Ecclesiastes: An Apology of Wisdom

A term paper I recently submitted in my OT Survey Class. I hope you enjoy:

As with any question of interpretation or of origin to any biblical text, many variants are sure to present themselves. There is no shortage of variables when it comes to the discussion of the book of Ecclesiastes. This paper seeks to find balance by accurately portraying some of the prominent differing views while offering a position that postulates the purpose of the book to be the ancient equivalent of a  modern day apologetic work created for a specific group of people. That specific group would consist of ancient Jewish sage-like self-professed disciples of Solomon. The overall purpose of the book is meant to invite the reader into the knowledge of the peace of God by knowing the fear of God which transcends the vanities incumbent of mortal beings by producing hope and meaning of eternal significance.

Much can be learned about the nature of the book of Ecclesiastes by asking questions of its authorship. No final consensus exists as to who wrote the book. For most of church history, many have placed Solomon as its author because of the clear appeal to royalty found in the opening chapters. There is also a strong desire on the part of the ancient church and Jewish rabbis to tie all the wisdom literature directly to that which comes from Solomon’s pen, and rightfully so. Seemingly direct references to Solomon’s authorship appear in verses 1:1, 1:12, 1:16, and 2:9. In these verses are found phrases like “the son of David, king in Jerusalem,”1:1;  “king over Israel in Jerusalem,”  v.12; “surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me,” v. 16; cf. 2:9. It would be hard for any reader to read these passages and not come to the conclusion that Solomon is the author as these titles would fit nicely with his office in Israel’s history. Although, conflicts arise in later portions of the text where the speech used doesn’t seem to fit well with the historical setting in which the king would have wrote. For those who seek to keep Solomon as the author, there are reasonable explanations for the style differences that are found between the unique form utilized in Ecclesiastes in contrast with other of Solomon’s wisdom literature. Some propose possible explanations theorizing that Solomon was in his elder years when he wrote Ecclesiastes; this supposedly speaks either to the skeptic tone that can be traced through the text as well as to the profound insight in the author’s capability to cast the complexities of life compatibly with the fear God while still promoting the enjoyment of life. Another proposal for giving reason to the different styles while maintaining Solomon authorship comes by analyzing the purpose and occasion for taking up the writing of Ecclesiastes itself. This paper takes the stance that the work is apologetic and not so much written in the same way a proverbial/poetic book serves the believing community. It is no wonder that each work one writes carries certain presuppositions which directly affect the tone and approach of his work; each varying purpose of writing demands a unique writing style and the tone the Preacher takes is one of argumentation.

Solomon’s authorship comes into question by skeptics mainly in their historical dating approach of the book and in their rigid analyzing of its lyrical form. Many argue that the content used strays further than most other forms of pre-exilic text and this conclusion forces such form critics to normally place the date somewhere around the 300BC period, thereby throwing away the idea that Solomon could be the author. Lasor puts it this way: “Protestant scholars since Luther’s time have tended to date Qoheleth [Preacher] much later than Solomon. The rabbis’ view of Solomon’s authorship was based on their literal interpretation of 1:1 and their tendency to tie Solomon’s name to all wisdom literature: he was viewed as master sage” (Lasor, 498). Lasor sides with the textual critics for a most interesting reason. He asserts that Qoheleth clothed himself in “Solomon’s garb” to grab the attention of those who would claim to be followers of Solomon; then he digs in and challenges these followers through his  most unique form of argumentation (Lasor, 500). Such a motive resounds with the likeness of much of the New Testament’s call to professing believers to test themselves, to make their calling and election sure…such is the motive of any good and weighty apologetic work. There is much to be said in terms of form criticism and what can be learned from that process when it comes to engaging the text of scripture. Indeed, much effort has been spent toward these ends and “While these redactional observations advance our understanding of the literature, the larger theological implications for interpreting Qoheleth remain relatively unexplored” (Shepherd, 182).

Putting questions of authorship aside and looking closely at the way the author speaks, one can begin to better determine its purpose. Douglass Miller, in his paper The Rhetoric of Ecclesiastes provides a useful summery that speaks to five different views on the purpose of the book of which I analyze and breakdown below, I also add the apologetic method of understanding not found in his list:

  1. A Repentant King. A very early understanding of the book’s purpose. In line with Solomon’s own story, this approach of understanding assumes Solomon writes the book with a repentant heart and warns of the folly and consequence of the mistakes he himself had made.
  2. The Ascetic. Also a very early understanding. This view is one that seeks to correct perspectives onto the right view of humanity in its own mortality and how eternity is right around the corner. Using that weight of mortality then to call its readers to deny themselves in preparation for the afterlife. The challenge for some with this view is in seeing the emphatic call of Qoheleth to enjoy life on the earth. The rejection mentioned here seems to be a rigid form of complete self-denial of pleasures in this life; a theme the Preacher heavily contradicts.
  3. The Bitter Skeptic. A new understanding developed within the past two centuries. This view sees Qoheleth as a cynic rambling his frustrations with a world not as it should be. This method forces the placing of any positive affirmations of Qoheleth’s views on life, which directly contradicts this thesis, to be of later editing. Though appealing to post-modern scholars, this understanding is not at all viable for God-fearing scholars.
  4. The Preacher of Joy. This view is also a new understanding which attempts to be compatible with the problems that arise from the purely skeptic approach. While the author is still a cynic, his purpose is to encourage others to see the joy in life by realizing the absurdities (vanities) that come with life. The problem remains though that life itself is said to be vain in the book and this approach doesn’t seem to capture that complexity.
  5. The Realist. A more modern nuance to the earliest two forms of understanding. This approach seeks to allow for the complexities of life to enter into the whole of human experience not subjected to cynicism. It also gives the repentant king and the ascetic voice their own valid rhetorical framework (Miller 216-221). This view also fails to bring into balance the sovereignty of God over time and over mankind who operate under the sun as His creatures.
  6. The Apologist. Many scholars believe that the book itself is apologetic in nature, as Dr. Sproul’s commentary on the book suggests:

“Ecclesiastes has been understood as an apologetic work, an attempt to recommend faith in God to unbelievers by               way of answering negative arguments. While the book’s teaching may be used in evangelism, most Jewish and                     Christian interpreters have understood Ecclesiastes to be addressed to God’s people, rather than to those who are               ignorant of God or in rebellion against Him. The book is God’s wise counsel to those who know His ways but have                 found them at times to be frustrating and perplexing” (Sproul,1074).

Lasor further draws such an apologetic parallel when he writes:

“His strategies [the Preacher’s] are to capture his reader’s attention and to use the circumstances of Solomon to                   probe ironically the weaknesses in his fellow sages’ teachings. (Lasor, 500).

As is much of the tradition of the inspired writers of God’s Word, the force by which the books come down to us is meant to shatter man-centered views of the position of God in the universe. God’s Word consistently places God at the center of His creation and commands men everywhere to get off the throne of their own hearts. In his own commentary, Dr. Constable comments that this is the very purpose of the book, that the reader would “develop a God-centered worldview and recognize the dangers of a self-centered worldview” (Constables, 3). Truly, most misunderstandings of the Word of God fall into this dilemma: man’s underestimation of God and man’s overestimation of man. I thought it interesting how much the proposed Ascetic purpose resonated with me in light of how the whole testimony of scripture speaks to man’s frailty in the scope of eternity, and how we are but a breadth, a vapor. I agree with Miller’s observation that this construct, in its rigid form of abstaining from pleasure to prepare for the next life misses the book’s call to also enjoy this present life; but at the same time I hear the consistent scriptural emphasis to repent, for the time draws near. Death and pleasure are both unapologetically on the lips of the Preacher in order to bring a much needed sense of urgency to the reader’s heart. As Ringe rightly points out in his journal article entitled Enjoyment and Mortality: The Interplay of Death and Possessions in Qoheleth, “Qoheleth displays an intense interest in the interplay of death and possessions. No other book in the Hebrew Bible gives as much attention to the intersection of these two motifs” (Ringe, 265).

To reflect on the word vanity in the context of my own life in general is a complex process. As one who is redeemed in Christ, who knows the weight of Paul’s arguments that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Plil 1:21), there is a temporary lens one can look through and observe that indeed, much of life’s ordinary experience could be construed as prospects of vanity. One who is not delighting in the Lord, who is not refreshed by His infinite Word, can easily look upon the functions on earth and tire of its repetition. I look at my book shelf and think, “what good will attaining an abundant wealth of knowledge be to me 3,000 years from now.” Yet a calm fear sets in knowing that God has the answer to that question, and that there is purpose in it. Everyone, to one degree or another has at one point had a mother. Mothers are so common that one can tire of seeing mothers do the things that mothers do. Yet, a mother who trusts in the Lord and not in her understanding, though she may observer her labor is near exactly mirroring 4,000 other mothers in the same way, and in the same time all throughout the world, she will see the purpose and meaning in what she does even if it is extremely frustrating at times. Why? Because the Lord who determined that there be motherhood in the human experience opens her eyes to see its value and the dignity that is intrinsic to that office. This same Lord opens my eyes to see the value in growing in knowledge and understanding though at times I grow weary and struggle with an extremely frustrating proneness to laziness.

It is interesting that much time is spent by the preacher on the subject of time, and of the position “under the sun.” Us creatures who live under the sun are bound by time, we are governed by it and we measure time by the sun. The sun itself provides guidance and light to the human family completely apart from man’s own control. It is no coincidence that “The Preacher teaches that man’s activities are ordered by God’s timing” (Sermon 1). Who is under the sun if not all who walk upon the entire earth? Does one who walks in the righteousness of Christ walk under the sun in the same way that an unbeliever does? Yes & no. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Yet the just have knowledge that the unjust do not. Coming to grips with the brevity of God’s sovereignty over creation, even over the salvation of men’s souls is most beneficial when trials come the Christian’s way. Shane’s online article draws from a classic commentary on Ecclesiastes which speaks to this awesome sovereign trait of God working through life’s complexities: “This awareness coexists with a firm belief in God – whose power, justice, and unpredictability are sovereign” (Lems citing Fox’s commentary).

Faith in the God of the Bible is not always best kept to a simple and surface level understanding; Qoheleth’s seemingly realist slant is meant to guide teachers of the believing community to acknowledge and allow for the inevitable complexities and frustrations bound to challenge one’s faith. One could be sure that this preacher would agree with the Apostle Paul, whose theology drove him to use a phrase like “rejoice in our sufferings,” a joy that believers must tap into if they hope to weather the storms that are sure to come (Romans 5:4 ESV). The fear of the Lord is of the greatest value, for it puts into perspective the greatness of God and the futility of man. The sage wisdom that permeates from the Preacher is not that man is purposeless in all his thriving and suffering, but that he ought find all his purposes ultimately in his Maker.

Works Cited

ESV: Study Bible : English Standard Version. ESV Text ed. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2007. Print.

Lasor, William Sanford. Old Testament Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1996. Print.

Lems, Shane. “The Reformed Reader.” The Reformed Reader. 9 May 2015. Web. 15 June 2015.

Miller, Douglas B. “What The Preacher Forgot: The Rhetoric Of Ecclesiastes.” Catholic Biblical   Quarterly 62.2 (2000): 215. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 June 2015.

Rindge, Matthew S. “Mortality And Enjoyment: The Interplay Of Death And Possessions In Qoheleth.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 73.2 (2011): 265-280. ATLA Religion   Database with ATLASerials. Web. 14 June 2015.

Sermon 1 by unknown author. “God Made Everything Beautiful in Its Time.” Pasig Covenant Reformed Church. 13 Jan. 2011. Web. 15 June 2015.

Sheppard, Gerald T. “Epilogue To Qoheleth As Theological Commentary.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 39.2 (1977): 182-189. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 14 June 2015.

Sproul, R. C. The Reformation Study Bible; ESV. Orlando: Ligonier Ministries ; Reformation Trust, 2015. Print.

Stress – A Threaded Discussion

So, I just posted in a threaded discussion and before I forget about it I thought I’d share it with the blogoshpere as I haven’t posted in over a month. The context for this post was in response to an evaluation where I scored super high on a stress test…I hope you enjoy 🙂

I scored a stress level of 26 on the report! Well, it must have to do with the timing I find myself in my career. I wear a lot of hats in my current profession, and at times the task I’m responsible to complete do overwhelm me. Currently, something that has been weighing heavily on my mind is a sequence that I need to coordinate where I order (62) pre-fabricated wall panels (roughly 19′ tall x 8′ wide) to be shop fabricated in a warehouse in northern NY and delivered to my job-site in Eastern CT. These panels will then have to be lifted by crane along with my 6 man crew (who truly need to be on their toes as far a safety measures are concerned) on a very busy job-site with other trades trying to get their work completed. I’m super excited about this task, but unfortunately, it is only one of at least 15 others that I could probably rattle off the top of head. Stressed? Yes! In my opinion, this is why we have beer, (I just took a sip).

In all seriousness though, when I read the article regarding how the practicing of religion in general supposedly helps aid in reducing the effects of stress I couldn’t help but feel unsettled. True religion is to look after the voiceless and the broken, to bring the offensive message of the cross before a crown, one of repentance before acceptance, this too can be stressful and darn right ought to lead to persecution from this ungodly world. God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I don’t deny that I get stressed, but prayer is powerful and God truly does give me the grace to siphon through and prioritize my life so that I don’t go crazy. My flesh constantly warns me of burn out, yet when I dwell on the things of God (mainly by filling my crazy amount of driving time between jobs to listen to sermons in my car) God sustains me and in my weakness He is my strength.

What Makes a Man a Hero?

Check this post out on RC Sproul Jrs feed:

I’ve been blessed, over the years, to teach a number of the Great Works courses at Reformation Bible College. It is my contention that we ought to cover the great books of western civilization not so we can prepare our students to join in what some call the “great conversation,” that back and forth over…

A Child’s Witness

A child’s unrestrained unction will test an adults perception of their own boldness. What do I consider bold? I’m a grown man now, and I sometimes think myself bold for sharing my faith in public. My oldest son Abe, who is now 4, is challenging me on this issue. I try to teach my children about God’s character, not just some of them but all of the characteristics of God revealed in scripture. His Holiness, perfection, law, mercy, patience, grace and love, etc. I teach them that Christ came to save sinners from hell and gives the only true hope for eternal life. I have tracts around the house that I bought from Ray Comfort’s Living Waters ministry that challenge people to consider if they think they are good when compared to God’s law. Abe is fascinated with these tracts and asks me to read them to him often. 

Abe talks loudly.  Sometimes he asks questions about the fear of God, death, sin, the unseen and a whole litany of other subjects because we constantly talk about them. My younger boy is starting to do the same, he is about to turn 3. Sometimes these discussions will erupt in public places, recently one did at the local diner. I have to be honest, there is an impulse of the flesh that wants to silence a loud child who is talking of any uncommon subject in public, especially when the subject is about God. Most grown people honestly just don’t want God in their thinking. A lesson I’m learning is that a child who is taught of God will not hesitate to talk about Him aloud, anywhere. As Christ reminds the believer in the scriptures, let the little children come to me. Holy Spirit subdue this flesh that strives to remain passive along with the rest of culture. 

So I find myself asking the question, is this phenomenon a coincidence? Is this not an exceptionally well timed testing of my faith? Here is the reality, my child’s faith challenges me to always be ready to talk to my neighbor about the hope that is in me; I can see this child will not hesitate to bring Him up in public discourse at anytime and in any place. Will I brush my boys’ comments to the side and choose to talk about the whether or will I use them as an opportunity to witness to Christ, teach them in public and proclaim the forgiveness of sins to this world? Lord have mercy, for if I’m honest I’ve probably elected to do the former 9 times out of 10. Not necessarily due to unbelief but most likely due to my own laziness. 

Abe has been invited by a friend from his nursery school to a birthday party. Of his friends from school, this will be Abe’s very first party he attends and he is super excited. He wants to give his pal those gospel tracts as part of his gift. He is super enthusiastic about giving these tracts to his friend because he considers the message contained in there to be good news. Abe has told me that I might need to read them to his friend because he can’t read yet. So my teaching my boy is producing fruit and now opportunity is presenting itself to me in that I have been given an objective witness to my son’s friend’s parents. I am encouraging him to give the tracts and am now praying for boldness to share the gospel at this birthday party when I go with him. I do sense the flesh wanting to object at so many points here, but it must be slayed at every one of them and I will not even give rise to its arguments. God willing, these parents of Abe’s friend will get the gospel through my son’s witness, through me and through those tracts. 

As I reflect on a child’s faith, which both Abe and Caleb are starting to display more and more, they are not quick to hesitate to have God in their thinking or on their lips like most adults are. They are coming to Christ and I can see that Christ doesn’t turn the little ones away. I know this world will certainly challenge them to be silent as it does me, but I better not do such a thing. Just the other day Caleb pointed to the moon when we got out of the car and shouted, “look daddy, God put that there!” I am thankful to see that my children hear me when I speak and understand what I say in the privacy of our home. The duty given to me now is to continue the discussion whenever and wherever we find ourselves, inviting whoever into it. They aren’t afraid to ask questions in my house or in public and I intend to keep it that way. The easy thing to do would be not to give real answers but to silence their inquiries and avoid the work of finding real responses. To hush their excitement. 

As a Christian father, I now see parenting partially designed to help parents grow in the area of witnessing. Will we have faith like a child? Will we be excited to talk about God wherever the opportunity arises? I pray that me and my wife will be enabled to do so by God’s grace, for in this work is wisdom, joy and blessing. 

The Heat is in the Tools

Up here in the frigid northeast, us Yankees and our near neighbors find ourselves in the brunt of winter. Howling winds, piled snow banks, broken shovels, dried skin, salty white roads, large heating bills and comforting hot drinks come to mind. If the constant drumbeat of the hardships that winter bring don’t stir ones desire for spring then the cold drafts that sneak through every hidden crack in your exterior wall making their way under your comfy living room chair might do the trick. Spring is becoming more and more like a dream in this frozen arena. A dream I know I can hope for is a comforting one.

In my mid 30s now, I think it’s safe to say I’m over my obsession with the playfulness of snow. As a married father of two young children and with a more balanced list of priorities, a constant agenda of riding on top of the white fluffy stuff is a thing of the past. Although, I do see opportunity to teach my boys the trade. My oldest (4 years old) has already made it down my slightly sloped back yard on a snow board without falling 2 years in a row now. I’ve mentioned the mountain in passing to him and he can’t wait to go. I laugh when I think about the expressions on his face when I first tried to explain to him what a chair-lift is. If only I could get a painting of the imagery my description produced in his little fruitful mind! I’d probable see something like my living room reclining chair with rocket boosting arms that can fly people up the mountain. Art deserving of a frame for sure.

While I’m ready for spring and seemingly more and more prone to find myself singing along with the anti-winter choir, I can’t help but think I should be feeding my children’s hunger to play in the snow. What an awful pull and at the same time a rewarding task. In my experience as a carpenter who worked through many winters I know what the slogan means that “the heat is in the tools.” Maybe a modified slogan can apply to those with children trying to stave this windy winter, “the heat is in the parenting.”

Believers, Be Bold

“so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (‭Colossians‬ ‭1‬:‭10‬ NASB)

What is knowledge that “puffs up?” How does one increase in the “knowledge of God” apart from studying His written Word? If someone says that this knowledge of God is found outside the written Word there is a term used for such a person, it’s called a heretic. We really need to stop mystifying Christianity. Knowledge is knowledge. You either know Christ or you don’t. You either understand His Word or you don’t.

God has made the wisdom of this world foolish. This simply means that this world knows it now stands condemned and those who belong to Christ can easily see through its foolish attempts to suppress this truth which they cannot escape.

Be bold believers. Be full of the Spirit to proclaim the good news to the captives. Concern ourselves not of our reputation. We need to teach our children who Christ is and use every opportunity to show them their sin as well as ours. We are sinners saved by grace, not that we should continue in sin but rather develop a holy hatred of it. Let us give all for Christ. Let us walk in His righteousness. Let us love others with a sincere love. God help us.

Thanksgiving in Canada

I very much enjoyed time away from home this past week to spend with my wife’s family in Canada. It was the same as it is every year; the sound of rushed footsteps sweeping in and out the kitchen, the chatter of several voices chiming in to discuss random topics, children triumphantly pushing the boundaries of every perceivable obstacle they can imagine, abounding laughter over several games of competitive euchre, and the constant temptation of each festive meals’ aroma which are prepared every morning, noon and night. What a joy to experience it all with love and grace in my heart enabling me to catch the beauty going on in all these precious moments. Much love to my family in Canada, you all thoroughly blessed me this Thanksgiving, I’m truly thankful for all of you.

Grace to Teach

How does one lovingly stand up for the truth if the truth being stood upon is offensive to someone? Is it more loving to remain silent rather to instruct? Is it more noble to be passive or vocal? How will they learn if they are not taught?

A good teacher ought to strive to be gentle while not compromising. In the context of the hard things in scripture, Christians need grace and the power of the Holy Spirit in order to do this. We would be fooling ourselves if we think for one second we are able to do this without His help. With man this is impossible, but in Christ all things are possible. Lord, send me grace to finish this race unto my last breath and let Your will be done!

Our Great Assurance

God preserving His saints is not some abstract and ancient doctrine that is irrelevant to the modern Christian’s walk. God powerfully displays this function of His in the here and now for His children. The scripture teaches that none who belong to the Father can be snatched from His hand. These words of Christ bring me great comfort in the context of my salvation, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (ESV, John.10.27). Considering the truth I’ll be sharing in this paper, my testimony of becoming a Christian has a few crises moments within it that should make any honest person’s hair stand up. It is my joy to share this testimony in hopes that those who may struggle with doubt can see the great hope that is ours in the Lord; assurance of salvation is something we can and should rest in.

The memory of my radical conversion takes me back to a setting of an aged apartment complex in Winter Park, Florida. It was the year 2001, and I was nearing the end of a long year in school working toward my Associates degree. I had been living like most college students who lack discipline, without the fear of God, and for anything and everything that felt right in the moment. I was not un-churched at this point in my life, in fact, I had spent many years in Christian youth groups and had made a profession of faith in Christ many times. I was determined to live a wild life style because there were no boundaries imposed upon me by God fearing people. Winter Park, Florida is a long way away from Hyde Park, NY. Living loosely without being held accountable to anyone was certainly what I perceived everyone else was doing and it is what my heart desired.

On a particular night in the fall of 2001, the level of my rebellion against all that is good and holy had peaked. All alone in my room, high and perverting my heart away on the internet, I sensed a quickening of conviction within the uttermost parts of my being. The brevity of this conviction was so real and tangible that I dared to speak audibly into the silent air of my bedroom room and ask, “God is that You, do You see me?” I can’t say that I heard an audible “Yes” but everything in me knew that I was in the presence of Holiness and that my behavior was completely unacceptable before Him! I fell to my knees and sobbed out tears of shame and remorse, for my atrocious and sinful behavior was exposed. I was broken hearted to think of how displeasing I was before my Holy God who was confronting me! In this moment of sorrow I remembered a name, a name that I’ve heard others claim can save, the name of Jesus! I cried out for Jesus to save me from these horrible sins and burdens of sorrow. What happened next was remarkable. I sensed all my shame, all my guilt, and all my sorrow taken off from me and my heart was instantly infused with uncontrollable joy and laughter. I laughed for what must have been twenty or thirty minutes reveling in the reality of salvation that had come to me. I remember as the laughter died down as if I had walked through a spiritual door, as one born into a new realm of existence. This was surely new birth, I was born again!

Needles to say, I was sober and in my right mind instantly. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I knew about my conversion experience. I remember being in a relationship with a girl at the time this happened; however, she didn’t want anything to do with my Jesus. Where I was unable to end the wrong relationship in my own strength, God through the Holy Spirit within me ended it very fast; for my heart now desired purity where before it was bent primarily toward the lusts of the flesh. The Word of God became my best friend, and I grew in the knowledge of the Lord for several years without slipping into sinful habits that very much plagued me beforehand.

As I grew older in the Lord I found myself searching for like minded brothers and sisters who had come to know Christ in a similar way that I had. I began to assume that everyone who is a professing Christian must have experienced such a radical conversion as me. Subconsciously I was gradually becoming more and more disappointed that no one I knew seemed to be able to relate to my experience. What I didn’t realize then, in my searching for some formula conversion experience others could relate to, was that I had lost sight of the finest point of my conversion: the Holiness of God meeting me in my depravity, yet showing me grace solely based upon the merits of Christ. (Justification by faith alone is so much more than a reformed doctrine to me, it is extremely personal!)

This distraction away from the Holiness of God led me into a mindset of doubt. I gradually became more liberal in my thinking toward the scriptures, forgetting my first love. I cowered in fear at the many popular post-modern arguments posited against the scriptures, and I had no capacity to defend the faith against all its opponents. When the enemy can get a believer to doubt the Word of God, he has effectively rendered him or her sidelined and off the playing field. That was me, I fizzled out and became about as passionate for Christ as a kite is without wind. I fell for the ancient trap of the serpent, “did God actually say” was the poisonous question being posed; my root in the scriptures wasn’t sufficient to survive my enemy’s attack (Gen 3.1).

Sin began to creep back into my life, for I lowered my guard down and found myself getting ensnared again to things Christ had once already defeated in me. Thank God that He is for His children and not against them! “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3.9). In retrospect, it becomes clear that it is truly God’s kindness that leads to repentance. There was a sense that I knew I couldn’t keep going on in my sin. I would fall seven times a day but there always remained a sense of conviction in me. No matter how hard I may have tried to suppress those convictions, they relentlessly pursued me.

I began to cry out to God for help. I remember praying prayers persistently pleading to have my passion restored for the scriptures. In these prayers I remember telling God how I hated my sin and needed help. I was honest with Him, and I told Him I couldn’t break the habits without His power working in me. Hunger for truth and righteousness were growing desires that He restored to me. He answered my prayers in the form of reformed preacher’s podcasts! I started listening to countless hours of sermons and lectures on topics like: the Holiness of God, Regeneration, Preservation of the saints, a High View of Scripture, Apologetics, Church History, and all sorts of deep theological topics. My confidence in the scriptures was being restored through the exposition of sound doctrine. Soon after, the authority of the scriptures began to become my delight.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111.10). God has caused me to delight in Him in all His ways. I believe that all knowledge is of the Lord, and when we practice excellence unto the glory of His name, we get to enjoy Him as we do it! This hunger for truth started about two years ago and has led me to Lee University. My desires are to show myself tested and approved to rightly handle the Word of God, grow in my knowledge of my Christian heritage, and further develop the skills I’ll need to advance in whatever area God wills me to go next. Being able to trust His Word is being able to see His promises. Great assurance of salvation is available to all who fully trust in the scriptures. My prayer is that I become an efficient expositor of the Scriptures for His excellence, unto the glory of His great name. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3. 16-17).

Parenting, Sacrifice, and Adulthood

Parenting my children can be draining at times. My two boys, both who are under five years of age, seem to have more energy as a day lingers on than I do at day’s dawn. Some evenings after work I’ll exhaustively get down on the floor with them and push play-dough into plastic molds pretending we are banishing evil armies while freeing damsels in distress. Other times I retreat to my living room chair always keeping a close eye on the clock so I can be sure to have them in bed by 7:30 PM prompt. Getting my boys to bed reserves me some respite and releases me to an early retirement in my own comfortable mattress. Balancing responsibilities while establishing right priorities is the challenge. By God’s grace I pray He equips me to train my boys in the way they should go despite my persistently fleeting ambition to properly parent.

​So much efforts is exerted each day in my workplace; when I come home to my family, the temptation for my soft chair in the living room tends to lures me in. The fabric on the arms of my chair are well worn down from much use, and the springs in the seat ring and pop each time I sit. There is a small, round button on the right hand of the chair that engages the reclining function. It does not take much effort to push in the button. In fact, my boys have learned how easy it is to press on it. Seeing the legs fly forward as a result of their effort has brought many wide smiles to both their faces. This extended chair provided for many climbing adventures on “Mount Daddy” for both my boys. I couldn’t have been more pleased with these types of games. Getting to enjoy the presence of my boys while also relaxing in the comfort of my favorite seat was a pleasure that has not lasted long enough!

​One day my oldest son Abe, pulling me off my chair with his left hand grabbing my pinky and his right hand wrapped around my pointer finger, asked me, “Daddy, why do you go to work every day?” As he pulled me into the playroom, I directed him to look on the floor where there is a white metal grate, and I asked him, “Do you know what that is Abe?” “That’s the heater daddy,” he replied. I had him get closer and put his hand over the vent so he could feel the warm air pushing up against his palm. “Daddy goes to work to keep that air coming through that vent nice and warm in the winter time,” I said. Abe’s eyebrows pushed a little closer together. I could see his face puzzling over what I had just told him. It was almost as if there were two thousand more questions he would have wanted to ask. We went on to talk about all the bills involved with heating and cooling our home. I have observed to my surprise and amusement that such discussions are seemingly precious to my children; I’m continually amazed at what they seem to remember most.

​My favorite time spent with the boys is when I sing to them in their beds at bedtime. My oldest child started the trend, but Caleb catching on very quickly by watching his older brother chimes in almost every night saying, “Daddy, we want a new song. Sing a bran, bran, bran, bran new one!” Their soft, little hands reach out to grab hold of mine, and I begin to sing new songs on the fly. Sometimes I sing about events that took place that day or about things that make them laugh. One song in particular, that the boys get a kick out of, is about elephants that jump from balloon to balloon; my arm acts as the elephant’s trunk that tickles them when a random balloon pops in the middle of the song. Most of the time I try to sing about the greatness of the God of the Bible. It is such a blessing to sing into their lives. Many times these songs will last until they are sound asleep, and we will have covered topics like the crucifixion, resurrection, salvation, forgiveness of sins, and many more Christian themes; I liken it to sowing the seed of the gospel through spiritual songs.

​I could use a daily reminder to treasure the moments I have with my little ones. Sadly, most nights of the work week only allow for two or three hours spent with my boys before bed time, and some days I fear those hours are not spent well. I’m blessed to have a wife who helps as much as she can (who also knows my struggle as she is a full time nurse) and challenges me to make the most of the time. One thing I’ve learned is that in order for me to truly enjoy my children requires a certain level of self sacrifice. Giving up comfort and ease is not high on any persons agenda, but parenting has a sure fire way of purging laziness, propelling maturity, and promoting adulthood.