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Yes, Mike, I read The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoffer many moons ago and it left it's mark on me. A particular quote remains embossed on my heart. "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." These weren't just inspiring words to Dietrich Bonhoffer. He carried them out to the full as one of the chief apologists and motivators in the Resistance Movement against Hitlerin Germany. When he could have found safe refuge in America, he chose to practice what he preached in Germany. He ended up in a prison camp, dying just a few days short of the arrival of the allied forces.

The Cost of Discipleship is a series of expositions on topics such as Costly Grace, Discipleship and the Cross, The Beatitudes, Jesus' Extraordinary Words Concerning Enemies, Hidden Righteousness and Prayer, The Community of Saints, etc. It is NOT light reading. If you're not a reader I recommend the film "Bonhoffer" http://www.netflix.com/MovieDisplay?movieid=60029227&trkid=189530&strkid=706554397_2_0

Looking back through the chapters, I wonder if I actually got through it all. But God used what I read to challenge and change me. It propelled me to lay down my comfortable American lifestyle and live a Spartan life of simplicity in West Africa. There, I experienced the treasures of discipleship in ways I never imagined.

Some brief thoughts on Solomon’s Words:

.1) Balance is the Key to Life

2) We live in a closed system everything is recycled

3) There is a difference from living under the sun and living under the Son.

4) Solomon was a wise man because God gave him wisdom, but even that wisdom was foolishness compared to the Wisdom of God.

Ecclesiastes

"Everything is Meaningless"

This is the thesis statement of the author (who I believe to be Solomon).

Key Phrases:
1) "I thought in my heart" (or some variation) occurs about a dozen times.

Interesting that this dovetails with Paul's concern regarding the Corinthians. Solomon like the Corinthians is trying to reason things out from a self-centered perspective. The Greeks admired man's wisdom and ability to reason things of life and death. Solomon who was the wisest man ever on earth, is doing the same thing (at least in early chapters), by investigating life and death from a "wise" man's perspective. As Ramona says, this was "foolishness compared to the Wisdom of God."

If one examines life and death apart from God, the conclusions in Ecclesiastes are the result. This book is "human philosophy apart from God", and it is no wonder that atheist philosophers such as Voltaire, Russell, Sarte, and Eliot have come to the same conclusion.

2)"under the sun" occurs twenty-nine times.

"Everything is evaluated according to appearances alone -- this is man's point of view of reality and is utterly exclusive of divine revelation. As such, Ecclesiastes very accurately summarizes what man thinks." - Ray Steadman

Love Ramona's comparison of "living under the sun" vs. "living under the Son".

Solomon is looking at life and death from man's perspective in man's domicile (under the sun).

3)"Meaningless" ("Vanity" in KJV;also Hebrew word can mean "purposeless")occurs thirty-seven times.

When you look at things from man's wisdom under the sun - Everything is Meaningless!
======================================================
ECCLESIASTES: THE INSPIRED BOOK OF ERROR

"The book of Ecclesiastes, or "the Preacher," is unique in scripture. There is no other book like it, because it is the only book in the Bible that reflects a human, rather than a divine, point of view. This book is filled with error. And yet it is wholly inspired. This may confuse some people, because many feel that inspiration is a guarantee of truth. This is not necessarily so. Inspiration merely guarantees accuracy from a particular point of view; if it is God's point of view it is true; if it is man's point of view it may be true, and it may not. If it is the Devil's point of view it may or may not be true, as well, but the Devil's ultimate end, of course, is evil. Inspiration guarantees an accurate reflection of these various points of view.

Therefore the Bible does have much error in it. Whenever false views of men are quoted or set forth, the Bible is speaking error. Whenever Satan speaks, most of his statements are in error, and even the truth that he uses is twisted and distorted, and therefore is erroneous.

So it is quite possible to "prove" all kinds of utterly false things by quoting the Bible. because in that sense the Bible is filled with error. But the Bible always points out the error which it presents and makes it clear that it is error, as in the case with this book. Because of its remarkable character Ecclesiastes is the most misused book of the Bible. This is the favorite book of atheists and agnostics. And many cults love to quote this book's erroneous viewpoints and give the impression that these are scriptural, divine words of God concerning life.

But right away in its introduction this book is very careful to point out that what it records is not divine truth. It presents only the human view of life....."
http://www.pbc.org/library/files/html/0221.html
======================================================
Solomon examines his thesis statement in regard to Science, wisdom and Phiosophy - and it holds true.

"..the more knowledge, the more grief." Ask Adam and Eve about this statement.

Solomon next looks at hedonism. Pleasure and materialism are examined. Wisodm is better than folly - but we all die.

"So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me."

yup. That is pretty much what God told Adam that his lot would be in Gen3. As long as you are man-centered it is a tough world.

Finally in our readings Solomon turns to fatalism and existentialism. Life is what it is, and it is what we perceive it.

We want something deeper, but we cannot fathom it. So we do the best we can while here on earth.

"Ecclesiastes views God as men in general view God -- as a not very vital concern of life. sort of a high-calorie dessert which you can take or leave. There is no understanding of God as a vital, living Lord, an authority in life with whom one can have a personal relationship." - Ray Steadman

God is just out there doing His thing. We are left alone to find our satisfaction. If God were around - would there be "wicked" in the places of judgment and justice? This sounds alot like a "deist" theory of God. Even the judgments sound like they are here on earth (much like was espoused in early Job).

Ecclesiastes 1

14
Everything under the sun is meaningless, like chasing the wind. (EMPTY of glory)

17
So I worked hard to distinguish wisdom from foolishness. But now I realize that even this was like chasing the wind.

(EMPTY of glory, like a bubble floating in the sky –ready to pop)

Ecclesiastes 3

11
He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.

14
And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God's purpose in this is that people should fear him.

2 Corinthians 6

6
We have proved ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, our sincere love, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
7
We have faithfully preached the truth. God's power has been working in us. We have righteousness as our weapon, both to attack and to defend ourselves.
8
We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us.

10
Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

Paul exemplified A LIFE OF RICHES THROUGH GOD’S GLORY. Not based on anything or anyone on earth, but “His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) Notice, God’s riches of glory are IN CHRIST JESUS… Who is in us.

2 Corinthians 4 – GLORY of Jesus in US

10
Always carrying about in the body the liability and exposure to the same putting to death that the Lord Jesus suffered, so that the [[a]resurrection] life of Jesus also may be shown forth by and in our bodies.
11
For we who live are constantly [experiencing] being handed over to death for Jesus' sake, that the [[b]resurrection] life of Jesus also may be evidenced through our flesh which is liable to death.

Psalm 46

8
Come, see the GLORIOUS works of the LORD: (FULL GLORY of God)
See how he brings destruction upon the world

10
"Be silent, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world."

11
The LORD Almighty is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.

May we wait on the Lord, and let Him – AND His glory – be our refuge and our riches.

It reminds me again of the meditation on how the eternal is reflected in every day in the meditation of the Jewish Torah —and how waiting on the Lord allows us to enter into His glory:"

a) a ger (HEBREW WORD) is one who is just passing through, like a visitor or tourist
b) whereas a toshav (HEBREW WORD) is one who is a resident, like a settler or citizen.

How can someone be both a visitor and a resident of a place, or a stranger and a citizen at the same time? How can one “pass through” a place he is said to dwell?

Being ger v’toshav means understanding that the changes of life are the medium for that which is eternal and abiding.
We neither detach from life nor cling to it,
but live in the mediation of time and eternity.

Every moment of life is therefore made sacred, since it is the occasion to transform the temporal into the eternal.

Vance

Ecclesiastes 1-3:22

The thing that has been--it is what will be again, and that which has been done is that which will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it may be said, See, this is new? It has already been, in the vast ages of time [recorded or unrecorded] which were before us. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 AMP)

Everything under the sun maybe meaningless and vanity; but everything under the Son is gloriously new!

Today I had to struggle with my perspective. I could either fall victim to thinking under the sun or be delivered by realizing I was under the Son. The stories and images of the devastation wrought by Katrina were difficult for me to handle and I found myself sliding into despair thinking that everything was hopeless but that is a product of being under the sun. Yet I know that despite what things look like God is on the Throne and He is still in control. The Son has risen indeed.

Proverbs 22 (NKJV)
15
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.

Ecclesiastes 1 (NKJV) – The Vanity of Life
1
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2
“ Vanity [Or Absurdity, Frustration, Futility, Nonsense] of vanities,” says the Preacher; “ Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
3
What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?

Ecclesiastes 2 (NKJV)
24
Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.

26
For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.

Ecclesiastes 3 (NKJV)
11
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

22
So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

2 Corinthians 6 (NKJV)
1
We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

Psalm 46 (NKJV)
10
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
11
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

NOTE:
I see the following key thoughts as summary of today’s readings:

a.
“toiling under the sun” – living life only from a human perspective, not from God’s perspective with His eternal wisdom

b.
Vanity, Absurdity, Frustration, Futility, and Nonsense of life lived only “under the sun”
We were not meant to have meaning only in ourselves and in our experiences.

Thus, the philosophy of existentialism is not true and is not helpful. This philosophy states that meaning only comes to a person through their experiences, and there is no objective reality outside of that.

This does not mean that God sees individual meaning as unimportant. Rather, the Holy Spirit of God Himself tells us that “a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage”. But meaning is not simply in the “work”, but in work as an extension of our worship of and service for the Lord Jesus.

Only God can properly interpret our lives for us: “Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”

c.
This Foolishness is passed onto children. It is not that a child is born without the foolishness of a sinful nature.

d.
Do not “receive the grace of God in vain”. God is real, and we can know Him. The only sure way to know Him is through prayer, planting ourselves in God’s Word and God’s Word in us,
fasting, etc., and yielding ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit leads us.

Why Jesus instead of any other spiritual leader? Because Jesus made claims about Himself that are unique, and He demonstrated the true reality what He said—the most important demonstration was dying for our sins and raised from death to give His life to us.

Again, I am particularly struck by the example of Johann Christoph Blumhardt, a German pastor who lived from 1805-1880.

A friend had directed his attention to our Lord's words about fasting. Blumhardt resolved to give
himself to fasting, sometimes for more than thirty hours. From reflection and experience he gained the conviction that it is of more important than is generally thought.

The Holy Spirit used Johann Christoph Blumhardt to bring revival to the town where he lived, and many people were brought to personal faith and relationship with the Lord Jesus. Also, Blumhardt really sought the Lord to know how to help people struggling with sickness or trials.

"I tried it [i.e., fasting], without telling anyone, and in truth the later conflict was extrordinarily lightened by it. I could speak with much greater restfulness and decision. I did not require to be so long present with the sick one; and I felt that I could influence without being present."

e.
How do we make sure to not “receive the grace of God in vain”? By insisting with a determined faith that we will obey God’s command and gracious invitation: “Be still, and know that I am God”. Then we can know for ourselves for certain: “the God of Jacob is our refuge”.

f.
Finally, I see another idea, not directly stated, but very much present in today’s readings: ““a man should rejoice in his own relationship with God, for that is his heritage”.

g.
Yet, we are never to simply focus on "our own navel" and ONLY have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.

This relationship is very precious!

Since we "can do nothing without Jesus" (John 15), it becomes evident that we cannot serve the Lord effectively without a deep abiding personal relationship with Christ.

A true relationship with Jesus will greatly desire to break out to others with the Love and Life of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus!

This is confirmed in many passages.

The Apostle Paul quote a from a passage in Isaiah as the basis of the urgent and wonderful statement in 2 Corinthians 6: "Now is the day of salvation"

The Holy Spirit speaks to us that a true, vital relationship with Jesus will break out to others.

Isaiah 49 (NKJV)
8
Thus says the LORD: “ In an acceptable time I have heard You, and in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You as a covenant to the people, to restore the earth, to cause them to inherit the desolate heritages;
9
That You may say to the prisoners, ‘Go forth,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’

THIS IS TRULY AMAZING!--

GOD actually includes us in the work of the Lord Jesus in His work of intercession for people, and saving people from sin, world, flesh, and the devil.

May we be filled with Jesus' prayers, Jesus' Life, and Jesus' activity every day!

Vance

..........

I like Ecclesiastes, but depressing...i remember when i used to sit and think like that! wen i didnt walk with the Lord. Life is sooo empty apart from Him!!!!

I love Psalm 46!
"God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear" amen!

v.10 "Be still, and know that I am God" 8 words, but one of the most comforting, powerful verses!

It is indeed great study. I found it very useful for my youth ministry.

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