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Random Ramblings: September 16, 2017

According to every sign I know of, it’s going to be an early Fall this year in our area. We’ve had temperatures well below “normal” for several weeks now, I’ve seen geese heading south already, and some of the trees are beginning to turn roughly a month earlier than normal; see for yourself with these three pics I took yesterday without ever leaving my own yard…

And now summer has returned.

No, really it has…

A week ago we were having highs in the low 60’sand lows in the low 40’s. Now we have highs in the upper 80’s and lows in the low 60’s: Go figure!

In years past it was fashionable to discuss the crazy weather. You’d hear people say that “around here the weather is crazy, wait 5 minutes and it will change”. Now of course we don’t talk like that, because if you do there’s always someone who says, “OMG it’s global warming!” Invariably that becomes a rant about how the Capitalist-Imperialist class is going to kill us all for profit… Wanna know what I think?

We’re having a blast of summer weather in NE Iowa, Yippee!

There’s one thing I really wonder about though, and it might seems silly to you, but how can the trees change color a month early if it’s the hours of sunlight that trigger the change? When I was in school, that was the scientific “consensus”; it was “established scientific fact”, and yet here we are…

OK, they aren’t all changing, but enough are to make you wonder how it could be.

Well that’s my little nonsense for this Saturday, have a great weekend; I’m going to go outside and enjoy summer’s return!

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As a new day begins…

…each of us will face its challenges. There will be circumstances that develop, circumstances over which we may not have any control, circumstances that we simply cannot fix or that are bigger and stronger than we are. Some will surmount those situations and circumstances; others will be swept up by them which will it be for you?

There were two boats sailing in the bay. A stiff wind swept into the area blowing in the direction of the rocks and away from the harbor. The pilot of one of the boats was taken closer and closer to the rocks, its pilot having great difficulty controlling his course as the wind blew him closer and closer to disaster. Yet the pilot of the other boat adjusted his sails and set his course against the wind toward the safe harbor, for he knew that a good sailor can use the wind and sail against it. The minutes went by as one boat approached its end on the rocks and the other approached the safe harbor…

When all was said and done, the first sailor was lucky to have survived, and the other wrapped up an enjoyable day of sailing.

As we approach this new day, we can either be wrecked on the rocks of our circumstances or we can let God direct our course into the safe harbor of His loving arms, for just as two boats can sail in opposite directions in the same wind, we can move in opposite directions in response to our circumstances. In the case of sailing, the difference is training and skill. In the case of our life’s circumstances, it is seeking God’s presence that makes the difference.

Which way will we sail today?

More Life Under the Sun

Ecclesiastes 4

Our vantage point has returned to the life of people apart from God where it will remain from 4:1 – 6:9. Our adventure in chapter 4 is a most excellent one, for we will see earthly life as it really is, which is to say that we will see things on display that most of us never consider. Happiness in this world we live in depends largely on external circumstances. For instance, we assume that more money means more happiness, but is that really true? We look forward to achievement, fame and amassing possessions as a means to happiness. Some have a strong desire to assert power and influence as a means to happiness; who wouldn’t like to be the one that the president or prime minister calls upon to save the day?

The Teacher sees things a little differently.

So there you are, puttering right along in life, paying the bills, buying nice things; everything is hunky dory and then change comes along. A new administration, a new regime and overnight you are an outcast for who you are. Oppression begins in the land, discrimination, inequality, and all the rest, and you are on the wrong side of it. Happy now?

This is the theme developed in verses 1-3. Everything under the sun is vanity, is meaningless, and is futile because at any moment outside forces can clean you out of everything. Think it can’t happen? Come now, it happens all the time…

Verses 4-6 speak of a different situation under the sun, a situation in which you might have put together a substantial portfolio; what now? Can you sit back and relax? No way! Now you need to worry about protecting what you have. Now you must keep on top of the tax laws, new regulations, market fluctuations, scheming competitors, identity theft and frivolous lawsuits, to name just a few perils; you might even need to worry about your physical safety! This substantial portfolio can become a millstone around your neck, and the source of many sleepless nights; is it worth the cost?

The Teacher says it’s just chasing the wind…

In verses 7-12 we see another side of wealth, a lonely side. When people come into quick fortunes, they usually find that they have many new relatives and friends; what do these new associates seem to have in common? You know the answer to that; they want some money. Most people don’t realize just how isolating great wealth can be, and if it involves fame, the isolation is even greater. What does the Teacher say about it? Vanity, a miserable business, and don’t you suppose that Solomon, the richest man ever, might be in a position to know what he’s talking about?

The Teacher moves on to speak of the powerful in the remaining verses of chapter 4. In these verses is a little twist, that political scientists call “fatigue”. As time goes on, a leader’s popularity tends to fade as the public becomes fatigued with the administration. Often, this results from the fact that the leader in question is more and more isolated from everyday life in the country. They may also become quite impressed with their own greatness, no longer listening to advisors who better understand life on the street than the leader does, with the result that the performance of their government seems to fall short of people’s expectations. The result is that someone else rises to power either by death and inheritance as with a royal succession, or if perhaps there is a coup. In our day, there might be a new election… and then the cycle begins anew, always with the same result.

With this in mind, would you like to be president or prime minister?

Be careful what you wish for; unless you enjoy sleepless nights, high stress, and looking over your shoulder while you chase the wind!

As I look at this passage one more time before moving on to chapter five, I’m struck with a thought…

We’ve just run through several scenarios relating to our lives under the sun; in this world of ours. Can you see a pattern beyond the obvious “all is vanity”? Well there is one, for it would seem that nothing under the sun is really what it appeared to be at first.

Now, our most excellent adventure will move into an area that we haven’t ventured into before, an area that may cut a little closer to home for some of us.

Love, Justice and Our Response

I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, Lord, I will sing praise.
I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?

Psalm 101:1-2a

At first this may seem to be quite simple, but look closely and you’ll see a hidden complexity that often confounds people. In the first line, we read of singing of God’s love and justice; an interesting combination. Consider for a moment His great and amazing love, so boundless, so unconditional. His love is so great that He was willing to do amazing things that we might be redeemed from our sins against Him. Yes indeed, contemplating God’s love is something we like to do. Yet in this line, we are singing of His love and justice.

Sometimes we think of justice as fairness, and that is true enough, yet we must admit that it is a little incomplete, for justice is more than just fairness because when most people apply fairness to themselves, it ends up meaning whatever they want at the moment, forgetting all about what is fair to the other person. If we consider the totality of our sin against God, what is just or fair about redemption?

Nothing, nothing at all, and that is why it is grace.

Now we can see why singing of God’s love and justice together results in praise. Of course when we see that God’s love resulted in His paying the price for our sin to satisfy His justice, resulting in grace, we sing praises, but the next line shows how we respond to His grace; we endeavor to lead blameless lives. It makes perfect sense doesn’t it? We’ve received grace, so great was God’s love for us, so why wouldn’t we resolve to do the best we can to live lives that are pleasing to Him? This isn’t because of any rule or regulation, but it is the natural expression of our love and gratitude.

In the last line, David asked a question that we have the answer to, for He has come and He has left us with His Spirit by whom we can come into His presence any time we like; how is it that we should delay another moment entering into His presence with confidence and joy in our hearts to give Him the thanks and praise He has coming?