Have you ever met some who was utterly unreasonable or very set in their ways to the extent that they would not listen to reason? This year, I encountered a few people whom I would describe as extreme. I had to deal with someone extremely wicked, someone who could not be pleased by anything anyone did, someone who was so self-righteous their self-righteousness could outshine the sun, someone who was so stubborn and opinionated it has probably cost them more than they have to spare and someone who was so bitter and unforgiving they could not see when they were hurting themselves in the process. Have you encountered any body like this or are you such a person?
In today’s reading, God encourages us to find balance in all things and avoid extremes:
Do not be over-righteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.Ecclesiastes 7: 16-18 NIV
Earlier this week, we spoke about times and seasons for everything and God has instituted everything in its place so we can be balanced. Another scripture that captures the need for balance in every thing is this prayer of Agur to God:
…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, `Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.Proverbs 30: 8b-9 NIV
Moderation and temperance are very important virtues in finding balance in life. Everything needs to be done in moderation and as the year closes, many of us need this reminder:
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.Philippians 4:5
As humans we are hard-wired for connection; it is fuel for our souls. We were created to be in community and when Adam did not find a suitable match among the animal folk, God said, it was not ok for him to be alone and created Eve so Adam could be in community. Because we live in a broken world, not only is connection between man and God broken but even between humans. We see and hear of the atrocities of war, racism, discrimination, violence, persecution etc. that demonstrate this brokenness on a daily basis.
In August I listened to Jody Carrington do a guest lecture on relationships and she spoke about the importance of reconnection in relationship building. She recommended connecting to 3 things as often as you can: your people, your breath, and your why. Now I am not going to regurgitate the entire session but I want to speak to connecting to your people.
2021 was a tough year for most and even those that had it easy may still have experienced some pretty grueling days. I found that I leaned heavily on some friends and family who know me for who I am, celebrate me for me and with whom I could be myself- no makeup, cry face and all. These people I have come to appreciate as my people… my tribe. Many of you had similar stories or you may have had random people who showed up in your life for a season but made a significant positive impact. Today’s reading emphasizes the benefit of being surrounded by people who are your people-whether it is friend that loves you like a brother, or a spouse, or a member of your family, or just someone who wished you well and helped you get through 2021; this scripture is for them:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12
As you read this today, think about these people, connect with them, bless them, pray for them, thank them- they were your people, your tribe! And God made them available to you in your life for such a time as this.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”, thus says the preacher. As the year draws to an end, it is time to soberly reflect on the times and seasons of 2021.
For me many things changed and yet many things stayed the same. I started new relationships and some came to roost… I took on new projects and some I had to abandon… I had times of renewal and times of stagnation…There were miracles and there were misfortunes… There were the days of great joy and days of utter desperation… and on and on it goes- the seasons of life!
Despite all the change, one thing remains constant: God. His works and His word are enduring and they are from of old. The scripture today tells us so:
I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.Ecclesiastes 3: 14
This scripture makes me nostalgic- a few years ago when my husband and I were getting married, this was the scripture we chose to build the foundation of our marriage on. Through the seasons of our lives, through all the change, God’s Word remains the same for us. The application of it may vary due to revelation but the Word remains the same. His mighty works have never changed; they may not come through as the parting of seas or prison gates flying open- but He still remains a Way maker and a prison-shaking Saviour.
So as you ponder the seasons and times of 2021, remember this: In as much as things change, whatever God does is permanent. So my encouragement is to entrust everything to Him, let his hand be in everything and upon everything that concerns you, because everything He does is permanent.
Have you ever heard a song and felt so drawn to it? It is an almost unexplainable phenomenon. There is something ethereal that strikes a cord deep within you and draws you in… you feel the weight of each note even though they possess a delicate quality to them… Well… like I said very unexplainable phenomenon and for many years I have tried to understand this. In today’s reading, a scripture caught my eye which gave me a tiny glimpse into understanding that phenomenon.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV
That call I experience when I listen to hymns and other spiritual songs is the sound of home. We are all citizens of heaven. Everyone from every nation, tribe or tongue on earth shares one citizenship: a heavenly one and many times that very nature calls to us. Some experience it in music, some in nature, some through human connectedness etc.
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.Philippians 3: 20-21
And while we are here on earth, we all at one point feel this call of eternity which God has set in each of our hearts. It is like a beacon that reminds us that we have another home and God makes it easy for us to find our way back home. This is through Jesus His Only son who himself is the WAY back to God and back home.
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.Romans 1:19-20 NLT, NIV
So next time you walk through nature, or listen to a song or feel this connectedness to something bigger than yourself- something that calls to your very soul, remember God has placed eternity in your heart to encourage you that a home beyond this one.
For the past few days we have been talking about finding contentment in this life and creating a lasting legacy in the world to come. In today’s reading King Solomon is doing a monologue as he ponders life. As he does so, he makes an interesting discovery: the concept of working, what he refers to as toiling under the sun, is a meaningless venture without God. One works hard only to leave the fruits of his labour behind for another to enjoy- this he says is meaningless and a great misfortune! However, all is not lost! When God is the foundation of one’s life, work becomes meaningful and one can find satisfaction in it. Let’s see how the preacher (King Solomon) conceptualizes this:
What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless. A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.Ecclesiastes 2: 22-25; 3:13 NIV
Have you been looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places? This too comes from the hand of God, as a gift from God; for without Him we are and have nothing.
Have you ever caught your self pondering life and feeling that it is seems like a meaningless rat race; a grasping at straws? The author of Ecclesiastes felt the same way. He was very wealthy and very wise and did not deny himself any good pleasure. His conclusion was that it was all meaningless.
As Paul brings his advice to Timothy to a close, he ends with these words:
Command them [the wealthy] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.1 Timothy 6 18-19
Life as we know it can sometimes feel meaningless and is very fleeting. It is like shifting sand and so building a solid lasting foundation is very important. But even more important is where you build that foundation. Everything in this life as we know it is ephemeral and will fade away. So if your foundation is here in earth, does not matter how solid you think it is, it is inherently meaningless! Instead, we need to build on the foundation of Christ our Solid Rock so that we may take hold of life which is truly life!
Jesus describes this life that is truly life as the life that overcomes both physical and spiritual death… a life that has conquered life as we know it:
I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” John 11:25 NLT
Do you believe this [insert your name]? those that get to enjoy this life that is truly life, are those who live in and live for Jesus wholly in this present age and by so doing lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation in the age to come.
Do you believe this [insert your name]?
A few days ago my husband and I while on a long journey started to chat about our heart desires and one of mine is definitely to have lots of money; and like most “charismatic” Christians this desire has translated into many a fervent prayer over the past year. I have said things to God like “If I can have $XYZ, I will do this and that” and while these desires and prayers in and of themselves are not bad, sometimes I have used prayer to make requests like one would do a genie in a bottle.
Frankly, this is not just a ‘me’ problem- while many Christians will not openly admit this, many of us treat God like a genie in a bottle. In classic genie stories, no one wants to be friends with the genie (except in the latest Aladdin movie). The genie is only good for 3 wishes. Similarly, sometimes we go to God and rattle off all our requests with no interest in a relationship. We are “God give me this or God give me that” Christians. Most of these requests are usually things related to earthly comforts: more money, higher paying job, bigger car, bigger house, a shiny new husband or wife and the list goes on and on. Again, let me emphasize that none of these requests are wrong- in fact God invites us to make our requests known to him. Where we go amiss is when we desire the gifts more than the giver; when godliness is treated like a ticket/ passageway to having good gifts and advancing ourselves in life; after all whatever we need is just a prayer away. The scripture today warns against such ideology and describe it as false doctrine:
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain.1 Timothy 6:3-6 NIV
Instead, Paul encourages Timothy to practice godliness with contentment. So lets talk about that a little bit. Does that mean we do not desire God’s blessings that give us earthly comforts or seek advancement in life? By no means! How God speaks to me regarding practicing this is not to be so dissatisfied with the blessings He has already given me to the extent that I compromise my integrity to change my status. God assures me that when I outgrow the comforts and luxuries I currently possess, he will bring me to a larger place. He will continue to draw the boundary lines for me in goodly places and bring me into my own. This is his promise to me and the good news is that I do not have to help him to do this! All I have to do is continue to seek Him and He will keep adding to me. That is what it means to me to practice godliness with contentment.
I know most of you send me comments on these posts (thank you) so today I want to engage you as we reflect together on this topic. What does godliness with contentment mean to you? Drop me a line and continue to be intentional in all your endeavors.
I recently attended a seminar where an Indigenous Elder spoke about the 7 grandfather teachings (in the interest of not culturally appropriating or dishonoring ancestral teachings, I will not go into great details). One of the tenets of the teaching really resonated with me; the Elder talked about the importance of honesty- ensuring that your words match your feet. Many of us refer to this concept as “walking the talk”.
I started this blog in 2018 with my first post titled ‘the intentionality of gracious conversations‘. I remember thinking that I wanted to create an opportunity to model the way in being a Christ-follower. I believed then, as I do now, how important it was for me to be intentional in living my faith and to walk the talk. In writing this blog where I share my feelings, thoughts and experiences as I weigh them against the word of God, I surrounded myself with “a great cloud of witnesses” – all of you who follow my posts- before whom I run my earthly race.
In today’s readings Paul’s instructions to Timothy are one of an Elder to a young man:
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.1 Timothy 4:16 NIV
Paul was saying, “Walk the talk, son! Practice what you preach! Do not just be a sign post that points others to heaven- be a doer of the word! Make sure your feet matches your words!” This encouragement rings true today as it did many years ago. We need to be intentional in living for God and to stand firm in the truth of God’s word, particularly in this day and age where the dominant discourse focuses on a plurality of truth. One way to do this is to watch your life and doctrine closely and to persevere in so doing!
When I was younger, my dream goal was to be the youngest specialist in my field. As I got older, that dream seemed to vaporize one birthday at a time. In pursuit of my dream though, I have been the youngest XXX in many areas of my life- One of the most daunting “youngest” so far was being the youngest “boss”. Not only was that intimidating, sometimes, I would second guess my own authority and expertise. Sometimes I felt looked down on and was disrespected by older subordinates. In today’s readings Paul is sending forth his protégé Timothy who is considerably younger than him to be a minister of the gospel and this is his advice:
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.1 Timothy 4: 12 NIV
As we journey through life, people will despise you or look down on you for different reasons- your intelligence, your level of education, the colour of your skin, your family name, your ideas, your personality, your faith, or like in Timothy’s case, your age. The list is endless but Paul teaches us how to rise above all of that- live an exemplary life in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. That is how you come to be without reproach regardless of what makes you different.
A few years ago, I used to live for the now. My life was so busy and I was so preoccupied with making it through each day that I did not have the space or time to think about eternity. And whenever, I did, thinking about death or dying filled me with so much dread because I always felt unprepared for the thereafter.
One day, I had a switch in my thinking. I cannot recall if it was a sermon I heard, or something on the radio, or God’s gentle admonishing to me but something changed. I started to think about living life with heaven in view each day. I determined within myself to do whatever I needed to do to feel prepared for the thereafter each day. Today’s reading is an encouragement for how we can live life with eternity in view:
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.1 Timothy 4: 8 NIV
Every thing we do on earth has eternal ramifications. Day in and day out, we are setting ourselves up for what comes next. Paul presents us with a tool to help us prepare for the afterlife: godliness. Many things that we strive for on earth are ephemeral- short-lived- and have no eternal value. Godliness on the other hand is eternal currency and is valuable in the afterlife. Jesus said it best in one of his teachings:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6: 19-21 NIV
As you reflect and take stock of 2021, ask yourself, “Am I godly?” and be intentional in practicing godliness- it is of great gain.