Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Church of the Ecclesiastes

Yes, I am well aware that Ecclesiastes is in the OLD testament. Yes, yes, I know we live in the age of the NEW Testament. Ok, so how often do you turn to the OLD Testament Psalms for your comfort? Ever entertained the idea of pausing at Ecclesiastes as you turn backwards from the NEW to the OLD?

Join the ranks of people like myself. It took dear friend to get me to pause and listen to the words of the Preacher, the son of King David.

Pull up a chair! Fertilize your cognitive powers with a hot cup of coffee, or whatever.

Here we really go.

Eccl 7:1 TEV
“A good reputation is better than expensive perfume; and the day you die is better than the day your are born.” (emphasis mine)

I can tell why we don’t stop at this book as we turn backwards from the Old to the New on our way to the Psalms.

We rejoice, hoot and holler and buy cigars and have baby showers and parties and live it up and celebrate the birth of an innocent child into a world of sin, evil, pain, heartache, deadlines, pressures, making ends meet at the middle of the month and seeing met ends apart by the end of the month, credit card debt, sickness, pain, sorrows and the like (and yes some joyful times- touch on that in the next verse), and yet when it comes to the passing of a saint into the joys, bliss, peace, pain-free, tear-free, heartache-free, care-free, FREEDOM FROM THIS WHAT IS HERE to the REALIZATION of WHAT IS TO COME IN HEAVEN, we mourn. How backwards is that?

Quite backwards, according to the Preacher, King Solomon, the wisest man on earth.

Still with me? I hope I don’t lose you on the next verse, or rather, I hope the Preacher does not lose us on the next topic.
Verse 2 TEV

It is better to go to a home where there is mourning than to one where there is a party, because the living should always remind themselves that death is waiting for us all.” (emphasis mine)

Morbid? No, REALITY!!

Why do people go to bars, parties, movies and paperbacks? To enter a different world that for a short season gets them out of their world, thinking the other world is better than there own.

I know what some are thinking. Yep, parties have their place, but read the line again. There is nothing wrong with a party! Read the line again. It is BETTER….than….!!
Where would we sooner go: to the home of a bereaved person, or to the home south of town that is throwing a big party? Here is the difference. In one home there is life; in the other place there is the ATTEMPT at an escape of life. In one home there is the realization of reality; in the other, an ATTEMPT at a temporary escape of reality. In the former there is honesty; in the latter there is repression of the honesty. In one there is healing of the pain; in the latter the icing over of the pain.

It gets better in verse 14, so just hand in there.

Verse 3 NASB
Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy.”  (emphasis mine)


Here is what the TEV says: “Sorrow is better than laughter; it may sadden your face, but it sharpens your understanding.” Parties dull one’s understanding; sorrow sharpens one’s understanding. Parties and cigars seek refuge from sorrow, while sorrow finds refuge in understanding.

Yes, yes, I hear you! I know that laughter is the best medicine, but that is not a verse from Scripture, not even in the Apocrypha. It’s comes from the Reader’s Digest, not the Holy Bible. I know. Laughter is good at times. I know that, but the verse never says that laughter is bad. It says, “Sorrow is BETTER than laughter.” (emphasis mine)

Verse 4 NASB
“The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.”

TEV says, “Someone who is always thinking about happiness is a fool. A wise person thinks about death.”

Chuck, what’s gotten into you? Did the Doctor just inform you that you have x number of months or weeks to live? Wake up, dear reader, we all just have x number of months, days or years to live. Has it ever occurred to you that I could outlive you? I certainly have thought hard about you outliving me. And, no, the doctor has not told me anything about my life expectancy.

The fool is a fool cause he/she does not think about death. That’s the definition of a fool. In other words, a fool has lost touch with reality. Death is reality, and the fool is in the house of pleasure seeking to escape reality, but ending up making a reality that is worse than he really wants it to be. Next morning he/she realizes their present reality needs to be escaped by the same method that never worked in the first place, and the repetition of failed attempts is the definition of psychosis. The wise guy/gal faces the giant of reality and gets wise. Death is a real part of his/her reality, and they find wisdom.

So far the Preacher, king Solomon, has nothing great to say about the place everyone wants to be at- the party house- and has everything good to say about the home nobody wants to visit- the home of mourning.

I know, I know, I hear you! It’s just the OLD Testament.

So is Psalms!!!!!! And Isaiah 40:27-31 and Jeremiah 29:11!! Oh, we love those verses from the OLD Testament.

Let’s skip to verse 10 in Ecclesiastes 7.

NASB v 10
Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”

TEV v10
Never ask, “Oh, why were things so much better in the old days?” It’s not an intelligent question.

Oh how we love to say, “Oh for the good ole days.”

Ya, oh, for the good ole days when I did not have cancer and could truck with joy and gladness.  Oh for the good ole days when I lived in the house of gladness, parties and pleasure. Oh for the good ole days when I had much less of a burden for hurting people. Oh for the good ole days when I was not so in tune with those who had cancer. Oh for the good ole days when I did not have to spend so much wasted time on my knees seeking God’s help because, after all, I could do it alone. Oh, for the good ole days when we had plans of trucking together, Julia and me, and take our Hog along and just LIVE IT UP IN THE HOUSE OF PLEASURE!!!!!!! Oh for the good ole days!!!!!

Oh, for the good ole days when I was a fool????? When Church plans were on the back of the truck, not on my hood?

Oh for the good ole days when your kids were more obedient. Oh for the good ole days when you had more money. Oh for the good ole days when this was not and that was so.

Let’s stop that foolishness. The Preacher says that that’s not intelligence on display.

Let me share briefly from the true story of Brother Yun, a house-church pastor in China. He was 4 years in prison, and suffered incredibly. How can I describe it? We yawn and shrug it off. It’s to far removed from the reality of those residing in the house of pleasure. It’s too far from the reality of the fools who believe laughter and mirth is the way of wisdom. Brother Yun was tortured beyond our comprehension. His torture reviles our pleasure. Go imagine your methods of torture, and it most likely happened to Brother Yun. Cold and hungry, he was given a blanket. Somebody in the prison took his precious blanket and soaked in human feces and urine and gave it to him. Cold and shivering, he had the comfort of a pathetic blanket that smelled like you know what. Long needles stuck up his fingernails. Electric shock bars stuck up his mouth. Whippings. Beatings. Kicking. Guards and prisoners urinating on his face. You name, Brother Yun probably experienced it.

I know. It’s just to far from our reality of pleasure.

Then he was miraculously freed. What do you think he said? Yep, you’re right. Oh for the good ole days. Actually he said this, and it’s a quote from the book The Heavenly Man, “In a way, even thought I was now free, I found it difficult to leave the prison. Inside, the spiritual fellowship with my fellow Christians had been very deep and sweet. The bonds we made were very strong. We served one another in love and shared our whole lives with each other. In the outside world people are busy and have many things to do. Most of our relationships are little more than skin-deep (p. 188).”

I can relate, my friends. I can relate. Cancer has awakened me. Cancer has brought me much closer to my loving God and Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Cancer can be a curse, but it can also be a blessing. It depends if one exists in the house of pleasure, or lives in the home of mourning.

Thinking back to the good ole days of not having cancer is not an intelligent exercise. Like my dear wife said sometime ago, “We cannot wish ourselves out of our situation.” My wife could have been a Preacher. I think the Preacher would like her.

Ok, now for what we have all been waiting for- verse 14.

Prosperity, wealth, riches, ease, glee, party time!!!! Hang on!

NASB- “In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider- God has made the one as well as the other so that man may not discover anything that will be after him”
TEV- When things are going well for you, be glad, and when trouble comes, just remember: God sends both happiness and trouble; you never know what is going to happen next.”

A dear brother and long time mentor friend told us recently that learning does not just happen in trouble times of life. We probably learn better in those times because we tend to study a little harder, but he challenged me to not poo-poo the good times of life. God is even trying to teach us in the pleasant times of our life.

Dear reader (if anyone made it this far), cherish the good times. Don’t be consumed with my world, or your neighbor’s life. You have your life to live, and if you are living “in the day of prosperity, be happy.” For myself the challenge comes from Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” See, that’s good ole New Testament stuff. But when trouble comes, then realize that both come from God. Both have a place. I know, we don’t hear much about that anymore in our churches of pleasure. Therein lies the monster; we have become fools because even our churches have leaned toward the existence of the pleasure principle.

Oh for a Church of the Mourning. No church I know calls itself that.

Oh, but wait! There was such a church back in the OLD Testament. And its pastor was the Preacher. How do I know that? I just went over one of his sermons.

Next time you turn backwards from the New Testament on your ways to Psalms in the OLD TESTAMENT, try not to trip over Ecclesiastes. Spend some time in The Church of the Mourning and listen to some of the Preacher’s other sermons.

And thanks, my dear Brother Cameron, for the trip into Ecclesiastes.

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