Fruit Cove Baptist Church


Pastor Tim's Blog

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Thank you for your obedience and generosity to Fruit Cove Baptist Church.

  • You can give in person.  Offering envelopes and a drop box are located in the foyer of the Worship Center.  Drop boxes are also located in the Fruit Cove Kids building and the ROC by the elevators.

  • You can also give online here.

If you have any questions, need further information or would like to request personalized offering envelopes, please contact Michelle Ford in the church office 904-287-0996 or michelle@fruitcove.com

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Prayer Walk

#LOVEJAX Send Relief Serve Tour, Prayer Walking Jacksonville

The city of Jacksonville has been chosen as one of the Send Relief Serve Tour cities in 2022.  On September 16-17, 2022, hundreds of people will come to Jacksonville to join us in loving and serving our city in the name of Jesus.  This missional experience is the result of a partnership between Send Relief of the North American Mission Board, Love Jax of First Coast Churches, and the Florida Baptist Convention.  We have the unique opportunity to partner with First Coast Churches in Prayer Walking communities and streets within the 295 Loop, in preparation for this special event.  For the next few Sundays, there will be a table in the Pavilion with more information.  You will have the opportunity to sign up to prayer walk an area of Jacksonville, within our church’s zones, inside the I-295 loop.

You can recruit a team or prayer walk as a family.  You can walk, ride, bike these areas.  Get creative! If you want to participate but are unable to pray on-site, you can pray from your home for specified areas.  We highly encourage you to do the prayer walking if you are able.  When you sign up, you will receive an email with important information in preparation for your prayer walk.  If you miss signing up in the Pavilion, just email april@fruitcove.com for information!  

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LOVEjax100 is designed to promote prayer walking as a positive and powerful step into the First Coast mission field. The challenge to  prayer walk 100 miles that is being promoted in conjunction with the LOVEjax Send Relief Tour scheduled for Jacksonville, September 16-17, 2022. We are making intercession on location as we pray in the streets asking God to move in the homes, schools, businesses, and recreational facilities in our neighborhoods.  Are you up to the challenge of doing 100 miles?  Click below to read more about how you can Prayer Walk your 100 miles!

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A Statement Concerning the Supreme Court’s Decision

As a church family, Fruit Cove Baptist Church rejoices with and affirms the Supreme Courts decision to overturn Roe vs Wade.  This decision has long been prayed for and we rejoice in the decision that now outlaws the taking of preborn life in the United States.  The impact of this decision will be felt for years to come.  It is a needed course-correction in the moral fabric of our nation.

But the battle has only begun.  Many will push back, some with violence, against this decision.  It is not our place to meet violence with violence but instead with prayer.

Fruit Cove Baptist Church is strongly pro-life.  We not only support the effort of opposing abortion on demand but we also stand supporting mothers who chose to carry their children to term…and to minister with grace to those who do not.

At Fruit Cove adoption is a high value.  We support adoptive families and those ministries that aid in helping adoption take place.

Our Fostering Hope ministry is one of the largest ministries of its kind in our area, supporting families who choose to foster children.

Embracing Grace is a new ministry that allows us to walk with pregnant Moms who have no partner or family support network.

All of these ministries of FCBC are responses to our pro-life views.  It’s easy to oppose a position but much more costly to support those affected by that opposition.  We oppose abortion. But more than that we support the mothers and children who are impacted by our position.

Please join us…both in celebration of this historic ruling, but now more than ever…let’s show the world what a true pro-life and pro-family position look like!

We Are At War

WE ARE AT WAR

Ephesians 6:10-20

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. (Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)

My hope in this series is that we will come away reminded that spiritual conflict in our life on this earth is real. This world is a battlefield. It is a war taking place in an unseen realm, but the effects are being lived out through your life on earth. And in reality, it’s intensifying.  Some of us are completely unaware that such a war is taking place. Some Christians live in denial about this and some live in unconscious disbelief.

I certainly do not want to move us into an unhealthy obsession over the devil and demons. Let’s be real.  We can’t blame they demonic for everything that goes wrong in our life.  Demons don’t make your washing machine break down.  But it’s dangerous to go to the other end of the spectrum and deny that the enemy exists.

And if there is a spiritual war, what do you need to know about it? What do you need to do about it?

An old story is told about a farming community in a drought. The churches all came together one Sunday afternoon in a large, sunbaked field for a prayer meeting to ask God for rain.

As the first old preacher got up, he stood in silence on the platform hooked up behind the tractor. Then he said, “I noticed as I came in to begin this prayer meeting asking God for rain that, in all this crowd, that no one brought an umbrella.”

But I wonder, in much the same way, how many of us show up each day expecting, not rain, but a war? Did you bring your armor this morning, your weapons? Are you aware that we have a very real, very dangerous enemy lurking who wants to “steal, kill, and destroy?”  Possibility is, for some of you, he rode to church in your car!

You may have heard that on Wednesday of this week, Russian media declared that we are now in WW 3. According to their media pundits, the war with Ukraine has now grown larger and is now a war with the US, with Britain, and with NATO. WW 3. It’s on!  I would say most of us aren’t worried about it.  It’s not real to you.

In the same way, many Christians live oblivious to our battleground and the existence of our spiritual enemy. As the old hymn by Martin Luther says,

“And still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe
His craft and power are great
And armed with cruel hate
One little word shall fell him.”

You gained a very real enemy when you gave your heart to Jesus. Since he will never regain ownership of your soul, (demons cannot possess a person the Holy Spirit lives in) he seeks to lie, accuse, and torment and defeat those he has lost. He seeks to separate you and isolate you because you really can be manipulated if you aren’t under the covering of a spiritual family.   And he will take you down and discourage or disqualify you if you don’t learn to fight spiritually.

THERE IS A REAL ENEMY

Billy Graham used to tell the story of a boxer getting pounded in the ring by his opponent. When the bell rang, he went into his corner bleeding and bruised, and said “You’ve got to throw in the towel!”  His trainer yelled in his face, “He’s not touching you!  He’s never laid a glove on you!”  But through swollen lips, the boxer said, “Well I wish you’d keep an eye on that referee then, because someone in there is beating me half to death!”

There is a real enemy. He’s not made up, not a fairy tale, not simply a myth or legend.  He’s a real, smart, and powerful being.  The Bible calls him “The Adversary.”  In some places, he’s called “The Accuser.”  And in others, “Apollyon—the Destroyer.”  He hides. He wants you to believe that he’s some old guy in a red onesie with a goatee and horns and a pitchfork.

He has a strategy.

The Bible tells us that our enemy disguises himself, sometimes as “angel of light.”  He can come in religious packaging, be a moral crusader if it furthers his purpose which is to deceive and to hide. But let’s be clear.

The Devil is not equal to God, nor is he omnipresent meaning, he can’t be everywhere at once.  So, there is a hierarchy in this cosmic war…he commands demons.

Jesus confronted him in the wilderness and wrestled with him for 40 days and 40 nights. He resisted him with the Word of God. You will only win as you do the same. Now let me be quick to remind you again the devil is not responsible for every bad thing that happens to you. We have three enemies as believers:  THE WORLD, THE FLESH, and THE DEVIL. (1 John 2:16)

We live in a fallen, broken, sinful world. It’s a perfect environment for the enemy to work in.  One day God is going to end it, but until then we live in an imperfect and broken world.

You live in a fallen, broken, sinful body. “The things I want to do, I don’t do….” Also, a perfect situation for the enemy to work against you. But sometimes the problems you faced aren’t Satanic, they’re just sin.  They come because we live in a world that is yet to be transformed by the resurrection of Jesus. The same with your body. So, let’s not give the devil more than his due.  He’s not orchestrating every bad situation.  We sometimes suffer from self-inflicted wounds.

But let’s remember we have a very real enemy working against us, who has come to “steal kill and destroy.”  Jesus said, “Satan was a murderer from the beginning.”  The first sins committed by humanity were instigated by this enemy.

THERE IS A RELIABLE STRATEGY

Our warfare is not against flesh and blood…. you know what that means?  That means that the person you’re mad at this morning…the individual that frustrates you continually…the person that is making your life miserable right now…THEY ARE NOT THE ENEMY!  Our warfare is not with flesh and blood. Stop hating on people!

Now people can be pawns to the enemy if they are unaware of what this tells us today. And Satan can use any person…the person closest to you sometimes…to speak lies into your life; to keep your focus off the Lord and His purposes (get behind Me Satan).

He does this to keep you angry, and unforgiving, and depressed. The demonic realm needs a physical body to work through. We are told that Satan used a serpent in the Garden of Eden. He needs the cooperation of a person who is not aware of his devices:   DON’T BE IGNORANT of his “methodia.”  Don’t let him use you.  He can do nothing to you that you don’t give him permission to do!

We win spiritual battles with spiritual weapons. We are to live armed with the full armor of God. We can choose to access this armor or go into the battle without a helmet to protect us or a weapon to wield. We can walk barefoot onto the battlefield, or without covering for our chest.

So, what are we supposed to do? There are six weapons, each of them to be energized with prayer. Six weapons:  Two groups of three—

  • Having…Wear these all the time
  • Taking… Pick them up as you need them    (Tony Evans, Victory)

But God has given us armor…He has supplied us with weapons. But He won’t dress us!   Parents may I make an urgent suggestion? Instead of worrying about your children, dress them before they leave home. Pray the spiritual armor over them…as they leave the house, or your car, or as they are stepping on the school bus. Pray the spiritual armor over your children before they go out on dates, or as they are stepping onto a college campus for the first time.

2 Corinthians 10 reminds us that many of the battles we fight take place in our minds:

  1. When we believe the enemy’s lies
  2. When we surrender to the threat of fear
  3. When we yield to the pressure of temptations
  4. When we fight people as though they are the enemy
  5. When we are dealing with depression
  6. When we are struggling with our temper
  7. When we are gripped by addiction

Satan operates in the spiritual realm.

Everything that occurs in the visible, physical world is directly connected to the wrestling match being waged in the invisible, spiritual world. “The effects of the war going on in the unseen world reveal themselves in our strained and damaged relationships, emotional instability, mental fatigue, physical exhaustion and many other areas of life. Many of us feel pinned down by anger, unforgiveness, pride, comparisons, insecurity, discord, fear. . . and the list goes on. But the overarching, primary nemesis behind all these outcomes is the Devil himself.” (Shirer)

We don’t fight people.  People are not the enemy. That’s the lie the devil wants you to believe.  If you can just destroy that person that you are continually angry with, leave your spouse, quit your job, your life would improve. That’s the lie we must reject.  Our warfare is not with flesh and blood.

THERE IS A REMARKABLE STRENGTH

The enemy wants to destroy you because of the presence of Jesus Christ in you, but “greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world!”

The war we fight is not our battle…it is not our fight. It is not by power; it is not by might but by My Spirit says the Lord.

Our strength is not in our own might. It is there when we learn how to get out of the way and let God fight the battle through us!

You see, we work from a position of a victory that has already been won! The cross, the death, the resurrection of Jesus secured our victory. So, we need to learn to live out the victory that God has already won for us through the blood of the cross and Jesus’ victory over the grave.


(Resources:  Kent Hughes Commentary on Ephesians; John Stott The Bible Speaks Today; Tony Evans; Priscilla Shirer; Ray Stedman, Spiritual Warfare; Chip Ingram, The Invisible War; CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters; Billy Graham)

Caregiver’s Seminar

We are excited to present Caregivers’ Conference

Registration is now full!

This seminar will be presented on Saturday, January 21, from 9am-2pm.

  • Registration cost is $10/person and available online only.
  • Check-in will be from start at 8:30.
  • Seating is limited!  We will not be able to accommodate walk-ins.

The conference will include professionals from legal counsel, Alzheimer’s Association, and Hospice.  There will be Q&A (question and answer) sessions during the presentations so bring your questions with you.  A light lunch will be provided to include a vegetarian option.

Registration is available until Monday, January 16. 

Parking at the Cove is very limited.  We will be providing golf-cart shuttle from the church parking lot to the conference in the Cove.  Coffee will be provided during check-in.  Registration and payment are only available online.

We look forward to bringing you some of the information you need for you and your loved ones. 

We’ll see you there!

For more info: email Judy Wilder, Caregivers Support Group Leader, bugnfl@gmail.com

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PTT 03282022

The Pastoral Transition Team (PTT) met on March 28th. Prior to that meeting, members of the PTT met with Pastor Tim on multiple occasions throughout the December-March time-frame to work out bylaw issues that had to be addressed, the timing of standing up an internal search team, the training of the search team, the actual timeline for the search process to begin, the the engagement of an external search firm to help with the search and transition planning, the transition timeline and other key events that must take place.

One key outcome of the March 28th meeting was that the PTT will hold another Town Hall Event on May 22, 2022, at 6 PM in the main sanctuary. The event will run until 8 PM and will have a robust Question and Answer period. The Town Hall event will provide a thorough update on PTT activities to date and the path now laid out for a successful transition process. The delivered remarks and the discussion with our church family will focus on:

  • Our understanding of the bylaws and how that affects the timeline and our approach to the transition plan.
  • The process and costs to engage an external search firm to conduct succession planning and the external search. (Note: This company will be represented at the Town Hall event).
  • The refined timeline based on discussions with Pastor Tim.
  • Our communication plan going forward
  • The timing of the search
  • The church profile document
  • The actual transition process to hand off the baton from Pastor Tim to the new pastor
  • The internal FCBC search committee – they will work with the external search firm to vet resumes and select a qualified candidate. (Note: This is the Hybrid Search approach we discussed at the last Town Hall event in October 2021).
  • PTT activities over the next 9 months leading up to Pastor Tim’s  30th anniversary

We will make more information available on the Town Hall event as we finalize event details. We will also be coming to all Connect Groups to discuss the next steps and the Town Hall event. Things are moving, albeit slowly now, but they will pick up in pace as actual events get underway, particularly after the May 22nd Town Hall Event. Please be in prayer as we ramp up our efforts after many months of searching for answers and discussions with the church leadership to find a way forward. God bless.

05 Meaning(Less)

MEANING (LESS)
“Living Wisely in a World of Fools”  Download here
Ecclesiastes 9-10

What will you hear today? There will be two sources of listening, if you’ll participate. One is listening to my words. God may spark something inside of you as your mind traces what I say. But more, the second source. The most important source. Let God speak through His Word. Your Bible open before you. Your phone or tablet open to a Bible app. Listen. God wants to speak, and He does. But we have to listen.

1). Living wisely involves accepting deaths reality (9:1-10)
Solomon has already dealt with this subject in Chapter 7. “It’s better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind.” Death is inevitable. And we live in a culture that denies that more and more. The basis of many of our neuroses and anxiety and most of our fears is the reality that we don’t want to face this truth. Living wisely means we do.

An English poet laureate wrote,
“Oh, why do people waste their breath
Inventing dainty names for death?”

We live in a day that has become skilled in denying the ultimate reality of death. We have renamed it. We pay a great deal of money to make the person lying in the casket look natural…meaning, alive. “They look so natural.” I love the Woodie Allen quote that he gave in an interview where he said, “I’m not afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Sometimes, we don’t even bring the deceased to the funeral.

Paul Simon wrote a song in 1965 called “Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall.” I saw the Broadway production just a few weeks ago with my kids. In this song, Simon writes, “So I’ll continue to continue to pretend that my life will never end, and flowers never bend with the rainfall.” But they do bend. And our lives do have an end.

Death is a serious thing, because sin is a serious thing. God never wanted death to be a part of His perfect creation. It wasn’t. Sin…our choice to sin…made death a necessity. “The wages of sin is death…”

I have stood on the porch of a funeral parlor with young men big enough to wrestle a bear. But they were terrified to go inside and view their mother’s remains. Why is that? Death reminds us…this is our fate. It is going to happen to all mankind. We grieve our own death. The Bible is unambiguous about death. “Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of posies, ashes ashes we all fall down.” But death has become something akin to a profanity. It’s offensive to us to be reminded that it is our fate; that God has numbered our days. That, “it is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment.” If we just live “under the sun,” without taking God into account, there’s a period there. But for the Christian, when death comes, another kind of life just begins!

2). Living wisely involves acknowledging life’s unfairness (9:11-18)
Everybody dies. The wise man is buried beside the wicked man. Living righteously does not guarantee a longer life or a more honorable death and burial. Death equalizes it all. The best person isn’t always rewarded under the sun… “the race doesn’t go to the fastest, or the battle to the strongest…” The good man isn’t always remembered under the sun…

We are morbidly fascinated with Job because of the unfairness of his circumstances. We are magnificently humbled with Jesus because of His acceptance of the cross…the ultimate unfairness and injustice…Jesus was crucified by religious fools…which He endured without fighting back or speaking back…but he died on the cross and endured and absorbed death and sin’s penalty for the rest of us sinful fools…religious and non-religious alike.

3) Living wisely involves attention to the small things (10)

So just what is a fool?

a. Fool: Doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. So, he goes to school. I may know lots about genetic engineering, but if you slide me under a car on a lift and tell me to repair the transmission, I wouldn’t know where to start
b. Student: Learns what he doesn’t know. That’s why we get an education. But we don’t get answers. Not important ones. You will probably live long enough to see everything you learn in school become obsolete (tubes to integrated circuits). / They told us after two intense years of study, “You now know enough about electronics to go out and really hurt yourself…All you learn in school is what you don’t know.
c. Graduate: Knows the right question to ask…a graduate simply knows more questions that she doesn’t know how to answer. Wisdom is painful, Solomon reminds us. The more we know, the more we learn what we could be, but aren’t.

“If any man lacks wisdom…” (God gives wisdom “freely” and without partiality…no student loans necessary). Solomon’s prayer at the beginning of his reign was “God give me wisdom to lead your people.” God was impressed. And He’s equally pleased with you if you’ll ask! Wisdom pays attention to the small things.

a. Fly in ointment/ bird in filter (My church was on a cistern…thought that was what we called women…” brethren and cistern” …I also thought a bush hog was a pig that ate landscaping). A little thing can pollute a big thing. A little fly spoils the ointment. A little foolishness, a little self-indulgence, a little indiscretion can destroy a thirty-year marriage. “But honey, it was just a little affair…” Stay in tune with the little things.
b. Doing work with integrity … watch the little things…Do what you KNOW to do…don’t fall in the hole…sharpen your axe…watch for falling rocks.
c. Watch your tongue (Charm the serpent in your mouth). I learned in communication classes that, for every statement made there are six possible ways to interpret it. That means you have a one-in-six chance of being understood when you speak. Warren Wiersbe identified five different kinds of tongues

i. Destructive tongues (v 12). “The tongue is small but can start a forest fire.” This is the tongue of the gossip. The rumor monger. The tale bearer. The person that posts an untrue statement online.

ii. Irrational tongues (v 13). Talking nonsense. Much of what is said and written today falls into that category. A New Age speaker named Doreen Virtue, who has written numerous books and is flown around the world to give lectures and conferences renounced her writings and speeches when she became a Christian.

iii. Uncontrolled tongues (v 14a). “I can’t help it…I have to say what I think even if it hurts your feelings.” You can always control your tongue if you want to.

iv. Boastful tongues (v 14 b-c) Boasting about a future they don’t know, and they can’t control. Can’t find their way. “Self-praise stinketh.” “So dumb, he’d get lost on an elevator.”

v. Indiscreet tongue (v 20). The world celebrates and elects fools…. don’t be one. The fact that they are applauding you may not be a compliment. Live with wisdom.

As Solomon concludes his argument, he critiques those in leadership. He includes, we are certain, himself in the critique! Four kinds of people (fools) find their way into leadership.

They are …

  1. Immature leaders (vv 16-17)
  2. Incompetent leaders. (v 18)
  3. Indifferent leaders. (v 19)
  4. Indiscreet leaders (v 20)

It’s hard to imagine that a part of this was a job review of his own staff! Solomon was surrounded by leaders and advisers in his role as the King of Israel. He saw each of these in turn. The first, maybe is more like Solomon than the other three. He certainly was not incompetent, or indifferent, though perhaps he was indiscreet. But most certainly he came to the throne as an immature king. Some of his decisions were decisions that an immature leader would have made (see his propensity for foreign women).

Leaders who do not lead well do much damage to their business or, in the case of governmental leaders, to the people they lead. He is right to call for wisdom among those who are responsible and in charge of others.

Life is a gift… live it… live so the mortician has to pry the smile off your face! Death is coming…prepare for it! A wise person lives knowing that death comes but doesn’t allow that reality to stop him from living. In fact, it propels him to take life with more intensity.

04 Meaning(Less)

MEANING (LESS)

“Finding a Heart of Wisdom”  Download here

(Ecclesiastes 7-8)

In 1982 a California man named Larry Walters decided to follow his lifelong dream of flying.  Along with some friends, Larry went to an Army Surplus store and purchased some weather balloons and a couple of tanks of helium.  He tied the balloons to the arms of a lawn chair with the plan of floating at about 10,000 feet, tethered to the ground, then shooting some balloons out with a pellet gun, and then slowly descending to the earth.

Things did not go according to plan.  The ropes tethering the chair to the ground snapped, and Larry and his amazing chair floated quickly up to 16,000 feet and into the flight path of the San Diego Airport.  The other thing he hadn’t thought through was how much a role fear would play.  He couldn’t let go of the arms of the chair to fire the pellet gun.  When he finally did take the chance, he took two shots and then dropped the gun.

By now he was on the radar of the airfield.  A pilot reported, through the clouds, seeing a man floating in a lawn chair.  But luckily, he had hit a couple of the balloons before dropping his gun.  They did have to pry his hands off the lawn chair when he finally landed!  Larry “gained a heart of wisdom” from his experience floating high in his lawn chair.  He never tried it again!  Sometimes we learn wisdom the hard way.

Solomon is taking us on a bird’s eye tour of life from his perspective “under the sun” or, life without taking God into account.   Solomon’s writing goes through something of a transformation at this point.  We don’t know exactly what brought about his turning point, and he now seemed headed in the right direction.  The words “wise” and “wisdom” are used 30 times between Chapter 7 and Chapter 12.

To have God’s perspective is the definition of wisdom.  Seeing ourselves and seeing life as He does…no balloons… through His Word, through His Spirit, and through His people.  That is wisdom.

Observations About Wisdom

Four things that flip our way of thinking on its head. 

  1. It is better to go to a funeral than a party…. (7:1-4)

It was Solomon’s conclusion that going to a funeral, “the house of mourning,” will teach you wisdom more effectively than going to a party.  Honestly, would you rather go to a wedding or a funeral?  People have asked me more than once, “would you rather preach a funeral or a wedding?”  Well, funerals are simpler.  There’s no rehearsal, no seating charts, no mother of the bride or bridezilla to manage, no drama.  It’s just simpler.

I enjoy weddings.  Yet we learn more at funerals.  Every funeral is a caution to us.  My grief class taught me that every funeral is a mortality check.  ^ It reminds us of our own limits. All of us won’t end up having a wedding.  But short of the coming of Jesus, all of us will have a funeral.  “The end of a thing is better than the beginning.”  Weddings are loud and joyful and expensive celebrations.  But a big wedding doesn’t mean the marriage will last.  There’s something quietly, deeply glorious seeing a couple who have made it 60 or 70 years and to see the widow or widower sitting on the front row, reflecting on their life lived well.  “The end of things is better.”

Solomon is just saying, “Don’t miss the wisdom that comes from times like that.”  In fact, occasionally it’s not a bad thing to walk through a cemetery.  I know.  That’s morbid, right?  One guy walking through a cemetery came to a grave marker that said, “Pause friend, as you pass by.  As you are now, so once was I.  As I am now, so you will be.  So, take your heed and follow me.”  Someone came along and added another line to the marker.  “To follow you I’m not content, until I know which way you went.”

Wisdom is knowing which way you’ll go when this life is over.  As we have on our sign outside, there’s only two choices of destination.  Which way are you going?  Paul had no question about this.  In Philippians 1:23-24– “to depart and be with Christ.”

  1. It is better to receive a rebuke than a compliment

Mark Twain said, “I can live two months on a good compliment.”  But Solomon is suggesting that we will live those two months with wisdom after a good rebuke.  I don’t like criticism.  No one does.  Sometimes criticism is unwarranted.  An old farmer told his son, “Son, when a mule kicks you, just consider the source.”  Yet “a rebuke is better than a compliment.”  It takes a courageous person to offer an honest rebuke.  Wisdom tells us to receive those as gifts, not curses.  A wise person learns from the critics.

  1. It is better to be patient than to be angry

You know, anger is something that all of us struggle with to different degrees.  Some of us blow up externally at a situation and others implode internally and make ourselves sick with it.  But anger is an inevitable part of being alive.  It is a God-given defense mechanism.  But for insecure people, their “defense” button is stuck.  They are continually angry about something or someone.  Anger is like a porcupine’s quills.  They stick everything in their path.  That’s what an angry person does.  And the first law of the jungle is, “You can’t hug a porcupine.”  Angry people alienate others.

Solomon gives clear warning to that person.  It is unwise to live in anger, lest it make its home in you.  (v9). Anger releases a chemical that we become addicted to.  We can’t live without it.  Then, we have to have it to feel ok.  And then it owns you.

  1. It is better to experience adversity than prosperity

You know who disagrees with that?  Those who are going to through adversity right now!   But we actually learn far more from difficulty than prosperity.   We see people struggle sometimes and feel sorry for them, and yet Solomon says, “They’re better off.”  Jesus Himself was called “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”   Our sufferings make us more like Jesus, but they also give us “a heart of wisdom.”  As AW Tozer said, “God can use no man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”

Laughter is fine, but Solomon says it’s empty, “like thorns crackling in a fire.” It’s empty, with no heat, no depth, no lasting value.  A man came to his doctor complaining that his life was tedious, hard, and it just made him not want to get out of bed.  The doctor gave him a prescription and advice: “There is this great comedian holding some shows at a nearby comedy club…Doc, I am that comedian!

There are none who are perfectly righteous; this is the beginning of wisdom (v20)

Then Solomon takes us to the beginning of wisdom.  The beginning of wisdom is realizing that there is no righteous person on earth.  No one, in themselves, is righteous.  This paves the way for the most important lesson in life:  By ourselves, we can never make ourselves acceptable to God.  “There is none righteous, no not one.” Paul said.  Solomon agreed.  (v29)

Conclusions Regarding Humility

  • “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
  • “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

Wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective.  Someone has said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

1. In the presence of authority. (8:1-9)

                One of the most important lessons we have to learn in life is that there is always some authority we must learn to obey.  A parent, a teacher, a police officer, a military chain of command, a CEO, a board of directors, the president.  And they don’t always exercise their authority wisely.  It’s hard to humble yourself in their presence at times.  But wisdom dictates that we must exercise humility in our dealings with those in authority.  We need to learn we are not always in control and understand our limitations (v 8)

We obey, Solomon said, “because we have made a vow.”  Because the government can compel us to do so, and because we don’t always have understanding of what God is doing through the authorities placed in our lives.

2. In the times of injustice.          (8:10-14)

                Sometimes in life, the wicked prosper and are celebrated, while the righteous seem to suffer for doing good.  It is hard for us to live in a world where things seem so unjust and inequitable.  “Oppression drives the wise person mad.”  We are angry at Russia because of the unfair match-up against the Ukraine.  It’s like an entire nation, or a demagogue dictator, has become the school ground bully.  They are good people who just want to be left alone.  But it torments us to see good people hurting.  We feel this because the love of justice and fairness is hard wired into every person by God.  (Evidence of God’s identity in you)

3. In the moments of mystery (8:15-17)

                Life is full of mysteries.  Why does your peanut butter sandwich or your toast always fall jelly side down?  Why is your traffic lane or your grocery store checkout line always the longest?   Where do your spare socks go in the washing machine?  And why is it just ONE?           Solomon says, in these closing verses, that some things in life will always be a mystery.  There are some things that we must just have the humility to say “I don’t get it.  I don’t understand.”   Some things are just out of our pay grade.  But then, we trust in the God Who holds the keys to all mysteries!

Romans 11

[33] Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  [34] “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”  [36] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

 

03 Meaning(Less)

MEANING (LESS)

“Life without Meaning”

(Ecclesiastes 5-6)  Download the notes here

 

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:4-5 NLT

Ephesians 1 tells us clearly that, when God created us, He created us with a plan for our lives.  There are no random, accidental people in the world.  God made us all and gave us freedom so we could love Him by our choice, because if we can’t choose, it isn’t love.

God has a specific plan for each of us.  Jesus tells us, “The very hairs of your head are numbered.”  So, we aren’t just numbers…we’re names.  We’re people made in God’s image.  We’re part of God’s plan to love the world.

In fact, it goes further in Ephesians 2 and tells us in verse 10 “we are His workmanship…”  The word the Bible uses there is “poema.”  I met a guy recently who named His daughter “Poema.”  It means “masterpiece.”  We are God’s master work.

And even more than that, we are unique!  Every person.  That means there’s nobody in the world quite like you.  Now there may be some other people who look like you in some ways.  We all have doppelgangers out there; people who weirdly kind of look like us.  A few years ago, I apparently reminded people of the guy on America’s Got Talent who was a ventriloquist.  “You look just like that guy.”  I always thought I looked just like Tom Selleck or Kevin Costner.  But no, I look like a ventriloquist.

But we’re all unique, and God has a custom-designed plan for YOUR life that nobody else fulfills!  You are unique.  Nobody does you like you!

But in spite of this, we choose to go our own way.  That’s what sin is.  It’s not just being evil, like Putin.  Sin means we go our own way.  We turn our back on God’s plan, revealed in His Word.

And then at some point, we hit the wall.  And we wonder, “so what is life about?  What does it mean?  Why does it all seem so pointless?”  We neglect our Creator; we reject His Word.  And then, life is just empty.  It’s meaningless.

That’s where Solomon found himself.  Like so many of us, Solomon thought he knew more than God.  He knew better than God.  He could find meaning in life without reference to God.

And Ecclesiastes is his testimony to life “under the sun” or, life without God.

Worship without Meaning

1. An authentic consistency (“Watch your step”) 5:1

            Our spiritual walk has a great deal to do with our worship.  If we are walking in the counsel of sinners, our worship is just going to bring conviction to our lives.  If we are thinking scornful thoughts, we are going to mock the things of God.

I did that in my life, in a time when I had wandered far from God.  The preacher was one of the best in the state at that time.  He was anything but boring.  But I was bored.  I was empty.  What was inside of me, and how I was walking, affected my worship.

2. A Quiet Spirit. (“Watch your mouth”) 5:2-3

            Solomon’s counsel if you don’t want your worship to be meaningless is, “Come to listen, not to talk.”  Be still in the presence of God.  Don’t come to give your opinion.  Come to learn. Don’t make promises or vows that you don’t intend to keep.  Watch your mouth.

Singing?  Sometimes we lie in worship.

3. An eager obedience. (“Watch your heart”) 5:4-7

            Don’t try to manipulate God.  If you make a vow to God, keep it.  If you make a promise, “don’t delay” in fulfilling it.  “Don’t let your mouth cause your flesh to sin.”  Bring a prepared heart.

For worship to be authentic, we must be sincere.  What’s your motive for coming to church?  i.  Are you coming to impress others?  ii. Are you coming to try to manipulate God?  (Counseling—divorce).   Because what you bring into worship is pretty much what you’re going to be getting out of worship.  If your reasons for coming are genuine, your worship will be too.    But sometimes our worship has no meaning.

Wealth without Meaning   5:10-20

I’ve shared these thoughts before, and I’ll remind you again this is adapted from another preacher. *  I’ve taught this passage before for a stewardship message, so this is a review for some of us.

Solomon was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived.  Maybe, if his wealth was calculated in today’s economy, he would have been the richest man.  He had so much gold he used it to decorate his palace.  Silver in his kingdom was so common it was almost without worth.  He was a rich guy.  So, as Boomers remember the old commercial said, “When EF Hutton speaks, everybody listens.”  Maybe we should hear Solomon the same way.

  1. The more we have the more we want. (5:10)

If you or someone you know has been addicted to gambling, you understand the allure of having more.  A gambler’s heart is never contended with the first round of winnings.  It leads to the need for a second.  And a third.

This is the promise and illusion of materialism. There is no end to the itch.  We want more.  We NEED more to make us happy, or so we think.  I think a great name for a gambling house in Las Vegas would be “The Mirage.”  Oh wait…there is one of those!  It’s all a mirage, and they tell you that going in with huge neon lights.

Materialism is a mirage.  A promise that never delivers.  A puff of smoke than vanishes.  Jesus said, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15).  Materialism says, “that’s a lie.”

  1. The more we have, the more we spend. (5:11)

“The more loot you get, the more looters show up.” (The Message)

The more we have, the more we need, the more we have to have, the more we want.”

My hamster, Diggy, was busy last night.  She was really working her wheel hard.  She does that when she’s stressed.  Well, and also when she isn’t!  But I noticed this morning, after she worked all night, she’s still the very same place.

So, with us.  We have more, we spend more to keep it, we need more, we want more and then the wheel starts over.  It never ends.

  1. The more we have, the more we worry. (5:12)

John D Rockefeller was the world’s only billionaire at age 53, but he was continually sick and lived on a diet of milk and crackers.  Until he learned how to give his money away.  As a philanthropist, he lived to be 98!  Guess the lesson is, if you’re worried about money, give it away!

If the world works so hard to keep everything they have and end up miserable, maybe if we’d work equally hard at giving away, we’ll be fulfilled and happy!  That’s what Rockefeller learned.  Maybe we should take the hint.

  1. The more we have, the more we lose. (5:13-14)

I worried less about stuff when Pam and I were first married and living on a shoestring budget.  My living room suit, brand new, cost us $188.  They were miserable to sit on. But I never worried about stuff when I was renting an apartment, sharing food with our seminary classmates and owned 2 beat up cars.  When you own stuff, you worry more about what you could lose!  I never gave two thoughts to the stock market…until I started investing in it!

  1. The more we have, the more we leave behind (14-17)

The trick to surviving the money trap is to learn that, for the Christian there is no own. There’s only loan.  “You are not your own…”  We invest what we have here in eternity.  We will one day leave it all behind for something or someone.  Maybe our family, or maybe the government.  Or maybe you could figure out how to bless the work of God’s Kingdom here on earth and see that your investment is awaiting you in glory!

“But lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither rust nor moth corrupt, and thieves don’t break in and steal.” (Matt 6:20-21)

(*Jeremiah, Heaven…)

1. God gives us the ability to make money (5:18)

            Solomon here is alluding to Deuteronomy 8:18 where it says, “It is God Who gives us the ability to produce wealth.”  You may argue, “No, it’s not.  I’m going to work every day.  I’m putting in the hours.”

But who wakes you up in the morning, and gives you grace for your body to function?  Who opened the door so you could get the job you have?  Who allows you life and breath to earn a living?

2. God must give us the ability to enjoy the money we make, or it will destroy us! (5:19-20)

Work without Meaning

            A dimension of how God created us is to work.  “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.”  Work is not a curse.  Work was part of what God created, and He gave Adam and Eve jobs in the garden BEFORE sin came.  But remember you are bigger than your job.  You are a human BEING, not a human DOING.

Your job was never intended to make you miserable, to take away your personhood, or to be a way to do things that aren’t ethical or legal.  It was meant to bring you fulfillment and even joy.

If you are looking at the right ends for your labor and can enjoy the process and not just the weekend when you’re off, you can find enjoyment in life.  If you are working to fulfill the will and purpose of God in your life, your job can be a source of great satisfaction.

1. Work has no meaning when we can’t enjoy the proceeds (6:1-2)

            If we work and never stop because we’re working for the “end game,” for money, then we will never enjoy the fruit of our labor.  Sometimes we find ourselves laboring hard just to pay off debt we’ve accumulated buying things we couldn’t afford.

Occasionally we need to stop and ask the hard question: “Do I need more money?  Do I have to sign up for overtime again this weekend, taking me away from time with my family?” How much money is enough?

When we are off-track from the purposes of God, He will not allow us to have joy from the things we accumulate.  Oh, maybe we can look to others like we’re living it up as we climb in and out of our leased Lexus, but in truth in the middle of the night, we know it’s like sand in our mouth.  It’s nothing fulfilling or exciting.  It’s dull, monotonous, and we don’t enjoy the things we have and use.

Unless God gives us the power, we can’t enjoy anything.

2. Work has no meaning when you lose the honor of your family: Nobody wept when he died.  (6:3-6)

            Solomon tells a sad story that is repeated far too often.  A man works hard…too much…in the name of “providing” for the family, and then one day he comes home and realizes his family is grown. Or his family is gone.  Or the family barely knows him.

Sadly, Solomon says, this man would have been better off never born.  As it is, he faces the end of his life with a family that provides him “no burial.”  Now that doesn’t mean the family just leaves his body where they found it.

Not having a burial basically had nothing to do with burial processes.  It had everything to do with being eulogized; being remembered fondly and emotionally by the family.  The man in Solomon’s illustration left the world without a tear being shed for his passing.  This, he said, is the ultimate insult and a grievous evil.

Howard Hughes, the world’s wealthiest man in his day, lived as a recluse only speaking in letters to his assistant.  He lived with the motto “Every man has his price…otherwise a man like me could never exist.”  When his employees and closest associates were able to speak about him, they universally revealed their absolute disgust for him.

He “had no burial.”  No one cared that he no longer lived.  What a tragic end to a life.

3.Work has no meaning when you sacrifice your soul for income:

            We are a soul with a body, not a body that contains a soul.  That means the essence of who we are is far more invisible than visible.  Far more spiritual than physical.  And yet the most of our years are spent living for the part of us we can see to the neglect of the invisible and unseen and most important part of us: Our soul.

Jesus told of a man who was a successful and productive farmer who needed more storehouses for his crops.  At the end of a particular day, he sat back in his office chair and began to inwardly congratulate himself.  What he didn’t realize was that this was his last day. All the things he had worked for to feed and clothe and care for his body suddenly meant nothing.  “This day your soul (the essence of who you are) is required of you.”  But you know, the man had lost his soul already to the accumulation of stuff.  (6:7)

What are you sacrificing for the work you are doing?  It’s one thing to spend time.  It’s another to spend…your soul.   Rule of life:  Never sacrifice the eternal for the temporal.  It only leads to pain.

4. Work has no meaning when you don’t REALLY know how to live (6:8).

Why are you living? Are you making a living, or making a life?  You make money with your job.  You make a living with your life, and by having the right allegiance in life to the One Who created you!

5. Work has no meaning when you don’t know how to die. (6:9-12)

            No doubt Chapter 6 is a self-portrait of Solomon.  At the end of life, Solomon realized to his sorrow that the path he thought would lead to joy and fulfillment led to emptiness and sadness.

What do you want to leave behind of yourself?  Do you use your time in the workforce to love people as Jesus would?  Or do you just go through the motions?  Do you want people to remember you for more than the fact that “you were always on time for work?” (Eulogy…” He was never late for work a day in his life.”)

Your work, no matter how productive, or powerful, or wealthy you become, cannot take the place of simply knowing God and accepting that He is the One Who is in control of everything.  Not you.  You may be a CEO, or the clerk on a sales floor.  But God is the One Who controls life.  The sooner we accept that, the sooner we will find the meaning we are all searching for!

You see meaning comes to us and everything we do when we know Who made us, Who put us here, Who created us, and Who we will one day stand before.  Meaning comes when we honor the Bible as the guidebook for our life.

We have a choice to make today.  Will we love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, or will our life be lived without meaning?  A puff of smoke in the wind? It is a clear decision we must make.

God is waiting for you to decide.  But some may still argue.  (6:10-12) Solomon reminds us that there is no use arguing with God about how He has wired the universe He created.  We simply learn to live within in or destroy ourselves trying to kick down gates and make our own way.

God is in heaven…you are on earth.  Remember your place…and live joyfully under God’s loving pleasure!

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