THE NEW EWE

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"

Luke 15:4-6

November 18, 2015

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

This week I am continuing my devotionals from Ecclesiastes, and am writing from chapter two. In this chapter, Solomon starts out by writing about the futility of pleasure. (All scripture taken from the NLV.)

"I (Solomon) said to myself, 'Come on, let's try pleasure. Let's look for the good things in life.' But I found that this, too was meaningless. So I said, 'Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?' After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world."

This sounds all too familiar! How many people today decide to enjoy life through foolish measures? Whether it be through cheering themselves with wine or some other foolish means, they may enjoy a few moments of pleasure and happiness, but it's not lasting. They find themselves still searching for something to fill that void in their life and may even make a few feeble attempts at christianity, but never really surrender their hearts fully to God. So they continue the cycle of trying to find something to bring them pleasure.

Solomon continues writing that he also tried to find meaning by building huge homes and by planting beautiful vineyards. He made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. He built reservoirs to collect water to irrigate his many flourishing groves. He bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into his household. He owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before him. He collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. Solomon also hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and many beautiful concubines. He had everything a man could desire!

In verses 9-11 Solomon writes, "So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless -- like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere."

Granted, most of us will never experience the vast wealth of Solomon, but we still go down a lot of the same paths that he did in searching for fulfillment and happiness. "If I had a brand new house" or "If I only owned my own home" or "If I had a big garden" or "If I had a maid to clean my house for me" or "If I had some cattle" or "If I had a lot of money"......... then I would be happy and life would be great! Hopefully, none of the men are saying, "If only I had many beautiful concubines!!!" - yet, many men and women think if only I had a different spouse who loved me more or treated me better or was better looking or younger, then life would be wonderful. But Solomon had everything a man desired, yet still had that void in his life. He came to a point where he realized that everything he had obtained for himself was worthless and meaningless.

When we want something really badly, then get it, are we contented and happy? Maybe for a short time we are, then we see something else that we really want and think we have to have..... then something else..... then something else..... Few of us ever reach the point that Paul did when he wrote in Philippians 4:11-12, "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little."

Solomon then decided to compare wisdom with foolishness and madness. He concluded, "Yet I saw that the wise and the foolish share the same fate. Both will die." Therefore, he said to himself, "Since I will end up the same as the fool, what's the value of all my wisdom? This is all so meaningless! For the wise and the foolish both die. The wise will not be remembered any longer than the fool. In the days to come, both will be forgotten."

It is true that everyone will one day die. It is also true that whether they are wise or foolish, people will remember them for a period of time after they are gone, but there will come a day when future generations will have no idea who they are and they will be forgotten. For example, I have heard stories of my grandparents on the Parton side of my family, although I never knew them. Mommy (that is what all the kids and grandkids always called her) passed away years before my birth, and Poppy passed away when I was just a baby. Throughout my life I have heard about them, so have information about what they were like. But I have no knowledge or information about my great-grandparents. I can't tell you their names or where they lived or what their lives were like or what they were like or anything about them. I don't recall ever hearing stories about them. I don't know whether or not mama ever knew any of her grandparents.

Joseph was a great man in the Bible. He was the king's right hand man and played a prominent role in preserving Egypt when famine swept the surrounding nations. But in Exodus 1:8 we read,"Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done." It didn't matter what he had accomplished years before during his lifetime; there came a point when he or his great deeds were no longer remembered.

Sounds a bit depressing! But we should try and live our life with wisdom and love so that when we are gone, our family will remember that about us, and not that we lived our life foolishly.

Solomon then wrote about the futility of hard work. "I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work. So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world. Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn't worked for it. This is meaningless, a great tragedy. So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest."

I think these verses pretty much speak for themselves. We work and save and accumulate "things". But when we're gone, will those who inherit those things appreciate and value all that we hold dear and have worked so hard for? Will they waste it or sell it or give it away or mishandle all that we earned in our lifetime? We spend our careers dealing with stress and restless nights, dealing with deadlines and anxiety. I understand that we have to work to pay bills and get by in life; but in the end, will we, like Solomon, find that it is meaningless? Perhaps not, if we are able to find time to appreciate life and time with our family and learn to relax and enjoy ourselves. But what about those who spend years working two or three jobs, missing time with their kids and spouse, missing out on family and church activities...... In the end, will the extra money really be worth it? Kids aren't going to remember that bills were paid or money put away in savings or that their parents had extra money to buy them things. What they will remember is time parents spent with them; or the lack of time spent with them.

Suddenly a light goes on in Solomon's mind and he has an "aha" moment. "I decided that there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat and drink anything apart from Him? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him."

Perhaps the key is found in Colossians 3:23: "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." When we realize that God is the one who we are seeking to please, then everything else falls into place. God gives us pleasures to enjoy; food and drink to nourish us; and wisdom, knowledge, and joy to us when we please Him.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

I have heard how many wives and concubines Solomon had. And with all his wealth it's no wonder, to me, he wanted to get out and work in a field, or wherever he meant by hard labor.

I love Loretta, and am very glad we're married. But I shudder to think what life would be like having two or three wives. And Solomon had many more.

I can imagine that after spending months getting the palace painted and decorated just the way his wife wanted, his other wife would demand to change it to some other style. Then another would demand they move into the country. And another would want to vacation in Egypt, but another would want to vacation in Syria. Of course it seemed futile. Keeping one wife happy is a part-time job. But keeping hundreds happy would be more than any man should try.

We only have eternal life by God. So without God, nothing lasts much past our deaths. Even a great trust fund donated to a good cause won't survive a hard economy for a few generations. I'm sure there were some very good people donating to help people affected by the Black Plague, but I couldn't name any of them, and I doubt anyone I know could, either. And a donation of a year's wages then, probably wouldn't do much today. But teaching the next generation about God has been passed down for thousands of years.

ON THE MENEWE:

Aunt Ruth's Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups sweet potatoes, drained and mashed

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

1/2 stick butter

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir all ingredients together and pour into a 9x13 pan.

Topping:

1 stick butter

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1 cup chopped pecans

Melt butter; add all ingredients of topping together. Sprinkle topping to the top of the casserole. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER:

Something I've been working on here lately is learning to put my electronics down more often.... my phone, iPad, laptop. I've asked myself the question, "What is so important that it can't wait till later?" Most text, phone calls, Facebook posts, etc. don't have to be answered right away. What about the people I'm with? Is it rude if I stop a conversation with someone I'm spending time with to take a call or answer a text or post/check on Facebook? When eating a meal with family, can I not put my phone away?

I babysit my great-niece three mornings a week. I had gotten into the habit of rocking her to sleep with my phone or iPad in hand. I started feeling convicted of my actions. Was I so addicted (yes, it's an addiction) to electronics that I couldn't take 15-20 minutes to give Jovie my full attention while rocking her? She won't be little and let me rock her to sleep forever, but will grow up and not want me to hold her. I've been taking that time and focus on her, while singing to her and enjoying cuddling her close in my arms. When I lay her down, if she opens her eyes and smiles at me, I take a few minutes and lay down beside her. It's been wonderful! Guess what? I haven't missed out on anything important on Facebook or text or phone calls. But I am making memories with Jovie and letting her know that she has my full attention and is loved. Perhaps I was becoming addicted to electronics and making them my focus instead of people, at times, but I've realized that and am making changes. What about you?!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

"Always pray to have eyes that see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst,

a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that never loses faith in God." - unknown

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

http://www.graysheep.org