‘This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,’ whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. ‘Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!’ Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror— indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy— but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.
Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows is one of my favourite children’s stories. Rat and Mole’s encounter with the Piper at the Gates of Dawn sums up what happens when we recognise the Almighty God as our Creator, as our Shepherd and Lord.
During the Summer we have been exploring Ecclesiastes together. Solomon has encouraged us to identify with those whose world view is secular, whether of an atheist or agnostic. Solomon describes their world view 27x as “under the sun.”
Hugh Grosvenor, aged 25, became the most eligible bachelor in the country this week. That is because, on the death of his father, the Duke of Westminster, Hugh inherited a fortune estimated by Forbes to be worth £9 billion. This makes the young Hugh, the third wealthiest landowner in Britain and the 68th wealthiest person in the world. His estate includes 190 acres in Belgravia and thousands of acres in Scotland and Spain. Contented? Wouldn’t you be? What price contentment? A fraction of £9 billion you might think.
Well think again. Although the word doesn’t actually appear in our passage this morning, the theme of Ecclesiastes 5 is contentment. In verses 5:8-17, the Lord looks at the world and observes how we buy into a number of myths about money. In verse 17, we are reminded of the consequences: “All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.” (Ecclesiastes 5:17).
What is your image of Jesus? Where does it come from? Is it the Jesus ‘meek and mild’ of childhood Sunday school? If you read Luke’s gospels from beginning to end in one go, it will take you less than an hour. But you will discover something very profound. Following Jesus in the First Century, any more than now, was not for the faint hearted. It was an uncomfortable, unsettling and hazardous experience. Mark Galli, in his book, Jesus Mean and Wild, observes,
“Nearly everywhere we turn, in the gospel of Mark … we find a Jesus who storms in and out of people’s lives, making implicit or explicit demands and, in general, making people feel mighty uncomfortable.” For example, Jesus “sternly charges” or “strictly orders” people he heals (Mark 1:43; 3:12; 5:43; 8:30); he looks upon religious leaders with “anger” and “grief” (Mark 3:5). He destroys a herd of swine while showing no regret, providing no compensation to the owner (Mark 5:1-20); He overturns the money tables in the Temple in a moment of rage (Mark 11:15-17); He rebukes Peter as demonic (Mark 8:33). He is “indignant” with the disciples (Mark 10:13-14). He says the Sadducees are biblically and spiritually ignorant (Mark 12:24), He describes his entire generation as “faithless” (Mark 9:19). Jesus makes it clear that following him will entail suffering and death (Mark 9:35-37, 43-50). On one occasion, his ‘gospel appeal’ to the crowds included this promise, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8: 34-35).”
Which command in the Bible is repeated most frequently? Do not worry? Why is that? Because from birth it is our default position. “I’m hungry, I’m cold, I’m afraid…” Even as Christians we are tempted to doubt our loving heavenly Father. Satan knows if he can get us to doubt God, we will live defeated lives. That is why Jesus says over and over again in the gospels, “Do not be afraid, little flock…” (Luke 12:32).
But did you know some people are more prone to worry than others? Over forty years ago, two cardiologists, Milton Friedman and R.H. Rosenman observed that the primary risk factors of coronary heart disease, i.e. hypertension, smoking, and elevated cholesterol, could not explain why some people suffered and others did not. Their research published in 1974 revealed that personality type was also a major contributory factor. They divided people into Type A and Type B. And if you are worried about which Type you are, you are probably a Type A… They observed that Type A people were more prone to worry than Type B and were also found to be three times more likely to have a stroke or a heart attack, even if they were did the same sort of work and lived in similar conditions.
Rob Parsons has identified some of the traits of Type A personalities. See if this reminds you of anyone.
Does God want you to be rich? Does God want you to be rich? It’s a straight question. When Time magazine asked the question, they found, 61 percent of those surveyed believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31 percent agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money…
Of the four largest megachurches in the USA, three—Joel Osteen’s Lakewood in Houston; T.D. Jakes’ Potter’s House in south Dallas; and Creflo Dollar’s World Changers near Atlanta—are all Prosperity pulpits. For Osteen, the Prosperity Gospel isn’t a pejorative term: “I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy.” The pastor of the fourth largest megachurch, Rick Warren, however, sees things differently. “There is a word for that” he says, “baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty.” Wealth is clearly controversial. Some Christians believe wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and poverty a sign of God’s curse. If you are poor its your own fault.
Other Christians believe poverty is mandatory, intrinsic to the gospel and wealth, therefore, a sign of moral corruption. In the middle are many Christians – tempted to get defensive about our life style, confused about how to live for Jesus in a materialist world, but keen to do God’s will. Lets evaluate these views, by Jesus teaching in our passage today from Luke 12:13-21.
When I’m ridin’ in my car
And that man comes on the radio
And he’s tellin’ me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can’t get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say
I can’t get no, I can’t get no
I can’t get no satisfaction
No satisfaction, no satisfaction, no satisfaction.”
There are other lyrics but I thought I’d spare you. I think you get the point. “Can’t get no satisfaction” became a hit, way back in 1965, for the Rolling Stones. Co-written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it makes a perfect title for the Book of Ecclesiastes. Aged 72, Mick Jagger appeared in the news again this week, still it seems, seeking satisfaction. He is not alone. I am sure we’ve all had plenty of first hand experience that confirms that satisfaction is temporary.
How do you pray when faced with changes that will affect the rest of your life? How do you pray for others facing change? How should we pray living in a fast changing, uncertain, unstable, volatile world? As we have been discovering these Sunday evenings, prayer is one of our greatest privileges. As Tim Keller says, Tim KelletT As God’s children, we come freely and boldly to His eternal throne and share with Him whatever is on our hearts, our hopes, our fears, needs and our questions. In the book of James we are encouraged to:
Pray for the Suffering (James 5:13)
Pray for the Sick (James 5:14)
Pray for the Straying (James 5:19-20) Continue reading
I think you will agree this has indeed been a costly, traumatic week in Europe. Wherever your loyalties lie, the stinging defeat, the vote of no confidence and subsequent resignation has not lessened the utter humiliation. The ramifications will inevitably linger for years to come. Someone has calculated that out of all the eligible citizens, if you remove half the population who are women, remove those under 18 and over 35, remove the overweight, the blind and disabled, those in hospital, those employed in essential services such as police, firemen and ambulance drivers, in earthquake and volcano surveillance, those away at sea in the whaling industry, the sheep herders, and not least the imprisoned bankers, the pool of men from which Iceland had left to pick its football team stood at around 23 men. The entire 23 man Icelandic squad apparently cost less in their last transfer moves than it cost Manchester City to sign one player, Raheem Sterling from Liverpool. And on a salary of £3.5 million, our manager was the highest paid in the world, while theirs is a part time shepherd. Clearly money isn’t everything.
“A Proven Gospel Partnership” (Philippians 2:19-30) Richard Bewes
“Taking Heaven’s Scroll” (Revelation 10:1-11) Richard Bewes