Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Pessimistic Optimist: Part 1 - Why I am a Pessimist, and What (or Whom) I am Pessimistic About

"And [Jesus] said, 'The things which are impossible with men are possible with God'" (Luke 18:27).

"I'm a pessimistic optimist," said Dr. William Davidson, whom I had the honor to study Church History and American Christianity with while in Seminary.  In fact, I consider myself doubly blessed, because he was also my faculty advisor and the foremost Free Will Baptist Historian of the era.  Since I was a Free Will Baptist minister at the time, and members of my family have been Free Will Baptists for at least 7 generations in North Carolina, that meant a great deal to me.

I confess, when I heard "Dr. D" verbalize this philosophical maxim, I was initially puzzled.  He quickly added that "what men could not do, God could do."  In the context of the class that day -- as I recall, it was American Christianity -- and of the greater subject matter, it made sense.  From that moment on, Dr. D's philosophical maxim has stuck with me.

I suppose, however, that I've taken his observation much farther than he ever would.  Dr. D is a faculty member at Columbia International University, and I am a very happy alumnus of the Seminary.  Class of '96.  I got what I believe to be among the best educations in "Divinity" available at any Evangelical Graduate school.  The College, and later the Seminary, were born out of the American arm of the "Keswick movement," which began in the last quarter of the 19th century with a conference in Keswick, England (where it got it's name), and spread through a significant portion of Evagelicalism.  It is also known as the "Higher Life movement," and its basic teaching is that it is possible -- and it should be the "normal" Christian experience -- to live an abundant, joyful and victorious Christian life.  This "victorious Christian life" emphasizes that believers have the privilege of living above known sin as part of their walk with Christ, which enables them to live in holiness and victory.

Now, I would hasten to add that I don't know Dr. D's personal theology on the issue, though like the vast majority of professors at CIU, I imagine the "Keswick" view is likely.  It has been and is even now very common among Evangelicals the world over.  Back in the 1800's, "famous" adherents to the Keswick message included the renowned Evangelist D.L. Moody, founder of China Inland Mission Hudson Taylor,
and R.A. Torrey.  In the early part of the 20th century, of course, Dr. Robert C. McQuilkin was a leader in the American Keswick movement, and out of that movement was born Columbia Bible College -- Now Columbia International University.  In the last generation or two, well-known Christian Pastors, writers and theologians such as Robertson McQuilkin, Stephen Olford, John Stott, Stuart Briscoe, Alistair Begg, and this evangelist (you may have heard of him) from North Carolina named Billy Graham have all professed adherence to the Keswick view of the "victorious Christian life."

Thus, when I say that I took to heart Dr. D's maxim, "I'm a pessimistic optimist," I imagine I took it much farther than he would have ever intended.  The reason I say that is because I do not fall into the "Keswick school" regarding the nature, ability or possibility of mankind to live "victoriously" in this life.  At least, not as we think of it in our too often limited, humanistic, materialistic capacity.  I take Jesus quite literally at His word when He says, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."  And remember, this was a direct answer to the Disciple's question, "Who then can be saved?" (Luke 18:26).

The simple answer:  NO ONE.  Of course, this is nothing that most traditional, Biblical Evangelicals do not affirm.  Evangelicals "know" that we as humans can do nothing, contribute nothing, add nothing to earn nor buy our salvation.  And even after salvation, what we "do" is not us -- but Him working in us and through us.    Thus, we are not victorious -- HE is, in us.

Let me explain, then, why I say I am "a pessimistic optimist," particularly as it regards mankind, both as individuals and as a race.

First, because Humans are "totally depraved."  That is, humanity -- every human being -- has inherited "original sin" from the father of the race, Adam.  "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed to all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12).  Not only have humans inherited a nature that is fallen, but they are thereby predisposed to act sinfully themselves.  This is "volitional sin," and is what Paul addresses when he writes to the Romans, "There is none righteous; no, not one....For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:10,23).  Total Depravity does not mean that humans are "as bad as they can be," but that all parts of human nature are marred and corrupted, and indeed dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1a), and humans are rendered incapable of doing any good at all apart from the grace of God (John 15:5).

Second, because humans can get worse.  In fact, Moses records in Genesis 6 that in the years leading up to the great flood, "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5).  During Noah's lifetime, he watched humanity descend to the depths of depravity -- and he built an ark.  They mocked, and he kept building.  They scoffed, but he kept preaching (2 Peter 2:5).  None believed, but he kept on working.  And when the rains came, he and his family entered the ark and GOD shut the door (Genesis 7:16).  None were saved but Noah and his family alone -- because humans can get worse.

Third, because human civilizations always do decline and fall.  Paul makes that excruciatingly clear in Romans 1:18-32.  Here, Paul describes the steps any given human civilization goes through as it descends into the depths of depravity.  When it reaches the deepest depths, and drags the bottom, that civilizations time is up.  The four steps on any human civilization as it descends into depravity, and thus, destruction are:
  • Intelligence - (Romans 1:18-20; cf Psalm 19:1) God reveals Himself in the Creation
  • Ignorance - (Romans 1:21-23; cf. I Corinthians 3:19,20)  Man willfully rejects knowledge of God
  • Immorality - (Romans 1:24-27)  Willful ignorance leads to immorality -- when mankind refuses to believe the Truth of God, they will believe the lies of Satan (cf. Genesis 3:1-8; John 5:43, 8:44; 2 Thessalonians 2:11)  NOTE:  "God gives them up" (1:24), "God gives them up" (1:26).... 
  • Impenitence - (Romans 1:28-32)  When man rejects God and begins to reap what they have sown, they most often do not repent, but angrily shake their fists in the face of God (cf. Revelation 9:20,21). This is the last stage of a human society, a civilization in decline, facing collapse under the weight of their own depravity and rebellion against God.  As with Pharaoh, there comes a point when the hearts of the leaders and the people are hardened and will soften no more -- and God then hardens their heart, for they are fit for nothing but judgment and condemnation.
Fourth, because humans are getting worse.  Some might seek to contradict me.  They would say "there is nothing new under the sun," or "the same sins being committed now have always been around."  This line of reasoning is faulty. The Apostle Paul leaves little doubt about conditions in the future when he warns Timothy, "But evil men shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:13).  I think this statement refers not only to individuals in the immediate sense who, as they indulge in sin become less and less restrained, but also to societies and civilizations, as Paul explained in Romans 1.  Not only can it happen, it is happening -- in our time, in this day, in our nation and across the entire globe.

Fifth, because the "Church" is failing -- and will fail.  This is the one that gets me in the most trouble with the most people.  Not just the Keswick proponents, but just about everyone else.  Biblically, however, the "Church," at least in its human, institutional, organizational form on earth, has failed, and will fail to complete the Mission God has set before it.  I have long called this the "made-with-hands" Church.  Too often we have "sanctified" our denominations, and glorified our organizations and exalted our edifices when Paul rightly taught that "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing He is the Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands" (Acts 17:24).  Paul (yes, Paul) further explained in Hebrews that "when Christ appeared as the high priest of good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation.... For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:11,24).

Paul warns Timothy, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (I Timothy 4:1,2).  In his second letter to Timothy, Paul went even farther in describing the kind of failures the Church would see in "the last days": "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:3,4). But Paul was not alone, as Peter also warned the disciples, "there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves" (2 Peter 2:1).  Peter goes on to tell them, "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires" (2 Peter 3:3).  Jude, the half-brother of Jesus also noted that "They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires" (Jude 1:18).  
I won't take the time to illustrate or explain a distinction between the "Universal Church," or the "Invisible Church," or the "Body of Christ," which is spiritual, and is composed of every truly born again believer, and the "Institutional Church," and the "Visible Church," or the many varied denominations, sects and local churches that compose the temporal organization that is made up of members as defined by each of the groups as they see fit -- some true to scripture, many not -- and all composed of, as Jesus referred to them in His Parable, "Wheat and Tares" ( Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).  It is worthy of noting, however, that the "made-with-hands" Church fails.  The Church fails because the temporal institution is composed of humans, corrupted by humans, and manned by depraved humans.  Even the greatest of saints have warring within them two natures, and this battle continues until the day he or she passes from this life and stands in the presence of the Lord, glorified and freed from the very presence of sin (Galatians 5:16-26; Romans 7:14-25).

I must note at this point that my "pessimism" about the Church -- and about humanity -- is not a full "fatalism," as some might believe.  I have not said that victories cannot be won.  I have not said that we cannot see miraculous things happen, or that obstacles, sins, and many other problems, issues and handicaps cannot be dealt with in our Christian walk.  I have found, however, that there is only one "secret" to "living the Christian Life."  If you want to "live for God," DIE.  Die to self.  Paul gave us the one and only formula for "victory" when he said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).  The "victories" that come in life are completely of HIM.  The failures are completely ours -- because we fail to plug in to HIS power.  

I also won't take the time to draw the eschatological/prophetic implications of my statement that the Church is failing and will fail.  I will leave that for another time.  Suffice it to say that our inability, even with the Holy Spirit indwelling us, available in full measure to fill us that we might walk in His power (Ephesians 5:18), we still fail.  We fail to achieve unity, to fulfill the Great Commission, to observe the Great Commandments, to be salt and light....  To simply do those things that God has called us to do, as individuals, and thus as a collective.

Sixth, because life confirms scripture.  I would like to say that my own experience in life contradicts the view that I outline here from Scripture, but instead, what I have seen in my life confirms Scripture.  When I read of Ananias and Sapphira, who sought not only to lie to Peter and the Jerusalem Church, but to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11), I can say I have known some Ananias' and Sapphira's.  When I read about Hymaneas and Alexander making shipwreck of their faith (I Timothy 1:18-20), I can sadly say I have known those who have become "apostate," and left behind the faith they once knew.  When Paul tells Timothy that "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Timothy 4:10a), I can sense his deep sadness, because I have been forsaken by those who chose the things of the world over loyalty to the Lord, to His Word, to His Servants.  And when I read the final words of Paul, testifying that "at my first defense [before Nero] no one stood with me, but all forsook me.  May it not be charged against them" (2 Timothy 4:16), I have been left alone when "all forsook me,"  with only the exceptional "Luke" who stayed with me, and the Timothy and Mark who rushed to me for ministry in my time of need.  They were the exception, not the rule.

I don't pretend to say that my experience is anything more than anecdotal -- but it is my experience.  Apparently, my experience has been shared by millions of others, to a greater or lesser extent, in the "made-with-hands" Churches of the world.  When one can say that they have been more mistreated by those within "the Church" than those in "the world," What kind of witness is that to the world?  What does that say of "the Church"?   To me, it says, "The 'Church' has failed."

Finally, then, one might conclude with the words of the Lord: "The things which are impossible with men....  I am pessimistic about the ability of mankind to effect any kind of positive change in society or human life.  I am pessimistic about the ability of even redeemed mankind -- those who are "saved," who have been redeemed and are a part of the Church -- to make lasting, effective and positive changes to this world.  Why?  Because the world is currently given to the rule of "the prince of this world" (John 12:31), and though believers have at their disposal all the power to defeat him through Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20), they do not call upon it, avail themselves of it, nor experience the potential for total victory that could be theirs.  In fact, it is more likely that the redeemed will be "prone to wander," in the words of the old hymn, and fall back into their worldly ways, even while in the Church -- something that Paul, John, Peter and Jude had to deal with in the epistles of the New Testament often.

From the time of the Reformation until near the mid-20th century, the predominant eschatological view (view of the end times) was known as "Postmillennialism."  Postmillennialism had a very positive faith and confidence in the ability of redeemed humans to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth.  This view basically affirmed the idea that the Church would expand through evangelism -- and where necessary colonialism -- and eventually the world would become "Christianized."  That is, the majority of People on earth would become believers in Christ -- and thus the Church would "bring in" or "initiate" the Kingdom of God on earth.  The belief was that the Church would reign over earth during the "Kingdom Age" (euphemistically call "The Millennium" - though some believed it was a literal 1,000 years), and only at the END of that Kingdom Age, when Satan came to earth to directly attack the Church, would Jesus literally return to fight for the Church, receive His kingdom from the Church, and create eternity future -- the New Heavens and New Earth.

It was this view that drove the Puritans to cross the Atlantic and settle in Plymouth Colony -- to "create the Kingdom of God on earth."  It was this view that drove many of the Founders in the Rebellion against King George III -- "We have no King but Jesus!"  It was this view that compelled the Abolitionists in the early Republic to fight for an end to chattel Slavery, and the Temperance movement to fight against legal alcohol.  Both succeeded -- slavery was abolished in 1865 with the 13th Amendment; Alcohol was made illegal in 1919 [Prohibition] with the 18th Amendment, but repealed in 1933 with the 21st Amendment.  This view of Christian "triumphalism" was behind the great migration west, "Manifest Destiny" which was the belief that we [the United States -- or at least Anglo-Protestant Christians] were to rule the entire continent -- which meant the Native Americans had to go -- to reservations or to the grave (in the name of Jesus and the United States Government, of course).  It was this concept that promoted the "Monroe Doctrine," forbidding any European powers from colonizing any lands in the Americas after the Administration of James Monroe.  It was This ideal that Teddy Roosevelt pushed when we went to war with Spain in 1898 -- and became an "empire" for all intents and purposes, conquering Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam -- for the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, Cuba -- something the Spanish didn't even do.  And it was this dream that Woodrow Wilson seized upon when, upon reelection, he broke his promise to keep us out of the "Great War" in Europe, and committed American forces to fight in what he dubbed, "The War to End All Wars."  Why?  Because he was sure that when this war ended, his dream for a "League of Nations" would be the blueprint for establishing the "Kingdom of God" and "Christianizing" the Earth.  But, Woodrow Wilson was wrong.  Terribly wrong.

In reality, "the War to End All Wars" was merely "strike one" for the grand optimistic view of redeemed human's abilities to establish the "Kingdom of God."  "Strike Two" came in 1929 with the crash of the stock market and the following Great Depression.  And "Strike Three" came between 1939 and 1941, depending on where you lived on the earth.  In Europe, it was 1939.  In Asia, it was 1939 -- or even a decade or more earlier, if you ask the Chinese and Koreans, who had been fighting conquest by the Japanese Empire for years.  December 7th, 1941 was the date of death for most Postmillennialism in the United States.  It's very difficult to remain an optimist about humanity -- even redeemed humanity -- when 25-30 million people die in the WWI, the Great Depression leaves at least 25% of people without jobs, homeless, unable to purchase necessities, hunger and starvation in some countries becomes common, especially Germany.  Then, 45-50 million die in WWII, which ends with the detonation of the first atomic weapons, and includes the Holocaust -- the murder of over 6 million Jews, nearly a third of the world population.

By the Mid-20th Century, most Protestants, Evangelicals in particular had adopted a decidedly pessimistic view of the ability of humanity to effect lasting and real change on the earth, via politics or other social means.  In fact, in many cases Evangelicals and Fundamentalists took that withdrawal and "separation from society, culture and the Body Politic too far.  Most within the orthodox church did realize, however, the reality that no theology, no doctrine of anthropology, could rightfully claim humans had the ability to bring in the Kingdom of God.  Postmillennialism withered.  Optimism about the ability of humans, even redeemed humans, is unwarranted.  It is unsupported in Scripture, in experience and in history.

The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. (Luke 18:27).

THIS is why I am a pessimistic OPTIMIST.  Which I will explain in future post.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Why I Haven't Written a Book About Bible Prophecy

Some have asked me in recent months why I don't write a book.  Several have suggested a book about current events of various kinds, from a Christian perspective.  Others have asked if I'd thought about writing about my past experiences, trials and troubles when I parted ways with a Christian denomination in which I served for almost 17 years.  I'm keen to write -- and actually finish -- one or more of the novels I've started over the years!  Still others have encouraged me to write about bible prophecy and eschatology, seeing the signs of the times and the days in which we live.

First, I'd love to write a book -- and finish it.  In fact, I have in the past -- years ago.  An expositional commentary on Daniel.  Out of print now.  I self published at the time, and I wouldn't dream of re-publishing without an extensive re-write.  But, I did it.

Second, the biggest thing I lack is time.  I am currently teaching at two different colleges, and I am working on completing another Master's degree, this one in History.  I MAY (it is by no means a certainly) go on and complete a doctorate after that.  Much of my time is tied up, then, in reading, research, and so forth having to do with either teaching my classes or taking a class.  It leaves me little time to do more than just pop up on Facebook and fire a parting shot on a given news story or article that catches my eye.  Even so, I still jot some thoughts, a scene, a page or two down toward an eventual "book."

There are several reasons that give me pause with regard in particularly about writing a book on the subject of bible prophecy.  First, well, it's pretty much all been said. By saying, "it's all been said," I mean that the market is saturated with books by ministers and Christian scholars and sensationalist preachers all chipping in their opinions about what this scripture means or what the interpretation of that passage is.  And those who hold to my particular view of prophecy in general have written their views, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Additionally, I don't seek to sensationalize the details of prophecy.  The nature of the future is fantastic enough without undue speculation or sensationalism.   Yet, in our day, people seem to look for the sensational.  It just seems if there isn't a heap of sensation and speculation, its just not bible prophecy.
But that's not the point of what God is doing in the future, and looking at prophecy is not about our interpretations and how they relate to current events so much as it is the glory of God and how HE is involved in bringing about His program on earth and in the entire universe.

Finally, the view I hold has fallen out of favor over the last couple of decades.  Most Christian Scholars regard it as uneducated nonsense or even heresy.  Most secular scholars look at it as outright religious superstition and the rantings of crazy people.....Come to think of it, many of the Christian scholars agree with THEM.  So for this and other reasons, my views simply aren't prominent, and won't appeal to most people.

I'll say a bit more about the view I take in the next post.  This will at least explain where I'm coming from -- and why I don't think it's the time to write a book about bible prophecy and eschatology.  My reasons might make a little more sense then.  Blessings......

Friday, February 24, 2012

We Have Tolerated Afghanistan and Muslims Long Enough

So, the US Army inadvertently burned some Q’uran’s in Afghanistan.  This, of course, has led to days of protests, riots and violence among the natives there, and was also the reason that two of our soldiers were shot – in the back – and killed by a member of the Afghan army.    An army, I might add, that we have trained and protected, equipped and fed for a decade.  And still, our commanding General, globalist lapdog that he is, runs right out there and kneels before the inflamed Muslim street and apologizes.

Fine.  Okay.  That’s the way that want it.  Big surprise.

I for one am sick and tired of placating these inhuman monsters over their "holy book" and their "prophet" and their "religion" and their perceptions and sensitivities.  Hey – here’s some news to the Muslims in the world from REAL Americans, not the son of a Muslim in the White House. 

You are NOT in charge.

We will NOT bow to you – or to your moon god; and we don’t care if the apologizer-in-chief does so or not.

We are DONE with your ungratefulness.  We’ve given you billions, trained you, protected you, kept you safe from fanatics even crazier than the majority, and we get no thanks.   The reality is, you hate us even more.  You shoot us in the back, curse us, resent us, and swear Jihad against us even more vehemently.

Of course, it’s a fact that you didn’t ask us for our help.  We, in our benevolent and humanitarian arrogance decided we would “help” you.  We would “rescue” you from your medieval cultural backwardness and tribal hatreds.  We decided to “spare you” from the great evil of the Taliban and al-Queda who hid in your midst.  Surely, we thought, the majority of Afghans can’t believe in nor support what these two groups have done?   9/11, 7/7, terror attacks that have killed thousands – no!  The Afghans, whom we aided to overthrow the Soviet invaders 25 years ago, couldn’t possibly want these people among them.
A decade later, a trillion dollars thrown down that rat-hole, and the Afghans are still shooting our soldiers in the back over a few pages of ink on paper.  There is no escape for them from their unenlightened, backward, hate-filled religio-ideology. 

How about this?

When Muslims apologize for intentionally confiscating ALL Christian’s Bibles as they enter a Muslim Country and destroying them, THEN we will apologize for accidentally destroying a few Q’urans.
When Muslims apologize for all the Christian Churches they have burned down across the Middle East (and the world), we will CONSIDER not bombing the crap out of every Mosque and Madrassah where Jihadists shoot at our soldiers and hide their weapons and munitions believing the Americans would NEVER “desecrate” their “holy place.”

When Muslims can’t even handle editorial cartoons about their “prophet” and kill people due to what they draw or right, how do they expect to be accepted as a part of the civilized world?  Truth is, they DON’T.  Of course, they are accepted by the son of the Kenyan national – a Muslim, by the way (the Kenyan national I mean) – and his followers, but they are NOT accepted by those who understand and uphold the foundations and principles of Western Civilization.  To receive Muslims as civilized nations is to take a serpent into the bosom of the international community.  It would be the certain death of Western Civilization. 

Correction – it IS the death of Western Civilization.  We are surely dying the death of a serpents strike, and it’s not even by a direct or solid bite.  We’re just being bled, the poison slowly working its way through out our system. 

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will never apologize for the killing of our soldiers, though he insists on our apology for the inadvertent burning of a few Q’uran’s.  He will talk big, rail against us, snuggle up to the Taliban leadership hiding in Pakistan – and surreptitiously supported by extreme elements of the Pakistani Government – and wait until we leave.  Then he will become just another enemy, another massive waste of US Taxpayers money.

What could have been done right has been done wrong. 

In the initial days after 9/11, many in the world feared that President George W. Bush would nuke the nation or nations found to have harbored and supported the terrorists that carried out those devastating attacks.  It was rumored that this was the first “gut reaction” Bush had regarding what to do to those behind the attacks.  Looking back, hindsight is 20/20.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Whole Duty of Man

Ecclesiastes 12

 1Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

 2While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

 3In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

 4And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

 5Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

 6Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

 7Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

 8Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

 9And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.

 10The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.

 11The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

 12And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

 13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

 14For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Value of Diligence

Ecclesiastes 11

 1Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

 2Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

 3If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

 4He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

 5As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

 6In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

 7Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:

 8But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.

 9Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

 10Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

More Treasure Mined from the Vanity of Life

Ecclesiastes 10

 1Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.

 2A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left.

 3Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.

 4If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.

 5There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler:

 6Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.

 7I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.

 8He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.

 9Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.

 10If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.

 11Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.

 12The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.

 13The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.

 14A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?

 15The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.

 16Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!

 17Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!

 18By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.

 19A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.

 20Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Death and Depravity in a world of Vanity

Ecclesiastes 9

 1For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.

 2All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.

 3This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

 4For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

 5For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

 6Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.

 7Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.

 8Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.

 9Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.

 10Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

 11I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

 12For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

 13This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:

 14There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:

 15Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.

 16Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

 17The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.

 18Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Enduring the Vanities of Men and Life

Ecclesiastes 8

 1Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.

 2I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.

 3Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.

 4Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?

 5Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment.

 6Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.

 7For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?

 8There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.

 9All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.

 10And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.

 11Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

 12Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:

 13But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.

 14There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.

 15Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.

 16When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)

 17Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Proverbs for a Vain World

Ecclesiastes 7

 1A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

 2It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

 3Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.

 4The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

 5It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.

 6For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.

 7Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.

 8Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

 9Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.

 10Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.

 11Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.

 12For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.

 13Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?

 14In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.

 15All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.

 16Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself ?

 17Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?

 18It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.

 19Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.

 20For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

 21Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:

 22For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.

 23All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.

 24That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?

 25I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:

 26And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

 27Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account:

 28Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.

 29Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Value of Longevity, Labor and Children

Ecclesiastes 6

 1There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:

 2A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.

 3If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.

 4For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.

 5Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.

 6Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?

 7All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.

 8For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?

 9Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

 10That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.

 11Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?

 12For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Vanity of Riches for the Sake of Riches

Ecclesiastes 5

 1Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

 2Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

 3For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.

 4When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.

 5Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

 6Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?

 7For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.

 8If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.

 9Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.

 10He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.

 11When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?

 12The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.

 13There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.

 14But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.

 15As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.

 16And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?

 17All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.

 18Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.

 19Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.

 20For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.