact that life just goes on.

God is in control, but at the same time life does just go on. It is not always going to seem fair. We can’t always figure it out.

What is the lesson for us? As life goes on we are just continue on, stedfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Whatever you do

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. – Ecclesiastes 9.10

When we are young we think we have all the time in the world. Our future lies ahead of us, We have plenty of time to do what we need to do. Life is full of potential.

But when we get a little older we realise how short life really is. We realise that time is fleeting and we only have so much to do what we are going to do. The time is coming when we are not going to be able to do any more.

That is why the Bible says, on a pretty regular basis, that we need to be busy and diligent in the tasks set before us. We can’t afford to be lax or lethargic or lackadaisical about the work we need to do.

Solomon writes that we are to do our work with all our might. Paul says we are to do all we do to the glory of God. Paul also writes that we should we should be working while it is day because the night is coming when no one can work. We are told to be about redeeming the times.

I know that we have to come apart and rest a while, but if we are not careful that coming apart can be our routine.  That is not part of God’s plan.

We ought to serve our Lord with all our might. We ought to take care of our families with all our might. We ought to do our jobs with all our might. We ought to love God and love each other with all our might. We ought to serve others with all our might.

And we ought to do them all for the glory of God.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

We are all in the same boat

For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. All things come alike to all:
One event happens to the righteous and the wicked;
To the good, the clean, and the unclean;
To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice.
As is the good, so is the sinner;
He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. – Ecclesiastes 9.1-2

I hear folks, on a somewhat regular basis, trying to figure God out after a disaster strikes. The big one I hear, after an earthquake or hurricane or tornado or a flood or something like that, is that God is judging this or that group of people. That storm hit because that (insert chosen group of sinners here) was there.

Things happen to both the righteous and the wicked.
The rain falls on both the evil and the good.

Stuff just happens. Good stuff happens to the just and the unjust and bad stuff happens to the wicked and the righteous. We can’t presume on God’s behalf why things happen. We can’t expect that just because we are saved we are going to avoid disaster and storms and fires and sickness and death and financial woes and anything else.

We all live in the same world. We all enjoy the good parts of our world and we are deal with the bad parts. The difference is that we have to presence of almighty God to carry us through the good times and the bad. Life is life – but we have the strength to carry us through.

Friday, 9 June 2017

I don't get it

When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labours to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it. - Ecclesiastes 8:16-17

‘When I see all the works that God does I realise that I can’t always figure it out.’

I can certainly understand that. I don’t ‘get God’ all the time. I don’t understand why some of the stuff that happens happens. It doesn’t makes sense. It doesn’t match my plans and goals and my wonderful ideas about what should be done. Solomon, much wiser than I am, says ‘even if a wise man tries to figure it out, he won’t be able to.’

Okay, lets think about it for a minute. Our grand daughter Amy just had her first birthday. She loves to play in Grammy’s kitchen. She like to get in the press and pull out kitchen tools and play with them. Let’s say that somehow a knife gets left out someplace where Amy can get and she sees it. ‘Oh, a new toy’ she thinks and reaches for it. I see her take it and I carefully take it away from her and she can’t figure out why. ‘Why would Grampy take that away from me? That would be fun! Doesn’t he love me anymore?’ She really can’t reason why.

That is something of a picture about what it is like for us to try and figure out God. When God says no or allows things into our lives that we don’t like we may not get it – but God, who does love us, does know the whole scheme of things. I can’t see the whole picture, He can. His way is not my way. His thoughts are not my thoughts. His ways and His thoughts are far above mine.

I may not get it – this is where faith is put to the test. Do I trust Him the way I expect Amy to trust me?

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The good old days

Do not say,
“Why were the former days better than these?”
For you do not inquire wisely concerning this. - Ecclesiastes 7:10

We see a lot about the ‘good old days.’ We always have, but in this day of social media it seems like we see it all the time. Some of these are fun and bring up warm nostalgic memories while some brag about how we survived all kinds of childhood activities that are now supposed to be bad for us. At the very best, these memes have a way on only focusing on the positives. While there are lot of good things, the 50s and 60s were also the days of polio and diphtheria and measles and ‘coloured only’ water fountains and obvious sexism and all sorts of things we don’t like to remember.

The truth is that the ‘good old days’ are hardly ever that good. Every age has its problems and always and has. The good old days were also the ‘bad old days.’

That’s what Solomon is saying here. Don’t say ‘the former days are better than these, because you don’t know what you were talking about.

This a side of ‘forgetting those things which are behind’ we don’t often think about. Even if those days were as great as we would like them to be, they are gone and we can’t get them back.

What’s done is done. Sure, we can learn some lessons from history, but we can’t focus on the past. We need to keep pressing on in the world we live in today. We can’t live in those marvellous wonder years even when we can enjoy the memories of them.

Instead of focusing on the good old days, maybe we are ought to look at the great days to come.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017


It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise Than for a man to hear the song of fools. - Ecclesiastes 7:5

Who likes to be rebuked? You? Me? Anybody?
Who likes to hear his praises sung? You? Me? Everybody?

It is naturally much easier to hear praise than rebuke.

But is that always the best thing to hear? What good does praise do us in the long run? It may makes us feel better or give us a little boost or lift our spirits, but it does nothing to fix any flaws or problems in our lives.

So it is better to hear the rebuke of a wise man. Kind wise rebuke is our only hope for improvements.

I think that is part of the reason we have each other. We have friends who we ought to depend on when we need rebuke or correction. False praise only leads to destruction. True rebuke, even when it hurts, is better than any false praise.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A good name

A good name is better than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one's birth; - Ecclesiastes 7.1

God puts a lot of importance in a good name. In the Proverbs we are told that having a good name is more important than great riches. Here we read that it is better than a precious ointment.

We have been reading a few times about how temporary all the present stuff we have really is. We can’t take it with us, but making a good name is something that will and does carry on. It is something we can leave behind that benefits us and our children and grandchildren forever.

We can leave a good name behind. I hope and I pray that by this stage of my life the name ‘Roger Parrow’ in generally considered a good name. I hope I have lived a life seeking to honour my Lord and serve others that people think positively when they hear my name.

A good name has a lot of practical advantages as well. A good name allows people to trust you and favour you and even be a help to you. A good name is backed by good character and even today people appreciate a man or woman of good character. We only get a good name by doing good.

But most of all, a good name allows us to honour the Lord and live a life that draws men to our Saviour. A good name for a believer reflects His good name in our lives. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

You can't take it with you

There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: Riches kept for their owner to his hurt. But those riches perish through misfortune; When he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother's womb, naked shall he return, To go as he came; And he shall take nothing from his labour Which he may carry away in his hand.  - Ecclesiastes 5:13-15

It doesn’t take long for humans to begin exerting self will and make demands. We sta are born needing, but it doesn’t take too long to start wanting. You can watch very young children reaching out to get what they want when they want it. All through childhood you watch children and they want what they other kids have even when their hands are full already. Then we grow into adulthood and we are still out to get more of what we want.

And I guess there is nothing working with gathering stuff and filling our wants. But we must keep one thing in mind. When it is all said and done and they lower us in the grave we will leave this world with exactly what we had when we arrived. Nothing. When we die we take nothing with us. Our family may gain – but we get nothing.

We must always keep in mind that as we gather our good and build our storehouses to store more goods that tomorrow is the day we may very well be held accountable for our souls – and all we have gathered will mean nothing.

We can’t keep our hearts and minds and focus and on these earthly, visible, temporary things, for they are all passing away. We can’t take a single thing with us. But our soul will go with us. It is eternal. What we do with it is forever.

Be careful not to be caught up in all the stuff that is so important now. It will all be gone one day.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

The sleep of a labouring man

The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep. – Ecclesiastes 5.12

The Bible says plenty about the importance of good, honest, hard work. Hard work is an honourable thing. It is, of course, the way to provide for family. It is good for a society to be a society if hard workers. It keeps us out of mischief. Work is to be done with diligence. All our work is to be done ‘unto the Lord.’ Work is a mark of our character.

And the sleep of a labouring man will be sweet. The best solution for sleep is a good hard day’s work. The more stuff we have and the more responsibilities we have the more we have to cause us to fret and rob us of our sleep.

There is no better rest than after well used day. It is wonderful to lay your head on the pillow and know that you have spent the day redeeming the time and accomplishing the tasks of the day.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

He who loves silver

He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity. When goods increase, They increase who eat them; So what profit have the owners Except to see them with their eyes?  - Ecclesiastes 5:10-11

He who loves silver will never be satisfied with silver. Anyone who seeks abundance and increase will always find it falling short. It’s all vanity. With riches come those who will take it away.

So it is with riches. No one who wants to be rich will ever be satisfied, they will always want more. If we seek more riches we will never find contentment.

The solution is that contentment must come first. Godliness, accompanied with contentment, is the only way to find true gain that last. Even if you keep your riches your whole life time it won’t do any good at the end of our short lives.  Contentment lasts forever.

Solomon says that all his riches only give him something to look at. They can never really satisfy. It only brings a desire to have more.

There is nothing wrong with silver and  gold. They can sure be helpful. But beware of always wanting more.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Too many words

Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool's voice is known by his many words. - Ecclesiastes 5:2-3

Not too long ago I wrote a problem I had with hasty words. But hasty words are not the only problem. Here Solomon mentions hasty words, but goes on to say ‘a fool’s voice is known by his many words.’

Too many words is as bad as too hasty words. Even if I can slow my mouth down enough to not respond hastily I still to often reply with too many words or with putting in my words where they are not really wanted.

There are all kinds of problems with too many words. They give you too many chances to speak foolish words. Too many words often involve wasted words. Too many words make you miss somebody else’s important words. Too many words can make you look like an idiot.

Hasty words can make you look like a fool. Many words can make you look like a fool. Let’s strive to be slow and careful and thrifty with our words.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

A threefold cord

Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4.9-12

I am certainly NOT a loner. I know people who are and frankly I don’t know how they do it. I can go, and sometimes ever appreciate,  a couple of hours alone, but must more than that and I get antsy.

So this passage appeals to me. Two are better than one (of course)…and a threefold cord is not easily broken.

My favourite (and only) hobby is geocaching. It is a massive worldwide ‘treasure hunt’ game. More than three millions caches are hidden all over the world, and one on the ISS. Someone hides a small container, sometimes with only a logbook, and logs the coordinates online. The player goes to and searches for nearby caches, then using a GPS device or phone app, seeks them out. When you find it you sign a log book and then log it online. I have only found about 600, but have been led to many fascinating places and sites playing the game.

But I don’t enjoy it alone. I do look for caches on occasion, but I don’t go out of my way unless someone goes with me. Why, mostly because I like the company, but also because two pairs of eyes are better than one and three pairs of eyes almost always work. And if I really get stuck I will drag Mary out because she ‘always’ spots the cache.

This is my picture of this great truth. We really do need each other. One alone may be weak, another helps, but it is hard to break a threefold cord. If we have a couple of friends around we can handle almost anything.

I think that is part of the reason why God gave us the church. There is strength in numbers. Part of the reason we go to church is so they we can support and help and strengthen each other.

No need to stand alone – we have each other.