Ask the Super about the Proposed Consolidation of AGTS, CBC, and Evangel

Yesterday, my boss (Jim Bradford) interviewed my dad (George O. Wood) about the proposed consolidation of the Assemblies of God’s national residential schools: Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Central Bible College, and Evangel University.

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Dr. George O. Wood’s Opening Address at World AG Congress in Chennai, India

My dad gave the opening address at the World Assemblies of God Congress in Chennai, India. Here’s the video of the entire opening ceremony. Dad’s message begins at 58:30. The message was simultaneously translated into Tamil.

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In the Hands of God (Ecclesiastes 9:1–6)

Before you watch or read today’s Daily Word, please read Ecclesiastes 9:1–6.

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Ecclesiastes 9:1–6 teaches that your life is in the hands of God.

Obviously, in a general sense, everyone’s life is in God’s hands. He is the Creator of “the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), and therefore everything in them belongs to him (Psalm 24:1). He is the Provider of the needs of all people. As Jesus said, “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). God also is the Savior, who offers divine forgiveness to all, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And finally, he is the Judge of all, for we “will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5).

And yet, the Preacher is not speaking in a general sense when he says that your life is in God’s hands. He is speaking instead of the specific providence God exercises on behalf of the godly when he works all things together for their good (Romans 8:28). It is only “the righteous and the wise and their deeds” who are God’s hands in this specific sense. Only the children of the Heavenly Father can know God’s special care for them, even though God desires good to come to all people.

Now, the truth that your life is in God’s hand should provide great comfort to you for several reasons. First, it should comfort you because in this life, you will experience “love and hate” from other people. Whether others treat you good or bad, with affection or antagonism, God is working for your good.

Second, it should comfort you because death is a universal human constant. Notice that the Preacher emphasizes this common fate through repetition of contrasting characteristics. Death comes to righteous and wicked, good and evil, clean and unclean, religious and irreligious, oath-takers and oath breakers. “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all.” Looking upon his fate, the wicked man determines to fill his heart with evil. “If death befalls both good and bad, why be good?” he asks. The wise person knows better. There is more to life than just what happens “under the sun.” God will reward in eternity those who do what is right in this life, and punish those who do wrong without repentance (Romans 2:6–11).

Third, God’s special providence for the godly should strengthen you to live well in the present. As the Preacher whimsically states the matter, “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” The word comfort derives from Latin, where it originally meant “with strength.” God’s comfort of the godly is not a mere palliative, something to lessen your pain. It is a stimulant, which awakens you to God’s care for you and energizes your good deeds on his behalf. Precisely because death is so tragic—rendering your actions in this life moot, to a certain degree—you ought to live your life with divine purpose and energy.

You live life “under the sun,” where death prevails. But your life is in the hands of One who lives “above the sun.” So, knowing that God cares for you, live well!

Joy Is a Deliberate Choice (Ecclesiastes 8:14–17)

Before you watch or read today’s Daily Word, read Ecclesiastes 8.14–17.

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In Ecclesiastes 8.14–17, the Preacher identifies two realities that we all experience on the journey through life: injustice and ignorance. Both are obstacles in our path, and both have the power to turn us aside from the road to heaven, if we let them. But there is a way through the obstacles, the Preacher tells us; it is the way of joy as a deliberate choice.

Consider our experience of injustice. Long ago, Aristotle defined justice as treating equals equally and unequals unequally in proportion to their relevant differences. Justice, in other words, is fair; it gives people the rewards due them.

Unfortunately, we often see people receiving rewards not due them, of equals being treated unequally and unequals equally. Thieves get rich off stolen money, for example, while the hardworking lose the wealth they have spent a lifetime saving due to theft. As the Preacher puts it, “there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous.” Injustice happens; it cannot be avoided, and we must choose how to respond when we see it around us.

Ignorance happens too. Whereas injustice occurs because bad people choose to do bad things, ignorance happens because human beings are finite creatures whose intellectual limits are part of their nature. Had Adam and Eve never sinned, it is safe to say, injustice never would have touched the world. But human beings still would have been ignorant; it is simply part of who we are.

So, the Preacher writes, “man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.” Notice the negative verbs: cannot and will not. There are some things we will never know because we cannot know them. They are too great for our comprehension. We must choose how to respond to our ignorance.

The Preacher tells us that our best course of action is to deliberately choose joy in the face of both injustice and ignorance. “And I commend joy,” the Preacher writes, “for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.”

The Preacher is not commending hedonism in place of justice or wisdom, by the way. As I pointed out in yesterday’s devotional, the Preacher believes that God is just, so we ought to act justly too. But in addition to justice, the Preacher advocates joy, an intentional optimism that seeks out the pleasures God built in creation, wherever they may legitimately be found. In our struggle for justice, we should never become dour, unhappy people. God did not make us that way.

Nor did he create us to be unhappy with our ignorance. What we can learn, we should learn. But when we bump up against the limits of human knowledge, we should be humble enough to admit that we are but God’s little creatures and find happiness in that discovery.

Injustice happens. So does ignorance. Choose joy anyway.

The Arc of the Universe (Ecclesiastes 8:10–13)

Before you watch or read today’s Daily Word, please read Ecclesiastes 8:10–13.

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“The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. uttered those words in the midst of his struggle to lead our nation to acknowledge the full civil rights of black Americans. His words also accurately summarize the message of Ecclesiastes 8:10–13, which serves as an encouragement to righteousness and a warning against wickedness.

The Preacher begins by making two observations:

First, he writes, “I saw the wicked buried.” Like all things that exist under the sun, human beings are mortal. Their lives are hebel, “vanity”—things that go “Poof!” The fate of death befalls all people, regardless of the morality or immorality of the pattern of their lives. In and of themselves, the deaths of the wicked do not trouble anyone’s conscience, for death is a human constant, a universal expectation.

What troubles the sensitive conscience is not the deaths of the wicked, but their lives. This is the Preacher’s second observation: “They [the wicked] used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things.” The spirituality and morality of the wicked relate to one another in inverse proportions: The greater their religiosity, the less their integrity, character, and good deeds. Such hypocrisy is troubling.

It is pointless too, or as the Preacher writes: “This also is vanity.” Why? Because God is just, and if he does not execute justice at the present moment, he will execute it sometime in the future.

Consequently, the Preacher’s words warn the wicked to cease and desist their law-breaking, God-mocking behavior. Unfortunately, because bad people so often get away with their misdeeds, others think that they can live without rules too. “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.” But all of us—whether we are struggling to be good or striving to be bad—should approach life with one eye firmly on the future. If God is just, he will establish justice in the world, whether right now or eventually.

In the meantime, God offers us a chance to repent and do good deeds (2 Peter 3:9). God’s justice encourages us to do the right thing, even when doing so does not bring immediate benefits, because we know that God desires, honors, and ultimately rewards this kind of behavior. As the Preacher writes, “it will be well with those who fear God,” that is, show him the reverence and awe he deserves n every area of their lives.

At times, I am sure, Dr. King despaired of the progress of the Civil Rights movement. Such incremental steps toward justice, so much persecution, so many setbacks! And yet, because he was a Christian, Dr. King was an optimist. Justice will prevail.

God is just, so his creation is bent toward justice. In the long arc of our lives, we ought to patiently bend with it.

Wisdom and Government (Ecclesiastes 8:1–9)

Beifore you watch or read today’s Daily Word, please read Ecclesiastes 8:1–9.

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A wise person obeys the law. That, in a nutshell, is the message of Ecclesiastes 8:1–9. Like so much else in Ecclesiastes, the message is obvious and common sensical, but it also raises difficult questions for those who live under difficult governments.

The Preacher begins with two questions and two observations. The questions are rhetorical. Wisdom makes a person incomparably valuable because he understands God, the world, and himself. The observations relate to the effects of wisdom, which makes a person happy (shining face) and ready to change bad habits (unhardened face).

Now, according to the Preacher, a wise person keeps the king’s command, more literally, pays attention to the king’s mouth. In other words, he knows the law and keeps abreast of current affairs. Moreover, he shows government officials the respect due their offices. That is what it means to not leave the king’s presence in a hurry.

Why does the wise person offer the king obedience and respect? The Preacher articulates two reasons: one based on principle and the other on practicality. The principled reason for obedience and respect is the oath of God. The English Standard Version translates the Hebrew of this verse as an oath God makes to the king, while the New International Version translates it as an oath, under God, that the wise person makes to the king: “because you took an oath before God.” Either way, the effect is the same: obey and respect the government as a matter of principle.

But the Preacher offers a practical reason as well: Government is powerful. The king “does whatever he pleases.” In the ancient world, the power of government was often arbitrary and whimsical, because it rested almost solely in the hands of one person—the monarch. But even in our democratic day and age, government can still act arbitrarily and whimsically. A wise person knows this and strives to stay on the good side of the law.

And yet, what about those who live under corrupt dictatorships, where the rule of law is a farce, and where there is no moral principle but only amoral power? Does the Preacher’s advice still make sense? Would it make sense, for example, for an oppressed and persecuted Christian both to obey and honor an oppressive and persecuting dictator? Yes, within limits. Notice what the preacher says: “the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him.” Even where oppression (trouble) abounds, the wise man knows that a measure of order is preferable to limitless anarchy. The wise person will know when to obey and honor the government and when to seek its removal and replacement. But he will do so carefully, very carefully, lest greater problems be unleashed.

Verse 8 offers an interesting conclusion to the Preacher’s thoughts on the subject of government. The Preacher points out our powerlessness to avoid death, the inevitability of war in the present age, and the self-destructiveness of evil behavior. The last point is the most important, for it serves as a warning both to governors and the governed. To the governors: Oppression will corrupt and in the end destroy you. To the governed: Every revolution devours its own children.

So, a wise person obeys the law, both for principled and practical reasons. But the wise man also knows when to change the law and those who make and enforce it.

What Is Wrong with the World Is Us (Ecclesiastes 7:15–29)

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Let us stipulate, as lawyers say, that the message of Ecclesiastes 7:15–29 is an unexpectedly weird one to find in the Bible, at first glance anyway. It seems alternately despairing (verse 15), cynical (verses 16–17), common sensical (verse 18–22), keenly aware of man’s intellectual limitations (verses 23–24), misogynist (verses 25–28), and acutely cognizant of the origins of man’s problems (verse 29). We expect common sense, keen awareness, and acute cognizance in God’s Word, but despair, cynicism and misogyny? Not so much.

So what should we do with the Preacher’s words, which we also confess to be the Word of God? We read them a second time, being discontent to let our first impressions be our final ones. What do find at second glance?

Realism. Verse 15 simply notes the unhappy truth that in this present life, the righteous perish and the wicked prosper. We might despair over such a situation, but not the Preacher. Rather than whining that the world is not the way it’s supposed to be, the Preacher determines to live in the world as it is. We should do the same.

Humility. Verses 16–17 seem cynical, as if to say that moderate goodness is desirable or moderate wickedness excusable. “Be not overly righteous” and “be not overly wicked” might be the slogans of our morally confused age, which hates actual saints as powerfully as obvious sinners, but they are not the slogans of the Preacher. As Michael A. Eaton points out, “what is discouraged is not excessive righteousness but self-righteousness,” on the one hand, and “capitulation to evil” on the other. The Preacher knows that even a very good person cannot claim to be wholly without fault (verse 20), especially in matters of speech (verse 22). What such a person needs is humility, the ability to see himself, under God, as a sinner who nevertheless has control of his own actions. This is the fear of God.

Wisdom. Verse 19 articulates the Preacher’s consistent theme throughout Ecclesiastes. The good life is the wise life, and wisdom blesses those who possess it. Wisdom and humility go hand in hand, for wisdom shows us the limitations of our knowledge and so produces humility (verses 23–24).

Sexual propriety. A common theme of the Bible’s wisdom literature (best articulated in Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Job) is the goodness of a wife and the badness of a mistress (verses 25–29). Ecclesiastes 9:9 states the desirability of marriage: “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.” By contrast, the mistress—or prostitute—is a woman to assiduously avoid. This is hardly misogynistic. Indeed, we could reverse the Preacher’s image, and it would be just as true: A husband is good; an adulterous lover is bad.

Moral responsibility. Finally, the Preacher identifies the real source of the world’s problems. Hint: It is not God. Sure, God allows bad things to happen to us, but even the worst things can be worked out for the good of the godly (Romans 8:28). God did not introduce trouble to the world. We did. “God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” What is wrong with the world (verse 15) is us. If the world is to be made right again, we must be changed. We cannot change ourselves, however.

By showing us our limitations, Ecclesiastes shows us the unexpected wonder of grace: We need a Savior.

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