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    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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SOLOMON

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

“It is worthwhile to listen to what Solomon has to say…and to listen carefully to what so experienced a man as Solomon has to say to young men. But I must remind you that a greater than Solomon is here, for the Spirit of God inspired the Proverbs! They are not merely jewels from earthly mines, but they are also precious treasures from the heavenly hills, so that the advice we have, here, is not only the counsel of a wise man, but the advice of that Incarnate Wisdom who speaks to us out of the Word of God! Would you become the sons of wisdom? Come and sit at the feet of Solomon! Would you become spiritually wise? Come and hear what the Spirit of God has to say by the mouth of this wise man!” (1895, Sermon #2406)

BE SLOW TO ANGER

Anger“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20 ESV)

“Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9 ESV)

Invited by a friend, Joe attends a party where someone accidentally bumps into his arm causing Joe’s drink to spill on his slacks and shoes. The person apologizes and offers to pay for Joe’s pants to be cleaned, but Joe starts shouting and cursing. Joe then tries to pick a fight with the man, but others restrain him. Joe’s uncontrolled and foolish anger will leave behind stressed relationships and the possibility of legal problems. It is his quickness to become angry, when frustrated, that blocks Joe’s reason from resolving his problems in a rational manner.

In the philosophy courses I took as an undergraduate, we were taught that anger prevents a rational argument. Clear thinking is lost in the fog of emotion. Even people who comment on blogs and articles on the internet often cannot express their opposing opinions without descending into ad hominem attacks, verbal abuse and defamation. Continue reading

Thoughts Determine Character

The Pursuit of HolinessJerry Bridges:

The Bible indicates that our thought lives ultimately determine our character. Solomon said, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is”. (The Pursuit of Holiness, p. 116)

Worldly Wealth and Honor

Sometimes I think it is good to meditate on the short span of our lives here on earth. “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” (Hebrews 1:10-12 ESV) Thomas Adams writes:

‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’ (Heb. 13:8)

His wrath is short, his goodness is everlasting. ‘The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee,’ verse 10. The mountains are stable things, the hills steadfast; yet hills, mountains, yea the whole earth, shall totter on its foundations; yea the very ‘heavens shall pass away with a noise, and the elements shall melt with heat,’ 2 Pet. 3:10; but the covenant of God shall not be broken. . . .

As this meditation distills into our believing hearts much comfort, so let it give us some instructions. [It readily teaches us a dissuasive caution.]

It dissuades our confidence in worldly things, because they are inconstant. . . Solomon compares wealth to a wild fowl. ‘Riches make themselves wings, they fly away as an eagle toward heaven,’ Proverbs 23:5. Not some tame house-bird, or a hawk that may be fetched down with a lure, or found again by her bells; but an eagle, that violently cuts the air, and is gone past recalling.

Wealth is like a bird; it hops all day from man to man, as a bird doth from tree to tree; and none can say where it will roost or rest at night. It is like a vagrant fellow, which because he is big-boned, and able to work, a man takes in a-doors, and keeps him warm; and perhaps for a while he works hard; but when he spies opportunity, the fugitive servant is gone, and makes away more with him than all his service came to. The world may seem to stand thee in some stead for a season, but at last it irrevocably runs away, and carries with it thy joys; thy goods, as Rachel stole Laban’s idols; thy peace and content of heart goes with it, and thou art left desperate.

You see how quickly riches cease to be ‘the same:’ and can any other earthly thing boast more stability? Honor must put off its robes when the play is done; make it never so glorious a show on this world’s stage, it hath but a short part to act. A great name of worldly glory is but like a peal rung on the bells; the common people are the clappers; the rope that moves them is popularity; if you once let go your hold and leave pulling, the clapper lies still, and farewell honor. (“The Immutable Mercy of Jesus Christ”)

God’s Certain Knowledge

According to Thomas Boston:

Has God decreed all things that come to pass? Then there is nothing that falls out by chance, nor are we to ascribe what we meet with either to good or bad luck and fortune. There are many events in the world which men look upon as mere accidents, yet all these come by the counsel and appointment of Heaven. Solomon tells us, Prov. 16:33. that “the lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.” However disordered and fortuitous things may be with respect to us, yet they are all determined and directed by the Lord. When that man drew a bow at random, 1 Kings 22:34, it was merely accidental with respect to him, yet it was God that guided the motion of the arrow so as to strike the king of Israel rather than any other man. Nothing then comes to pass, however random and uncertain it may seem to be, but what was decreed by God.

Hence we see God’s certain knowledge of all things that happen in the world, seeing his knowledge is founded on his decree. As he sees all things possible in the telescope of his own power, so he sees all things to come in the telescope of his own will; of his effecting will, if he hath decreed to produce them; and of his permitting will, if he hath decreed to allow them. Therefore his declaration of things to come is founded on his appointing them Isa 44:7, “And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them.” He foreknows the most necessary things according to the course of nature, because he decreed that such effects should proceed from and necessarily follow such and such causes: and he knows all future contingents, all things which shall happen by “chance,” and the most free actions of rational creatures, because he decreed that such things should come to pass contingently or freely, according to the nature of second causes. So that what is casual or contingent with respect to us, is certain and necessary in regard of God. (“Important Lessons Drawn from the Decrees of God”)

THE PATH OF SOLOMON

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

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. 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. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-15 ESV)

In one respect, Ecclesiastes is the diary of a man of God who on many occasions finds himself desiring to experiment and experience (Ecclesiastes 1:17) the false happiness of the secular world. Each time he finds the experience unfulfilling. Why? The man of God can only find true happiness in doing everything to the glory of God. Robert G. Lee (1886-1974) shares his thoughts on the verses above:

Wisdom, the many things he knew, brought him not to the house of abiding happiness…brought him not that joy which is ever rich and abiding. Wine turned out to be a mocker, as it always does-mocking him with the shadow instead of the substance of good things, mocking him with the desert where it promised an oasis.

And wealth had no power to satisfy. Amid all his abundance there was a lack? Something that rested not and was not still, something that hungered and was not fed, something that was thirsty and found no satisfaction… Solomon built palaces. Solomon established great public works. Solomon increased the size and magnificence of his city. Solomon transported forests.

He did mighty things in the matter of building cities and other great public works. He accomplished such things as multitudes have expected to provide satisfaction for life’s labors. But when he had finished all his great works he looked out upon them and cried, “Vanity of vanities!”

“And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men…and his fame was in all nations round about.” (I Kings 4:30,31)

“But Solomon was building…He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon…And he made …Then he made…Solomon made…” (I Kings 7)

“And Solomon built Gezer, and Beth-horon the nether, and Baalath, and Tadmor in the wilderness, in the land, And all the cities of store that Solomon had, and cities for his chariots, and cities for his horsemen, and that which Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion.” (I Kings 9:17-19)

Which, moreover, brings us the willingness to obey the exhortation given in I Cor. 15:58, namely:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (“Paths of Disappointment”)

Seeking Wealth To Find Happiness

In the article below, Robert G. Lee (1886-1974) reminds us that the journey to achieve great wealth may not yield the results we hope for:

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

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. 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. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-15 ESV)

In these striking words we see that [Solomon] found the path of riches a disappointing path also. Finding bitterness in the path of wine, finding no peace in human wisdom alone, he turned to the path of riches, hoping therein to find the joy and the peace the human heart needs.

See how rich he was.

  • “Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold.” (I Kings 10:14)
  • “And king Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold, six hundred shekels of gold went to one target. And he made three hundred shields, of beaten gold; three pounds of gold went to one shield; and the, king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.” (I Kings 10:16,17)
  • “For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram: once every three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.” (I Kings 10:22)
  • “And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen; and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots, and with the king at Jerusalem.” (I Kings 10:26)
  • “So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.” (I Kings 10:23)

Yes, gifts poured into his coffers in a continuous stream so that he was able to hire men singers and women singers able to build himself and his wives gorgeous palaces able to enjoy all that money could provide. He was able at any time to pay a king’s ransom for a day of pleasure. He had riches till the end of his life. He never knew the pinch of poverty; never knew any anxiety about his daily bread. Yet, even in the security of his nest of wealth, he fully realized the futility of their values. “Vanity of vanities ! “

No man can buy a contented heart.

Money is powerless to furnish this. No man can purchase with riches a soul at peace with God. No man can pay in money the price of the hope of immortality and of a meeting in the Great Beyond. No man can find in riches the purchase price of God’s favor or the realization of eternal salvation.

Not even in this day does money guarantee health, or hold friends, or bring contentment! (“Paths of Disappointment”)

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:4-5 ESV)

The Two Best Lessons

Robert G. Lee

Robert G. Lee (1886-1974) helps us to understand wisdom and the heart in the excerpts below:

“Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

“I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly.” (Ecclesiastes 1:17)

Solomon knew everything as nearly as mortal man could know everything. His was no capsule brain capable of tidbits only. He was a scientist. He was a philosopher. He was a moralist and a historian. He was a publicist and a poet. He had a mind trained to observe…to meditate.

He had an imagination by which he interpreted the facts of history and built upon the premise of these facts the deductions of science. He walked familiarly through the fields of botany. “He spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall” (I Kings 4:33). He brought forth the treasures of the mine. He knew nature’s choir made up of the voices of birds, the wind in the boughs, and the sea on the shore. He interpreted the messages of the heavenly bodies. He sailed the seas. He knew the birds. He wrote parables from the fields and the forests. He gathered great wealth of gold and precious stones. He wrote and published books. He wrote thousands of imperishable proverbs. He interpreted human experience. He philosophized about divine revelation.

But with all this, he missed the one essential and found no rest for his heart. It is he, this great Solomon with all his glory, who, after roaming through all the realms of thought and imagination, of human wisdom and human knowledge, cried “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!”

“And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly; I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit (Ecclesiastes 1:17).

Once, a man traveled a long way? A journey of many miles to interview a distinguished scholar. The butler ushered him in, upon the presentation of his card, into the study of the great scholar. He was cordially greeted. Before seating himself he asked this question of the noted scholar:

“Doctor, I have come a long way to ask you just one question. I observe that the walls of your room are filled with books. This room is literally lined with them from ceiling to floor. I suppose you have read them all. I know you have written many books. You have traveled the world over; you have held intimate converse with the world’s wisest men, its leaders of thought, and its creators of opinion. Tell me, if you will, after the years you have spent in study, out of the things you have learned, what is the one thing best worth knowing? “

The great scholar’s face flushed with emotion. He placed, with clumsy gentleness, both hands over the hands of his caller. And he said:

“My dear sir, out of all the things I have learned there are only two lessons best worth knowing. The first is, I am a great sinner. The second is, Jesus Christ is a great Savior. In the knowledge of these two facts as applied in my own personal experience lies all my happiness and all my hopes! “

Thus we learn in that man’s answer, in many ways, that men may know some things and not the best things-the things best worth knowing. Thus we see that men may treasure rags and throw away treasures. . . . (“Paths of Disappointment”)

Vanity And Human Wisdom

Human wisdom does not satisfy our real needs. We may know many wonderful things and not realize how many things we do not know. I could perhaps write down everything I know and it would produce a small book. If I could just make a list of the things I do not know; what a great library the pages would fill. The fact is that simple human knowledge does not answer the questions of our deepest needs. So what if we gain all this knowledge and do not learn the two things most worth knowing: 1) We are sinners in need of a Savior and 2) Jesus Christ is the only savior. Robert G. Lee helps us to find the rest needed in our hearts:

“Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

Thirty-seven times the word “vanity” occurs in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Moreover, vanity is the key word of the Book of Ecclesiastes; the keynote to its dirge like message.

“Vanity of vanities…All is vanity!” Now these words are not due to a fit of temporary depression. They are not given utterance because of some passing adverse circumstance. They were not born of the quick and passing bitterness begotten by the foul play of some friend who turned traitor. Subtle pride did not prompt this language of Solomon. They are, according to our judgment, the result of experience arrived at after mature and deliberate thought.

They are not the words of a man who walked a few paths, but the words of a man who walked many paths. Nor the words of one bored with the routine of some prosaic task. Nor the words of a man whose courage failed in some steep ascent of toil. Nor the words of one in prostrate rebellion against the tortures of some couch of pain.

Rather let us say that these are the words of one who sailed over many seas of human experience and made, with deliberate care, special notes and charts of his voyages. Words they are of one who drank of every cup and wrote a label for each. And in these words Solomon the wise, Solomon the rich, Solomon the mighty, has left the testimony that even a king could not find and cannot find genuine satisfaction in things finite, in things perishing, in things of the earth.

By what path shall I go to find the home of perfect happiness? Which road must I take to compass heart satisfaction? What must I do to find contentment? What must I do to have a “good time”? What must I do to be superior to the habitations in which I am domiciled? What must I do to have the merry heart within the stern war of things? What must I do to know the intoxication of pleasure without the dissipation of the soul’s finest resources . . . ?

But with all this, he missed the one essential and found no rest for his heart. It is he, this great Solomon with all his glory, who, after roaming through all the realms of thought and imagination, of human wisdom and human knowledge, cried “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!” (“Paths of Disappointment”)

Finding Satisfaction

Charles H. Spurgeon

From the pen of Charles H. Spurgeon:

“Behold, all is vanity!” Ecclesiastes 1:14

Nothing can fully satisfy a person—but the Lord’s love and the Lord’s own self. Christians have tried other pursuits—but they have been driven out of such fatal refuges.

Solomon, the wisest of men, was permitted to make experiments for us all; and to do for us—what we must not dare to do for ourselves. Here is his testimony in his own words, “So I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired. I refused my heart no pleasure. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind! Nothing was gained under the sun!” “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”

What! Is the whole of it meaningless? O favored monarch—is there nothing in all your wealth? Nothing in that wide dominion reaching from the river even to the sea? Nothing in your glorious palaces? Is there nothing—in all your music and dancing, and wine and luxury? “Nothing!” he says, “but a chasing after the wind!” This was his final verdict—after he had trodden the whole round of pleasure.

To embrace our Lord Jesus, to dwell in His love, and be fully assured of union with Him—this is all in all. Dear reader, you need not try other forms of pleasure in order to see whether they are better than Christ. If you roam the whole world—you will see no sights like a sight of the Savior’s face! If you could have all the comforts of life—without the Savior, you would be most wretched. But if you possess Christ—though you should rot in a dungeon—you would find it a paradise! Though you should live in obscurity, or die with famine—yet you would be satisfied with the favor and goodness of the Lord!

The Hardness Of The Human Heart

Quoting John Alexander, former president of Inter Varsity Fellowship:

“At the beginning of my missionary career I said that if predestination were true I could never be a missionary. Now after twenty some years of struggling with the hardness of the human heart, I say I could never be a missionary unless I believed in the doctrine of predestination.”

No Task Is Too Small For The Man Of God (C. H. Spurgeon)

Charles H. Spurgeon

We all become discouraged from time to time, but it is a shame to hear Christians discount their ability to do great things for God. Some will not take on the smallest ministry because they either see it to be insignificant or feel God has not given them any great gifts to share with others. C. H. Spurgeon speaks to this attitude:

“Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.” (Haggai 2:4-5)

It is significant that the man with one talent went and hid his Lord’s money in the earth. He knew that it was but one, and for that reason he was the less afraid to bury it. Perhaps he argued that the interest on one talent could never come to much, and would never be noticed side by side with the result of five or ten talents; and he might as well bring nothing at all to his Lord as bring so little. Perhaps he might not have wrapped it up if it had not been so small that a napkin could cover it. The smallness of our gifts may be a temptation to us. We are consciously so weak and so insignificant, compared with the great God and His great cause, that we are discouraged, and think it vain to attempt anything.

Moreover, the enemy contrasts our work with that of others, and with that of those who have gone before us. We are doing so little as compared with other people, therefore let us give up. We cannot build like Solomon; therefore let us not build at all. Yet, brethren, there is a falsehood in all this; for, in truth, nothing is worthy of God. The great works of others and even the amazing productions of Solomon, all fell short of His glory. What house could man build for God? What are cedar, and marble, and gold as compared with the glory of the Most High? Though the house was “exceeding magnifical,” yet the Lord God had of old dwelt within curtains, and never was His worship more glorious than within the tent of badger’s skins; indeed, as soon as the great house was built, true religion declined. What of all human work can be worthy of the Lord? Our little labors do but share the insignificance of greater things, and therefore we ought not to withhold them: yet here is the temptation from which we must pray to be delivered.

The tendency to depreciate the present because of the glories of the past is also injurious. The old people looked back to the days of the former temple, even as we are apt to look upon the times of the great preachers of the past. What work was done in those past days? What Sabbaths were enjoyed then! What converts were added to the church! What days of refreshing were then vouchsafed! Everything has declined, decreased, degenerated! As for the former days, they beheld a race of giants, who are now succeeded by pigmies. We look at one of these great men, and cry,

“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.”

But, brethren, we must not allow this sense of littleness to hamper us; for God can bless our littleness, and use it for His glory. I notice that the great men of the past thought of themselves even as we think of ourselves. Certainly they were not more self-confident than we are. I find in the story of the brave days of old the same confessions and the same lamentations which we utter now. It is true that in a spiritual strength we are not what our fathers were; I fear the Puritanic holiness and truthfulness of doctrine are dying out, while adherence to principle is far from common; but our fathers had also faults and follies to mourn over, and they did mourn over them most sincerely. Instead of being discouraged because what we do is unworthy of God, and insignificant compared with what was done by others, let us gather up our strength to reform our errors, and reach to higher attainments. Let us throw our heart and soul into the work of the Lord, and yet do something more nearly in accordance with our highest ideal of what our God deserves of us. Let us excel our ancestors. Let us aspire to be even more godly, more conscientious, and more sound in the faith than they were, for the Spirit of God remaineth with us. (Sermon: “The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church”)

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