Seasons with God

OPENING PRAYER

Thank You, Lord, that You walk with me through every season and that You will bring Your beloved out to a place of peace.

 

Read:ECCLESIASTES 3:1-15

[1] There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: [2] a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, [3] a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, [4] a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, [5]a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, [6] a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, [7] a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, [8] a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. [9] What do workers gain from their toil? [10] I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. [11] He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. [12] I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. [13] That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil-this is the gift of God. [14] I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. [15] Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.

Reflect:WHAT SEASON ARE YOU IN?

“There is… a season for every activity under the heavens” (1). Some of the activities the Teacher lists are pleasurable and rewarding, others are painful and difficult. The “seasons” of life are unpredictable–we never know when we might be swept away from a season of laughter into a period of weeping, or transported from a time of mourning to a dancing fiesta. Frequently, we endure seasons that seem wasteful and unprofitable (9). From an “under the sun” (purely human) perspective, life may seem haphazard, arbitrary, a game of cosmic poker, where the luck of the draw determines the hand you are dealt. Verse 11 offers reassurance–the divine design will not be thwarted. God will bring beauty and harmony out of the ugliness and upheaval, yet this may not be within the timescales of our world but in the context of eternity, when God will bring to fruition his kingdom purposes. I cannot control the ebb and flow of life. What I do have control over is my responses. What is God teaching me in and through this season of my life? How will I live this season in a way that furthers or fulfills God’s divine purposes?

 

APPLY

In this season of your life, take time to thank God for his eternal intention for good.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Lord, I want to hear Your voice. Please speak to me and teach me of Your heart.

 

Syndicated via Scripture Union
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Giver Behind the Gifts

OPENING PRAYER

Father of Love, You are what gives meaning to life. You are my all in all.

 

Read:ECCLESIASTES 1:1-2:26

[1] The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: [2] “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” [3] What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? [4] Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.[5] The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. [6] The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. [7] All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. [8] All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. [9]What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.[10] Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. [11] No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them. [12] I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.[13] I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! [14] I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. [15] What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. [16] I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” [17] Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. [18] For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief. [1] I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. [2] “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?”[3] I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly-my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives. [4] I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. [5] I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. [6] I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. [7] I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. [8] I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well-the delights of a man’s heart. [9] I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. [10] I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. [11] Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. [12] Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done? [13] I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. [14] The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. [15] Then I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?” I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.” [16] For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die! [17] So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. [18] I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. [19] And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. [20] So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. [21] For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. [22] What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? [23] All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless. [24] A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, [25] for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? [26] To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 

 

Reflect:WHAT IS THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE TEACHER?

The Teacher is looking at life “under the sun” (1:3) and has come to see it all as meaningless. Life outside of God is full of emptiness. At the end of chapter two, the Teacher sees some light. The key to this is the small phrase at the end of verse 24: “This…is from the hand of God.” The Teacher is bringing us to recognize that all good gifts in life only find their true meaning when we see the loving Giver.We are just emerging from a season of gift-giving where we have been reminded that presents are tangible “thoughts” of love. The incarnation itself was the supreme demonstration that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16). Each day we receive many gifts–fresh air and nutritious food, warm sunshine and wholesome work, family and friends, health and homes, strength and skills. But it’s not enough to embrace these gifts with gratitude and joy. By reminding us that these everyday gifts are “from the hand of God” (24b), we are challenged to discern the Giver behind the gifts. Not only do we have a generous Giver (Jas. 1:17), but this Giver also outlives his gifts. Let us never be so engrossed in the good gifts of life that we fail to be enthralled by the Giver.

 

APPLY

Journal some of God’s most precious gifts and how you see his hand in them.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Jesus, help me fix my eyes on You as the substance of life on this earth, and as the source of all that is eternal.

 

Syndicated via Scripture Union
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A Taste of Things to Come

OPENING PRAYER

Lord, I want to be where You are and to be concerned with that which is of concern to You.

 

Read:LUKE 2:41-52

[41] Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. [42] When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. [43] After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. [44]Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. [45] When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.[46] After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. [47] Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. [48] When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” [49] “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” [50] But they did not understand what he was saying to them. [51] Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. [52] And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. 

 

Reflect:ARE YOU "ABOUT [YOUR] FATHER'S BUSINESS"?

Twelve years have gone by since yesterday’s reading (42)! Twelve years of normal life in a town in Galilee. Twelve years of growing up, learning, making friends. Twelve years of visits to the Passover in Jerusalem (41). Next year, Jesus would be legally an adult. But already he is showing some independence (43).The least surprising thing here is that Mary and Joseph hadn’t missed him. They were traveling in a group with their friends and relatives (44). And anyway, he was 12, surely able to look after himself. Then they realized that no one knew where he was. Three days of anxious searching later, they found him (46). And not for the last time, he was causing quite a stir in Jerusalem (46,47). His direction was being set. What parent wouldn’t have responded like Mary (48)? Jesus’ answer (49) may fascinate us today but it just puzzled Joseph and Mary then. Jesus had a sense of intimacy with his Father that his parents didn’t understand.

 

APPLY

How has God been speaking to you? And how have you been responding?

 

CLOSING PRAYER

God, help me to be sensitive to Your leading and to follow You wherever You go.

 

Syndicated via Scripture Union
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God's Reassurance

OPENING PRAYER

Good Shepherd, teach me to hear Your voice and to listen to no other.

 

Read:LUKE 2:36-40

[36] There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, [37] and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. [38] Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. [39] When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. [40] And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. 

 

Reflect:WHAT PROMISES ARE YOU ASKING GOD TO REAFFIRM?

Many of us struggle with self-doubt. Imagine what it was like for Mary, and later Joseph. Were they right about the identity of their child? Once again God brought reassurance, this time through an old lady, Anna. Just like Zechariah (1:68-79), the shepherds (2:16,17) and Elizabeth (1:42), she confirmed what Gabriel had told Mary (38). This child was the one who would fulfill God’s centuries-old promises. Have you had experiences of God confirming his promises to you? God has gracious ways of helping us through our uncertainty.To the world at large, Anna–and her life–might have looked pretty insignificant, but she was one of those hidden-away people whose lives achieve more than we imagine. There are people today who may not be well known but are serious pray-ers, making more of a difference than we realize. If you know people like that, pray for them. Perhaps God may even be calling you to such a ministry. As for Mary, Joseph and Jesus, it was back to Nazareth. It will be a long time before we hear of them again. God will be working in the silence.

 

APPLY

Do you need reassurance? Are you finding it hard to keep waiting for something? Pray for encouragement.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Lord, You are so tender. You walk with us and lead us in Your gentleness.

 

Syndicated via Scripture Union
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Waiting Rewarded

OPENING PRAYER

Thank You, Lord, for the love that You have lavished on us and at such cost to Yourself.

 

Read:LUKE 2:21-35

[21] On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. [22] When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord [23] (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), [24] and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” [25]Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. [26] It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. [27] Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, [28] Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: [29] “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. [30] For my eyes have seen your salvation, [31]which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: [32] a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” [33] The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. [34] Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, [35] so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 

 

Reflect:ARE YOU LOOKING AND LONGING FOR GOD TO BE REVEALED?

The events around the birth of Jesus are remarkably private and intimate. There are no crowds–they would come later. His circumcision and naming were routine (21). The sacrifice which Mary and Joseph offered (22-24) was that of poor people (Lev. 12:8). The Son of God was born into the most humble of families. Can you identify with that (1 Cor. 1:26)?Meanwhile an old man in Jerusalem, Simeon, had been waiting patiently for God to fulfill his promises (25). Long before, God had shown him that he would see the Messiah (26). Then at just the right time, when Mary and Joseph were about to arrive, Simeon followed the Spirit’s prompting and went to the Temple. Out of all the people there he recognized this special child (28). Now he could die in peace (29). He had seen God’s salvation. Timing is everything with God. What are you waiting for? You could forgive Simeon for seeing Jesus’ birth as being just for his own people, the Jews. But God showed him a vastly bigger picture. This birth was significant for the whole world (30-32). Yet sadly, there would be great pain before the final peace (34,35).

 

APPLY

Many of God’s people around the world are suffering for their faith despite the joy of today. Pray for them.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Lord, You are the greatest treasure, the one thing I desire. You are worth waiting for.

 

Syndicated via Scripture Union
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