Posted in ecclesiastes, jesus, sovereignty

The Tyranny of Time

Here is an excellent sermon on Ecclesiastes 3, you know the one, “there is a time to dance, a time to mourn…”

The Tyranny of Time , 27:47 minutes

John Currid of Reformed Theological Seminary preaches the third chapter of Ecclesiastes clearly, simply, but powerfully.

The sermon is a comfort to the believer because we know that the eternal answers we seek, that all men seek, are contained in a one-word answer: God. His sovereignty and His providence are clearly and beautifully seen in the text and brought out by Currid.

A couple of notes from the sermon that you will hear of you choose to listen:

The verse which says “there is a season” is actually stated in the Hebrew “there is an appointed time.” The word ‘appointed’ makes all the difference in looking at God and His sovereignty. It is a relief to see God this way, trusting Him and knowing that all things are in His hand.

Secondly, the preacher mentions a theological-literary term called “merism.”

This is a listing of opposite parts to signify a whole or a totality.

In rhetoric a merism is the combination of two contrasting words, to refer to an entirety.

So when we read that Jesus is the “Alpha and Omega” He is not just the Alpha and Omega, but He encompasses everything in between.

In Ecclesiastes 3:4 when we read “a time to weep, and a time to laugh” the text means, ‘and everything in between’

It is awesome in its grandest sense that God controls and appoints everything under the sun, including times when we laugh, mourn, heal, kill…everything is unfolding according to His plan and purposes. The non-believer does not have this comfort of knowing that a Good God is in control and that whatever we are going through individually or as a nation will come, will remain an appointed time, and will end.

Time is not our enemy, time is not a tyrant, time is not running out. God created time for His purposes, and He designed us to receive His gift of the answers to these eternal questions in His time. Never forget that the non-reasoning unbeliever does not have this gift. (Ecclesiastes 3:13)

Every thing is as God made it; not as it appears to us. We have the world so much in our hearts, are so taken up with thoughts and cares of worldly things, that we have neither time nor spirit to see God’s hand in them. The world has not only gained possession of the heart, but has formed thoughts against the beauty of God’s works. We mistake if we think we were born for ourselves; no, it is our business to do good in this life, which is short and uncertain; we have but little time to be doing good, therefore we should redeem time. Satisfaction with Divine Providence, is having faith that all things work together for good to them that love him. God doeth all, that men should fear before him. (Matthew Henry)

Take a listen to a good sermon that will (hopefully) encourage and comfort you.

HT Brother Rick for sending me the link

Posted in apocalypse journalism, ecclesiastes, robert jensen, tribulation

What we need around here is some apocalyptic journalism

A true church is marked by spiritual discernment. The church, the body of Christ, the people of God, are able to look at the world and understand it. They have the capability to sort out the things that are happening all around them both in the realm of the physical world as well as the spiritual.”

~John MacArthur, Marks of a True Church part 1

People underestimate the power of the press. The words the press uses, and the issues they choose to present (and not present) shape the way we think about the world. For a Christian, it is the bible that shapes our thinking and provides the worldview. (Romans 12:2). It is either-or. You are either influenced by the world, or the bible. Just as the words of the bible have the ability to transform our mind, the press has the ability to shape how we think about issues. The result of journalism is that it can potentially shape our reality. Journalism does the following-

  • first, it helps people make sense of the world (as described above)
  • second, it figures prominently in the upcoming Tribulation (more in a minute)
  • third, I believe unsaved people have now gone beyond comprehending what is going on in the world and that therefore journalism has exceeded its usefulness in this regard. This is the point of this essay.

Robert Jensen of the University of Texas at Austin, Journalism department, wrote an extraordinary essay this week. In it, the Professor called for “apocalyptic journalism.” Don’t get excited, he is not referring to Christianity in any way, nor giving credence to our God as existing and sovereignly controlling affairs of men. But he is acknowledging that man’s understanding (unsaved man, that is) simply can’t comprehend the scope of our world’s catastrophes any more. In my opinion, his acknowledgement is a significant advancement on the road toward the rapture.

Jensen seems to understand that the fabric of things is unraveling … and unraveling so completely that it is not going to be repaired. He, and others he quotes, see an upcoming “massive social dislocation” due to our failure to ‘make peace with Gaia.’ (honoring the creation rather than the creator as per Romans 1:25.) He writes,

“That means that we’re in trouble, not in some imaginary science-fiction future, but in our present reality. We can’t pretend all that’s needed is tinkering with existing systems to fix a few environmental problems; significant changes in how we live are required. No matter where any one of us sits in the social and economic hierarchies, there is no escape from the dislocations that will come with such changes. Money and power might insulate some from the most wrenching consequences of these shifts, but there is no permanent escape. We do not live in stable societies and no longer live on a stable planet. We may feel safe and secure in specific places at specific times, but it’s hard to believe in any safety and security in a collective sense. … In short, we live in apocalyptic times.”

He is right. We do. And this isn’t even the Apocalypse yet.

What Jensen is comprehending is the eternity set within his heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He feels it, but just doesn’t know what it is. He seeks a framework within which one can try to make sense of what is happening. Jensen speaks the same words that millions are already thinking, of this I am sure. His view has become the representational view of most of the secular world. Sadly, he will never find the framework he seeks to make sense of things, unless he has the framework of Jesus.

The world does not make sense unless one sees it through the biblical worldview. Any other worldview will be false. But it is the worldview people have used for millennia and its falsity is showing up clearly now because it is coming apart at the seams. Nothing makes sense anymore and nothing is working.

Jensen continues in his article by saying that we need a new framework in order to connect the dots. He is right, and he is so close to the truth! The framework we need in order to make sense of the world is Jesus. But that is not what Jensen calls for.

In Jensen’s mind, and I believe he is speaking for many in the world who can’t figure out what’s going on, is that the old dots that need connecting are too far apart now. They are so far apart that each one is as distant from one another as the east is from the west. So therefore, he calls for new dots. He calls for “apocalyptic journalism”, a kind of return to ‘prophetic preaching.’ He says in effect that those prophets of Old Testament days didn’t cause the crises that came upon people, but they had something important to say that ought to have been listened to. He says we need more of that nowadays. What Jensen forgets is that the old Prophets had messages from God, they weren’t monster shouters spouting off on their own agendas. Anyway, the people didn’t listen to Noah preaching apocalypse when the world was unraveling the first time. To continue, Jensen writes,

Prophetic preaching does not put people in crisis. Rather it names and makes palpable the crisis already pulsing among us. When the dots are connected, it will require naming the defining sins among us of environmental abuse, neighborly disregard, long-term racism, self-indulgent consumerism, all the staples from those ancient truthtellers translated into our time and place.

The sins that need naming are not environmental abuse, being a bad neighbor, racism, and consumerism. Jensen says that those were the old sins that Amos and Hosea and Jeremiah and Isaiah were calling out against, and we use modern language to name them now. No, not at all. The prophets were calling the people to stop sinning by turning away from sin and turn to Him in repentance. Obeisance and repentance were the clarion calls of the day, as were rejecting idols and worthy worship of the LORD, because God is the only hope, through Jesus. I am so sad that people today see that the world is crumbling, the old frameworks don’t make sense any more, that journalism is failing to show us the world through a proper lens- and do not turn to the one Hope there is. Even Jensen says he has no hope. Look what he writes at the end of his article–

[INSERT HOPEFUL ENDING HERE]
That subhead is not an editing oversight. I wish there were an easy solution, an upbeat conclusion. I don’t have one. I’ve never heard anyone else articulate one. To face the world honestly at this moment in human history likely means giving up on easy and upbeat.

In this, Jensen is right. To face the world honestly DOES mean giving up on being upbeat- if you are a secular person who doesn’t know Jesus, that is.

The upcoming Tribulation movers and shakers will use journalism as a fully satanic framework to promote satan’s false signs and wonders. (2 Thessalonians 2:9). It will be used to promote the peacemaker who will turn out to be the antichrist. It will be used to show the death of the Two Witnesses. (Revelation 11:9). Satan has his clutches in the media even now, and after the rapture you will not be able to believe anything you see or read. The Tribulation will be a time of utter lies, because it is the time given to satan to allow sin to come to the full, and satan is the father of lies. Anyone who reads a newspaper or watches the news now knows we cannot trust it. What will it be like after the rapture? The worst.

Jensen’s message, as well as most of humanity’s today is, “Nothing’s working, we’re losing hope, it is all for nothing”. These were words that Solomon used after he had tried every which way to find fulfillment. Solomon’s conclusion was that all is vanity.

All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing. (Ecclesiastes 1:8)

Hosea wrote that Israel had been feeding on wind. (Hosea 12:1). That is the world today, feasting on vanity and wind, and finding that nothing they do fulfills. But, there IS hope!! Saving the world does not depend upon us, upon man. That should be a relief. The earth is the LORD’S and everything in it. (Psalm 24:1). He will take care of renewing it. The prophets of old called for the people to turn their eyes on God and his coming Messiah. He is the hope. Any spiritually discerning person knows that though these times are dark we have a huge hope in Jesus coming soon. We have the hope of our inheritance, which is Him and His finished work on the cross, forever. Jensen calls for someone to [INSERT HOPEFUL ENDING HERE]? OK I will!

[THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL]

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Posted in ecclesiastes, love

Eternity set in our hearts

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

Barnes Notes eloquently explains the verse: “God has placed in the inborn constitution of man the capability of conceiving of eternity, the struggle to apprehend the everlasting, the longing after an eternal life.”

If you notice in verse 11 two important things: we endlessly search for eternity, and the search for it outside of God will be futile.

I usually write about facts rather than emotions, and I write less about myself, but in this case I’d like to illustrate the Ecclesiastes verse by sharing something from my life. It is a true praise to the ministry of the Holy Spirit and how He draws men to God. (John 6:44). Even though I am ten years post-salvation, I am still acutely aware of how I felt prior to the grace of Jesus descending on me. I remember distinctly how it felt to be searching, ever searching. I even chronicled the search.

I live for information. That is my unique quirk. I love it. I absorb it, connect it, sift it, and apply it. And as for making attempts to understand my own place in the world and my purpose, I chronicled everything I ever did. I obsessively chronicled. I jotted down notes in a calendar that had large squares. I kept scrapbooks with ticket stubs and restaurant napkins. I wrote down where I went and what I did.

Before I was saved, I thought, somehow, that if I chronicled enough information, that a pattern would emerge. I hoped that some previously undiscovered piece of information would drop into place and suddenly I’d understand the mystery, that the puzzle would be complete. What the ‘mystery’ was, I didn’t know. I was looking for understanding of a larger context, not knowledge for its own sake, but searching for the missing piece that would help me make sense of the world. Because the world most assuredly did not make sense.

I would actively think on these things, engage in meta-cognition as to why I was endlessly searching for information, knowledge, and purpose, and chronicle and make little books.

Look what I wrote in one of my little books in 2003 as I neared the moment of repentance at the cross. Mind you, I grew up outside of church and had zero church experience. My father is an atheist and my mother a bitter lapsed Catholic. They hate God. I was raised without any religious instruction and absent any Godly beauty at all. I was clueless as to the Christian terms like salvation and kingdom.

“The world is awesome in its complexity and contains all the customary codes of conduct, a myriad of occupations and vocations, behavioral nuances of every description, emotional obligations, and ethical standards. The world also contains a secret kingdom. It dwells within the common world, but is invisible to nearly all. Only some comprehend this kingdom.”

Now you tell me that He doesn’t set eternity in our hearts. My soul was longing for His kingdom and I knew it was there. I knew it. But where was it?

I had written that quote in a little booklet I’d made. The booklet was a parable of a girl’s journey toward the secret kingdom, which was a journey toward the cross, but I did not know that at the time. I pictured the journey in written form of a girl looking for something. I had written,

“So one day she gathered her belongings and put them into a handkerchief and swung it over her shoulder and went slowly toward the kingdom.”
photo credit: Lens linker via photopin cc

I was right to picture the world as a desert. Absent Jesus, the thirst will never be slaked. I had written,

“She flew and flew. She saw the world. She did not know it, but she was looking for something. With all that flying, though, she was always thirsty. She drank a lot of juice. Sometimes she thought it was strange that as much as she drank she was already thirsty again. The juice was just not satisfying.”

On and on the insatiable need for knowledge went, the endless journeying. I wrote:

“Sometimes the girl would tremble in bewilderment. Everything was so complicated! Why was she always thirsty?… She studied all the maps on how to get into the kingdom. She thought about it very hard. Her thoughts taxed her little girl brain. She knew this was necessary. No matter what, she belonged in the kingdom.”

There was only one problem.

After a journey of twenty-four months and forty-two years and three days, she came near to the kingdom. She could feel it, she was almost there! She crossed the river and flew over the hedge…and hit her head! She fell down. She peeked at the hedge again and saw a huge pane of glass. She looked all the way up to the sky and the moon and the glass went all the way up, too.

This is all still me, intuitively seeking God. The Holy Spirit had drawn me sooo close. In retrospect, the clarity with which I see the Gospel laid out in what I thought was an afternoon’s art project to lass the time is stunning. All the while I had been attempting to get into the kingdom of my own efforts. I “studied maps.” But man-made philosophy won’t tell the seeker how to get on the narrow way. I flew and flew, traveling the world. All that did was alert me to the fact that there is a God, but brought me no closer to my own repentance. The “freedom” I thought I’d had was simply my own sins piling up, trapping me like a fly in a jar. I simply could not get there on my own efforts. This was where I ended the story:

She flew round and round and soon realized that though the while time she thought she was free, she was trapped in a jar. She looked up and there was no top on the jar, but it was a long way up. She tried three times, but she could not get out. She didn’t know what to do. So she curled up on the bottom of the jar and cried.

In the little booklet I’d made, though I ended the written part of the story with being trapped in a glass jar with no lid on it, I left a good many blank pages after that last scene. I knew there was more to come. The story would continue. I refused to believe that my story ended in despair, and make no mistake, I was in total despair.

But God wasn’t done with me. He brought me to the end of myself before I could realize that He and only He could save me from this terrible despair. In the jar, there was only me and despair. I had to face it. The despair was caused by my sin. Only at the end of myself would He give me entry into the Kingdom.

Getting back to Ecclesiastes.

“I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.” (Ecc 3:14).

GOD HAS DONE IT. All the information in the world would not save me. GOD HAS DONE IT so I cannot boast. He lifted me from my sins and set me into eternity, my heart finally matching with the secret reality I knew was there but could not get to on my own. Only IN eternity can I discover what God has designed: redemption glory through the Son Jesus.

I called out to Him and I was saved. And you know what? I stopped chronicling. God has done it! All the chronicles of everything from the beginning to the end is already in the finest chronicle of all: the Bible.

Salvation did come, thanks to His grace, not my works nor my efforts. His grace lifted me from the bondage of the glass jar, lifted me right out of my sins and I knew, KNEW, that nothing I could have ever done would have lifted me. As a matter of fact, the harder I tried, the lower I went. Only despair awaits even the most earnest and diligent seeker, until repentance comes. He did it.

You see, though we seek eternity, too many people want it on their own terms. Or in their own time. Or in their own way. That was me. Everything I did was futile until I understood what the Kingdom stood for: a righteousness that reflects the glory of the Son.

The Son is love, and love lifted me.

Posted in death, ecclesiastes, grief

A lamentation

Death came suddenly to our circle today. A woman is a widow, a son is fatherless, a daughter is brokenhearted. Grief descends and lays a heaviness on our hearts. Never more clearly are we reminded of the words of the bible,

“yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)

“You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah” (Psalm 39:5)

Barnes Notes says, “For what is your life? – All your plans must depend of course on the continuance of your life; but what a frail and uncertain thing is that! How transitory and evanescent as a basis on which to build any plans for the future! Who can calculate on the permanence of a vapor? Who can build any solid hopes on a mist?”

And so now we clamor of Christ, our solid hope! We are entreating for Him to listen to our pleas as we lift up the grieving ones. Lord, wipe their tears. Lord, heal their heart. Lord, show them grace and comfort.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Every matter under heaven. It is time for others to rejoice, to dance, to speak. It is our turn to grieve.