“Wisely and Well” – A Sermon by Ray Ortlund From the Book of Ecclesiastes…

Below is one of the most encouraging messages I’ve ever heard from the book of Ecclesiastes. Indeed, at surface level, the book of Ecclesiastes seems to inspire depression, not delight. But, as Ray Ortlund explains in this message, this book inspires us to see life as God sees it, and when we see life (and embrace life) as God sees it, we begin to accept life in all of its’ complexities – the good, the bad, and the ugly…

“Out of the Depths”

Life can be so cruel sometimes. Things seemingly happen at random and without reason. Life (at times) seems to dole out incessant waves of depressing news – disease, divorce, death. In the end, I don’t know why some things happen, but I know that there is a God who is above it all and will see us through it all. For anyone going through some sort of difficulty or disaster right now, the song posted below (based on Psalm 130) is for you. I pray that it might be a real encouragement to you as it stirs your heart, despite the depths of your pain, to look up and wait on the Lord…

Father’s Day Reflections…

I’ve been a father now for 10 years. So, in no particular order, here are 10 reflections on being a father…

  1. Nothing can truly prepare you for fatherhood. Read all the books and take all the classes. That’s all well and good, but fatherhood (like a combat zone) is something to be experienced on an individual basis.
  2. Fatherhood is humbling. It’s both a blessing and a burden. Like a teabag steeped in hot water, fatherhood teaches you a lot about your strengths and weaknesses as a man and as a leader.
  3. Sons are great, but girls are precious gifts from God. Yes, I know, technically (and biblically) both boys and girls are precious gifts/blessings from God, but here’s my point: Girls teach their dads so much about life – how to be gentle, how to truly comfort, how to be sensitive…Girls gift their dads with so much practical knowledge about life and relationships.
  4. Fatherhood is incomplete and lopsided without motherhood. Children need to learn how to lead and how to follow, how to work and how to play, how to speak and how to listen, etc. The binary complexities of life demand the beautiful (and biblical) binary design of a father and a mother in the home.
  5. I have high hopes and big dreams for my two sons. One was born in our bedroom (not the plan), the other was born on the sidewalk outside of a Chase bank in Mesa, Arizona (also not the plan). My boys and their unconventional births make me hope and pray that they grow up to become unconventional leaders in this messy, complicated world that they’re growing up in.
  6. Fatherhood requires wisdom…God’s wisdom, not man’s wisdom. I must look to the Lord in the Scriptures and in prayer if I’m to be the father that my children need me to be…Which leads to my seventh reflection…
  7. I may not be the best father out there, but I’m the best father my four children have. I mean, I know that I’m not getting everything right in how I parent my children, but I’m doing my best (usually – most of the time). This is why I apologize to my children when I mess up and why I’m always pointing them to their perfect Father in Heaven.
  8. Fatherhood provides intense joys. My kids have made me genuinely laugh so many times. From the things that they have said to the things that they have done, I am so grateful for these mini-comedians that God has given to me.
  9. My kids are still young (10, 8, 4, and 1). That means I have yet to experience the teenage years. Help me by praying for me.
  10. Fatherhood is both forever and momentary. Forever in that I will always be my kids’ father, but momentary in that I only have my kids in the home for a set period of time before they launch off into the world. Therefore, I must cherish each moment, knowing that one day I’m going to turn around and wish that I could have put time in a bottle and experience these days all over again…

“The Good Old Days…”

I think the older I get, the more nostalgic I get. Granted, I’m only 35 years old, but with the ever-increasing weight of changes in our society, I find myself longing for “the good old days”. Do you know what I mean?

I guess a very real part of me just hates change. And we’ve seen a massive amount of change since 2020, right? I mean, from the way we view and talk about race to the rising fuel at our gas pumps, change is all around us, and (in my opinion) mostly negative. Can’t we just go back to simpler times?

In fact, I was recently listening to the radio and heard the following song lyrics that really encapsulate what I’m feeling…

Ain’t it funny how life changes?
You wake up ain’t nothin’ the same, and life changes.
You can’t stop it; just hop on the train.
You never know what’s gonna happen.
You make your plans, and you hear God laughin’.
Life changes…

But those are just my feelings. What does God’s Word say? Listen to the gentle rebuke of Ecclesiastes 7:10…”Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” I like what Al Mohler has to say on this verse, “Life does not always present us with only one obviously right path to take. Instead, we must deeply discern which path is ‘better’ than the others…But we are certainly not helped along our way by yielding to this world’s corruption, impatience, touchiness, or nostalgia.”

Wow. Don’t you just love the clarity of God’s Word? Yeah, we might be deep “into our feels”, but God’s Word gives us the right interpretive grid to discern our very funny, fickle, fleeting emotions. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with reminiscing and appreciating certain aspects of the past, but there is an unhealthy obsession with the way things used to be. Indeed, obsessing over the past, to the point that you’re resistant to change, prevents you from growth. This is not wisdom. This is, in fact, foolishness.

I guess here’s the bottom line…Yes, life changes. Things are not the same as they were. Indeed, in some ways, life is better than it used to be, and, clearly, it’s worse in some ways as well. But as a believer in Jesus Christ, my ultimate hope is not in the way things used to be in the past (i.e., “the good old days”). No, my hope is in the future. I like how the Apostle Paul phrases it in Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will [in the glorious future] transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

So, if you’re anything like me, and you find yourself craving the simpler time period of the past, then let the Word of God rebuke you, like it did me…”Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?'” Look to the future, not the past. Look to the heavens, not to the earth. Look to the Word, not to your feelings. Look to Christ, not to yourself. As the Mandalorian would say, “This is the way.”