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THE GOSPEL IS THE SOLUTION TO EVERY PROBLEM UNDER THE SUN (MOVING TOWARD THE CROSS)

 

THE FIRST TIME I READ ECCLESIASTES

I WAS PERPLEXED BY THE REFRAIN:

 

MEANINGLESS, MEANINGLESS

LIFE IS MEANINGLESS!

ecclesiastesfishbowl

I felt that way before I knew Christ.

Then I had so many Ecclesiastes-like thoughts.

Life seemed so repetitive.

Round and Round.

sunrisesandsetsecclesiastes

Not only was nature repetitive,

but my life was repetitive.

I felt the Ecclesiastes-like despair voiced in 1:9

“What has been done will be done again”

For before Christ I thought:

Is life going to be simply a series of trivial maintenance duties

punctuated by a dinner out or a new chair?

201111-omag-buy-furniture-284x426

Are moments like these really going to be the HIGH points in my life?

But now that I knew Christ, my life was filled with meaning…

So why was a book of such haunting emptiness in the Bible?

Ecclesiastes1_2

It will be helpful for you to think of Ecclesiastes as being like a “one man play.” The lead character, the “professor” plays two main roles. Often he takes the “under the sun” perspective where he puts on blinders and limits his view of life only to the visible, to the things he can see under the sun. This is the secular world view — all that exists is the visible.

underthesun

When he has the “under the sun” perspective, “he can’t get no satisfaction.” Oh — he tries — in the 2nd chapter he plunges himself into wine, women, and song. He builds an amazing home with gardens. Anything his eye desires he takes. And yet, at the end of the day, he asks “What is my life really accomplishing? Meaningless, meaningless.”

I can't get no satisfcation

Other times, he removes his blinders, and takes the perspective he actually has. He looks up to God and eternity and then sees things very differently. You see all the haunting questions of Ecclesiastes are answered in Christ. Ecclesiastes is the drumbeat leading the way to the mystery that was hidden — the mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I think you will find this week’s Bible study fascinating, for Ecclesiastes is written, not just for unbelievers who try to find their meaning in life “under the sun,” apart from God and eternity, but also for believers who revert, when they face challenges, to their idols, to clinging to people or things “under the sun.” Then, the emptiness comes back. Their lives again, are filled with Ecclesiastes-like despair. And then, near the end of the study, I want you to look at a verse from Ecclesiastes that I find fascinating and I think it shows the way of the younger brother and the older brother — and tells us that the one who fears God “shall come out from both of them.” I can’t wait to get your take on it, so finish the study!

 

God gives us gifts like youth, friendship, food, children, sex, marriage…

all can bring joy to the heart.

But they are gifts, not gods.

If we make them gods,

we will feel Ecclesiastes-like despair,

for they will fail us.

But if we set our affections on things above,

and not on things under the sun

then we also might have some fleeting enjoyment

as we gratefully receive the things under the sun.

elderly

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.

(Ecclesiastes 9:9)

But do not forget:

This sweet gift is not your life.

Set your affections on things above

not on things on earth

for you have died

and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ who is your life appears,

then you also will appear with him in glory.

(Colossians 3:2-4)

I have come to love the book of Ecclesiastes — so this may be my favorite Bible study during Lent!

Sunday/Monday: Icebreaker

1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

2. During this Lent our quest is to set our affections on things above. What has been helpful to you and why? (This study, a book you are reading, something you are giving up to have time and energy for Him, a song you are learning…) Share the gold.

Monday-Thursday Bible Study and Midday Connection (Dee: “When the Earth Shakes”)

Sometimes this week listen to the last Midday Connection program on Idol Lies. It aired last week and is about suffering and is entitled, “When the Earth Shakes.” You can find it under past programs: Click Here

(Then share your thoughts under question 7.)

Diane asked me to elaborate on how the gospel is the solution to every problem. I’d love for you to find the answers for yourself. I am going to give you, first, a haunting question of Ecclesiastes. Then I’m going to give you the New Testament answer. Then I’m going to ask you: “What problem does the gospel address here and how could it help you?” Because this is challenging, go ahead and write your answers, and I, or one of your sisters can jump in if we think you need a little help. This is so important. I think about how easily we turn to our idols and feel discontented. I think of the grave injustices those of you like Chris and Krista have experienced. I think of the sorrow that comes when one we love, like Susan’s nephew or my husband, dies. Every problem has its solution in the gospel. I can only give you a few highlights here, but they are golden. You might want to take one or two a day.

contentment

3. The problem of meaninglessness: My life is meaningless!

A. This is the theme that permeates Ecclesiastes. Look at the following verses and then summarize (briefly please!) why the professor, when he has the “under the sun” view, finds life so frustratingly meaningless.

  • Ecclesiastes 1:2-11
  • Ecclesiastes 2:1-17

B. Read John 10:10-11 and explain how Jesus is the answer to meaninglessness. How is the gospel part of that answer?

C. Does your life ever feel meaningless? How might John 10:10-11 and Colossians 3:1-4 provide a solution?

4. The problem of discontentment: There is nothing new under the sun!

A. Another refrain in Ecclesiastes is “under the sun.”

  • What famous quotation of discontentment can be found in Ecclesiastes 1:9?
  • How do you see discontentment in Ecclesiastes 2:11?

B. God tells us that there is something new — but it is not “under the sun.”

  • What is new in 2 Corinthians 5:17? Have you experienced this? Share some way you have been made new.
  • What is coming according to Revelation 21:1-4? Do you believe this and hold it in your heart?

C. I LOVE THIS NEXT PART — DON’T MISS IT. Read Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 carefully.

  • How, according to Ecclesiastes 2:24, are we to see the gifts under the sun? How thankful are you are throughout the day as you receive these fleeting gifts? Explain.
  • In verse 24, there is a phrase: “This, also.” The also refers back to the preceding passage, where we see existential despair. How is existential despair (or a lack of satisfaction for things under the sun) a gift from God?

 

(Answer the above question before you read this from Eugene Peterson: “A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. As long as we think the next election might eliminate crime and establish justice…or another pay raise might push us over the edge of anxiety and into tranquility, we are not likely to risk the arduous uncertainties of the life of faith.” From A Long Obedience in the Same Direction)

  • In verse 26, the professor talks about the one “who pleases God.” We know, from New Testament light, that the one who pleases Him is the one who is covered in the righteousness of Christ. When He made us His child, we are intertwined with Him. When He died, it is as if we died. When He was raised, it is as if we were raised. When our life is in Him, we will have “wisdom and knowledge and joy.” But if our life is not in Him, find our fate in verse 26.
  • How is the gospel the solution to discontentment?

5. The problem of injustice: Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, there is wickedness.

My dear friend with whom I have the privilege to work in prison ministry tells me stories that make me weep. Racism is still rampant in Texas. Right now there is a mentally retarded black woman awaiting execution. Years ago, my friend nearly succeeded in stopping the execution of a young black woman that was unjustly accused of murdering her husband and little boys. (She came home after a Mafia murder and had her hands all over the bodies in a panic, trying to find signs of life. Her fingerprints were the only evidence Texas had.) The one who accosted Daniel, Chris’s late son, has not been brought to justice. My daughter lost an arm through abuse. There are smaller daily injustices too. People cheat us, unjustly accuse us — we did not get my husband’s life insurance as we should have, and I was too overcome with grief to fight it. But I can walk calmly, knowing God sees, cares, and will do all things right in His time. The professor is right — often there is not justice “under the sun.”  Each of us has experienced injustice “under the sun.”

And each of us has committed acts of injustice to others. Last week at my retreat a missionary from Haiti talked about how she was asking a four-year-old if he knew why his blood pressure was so low. He said, “It’s just not my day.” At first she laughed — but then she realized, It wasn’t his day to eat. He only gets a meal every other day. When she said that I thought, I am God’s plan for bringing justice to those treated unjustly — and I fail because of my idol of comfort. I want to walk in repentance, but I am SO grateful for the mercy of the cross. If God gave us the justice we each deserve, there would be no one alive.

  • In Ecclesiastes 3:16-17, the professor states both the “under the sun” problem and the eternal answer. Find them.
  • What does Jesus tell us concerning injustice and suffering in John 16:33?
  • How does the cross show us at once how terrible sin is, yet, how merciful God is?

bigmercyandtruth

 

  •  As you look at the injustice in your life “under the sun,” how is the gospel the solution? As you look at your own injustice to others, how is the gospel the solution?

6. The problem of death: Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?

Old Testament saints lived in a shadowy world, before the cross. Job, Solomon, and David all had these moments of wondering what lay ahead. If we look only to the visible, it seems man is like the animal when he dies.

  • What despair and questions do you find the professor asking in Ecclesiastes 3:19-22?
  • What glorious promise does Jesus give in John 11:25-26?
  • When you face the problem of your own death or the deaths of those you love, how is the gospel the solution.

Christian-Easter-Backgrounds-John-11-25-26

7. We’ve been talking, during this series, about two ways of life that miss the gospel-centered life. There is the way of the younger brother, who rebels. We see this very clearly in the professor’s portrait of himself in chapter 2 — trying everything under the sun to try to be happy. But do we see the way of the older brother, who has so many rules, who is outwardly serving God but is doing it to get things from God, but who doesn’t love God? Do we see a picture of someone trusting in his righteousness — his religious ways in Ecclesiastes? I think so! I always feel more confident, with obscure verses, to find someone I respect affirm my finding — and I haven’t found that. So I am keenly interested in your thoughts, you women of depth, on Ecclesiastes 7:16-18. Here it is in the ESV:

Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

 

8. What thoughts do you have after listening to Midday Connection? (LINK)

Friday: Classic Keller. Christ Our Life: Link

This is a sermon many of you have already heard — but it is so classic that it won’t hurt you to listen again. I am summarizing it below, but have only caught the high points. Here is the link — and it’s free. I will also give you a second choice or additional option. The Professor’s Disillusionment. (It’s from Kellers Pointers to Christ series, a great series, and it is an overview of Ecclesiastes. Here is that link:
http://sermons.redeemer.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&product_ID=17229&ParentCat=6

One of the many things I like about Tim Keller is his respect for women. He was led to the Lord by a woman, he has unusual respect for his wife, and he tells how it was a woman who helped him begin to understand that the gospel was not just the ABC’s of Christianity — but the A to Z. It happened in the 1970’s when he was twenty-five. He was making a pastoral visit to a woman in his congregation who had suffered much. She had been beaten many times, having been in a series of abusive relationships with men, and she bore the scars. She had become a Christian, had been seeing a counselor, and was coming to Keller’s church. Keller said, “I would visit her, like the good little pastor boy that I was, knowing almost nothing about the way that peoples’ hearts work.” He drove up the hill to her “trailer-like” house. What she told him that day penetrated his heart, and he went back and wrote down the “weird and amazing truths” that so mesmerized him.

Though this woman was a new Christian, she had a depth of understanding into the gospel that helped her sift her counselor’s advice, keeping the true, and letting the false fall to the ground. Keller transcribed her words into his own, but this is the gist of what she said:

My counselor says I have built my very significance and acceptability and identity on men. That’s why I’ve been defenseless with them. I simply have needed them too much… However my counselor doesn’t have a very good solution for me. She says what I should do instead is get myself an education and have a successful career. My counselor means well, and I absolutely need to do that, but…that would mean I would be switching from one kind of idol for another.

 Keller said he’d never thought about this in his life, and asked, “What are you talking about?

For many years my heart has been looking at men and saying, “Unless I’m successful at love, I’m nothing.” But the therapist wants me to look at my career and say, “Unless I’m a successful independent businesswoman, in control of my   own life, I’m nothing.” I don’t want to be enslaved to my work as I was to men. …I’m actually being asked to exchange a typical female idol for a typical male idol. I don’t want either.

 When Keller asked her what she was now doing, she quoted Colossians 3:

“When Christ who is your life appears, you will appear with him in glory.” When I go to church and worship – when what Jesus did for me is so real and so      wonderful, I think of the men in my life and I say in my heart, “I’m glad to know you and I certainly wouldn’t mind being married – but you are not my life. Christ is my life. I would love to have a man, but if I don’t, I’ve got Jesus and I set my mind on things above. You can’t give me any of the things that Jesus has given me.. …A career can’t die for me. If I fail in a career it will beat me up all my life for having been a failure. But if I fail Jesus, He died for me to forgive me.

9. What are your thoughts from the sermon? Can you see how idolatry is the opposite of living a gospel-centered life? Explain.

Saturday:

10. What is your take-a-way and why?

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366 comments

  1. I just wanted to check in and say that I am doing this study daily. I don’t have any nuggets to post. I’ve been getting a lot of wisdom and encouragement from the posts that are here.
    This week’s study has been causing me to contemplate many things. While I get it that this earth is not our home and that the events that take place here will all make sense when we are finally in heaven, I have been struggling with the “whys” of there being an earth at all. Why weren’t we all created and placed in heaven with the angels and other created beings? If the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, then why wasn’t this accomplished without the “proving ground” of earth? I know that I cannot know the mind of God and that any thought or conclusion that I have is foolishness compared to what is really going on. I’m not expecting answers, just thinking and pressing on.

    1. Dawn–I miss your posts. I resonated with your thoughts here, have pondered them too. Where I am with it, I think it’s about Who God is, showing His character–He is a God of redemption, of holiness, of perfect judgment, of grace–those things we see because of the Fall. I also think–that God didn’t want us to be like puppets–who loved Him because we had no other choice–what kind of love would that really be?
      I don’t know if I’m making any sense, so I’ll stop! But I just found this from RC Sproul :http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/why/

      1. Thanks for the link, elizabeth. Interesting article.

    2. Dawn, I love your pondering’s and have wondered about the very same things. Keep pressing on – it’s a healthy thing to do.

  2. I am having a couple of quiet reflective days after a few whirlwind weeks. Keller’s sermon “Christ our Life” was again so helpful in mind that over-desiring good things can become idols and destroy us. And we all over-desire good things unless we continually refocus on God, knowing deep in our hearts that he delights clarifying in my in us so much that he died for us. “We are his life.”

    I have always thought that Michael W. Smith’s “Above all” song was a bit arrogant – to say that “He took the Fall and thought of me above all” seemed self-centered. But if it really is true that Jesus delights in me so much that, if I were the only person on earth who needed Him to die for me, He did it just for me. Then, it changes everything. How could anyone love me that much? I am so unworthy!

    How easy it is to forget how much he loves us! How wrapped up we are in our own unworthiness sometimes! I have been so sure of my unworthiness that I cannot delight in His love! Guilt has darkened my world. I have been seeing it through a lens of darkness and gloom. Striving, striving so hard and yet aware that my striving is meaningless. Yet there seemed no way out.

    What Keller said in his sermon is not new to me. I have heard Keller say this before, as have Dee, and many here on the blog for the past 1 ½ years since I have joined this blog. And, of course, long before that because I was raised in a Christian world view that preaches this. I have even said this myself. Perhaps, I just was ready today, in the midst of my world blasted apart by trials, to hear it again. And, oh, how I need it right now, as I am sure I will need to hear it again and again and again.

    Jesus loves me. I am his beloved. As a lover longs to delight his beloved, he longs to delight me with his love. All my striving does not matter. All my failure does not matter. There is no tallying up of merits or demerits. He just longs to hold me close. Nothing else matters. It is enough for today to rest in this.

    1. Great thoughts, Diane. I am sure I heard the sermon before but missed that we are His life and it is such a staggering thought. When I first heard it I think I hit rewind to be sure I heard Keller correctly. It is paradigm shifting for me. Thank you for honestly asking Dee to expound on this subject as I needed it as well.
      “There is no tallying up..” Oh how I need to get this in my soul!

    2. These are beautiful thoughts, Diane…how you moved from your 3rd paragraph to your last…resting in His love.

    3. Diane–Thank you for this–I so love your rich wisdom. As I’ve gotten older, I have often wished I could better understand the deep theological “issues”–but have noticed how it is these basic truths that have come to mean more and more. The Gospel is nonsensical to our mind, and yet so simple. And it is all we need. I have thought lately about John calling himself, “the one Jesus loves”–and have applied that title to myself–basic truth, yet it brings me to tears if I linger in it.

      1. I am “the one Jesus loves”. So simple, so beautiful, elizabeth.

  3. I HAVE BEEN REALLY SICK THIS WEEK SO HAVE BEEN ABSENT BUT WANTED TO QUICKLY SAY THANKYOU ALL SO MUCH FOR PRAYING FOR US AND LITTLE MANS BIO MOM. SHE DID NOT SHOW BUT WE TALKED TO HER AND SHE IS NOW IN AGREEMENT TO THE ADOPTION. THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE MIRACLE! KEEP PRAYING FOR WE DO NOT ACTUALLY MEET TO DISCUSS DETAILS TIL THE 26TH OF THIS MONTH. THE BIO DAD IS NOT IN AGREEMENT AT THIS TIME BUT WE BELIEVE HE WILL COME AROUND AFTER WE TALK. KEEP PRAYING! ALSO WE HAVE RAISED ALL BUT 560.00 DOLLARS SO THAT IS A PRAISE AS WELL. THERE ARE TWO PEOPLE WHO ARE GIVING THAT i AM NOT SURE THE AMOUNT YET. WILL KEEP YOU POSTED!

    1. So sorry that you have been so sick, Angela. But permission from the biological mother for adoption is GREAT NEWS! Also, it is great that you have raised almost all the money. I will keep praying about your upcoming meeting and the consent of the biological dad.

    2. oh Angela–praying you feel better soon, and PRAISING Him for this great news! Thanks for letting us know!

    3. Praise God!!! May the path to finalization be opened!

    4. Will keep praying, Angela (Prayers for your health too)

    5. Great news and we will keep praying for his dad. Sorry you are sick. Praying for you, dear Angela!

  4. lent FAIL…watched netflix all day today. been sick all week and it seems to be the only way I can make myself stay on the couch.
    Lily is in a tailspin cuz im sick and i wont let HER watch tv all day. gotta love a pouty, foot stomping, eye rolling, 12 year old when you have a fever of 102 🙂

    1. Poor Cyndi!
      I wish I could whisk away your family for the day so that you might rest.
      Praying for your health, body mind & spirit.

      1. praying your better soon, Cyndi

    2. yes–praying for you dear cyndi–so sorry!

    3. Praying for you, dear Cyndi!

  5. Chris, I just got what you said last week about the pine trees bent over by ice. What a great analogy of life “under the sun”! Bent over by the weight, seeing only the ground rather than reaching for the sky, basking in the sun, with the breeze in her boughs. Thank you for that.

    My take away is a little understanding of what it means for my life to be hidden in Christ. For me it has been learning to see the blessings like drops of rain on the leaves when beams of sunlight break through after rain. Suddenly there are jewels everywhere. They are there if I can just see them and give thanks. These are the realities in my life that tell me of His love for me in my heart language. I believe it not just in my head but also my heart.

    When things go wrong I am reaching for His hand. Sometimes it is not until I have passed through the water and look back that I see that He was there, right beside me. I also come through with faith a little stronger for the next time.

    So what does it really mean to me for my life to be hidden in Christ? I don’t live for what is under the sun, but I enjoy it. I can’t grasp it brick by brick to own or to build. Like trying to have my cake and eat it too, or trying to store manna. I just can’t do it. His gifts are meant for enjoying and sharing not keeping. I live toward heaven for that is where my treasure is.

    1. Anne I have been thinking about how God is answering the prayer we borrowed from Paul for our group.

      “14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

      So many of us really do seem to be better grasping how high and long, how wide and deep is the love Christ has for us.

      1. That is a wonderful prayer and I see too how It is being answered among us here and in most of the friends I know who want more of God in their lives. It is exciting to see the Spirit on the move among His people.

  6. 5. The problem of injustice: Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, there is wickedness.

    *In Ecclesiastes 3:16-17, the professor states both the “under the sun” problem and the eternal answer. Find them. – The problem is that instead of justice, there is wickedness/injustice, and even human judges who should be fair can be wicked and corrupt.
    The eternal answer is that one day, every person will stand before The Judge, who will judge rightly.

    *What does Jesus tell us concerning injustice and suffering in John 16:33? – He tells us that in this world, we WILL have trouble-expect it. But don’t lost hope-He has overcome this world.

    *How does the Cross show us at once how terrible sin is, yet, how merciful God is? – My sin was so terrible that it put Jesus on that Cross-that is the punishment that sin deserves. All of God’s wrath and hatred of sin was poured out onto Jesus on the Cross-terrible. Yet the mercy – that God Himself, in Jesus, took the punishment for my/our sins upon Himself, sparing me from death.

    *As you look at the injustice in your life “under the sun”, how is the gospel the solution? As you look at your own injustice to others, how is the gospel the solution?

    It’s the solution because I have to look at how Jesus was treated so unjustly-arrested at night, a makeshift trial, people telling lies about Him so that He would be put to death-He was completely innocent and sinless, He was the ultimate victim of injustice, yet a willing one. I cannot say that any injustice I have suffered is more than what He suffered. And it’s not the idea of me thinking things like ‘well, one day, he/she will get what they deserve’. No-because from the Cross, Jesus looked down on those who were against Him and prayed for them. The unjust are offered the same forgiveness as me.
    I too have acted unjustly towards others. I thought of times when I reacted in anger and harshness towards my children, saying things I shouldn’t; even a swat given in anger, not true discipline – that was unjust. When I was in jr. high, my friends and I slandered another girl – that was unjust. I deserve to be punished – I need the gospel, a Savior, to forgive me for my sins of injustice.

    1. Susan–your honesty is what allows Him to use you to speak such wisdom. Your last paragraph is rich–I needed to hear this, thank you

  7. This week I have remembered a painting that Dee posted when we were in Song of Songs. It is such a beautiful reminder of all that we have in God even when the cold north wind blows in our faces. http://deebrestin.wpengine.com/2010/07/blow-upon-my-garden/awake-north-wind-and-south-wind-aleonart/

  8. I was reading Psalm 50 and was struck anew by something I had not seen before–these verses jumped out at me, I wanted to share:
    psalm 50:7-15 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak;Israel, I will testify against you.I am God, your God.Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me.I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds.For every beast of the forest is mine,the cattle on a thousand hills.
    I know all the birds of the hills,and all that moves in the field is mine. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?
    Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

    I was so moved by this–I thought of all the acts of service, the “works” I do–and He says, I cannot give Him anything because all is His, He does not lack or need anything–but my thanksgiving, that is what He wants–my praise of thanksgiving, and my calling upon Him in my desperate need

    1. Oh this is so rich, Elizabeth – how true-we can’t give Him anything; He owns it all and He is not in need or want of anything! But He wants our praise of thanksgiving.

    2. Beautiful, elizabeth. “He does not lack or need anything but my thanksgiving.”

    3. Thank you, Elizabeth. I needed this today. I am sooo behind in my study but still plodding along and being blessed by all the comments. It’s easy for me to fall back into the older brother syndrome of performance rather than calling on God and thanking Him for what He has already done.

  9. 6. The problem of death: Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?

    *What despair and questions do you find the professer asking in Ecclesiasties 3:19-22?

    Man has the same fate as the animal-from all outward appearances, they both die-breath leaves their bodies, they move no more. He wonders if they both go to the same place after death-back into the ground. He asks how one can know if man’s spirit continues on after death. If there is no difference between man and animals, then life is meaningless.

    *What glorious promise does Jesus give in John 11:25-26? – Those who believe in Him will live, even though they die. Death is not the end.

    *When you face the problem of your own death or the deaths of those you love, how is the gospel the solution? – I can have hope that when I die, I will continue to live in my real home, heaven. I also take comfort in that Jesus isn’t asking me to go through something that He didn’t go through Himself; He died a real, physical death, so I trust Him to help me when that time comes.
    The only hope I have for those I love is that they embrace the gospel, too, so that I know that when they die, I will see them again. But when I know someone I love has rejected God, it makes me very anxious and I wonder how I will ever cope with their death if they die unsaved.

  10. How is the gospel the solution to discontentment?
    Ephesian 6:12
    For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

    I see that this wrestling takes place mostly in my mind and spirit. I give in to the darkness when I take my eyes off of Christ. Honestly it is a fight to keep looking to the cross when what my idols offer seem so much easier and more immediate. 
What TK says repeats again and again about my heart being melted by His love for me is so helpful. I don’t want to grieve Him by choosing creation over the Creator. When I enjoy things and people with gratitude discontentment dissolves, when I close my hand on a blessing, making it something I can’t go on without, I lose the joy in that gift.

    I keep thinking of Hosea 2:8
 “She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold– which they used for Baal. “

    I want to remember where every good thing comes from, too value and desire Him and His above His gifts, it is He that gives me the desires of my heart.

    1. Chris,
      You are so wise…”When I enjoy things and people with gratitude discontentment dissolves, when I close my hand on a blessing, making it something I can’t go on without, I lose the joy in that gift.”
      This helps me so much keep my perspective on releasing my two young adult sons.

  11.  As you look at the injustice in your life “under the sun,” how is the gospel the solution?

    Well it is hard for me to ponder the injustice we have suffered and I have been avoiding this question. 
I think about God’s words in Genesis to Cain after he murdered Abel. To think that Daniels blood cries out from the ground for justice, that Gods ears are not deaf to it helps me.
    
I wrestle sometime with whether we have taken the correct path in leaving the whole thing in Gods hands, if we should be more pro active in trying to figure out what happened. Of course it is in Gods hands regardless of what we do or do not do, I fear if we start sleuthing, we may believe a lie or go on some sort of evil wild goose chase. I have felt strongly cautioned to leave the matter with God, but sometimes someone will make me doubt that course, that I ought to be lighting more of a fire under law enforcement as others do.

    I don’t know, I am praying for guidance. The cross is the answer in that it undeniably displays Gods involvement and expensive love. I know Daniel is redeemed and whole and I will see him when I get home. If Christ would go to such great lengths for us, He isn’t blind to what we walk through now. He cares, He will undertake, vengeance is His and not mine.

    1. I have to comment on this post too, Chris…I cannot imagine the depth of your pain as you think about the injustice done to your son, Daniel, and how you wrestle with the aftermath, the not knowing. I will join you in praying for guidance…and sending you a “hug”. I’m so sorry, Chris.

      1. Thank you dear Susan, I will gladly take that virtual hug this morning.

        1. another hug–love you Chris

        2. (((Hug))) from me as well. I wish I could give you a real one. Praying for wisdom for you.

    2. Love you, Chris and I pray for justice for your family, but most of all for peace. I can’t imagine having to deal with the unknown. My family has found some comfort in knowing exactly what happened to my niece and that she didn’t suffer.

  12. 7. Ecclesiastes 7:16-18

    I backed-up starting in verse 15, and looked at this passage in 2 translations:

    “In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:
    the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and
    the wicked living long in their wickedness.
    Do not be overrighteous, 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.” (NIV)

    “I have seen everything in the days of my vanity:
    there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness,
    and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in (spite of) his evildoing.
    Be not (morbidly exacting and externally) righteous overmuch,
    neither strive to make yourself (pretentiously appear) overwise –
    why should you (get puffed up and) destroy yourself (with presumptuous self-sufficiency)?
    (Although all have sinned) be not wicked overmuch or willfully, neither be
    foolish – why should you die before your time?
    It is good that you should take hold of this and from that
    withdraw not your hand; for he who (reverently) fears and
    worships God will come forth from them all.” (Amplified Bible)

    I do see in this passage the depiction of both the younger son and the older son. Older sons are “perishing in their righteousness” and destroying themselves with “presumptuous self-sufficiency” – trying to earn favor with God.
    Solomon warns that this person should take hold of his teaching and come out of that way of living, by fearing God.

    I also see this passage as Solomon pondering why the “good”, or the righteous man, say, dies before his time, at a young age, while the wicked man can live a long life in spite of his wickedness and foolishness. So he warns against throwing ourselves into one extreme or the other – perhaps thinking that if we are really, really good, then we’ll get God’s blessings and live a long life (but we’re driving ourselves crazy trying to dot every “i” and cross every “t”); but don’t think we can get away with careless living, either; that we will get away with sin.

    But yes, there is definitely a picture of the self-righteous elder son here – “morbidly exacting and externally righteous…puffed up…self-sufficient” – but destroying himself by his good deeds – he is relying on himself, not God.

    1. I’m pondering this some more, and I have one point on which I disagree with Solomon, and it’s on the way out of either extreme. He says that “whoever fears God will avoid all extremes”, or that if we grasp what he is saying and choose to fear God, we will “come forth from them all”.
      But – I say we don’t have the power to come out of either extreme by ourselves…in the parable of the prodigal sons, it was the father who came out to both sons and it is God who initiates, who bends down, to us-first. The father ran out to meet the younger and he pleaded with the older to lay down his self-righteousness. God has to open our eyes to see ourselves as we really are, and He leads us out and to the Cross.

      1. I think I know what you mean Susan. The phrase “ask Jesus into your heart” has always bothered me a bit, in the sense that it seemed to often put too much emphasis on the one asking–us doing the work. Reminds me of the CS Lewis quote “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.”
        ― C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

        1. Great thoughts…ys we are so prone to see even our coming to faith as something WE do…when it is GOD who always acts first, and we respond. Love the quote from The Silver Chair; I think it is my favourite of the Chronicles of Narnia…for this and other reasons….

  13. 7. So I am keenly interested in your thoughts, you women of depth, on Ecclesiastes 7:16-18. Here it is in the ESV:

    Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

    I read this in the NIV:

    In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:
    the righteous perishing in their righteousness,
    and the wicked living long in their wickedness. Do not be overrighteous,
    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 7:15-18 NIV)

    I added verse 15 in this text because it helped me set it up. Initially this made me think how “bad people” seem to have “good things” happen to them often. I also tend to think the rule followers (me) are “good” people. What I am getting out of these verses is we should do everything in moderation. But then, I’m not so sure that God would ever want me to play either of these roles really at all. I need to remember Him and His gift (Jesus) when I find myself slipping into either of these types of people. Somewhere in between is a good place to be.

  14. As you look at your own injustice to others, how is the gospel the solution?

    I have wondered in my parenting, especially of the children I raised who were not my natural children, if I had been more mature spiritually , if I had loved them with a supernatural love I was not even seeking to posses at the time I was raising them, if things would have turned out better. If they would be strong followers of Christ now if I had been during those years modeling that for them in a better way. I worry that my comfort idol ruled too much in those years and I didn’t even know it was there.

    
The gospel is the answer in that God can redeem all of it, the years the locusts have eaten, the wounded hearts.
His relationship with them is not about me. I can trust Him too work all things together for good.

    His love covers a multitude of sins.

    1. I thought more about this as I was in the shower, about a portion of TK sermon that talked about the human tendency to think we are superior to those who are poorer than we are. I was convicted as I listened that I had needed to do heart work in this area. I have been guilty of unjustly judging economically disadvantaged people and looking the other way, thinking they suffer because of the choices they have made.

      The Gospel is the answer in that I have nothing…NOTHING, that I have not been given. I can move among others looking for the image of God in others, rich or poor.
      I will be generous with my money and time when I really believe that my treasure…my identity is in Christ.

    2. So beautiful, Chris “The gospel is the answer in that God can redeem all of it, the years the locusts have eaten, the wounded hearts.
”

  15. What glorious promise does Jesus give in John 11:25-26?

    That believing in Christ we will live. We are eternal!

    I read this “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” with a heightened understanding I think.

    ‘though he (we) die’..
    through dying to our flesh, putting to death our sinful desires, we feed that truest part of ourselves, the unshakable eternal part of us gains vitality and abundant life through abiding in Christ and the putting to death of our sinful natures.

  16. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaMkj4_H8WM&feature=player_detailpage

    I thought this song fits in beautifully with the idea of Ecclesiastes this week – to enjoy our life here and the gifts we’ve been given, giving thanks and praise to God.

    1. What a beautiful, cheerful version of a wonderful hymn and the photos were gorgeous as well. An excellent praise! thanks, Susan.

    2. yes, this was beautiful Susan–so uplifting!

    3. Thanks Susan for the lovely scenic views and music! It seems we have a love of nature 🙂

  17. My take-aways for the week? I am finding it increasingly difficult to point to just one thing as my take-away. I feel we are so fortunate to be doing this Lenten Bible Study together in a loving community made up mostly of strangers (I realize that is a bit paradoxical)!! I am grateful to Dee for selecting Ecclesiastes for this week’s study — a choice I know I would never have made on my own. I felt challenged as I whipped back and forth from the Old Testament to the New Testaament. I have enjoyed all the “aha’s” while listening to Keller’s sermons and while reading his book King’s Cross. Everything seems to be moving in the same direction — how can I say only one of them is responsible for my growth this week?! One thing gathers upon another like a snowball coming down the hillside. I will stop before I carry this analogy too far — I don’t want a big bust at end!:) It has been a grand week!

    1. Wonderful take away, Deanna.

      (Just wondering … do you pronounce your name with two or three syllables? is it De-na or De-an-na? Just wondering because my older brother used to call me De-na when we were kids instead of Di-ane, but in my head, what he said was “Deanna”.)

      1. Dee, My name is pronounced as three syllables (De-an-na). I was named after long ago singing film star Deanna Durbin. When I was in college in the 60s, everyone called me “Dee.” However, as the years have gone by somehow, without any effort on my part, more people call me Deanna. Now only a very few call me Dee — my husband is one who does.

        1. I just realized my confusion. It was Diane asking the question about my name and not Dee. Sorry! The answer is still the same, however:)

  18. Lenten study has taken a back seat to repairing relationship with our son and his family. God is so faithful. The study has aligned so much with what is happening. As the father reached out to both sons, God has worked in our hearts (my husband & I) as well as our son’s. Bringing us together slowly, giving us moments of reconnection. I was reminded and encouraged while pondering Ecclesiastes that there is a middle ground in repairing relationships. No one has to be “the winner” rather we can both “win” in our love and acceptance. Today my heart overflows…..a blond little girl bounding into the living room, so excited that grandma is still here.

    1. How sweet it is 🙂

    2. Praise God things are going so wonderful for you both and your son’s family:) Sarah.

  19. When I was reading through Ecclesiastes earlier today I came across this side note in my Bible. It’s by Marilyn Meberg and though I haven’t heard of her before she has some very good thoughts that I want to share:

    “Possessions and life itself have meaning only when I come to terms with the God who created all things. When he is my foundation, the Being around whom my life revolves, only then will I have a sense of purpose….I must realize that my ultimate joy will never come from things or persons. It will only come from a personal knowledge of and commitment to God…The lack of permanence so common to the affairs of the heart directly contrasts with the longevity of the love we receive from God. We experience the joy that lasts forever only as we commune with the divine.”

  20. I’m still following. In studying, Ecclesiastes I read such a depressed tone. I can relate to the ‘everything is meaningless’ type of depressed spirit. This week has been rather difficult to see beyond the daily stuff and look up.
    I am also reading ‘Grace-Based Parenting’. A timely and convicting read that fits well with this study.

      1. I will do, Dee. Thanks for putting on the book list.

  21. Listened to the sermon, Christ, Our Life…I remember it from before. The whole thing was so good. My ears perked up when he talked about making “epi-desires” out of things and how idolatry is at the root of our problems-even things like bitterness, anger…
    Idolatry is the opposite of the gospel because while we may say that Jesus is our Savior, idolatry makes something else our functional savior, the thing our heart is really trusting in to save us, to give us meaning.

    My take-away – the whole week’s study was impactful. I liked working through the passages in Ecclesiastes that left me feeling like Solomon-it’s all meaningless, and then turning to the New Testamant passages to see how Jesus is the answer to that feeling of emptiness and insignificance. I started out with questions like how to get it from being head knowledge down to my heart-how do I live this out? I found an answer in the sermon – the woman Keller talks about at the end-I think she may have more wisdom than Solomon!
    I love how she preached the truth to herself – talked to her heart and lived out that passage in Colossians-Christ is her life…she had more wisdom than her counselor. She wasn’t going to make an ‘epi-desire’ out of a career as she had with men. I could almost take what she said and insert my own idols into blanks and speak truth to my soul, too.

  22. 9. What are your thoughts from the sermon? Can you see how idolatry is the opposite of living a gospel-centered life? Explain.
    That the woman had learned a very powerful lesson the hard way. She realized at the end to live w/o Jesus was absolutely destroying her. She needed Jesus in the center, not men, not career. Not anything but Jesus.
    The Lord gave me this last night or I wrote it.

    I’ve been walking between this land and my home
    for a long, long time
    The trail has zig zagged through
    my emotions
    My mind has waged war on
    doubt, dread, and despair
    My spirit is strong yet flexible
    Bendable in it’s approach
    Willing to be humbled and be humble
    Yet filled with the possibilities of the “Living Word”
    Our Lord Jesus Christ
    Engraved, etched on my Father’s hand
    I stand between this land and my home
    Eager to fly, yet hesitant to leave
    I walk, arms outstretched
    Between
    This land and my home
    Watching, waiting, Expectant!

    Saturday:

    10. What is your take-a-way and why?

    There is nothing but Jesus.
    To thank him each day.
    I was watching a documentary on migatory birds from all over the world.
    I was amazed b/c Father God put in the them the miles they have to travel.
    Where they travel to and from.
    Some short distances of 1800 miles and others up to 12,500 miles
    From the artic circle to the continent of Africa
    I marvel at the sheer beauty and steadfastness of the birds.
    No c/o; no should have been another bird; or why does she only fly that far.
    Just working together, flying,surviving yet programmed to know when to leave and
    when to come back.
    When people leave, they will return or we will see them again.
    All our days are written down.
    I want to develop a more thankful heart,
    A more thankful attitude to what is around me.
    The sun is shining in my neck of the woods
    I am marvelling that my lilac bush is budding
    That my honeysuckle is as well.
    I thank God for the blue sky
    I thank Him for all that He has made and all that He has done for me and for the world
    I pray for others but acknowledge that Father God is soverign (big of me)
    Try to hear His heartbeat and His whispers.
    Sometimes I get it right sometimes not.
    I am thanking my husband more
    When he brings me yogurt, when he does the laundry, when he helps me with my medical issues that will probably require surgery.
    I thank God for my children and I send them texts.
    My siblings as well.
    Then my anger, my bitterness, my shame seems to disappear and my craving for approval and love dissolves with every thank you that I extend to God and to my family.
    I want to bloom where I am planted and not hate where God planted me.
    God will make a way in the desert when there is no way.
    Again I will praise Him
    The God of my salvation that opened the whole world for me to enjoy
    And
    I simply marvel.
    Thank u ladies for yr prayers.
    Dee for this study b/c it has become a God moment for me
    A resting place
    A high place
    A place to be
    So
    Thank u all:)