Sunday, 20 July 2014

Musings on Ecclesiastes: Injustice

Hello All,
As you read the news each day, do you boil with anger at the blatant injustice displayed by corrupt authorities and wicked men?
Do you long for justice and equality in the country we live in?
Musings on Ecclesiastes: Injustice
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (17th January 2014)

‘That's not fair!' we often hear the indignant cry
Of the oppressed who see vile, wicked men get by
With their corrupted ways, malicious schemes and crimes
The court of law turns a blind eye time after time

I saw a man of high standing trialed for murder
He killed heartlessly at a higher man's order
With evidences against him, he was set free
One rose to power, the other escaped penalty

'Where is justice?!' Our cry for fairness goes unheard
Our hope for a fair government is just absurd
For power and wealth blind those in authority
The plight of the downtrodden, they refuse to see

Our quest for justice ends at the throne of our LORD
Who will bring judgment on the wicked with his sword
In His Eternal Kingdom, true justice is found
It is a Kingdom where love, peace and joy abound

Points for Reflection:
Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.
(Ecclesiastes 4:1)
·         Injustice is sadly an evident part of the world we live in. Those who have the authority to administer justice, more often than not, misuse their power for selfish gains.
·         There is no doubt a minority of leaders who are fair and just in their reign but they are as rare as hen’s teeth. But even the noblest of all leaders is not infallible for he has shortcomings like you and me. There would have been instances when he did not administer justice perfectly.
·         How do you feel when you see the oppressions of the oppressed by powerful oppressors? Do you feel indignant and angry at leaders who prosper at the expense of their citizens? Are you cynical and unforgiving towards them?

I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
(Ecclesiastes 3:17)
·         The wicked will not go unpunished for God will judge them, if not in this life (which the book of Ecclesiastes refers to as, ‘life under the sun’), then in the life to come. Even though they may have evaded the enforcement of earthly laws for their crimes, they will never escape God’s hand of judgment.
·         How could you learn to trust God even in the face of unfair treatment by corrupt leaders? Pray that God will enable you to cultivate patience and a forgiving spirit even for such undeserving leaders.
·         However, all men, both the good and the wicked will have to give an account to God on judgment day for every single sinful thought, speech or action. The only way anyone can be acquitted from God’s judgment is through faith in Jesus Christ, who died as a substitute for sinners like us.
·         Would you receive this gift of salvation offered to you by Jesus Christ, the perfect and just King? It is only in His Kingdom that you will find true justice.

·         Perfect justice does not reside in life under the sun but it lies secured under the Kingship of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Musings on Ecclesiastes: The Meaningless Cycle

Hello All,
‘Let us break out from the routine of life and live life to the fullest!’ You may have heard aspiring idealists utter this phrase before.
No matter how hard one would endeavour to break out from mundane routines, no one can ever escape the meaningless cycle of life. You were born into this world, you try your best to survive, you grow old and then you die.
Musings on Ecclesiastes: The Meaningless Cycle
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (14th Jan 2014)

I awoke one morning and remained on my bed
It was yet another dawn of the day ahead
The metal cog in the wheel must not cease turning
Just as the sun shall not miss a day of rising

I arose to attend to my chores and duties
The eye is never satisfied with what it sees
The hands find little fulfillment in their labour
The heart discovers little that it can savour

'You should be more thankful,' my mind whispers to me
'You're not starving like those entrenched in poverty
Life has been kind to you, why are you unhappy?
Why do you wallow in sadness and misery?'

But my heart beats in rhythm with the vain cycle
Of a meaningless world with its empty people
Where happiness is short-lived and sorrows abound
Can the true meaning of this life ever be found?

The thirst of dreams and desires remains unquenched
Disappointments and wounds leave their unpleasant stench
'Why give me desires without their fulfillment?
Why give me mere dreams without their accomplishment?'

Well, a wise man once said, 'If there remains in me
A desire that cannot be quenched by worldly
Things; This means that I was made for another world'
Within God's Word, the meaning of life is unfurled

We are but weary pilgrims sojourning the earth
Who can look forward to life of eternal worth
After death, we shall see Jesus Christ face to face
And find such boundless joy which nothing can erase

Points for Reflection:
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)
·         Our world boasts of new inventions and advancement in technology. It promotes new products which serve to enhance beauty, intellect and the comforts of life.
·         But if we were to take a step back and observe those so called ‘new discoveries’, we will find that they are not new at all but are just innovations of old things in history.
·         We place such great confidence in such ‘ground-breaking’ progresses which has not made the world a better place but it has instead generated a competitive culture of selfishness, individualism, strife, animosity and even violence.
·         Have you been placing your confidence in technological advancement and ‘ground-breaking’ progresses over God? Remember that it is God who created men with the ability to invent things from materials created by God.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
(Psalm 20:7)

All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
(Ecclesiastes 1:8)
·         Many of us (on a good day) would have the impression that the writer of Ecclesiastes composed his book on a very bad day. We might feel like patting him on the back and saying to him, ‘Hey, cheer up! Life is not that bad… Look at the bright side of life. You are far too pessimistic!’
·         We strive to suppress the void in our hearts by rewarding ourselves with pleasures, relationships and achievements to gain our self worth. ‘This is what life is all about,’ we tell ourselves as we place the object of our hopes in finite things. But as much as we would try to deny it, those things have never satisfied us the way we have expected them to.
·         There are times when the emptiness of life would hit us very hard. It could be just an ordinary mundane day which turns like a cog in a wheel - a meaningless cycle. You wake up, work, do your chores, socialize, relax and retire to bed. Even if you were rich enough and did not need to work, your life of leisure would be just another meaningless routine – luxurious vacations and enjoyments of life tend to lose their potency if you have too much of them.
·         Is the weight of life’s emptiness resting heavily upon your heart? Do you ever wonder, ‘What is the point of life? What am I actually living for? Why am I not satisfied? Why do disappointments and emotional hurts leave scars in my heart? Why is happiness short-lived and why do sorrows abound?
·         In his book entitled, ‘Mere Christianity’, C. S. Lewis said, ‘If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.’
·         Mankind has chosen to reject God, the source of life’s meaning, and that is why our fallen, sinful world is full of suffering and emptiness. We were made to be in a loving relationship with our Creator, whom we have often neglected and even ignored. We were made for another world – God’s kingdom, heaven itself. While we are living on this earth, we will face many trials but we can draw strength and comfort from our God who helps us to keep our eyes fixed on the precious hope of eternal life offered to those who trust in Christ.
·         What is keeping you from finding true hope and satisfaction in Jesus Christ? Do not turn to anything else in the world but look to Jesus for life’s true meaning.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:13-14)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
(Romans 15:13)

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Musings on Ecclesiastes: Wisdom and Folly

Hello All,
King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, was the wisest man that ever lived.
In the course of writing this book, he noted down his observations and thoughts on wisdom and folly.
God had given him unparalleled wisdom to rule the kingdom of Israel and yet he acknowledged the limitations of his wisdom.

Musings on Ecclesiastes: Wisdom and Folly
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (28th Dec 2013)
The wise man walks steadily with light on his path
He is cautious in his dealings and avoids wrath
The sound counsel of others, he does not despise
He in turn offers to others his good advice

However, the foolish man lunges recklessly
Without looking at what lies ahead, he thoughtlessly
Allows his whims and fancies to steer his actions
To the changing winds, he abandons all caution

Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!
What is the meaning of wisdom? What is folly?
Death befalls both the wise as well as the foolish
Both will come to the end of their lives and perish

So the wisdom and folly of mere mortal men
Will cease to be after death and come to an end
But true wisdom has found its immortality
In Jesus, the Word and Light for humanity

Would you receive the true wisdom that Christ offers?
Or would you mock and sneer at it like the scoffers
Who dismissed and condemned him to death on the cross?
Scorn not but trust the Saviour who died for the lost

Points for Reflection:
Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.
(Ecclesiastes 7:19)
·         It is better to live wisely than foolishly on this earth. Wisdom is good for it keeps us safe.
·         A wise person is careful in handling his inheritance, unlike a foolish man who squanders his possessions. Earthly wisdom is able to preserve the life of a person while he is alive although it is unable to attain eternal life. It provides a sense of security, like money does, for life on this earth.
Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun. For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
(Ecclesiastes 7:11-12)
·         A fool loses his temper often, making no effort to control it; but a wise person practices self-control.
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
(Ecclesiastes 7:9)
·         A wise person deals cautiously with people of authority, such as a king, by obeying them and not storming off in anger from their presence no matter how unreasonable they might be. However, that does not mean that we are to follow a king blindly in his evil cause although we should show them respect.
I say: Keep the king's command, because of God's oath to him. Be not hasty to go from his presence.             
(Ecclesiastes 8:2-3a)
Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he [the king] does whatever he pleases.
(Ecclesiastes 8:3b)
Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way.
(Ecclesiastes 8:5)
·         True wisdom, being as wise as God is, is unattainable. No matter how wise you are, you can never fathom the depths of God’s wisdom.
All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?
(Ecclesiastes 7:23-24)
·         Have you been living wisely? Have you been prudent in the way you spend your money, relate to others and make decisions? In what areas are you lacking wisdom? How could you learn to be wiser?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
(Proverbs 9:10)
·         Earthly wisdom is temporal and it cannot save you for eternity. Yes, it is able to secure your well-being while you are living in this physical world; but it cannot save your soul.
·         True wisdom is found in God, the creator of the universe. Who are we, mere mortals, to boast of our finite wisdom and have no regard for the infinite wisdom of our Creator?
·         Have you received the true wisdom that Christ offers? Have you put your trust in his death on the cross for your sin? What is preventing you from accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?
·         Those of us who trust in him can place our confidence in his wisdom for our salvation. Our loving God who keeps the earth spinning within its orbit without colliding with other planets will surely keep us trusting in him until we enter our heavenly abode with him. Isn’t that comforting to know? If you are feeling discouraged today, find comfort in the love and wisdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 1:18)

·         How are you tempted at times to rely on your own wisdom in making decisions instead of seeking guidance from God’s Word? Are you submitting to Christ in the way you live or do you run life your own way?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Musings on Ecclesiastes: Pleasures and Wealth

Hello All,
Have you ever asked yourself, ‘What makes earthly pleasures and wealth so enticing? Why do people sacrifice so much to gain a little wealth and a little pleasure?’
The author of Ecclesiastes, whom many believe to be King Solomon himself, was the king of Israel at its prime and golden age. He was extremely wealthy and had access to all the pleasures that the world could offer.
And yet he began his book with, ‘Vanity of vanities!’

Musings on Ecclesiastes: Pleasures and Wealth
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (18th Dec 2013)
I find no meaning in the life I live
What fulfillment can earthly pleasures give?
I keep grasping at what I cannot hold
Like purchasing goods that cannot be sold

Earthly riches are fleeting and futile
The delight they bring lasts but a while
Working hard, you labour and perspire
To fortify your fragile empire

‘I’ll lay hedges and prudently secure
My future investments which will endure
I’ll have no want for the rest of my life
For wealth, I’ll brave the challenges and strife’

So you gather your wealth and property
‘Just a little more, and I’ll be happy’
You spend your earnings on earthly pleasures
‘I’ll enjoy what I can at my leisure’

And then calamity strikes suddenly!
All you’ve amassed are gone in a jiffy
You grit your teeth and say resolutely
‘I’ll start over and gain back my money’

So you gain back your wealth and say gaily
‘I have secured my wealth and dignity
In my old age, I’ll rest and enjoy now
The riches earned from the sweat of my brow’

And then death storms in, your last breath he claims!
He spares not the rich or poor; they’re the same
Your wealth then passes down to your children
Who knows if they’ll squander your possessions?

So you’ve insured yourself against all things
You have enjoyed all that this life can bring
But eternal life you could not insure
For you have rejected Christ, the Saviour

Turn now to Christ before it is too late
Do not trade him for wealth at any rate
Find rest in him instead of vain pleasures
Gain forgiveness and life in your Saviour

Points for Reflection:
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
(Ecclesiastes 5:10)
·         You say to yourself, ‘If only I could have a certain amount of money stashed safely in my bank account… That would be enough for me to enjoy for the rest of my life… I would not need to work and worry anymore…’
·         The fact is, even if you did manage to accumulate that targeted amount of mammon, it would never satisfy you. And so you continue setting a higher and higher target for yourself to achieve. But you find yourself becoming increasingly dissatisfied after having surpassed each level.
·         No, money is not the answer to true satisfaction in life. It is a slave master which drives you to procure it and then it leaves you unsatisfied, craving for more.
·         Money itself is not evil, it is our lust for it that is evil.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
(1 Timothy 6:10)
·         Do you love money? How far would you go to procure it? Are you seeking your satisfaction, self-worth and meaning of life in wealth? Are you tempted to forsake God for money?
I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity.     
(Ecclesiastes 2:1)
·         There are many reasons why people love money.
·         One of the reasons is the earthly pleasure that money can buy.
·         It is a common practice for many of us to save up money for a highly anticipated vacation and have a splendid time. However, when the vacation comes to an end, we feel unsatisfied and say to ourselves, ‘This vacation was not long enough. I wish it was longer. I will look forward to the next vacation and save up enough money for it.’ And this cycle repeats itself over and over and over again. The thrill just wears off after a while.
·         If we are hoping to find our ultimate fulfillment in earthly pleasures, we will more often than not be disappointed.
·         Are you seeking your ultimate fulfillment in earthly pleasures? How do you feel when the thrill and excitement of that pleasure wears off? Why don’t you find your ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ instead?

There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand.
(Ecclesiastes 5:13-14)
·         I have seen too many who have lost their life savings on a bad venture. In great hopes to amass more money, one can easily lose it all in a blink of an eye.
·         During economic depressions, stories of suicides of heavily indebted individuals flood the news. Those are tragic tales of people who gave up on life itself after losing all that they had invested their existence in.  
·         But there are those who pick themselves up again and regain their wealth. Now, there is nothing wrong with starting over after a bad venture but what makes it so wrong is doing it with no regard of God. The people who say (or rather sing) to themselves, ‘I did it my way’, make themselves puny gods who are uncannily enslaved to wealth.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
(1 Timothy 6:9)
·         Have you yourself, or other people you know, lost money in a bad venture? What were your thoughts and feelings during those difficult times? During those times, did you depend solely on your own ability and resources or did you look to God for help?

As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind?
(Ecclesiastes 5:15-16)  
·         We do not come out from our mother’s womb with money tucked at our sides. We were, in actual fact, plain naked without a single stich of clothing on us.
·         We cannot take a single cent to the grave, even if we were to literally bury our money with us.
·         It is unwise to place so much value in perishable things. And yet so many of us do.
·         And it is extremely unwise of us to reject Jesus Christ and the eternal life that he offers to those who trust in him. Why do you work so hard for earthly and perishable wealth and neglect your ultimate rest in Christ which is of eternal value? Even if you are a Christian, be always on guard against the love of money which could easily lure you away from following God. Look to the cross for ultimate meaning and satisfaction in life. Be contented with what you have and find rest in Jesus Christ.
But godliness with contentment is great gain.
(1 Timothy 6:6 ESV)   
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
(Hebrews 13:5 ESV)
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”   

(John 4:13-14 ESV)