The Final Word

Solomon writes the book of Ecclesiastes as a warning to those who want to live their lives as if God doesn’t exist.

He does that by stepping into the shoes of someone who believes that this life is all there is. So, many of his statements in this book are written from the point of view of someone who doesn’t trust in God, or believe in eternity.

Without that understanding, Ecclesiastes can be a very confusing book to read. Over and over again Solomon makes the statement that “Everything is meaningless!” And then he defends the statement with one illustration and argument after another.

Now that doesn’t sound very much like a believer’s point of view, does it?

Because it’s not. Solomon, in essence, is authoring a one-person drama in which he is both the antagonist and the protagonist. The antagonist has major doubts about God. But the protagonist — though he only appears on rare occasions in the drama — boldly states his fear of God, and his trust in God.

Solomon ends the book of Ecclesiastes by moving back one final time into the position of the protagonist. Here he tells us “the conclusion of the matter.”

And what is that conclusion?

The conclusion is, “Listen to the words of the Wise Shepherd. His words are constant and faithful. They are like nails that can’t be pulled out because they are so firmly and completely nailed down.”

“And yes, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of self-improvement books written every year. But you don’t need to add anything to what your Shepherd teaches you. He has all you need.”

“Just respect him, put his words into practice, and most of all, trust his gracious, hope-giving promises of forgiveness, new life, and eternal salvation.”

“Because, Jesus, your Good Shepherd, will bring you to and through the day of judgment by making a gift of his goodness and righteousness.”

“The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:11-14, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Friday, August 14, is Ecclesiastes 9:13 – 12:14, 1 Corinthians 9:1-18, and Psalm 96:1-13.

Lord, I am sorry for all the times when I’ve doubted you and your word. Please forgive me. Restore me to a place of complete trust in you, Jesus, so that your words, your promises and your commands are never far from my heart. I believe, Lord. Help me with my unbelief.

Header image based on "The Good Shepherd 136" by Waiting for the Word, CC By 2.0


Are you a “prepper”? Maybe that word gives you an image that you don’t easily identify with. You imagine underground bunkers in the backyard with black and yellow nuclear signs pointing to the entrance. You see stockpiles of food, firearms and first-aid kits. You hear survivalists debating the merits of water filtration versus water purification.

Maybe your mind goes even further than that. You think the term is defined as “wild-eyed zealot dropping out of life and doing anything and everything possible to get ready for doomsday.”

Let’s admit it right now. That doesn’t sound all that appealing, does it?

But, in a different sort of way, Jesus encourages all of us to be “preppers.”

There really is going to be a distressing — very distressing — period of time prior to the return of Jesus. And we do need to be ready for it.

“Ready” means finding peace and courage in Jesus. “Ready” means knowing that as a follower of Christ you can anticipate tough times ahead. But most of all, “ready” means knowing Jesus is your Lord, and your Savior.

He is going to return. And this time he’s coming with power and great glory.

“So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. But in those days, following that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” (Matthew 13:23-27, NIV).

Our Bible reading is Leviticus 14:1-57, Mark 13:1-31 and Psalm 30:8-12.

Lord, send your Spirit into my heart through word and sacrament that I might be ready when you return. Give me peace, strength and courage for the hard times ahead. Help me to be prepared for whatever comes as I wait for you to return “in great power and glory.”

Header image based on "survivalist shelter" by Torley, CC By-SA 2.0

Faulty Assumptions

What we’ve experienced up until now leads us to develop certain expectations about the future. The problem with this is that we might just make faulty assumptions, if they’re based solely on what we’ve learned from our own limited experience.

Some of these faulty assumptions aren’t too damaging. Others are life-threatening. But making all our assumptions about the future on what we alone have experienced in the past is foolhardy at best.

Jesus, for instance, encourages us not to assume that life will always go on the way that it does for us today. He issues a reminder that when the people of Noah’s day made that assumption, they lost sight of God. And though God was extremely patient with them, hoping they would turn away from their sin and unbelief, their faulty assumption finally cost them their lives.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:36-39, NIV).

If we can get outside the limits of our own experience, we might just begin to understand that everything we see today will one day come to an end. Then we can be prepared for Jesus’ return. Watchfulness will be the end result of that understanding.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42, NIV).

There are many ways to be “watchful” for Jesus return. Here are five types of watchfulness for us to adopt as we wait:

  • The “watchfulness” of knowing that Jesus has put things in order for us through his death and resurrection
  • The “watchfulness” of Spirit-bred faith in our hearts
  • The “watchfulness” of repentance over our sins
  • The “watchfulness” of knowing the grace and forgiveness we’ve been given
  • The “watchfulness” of joyfully, expectantly waiting for the life to come in heaven–the life that far surpasses anything we’ve experienced up till now

So be careful with your assumptions. And stay watchful, my friends.

Lord, help me to not make faulty (even deadly) assumptions. I do not want to drift from you. Keep me watchful for your return every day, realizing that I do not know when you will come to take me to heaven.

Our Bible reading for Friday, February 6, is Job 38:1 – 40:2, Matthew 24:32 – 25:13 and Psalm 18:37-42.

Header image based on "Huguenin Vintage Watch" by Sie, CC by-SA 2.0

Excruciating and Unrelenting… Or Is It?

Just today alone, I witnessed a horrific plane crash in Taiwan, a fiery train derailment in New York City, and a brutal execution in the Middle East. Thank goodness (for me) these were sanitized news clips. I was not forced to watch anyone actually die, or directly see anyone be seriously, life-alteringly injured.

But make no mistake, deaths occurred today. Gruesome injuries changed lives. Families and individuals were deeply, irreversibly impacted. Anguished loved ones will mourn and grieve their losses.

Anyone paying attention has to ask, “Is this what life is about? Is this all we have to look forward to? How are we supposed to absorb this excruciating, unrelenting pain — these losses that occur on a daily basis? How do we make sense of it?”

Near the end of his ministry, Jesus predicted that such deeply distressing, apparently senseless times would come: “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (Matthew 24:21, NIV).

But Jesus’ prediction did not end there.

Jesus taught his disciples that these times of great distress would not be the end of the story. This pain is not all there is. This world will not continue forever, suffering one loss, then another, and then another.

Because Jesus is coming back. And when he comes, he will change everything.


Are you ready for it?

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31, NIV).

Lord Jesus, give me a compassionate heart, prayerful words, and helpful hands for those around me who are experiencing the distress that our world is currently dishing out by the shovel load. Thank you for your predictions and promises that these times of distress will be limited, and will come to a complete stop when you return. Make me ready for that day.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, February 5, is Job 35:1 – 37:24, Matthew 24:1-31 and Proverbs 4:1-9.

Header image based on "PAIN Knuckle Tatoo" by Depolo, CC by 2.0

Stay Thirsty in 2015

One day soon, it will happen (Revelation 22:10). We’ll ring in not just a new year, but a whole new universe (Revelation 21:1-2). Everything we see now, every possession we hold dear in this life will disappear.

But—and here’s the best news—it will be replaced. It will be replaced by something and Someone far more beautiful, and way more perfect.

And this will come along with every blessing imaginable. In fact, it will come with every blessing unimaginable as well.

How do you participate? Jesus says you’re invited! The ticket in is his gift to you. And drinks are on him!

“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17, NIV).

Stay thirsty, my friends! Stay thirsty in 2015.

Lord Jesus, you are the water of life. Keep me thirsty for you in 2015. Thank you for the free gift of eternal life, and for the invitation for all of us to join you there.

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, December 31, is Malachi 1:1 – 4:6, Psalm 150:1-6, Proverbs 31:10-31 and Revelation 21:1 – 22:21.