The Man Who Saved a City

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All Historical Facts taken from Bond and McComas’ Biography of Girolamo Savonarola

Life isn’t fair. This is pointed out to us by Solomon In Ecclesiastes 9, and one example of this is found in the story of a man saving a city in verses 13-15 of that chapter. As it states:

13 I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: 14 There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. 15 Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. (NIV)

Unfortunately the man in the story isn’t given the respect that he deserved. He disarmed a mighty king using not a weapon of war, but rather a weapon of logic. Unfortunately, the people of the city did not remember the man that saved their city, possibly learning from him, or putting him in a position to bring more positive change to the city. Rather, the city left him to be forgotten in the annals of history, which I think you would agree, is not very fair. What you may find interesting is that this actually occurred in history many years later. Let me introduce you to Girolamo Savonarola.

Girolamo Savonarola (I like to call him G.S.) was a Dominican friar in the 1400’s and was actually the most published author of the century. You may be asking why bring up a Catholic in light of our Protestant viewpoints. G.S. actually rebelled against the Pope and boldly claimed that he “was no Christian”. In the following century, Martin Luther said that G.S. definitely clung to justification by faith. The friar even said himself that:

No one can glory in himself; all the saints say, not of us but of The Lord is glory. They were not saved by their merit, nor by their work, but by the goodness and grace of God, that nobody may glory in himself.
— Girolamo Savonarola

This certainly sounds like something Luther or Calvin could have written. He may have had some theological ideas wrong, but G.S. undoubtedly understood The Gospel correctly. For all of this, he was eventually killed by the Catholic church.

To set the stage, G.S. lived in Florence. The area was ruled by the powerful de Medici clan, and headship of the family just changed hands to the young and naive Piero de Medici. The people did not care for the family, since they ruled as tyrants, often forgetting the common man. At the time, King Charles VIII was having a squabble with the Pope about the territory of Naples. Charles decided to march his seemingly invincible army to Naples and try to take possession of it. Unfortunately, Florence was was right in the path to Naples. Charles left a path of destruction behind him as he headed right for Florence, destroying everything in his path.

Piero de Medici tried to strike up a bargain with Charles’ representatives and succeeded. Unfortunately, the deal was so awful the people of the city ran him out of town. Without his demands met, Charles continued to march to Florence. Without any other hope, the town decided to have their spiritual guide to try to talk some sense into the King. And somehow it worked. G.S. Thanked the king for ridding the town of the de Medici family, calling him “an instrument sent by The Lord”. He then told him among other things that, “God elected you in the interest of the church. You must obey The Lord.”. Though it seemed to be a miracle, Charles relented.

The people then turned to G.S. to set up a democracy, free from the tyranny of the de Medici family. Unfortunately, this was shorted lived. Due to outside circumstances which was out of the control of the government, economic hardship fell upon Florence. The friar was blamed, the city turned on him, and he was removed from the pulpit and eventually killed by The Pope. G.S. was treated unfairly, and was abandoned by his city and the church (or at least by the Catholic church).

This was a real example of solomon’s scenario playing out in the life of Savonarola. He saved his city from destruction from a king who was preparing to siege the city. Using wisdom to change the mind of the king, he was initially loved, but was ultimately forgotten, abandoned, and persecuted.

Where does this leave us? The friar of Florence was persecuted and treated unfairly. All of us can expect unfair outcomes in our lives. In reality, we don’t actually want things to be fair. If they were, God would instantly condemn us to Hell, as that is what we truly deserve. Christ came to earth, and was treated unfairly, for us, so we don’t have to face God’s wrath. Savonarola didn’t put his hope in getting treated fairly in this life, but looked forward to his life to come. Therefore, do not look for fairness in this life, but set your hope in our inheritance to come, which is eternal peace in Heaven with Christ.

-Richard Miller


Preparing for Sunday - October 1, 2017

Hey Shoreliners!

I’ve been up at Liberty University in Virginia this week challenging college students to serve the Lord overseas. It’s been a great time, but I missed being with you all on Sunday. A big thanks to James and the team for leading so well. I’m looking forward to be back with you all as we continue in our study of Ecclesiastes! 

Check out what songs we’ll be singing this week:

1.   It is Finished - Dustin Kensrue

We last sang this song during our Easter services. It’s been awhile, but I believe we should rejoice and sing about the cross as often as possible! It’s a great way to start our service, by worshiping our Savior for finishing the work of redemption. “It is finished, He has done it, let your weary heart rejoice!”

2.   How Marvelous - Traditional (arrangement by Chris Tomlin)

As we continue singing, this is a great hymn to help us rejoice in our salvation. We are so unworthy and yet we can sing with confidence, “How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!”

3.   Our Great God - Fernando Ortega

I love singing this song that focuses on His attributes, and His sovereign & creative power. He is eternal, unchanging, mysterious, and unknown. He lavishes His boundless love and grace upon us in spite of our weakness and frailties. The chorus sums up what our response should be - “Hallelujah! Glory be to our great God!” 

4.   How Deep the Father’s Love for Us - Stuart Townend

This modern hymn will focus our minds on the cross and our Savior’s great love & sacrifice for us. It’s a great way to help us prepare to take communion together. Almost every line of this song corresponds to a specific scripture, but one of my favorites is Hebrews 12:2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

5.   Jesus, Thank You - Sovereign Grace Music

We introduced this song during last communion, and I’m excited to sing it again with you. The lyrics focus on our response to the what Christ has done for us - “Your blood has washed away my sin, Jesus thank you!”. My favorite line in the songs speaks of how we were once at enmity with God, and now we are invited to His table - “once your enemy, now seated at your table, Jesus thank you!”

Preparing for Sunday 9/3

Hey Shoreliners!

A.W. Tozer said, “Without worship, we go about miserable.” I believe this is so true, and our attitudes during the week reflect this. If we try and “fix” everything by ourselves, we are depending on our own efforts and not on what the Lord desires to teach us while we’re in the midst of it. On the other side, if our week is going well and we give ourselves the glory, we’re robbing God of what truly belongs to Him. Either way, a life consistent with these two pitfalls will slowly make us miserable. Let’s give him all the worship and praise throughout our week, be in His word, growing through everything the Lord gives us.

Check out what songs we’ll be singing this week:

1.   Build Your Kingdom Here - by Rend Collective

We’ll kick off our service this week by asking the Lord to continue His work in our nation and in our hearts. He has appointed us, the church, to be His ministers of reconciliation. We must have pliable hearts for Him to work in us, and in turn we will be passionate about reaching our world!

2.   Blessed Be Your Name - by Matt Redman

As we move into this song, we’ll start by reading Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, which focuses on the oppression and evil that exists in this world. This song encourages us to live a life of faith, submitting to God’s sovereignty, and blessing His name through every situation, knowing that He desires to help us conform to the image of His Son.

3.   Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies) - by Chris Tomlin

In contrast to the situation that Solomon describes in Ecclesiastes 4, is the truth that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” Without Christ, there is no comfort from the darkness of this world - only Christ gives us that peace and hope! Nothing formed against us will stand, He holds the whole world in his hands!

4.   At the Cross (Love Ran Red) -  by Chris Tomlin

As we prepare our hearts to take communion, we’ll focus on the cross and what Christ has done for us. This song also reminds us what our response should be - an attitude of surrender and brokenness. The Christian life is a life of dying to self, and living for Christ!

5.   Jesus, Thank You - by Sovereign Grace Music

We’ll close our service by singing this simple yet profoundly true song together. It’s not a new song, but it will probably be new for most of you. The lyrics focus on our response to the what Christ has done for us - “Your blood has washed away my sin, Jesus thank you!”. My favorite line in the songs speaks of how we were once at enmity with God, and now we are invited to His table - “once your enemy, now seated at your table, Jesus thank you!”

Cutting Room: Ecclesiastes 3

Cutting Room is everything that we researched that didn’t make it into the Sunday sermon. As always, a special thank you to Ryan Tanski for his contribution in research assistance.
— Pastor Pilgrim


Cross Reference Scriptures

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NASB)—Therefore be careful, how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)—And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

Psalms 139:13-16 (NIV)--For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

2 Timothy 1:8-12 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.


God's Work

God's Sovereignty

God's Justice

God's Goodness

God's Immutability

God's Eternality

God's Creativity


"Eternity in their hearts"

God has “set eternity in the human heart.” In every human soul is a God-given awareness that there is “something more” than this transient world. And with that awareness of eternity comes a hope that we can one day find a fulfillment not afforded by the “vanity” in this world. Here is a closer look at the verse:

“In the human heart” is an expression representing the mind, soul, or spirit of each person. God places eternity (Hebrew olam) into our heart and soul.

The word translated “eternity” is much debated regarding its translation in this passage. The word olam can be translated as “darkness,” “eternity,” or “the future.” The use of this word could indicate darkness (in the sense of ignorance), contrasting this concept with what follows in verse 11: “Yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” It could be that Solomon is contrasting human ignorance with God’s perfect wisdom.

A better possibility, and the one that is the typical interpretation, is that olam refers to God’s placing an eternal longing or sense of eternity in the human heart. Taking this understanding to be the correct one, Ecclesiastes 3:11 affirms the idea that humans operate in a different way than other forms of life. We have a sense of eternity in our lives; we possess an innate knowledge that there is something more to life than what we can see and experience in the here and now.



What are the differences between the animal kingdom and humans?

    • The imago dei. Genesis 1. We have souls, they do not.
    • We have rational minds, whereas animals do not, and thus solely operate off instinct.
    • We have morality, given to us by God.
    • We have intellect paired with intellegence
    • We have purpose



What are some injustices that have happened in the last 20 years geopolitically? Socially? Etc.

Older examples:

  • The Cambodian Genocide
    • A direct result of weak and indecisive US military action, followed with a stark withdrawal from the area. 1.5-3m people were decimated. 
  • Korean Airlines Flight 007
    • Shot down for political gain by Russian operative and then lied about in hearings the followed. 246 passengers perished. 


Charles Spurgeon: Do not believe that you re standing still; you are not. Your pulses each moment beat the funeral marches to the tomb. You are chained to the chariot of rolling time. There is no bridling the steeds or leaping from the chariot.

Ben Franklin: Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for it is the stuff life is made of. 

Henry David Thoreau: As if you could kill time without injuring eternity. 

Unknown: When as a child I laughed and wept, time crept. When as a youth I dreamed and talked, time walked.When I became a full grown man, time ran. And later as I older grew, time flew. Soon I shall find while traveling on, time gone.

Susan Ertz: Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. 

“God made man in his own image; and nothing more surely attests to the greatness of our origin that those faculties of the soul which are capable of yearning for, conceiving, and enjoying the Infinite, the Immortal, and the Divine. . . . Every appetite in nature and grace has its appropriate satisfaction.” (Meyer)

Jim Carrey: I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.


No Time to Play (Dianna Neal)

My precious boy with the golden hair
Came up one day beside my chair
And fell upon his bended knee
And said, “Oh, Mommy, please play with me!”

I said, “Not now, go on and play;
I’ve got so much to do today.”
He smiled through tears in eyes so blue
When I said, “We’ll play when I get through.”

But the chores lasted all through the day
And I never did find time to play.
When supper was over and dishes done,
I was much too tired for my little son.

I tucked him in and kissed his cheek
And watched my angel fall asleep.
As I tossed and turned upon my bed,
Those words kept ringing in my head,

“Not now, son, go on and play,
I’ve got so much to do today.”
I fell asleep and in a minute’s span,
My little boy is a full-grown man.

No toys are there to clutter the floor;
No dirty fingerprints on the door;
No snacks to fix; no tears to dry;
The rooms just echo my lonely sigh.

And now I’ve got the time to play;
But my precious boy is gone away.
I awoke myself with a pitiful scream
And realized it was just a dream

For across the room in his little bed,
Lay my curly-haired boy, the sleepy-head.
My work will wait ‘til another day
For now I must find some time to play.

Cutting Room: Ecclesiastes 2

Cutting Room is everything that we researched that didn’t make it into the Sunday sermon. As always, a special thank you to Ryan Tanski for his contribution in research assistance.
— Pastor Pilgrim


Word References in Ecclesiastes

God - 41x/36v - Eccl 1:132:24263:10-1113-1517-185:1-246f18-206:27:13-141826298:212-1315179:1711:5912:713-14

Under the sun - 29x in 27v - Eccl 1:39142:1117-20223:164:137155:13186:1128:915179:369111310:5

Vanity - 22x/16v - Eccl 1:2142:1115192123263:194:47-8165:106:212:8

Wise - 24x/23v - Eccl 2:14-16194:136:87:4-571619238:15179:111151710:21212:911

Wisdom - 27x/24v - Eccl 1:1316-182:912-1321267:10-121923258:1169:101315-161810:110

Fool (ish) - 25x/23v - Eccl 2:14-16194:5135:13-46:87:4-6917259:1710:1-31214-15

Righteous (ness) - 11x/9v - Eccl 3:16f5:87:15f208:149:1f (cf Justice - Ec 3:165:8)

Wicked (ness) - 10v/8v - Eccl 3:16f7:15178:10149:210:13

Evil - 20x/18v - Eccl 2:214:35:113166:17:258:3811-149:31210:512:114

Labor* - 26x/19v - Eccl 2:10f18-22243:134:468f5:1518f6:78:179:9

Toil - 6x/6v - Eccl 3:95:16188:159:910:15

Rich* - 8x.8v - Eccl 4:85:12-14196:210:620 (Wealth - 4x/4v - Eccl 1:165:196:29:11)


Other Scripture Cross-References

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV) | My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. 

1 Timothy 6:17-19 | 17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.


What are some things that the world indulges in for pleasure, and what are the effects?


  • Liver failure
  • Drunk driving
  • Addiction
  • Broken lives and families


  • Incorrect focus
  • Lack of meaning
  • Stuck up and prideful
  • Wasted life
  • Greed


  • STDs and STIs
  • Affairs
  • Sexual immorality
  • Broken relationships


  • Stealing
  • Lying
  • Divorced from reality
  • Addiction


  • Cavities
  • Fat
  • High cholesterol
  • Sugar cravings


Word study v.2 “mirth”

Webster - gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter

Simchah (sim-khaw) - Joy or pleasure


How is the brain wired for pleasure?

Dopamine is the one neurotransmitter that everyone seems to know about. Vaughn Bell once called it the Kim Kardashian of molecules, but I don’t think that’s fair to dopamine. Suffice it to say, dopamine’s big. And every week or so, you’ll see a new article come out all about dopamine.

So is dopamine your cupcake addiction? Your gamblingYour alcoholismYour sex life? The reality is dopamine has something to do with all of these. But it is none of them. Dopamine is a chemical in your body. That’s all. But that doesn’t make it simple.

What is dopamine? Dopamine is one of the chemical signals that pass information from one neuron to the next in the tiny spaces between them. When it is released from the first neuron, it floats into the space (the synapse) between the two neurons, and it bumps against receptors for it on the other side that then send a signal down the receiving neuron. That sounds very simple, but when you scale it up from a single pair of neurons to the vast networks in your brain, it quickly becomes complex. The effects of dopamine release depend on where it’s coming from, where the receiving neurons are going and what type of neurons they are, what receptors are binding the dopamine (there are five known types), and what role both the releasing and receiving neurons are playing.

And dopamine is busy! It’s involved in many different important pathways. But when most people talk about dopamine, particularly when they talk about motivation, addiction, attention, or lust, they are talking about the dopamine pathway known as the mesolimbic pathway, which starts with cells in the ventral tegmental area, buried deep in the middle of the brain, which send their projections out to places like the nucleus accumbens and the cortex. Increases in dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens occur in response to sexdrugs, and rock and roll. And dopamine signaling in this area is changed during the course of drug addiction.  All abused drugs, from alcohol to cocaine to heroin, increase dopamine in this area in one way or another, and many people like to describe a spike in dopamine as “motivation” or “pleasure.” But that’s not quite it.

Really, dopamine is signaling feedback for predicted rewards. If you, say, have learned to associate a cue (like a crack pipe) with a hit of crack, you will start getting increases in dopamine in the nucleus accumbens in response to the sightof the pipe, as your brain predicts the reward. But if you then don’t get your hit, well, then dopamine can decrease, and that’s not a good feeling. So you’d think that maybe dopamine predicts reward. But again, it gets more complex. For example, dopamine can increase in the nucleus accumbens in people with post-traumatic stress disorder when they are experiencing heightened vigilance and paranoia. So you might say, in this brain area at least, dopamine isn’t addiction or reward or fear. Instead, it’s what we call salience. Salience is more than attention: It’s a sign of something that needs to be paid attention to, something that stands out. This may be part of the mesolimbic role in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and also a part of its role in addiction.

Preparing for Sunday 8/20

Hey Shoreliners!

We had a great first look at the book of Ecclesiastes on Sunday. John MacArthur says, “The only lasting efforts are those designed to accomplish God’s purposes for eternity.” We know that everything in this life is temporary, so we must focus our thoughts and actions heavenward, living our lives with eternity in mind. We have a great privilege to sing and worship our eternal Savior this coming Sunday, check out the songs for this week:

1. Famous One

This song by Chris Tomlin is taken in part from Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” It’s a great way to start the service as we declare what the Lord has done for us, and ascribe the glory due his name!

2.  Nothing but the Blood

I love singing this classic hymn, because it so simply reminds us that without the atonement of Christ on the cross, we would still be under the wrath of God. “O precious is the flow that makes me white as snow!”

3.  Forever Reign

Continuing with our theme of how life is meaningless without Christ, we will sing how Christ provides his righteousness, his peace, and his truth so graciously to us. We know that we have no inherent goodness without Christ, only he can give us peace, and only in him do we find the truth! Nothing can compare to our relationship with him, may he forever reign!

4. Man of Sorrows

We must always point to and worship our Savior for going to the cross for us. This song is probably one of the best songs Hillsong has ever released. Drawing from scriptures like Isaiah 53:3 and taking lyrics from the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross”, this song so beautifully takes us through the story of the gospel - Christ’s death, burial & resurrection. Praise and honor unto him alone!

5. Christ is Enough

This song is very appropriate for us to sing as we finish chapter two of Ecclesiastes. We learn from the story of the richest, wisest man who ever lived - he had it all and it wasn’t enough. How fortunate are we to study this book! Only in Christ do we find our true reward. It’s so easy to get lured away by temporary pleasures, may Christ be enough for us as we walk through the life He has given us!