What’s the Point? Answers in Ecclesiastes

For many of us, the Pete Seeger antiwar anthem, “Turn, Turn, Turn” – a big hit for “The Byrds” – was our first exposure to the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes.

The Dilemma Posed by Ecclesiastes, Chapter One

As a young believer seeking to explore the Word of God, my next encounter with Ecclesiastes was colored by the tension created in chapter one.  Solomon’s tone there is so cynical and gloomy, the reader quickly becomes depressed and hopeless.  In those opening lines, Solomon paints a bleak picture of the human condition.  He’s saying, in effect: 

“All life is vanity, (a mist, a vapor, a mere breath).  What do we gain from all our toil, sweat, and tears?  Are my efforts merely a waste of time, a schlep on life’s treadmill?  Nothing changes, all goes on as if I had never existed.”

So why, I wondered, does God’s Word include such a dismal narrative?  Recently, I took a closer look at this unusual book and discovered that Solomon offers a practical and profound route to victory over this agonizing dilemma.  As a matter of fact, he reiterates the solution 12 times within the 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes.  Here are the 12 verses:

Continue reading “What’s the Point? Answers in Ecclesiastes”


To the Ends of the Earth, Psalm 67

Psalm 67 is a prayer beseeching God to inspire a fresh wind of revival to the ends of the earth. Our little church prays daily for revival to break out here in our valley. Would that not be a most marvelous miracle? I ask everyone reading these words to consider adding a plea for revival to your prayers. Here’s my musical plea for revival:

Continue reading “To the Ends of the Earth, Psalm 67”

Here’s a Profound Hymn You Don’t Hear Every Day.

Growing in Christ will bring you unimaginable joy, peace, and love. Here’s a hymn which describes that journey as well as any. I first heard “Deeper and Deeper” while visiting Contra Costa Christian Fellowship, where I met my beautiful wife. Listening to her sing that lovely hymn at our initial meeting was miraculous.  Click here to listen to “Deeper and Deeper I Go.  

New Wine in Old Bottles?

How do you feel about alternative hymn melodies?  (Please share your views in the comments section below.)   For example, Fanny Crosby’s hymn “Redeemed” can be sung with either the Kirkpatrick tune or the newer setting by A. L. Butler. I love both compositions and am happy to lead the congregation using either.  By contrast, when it comes to the Charitie Bancroft hymn “Before the Throne of God Above,” I feel the newer Vikki Cook tune better suits the words, even though I love Bradbury’s “Sweet Hour” melody, which perfectly fits the “Sweet Hour of Prayer” text. “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” is a marvelous poem, but Gretry’s melody plagiarizes “Solid Rock,” and to me, his rhythms feel stilted. I offer you this new musical setting. Do you feel it works well with the text?



Another Classic Hymn

This classic hymn tells of Jesus’ redemption and renewal to all who invite Him in.


I Must Tell Jesus

1.  Tempted and tried, I need a great Savior;

Struggling alone with no one to care;

I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;

He all my shame and sorrow will share.

I must tell Jesus!

I must tell Jesus!

I cannot bear my burden alone;

I must tell Jesus!

I must tell Jesus!

Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

2   O how the world to evil allures me!

O how my heart is tempted to sin!

I must tell Jesus, and He will help me

Over the world the victory to win.


I must tell Jesus that I am sorry.

I  haven’t  prayed or looked to His Word.

I  haven’t  loved my neighbors and brothers.

Though He has called me, I haven’t heard.


I must tell Jesus!

I must tell Jesus!

I need forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

I must tell Jesus!

I must tell Jesus!

There is no peace away from His Face.


Like a good shepherd, You came and saved me

Out in the desert, hopelessly lost.

You broke the chains that bound and enslaved me.

You paid my ransom, You paid the cost.


I sing to Jesus!

I sing to Jesus!

Worship and thank Him all of my days.

I sing to Jesus!  

I sing to Jesus!

He is my Lord, most worthy of praise !


Bootstrap Pride

BOOTSTRAPClick here to watch the video.

Ever heard this one?:  “Hey, boy, you gotta lift yourself up by your own bootstraps!” 

Here’s another one:  “God helps them that helps themselves.”

OYSTERGet going there, kid!  The world is your oyster.  But you gotta  tame it, you gotta grab it, you gotta go for the gusto!  Now go out there and show ‘em!  Come on now, make me proud: Show the world you’re a winner!

That’s “bootstrap pride,” the legend of the self-made man.

There are two popular theories which engender enormous amounts of “bootstrap pride” in human beings:  From physics, the “big bang theory,” from biology, the “theory of evolution.”

BIG BANG SPACE SHUTTLEThe words “big bang theory” cause us to envision an explosive progression from unspeakable heat, energy, violence, and chaos to the incredible achievements of man;  skyscrapers, the 747, penicillin, the space shuttle.

EVOLUTION 3“The theory of evolution” conjures up images of a march from absolute disorganization and degradation, to the ”primordial slime,” to ape prototypes, on up to human innovations like brain surgery, the music of Beethoven, the iphone.

PROUD KIDWhat do those two scenarios have in common?  BOOTSTRAP PRIDE!!!   “Look at me!”  “Look at what I did!”  “I can do anything!”  “I came from a monkey, from a paramecium, from the primordial soup!  Now I’m a member of Mensa!”  “Ain’t I special?”  “Ain’t I great?”  “I’m hot stuff, and I’m proud!”

According to these theories, we started from a universe of absolute chaos, gradually advanced to a species of brute savages grunting unintelligibly in a cave, and from there to building the World Trade Center, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China.  “Wow, I love that story, ‘cuz it’s all about me, me, me, how great I am!”

EVOLVE UPWARDThe Book of Genesis tells a very different story.  God designed a glorious environment, beautifully elegant, perfectly suited to nurture and sustain us.  “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)  “Then God said, ‘Let Us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’.” (Genesis 1:26)   God created us with spectacular intellect, physical stamina, and a moral compass.  He gave us an “instruction manual” on how to be healthy, happy, and wonderfully fulfilled.  “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’.”  (Genesis 2:15-17)

EDEN + TEMPGod created us with free will, the capacity to choose whether we accept or reject His love.  He did not manufacture a race of robots.  We each have the option of receiving and embracing Jesus’ salvation.  It’s our choice.  We are not compelled to accept God’s free gift of salvation.  We can flee like Jonah (Jonah 1:3), or we can run into Jesus’ waiting arms.  He invites each of us with these words:  “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)  If we decide to open the door of our heart and invite Jesus in, the Holy Spirit starts to sanctify us, and we begin to “bear much fruit, fruit that will last.”  (John 15:16)

…So, what did Adam and Eve do in the Garden of Eden?  They rebelled.  “ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”  “(Genesis 3:6)   And what do most of us do today?  Mostly we rebel.  We put sugar in our gas tanks, and our engines self-destruct.  We run away from God’s presence and try to crown ourselves “god.”


Here’s a question:  Where exactly does “God helps them that helps themselves” appear in The Bible?  (Hint:  You won’t find it.  Nope, it ain’t there.  Nowhere in the entire Bible.)

Here’s something that is in The Bible:  “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling [which makes it sound as if salvation was wholly contingent on what we do], for it is God who works in you to will and to act, in order to fulfill his good purpose [which makes it clear that God is the author of our salvation].   (Philippians 2:12,13)

Salvation is a gift which is freely offered by God to every human being on the face of the earth, because of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection.  But this free gift must be received and embraced by each of us in order to take effect in our lives.

There’s no room for “bootstrap pride” in that scenario.  Instead, the narrative of The Bible leads us to our knees, to humble repentance, to the foot of Jesus’ cross, where we find salvation by submitting to His Perfect Will, and where we experience His perfect peace, joy, and love.

“Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives give I unto you.  Let not your hearts be anxious, and do not be afraid.”  (John 14:27)
Click here to listen to a song inspired by this verse.

The Truth Will Set You Free

BIBLE STUDYClick here to watch the video of this message.
Have you ever returned to a familiar passage of Scripture and discovered that the words speak to you in a new, refreshing, dramatically impactful way?

Recently, while teaching The Epistle to the Hebrews in a small Bible study, Hebrews 5:14 suddenly jumped off the page and caused my spirit to soar with its encouragement and profound theological implications :

TITLE SLIDEBut solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.   HEBREWS 5:14

Pondering that phrase”distinguish good from evil” made me curious as to how this Hebrews verse might correspond to the words of the serpent in Genesis 3:5 :

EVE…the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.   For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  GENESIS 3:4, 5

On first glance, these two verses may seem related.  However, the profound difference is unearthed by contrasting the word “knowing” in Genesis against the word “distinguish” in Hebrews. Continue reading “The Truth Will Set You Free”