Saturday, June 30, 2018

There is a Time - When

Ecc. 3:2-8
A comment from a friend prompted me to take another look at the oft quoted passage in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8  - the familiar list of  "There is a time to....'.

If you are like me, you have always thought of this list as a list of things that all have a proper place in our lives - a list of things God made on how to do life. Not unlike me making a list of household duties needed to be completed to have a clean, orderly home.

Perhaps we have only skimmed the surface in this passage - maybe there is more to it to understand and glean from it.

First, we note that this list is limited to things done  'under heaven' .
In Ecclesiastes the phrase 'under the sun' appears 27 times - always the reference is to earthly things. 'Under heaven' or 'under the sun'  point out that what is stated pertains only to this earthly life.
It is not a list that has anything 'eternal' about it. 

That this list in Ecc. 3 is prefaced by 'under heaven' we immediately know that this is not a list that God laid out as something that He decreed. 

But .. you might say ... it says "there is a time, a season" for each of the things in the list. Yes, true, but I looked at the Hebrew word translated 'time' and I saw something that added a new stroke of meaning. 
A big of trivia here to clarify.
Hebrew is a very efficient language in that it can say a great deal using a limited number of words. You need learn only 641 Hebrew words to recognize 80% of the  Hebrew vocabulary - unique words- contained in the Old Testamenttotal number of unique words  contained in the Old Testament.-  according to Rev. Dr. Walter Maier III, Professor of Hebrew at Concordia Theological Seminary, are 8,679 words)
To  understand 75% of conversational English you need 1000 words. 

The total number of unique words used in the Old Testament are 8,679 compared to 31,534 different words used by Shakespeare in his plays.

While fewer words means it is an easier language to learn, it also means that it is at times difficult to translate because each Hebrew word has multiple meanings determined by context or other grammatical details we don't have in English.

So ...  back to our word 'time'.  In English the meaning is straightforward,  but the Hebrew word can also be used to denote 'when' . 
This same Hebrew word used here in our passage is translated as 'when' in passages such as found in Judges 21:20 - "And it shall be, WHEN their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain.."
So maybe the first verse could be read this .... "Everything on this earth happens at a time or season, but not without a purpose ..." 
Then let's link this verse with the one in Romans 8:28 that says, "and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God..."

 Is God here saying that nothing that happens is outside of His knowing ? 
That He is aware of every good and bad thing that can and does come into our life, but He has already gone before?
Is this God's list for everything He is able and willing  to work together for good if we who love Him but put our trust in Him,  knowing He has a 'good end-purpose' for everything that happens in this earthly life?


Monday, June 25, 2018

First Entry - That's the Law

We have a park near our home. It is a pretty park surrounding a small lake. However, when visiting this park you do have to be careful where you place your feet because of the 'evidence' left by the  many Canadian Geese and ducks that call it home.

We spent some time there yesterday afternoon and enjoyed just sitting and watching the turtles, geese and ducks, many of them in families. The above photo was my favorite - a mommy duck with her lone little duckling. The duckling was very newly hatched and stumbled awkwardly over uneven ground  scrambling to follow its mother who slowed her walk to allow her little one to keep up.

Do you know that when a duckling hatches from its egg, the first thing it sees that moves is accepted as its 'mother' and it will accept no other?
One summer I hatched duck eggs, bought from a hatchery,  under a light.  The first thing the little ducklings saw was my moving feet and I was declared to be the 'mother'.  They followed me everywhere, and loved to snuggle up under my clothing, on my lap or on my feet. They quacked loudly if I was not in sight and refused to eat until they could see me again. Then they cooed contentedly, ate, and settled down, until I moved when they scrambled to follow as fast as their little paddled feet could go. My heart was so moved by their trust in me, their dependence on me and how unquestioned this attachment was.  It was a very fun summer, and I kept those ducks for several years during which they never lost their love for me.

God has placed so many picturesque lessons into nature to teach us of His ways and how we are to live in relationship to Him.
God has wired our brains in the same way as He wired the little ducks.  The very first information that we receive - on any subject - becomes our 'truth' and it is very hard to change. The first 'rut' is very deep and it becomes 'the law' by which all subsequent information is judged.

Since the mother duck is sitting on her eggs until they hatch, it is almost a given that the first thing the ducklings will see is their mother.  But if the mother duck is not there, the little duckling could be in real trouble as to who or what will move first in its line of vision and become the 'authority' in their life - be it good or bad.

This is why God gave the commandment in Deuteronomy 6:6,7
God was instructing His people regarding the commandments they would need to obey to live safe and happy lives in good relationship with God and each other.
This is what He commanded regarding their children.

  "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." 

The first thing the children were to learn was God's word, The parents  were to be so diligent in teaching them, it was to be the FIRST thing the children heard in the morning, and the LAST thing they heard at night , and the ONLY thing they heard as they walked through their day. 

Few, if any,  of us have grown up, or lived our adult life,  with God's truth being our first truth on every subject.  Those deep 'ruts of first truths' are often  dug by worldly opinion or advice or are simply self-determined.  
But all is not lost -  God has a plan "B".  He tells us to 'renew' our minds, to seek out that which is not God's truth and replace it with what His word teaches. 

 And do not be conformed to this world, 
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 
Rom 12:2 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

TV Game Shows and the Game of Life

Spelling Lesson Plan - Wheel of Fortune Activity from The Middle School Classroom on - (2 pages) - Using this lesson you can successfully implement the "Wheel of Fortune" game show with your class using the spelling words your students are studying.

This morning as I was flicking through the channels looking for the news, I clicked past Price is Right and wondered at how many years that game show has been on - still looking the same!   And I thought of two other TV game shows that have survived over the many years - Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.  The thought came to me that there must be something in those games that so appeals to human nature that they seemingly have no shelf life, but continue to hold the interest of the continuing generations those who watch them. (I did a quick google check and found that the above TV game shows  started  in 1975,1956, 1964, respectively) 

My thoughts quickly formed  themselves into something I thought could be post-worthy - using my observations as a parallel or parable to our Christian faith.

The creators of these three TV game shows obviously understood how people work - either they had a degree in human nature or had  a high degree of intuitive wisdom.  As I mentally compared these  successful game shows, one with another,  I came up with a list of eleven things they had in common and realized that they shared this list with with the Game of Life that the Creator of all things designed.

Let me list the aspects these three games have in common, and then for each draw a parallel to our own Christian  'game of life' -- (using the word 'game' as a generic word for something that must be 'played/lived out') 

1.  A HOST, GIVEN AUTHORITY   by those in charge -  to keep the game moving and to guide the contestants.
  • Game of Life - We also have Someone given authority -- Jesus - who guides us through life -following what is 'said and done' by the Father, 
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying,
 "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Matt. 28:18  
"The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do,....: John 5:19 
"..."just as the Father has told Me, so I speak." John 12:50

2.  CONTESTANTS ARE CHOSEN  -- in all three games the participants are chosen out of many - choosing those who fulfill the requirements. 
  • Game of Life -  Here too the 'participants' are chosen  - those who fulfill the requirements.. a few out of many. 
"For many are called, but few are chosen." Matthew 22:14
"For by grace you have been saved (chosen) through faith, and that not of yourselves,
 it is the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8

3.A CHEERING SECTION .   In each game show there is a watching crowd of people - supporting, cheering. 
  • Game of Life -- we, who have been 'chosen' also have a cheering section, those who are watching and supporting us. 
 " Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses ...."
 " Hebrews 12:1

4.  EMOTIONS -  without emotions the game would be dull, so the emotions of excitement and anticipation run high in all the games. 
  • Game of Life  --  God never intended that man should be 'emotionless' ... but that emotions should be enjoyed !  
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace ....." Galations 5:22a 
"Rejoice always !! "  I Thessalonians 5:16 

5. COMPETITION -- there is something in man that thrives with competition, maybe because competition pushes us to do our best !  
  • Game of Life --  Here too we find 'competition' but rather than try to be better than someone else we are to compete with 'ourselves' ..  running to win !  striving to be our best  - always comparing ourselves with Christ, whom we follow and whose example we pattern our life after. 
 "For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."  II Corinthians 10:12
there is still the competition to better ourselves, comparing ourselves with Christ's example ..
"....  let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." 
"He that says he abides in Him, ought himself also so to walk even as He walked." I John 2:6
  "Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless" II Peter 3:14

6. CHALLENGES -- I can't resist the something that rises up in me to prove wrong the person who says I can't do something!  We love a challenge, especially if we think we can win ! Contestants are challenged to choose well, or to answer well, or to make the right decisions that will result with them having the advantage to win over their competitors.

  • Game of Life - There are many verses that present a challenge to us in our Christian walk  Do you catch these 'challenges' and feel an answering call in your spirit ? or do you give up before you even try .....

    .. Jesus challenged the young ruler ... "If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor...." Matthew 19:21 The ultimate challenge to be perfectly mature.
    sometimes the challenge seems contrary to what is 'natural' ..
      "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; 
    and your reward will be great,

     and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil."Luke 6:35
    or Jesus answer to the question of often we had to forgive ..
    "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." Matthew 18:22
7.  RULES --  We have a love/hate relationship with rules.   We are prone to want the rules to apply to everyone else, while for ourselves we seek the loopholes.  But, seriously, we know that rules must be put in place for anything to be 'fair' ...  for there to be peace and unity and a place where everyone knows how 'things are to be done'. 
Can you image a 'game' where there are no rules?  Are the rules not there so we can 'enjoy' the game rather than have it be an endless frustration? 
  • Game of Life -- God has given us the 'rules' by which we should live to make our earthly life fulfilling, enjoyable and productive.  Rules that 'give'  rather than take away.  Next time you balk at a 'rule' God has given, think about playing a game without rules .... and who better to make the rules than the one who created the game?

    Jesus came to make the 'rules' of His Kingdom as easy to obey as possible ..
    In fact... if you can remember - and obey - only two rules, you will WIN !
    "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and with all your mind.....this is the first commandment and the second is ... you shall love your neighbor as yourself....." Matthew 22:37-40  

8.  UNKNOWN -  So much in life is 'unknown'. There is a rush of adrenaline when we face it - in our minds or in looking to the future.  We have heard countless stories of brave men and women who ventured into the 'unknown' seeking the experience of the adventure.
In all of three of the games I noted,  there is an element of the unknown...  how will the game play out?  What will I encounter?  Will I win? Will I lose? 
While the unknown in real life  more often than not stirs up a sense of fear .... did you know that fear and excitement are really the same emotion?  The emotion  is interpreted in our brain, by its 'context'  to be felt as either fear or excitement.   Perhaps in playing games we are able to 'play out' this emotion in a controlled setting where we can override the fear in favour of  pleasant excitement. 
  • Game of Life -  Here too is the element of unknown.  We do not not what the future holds. We don't know what tomorrow will bring. We don't know what our sweet children will grow up to be, or if they will be safe today.  While the unknown often causes us  anxiety , fear or worry , it is here that we are exercised to trust, to have faith,  in the One who holds the unknown.

    God understands our propensity to fear the unknown .  God tells to 'fear not' about 80 times in the Bible ... He would only need to say it once for it to be important , but to say it more than 80 times means He knows how important it is for US ...

  • What if we really believed , like Jeremiah , that nothing is beyond the control of our God..
     "'Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You." Jeremiah 32:17

    Then when an 'unknown' threatens us, instead of 'fear' we could rather feel 'excitement' and wait to see what God will do !!! 
    Is this not what Jesus was talking about in John 16:33?
    "These things I have spoken to you........ in the world you will have tribulation , but be of GOOD CHEER, I have overcome the world."
     ".. for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you.."

    God knows the 'unknown' of our future and has already taken care of it...
    "Your Father knows that you have need of these things - but seek first the kingdom of God .... and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,"
    Matthew 6:33,34

9. RISK    -  I really don't have much of a 'risk-gene'. I will always choose the 'sure thing' .. But I see and wonder about people who seem to thrive on 'risk' and will literally put their lives on the line.  Those indulging in extreme sports, or those who will gamble their life savings, or those who 'risk' that promising business deal that could go either way. A 'risk' factor is built into each of my  games -- Price is Right -- risking what is in their hand for what is behind a closed door ..  Wheel of Fotune - risking their money in hand for the '10,000.00 or bankrupt' card. Jeopardy - risking / making a wager against what they have to add more IF they answer the bonus question right.
  • Game of Life - We also have a 'risk' factor built into our life of faith. God asks us to 'risk' a great deal. Do we believe it is a safe risk? Or do we hold back because we are afraid we will end up with less than we had before.

    Jesus asks us to risk this physical life for the 'hope' of eternal life.
    He tells the story of the man who found a 'pearl of great price' and  sold everything he had to buy the field in which the pearl was  hidden.
    "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls , who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all he had and bought it." Matthew 13:46

    Jesus also asks those who wish to follow him to 'risk' everything, even their own lives.
    "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me, for whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake
    will find it." 
    Matthew 16:24,25
10. HIDDEN THINGS  - I'm sure you have childhood memories of games that involved finding hidden things ...   Button -button so high ! -- Scavenger hunts --  Egg hunts -- to name a few.  And we all identify with the excitement of finding something that was 'lost' or 'hidden' or finding that 'treasure' in some flea-market or garage sale.  The Price is Right has lots of hidden things, including the things hidden behind the 3 final Doors.  Wheel of Fortune has hidden letters, that must be uncovered.  Jeopardy has hidden 'Daily Doubles' that give the 'finder' an advantage. 
  • Game of Life -- Are there 'hidden' things?  Oh yes !  Tucked into the scriptures are hidden truths and life lessons and prophecies for us to find. God knew that to make His Word continually interesting to us, He would  'hide' things so that the more we looked, the more we found !  How often does God tell us to 'seek' Him ? or 'seek' wisdom or truth or seek the 'treasures' of His Kingdom.

     He compares seeking wisdom to seeking for treasure! 
    "If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures.... then you will understand the fear of the Lord."  Prov. 2:4,5
    And He invites us to come and He will show us things hidden to others ... 
    "I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel." Isaiah 45:3

11. UNLIMITED FUNDS -  I am often amazed at how there never seems to be a lack of funds to support all the prizes and winnings offered and given to  the contestants. It seems that the financial backing of these game shows is a bottomless pit !  
  • Game of Life -  We know that our God has an unlimited source of riches to be able to supply abundantly above anything we need and able to meet the cost of any of His promises to every one of His children ! He is beyond wealthy !!

     He owns ..
    ."the cattle on a thousand hills ....the world is His and all that is in it ...
    the silver and the gold" 
      Psalm 50:10, 5:12 , Haggai 2:8
    He is quite able to afford all our expenses !
    "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19
12. REWARD - Without a reward, we are motivated to do almost nothing !  We want our efforts to be 'rewarded' in one way or another ....  and somehow  financial reward motivates quicker than any other.  Of course, in the TV games,  financial reward drives them all three. To win money we didn't have to work for is a reward our dreams are made of.  And if we can't 'win' then we enjoy  feeling the excitement of someone else  and participating in their joy. 
  • Game of Life --  are we promised rewards?   Oh yes... God understands what motivates us ! And all earthly rewards pale when compared with the rewards God promises us !

    Jesus promises ...
    "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work." Revelation 22:12

    In I Corinthians is a lovely passage that promises rewards 
  • for  competing well in our earthly journey ...
    "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes (for earthly things) do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown !"  I Corinthians 9:24,25

I hope that this  look at how our Christian life parallels the features that make a good game enjoyable encourages you to play with zeal and excitement the life-game that God laid before us. 
And may you WIN !!