Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

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                 What does the Bible have to say about aging?  Some of the best scripture we have on growing older is found in Ecclesiastes.  Ecclesiastes is Wisdom literature, and in the world of the Bible wisdom was associated with age.  Elderly people were considered a precious resource for their wisdom.  For instance, when a great famine came, it was helpful to have someone to advise leadership who remembered when the last great famine came.  Also, Ecclesiastes is one of three books traditionally credited to Solomon.  The rabbis liked to say that Songs was written in Solomon’s youth, Proverbs as he was raising his children, and Ecclesiastes when he was old.

Our scripture focus today is the second part of the two part conclusion to Ecclesiastes, which begins in chapter 11:7.  In finishing his thoughts on the meaning of life, the Teacher first summarizes his instructions to the young person—enjoy youth while you have it.  Don’t dwell on the negative aspects of your life, because things will be worse some day.  The enjoyment of youth is a gift from God, and to fail to take pleasure in youth is a sin.  However, while you are enjoying youth, do keep in mind that your actions now will have consequences down the road.  Therefore, don’t enjoy life too much!

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 is a beautiful though bleak picture of the aging and dying process in poetic form.  Remember that life is short.  Everyone who is fortunate enough to live a long life finds that things that once gave pleasure eventually lose their attraction.  Word pictures are given of the deterioration of the body.  “Before the sun…and stars grow dark” speaks to dimming vision, “grinders cease” speaks to losing teeth, “songs grow faint” speaks to hearing loss.  Finally, the “silver chord” suspending the “golden bowl” (lamp) breaks, and the light goes out.  What’s on the outside breaks, but what is on the inside returns to God forever.

The Teacher concludes his book the way he began it— “all is vanity”.  In our culture today, we do everything imaginable to fight the aging process.  Madison Avenue would have us cut, color, lift, nip, and tuck in an effort to put off the inevitable.  Yet we know that it’s pointless to try to stop growing older.  Instead, as Christians, we should enjoy each stage of life for what it is.  Whatever our body is capable of doing, we should be thankful and active, rather than focusing on our limitations.  While taking good care of our physical bodies is good stewardship, we can also take comfort that as they wear out on the outside, we will soon be trading them for eternal vessels that never grow old.

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

Our culture today often focuses on the negative aspects of growing older.  What are some of the best parts about getting older? 

 

Is there anything in today’s scripture that especially speaks to you?

 

What questions would you like to ask about today’s scripture?

November 9th – 15th, 2014

Prayer of the Week:  

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that He might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as He is pure; that, when He comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like Him in His eternal and glorious kingdom; where He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Daily Scripture Focus:

Sunday—Psalm 99, Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

Monday—Psalm 100:1, Daniel 1:1-10

Tuesday—Psalm 100:2, Daniel 1:11-21

Wednesday—Psalm 100:3, Daniel 2:1-16

Thursday—Psalm 100:4, Daniel 2:17-35

Friday— Psalm 100:5, Daniel 2:36-49

Saturday—Psalm 100, Daniel 2:24-35

Prayer List:  Betty Guthrie, Marlin Donohoe * Delferd Sloan, Larry and Jesse Grossman, Joice Shindler * Michelle Raglin, Chavorly Collins, Marcus Davis, Collins family, Braxton family, Barnum family * Margie McCann family, Carl Rider, Faye Doyle, Dexter Jackson, Larry Lumm, Jasper Gunter, Allene Gunter, Kima Ramsey, Junelle Sims, Jeannine Hope family

November 2nd, 2014

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Ecclesiastes 9:1-10, 10:10

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Ecclesiastes 9:1-10, 10:10

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                  Every man and woman, regardless of race, religion, status, or standing has one thing in common.  All will face physical death.  But what happens after we die?  This is not a new question.  In the world of the Old Testament (the ancient near east), many people groups believed that life and death were cyclical, just like the seasons of the year or the movement of the heavenly bodies.  In other words, once a person died they were merely reborn in another body.  How a person lived their life determined what kind of body they would have in the next life (bad—animal, good– human, really good—god.)

Ecclesiastes offers a different perspective on death.  You only live one time, then you stay dead forever.  There is no reward or punishment—just a place of “the dead”.  Ecclesiastes is written in the voice of Solomon.  Having had an extremely successful life, wealth beyond measure, favor in the eyes of his subjects and other nations, and a reputation as the wisest man in the world—he is now facing the same fate as the fool, the failure, and the slave.  All alike will face the exact same destiny—death.  Solomon says that in the place of the dead all people “know nothing”.  In other words, there will be no memory of life on earth upon which to reflect.

Throughout Ecclesiastes, the Teacher gives consistent advice in light of life’s bleak outlook—work hard at something you are good at doing, fear God as someone whose ways cannot be understood but who is ultimately in control, and eat, drink, and be merry as often as you can.  This is pretty good advise if the only thing we have is this life.  With this in mind, the Teacher gives principles for making the most out of your work in chapter 10.  These are given in the form of proverbs.  For example, 10:10 uses the illustration of trying to cut with a dull axe rather than taking a few more minutes to sharpen it first to encourage the laborer to work smart, not hard

Today, we live in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus and His followers taught us that death is not the end, that there is punishment for wickedness after death, but that through faith in Christ we have the hope of eternal reward.   The understanding that what we do in this life affects what happens after we die changes everything!  Suddenly, we discover that life is more that working, playing, and merely fearing God.  We can have a rich, meaningful part in God’s Kingdom both now and when life is over.  While it remains true that all will die and that life on earth is meant to be enjoyed, we live in hope that death is not the end.  Through Christ, passing from this life becomes a new beginning.

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

What do you think happens to us after we die?  Do you spend much time thinking about it?  How does the thought of your own death make you feel? 

 

Is there anything in today’s scripture that especially speaks to you?

 

What questions would you like to ask about today’s scripture?

November 2nd – 8th, 2014

Prayer of the Week:  

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by Your gift that Your faithful people offer You true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain Your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Daily Scripture Focus:

Sunday—Psalm 98, Ecclesiastes 9:1-10, 10:10

Monday—Psalm 99:1-2, Ecclesiastes 11:1-5

Tuesday—Psalm 99:3-4, Ecclesiastes 11:6-10

Wednesday—Psalm 99:5-6, Ecclesiastes 12:1-5

Thursday—Psalm 99:7-8, Ecclesiastes 12:6-8

Friday— Psalm 99:9, Ecclesiastes 12:9-14

Saturday—Psalm 99, Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

Prayer List:  Carl Rider, Faye Doyle, Dexter Jackson, Paul Raglin * Wanda Palmer, Larry Lumm, Jasper Gunter, Allene Gunter, family of JB Styles, Junelle Sims * Jeannine Hope, Betty Guthrie, Marlin Donohoe * Delferd Sloan, Larry and Jesse Grossman, Joice Shindler * Michelle Raglin, Chavorly Collins, Marcus Davis, Collins family, Braxton family, Barnum family, Margie McCann

 

October 26th, 2014

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Ecclesiastes 7:20-8:1

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Ecclesiastes 7:20-8:1

                  The second half of the book of Ecclesiastes deals primarily with the search for wisdom.  Remember, Ecclesiastes is “wisdom” literature.  We know that wisdom is highly valued in the Bible, but we may not understand that when the Bible uses the word “wisdom”, it had a different meaning than it does today.  Wisdom was not just personal knowledge.  Wisdom was the collective understanding of moral conduct passed from one generation to the next.  In other words, to be considered “wise” in the ancient near east, you had to understand the right things to do, actually do them, and teach your children to do them.

In our scripture focus today, the Teacher is in the middle of sharing his conclusion that when it comes to finding wisdom, we shouldn’t try too hard.  It will only lead to frustration.  In verses 20-22, we are reminded that no one gets it right 100% of the time.  In the Bible, to sin is to act unwisely, and to be wise means to be righteous.  The Teacher has observed that there is no such thing as a person who never sins and is always righteous.  When people try to pretend they are perfect, they set themselves up for failure.  Furthermore, we should not be too hard on others when they say unwise things, since we all fall so short.

Verses 23-29 give a picture of Solomon attempting to figure out wisdom as if it were some type of mathematical formula.  The story presented here is of this great man who had encountered thousands of people.  He tries to “add up” all the wise things he has learned from them, in order the discover the hidden, secret wisdom formula.  What he finds out is that even if we think we have figured it all out, we end up trying to apply our wisdom to human relationships, and we find out we don’t really know anything.  Solomon admits that he might be able to understand one man in a thousand, but he can’t understand a woman at all!

If we can’t possibly hope to understand wisdom, how then should we live?  Chapter 8 verse 1 gives us the key:  “Wisdom makes one’s face shine, and the hardness of one’s countenance is changed.”  In the Bible, anytime God is depicted it is with a shining face—so bright humans can’t look directly at it.  However, those in the presence of God come away with that brightness on their faces.  The key to a good life is understanding God is the source of wisdom.  We can’t hope to understand God’s ways, but if we keep our faces turned towards God, the presence of the Holy Spirit will give us God’s wisdom.  When we focus on remaining in God’s presence, God’s wisdom shines through us.

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

Why do you think it is so hard to understand other people?  Is it harder to understand people of the opposite gender?  What’s the key to getting along with those different than us?

 

Is there anything in today’s scripture that especially speaks to you?

 

What questions would you like to ask about today’s scripture?

October 26th – November 1st, 2014

Prayer of the Week:  

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what You promise, make us love what You command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Daily Scripture Focus:

Sunday—Psalm 97:7-13, Ecclesiastes 7:20-8:1

Monday—Psalm 98:1-2, Ecclesiastes 9:1-12

Tuesday—Psalm 98:3-4, Ecclesiastes 9:13-18

Wednesday—Psalm 98:5-6, Ecclesiastes 10:1-7

Thursday—Psalm 98:7-8, Ecclesiastes 10:8-14

Friday— Psalm 98:9, Ecclesiastes 10:15-20

Saturday—Psalm 98, Ecclesiastes 9:1-10, 10:10

Prayer List:  Michelle Raglin, Sav-aLot crew, Lionel Moore, Ginger Gassaway, Myah Brown, Chavody Collins * Carl Rider, Faye Doyle, Dexter Jackson, Paul Raglin * Wanda Palmer, Larry Lumm, Jasper Gunter, Allene Gunter, family of JB Styles, Junelle Sims * Jeannine Hope, Betty Guthrie, Marlin Donohoe * Delferd Sloan, Larry and Jesse Grossman, Joice Shindler

October 19th, 2014

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Ecclesiastes 5:8-15

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Ecclesiastes 5:8-15

                  Solomon was Israel’s wealthiest king.  This gave him a unique perspective, as only someone who has been wealthy can understand what it is like to have more money than one can spend—the rest of us can only speculate!  The Teacher of Ecclesiastes speaks from the perspective of someone who “has it all” – money, power, family, pleasure.  King Solomon certainly fit the bill on all of those.  In fact, his story in I Kings tells us that he accumulated literal hoards of horses, gold, and wives—more than he could ever use!  In Ecclesiastes, the Teacher is able to speak from experience, rather than speculation, as to what great wealth brings to a person.

Today’s scripture focus deals with the love of money.  It begins be addressing the corruption that results from greed.  Verse 8 talks about the “higher ones” that oppress the poor and thwart justice.  Today we might call them the “higher ups”.  People who rise to power generally do so because they are ambitious, and don’t mind stepping on those below them in the pursuit of wealth or power.  The Teacher tells his audience not to bother worrying about such things—it’s always going to be that way, no matter what, and in the end everyone benefits from those who pursue wealth—there would be no field to plow without them.

In verses 10-15 we see the dilemma for such “higher ones”, however.  Since they love money, they can never be happy because you never have enough of what you love.  Therefore when they make money, they can’t enjoy it.  As money increases, so do responsibilities, worries, and fears.  Work increases with more wealth, rather than decreases.  Field laborers are able to sleep at night, but not so the owner of the land.  What’s more, those who love money often lose it in their greedy plots to get more, leaving them with no more to show for what they’ve done in their death than when they were born.

John Wesley had a great philosophy towards wealth.  He encouraged those who were converted under his ministry—many of them former alcoholics who suddenly weren’t spending their entire day’s pay at the tavern—to “make all you can, save all you can, give all you can”.  Money is a great servant and a horrible master.  With money, we can do much more for God and others than we can do without it.  However, when we pursue money, possessions, and power for their own sake, we end up with debt, worry, health problems, and a lot of sleepless nights.   By pursuing God rather than money, we trade what we cannot keep for what we cannot lose.

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

Has money ever been a source of worry in your life?  Is simply having more money the solution to most people’s problems, or is it more complicated than that? 

 

Is there anything in today’s scripture that especially speaks to you?

 

What questions would you like to ask about today’s scripture?