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Lessons from Ecclesiastes #1

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Posted by SuperNOW

Last Sunday, Father's Day, I met with ten men around a fire pit in my backyard.  Attending were a couple of my board members, current members of Phase II:  Focus of a Warrior, alumni from previous groups and two sons of men associated with Heart of a Warrior.  These occasional gatherings are meant for fellowship and 'deep' teaching.

We reviewed why each man came to HOAW after which I taught lessons from the Book of Ecclesiastes, one of my favorite books of the Bible.  Many find the book perplexing or depressing.  I do not.  Once you understand the primary key that unlocks the book it comes alive possessing many lessons for followers of Christ and leaders.

Solomon, the third king of Israel succeeded his father David. Solomon reflects on his life and evaluates the results of his activities finding some of value but most meaningless when life is lived on a horizontal plain apart from a vertical relationship with God--when life is engaged for the specific purpose of self-actualization.

There are a couple of phrases that are only found in Ecclesiastes and nowhere else in the Bible--under the sun and a chasing after the windUnder the sun , the primary key that unlocks the book, is found 29 times in the book.  This phrase implies "life lived by purely earthly and human values without recourse to a supernatural level of reality" is meaningless.  Anytime the phrase appears the author is commenting from the perspective of someone living their life on the horizontal plain apart from a vertical relationship with God. 

No matter what lofty achievements we obtain, what structures we build, what vineyards we plant, what companies we run, what successes we enjoy, what notoriety we are recognized for, what philanthropy we engage in, what books we write, what oratory we speak, what money we earn, what position or status we hold--all of it, according to the author, is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  

One scholar summarizes the value of the book this way--"The Book of Ecclesiastes has a powerful message for our selfish, materialistic age.  It teaches that great accomplishments and earthly possessions alone do not bring lasting happiness.  True satisfaction comes from serving God and following His will for our lives."

Solomon concludes his analysis by identifying the single most important thing that matters.

The end of the matter, all has been heard.  Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man (Eccl 12:13 RSV).

Forgiveness and Repentance

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Posted by SuperNOW

Recent events have compelled me to revisit the issues of forgiveness and repentance. 

We are called to forgive those who have harmed us.  Yet, forgiveness does not mean we have to invite the offender back into our lives especially if their past behavior suggests a pattern of abuse that could wound others again.  For instance, if someone caused great harm (emotionally, physically, or spiritually) to you or your loved ones you are not under any obligation to invite the possibility of a recurrence.

So, what then is meant by forgiveness?  A close friend of mine once gave me a good definition for forgiveness.  He said forgiveness is "choosing not to seek revenge."  Seeking revenge can take many forms--retaliation, reprisal, or retribution or other forms of 'getting back.'

This does not mean that you open yourself up to ongoing abuse from an abuser.  For instance, assume for a moment a financial planner squandered your retirement by spending your money on himself instead of making sound investments on your behalf.  You might forgive them but forgiveness does not mean you would invite them to handle your finances again.

When a brother who has wronged you asks for forgiveness and repents of their wrongdoing what then? 

First of all repentance is an expression of godly sorrow--it is a turning away from the sin (and actions) that gave rise to the need for repentance in the first place.  Restitution is required when warranted by the circumstances of the offense.  In Matthew 3:8 Jesus recounts an encounter John the Baptist had with the Pharisees and Sadducees.  He told them to "produce fruit in keeping with repentance."

The lack of fruit (restitution for instance) may be indicative of a counterfeit repentance.  It is very easy to ask someone's forgiveness and to express repentance yet not produce "fruit" in keeping with the repentance expressed.

You can choose to forgive (not seek revenge in word or deed) regardless of "fruit" in keeping with repentance but you do not have to invite the perpetrator back into your life.  The honesty of one's repentance for harm they have caused is validated when they provide restitution for the wrong they have committed.  You have a right to be a bit suspicious when the "fruit" is missing.

Pursue the Virtue of Contentment

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Posted by SuperNOW under Blog

A good friend of mine just sent me a short piece written by Max Lucado.  It is particularly applicable to me.  As I have been carefully weighing options for my future now that I am no longer at Bethel I want to find a role that matches my wiring.  As I said in a recent interview, "I am not looking for the next step, I am looking for the last step.  I want to make a difference for the kingdom of God.  Anyway, hope Max's sentiments are helpful to you...

Pursue the Virtue of Contentment

by Max Lucado

A businessman bought popcorn from an old street vendor each day after lunch. He once arrived to find the peddler closing up his stand at noon. “Is something wrong?” he asked.

A smile wrinkled the seller’s leathery face. “By no means. All is well.”

“Then why are you closing your popcorn stand?”

“So I can go to my house, sit on my porch, and sip tea with my wife.”

The man of commerce objected. “But the day is still young. You can still sell.”

“No need to,” the stand owner replied. “I’ve made enough money for today.”

“Enough? Absurd. You should keep working.”

The spry old man stopped and stared at his well-dressed visitor. “And why should I keep working?”

“To sell more popcorn.”

“And why sell more popcorn?”

“Because the more popcorn you sell, the more money you make. The more money you make, the richer you are. The richer you are, the more popcorn stands you can buy. The more popcorn stands you buy, the more peddlers sell your product, and the richer you become. And when you have enough, you can stop working, sell your popcorn stands, stay home, and sit on the porch with your wife and drink tea.”

The popcorn man smiled. “I can do that today. I guess I have enough.”

Wise was the one who wrote, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” (Eccles. 5:10 NIV).

Don’t heed greed.

Greed makes a poor job counselor.

Greed has a growling stomach. Feed it, and you risk more than budget-busting debt. You risk losing purpose. Greed can seduce you out of your sweet spot.

Before you change your job title, examine your perspective toward life. Success is not defined by position or pay scale but by this: doing the most what you do the best.

Parents, give that counsel to your kids. Tell them to do what they love to do so well that someone pays them to do it.

Spouses, urge your mate to choose satisfaction over salary. Better to be married to a happy person who has a thin wallet than a miserable person with a thick one. Besides, “a pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life” (Prov. 13:7 MSG).

Pursue the virtue of contentment. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6 NIV). When choosing or changing jobs, be careful. Consult your design. Consult your Designer. But never consult your greed

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