Under The Sun #6: A Sorrowful Portrait

3SelfPortraitWithFeltHat2Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Under The Sun #6 (Ecclesiastes): A Sorrowful Portrait (Vincent van Gogh)  To hear this message and others download our free app at The App Store by searching The Gathering Connect.

Vincent (1853-1890) Ecclesiastes 6:1-6, Ephesians 2:1-9

Vincent” is a song by Don McLean written as a tribute to the most well-known post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh. The song is also known by its opening line, “Starry, Starry Night“, a reference to van Gogh’s 1889 painting The Starry Night. McLean wrote the lyrics on a paper bag while sitting on a veranda in 1971 after reading a book about the life of van Gogh.  It was released on McLean’s 1971 American Pie album, and the following year the song became a hit first in the UK and then in the US on the Easy Listening Chart.

Today’s lesson in the book of Ecclesiastes brings McLean’s song Vincent to my mind because of the first verses in chapter six (Ecc. 6:1-6).  Vincent van Gough is the most well known post-impressionistic painters of all time.  In 2017 one of his paintings (Laboureur Dans Un Champ) sold for $81.3 million dollars,  yet he himself died largely unknown and in poverty.  Today museum exhibits of his work are attended by large crowds from all over the world, yet those same works were first exhibited on the day of his funeral outside of the little apartment he once rented (public areas of the Auberge Ravoux). His brother Theo organized the display on the public sidewalk for strangers passing by—some of the paintings were still wet from the brush of the prolific painter.

Born in Zundert, Netherlands, The son of a minister, van Gogh started working at age 16, when his uncle got him a job as a trainee with an art dealership, but he was fired in 1876. Afterward, he worked briefly as a school teacher in England then at a bookstore back in the Netherlands. In 1878, he went to the Borinage, a mining district in Belgium, and worked among the poor as a lay preacher. He gave away his belongings and slept on floors, but after less than a year on the job the religious organization sponsoring van Gogh decided he wasn’t cut out to be a pastor and dismissed him.

Vincent van Gogh did not have any children although he gave birth to more than 2,000 artworks, consisting of around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches. Van Gogh did not begin painting until his late twenties, and most of his best-known works were produced during his final two years. He also produced 651 letters written to his brother Theo that suggest that he suffered from bipolar and borderline personality disorderVan Gogh’s distinct style vividly expressed his tortured mind and his deep loneliness.  Vincent failed in four relationships with women and a friendship with painter Gauguin that ended in a rage where he cut off his own ear.  Likely, that self-mutilating incident was the frustrating culmination of the news that his brother was engaged and would therefore be less able to continue funding Vincent’s artistic endeavors and limit his availability in their friendship.  Vincent was committed to a hospital where he spent two weeks in recovery and then returned to his “yellow house”, but his mental attacks continued and neighbors filed a petition against him.        Eventually, Vincent committed himself to an asylum for one year but he left wanting to be free of the institutional life.  Two months later the artist left his apartment one morning to paint in a wheat field and there shot himself in the chest with a pistol. Vincent managed to limp home, but died of his  injuries two days later, with his brother Theo at his side on July 29, 1890.  He was buried the next day. Ironically, His brother Theo would die six months later.  Theo’s widow, Jo van Gogh-Bonger, had Theo’s remains moved from the Netherlands and re-interred in France, where Vincent was buried. After Jo passed away, her only child with Theo, Vincent Willem van Gogh, inherited his uncle’s     artwork and eventually founded the Van Gogh Museum, which opened in Amsterdam in 1973.

In Ecclesiastes the “teacher”, referring to death, asks “Do not all go to the same place?  Believers in Christ know the answer to that question is “no.”  Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who       believed in His name, He gave the right to be called the children of God… (John 1:12).  We know that van Gogh had many problems and vices, but he also once had a deep faith in Christ.  He expressed this in paintings like The Good Samaritan, The Raising of Lazarus, The Sower and The Sheaf Binder. Vincent described Jesus as “the supreme artist, more of an artist than all others, disdaining marble and clay and color, working in the living flesh.”  “One cannot do better than hold onto the thought of God through everything” he wrote, “under all circumstances, at all places, at all times, and try to  acquire more knowledge about Him, which one can do from the Bible as well as from all other things.” The church had rejected van Gogh as a missionary and perhaps even as a parishioner but his brother ,Theo, also a believer in Christ,  and God never did. It is likely that God gave Vincent and Theo two days before his death for some reflection.  “It is by grace we are saved”  (Ephesians 2:1-9). 

Living a Legacy Matthew 5:13-16, Romans 7:21-25 

One of America’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, once said: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”  God has created us to live with faith and passion and not ease and comfort, in fact the later most certainly will cancel out the former.  No matter what our lot in life may be we can positively affect people who know us or even come after we are gone if we do not live solely for ourselves on this earth.  Think of the benefit our founding fathers had on our nation and its posterity.  Think of the fathers of our faith and yes, most of all consider Jesus Christ (See One Solitary Life by Dr. James Allan 1926). Of course it was Jesus’ sole mission to seek and save those who were lost (Luke 19:10), but did He not call us to do the same (Matthew 5:13-16)To be sure, our lives are not as pure, and stained with many imperfections, but He will redeem all that we entrust to Him and only He can do it (Romans 7:21-25).  Even the sorrowful portrait of Vincent can bring beauty. 

“Who Knows?” Ecclesiastes 6:7-12, Philippians 4:11b-13, Revelation 21:4-7. 

Do you live to quench a sinful appetite that is never satisfied or will you be content with what you see that God has provided?  These are the parting words of the “teacher” to us today.  We can “not   contend with someone stronger” is to say, in the words of Doris Day (Singer/Actress 1922-2019), “whatever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see, Que Sera, Sera”.  

“For who knows?”, asks the “teacher”.  God knows— the past, the present and the future so the wise will entrust their lives to Him. Have faith…He will weave the tapestry together (Romans 8:28)Let us forget all the vain philosophies of men: “the more the words the less the meaning”.  God’s word is simple: “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). The apostle Paul shared the “secret of being content”(Phil. 4:11b).”  It is not that we will live in ease and comfort, but that we can do all things through Him who gives us strength.  Thus, regardless of the “fairness of life” it is never meaningless when we trust Godand He makes “all things new” even in death (Rev. 21:4-7).  This is His promise for all who believe— for Vincent, for Theo and for you and me.

 

 

Under The Sun #5: Vows To God

              Shattered GlassPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Under The Sun #5 (Ecclesiastes): Vows To God (The Sacrifice of Fools)  To hear this message and others download our free app at The App Store by searching The Gathering Connect.               

The Sacrifice of Fools Galatians 6:7-8, 1 John 1:8-10, Ecclesiastes 5:1-9

When a politician tells their public that they pray for their arch enemy every day and then proceeds to attack him in every way— they are a fool.  When a priest says he loves God and then sexually abuses an altar boy— he is a fool.  When an evangelist says that he has come to serve and then fills his pockets full of money, his house full of treasures and his garage full of cars— he is a fool.  When a believer goes to church and participates in all the Christian activities and yet doesn’t change a thing in any of their actions— they are a fool, because God is no fool.  God is not mocked.  Whatever a man sows he will reap in return (Galatians 6:7).

As we begin reading chapter five of Ecclesiastes, the “teacher” reflects on the meaningless activities of religious phonies.  Why do they lie about their love and respect for God when they are only using “faith talk” to promote themselves?  Do they really believe their own lies or is it just that they have no respect or fear of God (Romans 3:12)?  There is a recognized syndrome today called False memory syndrome (FMS) that describes a condition in which a person’s   identity and relationships are affected by memories that  are factually incorrect but that they strongly believe.  Psychiatry calls this confabulation.  A memory  error defined as the            production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted thoughts or memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to  deceive. These defenses are actually being used successfully in our courts today.  Do some people exhibit FMS or confabulation regarding their piety?  Apparently so, but this will not be a good case defense on judgment day.  We may    deceive even ourselves, but God will not stand by and allow any man to call Him a liar (1 John 1:8-10). 

 The “teacher” gives us sound advice: “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.  Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.”  The purpose in going to “the house of God” (aka Church) is to listen and learn!   If you are here for any other reason today then you are bringing the sacrifice of a fool.  Even your pastor is here to learn!  I spend hours learning from God what I condense and teach to you.  I also hear from God through worship, prayer and talking to my congregation. None of us should ever dare come into this place thinking that “I am something special—listen to me, look at my gift, watch me, I have a position, love me!” We are all here to listen, give praise and worship God!  If you are here for any of those reasons and you do not know that you are doing wrong, then listen and learn…you are doing wrong!  

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16              

The “teacher” continues by giving his readers a solid lesson in how to listen and learn in the house of God: 

  1. Don’t be quick with your mouth: We who lead in the church, in business, in politics, and in family & parenting need to shut our mouths and just listen sometimes. In fact, if you have   difficulty listening then you should especially shut your mouth and listen to God’s instruction.
  2. Don’t be hasty in your heart: In the words made immortal by Elvis Presley, “Wise men say only fools rush in”. The Bible teaches us to think before we act and to “count the cost” before we make a decision even when following Jesus (Luke 9:23). Once we make a decision our word is to be our bond.  “Anything more comes from the evil one (Matthew 5:37).”

With these points firmly planted in our minds we are to come to God to learn His word and direction for our lives. God is exalted (in Heaven) and we are not!  He is creator and we are the creation (on the earth). Let us not think too highly of ourselves (Romans 12:3)!  A dream comes (or goals are achieved) when there are many cares ( or much care has been taken), and many words mark the speech of a fool.  Ecclesiastes 5:3 

Let us not be those “Christians” who bring the sacrifice of fools to God’s house.  If we aren’t learning and applying anything from His word to our living then even offerings, worship and service is meaningless.  Let us fulfill our vows to God or not bother to make them in the first place. For He will hold us to our promise.  Don’t hate the “messenger” for this truth or argue your case with the one who brings the Word.  Just receive it! Too much dreaming (or goal   setting) and words—  especially  hasty ones, used in prayer and talking, show folly in the heart, low thoughts of God, and careless plans of our own making.  If we “fear God” our relationship with Him will not be meaningless and we will not bring the sacrifice of fools into His house. 

Riches are Meaningless Ecclesiastes 5:8-17, Luke 16:13-15

The “teacher” writes on with timeless observation that the poor are oppressed, officials are ruthless and kings reign— all because of the pursuit of money.  The lover of money never has enough, nor do the consumers who consume what they sell to get it.  Evangelist David Wilkerson once said: “If money is such a blessing then why did God heap so much of it upon the damned?”  The pursuit of money has killed more people than all the wars in the world put together…actually most wars were fought for money!   In summation, everyone comes without anything (naked) from the womb and departs this earth in the same way.  So living for the love of money is like “eating all your days in darkness with great frustration, affliction and anger”.  Why else would Queen Elizabeth I have groaned these last words before her death:  “All my possessions for a moment of time”, but then what did that say about her Protestant Faith?

Jesus told the money loving religious Pharisees that they could not serve God and money. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight (Luke 16:13-15). One could certainly say that the Pharisees made the “sacrifice of fools”.  They were so blinded by their love for money and pride that they couldn’t see God standing right in front of Him— in fact they crucified Him!

“Be Good” Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, Luke 18:18-19, Micah 6:6-8

The summation of the “teacher” is “to be good”.  Jesus made it clear that only God is good (Luke 16:13-15) which brings us back to our need for Him.  When we “fear God” and keep ourselves from making “the sacrifice of fools” we can appreciate what God has given and accept our lot in life.  Rather rich or poor or somewhere in-between we must glorify Him.  We were made for this reason and this alone is the only sacrifice that God requires of us (Micah 6:6-8).

 

        

 

Under The Sun #4: Lonely People

LonelyBeachOilPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Under The Sun #4 (Ecclesiastes): Lonely People  To hear this message and others download our free app at The App Store by searching The Gathering Connect.

America & Lonely People The Dan Peek Story

Dan Peek (November 1, 1950 – July 24, 2011) was an American musician and song writer best known as a founding member of the folk rock band America (1970 to 1977).  He wrote many of America’s hits including Lonely People which he and his newly wed wife (Catherine) wrote together in an     attempt to counter the hopelessness of the Beatles’ hit song Eleanor RigbyThe Band America    actually began in London where Dan Peek’s dad was stationed in the U.K. as were the father’s of his classmate’s, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell who would also become his band mates.  While playing together one day the trio realized they had something special and formed the band  America, named so that people would know that they weren’t just three guys singing with phony American accents.  In 1971, the trio cut an album with some success, but later that same year they released the single    A Horse With No Name and became an immediate sensation winning a Grammy for best new musical artist in 1972. A trail of number one hits and records followed.

The fame, fortune, sex, and drugs gnawed away at Dan’s childhood faith. In a series of interviews Peek said, “I had a spiritual compass but I abandoned it completely.” He recalled a time in London when the band first formed. “ I got on my knees and I said, ‘Lord, if you’ll make this group a success, I will use it as a platform to tell other people about you”.  Within a year of praying that prayer, America had a number one album and a number one single around the world.  Peek said, “It hit me like a ton of bricks one day— Bam!, God answered your prayer. Now you need to live up to your end of the bargain! – I tried to share the Gospel with Dewey and Gerry. They weren’t interested. I tried to share it with some other people – they didn’t want to know. So, I just kind of withdrew into my shell as a heathen and then just became a practicing hedonist”. Fame was “like being a kid in a candy shop with a sweet tooth”, said Peek. “I had become a trash dump of chemicals.”

After a fall or jump (he couldn’t remember) from a cliff at his million dollar home in Malibu, and later (after recovery) kneeling in prayer there, he cried out to God, repented for the life he was leading, and re-committed his life to Christ. Peek said, “Within months everything was gone”. His house burned down in a fire, he left the band, America and he and his wife moved to the mid-west where Dan pursued a new career as a Christian music artist releasing All Things Are Possible in 1979, Doer of the Word in 1984 and Electrovoice in 1986, which included a remake of “Lonely People” where he changed some of the song’s lyrics to reflect his Christian faith. Peek spent much of the 1990s in semi-retirement, occasionally recording at his home in Bodden Town, Grand Cayman Island. In the years before his death, Peek released music via his website.  Dan Peek died in his sleep (of fibrinous pericarditison July 24, 2011, at age 60 in his home in Farmington, Missouri . He was survived by his wife Catherine, both of his parents and five siblings. Dan and Catherine had no children but many children of God surely came from his ministry and their life together.

Note: In 2004 Dan Peek released an autobiography entitled An American Band: The America Story

Oppression, Toil & Loneliness Ecclesiastes 4:1-8, Luke 4:18-19, Matthew 11:28-29, John 15:5, 13-15, Romans 5:1-11

As we come to chapter four in our study of Ecclesiastes we find King Solomon reflecting on the oppression being suffered by man on this earth.  Tears without comfort and abuse without remedy. Solomon’s conclusion was that the dead were happier than the living and that it would be best to never have been born at all.  He also saw that hard work (toil) and achievement sprung from one person’s envy of another and that even with both hands full (plenty) there was no fulfillment in life.  What Solomon discovered was that oppression comes from within and without.  It is a state of being.

Dan Peek speaks of this same “state of being” in his autobiography. By all appearances he had and accomplished everything but felt immense oppression.  He relates that the achievements of his band America was the result of mean spirited competition between him and his band mates to write the next hit song.  The endless touring and concerts had become an exhaustive burden.  Dan Peek could certainly agree with   Solomon at that suicidal point in his life— “There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother…Their was no end to his toil and his eyes were not content with his wealth…meaningless—a miserable business!”.  

Solomon and Dan Peek alike were “lonely people” even though they were surrounded by many   people and things. They were lonely and oppressed (mentally distressed) because their relationship with God was not right.  Indeed, some historically oppressed victims and slaves never expressed the disparity here that    Solomon did in all of his splendor.  Harriet Tubman (Slave & civil rights heroine), Corrie Ten Boom (Holocaust survivor, author & speaker), and Richard Wurmbrand (Imprisoned minister, tortured survivor, author and founder of Voice of the Martyrs) are all Christian examples of people who testified that their relationship with Christ, even in extended times of immense oppression, toil and loneliness, found peace with God.  In Jesus’ own words He came “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18-19). He came to “give rest” to those who toil (Matthew 11:28-29). He came as a friend to the lonely—to “remain” with us always (John 15:5, 13-15).  As the Apostle Paul said to the church in Rome: “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” and “God’s love poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” and believers “have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:1-11).  The “peace” that delivers one from such mental and spiritual oppression can only come through Christ.  Dan Peek’s testimony is a fine example of that truth.

“Two are better than one” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

The logical passage above makes good physical sense.  Two are certainly better than one; however, the “cord of three strands” which “is not quickly broken” is ironically a reference to three.  Our God is three in one, a Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He alone can not be broken and nor can His promises to those who belong to Him.  God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?  Numbers 23:19  A true friend is good to find and a good spouse and children are a blessing, but a relationship with Jesus Christ is eternal and unbreakable.  He will “never leave us or forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5). 

The “Real King”  Ecclesiastes 4:13-16

Solomon tells a story that reflects the constant fickleness of fans (aficionado or supporter).  People will  always move from one “king” (famous person) to another younger successor, but will always be unsatisfied.  King Jesus is the only one who should sit on the throne of our lives.  All else is truly “meaningless, a chasing after the wind”.  Dan Peek later changed the words of his song, Lonely People and re-recorded it (Electrovoice 1986). He ended all of his concerts with it thereafter. He concluded: “Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup , He’ll never take you down, He’ll never give you up, but you’ll never know until you try”.  To any who feel like giving up…please don’t.  Let us introduce you to Jesus.  He is the “real King!” 

 

 

Under The Sun #3: Turn! Turn! Turn!

UTurnSign

Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church Under The Sun #3 (Ecclesiastes): Turn! Turn! Turn! To hear this message and others download our free app at The App Store.  Search The Gathering connect.

Turn! Turn! Turn! The Byrds and King Solomon                                                                     Turn! Turn! Turn! was a melody and nine words composed by Pete Seeger in the late 50’s and added to a poem written by King Solomon about 3,000 years earlier (in the end of his reign,    approximately 935 B.C ). and included in the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes.  The song was first  recorded in 1959 and released by the Limeliters in 1962, but it is the the second album by the folk rock band The Byrds (December 1965) that made the song climb the charts in America and created an indelible mark in rock history.

Interestingly enough, lead guitarist and singer of the Byrds, Roger McGuinn, became a Christian, along with his fourth wife Camilla, in 1978.  They have followed Jesus faithfully in their lives into this present day.  Roger says that  he and his wife prayed about doing only Christian music but felt strongly that the Lord had called them to continue to do secular (non-Christian) music and to share Christ with those they come into contact with on tour. Roger always does two or three songs of faith in every concert but he prefers not to preach to the crowd that gathers for his music.  Those that know the McGuinns personally see Christ plainly in their lives.  Roger and Camilla do daily Bible devotions   together every morning and pray for world leaders and unsaved friends.  They take their faith on the road with them and share personally with the people they meet in their    travels. Today Roger is 77 and still making music. He toured with Byrd’s band mate Chris Hillman along with Marty Stuart who are also Christian in the 2018 50th Anniversary “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” Tour.  Last year Roger did a solo tour and this year he is at it once again with great reviews.  You can book tickets to see him in California at the Forum Theater in Thousand Oaks on April 24, 2020.  You can be sure that The Byrd’s hits Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn! will be among the songs he sings.

A Time For Everything Ecclesiastes 3:1-10, 1 John 4:7-21, Hebrews 2:1-4                                   I was checking out lyric interpretation sites on the song Turn! Turn! Turn! and was amused to see what people said about the meaning of the lyrics.  They ranged from “a montage of events that lead man ultimately to peace and harmony” to a “Commentary of history that cries out against war for peace.”  Finally, I came to one that shocked and delighted me. It said:  “The song was written by King Solomon 3000 years ago and not by Pete Seeger.  It’s in chapter three of Ecclesiastes of the Bible.  Read the whole book and you’ll know exactly what the writer was saying.”  The first reply under that post was: “why do you Christians have to make everything about the Bible and ruin everything?” 

The fact is the song came right out of the Bible so that is where we should go to             understand it.  All Pete Seeger added to the song was “Turn! Turn! Turn!”  and if you want to understand the song that is really what you should do.  Turn the pages of the Bible!  Seeger also added “I swear it’s not to late”. We must pay careful attention… (Hebrews 2:1-4)    

All that king Solomon is saying in this short poetic excerpt from the book is that “there is a time and season for everything that happens in this life.  It is not a commentary on the ethics of each thing mentioned, but only that they exist in this life as we live “under the sun”.  In verse nine “the teacher” reminds us that being responsible for these actions is a “burden” that God has laid upon the human race.  In other words living with the “free will” responsibilities and consequences of our decisions is difficult.  The tough question is asked: “What is gained from this ‘toil’ (constant work)?  Our creator considered that question long ago when he decided to make man a being with a free-will rather than a programmed robot.  God’s desire for mankind is that His creation would know His true love and live in it.  His dilemma? True love and its   embrace can only be realized by having a free-will; however, free-will undoubtedly results in a choice to rebel against God and to be self-centered, the consequences of which destroy love. God chose to give man a free-will to choose love or not and that is why we see the consequences of both decisions in our world today (“a time for everything”).  God, indeed,  has “laid this burden” (free-will and its consequences) upon the human race with hopes that each of us would choose love.  That we would each choose Him.  For God is love, and Christ our illustration, and only He can lead us in that love (1 John 4:7-21).

 “Everything Beautiful” Ecclesiastes 3:11-17, John 3:16-21, Isaiah 61:1-3                               Yes, “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity and choice  under the    heavens; and God has laid the burden of free-will on the human race, but He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has set eternity in the human heart; and no one can fathom what God has done… Who can understand such love that God would come down and die for a     people who had chosen to live in darkness and sin against Him (John 3:16–21). Yet, God chooses not condemn any who would believe in Him but to grant them eternal life in His forever love embrace? Turn! Turn! Turn! Repent and see plainly what God has done for us!  He is the remedy to the ashes we have made from His gift of love.  He makes “beauty from ashes” (Isaiah 61:1-3)…”everything beautiful in its time” when we give our time to Jesus.  What God does will last forever.  We should tremble in His presence because of His amazing grace on we who believe and because of His righteous judgment upon those who reject His redemption… Yes, “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity, a time to judge every deed”.  That burden of choice remains ours… Turn!

We are not Animals! Ecclesiastes 3:18-22, Genesis 1:26-28                                           Contrary to what Solomon journaled in his quest and some scientists say mankind is not like the animals (although the actions of some may say otherwise). We were created to rule (be master) over them (Genesis 1:26). We were created in God’s image. God allows testing in our lives, not to know that we are “like animals”, but to produce perseverance and maturity in our faith so that we will be responsible leaders of this great planet and ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Without such faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Animals, with all creation, are certainly affected by sin, but animals are not sinners. Sin is a transgression of God’s law that He gave to man. It is rebellion against God in thought, word, or deed (1 John 3:4). Animals did not rebel against God; man did.  God has given man the Bible so that He is without an excuse to live like an animal.  He has offered man redemption so that He will no longer live in sin.  The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about where animals go when they die but God makes it very clear to men.  We are to enjoy the “work” that God has given us to do and that work is to always glorify Him, judgment for that work is ours and not our pets!    Pay careful attention and don’t ignore such a great salvation (Hebrews 2:1-4).

 

Right To Life March (Proud of our President)

TrumpRightToLifeSpeech2020Pastor Barry’s comments on  Right To Life Presidential Speech: January 24, 2020

While a partisan congress spends their third day in the Senate spinning a web of innuendo and  assumptions to catch a “fly”, “the Eagle” swooped down to the Washington Mall where thousands of Americans gathered in opposition to our nation’s genocide on the unborn and became the first president in U.S. history to speak at the event since its inception 47 years ago.  The March for Life marks the 47th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Until this week, the highest-ranking White House official to attend March for Life was Vice President Mike Pence, who has gone every year since 2017. Other presidents have delivered remarks over the phone, but never attended in person. 

“Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” said President Trump to cheers from the crowd, pointing to two Supreme Court justices and dozens of federal judges that he has nominated in his three years in office. President Trump has in the past called himself “very pro-choice,” but since becoming president has identified as “pro-life” and pushed policies that support efforts to end abortion on demand in America. “From the appointment of pro-life judges and federal workers, to cutting taxpayer funding for abortions here and abroad, to calling for an end to late-term abortions, President Trump and his administration have been consistent champions for life and their support for the March for Life has been unwavering,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, in a statement announcing the president’s appearance.

Haters will say that the president only attended the event to take the public’s eyes off of the impeachment hearings; however, they choose to forget the fact that at last year’s March For Life he sent his vice president and a video-taped message of himself to address the crowd.  Haters will say that the president only addressed the crowd to stir up votes for him in the upcoming 2020 elections.  These same people should take a hard look at all that this president has done and continues to do fight against abortion in his first term.  Still, others will say “wasn’t the president once pro-choice?”  His own answer was “yes” in an interview in 2011; however, He said that one of the main reasons he changed his mind on the issue is because close personal friends chose to keep their child rather than have an abortion.

I can understand this change of mind and change of heart because I also use to be pro-choice until a “close personal friend” vehemently disagreed with me.  She presented me with information, facts and questions that I had never really considered before.  Among those questions I was asked: “When does one human being ever have the right to murder another for convenience?”  Today, like my president, I proudly call myself “pro-life.”  For more information facts and questions to consider regarding abortion go to nrlc.org

People do change their minds, even presidents and pastors.  I John 1:8-10 says:  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”  I thank God that our president has changed his mind about abortion and am proud that he is doing so much to change the laws regarding it in America.  I pray that the nation will change too and that one day “life” will be the right once again for all Americans, both born and unborn.

Under The Sun #2: “If It Feels Good…”

NewClothes2Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church Under The Sun #2 (Ecclesiastes): “If It Feels Good…” To hear this message and others download our free app at The App Store.  Search The Gathering Connect.

If It Feels Good Do It? Proverbs 14:12, Romans 6:23, Ecclesiastes 2:1-11, 1 Kings 11:1-6

We’ve all heard the old saying that was coined in the 60’s counter culture movement: “If it feels good do it.”  Many people do just that.  The problem with living by such a credo is that many things that feel good lead to ruin and misery and not just for the doer but for those connected to him or her as well.  Think about it, can you recall any sin that you committed, or anyone else for that matter, that didn’t at first “feel good?”  Yet the Bible clearly states that there is a way that seems right to a man (pleasuring himself at all costs) but that way leads to death (Proverbs 14:12). In Fact Solomon wrote that!  The Apostle Paul expanded on that truth and said that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).  Thank God for the second part of that verse that tells us that “death” is cancelled by “the gift of God” for those who receive Christ Jesus as Lord (John 1:12). 

In our text today “the teacher” (Solomon) tells of how he engaged in a life of pleasure, and unlike most of us, had unlimited resources to do so.  He makes a list of pleasurable things that he engaged in, some of them seemed harmless enough: building houses, planting trees… but others are not so harmless like buying slaves and making a harem for himself.  “He denied himself nothing his eyes desired; he refused his heart no pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2:10a). We know from scripture that Solomon had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines (1 Kings 11:1-6).  We also know that this displeased the Lord. 

In his writing Solomon presents us with an oxymoron (a figure of speech in which        contradictory terms appear in conjunction) when he says “I tried embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom.” Folly defined is a lack of good sense or foolishness.  Wisdom defined is good judgment.  You can only embrace one or the other, but when one embraces folly it always seems right…cause it feels so good!  That is why you do it… until the consequences set in of course.  Solomon himself wrote in the book of Proverbs The way of a fool seems right to him…  (Proverbs 12:15).  So why didn’t Solomon follow his own wise advice?  A better question would be do you? 

Be Free! Galatians 5:1, 13, 16-17, 24-25, Ecclesiastes 2:12-23

When a person lives like a fool wisdom goes right out the door, no matter what they write in a book, preach, or teach to others!  God’s word clearly instructs us to consider our steps and walk according to His commands ( John 14:15).  We are to think beyond      pleasuring ourselves and follow God’s way.  The Apostle Paul calls this being “set free!” (Galatians 5:1) He encourages believers in Christ not to be burdened again by slavery to sin.  This is obviously what we see Solomon bound to as we read on in our text (Ecclesiastes 11:12-23). When we live only to pleasure ourselves we become slaves to sin.  Solomon saw his behavior as “madness” and “walking in darkness” yet he said: “The fate of the fool will overtake me also.”  What reasoning does he give for this conclusion?     Solomon concludes: “Like the fool, the wise too must die”.  The very next line Solomon writes after his conclusion to remain in his sin is to write how much he hates life!  He is also miserable with the thought that someday someone else will pleasure themselves with what he worked so hard to pleasure himself with.  Even at night his mind does not rest. “Meaningless” he quips! 

Living only to please self is meaningless.  We were called by Jesus to be free from the selfishness of sin and to serve others in love (Galatians 5:13).  If we walk in God’s Spirit we will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  Jesus does not want us to do “whatever we want”, He wants us to follow His example (Galatians 5:16-17). He did not come to pleasure himself.  He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  He came not to accomplish His will, but His Fathers (John 6:38).  Our grand purpose on this earth is to partner with Jesus to make His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10). We are to crucify our flesh like He allowed Himself to be crucified for the mission to save the lost and reconcile others to Him.  When we live with this intent in mind and heart our life has great meaning and purpose (Galatians 5:24-25).  

We Reap What We Sow Galatians 6:7-9 

We are clearly warned in scriptures not to live for our own pleasures, but to sow things in our life to please the Spirit and to not to grow weary in doing the good that God desires. As believers, we are God’s children and should seek to live for things that eternal and not temporal.  Solomon was unsatisfied as long as he tried to fill himself up with pleasure.  Only Jesus can fill us up with an abundant life of meaning (John 10:10).  

New Clothes Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, 2 Corinthians 4:18, 5:9-10, Isaiah 61:10

Solomon concludes this chapter with advice to find satisfaction in our own toil (work) and to please God. God has made it clear how we are to please Him and what work we are to do.  Living selfishly to pleasure ourselves is not the recipe for anything except folly. 

The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unwise or stupid – while in reality, they make no clothes at all, making the foolish king and everyone else believe that the clothes are invisible to them. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new “clothes”, no one dares to say that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as stupid. Finally a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”  Suddenly, the crowd erupts in laughter and the king is revealed for the fool that he is. 

What is the “weaver” (the Devil) convincing you to put on in this life?  Who do you want to impress?  How much will you spend?  How much will you toil?  How much of your life will you spend on your own pleasure only to find that you were chasing after wind?  Like the Emperor, each of us will one day parade before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).  What will you be wearing—wisdom or folly?  Let us fix our eyes on eternal things— clothed in garments of His salvation (Isaiah 61:10).  Let us make it our goal to please Him!   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under The Sun #1: Dust In The Wind

DustInTheWindPhoto by Oliver Valsecchi

Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church Under The Sun #1 (Ecclesiastes): Dust In The Wind  To hear this message and others download our free app at The App Store.  Search The Gathering Connect.

Dust In The Wind (The song and its writer) 

“Dust in the Wind” is a song by the rock band Kansas, written by band member Kerry     Livgren and released on their 1977 album “Point of Know Return.” This was the first      acoustic Kansas song and one that Livgren actually fought with the band over not to include on their album. Of the song he said: “people seemed to identify with what I said in that song – and that really surprised me. Cause in a way, that’s kind of a dismal song, you know?” 

Originally Livgren created the melody of the song as a practice scale for finger picking but his wife insisted that she liked the sound and he should use it in a song.  One day Livgren was reading a book on American Indian poetry when he came across the line ”for all we are is dust in the wind” and that line made him think.  Regardless of everything—one day he would die.  In a 1992 interview Livgren said of the song: “well, you know, that’s really true. Here I got all this success – I’ve got material possessions – I’ve got a goal in my life that had been accomplished at that point, but I’m going back into the ground – and what does this really mean in light of that? This is the message of that song, but the amazing thing was that so many people identified with that”. 

The song identified with so many people that it became the band’s biggest hit ever and crossed over to a  variety of radio stations that played rock, country, and adult contemporary music.  It remains one of the most famous acoustic rock songs ever recorded.

Kerry Livgren would go on to write songs that searched out life’s meaning which eventually led him to Christ in 1979, to create a solo album of his faith in 1980 (Seeds Of Change”) and to leave the band Kansas in 1983 to began a band called A.D. (83-88) that better expressed his faith. From 1989-2000 Livgren did solo projects and then began another band called Proto-ka in 2003. Livgren has lived a life of faith with his wife Vicci (1975-present), fathered two children, runs a farm in Kansas, teaches Bible study at his church, runs a studio and   record label , makes music with his band and shares Christ, but he is no stranger to heartache and pain. His wife suffered a head injury in 1998 and he suffered a massive stroke in 2009 which wiped out his ability to play the guitar and keyboards or even remember concepts of his faith.  Weeks after Livgren’s stroke Vicci fell and broke her back.  Years later she was diagnosed with cancer.  In 2018 Vicci survived cancer and in November of last year Livgren announced that he was putting the finishing touches on his soon to be released   album Cantata (The Resurrection Of Lazarus).  It is an album of faith that includes many    different artists and has been over 20 years in the making.  Pray that Kerry will finish it soon and tell the world his story of faith once again through music and song.  His legacy is truly more than “dust in the wind”.  He has prepared many for an eternity with Christ. 

Ecclesiastes (The song and its writer)  1 Kings 3:5-15a, Matthew 7:13-14 

The line “for all we are is dust in the wind” could have just as well come from the Bible out of  king Solomon’s writings in the book of Ecclesiastes.  In fact this is the key reflection of Solomon throughout the book that we will be studying in the weeks ahead.  

Solomon was the third and last king of the united kingdom of Israel, following King Saul and King David. He was the son of David and Bathsheba, the former wife of Uriah the  Hittite whom David had killed to hide his adultery with Bathsheba while her husband was on the battle front. Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon, the book of Ecclesiastes, and much of the book of Proverbs. When Solomon ascended to the throne, he sought after God, and God gave him opportunity to ask for whatever he wanted. Solomon humbly  acknowledged his inability to rule well and unselfishly asked God for the wisdom he would need to rule God’s people justly. God gave him wisdom and wealth besides (1 Kings 3:4–1510:27). In fact, “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth” (1 Kings 10:23). God also gave Solomon peace on all sides during most of his reign (1 Kings 4:20–25). Solomon wrote many proverbs and songs (1 Kings 4:32) and completed many building projects (1 Kings 7:1–129:15–23). Solomon also built a fleet of ships and acquired tons of gold from Ophir with Hiram, king of Tyre, as a partner (1 Kings 9:26–2810:1122). Solomon’s most important building project was completing the    Jewish temple with the instructions and provisions of his father, David (1 Kings 61 Chronicles 22).  

In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon introduces himself as “the Teacher”.  He does this with hopes to impart wisdom to those in the future who read the lessons in this book.  His lessons are compiled from his own life experiences and reflections.  For being such a “wise and discerning king” Solomon sure made a lot of mistakes. It must be noted that all of the life experiences and conclusions he shares in the book are not necessarily godly or wise; however, Solomon’s final conclusion in the book is.  We will learn more about Solomon and his life choices as we progress through this study, but it will suffice for now to say that Kerry Livgren did better than Solomon with the epiphanies provided them.  We can constantly look, as Solomon did, to find “something new under the sun” (in search for that “missing piece”) or find meaning in life by following Christ.  In this poetic book, written long ago by Solomon, we will look at both the broad way and the narrow way of life (Matthew 7:13-14)  and come to a conclusion on the matter. 

Meaningless Ecclesiastes 1:1-18, 1 John 2:15-17, 1 Peter 1:18-25, John 1:10-13 

As Solomon begins his poetic book he notices that just as water continually flows into the sea, which is never full, so are people never full of all they pour into their lives.  There is “nothing new under the sun”. What appears new today has only been re-branded from the past (Hold onto those old clothes and shoes. Fashions will return!). Solomon also points out that no one remembers former generations (note how we repeat mistakes throughout history for sake of forgetting the past).  He also points out that the wiser you are the more sorrow you will haveWhy?  Because…most people are stupid and do stupid things and that is disheartening to say the least.  No wonder Jesus calls us his “sheep”. John 10:27-28

Is all of this true? Of course it is.  If you are looking for life’s meaning in worldly things you will be left wanting every time (you will never be full).  The world and its desires are     passing away (1 John 2:17), but God’s word lasts forever and this is the word that was preached to us (1 Peter 1:25) by Jesus.  He came so that any who would receive would become eternal “children of God” and no longer only “dust in the wind”.