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Archive for December, 2013

King Solomon is popularly known for his wisdom, and is the likely writer of three books of the Bible: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.  When looking for wisdom it is to Proverbs we turn.  Ecclesiastes is difficult because so much of it seems to contradict the Bible, while Song of Solomon leaves many of us wondering why it is in the Bible at all, which is probably the reason for so many strange interpretations of what it ‘really’ means over the years.  However there is much we can learn from all three books.

 “I saw all the oppression that are done under the sun.  And behold the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them!”  (Taken from Ecclesiastes, chapter 4 and verse 1, ESV).  It is not a happy story, but history and experience shows us that it is true.  The key to this verse, and in fact the entire book is ‘under the sun’.  It is a phrase that is meant to indicate the physical reality of life without God, or at the very lest with minimal intervention from God.  This is before the New Testament.  A world without Jesus is summed up perfectly throughout the book of Ecclesiastes.  So before we get too critical, read again the book of Ecclesiastes, but from the perspective of Jesus not having walked the earth.  It assumes the existence of God, but we have no personal relationship, forgiveness or hope.  The book from that perspective is a masterpiece as it explains life as we find it.  There is no justice, there is hardship, and what can we do?  Enjoy what we can, when we can, and don’t ponder it too much.  And it is hopeful for us to read it for two reasons.  If we really get into that world view, it prepares us perfectly for the arrival of Jesus in the New Testament.  In fact it would be an excellent thing to do prior to Christmas in order to really get to grips with why the birth of Jesus and why His arrival was described as “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2, verse 10).

Solomon, as he describes throughout the book didn’t have a hard life.  In fact he probably had one of the ‘best’ lives of anyone who has ever lived.  He had more wealth, more comforts, probably good health, and all the people and company anyone could wish for.  The book speaks of all the different things he had and experienced.  Yet, it didn’t satisfy.  Having it all left him bored with life.  And he saw how much worse it was for others.  For them it was misery, and for all was without hope.  This is the other reason to read Ecclesiastes.  We read it with Jesus having been and risen, and knowing all we do from the rest of the Bible.  But if you don’t know Jesus, it pretty much sums up life today.  Without a personal relationship with Jesus, life is just like he describes in the book.  But if that is your position today, follow it up by reading the book of John and find hope this Christmas.

“People living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned”. Matthew 4:16 (NIV)

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Not enough money?

Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” Matthew 6, v 33.   It is often, correctly, said that if we seek God first, we will receive many spiritual blessings in our lives.  But it does also refer to everyday practical needs and specifically mentions clothing and food.  This verse has something to say to people who are facing a lack of money.

 I’ll firstly make a few general points in this paragraph, and then in the next one get to the point I would like to draw from the text.  Why might we be short of money?  First, it might be part of God’s plan for our lives in order to grow us, or for some other reason.  For example, Paul says in Philippians 4, v 11 – 12 “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content…I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need”, and in 1 Timothy 6, v8 “If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content”.  There are also practical reasons.  Perhaps our income is too low, or our expenditure too high.  These are things to pray about and ask about.  Are we giving enough to God?  Are we wasting money?

But I want to suggest that this verse speaks to those who have prayed and thought through these things, and found that they are not solutions.  It is part of a passage that addresses worry concerning having something to wear, or enough to eat.  Now if those people could simply work a bit harder, or stop wasting money, they would have done so would they not?  The fact that they are still worrying suggests the answer is not that simple.  At this point Jesus was not addressing lessons that may well come through adversity, He was speaking to those who should have enough, but don’t.

I will suggest that there are some people (but not all obviously) reading this today who are sure that their financial difficulties are not related to the above points, and I want to finish by talking to you.  God is not teaching you a lesson, your income is just fine, and your expenditure doesn’t include waste.  You have followed God, and your lifestyle is as it should be.  God does not want you to change your job for more money, and He doesn’t need you to reduce your expenses.  Some may accuse you of spending on luxuries, but no one can judge the lifestyle of anyone else.  Yes, I would encourage people to live simply and to share, but what that means for each person is different.  The fact is that some are living right, and even following God you are just seeing your debt increase.  You are not having these needs met.

This is a conditional promise.  It is conditional on seeking God, his kingdom, and his righteousness first.  Or put another way if you aim for God, and His will, you get the rest thrown in anyway.  Aim for the things and you miss them and God. Or put another way, if you are short of money, this is an indicator that something is wrong, and I want to suggest that God is saying today that it is not a financial problem.  Speak to God and ask Him if there is any aspect of your life that you need to surrender fully to Him.  Ask if you are seeking Him, His ways and His kingdom first.  If you listen to what He says, and make the changes He suggests, then He says that “all these things shall be added to you”.  God really impressed on me this past weekend that while this sounds unrelated and illogical, it is actually much more logical than we imagine.  You see, every decision we make in some way changes our circumstances.  You might not be making a financial decision, but in some way it will bring you fully inside God’s will, and will change your circumstances.  God might have a blessing for you, but you sometimes have to stand in the right place to receive it!  You never know what will come your way by taking a different path.

If you are looking for confidential, practical advice on debt, see https://capuk.org/ which may be helpful. 

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