Monkey Trap (And Letting Go)

Monkey Trap (And Letting Go)

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Maybe you’ve heard of this well-known Southeast Asian method of trapping a monkey. This simple method only requires the hunter to get a coconut or some kind of container that’s hard to break and carve a hole that’s big enough for a monkey’s hand that’s open—but not big enough when its clenched up in a fist. What these primates won’t do even as they see the hunter approach them is unhand the bait. Therefore, their fist inside the coconut traps them there until they are caught.

The principle of the monkey trap can be found in many aspects of life, and it is not foreign to the Bible either. In Matthew 19:16-30 (cf. Mk. 17-31; Lk. 18:18-30) is a story we know very well, in which a rich young ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. 

Jesus knew in that moment what exactly that young man needed to hear and told him what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. However, because he was so rich and did not want to part with his wealth, the young man became sad.

We don’t have Jesus in the flesh in front of us to tell us exactly what we need to do in order to get into heaven, but that does not mean that we are lacking in any way. Through the pages of God’s inspired Word, we are being taught and guided what is required for us to enter into Christ and live a faithful life. 

The challenge for us, therefore, is not that we do not have Jesus to tell us what to do. No—in fact, we have him right here with us, around us, and within us. All around us is the presence of God and our savior. What it boils down to, then, is our fisted up hand inside the trap. 

We may look at the monkey that’s trapped by such a simple device and laugh, but don’t we often find ourselves shackled by the one or two sins that keep plaguing our lives? For the rich young ruler, it was his wealth, but this isn’t about being rich or poor. Even those without money can be chained by their sins that they cannot let go.

It’s the beginning of a new year. A time people usually spend contemplating how this new season of life will play out. How many times have we told ourselves, “I will stop this time,” or “I’ll work on this and get better about it.” When will we loosen our fists that grip so hard on the things that drive us away from God, and finally let go?

The rich young ruler could not let go, and therefore he became sad. Knowing what he needed to do, he still failed. Not because he wasn’t told nor because he didn’t understand. It was a willful decision to choose what’s in his fist rather than Jesus. He teaches us a lesson through this unfortunate outcome. How many times does God tell us through His Word exactly what we need to do, just like Jesus did with the young man? Let us be better in the coming year, to finally thwart off the chains that bind us. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” God has already rescued us. It comes down to us deciding that we want to be saved, rather than be shackled by what’s in our stubborn fists. 

David Chang
The 11th-Hour Man

The 11th-Hour Man

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

70 or 80 years we live,

That rule for many holds true

But a guarantee that nobody can give

Is when Christ comes or living is through.

But I saw a man near the end of that span

Heart softened by the truth

Fully obey the gospel plan

Though gone were the days of his youth.

He’d heard God’s Word preached repeatedly

From many able men

Discussed his need, heard many a plea

To arise and wash away his sin.

Loved ones, family and friends

Prayed often for his decision

Wanting his soul purified and cleansed

To see life with heavenly vision.

The persistent concern of a godly man

Who revisited his soul’s condition

Watered much sowing over that man’s lifespan 

Resulting in godly contrition

I heard him confess his faith in Christ

And watched him go under the water

His heart surrendered, his will sacrificed

Christ’s blood was his soul’s sin blotter.

I tell you his story to move your heart

To the power of sharing with persistence

It’s never too late to do your part

To overcome a delayer’s resistance.

Jesus taught a moral tale

Of a landowner seeking for workers

Who paid a fair wage for a job done well

To the finishers, no pay for the shirkers

The householder sought workers all day

Found some morning and noon, yet some late

Despite different hours, they all got the same pay

Which made the more seasoned workers irate

But the master was generous, it was his call to make

The offer was freely taken by all,

The moral is simple, there’s an offer to take

There’s an answer to make to God’s call.

Some respond in the sunrise of living

Others come in the heat of the day

But however late one’s commitment is given

To those faithful at death He gives eternal pay.

This isn’t to encourage delaying

Tomorrow is not guaranteed

But in Scripture it goes without saying

No one’s too old for God’s grace to intercede! 

Galatians

Galatians

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Galatians is written to a group of non-Jewish Christians. Paul converted them with a simple message: Jesus came to earth to give us grace and immortality. We get that by believing what we’ve heard about him coming back to life and by being baptized into his grace. At some point, Jewish converts infiltrated their church and started aggressively promoting Jewish traditions. They told the Galatian Christians that if they really wanted to be saved, they needed to follow certain Jewish customs. The entire book is both a refutation of that teaching and a dire warning to any Christian who tries to add to God’s requirements. 

Jesus’s sacrifice was to free us from this evil world we live in. Romans 8.22-25 says, “We know that everything God made has been waiting until now in pain like a woman ready to give birth to a child. Not only the Earth, but we also have been waiting with pain inside us. We have God’s Spirit as the first part of his promise. So we are waiting for God to finish making us his own children. I mean we are waiting for our bodies to be made free. We were saved to have this hope. If we can see what we are waiting for, that is not really hope. People don’t hope for something they already have. But we are hoping for something we don’t have yet, and we are waiting for it patiently.”

The whole purpose of Christianity is to anticipate Jesus’s return, and help the rest of the world face that day prepared. Paul reminded the Galatians that they weren’t saved by any old human way. The only legitimate source of truth and hope is God. 

“Baptism Only” And “Once-Baptized, Always-Saved”?

“Baptism Only” And “Once-Baptized, Always-Saved”?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

The doctrines of “faith only” and “once-saved, always’ saved” have done so much to deceive religious people into believing things about the doctrine of salvation that are at odds with the Scripture, which teach that faith without works is dead (Js. 2:17,20,26) and that it is possible to fall from grace (Gal. 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). Therefore, many of our Bible classes and sermons have emphasized what the Bible teaches on these matters. We want to avoid an unscriptural position.

In the midst of emphasizing that a faith that saves is a faith that obeys, we rightly teach that repentance and baptism is part of saving faith (Ac. 2:38). We teach that baptism saves (1 Pet. 3:21). It washes away sins (Ac. 22:16). It clothes us with Christ (Gal. 3:27). These are just some of the Bible’s truths about the essentiality of baptism.

There is something we must guard against, however, in our properly emphasizing that baptism not only is part of God’s saving plan but is a pivotal part (1 Co. 12:13; Mk. 16:16; Rom. 6:3-4). We must not believe in “baptism only” or “once-baptized, always saved.” Is it possible to adhere to such a view? Perhaps.

  • A rush to baptism without grasping why it must be done and what must accompany it is insufficient. We read of people being pierced to the heart by the gospel (Ac. 2:37), asking what they must do, being told to “repent and be baptized” (Ac. 2:38), and receiving that word and doing so (Ac. 2:41). Baptism cannot substitute for the total heart and directional change which the gospel calls for (Rom. 6:17). 
  • The thought that baptism is the end of one’s commitment rather than the beginning is incorrect. As thoughtfully and deliberately as we can, we must teach the totality of discipleship (Mt. 16:24-26) and the necessity of counting the cost of discipleship (Lk. 14:28). Sometimes, the newly baptized conclude that since they have done so everything is settled. While baptism coupled with a correct understanding of Scripture does forgive one’s sins, one must begin and continue a walk in the light of Christ (1 Jn. 1:7-10). 

Christ’s Great Commission call to His disciples is to make disciples (Mt. 28:19). That includes baptizing them, but also teaching them (Mt. 28:19-20). In our teaching, we need to do all we can to paint Scripture’s complete picture not only of faith but also of baptism. There is no “magic” in the water (1 Pet. 3:21). Its saving ability comes when done by one who makes “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” We cannot leave babes in Christ to flounder without helping them form roots in Him. They need to know that baptism is not the end, but the beginning.

If someone in our directory has been baptized but shows no other sign of commitment, from attendance to involvement, we need to lovingly help them see that they are not spiritually OK (Gal. 6:1). When they die, we cannot preach them into heaven simply because they were properly taught and baptized years or decades ago. The life in Christ is about a “walk” (Eph. 4:1), not just about a moment when they got wet.

Major Message: Minor Prophets

Major Message: Minor Prophets

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

MAJOR MESSAGES FROM A MINOR PROPHET: AMOS 

Who’s The Prophet?

  • Shepherd and fig tree farmer. 
  • Lived on the border of northern and southern kingdoms 
  • The North was ruled by Jeroboam the 2nd who brought wealth and prosperity to the people 

What Are His predictions?

  • Warning Israel, Judah, Benjamin and all nations of a coming destruction described as “the Day of the Lord.” 

What Was His Purpose?

  • He about the oppression of the poor, sexual immorality, greed, and corrupt government In the Northern kingdom 
  • The wealthy Israelites had become apathetic and spiritually lazy 

SIMPLE CHAPTER BREAKDOWN 

  • 1-2 messages to the nations and Israel 
  • 3-6 poems expressing the message to leaders and people 
  • 7-9 God’s judgment is explained 

SKY HIGH SNAPSHOTS 

  1. The 9 chapter book spends time circling the surrounding nations and pointing out their evil. He starts with the nations furthest away from the people and works his way closer to the target, the Northern tribes.
  2. Amos expresses God’s anger towards Damascus, Gaza, Ammon, Moab, Edom, and even Judah 
  3. Finally, the primary audience is shocked to hear that they (Northern territory) are the source of God’s anger as well 

Top 2 Practical Lessons From The Book 

Our lives will also be lessons for future generations. When they look back they will either say, 

“we ought to live as they did” or 

“we ought not live as they did.” 

PLUGGING IT IN 

“WHAT DOES GOD NEED FROM US?”

  1. God needs more fig tree farmers. He needs community preachers in the form of plumbers, school teachers, electricians, nurses, surveyors, dentists, accountants, mechanics, and engineers. 
  2. We need more preachers. It’s more common than it was, but there’s a great need for gospel preachers in the LORDs church. Amos spoke for God, but he was in the minority.
  3. We need more elders. Great elders are rare. It’s been said and proven to be true, “The church will never outgrow the shadow of her leadership.” 
  4. We need more seriousness. Not more piety, not an immovable allegiance to man’s tradition, more people who take their God seriously. 

Amos in a sentence: 

“Service does not mean salvation if our service is not from the heart.” 

Real faithfulness means worship that is holy— not habitual. He wants committed people, not costume parties. He wants our attention to be placed on our purity, not our performance. 

Rescue The Perishing

Rescue The Perishing

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Dane Entze and his wife were coming back from an anniversary getaway and decided to indulge in a bit of romantic nostalgia. They crossed Johns Hole Bridge in Idaho Falls, Idaho, spanning the Snake River. It was the site where they met for their first date, but on the morning of November 12 it was another sight that caught their attention. Dane’s wife noticed someone was driving their car into the river. They stopped their vehicle, and Dane crossed onto a ramp and began talking to a woman who was in the water, informing him that she was committing suicide. He told her, “I don’t know who you are, but I’m here and I love you and I’m going to help you.” As they talked, she began moving toward shore. But she got to the point where she stopped, saying she did not have the will to live. The air temperature was 19 degrees when Entze jumped into the icy water and brought the distraught woman to shore. He helped her dry off and warm up until first responders arrived. When interviewed, Entze said it was a matter of being at the right place at the right time. He drew on some military training and knowledge of the area, but he gave this advice. “Doing something kind is all it takes. You don’t have to do something dramatic or dangerous to help somebody else. Be vigilant” (Mythil Gubbi, Fox 13 News, Salt Lake City, UT).

Certainly, there is something to be said about suicide prevention. According to the CDC, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in our nation, and over a million people attempted suicide in 2020. While mental illness can play a role, most often it is driven by despair and hopelessness. Love and support can be vital to encouraging those with such tendencies to find the help they need.

But, I would like us to consider another application. You and I, in traveling down life’s road, encounter so many who are in spiritual danger. They may or may not know it, but they need to be rescued. We benefit greatly from biblical training, but it takes even more than that. It requires us to do something, to be vigilant. They need to know we’re here, we love them, and we want to help them. If there is anything more lasting and impactful than saving a life, it is helping to save a soul.

One who “turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:20). God has given us the life preserver to save them (1 Cor. 1:21; Jas. 1:21). The word of the cross can save the perishing (1 Cor. 1:18), and the Bible makes it clear that God wants no one to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). He saves those drowning in sin through you and me. We need to have our eyes open. We need to appreciate how valuable and necessary that rescue work is. We need to care and be kind. It may require a sacrifice of time, effort, and energy, but nothing is more crucial than rescuing one whom Jesus died to save.

Remaining faithful during times of adversity

Remaining faithful during times of adversity

 Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Ohssel Tyson

For the past four years I have been going though what I believe to be the toughest battle I have ever had to face in my life with our warrior princess Kiyomie’s medical condition. God blessed me with my greatest desire and greatest fear as a father; which was to have my daughter; and one of my babies getting sick and me not being able to do anything to make them better.

We decided that my wife would come to the United States in October of 2017 after our homeland was devastated by category five Hurricane Maria. It was a difficult but necessary decision because Kerssel was pregnant and the prenatal care she needed wasn’t available post-hurricane. I joined my wife in February of 2018 and we had flights booked to return home in April of 2018. Before traveling I had set up everything in Kiki’s nursery which was also my office where I did my studies; her crib was right next to my desk, I had so many plans for my baby girl and was ready to bring her home.

What we had no idea of is that we were heading right into another hurricane; one of a different nature. Kiki suffered severe brain injury during birth and this changed our entire life: we could not return home, we had to leave my six year old son Éjiké and our families behind in Dominica which ached our hearts daily. The life we knew was basically over. We had our family’s support but were here all alone, in a foreign land with no one close to come help during the toughest period of our life.

We both had to resign from our jobs. We were forced to sell everything we owned in order to survive here, we went from being one hundred percent independent to one hundred percent dependant on others, we had to seek assistance to pay our monthly bills and purchase the most basic of necessities for our children and ourselves– diapers, wipes, deodorant, toothpaste, bath soap and everything else. We were unable to care for ourselves the way we used to, unable to provide for our children, only going to the doctor or dentist if we were very ill, not purchasing new clothing or undergarments even though we desperately needed them.

Through so many sleepless nights, emergency room visits and hospital stays we managed to keep surviving, by the grace of God. It is hard and lonely but we have no choice other than continuing to be resilient and keep focused on Kiki getting better. (We’ve had so many nights that we got little to no sleep that right now we consider a night of 4 hours of sleep a good night rest)

We didn’t think that our life could have gotten any worse but then on August 10th 2020 we got the dreadful news that my wife’s mom had suddenly passed at only 56 years old. From that day our lives was under a dark cloud; well, that’s how it felt. Mom, as we all called her, was our main pillar of support; our greatest cheer leader and prayer warrior; she sent messages every single day to both Kerssel and I telling us how strong we are and great parents we are and that Kiki will be healed and to remain faithful. That day in August took so much away from us, after mom’s passing everyday just felt like we were going through motions, like robots, just floating around under that dark cloud.

Mrs. Dawn Pitcock had been working with Kiki since she was discharged from the NICU. She and her family became a friend and remained in close contact even after Kiki aged out of the First Steps program. She had mentioned her church and asked if we’d like to visit, but we never did then. We were still under this dark cloud. Sometime after mom’s passing Dawn asked whether we would mind if she and elders from her church come by to visit and pray with us.

Russell, Dana and Dawn came one Sunday after service, we conversed for a while, we prayed and we cried; that blessed Sunday afternoon is one I will never forget as it felt like that first ray of sunshine piercing through the dark clouds. We started studying and getting a better understanding of God’s word with the assistance of Russell, Neal and Greg. Our faith started to grow stronger and we began feeling better, our lives felt a little less cloudy day by day. We started attending Sunday service when we were

able to, Kiki’s condition determines whether we can but we kept studying via zoom.

We had discussed baptism a few times but I didn’t feel fully ready until April 6th, 2021, on that day, I called Neal and told him that we were ready. When we got to church building there were several other members of our Leman Avenue family there to support us. Kerssel and I were baptized on that day and man that felt good, it was a new life in every aspect.

Yes we are still going through tribulations. Kiki still has tons of medical complications and has a long way to go. Yes we still seek assistance to cover every single expense that we have. BUT, because our faith in God, and ourselves have grown, our bond with God is getting stronger and our understanding of God’s word and love for us and his purpose for allowing us to go through what we are going through; we are able to better appreciate our situation. God have been right there with us all along, he continues to supply our every need; he has, housed us, fed us, and clothed us physically and spiritually.

In our lives on a daily basis we encounter troubles, problems, adversity; no matter how small or complex they are, they always pose a challenge physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

In these moments we feel weak, we feel defeated and are forced to face problems to great for us to handle; so we turn our attention to God and begin questioning him, WHY? Why am I going through this? Why me? What Lord can I do to solve this problem? During these challenges we are unable to continue our tasks like normal; so we stop, evaluate our situation, ask God for wisdom, obey his word, have faith and trust him to bring the help that we need.

The apostle James had a response to adversity which has helped me through my own troubles.

James 1:2-6

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you are involved in various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But you must let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without any doubts, for the one who has doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

When going through these challenging times in life the best resort is to turn to Jesus, I can guarantee without any doubt that no matter what the problem is, you will find guidance to a solution within the word of God. Apply the appropriate scripture, faith and the very best effort you can, to every adversity you face and you will be victorious.

In conclusion I say to you, through every adversity, trial and tribulation seek God for he is always waiting to guide us through our troubles and ultimately draw us closer to him.

Have faith no matter how small it is: Faith in God, faith in yourself, faith that God is greater than your problem, faith that God is helping you through the adversity, faith that you will overcome.

Nurture your faith and watch your faith grow. Mathew 17:20 tells us, “…Because of your lack of faith. I tell all of you with certainty, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

If you can move a mountain with faith the size of a mustard seed, can you imagine the magnitude of power you would possess with faith the size of a tennis ball or basketball or greater?

I’ll close with some words and verses I recite whenever I’m having a moment of weakness during a challenge and the effect that they have on me is miraculous, I recited them right before coming up here; they are:

I believe that God is with me.
I believe that God is helping me. I believe that God is guiding me.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Thank you for listening, thank you for being our family when we most needed one, thank you for the support given to my family in every single way.

Alive In Christ

Alive In Christ

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

 

Carl Pollard

Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

In 1999, Australian Bill Morgan was a truck driver who got in a pretty bad accident that left him in coma. After 12 days and despite doctors giving him zero chance of surviving, he miraculously woke up and was, shockingly, completely fine! Feeling lucky for surviving, he went on and bought a scratch lottery ticket and won 18,000 dollars and a new car.

Normally winning a car wouldn’t have made it to the news but, because of Morgan’s accident story, Channel 9 decided to do a feature on the man who was “clinically dead and came back to win the lottery.” While filming, they asked him to buy a lottery ticket so they could re-enact the winning scratch. He happily obliged and started scratching the ticket on camera. But suddenly he stopped. He looked at the camera, and said “I just won $250,000.” 

Bill is a man that we would say has some pretty good luck. He was supposed to be dead, but instead he woke up, won a car, and $250,000 dollars. There was a point in our lives where we were spiritually dead, and Christ brought us back to life. But Christ doesn’t stop there. He saves us and continues to bless the faithful. Each and every person that has come in contact with the blood of Christ is no longer dead, plus His blood continually cleanses us of sin if we walk in the light (1 John 1:9). 

As lucky as Bill Morgan was, I’d like to suggest that those who are added to the body of Christ are blessed far beyond physical possessions. Our faith in Christ leads to eternal life! 

A Door In The Sky & The Trumpet Of His Voice 

A Door In The Sky & The Trumpet Of His Voice 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Revelation 1.3 

To prepare the mind for the door and the trumpet of chapter 4, let’s review the Revelator’s response. 

John Is Literally Paralyzed By Fear  

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid.I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”  1.17

The Trumpet Of His Voice 

On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet..” 1.10 

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 4.1 

Let’s take a second to appreciate this window into the heavenly realm. These precious details should make you hunger for more. 

Let’s Speculate For A Moment 

Roman cornu found at Pompeii, Public domain

While the “trumpet” is used metaphorically, there’s a particular kind of trumpet that John may have been thinking of. It’s called the Roman Cornu. 

This brass signal trumpet was around nine feet long, curved into a “G” shape, and supported by a crossbar. Recently, two of these horns were found by archeologists in the ruins of Pompeii. 

These trumpets were used to direct Roman troops on the Roman battlefield. One military strategist by the name Vegetius said, 

“The rules (given by blowing the horn) must be punctually observed in all exercises and reviews so that the soldiers may be ready to obey them in action without hesitation according to the general’s orders either to charge or halt, to pursue the enemy or to retire.”

A trumpet that could be heard over the din of battle? That had to be loud. 

Click hear to listen to a short example of a perfect replica of a Cornu horn being blown. It’s loud, exciting, and terrifying. 

That’ll raise the hair on your neck. 

Traveling Through The Door In The Sky 

The voice of the Lord was like that of trumpet, and it was calling John to come through a door in the sky (4.1). 

We read that John was in the Spirit in Revelation 1.10, but something else seems to be going on here. This is a new experience and even with the help of Inspiration, it’s difficult to describe in a  limited human language. 

Did John’s body travel through the door as well? That’s anybody’s guess and while on earth— a concrete answer is impossible to find. 

Paul hardly even tried to describe his journey into the spiritual world as descriptive terms don’t seem to do it justice (2 Cor. 12.1-4). 

The Meaning Of The Door 

Was it a portal? Did it have hinges and a knocker? Was it floating? 

Before the imagination runs wild, let’s look at a couple of the practical points. 

  1. The door, while both symbolic and physical in some respects, represents perspective. John is stranded on an island, but God gives him another vantage point. Seeing things from a spiritual high place can help reorient ourselves. How does God see our lives? What does the church look like from up there? That’s what Revelation 1-3 is all about. 
  2. There’s a plan being worked out behind the veil of eternity. Just like Job suffered without knowing the details (Job 1), we can take comfort in the fact that things down here always go according to His plan. 

While the details aren’t as colorful as we would like them to be, here’s 3 important facts He would want us to remember. 

  1. There’s definitely a way into heaven. 
  2. God’s the only one who can open that door. 
  3. We should focus on preparing our souls to step across that final threshold. 

If you couldn’t confidentially walk into His throne room right now, that should be your number one concern. 

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

Ephesians 3.12 

The Wearied Preacher

The Wearied Preacher

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.” (Ecclesiastes 12.12 NASB1995) 

As Solomon reaches the end of his treatise as “The Preacher,” he expresses his feelings, using his life as an example. During his life, as today, people wrote on many topics. If there is a difference between our two eras, it must be that more people today have access to education and can read all of the books that people write. Otherwise, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1.9). Yet, with education comes self-reflection. And self-reflection often prompts men to take pen to page and write in poetry and prose. Even so, that self-reflection brings melancholy, as with men like Edgar Allen Poe.

And this is where we find Solomon. But even though cynical at this point, Solomon still sounds as if he could have found a home among the other literary figures of the Romantic era, like Alfred Lord Tennyson or Henry David Thoreau. When it is fashionable for men to be scholarly, one notes more men willing to put thoughts and feelings into words. Whatever the rationale, whether to be praised, make money or achieve catharsis, it spawns one of the hallmarks of culture: literature.

Generally speaking, literature and its study are positive. From those writers in the past, concepts have been communicated through time, influencing future generations. Before the Romantic era, the West went through the Age of Enlightenment. Academics and thinkers drew ideas from the classical thought of ancient Greece. Some thinkers in this epoch penned literature the American Founding Fathers read and sparked a revolution. Others, like Sir Isaac Newton, were inspired to unlock the secrets of the cosmos.

But then there is another class of literature written by men with a deleterious effect on the reader. No, I am not just talking of the smut peddler, though that is terrible. Instead, I am referring to those like Karl Marx or Adolph Hitler, who took to pen to write dangerous, subversive ideas that upset the course of civilization. Although World War 2 effectively destroyed Hitler’s brand of fascism, Marxism still flourishes in the ivy-covered walls of U.S. colleges and universities. And we have not even mentioned those like Friedrich Nietzsche, who was desirous of taking away his reader’s hope in God.

Even so, the written word remains one of man’s greatest inventions. And it is apropos that the first book produced by a printing press was a copy of God’s Word. That book, the Bible, is itself a compilation of 66 books. And think of the diverse and storied men who wrote those books’ words through the Holy Spirit’s influence: shepherds, kings, tax collectors, tent makers, doctors, et al. So the final product is something we can even enjoy as literature, despite being written for our moral guidance.

In this Information Age, as some have dubbed it, we still have our writers. They may write as I do for a blog, a funny-sounding word that didn’t even exist a half-century ago. It is short for “weblog.” Or they may write for journals, newsletters, and books. But men still write. You may have never guessed that it is a tiresome task, especially when dealing with the denizens of the interwebs. These readers crave new content, not unlike the way the ancient Athenians daily gathered on Mars’ Hill to hear some new thing (Acts 17.21). And if you don’t keep your content fresh, you lose readers. So even if you do not monetize your blog, as this is a non-monetized blog, one still wants to have readers to make the endeavor worthwhile. It is not necessarily a numbers thing, but more eyes ensure that more seed-casting and watering can occur so that God brings an increase (1 Corinthians 3.5-7).

Hence, there is wisdom in distributing this chore to five men, each bringing their perspective to the task. As one who has repeatedly tried and failed at blogging because of physical infirmity and ADHD, one article a week is a fantastic achievement. However, I get tired at even the thought of multiplying that effort by five weekdays. But Solomon pointed out that writing is tiring. Yes, this is not a book, per se. But it is still wearisome. Some may mock how something like preaching, teaching, or writing devotional content could be tiring since it is not blue-collar work. The answer lies within physiology since even the brain of a resting person requires about 20% of the body’s energy.1

There are also emotional highs and lows. Sometimes you become sad like Solomon. When you realize, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10.31 NASB1995), you want to figure out how to convince the most stubborn person of their need to obey God. Sometimes you must surmount cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic, and generational differences to do this. So how do I tailor a message to convince this man or woman I desire to win for Christ?

At other times you encounter a gold nugget, something that had never caught your attention in your prior readings through the Scriptures. So, naturally, you want to drop everything and research it, plumbing its depths. But maybe your search leads nowhere. And you end up tossing it upon that humongous pile of things that are the secret things known only to God (cf. Deuteronomy 29.29). Then again, you might hit the Comstock Lode. In this case, not only do you learn something new, but it may even be something that corrects you from the error you ignorantly embraced and taught. At the end of the day, one realizes that he will never exhaust his capacity to learn something from God’s Word. And that should be something that humbles you.

No wonder Solomon ends his message by saying one should not try to tackle the wisdom that we see residing beyond God’s Word. If it can be wearisome to study the Bible, imagine trying to wrap your head around fields of study that are contingent on theories since no one can prove what they believe. For example, just recently, the James Webb Space Telescope showed no signs that the universe is expanding, something necessary if the big bang occurred. There is also no red shift in those galaxies farthest away, indicating no cosmic expansion. So now cosmologists and physicists will go back and have to come up with a new explanation for the universe’s origin. How frustrating, even panic-inducing.2

Solomon sums everything up after the “wearied Preacher’s” last admonition against too much study and “excessive devotion” to books of no eternal value. Our purpose is to fear God and keep His commandments because He will be judging us (12.13-14). If you know enough to save your soul from hell, you are indeed a wise man or woman.  

 

Works Cited 

1 Richardson, Michael W. “How Much Energy Does the Brain Use?” BrainFacts.org, Society for Neuroscience, 1 Feb. 2019, www.brainfacts.org/Brain-Anatomy-and-Function/Anatomy/2019/How-Much-Energy-Does-the-Brain-Use-020119.

2 PlanetMoron. “What If the Big Bang Never Happened? the James Webb Space Telescope Might Change Everything.” Not the Bee, Not the Bee, 22 Aug. 2022, notthebee.com/article/what-if-the-big-bang-never-happened